Let it snow (as long as we have shoes)…

‘Let’s do something different for Christmas this year,’ I shouted through the wind as we sat on a balcony in Tenby last summer sipping G & Ts in our raincoats. ‘Snow! I want to see snow!’


We all agreed that a White Christmas would be perfect, and after deciding that we would have too much luggage to fly anywhere (who wants to travel with a turkey in a rucksack?), we hit on the idea of the Scottish Highlands. After all, they seem to get the white stuff from the August Bank Holiday until, well, Midsummer, don’t they?

It took lots of planning. As self-appointed Chief Elf, I had found the perfect getaway – a log cabin nestled in the forest, just south of the Cairngorms.


‘You won’t get snow below the treeline,’ a friend helpfully informed me.

‘Lalalalalala,’ I sang in my head, as I imagined chopping down a towering pine and dragging it back to the cabin on a toboggan (a very big one).


What had seemed like a simple idea became a military operation. I delegated shopping lists, which included seasoned logs, greaseproof paper and enough alcohol to souse the Scots in their entirety. I sent missives about gifts – just one small thing per stocking. I made meal plans and game plans and plans of plans…

Finally, we were off, and most importantly, all availed of the most essential of information: WE ARE GOING TO GET SNOWBOUND. BRING THERMALS. BRING HATS, GLOVES, SCARVES, LAYERS. BRING YAKS… No. Forget the yaks.

Travelling in two cars, the first meeting point was to be Yorkshire – at my mother-in -law’s where we would stay overnight ready for the second leg of the journey. What had not been on my plan was that my elder daughter, a medical student, just a few days before leaving, announced that she’d have to pop back to a Birmingham hospital where she had a piece of work to complete. She had left her ‘Scotland’ luggage at home so all we had to do was pack it, swoop by when we got to The Midlands, and pick her up. It was touch and go as to whether we would fit her in; Hubby had spent a long time early that morning packing every inch of the car – and the roof box – with Stuff.

We arrived at her student house, and as I was stuck in my seat with a huge, heavy hamper on my lap (one of three in the car to be relinquished in Yorkshire), Hubby got out to knock on the door. He walked around to my side of the car – I could only see his upper half. He stopped next to my window and looked down… for a long, long time. When he looked up at me again, it was with horror.

‘I’m wearing my crocs,’ he mouthed through the window.

‘Your crocs?’ I mouthed back. ‘Crocs?’

He loved those crocs and, as much as we’d always told him they were gardenwear only, he’d put them on at any opportunity; he’d slipped them on that morning for comfort while packing up the car.

I opened the door and looked at his feet.

‘You have packed other shoes, though? Boots for trudging through the snow?’

‘Did you pack any for me?’ he asked.


At that moment, my daughter scuffed her way to the car, wearing a pair of highly unsuitable fancy shoes which she had left undone to emphasise the temporary nature of their use.

She was followed by her sock-footed, pyjama-clad best friend.

More shoe shenanigans. I was all shoe-ed out.

‘Where are your shoes, Eve?’ I asked.

‘Packed. You’ve got them in the car somewhere. Have you seen the carrier bag I left for you to bring?’

We located it and she extracted another pair of (unfamiliar) shoes which she handed to her friend. ‘These are Anna’s.’

Anna scuttled off in her socks. Eve got into the car in her dolly shoes and Hubby pulled away wearing his crocs.

We had almost left the city when I heard a little voice from the back.

‘Uh oh. I’ve forgotten my coat.’

It was back at the student house. I sighed. We continued on our journey. We left the coat.

When we arrived in Yorkshire, we asked my mother-in-law if there was a charity shop in the village. There was! Eve and I hurried to get to it before it closed and, like a mirage, there appeared before us two coats, both of which fitted her. We bought the pair for about £10. Sadly, the only shoes for Hubby were a pair of football boots. We didn’t buy those. Plan B was to ask his dad who seemed to have a secret shoe shop in the back room. He brought in pair after pair of new shoes, various colours and sizes. The only pair which were a good fit was a brown suede pair.

‘Suede’s no good in the snow,’ I said.

Out came a couple of cans of waterproof spray.


The log cabin was wonderful.


Two-coat Eve was warm and dry, and Mr Tumnus (our new name for Hubby with his new brown suede hooves) was able to walk without getting frostbite or trenchfoot. It was very (very) cold, but, sadly, there was no snow until the day after we left. On the eleven-hour journey home, however, I got a message from my friend at home:

‘We’ve got snow!’





Pug-nosed and perky

The squelching and snuffling coming from the opposite sofa yesterday evening was a sudden and stark warning:

Man Flu in the house! Man Flu!

Evacuate or succumb!

Man Flu!

Man Flu!

And I knew it would be a bad one as I could trace back its origins. This was going to be a three-weeker, and I didn’t want anything to do with it what with Christmas celebrations getting underway.

Hubby retreated to the bedroom first, and later I followed. He was still awake as I crept in. Listening to his mucus melodies, nasal trumpets and percussive sniffs was not going to bode well for my good night’s sleep, let alone the prospect of waking up healthy, so I opened the window ‘to let out the germs’ and told him to turn his back to me (and stay that way all night, I added mentally).



As tired as I was, I was afraid to drift off. What if we – perish the thought – turned to face each other whilst in the depths of slumber?

I racked my drowsy brain for a solution. I could sleep in another bed, but then I’d have to launder the sheets. Nah.

Then it came to me, in a bright and clear vision. When in Rome [read as Japan]…

I hurried downstairs and rummaged in the kitchen cupboard below the sink. There it was – a sturdy roll of J-Cloths. I unravelled a few and decided that three joined together would be perfect. Placing the middle sheet over my face and mouth, I tied the outer sheets together behind my head and, intrepid and determined to defeat evil, mounted the Staircase of Doom to the Chamber of Horrors.

It was a little tight, I realised within minutes. My nose was flattened, and there was every likelihood that I’d end up pug-faced. The bow at the back was a bit bulky to lie on, as well. Eventually, I fell asleep, but continually awoke, gasping for breath; I had felt close to suffocating.

Bit by bit, throughout the night, my mask unravelled, opening up until my eyes were covered too, but on I slept. I probably looked like a badly-equipped welder. Actually, there’s no probably about it.

When I woke up, I looked through the mesh and took a selfie (yes, I know my hair is barmy in the morning and the camera has obviously malfunctioned to give me neck rolls).


But on the bright side, I cunningly evaded the germs and, as always, am happy to pass on the survival tip.


You’re welcome.

Weather Gremlins

Last night, I saw Huw Edwards briefly grimace at the News at Ten desk before the screen went blank and the Apologies for the break in transmission message came up on a red background.

I must confess, I was a little worried for his welfare, lest a bunch of Ninjas were under the desk tying his shoelaces together (hence the scowl) before maliciously pulling out the plug, much to the awaiting nation’s disappointment.



This morning, I switched on Breakfast for news of Huw’s fate only to hear talk of several incidents of studio electrical shenanigans attributed to ‘the heatwave’, and when I did my voluntary stint in the library today, the computers were slow and the little blue slips were not being issued through the little silver slits in the little black machines. Again, I heard talk of the effect of The Weather upon the servers at computer central, which had subsequently affected our ancient library equipment.


So, I guess that explains why at 5.20 this morning I was boiling the kettle for morning tea whilst multi-tasking and emptying the dishwasher with the usual self-set challenge to get it done before the kettle switched off.




It doesn’t?


Then I’ll enlighten you.

I failed the challenge. Mid-stoop, with a sparkling clean Jamie Oliver frying pan in hand, I happened to glance towards said silent kettle at the point when it was just about to begin its contented purr, and in doing so, my line of sight skimmed the built-in ovens. I froze, puzzled, bent double and still clutching Jamie’s handle. Something wasn’t right. I stared at the oven clocks which both said 5.22. I stood up – that would surely help – and stared a bit harder.

Yes, 5.22.

By now, I had surely developed irreversible frown lines. What were these bizarre numbers doing on my oven clocks?

My trusty phone was charging on the worktop. My phone would not lie; we had been through a lot together. I rubbed my eyes and looked at the time on the screen: 5.22… so why on earth was I making tea and emptying the dishwasher?

Had I dreamed that the 7.20 alarm had rudely wakened me and that I had resolutely turned it off?

I forfeited the tea – which was easy as it was still only at the boiling-water-within-the-kettle stage – and slogged back up the stairs where, if there were answers, I would find them, godammit. Granted, I had felt unduly tired on the downward descent a few minutes earlier where, bleary-eyed, I had relied more on my sense of touch than sight to negotiate the stairs.

Back in the bedroom, Hubby was still sound asleep. I picked up my clock – an electronic thing which is meant to automatically attune itself to the correct time – and held it right in front of my face for scrutiny. Yes! In the hour column was a 7. Of all the sevens I had ever laid my eyes upon, this was a prime example.



Not actual clock – quite evidently!

Still not quite convinced of the actual time, I checked the time on the house phone next to it. Maybe they would be in cahoots. But no, this device told me it was definitely 5 something.

I set the alarm on the house phone instead, and got back into bed, frightened to go to sleep for what might ensue. I could sleep until Friday if the world of technology had gone awry.

So, it seems that the heat has been affecting equipment willy nilly, my alarm clock being one of the casualties. At some point in the night, it had taken it upon itself to add on two hours and then trick me into getting up at the wrong time. And it still hasn’t righted itself.

I’m so glad it didn’t take two hours away; the reason I got up was to ensure that my daughter was up in time for her Physics A level exam this morning.

I just hope that if there were Ninjas underneath Huw’s desk, he didn’t get up in too much of a hurry.

Got to hand it to them…

How delighted I was to find a new shop in the village. The ironmonger’s was long gone and in its place was a shiny new replacement called Savers.

It wasn’t long before it was the talk of the village. The bargains to be had!

Well, yes. There were. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw nine rolls of toilet paper for a mere £1.99, or my favourite coconut oil at £1 a pot! I’d pop in regularly for toiletries – for toiletries galore were their speciality, along with, for some bizarre reason, a pot pourri of pet food in the last aisle.

For months I’d been wearing odd rubber gloves – one red and one yellow. I know many of you will be shocked by that confession.

Sometimes I shock myself.

They were both for the right hand so I wore the yellow one inside out, or sometimes, if it assumed its default stance due to a rough pulling off (yes, I have been known to be a tad rough with them: shock#2), I occasionally just forced my left hand into it. This pulled back and twisted my fourth and baby finger somewhat, lifting them up into a position where they were unusable (but quite elegant), and my thumb pointed the wrong way, but I lived with it.

I have to admit, those gloves annoyed the hell out of me, but as all you nail-varnish-wearing ladies know, washing up without sheathing one’s fingers in rubber can only result in disaster. As can many similar practices…

Well, I could hardly contain myself when I saw a pair of yellow rubber gloves in Savers at 49p. They were ‘Large’ and I am ‘Very Small’, but it’s rare to find anything less than a Medium so I snapped them up and snapped them on when I got home.

Not just for the fun of it, I hasten to add. There was washing up to be done. Who in their right mind puts glass in the dishwasher? No way, Jose!

I have worn Large before, so I knew that there would be a length of empty, flaccid glove at the end of each finger. It makes picking up very difficult; you just have to swipe and clutch, and often you have other fingertips in your grip too.

It wasn’t long before I mourned the loss of  Reliant Red and Inside-Out Yellow. My new gloves were not what they seemed for they began to stick together inside. It dawned on me that they had none of the powdery non-stick stuff that your average (or Large) Marigolds have. One by one the finger spaces became mini channels, or even cul-de-sacs, so that I could only get my digits part of the way up. There was now even more floppy finger dangling off the ends of my hands, and not only that, it was grossly deformed.


I am gradually getting used to them. They are a bit like crab claws now; I mostly don’t bother with the finger compartments at all and just insert the odd bit of extremity where I can find an orifice. I have just cleaned out the kitchen bin in them. It wasn’t pretty. I couldn’t find the opening of the new bin bag and when I finally did, I was unable to deposit a dirty Cif Wipe into it. Over and over it fell on the floor, and over and over I grabbed at it with fingers cramped into the palm of the glove.

Savers isn’t that good, and neither are 49p rubber gloves. Don’t be seduced, folks.

OCD – just another way of Organising Cupboards and Drawers

People – I hesitate to call them ‘loyal friends’ – have been known to label, nay accuse, me of having OCD tendencies. I like to think of it more as being Orderly, and using Categories and Details to make life flow like liquid wax down polished granite.

*wipes up image-debris and buffs*

My Orderly nature blatantly, and tidily, presents itself as soon as you walk through the front door. Heaven forbid that I should ever be caught out as an unsuspecting contestant of ‘Through the Keyhole, Non-Celebrity Special – where we knock on random doors and demand to be let in with camera crew, Lloyd Grossman, David Frost and Keith Lemon in tow’. Every picture is straight, every mirror is polished, and, without exception, every toilet lid is down, safe in the knowledge that a fragrant and pristine paradise waits beneath. I hesitate to say that I use a spirit level and set square in positioning my ornaments… I don’t have to! I have an eye for angles and equidistance.

Exhibit #1


Everything in life can be organised by categories and details:-

BOOKS (non-fiction)

– these occupy their own ‘non-fiction’ bookcase, placed geographically away from their cousins, ‘Fiction’. Perish the thought that a member of the household confuses their natural habitats. Non-fiction sits comfortably in Categories ( I love that concept, just in case you haven’t noticed yet), and, it goes without saying that, within those categories, they are placed in height order *swoons with delight* – tall to short *passes out in ecstasy*…

Now, recipe books, living in the kitchen, are a completely different animal, with a completely different set of rules. There, the tallest books are in the middle of the shelf and there is a gentle, and symmetrical, cascade to the left and right, ending at a vintage copy of Mrs Beeton and an old Home Economics book from schooldays.

Exhibit #2 (and yes, the fact that it’s not exactly symmetrical does not sit easy with me, so I shall move swiftly on)


BOOKS (fiction)

-do I really need to state the obvious? *sighs* Alphabetical by author… just like CDs and their artists. DVDs, of course, are by title. But you knew that.

For the benefit of burglars (and subsequent visit by the boys in blue), I have made my cupboards easy to navigate, too.

Clothes are organised by type, and are sub-categorised into colour (light to dark) – as are shoes. It’s to everyone’s benefit, is it not, to also have photographic evidence of every item of clothing? What better way to select an outfit!

All the games have been categorized – word/number/physical/practical, and, as for the box containing writing materials, that is the piece de resistance (I am aware that an accent is missing. I may be OCD, but I’m also computer-illiterate).

And lists – yes, what a boon are lists. Lovely, luscious lists… Have you ever thought about how many lists are just waiting to be made? Just the other day I listed the contents of the freezer. I keep notes of presents I have bought for people over the years, I make shopping lists by aisles. Why, when we took the family to Florida, every moment was planned from where we would eat to what we would do and when we would do it. There was mutiny on Day 3, but that’s a different story.

Anyway, one day I’m going to write a book called ‘Organising Christmas? Done.’ (That’s one of my specialities)

OCD? As if… I actually think that would look better as CDO

*Note to burglars. There’s nothing of value here. Move on.

How very dare they?

Every so often, for a laugh, we round up the family and head off in the direction of a bit of modern art. Each time I am reminded of The Emperor’s New Clothes. Surely, surely, everyone is faking admiration, and feigning intellect, as they scuff around with narrowed eyes, tilting their head this way and that, eyeing up a dirty comb with a missing tooth here, or the dried contents of a can of paint that’s been hurled at the wall there? There was once an installation that consisted of elephant dung. Yes, really. And what are the headphones about? They need a commentary? Per-lease…

Each time, I am so incensed at being duped and taken for a mug – I AM NOT A MUG! – that I vow to never again darken the doors of the gallery. Time passes. I forget. I suggest that, for a laugh, we should round up the family and head off in the direction of a bit of modern art…

It had been a while. Bank Holiday Monday was designated as the day we would visit the Saatchi Gallery, as yet one that we had not explored. We trotted happily in the late morning sunshine with great expectations, until we arrived at said destination. The sign outside informed us that it was closed for a private function (How very dare they), so we decided that we’d take our custom elsewhere, stopping first for a coffee at one of the street cafes nearby. It was all but empty.

‘We don’t want food, just a drink,’ I said as the waitress came over. She scanned the empty caff, swivelled 360 degrees on the balls of her feet and pointed to a few tables huddled close together and tucked out of the way at the side. It was the ‘busiest’ place in the whole lot with only one empty table available. There were people there, as far as I could make out, but they were engulfed in cigarette smoke. It was Fagash Corner.

‘You can sit there if it’s just for coffee,’ she said. (How very dare she). Some people have no idea how to run a business. We declined.

Nice place, Chelsea (apart from Fagash Corner). I felt very safe and rather at home there. (When I am rich, I may well buy a second home there, and a dachshund called Millie, but that’s by the by.) Anyway, we stumbled across a lovely pub The Phoenix, very quiet and with delicious food, and had an early lunch instead, before heading to the nearest tube station; we would revisit our old favourite, The Tate Modern. Somehow, one of the party (male, middle-aged, father-figure) managed to take us in completely the opposite direction when we reached the river. There was much angst and dawdling of aching feet as, first, we backtracked our steps to the point of error, then walked in an enormous, complete circle until we found ourselves back at the Saatchi Gallery.

Finally, weary and decidedly lacking in enthusiasm, we limped on to a tube train. By the time we got to The Tate, our need for caffeine was great. The coffee shop was on the sixth storey. There were queues for the lifts, but the stairs were out of the question. Eventually, we managed to squash in and joined the queue at the very busy coffee shop from which there is a wonderful view. We purchased drinks and cake galore and headed for one of the empty tables in the larger area of the cafe where many a family had already settled themselves and their refreshments. At the threshold we were stopped. That part was ‘shut’. Shut? (How. Very. DARE. They) We were forced to join the throngs that were jostling near to the window ledge and spilling across the narrow space into the counter queue. Still more people came in. Still they served coffee and cakes. Still they thronged and jostled. We had to eat and drink standing up! Standing. Up.

With hopes that we would be cheered by the art, we headed down to the galleries. It was as I had suspected. I can name no names. I can post no photos, but art? Really?

Here are some of my favourites (feel free to tut):

a black rectangle – black, all black, like the one I did in infant school;

a bit of string in a frame – a bit curly, probably taken off a parcel;

a white sheet, ruffled on the floor;

a tray – painted white and put in a glass case so no one would touch it;

some broomsticks propped up against the wall;

a mirror – you’re the art. No effort.

I rolled my eyes, and tutted (as you probably just have), and pointed, shaking my head so that it would be publicly known that I was not, and never would be, taken in.

‘They are treating us like mugs,’ I said, as I popped my contribution into the money box. ‘We’re not coming here again.’

We still had one more joy to behold on the journey home. As the tube doors closed, a veritable songbird made his way down the carriage towards us. Sorry, did I say ‘songbird’? I meant foghorn. A passenger in a cap, shades and headphones sang at the very top of his voice for his entire journey. He knew every lyric to every song that was being pumped into his ears. Even the high bits didn’t deter him. He performed the entire repertoire to the closed carriage doors, never once turning to make eye contact with anyone, despite being filmed by at least six passengers. (How very dare he). He’s probably an Internet star by now.

Talent, eh?

Oh, nuts.

Oh dear, I’ve abandoned my post again, haven’t I? Gone off and been distracted by…


Truth is, other people have really good blogs where they give ‘their public’ (mwah, dahling) those pearls of wisdom they’ve been waiting for, intelligent posts about matters literary, or packed full of detail on subjects about which they have great knowledge, or a fiery passion.

*falls into a hazy brown dream…*

(Sorry, I was just thinking about my favourite topic then – Topics, yes, those chewy chocolate bars filled with nuts and raisins.)

*licks lips and wipes dribble off keyboard*

So. Back to business. All I could think about when I started this blog a long, long time ago, was to chat about my own books as I knew those fairly well, and there seemed so much to say. Is this an opportune moment to drop in a shifty little link to my Author Page ? In retrospect, there’s only so much to say, and I think I’ve probably said it all. Now that that avenue has become a cul-de-sac, a dried up stream, a crisp packet licked clean, what next?

Well, Hubby suggested a long, long time ago that as I had so much to say (cheek!), maybe I could blog about it. I think what he was really intimating was that he is no longer enchanted by the tales I weave and offer for his entertainment: I seem to have adventures and mishaps galore, random thoughts and ideas a-plenty, not to mention a good few dreams that I enjoy recounting in great detail.

So, what better place to offload! I have no idea if I have followers. Have I? I don’t think I’ve found that tab on the site, but at least I can pretend I have scores of fans who are hanging onto my every word…

Watch this space (but not for too long. I may well forget to return yet again).