Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Where I Succumb - Big Time - To 'Wants, Not Needs'

It's half-term here which means Carb Addict is home from his placement (he usually goes on a Monday morning and comes home Friday afternoon) and Big Man has taken a week's time off in lieu to look after him. As much as an 18 year old who doesn't care whether you're there or not and is well able to entertain himself needs looking after. By the way, I advise anyone who might be thinking of visiting Intech near Winchester tomorrow to give a prancing young man with a mohawk and baggy trousers (he's run off a lot of weight despite eating...well, a lot of carbs, obviously) and a large, scowling, hungry-looking, ex-military type a wide berth. Just saying.....;P Red had the day off from portering so I took my day off today as well to spend some quality time together. The idea was that we would go to a local rummage sale at 9.30 then on to Gunwharf Quays at Portsmouth for a bit of Christmas shopping and general slurping around. This was going to be test of our willpower because apart from other shops there is a Cadbury's outlet there and we are both doing Slimming World right now.

At the last minute the plans had to change because Big Man's work rang to say that the driver standing in for him this week had suddenly entered a manic phase of his manic depression so could Big Man help them out blah blah blah.... He needed the car in the morning so we decided to go instead to Eastleigh which is a...well, I suppose it's a town. Bigger than a village and not a city so I guess small town would be right. It's very popular with me and Babcia when she visits because it has loads of charity shops including some small, obscure ones.

I think this shop is closed now but it was (not to put too fine a point on it) smelly
and odd. I got some really great stuff for eBay from here that I made loads on. 

However, we were not chazzing today, although I would've liked to. Of course I would! Instead we started in Claire's Accessories where they had an offer - spend £10 and get a voucher for £5 off your next spend of £10 or over. We were able to spend £10 with ease on barrettes - mine are little red horns and Red's are small, blood-spattered skeletal hands. She says she's wearing them to work at Halloween but I'm not so sure they're appropriate when she's taking people to theatre and back. And a pair of 'deer in a woodland scene' knee socks for Babcia. She always has very cold feet, plus she mainly wears black so these socks can be a splash of colour under her trousers. You didn't think I meant she'd wear them with a skirt did you? She's not that eccentric! The girl behind the counter was a bit naughty. She wasn't going to give me the £5 voucher at all - I had to ask her for it. Wonder how many people walked out without one?
Next we moved on to Monsoon and Accessorize where I saw the most beautiful enamelled bird trinket box for £15. I didn't succumb to that but I did tell Red I'd like it for Christmas if she was wondering what to buy me...:)

Pretty. I want it.

They also had delightful little enamelled robins, Christmas tree ornaments I think, which I would have loved. But as I'd spent £45 (yup, the succumbing started at B&Q yesterday. And now we have so many decorations we will have to put both our trees up this year) on decorations the day before, I hesitated to get more.

Pretty. I want it.

Red found a dress she liked and tried it on. At £35 I thought it was a bit steep and it's not for any particular occasion so I said she should ask them to keep it for her for a couple hours whilst she looked round. I hoped she would forget all about it and save her money. We had a quick skeg in New Look (tacky, poorly-made, unflattering to anyone over 15, not even particularly cheap - that was Red's opinion and she's only 21); Dorothy Perkins (lovely costume jewellery but nothing to make you say 'wow!'); then into my favourite store in the world, after Century 21 - TK Maxx. And the spending began....

Betty Crocker Rich and Creamy Coconut Pecan Frosting...didn't need
Beano's Deli Mustard with Real Horseradish....didn't need either
Jelly Bean Factory Mint Sorbet Jelly Beans...didn't need but only 50p
Smoky Iguana Smoky Jalapeno Chipotle Salsa...definitely didn't need
Pair of Men's Socks by Pringle.....reduced but still unnecessary
Sebnini Floral Bouquet Scented Candle....not needed but oh, so wanted!
Sebnini Mimosa Scented Candle....ditto
Belle Maison Vanilla Verbena Scented Candle....definitely ditto!
Home Bake by Eric Lanlard.....Christmas present so semi-needed - just not right now
Desserts and Puddings Magnetic Jotter Pad.....another stocking filler...see above
Four Cupcake Soaps, Caramel Cream Variety.....ditto
July 2011 - December 2012 Diary...WHICH I NEEDED!!!!!
Advent Candle for Carb Addict.....would have got one sooner or later I suppose...
White Reindeer Head with Antlers to hang on the wall......ha! most definitely NOT needed but wanted sooooo badly.

And that, friends, is how you spend £65. I only feel a little shamefaced about the reindeer head but it is so cool and SUCH fun! I'll have to keep an eye on Carb Addict though - he seems a bit freaked out by it.

Similar to this but totally white. I'll post a pic when it's in situ!

I think because I haven't spent money on anything extraneous this year I went a bit wild but it won't happen again...just had to kick back for an afternoon. We finished off with a mooch around the wonder that is 99p Stores (if you don't have one near you then I pity you because 99p Stores RAAAAAWWWKKK!!!!) Who would believe that you could get so much wonderful, incredible stuff for less than a quid....sometimes two items for less than a quid!!! Forget Poundland, 99p Stores knocks it into a cocked hat. Despite it's all-round fabbishness however, we didn't buy anything. This time.

Red went back and bought the dress by the way. It is currently still in the bag at the bottom of the stairs, where I expect it to stay until I take it up to her room. I'm not the only one who succumbed to 'wants, not needs' today.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Kettlebells R Us

This evening Red and I tried a kettlebells class. I'd wanted to give it a go since I saw that very butch fitness instructor putting the contestants through their paces with them in 'The Biggest Loser'. And Red came along because....well, because I offered to pay for her I suppose. Plus we wanted to escape our numbingly-cold house for an hour.

This class is hardcore (as my colleague Staś would say)! I can feel my joints seizing up already and I know I'm going to be hobbling around at work tomorrow just like my residents. I had a nasty accident right at the start of the class doing something called 'Round The World' when I managed to throw a 3kg kettlebell onto my foot. The pain was excruciating, absolutely terrible. It was all I could do not to collapse to the floor and start blubbing. Luckily, I remembered just in time that I am Northern and we leave that kind of carry-on to Southern softies. I waited until I got home to milk my injury....for all the good it did me.

We've booked to go again next week, despite agreeing that it was odd the instructor, a man in his mid-forties would say that he was 'passionate about kettlebells'. We had a juvenile snigger over that....

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Ms Un-Perky of Southampton Writes........

" old does one need to be before one truly understands that in life there is no such thing as reciprocation?
I first had an inkling of this many years ago when, as a child our family took a short holiday at Butlins in Filey, Yorkshire. We often took one of these unexpected and at very short notice holidays and unlike other families we usually went back 'home' to a different house...often in another country!! It was most unenjoyable for several reasons....I stepped out of a swingboat on the side that didn't have a step down and fell to the ground, knocking out a front tooth and smashing my nose in - I was a chubby child and the poor soul who carried me back to our chalet was in greater need of medical attention than I when we finally got there; whilst watching an instructor and a Redcoat having a play fight on a large trampoline the Redcoat bounced off on top of me and almost knocked me out. But as he explained, it was really my own fault for standing with all the other children who, like me were waiting for their trampoline lesson; my younger sister was banished from the creche for constantly crying; the unending rain; falling into the freezing outdoor pool fully clothed; my father was angry and antsy because there wasn't a betting shop on site; failing to win the Lovely Mother and Daughter Competition (also, inevitably, my fault); and I discovered that people are not always as open-hearted to you as you may be to them. Every afternoon there was entertainment of some kind in the theatre put on by the holidaymakers usually - talent contests, Glamorous Granny contests, that kind of thing. It was the 70s. And the optimum seat for the best view, the one that all the children tried to get was front row, right side on the aisle. One day I was lucky enough to nab this seat early and was waiting with anticipation for the Knobbly Knees event, or somesuch extravaganza. A girl that I had become fairly friendly with came sidling along and asked whether she could share the seat with me - not an easy task since, as I mentioned earlier, I had more chins than a Chinese phonebook. However I agreed and we spent a most uncomfortable couple of hours crammed into a theatre seat. I didn't mind - I had a friend.
The next day I was a little later getting to the the theatre and my friend was in the prime seat, next to her family. I went up to her and asked if we could share the seat with her, since that's what we'd done yesterday. My friend scowled at me and her mother leaned over and told me to 'clear off', leaving me in no doubt that I was as welcome as a fart in a sleeping bag (excuse my French!) therefore giving me my first real lesson in the perfidy of people.
So my question is, why am I still surprised and saddened when my nearest and dearest lack reciprocation? Last night I was unwell enough to take to my bed at 7pm. The dishes from dinner were still in the sink this morning (which goes against all Flylady principles, not that I'd expect my husband and daughter to know that!) when I got up. Nobody had the decency to do a little something, ie load and start the dishwasher for me when I do so much for them whether they are ill or not. When will I ever learn that doing nice things for people does not guarantee that they will help you out by doing nice things for you? In other words, when will I stop being a well-used doormat?
I await your response eagerly."

'Ms Un-Perky of Southampton'

PS  The mug belongs to Red, the least likely jolly hospital porter and volunteer-with-disadvantaged-children in the world.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Shame, Shame, Shame

Firstly, can I get a DAMMIT! My clothes line just snapped and all the clothes ended up on the muddy garden, including Big Man's work uniform. But luckily not mine, so that's something lol. The line had been getting more and more threadbare (is that what I mean? When strands are pinging off?) and both I and Big Man were aware of it. Do I need tell you that when I called him out to the garden, after tying one end to our dead apple tree, his first question was 'what can I do about it?'. And his second? 'I thought you were going to replace it'. Me, who works all day with old people and doesn't drive around the city delivering things, with all the opportunities to stop at one of the four local B&Q stores that brings? Me, who isn't an ex-submariner and knot expert? Me, who has never bought rope or put up a clothes line before? Sorry, isn't's work? And to put the tin hat on it, as Big Grandma used to say, the clothes basket had been left out on the garden all night and as I went to throw the clothes in it before taking them to the tumbler (boooo!!!!) I noticed a bird had crapped in it. What's that saying? Some days you're the pigeon and some days you're the statue....

Anyway, my post about guilt struck a chord with some of you. I feel guilty because I'd rather do anything than housework and I continually feel that I'm a housework slut. I look at craft blogs and rather than think 'my goodness, that felt corsage with a button sewn on it is fabulous!' I imagine how pristine the blogger's home must be in order for her to have the time and clear conscience to make little 'pretties'. My house is just full of....well, I call it eBay stock, Big Man calls it shite (he's not the most eloquent of men). We both agree it's 'stuff'. When we made our annual visit to my sis-in-law Sophie's place which is very minimalist and clean, all I could say afterwards was 'where was all her stuff?'. I tend to think people without oodles of 'stuff' are pretty boring (well I would, wouldn't I ;P) and was gratified when a first-time visitor to our place, a friend of Red's said yesterday 'you've got so much cool stuff here!'. (As an aside, Carb Addict was prancing around to 'The Boys Are Back In Town' on my iPod wearing blue winceyette pjs and a jaunty Tyrolean hat, picked up for 50p last week in a charity shop. We strive to make an impression chez nous).

In an attempt to bring some order to my life and because I just CAN'T live in this turmoil any longer, I have decided to follow Flylady's Beginner BabySteps program. Plenty of people on swear by it though it looks a bit like nibbling round the edges to me at the moment. Day One was Shine Your Sink. Day Two is Get Dressed And Tie Your Shoes Up. Hmmm. That doesn't really help when my cupboards look like this:

 We have two sets of stairs at our place - this is the cupboard under the kitchen stairs.
It's full of implements I just HAD to have - mini chopper, giant cupcake baking tin,
apple peeler, burger maker. Utterly shameful mess.

Cupboard under (now shined) sink. Note nine bottles of Stardrops.
Can't find anything in here without getting everything else out :(

Tins, veggies, stuff from Approved's all crammed in here.
Luckily I was able to thin it out a bit this evening by donating to Carb Addict's
Harvest Festival. Hope they like hot dog sausages!

Cereals we don't eat but kept in case I decided to make Rocky Roads one day.
I've made Rocky Roads loads of times but the cereal remains unused.
Everything falls on top of me when I open these doors.

I tried to organise this cupboard by getting Big Man to cut pieces of 2"x4" that I
could use as tiers on the shelves but it didn't really work. Plus I can't reach the top shelf
so can only use honey when Big Man or Mr Charming are home. Or get a chair,
and frankly who can be arsed with that?

So you can see why I think shining my sink is not going to make much of an impact in the scheme of things. I AM going to make a big effort in the next few weeks to tidy and declutter as much as I can - after all, it's one of my goals on my profile so I suppose I've got to do it. I always have this feeling that I'm not allowed to do things I enjoy or like, or even just slack off whilst the house is so messy - almost as if I don't deserve to kick back when there's so much to be's that female guilt thing again I guess. I just can't let things go to rack and ruin whilst I sew or knit or paint or read and though I doubt very much that Big Man would say 'why are you reading Heat magazine when this place looks like a tip?' (he wouldn't dare!) I always imagine that he disapproves.

Maybe I've just got a complex. Am I (and my house) beyond hope?

Saturday, 15 October 2011

This Woman's Guilt Is Never Gone

Why is it that despite being debilitated by painful sinuses and the start of a cold (that would be SO much worse if I didn't dose myself with vitamins daily) I still feel that I have to spend my weekends cleaning, tidying, cooking and baking? Why can't I lay around, doing a bit of light F1 watching, reading the paper and having a bath like others in this house do? I work 24 hours a week ~ not a lot compared to some I know ~ but then I start all over again when I get home. Or I am killed with guilt that I'm not doing the motherly/wifely/ housekeepery thing. I kind of wish I could be one of those women who have their husband running around after them, shopping and doing the housework. All I know is I spend my weekends fighting a losing battle against chaos. Something's gotta give.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Dancing Feet, I've Got Those Dancing Feet

When she was a little girl Babcia couldn't sit still so she was sent to dance class. She did a bit of ballet but mainly tap and carried on, the star of every show, until she was 15.

 Babcia about 6 on the left. What a little dolly! Maybe 15 on the right.

She  was an excellent dancer apparently and because her mum, my Big Grandma had also danced as a child it was very much encouraged. Money (well, what little they could spare) and time was lavished on costumes which were usually homemade by Big Grandma and her mum; my great-granny, Little Grandma. Both of the costumes in the photos were made with love by the handy females of the family....clever, weren't they? Even though the family were very poor - didn't have two pennies to scratch their arses with, in the vernacular of my malignant Northern home town - money was always found for Babcia's dance classes. I guess she was a source of pride to them, winning competitions, appearing in shows and so on.....times were hard and God love 'em, they needed something. 

Fast forward fifteen years and Babcia had her own daughter (that would be li'l ole porkster me). And what was more natural than sending her to dance class? I started off at Mrs Bradley's and did Ballet, Tap and Acro, which was acrobatics and the bit I loved most - I was always upside down, doing the splits or walking on my hands and was pretty good at it too. The studio was at the top of some stairs and we always started with a kind of warm-up that entailed us doing tap, ball-change; tap, ball-change all around the room to Mr Bradley pounding out 'Walking My Baby Back Home' on the poorly tuned piano. If I ever hear that music it flings me right back to dark winter nights up those rickety stairs.

I went to a class there on a Saturday morning too and I remember a horrible incident that wouldn't happen nowadays - Health and Safety has some good points. We didn't have a barre and had to hold on to the back of a chair to do warm up, including where you kick to the front, side and back from the hip with a straight leg. One big girl (so probably about 11 to my 7 or 8) must have been kicking a bit too mulishly, the chair tipped over, she fell and her knee was dislocated. It looked horrific and the screams from her were just awful. An ambulance was called and when it arrived the paramedics had to manhandle this poor child down the stairs. I remember thinking at the time that she was making a show of herself but with hindsight I see she was just a little girl and for sure she was in agony. Strange the things you remember...
I have a second cousin who is a couple months younger than me and her mum, the aunt of Babcia, wanted Martha to dance too so consequently she followed me from dance class to dance class like a bad credit score (I never stayed anywhere for long). If I was a porkster she was a girl mountain....together we were Pinky and Perky made flesh, our chunky knees, dimpled thighs and straining leotards marking us as different from the sprightly little pixies who made up the rest of the student body. And even at 10 I had enough dignity to realise the teacher's suggestion that Martha and I appear in a duet as Tweedledee and Tweedledum in the annual county-wide Musical Festival was A Very Bad Idea.

Friends, I left with as much dignity as a little round ugly duckling could muster.

Undaunted I enrolled both Red AND Mr Charming in tap and ballet classes. Whilst tidying a cupboard the other day I came across Red's ballet bag with her leotard and stuff in and couldn't believe how small it was. She liked ballet ("good toes! naughty toes!") and Mr Charming tolerated tap (I found his weeny tap shoes too) though the fact that he hated ballet didn't stop him being inveigled into appearing in the Christmas Gala as a robin in a brown leotard and beak. I must find the video of that performance....! By the time Red was 6 or 7 I enrolled her in gymnastics too and within a really short space of time she was moved from a little 'for fun' class into the city squad, training for 12 hours a week. Yep, that's right, kids of 7 and 8 train for 12 hours a week in this country. The problem is, if your child shows any spark of being good at gym they're pounced on and really worked hard....I know because after three years Red had a crushed disc in her back to prove it. I think we're so desperate for sporting success in the UK that we push children too hard and not all can cope with it. Red accepted before I did that she was never going to be good enough to go far as a gymnast (I'm as guilty as all the other pushy moms out there who want something more for themselves than for their child) and gave it up. I don't need to tell you either that Mr Charming is NOT Gene Kelly in-waiting!

Still, the family love affair with dancing continues. Whilst at Babcia's at the weekend my sister-in-law came to visit with my niece and nephew, Lili and Little Baby Jack. Although she doesn't yet go to dance class she loves to try on the tap shoes Babcia bought her and do a routine. This time Babcia put her tappers on too!!!

Although it looks false that is actually Babcia's real leg -
she asked me to make sure I pointed that out

Putting on the shoes seemed to turn Lili into a whirling dervish - a kind of tiny tapping tornado. She's just four and has an amazing she is in her magic shoes that won't stop dancing once you put them on (and no, she hasn't seen The Red Shoes). 

I only wish I could show you a second film with Lili's face in it....her expressions are an absolute scream, she's putting everything she has into it - confusion, terror, disbelief, exhaustion - I'd forgotten how comical little children can be! But I promised her mum I'd keep her identity a secret. Until she appears on 'You've Been Framed!' that is.

Something tells me this family's dancing days are far from over :)

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Where I Do Something Good And Not Just With Cake.....

I thought it might be a good idea to bash a post out whilst waiting for the flea man to arrive - his ETA is 'between 08.30 and 13.00' and it's now 11.30. I'm starting to worry that he's already been here, tried our notoriously temperamental door bell, got no response and cleared off again. Which would be not only very bad from the severely bitten Big Man's point of view but very annoying from the point of view of the person who got everything up off the floor in readiness for the spraying. That would be moi. Here's a tip on how you can tell there are fleas in your carpet; your cat won't lie down on any surface lower than 3ft. Hence Otto is currently asleep (or trying to sleep, in between my accusational rants at him) on the work surface in the kitchen. Yeah, I know it's not very hygienic but I'll get the Cillit Bang out later....

Anyway, that's by-the-by. I wanted to write about last Thursday when I did A Very Good Thing. We got a letter from Macmillan a couple months back asking if we would hold a Coffee Morning to raise funds. I talked it over with Mac, my manager and we decided to go for it. The home I work in is surrounded by sheltered accomodation flats...talking about incredibly independant old people here who own their flats and go out shopping in their mini-bus each week, garden, walk laps of the grounds in a healthy stylee - not sad, isolated, poor pensioners. We're building up links with our neighbours so I invited them to the fundraiser. Well, I invited their spokeslady Betty and she did the rest. I sent invitations to the school-on-the-corner; put our event on the Macmillan website; heck, I even baked. Peanut Butter Cupcakes and Best Lemon Bars if you're interested. I took the makeup we'd had donated plus plenty of other stuff Boots had given; found lots of items for raffle prizes (because I haven't got enough life left to use all the body lotion sets I've received at Christmases and birthdays lol!); and went to local supermarkets to ask for cake donations.....Co-op and Sainsburys, you rock! Tesco and Lidl, you stink! I was very nervous beforehand and also worried that I wouldn't be able to cope with everything on my own but Red very kindly came over and was a great big help plus one of the carers, Twinkle, gave up her afternoon off and was also fab. I couldn't have done it without them because we were totally over-run with guests.

We made almost £35 for Macmillan and just under £100 for the Residents Fund. I hope nobody thinks that it was a bit underhand not to give all the proceeds to Macmillan but the way I look at it is the charity gets £35 from our guests that it wouldn't otherwise have had and I made it very overt that the raffle, make-up sale, plus a book sale we held too were all to raise funds for our residents. Fundraising is part of my job and if the Coffee Afternoon ended up being a vehicle for our own cause, well I'm not gonna apologise for that. Next thing is a party for Halloween. I wanted to have fireworks (and knowing my daughter I don't suppose anybody will be surprised to hear she has a friend who is a pyrotechnician. Sets fireworks off for a living in other words!). He was happy to do the job and provide the fireworks but Health and Safety has reared its ugly head and we can't do it....the old people's flats are too close to us. And even I can see that it wouldn't do to incinerate them before they've helped us raise enough money to see the Christmas panto...

Lakota has asked about the Chocolate Coca-Cola Cake. It was divine, my dears! The recipe is from a fantastic book I got (I think) from eBay called The Great American Bake Sale. I'm a massive fan of American cookery books and although they can be tricky to use, because they measure things differently to the UK, they're fine if you have the American cups and liquid cups jug. Mine came from the US but I assume you can get them online. I also have an absolutely fab book that I bought ages ago called American Cooking in England - it's written by Delora Jones, an American ex-pat who gives all sorts of measurement conversions plus she tells you what American ingredients are called in the UK. Did you know that what we call chick peas they call garbanzo beans? Very, very useful but sadly out of print right now. Delora does however have an updated version coming out next month though at £28 it's a bit steep if you're just a casual American recipe user. I see there is ONE copy of The Pocketbook Guide To American Cooking in England on Amazon for £3.99.....

Chocolate Coca-Cola Cake - makes one 9 x 13-inch sheet cake

1lb SR flour
1lb castor sugar
3T cocoa powder
1t bicarbonate of soda
1/2 pint Coke (not cheapo version, must be the Real Thing!)
8oz butter or margerine
4floz buttermilk (I used regular milk with a biggish squeeze of lemon juice)
2 eggs, well-beaten
1t vanilla extract
4oz mini marshmallows

Preheat oven to 175C

Combine flour, sugar, cocoa and bicarb in mixing bowl. Combine Coke and butter/marg in saucepan and bring to boil. Pour over dry ingredients and stir to blend. Mix in buttermilk, eggs, vanilla and marshmallows (batter will be thin). Pour into greased and floured (I use Wilton Cake Release instead. Get it at The Range or Lakeland) 9 x 13-inch pan. bake 35-38 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes then spread with warm frosting.

Coca-Cola Frosting

4oz butter or margerine
6T Coke
3T cocoa powder
1lb icing sugar
5oz chopped, toasted pecans

Combine butter, Coke and cocoa in saucepan and bring just to boil. Pour over icing sugar and blend until smooth (I did this with my stick blender). Stir in pecans. Use while warm.

This is just gorgeous, if not a bit sickly. I found it took longer than even 38 minutes to cook because it's a very runny batter in a biggish tin so I had to cover it with foil half way through to stop it burning whilst it cooked. You don't HAVE to put pecans in the frosting but it makes it damned delicious if you do. And no, I don't have any photos - it didn't last that long. You can find the recipes for Peanut Butter Cupcakes and Best Lemon Bars in The Great American Bake Sale too....only 46p plus postage on Amazon.
Go gettit folks!!!!!

Monday, 3 October 2011

Otto In Disgrace




A BILL FOR £103!!!!!

Toodle-oo For Now, Mr Charming!

Oh my word, writing that title took me back to my childhood when I was a fan of books such as:

I was such a massive Enid fan...still am, secretly. In fact I might just make a resolution on to re-read all my favourite series - Malory Towers; the Five Find-Outers (my special favourites); St. Clare's; the Faraway Tree; the Wishing Chair; Secret Seven and Famous Five. I read on The Enid Blyton Society's website that she wrote 186 novels alone..not counting character books (eg Noddy, Naughty Amelia Jane etc), short stories, education books and recreation books. Talk about prolific!! However, that's another post, maybe.

Today I battled through the beach-seeking missiles heading towards Bournemouth, Poole and Weymouth to take Mr Charming back to uni after his five-month extended lie-in, aka the summer break. The AA website gave a time of 3 1/2 hours; the satnav 4 1/4, but thanks to the sand-hungry throngs it took over 5 hours - Southampton to Falmouth is a long way! Still, the weather was heavenly and the views brought home to me exactly what we have here that brings tourists to our shores. At its best England is the most beautiful country on earth and today Hampshire, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall were definitely showing off. The sky wasn't the vibrant turquoise you find in the Med; more a pale 'Congratulations! It's a Boy' blue, moving through duck-egg with a hint of Argentina football shirt. The fields were laid before us in a patchwork of greens, mustards, browns and yellows and the distant hills ranged from rocky outcrops of granite and green to palest lilacy-grey. And then, not far from Truro we suddenly saw a lake or maybe a reservoir, just plopped in the middle of the fields like a shimmering blue jewel, all the more beautiful for being so unexpected.

Not my photo but trust me, it looked like this!

Along the way, taking advantage of the weather were numerous cars with their roofs down, the occupants (without exception middle-aged couples or lone, midlife crisis-type men) wearing expressions that were a mixture of smugness and embarrassment - we're not an ostentatious nation and let's face it, a VW Golf on the A30 isn't quite a '56 Thunderbird on Route 66. They all looked extremely windblown and not especially comfortable to me but I appreciate that it's important to get your value out of a convertible on the few days a year when it's hot enough to do so....there are plenty of days to come when they'll be scraping the ice off the windscreen and complaining that the heater's a pig that takes ages to warm up. So I think I can allow them their day in the sun....

It was lovely to spend time with Mr Charming too. The conversation was inconsequential, full of 'do you remember?' moments. He didn't remember the time I saw a strange hamster at the top of our stairs that had disappeared by the time I got up there. It might have been a guinea pig, but the odd thing was we didn't own either. We talked about the time baby Carb Addict's backside exploded in a tsunami of noxious sage-coloured slime whilst we were on a riverboat shuffle at EuroDisney. With my usual lack of foresight I had neither spare nappy nor change of clothes for either of us with me, resulting in our being circumvented by trippers of all nationalities for the rest of the day. On the same holiday we had to abandon our flimsy McLaren pushchair at the Arc de Triomphe when it collapsed beyond repair and spent the day joking that the French police might blow it up in a controlled explosion in case it was a bomb aimed at the Pope, who was visiting Paris. Mr Charming attempted to explain to me the finer points of online, cult film critique websites with special reference to the films of Jeremy Irons and the Lord Of The Rings trilogy, whilst every so often I ran feverishly through a list of Important Things he should have packed. We stopped at a little shop to get a drink and were served by a young man so perky he wouldn't have been out of place in Erinsborough. Mr Charming, for reasons best known to himself, was wearing a pair of these;

on top of his head. The bumptious young man, all sincerity, shiny face and deck shoes said 'Cool goggles. Are you a welder?'. Mr Charming gave that chap a look of such loathing and only his innate...charmingness, I suppose, stopped him from thrashing the assistant to within an inch of his life with a copy of Dorset Life magazine. He will never know how close he came to death by newsprint. 

After ages we finally got to the flat which I've got to say is an improvement on the place Red shared in Lewisham. Very impressive in fact - they even have a dishwasher! And the view from their window is fantastic. It's on a fairly narrow street and the block is kind of built into the side of a hill, making it seem as if they have the basement when it's actually the ground floor. Tesco is close, as is the beach  and the town centre. The halls Mr Charming was in last year were on a kind of promontory and an icy wind blew in from Newfoundland October to March. At least he'll be warm now. His two housemates seemed very nice though not at all what I expected. Luke is small and fey with bleached hair and was prancing around with excitement about the kitchen appliances whilst Joe has scarlet hair and a broad Manc accent. They all met in halls last year so presumably know enough about each other to know they'll get on okay. Mr Charming will be home again on November 17 but I'll be on the plane to Mexico that day (if I remember lol!!) so I won't see him until Christmas now. Sob sob sigh!

Pic from here

I'd like to say the journey home was quicker but it was far, far worse....oceans of cars crawling along, in the dark, and no matter how far I progressed my ETA, according to the satnav was always half an hour. When I finally got in at 9 I was fit to be tied. Red had cooked dinner but I didn't realise she'd saved me some until I'd eaten four squares of Chocolate Coca Cola Cake. Oh well. Tomorrow is another day....

When I texted Babcia to let her know I'd got home from Fal safely she replied 'I can sleep easier now!', proving that mums never stop worrying about their children. I think Mr Charming's gonna be okay....I can sleep easier tonight too.

He'll always be my sweet baby boy....!