Saturday, 10 January 2009

The best-laid schemes o' mice an 'men gang aft agley - Robbie Burns

Oh Robbie how right you were!

Did you ever start something and wish to goodness you hadn't bothered? Well just before Christmas I certainly did. My plans took a bit of a scuppering proving no matter how well organised you think you are, there’s often something you didn’t account for.

Anyone remember Sergeant Fraser from Dad’s Army constantly saying “Doomed, Doomed! We’re all doomed”? Well I think I am. Just about everything I plan at home seems to go wrong. At work I used to organise huge careers fairs, information exhibitions and training events and hardly ever had any problems. At home it’s a whole different ball game.

I get very little help from my husband if he doesn’t agree with my suggestions. I usually have to work on him for months to persuade him about something. If it's anything to do with DIY, he runs a mile. He’s very good at it, just doesn’t want to do it. In our other house he installed a new kitchen, a new bathroom and built a utility room with help from his brothers. Since we moved into this house over 20 years ago, he just doesn’t want to know. He talks me out of everything I suggest home improvement wise, apart from getting double glazing. Well let's face it there would be no painting to do then so I know exactly where he’s coming from. I’m digressing as usual, but just let’s say that when it comes to doing anything, I'm usually on my own!

I need a bigger dining table on occasions but don't want to buy another one. I’ve talked about this idea and been
dithering about for years, intending to buy a sheet of some kind of stuff to put on my table to make it larger for when the family arrives for a meal. My dining table was fine for many years when there were just four of us but now we have six at least some days and it’s a bit of a squeeze. I don’t want a bigger table taking up most of my small dining room permanently. I already have one upstairs that belonged to my husband’s Mam but my husband doesn’t like it. It would mean dismantling it every time to bring it down and taking our table upstairs. Not going there! What I wanted was a sheet of whatever to put on the table then it could go into the garage when we don’t need it.

After looking at all those lovely Christmas table settings on Friendship Tea Blog I was inspired to go for it. I measured the table and worked out what size piece I needed, 6 foot by 3 foot 6 inches. Emptied the car boot, took out the child seat, put the back seats down and checked that it would accommodate a six foot sheet. Easy peasy, plenty of room. Picked little grand daughter up from nursery, fed her, washed and dressed her in glorious party attire and took her back to school. The afternoon was mine to get the table top, do some more Christmas shopping and then visit my step mam before taking grandson to the gym. No problema! Well that’s what I thought. What kind of idiot am I with my track record to think it would all be straightforward. Well ever the optimist!

Popped up to the local DIY hypermarket, parked the car miles away from any others so I had plenty of room to manoeuvre, chatted to a nice lady who advised me to buy a sheet of MDF and they would cut it to size for me. Brilliant! Paid for it, they asked whether I needed help to the car, I said no, it wasn’t heavy but if I did, I’d come back. Off I went and then the fun started, You can guess I’m being sarcastic here! I might also add at this point that it was absolutely freezing and there was a pretty strong wind blowing which didn’t help as it kept blowing the trolley away. Also people had parked on either side of me. Sod's law!

Opened up the boot only to discover I couldn’t get the sheet in width wise. I couldn’t believe it. The boot itself is really wide but as it’s a saloon car and not a hatchback, the access to the boot is narrower. I hadn’t ever tried to get anything wide into this car before. What a prize wally I am.

I had to move the car to a deserted part of the car park to try again because of the trolley moving about. I’m no quitter though. Next I decided to try to get it through the side door as that space is pretty deep. Well not quite deep enough by about two inches! Time to call for backup. Hmm, maybe if someone was holding it I could angle it in. Took the trolley and the MDF sheet back across the car park into the shop and got a nice lad to help me. No joy, he couldn’t do it either, so back across the car park with the stuff again to leave it in the shop.

Time to ring my daughter to see if she could help. She has a 4x4 Range Rover Freelander. Rang her at work and she agreed to try later but she wasn’t hopeful. She says it’s an illusion that these are big cars. They’re wide and high but not very long. We met up an hour later complete with grandchildren and had another go. Back out of the shop came the trolley and the stuff. She was right it was wide enough, only just! It wasn’t long enough. Why didn’t I believe her when she told me this? Argh!!!!!!!!!

It was getting colder by the minute too. By this time my back was aching and I was beginning to feel like a character out of a Carry On film or one of those video programmes where people do stupid things. If I’d had a video camera I would have taken one myself and got lots of cash. The only thing left to do was contact my son in law who has a slightly bigger car than mine. He agreed to go to the shop later that night and I told him if it wouldn’t fit to just ask them to cut it in half! That was my last choice and then I’d have to think about putting hinges on it. Oh, the pain! The pain!

By this time I was so naffed off with the whole process I would have asked for my money back but they’d already cut the sheet to size. Anyway he went back later that night and got it in with about an inch to spare!

I used that No Nails stuff to glue some bits of wood on the back of the sheet to keep it in place on my table and it's been quite successful. This was it.

I have to say after all that kerfuffle it was very successful. We had lots of space for around eight of us, no knocking over each other's drinks and plenty of elbow room.

I met up with a friend I used to work with just before Christmas and we had a good laugh as I recounted my little exploit. A few years ago she had covered her dining room table with a sheet of MDF too as her family expanded. In fact she has also done this with another table in her conservatory. When I said it was just a temporary thing, she laughed and bet me that next Christmas it would still be there on my table. Hers had proved so successful she didn't move either of them.

Time will tell, I'm already getting used to the space it takes up as we hardly ever use the dining room. I've also been able to use a lovely linen table cloth I got as a wedding present nearly forty years ago. My friend from Barcelona bought it for us and our dining table was much too small to use it. I never wanted to cut it down as it had lots of lovely embroidery on it. So now it's on the table. Maybe my friend Jill was right and I'll keep the table top in place permanently!

My husband wittered on about it at first saying it was too big, it would damage the table top and so on. However I showed him how I had put the wood pieces in place to stop it moving and damaging the table and that the protective cover was in place on top of the original table. He has admitted that it's been very successful and he liked the idea that we didn't have to worry about any spillages damaging the table.

Anyway that will be my last attempt at tackling DIY projects for quite a while. I’m not tempting fate! In fact my little catastrophe may put me off for life, it doesn’t take much.

To be honest it’s no wonder I’m a procrastinator with my track record of disasters. If this is a measure of my lack of spatial awareness all I can say the world has a lot to be grateful to me for. Just imagine if I had wanted to be an architect or a civil engineer!

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Two Days in One Blog

The past two days have been such a mix of different feelings I decided to lump them all together. So opt out now unless you're in it for the long haul!

Monday, as it was my birthday I decided to continue in the holiday mood, no housework, not even taking down the Christmas decorations. That’s a job I hate, the place looks so bare and depressing without the tree and its lights. So I decided to procrastinate with a really good excuse to follow tradition by taking them down on Twelfth Night. Maňana!

My daughter arrived at about eleven o’clock with her two kiddoes and she wanted to go shopping at the MetroCentre. I have to say as it was so cold it was probably the best choice for us to shop in an indoor centre. We had quite a nice lunch at a café and didn’t spend too much. Have to say I couldn’t see a lot of bargains that the media have been spouting forth about since before Christmas. Maybe I wasn’t looking in the right places.

I had thought about buying a nice winter coat, something quite smart as I’ve been living in jackets for ages. Well you do when you’re in and out of the car with children and it’s been years since I bought a proper winter coat. There were no reductions in Marks & Sparks so I had a look in House of Fraser. The only coat I really liked was a lovely red one, reduced by a hundred pounds, but it was still nearly two hundred pounds. So much for the shops giving stuff away. Most of the stuff I saw in a lot of shops that had sales seemed to have been specially bought in. Methinks these bargains are all a myth.

So what did I buy? Not a lot! A new sheet for our bed as I noticed that the one on the bed currently is looking a bit worn. It wasn’t in any sale I might add. I got a half price High School Musical travel bag for my other granddaughter Alexis, her birthday is at the end of the month. My other bargains were three Christmas puddings (I'll freeze them), a box of selected cheeses all greatly reduced in Marks and six boxes of Christmas cards for 60p in Pier which was closing down.

That leads to the downside of that shopping trip. I chatted to the lady in Pier about the shop closing, it sells such really unusual stuff at very good prices so I said how surprised I was about it. She said it had nothing to do with lack of sales, the owner had most of his money in the Icelandic bank and also was involved with the Woolworth suppliers. A double whammy so he had no chance. It’s such a shame for all these people.

Another really awful sight was seeing the Woolworths shop closed. That’s such a shame too as most of us who are a bit older can remember this shop from our childhood. There was one in every town and you could buy just about anything you wanted there at one time. In recent years it offered really good prices for toys and computer stuff, much better than Toys 'R Us. As the advert said "That's the Wonder of Woollies". Well not any more!

Woollies - MetroCentre

Many of the people working there had been there since they left school at 16. It’s another bit of history going, there aren’t many shops around now that I can remember from when I was little. What was even worse was on the way home hearing that Waterford Crystal and Wedgewood are also going down the pan. What is really terrible here is that you can replace shops but you’ll never replace companies or products like these because the people who produce them have such specialist skills that are part of our heritage. I remember visiting the Waterford factory in Ireland a few years ago and it was amazing seeing the craftspeople cutting the glass and the apprentices being trained. I know that production in a lot of these places was moved abroad to save money but it shows doing that doesn’t work. Time to look for more bargains as we’ll not be able to buy these lovely items in future.

Moving on to last night I was doing some work on the computer for my husband Eric, when one of the cats, Oscar, who had been lying asleep on the settee (squashed right up to me), tried to get up. He just couldn’t get his left paw up and had his claws stuck in the fabric. He started to panic and was floundering about. I managed to get his claws out of the settee but it seemed he couldn’t control his left leg. I sat rubbing it but he wanted to be down on the floor, however once down he just sort of flopped. By this time the poor thing was really panicking so Eric grabbed him and tried to stroke him to settle him down. He rubbed his shoulder joint and down his leg but Oscar didn’t like it and was crying to be put down. Now we were wondering whether he’d had a stroke or something. He was crying and struggling to get onto the floor so Eric put him down and he was fine, not even a limp. All we got was a filthy look from him! Now I don’t know what went wrong, not sure whether he had some sort of cramp or muscle seizure or maybe I had been stopping his circulation in his leg. He must have blamed me because normally as soon as I go up to bed, there he is sitting at the bottom of the bed waiting for me. Not last night, he slept on the bed in the spare room! He’s fine this morning, just giving me a wide berth, so I’ll keep an eye on him. Might take him for a check up just to make sure.

Now I would have left it there but life had another problem in store for me last night. I mentioned to Eric that the digital camera I bought him for his birthday in November, needs the battery charging. Got a blank look from him. He has only taken about 2 pictures with the camera so didn’t know anything about it. He got me the manual so I looked the battery charging info up. Apparently it had it’s own battery charger so I asked where he had put it. Got another blank look. I reminded him all the gubbins had been in the box. Yes, it had, but he had thrown the box out last week and had no idea what he had done with the charger, but obviously it couldn’t be far, could it! I’ll add that it was about midnight. After an hour and a half of looking for it, going through all the rubbish from Christmas, including the camera box, we admitted defeat and went to bed. At 2am I was still trying to get to sleep, guessing what it would cost us to replace it and worrying about Oscar, in the spare bed, well on it!

Tuesday Morning - Once my delivery chores to school and nursery were completed I was going to go at the housework like a mad woman. However once I have something on my mind I just can’t settle to anything else. Off I went scouring the house in search of the lost charger. I looked in all the obvious places that I would have put it. Well Eric said he had already done that, but I did it again just to make sure. The kitchen drawers were the place both he and I thought we would be most likely to find it. It wasn’t there, but I found a plethora of other charger thingies. Good grief, I couldn’t believe how many there were and these are just the ones that aren’t used. All the ones that are used are in computer bags, in their boxes or attached to what they are charging. No wonder I have no space in my kitchen drawers.

The Charger Collection!

My drawer of shame is the top one next to the oven. Here it is. Note the plethora of golfy stuff! No I didn't strategically place that stuff, it's all just there.

Drawer of Shame

Disgusting! I will say I have tried on numerous occasions to get rid of the stuff but have failed utterly. Well what do you do when you don’t even know what half of it’s for? When I ask I’m just told “Oh put it back in the drawer we might need it.” How would you know when you need something if you don’t know what it is? There are also dozens of keys, for what? There’s lots of golfy stuff, like shoe studs that don’t fit any of his golf shoes, tees, golf cards, covers for clubs and even golf balls. Now if that stuff was mine, I’d put it with other golfy stuff. What would I know!

That stuff in that drawer would provide enough material for hundreds of Kim’s Games. Remember the one where someone puts about thirty objects on a tray, you look at them for a couple of minutes, they take it away and you have to remember as many of the objects as you can. I’ll keep that in mind for when the kiddoes are a bit bored. Mind you I’d have to remove all the stuff that I haven’t a clue about or just imagine the list:

1. Blue hinged plastic thing that looks a bit like a clothes peg but it's not.

2. Thin black plastic thing with a small knob on the end.
3. Piece of grey fabric with a screw in a plastic packet.
4. White plastic lid for something.
5. Metal thing that looks like a long screw but it's not.

How hard would it be to remember these! You'd have to be the Brain of Britain to remember 10 never mind 30 I reckon.

After another half an hour of looking around every place I could think of, I decided it was time to look in the black hole. That’s the cupboard under the stairs. Finding anything in there is a nightmare because it’s like an obstacle course just getting into it and you have precious little idea of what Eric has stowed there since the last time you were in. No wonder I left it until last to check. I also suspected Eric hadn’t even bothered. Now luckily I didn’t have to look far, climbed over a couple of boxes moved some of my sewing baskets and I saw a couple of Sainsbury’s Bags for Life. Now that immediately shouted “Eric has been here”. It's his trademark.

Bless him, he doesn’t seem to have grasped the concept that you buy a couple of these and once you’ve used them you put them back into the car. That way you don’t need to get any more bags when you go shopping, thus helping to save the environment. No, that’s not the way it works in Eric's World. After he's been shopping, he puts the bags away in the cupboard and buys a couple more next time he goes to Savacentre and so on. The result is, we have absolutely loads of these bags and some he uses to store papers, files etc in various parts of the house. I dived on these two bags and guess what? I found more chargers and luckily one of these was the one for the camera. Ye gods, it was like the Relief of Mafeking!

Picked Lauren up from nursery, fed her then we watched telly. Her trousers had to be washed because she had sat in some water on the carpet at nursery, she didn’t have an accident! I picked up the other bigger grandchild and fed and watered them both. Luckily they were a bit tired and just sat and watched telly until my daughter came for them.

Oscar seems OK but I still haven’t taken down the tree. I'm going to have a bath and I've switched the lights on again, just one last time! Yes, I know procrastinating again but I hate saying goodbye to Christmas..

Busy, Busy, Busy!

Well I have been busy. Hoping to get the New Year off to a good start and whilst I was recovering from my lurgy I went into action with the knitting needles and crochet hooks.

So what did I do.

Here's the first one a little cream crochet matinee coat. I bought Ellen a set of clothes that this would match with.

I love this pattern, it's one of the first things I ever crocheted. After I left work, when I was pregnant with Neil, way back in 1970 I decided to teach myself to crochet. I bought a crochet pattern book, wool, a couple of hooks, sat down and just did it.

I've made lots of these little coats over the past thirty odd years for various babies and it's a lovely pattern. I love crocheting and it's so much quicker than knitting.

I knitted a little white cardigan for Ellen too but forgot to take a photo of it before I gave it to Neil to take home.

Here's the little poncho I also crocheted for her. Ponchos are so useful, it's much easier to carry babies in these than with a blanket. There are easier than jackets to put on too, no pushing little hands into sleeves, no gaps and they fit nicely around the neck. They fit for a long time too, so she should still be wearing it when she is toddling about.

This is another pattern I've had for over thirty years. I've made it for Claire my daughter and also for Lauren her little girl.

So I've made a good start this year, just hope I can keep up the good work. What made life easier was already having the wool in the house so I didn't have to go mooching about looking for it. Wool is hard to get these days, we don't have any local shops which sell wool.

The other day I had a quick look in at a big Hobbycraft shop on a retail park when I went to the dentist for a check up. I was horrified at the price of the baby wool. If I had bought the wool for that little cream matinee coat it would have cost me £5.00! No wonder people don't knit and crochet much now.

Monday, 5 January 2009

When I'm 64!

Anyone remember that song from The Yellow Submarine? Maybe you're too young!

Well, now I am 64! Hard to believe, but it’s true, good grief 64, that’s ancient! Well that’s what I thought when I heard The Beatles singing this song.

I remember thinking about the Millennium when I was about 20, heck I’d be 55 years old, that’s if I lived that long. I didn’t think I’d see the year 2000 never mind getting to 64.The odds weren’t that good really. For the females in our family longevity isn’t that good. My Mam an only child, died at 48 with leukaemia, her Mam, my Nanna died at 53 with heart failure. My Dad’s elder sister died in her forties with an untreated thyroid problem and his younger sister died before she was 60 with lung cancer. So the odds were that I wouldn’t live to a ripe old age. It just shows that the odds are often wrong. Here I am.

I remember this Beatles song and laughing at the lyrics, good grief, people who were 64 were ancient. Have to say I loved it, it was so quirky. You could always rely on them to come up with something different. You could identify who was singing the song, but the songs were never alike, they always surprised you. You never imagined that one day they would be 64. Well sadly 2 of them didn’t make it, my favourite, the lovely George Harrison and John Lennon. Luckily Paul and Ringo did.

Well when I look in the mirror, yes I do look ancient, nothing like that teenage Beatles fan. No long, thick fair hair and no slender figure. Sometimes I catch a glimpse of myself in a window or a mirror when we're out shopping and for a second I don't recognise me. Yet I don’t really feel any different, so apart from appearance, what’s changed about me?

  • I think I’m more tolerant of people than used to be. I’ve always disliked that expression people use “ I don’t suffer fools gladly”. It always seems to me to be an arrogant thing to say. So hopefully I’m more patient than I used to be.When I was younger things were right or they were wrong. Now I don’t see things in black and white, for me there’s often a big grey area. Things are not always clear cut and there’s two sides to every story.
  • I worry less than I used to. It wasn’t surprising that I was a terrible worrier in my twenties. My Mam had died and my son had a serious heart condition. I wasted so much time worrying about the future and what might happen that I couldn’t enjoy the present. I try to take each day as it comes and enjoy it. “May you live all the days of your life”. Jonathan Swift.
  • I get pleasure out of ordinary everyday things, blue skies, my cats, cups of cappuccino, nice glasses of wine, music, telly, listening to the birds etc.
  • I am much more conscious of what I eat now. When I was younger I just ate what I wanted, enormous amounts of everything and I stayed very slim. Now I don't eat meat, I eat very little fatty food other than cheese, my main downfall. I tend to follow what my Nanna used to say, "A little bit of what you fancy does you good".
  • I take more exercise than I used to but I'm not addicted to it. I tried the gym and it wasn't for me so I tend to stick to swimming now.
  • I procrastinate much more than I ever did. I think it's because I'm much more cautious than I used to be. It's also because as I've got older, I've got more critical of myself and what I do.

So what hasn’t changed?

  • I still love laughing and have a strange sense of humour. I don’t always find the popular comedies funny. I never got Friends, Cheers, Frasier or The Office. Like Peter Kaye and Billy Connolly, I think things and people in everyday life are really funny.
    Here’s an example, last Monday I saw a woman in Aldi doing the weekly shop with her husband. Bear in mind it was about 30 degrees Fahrenheit, no snow but there was a bitterly cold wind. The woman was dressed for winter apart from the fact she was wearing pink plastic flip flops. What was that about? What on this earth possessed her to wear them in this weather? She didn’t look or sound like she had any kind of learning difficulties, there weren’t any bandages or plasters on her feet, but she certainly looked daft and her feet must have been absolutely numb with the cold. I was shopping by myself and I really struggled to keep my laugh in.
  • I still love all the crafts I learned when I was younger like sewing, knitting, crochet, quilting etc. I keep on trying new hobbies though and over the years I've filled the house with "stuff" and books on new hobbies like stained glass making, cake decorating and petal paste flower making to name a few. I've promised myself I'll stop and go back to the earlier ones. The house just isn't big enough for any more equipment and books!
  • I'm still a perfectionist unfortunately and I know that if I'm not happy with anything I'm making, it prevents me from finishing it and I just leave it. A friend once told me that was arrogant, so I've tried to be a lot less critical of what I do. I know the perfectionist streak also lies behind the procrastination!
  • My tastes in music haven’t really changed. My first love is still love pop music and dancing to it, if I get the chance. My old favourites come out regularly, Neil Sedaka, Gene Pitney, The Shadows, The Beatles and later ones like ABBA, Elton John, Take That and Back Street Boys. Also still love lots of classical music and especially classical guitar. I can listen to a wider range of music now but I still can’t hack jazz.
  • I still love swimming although I haven’t improved. Still can’t do the crawl. That’s my ambition for this year.
  • I’m still struggling to learn Spanish. I improve but very slowly. I need to live in Spain for a few weeks or months even. Now that’s unrealistic at the moment, maybe one day. Oh yes, that's something else that hasn't changed, always the dreamer!

Well enough about me and my aged witterings, what do you think has changed about you? Maybe you'd like to tell us!

My Singer 338!

Well here it is my very first sewing machine, the one I got for my 21st birthday in 1966! I know it cost my Mam  a lot to buy it for me...