Saturday, 18 February 2017

Spanners in the works

Sometimes life can be so boring and mundane that you just long for something exciting to happen that might be worthy of writing a post about. Then there are other times when life gets in the way of your blog and there is more happening than you can write about and you simply do not have the time, because you are busy with life's goings on. I have been elsewhere recently, busy with life's ups and downs.

If we go back to the period between Christmas and New Year we had our first little hiccup. We have always seen husband's family over the Christmas period to exchange presents and enjoy a meal. Invariably it was us doing the five hour round trip from Chester to Northampton and back for this get together. Two years ago at the last minute, the possibility of snow was forecast for the day of the planned get together. We decided to take the risk and hoped that the forecast would be wrong, as it often is. Of course it wasn't wrong and we endured a nightmare drive home in the snow, which led me to decide that we were not doing the five hour round trip again over Christmas and that we would find a pub or restaurant to meet up, somewhere about half way between Chester and Northampton. A year ago that worked well, but this time the traffic was very heavy and although it did not actually hold us up, it definitely slowed us down. After an enjoyable meal and a brief walk we were back into the car for the return journey. The traffic was still bad so the sat nav was programmed to avoid the motorway, which had looked so busy on the way down in the morning. This meant that we were in unfamiliar territory. By now it was  twilight. The road was empty, but winding and not very well lit with very few houses on it. The side of the road appeared to be a grass verge, but was in fact a concrete curb that the grass had grown over.  This became apparent to us when husband, who was driving, accidentally clipped the curb. Within a few minutes the tyre pressure warning light, on the dashboard, was flashing and we realised that we had a flat tyre. There was no chance of stopping where we were and in any case the mobile phone signal was coming and going, so we had to keep going until we got to the point that the car was running on the rim of the tyre. We managed to find a lay by, which according to the sat nav was ten miles from Market Drayton. Husband phoned Green Flag who promised to be with us in about an hour. So we sat there and waited in the dark and cold, luckily it was dry. Slowly the minutes ticked by and when the recovery vehicle had not arrived after an hour husband phoned Green Flag again, to be advised that the police had closed the road ahead because of an accident, consequently the recovery vehicle was having to find an alternative route to get to us. Shortly after that a recovery truck with orange flashing lights appeared. The flat tyre and spare wheel were inspected. Then it was announced that the necessary nuts were missing (actually they were not missing) and the wheel could not be changed, which meant that our car would be transported back home on the back of the truck. We got into the back of the cab, which was very high up and gave us a good view of the road. Eventually we arrived home about two hours after we should have done. All things considered that was not an experience that I would wish to repeat and I now think that meeting the in laws between Christmas and New Year is off limits, as the roads have just got so busy. I am sure that we can find a quieter time for our get together.

Now we had two days before we went away to celebrate New Year. Husband had to arrange a replacement tyre for the one that was in shreds and I had get myself a GP appointment to get a prescripion for antibiotic eye drops to treat the conjunctivitis, which I had had hanging around for about two months and which had flared up with avengence on Christmas Day, leaving me looking as if I had drunk several bottles of neat vodka and smoked about 100 fags. Then the Christmas decorations needed to be taken down and packed away, as we would not be home until late on Twelfth Night.

The next thing to cause a problem was our landline and broadband. We had been home from our New Year trip about 24 hours when we started to have problems with our computers. Initially we thought that the problem was with our broadband. Then we realised that our landline was dead. By now it was a Saturday evening and although we reported the problem straight away it took several days, three visits from two different BT engineers, a cherry picker and a special plastic ladder to access a pole, which carried electric cables in addition to the BT lines, to get us reconnected and working again. It is amazing how quickly you adapt to not being able to surf the Internet and look at e-mails and find other things to occupy your time. My good intentions of writing a post went out of the window.

Since before Christmas the cooker's small oven had been misbehaving, but I had put off doing anything about it until after New Year. The problem that I had identified was easily resolved, but the repair man managed to find fault with the main oven, which required a new top element. It has taken five weeks to get that ordered and repaired and now he says that the bottom element needs replacing.

Somewhere in the middle of all of this mayhem  we saw a concert advertised that we decided we would like to go to. To my surprise I managed to get through to the ticket sales website at my first attempt as soon as tickets were available and had jumped through all of the necessary hoops -name, address and credit card details etc when the credit card company decided to decline the transaction. The tickets were lost. This was not the first time that this credit card company had done this to me. I cursed myself for being so stupid as to use their card again. This was the third time that a transaction had been refused for no good reason. After the second time I had decided that if it happened a third time that the card would be cut up and that is exactly what I did. We resigned ourselves to the fact that we would not be going to the concert, but I do not give up easily and had another attempt at buying tickets a little later and managed to be offered tickets, which were nearly as good as the tickets that I lost. This time I used a different credit card. The concert is not until October, which is months away.

And after all of that we go away again next week. I'll try to keep you posted.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Happy New Year

Cheshire Wife is away.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Let me entertain you

So we have new neighbours and we thought that it was about time that we did some entertaining and invited them in, but how should we go about it. We had been round to one of the new neighbours, who have children, for tea. If we reciprocated wouldn't the children be bored? That is if they came. At Christmas time it is more usual to have people round for drinks, but the neighbours are Muslims. Now on the other side we now have a single man. Some thought would have to go into how we entertained to keep all parties happy. Then we had to think about the fact that we did not want red wine spilt on our off white carpet. Not a very sensible colour I know, but our living room is dark and needed a light carpet. After some consideration we decided to invite all of the neighbours from the five houses around ours to a small drinks party, which would give all of the neighbours a chance to meet the new residents. If they all came it would be, including us, twelve adults plus two children, Surely that would be manageable and the guests would fit into the kitchen and the dining room rather than the living room. So no need to worry about red wine being spilt on our off white carpet.

The format had been decided. The next decision was the date. Not everybody could come on our preferred date, which meant changing it to an earlier date. Not ideal, but we wanted as many of the neighbours as possible to be able to come. Next there was the issue of sprucing up the cottage before we let any of the neighbours set foot inside it. Most of the time I am too busy to notice the dust and cobwebs. However, I was sure that the neighbours would notice them while trying to make small talk with one another. Hence the cottage had a clean, which I am embarrassed to say was much needed in some areas. It was not a one woman effort, I did have some help from husband.

Now we just needed to buy the food and drink. I had decided that we would have an outing to Waitrose on the other side of Chester. For those or you unfamiliar with UK supermarkets Waitrose is considered to be the most upmarket of our supermarkets and consequently the 'go to' option for party food, but you do pay a premium for their supermarkets to be clean and well lit with uncrowded aisles. Husband came with me, which he does not normally do, but I needed a strong man to carry all those bottles of wine that we were going to need. On my list were stollen, mince pies (sorry I cannot make pastry) and mulled wine, which is a popular drink here in the UK at Christmas time.

The drinks party was to take place on the Sunday. On Friday we went to the supermarket. Our first problem was the mulled wine. We could not find it and had to ask an assistant. To make life easier I wanted ready made mulled wine, but they only had two bottles. That would not go far among twelve people. So OK plan B, I'll have to make it myself from red wine. Mince pies we found, but where was the stollen? Again we had to ask and they were actually out of stock of the bites that I wanted. Never mind, I bought slices and cut them up. This was disappointing. I had expected Waitrose to be better organised.

On Friday evening I cleaned the kitchen floor and on Saturday morning everything was going fairly well until the U bend under the kitchen sink decided to block while husband was out, of course. I have always regarded plumbing as being his department. I am sure that I could unblock the U bend if I wanted or needed to, but there are times when it pays to play the helpless little woman. Husband was not too pleased to be asked to unblock the U bend as soon as he walked through the door, but then I was not very pleased that it had happened when I was busy in the kitchen. It took several attempts over the course of about an hour, during which time the air in the kitchen turned very blue, to unblock the U bend. Luckily up until that point my preparations for the drinks party were going well and I was ahead of schedule.

In the afternoon we managed to put up the Christmas tree and some decorations to make the cottage feel at least at bit more festive. I had decided that I would only put the decorations up if I had the time to do so. It seemed strange to have decorations up when  not one Christmas card had arrived. The next task was to sort out some suitable music for the CD player. We have enough CDs to start a shop but most of them are not appropriate background music for a party and we do not have any CDs of Christmas music.

Finally on the Sunday morning I made a jug of non-alcoholic punch from a recipe that I found on the Internet. It tasted fine to me and went down well with our tee total neighbours. We had an early lunch. Changed into our party clothes. Husband lit the log fire in the snug and we waited for the guests to arrive. It seemed to go OK. Everybody got along. There were no arguments or fights and no one got drunk. No wine was spilt and no glasses were broken.

We had enjoyed having the party and had learnt a few things along the way. It was a challenge. There had been more to think about and consider than we had perhaps expected. My next challenge is Christmas lunch tomorrow, but I have done it several times before.  

I wish you all a Happy Christmas

Sunday, 18 December 2016

A funny turn

Yes. I know that I have been AWOL yet again, with good reason. I have been busy and my laptop has been sick. The busyness will be the subject of another post. But for now here is the sick note.

 Recently the screen of my laptop changed to an unusual shade of red and husband diagnosed that it was gravely ill. He made it comfortable and advised me to use it with care. Then ordered a new hard drive and set aside time to install it along with all the necessary work that would need to be done. In the meantime my laptop had a bit of a rest, which probably did not do it any harm. Yesterday husband set about restoring it to full health and found that there was actually nothing wrong with it. It seems that my laptop had just had a funny turn. I suppose that computers, like us humans, can have off days. Normal service, whatever that might be, will be resumed shortly.

Saturday, 5 November 2016


Earlier this year when I wrote about the state of affairs in our lane I did not expect to be writing this post only a few months later. Well that bottle of champagne that had been on ice for some time, waiting for the house at the top end of the lane to sell, was joyfully drunk about a month ago.

When a sale of the house fell through in the Spring we heard with dismay that the owners, who I had named Del Boy and the WAG, had taken the house off the market and decided to stay. We thought that they would never move and we were going to be stuck with them forever. They were truly the neighbours from hell. Amazingly, they somehow had managed to sell a house that was not for sale, when for eight years they could not sell a house that was for sale. Almost unbelievable, but true. There were always a lot of comings and goings next door, so we would never have picked up that there was a potential buyer around. The first that we had any inkling that a sale might be imminent was in the middle of September. We had been away for ten days and returned home on a Friday afternoon. The next day there was a self drive hire van in their drive. Over the course of the weekend they appeared to be moving out some of their furniture and belongings. We needed to know what was going on. So husband hot footed down to the neighbours at the end of the lane, who had kept an eye on our cottage while we were away, with a little present for their good deed. Coincidentally they happen to  be the only neighbours that Del Boy and the WAG spoke to. To our surprise Del Boy had told them that they were close to selling. What good news to return home to. So we started to watch with eager anticipation they comings and goings next door. After the weekend's activity nothing much happened  during the next few days and following weekend, but they were still living there. Then, it is hard to fathom I know, they went away on holiday for a week. On their return there was a lot of frantic activity, culminating in them finally moving out on the Thursday and the new owner moving in the following day, which was the first Friday in October. At last Del Boy, the WAG and their barking dog had gone. I can not say how pleased we are to have seen the back of them.

At the end of May the new owners moved into the first house in the lane, which had stood empty for seven months while they sorted out some problems with the house, had decorators in etc. By this time the grass, which had not been cut since the previous Autumn, was about two feet high. And it took our new neighbour a considerable amount of time to get it under control.

Now the lane is fully occupied and we start the next phase of its' life. So far the new neigbours are fine, quiet and law abiding, with no barking dogs or loud music. In some ways life is quieter and less colourful than it was when Del Boy and the WAG lived next door. Without intending to, they certainly entertained us and life with them next door was quite an eye opener.

Friday, 7 October 2016

The price of driving a bargain

I know that I have been AWOL again. For a good  reason. Well goodish. Back in May my mouse and I spent rather too much time surfing the Internet. The result was a problem with my neck and a weary mouse. In an attempt to give my neck a chance to recover I awarded the mouse a well earned rest, but every time that I picked up the mouse my neck complained. The only thing to do was to have a complete break from using the mouse and the computer. Needless to say I have found other things to do with my time and my mouse has got used to being idle. Enough of waffle and excuses.

Since January 2015 I had been looking, on and off, for a replacement car. Like all of us my car, Bluebell was ageing and needed money spent on her. I had decided on the make, model and colour that I was looking for. Now it was just a matter of finding it. With each MOT, tax and insurance anniversary my search intensified.  Then wained, when I could not find what I was looking for. Searching via the Internet allowed me to view all possibilities countrywide and saved what would have been many fruitless trips out to second hand car showrooms. Last year's prang, although repaired to look like new, had left Bluebell with a rattle and the driver's door window did not always shut as tight as it should. If I was going to change the car I realised that I would have to consider an alternative colour. So that decision made, it was not long before I found a car that was a possibility. In addition to being my second choice colour of white silver, it was older than I really wanted and the details supplied by the dealer sparse, by comparison with other cars that were also for sale. Over the course of the next few days e-mails flew between myself and a salesman at the showroom, that had the car 30 odd miles away. Eventually I managed to prize out of him the information that I wanted regarding the car, which appeared to be a middle of the range car without many extras, but it would suit my needs. Now it was decision time. Did I want the car moved to the local dealer so that I could see it? Yes, I thought so, but before I got around to asking for that to be done, I followed home from the supermarket a top of the range model that I had not considered. In fact, you do not see many of them about. It set me thinking. So there are some benefits to doing the supermarket shop. It did not take me long to establish that the local dealer, just two miles up the road, had two or three possibilities, all within my price range and more suitable colours than the car that was 30 odd miles away. OK they were all older. I reasoned that if I bought an older car, that I just would not keep it for so long.

What I have ended up with is a silver grey top of the range car with a lot of extras, which I would never have specified and shall probably never use, but at £10 more than the low specification middle of the range alternative it seemed to be a bargain buy. It has cost more to tax and insure, but it is fun to drive even if I do not need the extra power. More importantly a silver grey car is a more practical colour than white silver for someone who lives up a muddy lane. And those heated seats will come in useful in the winter won't they?