Monday, 20 November 2017

Back here...

Just when you think you have your weekend sorted, something happens to turn it all t*ts up in a most glorious fashion.

The husband and I were out on Friday night at the cinema.  We went to see Justice League (don't bother) which had Superman, Batman and a host of other cross dressing superheroes in tights fighting some bloke with bad skin and childhood issues which should really have been dealt with way before puberty.  The only saving grace was a rather lovely specimen who wasn't too keen on wearing a shirt (thumbs up to whoever made that decision).  He was the only reason I stayed in the cinema, but he wasn't enough to stop the husband from sleeping all through it.  This wasn't a bad thing though as he couldn't see me drooling at Aquaman as he was apparently called.

Anyway, we had Friday at the cinema, and meals planned for Saturday and Sunday.  I know...three nights out on the bounce, what were we thinking of?  But, as we both agreed, there would be time for lots of power naps over the weekend to prepare us for all the frivolity planned.  Or so we thought...

So while we were in the cinema, the discussions began while we were drooling/asleep.  It started with son number one hinting that he might be home with his gorgeous girlfriend, Little Miss Tiny (she is minuscule, and has been confused with my kitchen doorstop on occasion).  As soon as this was out on the Family Group Chat, daughters one and two agreed that it would be great to come over too.  So by the time we left the cinema, the three of them had agreed to spring a visit on us.

So there we were on Sunday morning.  Surrounded by the detritus which accompanies four twenty somethings.  This included food, cables, laptops and carrier bags and the obligatory hair shedding from daughter number two's extensions.  I'll be unblocking the Hoover again this week...

They were aghast at the amount of food in the fridge, and managed to decimate this over the space of three meals within a fourteen hour period.  When they finally left (en mass around midday on Sunday like the closing minutes of a Benny Hill sketch) it took me two hours to get my house back into a state where I would be happy to let a stranger into my kitchen.  

Items left behind include an earring, four empty water glasses, a rather nice pen (mum's perks - that's gone into my handbag) and empty packs of biscuits and crisps.  There was also no bacon left in the house, and the new loaf I'd bought on Friday is just a distant memory.

And it was bloody wonderful...

Saturday, 18 November 2017

It's a party...

Who loves a spreadsheet?

Not the kind which you see at the accountants (let's not go down that route - I've just about recovered after Thursday afternoon), or on the screensaver of an statistician.  No, the spreadsheet I am talking about is the one you do when you have to pre-order the food for the Office Christmas Party...

Yes, it's that time of year again.  Mrs S gets the job of securing the venue for the annual Binland Christmas bash.  Once booked, she sends everyone the menu with instructions to send choices to me so that I can do the spreadsheet.  The idea of pre-ordering is a great one because the food comes out quickly, leaving the participants more time to drink bad wine and dance to equally out of date music.  You also have the answers should someone peak too soon and deny all knowledge of ordering the Roast Turkey.

I had saved the spreadsheet from last year.  There were a couple of tweaks to be made (some people leave, some people start), and all I had to do was put the information in and voila!

But there were issues...

1. I wanted to put a festive picture in this year - this took twenty minutes (don't tell my boss) to find the 'right' picture.  What is very sad is that Mrs S and I are probably the only ones who will care as we are surrounded by Scrooges, forever putting the brakes on our festive cheer..

2. Putting my dinner choices in, Strawberry Shortbread Panna Cotta did not fit in the Pudding column, and spread itself over two lines.  This would not do, so I narrowed the Starter and Main columns to accommodate this rather wordy pudding.

3. Now the Main column was narrower, Beef with Redcurrants and Brandy no longer fitted on one line.  I attempted swapping the 'and' for an '&' but this wasn't enough, so I renamed the Strawberry Shortbread Panna Cotta as merely Panna Cotta, and stretched the Main column so that the Beef meal(with an '&') now fitted.

4. I then went back to the abbreviated Panna Cotta pudding, and played with font sizes to see whether I could fit the whole description on.  This would have worked if the restaurant were using a telescope, but as it's quite unlikely that the landlord of the pub in question would have one, I increased the font size again.

5.  I then decided to change the orientation from portrait to landscape, giving me tons of column room for full descriptions and a larger font - brilliant!  Unfortunately, the Depot Manager and I dropped off the end of the page onto a new sheet which almost ruined my day, so it was back to the original format.

6.  I finally reached a stage where I was happy with it, and then Mr G from the Transport Office started messing with my brain.

'Are we having two or three courses?'
'We're having all three'.
Can I have Roast Turkey followed by Chocolate Roulade please'.
'That's just two courses though'.
'I know.  Can I have a bowl of pigs in blankets instead?'
'But they're not on the set menu'.
'I know, but it's an extra, so I could have it instead of a starter'.
'So you want the bowl of pigs as a starter?'
'No.  I want them to come with my Turkey'.

At this moment, I went into free fall.  Not only did I have an empty space in my spreadsheet where a starter should be, but he wanted me to double up his main so that it read Roast Turkey plus an additional bowl of Pigs and Blankets.

I'm going to need a bigger piece of paper...

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Share with me...

A few weeks ago, Miss R brought round some treats for Percy and Reg (my two four-legged fuzzballs).  Rummaging around in her hand bag, she proudly pulled out a pair of pigs ears.  I should reassure you that these were not still connected to a pig, nor did they originally belong to one owner judging by the difference in size.  

I can't begin to tell you what excitement this caused in my kitchen.  Percy, being the elder of the two, got his ear first, and positively goose-stepped across to the back door, his prize firmly clamped between his gnashers, just in case Reg didn't get one, and 'sharing' was required.  He went out into the garden with it, and remained there in isolated splendour (in the dark, I should add) for a whole hour and a half, till it was all gone.

Reg got his and skulked off to the lounge.

I like to think that maybe they discussed this new addition to their menu while chatting before bedtime...

Reg: 'Bleedin' 'ell, Perce. Wot woz that the auntie gave us?' (Reg has adopted a pseudo-Essex accent since joining us.  I put this down to a particularly common Westie at puppy classes)

Percy: 'Reginald, my dear boy, I really don't have a clue as to its origin, but I think that you and I can both agree that it was quite sublime'.  (Percy likes to talk like a 1950's BBC news reporter, all clipped vowels and stiff upper lip.  There is also a whiff of Larry Grayson about him, if you get my drift).

Reg:  'Yeah , it woz luvverley.  Shame you 'ad to go and nick mine though, you miserable old sod.  I 'ate it when you pulls rank'.

Percy:  'Reg, old chap, it's just the way of the world.  You should just get used to it.  While the small humans are not living in the house, you have to accept that you are quite possibly the last in the pecking order'.

Reg: 'Will it get better when them little bleeders come 'ome then?  I can't say I miss 'em, especially that one we 'ave to share our bed wiv.  She's a bloomin' nuisance with her loud telly and snorin'.

Percy: 'I adore it when the small humans come home.  There's always tit-bits on the floor, and almost too much stroking..if that is actually possible'.  Percy has made a joke here, which is very unusual as he went to the Jack Dee School of Mirth.  In olden times, Percy would have been described as 'curmudgeonly'.

Reg: 'I like 'angin' out wiv the big son, the one wiv the pritty gelfriend.  If only I woz ten years older and 'ad two less legs, I'd be in there, mate'.

Percy: Raises eyebrows and purses lips.  'I like the smaller girl.  She always seems to be control of things, and even manages to keep you in check, young Reg'.

Reg: 'But she never brings us treats 'cos she likes to eat 'elfy food.  I don't know 'ow elfs look so bleedin'  'appy if that's all they get.  I'd be bloody miserable'.

Percy: 'And then there's that tall boy who doesn't seem to be here much now. I don't mind going in his room now that Dog Mum has cleaned it.  I never knew what I might catch venturing into there'. 

Reg: 'Oh Perce, 'is room never frightened me.  I've eaten most of the stuff 'e's dropped on the floor over the years, and there ain't not much wrong wiv me'.

Percy: (Struggling with the previous double negative)  'Quite.  Now young Reg, it's time to sleep.  I'm going to dream all night about that rather marvellous pig's ear.  Will you do the same, do you think, old boy?'

Reg:  'Nah.  I'm gonna stick wiv the pritty gelfriend.  At least she'd be somefink you wouldn't nick off me like that bleedin' pig's ear...'

Like I said....Larry Grayson...

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Bleeding love...

Well it worked...

All it took was for my best friend, Mrs S, to call the husband asking how to bleed her radiator.  Overhearing the conversation, I stepped in...

'If you think that you are bleeding hers before mine, then you are treading on very thin ice, my friend'.  This was accompanied with one of my 'looks'.  These are renowned in my house, and are not to be trifled with, especially when the eyes peer over the top of the varifocals a la Mrs Slocombe. 

Handing over the phone to me, I chatted to Mrs S about various matters, including warm drawers, and twenty minutes later, by which time we'd exhausted every plumbing joke we could think of, two out of the three jobs were done.  The house was cosy this morning when I came downstairs, and last night, I managed to have something which I haven't had for eons....Warm pyjamas.

The shower is still doing a passable impression of Crazy Daisy (see below) but I mustn't push him.

I had a fantastic day yesterday (how could it have been anything otherwise since I started it with toasty warm drawers).  Working for Binland, I get to visit the most weird and wonderful places, and yesterday was the turn of an Energy from Waste plant.  What this basically does, is take all your black bin waste and turn it into electricity.  Enough to power over 38,000 homes.  Of course, this is an average figure, as they don't allow for my house, on those days when all four children are here, with every light, television and PC on.  

I was the only female there, naturally, but rigged out in hard hat, hi-viz, sturdy boots and ear defenders, you would have been hard pushed to tell that.  I could have been anything from a 23 year old lad to Mother Theresa under all that lot.

Hard hats always play havoc with my hair, and getting back into the car three hours later, with the four chaps I'd gone there with, I apologised for taking up so much of the car cabin space with my Crystal Tips hair do.  One of them joked that perhaps it might have been wiser to leave the hard hat on, and that he wasn't convinced that the hair wasn't  attached.  This is a brave thing to say to a 54 year old woman with rampant curls, and I can only assume that he is either wife-free and therefore not trained in what not to say, or that he was feeling brave as he was sitting in the front.  

Either way, his card is marked....

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Cold water...

I had a call from one of my Binland colleagues yesterday morning, complimenting me on my blog.  Well, this was a lovely start to the day, and in conversation we pondered as to his pseudonym, should he reach the giddy heights of a mention.  After much thought, I have decided that henceforth, he shall be known as Brains.  This is purely because he works in the Technical Department and is not based on any facial similarities with the character on Thunderbirds.  

Unlike my side of the business, he works with people who are highly intelligent (no offence to my lovely Binland colleagues), and who have a good understanding of what the Periodic Table is all about.  Apparently, it's not just something printed on a tea towel which kids buy for their mums after a school trip to the Science Museum.  It's so much more...

Anyway, he was very kind, and said that he found it hard to believe that I fell into, and I quote, 'that age bracket'.  I was just on the verge of getting the bunting out, when I felt the need to confirm that he wasn't implying that I looked like I should be in the next age bracket (55-64 is not somewhere I want to be yet).  Violence is never attractive in a woman of my age, but luckily, his highly intellectual brain flashed a warning light, and instructed his mouth to say, 'that this was a good thing', and that he was 'surprised I was that old'.  Sensible man...

Talking of sensible men (warning ladies, sarcasm alert) we need to discuss the husband.  I have jobs which need doing around the house, with the three top ones being as follows:

Adjust the thermostat so that the heating comes on automatically in the morning.
Now I always get up first in this house.  My very first job is to whang up (love this phrase) the thermostat so that the husband can get out of bed without running the risk of catching hypothermia between the bed and the bathroom.   Naturally, being a woman of a certain age, heat is an emotive subject, and I think that somewhere in the depths of his male brain, he thinks he's doing me a favour by keeping it cold in the house. 

Bleed the bathroom radiator so than more than the bottom rail warms up
Even if I whang the heating up as far as possible, this room remains almost polar.  Towels remain damp, and I never have warm drawers in the morning.  (Go on, admit it, you love warm drawers too).

Repair the shower so that the hand held part stays put on the vertical rail
This has started hurtling towards the taps like a missile, almost giving me heart failure as it reaches ground level with a noise akin to a finale cymbal crash.  Consequently, I have been holding it up there for the last week.  On Sunday night, while trying to wash my hair one-handed, I gave up, and de-camped to the boys' bathroom where a) they have a shower which works, and b) their radiator is warm.

Having shivered my damp way around various bathrooms on Sunday, I asked the husband (very politely, no nagging intended) whether he'd got round to looking at the heating and the shower.

'Not really', he said, semi comatose on the sofa with a bowl of Christmas pudding and custard settled on his lap. (I tell you, there'll be none left by Christmas).

'Not really?'  I asked.  'Which bits have you done then?'

'Well, none of it really'.

Aah.  I did explain to him that his response of 'Not really' implied that some element of work had been done, but if he hadn't actually done any of it, then the word 'really' was most definitely surplus to requirements.  A simple 'no' would have been more than adequate.

So here's the crux of the matter.  

Have I mentioned  before that he's a plumber?  

A plumber with qualifications...
A plumber with the right equipment (steady ladies, you know what I mean)...
A plumber who has experience (again ladies, see equipment)...

And yet...


He's on borrowed time, that one...

Monday, 13 November 2017

Wishin' and hopin'...

Well between the slow cooker and my roll of grease-proof paper, the puddings are now cooked, wrapped and ready to go.  While finishing off the last ones yesterday morning, I had put on the Heart Christmas station on my radio which went live this week.  Trilling along to A Spaceman Came Travelling, the husband chanced upon me, and said sternly, 'You can pack that in.  It's only bloody November'.  This is just what you need when you're up to your armpits in snowflake covered cellophane, red ribbon and dark rum, and reluctantly I turned it off.  He can be a bit 'Bah Humbug' on occasions, but like every single man who ever walked this planet, he has completely no idea of what is involved in preparing a family for Christmas.

My Christmas started in January.  By the end of that month, I had bought my Christmas cards in the sale, and squirreled them away in my office.  And there they will remain, until I finally succumb to getting my posh pen and address book out.  The only good side is that in theory, this year I can just sign them from me and the husband, rather than having to list copious amounts of children.  I wonder whether they realise that riding shotgun on family Christmas cards all stops when you move out?  Probably not. 

I also bought the kids' Christmas jumpers in January.  They get a new one every year, with the emphasis being on inappropriate/cheap/gaudy.  I have only got this wrong on one occasion, when the jumper I bought for son number one was worn on many days without Christmas in front of it.  Epic failure...

So the preparation starts early for us girls, doesn't it?  It's around this time every year that I start asking the kids for lists of things which they would like.  These requirements are passed around various relations, and the idea is that they then get what they want, rather than the first thing my 5'2" Mother can manage to reach on the rails.  

As you get older though, the list of what you need gets shorter.  However, the list of things which you really do want just seems to get longer.   Here's mine...

World peace (always a favourite of the husband's, and well worth space on my list)
Willpower (Unfortunately, 'I'm just a gal who can't say no'...)
A waistline (damn you Mother Nature and your menopausal curse)
Eyebrows (a lesson to the young - NEVER OVER PLUCK)
Eyes which do what they say on the tin (pass me my glasses for the small print)
Boobs (of any kind, please)
Jeans which fit all the time, and not just after you've had them on for a week
A housekeeper (if she can decorate and mow the lawn, then even better)
Rain to fall only between midnight and 4.00am

I think that covers it...

Sunday, 12 November 2017

The weight of love...

I must be ill.  Yesterday, I didn't make Saturday Breakfast with my family.  This is probably only the third time in around thirty two years, so I hope that Miss R and the rest of the ne'er-do-wells forgive me.  I chose instead to make my Christmas cakes and puddings (note the plural in both cases).  

I may have mentioned this before, but in my life before Binland, I made cakes for a living.  Each year, this reached a crescendo with two hundred puddings and fifty cakes to flog at Christmas Fairs and the like.  Since I have stopped catering for the masses, I have found it almost impossible to make just one of each, so usually end up with six puddings and three cakes.  I start trying to find homes for them before I start, so that at least I know that some of them will have homes to go to before Christmas.

I'd done quite well this year, I had three cakes accounted for, so no surplus there, but the puddings?  Well, this was a different story.  The thing is, I use my Nanny Joyce's recipe for the puds.  She inherited it from her grandma, and I'm now the proud owner of the original recipe, typed upon a piece of yellowed, torn paper, which I have framed to protect from further abuse.

Various female ancestors over the course of time have changed the weights, and it's all a bit hit and miss as to what the right quantities are.  Mind you, with the amount of alcohol splashes over it, I'm surprised that any puddings were made at all, but this might also explain the amendments.

So this year, I decided to stick to the weights in the red biro (this may be quill and ink, who knows).  The recipe very clearly states that this will make two 2 pint puddings.  I wanted three, so I simply added 50% to each ingredient and waited for the magic to unfold.

It was as I mixing the flour and suet with the fruit in my washing up bowl that I sensed there might be a basin, not enough of them.  I had bought six, so I filled them, then spent the rest of the morning hunting around for similar containers which could be used.

I am now the proud owner of eleven Christmas puddings.  

Not to worry though.  I have homes for three, so the rest can go in a cupboard till next year...and the year after...and the year after that.

Unless the husband finds them, in which case, the recipe will be brought out again next year...