Enjoying nature’s bounty

This autumn I’ve mainly been enjoying free food produce courtesy of ours and mum’s gardens πŸ™‚

I’ve had cooking apples and rosehips from mum’s, and sour apples and blackberries from ours (I can’t believe how many blackberries there actually were growing at the back of the garden amongst the other bushes and trees.)

Rosehip syrup and Apple & Blackberry jam

I’ve also had a few courgettes from a plant given to me by a colleague, sage, oregano, chives and mint from my pots, chilis from a plant another colleague gave me, and gorgeous little cherry tomatoes from mum. All of these have supplemented whatever I’ve had in the kitchen to make yummy casseroles and dinners.

The apples have also been used in crumbles and pies, apple sauce and various cakes (e.g. spiced apple cake, Dutch apple cake, apple dessert cake)

Somehow it all tastes so much better when it was harvested for nothing and then made into food with lots of TLC πŸ™‚

3 x 3’s for City

Villa 3 – 2 City Having found myself a stream to watch this online, I was about to settle to watch when my (canvas) wardrobe collapsed, depositing all my clothes all over the floor. (Again!) SO I ended up sorting out that mess whilst watching – and to be honest it was probably a good job I did. Although City played well, it has to be said that Villa woke up after half time and deserved their win πŸ™

MCFC’s 60-second highlights here
MCFC’s Extended highlights here

City 1 – 3 Bayern MΓΌnchen I was snug in bed watching this game and though it always hurts to be on the end of a battering, I could only admire the beautiful and mesmerising football played by MΓΌnchen. They didn’t take second touches of the ball – it was all one-touch passing and movement. This was the first time since Maine Road (Arsenal), that I can recall, where City fans have applauded an opposition team off the pitch out of sheer respect. We may have lost this but it was a privilege to watch such quality football.

MCFC’s highlights here
Kippax Blue’s photos here

City 3 – 1 Everton I had an early start to attend this lunch time fixture and I was rather nervous about how we’d do against a team playing well, I confess. I needn’t have worried – although our defence did give me a scare or two, and both Kompany and Kolorov picked up injuries which is worrying. We played some nice football from the off, but the defence were too slow to spot the threat that led to Everton’s goal. Happily we responded straight away and proceeded to look comfortable on the ball with lovely passing and movement. It took us a little while to realise Sergio’s penalty had gone in, though we couldn’t quite figure out how and it wasn’t until the replay that it made sense πŸ™‚ We fully deserved the win and I particularly enjoyed it as I just can’t find anything to like about Everton and their fans. (I definitely prefer Liverpool and between games against Everton, I sort of forget why, and then we play them and I’m reminded how ManUre like their fans are – less about supporting their own team and more about the one they’re playing. I do like Liverpool fans by contrast as they support their team and have a sense of humour.) Lescott was the pantomime villain for Everton fans and they sang their usual songs at him, but I had to laugh when City fans responded with “He’s won more than you, he’s won more than y-ou, Joleon Lescott, he’s won more than you” πŸ˜€ (And later a variation: “He’s winning 3-1….” It was a good afternoon and again one of beautiful sunshine and I left smiling to enjoy a relaxed drive to mum’s. After a very fraught week at work I really needed some escapism and good cheer and this had hit the spot nicely.

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

I was also smiling because before the match, I’d met up with the people from Iconic Autographs who had brought along my birthday present from mum – a boxed frame photo/ticket display which they’d created from my title winning season ticket and FA Cup winning tickets:

I was there!

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 Β£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.

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 Β£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! πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ˜‰ 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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ˜€
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 πŸ™‚ For a rarity, Mum’s football team were on TV so I had the rare pleasure of a double header of football πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ˜€ (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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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….

Back in the mire.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 Β£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 Β£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 Β£4 instead of Β£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

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