Two dramas in one week: Drama 2

The second drama could have cost me my life – though happily, as you can tell, it didn’t. (Or it could have cost Raji and Nel theirs. But it didn’t.)

On the Friday night as soon as Raji got home from work with my car I loaded it up ready for going to mum’s/football for the weekend. As soon as I pulled away I knew something was wrong with the car! It felt like something was dragging on the road and the noise was very loud. Uh-oh! So I pulled over when I had a chance and got out and looked. Nothing! Nothing was hanging or dragging under the car. Weird! I debated what to do but as it was 6.30pm on a Friday, I didn’t really feel anywhere would be open so I decided to carry on but to take it easy and stay alert for any signs that the car was in bad trouble.

I drove down to mum’s doing no more than 65mph and I kept my peripheral awareness extended over the whole car so that I was listening for noises (or worsening of the existing one) and feeling for anything being wrong. There was nothing definite I could put a name to – the car just felt like it wasn’t quite handling right. Fortunately, I made it to mum’s and decided to just relax for the night and forget about it.

The next morning we planned to go to the local shops and I mentioned my concern about the car to mum. I went and had another look but again, couldn’t see anything. I studied the insides of the front wheels, not really knowing what I was looking for, and wondered if there was something rubbing on them – maybe a brake pad or something? Not knowing about cars, I really couldn’t tell. We set off for the shops and immediately we could hear the noise – it really was obvious. Whilst at the shops, we decided to get it checked – my instincts were that something really wasn’t right and that the car wasn’t safe, and mum’s agreed.

So we drove (carefully) to Halfords, parked up and went inside. The man on reception (I’d guess he was the manager judging by his manner) politely asked if he could help and I explained that we’d called in on spec as I was worried about the safety of the car. He said that they were fully booked for the day as it was Saturday and they closed at 4pm. He could tell we were disappointed and I said that I would feel much better of someone could even just take a look and let me know if I was safe to drive home even if I had to continue taking it easy and drive at a snail’s pace. He very clearly understood my position and very kindly said that if we could leave the car with them he’s do his best to find time for someone to take a look, though he made no promises. We accepted and were very grateful.

Knowing that we’d bought bacon before hand I said I’d nip to the car and get it as it was a hot day and it would end up cooking if we left it in the hot car. Mum said not to worry as it would be fine but I insisted, so she gave in. I decided to grab the paper as well so mum could read it and so I proudly informed her as I returned to reception to hand over the car key. She didn’t seem that impressed!

Having given my mobile phone number, we left and I assumed we’d head for the bus stop across the road, but mum said she was fine to walk. It was a fair way home so I asked if she was sure and she insisted she was, though it seemed a long way home to me, what with her bad hip. As we crossed the road, we went passed the bus stop and headed towards town, and mum took the bacon and paper from me and put them in a bag she had with her. We headed towards town but clearly my brain wasn’t quite with it – too busy fearing the worst with the car I think. I was convinced it was going to be very bad news and discussed with mum what sort of price would be worth doing any work and at what point to cut my losses. I’m not a negative person, as anyone who knows me can latest, but my instincts said it was bad, and I was but fed up of always having an old car that couldn’t be relied upon. I just need to wallow for 5 minutes before giving myself a pep talk and then I’d be fine.

It finally dawned on me that we were actually walking in to town. For once, mum and I were not thinking the same as I’d assumed we’d be killing the 3 hour wait at home. We actually had a nice mooch in town and went to Tesco for the things we needed too. Being clever, mum had put the lamb in the oven before we left so it was cooking slowly, and we’d had a tea cake with our coffee before taking the car to the garage. So she had the idea of going to Wetherspoons and having a portion of chips between us to keep us going until dinner and as we were waiting for the food, my phone rang. It was the garage and they’d had a chance to look at the car for me and said it was a wheel bearing. The manager said he strongly urged me to get it replaced to which I replied that I understood but where could I get it done as he was fully booked. He said he really couldn’t let me drive it like it was and he would get it done the same day for me. When I asked what the cost would be he said £139 including VAT so gratefully accepted. What a star! I was so relieved to think it could be sorted and glad I’d trusted my instincts.

Before we picked up the car later, we bought a selection pack of biscuits to take in to the garage as a small thank-you to them for helping us. There were a few customers in front of us and as we waited our turn, we had a chance to see what fantastic customer service skills the manager had. He was friendly, professional, polite and informative with everyone. When it came to our turn he said I’d been lucky to get down to mum’s okay the night before and it was probably due to the fact that I’d taken it easy. Apparently I could have lost the wheel or it could have completely locked (not at all good on a motorway!) We paid and handed over the biscuits and once again thanked them for going above and beyond. We were very impressed at how the manager had quickly grasped the situation and then taken it in hand, albeit without making any promises, and then thankfully sorted it out for us. He was so calm and reassuring and gave us confidence in both him and the garage. This man is worth his weight in gold and I hope the company appreciate him.

As we drove home, the difference in the car was immediately apparent – what a huge relief! Once we’d got ourselves settled at home I think hysteria set in as we got uncontrollable giggles about the fact that mum had carried the bacon and her newspaper round town all day! Ooops! πŸ˜€ This lasted on and off all evening – with tears literally streaming down my face at times.

It was good relax over roast lamb with a bottle of wine and the knowledge that the car was safe to drive the next day. We had the morning together on Sunday and used it to harvest apples from the tree in the garden and rosehips from the bushes at the front. We had an early lunch complete with birthday cake in early celebration, and then it was time for me to be off to the match.

Thank goodness for mum to keep me sane(r) whilst riding out a drama. Thanks Mum, and thanks Halfords – 10/10 for excellent service.

All by myself: Part 2

For good measure, the good old English weather decided to play ball and we’ve had a heatwave. A real summer! I had actually forgotten what it feels like to wear minimal clothing, feel the warmth of the air on the skin, and to relax in comfort. I’ve walked round barefoot, worn summer dresses and cropped trousers, and I’ve had all the doors and windows open with fresh air wafting through the house. I’ve even got a little bit of colour from taking breaks in mum’s lovely garden; I’d forgotten my skin could do that! Wonderful!

Over Thursday and Friday I finished the decorating, putting 3 coats of paint of the walls and one on the ceiling and was very pleased with how well the damp-damaged wall came out πŸ™‚

I also washed the car – twice! I was sure I’d got some car shampoo at mum’s but couldn’t find it so used washing up liquid to do it as the car was so filthy. But the next day it had more bird mess plus a load of dust and leaves all over it again so I went and bought a proper shampoo with wax and did the job again. This time the difference was very noticeable – it seems there IS a reason we have special stuff for car washing πŸ˜‰

On the Friday morning I was obviously missing going to the gym and I like being physically active, so decided to walk in to town along the footpath and I thoroughly enjoyed a good walk at a nice strong pace. The weather was already gorgeous at 9am and the route was fairly quiet. I treated myself to an iced coffee at my favourite coffee shop before a wander around town for some souvenirs for colleagues and family and then returning.

Iced coffee at Costa

On Saturday morning my friend Lee was in town to see his parents so he came round for a catch-up and a cold drink in the garden which was lovely. We then went to look at a car he was interested in buying and he helped me pump up the leaky tyres on my car – Oh, OK, I confess. He did it for me while I watched πŸ™‚ (It’s really annoying but the tyres have to be pumped back up to 32 psi every week, having gone down to between 24 and 8 psi!) I also fetched the family meat pack I’d ordered from mum’s butcher as it’s good value (8 family meals for £30, excellent quality meat) Then all I did was sort my stuff out before fetching mum from town when her holiday coach dropped her off in the evening.

We had a lovely evening and she led me astray, treating us to a Dominos pizza which we ate in the garden accompanied by a bottle of wine. We stayed out there until way past 9pm – it was just so pleasant and we were so relaxed we didn’t want to move πŸ™‚

On Sunday we felt we wanted to share the last day of our respective holidays doing something holiday-ish, so we went in to town and walked along the river, and back up through the park. We stopped for coffee at the Blue Moon cafe by the river, but alas, its name was better than its coffee or shortcake.

Blue Moon πŸ™‚

We shared one last lunch in the garden – Schnitzels, salad and jacket potatoes – and then it was time for me to pack the car and head home. I had a really enjoyable drive home in the warmth, just appreciating having my car for the last time for a while. As I got nearer home, I started dreading to think what state the house would be in but tried not to think about it.

The biggest “holiday” of my time away had been enjoying living in a clean and tidy house, clearing up after myself as I went along so that nothing built up into a big job. It’s just so much easier that way and so much less stressful. THIS is how a kitchen sink area should look:

Clean & tidy

NOT this:

Washing up galore πŸ™

I was home by mid evening and even managed to park right outside the house which was a pleasant surprise. I had time to unpack and to give everyone their little bits and pieces and then I could settle for the night before diving back headlong in to work again next day. However, I did feel that I’d had a real holiday with precious, heavenly time alone, calm, relaxing surroundings, and glorious weather to top it off. What a contrast to this time last year! Lucky, lucky me πŸ™‚

All by myself: Part 1

All work and no play makes Anji a very dull girl. So when mum booked herself on a week’s coach holiday, I readily agreed to house and cat sit for her. Her holiday was from Saturday to Saturday so I knew Billy wouldn’t want to come as this would mean missing two weekends of cricket which he’d never do. This meant that I would have a whole week by myself. One. Whole. Blissful. Week! No work, no phones, no demands – and no-one making a mess all around me πŸ™‚ I couldn’t wait!

Now here I am, on the Saturday afternoon at the end of my holiday and I don’t know where the time has flown. But it has been HEAVEN! So where HAS the week gone? Well………

I drove down Friday evening (after not driving my car at all for 6 weeks, it was wonderful just to stick on a CD, drive along in the sunshine and reaquaint myself with my car) and then took mum to catch her coach on Saturday morning. I spent the afternoon just pottering around in the house and garden, and the time soon flew by to tea time so I raided mum’s freezer and enjoyed the pizza she’d got in for me πŸ™‚ I’d brought a couple of DVDs with me so watched the final episodes of Fringe, season 5, sipping a glass of wine and feeling very mellow.

On Sunday I had a mooch round the retail park before making a start on some decorating I promised mum I would do months ago. She wanted me to just relax but to be honest I’m not the type to sit and do nothing so was happy doing it. The wall had got damaged by damp and though mum had had the flat roof repaired, I needed to do a bit or remedial work on the wall itself. She’d bought a tub of Polycell plaster repair and skim from B&Q, which I’d never used before. It was really easy to use and did exactly what it said on the tin, so I was well pleased with the results:

Repaired wall

I rewarded myself with an evening watching my other DVD – Django Unchained which I loved. Brilliant film!I may have slurped some more wine too πŸ˜‰

On Monday I took some stuff to the charity shop for mum and then I had my first hair cut for almost 2 years. I hate going to the hairdresser and having someone faff with my hair (usually wanting to straighten it/fluff it up/spray it with sticky stuff etc.) and I hate the power they wield with those scissors. I also don’t have the money, nor the time, to get it trimmed as often as I should, and the time creeps by until even I notice the split ends and know it has to be done. This was such a time so I bit the bullet, booked myself in at a nearby hairdressers and told them I wanted a wet cut, no blow drying, and just a blunt, straight cut to tidy it up – probably a couple of inches. After enduring the extremely uncomfortable experience of leaning backwards for a hair wash, I couldn’t believe the girl’s interpretation of 2 inches! TWO I’d said, not eight! I am NOT a happy bunny and the only thing stopping me going into hiding is that it will grow back! I haven’t had my hair this short since I was in my teens! πŸ™

SO short! πŸ™

To (try to) cheer myself up, I decided to give myself a pamper and unpacked the toiletries I’d brought with me for the job. I used to give myself a pampering session regularly in years gone by – I looked after myself, kept my skin clean, soft and exfoliated and enjoyed having a bath. Since then I have had less and less time and these days I get a bath less than once a fortnight as there is rarely enough hot water and/or the bathroom is wanted by someone else now that we have only one between the five of us. So I’d planned to enjoy having the time to indulge and after lining up everything I needed, I ran a bath – how wonderful, no-one else to want the bathroom or use the water; I could relax as long as I liked πŸ™‚ Except that when i turned on the tap there was hardly any hot water coming out – just the barest trickle πŸ™ It looked like the tap had seized up with lack of use now that mum’s hip means she has to have a shower and can’t have baths. Agh! So a pampering-ish shower it was instead, then. (It was still nice to take my time.) In fact I had a mini-pamper session every other day during my holiday so I didn’t miss out.

On Tuesday I was picked up at 6.15am so I could accompany Callum and his parents to the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital for his chemo check up. Last time I went to hospital with them it was Alder Hey and this was quite a contrast. The waiting areas and the whole set-up was geared around children. There were a couple of Wii consoles for the kids to play (Callum was pretty good at them too) and plenty to occupy them as they waited. He is so used to his weekly visit that he didn’t even flinch whilst he had blood taken, and kept chatting away. He chose his sticker to add to his collection, and after his consultation collected his bravery beads to add to his lengthy string. As his bloods were back up after being low, he was good to continue with 100% strength chemo and it was heartbreaking when he said to his mum in a very matter-of-fact tone “so I’ll be back to feeling really sick again in a couple of days then…” When we’d finished at the hospital we grabbed lunch at Burger King and I then spent the day with them and got to see two of Callum’s siblings again and met the two kittens πŸ™‚ Before we knew it, the day was over and it was time for me to go back to Chester. It was a great day and though it may seem a strange day out, I enjoyed being included in Callum’s hospital day and seeing what they have to go through week in, week out. It was wonderful to see Callum looking and feeling so well (though he has since gone downhill and is back in hospital at the moment πŸ™ ) He’s a little star and his parents are incredible at juggling everything.

On Wednesday I decided to have a day in town being a tourist and just doing what I felt like. I had searched for any O2 Priority Moments I might be able to use and duly did so to get money off and freebies during the day πŸ™‚ I also had a makeover at the Bodyshop since it was offered and it was free πŸ™‚ I didn’t like what the girl did with my eyes (think Prescilla Presley / Cleopatra with thick eyeliner flicked up at the corners!) and promptly went to the enarest loos to scrub it off, but I did like a couple of other tricks she used and having never used it before, found I liked what she did with bronzer πŸ™‚ Never too old to learn a new trick! I had a mooch round the shops but have to say I was very disappointed with them. I’d quite looked forward to going round them as shopping is something I never get to do (and to be fair, it’s not something I want to do that often, but it’s nice to do so occasionally) so it was something of an anticlimax finding half the shops gone, and even the charity shops didn’t have much of interest. After a pasty and a doughnut lunch in a bakery, I got the bus home and then decided to go back to the retail park shops and to Tesco. I’d really been fancying a curry (I can’t even remember the last time I had even an Indian takeaway) but obviously couldn’t afford that. Instead I decided to take advantage of Tesco’s offer of 2 main dishes and 2 sides for £6 and was very pleasantly surprised by how tasty the lamb rogan and Bombay potatoes were that evening. (The sweet & sour chicken I had the next night wasn’t as good, but okay, however the prawn sesame toasts were gorgeous.)

In amongst all of the above, I did some sewing in the evenings – I had a few repairs that had built up so got those done, including replacing the buttons on my jacket which had lost a couple so I bought some pretty new ones from the market and replaced the lot. I also made sure I watered the plants and fed Rocky of course – though that little furry monkey only came in for food, wolfed it down then went back out to play so I hardly saw him unless I gave him some treats so I could give him a fuss πŸ™‚ I felt a bit of a fraud since the main purpose of my visit was to look after the cat – but he was fed and watered and seemed happy enough so that’s what counts πŸ™‚

City 2 – 1 West Ham

After a lovely visit to our new home, and having given it the seal of approval, it was time for mum to go back home and as I had the whole week off (MUCH needed after a very stressful week beforehand!) I took mum home and spent the next day helping her to empty the kitchen ready for some work being done on it the following week. Mum treated to us to a Dominos pizza for dinner one night – and in fact we had the remainder for lunch next day so that wasn’t bad was it? Yummy! She also let me pinch a couple of bits of carpet off-cuts (leftover from when she had her house re-carpeted) for Nel’s bedroom and some old bits of branches waiting to be disposed of in the garden (perfect for burning in our open fire.)

On the Saturday I left her to go and watch City’s match against West Ham and once again it just seemed so long since I’d last been there to cheer the boys on live. It was a comfortable game with no particular dramas until the end when it looked like Hart was hurt and it caused him to concede a late goal. Aguero and Yaya scored the goals that ensured we kept the 3 points we did deserve though and all in all it was an enjoyable afternoon. The minute’s applause in memory of Marc Vivien Foe at 23 minutes was a nice touch and unanimously joined by fans of both teams. What made it even nicer was that this was an idea conceived by an autistic Blue fan, originally intended for the Cup Final, but instead changed to this fixture in view of Foe’s connection to both clubs. The club got on board and put up a picture of the man himself for the minute. Well done City and West Ham πŸ™‚

After the game I decided to brave (it was PACKED!)the club shop as I wanted a couple of bits for my car. As it now has to stay in a car park as there’s nowhere to park at home, I have removed all permanent City accessories and instead use ones I can display for match days and remove afterwards. I needed a couple of extras which had become more necessary as the suction cup off one of my existing ones had mysteriously disappeared. Although I had to get two identical mini scarves in the end, I did get the two of them for £4 instead of £10 (BOGOF offer plus 20% discount) Bargain πŸ™‚

I really enjoyed my drive home – although I’d enjoyed my week’s activities I’d had no time out alone (something I get less and less these days, alas) so I made the most of it.

MCFC’s 60-second highlights here
MCFC’s extended highlights here
Kippax Blue’s photos here

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™‚ )

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™‚


A lorra laughs with the birthday girl

Mum’s birthday was on a Monday this year and I had some holiday left to take so booked the Monday and Tuesday off and went to Mum’s for a long weekend πŸ™‚

I drove down on Saturday morning and it felt absolutely wonderful to be on the road after such a long time. I love motorway driving and was quite happy singing caterwauling along to my CD’s and looking forward to a couple of days R&R. It was going to be nice to swap the mess and moods at home for calm, order and relaxation.

In our couple of days together we had lots of laughs and managed to go to B&Q to buy paint for the next little project, do the shopping and we thoroughly enjoyed going through some old letters and photographs of my Nan’s. There were letters between her and my grandad from the war when she was evacuated to Whitehaven and he was serving in Italy; it was very moving to read how much they loved and missed each other and promises never to be parted again. Grandad’s letters were full of assurances that “Jerry” was on the run and the war would soon be over now. Nanny’s letters to him and to her mum showed what a close family unit they were and there were others too from very early on in her married life. It was all so interesting and we felt privileged to share a glimpse in to my grandparents’ lives. There was also a little booklet, sponsored by Stork margarine which was a “Questionnaire for young folk which my Nan had been given at school in 1930. There was a sport, history and first aid section of questions and answers, with the rest being general knowledge – and some of them were really tough! Some were just tough for us as they pertained to matters only up to 1930! (so questions asking for the last prime minister to do something, or last sports person to hold a record etc. would not have the same answer now as then.) Some of the first aid answers were so out of date that they were wrong e.g. they had blood vessels down as organs. However the true purpose of this booklet was to brain wash “young folk” with the message that Stork margarine was every bit as healthy and nutritious as butter and mum and I now know that margarine was invented in 1870 by Mege-Mouries thanks to the Franco-Prussian war when there was a shortage of cows and therefore of butter! Stork bought the rights to make it in England and set up shop in Purfleet. (Hope you’re impressed as I have told you this from memory (brain washing, see!)) Mum and I got the giggles as every new section of questions began and ended with one on margarine and its history πŸ™‚ At some point I will try and scan some of this stuff and share. Even the paper was interesting as both the booklet and the letters – and even greetings cards – were on good quality paper, some of which was so soft it was almost like fabric. The stamps were interesting too – mainly those of George VI and then one of the series of letters with Queen Elizabeth II. All so fascinating!

On the Sunday I abandoned mum for a bit and went to my match – my first for ages. I was so happy to be there despite City playing very poorly and being extremely lucky to have it finish City 2 – 2 Liverpool We had two fluky goals but Liverpool were by far the better team and should have won! I thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon though, as I always do, and loved getting my fix of live football / City.

On mum’s birthday we had a birthday breakfast of “Nanny toast” and marmalade. (My Nan always used to cut great fat slabs of bread, toast them, add loads of butter (no, not Stork!) and marmalade and this was always a special treat for us when visiting her and grandad) Then mum opened all her cards and presents which was fun – I love sharing present openings and seeing what lovely things people have chosen. We then went in to town and had a nice coffee break (hard work these birthdays you know! πŸ˜‰ ) and visited the Grosvenor Museum which neither of us had done before despite all the years in Chester. It was a bit of a disappointment in that many of the exhibits were being either assembled or dismantled and therefore had nothing for us to see. We were also dodging school parties and in fact it didn’t take us long to look at what there was at all. We enjoyed the Roman bits and we had to leave the art gallery when I got the giggles at mum’s face when a guided group entered the room, taking her by surprise πŸ˜€ We thought we’d revisit the Visitor Centre but this was closed, unfortunately. (When I’ve looked it up to link here, it seems to have changed hands and purpose.) We walked along the river and up through the park, with a nod to “Charlie” (actually, he’s Richard!) whose monument resides there, and finished with a little mooch round a couple of shops. This included popping in to a couple of the O2 shops to ask how to get my usual ringtone set up on my new phone. Unbeknown to me, as the phone was set to “silent”, the volume was on the highest setting and consequentially, in both shops, when staff accessed the song I wanted as my ringtone, “City, Manchester City” blared out full blast – in Chester, which is largely populated by Liverpool fans! The day after we jammily robbed them of a point! πŸ˜€ (Neither store could help much, but I’ve since figured out a way to do it myself.)In the evening I cooked the lamb shanks we’d chosen from mum’s freezer and we had them with a very nice bottle of wine πŸ™‚ It wasn’t the most exciting of birthdays for mum but we both enjoyed it nevertheless and I certainly enjoyed being there to share the day.

On Tuesday, we planned to take Rocky to the vet for his annual injections as Mum hates trying to catch him to take him to the vet and has had to cancel taxis before when she couldn’t get him in time. I was happy to be helping with transport, but after the last time I caught him he was nervous of me for months and I really didn’t want him to be like that with me again. Mum and I were very deliberately acting casually and literally pussy-footing around – and in the end he was fairly simply captured and mum got him into his carrier without too much fuss. It added a bit of extra fun running with his carrier through the blizzard which was blowing at the time, but he got a clean bill of health, bar a minor bout of conjunctivitis for which he got some drops, and that was that! Whatever were we worried about? πŸ˜‰ Mum rewarded us that evening with Dominos pizza – and we got a good deal since we had an e-mail offer of £10 off when ordering £25 or more. Er, bargain! How could we refuse? πŸ˜‰

I had to leave straight after breakfast on Wednesday so that I could get to work for the afternoon, but I had had the sot wonderful break with one of my most favourite people in the world, which really perked us both up I think. Thank you Mummy, I love you, and Happy Birthday πŸ™‚

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!)


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!

Bye bye Nissan – Hello Suzuki

After all my car stresses, I finally managed to sell my old heap to a scrap dealer for £160 and it was picked up on a Saturday lunchtime. This left me free to look around for a replacement and I had suggestions and recommendations from friends. One of them bore fruit and local mechanic Paul Robbie had a Suzuki Ignis that might suit me. Never having heard of one, I went hunting on Google and discovered that it looks like this:

I’m not a fan of 3-door cars (because I worry about passengers in the back getting trapped in the event of an accident) but these days I rarely have more than one passenger in the car with me anyway. I AM used to having a lot of boot space, but again, with not having a car full of people, I would be able to put down the back seats for luggage. So after work on the Monday, I went to see it. In the pitch black and pouring rain – so all I could say really was that yes, it was a car! πŸ˜‰ Paul was brilliant and having pointed out that it was an automatic, showed me how one drives a car with only two pedals – which was somewhat hilarious when I had a blonde moment wondering why I wasn’t moving but had fully taken my foot off the brake! He managed a straight face and no laughs as he advised pressing the accelerator! πŸ˜€ The car had been well cared for by its previous lady owner and was in good condition. Just before I left, Paul discovered that far from having the remaining 6 months’ MOT he’d been led to believe, it had only 3 weeks, and he said he wasn’t willing to sell a car with just that so he’d put it in for its MOT next day. We agreed that if it passed, I’d have it as it seemed to fit the bill and was within my meagre price range. (Cars under £1,000 are becoming scarcer in this economic climate as people are not buying new cars and therefore used cars are not filtering down the price ranges as people change their cars according to their budgets.)

The next day I was like an expectant father, waiting to hear if it had passed. Finally, at tea time, I discovered it hadn’t, though it was only front brake pads/discs and Paul was happy to do that for a reasonable price. It passed the next day and so on Thursday night I was able to go and collect it. Paul was brilliant and had put new wiper blades and 6 months tax on it for good measure and given it a wash too. As his “reward” he has now gained another customer, “lucky” man! πŸ˜‰ Thank you Paul (and L for putting me on to him)

Getting used to an automatic hasn’t been too difficult and whilst I don’t tend to inadvertently move to press the non-existent clutch, I do occasionally put my hand to the gear stick in preparation for a gear change – thankfully the gear stick is completely different to my old one so it reminds me not to move it! The wipers and lights are on opposite sides of the steering wheel to my car of the last 8 years, which has caught me out a couple of times. I need to get used to how much or little acceleration it has and how/when to brake to allow it come through its gears rather than me choosing how to change down, but that will come.

I took the car on its first trip to football and mum’s and it did the job nicely and it’s such a huge relief to be mobile again. It also seems comfortable for mum to get in and out and to sit so I’m pleased about that. I think I have managed to fit in all the stuff I carry out with me in order to be prepared for most situations. Now I just need to replace my tax disc holder with a City one and get some new City stickers.

Oh yes. Sorry, you girls reading this will want to know one last very important thing – green. My first two cars were white, the third (my last car) was black, I would hate to have a red one, but this nice dark green is very acceptable. πŸ™‚

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