Saturday, 20 October 2012

Poor White Trash Pt 2

Oh my Gawd, it gets worse.

I just found a Fanny Hair in my family tree.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Poor White Trash

My new and very engrossing hobby is family history. Until recently I though genealogy buffs were sad nerds living in the past but now I've realised it's quite the 'pastime du jour', thanks to 'Who Do You Think You Are?' I'd like to say that I've discovered that I'm descended from European royalty but sadly no....not even Eurotrash royalty. Just poor white trash.

I decided to investigate Babcia's side but only the English side - the Polish and Irish bits are just too convoluted - however everywhere I look I'm finding new Irish relatives, penury and lunacy. Births in the workhouse; summonses and fines for allowing drunkenness on licensed premises; wrong-side-of-the-blanket dalliances and more bones in the cupboard than a dog-loving butcher.

My family's lives seem to have been unremitting hardship and early death - they worked in oil mills, as labourers or as domestics. They don't seem to have moved from the same grim area their whole lives and there are no family photos whatsoever. What's sad for Babcia is discovering that the very small family she believed she came from was actually part of a massive, old-established, very well-embedded in our home city, dynasty that had been shattered following a disownment. Growing up she wished for cousins and had none - little did she know there were tens of them, living within a couple streets of her.

The problem with tracing your family tree is that all the nuances are hidden from you. I can track my relations back to 17-something but then you're just doing it because the information is there - dry, plain facts. What you can't get is the nitty-gritty of what caused families to act as they did; what was said, by whom; what caused the disintegration of a previously happy family; where someone lived and what they did between censuses. And also, nowadays there's nobody left to ask about relations - for me there's Babcia but she can't remember everything (things she thought she knew have been proved not to be) and her mother and granny, who brought her up, were pretty closed-mouth regarding family matters. Babcia was a nosey kid but some things just were swept under the carpet. It's expensive too! If you want a copy of a certificate from the General Records Office it's £10 a time and the websites for ancestry cost money. I don't think I'll be getting too many certificates from here on in unless I'm particularly intrigued.

So far I'm enjoying myself but I think I'm coming to the end of what I can search out from home. A visit to the Family Centre in my malignant home town is on the horizon some time in the future. Who knows, I might still uncover a rich relation who'll take me away from all this!!!!

Sunday, 23 September 2012


I never intended to be one of those bloggers who write things like 'shelled some peas and ate them with gammon and a fried egg for dinner, followed by bread and butter pudding for afters. Washed my hair and had an early night'. That isn't to say there's anything wrong with that kind of blogging - I follow one just like that and its very banality is balm to my bruised soul after a hard day with the bewildered elderly - but it's not MY kind of blogging. I hoped I'd be writing funny things and ironic things and thoughtful things. When I couldn't think of any I just.....stopped. Better to leave people wanting more is my opinion.

So I've read a LOT of books; been on holiday; I met up with another blogger and her sweet, sweet children (Lisa flattered me by saying my blog is very funny....I'm as susceptible to praise as the next gal); and I've started investigating my family tree - there's something about a new series of 'Who Do You Think You Are' that brings out the genealogist in me. My inner nosy cow, you might say. But mostly I've been working very, very hard. We are almost full in our dementia unit and far from being the horrorfest I was dreading the residents are, for the most part, funny, bright, witty, spunky (can I say that nowadays?) and so willing to try new stuff. Several of the ladies (I call them my 'Clever Girls Club' which they love) are very aware that something is going wrong with them and are desperate to keep their minds active so we do all sorts of quizzes, crosswords and puzzles. It can be draining but it's very rewarding - not meaning to sound like a Miss World contestant here - and for the first time I can remember people are happy to see me at work. As opposed to thinking I'm a monumental pain in the ass like at most of my jobs.

So for now I think I'm back. I've got more stuff to say, including some thoughts on the nature of blogging and why we do it. I can't promise it'll be regular but I hope it won't be boring.

Friday, 29 June 2012

We Are Not Worthy

Our God and soldiers we alike adore
Ev'n at the brink of danger; not before:
After deliverance both alike requited,
Our God's forgotten and our soldiers slighted
Francis Quarles 1592-1644

Long ago when Red was just a tot and I was expecting Mr Charming I flew out to Florida to spend a few days with Big Man whose submarine was making a port visit there following a series of UK/US war games. It wasn't long after the first Gulf War and the Free World was still celebrating the liberation of Kuwait. It was Big Man's second port visit to Florida - the first had been several years earlier on a destroyer. At that time there had been an announcement about the visit on local radio and an 'Adopt A Sailor' scheme was instigated. Many Orlandians came forward and treated members of the crew to various fun activities. Big Man and his friend Scouse Easton were taken to a tequila bar by a businessman who proceeded to get them royally bladdered. Another guy was flown IN A PRIVATE JET to New York for the night! Yet others were treated to family-run hog roasts, barbeques and pool parties. The hospitality of the Americans and the way they accepted the visiting sailors, just because they were in the military (and Brits, I suppose), is something Big Man has never forgotten.
During the visit I made at the end of '91 we were amazed by the way service personnel and veterans were treated. There was a special 'Speed Queue' entrance for the military at Sea World and after Shamu had finished his (her?) performance the emcee asked all servicemen and women to stand up and get applauded by the rest of the audience. We were able to get access to any military base just on production of Big Man's ID card*, which was great because we were able to buy reduced 'Military Rates' price theme park entry tickets. Say what you like about the American people, they know how to treat the military and veterans. We were spoiled.

Even if I wasn't married to an ex-sailor and I didn't have many years as a Navy wife under my belt I still would have an awful lot of respect and affection for our Forces. All of my grandparents saw service in WWII - RAF, WRAF, Merchant Navy, Polish Free Air Force, ATS and a Military Nurse (that includes a step-grandad and a grandmother who first joined the ATS then went AWOL to join the WRAF because she 'liked the uniform better') - and I come from a port city that appreciates the Navy with a passion, thanks to their support in the Cod War. So I'm really outraged and disgusted when I read things like this article in the paper today. Six soldiers were turned away at the bar of a pub in Coventry when they tried to get a cup of coffee each. The six were in the city to act as pallbearers at the funeral of the brother of one of them, also a soldier, who was killed on active service in Afghanistan. A member of the bar staff had already taken their order before it was rescinded by the publican's daughter who told the men that it was the pub policy not to serve 'anyone in uniform' (including policemen, ambulancemen, nurses, bus drivers??? Doubt it).
The publican has, reluctantly, apologised after first refusing to do so and has given a £200 donation to the fund set up for the dead soldier's wife and child (they accepted it....I would've told him where to stuff it). He also explained that had he known the soldiers were in the city to act as pallbearers at a funeral they would of course have been served. Why does that make a difference? What sort of establishment refuses to serve military personnel in uniform at all? Coventry is hardly Aldershot or Portsmouth, full to the brim with testosterone-charged young fighting men....there can't be that many uniformed servicemen causing trouble in the Midlands - heck, even in Pompey you very rarely see a matelot in 8s.

Prince William wears 8s very handsomely

Years ago when the IRA were very active in the UK the MOD banned servicemen from wearing uniform outside of military establishments - their visibility could very seriously pose a threat to their safety - but nowadays it's encouraged. And so it should be. Protecting one's country is nothing to be ashamed of. A Facebook group set up to protest at the treatment received by the soldiers in Coventry has almost 100,000 members, which shows that many people are incredibly grateful to and proud of our Armed Forces. The outpouring of affection and admiration towards Lance Bombadier Ben Parkinson reinforces this feeling.

We lionise inarticulate footballers, vapid actors and autotuned singers whilst paying our frontline military crap wages; housing them in sub-standard homes; disrespecting their traditions and belittling their sacrifice. We give them no quarter, either during their careers when they could benefit from discounts and preferential access to services or after their period of engagement, when we send them to the bottom of the housing pile and refuse to acknowledge their service experience and achievements. What is wrong with this country? Every single serviceman is somebody's son, brother, husband. and we owe them so much. We don't deserve them.

I went into a public-'ouse to get a pint o' beer,
The publican 'e up an' sez, "We serve no red-coats here."
The girls be'ind the bar they laughed an' giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an' to myself sez I:
O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, go away";
But it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play,
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play.
Rudyard Kipling 1865-1936

* this has never been a reciprocal arrangement to my knowledge and I doubt it happens in the US either now in these post-bin Laden days. I'm interested to hear about the military experience from any of my American readers.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Mission To Lars

If you read my blog regularly you're going to know that my #2 son, Carb Addict is severely autistic. I suppose like many parents who have a child with some kind of 'ailment' (for want of a better word) my ears prick up when I hear the word 'autism' mentioned....same thing when I spot anything written about it in the papers or whatever. So when I read the following review in the Mail on Sunday last week I said to Big Man 'I'd love to see this film'.

'The British documentary Mission To Lars (15) has a whole lot of heart as journalist Kate Spicer and her film-maker brother take their autistic sibling Tom to America to meet his hero Lars Ulrich, the drummer with heavy metal band Metallica. There are times when things feel manipulated but this never deflects from several emotional climaxes.'

There must have been some kind of karma going on because the next morning before work I discovered that our local arts cinema, the fab-u-losa Harbour Lights, was showing Mission to Lars for just that one night! I got Red's okay to mind Carb Addict for the evening (NOT always a foregone conclusion) and told Big Man that we were going out. Believe it or not this is a pretty rare occurrence given that our children are 22, 20 and nearly 19, and that the younger two don't even normally live with us. We were surprised that the cinema was fairly full with all age groups represented but oddly enough mainly older couples in gangs. Who knows what their interest was.

You know when everybody in the audience starts clapping at the end of a film that it's been pretty good. Mission to Lars is a real feelgood movie and yes, it is kind of obvious that there's going to be a successful resolution to the siblings' quest. The gist of the film is that for many years Tom, a huge Metallica fan, has told his sister Kate that he 'wanna meet Lars', Lars being Lars Ulrich, the band's drummer (who, I might add, comes out of the film fantastically well).

In fact Tom isn't autistic but suffers with Fragile X Syndrome. Similar but not quite the same. We recognised a lot of Tom's behaviours in Carb Addict, in particular the desperation to carry out a particular act but then withdrawing, refusing to do it when the time comes. Carb Addict used to have a befriender from Kids, a mid-fifties lady named Margaret who was very glamorous and who I personally think is the cause of Carb Addict's swooning interest in far older (verging on pensionable) blonde women. (Yes, it IS embarrassing by the way, the worst experience being during my nieces' First Holy Communion. Mortified is not the faces all around, not least the flustered, pink-cheeked grandma of another child). Anyway, Margaret came once a month to take Carb Addict out for a few hours, normally bowling, and during the rest of the month that wasn't those four hours Carb Addict would constantly be repeating 'Margaret, Margaret'. However, when Margaret arrived to take him out in her car he used to refuse to look at her or put his coat on and had to be persuaded or threatened (by me, not Margaret) to go with her. He always had a great time. In the same way, when Tom gets his chance to finally meet Lars he refuses twice......

This was such a great film and it's a shame that it's had a limited release but in all honesty it's the kind of thing you'd see as a documentary on Channel 4. In fact, don't be surprised if thats exactly where you catch it, maybe even before the end of the year. A really good thing is that the profits from the film are being donated to Mencap. I urge you to see it if you possibly can at any Picturehouse cinema. Here's a taster....

Monday, 11 June 2012

Pressure Drop

Uncle Grandad's comment on this Speaking Blood Pressure Monitor from Lidl was "do you think it just gives you the reading or will it say 'ooh, I'd get myself to the doctor's if I were you'?"

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Great Keshling Giveaway!!!!

I am struggling my way ever upwards but I'm hoping to hit 100 followers before too long. For a little push I am planning a giveaway in the next fortnight, just things that reflect the kind of stuff I like and stuff I write about - saving money, food, old things, creating.....have to find something also that relates to my inherent snarkiness. Hmmmm. To do that I've decided to go to Babcia's house with Carb Addict for a few days. He is highly excited and has been counting down the days until we leave since....ooh, yesterday maybe? My Dad, 'Uncle Grandad' as Mr Charming used to think he was called, has apparently offered to look after Carb Addict whilst Babcia and I do 'stuff', so that's chazzing for us two and book auctions for the fellas.

Pic from here

I always call it my malignant Northern hometown. Can you guess where it is yet?

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Calzone, Il Moda Keshling

This is my version of Calzone, the mezzaluna-shaped pizza you may have eaten at Bella Pasta (other Italian pizza houses are available!). We love it in this house. My version uses some shortcuts.

Mix together 2 big packs of minced pork (the kind that are two for £6 at Tesco, ie 1.5kg) with salt and crushed black pepper, garlic granules and some oregano (a good shake). From this mix make as many teaspoon sized meatballs as you can - I got about 100 out of it. Put them in the fridge on a greaseproof paper-covered tray for an hour.
Whilst the meatballs are chilling get a big pan and put into it one tin of chopped tomatoes, a quarter of the tin of water, a jar of Aldi Calabrese Pasta Sauce and about 40g of fried onions (eg Danfood Salad Crispies). Heat it to a simmer then throw in about 30 of the wee meatballs (put the rest in the freezer!!) and a piece of chorizo sausage about 4" long, chopped into little bits. I usually buy Dulano Chorizo at Lidl - it's really good for all kinds of Continental sausage. Keep it at a simmer for about 25 minutes and you'll find that the meatballs are done thoroughly and the chorizo has added a lovely smokiness to the whole sauce. Let it cool a little.
Next take two packs of Tesco (or any!) pizza dough mix and make them up as per instructions. Knead well and divide into three (because this amount is for three adults who like their food). Roll each piece into a circle that's a bit bigger than a side plate - your dough shouldn't be too thin. Grease a large baking tray with Fry Light or whatever you have handy and starting from the left put one circle of dough on it (it's a lot easier to make the calzones up on the tray rather than try to move them when they're constructed). Put 1/3 of the meatballs and a bit of the sauce on half of the dough circle and use water to seal shut. Do your next two the same. Cover the tops with egg wash. Cook at about 200º until they look done. Plate up and cover the calzones with any remaining sauce from the pan.


I had to use somebody else's photo when mine didn't
quite work out. But mine truly looked like this!

You can also use any ready-made meatballs - my preferred type are Scan Swedish Meatballs or some that Lidl sell when they have their periodic Scandinavian Specials Week.
This cost me about £5.40 or £1.80 each.....bit more than I usually spend but soooo worth it :)

Monday, 28 May 2012

Otto Gets High

I'm not much of a gardener, being inherently idle. I like loafing around in the sun 'on the back way' as the Northerner in me says but on the whole I can't really be bothered to put any effort in. I can admire a nice garden, of course, and every so often I make a raid on B&Q or Haskins Garden Centre, spend a good few quids on stuff and sometimes I even get round to planting it.
Spurred on this evening by Big Man's jeers of 'you'll never plant it, it'll go the same way as last year's' I went into the garden, accompanied by Otto, and repotted a lavender tree, a lavender bush and two clematis that I bought the other day. Whilst I was out there I uncovered a puny catmint bush from last year. I say bush - it's more the size of one of those little scabby tinfoil-wrapped sprigs of lucky heather that tinkers thrust wheedlingly at you on a Saturday afternoon in the city centre. Otto spotted it and, despite ignoring it all last year, had a good old chew on the leaves.

Otto got high. He's currently sitting outside the back door, staring intently at the garage wall, face about 6" away from it. Typical stoned behaviour I'd say.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Are They For Real?

Freecyclers that is.

I'm in Southampton as you know and I occasionally use Freecycle Southampton to get rid of good quality items we have no more need for, aka 'shizz we don't want'. I have also put a Wanted Post up once for a piano for work which was a complete debacle and ended up costing us a stack of £££ for delivery and almost cost us for removal too until Robbie the Handyman and one of the dementia residents took an axe to it in the garden.

Not our piano - there was nothing left of that....

Today I thought I'd put up a want ad for some audio books for my residents - tapes or CDs, I don't mind. Like I said yesterday, some love stories but can no longer read themselves so I thought we'd try some out. Then I thought I'd put another want ad up for a baby buggy or pram. I bought a couple of dolls from Ikea the other day that Babcia is dressing (also for my residents) and I figured a pram to put them in would be cool. I'm not expecting great things...

I decided, whilst looking at other folks' Offered and Wants, that some people have no shame and are talking the mickey with their wants, and that others are plain weird with their offers. Offered this week are: UPRIGHT HOOVER - seems to blow as well as suck; DENTED CAR DOOR FOR WELDING PRACTICE; LAMINATOR, BROKEN. Wouldn't they all just be better off in a skip? Then there is one person offering 'DENTAL FLOSSERS - open pack of 100, 90 left. Unwrapped but unused'; and also 'TAMPAX APPLICATOR TAMPONS - couldn't get on with them, 18 left'.
Is it me or is that yuck to the max and just totally wrong?? Worst of all, when I looked an hour ago there was a 'tube of cream for cracked nipples with just a bit out of it' but that seems to have mysteriously disappeared. Are these people genuine or have I stumbled upon some kind of coded messages relating to deviant behaviour? Maybe there's a swingers party at 18, Plug Street? Perhaps it's something along the lines of a 'Men Looking For Men' ad Big Man and I stumbled across in the back of the old yellow Free Ads paper years ago - someone looking for a 'BMX boy', whatever one of those might be :S. Inquiring minds want to know.....*
On the flip side, wanters are looking for: AN OLD LAPTOP WITH INTERNET AND A WORKING USB PORT; the same person is after TWO ADULT BIKES; someone wants an AIR CONDITIONER - must be in great condition; a wheel and tyre for a LDV convoy; a Petrol Lawnmower; a hover - 'a cylinder hover with good suction would be great!'; 'WARDROBES WANTED :) We are move in a new house and need wardrobes. Anyone could deliver it for me pls! I'm very happy if its okey!'; and the cryptic 'Stare gates - may boy is barwond now so need stare gats a.s.a.p please help!'. Stare gats I get, but barwond? 
You'd have to wonder how many people get what they ask for when they are looking for high value stuff. I noticed a couple of want ads for Warhammer items (if you don't know what Warhammer is then you can't have a fantasy/Goth/alien-inclined son of a certain age). Mr Charming was mad about it at one stage and even now he's away at uni I still sometimes stand, painfully, on a little twisted creature when I'm putting clean washing in his room. (And sometimes I stand on a Warhammer figure, boom-boom!!!)

Warhammer is kind of like Barbie for boys - you need to buy the little men, then the army of little men, then all the tanks, animals, scenery; paint it's a dos expensive hobby and they can be worth a lot of money, depending on age and rarity and how well they're painted. Mr Charming inherited a stack of original stuff from my brother Jack when he was first starting out and we'd never give any of it away. A friend of Mr Charming's who used to spend so much time at our house that we considered him our fourth son, after Mr Charming, Carb Addict and Otto the cat, recently posted a picture on Facebook of a display he's made of his Warhammer figures and Mr Charming commented that his pal 'could put a deposit on a flat with what that stuff's worth'.

This is what a flat deposit looks like......

So, do you agree that want ad posters on Freecycle are mainly chancers, looking for either high-end stuff to flog, or low-end stuff that's dirt cheap to buy anyway? Are offered ad posters trying to fob their crappy old crap onto unwary saps rather than toting it to the tip themselves (can you tell I'm still bitter about the piano, the details of which I still can't bring myself to go into two months later?) Am I too after 'summat fer nowt' as they say in the North? Do you ever use Freecycle? Ever had anything good from there or successfully palmed off dross onto somebody? Got any audio books you don't want? Just asking.........;P

* whaddya mean, the Lost Boys isn't one of your favourite films, like, ever??!!

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Clever Girl

Today I was talking to a patient in our dementia unit - Heather is her name. She told me that she was born in 1914 but I think I'll have to check up on that. Heather looks like everybody's favourite grandma, all curly white hair, little glasses, pastel twinsets and a whispery voice. We got to talking about what she liked to do before she came to live with us - I asked whether she liked to read and she told me that she used to adore reading and that her mother used to tell her off, saying that she 'always had her nose in a book'. Sadly nowadays, Heather said, she can't really see well enough to read.
As we chatted further Heather told me about her schooldays. She mentioned a lecture that all the students from local (Southampton) schools went to, on the subject of the League of Nations. All of the students from the other schools had little notebooks and pencils to take notes but her Headmistress wouldn't allow that, on the basis that 'if they were note-taking they weren't listening properly' (quite right too). After the lecture all the students from the schools that attended had to write an essay based on the lecture and Heather won the prize for the best essay. She was, by all accounts, a clever girl.
In those days, Heather said, you only got one crack at what she called a scholarship but what I guess was a forerunner to an 11-plus kind of exam (but sat at 13) and on the day she was due to sit it she had an abcess on her head and couldn't go to school. The Headmistress was gutted for Heather, her star pupil.

Needless to say Heather had to leave school along with the others who had failed the exam. There was a careers meeting for each child and the Headmistress had picked out three or four places where Heather could work and still use her brain but Heather's mother said that she should go into service. She went to work at fourteen skivvying at the District Nurses Home in the city, her brain completely wasted.
I was almost in tears as Heather told me this. Her father died when she was 10 weeks old but she had three older brothers and was not only the youngest child but the only girl. I asked why she hadn't been given a chance to carry on with her studies somehow and also why the Headmistress, in her opinion, hadn't gone to see her mother and ask her to give Heather an opportunity for advancement? Heather told me that her mother was a country woman to whom it would never have occurred that her daughter might be bright enough to maybe teach or nurse; also it just wasn't the done thing for a teacher to try to persuade a parent in a different course of action - her mother would have been mortified. I was so upset that I wished I could go back in time and give her mother a good slap, never mind anything else. I also asked Heather whether she felt resentful, as she got older, that her mother had denied her the chance to make something better of herself and she told me that she did of course, but at the time children didn't ever go against their parents - what they said was the law.

It got me thinking about parents nowadays, myself included, who move heaven and earth; spend money on grinds; and ease the path of their kids any way they can to get them what they want, be it a job by pulling strings and calling in favours; or by introducing the perfect conditions for studying, taking them all over the country to view universities, kit out their room in halls and subsidise them to the nth degree (yes, I have done all of those things). We seize on that one tiny spark - a talent for athletics, football, art or algebra - and blow on the tiny ember until it produces something bigger. We nourish their gifts and put all of our efforts into easing their path through life. Sometimes it's because we want our children to have what we had; sometimes it's because we want them to have what we didn't have. As a parent I would have been mortified if a teacher had pointed out that any of my children had an aptitude for something that I had failed to spot (and nurture) myself - would that be interference in the way that an intervention from Heather's Headmistress would have been perceived all those years ago? Do you think that Heather's mother was right?
It's a sad story.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

The Bar That Time Forgot

Whilst on a mini-break in Cornwall last month Big Man, Carb Addict and I ate in The Bar That Time Forgot. I'm not going to say where exactly it was because that wouldn't be fair but if you're a Cornish maid you may well recognise MUST be unique in that part of the world, if not the whole of the UK.
We were initially enticed in by the handwritten signs advertising delicious home cooked food. Plus it was cold, rainy and we were famished after our drive from the South. Also there were others inside eating which is always a good sign in my book. When we got inside we were a little taken aback by the cheerlessness of the place....chilly, damp and staffed by a bevy of  'Prisoner: Cell Block H' lookalikes. You've probably seen the type - one had the chamois leather complexion of the confirmed smoker, with hair of a similar hue; another had the jet black hair and hatchet face of a Mafia wife; and the gang of them ranged themselves in a row in front of the bar like some kind of gender-swap 'Usual Suspects' poster. The bar itself had that genteely-decaying, horse brass-laden, faux-country pub kind of decor that always reminds me of somewhere you'd see in a WWII film - the sort of place where jolly Yank grunts are set upon verbally by a morose, lachrymose Yorkshireman whose friends tell them, "don't tha' lissen to oul' Enoch, 'is Vernon never come back from Dunkirk an 'e's not been't same since". It was only slightly less welcoming than The Slaughtered Lamb but at least people didn't stop talking when we entered....

It became apparent when we read the menu that we weren't in for a fine dining experience. Any eating place that has a section on the menu headed 'Continental Corner' that includes Lasagne (!) and Chicken Curry (!!) is clearly stuck in a time warp....don't they know that curry is officially the national dish of the UK these days? And that lasagne is the go-to ready meal for a whole generation of students, shift-workers and divorced men? The table mats still had the original telephone number on them (Cornwall 2167 or something similar) and the vinegar came in those kind of cut glass mini decanter-type receptacles. It was absolutely, unwittingly vintage. I'd say that there are places in London that spend a fortune trying to get that kind of authenticity.
Sadly the old style vibe didn't extend to the prices. Big Man had steak (which he enjoyed; Carb Addict ate all of his fish and chips but who can say what he thought of the meal - certainly not him; and I had a burger with chips but it was the kind of burger you get in Turkey or somewhere - a compressed meat patty of uncertain origin) and he asked for mayonnaise. When the bill came we were shocked, in an incredulous kinda way, to see we'd been charged 30p for the tablespoon of mayo in a tiny dish they'd sniffily brought us. I suppose if we will ask for these new-fangled condiments what can we expect? The culinary adventure cost us about £32 but on the bright side it was a source of lame jokes ('Some people are going in, let's warn them not to ask for mayo!') every time we passed it for the rest of the holiday.

Have you been there or anywhere like it?

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

In The Doghouse

Oh dear, I seem to be in the doghouse again with Red. The crime this time? It was a beautiful afternoon when I got home at four, followed shortly by the return of Big Man. Red was nowhere to be seen - gone out, according to her dad, without waiting in for the Homeserve man to come and fix our overflowing drain. She often, when she's not working, disappears at about 1pm and we might not see her until the next morning. I said to Big Man, 'let's go into the Forest for a pub meal', just on the spur of the moment and because he loves eating out and we do it rarely he jumped at the chance.
We ended up at The New Forest Hotel (I recommend it highly) and had a lovely meal and a drink. When we arrived home Red was back and on the computer downstairs. No sign of food being cooked for us, even though it was 7pm and she had no idea where we were. We might have been anywhere at all. I suppose I was a bit facetious because I'd had a sniff of the barmaid's apron (I am a total lightweight where drink is concerned), as was Big Man. It transpired that Red had indeed waited for the Homeserve man AND she hadn't left toast in the front room, something Big Man had also accused her of (oops! That was Carb Addict!). When we said we'd been for a pub meal she was furious with us, very insulting (I'm still sniggering as I'm telling you - she got madder and madder the more we laughed and when I asked her if she wanted a Twix instead she went ballistic!) and said we were selfish but in far more colourful language. But I ask you, is it selfish for two adults, parents, to go out for a pub meal and not take their 22 year old daughter, who might have been anywhere in Hampshire, with them? I felt really guilty about it actually. Should I? What would you feel like?
Later on I was reading upstairs when the door knocked and I heard Red answer it. She came upstairs and I asked who'd called but she ignored me and went into her room. Big Man told me it was the pizza delivery man.......

Monday, 7 May 2012

The Policy Of This House... that anyone feeling ill, out of sorts or generally meh goes straight to their bed.
Night night

Sunday, 6 May 2012


In my last post I described my seven hours in A&E with Chester and Barry. Chester came home to us after two days, diagnosis constipation. We kept expecting Barry 'home' for the last couple of days but when I got to work Friday Nadine called me into her office, sat me down and told me that Barry had died. She told me that Barry's brother, Maurice, had asked her to tell me on my own because he knew Barry and I were close.

I'm devastated, and disbelieving....

I can't understand how someone who can be well enough to be able to be discharged can suddenly just die. Barry was a great big bear of a man; a really good appetite (and these are two things that are very rare in care home residents); a good sense of humour; patient; very expressive, despite being unable to speak. Fair enough, this stroke he'd had previously comes with a fairly short life expectancy but he was just so...healthy and full of life. It's a tough time for all of us  - we all loved Barry. His brother and sister-in-law are ultra-supportive and this will destroy Maurice because he's lost his big brother. I'm going to offer to help them clear Barry's room, though it will be sad but I see it as doing him one last service.
Barry was 82 (which is no great age nowadays) and never married. He worked out in the open as a bricklayer for years then when the cold weather got to be too much for him he worked for the NHS here in Southampton, as a delivery man. His passions were ham radio, female singers of the 50s (Jo Stafford was a particular favourite) and old films. He was left unable to speak following his stroke and also couldn't move his right arm or leg. He could say 'yes' and this was his usual answer to any question, though his facial expression usually gave lie to that! It makes me happy to remember that Barry did actual speak, clearly and appropriately to me - once when I came back from two weeks holiday I went into his room to say hello and his face lit up. He said 'hello, how are you?'. I told Maurice about this (he would have LOVED Barry to speak to him one more time) but I was never 100% sure I hadn't imagined it. However the last time the vicar visited I took him along to Barry's room and Barry said, quite clearly, 'how are you?' so I guess he could do it after all.
Barry had a small fridge in his room where he kept his tins of cider (he liked a tipple at night) and he had a constant supply of sweets and chocolates. Because of this his teeth had almost all fallen out or gone bad and twice this year I accompanied him to the hospital to have extractions. Due to his size he needed the maximum amount of anaesthetic but he was so brave....I was the one secretly worrying - my nails left big marks in his hand where I'd been holding it so tight!When I think of Barry I think of Boxer, the brave, strong but ultimately doomed workhorse from Animal Farm.....don't know why. Sometimes I can't help but identify people I meet with characters from books or films. Is that crazy?

I'm glad that the last time I saw Barry, last Saturday at the hospital, I'd given him his dinner, held his hand, kissed him (yes, we do kiss our residents) and as he was being taken to the ward he was smiling and gave me the salute he always gave, in lieu of saying goodbye. Miss you already Barry xx

I'm not sure I can do this job.....

Monday, 30 April 2012

Seven Hours In A&E

This is in no way meant as a critique of the NHS which, as everyone knows, is a National Treasure - rather a description of what I saw during my Saturday at A&E.

Yesterday morning when I got to work at 10:00 there was an ambulance parked outside. One of our residents, Barry, who has had a stroke was in some difficulty and was being taken to hospital. My colleague Jackie told me that she thought a second resident, Chester, may also have to go to the General. To cut a long story short, I accompanied Chester to the hospital in the ambulance and it just so happened that he (and I) ended up in a bay next door to Barry. But only after 20 minutes in the gangway getting in everybody's way.

I had no money with me for a start, meaning I had to rely on the free water and juice provided, plus one cup of tea I managed to beg from an orderly. That was fine because I didn't expect to be fed and watered and it kept me sharper for my earwigging and general nosiness. Chester is 86 and Barry is 82 and during the whole time we were there Chester wasn't offered a drink - when I asked the orderly for one for him she told me that 'the nurse' said he wasn't allowed one. Barry was given a cup of tea though - sadly, due to his stroke he only has use of one arm and hand and couldn't get the cup from where it'd been left 3 feet away. From about 12:45 meals started to be brought to the department. I think the distribution must've been quite arbitrary because Chester was allocated food by the senior nurse (despite him being in obvious stomach pain from a twisted bowel) whilst Barry was given nothing. I was able to get permission to give Chester's meal to Barry - roast chicken with stuffing; roast spuds and some carrots that could have done double duty as small orange discuses - but I had to feed him since there was no way he could've balanced it on his stomach and eaten it with one hand, and there was no table available either. All I kept thinking was 'what would either of these guys have done if I hadn't been there?' Additionally, neither Chester nor Barry can speak coherently - Chester has dementia and Barry has had the stroke - so it would have been impossible to get any details from them had I not stuck around. There were plenty of staff members around; nurses, senior nurses, auxiliary types, even one or two doctors but nobody to just check folks were drinking or were able to eat the food that was being given out. Having said that, the nursing staff was constantly on the go - there was none of this standing around gassing about their personal life like you see in 'Casualty'. But then there was none of the chatting to patients and solving their problems like you see either...

Throughout the hours I spent darting between Barry and Chester there was a constant stream of people being brought in on stretchers, most of them elderly though some were middle-aged. The majority walked out again under their own steam, within a couple of hours - one even had the strength/energy/whatever to argue over whether his friend, who had followed him in in her car, should have to pay for the 3 hours of parking she'd bought. From what I could glean most people were, or had been, suffering from 'chest pains'...I'm guessing Saturday morning is a prime time for this. Or they had fainted. Nobody came in and had a crash team working on them or had masses of blood on them. There was no sense that anything emergency-like had happened. And everyone had friends, or family including small children, with them. I couldn't get over it because there is a perfectly good and really very efficient 'Walk-In Center' in the city. It's a sort of buffer between a doctor's surgery and the A&E Department - I've been twice recently with Red and would recommend it 100%.

So what are these people doing, clogging up the Health Service, and how much could be saved if they made their own way to the Walk-In Centre? They clearly have people who can drive them around, and they clearly are not really ill (as in not suffering from something critical necessitating emergency treatment) that called 'the worried well'? It got me wondering how different it would be if the people at A&E yesterday had been required to pay at source for their treatment, rather than pay through their National Insurance. I'm not advocating the kind of situation we read about in the US where uninsured patients are dumped on the street after receiving emergency treatment but there has to be some kind of check put on the use of our scarce resources. I really don't see that we can continue to spend the kind of money we are spending on health but the problem is that our NHS is such a sacred cow that to try to change it in any way is seen as completely awful and beyond the pale. I don't know what the solution is but before too many years go by I see the inhabitants of the UK having to be insured. Our NHS is good but it's not great, and I don't think we should expect it to be...we just don't pay enough for it. What do you all think?

Barry was admitted with a very nasty chest infection after four hours in A&E; Chester was admitted after six and a half hours in Bay 5, with the possibility of an operation on his bowel; and outside, on my way to get my lift home I passed a chunky girl and her boyfriend, both smoking furiously and arguing about walking home (her choice) versus getting a cab (his choice). She had been brought into A&E on a stretcher two hours earlier......

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Tit-Fer-Loll Speaks

I read Lucy's post on body image with interest and also Krista's response to it. I don't normally write 'comment' posts because I think there's enough drama in my life without pulling more in from outside sources but this time I thought people might be interested in my take on things.

Keshling on the left. More chins than a Chinese phone book, as they say.....

I've always been a biggish girl, from about age 7. I like food. I love to bake then eat it (as I write there's a Red Velvet Beetroot Cake chugging away in the oven. Nom nom nom!). Growing up in my malignant Northern town Babcia didn't believe in unlimited sweets and cake for us kids so I loved going to Auntie Eva's house next door but one (she's not a real auntie but it's a Northern thing to call any female friend of your mum 'Auntie') where I could help myself to handfuls of chocolate digestives from her Tupperware barrel. It mortifies me now when I recall her saying, eventually, 'only take two of those, Keshling' though at the time I just remember feeling aggrieved and hard done by. Auntie Eva has two daughters and the youngest, Shirley Anne, is a couple years older than me. She was absolutely spoiled rotten and had all the latest clothes  - think cheesecloth shirts, loon pants, as much tartan stuff as you can imagine (Auntie Eva is Scottish for one thing, and it was BCR mania at the time); and matching corduroy jacket and jeans combos (they didn't make them in my size, 9 Portly). I particularly recall the time that Shirley Anne appeared wearing her first bra. We were in my neighbour-girl Christine's tent on her back garden and Shirley Anne, who was totally flat-chested, was letting us unfashionable dopes try it on. I don't really remember how it fitted the other girls but I know my puppy fat/budding boobs filled the cups completely which made Shirley Anne very annoyed. I was chuffed and said 'look, it fits me!' to which she snapped 'no it doesn't, you have to be able to get your hand into the pocket in the front and you can't when you're wearing it!'. She made me take it off there and then and fell 'out of friends' with me later that day. It was my first hint that big tits are not neccesarily a good thing.
From about 14 I slimmed down a lot and stayed that way, mostly as a result of my 20 cigs a day habit. Looking back at photographs of the time I always believed I was like the side of a house though in reality I was about 10 stone, which for 5'7" isn't bad.....I was really pretty hot! I probably had about a 36C chest - a bit bigger than average but not Chesty Morgan-sized - and I didn't look out of proportion.

Chesty with her 'twin torpedoes'

I snapped back slimmer than before after Red was born but once I had Mr Charming my body started bulging perculiarly. Maybe it was due to giving up smoking, or going from walking everywhere to driving around, or most likely I'm just genetically predisposed to be a titty woman. Whatever, I put on weight and my chest got bigger and bigger, whilst my bottom half stayed normal, for want of a better word. Nowadays I'm a 16 bottom half and a 22 top half and let me tell everyone who's ever wished for a bigger bust that it's no laughing matter. I can't say that I get back ache from the weight but nothing looks nice on me - it's hard to find dresses that simultaneously fit a 16 AND a 22; big breasts are incredibly ageing (matronly,'s difficult to pull off a denim mini skirt, opaque tights and boots look when it's teamed with a Hattie Jacques-type bust); it's murder getting nice bras - they're all 'serviceable' rather than sexy; some men talk to my boobs rather than to me; and they look just horrendous when they're finally released from their over the shoulder boulder holder at night. It's safe to say that after breastfeeding three kids mine are hanging down almost to my belly button. It's even worse when I lose weight....they look like two empty pockets made of skin, a bit like Iggy Pop's in fact, only way bigger.

Red has inherited my big chest (though hers at least are perky!) but she quite likes it, however I can't help but notice that in many of her pictures on Facebook the guys she's out with seem mesmerised by her boobage. She has also had complaints made about the amount of cleavage she shows at work ('yeah, by jealous, flat-chested nurses!') but doesn't seem to care. She says her boss George hasn't complained but then in Red George has the Jessica Rabbit of the Portering Department working for him, so why would he?!

It's no exaggeration to say that I totally hate my breasts and would love nothing more than to be able to have them reduced and lifted. Some might say that I've lived this long with them but that's missing the point. Nobody has ever made me feel bad about them but I'm not happy with them and in the future, when everything is paid off, I WILL do something about my boobs. I think any girl or lady who wishes for bigger breasts should be very careful - they are more trouble than they're worth. Take it from Tit-fer-Loll.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Louis Theroux's 'Extreme Love - Autism'

I just had to write a post about this programme, shown last night on BBC2.
You'll know, if you read this blog regularly, that my youngest son, 18 year old Carb Addict is severely autistic. He can't really speak and has learning difficulties. He totally fits the classic 'triad of impairments'.

We've seen lots of programmes about autism and invariably they concentrate on higher functioning autists, or higher functioning Aspergers - Rainman and Stephen Wiltshire documentaries have a lot to answer for. I've lost count of the number of people who ask me, of Carb Addict, 'has he got a special talent?' Well not really, unless you count identifying label-less cassette tapes by looking at the amount of tape run through on each spindle as a talent. Or rewinding a Disney video to the exact same spot, to watch the exact same 4 seconds, over and over again. That's over and over again for 15 minutes at a stretch. In fact I'm the one with the talent - the most tolerant parent in my street. So let me say this - 0.00000000001% OF AUTISTIC PEOPLE HAVE A SPECIAL TALENT!!!!!!

If you didn't see this programme last night please iPlayer it. Theroux visited a school in New Jersey for 250 autistic students from 3 to 21 years old - it brought home to Big Man and I (and thousands of other parents, judging by Theroux's Facebook page today) just how far we have to go, provision-wise, in the UK. Carb Addict is lucky to go to a placement with the Hampshire Autistic Society, which is the best we can get here (we're lucky) but it looked pitiful compared to DLC Warren. One of the fantastic things they have there is a corridor that is made up as a whole street of full-size shops, just for the students to learn about money, social interaction and for them to 'work'. Brilliant.

For once higher functioning students weren't concentrated on - only one chap could pass for 'normal', albeit an oddball kind of normal, and that was Nicky. Also focussed on was Brian who, at 20 is non-verbal and lives in a shared home with others like him. He tried to burn down his house aged 8 and has attacked his mother so badly that she could no longer cope with him. Brian is very like Carb Addict, temperament- and ability-wise. I can't work out how to get the clip from the BBC website but please check this out - - it's very illuminating.

It's a reflection of how true to life this film was, and how well parents of autistic children received this that Theroux's Facebook page is inundated with messages of praise. There are a few asking why it wasn't filmed in the UK (erm....because we know how depressing and tenth rate the provision here is, maybe?) and one person who said how very disappointed she was that it only paid attention to severely autistic kids. She was very irate, actually. However, I can't remember a single programme about autism prior to 'Extreme Love' that didn't focus on high functioning Aspergers, or autistic savants - the very ones who are in the minority. I guess you can't please everyone.

Will you watch it and tell me what you think?

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Titter Ye Not!! Oh, Go On Then.....

I know not everyone is such a fiend for spelling and grammar as I am - Mr Charming, the English undergrad always tells me 'spelling doesn't matter Mum, people know what I mean' when I automatically edit anything from the most casual of notes to his coursework essays. I can't help myself - when I was at school in 70s and 80s Dublin, spelling really mattered. For me, kids nowadays rely on spellcheck too much which is not good, plus it can miss the context of things. I think if you read a lot, and I do, you automatically pick up good spelling and grammar. Having said that, Red never reads anything more taxing than 'LOOKS' magazine but is very literate whilst Mr Charming reads a lot yet isn't brilliant with his punctuation...he's more your 'stream of consciousness' kind of writer. Yeah, right. Big Man reads very rarely and correspondingly is not good at all at spelling - I've never let him live down the bluey he sent me from the Falklands that ended 'Sweat dreams, darling xxxx'. Oh dear. Still, he was in charge of a £300million nuclear submarine's reactor room so his inability to spell didn't do him too much harm.

Anyhow, the thing that I've seen a few times recently on other blogs, and it makes me titter each time I see it is bloggers spelling 'definitely' as 'defiantly'. Not gonna say who (and can't remember anyway!) but when it says something like...'we really enjoyed our kale last year and we'll defiantly plant it again this time' I imagine a blogger purposefully approaching her allotment, brandishing seeds in one hand, a trowel in the other and with a determined look on her face, telling the startled, codgery old bystanders 'I'm gonna plant this kale, so don't try to stop me!'

I'm easily amused.

PS. Just in case you're starting to hate me for being a total and utter spelling snob you'll be happy to know that I still cringe with mortification when I remember the time I was trying to impress a guy I fancied and was airily dismissing something or other as 'banal'. To rhyme with anal.........

Monday, 16 April 2012

Uses For A Tesco Uniform?

Whilst 'tidying' Red's bedroom I discovered several items of uniform from her days as a (very unwilling) Tesco employee. Skirts, shirts, trousers and a fleece to be precise. Given that she left there three years ago, to sighs of relief all round, I think we can safely say that she won't be needing it again. But what to do with it? Red and Big Man tell me to ditch it - as Red says, they wouldn't give it to anybody else if I returned it to the store, which was my original idea. Better them dispose of it than me. However, I don't want to just bin it because I HATE wasting anything.
Any ideas anybody?

PS ...I don't quilt. Or patchwork.

Thursday, 12 April 2012


At Fowey, where the prices will make your eyes water and the shops only sell Etsy pretties. It even costs a pound for a parcel on the ferry. It's no place for frugalistas.....:S

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Everybody Needs Good Neighbours

You might remember my mini-rant about my neighbour Mr Singh, the absentee landlord. In the interim Mr Singh has had a very heated debate with an irate builder/skip company owner about filling his skip too high (I'll freely admit, I was hiding behind my front door listening. And sniggering....I'm such a child) and I mean high. He had put four old house doors, one on each side of the skip, and tried to pile it to twice the original height with rubble. This was despite it being very overloaded at the time of our altercation. As the argument proceeded Mr Singh grabbed hold of a pick axe and started madly pick-axing rubble off the top of the load in a bid to reduce the level but the plucky little skip owner, all black leather bomber jacket and shirt-and-tie combo, stood his ground....there was no way that they were going to take the skip piled high as it was.

'Tee-hee Mr Singh' I thought. 'Put that in your pipe and smoke it!'

So, as you can guess I was most surprised when I came home from work the next day and the skip was gone. All that remained was a very large amount of rubble, the construction equivalent of a CSI body outline. Plus several old doors, bits of wood and so on, and after a couple of days even that had been swept into a roughly tidy pile. I thought that was a bit dodgy and imagined drunken revellers, passing by in the early hours of the morning, hurling a brick through our window 'for a laugh'. Days went by and even though I saw Mr Singh coming and going a couple of times (and gave him my best Paddington hard stare when he looked my way), the rubble didn't move. I was debating whether to ring the Council but my usual dilatoriness prevailed and I did nothing.

Don't I feel bad about that now?

On Sunday morning Big Man answered the door to a policewoman who asked whether he had heard anything (like what? A rumbling, tikka-flavoured fart from me? Mr Charming drunkenly falling upstairs? Red going backwards and forwards to the loo after too many Jaegerbombs?) at about 3am that morning, because someone had broken into my neighbour's house - Pam and Terry on the other side of Mr Singh - and managed to nab some silver before Terry went hurtling downstairs. And what do you think the b******s hurled through my neighbours' window to gain access? Ten points to whoever says 'one of Mr Singh's brick bits'.

With good neighbours like Mr Singh, who needs enemies?

Friday, 30 March 2012

Crocs Away!!!

Next week I am working in the kitchen again for another three days. I said I'd never do it again after last time because it was so exhausting and I'd had sleepless nights beforehand worrying that things were going to go wrong (they didn't btw). However, this time it will be a joint effort, me and our handyman Robbie together. Robbie was also pressganged into cooking last time and he said that he would only do it this time if we both cooked. Rather than see money wasted on agency chefs I agreed and we are planning to do some spectacular meals. The food is a bone of contention at our place with the chef on one side and the staff and management on the other. It's complicated but Robbie and I hope to instigate some changes next week.
Anyway, last time I found it very hard on my feet and legs, standing for nine hours and someone recommended Crocs as being good for this problem. Previously the idea of Crocs made me shudder....ugly, clumpy, nasty-looking....but I saw some in Primark today for £2.50 and so I decided to take the plunge. I doubt they are genuine for that price, don't you?;P

The hour I spent in Primark with Red today was the longest I've ever stuck it for - normally I am driven out after five minutes, terrified by the sheer scale of shapeless schmutter (heaven forbid any woman with breasts might want to shop there!) and hordes of teenage girls. And to be honest, who can be bothered to sift through all the dross in search of the elusive treasure? If I was shut in a room stark naked with 99% of the stuff from Primark I'd make a dress out of the carpet before I'd wear any of the clothes. I know it has the same kind of jumble sale vibe as TK Maxx but somehow Primark is so downmarket that it's demoralising.
Anyway, I showed Mr Charming my new Crocs when I got home and he was scathing in his contempt. This is a man who would be willing (if he had it) to spend over £100 on this synthetic jacket.

I told Mr Charming that Babcia could knit him one but he's not convinced...

Has one or both of us had a taste bypass this week? What do you think, and have you ever bought something you previously turned your nose up at?

Monday, 26 March 2012

When Can I Go Back?

Big Man and I went for a mini-break in Liverpool last month and all I can say is, 'when can I go back?'.....I LOVE that city! I'd only been there previously whilst travelling on the B+I ferry between England and Ireland but when I saw the Liver Building a whole heap of memories came flooding back.

As you can tell the weather was a bit forbidding but that really didn't matter when there was so much to see and do. If you've never been, Liverpool is the dog's whatsits for shopping - all the well-known brands as well as really prestigious ones, eg Vivienne Westwood, are there. Our hotel was just a Travelodge, one of the £19 a night special offers but it was absolutely fine for our needs and close enough to town for us to be able to walk home one night.
Although we're not massive Beatles fans we HAD to go on the Magical Mystery Tour. This was a lot of fun and our guide Paul was a real hoot. On this tour you travel to Penny Lane, where some of the places in the song still exist; Strawberry Fields; the village hall where Paul and John first met; and the Beatles schools and childhood homes. Both John's and Paul's are now owned by the National Trust but we couldn't go in because they a) don't open all year round and b) you need to book. George's old home is occupied by a lady who must be the most tolerant in the world...she has tourists posing on her doorstep every day of the year!

Naturally we went to the Cavern Club, after first visiting the Cavern Bar (doh! Pair of half-wits we were, asking if we were allowed to take photos. The Scousers probably though we were some of those famous Southern yokels they've heard of). It's really quite big and although it isn't the original Cavern they've tried very hard to make it as authentic as they can. There were heaps of foreign visitors there so I guess Liverpool makes a lot of money from tourism, so much so that they don't need OUR PORT as well! Though to be honest, if I were a cruise passenger I know where I'd prefer to look around prior to sailing off, and it doesn't begin with 'South....'. Don't tell anyone though!

Another place we visited and I just adored was Port Sunlight. It was strange to be in a place I'd seen so many times on Flog It! and the Antiques Roadshow. It was just as nice as it looks on TV though Big Man and I did wonder whether there's a panel you have to satisfy before you can buy a house there. I loved the way the properties were all different and the fact that the residents have so much art around cool is that? And did you know that Pete Byrne from Dead or Alive was born at Port Sunlight?

'Sea Spirit' by Charles Wheeler. It becomes a fountain when the pool is full.

The Lever Art Gallery was wonderful for me because I did several essays on the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood for my degree course and have loved their work for the longest time. To be able to see the paintings I'd written about in real life was so lovely. If you ever get a chance to visit please do, you'll be very impressed. Unlike one oldish lady who walked into a room where I was the only other person present, gave an audible fart, had a little surreptitious look round (as if to say "where did THAT come from?") then walked out again. Was it a comment on the paintings or my presence there? Who can say. 
There are quite a few statues near the Albert Dock too, including one of my favourites, Billy Fury nee Ronald Wycherley.

Pic from here

We did quite a bit of walking whilst we were in Liverpool and we came across the Sailors' Home Gateway. You can read all about it here. It's really impressive and generally lovely, and since I come from a seafaring family I was most interested. For some reason I felt really at home in Liverpool - perhaps it's because my granny was conceived there, maybe there's a kind of affinity. We found the people to be really warm and friendly (yes, I know, cliché piled upon cliché, but it's true!) and we were also struck by how very cheap things are there....I'm thinking particularly about food. There's a big stall upstairs in the St John's Shopping Centre where they sell delicious bread and cobs and all sorts of cake-y, sweet-y, crisp-y things in bags for little money. There is a fab food market where you can get stuff like sheeps' stomachs, black pudding, pigs' tails and trotters (we call them crubeens), tripe, massive big ox hearts and incredibly, lambs' testicles which the butcher demonstrated by slitting one in half, causing Big Man to nearly collapse on the spot. Some good antique/tat stalls too.

The Sailors' Home Gateway at Liverpool 1

If you ever get the chance to visit Liverpool I really urge you to go. I told Big Man on the way home that if I ever leave Southampton I'd love to live in Liverpool. It's that kind of place. Our next mini-break is Bristol but that's not until September - before that we have Looe at the start of April (good old Daily Mail holidays!) in a caravan. Looking forward to that!

The one and only Billy Fury...Liverpool's a 'Wondrous Place'!!!

Monday, 27 February 2012

Where I Feel Like A Wimp And Look Like A Dork

Every Monday morning, since we only have one car and Big Man uses it to get to work, I take Carb Addict in a taxi to his weekly placement then come straight home again in the same cab. Since this started at the beginning of the year the fare has been, without fail, £11.60 but I always give the driver £12.50. Every driver I've had has gone a certain route. When we were in Liverpool last Monday Red took the trip and told me she was charged '£14-something'. I was annoyed because I thought they'd taken advantage of a young girl. Wrong.
Today we got in the taxi and the driver, an oldish man I'd not seen before started on a different route, saying that it was the same distance when I suggested the normal way. It's always busy at 9am because we live right by a school but once you're past that it's normally plain sailing however he used the traffic as a reason for his choice. I should've insisted that he went the normal way but reasoned with myself that if the fare ended up costing more than £11.60 I would refuse to pay and cite the regular price.
I don't need to tell you that the route the driver took entailed sitting in long traffic queues on the way back, do I? We were stationary and still around the corner from home when the meter hit £11.60.
'Let me out here' I said. The driver was a bit taken aback but pulled over and told me the cost, only for me to find that yet again, due to not wearing my glasses, I had put a 10p piece in my purse instead of a £2 coin. I only had £10.60. Feeling like the world's biggest gobshite I had to tell him that I needed to get more money from the house and that he would have to take me home after all. Which then meant we sat in a bit more traffic.
When we got to the house I must've looked at the meter and seen £12.80. I gave the driver the £10.60, ran into the house and got a £2 and a 20p and took it out to him. He sat looking at it puzzled. When I asked what was wrong he said that I'd only given him £2 and that it was short. I looked at the meter again and it was showing £13.20!
'It doesn't matter, love' the driver said, clearly feeling the waves of hostility radiating from me.
'Wait, I'll go and get it'
'No, really, it doesn't matter' he said.
'OK then. Bye' I said and stormed off.

Why didn't I insist on the driver taking the regular route? Or at least say that I always pay £11.60 and that I wouldn't pay any more? I've lived here 28 years and know as well as any cabbie where the traffic is bad. I didn't even get his number so I could ask NOT to be sent him next time, not that I think he'll be volunteering any time soon. The worst thing is looking such a bonehead when I'd tried to be clever and get out of the taxi before we got home.
Will I ever learn?

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Calling All Grammar Freaks!!!

Spot the (deliberate?) mistake.You'd think somewhere like Travelodge'd get it much do you reckon all these little signs cost them?

Monday, 20 February 2012

Keep Outta My Way!!!

...I'm a rootin' tootin' badass today!!! Well, technically yesterday. But I'm badass every day!!!

 When we moved into our house 18 years ago the house next door, that we join onto, was a B&B. Quite a scabby looking, disreputable one but still a bona-fide B&B and the landlord/owner lived onsite. After maybe 7 or 8 years he sold it and moved to France and it was bought, as a going concern by Mr Singh. Over the years it has been neglected and because Mr Singh lives far away in a leafy suburb and has lots of other properties to tend, he hasn't maintained it properly. First the sign outside was smashed to pieces by drunks and not replaced. Then there was an alleged murderer living there (he got off - Hampshire Police lost the crucial evidence at the tip) who threatened my friend Pam who lives on the other side of the B&B, with a big stick after accusing her of being a Peeping Tom at his girlfriend. Pam is a married grandmother. A couple of years back the B&B became empty and at Christmas time 2009 the water tank burst, resulting in an insurance claim for us of £6000. Three rooms (including my lads' bedrooms); the hall, stairs and landing; and the cupboard under the stairs were all soaked and we had masses of disruption. Pam told me other day that there had been squatters in there last year (I'm so nosy - how did I not know that?) and that there were two smack heads cooking up crack in the back garden last Summer. The police were called both times and at all times, when Mr Singh comes round at the request of the police, or me, or Pam, he just smiles and laughs as if it's nothing at all. That's the background.

For the last two weeks there has been the biggest amount of banging and carrying on next door and it became obvious from the dust and rubble that something was happening. We could tell from the hours that were being worked (after 5pm and weekends) that the builders were doing what's called a 'guvvy job' where I come from. I'm not sure whether they are the same Polish builders that he offered to us when he drenched our house because we didn't take him up on the offer. Yesterday we were woken up at 8am again and when I saw Mr Singh outside the B&B, stamping down the rubble in a dangerously overloaded skip I decided to confront him.

I started off extremely politely by telling him that we were not going to be woken up at 8am any more. Mr Singh was smiling. I said it was clear to me the men were working somewhere else and coming to his job afterwards, their prerogative, but that we too work all week and wanted to stay in bed at the weekend so we would appreciate the builders holding off until 10am.
'8.30?' said Mr Singh.
I, incredulous, said that I wasn't negotiating with him and that we had had quite enough of the banging, hacking and dust (they have hacked every scrap of plaster off the walls, along with the wooden laths, which they burned on a hair-raising 8 foot high pyre in the yard yesterday). He carried on smiling whilst I asked the builder not to start working until 10 at the weekend and he sensibly agreed - when you're having a half-English, half-Polish conversation with an irate neighbour woman it's always wise to agree with her!
Then Mr Singh made the fatal mistake of criticising my tree. When we moved in the tree outside the front door was little and now it's very big. Mr Singh suggested that we might want to cut it to about 12' since the roots are going to damage the pillar between our houses. The pillar is the archway over the porches, where the front doors are set back. Well, I'm not having anybody criticise my tree, especially not somebody whose fence we replaced a few years back because it looked so awful and somebody who had caused our insurance premiums to increase.
I gave it to him with both barrels. Told him that he had destroyed my home with water and had never even apologised. That his builders had started this work and he hadn't had the manners to call to me or Pam and explain what was happening. That his property was such an eyesore that I knew he'd had squatters. That he had cost my insurers £6000 ('For wallpaper? Surely not?!') and that I couldn't believe he had the gall to come to my door and complain about my tree. In fact I had said to Big Man before Christmas that it could do with trimming but now I shan't be cutting it for a very long time.

I'd like to say that it ended with a particularly scathing put down by me but it just kind of fizzled out. I did say that if he damaged my house again in any way I would go after him with everything I had (cringey...I'm such a drama queen), and he kind of drifted off, still smiling....

....leaving me feeling like this.

Are your neighbours a pain in the proverbial, or would I be your 'Neighbour from Hell'???!

PS We are going to Liverpool tomorrow. See you when I get back! Also, if anybody has any of the Tesco knife vouchers that they don't want let me know will you? I want the knives but don't shop at Tesco enough to get the required amount of vouchers. Am willing to swap a £10 off Sainsbury's first online shop voucher! ;P