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…

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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?

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…”

‘Glowing in the dark’

Why is it whenever I go to the hospital nothing goes according to plan? Yesterday, I left work to attend my eleven a.m. appointment with promises of ‘I won’t be long’ and ‘I’ll make up the hours.’ Ten minutes later, after a leisurely drive I arrive at the hospital twenty minutes early. I can’t believe my luck, there is a parking space right outside the Endocrine clinic. With much reluctance, I push a £1 coin into the ticket machine. Don’t you just hate paying for the privilege of being told your blood pressure is up and your thyroid is still crap? Still, I tell myself a pound, is not that bad for 45 mins. The things I tell myself, I ask you. I stroll up to the desk and approach the receptionist who gives me a mean look.
‘I have an appointment at eleven o clock,’ I say forcing a smile.
‘Name?’ She barks and holds out her hand for my appointment card, which of course I have forgotten.
Determined not to be intimidated I pull my Blackberry from my bag and point it at her like a gun.
‘I have a text with the appointment time.’ I say with an attempt at being assertive.
That throws her and she backs down.
‘Your Doctor’s name?’ She barks again.
‘Frankenstein,’ I mutter but she doesn’t hear me.
‘Has your situation changed since your last visit?’
Which situation would that be? I wonder. What an awful question. Don’t you just feel so embarrassed that nothing in your life has changed in six months? I shake my head miserably in answer to her question.
‘Take a seat, someone will call you.’
I debate reading one of their magazines but after scrutinising the patient who put the Hello magazine back, I change my mind. Anyway I am on time so will probably go in soon. Ah, as if on cue, I am called. I am taken into a small room to have my blood pressure taken.
‘This is your first visit?’ Asks the nurse.
I am already on the weighing scales and rolling up my sleeve. I mean, do I look like a virgin?
‘Far from it,’ I say trying not to be too facetious.
‘Oh, the receptionist seems to think this is your first visit.’
Good lord I forget my appointment letter and everything goes tits up it seems. My blood pressure is up and I swallow two beta blockers and am sent back outside to wait for the consultant to call me. I wait and I wait and I wait and I wait. Everyone who was there when I arrived has gone. I have been there an hour and my parking ticket is about to expire. I feel my blood pressure rising. I approach the desk and enquire when I can expect to be seen not expecting this simple question to cause such confusion.
‘Name?’
My god, has she forgotten it already. I tell her again and she studies her computer screen.
‘What time was your appointment?’
I feel myself shudder at the word was.
‘Eleven,’ I repeat.
Five minutes later and she tells me that she has found me on the system and I am informed that I will be next. I wander outside and push a £2 coin into the machine. I walk back inside feeling like I have just been mugged.
I wait and I wait. I have now been there two hours. I still have to make up my time at work. I feel a headache brewing. Are hospitals there to make you sick? Is this how they drum up business?
Finally, I am called in. It is now 12.30.
‘So ve are having the radio iodine treatment again yes,’ asks the consultant checking my pulse.
I nod.
‘Ve give you, double dose this time.’ Says my German, Swedish, Hungarian, well she’s not English, put it that way,consultant.
‘Double dose,’ I stutter, ‘Is that safe?’
‘Every zing is doubled,’ she nods emphatically not actually saying if it is safe or not.
I try to absorb the everything is doubled concept.
‘So the time I need off work is…
‘Doubled,’ she repeats. ‘Before was 5 days, now every zing double, so off work for 12 days.’
I debate telling her that her figures do not seem right but she is squeezing my throat, in a nice way you understand.
‘I sleep separately from my husband for?’ I ask in a strangled voice.
‘Double, every zing double, you sleep apart for 12 days, no social life for 27 days. This time you are double radioactive. Ve make sure it work.’
Kill or cure huh? I open my mouth and then close it again deciding I do not have the time to argue. My thyroid and I really have not been getting along, so the sooner it goes the better. So, in two weeks’ time I am to come back and swallow a radioactive capsule. I am to be anti-social for 27 days but at the end I have the pleasure of becoming under active. Yes, well, you may not find it exciting but for me it is worth the anti-social behaviour. Thank god for Facebook is all I can say…social interaction with every zing safe.

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.