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.

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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

White Christmas and missing cats

Every year I think how nice it would be to have a white Christmas. The thought of opening my eyes on Christmas day to heaps of crisp, fresh white snow has always seemed so romantic. Snow piled up outside the front door.
Of course, when having these dreamy, diamond glinted snow fantasies, boats and planes and trains and of course shovels, (to dig the car out, not for killing my husband) don’t quite enter into them. Come to that neither did City Link and my longed for parcel. I also never envisioned paying a cab driver £25 for the luxury of taking me to work because I was too afraid to attempt driving my car up the steep hill that gets me out of the village. But, at last here it is, my wonderful romantic white Christmas. So, how romantic has it been so far?
Saturday afternoon as the beautiful white stuff fell I looked longingly out of the window. Tomorrow, I will go for a walk and take photos. Speaking my thoughts aloud I turned with a glow on my face to see my husband dressed in his flying suit.
‘Good lord, you can’t fly in this.’ I said stupidly.
Immediately the romance of my lovely white Christmas was wiped out in a second by his next words.
‘I am taking my car down the hill today while it is not too cold. I should be able to get to work on Monday if I take it down there now.”
Work, hill, oh no. My stomach churned and the snow no longer seemed so pretty.
I watched him leave as though watching him for the last time as he heads off into the Antarctic.
‘Be careful and text me.’
I get the look. You know the type of look that says, ‘I am only going to the next village for goodness sake.’
I begin to think about work and then tell myself to enjoy the weekend. After all it will be gone by Monday. Yes, well as we can all see it has far from disappeared and any white Christmas I had hoped for now looks like a reality. What also looks like a reality is that I may not get to my in-laws for this wonderful white Christmas.
So, just what is the reality of a white Christmas with snow around the door and a nice roaring fire inside the house? The following are some of those wonderful things you can look forward to.
1) You cannot get a flight to anywhere as they cancel most flights and you spend the best part of Christmas in Heathrow’s departure lounge, just hoping to depart.
2) You cannot get a train for hours as they have cancelled most of them and you queue for almost eight hours in the vain hope of catching one to get you home.
3) If you live in a tiny village you cannot catch a bus because they have cancelled those too.
4) The roads are not gritted so you cannot get to work, or the Christmas party or even get your present in the secret Santa.
5) You may spend hours on the motorway getting to your loved one for Christmas.
6) You get trampled or beaten up in Sainsbury because everyone seems to think it is the start of a food shortage. Although I have to admit our house is starting to face such a very shortage.
7) If you are like me and have ordered your presents online and late at that, then you are unlikely to get them in time.
8) Your house is bare of Christmas cards because the post cannot be delivered.
9) You lose your cat in the snow, well ok, I have. All hopes on him coming back though. Periods of the day are spent calling him.
10) You cannot even get a taxi to work, well; ok I can’t, as nobody will attempt to drive up the hill into the village.
11) Worse of all, and seriously this is important stuff, my diet food is not being delivered. A white Christmas could result in me getting fat.

So, will I be wishing for a white Christmas next year? I think not. Lovely as it looks it is freezing. I have frozen bread and frozen cooking oil. I now found myself longingly remembering the one Christmas I spent in Sydney and how I complained of the heat when cooking a Christmas dinner.
So, here I am, with two extra heaters on and wearing enough layers that I resemble a Michelin tyre and treating the kitchen like a room possessed by a poltergeist. I fly in there, grab what I need and fly out. Icicles hang down above the kitchen window and back door like Christmas decorations and drip monotonously onto my head as I call the cat. I try to think of past summers but they seem like a distant dream. I imagine, one day, this will too. In the meantime, off to call the cat and make another hot cup of tea.

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.