Saturday, 31 March 2018

Sorting Socks

I'm trying out a thingy where when I post here it automatically links on Facebook.  This may come as a shock to those who follow Lyssa Medana's page where they may get the impression that, as a mysterious authoress, I have a deep and mystical inner life. 

Instead I spent the afternoon sorting socks.  A load appeared when I was moving stuff around for the new tumble dryer and today I knuckled down.  It wouldn't be so bad but everyone who lives here prefers black socks.  I suppose when you're faced with a pile of dark items in an undistinguished heap it can be quite mysterious.  It's a mystery why I didn't buy different colours. 

Now I am going to go down and make a freezer full of soup, after checking if this made it to Facebook, of course. 

Friday, 30 March 2018

Round the Bend

I had another driving lesson today!  Bpm is awesome as an instructor and is taking me through all the steps while staying really calm.  We went to a small industrial park and I stopped, started, stopped, started and I turned left into a corner!  Not only that but I pulled up at a junction and eventually stopped at the right place and then turned right!!  What is more I was on the correct side of the road!!!

I can't tell you how much I loved it.  I can't wait until I go again.  Hopefully I will soon learn how to stop without whiplash.  I'm fine with the clutch.  I just need to get the hang of the accelerator and the brakes.

So giddy!

A Strange World

I'm trying to get all grown up about my writing.  I'm gearing up to self publish Tales from the White Hart (I may charge, still undecided, but the original will stay up to read for free) and I'm looking into advertising.  One of the things I've done is join some author groups.  All of a sudden there are a lot of friend requests that seem to come from nowhere. 

Most of them are awesome people.  They are writers like me and it's great to share ideas and sometimes cat memes.  However I am now getting messages.  I never used to get messages.  Now I have got a lot of invitations to Multi Level Marketing and some very dubious chat.  It's an eye opener.  I'm a middle aged old biddy who doesn't do dolly bird.  I haven't had the 'Hello ladeez' type greeting for years and I'm not happy to see it again.  I have never sent so many messages praising my husband in my life!

I have also had invitations to view pictures of an adult nature.  The invitations are to something aimed traditionally at gentlemen.  I am not a gentleman.  Perhaps their bot needs a tune up. 

My first reaction was to step back and blink.  However I think it can turn out incredibly entertaining and possibly generate plot ideas. 

Thursday, 29 March 2018

You Guys Are Awesome!

My last post was about my very bland problem of having to peel butternut squash instead of buying it ready chopped.  You guys gave me loads of solutions - check out the comments.  I am really grateful.  I have had so much good advice from lovely people posting here. 

I've pencilled the whole of tomorrow morning for soup making.  It's almost April, but it's definitely still soup weather.  I hope I can keep up to using the soup once its made.  We have sea bass ordered for tomorrow dinner, which I am hoping I'll be able to cook properly.  The instructions say to pan fry for 5-7 minutes.  I'm not seeing much that can go wrong, but who knows.  I'll keep you posted. 

Thank you again for the advice.  It's so much appreciated. 

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

First World Problems

I ordered a soup mix from Tesco.  It's the Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Mix with red onions and chilli.  It's very pleasant and as I bought three and the offer was three for the price of two, I got three lots of the soup that comfortably feeds all of us for £3.20 instead of £4.80.  Some could be cooked up for us to eat on Friday and the rest could be frozen in the new boxes from IKEA for emergency meals.  It's a really nice mix.  All you need to do is add stock, cook, liquidise and serve, although I also add a handful of lentils.  I know it's a lazy way of cooking but I loathe preparing butternut squash with a passion, and I have come second to them far too many times.  I'm not very strong and my knives are far from good quality so if I can get butternut squash ready prepared then I do.  I have a bag of butternut squash chunks in the freezer.  Unfortunately Tesco had run out of the mix today so when the delivery came, instead of the nice bag of neatly diced and prepared veggies, I got this.


In the badly taken picture are three butternut squash, three large red onions, a small pack of Tesco finest bird's eye chillies and a bag of sweet potatoes.  It's better value, I know but I'm going to have fight with the squash.  Did I mention that I fail at peeling it.  Chunks fly everywhere. 

Joking around aside, I'm impressed that this is the substitution Tesco made, and all credit to them.  Also, the left over sweet potato and chilli can go in with some lentils, carrot and parsnip and I'll have further supplies of home made soup.  It really isn't the worst problem I could have. 

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

IKEA

We went to IKEA.  Bear is still in school and doesn't break up until Thursday but DH is off so we called in. 

I had been dithering about getting something to put the tv on in the dining room.  The way things are set up, we couldn't hang it on the wall, we like to have something to cover the sound of chewing (today it was Mythbusters on YouTube) and it is often hidden by a bottle of ketchup.  We impulse bought SIGFINN monitor stand


It was more than I had hoped to spend, but at least I could see the explosions clear of the salt cellar.  

I also got a jar for lentils (smashed the last one yesterday) and ten boxes.  Four boxes are larger and I hope to use them to organise the shelves in my tins cupboard.  I can't get to my cupboards properly any more.  I can't get down to the floor with any prospect of getting up and I can't kneel.  I plan to put the tins in the boxes and slide the boxes in and out.  I have a dozen tins of beans and sausage to manage, so this should help.  Six other boxes are smaller and should be fine for freezer and microwave.  I have a very poor record when it comes to batch cooking and freezing but I want to get some home made soup stashed in small portions.  Then I can drag it out for when bear gets home.  Also if I am feeding a lot of lads, I can have that defrosting and heating in the microwave while I make mayonnaise rolls and feed random number of bear's pals.  

I really need to get back to baking.  I know that I can bake, and I have a combination microwave, a halogen oven, a multi cooker and a double oven stove so I should be able to knock something up.  

Monday, 26 March 2018

Daylight Saving

The clocks went forward two nights ago and it's catching up with me.  Bear seems unaffected.  He went out like a light tonight but that may have had something to do with the vigorous games of football he and his pal had just before dinner. 

I've not managed much today but for those interested, here is the next instalment of 'At the Sign of the White Hart'. 

Now I am off to collapse into bed. 

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Scary!

First of all, here is the picture of the cleavers in my garden.  According to wonderful people like Sarah, this is a helpful plant with lots of good uses.  I'm never confident enough in my identification skills to actually eat what I've identified unless I planted the thing.  Besides, I loathe the stuff and I want it out of my garden. 



I need to spend some time in the garden.  All I need to do is put in five minutes at a time, but what with one thing and another, it hasn't happened.  Depending on what the weather does, I may be able to this week.

I had the driving lesson.  Bear's pal's mum (bpm) let me go in her car in an empty car park and I started and stopped, started and stopped, started and stalled, started and stopped and turned the wheel.  Reverse happened once but we mutually decided to wait until I was a little more comfortable.  I loved it.  I'm still not sure that I should be trusted with tons of heavy metal that can go at high speeds but it was so much fun.  I'm still not exactly sure about the biting point, but I seemed to hit it okay and I can't wait until I have another go.  Bpm seemed fine about it as well, even though there were some sharpish stops.  We had a blast. 

Heads up to watch out in Leeds on Friday when I will once again be behind a wheel. 

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Just Passing Through

Massive apologies to Bless, I forgot to take a pick of the dratted goosegrass (aka cleavers, aka something unprintable because I can't stand the stuff) but I will tomorrow. 

DH is teaching bear card tricks again.  This could potentially end badly as bear has a scarily good memory and the aptitude to calculate odds so I can see him being banned from games of chance.  I don't want to be called into school to find out what happened during a friendly game of Brag.  On the other hand I can see him using magic tricks as a way of charming people.  He's had a few goes in the past and can do a reasonable palm if you're not looking for it and he understands misdirection.  When he was around four or five he was at an open day at McDonalds and Ronald McDonald was doing magic tricks.  He asked bear to rip up a napkin which of course would turn up entirely whole at the end of the trick.  Bear did a fake rip.  He did a very good show of ripping it up while leaving it entirely whole.  I have learned to go with the flow.

I have my first driving lesson tomorrow.  To those near Leeds - be afraid.  Be very afraid! 

Friday, 23 March 2018

It Depends

Jonathan Bradshaw asked about my online shopping experience with Tesco.  I thought I'd share some experiences.  After all, the card I got yesterday was for 350 deliveries and it included a code for 250 clubcard points.  It was handwritten and everything, and addressed to me personally, not just 'Dear Customer' which was quite flattering.  I'm not sure whether I'm a good or bad example.

I save money by shopping for groceries online because I have no impulse control in a supermarket.  I always find myself cooing over something completely inessential and it ends up in the trolley and I find myself spending a lot more than I meant to.  I miss out on the yellow sticker bargains, but I rarely seem to fall lucky for them anyway.  If I shop online then at least I can look at the total at the end and take off things I don't need.

Jonathan asked about buying in bulk.  Sometimes it is worth it, but you have to do the sums and be realistic.  It depends, but if you get into the habit of thinking in the right way, you can save a fortune.  I can't eat gluten.  Gluten free stuff practically never goes on sale.  It is expensive, it is often hard to find and it isn't always very nice.  Sometimes you may as well eat the packaging.  However, once a year there is a coeliac week, or gluten awareness or something.  It's coming up soon.  And when it comes up I will once again buy a year's worth of gluten free pasta.  Instead of being £1.20 for 500g at time of typing (current equivalent of normal past is £1.00 for a kilo - less money for twice the amount, grumble), if it goes by the same pattern it will be three for the price of two or 80p for 500g (and still more expensive than the equivalent of normal pasta, grumble grumble).  Last year I saved a fortune.  You have to allow for delivery charges, but I have a delivery saver with Tesco, Sainsburys and Morrisons which have all paid for themselves.

Pasta lasts literally for years.  The stuff remaining from last year won't go out of date for another year.  It's something we all eat, we all like and it's a useful staple.  The other stuff on sale is easier to resist.  There's no point getting treats that I will just scarf down too quickly so I don't actually save money, I just use up what I've bought quicker.  There's no point in buying stuff that will go out of date quickly, either.  You find yourself wading through slice after slice of something regrettable and you either become thoroughly sickened of it or it goes off and has to be thrown out. 

The other thing to consider is - do you have space to store it and will you remember where you put it.  A few years ago I managed to get a series of good deals on tinned soups.  The offer lasted for a few weeks and as it was something that we would all eat, we all liked, kept for a long time and it was coming up to winter, I got a few on each order and stashed them around the kitchen and the walk in cupboard.  When I totalled them up, I had 72 tins.  We did get through them, but it took a while.  This is why when I saw a decent offer on Tesco tinned tomatoes a month or so ago I bought ten tins, not thirty or forty. 

And this is why I am sometimes a bad example because I actually considered getting thirty or forty.  If I remember correctly, this offer was in January and we've long since got through them.  It was only saving a few pennies, but I'll take that. 

You also have to be sure you're getting a deal.  I currently will not pay more than 60p a tin for DH's favourite brand of beans.  They have a recommended retail price of @ 75p (a lot higher in the corner shop!), but I can usually get a pack of four for £2 in one of the supermarkets.  I get a couple of packs in when it's the right price.  However supermarkets cheat.  They push the price up for a week or two and then drop it suddenly and show it as a great deal.  Some offers, like the one on DH's favourite flavoured water at Tesco, seem permanent.  In my experience, the shorter the length of the deal, the more genuine the reductions. 

I used to be able to see a graph on mysupermarket.co.uk which tracked the price over the last 12 months and which showed when it was the least and when the most expensive.  They don't seem to do that any more but they have a shed load of new features like cashback and I'm off to investigate. 

Also, I failed to get out yesterday and was determined to get out today.  I spent the morning having panic attacks but I did manage to get into the town centre, impulse bought rhubarb and a ridiculous amount of mushrooms from the market and bought drink.  All bets are now off. 

Thursday, 22 March 2018

I May Have Done Things

I feel like I haven't done anything, and I didn't manage to get out of the house, but when I look around I see evidence of things having been done and the only explanation is me.

For example, curtains and windows have been opened and shut appropriately to give the house an airing.  Bear and DH don't bother much with windows and usually leave the curtains alone.  I have a pile of bin bags and bags for charity shops and a lot of shirts seem to have been ironed, along with school sweaters and trousers for bear.  There is less washing than there was and less ironing and I'm almost getting to grips with the tumble dryer.  It's a lot more complicated than the last one, but at least it works. The delivery that came today has been unpacked and put away and we were all fed at night time. 

The delivery was lovely and easy and I got a card from Tesco with extra clubcard points as I had made so many orders.  I'm still getting an order from Morrisons next as DH quite enjoys tinned beans and sausage on toast and the particular variety he likes is on sale at a very good price. 

I have also got some writing done.  I'm pleased with the writing and I think the words are nearly in the right order.  I had a blast writing it anyway.  I still have a nagging feeling that I didn't achieve much.  I'll try again tomorrow. 

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Getting Better

Today started out as me frantically trying to sort out a space for the tumble dryer.  Which apparently shouldn't be on carpet.  And that's a shame because the only place I have to put it is on carpet in the dining room.  To be honest I'll be glad to see the back of the hideous floor covering when I can arrange it, but it's stuck down with awful black glue and I don't know how that's going to go!  So poor DH had to go to B&Q to get some plywood to put underneath the tumble dryer, which is working on the first load as I type.  It would have been nice if the delivery men had mentioned it when they delivered it and put it on the awful carpet, but I discovered the issue when I read the manual.  Apparently it's something everyone knows.  Oops. 

My sins have found me out.  There is stuff everywhere.  I can't work out what is which and who is where.  Tomorrow I have to get out of the house as I need to start taking stuff to charity shops and I need to start putting stuff on eBay and Facebook.  I feel incredibly overwhelmed. 

Also I had to unblock the toilet.  No further details are needed except that it's surprising how well washing up liquid works.

But there is always a bright side.  Clothes are more organised than they have been for a long time.  I'm getting through some extra ironing.  I've made a start on the next instalment of At the Sign of the White Hart.  It is nearly the weekend.  And bear did his homework without prompting!  It could all be a lot worse.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Fail Day

I felt too sick to move today. 

So instead of running around like I need to I spent the day correcting the Steve Adderson story and getting ready to put it into book form.  I have an issue with commas, apparently.  I also have a headache. 

Back tomorrow.

Monday, 19 March 2018

It's Monday Again

I've had a thumping headache for the last few days which is thankfully easing off.  I'm trying to work through it, though, as the lovely people from Our Write Side have been giving me some tips on book promotion.  If I am going to use their advice then I need to have something to promote.  Speaking of which, the latest instalment of At the Sign of the White Hart is here

I'm feeling a little overwhelmed.  Bear brought home a sheaf of papers full of dates for non-uniform days, going-to-another-school to see plays days, parties (he doesn't like the lads or the loud music that's likely to be playing but he's decided he's going), yoga days, exam days, etc etc etc.  He also brought home the news that he has lost his entire PE kit, lost it several weeks ago and has only just remembered to tell me.  I'm going to have to ring the school tomorrow, though I don't hold out much hope.  Also, bear is not good at looking for things.  If it doesn't bite him, he doesn't see it. 

Also I really need to get sorted for the driving theory test.

Also I need to really sort out the gas and electric as our fixed rate is running out. 

Also I really need to sort out my 'official' Facebook and smarten it up.  btw all are welcome to 'like' me.  I mainly post cat pics and stuff about writing on there, but it's lovely to see people.  Look for Lyssa Medana and the pic is a picture of a glass of wine.  I haven't indulged for some time but I am seriously craving some at the moment. 

Also I need to get the dining room ready and the tumble dryer out of the way so that I can get the new one in on Wednesday.

Also, lots of things seem to need doing now.

On the bright side, my back is feeling a little better, the snow is almost gone, I've set up the calendar to start using it again and it is almost the Easter break.  It could all be a lot worse. 

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Eventually Snow

We had planned to go to the Science Fair at Leeds.  Bear was actually interested in going to somewhere outside of the house and I was quite keen myself.  Then snow was forecast.

Leeds is not set up for snow.  The main roads get gritted but people aren't used to it.  Cars don't have winter tyres or chains, pavements get very slick and the buses faint at the first snowflake.  Lots of drivers panic on the road.  We don't really get enough to have practice at driving in snow, so during the last snow, Facebook was full of pictures of cars skidded off the road and into lamp posts.  Also, the way home includes a steep hill that just doesn't work when it's slippery. 

DH said he wasn't going into Leeds when there was snow forecast.  I thought this was entirely reasonable.  When he was saying that, gusts of snow were whirling horizontally past the window.  However it just didn't settle.  Snow came and went in very windy patches, but it had no effect on the road.  So in the end DH and bear went in to the Science Fair (my joints were too bad). 

They had a blast!  There were people from all sorts of different societies and facilities, like from the hospitals and university as well as local science societies.  Bear made sherbet and showed off and came home very happy indeed.  The snow was still coming in gusts and still had no effect on the roads.  I was beginning to think that the weather forecast had got a little over excited and the drowsiness I was feeling was a late night (snow always makes me sleepy) when the snow really started.  I've just had a quick look out of the window and it looks like a couple of inches have settled over the street. 

So I am feeling a little smug.  I arranged for my shopping and deliveries to happen on Friday so they wouldn't be affected by the snow that was forecast.  I asked DH nicely to go to the tip with rubbish on Friday instead of Sunday when he would normally go (goodness only knows what this will do to the rubbish collection here!).  And I also got a small dent made in the dining room.  There's lots to do but I've started and I'm feeling confident.  The new dryer is coming on Wednesday and I've got clean shirts for DH and bear that should keep them going until then.  It could be a lot worse. 

Taking stock

I got to Aldi!!!  It's a very small distance and I spent not much but at least I got out and got the stuff in before the snow that is forecast hit. 

I was looking for a decent laundry powder holder.  I have one of those tin ones with enamel on which is a perfect size for a large box of Ariel and has a cute little cup thing that hangs off one of the hangers.  I absolutely love it - but it's gone rusty.  I've just had a thought...

(as an aside, I don't plan what I write here.  You get pure, unadulterated, unpremeditated witterings.  I think of stuff as I'm typing and in it goes.  So when I have a thought half way through, I may as well add it)

I don't like the idea of the rusty box but I could just rub down the rust and paint over it.  Of course, it isn't the thickest of tin so there may be a hole forming already but it's a possibility.  Or I may just cave and get a large plastic tub.  I'll have to look at the rusty patch and see whether it's worth trying to mend.  I suppose I could get another enamelled tub and pre-treat the base with a layer of varnish. 

But I think I am going to have to accept that I currently have bad joints and I am going to have to work around them.  I believe that the main cause is self inflicted - I'm overweight and I don't move much.  My late mother was crippled with arthritis and took feverfew tablets. 

So I need to move more and eat less.  Moving is tricky.  Stairs are currently a problem.  I'm not too bad in the mornings but by evenings just getting up from a chair is an issue.  I've decided (and please, please, please, let me for once stick to a plan!) I need to get things set up  so I can do all the moving I need to in the morning and then just relax later.  I need to set the house up so that it works with complete efficiency - allowing for bear and pals, of course.

I'm going to start in the dining room.  I'll report back and let you know how it goes. 

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Drying Troubles

I have a tumble dryer.  It hasn't been a happy bunny.  It fainted yesterday so I took out the condenser filter and gave it a good spray down, just like the handbook said.  Then this morning I put in a load of bear's shirts and it tumbled dried them beautifully.  It hasn't worked since.

This is not the first time that the dryer has come over all useless.  I suppose I'm not surprised.  For some reason I've been getting a lot done this week and that includes catching up with the washing and drying and I've changed all the beds.  I suppose the dryer was feeling frail. 

I've just looked back through the blog and the dryer is almost exactly two years old.  It should be doing better than this.  In the past it's sulked and not worked and then a few days later it's started with no bother. 

I'm going to have to sort out the dining room (where the dryer currently lives) to allow for drying on airers.  This is not going to be a quick process as currently the ironing pile is so big that it's getting its own postcode.  Plus there are a lot of things that need to be either placed elsewhere or thrown out.  The dryer will probably start working again soon, but it makes sense to limit its use anyway. 

It's getting to the time of year where, weather permitting, I can dry things on the line.  Except that the smell of the illegal drugs in the street is strong enough to stop a clock and I can't bear the scent of it. 

I wonder if I can make home made fabric freshener?  I could dry on the line and then squirt the clothes with fake Febreeze and not be overcome by the smell from the neighbours.  I'm off to google. 

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Weary Wednesday

I'm trying to cut back on caffeine (again) so I am almost nodding off while I post.  It's been a funny sort of day.  I've been pootling around with a little ironing, a little cleaning and a little writing.  I spent around half an hour knitting and I've nearly finished another scrubby. 

It's been very limp today.  I still have an outsized pile of ironing, plus all sorts of stuff everywhere but it's getting slightly but consistently better over the last week.  I'm moving the best I have all year!  First it was almost-flu, which wiped me out.  Then my back went.  No it's my hip and knee but if I move in the morning it isn't too bad.  I suspect it may be arthritis.  As it is, the biggest excitement for me today has been watching to see which wheelie bin they took today.

The council are supposed to collect general rubbish and recycling on alternate Wednesdays.  The week before last, when it should have been recycling, we were hit by snow and the refuse collection had to be cancelled.  However the council did their best to catch up and were running only a day behind last week which means the general rubbish should have been collected last Thursday - when we had a lot of unexpected snow.  Last night I left both bins out and kept everything crossed that they would take the general rubbish which includes all the stinky food waste.  They didn't.  I've got to wait another week and the bin is already full.  Fortunately DH enjoys a trip to the rubbish tip, so that should take some pressure off.  As we live near a small stream (with some minor flooding onto some grass a few days ago), near a lot of fast food places and have a major sewer running down the centre of the street, we get a lot of rats here.  I don't like leaving rubbish out, just in case. 

Tomorrow I plan to go for a very short, perhaps five minute walk, even if it's raining.  I'm putting it here to try and keep my resolve.  I'll report back tomorrow to see if I managed it. 

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

New Yarn!!!

I think this is an absolute first for me in over forty years of knitting.  I made a project with the recommended yarn!


I got some Red Heart Scrubby yarn on a good deal from Amazon and I knitted a cloth to use in the shower.  I thought I could do with a couple of them as the yarn washes and will tumble dry so I could just use once for a nice, scrubby and exfoliating experience, then bung in the washer while getting the next out of the pile.  I was planning on doing a square, but I saw this free pattern and decided to go for it.  To be fair, it took me around an hour and a half, but a lot of that was dropping pens, dropping needles and fielding bear's comments.  I wasn't sure how much yarn I would need for a scrubby so I got five balls.  I finished that one shown and there is loads of the first ball left.  I may easily get two or even three out of a ball.  That will be great, giving me a good pile of robust wash cloths. 

It was parents' evening tonight.  We had the usual about bear's handwriting (he's working on it.  It's still not a thing of beauty), but bear is coasting a little.  So he's only in the top four or five in the class instead of being outright the best.  It's not a bad thing to have at a parent's evening - only in the top four or five.  Now all I have to do is try and get bear motivated to push a little harder for the last four months in this school even though he has already made it to grammar school and is sailing through with less effort.  I worry that if I don't then bear will have an even bigger shock at grammar school where all of his class managed to pass the insanely competitive entrance exam.  Or I could leave him to it until next September when the fun really begins! 

Monday, 12 March 2018

Manic Monday

It wasn't really that manic.  It was just a little busy.  It would have been less busy if I hadn't decided to strip DH's and bear's beds and started washing.  With all the other washing as well, I was kept busy.  I was also watching like a hawk for the postie who finally delivered the copy of the birth certificate for me to send with the information form to the grammar school. 

The school were late sending out the forms, due to silly weather.  Then the copy of the birth certificate was guaranteed to arrive on Thursday, but there was more silly weather.  And then  I noticed that the cut off date to return this to the school was last Friday.  I went into a tailspin.  After I had calmed down, I rang them up.

I spoke to someone in charge of admissions and they were lovely!  They assured me it would be fine, just get the things to them and it would all be okay.  I felt hugged.  Then I raced (okay, limped - my knee, hip and back are all misbehaving) over to the Post Office and sent it off, first class, guaranteed next day delivery, please let there not be a problem.  On the way back I took this photo


We have had a bit of rain.  It's not so bad as in some parts of the world, but it's soggy enough.  By the time I'd fielded a few lovely phone calls from family, re-made the beds, cooked dinner, got bear wrestled into bed with the huge panda he has rediscovered and staggered downstairs, I was barely fit to post the latest instalment of 'At the Sign of the White Hart'.  Said instalment is here for those interested. 

Now I am going to bed!

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Mother's Day

Bear got me the best candles for Mother's Day.  I love candles and he got some Shearer candles in my favourite citrus scents.  I have felt hugged all day.

Car things continue.  Bear will be going to the grammar school with one of his pals.  His pal's mum is going to take me out in her car.  This is awesome.  Today I went on her insurance and we set up some times for her to take me out.  I need to focus on passing my theory test before I book the intensive week driving course.  The intensive driving course is purely to pass the test.  I need to be able to get the lads to and from school safely.  Once I have that piece of paper then I can learn to drive properly. 

As for my family, I may share memories as they come up.  They were a remarkable lot.  I remember watching my father rescue someone from a burning building.  I was with friends and we spotted the excess smoke from the chimney and mother checked through the window and the place was alight.  Father and a couple of neighbours broke down the door and carried out our neighbour and father did cpr until the ambulance arrived.  Sadly the neighbour died later in hospital. 

Uncle was always known for having a beard, long before they were fashionable.  He got a burn on his face when he was fighting a fire in a ship's engine room and felt self conscious so had a beard to keep it hidden. 

Mother could kick down a door.  She looked like a little old lady and quite harmless, and she had bad arthritis.  However her father had been a special policeman during WWII and had passed on some tips.  It came in very useful when I went to Guides as the door used to stick and it was the only way to get in to the hall. 

Sometimes, when I write about werewolves and vampires, I tone things down compared to my own experiences. 

Also, I'm sure every family has these sort of characters.  People are wonderful and complicated and do amazing things.  I just think that sometimes our family just liked the stories so kept sharing them. 

Saturday, 10 March 2018

More About Family

My father would be considered something of a character by most people.  He once attended a Methodist Bible Study group while drunk and got away with it.  Mother's family were a lot more eccentric.

My great uncle was awesome.  He was the youngest one of 11 and the designated family member to care for his mother, my great grandmother (the medium).

Great uncle was definitely a character.  He spoke Welsh as well as English and apparently went to a special school to learn Russian as he was on the Russian convoys during WWII.  He was loving to kids and animals - a complete softy for anything under five or on paws.  Actually, he was pretty much a softy through and through.

Great uncle, like all of the family, had Views and he insisted that he only would wear maroon, v necked sweaters.  Apparently he had a message from a spiritualist that said he should wear that colour, so he did.  So he bought these maroon v necked sweaters as he thought v necked sweaters were smart.  However an eighty a day cigarette habit takes a toll, and great uncle felt the need to keep his chest warm.  Instead of buying round necked sweaters or polo necks or even getting scarves, he kept on buying the v necked sweaters, but wearing them back to front to keep his chest warm.

Every now and then I will be talking to someone about something that happened when I was young and that I took completely for granted and I'll see an expression on their face like someone watching a dreadful car crash.  I believe it has made me more likely to see who people are and not prejudge.  If someone is kind, then it's hard to worry about inessentials like an insistence on a certain type of soap or a habit of wearing clothes in a less conventional way.  I'm trying to teach that to bear, and I think I'm getting there.

I found this picture which is not of great uncle (though he was Royal Navy) and this is the style he wore, back to front, in maroon...


(Just to add - this is not exaggerated or fictionalised.  I've never needed to.  I come from a long line of people on both my mother's and father's side who decided that they were who they were and damn what anyone else thought.  It's not a bad tradition)

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Mother and Holy Water

I haven't written much about my late mother.  She died in 2003 after a battle with cancer.  Mother was a complicated character.  She did a lot of damage to me before she died, in all sorts of ways, but she did her best to be a good mother.  The background she had was also complicated.  My father was a regular in the Army and managed to get postings where nobody told him what to do, which is pretty remarkable, but my mother's family were the real elite members of the awkward squad. 

Mother was incredibly generous, awkward, tolerant, volatile, determined, intolerant, rebellious, tough, conformist and above all inconsistent.  When I was writing about Holy Water a few days ago I remembered this story.  I checked with my brother and it is entirely consistent with mother's character and as far as we can tell it's true, but it was in the late seventies and looking at Google maps I'm not sure how it was possible. 

Please don't judge mother, and please don't judge me.  It's complicated.  Mother's four grandparents did not share religious backgrounds.  One was Church of Wales, one was Catholic, one was a low Church Bible thumper and one was a medium.  Mother generally didn't approve of spiritualists but had quite strong second sight when she chose to use it and good instincts.  She was quite fierce condemning Catholics and especially grumbled about birth control but she was grandchild number 46 in a large and sprawling family.  However, while she was grumbling about Catholicism, her best friend was Catholic.  Mother had a large divide between the general and the particular.  She may grumble about general Catholic stuff but she was pretty respectful of individuals. 

Mother had an elderly friend who was a devout Catholic.  When she heard that mother was thinking of taking me and my brothers out for a trip to Holywell in North Wales the friend asked mother if it was possible to bring back some Holy Water from St Winefride's Well.  Now, in general mother would mutter darkly about superstition and idolatry but this was for someone she liked so of course she was willing to go to St Winefride's Well. 

We took the bus out.  I remember it as being a lovely, sunny summer's day but not too hot.  The bus was a rambling local bus service that went from Chester (though it could have gone from Wrexham) and stopped at every stile.  We had a little walk around Holywell and then approached the church.  I remember that the church was down some country lanes and not very well marked, but I could be mistaken, as it would have been 1980 at the latest.  However I think mother was feeling awkward by the time we got to the door.  She decided that the children should wait outside while she braved the dangers of an unfamiliar denomination.  The person on the door, I think it was a gentleman and I seem to remember that they were very nice, wouldn't let mother in unless she covered her head, a very reasonable request for a Catholic shrine at the time. 

Looking back, this was never going to go well.  Mother had an independent mind and didn't like being told what to do.  She was very clear.  She was not covering her hair, she didn't have a scarf and she didn't have a hat.  The doorkeeper suggested that she put a handkerchief over her head.  Mother snapped 'how unhygienic!' and stormed off. 

The next bit I remember quite clearly and it is entirely within mother's character but I wonder if I've imagined some of it.  I remember that the spring from the well came out through the stone work and into an enclosure surrounded by iron railings and falling through a grid or drain.  I don't remember it being labelled but also I don't remember doubting that it was water from the Holy Well.  I remember mother rinsing out a bottle that I remember as being a bottle of water, like evian or something, but I'm not sure that they were around in the late seventies and it could have been a small fizzy pop bottle.  She didn't tip the rinsings down the well, she tipped them into the nearby verge.  Then she filled the bottle with purloined Holy Water and we went back to the bus stop.  I have no idea of how her friend received a re-used drinks bottle filled with Holy Water. 

 So that was mother and Holy Water.  No wonder I have a deep unease about the whole subject. 

More Bear

A lot of my recent posts have been about bear.  It's just what is happening in my life at the moment.  Today I was blessed to help bear with his homework. 

As I have mentioned, I didn't have a good education until I was around 13 or 14 and standards have changed a great deal since then.  Bear doesn't ask for help with the maths.  On one hand, he really doesn't need the help.  On the other hand, he knows it would be utterly futile.  I've been outclassed by bear when it comes to maths for years.  Today it was English, and it was identifying parts of a sentence.

I have vaguely heard of the idea of parsing a sentence, where you go through and point at nouns.  I didn't come across the concept of nouns and such until High School, but I had a fighting chance with nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs.  I have always had to think twice about what a preposition was, and I have no concept of tenses, but today bear was trying to work out the determiner.

I can bluff with the best of them, but I hadn't got a clue.  I was complete at sea.  Bear was frowning over his paper and he needed a hand but I couldn't have found the determiner with both hands and a road map.  I was honest with bear and googled it.  I found this on Wikipedia and we talked things through.  Apparently he did okay. 

I like to think that I can write clearly.  I have faith that I can put together a paragraph and it would make sense.  However I couldn't tell you what the parts of the sentence were, or how they were supposed to fit together.  I read the Wiki entry and wondered if I knew anyone who could explain the explanation.  DH has an English degree, including quite complicated stuff about Anglo Saxon and phonetics.  He just shrugged.  We didn't cover anything like this when we were at school. 

When we were at the meeting about SATS the very nice teacher told us that the staff were finding new concepts that they were supposed to be teaching.  Some of the contents of the SATS were apparently completely new to the teachers.  This is why they need their training days. 

And bear isn't even in High School.  I am not looking forward to his homework then!

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Timing

Hardup Hester recommended that I keep a copy of bear's timetable up in the kitchen, which I shall certainly do.  I shall also put reminders on my phone.  Then it hit me, I'll be changing the alarms on my phone.

Since bear first went into reception I have had a series of alarms on my phone going off through the morning amble.  Bear is always up before me so I don't have an alarm to get him up.  I have an alarm to get me up (I'm not a morning person), then an alarm which is ostensibly for bear to take his vitamins but in reality is for me to check that all letters, bits of uniform, homework, ukuleles, random boxes, etc are in place and good to go.  The penultimate alarm goes off for bear to make sure he's washed, teeth done and in his uniform.  This is late so that he can't spill cereal down his clean school sweater.  Then there's the final alarm for us (now just him) to get out of the door.  I have another one that goes off fifteen minutes before school ends.  It used to be a signal for me to pull myself together and go and get bear.  Now it is making sure that the door is unlocked and everything is good for bear to come home.  There have been a few tweaks over the years, but it has been mainly unchanged since bear first went to school in Reception class, seven years ago.  It feels quite a jolt, that it's going to change.  And that's not even until July.  Heaven help me, I'll be a wreck!

By the way, I recommend the series of alarms on a phone to anyone getting young kids ready for school.  I never really had to wake bear up, but it was invaluable for us as we (mainly me) dithered around in the morning and we always knew what stage we were at. 

I'm looking forward to working out the timings.  I've downloaded an app to practice my theory test, and I've been having a good go.  So far I'm doing okay.  I'm not passing, but I'm not far off.  I've put the official guide to the theory test in the bathroom so I can dip in every time I visit.  I am very determined. 

Monday, 5 March 2018

So that was Monday

I've been a washout today.  I've pootled, tootled and dithered.  Bear managed to get to school on time and in the correct uniform, which I'm taking as a win.  He only told me tonight that he had the form to book a parents' evening slot.  It's going to be hard, but I won't be checking his bag in High School, even if he makes mistakes.  It's better he makes mistakes and learns from them in High School than leave school with no idea of consequences..  Mind you, I've heard so many horror stories about Food Tech lessons and kids remembering the night before that they need unicorn eyebrows for the lesson the next day and I suppose I'll still have some stress.  I'm going to have to learn to sit on my hands.

Last Wednesday we got the notification through that we had to ring the grammar school.  The letter was very clear.  There was considerable weather around so the school was closed on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.  I have been on pins waiting for them to re-open.  I needn't have bothered.  Apparently we weren't supposed to ring at all.  The school are sending out slips and I daresay those slips will soon be followed by folders full of what bear will need.  I've checked out the uniform again.  There are no exact prices but the uniform can only be bought at one shop in Dewsbury that does not take internet orders.  It's going to be fun. 

The latest story 'At the Sign of the White Hart' is up here.  There are only a few episodes left in this series, if you don't mind me describing it like that, so let me know if you would like it to continue in the same format. 

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Locks and Keys


This is the sort of thing DH bought bear (and him) but there was a set of lockpicks included.  They are having a lot of fun sitting and looking away from the lock and trying to get it open.  It's fun for them.  I've got some incredibly inexpensive and secondhand locks from eBay (my friend always comes through) for the men to practice on.  Apparently there are lockpicking championships. I am not mentioning that to bear.

Barb from Canada mentioned a blog post about making your own soap.  I'm not sure I'm up to it.  If you are going to do it properly then you need to deal with some harsh chemicals and I'm not safe.  I had a look at the bars of soap on sale at eBay and I was bewildered.  Some look very unsafe, some are incredibly expensive and there are a lot of dubious claims.  Some soaps are marketed as gluten free, which made me profoundly grateful I am only intolerant to gluten in my food.  I didn't realise you could still get carbolic soap and coal tar soap.  I didn't know you could get soap made with pine tar, nor did I realise that you could get soap that was 10% sulphur and I'm desperately glad I have so far not needed to know that.  I have a stash of Dove shower creme from when I got an extremely good deal from Approved Food and I'm sticking to that for the near future at least.  

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Talking Stories

I am very rarely stuck for story ideas and they come at me from all sorts of directions.  For example, I had been gently wafting around YouTube looking at sock knitting machines, carding wool, home made shower melts, home made hand cream, funny cats - the usual spread - when I clicked on a link for Nablus soap which looked fascinating.  So I had a look on eBay, as you do, as it's surprising how much information you can learn from those listings.  I was wondering about whether the olive oil soap would help my eczema and thinking that buying things from Palestine is probably a good thing but it all seems very politically complicated over there when I noticed that one of the eBay shops selling a Blessed Holy Land Set.

For those who don't want to click (and I don't blame you) it is a set of four small bottles variously containing soil from the Holy Land, Holy Annointing Oil, Holy Water, and Holy incense.  It is described as 'blessed' but it doesn't say by who (or whom, opinions welcome) and you are going down a theological rabbit hole with some of the possibilities there.  They also say that they have Certified Blessed Anointing Oil which has been bottled and blessed in the Holy Sepulchre but again does not say by who (or whom, opinions welcome).  I understand that the Christians in Palestine have to get by as best they can but it did make me blink. 

Also for those interested, here is a picture in the public domain, taken from Wiki via the Palestine Archives 


I can't even count how many stories could ricochet out of this - the under-siege soap makers, the post colonial wreckage with extra religion, the efficacy of mail order Holy Water (really!), the John Le Carre style exile group selling these things which they may or may not believe in - things that may or may not work...  I have had writer's block plenty of times but never for a shortage of plot seeds. 

Speaking of stories, I'm getting to a point in 'At the Sign of the White Hart' where I could draw a line, put it in book form and call it finished.  To those who have been kind enough to read it - do you want me to continue? Is the format working?  I can carry on with stories based around the White Hart, possibly including mail order Holy Water, but would you prefer me to do stand alone stuff or perhaps different places?  I'm not guaranteeing I'll follow any or all suggestions, but I'll pay attention.  I'm particularly interested in how people see the format, especially if I absolutely promise one instalment a week (crises permitting). 

Friday, 2 March 2018

A Key to Success?

DH has brought home a present for bear (and he'll sort of be using it as well).  It's a set of lock picks and a practice lock. 

I can't fault him.  It's the sort of thing a young teenage lad can show off to at school and get some serious school yard cred.  If he gets into it I'm going to keep an eye out for old padlocks for bear to practice on.  There are a lot worse things he could do and it's a useful skill if he ever finds himself locked out. 

I'm not worried about bear getting into bad ways.  He is very, very clear about rules and the need to follow them.  He is meticulous.  I wonder if I ought to lock some stuff away for him for the challenge? 

We are still lucky here when it comes to the weather.  It's snowy, but it's not too bad.  My thoughts are with those who are really struggling, particularly those in the 3500 vehicles who have been stranded in the Pennines.  I hope we get back to the normal British rain soon. 

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Mixed Bear

I got the confirmation email.  Bear is definitely going to grammar school.  It's a free grammar school so the competition to get in is extremely fierce!  Something that has made me feel the best about it is that everyone, and I mean everyone, who I have mentioned the school to and who has any experience of it at all says that the school is supportive and encouraging and really helps the kids grow.  That it isn't just a hot house exam machine. 

To be fair, I suspect bear would do just fine in a hot house exam machine, or as well as anyone would, as he has got over his initial stress and is now very blase about the whole SATS experience.  I'm letting him get on with it but he seems fine.  I can still remember the nonchalant way he strolled out of the exam for the grammar school without a care in the world (unlike DH and I)  I am so proud of bear.

Well, I'm so proud of bear when it comes to the whole 'being bright and quite well behaved in school' schtick and slightly less impressed that he spent a large part of the day out in the freezing snow getting well and truly chilled.  Not only that, but he and his pal went out and decided to bury themselves in snow.  We are not the worst area affected, and the snow is lovely and powdery so they didn't get too soggy, but really!  DH was working from home upstairs so only came down after 5.30 and missed it, but he thought the lads had had a brilliant idea.  I told them that they were all silly sausages. 

In other news, the postman was a complete hero and delivered my provisional driving licence today.  I'm mildly terrified and completely excited.  I'm not going near a car, however, until well after the snow has gone!