Friday 27 June 2008

No present anniversary

Today is our wedding anniversary and we share it with Gordon Brown's anniversary of becoming prime minister. After yesterday's by-election in Henley-on-Thames I imagine that he is having a black and blue day. I shall be glad when he shuffles off the stage and we no longer have to share our anniversary with him. We are not the only couple celebrating our wedding anniversary today. There were several dedications on the Ken Bruce Show on Radio Two this morning. Some had been married longer than us, others not as long. We have been married for seventeen years. I looked it up to see where we stood in the paper,silver and gold stakes. There is no traditional present for seventeen years. In this house that phrase is better re-arranged to the tradition is no present. Last weekend my husband talked about going out for a meal for our anniversary but has not bothered to book anything. So rather than go hungry I have planned to cook the meal myself.

Monday 23 June 2008

Garden gone to pot

The leading article in last weekend's Chester Chronicle was about a cannabis factory found in a rented house in the next village to ours. This is the third cannabis factory found in recent weeks in rented houses in what the Chester Chronicle describes as upmarket suburbs. Each house has been rented out, inadvertently, to illegal Chinese immigrants.

Rather ironically the landlord, of the house in the next village, went round to the house, that he had rented out four months ago, to complain that the tenants were not keeping the garden tidy. He became suspicious and alerted the police when he found that the locks had been changed and there was a glow through a crack in the curtains. Inside the house they found over 300 cannabis plants worth about £15,000. The tenants have caused approximately £10,000 worth of damage to the house by installing cables for lighting and heating, which by-passed the electric meter and have resulted in the wallpaper hanging off the walls whilst everything in the house has become mouldy and smelly. The landlord of the house, who is also the landlord of the local pub, did not have contents insurance for the house. Being a fly on the wall of the local pub on Friday night must have been interesting but it is a long time since we went to a pub on a Friday night. We certainly missed a trick when we rented a box of a house, when we first moved to Chester but our landlord's agent regularly inspected the house to make sure that it was clean and tidy and not full of illegal immigrants.

Wednesday 18 June 2008

Housemaid's knee

As if the miserable weather is not depressing enough I seem to have developed housemaid's knee. I have no idea what I may have done to cause it but noticed during Monday that my right knee was stiff and I was having difficulty bending down. I haven't even been doing much house work recently, as I have been busy working at the day job. So it is not as if I can put my feet up in a spic and span house. The other culprit would be too much gardening but I have not had much time for that recently, either. So I'll just have to hobble around as best I can to do the housework. At least it is, supposedly, summer and I do not have to rake out the ashes of an open fire and black a grate. Maybe the answer is a maid or cleaning lady. I have had the problem before, with the other knee and it took a whole year to return to normal. Even the rather nice orthopedic surgeon, that I saw, could not put his finger on what was wrong, despite an MRI scan. The prospect of another year of housemaid's knee is enough to drive me to drink and it wont be water, even though there is currently plenty of it about.

Whether the knee returns to normal quickly or not, there is still plenty of work to be done on the cottage and garden and I will not be beaten.

Saturday 14 June 2008


We live a few miles from Shell's Stanlow Refinery where the striking tankers drivers are currently holding court. Just before lunchtime today, I was on my hands and knees in the garden when I heard horns sounding for what must have been a mini support protest. The horns reminded me the Neil Diamond song Beautiful Noise. It didn't actually take much to remind me of that, as after last Saturday, Neil Diamond been playing in my head all week. From there my memory took me back to New Year's Eve 1999/New Year's Day 2000 when between midnight and one am we stood out in the garden of our house in Surrey and watched the fireworks in the Guildford area light up the sky whilst the continual spluttering of the fireworks filled the air. Then my memory took me even further back to New Year's Eve/New Year's Day as a child, when I remember lying in bed and hearing the horns of the tug boats on the River Humber welcoming in the New Year.

My memory was still working when I flicked through the travel section of The Times and spotted a photograph and article about Lake Annecy in France which brought back memories of my first skiing holiday. On the journey home from Courcheval to the airport we drove by Lake Annecy busy with sailing dinghies on a warm Spring day. Then it was onto the sports section of The Times. Here I read about the Artois tennis tournament which reminded me of the first weekend that I spent in Chester exactly five years ago. I remember watching some of it on the grainy old portable television in the uncomfortable flat that my husband rented when he first moved up here, before we sold our house and I moved up to join him.

Enough of memories and daydreams and back to the here and now. This afternoon I needed to concentrate on the garden.

Monday 9 June 2008

A diamond sparkles

In The Times on Saturday morning there was a not very good review of a Neil Diamond concert in Glasgow on Thursday evening. The concert was held at an open air venue during a thunderstorm and torrential rain. I think that it would be difficult for any performer to give their best under such circumstances. So my husband and I set off to see Neil Diamond in Manchester with some trepidation, wondering what we would see. For a change everything went smoothly. We managed to leave home at about the time we planned, didn't forget our tickets and arrived at the MEN arena in plenty of time. We had to queue to get in which gave us the opportunity to take in our fellow fans. Amazingly Neil Diamond fans come in all shapes and sizes with ages ranging from late twenties to late seventies.

I had seen Neil Diamond about 25 years ago at Earls Court when I was so far away from the stage that he looked about the size of a match stick but there is no mistaking his distinctive voice. Considering the fact that we only bought the tickets two weeks ago, we had reasonably good seats behind the stage. There was also a screen not far from where we were sitting. As the start of the concert approached the band and backing singers made their way onto the stage then the arena was plunged into darkness before Neil Diamond, himself, took to the stage. From the second that he stepped onto the stage he sparkled. He sang a good mix of new material, old hits and classics whilst moving around the stage. I have never been so close to a pop legend as I was when he moved to the back of the stage. The atmosphere was electric during the classic hits Sweet Caroline and Cracklin' Rosie. The concert was excellent. We need not have worried about what we would see.

Friday 6 June 2008

That was the week that was

At the beginning of the week I thought for a change that I had the week to my own devices - no work and no work men after the carpet fitter was done on Monday. I was going to the Horticultural Society Summer Supper on Wednesday evening, had arranged to meet a girlfriend for lunch, in London, on Thursday and had pencilled the supermarket shop in for Friday morning. That was plan A and lasted until about 10 am on Monday when I was asked to work on Friday. So already the week was re-arranged, and plan B was in action, with the supermarket shop now pencilled in for Wednesday morning. By the time the carpet fitters left, early on Monday afternoon I was onto plan C with them returning on Wednesday afternoon. So now the only day that I would have totally to my own devices would be Tuesday. By Thursday morning I realised that I had done too much on Wednesday, as a result of the forced changes to my schedule, and was in no fit state to be meeting a girlfriend for lunch, in London. She was alright about it. We have known one another for nearly 40 years and in any case she had a cough so it was probably best that we postponed our meeting. So plan C became plan D. Today is Friday and I have spent most of the day working. Where has the week gone?

Wednesday 4 June 2008

The best laid plans

On Monday morning I thought 'today is the day, at last' - the hall, stairs and landing carpet was to be fitted today, surely everything that could have gone wrong had already done so. But unfortunately not where carpets and we are concerned. Before the carpet fitter was through the front door he was telling me that the gripper rods in the hall would need to be glued to the tiles and the glue takes twelve hours to set so they wouldn't be able to fit the carpet in the hall today and he was also concerned that there were radiator pipes under the floor. I advised him that we had not changed things since the estimator had been and asked why he hadn't picked up these problems. It turned out that the estimator had marked the paper work to the effect that the gripper rods needed gluing. This should have been picked up at the store and the carpet fitters should have come the day before to glue the gripper rods. Still they were here now and would have to make the best of the situation which meant fitting the carpet on the landing and stairs and gluing the gripper rods to the hall floor and they would have to come back another day to finish the job. It would have to be the same two fitters as they were contractors and now that they had started the job no other fitter would touch it. So we agreed that they would return after 2 pm on Wednesday to finish the job. I naively expected that they would be here around 2 pm, but they didn't arrive until about 3.30 pm and then spent about ten minutes looking at the engine of their van. I hoped that their hands were clean - I didn't want engine oil on my new beige carpet. So at last the carpet is down. But for how long? Already I suspect that we will have to take up the landing carpet as the uneven floor boards make it look more like a ploughed field than a fitted carpet. The carpet fitter suggested that we lay some hard board on top of the floor boards to give a smoother finish.