Friday, 31 October 2008


At work today, I got to spread joy and happiness for a bit, by e-mailing people with good news. I did not remember to attach the attachment, though, which was somewhat dense. I shall have to compose another e-mail about that on Monday. Bugger. That has only come back to bite me once so far, though, and that was mostly just an experimental nip; the mauling should not happen before Monday.

It's Friday, and I have no more work to do for a few days, so I am happy! The house is warm (thanks to HWSNBN having the heating on all day), and I am holed up in the bedroom with a glass of rum and pineapple juice, leaning against a radiator, listening to classical music with the lights off (except for some blue fairy lights and this lantern, in blue), trying to discourage trick-or-treaters. Two came earlier, and we were able to dig out some old marshmallows for them, but I don't think that they were impressed.

Today I went out for lunch with one of the chaplains and a friend who had just found out about her MSc distinction. Apparently I misread the e-mail saying when we should meet with the result that, instead of being 10 minutes late, I was 15 minutes early. I did some organ practice - the Chalpaincy Centre has a dinky little one. My new shoes do not improve my organ playing. However, unsuitable as they are, they do seem as though playing in them is a possibility, which is gratifying. After 20 minutes of practicing, I went and found the people with whom I was having lunch, who hadn't noticed me playing. By this time, I was 10 minutes late. Again.

Unfortunately, the pub we were supposed to be eating in was too busy, so we had to go slightly further afield to a wonderful restaurant I had heard about a lot, but had never actually visited. Damn. Because it was more expensive than expected, he offered to pay, which was wonderful. I ate duck with figs and mashed potato, with Madeira sauce. I think that the mashed potato may have contained slightly more calories than I would usually expect to find in my mashed potato. I therefore decided to pretend that they were not there and hope that they went away. Sure enough, when I next paid attention, the mashed potato was gone, and I was no longer hungry. Result!

This friend has not only got a distinction in her MSc, but she doesn't have a job at the moment (i.e. she has time off and can get up late), and she does have one that she will be starting soon (i.e. her current lack of job is not a problem). She seemed very happy (if a little drunk) today. Not that I am at all jealous, you understand. For I have a Plan up my sleeve. It is quite tightly wedged, and I can't seem to get it out,* but it is a Plan nonetheless.

Now to see what HWSNBN plans to do for dinner. I rejected going out earlier on the grounds that I wasn't hungry, but a take-away would really hit the spot now. I am hoping that the reason he has had no alcohol this evening is that he is intending to go food hunting shortly (to complement his mammoth supermarket shop earlier today). We shall see...

*Yes - The Letter and its follow-up. It went, I got a response. Will blog more when my mighty network of contacts actually comes up with information I can use to do what is required of me.

Thursday, 30 October 2008


Right now I should be going to bed, but the settee is warm and bed is not. Instead I shall sit for a while and listen to the washing machine finish doing its thing, so that I can use the nice clean washing to make the house lovely and damp.

HWSNBN has gone to bed. I hope that he is on my side; it seems a shame for him to use all of that heat he generates on himself. I shall try to improve the heat situation by having a shower (which will also provide me with the opportunity to test my second-to-latest soap).

Goodness me, this is boring. I have a theory that it is less what one writes about and more how it is written which makes something readable, but I'm not really giving myself much to work with here. It has just occurred to me that I might be losing readers as a result of my lack of content. OK. Deep breaths. I shall not be a slave to what my readers want; I shall be true to myself. I shall continue to write crap for the satisfaction of having, erm, done that sort of thing. Yes. That shall be my strategy. Goodbye non-faithful readers; anyone who has made it this far is obviously hardcore. And not showing up on a stats counter. Hardcore and very discrete. Nice.

The washing machine is finished; off to the shower for me. Night night.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness

Autumn is well and truly upon us. Yesterday evening, walking to the pub, I smelled the promise of dark nights round a bonfire, huddling to keep warm and watching fireworks. This evening I smelled the promise of whisky before going on walks in the dark; visits to friends in their warm houses. There is a chill in the air; I shall dig out my old sheepskin coat and gloves, and prepare to de-ice the car.

The central heating is back on, after a few weeks of ultimately futile resistance, and that makes me happy. Other things which make me happy include food, sleep, Stephen Fry and tea, and I will have all of those within this next hour. I had pancakes for tea. I suppose that this means that I am happy. That's good, then.

Apparently I am not awake enough to write, though.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Many uninteresting things

Yesterday was a very tired day. I think that the high drama of the weekend, combined with failing to sleep for an extra hour despite the clock change, had taken its toll on me, insofar as it was difficult for me to get the motivation to pick up some bags and leave church after finishing some organ practice. Which was rather rubbish practice. However, I have established that I may be able to play the fancy version of "O Come all ye Faithful" in time for Christmas. This is very exciting - it's one of the pieces I have always wanted to play. Obviously it would be better on a more powerful organ (the organ I might actually have to play it on makes mine look like a monster: Frankenstein's monster), but the notes are the same whatever one plays it on. Perhaps next year I shall have access to larger and more impressive organs...

On returning from church (via the supermarket, in which I was to buy margarine and tea bags, of which I managed to remember margarine), I huddled under a duvet in the front room and shivered until the heating came on. I then read for a few minutes, then went to sleep accidentally while HWSNBN cut up mushrooms and onions for the mushroom risotto. This meant that I didn't have to wash mushrooms or peel an onion, both of which are annoying jobs. It also meant that I got five minutes of sleep.

After dinner, I made soap. Alas, today it looks a little weird. I shall leave it for a few days to see how it behaves, but I suspect that I shall be making a replacement batch on Thursday. Fortunately, I only used half of the fragrance, so it won't be too much of a problem. I think that maybe I should have stirred it more.

So, as you can see, my day was fascinating and stimulating. I just know that you are wishing I posted this sooner so that you wouldn't have to wait so long for your almost-daily dose of excitement. What does one do when one's life is so exciting? How does one de-stress? Skydiving? Now there's a thought.*

Time for a shower. Then to bed, then to work. Repeat ad infinitum.

*Not a very good one, though.

Saturday, 25 October 2008


I went to the Lake District today, to visit Lydia, one of my friends, who has recently moved into a new house. The house itself is a lot nicer than mine (with the exception of its lack of double glazing and full plaster on walls); they have put a lot of effort into improving it, and it shows.

Alas, it had been raining enthusiastically for rather too many hours, and the roads in both directions (i.e. there and back) were scarcely passable in places. My valiant medium-sized car did an excellent job of not drowning (with aquaplaning on the faster roads). There was only one puddle that I didn't dare to traverse myself, and there were two extremely helpful men who let me turn off the engine and pushed me through to the other side. I was impressed, and also relieved - I really wasn't convinced my car was up to that.

Unfortunately, the long drive seems to have taken quite a lot out of me, and I am tired. Otherwise it would be faintly amusing; it has potential.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Back to normal

Robert and Anne have returned home, as has HWSNBN. All is as it was, with the exception of the bed settee in the spare room, which is holidaying in the Lake District.

HWSNBN has brought whisky back with him - Aberlour. Very nice.* I took the opportunity to finish off a couple of bottles of whisky in order to free up some space in the cocktail cabinet.** I have also evicted the two whisky bottles which were already empty (I get attached - they have really nice stoppers), thus ending up with a dining table which looks like I had an excessively good time, and enough space in the cocktail cabinet to - get this - fit everything in! Very pleasing.

Now I think it is time for bed. HWSNBN has gone already, and seems unhappy with my lateness to bed (I was bored waiting for him to be ready to go to bed (which he probably was already but didn't say anything) and started to compose this post), my pouring the water in which the sheets were soaking into the washing basin and not emptying it (it would have been easier for everyone if I had emptied it apparently. I did not see how doing extra work made it easier for me), and my demands that he arrange the following for me: some cheese; a cup of tea; taking my dirty dishes from my hand into the kitchen, four metres away; the Internet; something else, probably, which I have forgotten about.

Reading between the lines of my righteous indignation,*** it is clear that I am not always an easy person to live with. I just thought I'd put that in in case you were fond of reading between the lines, but did not want to put the effort in at that particular moment. Although it really isn't hard in this case. Sometimes, though, I feel that bloggers get more of the sympathy for a story because they are the ones who get to put their side forwards. Not that I am having a go at anyone here - it just seems to me that it can be hard to blog in a fair and balanced way. Perhaps part of the appeal is that it isn't entirely fair - you get a story rather than the facts. Perhaps by trying to be vaguely balanced I am, in fact, being more boring. People who enjoy reading vaguely well-thought-out**** ramblings written under the influence of more than 2 1/2 shots of whisky (over the course of an evening) should be happy with today's post, though. Sorry to any other randoms who happen to be reading. Or perhaps the ones who like this are the randoms. That seems to fit better.

Ah, but those accustomed to reading between lines may take the previous paragraph to be a cunning suggestion to make people believe that I am in the right, as I am displaying admirable balance in my reporting of boring, insignificant household incidents. It's a common thing often found when one analyses speech - put the counter argument in early yourself and it can't be used against you. Although I cannot definitively state that this is not the case (tricksy things, these subconsciousnesses), I reckon that it is not. Especially as I an getting rather late for bed; HWSNBN does have a point when he says I should be there (although he is probably too asleep to say that right now). Anyway, I have nearly finished my tea. Yes - that is something else I did wrong - I didn't go into town to buy tea bags tomorrow, preferring instead to visit my sofa bed in its holiday home (it's a working holiday, but a change is as good as a rest and all that) in the Lake District. Perhaps I will visit Lucy's in Ambleside, where they have an excellent selection of gluten-free things. Or perhaps I will not. The possibilities are endless.

Your task for today: what else did you spot while reading between the lines? That I am a little unreasonable and bitter does not count, nor are you permitted to use this paragraph as evidence. Also, my state of sobriety (which is actually mostly OK) is not, technically, between the lines. Distinctions, my dears. But, you know, keep the really brutal bits out of the comments ;-) In fact, to increase the success of this, it would be better if you did not comment at all. That way, when I get no comments I will know that this was a successful, well-received post. Crap - more stuff which sounds like emotional baggage but is actually just mild sarcasm. I give up.***** Night night, everyone.

*Although I haven't tried the new bottle - only the old bottle. I assume that they will be the same...

**Each one had less than a shot (25ml) in, so they were taking up more than their fair share of space.

***I love reading between the lines on other people's blogs - it can be very revealing. Unless I am just wrong, of course. In that case, it just feels as though it is very revealing.

****I hope.

*****"Thank goodness for that", I hear you say.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

How to be a guiding light

Yesterday evening was generally fun, with the exception of the tidying. I still hadn't finished when Robert and Anne turned up (haven't done so yet, for that matter), but there is floor visible everywhere in the house except my bedroom, where the clothes have conspired to take over my floor. I obviously did not put them away firmly enough: more training is required.

The pasta and sauce seemed to be appreciated. The piano practice I compelled Anne to do was not. Poor thing. She is just at that stage where she doesn't really know what is going on, but she seems likely to continue in that way unless Steps are taken to remedy the situation. We concentrated on counting, timing and getting the right notes, before moving on to "How do you find "f" on the keyboard?", followed by "Well, how do I find "f", then?" For your information, it is just to the left of (below) the three black notes. I am hoping that she will find it a lot easier when she knows how to find the notes. We will have another session tonight, and she should then be the best she has ever been for her lesson tomorrow. Also, she may hate me; although she still seemed to like me at the end of yesterday evening, she was throwing a few dark looks in my direction, and playing rebellious notes.

Naturally, being the good and responsible big sister that I am, and in no way jeopardising her sleep so that I can gain popularity as the cool big sister,* I got her to bed on time, which meant an early night for me, and for Robert (I think he must normally get to bed at 6am, judging by how late he gets up).

This morning, I discovered that Robert had decided that my drive was not a good place to park his car, despite my gallant second-choice parking space usage with my own car, and instead decided to park so that my next-door neighbour couldn't get out of his drive. The mind boggles. I moved his car onto my drive (it seems quite nice, but makes a funny noise when I start it, and doesn't really want to lock - maybe it was hoping I'd take it out for a run), at which point my lift arrived. I left Anne and Robert lying cosily in my lovely warm house** and went to work.

Work was noisy. The deconstruction work they are doing outside my window has entered an even louder phase (including a circular saw larger than I imagined could exist in the scariest of my dreams. This is the ride-on version. I actually swore when I saw it). It's a bit like having birdsong in the background, if the birds were large, mechanical and tuneless.

Over the lunch break, Rose asked if I would like to sing/play the organ at a Christmas carol service. Last year was apparently dire, with the organist not turning up to practise, and failing miserably with the whole keeping time thing. It looks like I may have the opportunity to fail in a similar way this year! Hooray! I had better break out "O Come all ye Faithful", and give it a bit of an airing.

Onwards! Things to do! Children to torment!*** Washing to put in the machine!

*I think I established in the previous paragraph that I do not always pander to her desires, which adds credence to my story.

**In beds, not dead/cluttering up the place, or anything.

***Well, one child, anyway.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Guess what

I stayed up until 1am, and the house still isn't tidy. Upstairs is a bit better (the bathroom sink is sparkling, and many clothes have been put away), but I shall have to be very efficient at tidying up when I get home from work this evening. Never mind - the adrenaline produced when there is little time normally makes for a more efficient tidying experience.

It will be pasta and sauce for dinner, this being Anne's favourite food.* Seriously - what is wrong with this child? Children should not be this easy to please. I do hope she stays this defective for ever! (Except for with her partners - they had jolly well better not just feed her pasta and sauce and buy her socks for her birthday. That's my prerogative.**)

I have just realised that there isn't much in the house for lunch for them I think it may be beans on toast, or a trip to the supermarket. That will be an adventure for them, though.

I think I may just have surpassed myself with boringness of blog entry. Once again, sorry about that.

*Which is, of course, the only reason I am cooking it. There is not even the merest hint of lack of effort on my part.

**I never realised it was spelled like that. This has implications for my pronunciation.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

The descent of Them

Tomorrow evening, Robert and Anne are coming to stay. Fun as this will be, the house is (surprise surprise) a bit of a pigsty, as I have only been home alone and conscious for about 3 1/2 hours since leaving it on Saturday, and I haven't quite got into the tidying thing yet. With them here, I suspect that I will continue to fail to tidy up, and HWSNBN will return to an untidy house missing some furniture (I haven't told him we're lending the upstairs bed settee to a friend for a couple of weeks).

However, this evening (in the half hour remaining to me), I must put the clean washing out, put the dry washing away, put some dirty washing into the machine, and some other stuff to soak, make my bed, tidy my bedroom floor, tidy the spare bedroom, tidy downstairs, do the washing up (what remains - I washed up until I ran out of space on the draining rack yesterday) and have a shower.

This is a familiar theme, and promises to be a recurring one. I rather suspect that about one in every twenty blog posts here will be on this theme. In fact, to save time I should probably just write a list of all of the things one can do in a house, and delete the two which I happen to have accomplished and will therefore not have to do. This will be boring for you, the reader, but then again, how much more boring can it get? Is this not the pinnacle of boring? Can one increase infinity by repeating it?

You may be wondering what the things I missed off the list because I have already done them happen to be. I know that I am. Anyone who can see a job which has been finished in this house gets a prize.* E-mail me with your answer. The things I can think of which aren't on the list are vacuuming (can't do that so late at night - it's not as though I have done it recently) and putting liners in the bins (I was being forgetful - I should do that, too). Ooh - the videos and DVDs are all nicely arranged, and my new soap cupboard is tidy on the inside! I feel better already.

Last time Anne came to stay, the spare bedroom was hideous. I shall avoid inflicting a similar situation on her tomorrow by putting Robert in there instead. It's not fair to deprive Anne of the TV until Robert gets out of bed. Anne can go in the front room. Maybe we'll make some soap. That would be both time consuming and useful.

Are you wondering when I will stop blogging and get on with the impossible task I have set for myself? Me too. It is with a heavy heart that I must leave you and go to wrestle with my duvet cover (I feel like last time and the time before when I blogged about this I had deja vu. People who have just read my archives are welcome to comment about whether or not I stated this both times).

*Predictable as this is, the prize may consist of the opportunity to tidy my house.

Monday, 20 October 2008

It is written! And sent off!

Thank goodness for that. Now I wait.

This weekend has been one of ups and downs. HWSNBN escaped to Foreign Parts again, in order that he might be lonely in a hotel room and do Technical Things to foreign computers. He appears to be approximately as happy with this as I would expect him to be, although I cannot rule out a degree of measurement error, insofar as expecting him to have a level of happiness may make me more likely to believe that he is that happy.

I had planned to buy birthday presents for Anne on Saturday, but had to cut my shopping trip short because I wasn't feeling well. Every time I tensed my abdominal muscles (which happens more often than I realised) it hurt. Walking fast uses abdominal muscles, so I slouched around for a while, trying to find the umbrella shop (defunct) or a pretty umbrella (was unsuccessful), before being escorted back to the car by Serena. I then went to sleep on the back seat while she went shopping. I must say, the Jazz is far more comfortable for this type of activity than the Seicento (my previous car) would have been. In fact, should I find myself homeless at any point, let's just say that there are worse cars I could have (i.e. most other cars which are not camper vans).

After my sleep I felt far more human, and we returned to Serena's house for dinner. After dinner, much to my surprise, I felt well enough to go to a party to which we had been invited.

I had not exactly been looking forward to this party; I was a little worried that it would be awkward, and that there would be no crisps that I could eat. Having already eaten dinner, the latter was not likely to be too much of a problem, but the former could make it a waste of an evening. However, I had promised to bring some fire lighting supplies for the back yard, and thought that I should at least make the effort.

Upon arrival, we made our way to the back yard, to be presented with a choice of a barbecue or a dustbin as a vessel for the fire. I expressed my doubts as to the suitability of the dustbin for lighting fires, as I was worried a fire was likely to suffocate itself without holes in the side, but I was overruled. I lined the dustbin with cardboard, put kindling (kindly donated by my next door neighbour) on top, then poured a small bottle of old cooking oil and salad dressing (with a little old garlic and vinegar - for that lovely sharp flavour, rather than because I failed to decant accurately, of course) over the lot, before putting some of the damp branches which made up the majority of the fuel over the top so that they would dry out then hopefully catch light. This was finished off with some alcohol offered to my by one of the hosts.

My first attempt at lighting it did not go well, and extinguished itself after a short while. The second time I tried, I must have approached it from a more advantageous angle, because a small inferno quickly ensued. I get the impression that I started a chip pan fire in this dustbin, and can heartily recommend this method to future pyromaniacs. We could hear the water in the damp wood boiling off, and it all dried out a treat, and burned as though it was created for such an event.

When this had been achieved, I went and got a drink, and was delighted to note that one of the hosts had made gluten-free pizza and brownies. Naturally, I couldn't let this go to waste, and forced some down, despite already having eaten.*

Alas, the evening was over** all too soon. I did not sleep well; I woke up two hours earlier than necessary, which did not please me.

Funnily enough, I was a little tired on Sunday. Church went well from the point of view of everyone who did not particularly want to use a data projector. Alas, I had promised to visit the Parents and Anne for a few hours in the evening, for Anne's birthday celebration. This entails three hours of driving (1 1/2 hours in each direction); not a good idea when overtired and feeling slightly ill. I also needed to go shopping in Liverpool on the way, in order to pick up some actual presents for Anne.

The journey was good, as was Liverpool. It really has improved of late; there are a couple of new, rather upmarket, malls*** containing many wonderful shops. I was able to buy a mug, some socks and an umbrella for Anne, to go with her Death Kitty hoodie. When I gave these to her, she seemed to appreciate the lot of them. It makes me a little sad to be writing this on the Internet, but my twelve-year-old sister is a freak who likes socks and household items, and deems them to be suitable, even exciting, birthday presents. I dread to think what she will appreciate when she is forty. I also hope that her friends do not pick up on this to the extent that she gets a lovely set of designer jars for her 21st birthday from them. Not that I would know about that. Anyway, I have never been particularly interested in socks.

Unfortunately, my parents decided that I was not well enough to drive myself home that evening, and there was nobody else who was going to do it. Fortunately, Louise is still away at University, so I got her bed. I lay across it diagonally, which is my favourite sleeping position, and was most disappointed to be awoken by the alarm clock. I made my way downstairs, said happy birthday to Anne (who was just preparing to go to Alton Towers for the day, with Robert), and had breakfast. Nana then came into the kitchen, so I chatted to her for a little bit. She pretends to understand more than she actually understands (I think it's partly a hearing issue, combined with not wanting to make people repeat things), and is getting more forgetful and vague, but it was great to see her.

Then I went to work, and stayed particularly late. Then I failed do some organ practice. Next, Postgrad group, then home, perhaps washing up, washing and bed.

Still not feeling right, but at least the headache's gone.

Happy birthday, Anne!

*Yes, forced. I am not a greedy, hungry person who can eat dinner and still have room for the same again. Honest. Stop looking at me like that!

**i.e. I was told it was time to return home

***What are these in English, rather than American? I feel a little stupid now.

Friday, 17 October 2008

I love it when a plan comes together

So. This letter. Well, it would appear that it has inched its way closer to completion today, after a massive session with my friend Roxy, who is good at That Sort Of Thing. At least, I assume it was a massive session - it went there on Monday and returned today bearing signs of having been mauled. I took the suggestions on board, tidied it up and printed it out.

I was just about to send it off when I stopped to think: it's Friday today. If I put it in the post now, it will be just the same as if I put it in the post on Monday. In the meantime, everyone will let me know what I have missed out, but I won't be able to do anything about it.

With this in mind, I shall take it to Serena to have a last poke at it tomorrow, and it can go off first thing Monday morning, only a week after I promised I would send it. That makes me look reasonably reliable, doesn't it?

I am feeling a lot happier with life in general. Heather assured me that if I took some B vitamins my life would improve, and that does indeed seem to be the case. Does this suggest that there may be some merit in eating a well-balanced diet?

The thing that worried me most about feeling better was the potential for me to lose momentum to escape from this rut in which I have become well and truly stuck. With this letter about to be sent off, I think that I will have enough momentum to cause some change or other to happen.

If my Cunning Plan of Escapefulness does not work out, I know that I must quickly write up my new, shorter research proposal and look for research assistant funding. I have a person with a record for publishing behind me, so my odds aren't zero.

If that falls through, I can try again for Departmental funding for my PhD next time round.

If that falls though, I can throw it all in and go to be a nun in France.* I like France.

Will keep you updated on Plan 1 - The One With The Letter. If it fails, I can certainly let on what I'm not going to do, and if it succeeds I should say nothing at all for fear of having my sacred anonymity well and truly blown (yes, I am going to be a spy. Bugger. I said too much).

*I may not yet have thought through all of the implications of this. I reserve the right to change this plan without prior notice.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008


I have just been reminded of one of my favourite childhood toys: Quadro. Take a look at it. Have a quick explore of the site. Isn't that the most exciting construction toy you could imagine if you were in primary school? It was for me.

I had years of fun making the structures in the booklet, and designing and making my own. Two I remember particularly were a fort (I think) on two levels, which stayed in my bedroom for ages, and a horse (with wheels, so that it could be ridden on). That also stayed made for a very long time. He wasn't exactly a comfortable ride (although I made him a saddle and bridle), nor was he self-propelled (I needed a cooperative friend to make him move), but he was better than no horse at all.

I made him a tail, too - that was wool. It was a bit stringy, but I didn't get the impression that he minded. I drew his eyes and nostrils on with water-soluble crayons. Can you imagine what he looked like? I imagine that you can not - I can't imagine what I would imagine a Quadro horse to look like had I not owned one in the past. Let me enlighten you - he was rather cube-like, with plenty of squareness thrown in for good measure. Enlightened?

One day my friend Anna and I went out with him for a walk. We took him down a particularly bumpy road (not good - he had casters for wheels; they did not like the uneven surface), then down a pavement (not good - he had casters for wheels; they did not like the edges of the paving stones), then to the grassy park (not good - he had casters for wheels; they sank in the mud, then got lots of mud and grass caught in them). All in all, he was declared to be a somewhat disobedient horse. I did get the chance to use my hoof pick on his wheels when the mud dried, though.

I wasn't going to tell you his name; I was profoundly bad at picking names. However, he brought me so much pleasure (I really wanted a horse) that it seems disloyal not to do so.* He was called Souvenir (Souvie for short). At least I spelled it right - more than can be said for Dillan the hobby horse and Messanger the rocking horse. And Texbook the dog.


Today is Louise's 21st birthday. It seems a little pointless to say "Happy Birthday" to her here, as she does not read this blog, but she may do one day - I should make sure this is futureproof. So happy birthday, Louise. Wishing you many years of happiness and a suitable, lucrative career and the opporunity to live with the man of your dreams in a lovely house in London. Oh, and a good degree in the meantime.

*It could be argued that dismantling him was also disloyal. Alas, he was old and in pain. It would have been cruel to make him carry on like that, and I had to make the difficult decision to let him go to a better place.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

The Cancer Debate!

I saw an advert on Dooce's blog:

"Join The Cancer Debate!
Do Aluminium and Parabens contained in cosmetics cause cancer?"

It's such a good idea to get people to debate this. A few hours of good debate and the answer to this question will be found. What medical research needs is more debating.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

It is written!

The letter, that is. Heather and I spent the afternoon on it, and I think that it may be ready to send out tomorrow with very little alteration!

That's all I have to say on that subject; it appears that giving one's post a title in haste is not necessarily the way forward. Sorry about that.

I went to visit the parents on Friday. As per usual, they fed me incredibly well. HWSNBN discovered a taste for whisky and ginger he didn't expect to have, and also for falling asleep upright, falling asleep on the sofa and falling asleep fully clothed on the bed. It would appear that he is not the most seasoned of whisky drinkers.

Nana may have turned into a cat; she is currently sleeping for about 20 hours per day (she did not drink any whisky to cause such an effect), only waking up to do what is necessary, including eating. She is not eating a massive amount, but sleeping in a warm room isn't exactly demanding of energy, and she does have a little in the way of fat reserves (although not on her legs. They are impressive. Sparrows would be jealous of their slenderness). Hopefully the sleeping is a sign of recovery rather than winding down. If it is a sign of winding down and she is feeling OK, well, there are worse ways to go.

Grandad's doctor of last weekend was probably wrong with his gloomy prognosis (i.e. only a couple of weeks left; cancer spread to the brain). They are now talking about maybe putting him on dialysis within about a year. He isn't a happy little teddy bear, though. I think that he may be thinking in terms of perhaps seeing some of his grandchildren for the last time (either that, or he is jealous of them, with their leaving of the hospital, and all that). I think he is being overly gloomy, and am unhappy having genetics likely to cause* that sort of thinking within me. See - it's all about me, me, me. Sorry - I digress. That was supposed to indicate that I am not blaming him for being depressed, but I don't think it came out that way. Ouch. Clumsy sentence. Clumsy paragraph.

Anyway, people often complain about mommyblogging; I appear to have started grandchildblogging. I think that, without great insight and wit, this may be much less interesting than mommyblogging (in which a reasonable amount of insight and wit tends to be required). Perhaps I should change my medium and talk about other things.

Yes, that is what I shall do. The grandparents can be considered to be in a fairly similar or better situation until I inform you otherwise. Now I know that you will all be on the edges of your seats, having been gripped by this saga. I am sorry if you are disappointed. I shall just have to write about other interesting things instead.

Now I have to do other interesting things. Like learn how to write.

*Facilitate? Increase the likelihood?

Thursday, 9 October 2008


Today has been a day of escapes, both attempted and successful. Nana is due to escape hospital tomorrow, having passed the "please walk up these stairs" test with flying colours.* Somebody escaped at work. I don't think anyone I know died.

Actually, it has hardly involved any escaping at all; it would appear that my escape preoccupation makes me a little preoccupied with the whole escape thing. Funny things, preoccupations. And yet I do not appear to be near to escaping. I'm scarcely getting any closer to attempting to do so.**

On the plus side, I have acquired a lovely little cabinet to put my soap-making supplies in. This will clear my current soap cupboard to take my climbing equipment and all of the assorted crap which sits in that corner of the front room. I should be able to bring it home on Monday, all being well. It has wheels, which are very important for items expected to sit still for years at a time. The cabinet is bad news for the little octagonal table made by HWSNBN's relative, which sits just where I want the cabinet to go. Actually, this table is protected by local bye-laws (is that how you spell it? If not, should I be modifying my spelling to conform to yours, or do you not know how to spell it either? This is a bit useless - in the age of the Internet, you'd have thought I would have the initiative to run a quick Google search. But I do not. Does that tell you anything interesting about me? Not really); otherwise it may have been removed many years ago. It is exceptionally useful for putting Christmas trees on, but just gets in the way most of the rest of the time.

The other good news is that I get to stay in Louise's bed tomorrow night. This is good because I think the parents prefer her to me; they showed their love by buying her a rather superior bed. I believe that they are also putting the heating on in anticipation of my visit. I should really be going to Louise's 21st birthday party in London instead, but I am not. Hey - I don't even have the initiative to perform a Google search - what chance do I have trying to find free accommodation in London? I shall wish her a happy birthday from afar. I'm not on the guest list, anyway.****

I still don't know who is vicaring***** on Sunday, nor who is choosing the hymns. I meant to get onto that today (and yesterday), but was too busy. I better hadn't be too busy tomorrow, or I shall have a very stressful time on Sunday morning. Also embarrassing, when they realise that practice doesn't actually improve my playing at all, and I may as well just sightread the whole lot. Actually, they may have worked that out already.

*She asked if they'd like her to walk up another flight.

**No, this is not some sort of suicide metaphor.*** That would be stupid. Is it bad that I thought that it looked like one? Whatever. Face? Bovvered?

***Or even non-metaphor. Leave me alone - I'm tired.

****Because I didn't say I was coming. Nothing sinister.

*****My spell-checker seems to think that this is a real world. This makes me sad - I thought that it was one of mine. Does it mean what I want it to mean, I wonder? Is it a neo-thingummy? Oh, but Blogger does not think that it is a word. Vi caring is, apparently. Well, two words. Whatever.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Slow race to the death (kitty)

It would appear that my grandparents have both become a little competitive about the dying (or frightening relatives, anyway) thing. Although Grandad beat Nana into hospital this time round, she scored extra points for being more spectacular and needing an ambulance. Also for convincing Mother and her sister that she was a goner. Again.

I suppose that this is as appropriate a point as any to explain to whom my grandparents belong, and to provide a little bit of background. Grandad is Daddy's dad, and Nana is Mummy's mum. They do not like each other very much. I think that Grandad probably started it by not liking Nana, and she mostly doesn't care much. I think it goes without saying at this point that they do not live together (sometimes people ask me).

Nana has three children, Uncle Tickle, my mum, and Anna. Grandad has four children,* Alistair, Daddy, Petra and Amelie. Both grandparents live locally,** as do my parents, Anna and, to an extent, Petra. Thomas*** is not very local, and Tickle and Amelie live very far away indeed.

Anyway, yesterday evening Nana had a seizure, and was rushed into hospital. Apparently she is well now. I think that they mean that they cannot find anything specifically wrong with her. Elizabeth, you might be interested to hear that she managed a blood pressure of 169/35 in the ambulance. I know that you can come up with something more spectacular in a heartbeat (groan), but you have to give her some credit for trying.

Grandad is apparently having difficulty finding a ward. His kidneys are doing their thing (for a change) so the renal people don't want him. I forget who else was involved. He is apparently getting rather weak.

So, it is rather a tense time with both grandparents. I shall be visiting them this weekend. Hopefully Nana will be out of hospital (she was due out today, but there was an incident), and will be at my parents', or at Anna's. Grandad will be in hospital.

Based on past performance, Nana is very miserable, and probably wants to die. She hates getting old because of the discomfort and indignities that come with it. When she had a stroke a few months back it seemed as though she would manage an oblivious death, without ever working out what had happened. She had a great evening before the stroke, and it would have been about as easy a death as one can expect. I do hope I didn't give her the cough which has made her so ill.

Based on past performance, Grandad is very miserable and wants to be better. I wish he didn't think that it was something he did which made him ill. That is not a happy place to be in. So much regret and resentment.

Now I prepare to be lambasted for my insensitivity. And also to find out what lambasted means. Too late - looked it up. I used it appropriately. Yay for me.

To compound matters in a small and insignificant way, I have just received the hoodie I bought off e-bay for Anne. What I thought was a tag on the front saying "Death Kitty" turns out to be part of the design. I have bought, for a nearly 12-year-old who is probably about to face death for the first time, a hoodie with the word "Death" on the front. In bold. With a large kitty skull and crossbones above it.

Looking at the photo now, I feel exceptionally stupid; it is very obvious. Not as obvious as when it arrives and you face the thing, though. Hmm - I will have to put some thought into that. I may buy a Jack Skellington patch to sew over it. Or Iron it aggressively for a bit. Or buy her an umbrella instead.

*In case you didn't realise, all names except for my own are anonymised on here, as I didn't ask anyone's permission. Alas, I just ran out of both inspiration about fake names and the capacity to remember what I called everyone. Any new names from this point onwards are subject to being altered without warning, possibly in a confusing way. I shall certainly be confused.

**Yes, there. Not local to me, mind you - local to them.

***See - I'm confused already - I meant Alistair. I wasn't even proof reading it and I caught that error. This does not bode well.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Busy day

No news on Anne or Grandad - HWSNBN has yet to sort out the phone (we just lost free land line calls, but have better Internet. Apparently) so that I can call people cheaply. Mother promised to call me later this week. I suspect that Anne is fine today, but Grandad is not. I would be interested to know where they are keeping Nana - she has been supervised pretty much constantly for the past couple of weeks, mostly at her house, but I suspect that Mother is back at work this week. Robert is probably on Nana-sitting duty.

I went to register with my new doctor today. I think the nurse with whom I registered was a little alarmed at all of the small things that are wrong with me. I am to see the doctor on Monday morning. I wonder exactly what I am supposed to be seeing him about, though. Is it the gluten intolerance (and associated crap diet), the ongoing asthma investigations, or the questions being raised as to the viability of my contraception? It can't be the weird itchy legs (kept under control by never shaving and eating six evening primrose capsules each day, except for this evening, when it has most certainly not been under control); I didn't get round to mentioning that. I don't think I alarmed her with my alcohol intake, although my total lack of exercise for the past few weeks is apparently not good. I may be going climbing on Thursday, though. It's such a pity I have a vicious paper cut on my finger - mixing that with chalk will be uncomfortable.

I appear to be a little bit of a mess at the moment.

I also failed to find the motivation to make dinner (the main reason my diet is so crap - lack of motivation). HWSNBN made us beans on toast (fake toast for me). I then fell asleep in front of the TV for 2 1/2 hours (HWSNBN was watching the TV and I was lying in front of him while he stroked my head. Life doesn't really get much more perfect than that), and woke up feeling refreshed. I made pancakes, which I was kind enough to share with HWSNBN. They were good. I have two left over for breakfast, which will be a welcome treat. I have to be at work on time tomorrow; an unusual occurrence, which happens mercifully infrequently, and nearly always results in no breakfast for me.

Work tomorrow promises to be interesting - it is my favourite day of the work year. I will be fed a delicious, nutritious lunch, and will get to talk to the people with whom I will be working until I escape. I hope.* I shall do very little of any value in the afternoon,** and shall go to Serena's house afterwards for my tea. That will also be relatively nutritious. I predict fake pasta with a really interesting sauce - she knows how I feel about soup at the moment. We may do something about that letter.

And now to bed. I hope I get to sleep quickly - the thing I hate about falling asleep so close to bed time is that it often takes far too long to get to sleep again. I should have just had an early night. Damn me and my weakness.

Oh, and apologies for the boring entry. One day it will improve. I know, I say that all the time, and so far it only seems to have got worse, but it will, I promise.***

*i.e. I hope that I don't have to stay there so long that a whole new lot of people arrive. That would be bad.

**Perhaps not strictly true - it may well be valuable, but it will not be particularly difficult, nor will it take much effort.

***I don't really promise. Sorry. I would like to do so, and I do think it will get better, but I think that promising was a bit rash, really. My funny died.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Life just got more interesting...

I had a lovely evening yesterday. It was Serena's birthday outing, and so we went out.

I also had a lovely day. HWSNBN was a bit cold, so he put the central heating on.* He then oiled the bathroom window so that it would shut. He also brought me a cup of tea in bed. I stayed in bed for a while and finished off a book I was reading. I'm not really sure what I was supposed to have got out of it - either something about how you shouldn't wait around for happiness/redemption, but should go out and grasp life, or that even when life is crap and it's partly your fault you can still act with grace and die alone. And the nuns will think you're great.

I then had a shower and luxuriated in the warmth downstairs for a few hours, before finally starting to make the rest of Serena's birthday presents. Unfortunately, I was a little too relaxed, and managed to leave the house about 10 minutes after I was due to arrive at Serena's house, which meant that I was 45 minutes late. Nonetheless, we made it to the Chinese restaurant in plenty of time (they had a table which wouldn't be available for long, which suited us perfectly).

After dinner, we popped into a bar for a quick drink, then went to the theatre to see Jeremy Hardy. He was very good, and seemed nice and moderate. Very Radio 4. He also catered for us younger members of the audience with a quick game of peek-a-boo. I admit that I was indeed a bit frightened at first, but that I did find it more funny when I realised he hadn't actually disappeared.

Afterwards we returned to Serena's house for a cup of tea, and I stayed there overnight. Her sleeping bag is my new best friend - I have never encountered such a fluffy, friendly sleeping bag before.

Today, after church, Heather and I went out for a drive, some lunch and a quick walk. The weather was great - sunny and warm (in contrast to church - it was incredibly cold. The nuns are on holiday and nobody could get into the office to turn the heating on. Brrrr). Lunch was tasty - dessert was meringue with brandy cherries and cream. Unfortunately, I drank far, far too much tea and rather embarrassed myself with my tiny bladder capacity. I think that it may have been somewhat similar to taking a 2-year-old in the middle of potty training for a walk. I may not be invited again.

Afterwards, I returned home to be met with the news that Grandad's cancer (?!?) is getting worse and that he has about two weeks to live. I was supposed to hear this news from my mother, but she left home about an hour before I called to take my baby sister Anne to the hospital because she has a really bad headache. I am hoping that it is a "The doctor is not open so we will go to the hospital" rather than an "Oh shit" visit; I daresay I shall find out when they return and Mummy calls me.

I did get to speak to Robert, my brother, though. He is hungover, having been to Liverpool yesterday night. Apparently he enjoyed himself. He says that Nana, who has been rather ill with what seems to be the cough which stopped me from breathing properly, is asleep on their settee, has been eating, and is giving the appearance of being compos mentis, which is excellent news. Nana is much more friendly and amenable than Grandad, which means that if the natural laws are obeyed she should live much less long than Grandad. When I was told to call Mother, I thought that it would be bad news about her.

I am feeling slightly like a bad person - I know that I should have been a better granddaughter to Grandad. I also know that he should have been a better Grandad (see how I deflect the blame from myself ever so neatly?). Alas, I am not a boy, I went to a crap university (twice) and I got a 2:2, so I'm not worth remembering really. I shall not justify myself here - it always comes out so defensive (funnily enough).

I am quite frightened of having to visit him. I am afraid of people vomiting, and am worried that he will do so. Or somebody else on his ward might do so. That would be frightening. I need to grow up, really. Being frightened of spiders or needles would be so much more socially acceptable. It wouldn't have helped much with my multiple spider attack in the shower yesterday, though. Massive great hairy things! I thought it was the same one back again the second time, but HWSNBN assures me that there were two. When I thought about it, the second one was slightly smaller and may have had hairier legs. Naturally, as they were so big, they were easy to handle. I shall say no more.

I am worried about Anne, too. I don't like my baby sister going to the hospital (not that it has happened before - it's usually me with a broken bit of anatomy), and hospital-worthy headaches make me uneasy. It's probably just a migraine - she's at about the right age. That means that she will probably just be condemned to multiple episodes of excruciating pain for a few years, and banned from taking the pill forever. Well, there are worse things. There are better things, too.

As I appear to have mentioned everyone else I ever met, I should also say that Louise has been dropped off at university. She is in what promises to be an excellent room this year. I must visit some time...

So there we go. An only slightly ranty account of what I have been up to. There was more, but I think that this is enough. The more was less important, and possibly also less interesting, although I was interested.

UPDATE: Anne has returned from the hospital - apparently it was a migraine. She is now feeling better. Also, it is reputed that 60% of men get prostate cancer, and they reckon that Grandad is one of them...

*This is a bad sign in terms of habitability - he doesn't usually get cold. When he decides to put the heating on, I know that I was better off in bed than out of it. Did that make sense?

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Dubious roasted butternut squash soup with ginger and smoked paprika

I promised to make soup for some people this week, and today I got round to it. If only I had read the recipe before requesting the ingredients...

I had about 2kg of butternut squash, which is OK for about 10 people. Unfortunately, I needed to do soup for about 20. Had I read the recipe I could have requested more - as it is, I used extra fried onions and a bit too much liquid. It may be less filling than usual.

The squash itself tasted really weird when it came out of the oven - I did not think I could produce anything worth eating out of it. However, with careful seasoning (smoked sweet paprika can be miraculous), it seems to taste OK.

Oh dear. This blog is turning into a chronicle of the wonderful, wholesome crafts I have produced, along with too few instructions to be helpful. All I need is a more homely design and some photographs and I am set. What makes me more uncomfortable is that this has become a theme so quickly, and that I have scarcely even started making Christmas presents - it may well get worse.

I think that this is evidence of how deep a rut I have got myself into. Additionally, my lung capacity has ceased to improve; it has actually started to deprove a bit. I am wary of racing up any climbing walls until that sorts itself out* - I have no desire to leave in an ambulance.

Also, I do not have a life, so there is nothing else to talk about. Tomorrow you may hear about the conditioner I made.** Today I am going to tell you about my new soap. Not the really interesting one, which did set after all, but is the most playdough-like soap I have ever met and will undoubtedly warp like a yoga teacher*** on its way to drydom. No - today I made paprika soap.

The idea behind it is that it is both impressively coloured and exfoliates gently. No doubt it will also change the water into interesting colours ("Help! She's been murdered!") and leave a nasty sediment on the bottom of the bath. Mother wonders if it will turn people's faces red. I wonder if anyone still washes their face with soap. She assures me that she and Nana do. I assure her that they will not be getting any of my paprika soap. She says that red is a bit of a stupid colour for a soap anyway.

It may also smell a little dodgy - paprika is not a classic soap scent. I also added ground cinnamon, coriander seed and cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla scent, honey powder and shea and cocoa butter. So far it smells great (which is an achievement for any soap containing either of those fragrances - they really ming. I was counting on them ageing well), but we shall see... Additionally, it may be brown rather than red. I think that if I call it red I may be able to convince people; if I do not, they might make up their own minds, which I do not want happening.

I really should go into advertising - I can see a dazzling future for me.

So that is waiting to set and be cut, which will happen tomorrow evening. I am very interested to see what colour it goes when it is cool, set and dry. I'm sure that you are, too. If I were to upload photos of it, you would be able to see. I think that my camera charger is in my spare room...

*Sometimes the routes are easy; it is anathema to me to climb them slowly. I have to climb them faster than everyone else, so that I win.

**I may have got my tenses mixed up a little here: I will have made it tomorrow.

***Or I could leave the creative similes until I am awake.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008


It being Serena's birthday today, I got to work making presents for her. I am nothing if not organised.

I took away some old nettle tea from her house yesterday, which I used as the base for a rather interesting soap.* The idea behind this is that nettle tea is soothing,** and some of its properties should be present in the soap. To complement this I used a variety of different oils which are also reputed to be gentle on the skin, one which imparts structural integrity and lather to soaps, and a load of additives (butter powder and some clays) to just generally make it better. More is more, and all that.

Alas,*** the soap did funny and weird things. I think that I used too much coconut oil, but can't see how that could have caused so much weirdness. I added extra water and lye and it seemed to settle down. I did forget to cook it for a long time to evaporate of the extra water, though, and now it is a little more sloppy than I would expect a soap to be.**** It needs to be ready on Saturday if I am to give it to Serena for her birthday. I may yet be making another soap.

Ha! What am I talking about? I am so going to make another soap. I saw one which used paprika as both a colourant and an exfoliant, and I have to try that out. I may also make a daffodil one. As I am fast running out of many oils, I shall probably use a lot of corn and olive oils. They are readily available around here.

I also made all sorts of other goodies: exfoliant body butter bars, two different types of face cleansers and a solid moisturiser bar which is water-soluble - the idea behind this is that it doesn't need any preservative as it contains no water, but it still turns into moisturiser when it does get wet. I saved so much money compared to what I would have paid buying similar products from an actual shop.*****

Next I must work on packaging. Also, I must make some conditioner. This may not keep well, so I shall do it tomorrow or Friday. HWSNBN will not be impressed with the kitchen being less than perfect a few days on the run.

He actually made dinner today. I came home to the smell of cottage pie cooking. It was very tasty. There is even enough left over for lunch tomorrow. I am very excited that there is no need for me to have soup for lunch tomorrow. Seriously.

Wow; such sentence structure. Could I have written that previous paragraph any better? Not if I were six years old, that's for sure.

*I am using "interesting" as an euphemism for "worrying".

**Unless you have to drink it. Drinking nettle tea is most assuredly not soothing.

***I think that this might be my favourite word.

****I would not expect a soap to be sloppy. Viscous is as wet as I will accept.

*****I did also buy her a necklace which I believe she has a high probability of liking rather a lot. This came from an actual shop. I am not a total cheapskate. Sometimes it costs more to make things than to buy them. When I realise that, I feel silly.