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…

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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.