Monday, 30 May 2011

A Thought.....

How much do we ever really know somebody? I always thought that I knew all there was to know about Big Man and his family. If not all, then after nearly 30 years together just about anything of interest worth knowing. He isn't always the most straightforward of people, but then at other times he is right down the middle, no messing and all business.
This evening we were watching a report on our local news about a motorcycle rally in Margate when Big Man turned to me and said 'Patsy and Nanny (his dad and late mum) used to ride a Norton motorbike y'know'. 'No, I didn't know that' says I. 'Did she go in a sidecar?' 'No, just on the back'.
I digested this for a bit then he said 'Patsy was a pillion passenger in a motorbike accident when the driver was killed'.
'O my God!' I said. 'What happened? Was he hurt?'. I am highly interested in tales of others' misfortunes, as you know.
'Mmmm...don't know.' He carried on watching the weather report. After a minute he said thoughtfully 'I think he broke his arm'.
At times like this he is at his most 'Dave-from-the Royle-Family'-like.

I thought of all the times since I've known him that we have talked about motorbikes (quite a few considering we don't have one and don't know anyone who has one) and he has never mentioned Patsy's near-death experiences. We often talk about those in this family - one or the other of us seem to have them on a weekly basis; my very worse one was when I had a terrible panic attack alone in Sainsbury's car park, ended up wetting myself and had to get the children to help me from the car, weeping copiously (me, not them - they're used to me) after I had called them on my mobile from the driveway. But back to the motorbike story. Big Man has never once told me about that accident...what's more annoying in a way is that he piqued my interest and then didn't know anything. Let's face it, I can hardly say to Patsy the next time I see him 'tell all about your motorbike accident!'. I am nothing if not tactful.

Finding out about this hitherto-unknown motorbiking past does explain one facet of my MIL's character. Her favourite songs were always those that ended up with someone being killed, usually on....a motorbike! Leader of the Pack by the Shangri-La's (look out, look out, look out, LOOK OUT!!!!); Terry by Twinkle (please wait at the gates of heaven for me, Teee-rrryyyyy); Tell Laura I Love Her by Ricky Valance (tell Laura not to cry, my love for her will never die!); Teen Angel by Mark Dinning (I'll never kiss your lips again, they buried you today) and Ebony Eyes by the Everly Brothers ("Would those having relatives or friends on flight number 1203 please report to the chapel across the street at once"). Okay, okay, they're not ALL motorbike-related but you could see the way her mind was working. In fact her most favoured of all songs were the execrable 'Seasons In The Sun' and 'Honey'. Bless.

What I've learned today though is that although you can never really know somebody, no matter how long you're with them, when you do find a little something out it can shed a light on other things too.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Who Would Live In A House Like This.......?

I read an interesting article in today's Sunday magazine. It was called 'Who'd Want To Inherit This?' and it was all about a guy in the US whose mother died, leaving her house and six storage units full to the brim with items she'd hoarded throughout her long life.

The gist of the article is not only the amount of 'stuff' that 'Mrs M had left behind but also the way in which this mammoth task is driving the son and his partner apart. He, Greg, wants to clear the property himself in order to understand why his mother turned out the way she did and to see if he can halt his own hoarding tendencies. He doesn't want to pay a contractor to do it and has so far filled four industrial skips, five smaller skips for recycling and donated four tons of clothes to charity. He also found 20lbs of costume jewellery in the shed.

All I can say ladies is, I doubt there is a vintage-lover amongst us here who WOULDN'T want to inherit 30+ years-worth of clothes, costume jewellery, books, accessories, toys, homewares etc! I personally would snap old Greg's hand off for just half an hour in his late mom's home! I often dream of finding out some distant relative has left me their old stuff...not too bothered about money (actually that's a lie, I am also bothered about money) but to inherit a house full of old old stuff as opposed to tacky modern crap - wouldn't that be something? Sadly even the very remotest relatives in my family, like me, don't have two pennies to scratch their arse with (another Northern saying...funny how they're nearly always to do with bums and bodily functions) so the chances of that happening are non-existent.

Greg's significant other, Sidney has written a blog about his mammoth challenge - she is very unhappy that her partner is spending all this time away from their home, tidying up and finding himself. I can understand that, I guess - I would probably be the same once I'd picked any treasures out and although I'm laughing about it, it must be very hard when one person in a relationship sets off on a 'quest', whatever it might be, that affects the other person's life as totally as Greg's quest is affecting Sidney. There is a video, made by Greg, that shows his mom's house as it is now. As he explains, it's a lot better than it was at first.

I wonder how much longer he'll carry on and whether he might, one day, just snap and sling the remainder in a skip? If only I could be there with my Marigolds when he did!

Saturday, 28 May 2011

To Sleep: Perchance To Dream....

Ever since I was a kid I have talked in my sleep.
As I got older and had more worries (I suppose) I became a sleep-shouter and then a sleep-crier. Sometimes I wake myself up shouting; sometimes I have to be woken by Big Man because I am shouting. Or crying. And sometimes a combination of all three. I normally only do it when I haven't taken anything to knock me out (because of Big Man's horrendous, seismic snoring I am tranquillised almost every night otherwise I'd never get any sleep, broken or otherwise. Funny that, isn't it? He's the one with the problem but I'm the one who is medicated..)

It's rare for me to remember what has upset me so but that's not to say I don't ever remember dreams. Most are completely surreal, for example one a week or so ago when I dreamed that one of Red's ex-boyfriends ( let's call him Pigface for the sake of argument) arrived at my house dressed as Joey Ramone complete with sunglasses and black wig - Pigface is actually a gingery blonde who would like to be a Viking but is more Piltdown Man -  and begged Red to go out with him. She eventually, reluctantly agreed. At the same time thirty perfectly-formed but only knee-high teenage girls had called over to see Mr Charming. All very bizarre. I tell the rest of the family my dreams when I can remember them and always ask 'what do you think it means?'. I'll leave you to guess at the kind of answers I get.

There are no other sleep-talkers/shouters/criers in the family but that doesn't mean that there aren't others who, like me, are plagued with crazy dreams. Many years ago Babcia was dreaming that she was a racehorse in the Grand National. She ran faster and faster and managed to take the lead. Just as she approached the winning post another horse came up beside her and was about to go past. In her desparation to win at all costs and nobble her rival, she turned and bit the other horse savagely on the neck....only to be awoken by a cry of pain from my Dad. Whose upper arm she had sunk her teeth into. Poor Dad. Three days break from the toughest job in the world and he ends up as a snack for Nijinsky.

Babcia's never lived it down.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Stardrops Keep Falling On My Head

Well they will do when you buy nine bottles at a time!

Apologies to anybody on the South Coast who is looking for Stardrops but when I tracked down nine bottles (all they had) on the shelf of Poundstretcher I had to buy them all - who knows when I might find some again? To those who haven't used it before Stardrops is the apex of cleaning fluids, making any and all household tasks a breeze! (O dear....looking at old knitting patterns yesterday has made me talk like a 50s housefrau!!). I first heard about Stardrops on and when I saw it in Wilkos I thought I'd try it. I've gone through a couple bottles since then and it's become harder and harder to find it. It's not been available for ages in my local Sainsburys or Asda; they've heard of it but don't sell it at Clarence Hardware (just about THE best hardware store in the know, the kind where all the prices are handwritten and you can buy a single screw?); and like I said, it's not stocked at my local Wilko's. They have offered to get some sent in from Fareham or Boscombe but given the level of staff torpor there I've pretty much given up on that happening. I did ask Babcia to be on the lookout for it in our malignant Northern hometown but now I've found it myself she can cross that off her list of jobs. Are Stardrops more of a Northern thing, like patties and savoury ducks do you think?

The only problem I have now is where to store them - at the frequency I do my housework they'll be there a loooong time!!

Wednesday, 25 May 2011


I discovered this old knitting pattern in a charity shop today and finally realised what Babcia had been doing whilst I was at Grandma's house....

Her modelling days (in the middle)...

...and her real life as a meek and mild wife and daughter-in-law. She hated being skinny back then because it wasn't the norm at all. People used to say she was so thin that she could dodge the raindrops on a stormy day. She had a 22" waist and a concave chest when she brought me home from hospital, whereas I was probably 22" around the top of my arm when I brought Mr Charming home from the maternity suite. She gradually put on a little more weight but when Twiggy came along a few years later and was feted for her boyish figure it was a bitter pill for Babcia to swallow. I don't believe she has ever got over it... 

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Got The Washday Greys...

When I decided at the start of the year to crack down on our spending and repay as quickly as possible our enormous debts, I didn't expect to have to buy new underwear as a result.

One of the things I've always 'just done' is, on the rare occasions I peg out washing, I still tumble dry all our smalls. In the past I used the tumble dryer ALL the time, even when it was a good drying day, partly through bone-idleness and partly because a tumble dryer was (and remains) such a novelty to me. Before we got one I had to rig up clothes lines across the rooms of our very cold house every winter to try to dry the kids uniforms and stuff - a hellish business - which took forever. So, even after owning a tumbler for about eight years I still love and appreciate it. However, I'd read frequently that driers use a lot of electricity so I decided that, as much as I was able I would hang washing out. We have a very long and very high line that works with a pulley (as opposed to the clothes props that were - still are - common in the North where I grew up) so it's not as if I have any excuse. The problem of electricity use became more pressing when we got a £1200 bill just before Christmas last year. EDF hadn't been reading our meter properly and to cut a long story short we're paying a stonking great £175 a month to rectify it. Ugh.

All this brings me to the new underwear situation. As well as the big clothes I am now also hanging out our undies and to be frank mine leave a lot to be desired. Grey. Baggy. Frayed. The pachyderms of nether regions coverings in fact. And, it goes without saying, sensibly big. I don't know about you all but I've always been a big knickers wearer, even as a skinny little chick. Not for me the Red-type thongs that are just a couple of pieces of ribbon....I like something far more substantial, and I put it down to the Arctic winters of my youth. O, and I'm a nesh bugger.

As chief washerwoman, folder and ironer I am usually the one who discards everyone else's ratty undies, consigning Big Man's holey old boggies to the duster pile with a curled lip. By the way, does anybody else use old (clean, obviously) underwear as dusters? The first time Big Man saw me cleaning the windows with a pair of his 'A Present For A Good Girl' pants he recoiled, aghast. Maybe it's just me. Anyway, now I have to do a little discarding of my own because it's just too shameful for my drawers to be seen in public. Before anybody suggests dying them, it's gone way, way beyond that stage. In fact, as a subscriber to the universal fear of being knocked down whilst wearing dirty knickers I should have realised long ago that being knocked down whilst wearing past-their-best knickers is equally as mortifying and done something about it. I am such a slattern.

Henceforth I will be going to that temple of sensible and economical undercoverings, George at Asda, tomorrow. I think I might have to spend up to a fiver for six pairs! Thank goodness I'll be saving £2 a tub on the Ben and Jerry's ice cream I'm planning to pick up at the same time.... ;P

Saturday, 21 May 2011

A Tale Of Two Kiddies

Mr Charming has, in the last couple of days, paid his first month's rent cheque for the flat he is sharing during his second year at uni in Cornwall. Today he sent me a text to let me know he got an essay back and his mark was 7% off a First.

Red texted me today and said that the landlord has sent an eviction notice to her and her four housemates. In the last couple of days she has decided that she is going to drop out of her Psychology degree at the end of this, her second year, and 'find a job'.

Somebody please tell me everything's gonna work out fine!!

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Out Of Sorts...Time To Take To My Bed Methinks

Thanks to you who hoped I had a good night at work last night. It was okay...fairly tedious although I did have a 'poor me' moment this morning at 6.30. Like I said I work in a care home, not as a carer, but I was kinda 'bumped' into covering for short-staffedness by working as a carer for a 12-hour shift. I got some knitting done, watched a bit of Tomb Raider and finished a jigsaw but by about 4.00 I was starting to flag. At 6.30 I found myself in a client's bathroom and at the same time the Kings of Leon 'Use Somebody' came on his radio. All I could think was that a couple years back I was camping at Reading Festival with Red and we were singing along to that same tune with thousands of other KOL fans. Now here I was, washing an old man's armpits. How the f*!/@ did I end up here? Cue plenty of Slavic/Gaelic gloom...

I know how I ended up here. I'm trying to pay off debts incurred by our defunct business, which is why my altercation with Big Man yesterday (things are still rather fraught, btw) seemed so unjustified. I just don't know....can you all please put your Crown Court wigs on...?

It seems to me that, in almost all of the PF blogs I read it's the female partner who does the bulk of the worrying, repaying, figure-juggling and just plain sorting-out of the finances (with Frugal Queen's DB an honourable exception...possibly more too) and mine and Big Man's situation is no different. He pays lip-service to debt repayment but he doesn't have the drive or desire to owe nothing that I do. He puts the big light on in the front room at night when he's just watching TV then gets annoyed when I ask whether it's necessary. He isn't willing to give up his 5 or 6 bottles of wine a week. He never checks the freezer or cupboards before buying bread or mayonnaise or ketchup or whatever he fancies (which drives me CRAZY!!! I always say 'at least it's your own money you're wasting..' That's right, I have our money, he has his money). He has always left all financial affairs to me - this was the most sensible thing to do when he was away at sea - but if you're thinking that I got us into this mess on my own, We had a business that failed. I begged Big Man to fold it 18 months before he finally agreed which has resulted in us having to repay an £18k personal guarantee (an overdraft taken out in the period when I wanted us to close the whole show down) and has given Nat West a charge on our house. That's the background.

Big Man's car had to be scrapped and when the hauler came he left a cheque for £150 that wasn't made out to anybody. In December last year I too had a car that was scrapped and I too got £150 that I used to repay a small overdraft. I assumed, rightly or wrongly, that we were in this together and that Big Man's £150 would go towards debts. I didn't realise that when Big Man came home from work he saw the blank cheque. I thought it would be funny to write my name as the payee then show it to him with an innocent face, saying 'look who the man made the cheque out to!'. Which I did. And he was furious.

That was HIS money. That I was controlling. That it wasn't funny. That HE'D paid for that car. I said that it was just a joke, that I'd assumed it was going to go towards paying credit cards down (especially since, despite knowing we...well, obviously it's I; I know that now...were working hard to get rid of the Halifax credit card he put £81 on the card to pay for some extra car insurance. He said that he'd told me he was going to do that but it wasn't true. He was just banking on me not remembering, like people sometimes don't when they are working FOUR JOBS! However I never forget anything to do with money...); that I thought we were in this together. But clearly we're not. I think the thing that upset and yes, insulted me the most, was when he said 'since you've taken it just make sure you pay it all onto the Halifax card'. As if I haven't been working my ass off since the start of the year and paid every penny I've earned against our debts. I don't get wine. I don't buy a M&S Brie and Cranberry sandwich nearly every day. I don't want to buy takeaways every week. 
It ended up with me transferring the £150 straight into his bank account from the joint one. And he let me. So am I the effing idiot or what?
Don't get me wrong. Big Man has a lot of good points. I'm starting to realise though that the bulk of this is going to be on me and that frightens and saddens me a bit.

The final 'taking to my bed' spur was Red's problems with her landlord. I went to bed at 9.00 this morning. At 1.30 Red rang to say that she and her oppos were having problems with their landlord over some rent. There are five sharing the house and the couple amongst them have unbeknownst to the landlord moved in a snake, some stick insects, a lizard and a very big lizard. They don't want to antagonise the landlord in case he calls over and finds the Lewisham Zoo in his front bedroom. Red and her two other friends want to move out and quick. After asking whether she had woken me up Red proceeded to chunter for another half an hour. Within 20 minutes the letting agent rang to complain about Red. Well, I think that's what she thought would happen but she hadn't bargained for the now extremely fractious Tiger Mother. After sending her off with a flea in her ear I had another two calls from Red, one from her friend and one from her landlord. According to Red and her friends he is psychotic and needs to be sectioned. After today he and I should get along fine.

So m'learned friends. Thoughts and sympathy gratefully received. Seriously...don't be kind just 'cos you like me....
I'll be in bed if you need anything.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

If You're Ever Hungry In York....

...then might I suggest two totally different but totally fab eateries that we tried on our mini-break?

The first was Henry J Bean's at Tower Street. I'd looked at 'places' on my phone, an app that shows restaurants, cinemas, cafes etc that are near you. I liked the idea of this one because it said it's an American diner (my favourite) BUT there were some pretty damning reviews on there. I was a bit put off though when we came upon it by chance the menu looked so nice (plus what we could see of other diners' food through the window - we were like the Bisto Kids!!) that we decided to try it. We were so happy we did.
Our server was Joanne (hello, if you're reading this!!) and she was very warm and attentive. She asked us whether we wanted to watch the football or not - when we said we didn't she showed us to a booth by the window, away from the TV. We started with nachos with chilli. It was really tasty though with hindsight maybe a mistake because it was soooo filling! We followed this up with a cheese and bacon burger each (mine with blue cheese) with salad, onion rings and chips. The burgers come served on a kind of hollowed-out slat of wood. The burgers were meaty and juicy; the baps were soft and the chips were light and crisp. The blue cheese was oozing off the top of my burger...nom nom nom. Sadly there was just too much for us to eat after the nachos (and a bottle of more-ish Rekorderlig Swedish cider!) and both of us had to leave a bit - a shame because it was just heavenly.  Even worse, we were too full for pudding!
With the tip we paid around £40 and thought that was pretty reasonable for a great meal, excellent service and a lovely atmosphere. 9/10 from us!

The second restaurant we tried was an Indian buffet-style place, Jinnah on Cumberland Street. The cost here was £10.95 each for all you can eat. I've got to say Indian food isn't my most favourite, though I do like it - this was Big Man's choice of restaurant. It's a big, modern-looking place where the staff are again very attentive and the manager/maitre d' is totally charming. Firstly there is a plate of poppadoms with lots of different chutneys and dips (really delicious, especially the sweetish date one) then followed a sizzling dish of lamb kebabs, onion bhajees, tiny lamb cutlets and vegetable samosas. Also delicious! The next stage was the actual buffet - a long display of veggie and meat curry dishes of varying hotnesses (heats?) and a couple different types of rice. These were served with a giant piping-hot naan bread. But like Henry J Bean's the night before the starters were so filling I could only face one round of the buffet. I chose Chicken Tikka Masala and though it tasted okay the colour was so luminous it fair put me off....imagine one of Scarlett's flamingoes.....!
Since I only had a bit of the buffet I was able to force down a dessert and I had a gorgeous, palate-cleansing Lemoncello sorbet/ice cream. Yum! I give it 7/10 but Big Man gives it a thumping 10/10!!

So don't let anybody tell you we can't cook great food in the UK - I like to cook and I like to eat and these two places are as good as anywhere you'll find. I haven't been paid for these reviews, by the way. But if either Henry J Bean's or Jinnah wanna throw a free meal this way I'll not say no....;P

On another note, I am working tonight - the first time I've worked overnight since I did a shift, ooooh........18 years ago at the St Ivel factory. Anybody who thinks you can never get too much chocolate only has to spend 10 hours on the tiramisu conveyor belt. And that's just the smell...
I digress. It's a good job I'm out later because Big Man has upset, hurt and insulted me to such a degree that I'm sure the mother of all rows would ensue if I stayed here. I'm not sure whether he realises what he's done and is brazening it out by blaming me; whether I really HAVE done something as reprehensible as he's making out; or whether he truly is as lacking in self-awareness as he seems to be. Or whether I'm just a complete girly sap with nothing to complain about.

I'll tell you tomorrow and you can all set me straight.....

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Trip To York

Big Man and I had a really lovely time in York - I didn't want to come home! I was surprised by the size of it - we kept finding more and more places to look around. I liked the Shambles, though Big Man was a bit disappointed with it.

Little shrine to Blessed Margaret Clitherow at The Shambles - so peaceful

I don't think I could be disappointed with any part of York. Of course we did the touristy bits; the Jorvik Centre, where I made the mistake of listening to 'Jorvik's' narration in the little car, rather than the sensible, informative narration; and the York Dungeon where one of us (alright, it was me) was pulled out of the group to be put in the dock in the courtroom. I had to sing, dance and call on Beelzebub. On the basis that I will never see any of the other people again I threw myself into it, in a way that anybody who sees me regularly would have been amazed at. What can I say? I was on holiday.

There was some fantastic architecture to be seen, a lot of it high up.

And of course the Minster was incredible. It's hard to believe that this carving is still all done by hand. But great that it is - at least mechanisation hasn't completely taken over. See the contrast between the new carving and the eroded old carvings?

We saw some geese with their goslings just near the Castle. As soon as you went near the mothers set up such a hissing and were really aggressive, showing that mothers are the same whatever their species!

I know I said that nothing about York was a disappointment to me but in fact I was very let down by the charity shops. If you remember I'd printed off my list specially but there was nothing much to interest me. They certainly know how to price up there too! I got a couple of bits but nothing with the wow factor. We drove through Big Man's old stomping ground, Nottingham, on the way home and I saw some tasty looking charity shops around Hyson Green but he refused to stop, much to my annoyance. Maybe it was for the best....I'd spent quite enough. A lot less than I would have done this time last year. But enough.

York. It's corking!

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Catching Up

As a result of six weeks continuous work (census, polling station, pedestrian counting) the house has gone to rack and ruin and I need to catch up with my housework big style. It needs a jolly good sort out and clean....a real Spring Clean is what's needed but it won't get one just yet. We're going on a trip!

Big Man and I are spending two nights in York, leaving tomorrow. It's only a cheapie Travelodge break but for £19 a night you can't complain. Neither of us have been there before so it'll all be new. Apart from the Jorvik Centre, which I really want to see, we're happy to just take things as they come. I have printed off a list of charity shops in York from this website so I'm ready to go. Still have to pack but I'll do that in the morning. And a bonus is that we'll stop off and see Babcia and Dad on the way up and Big Man's folks, Patsy and Babs, on the way back. They are near Stamford, another place I'd like to visit. I would've liked to stayed a night in Stamford too but I don't want to leave Otto for too long.

I'll be back blogging with lots of pics (I hope!) on Thursday. Byesie-bye!!!!

Friday, 6 May 2011

A MASSIVE Job Jobbed And A Dilemma Resolved

I finally finished my census job tonight and I feel like a kid let out of school for the holliers! It wasn't at all onerous - the weather was lovely, people were polite and sweet, I was able to work at my own pace and the money has been a real help to me in my debt-reducing endeavours. I'll miss doing it in a way but after six weeks I'm ready to get my nights and weekends back. Pity it's only every ten years - I'd do it every year!

Good bye, money-making opportunity!

Today a dilemma was solved for me, but not really the way I wanted it to be.
Our new manager at work, Mac, asked me on Wednesday whether I would consider doing some extra work as a carer. My job is Activities Co-ordinator in a nursing home and doesn't involve any care-related work, even though I have been trained in Manual Handling and a few other bits - I suppose that was one point in Malicia's favour....she gave me a couple of other strings to my bow. The idea was that, because we are very short of carers, I would become a 'bank' carer to fit in as and when at times when we're short-staffed. A separate contract with a tiny bit more money in the hourly rate. I told Mac that I'd think about it and tell him today.
I went home and spoke to Big Man about it - he wasn't keen, and I can see it from his viewpoint. We both wanted to work part-time so that we can take care of Carb Addict between us when he's home from his unit (he's a 38-week boarder, which means he's home every weekend and every holiday), and so that I can do my other bits of work (like mystery shopping, eBaying, this census and Poll Clerk stuff, etc). I thought about it and decided that I WOULD do it, with some caveats. One, that it was only until the end of the year; two, that it was just 'as and when', not set shifts; and three, that it was a separate contract. 
I went in to work this morning and told Mac my conditions....what do you think he said? He told me that things had changed and that it looked as if it was sorted out now - someone who had been offered a job working nights and turned it down had come back and said that she would do it; another person's sister is going to be a bank carer; and our housekeeper/cook had asked if she could transfer over to care work. So all my deliberating and cogitating was for nothing! The main reason I'd agreed was to save myself from having to scrabble around for more work now my other stuff has finished but it looks like I'll be scrutinising the mystery shopping websites again from now on! 
You never know, things could change again and at least Mac has said that rather than recruit a second Activities Co-ordinator to share my job when we get more residents, I can keep upping my hours (I currently do 16 hours over four days). And as I always say, everything happens for a reason. 

For now I'm going to relax and enjoy my weekend. On Monday me and Big Man are off on a little jaunt for a few of us sure deserves it!!!!!!

AV Or Not AV? That Is The Question.....

...but I don't want your answers. Votes are secret, right?

Today I spent 15 hours at a local polling station. I was a Poll Clerk for the day and whilst it wasn't super-massive fun it wasn't too onerous. My colleagues, all but one of whom were city council employees, were complaining about how long the day was going to be from about 9 am (we started at 6.30 am); how it was going to drag; and how tedious it was going to be. They obviously have never spent 12 hours on a railway siding counting moral fibre.

Like I said, all but one of the other five people knew each other from work and had done the job on several occasions. Poll clerks were paid about £150 after tax - not bad and mine will go straight into the bank tomorrow. However, one of the council employees told me that he had expected to have to book a day's leave to work in the polling station today and was pleasantly surprised to be told that not only didn't he have to book a day off, he also would get his regular day's pay PLUS the clerking pay. Is it just me or does anybody else find that totally outrageous?! I was really annoyed (but hid it very well, obviously) and just said 'no wonder you're all clamouring for the poll station work then' - when I had my training for the job almost all the others there were council employees.

I find it amazing that the council would happily pay its employees twice for the one job and am not at all surprised that public sector workers are clinging onto their jobs and perks with all their might. That's money from council tax paid by all the inhabitants of this city and I think it's just wrong, wrong, WRONG. I can understand that nobody's going to say 'actually, I won't take two lots of pay for this one day's work', after all they are just going along with a precedent that has been set, presumably for a long time. But at a time when councils are moaning that they have to cut back on frontline services perhaps they should look at the money that they've paid out to their employees for this one day. And I don't wanna hear the argument 'if the council workers weren't willing to do it there wouldn't be enough people to man the polling stations' - my local council found an extra 150 that they were told were needed with no trouble at all.  It just seems like 'jobs for the boys' to me.

I must say, I've worked in the NHS and it was nothing like the rest of the public sector seems to be. Cushy with a capital C.......

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Metal Gear Solid + Metal Nose = Corrosion Of Sanity

I've blogged before about my #2 son Carb Addict who is 17 and severely autistic. He can't really speak properly; can't socialise and has obsessive behaviours - boy does he have obsessive behaviours! Unlike Rain Man (who is probably most people's idea of autism) he has no savant-like talent, unless you count being able to rewind a CD, cassette tape, video or DVD to the exact same place over and over again one. He can also identify unlabelled videos and cassette tapes just by how far the tape has spooled through. A party trick I suppose but not something that's going to get a documentary made about him. He loves music from the 50s, doo wop mainly, which he looks at constantly on YouTube. His current favourite is the first 9 seconds of this song from the Duprees.

It's nothing unusual for him to play just that tiny 9 second snatch up to 80 times in a row. We can kind of switch it off now but it's mesmerising for strangers to see. Before Carb Addict got a place at the unit where he boards during the week we, as a family, had to have lots of interviews, psychological tests (yes, really) AND video cameras set up in the house so that the Clinical Psychologist in charge could see for himself the behaviours Carb Addict displayed. In other words to see whether we were exaggerating his problems in order to get him a boarding place. The CP told us in amazement that he had watched footage of Carb Addict replaying just one word in a cartoon for 25 minutes non-stop. Now that's obsessive behaviour.

It's also by-the-by. In this house we have a PS1 and a PS2. We had a PS1 game called Metal Gear Solid...I think it's some kind of fighting game. Carb Addict started looking at it constantly on YouTube, who knows why, then started asking for it. Within a day he started saying 'Metal Gear Solid' in response to everything. I would say 'Morning, are you okay?' and he would say 'Metal Gear Solid'. I might be in the bath and he would open the door and say 'Metal Gear Solid'. Talking on the phone to Red he would come in the room and I would say to her 'say hello to your brother'. Carb Addict would take the phone and say 'Metal Gear Solid'. You get the picture. I was pretty sure we still had this game and asked Mr Charming where it was. He couldn't find it but he did tell me that his brother doesn't want to play it, only get to a certain place where a character dies and gives a strangled scream, the sound of which appeals to Carb Addict. That I didn't think this was at all odd just shows what I've put up with for the past 17 years.

To cut a long story short Carb Addict found the disc for Metal Gear Solid but sadly he had stood on it at some stage, rendering it useless. Being a tolerant Keshling I bid on a copy of the game on eBay and won it. Hurrah! You might think that knowing a copy of Metal Gear Solid was on its way might appease him a bit but no, it's made it 100% worse. We moved on to counting down how many days it would take to arrive. From just 'Metal Gear Solid' to 'Monday. Tuesday. Wednesday. Thursday. Friday home. Metal Gear Solid!' Repeated over and over and over again. Carb Addict went back to the unit this morning so we have a few days respite from it but the first thing he said to the carer who opened the door to him was 'Metal Gear Solid'.
I've emailed the seller and he's told me that he was going to post the game first thing this morning so I'm just crossing everything that it comes by Friday. Things will get pretty ugly round here if it doesn't...

Talking about things ugly, I am very sad because my beautiful Red tells me she has had her nose pierced. I always tried to play it a bit clever by saying 'yeah, get a tattoo, I don't mind...yeah, get your ears pierced twice, I pierced my own four times' and so on, the idea being that if I thought it was a good idea it would put her and Mr Charming off doing it. And it far. The only thing I said I didn't EVER want her to do was get her face pierced. I always have this idea that if you have a pierced face then take the stud or whatever out the hole won't close up but will fill with muck and be like a big blackhead. And it really spoils your face! Red has a couple of housemates who are both lovely-looking girls but have two or three facial piercings each...bottom lip, nose, cheek. I think they've damaged themselves and I didn't want her to do the same. She says it's only a small gem stud but I don't understand why she'd want to get one at all. So I'm feeling inordinately down about it. I know she's 21 and the chances are she's not gonna keep it for long but still...she's my baby girl and it's hard for me. I guess I'm just over-reacting dope and it could be a lot worse....borstal spot anyone??

PS....check out this great giveaway on the {A Thrifty Mrs} blog......I wanna win this soooooo bad!!!!

Monday, 2 May 2011

Goodbye Malicia, Goodbye

I said I had some exciting news the end of this week and I think it's finally safe to tell you. If you read this post you'll remember that I've been working for a truly toxic boss, Malicia. Well, we had a staff meeting a few weeks ago and the kicker at the end was that she had handed in her resignation and would be leaving on April 27. Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah, hallelujah, halleeeeelujah!!!

It was really odd because on the agenda was 'Manager' and when we got to that item, the last on the list she said 'Well, I want you all to know that Malicia is leaving, she's setting off for pastures new' and continued talking about herself in the third person. Bizarre. She carried on to say that she had been headhunted and had two interviews and actually been offered the job but turned it down (a likely story - would any company headhunt a 62 year old who is leaving her job voluntarily after 10 months? I think not.) She told us that she is thinking of opening a coffee shop with her other half who has now retired and wants her to slow down. For varying reasons, not least that she can't relate to people and has none of the warmth of character you expect from a host, I can't see her pulling this one off. Stas, our lovely Polish RGN always says that 'she is like vampire, taking all the happiness away'. Not really what you want serving up your muffin and latte.

One or two of the staff said 'all the best' and 'good luck for the future' but I said nothing. I can't be a hypocrite....I just remember how she upset and offended everybody; has had almost every member of staff in tears at times; and drove out our lovely Clinical Manager and our great fun, dynamic chef. No, I am not sorry in the slightest...inside I was cheering. And the best news is that our super laid back Deputy Manager is taking over from her. It's the best possible result. All last week the atmosphere was so much lighter - we could laugh, have a bit of a joke....we all sat down together with the residents and watched the Royal Wedding. Everybody was happy and relaxed. There's just no way that would have been allowed had Malicia been there. I already liked my job, despite everything. Now I'm gonna LOVE it!!!!

And no, I didn't sign her card or put anything in the collection. Anybody who can tell a person they're not smiling enough at work a fortnight after their sister died wouldn't get the steam off my ?!%*@, as they say in the North....

Extreme Couponing

I was going to tell you my exciting news today but I decided to hold off until tomorrow, just to be sure, and write about a show I watched this evening. Did anybody else see 'Extreme Couponing' on Real Time? Over half an hour you meet two different women who use money off coupons for their food shopping and have as a result built up massive stockpiles of provisions. These women clip coupons from newspapers for hours each day and take advantage of the supermarkets' policies of matching manufacturers' coupons to reduce their bills by up to 98%. They are incredibly dedicated, usually have big families and can count on the support of their husbands to help them with the numerous trollies and transactions it takes to save the biggest amount of money. One couple spent over an hour going through the checkout and five hours in the supermarket in total. I can just see THAT being tolerated in Asda.

Watch in awe.....

This girl is 24 and has no children. In the show she ends up with $562 worth of provisions for $26 - they are having a party and needed to 'stock up'. Huh? Apart from the fact that we don't get coupons like that here, most British homes just wouldn't have the room to store those amounts of food. Would we want to? Would you be an extreme couponer if you had the time, coupons and storage space or does it strike you as just a little bit....obscene? I mean, everybody has a right to spend their time and money exactly as they wish, that's a given but all I can think is, why would you want to have all that food and stuff? If it costs you so little why not use your time and energy once a month to coupon on behalf of a homeless charity? This girl does consider that extreme couponing is her talent after all....

Another thing that struck me was that, foodwise all the things that were being couponed seemed to be highly processed - a lot of hot dogs, sugary breakfast cereals, cheese slices, crisps, snacks and ready-made sauces. Nobody seemed to be buying fresh fruit or vegetables, even though one lady was buying what she needed for her monthly menu plan. They all had tens of tins of soup and canned vegetables plus hundreds of rolls of loo roll, bottles of shampoo, cleaning products by the score and boxes and boxes of wash powder. I was mesmerised - it's so very alien to our experience of shopping in the UK, even for the very frugal. Though to be fair, other shoppers were standing around in amazement when these mammoth transactions were taking place so I'm not imagining for a second it's commonplace on this scale in the US either.

I personally am rubbish with coupons. We get so few here anyway really and when I do see one that covers something I actually would use I usually get to the checkout and don't have the coupon with me. Or I get something, take it to the checkout, offer my coupon and find it isn't accepted in the store (in Sainsbury's with a copy of She magazine where the coupon was only usable in Smith's springs to mind. Believe me, I flounced).

So watch the video then book your seat for next Sunday at 9pm, Discovery Real Time (cable channel, not sure if it's Freeview too). It's an eye-opener for sure. Then tell me, could you do it? Would you?

PS -  Regarding needing a compliant husband for extreme couponing, Big Man happened to see the boyfriend in the above video....Snort. 'Bloody daft lad'...
I rest my case.