Counting our blessings at Christmas

Well time has run away with me and here I am on Christmas Eve reflecting on a year of huge change for us.

Last Christmas we had no idea where we’d be living at this time, or even if we’d have a roof over our heads at all. We had no security, no money, no idea what the future might hold and it was very, very scary. We were living one day at a time and barely hanging in there.

Gradually, we’ve taken little steps forward and now we are living in a house that’s plenty large enough for us all to remain together as a family unit, complete with cats, and we are very lucky to have such a lovely landlady. By pooling our resources, and working hard we’ve managed to just about make ends meet. Billy was working part-time at first but now has a full-time job which he is enjoying getting his teeth into. Nel was unemployed but is now very settled into an NHS admin apprenticeship and is very much part of the team at work, valued for herself – and spoiled to bits by everyone in the department! Raji was doing a job that didn’t really challenge him enough but is now in a role which suits him well and pays more. I have spent the year working as much overtime as possible, with just one week off in July, but this has kept our heads above water and I do enjoy my work and feel a part of the team. Stephen still works at the pub which he enjoys but the hours aren’t sufficient to support him, unfortunately. So we’ve had small but positive changes since last Christmas – little steps;right direction.

This has led to me really feeling the true spirit of Christmas and I am fully in the mood to count my blessings.

I have my family all together and getting on with life by helping each other through. I have a nice home. I have absolutely wonderful friends and family who have supported us though this tricky year. I have the things that really matter.

I’ve cut down a lot on Christmas presents – and even cards – as have many people in this financial climate. I’ve made many presents myself and have enjoyed doing so and put a lot of TLC into them. Those presents I have bought were carefully chosen and I’ve made use of special offers, discounts and loyalty schemes, but I am pleased with what I’ve bought. People won’t have umpteen things, just one or two presents that I hope will really please them. It’s all so much more special and meaningful for me this year and I hope the recipients feel it too.

On the other side of the coin,I feel lucky to have such lovely, kind, caring colleagues who are also good friends. I’ve already received lovely messages in cards and presents from unexpected quarters. I’ve enjoyed sharing Christmas cheer with people who work very intensely all year and feel privileged to get on so well with people of all roles within the hospital. But more than this, these people have supported me through bad times and shared good ones every day so what little I’ve done for them at this time of year to put a smile on their faces has been very enjoyable to do.

At home, I have two children of whom I am proud and whom I am happy to call friends as well as family. I am lucky to have my wonderful mum who, as you know, is a huge part of my life and gives me so much by way of support, love and fun. She doesn’t live with us but is nonetheless part of this family unit and I don’t know what I’d have done without her. Raji, of course, does live with us and enriches our household; I must admit I can’t imagine him not being with us now. We get on really well and he is more a brother and friend than “just” an in-law. As for Billy and I, we’ve actually managed to spend some time together here and there and now that he’s settled in to his job and life has calmed down a bit, he’s more like the man with whom I fell in love. Dare I hope we can pause to enjoy each other for a while?

As you may know, our darts team is made up of very good friends and they too have seen us through this year. I love my Friday nights playing darts in their company. In good times and bad, we can just relax and be ourselves with them, and they with us. I miss them if I don’t see them one week and I don’t get bored with their company if we get together for other things (such as watching football in the pub and generally leading each other astray 😉 ) Their easy company and solid friendship has kept us going at times when we’ve really needed propping up.

I also have my beloved City to keep me entertained and through my football I have many friends who enrich my life. I have my City friends, some of whom I meet up with at games, some I only see occasionally. I have friends who are fans of other football clubs, some of whom I know well, some I’ve only met once or twice. Football brings me closer to my brother when we exchange match day texts as the geographical distance between us and busy lives make it all too easy to lose touch otherwise. All of these people make me feel a part of something, a sense of belonging and offer humour and opinion to entertain me. Many of them do more and have generously given me help, advice, support, access to match tickets and are dear friends. (You know who you are.)

So as I sit here counting my blessings and looking forward to a family Christmas and New Year with friends, I would just like to thank each and every one of you who has helped make this year bearable and kept us going. THANK YOU! I wish you a Christmas time full of your own blessings, with love, laughter and light and I hope that 2014 will be all that you hope it will be.

Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year to all my wonderful family and friends.

Our annual night out (Cricket dinner 2013)

Where does the time go? On 15th November, it was once again time for Billy’s cricket dinner at Langley Castle.
(See previous year’s posts: 2012, 2011, 2008, 2007. )

This also happened to be Stephen’s birthday so I checked with him first that he didn’t want to do something en famille for the occasion. I was unsurprised when he said not! 😉 We hadn’t know what to get him as a present so took a bit of a chance and bought him DFDS ferry vouchers for a trip to Amsterdam as this was something he fancied doing. Mum had done the research and she also bought him ferry vouchers, and she has offered her travel agency experience when it comes to booking. Happily he was really pleased with them and is now enjoying planning a trip. 🙂

Still being a smaller clothing size means I don’t have many clothes that fit (it’s now been a year since my bizarre, unexplained weight loss, yet I can’t quite accept that I won’t go back to my normal size and be able to wear my old clothes again.) I had an inexpensive green dress I could wear though it wasn’t really quite dressy enough, but teamed with an evening shrug and some high heels, it did the job. Nel let me use her green eye-shadow and my friend Helen loaned me her beautiful green shell necklace, earrings and bracelets – thanks girls 🙂 The menfolk scrubbed up rather nicely and submitted to a photo before we left. (I reckoned my heels made me the same height as them for once, but they said not…)

Thorn between two roses

We met with everyone at the cricket club ready for the coach taking us to the castle with the usual sweepstake on the length of the guest speaker’s after dinner speech 🙂 The venue was as beautiful as ever and the meal superb. (Sun-blushed tomato & basil soup topped with a parmesan straw; Roast loin of succulent pork, apple & pancetta stuffing, fondant potato and seasonal vegetables; Baileys cheesecake, caramel ice-cream and chocolate sauce; coffee and mints.)

As usual I couldn’t quite manage all my main course so Billy finished it off for me. However, he didn’t return the favour with the divine dessert, despite the fact that he doesn’t like cheesecake! 😉 It really was a gorgeous meal, the company excellent and the speeches amusing. There were lots of prize winners who were enthusiastically congratulated, and we even won 1st prize in the raffle! (A lovely wicker hamper full of food and drink goodies, which we’re going to save for Christmas 🙂 )

Chairman Webby playing host with the most photo WP_000285_zpsafa7d401.jpg Speaker Foxy making us laugh photo WP_000286-Copy_zps07f6bb3e.jpg Beautiful venue photo WP_000288_zpsf638467d.jpg Can't beat dinner in a castle photo WP_000289_zps1833c73c.jpg Prize winners and their prizes photo WP_000292_zpsed76667f.jpg Getting restless now photo WP_000294_zps536d0fc7.jpg

The coach came to take us back to Hexham at around midnight, Raji and I then coming home, with Billy joining a few others in the pub until the wee small hours. It had been a wonderful evening and worthy of being our annual night out 🙂

Billy

All in green

Together

Led Astray!

Well it was my intention to write my blog last weekend……. but I was led astray by bad men! 😉

Roger, being a freelance gardener, very kindly volunteered to prune the apple tree in our garden which hadn’t been done for a good couple (or more) years.

Tree in spring

By the time he’d finished, it looked like this:

Pruned!

Naturally, we wanted to thank him for his hard work so Billy proposed taking him for a drink and they asked me along. I regretfully declined as I had so much to get done over the weekend and planned to finish cooking then nip out before ironing all afternoon. I continued to resist and when I finished cooking said I was going down to Aldi to get a few bits and I left them clearing up the branches. I agreed they could drop me a text to let me know which pub they were in and I MIGHT pop in for a half on my way home. They then sent the text saying they were in Wetherspoons which I had to pass on the way home so I joined them for a quick drink. Before I knew it, Graham had joined us and I was on a second drink……. somehow the afternoon flew by as we moved to Studio to watch the rugby and by the time we went home, I’d had FIVE drinks! (Mopped up slightly by a hotdog from a van on the walk between pubs.) At first I fretted about not getting my chores done, about having scruffy clothing, no make-up or jewellry etc…… then I just relaxed and enjoyed a good afternoon in lovely company. If they were happy to take me as I was, then who was I to argue? 😀 You can’t buy impromptu sessions like this, nor good friends like ours.

So…… to catch up a bit……..

City: I watched these 3 games on TV
West Ham 1 – 3 City – Our first away win and well deserved I thought. It was also an enjoyable game to watch. MCFC’s 60-second highlights here MCFC’s Extended highlights here

CSKA Moscow 1 – 2 City – Dashed home from work just in time for kick off (Stephen had kindly turned on the TV and put it on the right channel for me) and I was pleasantly surprised to get this result. I was NOT amused at the racist monkey chants by home fans at Yaya. I’m also not convinced that the punishment issued by UEFA is much of a deterrent, though I suppose it is the 1st of the series of 3 punishments if they keep it up. Racism is not acceptable at any level, much less at Champions League level, and no-one should have to put up with it. MCFC’s highlights here.

Chelsea 2 – 1 City – good lineup, good tactics and good performance. One (stupid and frustrating) mistake cost us 2 points but that’s football. We take the many positives from it and move on. I was happy enough with this performance and that’s all I ask. I’m not happy with the media hysteria vilifying Hart and wish they’d get a grip! He’s still relatively young for a keeper, keepers’ mistakes are always very noticeable compared to those of outfield players, and jumping on his back isn’t constructive. MCFC’s 60-second highlights here MCFC’s Extended highlights here

Darts: Following on from my last report, we’re still doing well! We’ve won 5 of our 7 league games now and are STILL 3rd in the table! I’ve got a couple of singles wins under my belt too, including a satisfying one against a young lad who answered his phone during our game with “I’m in the pub playing darts. Against a BIRD!” 😀 (That was a very odd game in a pub with what looked like all those on pub-watch in our town having relocated to the next village. It was slightly intimidating when I was playing my singles with them all crowding round getting in my space a bit, but otherwise we actually had a fairly enjoyable evening as a tight-knit team.) Somewhere along the line, we I decided we should have a team theme tune to get us fired up for our games. Junior decided it would be the next song to come on the juke box. Flash! Hm, maybe not. OK, the NEXT song. Flash – the remix! 😀 Flash it must be then! Next to assign characters………. 😉 )

Work – well this is just truly crazy, it has to be said. I spend all my time in each of my two roles, desperately trying to get everything clear in the 2/3 days I have at it before doing my other role. Then when I go back to the other one, I have it all to do again. We’re also having a Trust wide new computer system very soon so everyone has to be trained in the new software and pass tests so full and half day training sessions have to be accommodated too. (It WILL be a better system I think but it’s a massive change – like switching from MSDOS to Windows.) I really do feel like I am permanently chasing my tail but in general I do love my work, it’s just that there are never enough hours to get it done as the workload is ever increasing.

Nel: Nel’s apprenticeship is going brilliantly now that she’s switched to admin. She has picked it all up so fast and does such a lovely thorough job that the secretaries are over the moon with her. She has made such a huge difference to the department and for their part they’ve really taken her to their hearts. She has her very own desk – with the addition of her own computer and printer just this week – and has personalised it with photos of the pets and a couple of plants given to her by one of her colleagues. I’m absolutely delighted that it’s worked out so wonderfully, grateful to the team for making Nel so welcome and appreciated and naturally am, as ever, very proud of my clever daughter. 🙂

Two dramas in one week: Drama 1

Last week I had the heavy cold that was doing the rounds, and by midweek had raging sinusitis and sniffles – which I hate! Happily the herbs pushed this through quite fast but it meant that I had 3 days of feeling sorry for myself. On Thursday night I thankfully sank into bed at the end of the day and was relaxing with a DVD when Nel popped out to Tesco.

I heard a strange noise and paused my DVD to listen for it. It was a sort of high pitched sound but although I stopped to listen for a good 5 minutes it didn’t come again. Timmy was on my chair and had his ears pricked up so I knew I hadn’t imagined it. It seemed to come from above me. Just as I was about to give in, I heard it again, very briefly. OH MY GOD!

Tiny Squishy


Somehow, my brain managed to put 2+2 together and realised that was a hamster squeaking in distress and as I bolted out of my sick bed and up the stairs, I heard a cat jump down from somewhere! I crashed in to Nel’s room and sure enough, there was Zara with little Squishy, the tiny Roborowski hamster, in her mouth! I yelled at her and thankfully she dropped him and I chased Zara and Zeb out of the room and slammed the door shut and then ran to where I’d seen Squishy. There he was and without thinking I tried to catch him – Roborovskis are very fast and don’t like being handled so of course, as I scooped him up, he scrabbled off the edge of my hand and was off behind the bed. Stupid me! (Stupid as well for handling him when I had a cold – human colds are dangerous to hamsters.)

Zara


I went to the other side of the bed and happily I spotted him huddled in the corner behind Nel’s desk so I sat myself down and didn’t take my eyes off him. The cats were meowing pitifully at the door, my phone was in my own room so I couldn’t call Nel and no-one knew I was in her room to come looking. I hoped she wouldn’t be long – especially as Squishy appeared to be recovering from his fright and might be on the move again soon! Then Billy called me and I eventually managed to tell him to come in the room without letting the cats in. When I explained, I asked him to try calling Nel – but there was no answer. He and Raji decided to go hunting for her and I just prayed Squishy would stay put until she got home.

Alas, he was now starting to scamper around the area and though I was relieved to see that he was apparently unhurt, I was worried he’d disappear – he is such a tiny little thing and the bare floorboards probably had a few little holes which he could fall down! There were certainly plenty of corners and cupboards he could get into! Finally, Nel came home though hadn’t seen the men, but she let Zeb in the room as she entered so I had to try and yell what had happened and get her to catch Zeb. He came straight over to the hamster – who promptly shot off behind the bed – before I grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and got him back outside.

Argh! Squishy was nowhere in sight! We hunted with a torch and couldn’t find him anywhere so we had to put the two bits of his cage on the floor, leaving him the means to get inside, and hope he could make his way home and want the safety of his own bed. Poor Nel didn’t get a wink of sleep listening out for him, but alas, he didn’t appear over night.

By the time I left to go away for the weekend on the Friday night, there was no sign still and Nel was sure he was under the floor boards or in one of the many cubby-cupboards dotted around that top floor and we weren’t certain he’d be able to get back even if he had been a clever boy and worked out how to retrace his steps. (In the wild they roam for miles each night and they leave a trail of wee to follow home. Would he even have thought of this?) I felt he’d be able to snack on the odd spider or beastie but I did think water would be a problem so I could only hope his need for fluid would drive him back.

Bizarrely, we’re not sure quite how Zara got him out of his cage in the first place. The cage (see picture below) was neatly on the shelf where it lives. The only thing out of place was the tube that joined the two parts – this was disconnected. How did the cat do that? How did she get him out of it? Or did he come out of his own accord? The distressed squeaking I’d heard (loud for such a tiny creature) was BEFORE the cat thudded to the floor – so did he jump out in fright? We’ll never know. We could only pray he’d come back.

Two-bit cage


I woke up on Saturday morning to a text from Nel that she’d sent at 12.54am: “I got Squishy! 🙂

Apparently she’d heard him – on the opposite side of the room to where we THOUGHT he was – and he was trying to drag one of his treats (left out to tempt him) back under a cubby-cupboard door! Nel quickly used videos to block his path and was then able to catch him with an upside down (empty) tissue box. His fur and his paws were black, but he was safely home.

He is now in only half his cage for the moment until Nel sorts out a cat-proof larger home for him. She says he seems bored now and it looks like he rather enjoyed his freedom. He is slowly getting cleaner though his paws are still grubby. What an adventure for a little scrap of fur and what a clever little boy to get home. Nel is very pleased of course, and having saved him from the cat, so am I. What a drama, but a happy outcome. Welcome home Squishy 🙂

Squishy

The Apprentice

Once upon a time there was a little girl who struggled to make sense of the world around her. She knew she wasn’t quite like everyone else but she didn’t really know why. As she grew up she learned to mimic the social behaviour of those around her and somehow get through though she always felt like an outsider; someone who didn’t get the joke or pick up on subtext and therefore never quite feeling confident of her place in the world. Even mum called her “my little odd-bod” though this was naturally with affection and the unreserved love of a mother who accepts and loves her child just as she is. She hated school but could never quite manage to make anyone understand just how difficult school was for her and how every day was a battle. Against her difficulty taking in all the information. Against an inability to put her thoughts and ideas in to words on paper. Against her absolute loathing of all sports and PE. Against her peers who seemed as alien to her as she apparently did to them – and some of whom bullied her. It was a relief to finally leave this hell and yet she had somehow managed to do so with six GCSE’s including English and Maths and after a brief fling with college she even returned to 6th Form for a while. But still she didn’t know why she seemed to find life so hard when others looked to actually be enjoying it! Finally, at 18-and-a-half she found out; she had high functioning autism. This was an absolutely stunning revelation and served to highlight just how well she had done to get by and her achievements thus far.

Naturally, you realise that little girl is Nel. And you may know that she’s unfortunately been out of work most of her adult life. Art has been her life-long outlet for her thoughts and ideas and she has largely been busy with that at home, but she’s WANTED to work. Unfortunately, with the difficulties she has plus the current high unemployment and economic situation, this has not proved easy.

Then in March, she received a call from the job centre asking if she’d be prepared to consider an apprenticeship, and if so, to hot-foot down there that afternoon to register. She did this and was initially put off on seeing a small group of other candidates but gritted her teeth and got through the session. She said that the others were mainly of the view that it wasn’t worth bothering with, working full time but only getting £40 a week more than they got already on the dole. She didn’t agree and wholeheartedly embraced the idea of getting some training and experience and a foot on a career path. Good for her, that’s my girl! 🙂

Since then, in a very slow process, she’s filled in forms, attended interviews and continued to pursue her application. She had to go to North Shields (45 minutes away) on a Saturday afternoon for “an interview” (wearing borrowed clothes of mine, yet with her own style and she looked stunning.) However, when she got there it was to a room full of other candidates which was somewhat alarming for someone who doesn’t cope with large groups of people! Again, she pushed herself to get through and get through she did. The organisers apologised that the letter had said it was an interview when in fact it was an assessment! Agh! Again, she overcame her fears and she passed the assessment. Interestingly, they were told that of 4,000 applicants, 300 were invited to attend the day and yet only 48 turned up! Proud of my daughter? You bet! At the end of the session she decided she wanted to sign up for a Healthcare Apprenticeship and asked if her one-to-one interview could possibly be nearer home.

She had her interview here at our hospital and was provisionally accepted. She then attended an Occupational Health assessment and an appointment for her documentation to be checked. She got her criminal record clearance and she was asked to attend a one day induction at 2 days’ notice last week which she thoroughly enjoyed.

After a long journey, she finally starts her NHS Apprenticeship on Monday, with 2 weeks induction training first and then working on the wards at the same hospital where I work. She has to go to North Shields for training 2 days a month but Raji has kindly said he will chauffeur her (as he did for her one day induction and will do for her 2-week initial training) as he can then go on to work (in South Shields) from there. What a star, thanks Raji.

So my amazing daughter (and she truly IS amazing) will at last be able to take her first steps on the road to working and independence and I am both very proud of her and delighted FOR her. Since she’ll be my colleague, we’re going to try and have a girls’ lunch in the canteen once a month which will be pretty special despite its humble location 🙂

Winning at home

Well we’ve now had a couple of weeks of the household chore regime and I’d say it is thus far of mixed success. Generally a move in the right direction though and mainly a matter of getting into a firm routine with what needs to be done and when. Billy and Raji have undertaken the shopping fairly successfully and will obviously take a little while to find the way that works best for them, but I’d say this has been a successful change. Billy hasn’t got the hang of the washing yet (pardon the pun!) but again, time should remedy that – I hope, ‘cos I’m hanging on to some stuff knowing I won’t see it for weeks if I put it in the basket 😉 He hasn’t quite mastered ensuring a load goes in every single night plus an extra most weekends, so we haven’t yet had an empty laundry basket. He also tends to forget to get it in and sorted at night so we’ve had some that’s dew-damp when the next lot needs to take its place. But he’s getting better as the days are going by and Rome wasn’t built in a day, so that’s fine. Raji did some of the ironing last weekend but had a bit of a shock at how long it takes so didn’t manage it all – as I said previously, I don’t think other people realised how time consuming these jobs are and thus the reason why I didn’t have time for anything except chores. Raji’s been very keen to do washing up at weekends and he’s helped everyone as and when needed so he’s definitely bought in to the idea of sharing the workload. Stephen and Nel still have a way to go and are not getting their jobs done regularly so they need to work out their routine and stick to it. Also, so far, neither Nel or Billy has braved the Rayburn but that’s something that I am happy to wait until we get a chance for me to show them the ropes.

And so I was able to leave for my weekend away hoping that I wouldn’t come home to my usual mountain of chores with which to catch up…

First up was football and I was SO excited to finally be going to a live game again 🙂 I loved seeing people I hadn’t seen all summer – and even bumped in to an old friend from Maine Road whom I haven’t seen for years so that was great. Alas, the football wasn’t so great! City 2 – 0 Hull was the most dire affair, and HOW we won I have no idea! I had to keep reminding myself what league I was supposed to be watching! The day out and occasion was far better than the “entertainment” it has to be said. The atmosphere was also very poor and Hull fans were singing alone most of the time. I didn’t particularly like some of their chants but I did laugh when they went one further than the old stand rivalry of Maine Road with the furthest side of the away section sang “We’re the left side, we’re the left side, we’re the left side of City” and the right side reciprocated 😀
MCFC 60-Second highlights here
MCFC Extended highlights here
Kippax Blue’s photos here

After an enjoyable afternoon I drove to mum’s to join her and Nel. Nel had travelled down by train on the Wednesday before and the plan was for me to stay the night then bring her home on Sunday with me after having a lovely time doing the Chester ghost walk and visiting Chester Zoo with Granny 🙂 For a rarity, Mum’s football team were on TV so I had the rare pleasure of a double header of football 🙂 Whislt Nel escaped upsatirs, we watched Palace 3 v 1 Sunderland and what a game! That was more like it! Palace played beautiful one touch passing football and although Sunderland rallied in the second half (at 1-1 it looked like it could be anyone’s game) Palace stepped it up a notch again and thoroughly deserved their win. Brilliant stuff – especially after the lacklustre game I’d watched earlier. After the match we all shared Dominos pizza to make a near perfect day: A double whammy of football, lots of cuddles with friends, pizza for tea and time with my mum and my daughter 🙂

After a wicked roast dinner on Sunday, Nel and I headed home and had a very pleasant drive – though she did try and disown me every time I shared grins and waves with Liverpool fans returning from their win against ManUre 😀 (In fact every football result in which I had an interest, (City, Palace, Newcastle, Norwich, Liverpool and QPR) went the way I wanted. Unheard of!)

All in all, a good weekend I’d say 🙂

A change is as good as a rest

After getting increasingly frustrated with the way everything in our house was being left to me or not getting done, I finally got very angry when yet again there were arguments over the washing up. So I called a family meeting after working out I was doing over 15 hours a week of chores on top of working compared to 1-2 hours a week for everyone else and deciding I wasn’t putting up with it anymore.

The household jobs have now been divided up differently with me doing the washing up so that it gets done every day, twice a day with cat bowls included and all the sides washed down. The daily task of laundry is now Billy’s job as this is fairly time consuming each day and I don’t have time to do both. Billy and Raji have taken on the weekly shopping as they’re happy to do it in the evening and will have the car. In fact this led to Billy expanding this to most jobs having another person assigned to share or act as back-up which I thought was a brilliant idea 🙂

Raji is my back-up/buddy for washing up and ironing which means that when I go away one weekend or so a month, these jobs will still get done instead of a backlog waiting for me to catch up over the next week. He’s also been helping Billy out with the washing this weekend so suspect he may end up buddying on this too. I think it works well for Raji to buddy as he has long working days thanks to the long journey. I will continue to do cooking but Billy and Nel have both expressed a wish to do some of it so this means I should get some weekends where I don’t have to spend hours cooking, and when I’m away, they will be able to ensure there are meals for the coming week. The other jobs have all been shared out according to who wanted to do them and who was best suited, all with a buddy/partner as back-up.

It wasn’t just the doing of all the chores that needed dividing up, but the mental taking over of them so that everyone now takes on the responsibility for ensuring their jobs get done. It won’t be perfect initially as everyone gets used to the tasks and what’s involved, but that’s fine, as long as everyone is fully on board with taking their responsibilities to heart and learning as they go.

This first weekend of it, whilst admittedly a bank holiday, I’ve had time to do some of the extra little things I haven’t had a chance to do before such as pottering outside in the garden and sorting out my room a bit more. Billy and I managed a tip to the trip to clear some of the bulky stuff from the garden and Raji got the grass cut which was brilliant as it was so overdue for a cut.

We’ve had one week of the new scheme and already I think there is a new appreciation for how time consuming the household tasks are, and how much thought and planning is required. Also how jobs still need to be fitted in before and after you go out of an evening or day at the weekend, and with time they’ll find out how relentless it all is with the same things needing to be done week in, week out. Hopefully this is the start of better team-working generally and more equal leisure time for us all. It certainly will stand everyone in good stead to know how to manage a household – something none of them have really taken on board before.

Our new plan will either bring us closer as a family or fall by the wayside and divide us, but naturally I hope it’s the former as I think we all stand to gain considerably. Watch this space….

Girls’ afternoon tea

All summer, Nel and I have been wanting to go out for a nice walk together but despite the beautiful weather hadn’t managed it because the men kept using the car for cricket (I hadn’t bargained on this when I said Raji could use my car for work, I must admit!) One evening she said to me that she really wanted to go up to Hadrian’s Wall and take some photos so I “booked” my car for last Sunday afternoon and decided to combine our walk with afternoon tea at Langley Castle as I had a voucher for this 🙂

We had a really nice afternoon up near Hadrian’s Wall with a few laughs and some beautiful photos taken by Nel. I really enjoyed stretching my legs and even managed, on slipping in the mud, to turn my unexpected descent into a graceful slide 😀 What with that and my excellent navigating which didn’t get us lost once, I was feeling very pleased with myself. A fact that did not go unnoticed by my darling daughter 😉

Finishing off with afternoon tea was lovely and we relaxed over our delicious food and tea for an hour and a half – again just chatting and enjoying a bit of a break. We had dainty sandwiches of salmon, cucumber, ham & pease pudding, and egg mayonnaise, followed by individual cakes of lemon meringue pie, raspberry and white chocolate, bakewell tart and chocolate tart, finished off with scones, cream, jam and strawberries. Mmmmmm 🙂 Nel had green tea but I had a pot of good old fashioned strong tea (I’d asked for Assam but they’d run out) Unfortunately when I got into bed that night, I was wide awake! Schoolgirl error forgetting that that much strong tea will have a fair bit of caffeine in it! Ooops! (A glug of sleep herbs soon knocked me out though, happily.)

Click here for Nel’s slideshow of photos

Laughing and late nights.

Stephen always shares funny videos etc with me and lifts me with a few minutes’ conversation every day, but I think he made an extra effort since my little meltdown and it’s been much appreciated. First he sat one evening and watched his “Rise of the Dark Knight” DVD with me and I thoroughly enjoyed both the film and his company. He has also shared some funny videos with me this week including – An American coach in London (football related) Running Man (football related) Substitute teacher – and then others by the same comedian.

I then had three late nights this week. THREE! I can usually only manage one, but I have to say that I really enjoyed all of these and felt they did me the world of good.

On Monday I had Helen, Nic and Sarah round for tea straight from work. I’d set the table and cleared the kitchen before I went to work and even picked some flowers from the garden to put on the table. I warned them that I had no idea what state the house would be in when we arrived home, though I knew Nel and Billy had both planned to do their bit during the day. I was pleasantly surprised to find a spotless house with everything in its place. Wonderful 🙂 Billy had even taken the loaf out of the bread making machine for me and it was sitting cooling on the side, greeting us with its heavenly aroma. As I’d prepared the food the day before, we relaxed with a mojito in the garden for a while then ate our quiche, homemade coleslaw, salad, and aforementioned bread accompanied with a glass or two of wine. For afters we had strawberries, whipped cream and homemade shortbread and then we went and sat outside again until quite late. It was really lovely and relaxing and must do it again before too long.

My second late night was on Wednesday which was Billy’s birthday. We met up with some friends at Wetherspoons before going on to the Coach later and had a very enjoyable night. I didn’t really want to go home but with work in mind, reluctantly tore myself away about 10.30/11pm and Billy walked me home before going back out to finish his night. It was great and I only wish we could do it slightly more often. I think Billy had a good birthday anyway, which was the object of the exercise; I certainly enjoyed it!

On Friday we were back out for our summer darts mini-league. We’d decided not to simply sit back and not touch a dart all summer so Senior had come up with the idea of all 8 members of our team having a little competition ourselves. Each week we’ve been playing each other in 3-leg games and we each played everyone else twice. For fun, Paul worked out the odds of each of us winning the league and though I can’t remember the exact odds for everyone, he was pretty much spot on with Senior running away with it. I was 28/1 and was actually quite pleased with my performances. Could have won a few more maybe, but equally I could have lost more. I was pleased with a 2-dart finish to check out on 91 this week 🙂 Only Graham beat me 3-0 twice. Senior did so once. I’ve won two games 3-0 and most of my games have been 2-1 regardless of whether I won or lost. I’ve played all my games now, as have most of us, but Mark just has a couple to play which will affect the final positions for us all. Not only has the extra playing time done my darts good I think – I’ve been regularly hitting treble 20 – but I’ve also enjoyed seeing the gang each week and relaxing in to the weekend with my favourite people.

Despite being a bit tired, I really enjoyed my week and felt it perked me up emotionally and mentally 🙂

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! 🙁

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 🙁 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 🙁 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 🙂

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.” 😀 That was it, I was laughing between pained “ow” s Ever tried laughing when you’re in pain? 😀 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….