Goodbye 2017 (fun, mishaps, books and some sadness)

Hi everyone,

I hope you had a brilliant Christmas and I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very Happy New Year and I hope it is everything you wish for.

I’m hoping 2018 will see fewer mishaps on my part as I well and truly overdosed on those in 2017. There were far too many faux paus to mention.  The time I fell into the river during a boating trip for example and how my first trip to the new shopping centre in Oxford resulted in John Lewis being evacuated. They are two that I remember but I assure you there have been plenty more. Bringing in Bendy when he was outside fighting, only to discover the cat I brought in wasn’t Bendy at all, was another. Bendy was happily in the kitchen eating his food. He wasn’t quite so content when he realised I had brought in another cat, of course.

Of course, I feel sure that your year was just as eventful.

It was also the year that I lost my lovely mum. So the end of 2017 has been a bit tough.

I released two psychological thrillers in 2017 and the first one ‘Remember Me’ surpassed my expectations and I would like to thank all those who purchased and reviewed it but more on those later.

2017 was also the year I discovered the fabulous craft of Crochet.  There will most certainly be more on that.

 

BOATING

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Now, you might love boating. Me? I’ve gone right off it. In fact I didn’t even want to go boating on this particular sunny day in October. I’m not an experimental person and boating is for the summer. That way, should you fall in the water, which apparently is very rare according to the boat owner, (huh, is all I can say) then you’re not likely to freeze to death if you don’t drown first.

The Doctor (aka my husband and if you want to know why he’s known as The Doctor you may have to refer back to older posts) and my grandson who is aged 7 decided they wanted to go boating. Obviously not wishing to be the killjoy I agreed to go too.

The Doctor hired a canoe for three. We trotted behind the owner who threw it over a wall and beckoned us to get in. Now, I don’t know about you but I prefer to get in and out of a boat when the boat and wall are on the same level as opposed to the wall being two feet higher. But, all was well, as the boat owner held onto the boat for us. It did vaguely cross my mind whether he would be there to hold it when we returned but hey, live in the moment right? So off we went. Now, I hate to admit this, but I can’t swim. At least I can swim but I don’t believe I can swim. That makes perfect sense to me. So, when out boating I’m just a touch anxious. After about forty minutes our grandson had had enough. We headed back. I began looking around for the jetty. You know, that safe place to climb out of a boat where you don’t have to reach up to a wall? There wasn’t one. I casually mentioned it to The Doctor, struggling to keep the anxiety from my voice. He looked around too but not with the same anxious look that I had.  Finally he said ‘We obviously have to get out the same way we got in.’

This did not cheer me.

We made our way to the wall with several OAP’s watching us from the benches on the green.

I suggested grandson get out first (anything to put off getting out myself). We held the boat tight against the wall and he slid out easily. The Doctor looked at me and my stomach lurched. How was I to get myself out of the boat, onto the wall, without the boat rocking? There was no one to hold the boat against the wall. All The Doctor could do was steady the boat. He did his best, I’ll give him that but the minute I shifted my weight to lift myself up onto the wall, the boat tipped over and in I went. Into the icy, dirty river. The Doctor said he tried to reach out to me but the boat toppled and he had to keep it steady. He watched the river calmly (he only does things calmly) and then saw a hand rise out of the water like something from a horror movie. This followed a gasping me who could barely breathe. He grabbed my hand promising never to let go. It did feel like that romantic moment from Titanic (huh, who am I kidding).  Convinced this was the end, I clung onto his hand like it was a life raft. Then, came help in the shape of the OAP’s. Yes, only I could be saved from drowning by OAP’s. I’m not proud of it. I could have given anyone of them a cardiac arrest. I’m no light weight. But they got me out, offered me tea and blankets and were so kind. The owner then came (a bit late you have to agree) and said ‘You’re not the first to go in.’ (huh, he’s changed his tune) We skipped the tea and cake we’d planned for after the boat trip and headed home. The Doctor and grandson were very quiet but I knew they were fighting back their laughter (the rotters). We stopped at the supermarket for chocolate cake and then home where I showered and the boys made tea. I came down from the shower and my grandson said earnestly ‘You know I couldn’t have saved you. I’m only seven and have my whole life to live.’

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I think this was his sweet way of telling me I’m now old. This didn’t help. The chocolate cake soothed things a bit and a few days later I felt much better about it and then grandson came to tell me that I had been his show and tell at school. It was titled ‘When Lynda fell into the river’

It has to rate as my most embarrassing moment so far.

BOOKS

2017 saw the release of ‘REMEMBER ME’ my debut thriller. It did exceptionally well, better than I could have dreamed. It went to number 9 in the US Kindle thriller chart and 99 in overall Kindle in the UK. Thank you so much to all who bought and reviewed it. We got an audio publishing deal for it and you can now buy it as an audio book on Amazon. It’s narrated by the fabulous Rosie Akermen Apparently if you already have it on Kindle you get the audio for a much lower price. The kindle price is now £1.99 You can purchase it here 

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Following on from ‘Remember Me’ I released ‘Hunters Moon’ which has since been re-released as ‘Secrets and Lies.’ and also been given a new cover. This has also been signed up by the audio publishers and will be released in the New Year.  If you loved ‘Remember Me’ then you will certainly enjoy this. It has been described as a flawless thriller but judge for yourself. It is currently 99p/99c You can purchase here

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‘Perfect Weddings’ was also released as an audio book. Purchase here

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‘Wedding Bels’ was re-released yesterday. Originally ‘Croissant and Jam’ It now has a fresh new cover.

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2018 I will release two new novels. One is a comedy romance (a surprising romance) and other a thriller. I can’t say much about them as they are still in progress but I’m sure you will love them. I’m very excited about them and can’t wait to share.

Crochet

Crochet became my big love during 2017 and whenever there was some spare time, then that’s what I did. But this isn’t the blog for that. If you’re interested in crochet and want to join me on my crochet blog then pop over to www.countrycrochet.me  I’ve only written one post but another is due to go up soon. Please join me and share your crochet projects. I’d love to see them.

I lost my mum at the end of the year so the end of the year was certainly tinged with much sadness.

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May you have a HAPPY NEW YEAR .

Please join me on my new Facebook page

https://goo.gl/81zMGt

Much love Lynda xx

 

 

The Oxfordshire mating call…


So I decide to go to Waitrose. This is never a good idea for many reasons. In fact I am beginning to wonder if I am actually safe to be let out alone. Oh, you think I joke. I kid you not.
On Friday I decided to go to Waitrose early. There were many good reasons for this, although as soon as this decision was made it caused problems. A heavy debate ensued about dinner. Usually I buy a Rotisserie chicken and we have this with some Moroccan couscous and then… Could you stop yawning please. I assure you this gets better. Where was I? Oh, yes and then we watch a DVD or maybe two. Friday night is the highlight of our week and I don’t need your pity. You can put that back in your pocket right now.
Now, here was the problem. If I go to Waitrose early they will not have a chicken cooked and ready for me to take home. A tricky problem is this. So, I need to check what else Lord Cook would like. We decide on a curry.
Why not just go later, I hear you ask? A reasonable question, if I do say so myself. I needed to be at the Doctor’s at 11.02. At least I thought it was 11.02 but we’ll come back to that later. Plus, to complicate matters even more, the appointment is not at my usual small village surgery but at the main one in a nearby town. I hope you’re keeping up with all this because it gets more complicated as time goes on. So, I decide to pop to Waitrose, that’s if you can pop to somewhere that is about six miles away and then on the way back I can do a short detour to the Doctors and then home.

‘That will give me the whole of the afternoon to write,’ I told his lordship.

Oh, famous last words or what?

So, off I pop. Trying to get to Witney from my village is a feat all of its own. The road leading to Witney is a driver’s nightmare. I have been done twice for speeding along there and I don’t speed. But the speed limit changes so often that I feel like I’m driving chitty chitty bang bang. So I potter along, accelerating from 30 miles an hour to 40 and then up to 50 miles an hour. The car behind me obviously doesn’t give a fig about speed limits and spends much of his time in the 30 miles per hour speed either flashing me (with his lights obviously. My luck never stretches to anything further than that) or hooting me while driving as close to my bumper as he possibly can. I’m under no illusions. This is intimidation, just in case you thought it was some kind of Oxfordshire mating call. We all relax when I am back in a 50 miles an hour zone. This doesn’t last long and I am back to 40 and quickly down to 30 and being flashed for all I’m worth. Finally, I reach Witney and the car park for Waitrose. Guess what? It is full. How can this be? I’m early for goodness sake. I drive round and round until my head is spinning. I finally spot a space and shoot into it only to discover it is only an hour stay. I do a quick calculation in my head and figure I can race around the store and be back within the hour.
Don’t you just hate supermarkets? Even worse, don’t you hate supermarkets on a weekday? I fight my way past the mums with their screaming children and hover for five minutes behind an elderly woman who is studying the teas and make my way to the chicken counter, where the assistant smiles at me and continues checking the temperature on the cooked birds with such concentration, you would think she was operating. I feel like telling her they look very dead to me and could she pop one in a bag. I attempt to speak but she holds a hand up to stop me and continues with her deep concentrated efforts with the thermometer. I’m getting close to telling her where to stick that thermometer and it isn’t in the chicken. I want to scream,
‘I’m on an hour here Lady. Can we move on with this?’
‘Can I help you,’ she says eventually.
Oh, how fab. She has finally seen the customer. I mean, there is enough of me, so she couldn’t really miss me.
I choose my chicken and hastily leave the meat counter. I fly along the aisles, throwing in everything I need and finally I am at the till. It has taken me forty minutes. A record and I almost feel like they should give me a medal at the till and not just a little green disc for the charity box. I saunter from the store and make my way to the car. It is then I realise I am still holding the green disk. Typical. I throw the carrier bags into the boot. Drop the disc into the trolley and pop the trolley back to the trolley park. I’m making good time. Then, I am in my car and making my way back home. Checking the time on the clock I wonder if I have enough time to take the shopping back before driving onto the Doctors.
I don’t know about your Doctors, but my surgery is ultra-organised. They even send you a text message with the time and date of your appointment. Not that it helps me, of course. I have a vague memory that the appointment is 11.02 but it could well be 11.22 for how good my memory is. I decide to be really organised and check my phone at the next lay by and therefore make an informed decision. After all I have one hot dead chicken in the boot, not to mention the Mini who is behind me. I swear if he drives any close he will be joining the chicken. I’m wondering if he would like to join us for the DVD later.
Finally, I see the lay by. I indicate, pull in and reach for my handbag to check my Blackberry. My stomach lurches when I see my bag is not on the passenger seat. Time stands still and my mind does one of the back track things that you see in the films. Everything runs before my eyes in slow motion and I see my handbag in the shopping trolley.
Oh God. I left it in the trolley and I left the trolley in the trolley park. I picture all the things that are in it. My glasses, Blackberry, purse, credit cards, money and groan inwardly. I check the clock. I have waited weeks for this appointment and it is almost 11. Oh, no, horror of horrors. I will have to tell Andrew. He is working from home today. I restart the car and zoom down the country lanes to our village. So much for keeping to the speed limit now. I skid to a halt outside our cottage, fly into the house, bound up the stairs and declare to a wide-eyed Andrew that I have left my bag in the trolley and the trolley in the trolley park.
‘Again?’

You can almost understand Andrew being driven to things like this.
You can almost understand Andrew being driven to things like this.

Yes, you heard him. It is not the first time. I won’t repeat the other things he said. They went along the lines of how could I be so stupid and that there is something seriously wrong with me. I phone the store, my heart in my mouth. Please let them have it I plead. I was lucky enough the last time this happened. But just how many honest people are there out there? Well, most certainly two it seems. Someone handed it in. I yell up the stairs to Andrew that I am going to the doctors in the vain hope that my appointment was at 11.20 and not 11.02 and then back to Waitrose.
Off I go again at top speed. I assure you there was no driver up my backside on this journey. I swear I left a cloud of dust behind me so they wouldn’t be able to see my backside if they tried. Zoomed into the Doctor’s car park and raced in to discover my appointment was for 11.30. What a relief. The day has barely begun and I am exhausted. I could go back to bed.
You’ll be pleased to hear that my blood pressure reading was normal. My return to Waitrose was uneventful also. In fact I even got parked directly outside the store and everything was inside my handbag, not even a snotty tissue was missing. So, right there, right then, I decided all this scatty behaviour has got to stop. I’m pleased to tell you that so far so good. Mind you it has only been five days. Ask me after five weeks…

A builder, a builder, my kingdom for a builder

Now I’m not a difficult person. I don’t ask for very much. I don’t want diamonds or extravagant holidays. I try to see the positive in everything and have vision. However if anyone had told me what was in store for me at Marlborough Cottage after we purchased it I think I would have been a touch nervous. We moved in over ten years ago and we were very aware that the kitchen and downstairs bathroom would need to be replaced at some point and that the whole cottage needed renovating. At the time I had such vision and really imagined that three years on we would have a beautiful cottage but as usually happens life takes over. Money was not available and everything seemed to cost more than we could ever have imagined. After decorating the whole house we felt that other things could wait and we could live adequately in Marlborough cottage as it was. This was not always a happy state of affairs. Our first winter was like something out of the film ‘Ethan Frome’ and if you haven’t seen that film, then you really must.’My hands cold as ice’ (Mattie from ‘Ethan Frome’) In our bathroom my hands tits and bum ‘cold as ice’ I kid you not. I swear if you do not pee quickly it will turn to ice mid-stream. My shower gel has iced up in the can before now. I see you shaking your head. It is true. The only heating in the bathroom is a little fan thing on the wall and that has to go on at least forty minutes before a shower. After a few weeks I devise the perfect routine.  First put bath towel in tumble dryer for thirty minutes before shower and fan heater on about twenty minutes before shower and then quick dive into bathroom and under the hot water where skin tingles from going to one extreme to the other. Jump from shower, wrap hot towel around oneself and dive into warm living room. What a palaver. But we managed to survive. The other problem in the winter became the night time wee. The bedroom is also freezing and the only saving grace is the electric blanket which I assure you has stayed on number one all night this winter. Andrew and I must have more cuddles than any couple I know.

Our bedroom, quaint if not cold.
A horrified friend warned me this could be dangerous, not the cuddling, of course, but the blanket. Andrew is not that electrifying in bed, well he might be, but I wouldn’t tell you now, would I? There is a risk of electrocution she advised. I assured her the risk of frost bite was even higher. Having once braved the loo in the night and returning to bed like an ice cube I decided drastic action was needed. Let’s say I devised a little loo for us upstairs. I won’t go into more detail. Then, of course there is the kitchen. I don’t have a kitchen in the winter. I have just one big freezer. The olive oil in my cupboard is currently frozen as is the peanut butter and honey. Oh, it is not a joke. On Sunday I convinced Andrew to help me prepare dinner because more than fifteen minutes in the kitchen means you cannot chop carrots or onions, especially if they have been in the fridge. I got as far as the garlic and could no longer feel my fingers. We almost collided with each other in our rush to dive back into the warm living room. Oh, you are pitying me, I can feel it. The waves of pity are just penetrating through the virtual world of the internet.  But I get to be very close to my lovely hubby if nothing else. At least the cold is better than the rain which floods in under the back door. In the winter at least the bathroom is not plagued by wood lice. You see, one can always find the positive. In an attempt to keep warm I light lots of candles. Perhaps not the most sensible thing seeing as this house has a history of fires. It’s okay it is safe to read on but only just.  About 89 years ago poor Miss Marshall lit a candle in her bedroom, the same bedroom which is now ours. Our neighbour now 92 remembers it well.

‘Smoke was billowing from the window and we rushed to get in. The next thing I remember was Miss Marshalls charred body falling through the ceiling and landing on your living room floor.’

Now that does make you shiver? and I won’t lie and say we have not heard noises from upstairs because sometimes we have.

The lounge where Miss Marshall fell to her death
Another blog posting I think. Then, of course there is the odd case of the house deeds which were strangely lost in a fire at the solicitors. Our predecessor’s Molly and Clifford had two fires in the freezing lean to which I referred to earlier. Then there was the day that yours truly nearly went up in flames. Andrew was upstairs working. I had just showered and quickly grabbed my flowery flowing skirt that tied at the waist. It was a bit chilly so I decided to light some candles to warm the place up. I only meant to warm the place up, you understand, but someone else obviously had other intentions of warming me up. I had already lit those on the fireplace and was lighting the few I had put on the coffee table when I had a strange hot sensation in my leg. I ignored it, as you do. I then went to rub it only to find my skirt was on fire. Of course I can write calmly about this now. I frantically tried to untie the knot of the tie-up that held my skirt while repeatedly calling Andrew. God help me the damn thing was knotted. I began to frantically tug at it to get it over my hips, while the flames were licking further and further up my skirt.
‘Andrew,’ I screamed hysterically. No response. ‘Andrew, help me, please.’
No response. Oh my god I was going to burn alive like Miss Marshall. I ran dramatically towards the wall almost knocking myself out. Smoke was everywhere along with floating pieces of my skirt as Andrew opened the door at the bottom of the stairs. He did not rush, it seems, because he thought I had seen a spider or a dead mouse. I ask you! Trust me I do not scream hysterically when I see a mouse or even a spider. When I am burning to death I may have a tendency to scream hysterically, justified I think.
I swore never to have candles in the house again. But of course I lapsed. A few years went by and they were no more fire incidents so I put it down to bad luck. Then only a few months ago when Andrew was in Taiwan, Bendy and I were sitting cosily on the couch when there was a strange bang from upstairs. Bendy jumped onto the coffee table almost knocking over a vase of flowers. I jumped up to catch them, throwing the cushion I was using to lean my net book upon, straight onto the candles on the table.
Gently stroking Bendy I realised there was a burning smell. I looked behind me to see the cushion on fire. I quickly doused it with water and sighed when I saw the large hole. Was this Miss Marshall striking again? We never did find out what the bang was. But we are brave here and do not give in to ghosts and still light candles. Full blog posting on this here. Are you over your trembling, shall I continue. Okay, Onto less frightening house complications.

Last summer we replaced the front and back doors. Ten years on and we started thinking we really should do more. The past few years we got side tracked with family weddings, trips abroad, Andrew’s studies which seemed to go on forever but yay he finally graduated to Dr Cook in August

Andrew's graduation
and there was a sigh of relief all round. So, this year is the year of the builder or at least so we thought. We phoned the builder who had built a new home for our neighbours and he seemed very keen.

‘I’ll pop to see you,’ he said.

Three weeks later we phoned again to see if he was still interested.

‘Oh, yes, I’ll pop round on Friday.’

And he did and he advised us of an architect whom we contacted.

‘I’ll pop a quote in the post for you this week.’

A week later we went on holiday for two weeks. We returned, still no quote. We phoned, no answer, we left a message, no response. Perhaps he is sick or something, I said sympathetically. Oh, I am so innocent.

Andrew not so innocent phoned several other builders to get as many quotes as possible.  Meanwhile, we had the plans drawn up and applied for planning permission. Still no quote. Then the lovely Julian came. He was very impressive and spent a long time with us.

‘I’ll put a quote in the post. You should have it before Christmas.’

We got planning permission. Christmas came, Christmas went. We flew to Cambodia and flew home to NO QUOTES. I was in tears.

‘We will never get a builder.’

‘Things take time,’ Andrew advises ‘It may take a few weeks.’

A few weeks! I am beginning to think these builders work on years. Three months later we ask more builders for quotes, we ask our friends if they know builders. Andrew begins to talk of doing it himself.

‘I’ll take a week off work,’ he says with a grin.

Not funny!

Another builder visits. He doesn’t even ask to see where the extension will go but from the plans assures us it will not be a problem.

‘I’ll pop the quote in the post.’

Haven’t we heard that before?

Another visits and thinks we want an extension to cover the whole garden… We explain the plans and tell him we want a new kitchen/living area to go onto the existing lounge and a downstairs loo plus a bathroom upstairs and another small bedroom. He says he will have to ask his mates who couldn’t make it today. At the word mates, we look at each other suspiciously. He also happily advises us that if he can’t do it he knows someone who throws these things up really fast and cheap. Yes, right…

Three months on we get a quote from the first builder for 60,000 pounds, minus fittings and decorating. I pick Andrew up off the floor and ask can he take two weeks off work to do it himself. He scoffs. Then nice Julian’s quote pops through the door. Oh, at last. Except it isn’t a quote. It is Julian telling us he now can’t do it. Basically he has been offered bigger jobs. Charming.

We wait for ‘It’s not a problem’ builder quote.  Meanwhile another one visits and seems very unassuming.

‘I’ll get the quote to you in a week’ and HE DOES. Impressed we are.

Andrew looks into the price of scaffolding and I start to worry that he is serious about doing it himself. Oh, good lord.

The builder who got the quote back on time phones to say he would like to discuss it with us. He wants to come and see us again without us asking. Ooh, we get very excited. Meanwhile, another comes and Bendy runs and hides again. I begin to wonder how he will cope with all the work when it starts. Then on Wednesday the prompt builder arrives and guess what? Bendy is all over him, at one point putting his paw onto his knee so he is sure to see him and give him a stroke. It’s a sign. I tell Andrew this later and he just scoffs but he agrees this is the guy for us and his quote is reasonable. I can’t believe it. In just eighteen weeks he will start work with his team.

I so hope I can post good things…

A holiday in a Bangkok jail. Well, almost…

I should have known a trip to a place like Cambodia would not go without a hitch. After all I am Lynda Renham-Cook right? I expect you have been waiting for me to dish the dirt. Well, here it is.
The question is where do I start? Okay, let us start at the beginning. After all it is a very good place to start isn’t it? But which story first? The Construction work or negotiating the monks loo? Possibly the best one was when the boat we went in to visit the floating village started to sink.

Our sinking boat
Oh, I feel myself shudder at the memory. Or maybe the story of the German who insisted I download his document on my computer.
‘You vill download,’ he had snapped. Okay a slight exaggeration but when have I not exaggerated? Better still is the story of the two weddings we got involved in and how I ate A Cow’s stomach. But I am straying away from the beginning as usual in my excitement to share all.
I started the holiday with a massive headache, which I still have now actually. It came and went on and off for most of the holiday. So, if anyone knows a cure for these constant headaches, do let me know as my body is taking a hell of a battering from painkillers. Talking of which I went to Cambodia packed like someone who was delivering medical aid, except the medicines were all for me. Andrew took one look at the suitcase and sighed.
‘Did you forget I was coming too,’ he said caustically. Okay maybe not caustically. More with a sardonic smile I suppose. ‘You’re supposed to take a first aid kit, not a first aid suitcase.’
Honestly, such sarcasm from my husband when all I am doing is being cautious.
‘Well, we will need another suitcase anyway for the Christmas presents,’ I argued. He picks up my three toiletries bags and sighs. Yes, okay, so I took a lot of pills with me. But you can’t be too cautious in a place like Asia can you? The web page even advises us to take toilet roll as they apparently don’t use it out there. What they do use I dare not think about really.
‘My son still uses it I hope. As we are staying with him I imagine there will be some.’ Andrew argues.
I am about to tell him that maybe his son cannot purchase toilet paper and that who knows what new habits he has acquired now but I stay quiet and just insist we do not take any chances. So I pack every pill in sight. I’m not going to go down with a stomach upset, I say. Famous last words. So, finally we are ready for the off, with enough toilet roll to bring down the plane. Talking of planes, what fun we had at the airports. We arrive in Bangkok after flying for ten hours and go in search of our luggage. Of course, I presumed it would just go straight on to Cambodia with us but it seems BA did not arrange it that way. We discover to fetch our luggage means we have to check out of the airport even though we have a connecting flight. This takes forever and our eye is constantly on the clock. We go through three passport control ports and each ones takes almost thirty minutes. We get lost and I feel my head throb even more. I am bursting for the loo but we don’t have time to stop. It’s just that in Bangkok I think they have toilet roll. We finally trace our luggage, grab it and fly to the next security check. By now I am so fed up that when the alarms go off I am almost expecting it.
‘Open the bag please,’ demands the official.
I frantically try to remember what is in my hand luggage. Are there medications in there too? Oh my word, I won’t get thrown into Bangkok Hilton will I, for carrying Co-Codamol? I feel my heart thumping as I open the bag. What other pills did I pack? I find myself looking around for dogs. With shaking hands I open the bag and watch with a thudding heart as they open the small make up bag. Visions of shackles on my hands and legs float through my mind and I quickly try to remember my solicitor’s name and then realise I don’t have one. I feel faint and quickly close my eyes. I open them to see the man holding up my tube of Nivea cream. Oh, what a relief. He pops it into a bag and ticks me off. But thank God, I am not going to prison in Bangkok. I smile at Andrew and grab his hand so we can quickly escape. Ten minutes later we are heading past Duty free on our way to our connecting flight when Andrew asks.
‘Where is your hand luggage?’
What! Oh no!
‘I left it at the security desk,’ I squeal, already legging it back. I mean, honestly. Only I would do something so stupid. We heave a deep sigh of relief to find it is still there and Andrew gives me a ‘What is wrong with you,’ look. I just shrug.
Two hours later and we are on our flight to Siem Reap in Cambodia. On the plane I debate whether to eat the food I am given. I read that the water is poisonous and can kill you. As for the food, well let’s just say I was preparing myself to lose weight rather than risk the food. An overpowering thirst wins, however and the water goes down along with the ominous looking sandwiches, which I figure I may as well eat now seeing as I have drunk the deadly water, along with two painkillers. One hour later and we arrive. The hot air hits me instantly and my head throbs even more. I will be glad to climb into the taxi and drive to James apartment. He meets us and directs us to our transport. Good lord, what is this. He surely does not expect us to get into a small rickshaw thing with our luggage and everything? Yes he does, oh my goodness. We all climb into the Tuk Tuk and I try not to cry out as my foot gets cramp. We seem to fly along the main roads, the dust flying into my eyes. I am sure I whimper as the wind whips at my face making my head throb even more. Good god what am I doing in this God forsaken country?
‘Are you okay?’ asks Andrew adding before I can reply. ‘It’s great isn’t it?’
Oh yes, fab.
‘The Tuk tuk is the only way around,’ says James.
Is it? Oh dear. I would later come to love the Tuk Tuk and the Tuk Tuk drivers who waited outside the apartment. I would come to adore the food. In fact I would come to adore Cambodia so much that the wish to return becomes unbearable. But as usual, I digress. Twenty minutes later we arrive at James apartment and in the dark I cannot see the outside very well but the inside is lovely and guess what? he has toilet paper and an en suite bathroom too. We have an oversized bed, air conditioning and plenty of bottled water. Perfect, except we also have a construction site next door.
‘Oh, that won’t be a problem,’ I say.
Why are there a lot of famous words in this here post? Off to bed we go, exhausted and already feeling some jet lag. The next day is the beginning of our holiday and is Boxing Day. We will open our presents and then go into town later for a look around and to get some dinner. Of course, the construction work won’t be going on, not on Boxing Day so it should be peaceful. More famous last words. I soon learn there are no holidays in Cambodia, only work. I wake to banging and drilling. A holiday nightmare. I tell myself it can’t get any worse…
TO BE CONTINUED.

A not for the faint hearted. A fun, Round Robin Christmas message.

( We hasten to add that the following bears no resemblance to anyone we know either alive or dead. If you recognise them, let us know and we can do our best to avoid them…)

Dear Friend
Well, it’s a while since we sent out the familiar Christmas update. In fact, it has been a whole year hasn’t it? And what a year it has been! So much to share about the Cook household. First, little Johnny passed with honours his grades, 1,2,3,4,5 and 6 in trumpet.

Johnny and his trumpet... Bless.
We are so proud. And on top of that, for his school project Johnny chose to travel to Libya (all on his own!) to train as a freedom fighter and single-handedly captured Colonel Gadhafi’s chief bodyguard. We are so proud. He came home safely, albeit having lost an eye, but hey, it was for a good cause and he has another and we give thanks for that.

Mike has also had an excellent year, after gaining an A, B, a pass in P.E. he was offered a place at Oxford. We are very proud and he very much enjoys being part of the team at the Oxford High Street branch of McDonalds. Not that it’s been all work and no play, Mike spent a fascinating four weeks working holiday in Pakistan, where he formed a tight network of friends and has since shared his experiences in the training camp there. Now Mike is taking a night class in chemistry and has grown a beard that looks quite fetching. He has matured so much this year he is like a different person. He has become a lot less materialistic and for Christmas only requested a large rucksack which we were

Mike, cycling back to Pakistan with his new rucksack. So proud.
happy to purchase for him. At last he seems to have found his way in life and we give thanks for that.

Sharon has very much matured this year. You would never think she has just turned sixteen. Sharon made some wonderful socially challenging friends in Tottenham this summer and we were so proud when she appeared on the Ten o’clock news! Imagine our delight when she came home the next morning with a wide screen TV under her arm, and a wonderful new boyfriend called Clyde. Clyde is very responsible and at age 35 a little older than Sharon but we think he will be a responsible influence as he often helps the police with their enquires and all the police in the area know him. We are thrilled that Sharon has this year landed

Our Sharon, looking good.
on her feet, she is really blooming these days and in the past three months has gained quite a bit of weight and has finally recovered from her sickness bug.

In April we did manage a wonderful week in Japan. It was so exciting and exhilarating. We had no idea it was such a busy place and was an experience of a lifetime. We both came back with such an amazing sun-tan, which we still have now. And for that we give thanks.

The view from our hotel in Japan.

We are very excited as In October Lynda was approached via email by a wealthy Colonel in Africa. It transpires that she is to inherit a large sum of money from a recently deceased dictator. It seems that her past good works have paid off. We took out a loan to pay the expenses that they required and are now waiting for the funds to be transferred to Lynda’s bank account which should happen any day now. And we give thanks for this extraordinary good fortune that has come our way. We will be donating a large sum to charity of course.

Sadly Uncle Jack passed away this year after a bout of MRSA following his overnight hospital stay with a severe migraine (hangover). At age 46 he had had a good innings and we give thanks for that.

Our last picture of Uncle Jack. He will be sadly missed.

Mother is doing very well after her fifth amputation, second triple bypass, liver transplant and Botox surgery. She is looking forward to her skiing holiday in January.

Mum, having fun as usual.

Andrew was promoted this year to work under the COE following his PhD after HR (AKA the CTO) realised his potential. However in March he contracted ADD when a close friend was given an ASBO, and was AWOL for some weeks. His BP went sky-high and he lost his GSOH eating nothing but BLT sandwiches. After a lot of TLC from Lynda he was back at work ASAP.
We hope you have all had a year like ours and wish you a very merry Christmas and best wishes for 2012
Love Lynda and Andrew
xx

Ooh, I think that is Miranda calling. Now where did I put the phone?

Okay I know I am scatty but even I am beginning to feel it is getting out of hand. After getting locked in the loo during my book signing I actually began to wonder about all this. I mean, seriously, who manages that? As much as I admire Miranda Hart, I really do not want to be a real life Miranda but I actually fear I am. Oh, that can’t be possible, you shout. Oh really. Let us take today for example.
Breakfast was fine, no real catastrophes there and even the journey to work was okay. Oh, yes, we writers actually go to work. One day I will be rich and famous enough to not have to but at the moment it is for the best as I am far too weary to fight off paparazzi and collect numerous awards. Dream on Lynda! So I drive to work without mishaps and even find a parking space in the health centre car park. I then climb out of the car and meet my colleague who arrives at the same time. It is here it all seems to go downhill. I feel sure, no absolutely certain in fact that something dropped from my lap and crashed to the ground. I gasp and stare in horror. Was it my glasses? Oh, god, no, it was my Blackberry. I look to my colleague, who looks perplexed. I explain something crashed to the ground. Of course, this is bearing in mind that nothing can be seen.
‘What was it?’ she asks.
Precisely. What was it? Now, tell me, how many people drop things and then do not actually know what they dropped?
‘I think it must have been my Blackberry, or perhaps my glasses.’ I say uncertainly to which she gives me one of those ‘You are nuts’ look.
We both look around us and under the car. It is as I stand up that I see my glasses are tucked into the top of my blouse. Ah, yes, of course I put them there for safety which means it was the Blackberry. Oh, wonderful. It has been bucketing down with rain and neither of us want to actually get down onto the floor and look under the car. My friend comes up with the ideal solution.
‘Reverse your car slowly and in a straight line and you shouldn’t go over it and I will shout when I see it.’
Oh no, this is the kind of thing I am not good at. I am the kind of person that will run over the Blackberry even if driving in a straight line. I can’t tell her that, so I do it. No Blackberry. If fact there is nothing under the car. My friend suggests checking my handbag and lo and behold there is my Blackberry. Red faces all around. Of course this isn’t the first time and what is worse I repeat these things often.
Once or twice having parked much too far from Marks and Spencer I have made the fantabulous decision of asking the assistant if I could collect by car and they make this exceptionally easy and foolproof. Even total idiots can’t possibly get this wrong. Lynda, of course, can. I dutifully take my little number with the velcro sticky back and make my way to the car. The pick up point is literally just around the corner. What does Lynda do? Yes, you’ve got it. She drives the whole ten miles home with the little number tab grasped tightly in her grubby little hands. Bear in mind, that the whole idea of collecting by car was to save her the time it takes to walk with the trolley to the car and back. I mean, come on…
This is the woman who buys earrings in Sainsbury’s and throws them into her carrier bag. Yes, I know, most people would place them carefully into their handbags. She then, empties the bags, missing the earrings and later uses the bag as a bin liner. Andrew often asks why earrings are in the bin. I have also been known to smother my hair in cream cleanser rather than mousse because the containers look similar. I manage to lock myself in loos. The most recent time being when I was literally in the middle of a book signing at Waterstones. The nice assistant took me upstairs, showed me the loo and then politely left me. The lock seemed a bit stiff but I didn’t want anyone barging in on me so I pushed the bolt across It took me close on five minutes to yank the bolt back. I broke two nails as well as breaking into a sweat. I must have looked quite flush when I returned downstairs. I can’t imagine what they thought I had been doing in their loo.
I have left my lap top adapters at people’s houses. A pair of very expensive trainers at a holiday home and didn’t realise until weeks later. I have left my handbag in a supermarket trolley and driven home and have been known to drag a howling cat into the house only to realise it wasn’t my cat! I have put vegetables in the steamer and then plugged in the electric kettle only to moan to Andrew when he returns home, that the steamer has broken. I have attempted to get into other people’s cars because they look like mine. I throw keys into my handbag, and by that I mean anyone’s keys.
I leave the house and lock the front door while leaving the back door wide open. I walk into the house and leave the keys in the door where they have been known to stay all night. I also have this terrible habit of throwing the house cordless phone into my handbag after using it and then taking it out with me. I seem to repeatedly shut the cat’s tail in a drawer or step on it. If he could talk I am sure Bendy would ask to be put up for adoption or seriously consider buying a gun…
Oh, had better go. I do believe that is Miranda Hart on the phone requesting to do a series on my life. Now where is the phone?

Magic measures and Tantric sex

It may have something to do with being excessively premenstrual and if you do not believe I can be excessively premenstrual then speak to my husband. This, providing he is still alive, of course, and I have not throttled him. Anyway, this may have something to do with why I am blogging about diets. Because, the absolute worst time to be on a diet is a few days before your period. I am at that point now and my desire for something sweet is so overwhelming that this morning I almost strangled the milkman when he said he did not have any orange juice on his cart. What once seemed a sweet caring smile on the face of Rosemary Conley, now rather resembles the devil incarnate. In fact if dear Rosemary should pop her head round my front door I am likely to punch her lights out.
I first started dieting in earnest about five years ago. I was then, and hold your breath, almost thirteen stone. I never saw myself as thirteen stone of course. I was one of those fat people with anorexia in reverse. I never saw myself as fat.

Me at just under thirteen stone

I progressed from Marks and Spencer to Evans in a flash and thought absolutely nothing of it. Evans have much nicer clothes, I remember telling myself. In much the same way I progressed from a size 16 to a size 24 and still thought nothing of it. I consumed a curry, a pot of ice cream two bags of toffee popcorn and chocolate on a Friday night without a seconds thought. God, I was happy in those days! I mean who wouldn’t be happy eating whatever they like. Don’t you just hate the likes of Elizabeth Hurley who claim they watch what they eat but basically eat what they like, without gaining weight as they have some kind of special metabolism? Doesn’t it just make you want to throw up into your ‘Primark’ handbag? Or those other celebs such as Gwyneth, who kick box, do aerobics and Pilates and of course we must not forget the tantric sex. Okay, maybe it isn’t Gwyneth, but hey let her sue me. After all a celeb is a celeb after all. Don’t they just make you want to have a ‘Hello’ magazine burning party? All those, ‘You can look like’’ articles. Yes, I am sure we could easily look like them. All we need is a personal trainer, our own personal make up assistant, at least a million in the bank, a housekeeper, a full time nanny, a cook and five holidays a year on Branson’s yacht. Indeed, I feel quite convinced that after two months of that, along with the tantric sex of course, we must not forget that. I am certain, totally convinced in fact that I would look and feel twenty years younger and would probably have to trade Andrew in for a younger model. As it is at the moment, I rely on Boots protect and perfect, for keeping me young and rather think a twenty year old stud may not give me the time of day. Such is the price of obscurity.
So, it was in sheer contentment that I moved into our lovely little village and our lovely little cottage five years ago only to be asked by three of the villagers.
‘When is the baby due?’
Mortified and embarrassed. In my case hugely mortified, I decided to diet. No, I lie. It was after a lovely elderly gentleman offered me a seat on the train. He must have been all of eighty and I must have looked all of eight months pregnant! My stepdaughter was marrying in Egypt so I chose that occasion to aim for a slimmer me. I chose weight watchers at home. In a year I lost three stone and became a size 14. Andrew was delighted and there lies my problem. In a word, Andrew, whose favourite quote is.
‘No one likes a fat person.’
You heard right. He doesn’t use the quote. ‘I love you just the way you are.’
Oh no! Those types of quotes are only heard in ‘Bridget Jones’ films and certainly not in real life, at least not real life in this house. Correct me if I am wrong. On second thoughts, don’t correct me. I really couldn’t face another divorce.
This time around I am only a few pounds overweight. Easier to shift I thought. How wrong could I be? It is sheer torture. I sent for Rosemary Conley at home. When my parcel arrived I became quite excited. I assure you those initial feelings have well and truly gone down the drain with the mincemeat’s excess fat. Her magic measure has been agitatedly thrown to the back of a drawer and her measuring cups are scowled upon every morning. The one thing that is still lovingly stroked is the pot of Rosemary Conley firming cream. The only thing I seem to have lost is my sense of humour and on occasions my temper. I managed to break one pair of weighing scales and spend endless hours staring at my naked body in the bathroom mirror trying to see where the weight has come off. My jaw hurts from chomping on raw carrot and I am beginning to crave more than a drop of honey in my yogurt to satisfy my sweet tooth. But I persevere. After several weeks of this I try on the pair of trousers that have been so resistant the past few months. I hold my breath and pull them on. I grasp the button hole and pull them across. Guess what? They still don’t blooming fit! How can this be? After weeks of starvation and glugging down litres of water, not to mention humongous amounts of peeing, how can no weight have been lost? Is this some kind of cruel joke? But hold on…
‘You’ve lost weight, I can see it,’ says Andrew.
Well, that is good enough for me.
Ooh, must run, I have ‘Hello’ on the phone. My secret, you ask. I don’t really have one. I don’t need to watch my weight. Why? Because Andrew does it for me.
Me today and loving it.

What is the hatter with me!!


Indeed what is the hatter with me? Of course, I realise we all say things back to front sometimes. I feel quite certain that I am not the only person who has run for a bus whilst wearing a boob tube only to come face to face, or in my case boob to face with the bus driver! I am certain that I am not the only woman to wander around searching for her glasses while having them on. Or am I? Is it a rarity to return your library books along with one of your own books? I know you will all tell me it is quite common. And just as I finally convinced myself that what happened to me last Friday was not in the least bit unusual, convincing myself, in fact, that it was all down to hormones. After all they have been leading me a merry dance hadn’t they? Then my lovely husband Andrew commented that he thought I was stark staring mad!
‘Mad, that’s what you are. Stark, staring, mad.’
OK, maybe he didn’t use those exact words but I knew what he meant. Of course, I headed straight for the fridge and felt better almost right away. Well, after consuming two toffee yogurts with some honey followed by a Marks and Spencer meringue and half a box of left-over chocolates. So, what happened last Friday? OK, seeing as you’re twisting my arm, I shall tell you. Now, where should I begin? It started off fine enough. I have had plenty of time at home to get most things done and have not felt in the least stressed. Heaven knows why I am saying all this. In my defense I should be thinking of some excuse at least.
Friday is a special day in the Cook household. All sorts of weird and wonderful things go on here. Don’t you just wish you were me? I pop to the supermarket to buy something special for dinner. It is the end of the week, after all. Then I drop into the local video hire shop and rent two DVDs for us to watch that evening. And of course, the Pièce de résistance, the special treat food. Chocolate biscuits, savoury crackers and wine. Oh, yes, we know how to live, do Andrew and I. This particular Friday I seemed to have more time than usual. I popped into the town library. I hadn’t been there for some time and was impressed at the improvements that had been made and browsed the DVDs on offer and then looked at the books. Finally I headed for the counter, except there wasn’t one. I mean, there used to be one but now there isn’t one any more. It had just gone. How can a library be a library if you can’t check your books out? Then, I spotted it. A self-service, checkout counter. Oh no! It isn’t that I hate using these things. I just hate using them for the first time, even more so today when I have a stack of books and not a clue how to now safely leave the library with them without setting off all kinds of alarms. Any thought I had of stealing them are quickly dismissed. Instead, I stand, trying to look incognito while studying the borrowers as they use the new-fangled dangled check out. I convince myself if an eighty year old can do it, so can I. Not so. After a considerable amount of embarrassed fumbling I get the eighty year old to assist me and vow never to return. Relieved to be out of there I head to the supermarket. At least I know how to check out my goods there. Everything goes very well and I take my purchases to the till, pay and leave. I quickly pack the bags into the car as I sense someone waiting for my space. I dutifully take my trolley back and drive home with the radio blaring. I have DVDs, a nice dinner, delicious treats and the sun is shining. Back home, Andrew helps me unpack the goods and I make some tea and begin preparing lunch.
‘Did you get my text?’ asks Andrew, innocently.
‘Oh, did you send me one?’ Asks me stupidly. Obviously he did, or he wouldn’t be asking me if I received it.
‘I’ll check my phone,’ I say confidently walking into the lounge to fetch my handbag which is NOT on the table. I lean lazily across the arm of the chair for it but it ISN’T there either.
‘Is my bag in the kitchen?’ I shout, unconcerned.
‘No,’ answers Andrew in a wary voice as he obviously awaits my explosion,
‘Stupid, I must have left it In the car,’ I say cheerfully, strolling outside.
It ISN’T there. Good heavens, it isn’t there! My hand bag has disappeared!
I rush inside.
‘Oh my god, I must have left my bag in the shopping trolley.’
Andrew stares at me.
‘But you brought the shopping home, how could you have left it in the trolley?’ he says accusingly and I immediately want the floor to open up and swallow me.
‘Well, I pack the shopping and leave the handbag in the trolley. So when I went to put the trolley back in the trolley park I must have left it in it.’
He looks at me stupidly.
‘But that is a crazy thing to do. Why would you do that?’
I grab the phone and beg him to look up the number on the internet.
He makes a huffing sound.
‘You’re mad you are.’ He states, walking upstairs to his computer. Meanwhile a nice man answers the phone at Sainsbury’s.
‘Oh, hello, I am so sorry. I think I must be losing the plot,’ I stammer, thinking if I sound helpless he will most certainly say.
‘Oh, that handbag, yes we have it.’
‘I think I left my handbag in a shopping trolley.’
He doesn’t laugh. Is that a good or bad sign?
‘What does it look like?’
Doesn’t he know what a shopping trolley looks like? There are enough of them. Oh, of course, he means the handbag.
My mind goes blank. Why can’t I remember what my handbag looks like? Why is it I can only think of the credit cards in there and my Blackberry and driving licence and oh god, a spare pair of knickers!
‘It’s black,’ I hear myself saying. Well, that narrows it down doesn’t it? NOT. He sighs,
‘Oh, oh,’ I say, suddenly remembering. ‘It has Harrods on it.’
Oh god, do I now sound snooty?
‘Ah, yes we have it.’
My heart leaps and my legs stop trembling.
‘You’ll need to bring some identification, obviously.’
Well, obviously!
‘A passport would be good.’
I hang up and fly upstairs to Andrew.
‘They have it. I have to go back. See you in twenty minutes.’
I dash to the car and drive off, music blaring, and thinking how honest people are. It is as I am very near that I realise that I had forgotten the passport. I curse and feel like crying. What is the hatter with me? I park the car and spot the letter I had received from the DVLA when receiving my tax disc. I grab it and march up to customer services and thrust it in the man’s face before he can speak.
‘I left my handbag in a trolley and inside is a matching card to this,’ I say holding up my arm and shoving my radio iodine tag in his face. He steps back horrified. At last, my radio iodine treatment comes into its own.
‘What’s that for?’ he squeals.
‘Oh. It’s nothing really. You are quite safe. I am just a little bit radioactive. Oh, yes that’s my bag.’ I say spotting it on the counter.
Thankfully he has forgotten about the passport ID and almost throws the bag at me. I rush outside checking it frantically and then let out a deep sigh. Everything is there. Nothing missing. If only the same could be said about my head.

“I’m entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are…”

Waiting for Jack Bauer (In the meantime making do with Andrew)

I never in my wildest dreams, and I have some wild dreams, I can tell you, imagined I would be frantic to find a Betterware catalogue. But a week or so after someone had pushed it through my letterbox I am desperate to trace it. Somewhere within the pages is an item I now cannot live without and no one else seems to sell it. The latter probably is not strictly true but the I can’t live without it part, most certainly is. Of course up until a week ago I really couldn’t have cared less if I had one. After all I had Andrew (my husband) then. Ah, yes, that has got you thinking and wanting to read more. What has Betterware got, you are thinking, that can replace a husband? You are now thinking, could you use one, in fact, you are probably wondering, if perhaps you may even need one. In my case it was a culmination of things really but throwing Andrew out of the bedroom is the primary reason it is needed. Good god, I hear you women cry as you reach for the Yellow pages to search for your local Betterware representative. Although, of course, in this day and age of Technology, you are probably reaching for your Blackberry’s and searching on Google to find the item that can replace a husband in the bedroom. Why is it though, when I do not want a Betterware catalogue or any of their goods do I continually fall over the damn thing until the rep finally collects it? But when I do want it, it miraculously disappears only to turn up in the most unlikely place? Anyway, I found it, and there on page five is the item I covert. Of course, none of this would be necessary if I had a perfectly good thyroid and no they don’t sell perfectly good thyroid’s at Betterware but they do sell the next best thing. So, you are wondering what my thyroid or lack of one has got to do with all of this.
Last Monday, I had a second dose of radio iodine therapy. This in very simple terms means I am radioactive for 12 days. The lovely lady who administered the dose, well, if you call handing me a capsule in a long tube, administering. I rather think I performed the dirty deed actually. Yes, come to think of it, I remember they had all legged it before I had even brought my head back up. Anyway, she was quite stern about all the precautions I needed to take. The worst part is that you feel perfectly fine for the first forty-eight hours while you are spewing radiation everywhere. The power is quite intoxicating. The temptation to walk into Tesco and shout, ‘Step away from the Mackerel’ is overwhelmingly tempting. But of course, I didn’t. Instead I went straight home to a very happy Bendy who purred around my legs.
‘Go away,’ I cried. ‘Shoo, go next door.’
Not the usual greeting he receives. Of course, he ignored all my efforts to keep him at bay and has done for the past week and for some odd reason he seems to be more in love with me while I am potentially killing him then he ever was before. I phoned Nuclear medicine three days later in a panic.
‘What is the procedure regarding pets. After all they are very small and I have had a double dose.’ Anyone overhearing me would probably wonder what kind of double dose I had contracted. Dear me, one dreads to think. Accept no one is likely to get close enough to overhear for fear of death by radiation.
‘There is no legal requirement regarding pets, so he is ok.’
I tried to absorb what she was saying.
‘But it was a double dose.’
‘There’s no legal requirement.’
What she means is, If I kill him, I will be quite safe. The RSPCA can’t touch me. I continue with my shoo shooing to no avail. I even go into a massive panic when the pigeons fly into the garden. I don’t want to be the cause of a mass pigeon slaughter. I struggle to keep my towel separate from Andrew’s but he keeps mixing them up. I shout at him when he gets closer than an arm’s length and order him to the spare room at bedtime. This may sound easy to most of you but in our case the spare room is not even in the house! And no, I haven’t banished him to a hotel. Our spare room over the past few years has slowly become an office. So, we built a good size summer-house which converts into a very nice spare room but it is in the garden! Every night, we say a miserable goodnight to each other over the phones intercom. Of course, for many women this might be a dream come true. However, take a few seconds to consider the usefulness of your man, apart from the obvious, which we won’t even go into, except to say that when you are radiating radiation, it puts something of a damper on your libido. In my case, he has reluctantly become the spider catcher. Just five seconds of me screaming hysterically, while standing on the bed, usually after knocking over a glass of water in my trembling frenzy, is enough to have him grabbing a pillow and squashing the thing to death. Why don’t you kill them with radiation, I hear you ask. Well, they are hardy little suckers, these spiders. But the big problem right now is that Andrew shows no signs of rapidly turning into Jack Bauer in the near future. By the time he answers my frantic intercom ring, gets dressed, comes into the house, climbs the stairs and leisurely enters the bedroom, of course, the damn monster has gone. I spend the night lying in bed a quivering wreck. So, the answer is the spider catcher. At five pounds fifty pence, it is a bargain. The question is will I be able to get close enough to catch the spider? Watch this space.

The Amityville Horror

I have the greatest in-laws, but unfortunately the maddest too. Although some people may think they are the perfect in-laws for me. One weekend with them is truly like being with the Adams family so imagine what going on holiday with them would be like, but more of that another time.
Shelagh and Jim seem quite normal compared to their millionaire neighbours, one of whom is Cheryl Cole and I say this because I am sure Cheryl would be disappointed if she were not mentioned. Not that we have ever met her, of course, but you can just see the top of her house, which is almost the same thing really. When I first encountered Shelagh I had no idea what I was letting myself in for. Last weekend was typical of a so-called peaceful time with the in-laws. Firstly I should tell you that my mother in law has the most wonderful relationship with a phone that I could never seem to acquire. She gives it so much attention that two of them have gone ‘bang’ while the others have just got worn out. Worse of all, in the attempt not to miss a call she has this call-waiting contraption, which almost gives me a breakdown. Whenever I phone her, some woman tells me ‘The person you are calling knows you are waiting’ so, if she knows I am waiting why does she never answer me? After about a dozen times of trying and an hour later I give up and search for my Valium, at which time she usually phones back after dialling 1471. More frightening is that she always puts the phone onto loud-speaker and often I find I am chatting away about someone who is sitting in the armchair opposite her. Red faces all round. Because they live some distance away, whenever we visit we nearly always stay the night and this means a visit to the in-laws becomes an expedition. Andrew packs his pillow, I pack my net book, plug adapters, DVDs for Shelagh to watch, a book, bottles of drink, my own food (well, I am on a diet you see) my camera, well you never know, then there is underwear, tooth brushes, change of clothing. Then we load the car with the wood and rubbish that was taken from our old bathroom after it was recently renovated. We are thrilled to be taking this as they can put it into their boiler. I cannot go into the whole boiler thing, as it is way beyond my technical understanding. All I know is that you can throw anything into this thing and it burns and they get their hot water and heating from it. At least that was my understanding until this catastrophic weekend. By the time we have packed I am exhausted and we haven’t left yet. Finally we arrive and she greets us enthusiastically as does ‘Bud’, my father in law who is Canadian and it’s a long story and best not to go there really but hence the name Bud. This weekend was to prove no less crazy than previous weekends. We are in the en suite. Now, this makes perfect sense to me. But we could have been in the green room, which isn’t green at all, or the family room, which looks nothing like a family room. But the important thing is that we Cooks all know which room is which. Tomas the cat greets us and I lift him by the scruff of the neck and that is enough to make him my friend for the rest of the weekend and also means I spend the best part of the weekend scraping ginger hairs off my black top, black cardigan and black leggings. We have lunch and then I log onto my net book and find… no connection.
‘Bud, why is their no Internet connection?’ I shout above News 24.
‘Oh, not had that for about two weeks. Don’t know what has happened there.’
Great, a whole weekend without Internet connection it seems. I ask Andrew if he can have a look once he has finished throwing all our rubbish into the boiler. Meanwhile I show Shelagh the DVDs I have brought. She decides she wants to watch ‘A Mighty heart.’ Over lunch I make the big mistake of telling her I am going to Palestine next year with a solidarity organization. She seems unsure about it but I convince her it will be safe. I have forgotten we are going to watch ‘A mighty heart’ later, in which a journalist is beheaded in Karachi. However, I digress but fret not we shall return to the subject of my own beheading shortly. With no Internet connection I decide to take mother in law shopping while Andrew tries to fix it. Now, I have no problems going in a car with my mother in law if she is in the passenger seat. I once had the privilege of being her passenger and we spent much of that journey with me clutching the sides of my seat as she drove down a one-way street, almost reversed into pedestrians and mounted the kerb on several occasions while often driving on the wrong side of the road. Suffice to say I kindly offered to take to her to Tesco in my car. Not long ago she had a hip replacement, so we take her stick and off we go.
The shopping was uneventful and we pack our purchases in the boot and I climb into the car and wait for her. The car next to ours is a bit close but she squeezes in and then struggles to get the new hip leg in. Several minutes and a great deal of hassle she turns to me with half her leg in.
‘It’s stuck, I can’t get my foot in, maybe if you reversed a bit.’
‘With the door open?’ I say horror-struck.
A young boy in the car next to us is staring at us with deep curiosity. I reverse the car with mum in laws leg hanging out of it like a dragging appendage. It really looked like something out of a horror film. I move back until there is more space for her to manoeuvre. Now, I have other drivers hooting at us as we sit in the middle of the car park with the passenger door half-open and a leg hanging out. Shelagh struggles to pull her leg in while I am hysterical with laughter, which in turn has her laughing too. Finally her leg is in and I move off with the boy still staring at us curiously. We arrive home to still no Internet connection and so sit down to watch the film. It is freezing cold and I get another cardigan. As the film progresses I find myself getting hotter and hotter and notice that even Bud has removed his thick jumper, an almost unknown event. Shelagh gets very emotional at the end of the film and I agree it is very sad.
‘I don’t want you to go to Palestine and get beheaded and then it gets on the internet.’ she blurts out.
Oh God.
‘Oh, I wont, I will be very careful and anyway Andrew will get if off the Internet.’
What am I saying? My husband will get it off the Internet? Now my husband is super husband, able to remove things from the Internet. She seems comforted by this thought and goes to prepare dinner commenting on how hot it is now the heating has switched on.
We sit down to dinner and the wine flows and believe me it flows freely in my in-laws home, especially into my mother in laws glass. As we talk I become aware of strange banging noises. Firstly it seems to be in the lounge and then suddenly the whole house is banging and creaking. I sit quivering in my chair. I suddenly feel like I am in ‘The Amityville Horror.’
‘My god what is happening?’ I squeal.
The radiators are banging like mad.
‘Did you put wood in the boiler?’ asks Bud unperturbed.
Andrew goes to check the boiler and comes back red-faced and with singed eyebrows (ok slight exaggeration.)
‘It’s like a furnace, I had to leave the door open,’ he says.
By now the whole house is boiling hot. We run lots of hot water and turn the thermostat down but still the house creaks and bangs like it is angry with us. Tomas hides under the table. Hot and exhausted Shelagh and I decide to watch a lighthearted comedy until the noise dies down. Then, it is time for bed. We kiss goodnight and head to our room. We are just about to settle down when their phone rings… and rings… and rings.
We both get up to find out why they are not answering it. Shelagh is walking about with the phone in her hand.
‘Why don’t you answer it?’ I ask.
‘Oh, I am ringing the other phone. We can’t find it.’
I hand the other phone to her, which is ringing away in the kitchen.
‘I thought you said you didn’t have intercom on your phones’
‘No that’s right we don’t.’
I nod. Hey ho, off to bed then where the windows are wide open and I wonder what tomorrow holds in the Cook household.

How to be a Hypochondriac in six easy lessons (and get what you want)

Being a hypochondriac has enormous beneficial uses as many women have already found. It will get you the right kind of attention from the man in your life. It will give you the much-needed rest you need from the housework and in the case of a good friend of mine it even gained her a nanny, Life as a woman, is not easy. We all know, having it all, means doing it all yourself. Now with Hypochondria becoming the most popular accessory, you too can have it all too just like the top celebrities without doing anything at all. Be like Lindsey Lohan whose weeping got her the comfort of tough women cons. Lessons. 1) Don’t underestimate the use of tears. They are a great stress reliever and probably all those headaches you get are due to stress because of all the things you have to do. Angelina Jolie and Hilary Clinton have used them to wonderful advantage. Easy to create with the use of an onion. Or, take a tip from Chris Brown and use tear inducing eye drops. A little more expensive but you should get the best you can when using hypochondria as an accessory It really is worth wearing that mascara you are so allergic to also. A few tears and you can put away the pots and pans, Your husband is sure to take you out to cheer you up. So he should after all you do. After one of those really tiring days, when you have filled the dishwasher and done the school run consider this as your treat. 2) Remember exercise is dangerous. If you insist on running then be aware if your knee hurts or your back hurts it is most likely you have slipped a cartilage or a disc. Be sure to hire a cleaner for three months and do not lift, not even an ironing board, or even an iron come to that. Be careful when lifting your arms as that could strain your back. Ask your husband to brush your hair when he gets home. He will be happy to have something to do after his boring day. Take painkillers four times a day and bed rest if needed. 3) Most severe, serious headaches come on at night, according to specialists. All physical activity should be avoided at these times. Your husband will understand that sex is out of the question. After all, this could be the start of a serious tumour and needs to be taken seriously. Take two aspirin and sleep for as long as possible. If this means all night and the following day, so be it. Your husband can sort out the children. If he is late for work, he will not be missed. It is important to understand your importance in the world and a tired woman is an unproductive one. 4) Any breast pain should be investigated properly. Often it may be due to the wrong size bra, but if you are a busy housewife and mother juggling a part-time job when can you find the time to buy a new one? Should you suffer from ‘Too tight bra syndrome’ do not lift your child/children as this will aggravate the pain. Hire a Nanny until your busy schedule allows you to get to the shops. Or make sure your husband leaves his credit card with you so you can shop for one online. Be sure to take pain killers every four hours and rest as much as possible. 5) Never forget Periods are an illness. They affect you profoundly both physically and mentally. You may notice your husband goes through something similar at the same time. This has now been diagnosed as ‘lack of brain activity syndrome’ and hits men once a month. Unlike women their lives are quite empty. Sitting at a desk, pushing a pen and checking emails can lead to ‘lack of brain activity syndrome’ very quickly. This leads the man to look for some activity during the month and this often coincides with your period. He will try very hard to arouse activity for himself and you will notice he uses you for this and may make comments which deflects the issue from himself. The comments often follow a pattern and he may use words like. ‘Is your period due?’ or ‘Is it that time of the month?’ He really means is it that time of the month for him, when he will be argumentative and then blame it on you. You must not forget that periods are an illness and that bedrest is needed when you are cramping. Again, you should not attempt anything too hazardous and housework is out of the question. A cleaner should be considered at all times. After all a slight pull to a stomach muscle could lead to a fibroid, I am told. 6) Celebrities have already seen the dangers of childbirth and use their hypochondria to its best advantage. Pregnancy causes stretch marks and can be unsightly and may even cause pain. You may also suffer from cracked nipples if you choose to breast feed. This is all detrimental to your health. Use your hypochondria here to explain the dangers to your husband and use a surrogate mother. For a few pounds you can get a good one these days and for just a little extra you can hire a nanny so you get the sleep you need to do all those other onerous jobs. Remember, you are special and your husband knows that.

Treading on a penis

On Saturday I strolled into the Ann Summers shop in Oxford. Yes, I really did. I remember bumping into a bespectacled woman while browsing the vibrator section.
Don’t worry I am not going to go into a detailed description of the assortment of vibrators on sale. But the difference of ages in the women who were there was interesting. The youngest must have been 18 and the oldest (not me) had to have been the bespectacled woman, all of sixty, if not more. Of course, it is not the first time I have been into Ann Summers and thinking about it on the way home it reminded me of my first innocent Ann Summers party and the disastrous second one.
My first Ann Summers party was many years ago when the whole Ann Summers thing was something you whispered and giggled about. I went along with some trepidation. I had never even seen a vibrator and was quite nervous at the thought of ever even doing so. But, amazingly enough not even a glimmer of a vibrator was in sight. The whole party was about sexy lingerie. I came home feeling quite proud of the fact that I had attended an Ann Summers party and come home unscathed. When any of the women I worked with mentioned Ann Summers in hushed tones, I would say proudly, ‘Oh, I’ve been to an Ann Summers party and quite enjoyed it.’ So, when a few years later I was invited to another one and my friend’s-very innocent- eighteen-year-old daughter asked if she could come too, I said yes. After all, there would only be sexy lingerie there, I thought. Never presume in life, trust me on this one. We entered and the first things to greet us were little wound up penises running around the lounge floor. Somehow, my instinct told me this was not going to be anywhere near as similar as my previous experience. I looked to my friend who was very cleverly pretending not to notice the little penises, while I made concerted efforts not to step on them. The thought of a mangled penis, even made of plastic can make one squirm slightly. Glasses of wine were offered and boy did I need one having just spotted the various assortments of sex toys on the table. My sole aim now was to try and prevent any discomfort for my companion. I quickly realized this party had very little interest in lingerie unless you included pink fluffy handcuffs in that category. After being advised by my straight-laced friend that perhaps I should not be drinking considering I was driving us both home later, I shelved the wine. I waited with bated breath for what was to come next when the hostess asked us for quiet. After a brief introduction, she went on to tell us that we would now play ‘pass the parcel’ in an attempt to get to know each other and some of the Ann Summers goods. My heart sank. I smiled at my friend who shifted in her seat.
‘Ready girls?’
I wanted to scream no, and frantically tried to think of excuses to leave quickly. I could suddenly develop severe diarrhoea but the music started to blare and so began the passing of the parcel. Oh, horror of horrors. The first unwrapping produced the largest vibrator I had ever seen in fact I am sure my eyes watered at the sight. In case we needed a closer look it was passed around as the game continued. The music stopped and the parcel landed in my companions lap. I held my breath. In an instant she had thrown it into mine. Everyone began clapping for me to open it. Ah, at last some nice lingerie, a lovely black frilly bra. I read the forfeit. Oh, great. I had to stand up, clutch my breasts (such as they were) and sing ‘I’ve got a lovely bunch of coconuts’.
Strangely enough I was more embarrassed about singing out of tune than anything else. My friend looked relieved. Finally the game over, we had more fun with the walking penises and more vibrators were passed around until I became punch drunk on vibrators. Of course by this time a fair bit of wine had been consumed and some of the women began sharing their sex secrets. I discreetly moved the eighteen year old to a safer area. Others were crying into their wine and vibrators about how their husband’s didn’t care about their needs, while I tried to work out how to buy something without my friend knowing what it was. Then we had the fashion show where the lingerie came into its own. We were all encouraged to try on something and share. Sharing is bonding it seems. I sensed my friend was not keen to bond. I squeezed myself into a maid’s outfit much to her look of disgust. I was beginning to enjoy myself now even without the wine. But from her face I could see it was time to go. I raced through the book with her eyes on me and finally after handing in my order, I made some excuse and we left. We were silent in the car until we reached her house and as she climbed out I hesitantly asked.
‘Did you enjoy yourself?’
‘I just think it best if mum does not know.’ was her reply.
Driving home I remember thinking prim little madam! Finally I got home and my husband said,
‘Had a good time?’
‘Yes I trod on a penis, it was great fun.’
Now, thank goodness I don’t have to attend Ann Summers parties I can just stroll into the shop in Oxford and not have to worry about playing pass the parcel or being given disapproving looks. Wonderful

Anyone for a Vindaloo?

How can I describe the delights of going out to dinner to all you lovely folk? I expect you do it quite a lot. Or maybe, you have that even greater pleasure of ordering take away pizza. Oh, what a gastronomic delight that must be. For me it is similar to telling a child they can now open their Christmas presents. I am overcome with excitement. This may have something to do with the fact that I seem to be permanently on a diet. That is not strictly true, I don’t seem to be permanently on a diet, I am permanently on a diet. The day Andrew could actually see I had a waistline, he decided it was there to stay and so was Diet Chef. So, you can imagine my controlled excitement when Andrew’s son, James, came to visit recently from Australia.
‘We must go for an Indian,’ were his first words. Ok, not his first words but you know what I mean. Later he mentioned we ought to go out and have a Chinese meal.
Oh, music to my ears. However, after Sunday’s debacle I doubt it will have such an appeal again. I really feel I am doing Michael Winner an injustice by writing about it myself. I really should let him have that honour as he does it so well for The Sunday Times.
I should tell you also, should you not know him, that my husband is a very decent chap. In fact my other name for him is Mr diplomacy. But, even I know, Mr diplomacy if only pushed a short way can become Mr firm in one move.
So, here we are, picture us if you can, entering the restaurant. There are six of us, Andrew and me, his eldest son and wife Anna and also his youngest son Tim and of course little baby Matthew. It is important to count numbers here as numbers become of paramount importance much later on. It is empty. We have chosen to have lunch and then wander around town later. We do a lot of that stuff that must drive waiters mad; you know the kind of thing.
‘Do you want to sit with him?’
‘No, let Anna go at the end, it is easier for her to get to the baby.’
‘Do you think this table is too near the door?’
‘Did anyone notice where the loos were?’
Then follows the ‘What does everyone want to drink?’
Finally, drinks ordered, baby settled and menus in front of us we begin the wonderful business of choosing our food. A whole discussion on whether we want Pappadam’s follows. James asks how many do we get per portion, and the waiter tells us nine. We all look a bit stunned. £1.95 per portion and we get nine. Well, this has to be right doesn’t it? Maths is my worst subject but even I know five into nine would give us 1.8 of a Pappadam and if it were 2 per person then we were being diddled out of a bit of Pappadam somewhere. Come on, you have to agree? Anyway, best to veer away from the Pappadam’s for the moment.
We begin to have an enjoyable time, as you do. I started taking loads of photos and we all discussed what we would eat. Having been to this restaurant previously, Andrew chose to have Goan curry and his youngest son, Tim, followed suit. The rest of us chose Chicken or Lamb. I am sure you are finding this as riveting as watching paint dry. Well, why are you still reading? You want to know what happens don’t you? We all chose starters too but I am sensing your yawns so I wont even go there, except to say they were very nice.
Then came our main meal. Oh, the pleasure of so much food. I truly feel I have been starving but my constant mantra of ‘Nothing tastes as good as being slim feels’ was not reaching its high tones on this day. Then, I saw Tim grimace and poke at his fish.
‘What’s wrong?’ I asked. Oh, if I could eat those words! Eat those words, god I am good, you must admit.
‘It’s raw and it’s not even hot.’
‘Send it back,’ advises Andrew and we all nod in agreement and my diplomatic husband calls over the waiter.
What follows is the truth so help me god.
Tim: This is not quite cooked; I wonder could you just cook it a bit more?
Waiter: That is how the Sea Bass is. It supposed to be like that.
Andrew then looks at his, which is the same but better cooked.
Tim: I had this before when we came here and it was different, this is like…raw and cold.
Anna: Can you just cook it some more please?
Waiter: I ask the chef.
We all stare at each other.
‘Why is he asking the chef?’ I ask. ‘We are the customer, we can have it char grilled if we want.”
Andrew starts to look cross.
‘This is the first time I have argued with a waiter about food in a restaurant.’
Waiter returns: That is how it cooked the chef can’t change it.
Tim: I just would like it cooked a little more.
Anna: Can you not just cook it a bit more?
I am wondering which word he does not understand. Cook, more, raw, or maybe he doesn’t understand any of them.
Tim continues to negotiate while Andrew silently gets up and makes his way to the kitchen.
This is not good. The waiter seemingly unaware that Andrew is heading towards the Chef continues to debate with my stepson. Andrew comes back and informs us that the Chef has said the fish is bad and Andrew again looks at his own fish, which was the same Sea Bass. Anna then says hers does not taste quite right but thinks it is okay. Mine is fine. Choices are provided and Tim decides on another fish dish. I feel the irritation as it whiffs across from my normally, very laid back husband.
‘I cannot believe we had to argue like that,’ he snaps, ‘If the fish was bad why did they dish it up in the first place?’
Tim has chosen a cod dish and we all breathe a sigh of relief. Meanwhile I offer him some of mine while it is being cooked. Finally his dish arrives and we all begin to laugh about it.
About forty-five minutes later and with no apology from the chef or the waiter, we decide to go somewhere else for ice cream and ask for the bill.
It is placed in front of Andrew and I feel him tense.
‘Oh, come on!’
‘What is it?’ asks James.
‘I’m not paying this, they have charged us almost £10 for the ‘Pappadam’s.’
I did warn you the Pappadam’s would rear their ugly head again didn’t I?
‘But we asked how many were given for one portion.’ argues James.
‘I didn’t really want any,’ says Tim.
‘I didn’t have much either, it was only because they were there,’ I chime in.
‘I didn’t really want any either,’ adds Anna
‘That isn’t the point, we didn’t order them, and so I am not paying for them.’
I am becoming so grateful the place is empty. He calls the waiter over queries the bill and is told that is what we ordered. Andrew disagrees and demands to see the menu.
After two seconds of studying it he states bluntly.
‘I am paying the bill but not for the ‘Pappadam’s, do you understand? We clearly queried the number for one portion and you said nine.’
The waiter starts to argue but Andrew interrupts him.
‘I am not paying for them, understand.’
He stands up and follows the waiter to the till. We all watch as the waiter begins to make a phone call.
Anna starts to buckle the baby into his buggy.
‘Ooh, I think I had better get chubbs buckled in quick,’ she says.
‘I want to know where he got nine from anyway,’ says James.
Andrew suddenly storms towards us.
‘Right, if the manager is not here in a few seconds we are leaving.’
Anna is frantically buckling in the baby now while trying to grab an after eight mint or two.
The few seconds pass and Andrew heads for the door followed by James. I know this is a tactic to get something done but Tim looks dumbstruck.
‘We can’t not pay.’ he says.
Anna finally has baby buckled in and I grab another after eight for her, after all she is breast-feeding and eating for two.
The manager arrives and I call Andrew to come back in. The following takes place.
Manager: Can you count one to nine?

Outside the restaurant

Andrew puts his hand up in irritation and heads for the door.
Manager: How many did you eat?
Andrew: It is irrelevant how many we ate. I did not order them. I will pay for one portion.
Manager: Can you count one to nine
Andrew: Fine, let’s go
We all walk to the door.
Manager: Ok, you not pay for them. Our mistake okay, I take them off.
Andrew: I will pay for one. Do you understand, I am not happy about any of this’
Manager: No you not pay for them.
Andrew: Whatever

We pay as everyone is looking on from outside. We leave and I grab another after eight for Anna.

Anyone for a Vindaloo?

Constructing a sentence

I am beginning to think that perhaps I do not articulate terribly well. In fact, it is even occurring to me, after yesterday, that maybe what I think are fully constructive sentences are not at all. I think I have perhaps lost the art of constructing a sentence, or at least one that makes sense to everyone else. Or, of course it could just be that everyone I am coming across are all the dumb people. Take yesterday for example. Now, where to start?
Well, if you recall, we had a wonderful holiday apart from the car and cat problems.
The car, it seems, is an ongoing problem. Now, I can deal with this. I am a mature woman. I understand cars have issues and need to be dealt with. I cannot however deal with a husband who seems to either be going deaf, or has selective hearing where I am concerned. I think it is the latter.
For the past three years he has had a mobile phone, whoops correction, a PDA which he uses to connect to his computer for his software work (straight over my head), which also doubles up as his mobile. Except the battery has been dying on a regular basis for the past six months. This has not been a serious issue as he emails me from work and I get that on my blackberry and email him back. But, god forbid, I may need to phone him and say,
‘Hey honey, could you stop off at the supermarket and get some toilet roll.’
Not that I would ever use those words, but you get my drift. Just a roll of toilet paper would kill his phone in an instant. So, I have coped with this problem without a complaint, apart from the odd,
‘Could you not get a new mobile darling, you know in case of emergency and all that?’
So, yesterday I went to the shops with the intention of being there for a short time and to maybe check out a cheap Nokia for him. I only needed a pair of shoes for a wedding on saturday after all.
I am not a lover of multi story parking and it took me all of twenty minutes to find a space. I ended up on the fourth floor and decided to take the lift down. First mistake.
I stepped in and was practically thrown to the floor by the onslaught of body odour and the leering eyes of what had to be a pervert. I attempted to retreat but the doors closed on me. I was somewhat relieved to see another woman with a child and proceeded to hold my breath. After just a few seconds the lift lurched and stopped.
we were all silent for a while. All trying to look calm and seeming not bothered in the least. Then the woman with the baby suddenly started banging all the buttons.
‘Oh my god, are we stuck. Do you have any water? Oh my god what do we do?’
Not panic maybe!
I handed her my half bottle of water which she snatched and quickly popped two pills which she washed down with my water. Now, my head was throbbing. I looked at the empty bottle and sighed. The smell was becoming intense now. I opened the little flap where the phone would be, there wasn’t one.
‘Oh my god, oh my god, my baby.’
I fought the impulse to slap her. Meanwhile the stinky man just stands there like a statue and now the baby picks up mum’s anxiety and screams for bloody England, while I try to remember what I needed so badly at the damn shops that would make this all worthwhile.
‘We could jump up and down,’ the smelly man suddenly suggests.
I try not to look unimpressed as I pull out my blackberry and get the phone number for marks and spencer which is on the ground floor. I have to shout above the baby’s screaming.
‘Could you get someone to fix the lift in the multi story car park please, we seem to be stuck and cannot get it to move.’ I mean, was that well constructed or what?
‘What car park would that be madam?’
Do what? There is only one in the whole town.
‘The one here, the one right outside your store.’
‘Can you hold on madam.’
Why?
Five minutes pass and then a woman comes on the phone.
By now my head is fit to burst,
‘What are they doing for god’s sake?’ yells mum.
‘I understand you are stuck in a lift, can you give us clear directions just where you are?’
oh please!
‘I am on the top floor of Bloomingdales of course. For goodness sake, we have a crying baby here. We are in the lift outside your store, right here in the town.’
‘There is no need to be rude madam we are trying to help you.’
I want to tell her I am about to pass out from an overdose of unsavoury body odour and could she have a medic waiting. Meanwhile, I try to ignore the fact that the man with us has his hand in an unsavoury place also.
I apologise and try to give clear concise instructions. She asks do I have enough battery to stay on the phone so they can get someone to sort out the problem. For Goodness sake!
‘Madam,can you confirm that you are in the lift that connects to the multi story car park?’
‘I already have.’
‘Well there is a lift in Debenhams, are you in that?’
‘I know where I bloody am. I am right outside your store on the 4th floor, which word do you not understand, store, floor, 4th?’
‘We are trying to help you madam.’
Why does it not feel like that?
Suddenly the think jerks and we are moving again. The doors suddenly open and I am out like a shot. Any plans of visiting Marks and Spencer are abandoned and I head to New look. I forget the phone, take the stairs back to my car and head home.
Thank god, time to relax. Never, ever again will I allow that thought to enter my head.
I decide to do a quick dinner of bean burgers and veg. Andrew emailed he was leaving twenty minutes before I stuck everything in the oven. I had just sat down when my mobile rang with a voice message. It was Andrew, the bloody car had broken down again. I phoned him back, forgetting the battery issue.
‘I have been trying for fifteen minutes to get it to restart. I will have to call the breakdown people so better go. I have some battery so will phone you when they get here.’
I wait and wait and wait. The phone goes. A Text.
‘Change of plan, they were bringing me home. But am going to the Peugeot garage with it can you collect me from there?’
I text back.
‘Where is that?’
Ten minutes pass and no response. I deliberate, should I or shouldn’t I call him back.
I do.
‘We are at the garage can you get me?’
Then I hear the man from the breakdown company say something about dropping him off somewhere nearer home.
‘Ok, can you collect me at Fri…’
Phone cuts out. I sit in the car, ready to leave. A woman geared up with nowhere to go. For god’s sake. I try his phone three times and just get voice mail.
I rush inside and google Fri and Oxfordshire and Peugeot and get a vague idea of where he may be. I set off and then decide to phone the breakdown company. They can patch me through (as they say on ‘24’) to the breakdown driver.
I pull in to a lay by and call them.
‘Hi, sorry to bother you but I am going to collect my husband who has been dropped off by your people and I am going to collect him. His phone battery has died so I am not sure where I am collecting him from. Can you put through to the driver he was with?’
Clear, concise sentence, yes? Obviously not.
‘Can I have his registration.’
That is like asking me can they have his waist measurement.How the hell do I know. I don’t even know my own reg without looking.
‘I don’t know it.’
‘Can I have your house number and postcode.’
I give it.
‘Okay madam, I can see he was picked up. They are relaying him home.’
‘No, they were but then there was a change of plan, can you just put me through to the driver.’
This is obviously very difficult for him.
‘Just putting you on hold madam.’
I get nice music. Then a woman answers.
‘Can I help you?’
I explain again.
‘Can you phone your husband?’
Erm, did I not cover that one already?
‘His battery died, so no I can’t.’
‘Do you think he will phone you?’
Of course, how silly, why did I not think of that.
‘His battery has died, I do not think he can. I think your man has dropped him off at one of two places can you phone him and ask him where he has done that so I know where I am going.’
By now I am driving while on the phone as it is all taking too long.
‘Putting you on hold.”
Oh, for Christ sake.
Five minutes later.
‘Do you know where the garage was?’
Oh this is getting stupid.
I give her the name of the place and say I do not know how to get there which is why I need the driver to tell me.
‘Oh, hold on. Fred,’ she shouts ‘Do you know where Frithwell is?’
I have to be in a nightmare. Surely this cannot be happening. How hard can it be to put me through to a driver. He has a bloody phone.
‘I will try to get hold of the driver and call you back,’ she says.
I go to give her my number but she tells me she has it on her system. I later find out she didn’t have it at all. She phoned Andrew and managed to get him on a small amount of battery he had left. Then realised she could not phone me back. I meanwhile am heading to a place I have never been to in my life before and have no idea where I am going. I am cursing the woman, cursing Andrew, cursing his car and am almost in tears. I try Andrew again, nothing. I am half way to the place when my phone goes.
‘I am in Cumnor by the pub, can you come there.’
Shit, I am now on the motorway. More curses and I then manage to turn around and head back. I pull up beside him with a screech and we drive home in silence at 90 miles an hour until Andrew speaks.
‘I will need clean pants when we get home if you continue like this.’
‘If you do not get a phone by this time tomorrow, I am leaving,’ I say all dramatically. I know and he knows I have nowhere to go.
‘Ok,’ he responds.
Tonight we are collecting the car and I am fearful. I feel like I am going on a fairground ride. At least he got a Nokia phone so should we lose each other, we can maintain contact. Wish me luck…

The End Of The Holiday

So, where did I get to? Oh, I remember. The last thing was the great rowing boat trip on a Loch of one’s own.

Ah, holidays. I am seriously wondering if they really are worth all the time and effort and dare I add stress. We finally said goodbye to Glencarron and Ba Ba black sheep.
I now have the fun of phoning ‘Bon Prit’ to see if I can return one lamb nibbled skirt. I have no doubt they will say ‘no problem.’ (NOT).

Now, for all the news I left out. Did I feel you shudder? Also, did I mention that I barely got out alive? The midgies nearly ate me to death. It really was worse than ‘The invasion.’ I must have spent the last week scratching myself to pieces. My legs are still not a pretty sight. Not that they ever have been.
I hate to admit, that for me, the best part of the holiday was having a dishwasher. I feel embarrassed even mentioning it. Oh, what a luxury. What a difference. I mean, I told Andrew a dishwasher would change my life. I even swore it would cure my PMT. He looked doubtful. I do not hold out much hope of obtaining one. The tiny television was something of a let down. I had taken my new boxed set of ‘24’ thinking I would be watching it on a great plasma screen and instead had to peer closely at a 12 inch monitor. One cannot have everything I suppose, but that would have been nice.

Our first week was fairly uneventful. I got over the shock of not holidaying at a Blenheim look-alike and finally settled down. I actually became quite attached to the two cats, three dogs, and one lamb that followed us about. Brian the stalker was very helpful, that is when he heard us knock at his door which was not as often as we would have liked.
On the Wednesday Andrew chose to do some clay pigeon shooting. I have never seen my husband behind a gun. He has seen me behind a knife admittedly, but I had no intention of being in the same vicinity as my husband when he had a shotgun. I stayed at East cottage reading my racy little novel and jumping every time there was a shot. I prayed each time that he had not killed the stalker. It then began to pour with rain. I expected him to return but it seems Brian had just laughed when this had been suggested.
‘It’s a wee drizzle man,’ he had declared.
Yes, well. One man’s drizzle is another’s soaking.
Andrew came back full of his days fun and then winked at me.
‘I have the key to the Lodge. We have fifteen minutes to look around’
I jumped up and down in glee. I am not sure why. From the outside it looks like something out of ‘Great Expections’. So, my only expectation was seeing lots of cobwebs. Oh, what a surprise. The place was amazing. Enough bedrooms and bathrooms for 20 people. I already started planning a murder mystery evening until my dear husband brought me down to earth. He began telling me about the owners and I realised, not for the first time in my life, that we do not live in a classless society as I keep deluding myself. It seemed the poor stalker was not treated at all well. All the correspondence we had been sent had indicated the stalker would expect a gratuity fee each time he took us somewhere. This fee was something like £30. But when we tried to give him anything, he was deeply offended. He obviously has no idea this is sent out to holiday makers. I was left speechless when Andrew told me that once Brian had been stopped by the owner after being given two scones by the cook. He was asked to explain himself until he eventually handed them back. I left the Lodge feeling quite sad that there are some people who will always think they are better than others simply because they have more money, or a better education. Maybe I am naive to think we are all the same underneath. That everyone is deserving of love no matter how educated or rich they are, and also deserving of respect. But, the reality of life is that I soon forgot this and continued with my holiday.
We phoned home to check my car was back after its MOT. I already knew that was going to cost around £600. The cat was doing fine. He had his stitches put in and all in all that had cost another £300. So, already we had spent a £1000 just sitting in our holiday cottage.
The following day we decided to have a quiet afternoon. I chose to read while Andrew studied. Suddenly Buster the dog jumped up to the window with a thump and sat staring at us. We in turn stared at each other. We knew we were both thinking the same thing. Do we let him in. His sad watery eyes pleaded with us. I opened the door to be knocked over by Buster who was quickly followed by Ba Ba black sheep. Suddenly mayhem broke loose. Buster skidded around the house like a racing car, while Ba Ba black sheet bleated away in between getting small nips on his leg by Buster. We quickly tried to gain control but all was lost. The cats had now run in.
Suddenly we were overrun. Buster was barking like mad and trying to bite the lambs leg, while the cats rubbed themselves affectionately against us. Suddenly Buster grabbed the lamb and was dragging it by its leg outside. It seemed jealousy had reared its ugly head.
‘Oh my god, do something,’ I screamed.
‘Like what,’ retorted Andrew.
I opened my mouth but of course I had no idea either. At that moment Brian came to the rescue and suddenly all was quiet again. We both let out a sigh of relief.
‘I think a day out tomorrow,’ was Andrew’s only response.
So, the next day off we went to a castle. As we started the journey, all seemed well. On the way back our car turned into a kangaroo and after 10 mins halted altogether.
My hands began to sweat.
‘It’s nothing. I just need to reset it and it will be fine. I get this sometimes going to work,’ says my ever laid back husband.
‘There,’ he says getting back into the car and starting the ignition, which doesn’t actually start.
‘Strange,’ he gets out again. I sweat a bit more.
This time it does start and we are off again. Five minutes later it is spluttering.
‘Oh no, we will never get back home like this, how will we get back to work,’ I say helplessness evident in my voice.
Ok, so we are not going home for another four days, but one needs to think ahead. Not my husband. Life is one day at a time. No, I exaggerate, one hour at a time. No, I exaggerate again, one minute at a time. So, I get a look which even I cannot describe.
We get going again and make it to Loch Carron, which is our local town, kind of, if you call almost twenty miles local. There is a garage there.
‘Bring it back friday and we’ll look at it for you’
We stress we have to get home on the Saturday. They agree to have a quick look at it while we do some shopping. It is freezing cold, windy and rainy and I have on just a light top. With teeth chattering we walk to the shops. An hour later we return to discover they need a part and cannot do it till the Friday after all.
We climb back into what I now view as the monster, and begin to head back to the cottage. We manage to drive about 200 yards and the car breaks down. we are towed back to the garage and one of the men there drives us home in his pick up. Great, now we don’t have a car. Even the loch where the rowing boat sits is too far to walk.
We get home full of shopping and Andrew lights the fire. I attempt to relax and not worry. I feel sure the car will be ok. They seemed to know what was needed and had ordered the parts.
‘But who will take you to pick it up?’ I ask suddenly.
I have a tendency to do this. We may be sitting in total silence for hours and I find my mind racing and then the last sentence will just roll off my tongue. I forget the rest of the world has not been in my head with me.
Andrew gives me a confused look, works it out as he always does and responds.
‘Oh, you mean the car. I will ask Brian or someone at the garage. That is friday’s problem.’
I hate to tell him that I am way past Friday’s problem. I am already on Monday’s and getting back to work problem..
That night I lay awake listening to all the strange house noises mingled with Andrew’s snoring and suddenly hear a loud bang. My heart thumps. I lay tense but all is quiet. I close my eyes to sleep and then, bang again.
I hiss at Andrew.
‘Wake up.’
Nothing.. I thump him on the back.
‘There is a noise downstairs. I think someone has got into the house’
I pretend to ignore his deep sigh.
I listen with ears pricked as he makes his way downstairs and grab my phone, struggling to recall if I dial 999 on a mobile or is it something different. Andrew comes back safe and sound.
‘Its the log crackling on the fire, honestly, you are a wreck.’
I cringe under the covers.
Friday arrives and I truly am a wreck. I try doing what if’s with Andrew. He is not playing. At 2.30 Brian knocks to ask if we need a lift to collect the repaired car. Is that a good omen, I think, that Brian says repaired car. I stay at the cottage and wait. Thirty minutes later Andrew comes back with the car on a tow truck. I feel tears begin to prick my eyes.
‘It’s a complicated software problem. We have two options,’ he tells me calmly.
I fight my overwhelming desire to get hysterical. I hate options. There is never a good option in my experience.
‘We hire a car to take us home and have this towed to Inverness to the Peugeot people and come back in two weeks and do the whole journey again, there and back. Or we risk it home.’
‘No,’ I shout. ‘We will break down on the motorway and cars will hit us.’
‘I will phone for breakdown cover. I will tell them our problem and see if they will cover us. I think we should give it a go.’
Is he mad? Have the midgie bites made him demented?
I cook dinner with shaking hands as he phones breakdown companies and amazingly gets us booked in with two after telling them we have a problem with the car and are 600 miles from home. He tells them the problem and he is also amazed they agree to accept us.
I debate whether I can bear to do this journey again, ever in my life in fact! The decision is made to attempt the journey home in the monster.
That night I barely sleep. By the morning I am exhausted.
Andrew is positive. I have gone through all the what if’s and am as prepared as I can be.
Believe it or not, even with toilet stops we made it home 16 hours later and the car is still going.
As for Scotland. It was lovely, but I think I will really check out the details of my rental home next time and always remember they take the best photos of the place.
I am still secretly thrilled I broke a knife that was already falling to bits and they did not even notice and gave us back our deposit. Now that is a result I say.

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.

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.