There’s a hole in my bucket

I really don’t think holidays suit me, or I don’t suit them. So, we continue. This is not for the squeamish, so if you should be that way inclined. I would advise you not to read on.

Andrew looked again at the instructions.
I stared at the house. This cannot be it, I kept repeating to myself. A large coalscuttle stood outside the door with an old bucket on top.
‘It says the key is under a bucket,’ Andrew says walking towards the only one we can see. I pray hard there will not be a key there. There is. He holds it up and I hold back my tears.
I hesitantly follow Andrew into the house, cursing all the time.
‘This is not how it looked on the web page.’ I mutter.
We walk straight into a fairly modern kitchen.
‘This looks ok,’ observes Andrew.
We head along to the lounge which looks like the lounge of a retirement home. Old-fashioned paintings line the wall and a large sideboard with a broken glass pane is full of old books and the place smells of dogs. I feel faint.
‘Just wait until I contact that woman,’ I snarl.
Andrew silently goes in search of the stalker, I follow, constantly tripping on the pebbled driveway in my sandals and curse again. I tell myself all will be well. Someone in the house next door will tell us we have the wrong ‘East Cottage’ and direct us further along to the Estate. I am in a state of denial about the key being under the bucket of course.
‘What about the lamb?’ I ask. Somehow I feel responsible for the injured lamb on the roadway.
No response. I guess he is not in a shepherd mood.
‘I am going home I bet there isn’t even Internet connection here. Just try and see. I want to look at the web page again,’ I demand. ‘Didn’t we insist on internet connection?’
I can see Andrew is getting irritated now. I force myself to be reasonable and tell myself all well be well in a few days when my period starts.
‘Well, if you want to drive another 14 hours you can go home. I am staying.’ He states firmly.
First day of our holiday and our first row, great!
‘Well just wait until I see this stalker,’ I retort falling over the stones and twisting my ankle.
The front door seems to be round the back, or we are round the back and have to go round to the front, the whole place is a muddle to me. I march ahead of Andrew and walk straight into two meowing cats. I have to admit they are cute but I ignore them, I have no time for animals right now. I turn the corner and collide with a black sheep who begins to chew at my new skirt.
‘No! Andrew do something’ I scream.
By now the black sheep has chewed a hole in my skirt and is bleating away contentedly. My god, am I in some kind of nightmare? I am supposed to be on a holiday on a wonderful estate with a beautiful Brideshead revisited driveway and instead I look like a dishevelled character out of a Dickens novel with a bleating lamb chomping away at my skirt and now the damn midges are biting me to bits. It is beginning to resemble a horror movie. I feel this more acutely when the stalker opens the door and confirms we are in the right place. I slap my face – not to shake me out of shock, but to kill a midge you understand while fighting off the black sheep with my other hand.
‘Right, I am checking this,’ I snap, and storm back into the house and start up my net book
‘Look, see no internet connection.’ I say triumphantly.
I receive another ‘pull yourself’ together look from Andrew before he returns to the stalker for a passkey. I follow.
‘Oh aye, no problem Mr Cook. Anything else I can help you with, it’s no wee problem’
No Wee problem? No wee problem? Oh, I despair. Does Andrew say we are not happy? No. Does he say things are not quite as we expected? No. What he does ask however, is how he should go about booking Clay pigeon shooting. I march back to the house with the passkey and of course log on straight away. We both stare transfixed at the photos. How can this be? It is the same place. Did they airbrush them or something? The old fashioned paintings everywhere cannot be seen in the pictures, or the broken dresser full of pointless books. The whole place smells of dogs. I feel faint.
It was equipped with everything it said it should have. A large sheet of paper lays on the coffee table and we glance at it to realise it is an inventory of everything in the house from beds to kitchen sink! I look around for the TV and DVD player and finally spot it in the corner. The screen is 12inch! Believe me, with my eyesight that is useless. We both check the inventory for a microscope. My laptop is bigger than the TV. I begin to cry again.
‘I cannot face going upstairs,’ I sob, ‘I will complain and demand my money back.’
Andrew calmly sits me down.
‘We have everything here that is stated on the web page. There is nothing you can do. I agree it is disappointing, but there is a TV, a well equipped kitchen, heating, Internet connection. Even the black sheep of the family greeted you, come on, make the best of it.’
Thoughts of watching my new series DVD of ‘24’ on the tiny TV made my heart sink.
Miserably I unpacked, resigned to the fact that there was no great estate. The only consolation I had was that the next day my car was being collected and at least that would be fixed.
It takes me a while to realise that the only bathroom is on the ground floor. I mean I know it stays light for a long time in Scotland but by the time I have travelled downstairs, done what needs to be done, in a bright bathroom, and finally made my way back to bed I will be wide awake.
‘We need the bucket,’
Andrew stares at me.
‘You are joking?’
I assure him I am not.
He retrieves the bucket with a smile on his face.
‘I don’t think so, there is a hole in the bucket’
Oh for god’s sake.
Exhausted, we retreat to bed only to find the curtains are so flimsy it is like sleeping in the daytime. We get up and spend half and hour finding black bin bags to cover the windows. At last back to bed.
I tell myself in the silence, between Andrews’s snores, to relax. I mean, things cannot get any worse.
Oh, if I had only known…

To be continued.

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Lamb Hotpot

The holiday (part one)

So, finally here we are, ‘On our holiday’ as people tend to say. Although I am not sure how I can be ‘on’ a holiday. I can be having one, yes, but ‘on one’ sounds mildly odd to say the least.
Are they everything they are cracked up to be these holidays?
Well, frankly the first two days were so stressful, I needed a holiday to get over the holiday and I haven’t been here a week. But, already I digress.
We left in good spirits. That is a lie really. I left quite depressed actually, knowing my car would be repaired while I was away so it would pass the MOT and I already knew it would cost almost £800.
Early Saturday morning we packed everything into Andrew’s car and I drove my car to my stepson, so he could use it for the entire two weeks. We left a detailed note. You know the kind of thing, how to feed cat, where to put cat at night, where cat food was when to treat cat to milk, along with more boring cat details. I still worry we may go home to a house minus one cat. Another note reminding him to leave the keys in the car as the garage was to collect it on the Monday. I told my lovely, elderly neighbour my stepson would be there and she seemed relieved. We had everything organised-I thought!
The journey was long but Andrew fell madly in love with his car and constantly reiterated this fact.
‘I love this car, I just love it’ he enthused. ‘Can you believe we have done 350 miles on just 20 pounds of diesel?’
I attempt my best amazed look while deep down hating him and his ever efficient car while my useless one cannot even pass the MOT without a re-mortgage on the house.
We spend a lovely afternoon and the night with family at their Tree house home, which they proudly announce is featured in ‘Ideal Home’ magazine. I am dead impressed and buy a copy the next day. We hug, kiss goodbye and off we go. We are off to a wonderful place. It is an estate in fact, and there is a stalker to take us around. I am very excited. It sounds a bit like Blenheim palace, and we are to stay in East cottage next door to the Stalker. I check all the details on the way there and anxiety punches me in the stomach. The lodge sounds big, so big in fact that they add all kinds of links for caterers and bands that visions of loud parties every night start to haunt me. Oh no, I so need this break. I voice my fears and get a
‘You’re not in panic mode again are you?’ look from Andrew.
So I desist any further and keep them to myself. I feel grateful I have brought earplugs. I then tell myself the estate will be so large that we probably wont even hear the rich revellers. I calm down and enjoy the sights, which are truly beautiful and quite breath-taking. The whole journey took close on 15 hours so I am relieved we had an overnight stop.
Andrew tells me we are getting near. I grab the instructions, which are complicated to put it mildly. There are five pages of them. One, of course, dedicated to the catering and disco arrangements for the Lodge. The others giving full details of all the activities one can do on the estate. Example for a fee of £70 we can go deer stalking and the Stalker only asks for a tip of £50. £50! I spluttered as I gulped back some water when reading this and Andrew gives me a funny look. One day out on an estate could cost us £100 and it adds in small print they do not guarantee that you see anything, great. We can go fishing too, providing the revellers at the lodge have not gone off with the rowing boat .Oh well…
‘Congratulations, you have reached your destination,’ Tom Tom announces.
We are on a main road and seemingly in the middle of nowhere. I strain my neck to see a building resembling Blenheim Palace. I am not obsessed with the place you understand, we just live near it. So I am fully qualified to spot a lodge when I see one. It is still very light, in fact I have learnt that darkness barely exists here in Scotland this time of year, and I clearly can see there is no said lodge anywhere in sight.
‘That is the problem with postcodes,’ Andrew says cheerfully. ‘I expect it is a lot further on so keep your eyes peeled.’
To study the map, we had quickly pulled into the driveway of an empty gothic style dilapidated house, which was very reminiscent of Mary Shelly’s novel. After a good look we decided to continue on a bit further although Andrew felt we were quite near. I should add at this point, even though it may seem irrelevant, but believe me later you will see it is not, that I am just a wee (note, accent slips in) bit pre menstrual.
So, we drive on until Andrew realises we must have missed it. I attempt to reassure him that is impossible. I know an estate when I see one. It has to be big. Our own cottage alone has two bedrooms, television, DVD player, and large kitchen with all mod cons, large lounge. He agrees and we continue on until we both accept we must have missed it. We turn around and head back.
‘Look out for the bend in the round and the concealed entrance sign,’ Andrew orders.
I keep my eyes peeled and then suddenly I see the sign.
‘There,’ I shout. ‘After the bend you turn left for the Lodge and right for our cottage.’
He turns left and we are sitting outside the dilapidated house again.
‘This is crazy, where is the place’ I say irritation building up along with the tears.
Then I see the sign ‘Glencarron Lodge’ What! Is this a joke? Where is the ‘Brideshead revisited’ drive? Come to that, where is the Lodge? Where are the revellers?
‘This is not it,’ I say disbelieving, ‘Where is the estate?’
‘No worries about parties here then,’ jokes Andrew.
Oh my god, if this is the Lodge, what does East Cottage look like?
I am now very close to tears and struggling to keep them at bay. Andrew takes the car slightly along the road and there is the sign for East cottage. A cottage on the main road! Oh this was not in the photos on the web page. We pull up outside what looks like a dilapidated farmhouse. Twenty years overdue for a coat of paint.
Andrew is trying to calm me down.
‘Let me just talk to the Stalker.’
‘No, I will talk to the damn Stalker,’ I retort in a pre menstrual tone,
Andrew sighs.
‘Let’s have a look inside and get unpacked,’ he responds in a reasonable tone.
A range rover suddenly zooms up the drive with great urgency. The worried driver opens his window and calls Andrew over.
‘There is a lamb with a broken leg in the lay by, are you the Shepherd?’.
‘Do I look like a shepherd?’
I begin to cry. The man drives off happily confident in the assurance the baby lamb will be taken care of post haste. I now am beside myself. I have a lamb stuck on the road, no stalker to be seen and I have not even seen inside the cottage.
‘What’s for dinner?’
I cry again.
‘Lamb hotpot’ I sob.

‘To be continued’

Holiday agony with only two sleeps to go.

I am sitting in the summer-house, struggling to stay awake. Is this a sign of old age I ask myself? No, it is the heat, whispers an inner voice. It is 28 degrees in my summer-house so I suppose I can be forgiven for dozing off. I have also just packed for the holiday and the stress and effort behind that is reason enough on its own to have a holiday and maybe a quick nap. I have made a strong coffee and turned on Zucherro as loudly as one can in such a small village. I really am not in the mood to discuss with the parish council another complaint from old Mrs Williams who does not appreciate my taste in music.
At least the packing is done, well mine anyway. But isn’t it just so hard to pack? How is one supposed to know what to take, and what to leave behind?
My lemon skirt for instance goes so well with the light brown cardigan I recently bought that I had to pack it, but then I realise the cardigan will never go with my black skirt, so I had to pack a cardigan and several tops to match that skirt. Andrew said it may be cold in Scotland, but how cold? Will my shawl be enough? I spend almost fifteen minutes debating which jumper I should take and eventually throw them all in. Better safe than sorry. Then, of course I must have leggings, and some tops look better with leggings don’t they? I am sure all ladies reading this will know what I mean. So I throw in an assortment of tops to match my leggings. Then there are the jeans. I have certain tops that look great with them and show my arse at its best. I cannot decide so again throw more tops in. Finally, I need some decent dresses, just in case my lovely hubby should take me out somewhere really nice for dinner. I pack three to be on the safe side and then all my undies. I suddenly realise the case is full and Andrew has yet to pack. Thank god we have another suitcase. I still have loads to pack yet. I cannot decide which book to take. Chick lit so I can just relax, or something heavier as I never get time to read those except when on holiday? Eventually I throw in eight books. Well, I don’t want to go buying more do I? Better to have a choice, I think. I take a quick glance at the checklist and run downstairs for the most important thing of all. Oh, I bet you are guessing Camera? netbook? No, far more important. My new DVD, Series 7 of “24”. A holiday without Jack Bauer, just would not be a holiday would it? A quick break for lunch and back again to the suitcase which is brimming over with my entire wardrobe. I suddenly remember I have to pack pills! I find a small space at the bottom of the case and then rummage through the bathroom cabinet. Ok, painkillers for my neck, my thyroid pills, anti histamine for when I become allergic to thyroid pills, which has been known to happen. Beta blockers should my heart race with the thyroid issue, a different painkiller for my occasional back pain. Most importantly, of course my HRT, after all with my history of knives (don’t ask) this is a very important one. Migraine pills, just in case. Ear plugs (Andrew’s snoring, say no more). Oh, and of course it is that time of the month, so all that paraphernalia has to be packed. Then I remember the hair dryer and the iron. (Andrew always tells me both will be there and twice Andrew has been wrong, I have decided there will not be a third time. Oh, I am very wise). Back upstairs and I see I need another bag and I have not even packed the iron yet or the hairdryer. Time for a rest. Then, the phone rings. It is a magazine, finally wanting to do a story I submitted a year ago, all because something happened with Jude Law… Please don’t ask. They want to do the feature before I go away, and now say they want photos. Oh well, out comes the suitcase, now where is that nice striped top and the black skirt. Time for a doze? I do not think so. Time for a holiday? I think without doubt, yes. Only two sleeps to go, as they say.

Pass the Valium

The phone rings, the number lights up and I see it is the garage. My heart almost stops and I hold my breath. Dare I answer it? I tell myself be calm. But why is it I do not feel it?
In just over two days we are supposed to be travelling to Scotland for a restful two weeks while my stepson takes care of the cat, house and the internet server, the latter it seems is so important that our whole holiday has been planned around it. What is it? I have no real idea, except that it is connected in some way to my husband’s business and should there be a power cut-god forbid, the whole world may come to an end.
This is our first holiday alone. In so much as it isn’t connected to one of his children’s weddings, or the birth of one of their children of which there seem to be aplenty these days. No, this is two weeks away, without any hassle of flights, in the heart of the highlands. I cannot help wonder why we seem destined not to be blessed with a simple holiday without the added burden of some hassle to go with it? You are probably thinking what is this hassle she is so hung up about?
The hassle is the stupid server. This thing is so important, that when I was googling cottages in Scotland I had to revise my search to cottages in Scotland with internet connection, which severely reduced my choice from two hundred cottages to six. Of course, if we didn’t have the stupid thing Hubby’s son would not have to house sit and reset it, should we have, this so-called power cut.
I could simply ask my neighbour to feed the cat, and I could clean the house before we leave feeling secure knowing that it would stay that way.
You are probably wondering what this has to do with the garage phoning as I have digressed somewhat.
The stupid server is why I put my car in for it’s MOT today.
So, if it wasn’t for this stupid inane thing that sits in my husband’s office, I would be settling off on saturday without a care in the world. But can I? Oh no!
The stepson needs a car to get about if he is to stay here. After all, we do live out in the sticks and Hubby prefers to take his car on the holiday, so that leaves my car at home. Last week I, or I should say he, realised the MOT was due. I really do not have a clue about cars, insurance, MOT’s or anything else. I am totally blonde in that area and proud of it.
I mean, I could simply have left them to collect the car while I was away. No stress, no hassle. Oh no, now we could not have a life without hassle could we? Andrew says get it done now so it is fine for his son. I am already feeling stressed about the holiday and we have not even left yet. I am trying to keep on top of the washing, make lists for what we need as well as make sure everything is right for stepson. I even tried to organise the car insurance for him as Andrew is almost unreachable during the day aside from receiving emails.
Today, they took the car and just phoned with the result. It failed of course, I mean when do they ever pass the damn thing? Then he told me the problems my car had. The list seemed endless and all of which meant nothing to me but the cost registered very quickly and had me flat on the floor for some minutes and of course, I cannot phone hubby for advice. I have to stress myself by sending texts and emails asking him to try and find a way to phone me as the car is going to cost £800. Amazingly he phones me. I am at a loss. The son needs it, he needs the son, the server needs the son. I just need a bloody holiday.
‘What am I going to do,’ I sob down the phone. ‘I don’t have that kind of money and what about Tom? What about the server?’
The cat seems to have come bottom of the list now.
‘Don’t worry I will help you,’ he offers.
I come off the phone thinking, oh god, what will happen. Stepson has organised his insurance and now they cannot fix the car until Monday and even then what if they cannot get the parts right away? How will he get to work? Will I have this on my mind the whole holiday?
Then suddenly enlightenment hits me. Why the hell am I worrying? Is it my server? Do I care? Can I get someone to feed the cat? Yes. So I have it sorted. He said he will help pay for the car and we will work that one out. I shall relax and leave him to sort out the son also. After all, is this my problem? For once I realise it isn’t.
I shall place the Valium back in the bottle.