Biscuits save the day

The thing about making plans is that, in my limited experience, they generally don’t tend to work out the way you intended.

Things like your tiling chap over running his job, for example, which has impacted on next week’s plans already. Although that turns out to be fine, because for numerous complex reasons next week’s plans have now been binned and rearranged to within an inch of their lives. It’s a good job I am fairly relaxed about this sort of stuff. Were I the sort of woman to have everything on a spread sheet and be constantly looking at her watch, I would be three quarters of the way down a bottle of gin by now. As it is I think: ‘pfft, I shall eat another biscuit and be damned.’

It’s how I cultivate my hour glass figure. Ahem.

I got downstairs yesterday morning to find Tallulah wrapped in a blanket, shivering and looking like death warmed up. She had a raging temperature, a headache, and a sore throat. She hadn’t wanted to wake me, bless her, and had been patiently waiting for me to surface. This was a bad sign as she is generally not that thoughtful when she is not ill, so it meant I had to take the whole thing quite seriously. Curses. I am a terrible nurse, which made me feel sorry for her, and it is was already scorchingly hot, which is no time to be running a temperature, so I felt doubly sorry for her. Not that it made me any better a nurse. I am patient for about five minutes until I have thrown Calpol all over the cupboards, and then I lose the will to live.

It does not help that when I am ill I just want to be left alone to die, so I cannot understand why anyone would want to be cuddled or mithered. Luckily, yesterday, Tallulah was of a similar mind set, which meant that we didn’t fall out, and as she is not a raging hypochondriac like her brother, I didn’t have to discuss her symptoms with her fifteen times an hour whilst rapidly losing the will to live, so that was good.

I dosed her up with Calpol and texted my friend who was due to come over for a play date with her daughter. She said she didn’t mind the germs, which was nice, so Oscar got to play with his friend, and we got to drink coffee, while Tallulah, who had perked up since the Calpol started working, went away to learn to play the piano. She has been learning for a week, using internet tutorials and the power of her immense will, and she is not too bad. She can pick out recognisable tunes already. I am just grateful it is not a violin: ‘Scree! Skree! Screeeee!’

By lunch time it had all become too much for her, and she spent the afternoon sleeping on the sofa looking alternately grey and hectic depending on temperature. More Calpol meant she was able to eat her tea and chat to our friend Auntie Squirrel who had come for a cup of tea, but got to stay for tea tea because my knitting class got postponed due to the fact that it was too hot to knit or think. I was pretty distraught about the knitting class, but I could entirely see why it had to be postponed. The shop where the class takes place is quite small, and even with the aid of a fan it can reach impressive temperatures in there on a normal day. I think it’s because there’s so much wool in there. It acts like super insulation.

Tallulah faded away as evening came on us like a patient etherised upon a table, and I spent most of the night worrying that she might have the same thing as Oscar did a few weeks back. I have examined her mouth with the aid of a trusty pen torch and a lot of shouting, and it seems fine. I am keeping everything crossed that it remains so. In the meantime, Oscar woke up with a nightmare in the middle of the night and appeared at my side like a small naked ghost, looking distinctly wobbly and distrait. We sat and watched some telly for twenty minutes until he was calm enough to go back to bed, and I was wide awake and showing no signs of imminent sleepiness. I look like a raccoon today I have such impressive bags under my eyes.

We were due to go to Yorkshire Sculpture Park today with some friends for a picnic and a twelve mile trek round the Henry Moore’s. It was pretty clear Tallulah wasn’t up to it. She is less hot today, although still too hot, and so full of cold she is sounding a lot like Bonnie Tyler. I have yet to suggest she teaches herself Holding Out for A Hero on her keyboard. I am not that much of a masochist.

Today we will eat our picnic food in the garden and I will flash pictures of Henry Moore sculptures before their eyes, and it will be just as good, because we will be able to do the whole thing whilst still in our pyjamas.

And I will eat more biscuits.

More Knitting nonsense

I am utterly impressed by how many of you are knitters out there.

It is brilliant.

Let me tell you, fellow knitters, I am still LOVING it.

I do not really understand why it is so pleasurable, tangling up bits of sheep’s wool on two wooden sticks, but it very is.

You may recall a few days ago that I mentioned that I was having a bash at moss stitch. Well, I took my moss stitch to the knitting shop where I have my lessons and it turned out that Wikipedia lied to me, and I have not been doing moss stitch at all. Curses!

I have, instead, been doing seed stitch. It is a variation on moss stitch, so all is not lost, and what I have done looks quite nice, except for the fact that I am not very good at counting how many rows I have done still, and so there are moments of deep wrongness to the pattern, but they are fairly regular, and so they kind of look like I meant to do it, so that is very good too, and I am choosing to be terribly positive about it all because it’s too late to unpick it now.

I can’t remember if I told you that my plan is to make a ‘what I call’ scarf quilt? This is because I am doing masses of practice pieces, which could be scarves, but won’t be, because I have a slight problem with making plain scarves.

I love fancy scarves. I just don’t want to make a plain one. So I am going to stitch all my plain scarves together and make a huge blanket, and I’m going to try and stitch them together in contrasting threads and maybe stitch some patterns on them if I’m feeling really brave and I can do it.

So it will take bloody ages, which is why I have joined Ravelry (thevoiceofboo if anyone wants to say hello), but not put anything on there, because apart from a growing mound of coloured scarves which may one day be a blanket, there really isn’t anything much to show.

It is my penultimate lesson tomorrow night. As well as the scarf blanket, I also have two minor projects which I am working on, but which may not work out and I need help with them, so I am going to take them tomorrow and beg the lovely Alison to show me what to do to make them not rubbish, and more like I want them to be in my head.

I am definitely not ready to be an advanced knitter yet, so I am not signing up for the more complicated classes until I have a bit more to show for myself. I will miss the classes though, so I have sneakily signed up for beginner’s crochet, which starts in September. I have never even held a crochet hook, so I have no idea how it will go, but I decided that it might be fun to learn, and will provide an excellent excuse for buying more lovely wool, and there is some very lovely wool out there, begging to be bought.

Yes we have no tiling

The tiler was supposed to come today to sort out my shower floor. Instead his job ran over and now he may or may not be able to come by the end of next week. Maybe, might be, as Tallulah used to say.

I am resigned. I did not even swear when Jason told me the news. I just waggled my eyebrows about a little bit, and did a small sigh. It is too hot to have a tantrum, unless it’s a real hum dinger where I let it all go and pop a vein in my forehead. Tiling is not worth that.

Instead of making tea for the tiler, Tilly and I did a major house clean while Tallulah and Granny went on Tallulah’s belated birthday trip out. Oscar wafted about with duster in hand and did a good job of running very specific, time limited errands, and sloped off to play Pokemon while he thought we weren’t looking.

There is a certain satisfaction that comes with having a clean house. I now have it, but as Tilly is baking it is only going to last for about another twenty minutes until she flicks cake mix up the newly scrubbed kitchen tiles, so I am making the most of it.

As well as cleaning we have also been out in the garden sweeping the decking. The mess that was made when the trees next door came down was fairly immense, and the whole deck was littered with leaves, twigs and a few layers of industrial grade sawdust. On top of that, the squirrels have been decimating the cobb nuts, so there are hundreds of shell remnants rendered razor sharp by squirrel tooth and claw. We have taken our lives in our hands. Never has sweeping been so dangerous. I felt like Ray Mears.

In other domestic news, my friend Saj came round for a cup of tea yesterday afternoon. She is joining the WI. I am so impressed with her. She went to her first meeting last night and loved it. She is going to come and have tea again and tell me all the news. I want the skinny. If she makes it sound suitably thrilling I may go the whole, middle aged hog and join one near here, if anyone will have me.

I have decided that being young is for young people. You have to have stamina and commitment to be a youth. You have to want to go out all night drinking fancy cider and dancing on table tops and not caring if you’ve got a clean vest on. Sometimes a clean vest will be all you have on. To a young person, the WI is something you play pretend tennis on.

You have to want to spend an hour getting ready to go out. You have to want to sit in small, sweaty bunkers listening to music so loud it makes your ears bleed not knowing if someone is chatting you up or just shouting at you until they either stick their tongue down your throat or attempt to punch you on the nose.

I used to think I would never tire of that sort of thing. I liked to think I would grow old in a revolutionary, cool, sort of way.

Now I shudder at the mere thought of being cool. It is such hard work, and I was never really any good at it the first time around. I am embracing middle age. I am enjoying it. I like gardening, even though I am rubbish at it. I like pottery, and Radio Four, and baking, and looking at cookery books, and drinking wine that costs more than a fiver a bottle. I like wearing comfortable clothes and only taking five minutes to get ready to go out. I embrace handicrafts. I have a bag for knitting wool. I dream of joining the WI.

I have a steam mop for God’s sake.

Minxes have a lot to do

Considering that I had nothing planned for this week, and was worrying that the children might find it rather a damp squib compared to the jet set lifestyle of sun, sea and sand they had last week, it is shaping up to be remarkably busy.

Yesterday was spent at my mum and dad’s with a nice mixture of doing very boring errands, enlivened by pottering about at antique fairs and charity shops, and knitting, and lounging about on granny’s verandah.

Granny and granddad deal in antique glass, mainly the dreaded carnival glass, which I won’t tell you about because my dad can tell you about it until the cows come home and we have all developed an involuntary twitch when it is mentioned. Even the children are expert in the matter. Ages ago, I set them up with a Pinterest account so they could pin some of the things they buy, as well as pin some of the examples they find here there and everywhere. It has languished in the dust rather, as life has rolled over them, making them learn things like tortoise sitting and cat coaxing instead. Yesterday we revived the account, dusted it off, and I spent a few happy hours creating many and various boards to do with antique glass ware, and pinning like a woman possessed. I came home with pinner’s wrist, but feeling remarkably relaxed. It is very therapeutic. Better than watching goldfish or stabbing everyone with a sharpened knitting needle. I really do not like Carnival Glass, but there are some stunning pieces of glass that aren’t carnival glass and I had a great deal of fun pinning Art Nouveau Loetz ink wells, which I would cut off an arm to own, or brilliantly colourful art marbles which make the dowdy green swirly ones from my childhood look very much like the poor relation.

The small children spent most of the afternoon playing with granny’s dolls’ houses. She quite often buys them to sell, but has been stymied recently by Oscar and Tallulah who fell in love with the last two she bought, and now have them set up in the front room, next door to each other. They have a shared garden between the houses which is the scene of many fights as they meet there to argue over who has got the best beds and why Tallulah has three toilets and Oscar has only two. If they were real neighbours I feel restraining orders might be appropriate. Things got rather heated yesterday. Mainly, it has to be said, because it is so hot at night times at the moment, that they are really struggling to sleep and it is making them slightly tetchy in the day time, hence my retreating to Pinterest to stop myself massacring the innocents when I simply cannot find the will to understand why they are fighting about a two inch lump of planed pine tree as if it were the Holy Grail itself.

At the Antique Fair we went to at Donnington Park in the morning it was slim pickings. Sometimes it is full of treasure, other times it is full of tat. Even on the days it is full of tat I am never bored, because I have quite a taste for outrageously horrible things. They amuse me greatly. I also like to see what the children are interested in. I am interested in everything and anything, but quite often the children will see things I might miss, because they’re shorter, and nosier. We were perusing some old road and business signs (which I love, but which are always way out of my price range if they are original), and we saw a sign for a limited business. Oscar said: ‘I know what Ltd. stands for when it’s on a business sign.’

Me: ‘Really? What does it stand for?’

Oscar: ‘Lots to do.’

Me: ‘Yep. Oh yes indeed.’

Oscar: ‘Because if you run a business you are always very busy, right?’

Me: ‘Oh yes.’

As you may recall, I am obsessed by crap taxidermy, and antique fairs, no matter how treasure filled, are always rich pickings for the discerning taxidermy owner. There was plenty to choose from yesterday. One table had an old orange box filled with abandoned mink stoles complete with faces and tails. The children were amazed in a horrified way. They wanted to adopt them all and look after them because they looked so moth eaten and unloved. I knew exactly what they meant, except we can’t, because Granny won’t allow fur and feather in the car because it makes her itch and she is very squeamish about deranged foxes with mange clinging onto scabby branches. Tsk.

As we were leaving the stall, Oscar said: ‘I loved those minxes.’

Tilly: ‘It isn’t a minx Oscar, it’s a mink.’

Oscar: ‘No! It said they were minxes. I read it. That’s what they were.’

Tilly gave a huge sigh: ‘I give up. Ok. They were minxes.’

Oscar: ‘I think minxes are cuter, less bitey versions of minks.’

Lazy Sunday Afternoon, with lasers, and unicorns

It was cooler last night, which meant that we all slept better, apart from at half past five this morning, when Derek, who was too busy tarting about in the dark to come home last night, decided to have a massive fight with next door’s cat. That woke Jason and Tilly up. Well, the cat woke Tilly up, and Tilly woke Jason up as she shot downstairs and out into the dawn light to chase the cats round and round the garden.

I expect the neighbour got a good view of it all, from his newly denuded garden.

Now he has seen how we spend our mornings, perhaps he will be adding bits back to the trees and hedge, rather than cutting them down.

When I got up at half eight, Tilly was looking rather exhausted. Early morning exercise is not the thing for her, it seems.

Jason has fixed the washing machine, praise be.

In other good news, when the girls went out for the day with their dad, Jason took Oscar and I for a little trip to the Emma Bridgewater factory in Stoke on Trent. Those long suffering blog readers who are still hanging in there, will know of my obsession with ceramics, and Bridgewater in particular.

I am here to tell you that it is definitely on the wane. Don’t get me wrong. I still love a good bit of pottery, but these days I am slightly more excited by wool. I bought one mug at Bridgewater. Just one, and although there were lots and lots of lovely things, I did not get that overwhelming urge to fill the boot with pots and head off into the hills. This is a good thing. Although possibly not for Bridgewater shareholders. Profits may dip in the next twelve months. What can I say? I am sorry.

Although wool prices will start to rise if you’re a gambling sort of blog reader.

Despite only buying one mug, it is still a lovely place to visit. We prodded the garden, waved at the chickens, one of which has an excellent hair do, ate cake and generally lolled about, soaking up the atmosphere.

On the way home we decided we really couldn’t be bothered to go home and make lunch so we stopped at our local, The Cradock Arms in Knighton (my pub quiz haunt), and tested out their Sunday lunch with the help of our adopted son, Lee.

It was delicious, far too delicious for a pub that I can walk to in under ten minutes. I feel that we may well have to have commemorative plaques made for the chairs which will undoubtedly become well acquainted with the collective bottoms of the family Boo. I might have to have a Stannah stair lift fitted to the side of the road at some point if things get really out of hand.

The rest of the afternoon has been spent listening to Tallulah learn to play Happy Birthday on the keyboard her dad bought her for her birthday, and listening to Oscar explain to me about his new online game, which is called something like Extreme Unicorns with Lasers, 7, or something. He is very excited that he has managed to skill up to transform into an iron pegasus with a laser horn. As anyone would be.

Because of this listening, which was very hard, and quite confusing, what with unicorns, and lasers, and musical appreciation, and the odd interjection from Tilly, who is trying to win a place at some ball or other to do with Skulduggery Pleasant, I have had quite a time of it trying to teach myself moss stitch, which was the thing they learned last week in my knitting class while I was gadding about Kent with sand in my under crackers. I can do it perfectly as long as there are no interruptions, so that I can remember what stitch I am meant to be doing, and what row I am meant to be knitting. But the minute someone asks me about whether I think unicorns can shoot rainbow beams out of their hooves, or if that is a middle C, I go completely to pieces, and I am not skilled enough to be able to see where I am going wrong because it all looks like knitting to me.

I bet Kaffe Fasset never had to operate under this kind of pressure.

I told you I was ill

Oscar’s hypochondria continues apace.

He has been worried about a small scratch on his side now for about three weeks. He keeps showing it to me. I have run out of things to say.

I find it very hard to be sympathetic to these minor ailments. If truth be told I find I run out of sympathy pretty quickly with major ailments too, but scratches and bruises do not elicit any sympathy at all.

I tried to explain to him what growing up in the Seventies entailed. I do not remember a week going by without some kind of scab forming, pustule exploding, rainbow hued bruise blossoming etc. Once you had garnered these war wounds you were then free to fill the up to that point unblemished areas with any number of stings, scratches and/or insect bites of your choice. If you hadn’t managed to cover your entire self by then you could always resort to Chinese burns, patterning yourself with a compass, or love bites (self inflicted or otherwise).

It’s a wonder any battered children were recognised at all in those days to be honest. We must have looked like we were permanently in the act of falling down stairs and hitting every step on the way down.

Oscar was fascinated by this information. Fascinated but entirely unbelieving. We are at that point in my life cycle where anything I tell the children about my childhood sounds like either a) a totally fantastic and utterly made up yarn or b) ancient history, which is why they still ask me if I went up chimneys when I was small, is a Triceratops really that colour and did I have a television etc.

Yesterday, when he got up, he rushed to find me to show me his toe nails. He waggled his feet in front of my eyes like a sea anemone going in for the kill. I asked what I was supposed to be looking at. He said:

‘My toe nails are green.’

I inspected them more closely. I could not see any green at all. Not even a mottled hue.

I pointed this out. It did not go down well.

‘But they are green. Will we need to go to the hospital do you think?’

I assure him that I am not going to the hospital either with or without him. I reiterate that he will be fine.

He looks at me, in that way, that way that tells me he thinks I am just fobbing him off so I can get back to drinking coffee and reading my book.

I say:

‘When I have finished my coffee I will get the bread knife out and we will amputate.’

He skitters off to watch the television. He throws a glance back at me over his shoulder as he goes. It says:

‘You will be sorry about this when I’m dead.’

Socks and Trees

Now I know we are truly home.

The washing machine packed up again in the middle of the night, despite a nice man coming to fix it last week. It stopped mid cycle once more, although this time I was able to get my washing out and then spin it, so I am not in total despair. Having said that, the washer now rocks back and forth and leaks in places it never leaked in previously. Jason is currently sitting in a small puddle with a tool box, swearing. He has fished a sock out of the filter, and is mumbling dire imprecations against Samsung washing machines. I feel its days may be numbered.

It seems to swallow a lot of socks. I never had this problem with any of my other washing machines. There was one once that ate a bra, but I’d stay that’s standard for a washing machine. This ones prodigious appetite for socks is unusual, and not at all effective. It is like the Kite Eating Tree from Peanuts, but less cute and more impractical.

On top of this, our neighbour has hacked the trees on our boundary line to oblivion. He approached us a few weeks back saying that he had all the paperwork (the trees have a protection order on them), and the council have allowed him to thin out the tops of the trees to allow more light into his garden. We thought this sounded reasonable. What he actually meant was: ‘The week you’re on holiday I’m going to get three men with bloody great chainsaws to take every leaf and branch off the trees until your garden looks like the Somme. You are welcome.’ It is not nice. Not nice at all. He assures Jason that they will start to leaf again in two years, but we remain unconvinced. They look like giant, angry Twiglets.

Yesterday he was hacking great lumps out of the hedge that also divides our properties. Jason went to talk to him about it and he basically said: ‘It’s my hedge I will do what I want.’ What this means is that we have virtually no shade in our garden, all the wonderful swishing noises that sounded like the sea, where the wind whooshed through the tree tops is gone. There is no more dappled sunlight, and all the squirrels and woodpeckers are bereft. It also means that not only can he now see into the entirety of our garden from his upstairs windows, he has hacked so much hedge that he can now see the garden from his downstairs windows, and we have a lovely view of his horrible, box like house from our decking.

We are mulling over what to do. We need some kind of screening until the trees (theoretically), start to leaf again. We are looking at our options. I am thinking bamboo, some kind of fencing and a hit man to make sure he doesn’t do it again.

There was an enormous shit on the decking right by the barbecue this morning when I got up. Some kind of animal, although Jason says he cannot rule himself out. Who knows what he gets up to in the wee small hours when we are all asleep? I am thinking uncharitable thoughts about the neighbour. Now he can see into our garden he can make plans…

The weather has turned to shit, to match the decking. After a week of glorious sunshine in Kent we came home to unbelievable heat and humidity yesterday that made even thinking make you break into a sweat. In the night this transformed into torrential rain, thunderstorms and horrendous humidity in between. Today it is overcast and sodden, when it is not pouring, and the heat is unbearable. Remind me never to live in a rain forest. Especially with this neighbour.

The cat is sulking. My parents house sat for us last week while we were away, and Derek had trained my dad to answer her every beck and call. She strode about the house and grounds with him running behind her, doing her bidding. Turning the taps in the sink on and off so she could have a drink, getting up at three in the morning to watch films and play running up and down stairs, making him guard her while she ate. Now he is gone, and we are home and we are frankly rubbish. She has complained and marched about swishing her tail in protest. She is thinking of packing up her polka dot hankie on a stick and running away to my parents’ house.

In better news:

Jason has done lots of form filling in and swearing to do with tax stuff, so hopefully we won’t get arrested for tax fraud any time soon.

We have decided, after much debate, that we will keep the front door we currently have. Eventually a nice man called Barry is going to come round and paint it for us. We are undecided on colour, but this will be a minor spat compared to the actual door debate.

A nice man called Martin is coming, possibly next week to re-tile the shower floor for us.

No matter how lovely your holiday, there is nothing quite like sleeping in your own bed.