Monday 30 April 2018

Testing, Testing, One, Two, Three

I'm still up to my eyeballs in practising the theory test.  I'm passing them all the time now, which is reassuring.  I plan to spend tomorrow practising the hazard perception.  As I have told bear, there is a skill to passing tests.  You need to know what they are looking for.  The hazard perception test is a video where you have to click when you perceive a hazard and the earlier the better.  However I've been caught clicking too early on the practice tests.  I don't need to work out how to spot hazards to pass the test, I need to learn how to pass the test.  Mind you, I've spent years sitting as a passenger and listening to outraged horror at exactly the berk in front did and what did he think he was doing?  I'm not quite as worried about real life.  I'll see how that goes with the lessons with the instructor.  With bpm, I've got a reasonable record of spotting potential hazards, so I'm not stressing too much yet.  Then I have the test on Wednesday.

Once the theory test has been and gone (and hopefully passed), then I can get back to trying to set up a website.  Lots of people have recommended Word Press, and I'm sure I'll be fine.  Then I am going to sort out this house before the summer holidays.  I know I've said this time and time again, but I need to get it cleared out.  For those who are keen sewers, here is an interesting YouTube video where a keen sewer went through her abandoned projects and decided what to throw and what to keep.  I think I will take the same attitude as her when it comes to my knitting.  I've only dipped in to a few of her videos, as they are too advanced for me, but the projects look amazing!

Sunday 29 April 2018

I Went Backwards!

I'm still working on starting and stopping, and I'm getting on okay.  We were in the usual office park that's empty on a Sunday and I took an unfamiliar turn.  I thought I could turn just past the sort of low hedge thing, and I couldn't.  So, while encouraged by awesome bpm, I reversed back a few yards and took the previous turn.  I didn't have any problems.  Now, I kept an eye in my mirror, and I knew there were no other cars, nor was there much of a chance of kids or animals, but it felt awesome being able to go back a few yards in a straight line.  I may be getting carried away, but I still feel giddy about the lesson.

Yesterday I took bear for football boots.  It was okay.  We got into Leeds.  We bought the boots, which are pretty awesome, and then we called into TK Maxx to see if they had any belts acceptable to bear.  They didn't.  They didn't have any kids belts at all.  We picked up some salad from Sainsburys and having gone to three shops within a hundred yards of each other, we went home.  I'm going to have to look on eBay. 

Bear is really good to take shopping.  He drags me past all temptations and refuses to consider going into shops that have not been previously agreed.  I need to make more use of him. 

Friday 27 April 2018

38 metres

I've been practising my theory test all day.  It's all becoming a bit of a blur.  38 metres is the correct answer to, 'what is the correct stopping distance at 50mph on a good road surface?'  I may be muttering in metres in my sleep.

Another of the multiple choice questions - when should you stop on a motorway?  One of the options (not the right one!) was, 'when you need to walk and get fresh air'.  I'd be a lot quicker going through the tests if I didn't keep stopping and boggling at some of the multiple choice options which I'm willing to bet some numpty will have checked!

Bear is really thrilled that he is taking part in a football tournament next week.  It's a tournament for kids who don't normally get picked for tournaments.  However, this means that I am going to have to drag bear into town to buy him new football socks and football boots.  His shinpads still fit him, thank goodness, so at least I don't have to worry about them.  However I am confident that bear will have grown out of them by Christmas, and possibly by September for High School.  As I only got the letter today, I haven't had much chance to scout around for deals.  This is going to be expensive. 

Negotiations have also taken place about trousers.  I have jeans for him to wear but the waists are too big.  There were the elastic thingies in the waistband in one of the nicer pairs, but even when I had pinched in four inches total, the waistband was still far too loose.  They are meant for a slightly taller child but I don't expect that he will put much on around the middle.  I suspect that bear isn't that skinny (the doctor didn't think so) but that a lot of children are now less skinny than they used to be.  Bear has agreed we can go into TK Maxx which is near the football boot store and see if he likes any of the belts there.  Fortunately bear loathes shopping with a passion, and is unlikely to want to look around the rest of the store.  This will save me a lot of money.

I may see if there is something anyway, though.  Poor kid is still stressed to the eyeballs and is insisting that I leave lavender oil on tissues in his room to help him relax.  Going past his room last night was like being punched on the nose by a lavender boxing glove, but it helped him, so that's something.  As Hester said, these exams are for the school only.  I can't wait until the SATS are over.

Thursday 26 April 2018

I Need to Take Some Credit

I was about to start posting about I hadn't done anything today, but when I thought about it, I had.  I have done lots of little fiddly bits and I can't point to something big, bright and shiny, but I've been productive.

I want to shout out to all who are reading - you are awesome and do not underestimate how much you contribute to lives.  Don't underestimate how much value you bring with you.

Today everyone got fed, had clean clothes and managed to survive until bedtime.  I'm taking it as a win.  I may have failed on a lot of other things, but those were a win. 

Bear was a little unimpressed with yoga, but his knee was a lot better.  I think a day of rest did his leg a lot of good.  We also started reading the third book in the series How to Catch an Invisible Cat.  We have just started 'How to Tame a Human Tornado and I was laughing uncontrollably.  We read a few pages at bedtime and bear continued reading afterwards.  We could hear him chuckling over the monitor.  Just a note about bear still having a monitor.  He knows that it is there, and strongly resists any attempt to remove it as it makes it easier for him to yell for us to do things for him.  I bring up removing it now and again, and I wouldn't be surprised if it disappeared soon. 

The latest from At the Sign of the White Hart is up here.  An ebook and paperback will be available very soon.  I will be charging as I have to cover the cost of the book cover, but the blog posts will stay up and will always be free to read.  The next instalment will be next Friday (okay, I'm about an hour early this week) and I am having a blast writing it! 

So even though I felt that I had done nothing, looking back I have done something and even a small something is a win.

Wednesday 25 April 2018

The Best Laid Plans

Today I was supposed to have another crack at the website.  I'm trying to use WordPress, which is apparently easy and fun and absolutely no bother at all - hah!  I was also going to have a good go at the theory test practice, which is next week.  For those not from the UK or who were sensible enough to pass their test before the theory part came in, here is the government website where you can have a go at some practice tests.  I also had a text which told me I could pick up a framed picture. 

Life happened.  Bear's knee has been getting stiffer and stiffer and today he couldn't walk properly.  As he was also beside himself with the stress from these dratted SATS I kept him off and got him a doctor's appointment.  His knee is definitely swollen.  It was quite obvious.  The doctor moved his legs around, suggested we give him ibuprofen and made an appointment next week for him to come back and give a blood sample.  She's not sure about the knee.  It may be nothing at all, but she wants to get a blood test to check for inflammation  He's having an early night and is determined to go in tomorrow as the school have yoga every Thursday for those sitting their SATS.  There is something seriously wrong when 11 year old kids need yoga to cope for exams that actually do not affect them.  The SATS are important to the school.  They do not affect most kids as their High School will test them again and besides, bear is going to grammar school and has already passed the exam - without a tenth of this dratted stress. 

One small win: in the past when I have batch cooked something and bunged it in the freezer, it has languished until thrown out.  I haven't successfully batch cooked and froze anything.  However, I successfully reheated one of the portions of squash, onion and sweet potato soup that I froze and bear ate a full bowlful.  He practically inhaled it.  I'm taking comfort in that.

Tuesday 24 April 2018

Technologically Challenged

I'm trying to create my own website.  It isn't going well.  I'm not linking to it because there is nothing there yet.  I'm not very good at technology so I did the logical thing when I got stuck and tried the help chat.

I forgot that these are largely bots.  They see trigger words and they give scripted responses.  I should have realised but I started off asking for help in much the same way that I write here.  It's rambling, it's old fashioned at times and it's very colloquial.  It doesn't help that I don't know the proper words for things.  So when the poor bot was asking about a 'dashboard' or 'creating a menu' I wasn't exactly sure what it meant. 

I think I may have been guilty of cruelty to bots.  The pauses between responses got longer and longer and I got more and more bewildered.  Eventually it was time for bear to come home and I abandoned the chat.  I could imagine the bot going back to his fellow bots and saying, 'We've got a right one here, lads.  Someone's CPU has been in the washing machine.  I don't think this one knows their RAM from their coaxial cable'.  However I saved the links that the thing gave me and I'm going at it again tomorrow.

I am ready to go to the school to give them a piece of my mind.  Bear is beyond exhausted and stressed.  Poor kid doesn't know which way is up.  His appetite is through the floor and he's just hanging around like wet washing.  It doesn't matter if he gets 0% in his SATS.  He's got through to grammar school and nothing in these exams matter to him.  However sitting in a hothouse of stress isn't helping.  I've left him with some apple and cinnamon tea and some lavender oil on a pad to scent the room. 

Monday 23 April 2018

Not in the Chimney

As we live in a back to back house (if you knocked down my bedroom wall you would also be knocking down their kitchen wall) I don't have a back door.  I have a top door, which leads into a porch and then to the living room, and a bottom door, which leads into the kitchen.  I took some rubbish from the kitchen to the outside bin and then noticed a small weed growing out of the drain pipe next to the door.  There's a sort of trough in front of the kitchen window and there's a hole with a pipe that basically dumps any rainwater onto the concrete in front of the kitchen door which can then go down the drain.  The hole at the top looks like this

And the hole at the side looks like this

I'm leaving the fern in for now, but didn't want a drain blocked so I pulled out the plant which was attached to what look like a wipe that had been stuffed down there.  It might have been there for some time, and I have no idea where it came from, however it is now in the bin.  I had a dig with a stick and pulled out a load of muck, and couldn't really get to stuff further back (you can see traces of the muck that I knocked off the stick).  So I had a prod down the other hole and wasn't really getting anywhere.  So I thought I would tip some water down the pipe and see if it would wash the dirt out.  I just emptied a couple of litres of plain tap water down the hole (you can see that some dirt splashed back).  Nothing came out of the lower pipe.  When I tipped the second jug down the hole something black seemed to rise to the surface and then I realised it was moving under its own steam.  Something insectoid, damp and covered in muck, was emerging from the pipe like an alien in a horror movie.  My skin crawled.  I did get a quick look, and as far as I can guess it was a queen bee, possibly a honeybee.  However I just walked straight into the kitchen and locked the door. 

If I am right, I'm stuck.  Honeybees are incredibly protected (and should be).  When they lived in our chimney, like sensible bees, we did ask around about them when the hive got too big and they were getting congested.  They can't be touched  We had them there for twenty years or so, on and off, and they were no bother, not even when we had the roof repaired.  I had a quick look later, when I took these pics, and there was no sign of her majesty, so she has hopefully dried off and gone to the already established nest forty foot above where I found her.  It's been empty for a year or two and I sort of miss the bees.  If she has crawled back down the hole (which has been prodded, jabbed and flooded so I'm hoping she's got a distaste for it now) I could end up with a bees' nest right next to my kitchen door! 

I'd better get clearing up the garden before it becomes to busy.  Unfortunately the fuschia has survived the winter and I don't think I'll be able to get it out at the moment so I'm just going to have to be harsh and cut it right back.  However right now I am off to study for the theory part of my driving test.

Sunday 22 April 2018

I Feel a Fool

Do you remember me agonising over bear and his trousers?  I was dithering about taking his waistband in as the trousers were just hanging off him.  When I was looking inside the waistband and trying to gather my courage, I found this.

And if you put the button into the furthest loop, it looks like this

There is one each side which shaves a merciful two inches off the waistband and lets them stay up.  I cannot tell you how relieved I am.  I'm also a little embarrassed that I didn't see this before. 

I had another driving lesson today.  I'm still doing starting and stopping, I think I'm five lessons in, and today the first start was perfect.  I pulled off smoothly and evenly without any jolt and I stopped equally smoothly as well.  It felt wonderful.  All of you who are reading this and know how to drive - I am impressed.  I'm feeling good about the clutch, less so about the brake and accelerator, but that's okay.  None of the rest of the stops and starts were as good, but I managed a hill start, did several turns, both left and right (there were no other cars around), and loved every minute.  I stalled a few times and I don't think I got faster than 10 miles an hour, but it still felt good.  I've been buzzing ever since. 

I think a lot of it is that I've never heard anyone I drive with say that a mistake is okay so I was really nervous at first.  Bpm is just amazing, though.  She is calm, she is encouraging and she tells me that it's okay not to be perfect.  I'm worried about getting the lads dropped off near the school, and especially about parking.  Bpm has reassured me, just stop where it's legal and safe, do your best, let the lads get out and don't stress.  Just do what you can.  It's really made me comfortable.  I hope my formal driving instructor is as good.

Saturday 21 April 2018

Lots of Thunder

There is a massive amount of thunder at the moment.  It seems to be right overhead and as we are in a valley it's echoing like giants playing skittles with huge steel drums.  The rain has finally started as well and its rattling down like a delivery of gravel.

I also have a serious headache so I'm going to crawl off to bed.  Besides, I need an early night as driving lesson tomorrow!!!!

Kate - I laughed at the Klingon suggestion.  Another exemption for carrying knives was for religious reasons.  Jedi is a recognised religion so I suppose you could claim it was a lightsabre.

Forgot to Mention

The latest instalment of At the Sign of the White Hart is out here, and has been since this morning.  I had far too much fun writing this!

Friday 20 April 2018

So Much for That

First off - thank you for the suggestions re taking in the trousers.  I thought I would say thank you here, because I really appreciate it.  I'll have a go over the weekend.  Bear is still very bear, and while he may possibly consider the theoretical chance of belts, he isn't keen.  Poor kid is getting stressed to the eyeballs over the SATS.  Also, I forgot it was yoga for him at school yesterday, so he went in too late to benefit. I've set an alarm on my phone for next week.

What has it come to where the school is organising yoga before school for kids stressed out about SATS?  They are ten and eleven years old! 

I went to Aldi today.  I just needed some bits but I thought I could pick up the stuff I preferred there.  I called a taxi from the firm I usually use, who are normally awesome.  Today was not so awesome.  I got in the car and the first thing I said was, do not go up that way.  I repeated this several times as the driver drove up the road at the side of the house.  I couldn't get him to stop, nothing I was saying got through to him until there was a truly awful scraping on the bottom of the car.  I was almost ready to get out and walk at that point (buses to Aldi are tricky and time consuming and the taxi fare isn't much more than the buses).  The very short stretch of road at the side of our house is incredibly steep, very badly maintained and if you miss the exposed grate at the top then you will almost certainly hit the nasty ledge that you have to get over to get on to the main road.  I always warn delivery drivers.  DH will go downhill on this road, which means he doesn't hit the ledge the wrong way, but he won't go up.  There is a lot of room to turn around and bounce down to the end of the street the safer way, it's much better to do that.  The car did not sound happy in the five minutes it took to get to Aldi. 

There are those who will hear what you say, and those who won't.  For as long as I can remember there has been the infrequent but irregular screech of another driver losing important bits as they belted up when they really should have turned and gone back. 

But I got the ingredients I wanted for rice salad, which always goes down well with bear and DH and we had it with very inexpensive venison grills and it was a very pleasant dinner. 

Thursday 19 April 2018

So Warm!

Like any Brit, the weather is vitally important to me.  What else can I talk about?  Apparently it is the hottest day since last August and the hottest April day since 1949.  It's okay, though, as the weather is likely to go downhill rapidly next week. 

My search history isn't looking any better.  I wanted to know if a character could legally carry a particular knife in the UK.  According to an official website, you can legally carry a knife to and from a museum for an exhibition, or for the purposes of historical re-enactment.  I can just imagine the weary expressions of the coppers trying to explain that if you say you're going to an historical re-enactment then you shouldn't just be wearing jeans and hoodie with a broadsword strapped across your back.  If you want to carry the broadsword, you should not only look like you're making an effort, but you should also be able to tell the unlucky officers of any re-enactment that is happening within a hundred miles.  It is in human nature to look for loopholes.

While I was looking at the legal position I found that, according to the official police website, a sword is officially a banned knife and there is such a thing as a zombie knife, which is also banned.  Of course I had to look it up - here, if you're interested, which is the Wikipedia link.  I remember seeing them years ago on eBay with weird handles and contorted blades.  I think it's perhaps as well they aren't around.  My character wouldn't have one of those anyway. 

Cherie K - thank you for the tip.  I am planning on spending some time this weekend with safety pins, needles, elastic and probably some harsh language.  Wish me luck!

Wednesday 18 April 2018

Three More Days

I have three more days until my next driving lesson.  On the day of the lesson and usually the day afterwards I feel buzzed and capable and do great things.  The rest of the time I have panic attacks.  Lots and lots of panic attacks.  They aren't severe or serious.  Bear doesn't notice much, I think, and he is still fed and clothed and nagged about homework. 

We have an issue with bear's trousers.  They are too big on the waist.  The ones that fit him around the waist are climbing up his ankles.  Bear is refusing the whole concept of a belt as he says he would be teased.  I've looked at YouTube videos about taking in waists and I'm intimidated, but I may have a go with some hand stitching which can be easily taken out and cut nothing.  Bear doesn't tuck his shirt in anyway so it would cover a lot of sins.  I can also get them altered in a stall in Leeds Market for @ £8.

The reason I know how much they charge in Leeds Market is because I went into Leeds this morning.  I finally got around to taking in a picture to reframe and afterwards I cut through the market.  I wonder if I get at least one pair done properly then it could last him until half way through July, when bear stops wearing grey school trousers.  And at least I would know what they should look like. 

Cherie K I'm sorry to hear about your goldfish. 

Tuesday 17 April 2018

Not Much Happening

It's been a very quiet day.  I've done some ironing, fed the family, done a little writing and took in a grocery delivery. 

However it has all been a little dull.  There's nothing much to report.  So I will finish with...

Two goldfish are in a tank.  One looks at the other and says, 'Do you know how to drive this thing?'

Monday 16 April 2018

Too Much Monday

Bear woke up in the middle of the night and then very early this morning with aches and pains.  It sounds like growing pains, could have more to do with racing around like a lunatic the day before, but I'm keeping an eye on it.  Unfortunately he woke me from an incredibly deep sleep both times, so I have felt not quite in sync all day. 

I feel for bear at the moment.  He was up at 7am doing the homework that he had had all holiday to do, and then he forgot to take his sports kit in with him.  But that was okay because there was no sports as they had two tests.  From general gossip going around, bear is not the only one who is getting rattled by the atmosphere in school.  I think that it is very hard on the kids.

Bear did have one moment of joy, however.  While he was in assembly, one of the teachers said Istanbul was the only city that is on two continents and that it is the capital of Turkey.  Bear said he thought it would be rude to shout anything out, but did point out to those around him that while Istanbul was on two continents (Europe and Asia), it was not the capital of Turkey.  The capital of Turkey was Ankara.  I really feel for his High School teachers. 

Sunday 15 April 2018

Not a Dedicated Follower of Fashion

Bear had a party to go to today.  I was not entirely convinced he should go, as bear loathes discos (it was a disco), has had ongoing scuffles with a few of those attending and is generally not a social animal.  As it was he went, hung out in the car park in the rain with some of his pals and had a great time.  I am confident he will eat the birthday cake sent home with him for breakfast before I get up.

The problems we had were that he didn't have a stitch to wear.  I mean, he had clothes but not party clothes.  He also utterly refused to leave the house to go a few hundred yards to Matalan which sell up to date, reasonably priced, hard wearing kids clothes.  He wore the one pair of jeans which he considers fit him, and they just about do.  I think he's about half an inch too tall for them, but bear is fine with the length.  He is one growth spurt away from being without any real jeans.  Of course, the four pairs that I gave him to try on were obviously imaginary.  He's very slim, and we are in a negotiation situation about belts.

Earlier, DH and bear put together a bookcase.  Bear was following the instructions with serious concentration.  I'm happy to leave him to it.  I walked past as bear was knocking in some nails and I can see that I will never need to worry about flat pack again.  Kate bear reads the instructions for the bookcases but was all grown up when he put the piano stool together as the instructions weren't brilliant so he worked it out himself.  He is incredibly proud of that piano stool!

I had another driving lesson today.  I had a brief panic when I saw a car coming towards me (we were in a sort of tiny office park which is usually empty on Sundays), but I trusted that they knew what they were doing and recognised that a car with L plates and wobbling towards the appropriate lane at walking speed needed a little tolerance.  I took this on the way to the lesson

It's forsythia, and I always think it looks cheerful.  It usually is out in February, not half way through April.  I wonder how the farmers are doing with all this weather. 

Sort of Busy

I've washed and ironed.  I still have a significant amount of ironing left, but it could be worse.  I've cooked a batch of soup and bunged what was left after DH, bear and his pal enjoyed it for dinner.  I've generally pottered around. 

DH has been really busy.  He and bear put together a bookcase in bear's room.  Bear is very keen on assembling furniture.  Long may that continue!  DH has also set up bear's 'new' computer. 

It's been a very domesticated, relaxing day, and I hope tomorrow is just as relaxing.  Sending out chilled vibes to everyone

Friday 13 April 2018

Not Unlucky

I kept forgetting it was Friday the Thirteenth.  Bear and I went to Aldi and then bear got a new computer game in the post.  It's called 'Farming Simulator' but is more about driving combine harvesters and tractors than actually growing things.  Bear asked me about the small part of the game that included plants.  'Mum, when should I use the cultivator?'

My instinctive reaction was something along the lines of, 'how the dickens should I know?  It's a computer game about modern farm machinery and my knowledge of farming is based on medieval agriculture' but I tried to ask the right questions.  I asked what the cultivator did.  Bear was vague.  He knew he wanted to practice driving it and there was something involving wheat, but more than that was a mystery.  Should he use it before or after ploughing?  As far as I could tell, the cultivator was some sort of harrow which, if I have it right, is used after ploughing, but I could be completely wrong. 

Bear will have to reinstall it on his 'new' computer.  I think it's always worth checking out reconditioned stuff if it's from a reputable source.  Tesco are pretty good and DH knows a good computer repair person.  I also check outlets.  Then DH will see if he can do a full factory reset on bear's current computer, perhaps replacing some of the components and trying to get it working and if he can then he gets bear's, which is newer than his, and I get his, which will be much easier for me than a laptop. 

For those interested, I wrote the first instalment to the deadline.  The first instalment of 'More Tales from the White Hart' is up and ready to read here.  I am aiming to make it a regular feature every Friday, and I've already started on the next instalment.  I hope you like it. 

Thursday 12 April 2018

Nearly Friday

Bless - I remember the trouble you had with the plumber.  I'm glad it got sorted out.

Wean - I hear you.  When it all hits at once, you just do what you can to get through.

The next six months are going to trash our savings.  It's all stuff that actually needs to be done, but I'm wincing a little.  I'm really keen on getting the house rewired as it hasn't been done in over twenty years and it is probably not as good as it could be.  Light bulbs don't last long and every time there is an electrician involved there seems to be a sharp intake of breath.  The carpets are all older than bear.  Some of the carpets are older than bear's teachers.  I don't believe that carpets have sell-by dates, but the holes and bald patches are shameful.  Then I will need a car, and insurance, and all of that. 

It could be worse.  I remember when bear was around two or three.  For six months everything broke.  We didn't take out loans, but we did put stuff on credit cards and it has taken years to get straight. 

First of all we needed a new washer, which was a few hundred.  I insisted we got a new flat screen tv as bear was toddling and kept trying to pull the old, heavy, boxy tv towards him and it made me nervous.  We didn't go for the most expensive model, but it still wasn't cheap.  The gear box in the car went, which was an eye-watering bill, and the printer stopped working after a mouse got stuck in it.  I can't remember everything, but at the time it seemed like everything with a fuse gave up.  The fridge and freezer were okay but we needed a new vacuum cleaner, a new dvd player and I can't tell you what else.  The worst was the boiler.  It had been staggering inefficiently along for a while and the parts were apparently no longer made for it.  I suspect the British Gas Engineer because he put it on extra high to test it during its service and it blew a week later.  British Gas had been trying to get me to buy a new boiler from them for years.  It was £4000 for the new boiler, which we got from a local firm, and it was fitted at a time when there was snow on the ground and I was trying to keep bear warm.  All in all I believe we spent something like £10,000 over the six months and I was glad when things stopped breaking. 

Bear has been spending the day mostly on the recliner.  He has been upside down, right way up, sideways and in all sorts of contortions - completely normal for a young lad who has seemed around 80% leg.  I may have to save up for another one!

Wednesday 11 April 2018

IKEA Happened

I'm ready to cry at the amount of money that's going out this month.  We can find the cash for it, but it's painful.  We've paid for a new window, as the old one was just about keeping out the rain and the new one should reduce our heating bills.  I've put down the deposit on the intensive driving course, which will almost certainly be less than if I paid for one hour a week until I pass, but it's a chunk of money.  Bear's computer has driven DH and I to the brink of distraction as it isn't working, has been failing for years, the whole thing is slower than a hand cranked adding machine and bear does not hide his pain when the game crashes.  So we've paid out for a reconditioned PC from Tesco which should hopefully see bear through High School.  The one he has now is around six years old, and DH suspects that the operating system isn't quite booting up as it should.  And today we had a delivery booked from IKEA from between 11 and 3 for two very necessary bookcases for bear's room and a recliner.

The recliner is really important.  DH likes to sprawl out and prefers to lie down on the sofa in the living room when possible, but everyone is hanging out in the study.  DH does come in and hang out, but sometimes nips out for a lie down on the sofa for a little while before coming back.  The recliner from IKEA, £250 and very comfortable, will allow DH to snooze while hanging out with us.  It's a big deal.  We want to stay together.  I did a lot of furniture shifting and found a tonne of yarn and half finished projects which means I'll be knitting a lot tonight. 

IKEA didn't turn up between 11am and 3pm.  I called their office @ 3.30pm (got through @ 4pm) and eventually found the right combination of buttons to speak to a real person at the right store.  Apparently their truck broke down this morning.  There were delays.  Someone would ring me back.  No-one rung me back.  I tried again at @ 5.30pm.  They were very sorry, they couldn't help me and someone would ring me back.  The delivery men eventually rang to let me know that they were half an hour away at @ 7pm. 

I didn't and don't blame the delivery men.  They had been on the road all day (from 6am, apparently) and had got an earful at every stop as their van broke down early on.  They looked absolutely exhausted but still got the heavy furniture up the steps and in the right rooms, despite some very narrow gaps.  One lad that looked far too young for this said that we were the only ones that had been sympathetic. 

IKEA furniture has always been awesome and I suspect that this lot will be too.  The delivery drivers did their best despite looking ready to drop.  The people in the office seemed very pleasant.  However somewhere in the mix there is an information gap.  The moment the office learned of the van breaking down someone should have sat down with a list of names and rung and explained before any deliveries were missed.  An update every two hours should have been possible - we are in an age of work's mobile phones and 'find my phone' technology.  The stress levels on the office, the drivers and the customers would have been significantly less.  It would have probably taken up less admin time than fielding a series of calls from irritated customers.  It shouldn't be that hard. 

Deep down, I'm good in an office setting.  I was a good legal secretary and a good PA.  It hurts to see basics like this getting missed.  Still, I've found so much that needs sorting while moving furniture around that I suppose I need to sort out my own sins before wringing my hands over other people's omissions.  So I'm off to clear the backlog of knitting projects.  I may be some time. 

Monday 9 April 2018

Bear does his Best

We went into town and converted bear's child's account to a teen account at the bank.  I let bear listen and the lady was absolutely amazing as she explained everything to bear and gave him opportunity to take it all in.  I wish I knew more about such things.  I was taught things like, 'how to write a cheque' by my parents, but there just wasn't the same financial sweep of things then that there are now.  I suppose the best I can do is give bear an awareness of the sort of questions he should ask, as much as I know them.

When we got home I tried to explain about credit checks and how important it was to keep an eye on them.  I hope bear will retain enough that when he is older he knows to check up on what a credit check means.  He's a sensible lad. 

This afternoon was lovely.  We sat in the study.  Bear was playing Eurotruck and was talking me through all the driving involved and how to read the road signs while I sat in a chair next to him and knitted.  It was incredibly relaxing. 

Sunday 8 April 2018

Cats on Catnip

Back in the days when we were owned by cats, we sometimes gave them catnip.  They didn't all have the same reaction.  Malevolent cat wanted a luuurve, psychotic cat wanted a fight and evil cat immediately needed a nap. 

I thought I'd share a YouTube video of big cats like lions and tigers being given catnip, and their reactions were much the same as an average tabby - some weren't affected (some cats aren't) but others were just smacked off their wotsits. 

Big Cat Rescue is, as far as I can tell, a good animal charity.  It does it's best for animals that cannot be released into the wild.  What's reassuring to me is when they show their videos, they are treating their animals with respect.  They are not treating the animals like humans, nor are they treating massive creatures like tigers and panthers as kitties.  But they are treating them with love.  You may like to check out their videos about the big cats' vacations.  Or the one where they tried to see if the big cats liked marmite.  Or the one where they are given pumpkins or Christmas trees or cardboard boxes. 

Having a tough evening, so looking out fun videos and thought I would share. 

Saturday 7 April 2018

Another Driving Lesson!

I had another driving lesson today and I turned on the windscreen wipers - deliberately!  I also just focused on stopping and starting and while I may be getting good at starting, and I seem to have worked out the clutch, I'm still having a few problems with the brakes.  But I managed a hill start with only a little rolling back, stopped at junctions eventually (it was a small, empty office estate car park), managed to stop gently several times, went around corners, and generally had a blast.  I can't tell you how much I'm enjoying it.  The new shoes really made a difference.  I can't wait for the next lesson. 

I'm now exhausted, so off to bed.  Sending hugs and good vibes to all. 

Friday 6 April 2018

Not Quite Driving

Bear and I spent a lot of the afternoon actively hanging out.  He loaded up his Eurotruck simulator and had me practise with the wheel and pedals.  It was a complete disaster.  I drove in several circles, crashed through a central reservation and ran over a roundabout.  I'm better in a real car.  We talked about where I could go in the car, what we could do, where I could shop (bear was unimpressed) and we watched (and heckled) some YouTube footage of Plants vs Zombies 2 while I knitted.  I bought five balls of the scrubby yarn, thinking I would maybe get one or two scrubbies per ball.  I have completely used one ball, I'm currently using two balls (pattern calls for two different strands so I have one ball for one bit and another for the other) and I have two untouched balls left.  I have knitted two circular scrubbies, ten heart shaped scrubbies and a soap saver.  Bear approves, as they are going to be dumped in the bathroom, used once for a shower/bath and then washed.  It seems very logical to him. 

Regarding driving, I've booked a block of 28 hours of driving lessons over fourteen days for the end of May.  This includes the practical and theory test.  This should, theoretically, hopefully, all things being equal, get me to pass my test.  Afterwards I can learn to drive.  The important thing is that I can get my son and his pal safely to and from their school.  Also, I can finally go to car boot sales.  And speaking of which, I'd better go off and write it. 

For those interested, a while ago I wrote a series of short stories about Steve Adderson and his adventures dealing with elfen, boggarts and all sorts of strangeness.  The stories were a response to story prompts and I had a lot of fun with them.  I will be adding them to the Tales of the White Hart when it comes out, so I've been tidying them up and I've added a final section where the identity of Steve's father is revealed.  If you want to know, the story from the beginning is here.  The first instalment of the second section of At the Sign of the White Hart comes out Friday 13 April.  And speaking of that, I'd better go and write it!

Thursday 5 April 2018

Candle Carnage Continues

I went out today to reluctantly buy shoes to drive in.  The thick soled trainers I wear are no good for feeling the pedals and I can't find the one pair of shoes I own which I've worn three times - to a wedding in 2014, father's funeral and the funeral of uncle last year.  I picked up some ballet flats from Marks and Spencers and grumbled at paying £35 for shoes.  Unfortunately my feet get so swollen that it's a relatively cheap pair.  When I got home bear had five tealights and a scented candle lit.  He appears to want to run down the stock. 

A lot of the tealights belonged to father.  He loved them, often had them lit in his room, and used to light one and just let it burn out overnight as he slept.  The thought of that horrified me.  I bought a very inexpensive bulk pack for him not long before he was taken ill, so a lot of the 143 (or however many are left) come from that.

Father did not have a good sense of risk.  In the days of conscription, he was a regular in the army, in the Royal Engineers whose unofficial motto was 'First in, Last Out'.  Father loved the army and took every opportunity for adventure.  I believe he did some bomb disposal, though I'm not sure of the details.  He was part of the squads sent out to deal with the arms dumps left from WW2 and was in Egypt in the 1950s.  We have a hand grenade with a pin in sitting on our hearth which he brought back from his adventures - it had the explosives drilled out long ago, but he liked the souvenir.  He would go up ladders even though his knees were bad, and just before his last illness he was wandering about the back of the church, away from where anyone could see him, sorting out the weeds and shredding the nerves of anyone who worried what a frail octogenarian could do to themselves with a scythe in thick undergrowth.  When they were discussing his discharge from hospital and deciding whether he would need a nursing home, the nurses and social worker were concerned that father could no longer make a sensible risk assessment after his stroke.  I tried to explain that he'd never managed a sensible risk assessment in his life, but they didn't believe me.

The one area father was very risk aware was fireworks.  He was the designated firework guardian after he moved here.  He was very cautious  and meticulous about safety.  I suppose he had seen enough bangs to be relatively respectful. 

The comment from Sarah reminded me (Sarah, please check the reply to your kind comment) that I am a little more safety conscious.  I have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen after I set a chip pan on fire and there is also a fire extinguisher in the living room.  Years ago, before we lived her and when we first got malevolent cat, she didn't knock a candle from the top of the tv onto the curtains but it was a close call.  No candles were ever put there again! 

Most of our candles are now put on the iron casings of the gas fire in the living room or the electric fire in the study, and these fires have marble hearths.  I've been clear to bear that you can't leave candles on an edge and you have to put all candles out when you leave the room. 

Also, bear may have made a list, but I don't think he's keeping it up.  He is, however, more organised than I.

Wednesday 4 April 2018

Better to Light a Candle

Bear has Views.  He's been grumbling about the lack of order in the candles for a while but today he had to act.  Today he decided that he was going to Sort Out the candles.

To be fair, he has a point.  There are a lot of candles in the house.  There are tea lights, Woodwick candles, church candles, scented candles in tins, etc etc etc.  Bear was clear.  We need to get some sort of system and work our way through the candles in a logical order.

A few months ago we cleared out the cupboard in the corner of the room and DH and I made a space just to store candles.  There were some that had been there since before bear was born and there were some recent acquisitions, as Woodwick Candles' UK website had a few half price just after Christmas and that is a deal worth having.  I bought several.  I also always request candles for birthday, Christmas and Mother's Day so they can stack up.

Bear sorted them out in the cupboard, counted them and wrote a list.  We have 143.  This includes multi packs of tealights and a large pack of dinner candles that was an absolute bargain, and quite a few bits that had been pushed to the back of the cupboard and forgotten but it is still a significant number.  I think bear took it personally.  He has decided that we are going to burn all the ones we currently have before we get any more candles.  No excuses.  He immediately started lighting tealights.  As I type I have the last quarter inch of a Hearthwick candle going, a scented candle in a tin and three tealights - as chosen by bear.

Bear learned a valuable lesson.  He already knew about my shopping habits, but he still has to learn the way of the world.  DH brought a surprise home - a tall, lemon scented Woodwick candle.  Bear had not had a chance to share his rules.  However I was impressed at how graciously he thanked his father without a hint that half an hour earlier he had been laying the law down with a firm hand.

Tuesday 3 April 2018

What to Have for Breakfast

I'm reading a reprint of a Victorian book about what to have for breakfast.  I am not a morning person.  I have never been a morning person.  My body can start moving at all sorts of early hours but don't expect much from me before 10am. 

When it comes to breakfast I usually have plain oatcakes, but bear has toast, cereal, fruit or something entirely inappropriate in desperation to get something in him before school.  I've made him egg muffins in the past, and I'd be willing to do more, but while bear is very happy getting up at the first cough of the sparrow, his stomach doesn't wake up until lunchtime, so I take cereal as a win. 

I was actually looking for lunch ideas.  Lunch time happens every day but when it's not just me having scrambled eggs or beans I panic.  I have absolutely no idea.  I also have to cater for a variety of tastes, tolerances and appetites as sometimes bear has pals around. 

This book, the Dictionary of Dainty Breakfasts, has a very different view of breakfast.  Apparently breakfast should include a fundamental dish which will sustain someome through the morning, like prawn curry (yes, it includes prawn curry for breakfast), but should also include something dainty, like a poached egg, fruit, toast and a drink such as tea, coffee or cocoa.  Some of these dishes are very sustaining indeed! 

Of course, a hundred and fifty years ago people needed a lot more fuel.  Just basic living needed a lot more moving around and more people worked heavy, manual labour.  The recipes are detailed, though, and worth a look.

One recipe, for a breakfast dish on a table that should also include fruit, extra bits like bacon, toast, coffee etc, was for chicken with eggs.  You reheat cold, minced or finely chopped chicken in a thick white sauce made half milk and half stock and serve it over toast with a poached egg per person on the side.  I may try something similar for dinner, soon, as I've done a lot of 'diced chicken with tomato and veggies served with pasta' type dishes recently but I imagine if you make the white sauce with minced mushrooms instead and serve with something like toast or hash browns underneath, it would make a nice change.  Just not for breakfast. 

Monday 2 April 2018

Disappointing Snow

We have been lucky with the weather once again.  We did have snow this morning, but it was something of a disappointment.  It sort of flopped out of the sky in large, damp flakes that didn't hang around.  I know other places have not been so lucky and some passes over the Pennines have been shut.

It feels like a nothing sort of day.  We have hung out together and enjoyed each other's company.  I've had a phone call to Scottish Power that eventually went okay, but took a chunk of time and I helped DH move things away from the junk room window which is being replaced tomorrow. 

We just have so much stuff.  I have been resisting incredibly inexpensive stuff we don't need on eBay, no matter how good the deal, because I don't want more stuff.  It feels very depressing. 

I suppose I'm flat because I've been trying to design a book cover.  I have come to the conclusion that I have less artistic talent than potato peelings.  It's disheartening.  I've looked through resources like Flickr and WikiCommons for inspiration, and I tried to tell myself that it was only because they had equipment that they got their stunning images.  Then I saw that a lot of the utterly amazing pictures were taken by phones.  The photographers are just extra talented. 

btw I wanted to share some pics from io Lagana.  You can find her on Flickr here.  They are just amazing.

Sunday 1 April 2018

Happy Easter!!!!

We didn't bother with Easter Eggs.  Bear doesn't really like the chocolate in the eggs so he gets a game (he is a hard child to bribe).  We had lamb steaks for dinner as a treat and generally hung out.  My brother called in to show pics of his holiday in Australia.  It was so good to see him and his partner.  They had a wonderful time and are already starting to save to go back as soon as possible. 

Then I had a driving lesson.  I loved it! I wish I had learned to drive years ago.  It is my third time in the car, I was getting into second gear, turning relatively tight corners, starting, stopping, stalling, getting my hands wrong on the steering wheel, clipping the kerb, going over speed bumps and I set every beeper off at one point as the car started rolling backwards to my bewilderment and I pressed all the pedals twice and stalled.  The lovely bpm just got the giggles.  She is so amazing, I can't say how much. 

For those interested, the latest and last chapter of the first section of 'At the Sign of the White Hart' is up here and the story from the beginning is here.  I've added some notes at the end of the last chapter and invited comments.  All feedback is very gratefully received.