Back in the mire.

After my wonderful week away, I was brought back to earth with a resounding thump.

At work, my first day back was fast and furious with queries that had all been waiting on my return, a hectic double-clinic as well as both my colleague and my manager being around so that I couldn’t simply shut the door and get my head down to work. Added to this was a series of Outlook meeting requests that kept popping up unexpectedly so my first day back was simply a case of peddling water to keep my my head afloat. Obviously this settled over the course of the week and by the end of it I felt like I’d never been away.

At home, I had returned to a backlog of washing (I had done mine at mum’s which was just as well so that I wasn’t adding to it.)On the Monday morning I was sipping my coffee at breakfast when I noticed something floating in it – ugh! It was mould! Raji remarked that it probably wasn’t surprising as the washing up had sat for the week and was done the day of my return! Clearly my cup hadn’t been very well washed up (and I have my coffee black and unsweetened!) so I threw it away and tried again with a fresh cup. Again there was floating mould! On investigation, the mould was found in the coffee jug! So I had to scrub it out and start again. Lovely! πŸ™

When I finally got to the weekend, I was up bright and early Saturday morning with lots to do. Billy was working and commented that the loo wasn’t draining very quickly so after hanging out the washing I checked the outside drains. They were backed up and clearly the gurgling noises we’d heard during the week were due to the sewerage being forced back up the drains, depositing soggy shredded loo paper around them πŸ™ We’ve been aware for a little while that the shower wasn’t draining very well and I’d been putting soda crystals down the plug on a weekly basis; it looked like it wasn’t the shower plug after all but the entire drainage system. Sure enough, when I lifted the manhole cover to investigate, it was full to the brim with sewerage water. Brilliant!

So I stuck a quick sticky note on the loos and the shower door saying not to use them and hot-footed it to the shops for rubber gloves. Once back, I set to, trying to see if there was a single physical blockage that I might be able to remove – and immediately the dirty water went way up past my gloves, seeping down inside them and I was up over my elbows in the muck πŸ™ Raji got out of bed around this point and having seen my note, poked his head out of the window to ask if it was OK for him to have a shower. Er, no! He came down to see what I was doing and to see if he could help, and once I’d exhausted all possibilities trying to clear the blockage (including sacrificing one of my colanders in the attempt to sieve the solids from the water!) he carried on trying for a bit before coming to the same conclusion as me. It must be blocked further down the system.

Reluctantly, I called the landlady and apologised for it being the weekend and something that would need sorting quickly. I explained that I thought we needed a dyno-rod type person to sort it as I was convinced that the blockage was outside of the house and further along the pipes. She said she’d sort out someone to come and get back to me. Very quickly afterwards, she confirmed that someone would come in the next few hours and then gave me their contact details in case of need, as she was about to go off on holiday. I was relieved that someone would be coming, but I felt unclean (having had no shower to start with and then getting more dirty) and of course we couldn’t use any of the waterworks until it was sorted. No flushing the loos, no washing, no cleaning, no washing up – and there was a week’s worth of washing up to be done since no-one had done any all week – again! (This was previously Stephen’s job but was now Billy’s)

Raji decided he couldn’t possibly not have a shower so took himself off to the gym and paid for a workout and then made use of their shower, after which he went off to cricket for the afternoon. Billy had gone straight from work to cricket. I cleaned up as best I could with a bowl of water and some alcohol gel, then being unable to do much, I did at least get the ironing done to salvage something from the day, keeping my ear open for the door as I expected the drainage cavalry any moment. I also booked a train ticket online for Nel to visit mum at the end of the summer but then realised an hour or so later that I’d booked the wrong date! AGH! This was not a good day! I was so cross with myself and had to book another ticket for the correct day and then wait for the tickets in the post so i could claim SOME of my money back on the incorrect one. Grrr!

After my few hours of ironing, there was still no sign of the cavalry and I was getting a bit anxious. I was just clearing up and was carrying the ironing board downstairs and caught one of the cats running off sheepishly……….. from the pile of diarrhoea he’d just deposited on the stair! That was the last straw. After yelling at him, I went into the kitchen and the dam burst. I sobbed! Real from-the-bottom-of-the-heart sobs, crying that I was sick of it all. Sick, sick, sick….. The “children” were upstairs and Nel sent Stephen down to investigate. I managed to get out that there was cat mess on the stairs and he said that it wasn’t the end of the world and it just needed clearing up. Cue more sobbing and wailing that it was always me that had to sort everything out and I was sick of it. So he cleared it up (this is unheard of!) and then came back to me to see if I was now OK. I was at the sniffling sighing stage and sniffled my thanks, before calming myself down.

It was now 5.30pm and I’d had a rotten day, but at last, the cavalry arrived. Apparently they’d normally have been here within half an hour or so of the call but had been down in Manchester at the time. With no access to the back of the house I had to move the big chest in the living room to make way for the machinery – and broke two nails and jarred my back. On the plus side, my two heroes ended up needing only to shove one of their big cleaning rods down the sewerage pipe and shove the blockage away – it was about 3 metres down the pipe, so I’d never have been able to do it myself. In all they were only there for about 15 minutes and hadn’t needed their machinery. Hooray! We could use water freely again πŸ™‚

I got Stephen to move the chest back to its rightful place for me but as I moved other bits back, I managed to really wallop my funny bone on the wall. Not at all funny, let me tell you! I was clutching my elbow and forcefully saying “Ow,ow, ow” through gritted teeth and Stephen advised that I should swear as this is what swearing was for. I don’t swear, so carried on as I was. He said “Okay then, say something YOU think is swearing for you! Say “poo” or something.” πŸ˜€ That was it, I was laughing between pained “ow” s Ever tried laughing when you’re in pain? πŸ˜€ He’s a tonic, that boy! Nel brought one of her hamsters down and we played with her for a bit which was soothing too, and I started to feel a bit less stressed. Mind you, I could’ve hit the men when they returned from cricket and asked brightly “So, is it all sorted then?” They just had no idea!

The next day I planned to get everything done that I’d been unable to do the previous one – cleaning the bathroom, and so on, but mainly cooking. With the Rayburn I have to batch cook the week’s meals at the weekend then just heat them up when wanted.I also wanted to make Billy’s birthday cake for later in the week, do my usual lunch-box cooking and I needed to prepare the food for the Monday evening when I had 3 friends coming for tea. However, there was a week’s worth of washing up on the side! Raji did some of it mid morning. Billy asked if I needed it ALL done before I could start cooking. Er, yes! “Why?” Er, because that stuff’s been there a week, it’s clogging the side which I will need as I generate more washing up which I wash up as I go along, and because I actually need some of the stuff that’s waiting there! Eventually it was all done, but not until late and so it was 2.55pm before I go in to the kitchen for my hours-long cooking session. Now I’m a morning person, so there was no way I would be spending hours at this time of day! So I didn’t have time to do an evening meal for Sunday. Nor a birthday cake for Billy. I managed 2 meals for the week and a quiche and some shortbread for Monday’s tea with the girls. And that was it – weekend over.

What a weekend! I can cope with a lot and God knows, I usually manage to stay cheerful. But sometimes I just get so fed up of it always being me who has to cope with it all. (Yes, Billy was working then at cricket, but even if he had been at home, it would have been me that went investigating, me that attempted to sort it, and me that would have had to contact the landlady anyway.) As for this washing up business, we could be the first family to break apart with washing-up cited as the reason! I don’t understand how anyone can think that washing up once a week FOR A FAMILY OF 5 PEOPLE is acceptable! Even once a day is pushing it but I’d take it. This weekend may have been extreme but the underlying problems are long standing: the only things to be done on a regular basis and in timely fashion are those that I do. Clearly this doesn’t bother anyone else but Nel and me, and clearly I’m getting nowhere trying change them but I absolutely refuse to lower my standards any further than I already have. So the only option I have, once I can’t stand it any more, is to leave. Not something I want to do, but the only action I can take once I reach breaking point. However, I’m not quite there yet so time to put that horrible weekend behind me and carry onwards and upwards….

St George’s Day 2013

Happy St George’s Day dad


A little narrative to go with the following picture story:

Venue: Hexham again, Mum coming to see the new house as well as to share our special day in memory of Dad.
Red rose buttonholes: (“Naomi” roses) from Dillies – perfect as ever.
Cards and presents exchanged: mum’s to me was a back pack/gym bag with the cross of St George (LOVE it!), mine to mum was a box of notelets with roses on them, and a St George’s flag seat belt pad.
Visited: Hexham’s Old Gaol and border history museum then had coffee in Caffe Nero. In the evening we had a perfect meal in The Heart of All England (Hexham) and lingered for some time before popping in to the Globe for a last drink on the way home.
Next Day: We had afternoon tea at Langley Castle to round off our patriotic treats πŸ™‚

(If this looks blank, right click, click “reload” and you should see the photo story πŸ™‚ )

Darts – a narrow loss then a win

We narrowly lost (6-5) away at Studio but we had a really good evening which was much needed after a stressful week.
Random order was: Graham, me, Junior, Paul, Senior, and Mark and we won the two trebles games though both were hard fought. Graham and I made hard work of our doubles and had a mediocre game but we could have won it and didn’t, and Junior and Paul followed suit. Happily Senior and Mark got a battling win which was followed by an emphatic win in Graham’s singles. I was only just beaten by a very strong player but Junior won his. Paul lost to jammy x1 x19 finish, Senior had been well ahead but failed to get his finish and was beaten. So it all came down to Mark, who unfortunately was just pipped.

We were then at home to the Ex-Service B and again we had a good night with a relaxed atmosphere (again, much needed after another, even more stressful week.) Billy and Raji were at cricket nets but came in to the club afterwards with their cricket team mates so we had a bit of a natter with both darts and cricket players alike. The random order was: Graham, Mark, Senior, me, and Junior. With the other team having only 4 players, their random order was: player, -, player, player, -, player meaning that each trebles game was only played with 2 players,the first and last doubles were played with only 1, and Mark and Junior won their singles by default (though I’m sure they’d rather have got to play) Senior and I lucked out having the two-man doubles game and the strongest players probably. We won both trebles and the first doubles, unsurprisingly. We then lost next two – Senior and I just beaten by good players, Paul and Junior chucked it away trying but failing to hit x1 πŸ˜‰ Graham lost his singles, but it was close and Senior won his after Mark’s bye. I was expecting to be thrashed and my throwing wasn’t too great initially – good darts but scoring 26 etc. Then I got a decent score and closed the gap and somehow I also beat him to the finish and won πŸ™‚ Junior’s bye was followed by a narrow loss for Paul – caught out by that blasted x1 again; Paul’s bΓƒΒͺte noire for the night πŸ˜‰ So we won 7 – 4

A lovely long Easter weekend

I’d been looking forward to having a run of 4 days away from work and Billy and I started it by driving down to mum’s on the Thursday night so we would have all day Good Friday together. Billy had a relaxed with a book while mum and I popped to the shops when they opened. We got loads of bargains! πŸ™‚ Between us we got 15 items for £10.85 in the 99p shop, mum bought something she needed that was on special offer, and then on the way home we EACH picked up a free bottle of car screen wash from Halfords, courtesy of O2 Priority Moments. Since mum doesn’t have a car, I now have 2 bottles and just in the nick of time since mine has just run out πŸ™‚ We all enjoyed a veritable feast for lunch – roast lamb with all the trimmings, accompanied by an absolutely gorgeous bottle of wine and then Chocolate Eclairs for dessert. Mmmmmmm. The weather was actually beautifully spring-like so we went for a post-prandial walk along the new footpath into Wales which was most enjoyable. In the evening we enjoyed crumpets and hot cross buns whilst watching Mum’s boys who had a rare TV appearance – sadly though, they didn’t fare well πŸ™

The next morning was match day; family derby day! We took our time over breakfast and mum packed us lots of food for the day whilst I tried to pack the car with all the household bits mum had donated to us, plus our bags and Easter bags from mum. I got there in the end but I do miss my bootspace. Billy and I popped in to B&Q on the way out of Chester as I had a £10 voucher I could spend in there courtesy of my online market research surveys and we wanted to pick up an instant fire bag or two if we could. We couldn’t find them so had to ask and were directed to the “porch-type” area where we found their last few going cheap – £2 each instead of £3.98 – so we got 5 which was brilliant πŸ™‚

Then it was off to Manchester for the match. I needed to meet up with a friend who had my ticket having used it for the last game and then Billy wanted to pop to the pub to meet with some of our City friends. He was ahead of me (but holding my hand) as we went in to the pub and the bouncers on the door asked for his match ticket to prove he was a home fan as he wasn’t wearing any colours. Just as he was wondering what to do (since opening his mouth would give away his accent!) they caught sight of my coat/scarf and waved us in with an apology. (I would say he owes me but to be fair we usually enjoy the “protection” of the home fan on these occasions.) We had a pleasant pre-match drink and then I left Billy there as the pub is close to the away end anyway and I like to be in my seat much earlier than he does. The match itself was pretty tame I felt – I was even almost-bored for much of the first half though of course it helped that City looked well in control. That said, it took until just before the break for us to score one that counted and typically it was 2 not just the one (could have been 3 but the Toon keeper was in form!) The second half was very comfortable and but for aforementioned keeper, the final score would/could/should have been more than “just” 4-0, though I did think Newcastle were going to score one as the clock ticked down. As ever, the match went too quickly for me as these days I appreciate every second of being there and just want it to go on so I don’t have to leave. Amusing moments were when Newcastle fans sang their usual irritating “They’re here, they’re there….empty seats” and home fans responded with “You only sold one tier πŸ˜€ (To be fair, from my wider view of both sides of the coin, both chants were equally unmerited (home fans hadn’t all arrived at that point and away teams no longer get their allocation on a sale-or-return basis I believe.) The atmosphere was poor – home fans were very quiet and the poorest I’ve witnessed for a very long time. Similarly, I’ve never known Toon fans to be that quiet for lengthy spells at a time. The best entertainment I go was from one of my season ticket neighbours who had a touch of heartburn and was asking everyone if they had any Rennies πŸ˜€ I foresee much mileage in this for future fun. I met Billy back at the car and for once I didn’t get a load of bitter raging – but then there really weren’t any controversial incidents in this fixture for a change. We had a nice easy drive home, though couldn’t get parked anywhere near the house so had to quickly unload then park the car and walk back home.
MCFC’s 60-second highlights here
MCFC’s extended highlights here
Kippax Blue’s photos here

The next day being Easter Sunday, of course we went to Pat’s for dinner, booze and games. Dinner was roast pork followed by not one, but two, puddings and then cheese and crackers. It was a little strange with no Grandpa this time (sadly he passed away a couple of months ago but we were privileged to be at his funeral and say goodbye.) The girls actually did better in Trivial Pursuit than usual though of course, the boys still won – the girls won the Logo game, the boys won both Taboo and Trivial Pursuit. We really MUST get some new questions for TP for next time though as even the girls are starting to remember the answers and event he debates, for some of the cards now! There are also an increasing number of questions for which we dispute the answers and/or wording. It was a great day as usual and we finally got to bed at 2am! πŸ™‚

All that crammed in and still a day left for me to do some homemaking which was wonderful. This house really requires a full time homemaker I feel but I did manage to get a lot done and was pleased over all with a lovely four day break from work πŸ™‚

Homemaking

Greetings from the other house :)

I’m back! Did you miss me?

We have now moved to our new home and it was the most chaotic move I have ever experienced! Added to that we had no TV, phone or internet for 3 weeks. As you can tell, we now have the latter sorted and we now have a functioning home, albeit that we have a few more boxes to unpack and sorting to do still.

We picked up the keys on the Friday (1st March) and Billy and I were off work that day so that we could spend the day packing up the last of the stuff (by this time I was sick of packing and boxes, having been doing it for the last 2 weeks!) and we had two friends and their vans arranged to help with the actual move the next day. The plan was for Billy to be at the old house conducting that end of the operation and I’d be at the new house organising where things should be put and sorting them out.

But it didn’t quite turn out like that…..

One of Billy’s friends who had offered his services and van for the move was unexpectedly free on the Friday afternoon so came to make a start! And so it ended up that for the next two days the move went ahead in a very chaotic fashion – moving things that weren’t yet packed and in very random order rather than room-by-room as I’d envisioned. Important things (like kitchen pots/pans, crockery etc) were left behind (including the draining rack full of the morning’s dishes!) whilst nick-nacks stored in the loft for years were brought in various containers and bags. Naturally the food was removed from the fridge and freezers before they were brought along, but the food then got left behind! Divan beds had their bases separated for moving, but the clips to join the two halves got lost somewhere along the way. All that said, we were very grateful for the help of our extremely willing and hard-working friends and eventually we called it a day, though one friend was going to return the next week to take the final load and then take all the rubbish to the tip for us. (This hasn’t actually happened as yet and though Billy and Raji have collected some stuff on foot, and I have done a couple of car runs, we need a van for one last run which is frustrating.)

By the end of the weekend I was dirty, tired, aching and had broken nails, very dry sore hands and sported a multitude of cuts and bruises (I’m really not built for manual work!) I had the Monday and Tuesday off work, thankfully, so I was able to spend those two days playing put-and-take sorting out and by the end of that time we had a functioning home with all the main elements reasonably organised.(Kitchen, bathroom and bedrooms.)

I have to say that the cats have been absolutely brilliant and took it all their stride. We had two cat carriers and I borrowed another from a colleague but I anticipated a few problems getting the cats in. As it turned out Timmy and Zeb didn’t put up too much of a fight and Zara walked in to the borrowed basket voluntarily, much to my surprise. Nel and I took the cats and the hamsters in the car to the new house and deposited them all in her bedroom – for two reasons: firstly, her room is on the 2nd floor so nicely out of the way of the moving chaos and secondly, she also can’t cope with too much upheaval and our plan was to get her room moved so she could shut the door and stay quietly sorting her own bits. This worked really well and the cats stayed in with her for a couple of days before being allowed to explore the rest of the house in their own time. They’ve done this very casually and absolutely love having the run of a 3 storey house! After two weeks of keeping them indoors (which they accepted without complaint, though the cold, snowy weather helped) I opened the back door for them to investigate the garden. They loved this and were soon jumping up (and over) the walls and lapping water from the (tiny) pond in the corner. Once they all came back inside I shut the door but unblocked the cat-flap. Within an hour they were all coming and going freely and I was pleased to think they could now please themselves. All in all, I’d say they are quite satisfied with their new home, garden and lifestyle!

Car parking is an issue here and we were given, by our lovely landlords, a visitor’s parking permit. However, after searching in vain for a parking spot, Billy and I went in tot he council offices to enquire as to exactly where these parking bays were. There are 4. Four bays for the whole street! (At a cost of £15 per year.) The previous owners apparently had an arrangement with a chap further down who has his own designated bay but no car. He wanted £20 a month for this. However, after our visit to the council offices, we’ve instead bought a county-wide parking permit (for all council pay-and-display car parks across the whole county) which is £130 a year (though we’ve currently paid for 3 months at £48.) It means the car is parked a bit of a walk from the house but this isn’t a huge issue as we don’t use it for small trips on a daily basis. Another half a day spent sorting this out though!

You won’t believe the saga with TV/internet/phone that we’ve had! It’s like something out of a sitcom! We had, at our old house, all of these with Sky and we called before our move, giving a couple of weeks notice so that could simply switch us over. Simple, yes? No! They couldn’t ascertain whether or not there was a phone line in the new house. We told them there was. They insisted it wasn’t clear and they’d report it as an issue to be resolved. In the meantime, though, they’d book a Sky engineer to come and set up the TV – but it couldn’t be the day of the move so we’d have to wait until the Monday. On the Monday, out came the engineer and as Billy had been called in to work (he was NOT amused!) I had to deal with this. I’ll try to keep this simple:

Old house: 1x Sky+ box, 2 x Sky boxes (multiroom)
New House: 1 x Sky cable in to upstairs lounge, now Raji’s room
Wanted in new house: 1 x Sky box in living room (which has no TV or Sky cables/sockets at all) and 1x Sky box (multiroom) in Raji’s room.

So the engineer looked at the Sky dish on the roof and announced that he couldn’t get up to it as it was on a pole next to the chimney and he couldn’t safely get to it. (“Must’ve been a private company that put that up” he said.)
However, he could drill holes in the wall on the front of the house to safely affix his ladders to get to it. Er, no. It’s a grade II listed building and not our property.
Hm. Well he could fix another, separate dish to the front of the house. Er, no. It’s a grade II listed building and not our property.
Well he could drill a hole in the wall in to the front room and feed the cable that currently goes in to the upstairs room to the sitting room. Er, no. It’s a grade II listed building and not our property.
Deep thought. Aha! He could fix our dish to the dentist’s property next door! Er, no! As if!
I’d pretty much got the picture – there wasn’t going to be anything he could do so we’d simply have to have the one Sky box in Raji’s room only. No, no….. he’d wait for his mate and see what he said. Two hours later we ended up with the one Sky box in Raji’s room only! We could have done that ourselves had we known, and at the least I could have had an hour and a half more time unpacking! Amused, not!

OK, we could work around this – we’d have the Sky box in Raji’s room, Nel had a TV aerial socket and had bought a freeview set top box, and we could register 4 devices to stream TV via SkyGo so that would work. Once we got the internet of course…..

We plugged in a phone to the phone socket and had a dialling tone. Great! We could call Sky and tell them we definitely have a phone line installed and they could connect us straight away. Er no! It still appeared we had no line and a BT engineer would have to be booked. This would not be until 21st March! 3 weeks after moving in! Paul came round and ascertained the telephone number. Great! We could call Sky and they could cancel the engineer and connect us! Er, no! There IS no phone line and the engineer was coming out to INSTALL one! So we had to wait 3 weeks with no TV for all but Raji, and no internet at all. This was hardest on Nel because of her autism – the only place she can interact enjoyably with people is via the internet (no trying to read people’s expressions, pick up on unspoken clues etc. – all nice and clear in black and white.) She ended up spending a fortune on mobile dongles and top ups, having been sold various things that were no use or cost her the earth (avoid Carphone Warehouse!) We were very upset on her behalf and Billy sorted out a mobile dongle at a better rate which helped. Naturally with these things she still couldn’t do the things that are important to her so she really did suffer during this time.

And so the great day dawned. At last, the BT engineer was coming and since Billy and I were working, Paul very kindly got up early during his week off and came round to let the engineer in the house and speak on our behalf. Not only this, but he actually arrived promptly at 8.45am. Just as Billy found out that our phone line was now active! BT engineer had clearly looked at his job sheet, checked there was a line already installed and activated it at the exchange! After quickly plugging in the brand new Sky router and checking the internet worked, Paul left the house with us as we set off to work. GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!Unbelievable!3 weeks of stress for no good reason!

It is nice to feel part of the world again, though I have yet to catch right up and to get into a routine and of course, much of my time is still taken up with working 35 hours a week and sorting the house – as well learning to use the cooker here….

This house has a Rayburn cooker which means learning to cook a whole new way. There is also a ceramic hob, but after one play with this, I have made it redundant (the biggest problem being that it takes a while to heat and then an age to cool and I’m worried about the cats getting burned if they jump up when the kitchen is unattended.) The Rayburn also provides the house’s heating and hot water, but we’ve yet to learn how best to use it for this so it’s a bit chilly as yet and we sometimes run out of hot water.

Rayburn cooking is completely different to “normal” cooking and I’m glad I am a confident cook else I think I’d be terrified! You cook 20% of stuff on top of it on the hotplate (a solid plate which varies in temperature so you slide things around to hottest/coolest spots) and 80% in the ovens – an upper and a lower, the lower running at about half the temperature of the upper. It takes around half an hour to heat the oven to the baking or roasting temperatures and it seems about 2 days to cool back to the lowest setting, even when “idling”. The whole of the oven is hot, including the floor (which is good for baking pastry without needing to bake blind) and the shelves are deep so you can get 2 dishes on one shelf. The Rayburn is NOT for quick cooking or for cooking one thing then turning off!

So after two weekends of experimenting (the results of which were all edible, I’m pleased to say) I have learned that it’s best to batch bake/cook at weekends and then simply warm each evening meal in the idling oven all day whilst at work. Lots of casseroles and such, accompanied by home-made bread courtesy of the bread maker which is now in almost daily use πŸ™‚ It means a lot of my weekend is gone doing the batch cooking, but it is lovely coming home to a hot, home cooked meal each evening after work. Today, on only my second weekend of experimenting, I have managed to cook a roast – challenging and time-consuming but absolutely gorgeous as the Rayburn keeps in all the flavours of the meat (beef on this occasion). Even the gravy was wicked! I’ve pre-cooked the meals for the week and each evening I put porridge in the oven to cook slowly overnight and Raji and I love coming down to a bowl of that every morning.

I am going to need to invest in some hotplate-to-oven friendly cookware as I am currently having to mess about swapping pans for casserole dishes and I’ve only got 3 casserole dishes. I am getting the hang of using the Rayburn for drying dishes, warming plates/jugs/mugs/bowls and airing wooden cooking utensils. I am looking forward to using it for making herbal oils and drying herbs etc.

Oh yes, I almost forgot – Nel’s freeview box doesn’t work – but it looks like the aerial isn’t working so still, Raji is the only one with proper TV. I have to admit I never watched TV much anyway and haven’t yet started watching it through my laptop. The only thing I miss having on in the background is Sky Sports news – I do feel very out of things without this. Must find a new routine where I can watch this each day to keep up with things.

The “children” seem settled and happy here and I think they like having the top floor of the house to themselves. Raji is Raji – one can never tell, but he seems happy enough and seems to like having the biggest bedroom in the house for all his stuff. Billy and I are just relieved to have left the old house and feel lucky to have found a large enough home for us all, in walking distance of our needs and where cats are allowed. There are lots of things to work through yet but we have a roof over our heads and can hopefully move forward.

So, there you have it. A brief catch-up on our move. I’d like to tell you more about this lovely house when I get the chance but for now………. welcome πŸ™‚

Premiership Trophy visits the North East

WHAT AN EVENING! πŸ™‚

As a member of the North East Blues OSC I had the opportunity to see the Premiership Trophy when the club brought it up for a visit. The Charity Shield accompanied it but it was clear which stole the show, and rightly so.

Me with the gorgeous trophy

It had been snowing all day and I was worried that it might prevent either the trophy getting up here, or me getting over to Blaydon rugby club which was where the event was being hosted. Billy usually gets dragged along to NE Blues meetings as I don’t like to travelling alone at night, and this was no different. I think in the end, he had quite a pleasant evening too, despite not being City. There were a couple of other non-Blues there too, but a good number of Blues turned out and between us we raised just short of £500 for City’s charities.

Charity Shield, Premiership Trophy, a long suffering Blue and her long suffering husband

The trophy is absolutely gorgeous and it was such a privilege to be able to touch it and admire it. The two security chaps who accompany the trophy on these visits were really friendly and relaxed and although both work for City and one is a Blue, the other is a Red. I asked if it was a bit of a bind doing this and the “red one” said “no” and that he loved seeing the what this trophy means to the fans and the looks of pure joy on their faces. He also said he thought it was great that the club shares the trophy with the fans. It certainly is and it’s so much appreciated by we Blues. We were a part of it when we were unsuccessful, a part of it as we finally achieved some success and the club recognise this which in turn ensures we’ll be a part of it forever more πŸ™‚

THANK YOU CITY! πŸ™‚

Thank you to Rick and the committee of the NE Blues for organising the event, and to Mark who took loads of photos on the night with his professional camera and eye. I love this one he took of Kitty with the trophy.

Kitty and HER trophy

Nel’s Snowy Birthday

Nel’s birthday was on a Saturday this year and since she hates football so much, I forfeited my match to devote the day to her. She wanted to visit the Hancock Museum followed by a Chinese meal for lunch at a restaurant in Newcastle that we’ve enjoyed in the past. However, snow started falling heavily on the Friday and we decided to revise our plans in the interests of safety and having a stress-free day. (We have agreed, however, to go to the museum at a later date so that she doesn’t miss out, but the restaurant appears to now be closed.)

As usual, I was the first up and as Nel had requested a birthday cheesecake, I got on with making her one (and one for the rest of the family!) as well as a big pan of leek and potato soup. When she woke up, she sent me a text requesting a chopped apple and a cat to be take to her in bed! After obliging, I also gave her her presents and cards (DVD’s from us) and Billy trudged through a blizzard in the (now fairly deep) snow to collect Mum’s birthday parcel from the sorting office.

Just before noon, Billy, Raji, and I took the birthday girl out for her Chinese lunch to one of our favourite restaurants, The Golden Dragon, just in town. We had a lovely meal whilst watching the snow falling outside. We had the lunchtime menu but added crispy duck pancakes too as it was a treat. Although I ordered my usual favourite (chicken in lemon sauce) we all shared our dishes so we also had chicken and mushrooms, beef in black bean sauce and broccoli in garlic sauce. The latter was gorgeous and a new (2nd) favourite of mine. Billy left to go to his football match which was still on, and transport running, and the rest of lingered over coffee and Chinese tea before leaving. On the way home, we rented a DVD for later, and then when we got home, Nel went for a nap!

Since I had written off any hope of following my match, it was an unexpected bonus being able to do so, and Raji and I settled in the living room with the fire on, TV flicking between the rugby and Soccer Saturday and I followed MCFC’s text commentary of the game, a comfortable sounding 2-0 win for City. πŸ™‚

We had an evening meal of homemade soup, bacon sandwiches and cheesecake and once Nel appeared, she, Raji and I watched The Amazing Spiderman whilst drinking mulled wine – a cosy way to spend a snowy evening πŸ™‚ The film was very good and much better than previous Spiderman ones; it is very much in keeping with the Avengers series and I look forward to the next film.

Although it was not quite how we’d planned to spend Nel’s birthday, it was a very pleasant and relaxing day in the end and we all rather enjoyed it. I can’t believe my youngest baby is 20 now, but am very proud of her and how she’s grown into such a lovely young woman πŸ™‚

New Year with good friends

In a change to our previous New Year’s Eve arrangements, this year we went to Roger and Steph’s new home to see out the year. There were about 15 or so of us altogether, including Simon and Claire who were up for a few days so it was a nicely sized gathering. There was certainly plenty to drink, and besides chatting, there was the Wii for those who wanted to play, as well as a shot-drinking roulette game and later a logo quiz board game which was played boys v girls. Raji, Steph and Dan played the roulette game enthusiastically, knocking back shots of Cactus Jack (which looked revolting – especially the Jaffa cake flavoured one!) It was nice to see Raji letting his hair down, though he didn’t actually get that drunk. The board game later was made interesting by the fact that both question masters were under the influence and had great difficulty reading the questions, one of the girls seemed determined to help the boys, another moved to sit far enough away that the girls’ conferring could be heard by the boys enabling them to steal a question or two and best of all, the rules appeared to be made up as we went along πŸ˜€ It was a lovely night with lovely people – these people are amongst our closest friends and it was just so nice to relax with them and see in the New Year together πŸ™‚

When we got home at around 2.30 am, it was to discover that Stephen’s tonsillitis/cold had been bad enough that he was sent home to bed after dragging himself in to work, and Nel had been poorly enough that she’d had to cancel her own NYE plans. πŸ™ My poor babies are both now on herbs and working through the bug, which is a nasty one.

I was unsurprised that I didn’t sleep at all, as I had missed both my deep sleep cycles (I seem to have one around 11.30pm and one about 2.30 am ) so I just relaxed in bed (listening to Billy snoring πŸ˜‰ ) and got up not much later than usual really. What WAS a surprise was that I felt absolutely fine, unlike previous years, and yet I’d probably drunk slightly more! I wasn’t complaining!

We spent the afternoon with Pat, having collected Paul and Steph on the way, and once again we had a fantastic day with them, Natalie and Grandpa. We were stuffed after the roast pork dinner with all the trimmings, followed by Christmas pudding, profiteroles and later cheese and biscuits. Naturally the drink flowed freely too, and I had had some sneaky peeks at the MCFC Twitter commentary of the City 3 v 0 Stoke match and was delighted with the result. (MCFC’s 60-second highlights here and extended ones here.)

Between dinner and pudding we played the reindeer racing game which had come from the crackers – think some of the reindeer must have been sneaking some of Santa’s sherry!(If video clip doesn’t show, right click the blank area and click “reload“)

We also played Pat’s own variation of build-a-beetle with felt pieces assembled in to snowmen – a simple but fun game. I seemed to throw load of 6’s and Pat could only throw 1’s! We then played our Nasty Horse Racing Game which we took with us and that was fun with some devious moves and downright persecution for the most tenuous of reasons (yes, I admit it – I knocked Natalie’s horse out of a race simply because it was red! :D) We then managed a couple of quick games of Trivial Pursuit though this was pretty tame compared to usual (probably because Barbara now lives in Oz and wasn’t there.) The girls even managed to get all their pieces of pie in the first game but simply could get to the middle for the final question and then correctly answer before the boys cleaned up. (Of course if the girls would stop being preoccupied with landing on the pink questions all the time, they might do better – did I mention that I hate the pink ones? πŸ˜‰ )

Despite my lack of sleep the previous night, I did OK but was definitely very tired and ready for home by the time we got a call from Nel asking us to come home soon. Her cold had given her hearing loss in one ear and she was feeling a bit scared, so we wrapped up the game and walked home. Nel was fine once she knew we were home so we wished her goodnight (well, morning) and crashed into bed.

We do love spending New Year with our friends. Happy New Year.

Not doing; just being.

We spent a lovely, leisurely Boxing Day at home (mainly eating what we wanted, when we wanted it πŸ˜‰ ) I watched the Sunderland 1 v 0 City match on a very hit-and-miss webstream whilst Billy watched ManUre 4 v 3 Newcastle and we were both wanting each other’s team to win; we were both disappointed! Ho hum! (MCFC’s 60-second highlights here and extended ones here)

On the 27th, Nel and I drove down to mum’s to spend the night and just have some girls’ time out. Nel went shopping with her friend who lives nearby and mum and I did……………. absolutely nothing! πŸ™‚ We just sat and chatted and it was lovely. Nel returned in time for dinner (braised steak, mmmm.) She had asked if she could sleep in the living room on the camp bed and as soon as we’d made it up ready, Rocky decided it looked very cosy (which it did, as mum always makes it so) and promptly claimed it! πŸ˜€ Nel going to bed later didn’t bother him a bit – since he had his spot, right in the middle and wasn’t budging! At some point in the night though, he did decide to let Nel get some sleep and he went upstairs to sleep with mummy. The next morning we went for a mooch in the shops and though we enjoyed ourselves, we didn’t actually buy much (and even then what we bought was from the 99p shop!) so we clearly hadn’t missed much the day before. We had a lovely late lunch of mum’s home-made chips with Bockwurst before we set off for home again. What a wonderfully relaxing visit – not doing, just being πŸ™‚

I couldn’t get a web stream for the Norwich 3 v 4 City match and had to content myself with the radio commentary instead. It sounded a fantastic match and of course, the result was very pleasing too. The effort was certainly better than the apparent lack of interest on Boxing Day and fans of both clubs got their moneys-worth. (MCFC’s 60-second highlights here.)

Other than this, I just enjoyed being at home for a few days – no work, no plans, just pottering around doing little things like catching up with some blogging, cleaning up my laptop (backing up files, doing a defrag etc.) and playing with my new phone, installing apps etc. πŸ™‚ I was not missing work at all!

Precious family time at Christmas

Having finished work on the 21st December, I had two glorious weeks off ahead and got it off to a good start with a couple of nights out. On the Friday night, the darts team got together for a few drinks and light-hearted darts games at the club – this is becoming a very nice tradition now πŸ™‚ On Saturday it was Billy’s work Christmas dinner and this was held at The Heart and was a wonderful night with fantastic food and company. I thoroughly enjoyed it and it put me nicely in the Christmas mood. I then had a couple of days staying indoors to potter around at my own pace preparing for Christmas so it was all very relaxed and un-rushed πŸ™‚ Since I’ve scaled down present buying considerably over the last few years, there weren’t too many to wrap and I’d just about got cards written and posted a few days previously, so I could concentrate on the house and food.

Mum had given us a food goody-bag in which there were really well thought out supplies such as chocolates and biscuits, savouries and beverages and even a treat for the cats and hamsters! (Thank you mummy πŸ™‚ ) We also had another thoughtful gift of an M&S gift card from another relative and this was spent on fresh foods such as dips, pate and cheeses. Finally, my Tesco Clubcard vouchers covered the turkey, a beautiful piece of silverside beef and the other Christmas essentials. All that was left was for me to bake so on the Sunday I made my shortcrust and puff pastries and on Christmas Eve I cooked the meats and did the baking.

Coleslaw and Sausage Rolls

Mince pies and Christmas cake

and set the table

Christmas table

When I went to bed that night, I was just drifting off when I suddenly remembered the kids’ stockings! ARGH! Stephen had gone to work and wouldn’t be home until midnight or after so I could put his on his bed and he’d find it when he came home. But Nel was still up and not likely to go to sleep until the wee small hours; what to do?! As I leapt out of bed Nel called out “Have you just remembered what I have?” and so I went in to her to discuss my dilemma. At no point did she deny that if I left her her stocking now, she’d immediately examine its contents πŸ˜‰ I suggested I placed it somewhere “just so” and she was to get a clock and take a photo to prove it hadn’t moved until after midnight, and she came up with the idea of hanging it on the hook under her clock, which also happens to be on the wall that backs on to my bedroom – so I’d hear her if she tried removing the clock to alter the time! For the final touch, I stapled the top of the stocking so she couldn’t try peeking without touching and we took a photo to show its exact position:

Nel’s Stocking!

She took another at midnight – though in fact Billy (who had spent all afternoon and evening in the pub) returned around midnight and vouched for the security of the stocking at that point πŸ˜€ I don’t know! You’d think when your children are adults, they can manage to wait for their stockings wouldn’t you? πŸ˜‰

The next morning I enjoyed some peace and space whilst everyone else slept and I prepared the veg etc before they emerged at 11 am. Nel sorted the presents and took her own upstairs to open alone (after her diagnosis of autism we started this last year and she was able to fully enjoy presents for the first time) and then everyone gathered in the living room to open our presents together – with Nel opening the cats and any family ones.

The cats enjoyed the wrapping paper pile in the middle of the floor πŸ™‚

As usual, we had some lovely and perfectly chosen presents, including these beautiful Christmas ornaments which a few of the secretaries at work had given me (so unexpectedly that I’d burst into tears when they presented me with them along with a couple of bottles of wine!)

Photobucket

After clearing up and making a couple of family phone calls, I continued to prepare dinner in a leisurely fashion, and it all came together nicely for a relaxed and enjoyable meal – with the usual naff crackers, lots of laughs and everyone enjoying the food (and drink!) After clearing up, Raji and I did the washing up and watched the Queen’s speech (unfortunately the main thing I noticed was that those poor Military Wives had been asked to sing in public a song they clearly didn’t know as they had to make up the tune to “In the bleak midwinter” as they went along! (Why, oh why do people feel the need to take a traditional song and mangle it dreadfully to a new tune? πŸ™ )

We then settled to an afternoon of playing The Really Nasty Horse Racing Game which we had been bought a couple of years ago and somehow overlooked. It was brilliant!

Nasty Horse Racing

By the time Billy won this (having kept a great poker face when Stephen was openly convinced he’d won πŸ˜€ ) we were flagging and settled in front of the TV for a short while before bed.

It had been a very relaxed and smooth running day and I really enjoyed spending the time with my family. We should definitely play games together more often and though they may all have started out just humouring me, I think everyone genuinely enjoyed it as much as I did πŸ™‚

This time last year – I laughed at Nel and her stocking!

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