Sunday, 16 March 2008

Seven things about me...

I have been tagged by Zoe to share seven things, some random, some weird, about myself.

So, here goes.

1. I'm addicted to muesli. My current obsession is Dorset Cereals' 'Berries and Cherries'.

2. I'm ashamed to say that I actually quite fancy David Cameron. *blush*

3. The last trophy I won was for a windsurfing race.

4. I used to be in the territorial army (officer cadet). I'm a pretty good shot with an SA80 rifle and can take a sub-machine gun apart and put it back together again whilst blindfolded.

5. I once whipped my older sister with a riding crop when we were teenagers. She was being an absolute cow and I was armed... (Sorry Jax!)

6. I slammed a door during a teenage row with my Dad. All the glass fell out. For about 30 seconds it was absoloutely glorious, then the sh*t hit the fan!

7. The best thing in life is kissing my beautiful daughters' sleeping faces goodnight.

I'm now supposed to tag up to seven others, but it's difficult to keep up with who has been tagged and who hasn't, so if you'd like to volunteer, please do so now!

Friday, 14 March 2008

A tile tale

How long does it take two people, a man and a woman who are married, to buy twelve boxes of ceramic tiles for a bathroom floor?

Three months.

Okay, so that isn't the world's funniest joke, but we finally have our bathroom floor tiles after so much tearing of hair.

The story of the new bathroom began last September. We bought the new suite, Brian put down the cork tiles, did all the plumbing and it looked as if completion date was nigh.

Then we had a leak. Not one of Brian's joints, but on a proper plumber's joints. Hot water. VERY hot water. It melted the cork tiles. We decided they were a bad idea.

Which is why, in December, Brian went into a tile shop and brought home three samples. We liked one of them, it looked nice in the bathroom, so we decided to buy it. Brian took the samples back.

That is the point at which he should have bought 12 boxes of tiles, but he didn't, because Christmas with all its incumbent expenses was nigh, as was January with the promise of sales.

So, in January, we visited Focus. We found the tiles and we disagreed. They were £5.99 per pack in the sale. But I didn't like them. I wanted nice, warm charcoal grey slate effect tiles. Bri said they were too dark and instead plumped for tiles the colour of sun-bleached, dead camel bones on the Sahara.

"We have a black dog," I reminded him, envisaging chasing said dog and his four muddy paws around daily with a mop. Surely the tiles should match the dog?

Impasse. We both sulked. For three months.

So yesterday we headed to the first of our three nearest Focus stores. Focus in Cardigan didn't have my favourites, or Brian's. But they did have a third choice, a possible compromise.

"Let's see what they've got in Haverfordwest," suggested Bri, thinking fondly of breakfast at Vincent's on the way.

It was the same story in the Haverfordwest Focus too.

"Let's go to B&Q," we suggested. In Carmarthen.

"Yuk," I said looking at tiles supposedly made to look like slate, but in fact looking and feeling like concrete. One benefit, we supposed, was that they eliminated the need to pumice one's hard skin.

"They give me the nadgers," said Brian.

So we went to Focus. The third Focus of the day, in the third county of the day. We decided to buy the compromise tile, of which there were hundreds.

"How much?" we asked the handle-bar mustachioed man who was in charge of the tiles.

Miraculously the Carmarthenshire tiles were twice the price of those in Cardiganshire and Pembrokeshire.

"Something doesn't want us to buy these tiles," Bri said. We left.

On the way out of the estate, tile-less and despondent, I spotted a tile shop.

"Why don't we go there?" I asked.

"That's where I got the samples from last year," he said.

They had 14 boxes left of our original choice. We bought 12 of them.

So how long does it take a husband and wife to buy bathroom floor tiles?

Three months, three counties, hundreds of miles and many 'discussions' in the tile aisles. Then we bought the first ones we saw.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Time to GALMI...

I have spent the last few days fixing things, being stoical and ‘thinking outside the box’.

So a few things have gone wrong. The dishwasher finally curled up its toes, but we had been expecting it. We had already spent £60 call out fee, plus £20-odd soldering to its beleaguered circuit board and said that next time it ailed; we would pull the plug on it. So it tried to catch fire, and now we’ve pulled the plug. One day we might buy a new one.

Then the washing machine followed its cousin’s example. We had a few days of very excitable spinning, then it stopped mid-cycle. Never mind, we have a contract out on that machine which means we GALMI (Get A Little Man In) if something goes wrong. Last time it was the drum, and we were given a shiny new one. The old one is still a feature in the garden, although it did have a starring role on bonfire night when I filled it with wood and lit it. So I took two loads of washing, school uniform-coloured, to the launderette in Narberth, which is always a convivial thing to do and only lasts half an hour to forty minutes as the machines there are impressively quick.

“And anyway,” I said to B, “At least I don’t have to put the crockery in the car and cart it down to Narberth to get it washed!”

How we laughed! Then we ran out of oil and the boiler stopped. Ha ha! No hot water to wash-up in. We boiled kettles. The novelty of that has never really worn on. And how I missed my lovely hot baths.

So Saturday was spent fixing things. First of all phoning for oil. I braced myself for the hike in the price. Gobsmacked best describes it. So having organised the oil and boiled a couple of kettles for washing up I then contemplated the task of getting the four of us presentable and sweet-smelling for school/work/housework avoidance on Monday. I figured that a good marinating in chlorine might keep us clean-smelling until the boiler is started up again. So we availed ourselves of the lovely hot showers at Fishguard swimming pool. We showered on the way in and we shamelessly hogged them again on the way out, lathering away to our hearts content.

The oil arrived at the crack of dawn this morning. All 1,200 litres of it. I shut my eyes as I wrote the cheque, but I know that it was over £600. The GALMI has temporarily fixed the washing machine, but it Needs A Part, and He’ll Be Back.

Meanwhile I have moved furniture around in the hope of harnessing the power of Feng Shui. Perhaps the armchair was in the wrong position. Perhaps my wealth corner is not the best place for an airer full of drying washing. I think I might need to consult a book…

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Bird brained

I don't need my alarm clock any more. These days I am blessed with a Great Spotted Woodpecker who has a drumming post not far from my bedroom window. Each morning, just after 7 am, I am woken by his vibrating rattle.

Last year he drummed much further down the row of ash trees and it was a nice little far off sound, which I always found amusing, imagining his little head tap tapping at the tree. Now, though, with his drumming post just feet away from my slumbering head, he is proving a little less popular. Later on he can be found hanging from the peanut feeder, no doubt topping up his calorie levels for another early morning assault on my ears.

Not that I really mind. I love the fact that our garden is choc-a-block with birds. When the berries were still on the hawthorn tree I once counted six blackbirds at once. All male, all squabbling over the berries. We have one blackbird which flies through the front garden at dusk at a height of about four feet from the ground, shrieking in alarm. If you walk round the corner of the house at the right (or wrong) moment, you can have a near miss with one very angry bird.

At our previous home, our neighbour used to call "Blackie, Blackie" out of her kitchen window. When we had just moved in we once called over to ask her if she had lost her cat.

"No!" she laughed. "My blackbird."

Sure enough she called, and Blackie popped out from the hedge between the two houses for the tasty morsels she had put on her birdtable. We got into the habit of feeding him and calling him too, although, since they all look the same, for all I know we spent years feeding a whole host of blackbirds, all smart enough to answer to the call for "Blackie, Blackie"!

It is always a thrill to see some of the birds who visit our birdtable. The upside-down nuthatch with their spiky streamlined beak, the twitchy wren hopping about on the wall, the squabbling tits - blue, great, coal and willow - the occasional goldfinch and all the other various sparrows, chaffinches, dunnocks and siskins. We also get pretty pairs of collared doves and jays by the half dozen. Magpies laugh from the ash tree branches above and squirrels hang gracefully upside down while their wicked, clever paws peel open the feeder to greedily grab all the nuts.

Domestically we have only one duck left now. Poor old Persil is alone. Ecover was grabbed by the fox early one morning. I think Persil must be one very scared little duck. I sympathise with him and he quacks back. Still the same, dim duck, probably wondering where all his friends have gone. The only evidence of Ecover are some alarming fox-shaped footprints scuffing up the bark and a sad puff of feathers.
Still, Persil soldiers on alone and as long as he continues to put himself to bed early (a habit he has gained after Ecover's demise) and remembers to have a lie-in in the mornings, he should last a while longer. Meanwhile plans are afoot for Fort Knox (or should that be Fort Dux?) and once built, Persil, if he has managed to avoid Mr Fox's dinner table, will get some new friends.