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™‚ )

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™‚

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!

A win and a 180 (Darts!)

A couple of weeks before Christmas, we played away at the Ex Service B, having not played there for some time as they’ve had no team based there. I’d forgotten what a nice throw it is there and we had a pleasant evening. Billy had been collared in to going to the cinema with Nel to see The Hobbit, so I walked up with Paul (via the off-licence where we sampled some sloe vodka which was gorgeous!)

Our random order was: Senior; Paul; Mark; Graham; Junior; Me and we won both trebles, Senior & Paul’s doubles, and then Senior, Paul and Graham’s singles to give us a 5-6 win πŸ™‚

Talking point of the evening though, was Paul hitting 180! Very well done to our captain πŸ™‚

My own darts took a while to get going but were good by my singles game. Sadly for me, I was playing a very strong player though I could have just pipped him had I hit my double first time of asking. Nel and Billy turned up at this point, their film having finished, so it was great timing to join us for a drink before we all walked home together.

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Birthday girl

It was my birthday a couple of weeks ago and I didn’t expect much as we don’t have any money.

Nel had already said she was going to draw me a picture as my present, but I certainly wasn’t expecting her to actually CREATE a character especially after me for her comic. She is called Angelena and she is the Goddess of Nature πŸ™‚

I just need to buy an A4 frame for her so she can go on my wall – might see if Nel will autograph it first πŸ™‚

Billy had also told me he couldn’t manage much, but then he and Raji astounded me by clubbing together to buy me something I wanted but didn’t expect to own for a few years – a Kindle! I was so surprised and pleased πŸ™‚ (So far I am resisting temptation, other than to download some books) and am finishing the actual book I am reading at the moment, but can’t wait to use my Kindle.) My colleague, K, gave me an Amazon voucher so I bought a couple of downloads with that too πŸ™‚

I wasn’t expecting anything from Stephen as he’s always skint and I’m just pleased if I get a “Happy Birthday” from him, but he did give me a present – a bottle of vodka πŸ™‚

Mum had already given me my new City shirt but she also gave me a bag of “silly little things” – I didn’t think they were silly (or little) but they were all very well chosen and I loved them – everything from fluffy socks to a pack of Costa coffee πŸ™‚

Two of my colleagues gave me a bottle of wine and the girls in the secretarial department gave me a card which they’d all signed which was another unexpected surprise. I received lots of lovely cards and was feeling loved. I had lots of birthday messages on Facebook too – my virtual cards πŸ™‚

I was working all day, as were Billy and Raji, but Stephen had managed to swap his evening shift so that we were all at home for tea – and we treated ourselves (by clubbing together) to takeaway courtesy of the chip shop. I don’t often get to have a family meal with everyone together so it was really nice, even though we did then all go our separate ways afterwards.

So I had a lovely birthday with more treats than I expected πŸ™‚

A week’s cat-sitting for a cat we hardly saw.

    Monday

Mum left for her coach trip early on the Monday and after a leisurely breakfast I decided to pop out to the local shops for a couple of hours, leaving Billy to sleep. I mooched about just window shopping before returning home to find Billy had made it to the sofa for the afternoon πŸ˜‰ We treated ourselves to a Dominos pizza for dinner and it was DIVINE! πŸ™‚ We channel hopped a bit until we gamely decided to see what Conan the Adventurer was like. It was truly dreadful with a very low budget and wooden acting – and we laughed throughout, before getting engrossed in NCIS. (We don’t watch TV normally so it was a bit of a novelty.) We didn’t see Rocky as he was staying out Billy’s way since he is scared of men, but we hoped he’d come round as the week went on.

    Tuesday

England were playing cricket so I went off out for the day letting Billy watch it. I had such a lovely time going round all the shops in town, pleasing myself where I went, and poking around in all the charity shops as well as the other shops. I even got some bargains and moreover, they WERE things I actually needed (including replacement darts the same as my old worn out ones) πŸ™‚ I grabbed a light lunch in Bhs to keep me going and I only got the bus back when my feet decided they’d had enough. I can’t remember the last time I did this so it was rather fun – and on the way back I managed not to get caught by the local odd-bod (who had moved seats to sit next to me on my way in earlier and even shook my hand as he introduced himself!) I cooked us steak and chips for dinner with some of mum’s home-made apple pie and lemon meringue pie for afters. Later we simply had to watch Conan again and rewarded ourselves with NCIS afterwards as we had last night. Rocky still wouldn’t come near Billy, though he’d let me give him a quick fuss or two and he polished off every morsel of food I put down for him.

    Wednesday

I decided that Billy had had quite enough time to be lazy and we were now going to spend quality time together! He still managed to laze around for the morning but in the afternoon I was dragging him out for a nice walk along the canal and into town. My vision was a romantic afternoon, me wearing a pretty dress, hand in hand as we enjoyed a summer stroll along the canal. After the 2.5 ish mile walk we’d have an early evening meal in whatever restaurant took our fancy, continuing the romantic mood. Ha! First of all, the weather wasn’t playing ball – it had been glorious the day before but was clouding over as lunchtime appeared, though the forecast had predicted only a 10% chance of rain. Well, by the time we were thinking of going, the heavens opened and it poured! Undeterred, I said it’d soon pass and then we’d go. In the meantime, Rocky appeared like a little drowned waif and we took pity on him and left him the house to himself whilst we went out into the downpour! πŸ˜€ So, the plan had changed a little – no pretty dress but instead jeans, boots and raincoat. Nevertheless I was in a holiday mood and laughed at the sky. Billy pointed out that this may be a mistake – and he was proved right as the rain got even harder and we were soon soaked through with squelching feet. Then came the thunder. And the lightning. Yet when we looked behind us, towards Wales, the sun was shining and the sky was blue! Just like in cartoons, the black clouds started right above us – and came with us πŸ˜€ I had another mocking little rant at the sky – and so came pea sized hailstones! Oh come off it! It’s supposed to be summer! The canal was very high – but the ducks, moor-hens and swans seemed to be enjoying it at least πŸ˜‰ Eventually the weather must have decided that if were still smiling, laughing and even Singing in the rain, it may as well behave – and the sun came out! By this time we’d reached the City walls but felt we were too soggy to go and have a drink in the pub there as we’d planned. We decided we’d also spoil our dinner if we stayed wet so we turned round and walked back the way we’d come. We saw a few other people this time – but no-one was nearly as wet as we were and some were bone dry! When we got back I found my phone was soaked inside and I thought it was dead. Luckily I keep a spare handset in the car so swapped my SIM over and was contactable again. After drying off and getting changed, we got the bus back into town and tried to decide what kind of meal we fancied. I’d been fancying a Chinese for a few days so I suggested we take a look at a place I’ve often seen but never tried – the Slowboat. It looked inviting so we ventured in and we had the early evening banquet – which was absolutely gorgeous! We’d certainly go back and we’d recommend it if you’re ever in Chester and fancy a Chinese meal πŸ™‚ I can’t say I got Billy’s undivided attention as he was on his phone a lot, but it was more than Monday or Tuesday so that was rather nice, but we opted not to stay out, and returned home instead, where I put my phone (minus battery) in the airing cupboard overnight and then guess what we watched?! πŸ˜‰ Rocky was nowhere to be seen but his food bowl was empty so hopefully he’d been in long enough to dry out at least.

    Thursday

In the morning, Rocky surprised me by being on mum’s bed, having clearly spent the night there, and he let me give him a good fuss before he disappeared. My phone surprised me by being dry and working as normal again – good old Nokias! πŸ™‚ We’d earmarked the day for doing a couple of jobs for mum and we decided to clear out the loft first. This was really dusty, dirty work as no-one had been up there for years, but there wasn’t too much there so we got it done quite quickly in the end. We took the stuff to the garage for mum to sort out at her leisure, but at least the loft was free for a loft insulation survey now. We treated ourselves to a light bite at the new Costa drive-thru on the retail park – though we didn’t drive through at all, but parked and went inside πŸ˜‰ We spent the afternoon painting the fence panels – initially this was to be just Billy but I ended up joining in so between us we got five panels done in between dodging the occasional shower. We did have a cuppa sitting on the garden chairs in the sunshine too which was nice. Billy was painting the large part of the panels and I was doing the edges and going over missed bits/2nd coating where needed so he finished before I did and went inside. I was running out of time as I still had dinner to cook and the weather to beat but was determined to complete the final panel. Eventually it was done and I got cleared up and cooked the dinner while Billy had a shower. It was chicken breast dinner with roast potatoes and veg and it went down very nicely after a hard working day. After washing up I went and had a bath as I was now aching. Everywhere. Despite the hard work, I’d really enjoyed spending the time companionably sharing a job with Billy. I wish we did it more often as we do actually make a half-good team and once you can prise him away from the sofa he can actually get quite a bit done. πŸ™‚ Rocky had appeared a couple of times in the garden but he gave us a wide berth so no fusses that day – dinner was wolfed down though!

    Friday

We went to Chester Zoo with L, A and Callum. We’d hoped to meet up with them earlier in the year when they were in our area on holiday but it hadn’t been possible, so instead we wanted to spend a whole day together as the opportunity had arisen. We met them there and our timing was good so no-one had to wait long, and since we had already bought our tickets, we didn’t have to queue to get in either πŸ™‚ Unfortunately Callum has recently been on one of his courses of chemo which meant he was very tired but L and A had brought his wheelchair and Billy took charge of pushing Callum for the day. We had such a lovely day and Callum proved to be a pretty good navigator, working from the zoo map we had given to his care. We didn’t quite see everything as it is such a huge zoo, but we did see everything he wanted and that was the important bit. Mum had bought him a City cap which I gave to him when we arrived and he wore it for the day and I was wearing a City shirt – football shirts seem to be the preferred item of clothing for the zoo visit as I’d remembered from when we used to take the children every year when they were smaller. There were, as you’d expect, lots of Liverpool shirts, a few “checked tablecloths” (if that means nothing to you, google ManUre’s home shirt, not linking! πŸ˜›) and a few City shirts. Funnily enough though, it was a man not wearing any football attire who came up to Callum, tapped his cap and told him that was the best team in the world, and another who said to me that he’d be at the match next day and asked if I would. πŸ™‚ As well as the animals (we saw my favourites, the tigers, and for the first time EVER I actually SAW the elusive jaguars) there was a dinosaur exhibit too which Callum was keen to see so we managed to include that before he got too tired, though actually he was struggling a bit by then. L bought him a toy white rabbit which he watched being made up – complete with birth certificate – and eventually he settled on the name “Azurill” after a Pokemon he likes. Sadly, another side effect of the chemo was that the poor little thing had a mouth full of ulcers so he could hardly eat and had managed with a slushy and a drink all day. None of us had eaten in fact, as L had suggested we go to Frankie & Benny’s for tea as we knew they would be happy to accommodate Callum’s needs as they had last time. We met there after leaving the zoo and had a really tasty dinner and even Callum had managed to eat a reasonable amount of his which was pleasing. It was a very nice way to round off the day as we all got on so well (it was the first time Billy and A had met but as I’d thought, they hit it off right away – a little too well at times resulting in a light hearted battle between the sexes πŸ˜‰ ) It seemed to soon be time to say goodbye, but we had thoroughly enjoyed the day and it was absolutely lovely to spend such quality time with my Godson who was so good and so uncomplaining the whole time. I just pray for the evil that is cancer to go away and let Callum and his whole family live a normal life again.

We arrived home only moments before mum returned from her holiday so soon we were all sipping our drinks (vodka for me, gin for mum and Billy) and catching up a little – but we were all so tired that it wasn’t a late night at all.

Slide show of a few photos (right click area and reload if not seen straight away)

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