Monday, 31 December 2007

Elementary my dear Wattson

One of my Christmas presents this year was a Wattson.

It's really cool. I don't want you thinking I'm some kind of environmental freak, I'm not, but it's a great toy.

New Years unresolutions

If I were the sort of person that had resolve, drive, ambition and commitment then these are the resolutions I might make:
  • Get some cosmetic surgery - this won't happen because I'm a wimp.
  • Diet and exercise to lose a stone and keep the weight off - this won't happen because I like food and lack the mental energy required.
  • Don't lose my temper with anyone - no chance as this is genetically programmed in.
  • Keep the house tidy - well I would except that I know I won't.
I think you get the idea. I am open to New Year resolution suggestions though. Maybe you can think of something worthy that I might be able to achieve.

Sunday, 30 December 2007

How did this happen?

We met friends and their children in a park today. We fed the deer with carrots, stuffed the ducks with bread and walked through boggy marsh before returning by car to our place for baked spuds followed by demolishable gingerbread house and yummy chocolate biscuits, all of which was accompanied by some red wine, except for the children of course.

Our friends explained that their plan for the rest of their afternoon involved a trip to IKEA. What were they thinking? Sunday afternoon, IKEA, with children. Madness. I couldn't let it happen.

Additionally they were going to get items delivered instead of taking them home in a capacious vehicle. Frankly that's just a waste of decently earned cash.

The upshot of all of this means that their two children are staying the night and our voluminous car thing is being borrowed because it may just afford sufficient cargo space to avoid a delivery charge.

It's the first non family sleepover for their youngest, and he seems to have taken to it quite well, so far. It's the first time we've had two children here for a sleepover. As I'm not entirely sober at this point, I'm taking it quite well too.

I'm hoping that the earlier fresh air will ensure everyone gets a good sleep but I do wonder, how did this happen?

Saturday, 29 December 2007

A superpower please

I've just watched Spiderman 3. It was alright, I suppose, if you like that sort of thing. Anyway, that, combined with other events over the last few days, have made me want a superpower.

I want to be able to take things back that I've said or done.

This isn't because I've caused offence or insulted anyone deliberately. I can usually live with the consequences of that. If I regret something of that kind then I resolve it with an apology or some activity that makes amends. If I don't regret it then I let it stand.

I want to be able to retract when I've said or done something inadvertently that has messed things up. I seem to have a habit of putting my foot in it.

But this has to be a special power. It has to be anonymous and it needs to happen without the people involved knowing that something had even been said in the first place.

In the meantime, until someone grants me my desired power, I'll have to resort to verbal manoeuvring and the spoken equivalent of sleight of hand.

Friday, 28 December 2007


So the BT engineer has diagnosed the problem - Tiscali equipment at the exchange.

We've been minus broadband and TV (as paid for in our contract) for over a month.

We've had three engineers of various kinds trying to fix the problem.

We've spent hours on the phone, at our expense, explaining the issue over and over.

What should be the recompense? Should there be recompense?

Sunday, 23 December 2007

The guilt trip

I saw my Dad this weekend for the first time in over six months.

I popped into the house this morning, just before I made the journey home. I left a couple of answerphone messages to advise Dad I was on my way over.

When I arrived I used the entry phone which rings the telephone but there wasn't a reply. I tried again.

The house stank as I entered it using the key from the key safe outside the front door.

I walked from room to room. The sitting room confirmed he'd eaten lunch. The television was on maximum volume blaring out Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The answerphone bleeped repeatedly to draw Dad's attention to my earlier messages.

The bedroom was full of Radio 4, at full volume, competing with the sounds of Bob Hoskins next door. Dad was lying on the bed, on top of the bedclothes at 90 degrees to normal. He was half dressed, missing a shirt and he was fast asleep. He was lying on his back but his knees were bent. He was in an almost foetal position. A walking frame was in front of him. It was as though he had fallen asleep whilst getting ready.

I could have tried to wake him up, but I didn't. The noise in the place was deafening but, even so, I knew that my voice would probably cut through the background enough to rouse him. I couldn't do it.

Every time I see Dad I think that this could be the last time. If this was the last time, I didn't even wake him up to say goodbye. Guilt is a tough emotion to deal with.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Hey Fatty Fatty

I shall be eating and drinking like a complete hog over Christmas, but that's a good thing.

I have lost a tiny bit of weight recently. Not deliberately, it just happened (I put it down to stress - or something).

The upside is that my thin day trousers fit me.

The downside is that the rest of my wardrobe, especially my fat day trousers, don't fit very well.

So after Christmas at least my clothes will fit.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Online vs offline

I buy a lot online. I buy a lot offline. I buy a lot but so does everyone these days. It's the consumer society that drives this and actually I'm at the lower end of the consumer spectrum.

I wondered if the exclusively online consumer misses out. Is there anything one cannot buy online. Let's look at the more unlikely Christmas items.


Is there anything that one can't buy online?

Monday, 17 December 2007

Conspiracy theory

No, not Diana and was it all Prince Philip's fault.

No. BT.

You see when we switched to the dastardly Tiscali, which I keep inadvertently typing as Toscali which might evolve into Tosscali which might be more appropriate, we had line rental supplied by BT.

I know, BT still supply our line as I haven't seen anyone up ladders changing the phone line into the house, but it's now Tosscali that we pay for the privilege.

Dave reckons (he always was a big fan of the X-files) that BT are mightily fed up about losing line rental customers and he thinks they have evil plans for world domination that include sabotaging the broadband connection for people that move away from them for line rental.

Interesting conspiracy theory.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

And the answer is...

I half did a Maths degree, or should that be I did a degree which was half Maths? Either way the statement probably still stands. I didn't work hard and subsequently didn't over achieve (or even achieve that much).

Anyway - I came across a mathematical problem that shouldn't trouble someone studying for their GCSE but for me it fell into the too complicated box.

A car runs more fuel efficiently when it is lighter. So a car with a near empty fuel tank runs more efficiently than one with a full tank.

A car uses, generally, an excess of fuel on start up, and less after running for a while.

So if a car weighs 1560 kg (weight is unladen and assumes 90% fluid levels) and has a 70 litre tank, and if we assume that the car is refuelled when the gauge indicates 20 kilometers of travel remaining, and we say that the fuel used on start up is x, then if y is the optimal refuelling level for maximum fuel efficiency, what is the equation that will give us y, if we have x? And what other variables or knowns have been omitted from the information provided.

Answers via comments please, or a postcard to the usual address.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

It's in the details

Ethan had his nursery Christmas party today.

The honoured guest was Father Christmas and Hannah decided that, because Ethan might be a little bit nervous, she would be there in a supporting capacity.

We had the conversation that explained that the man in the big red suit wouldn't be expecting Hannah and therefore wouldn't be prepared with a gift. I also explained that she could only stay for the Santa visit and not for the subsequent party.

She was still keen to play caring big sister and she did a fantastic job, holding her little brother's hand and helping him with the stress of a dark grotto and big bloke hiding behind lots of facial hair and red, fur trimmed clothing.

We left at the same time as another parent, Nikki, and as we walked she asked "So who was Santa?"

I looked at Hannah and then at Nikki. The last look was a look of conspiracy.

I explained, more to Hannah than Nikki, that it was so difficult to tell whether one was seeing the big FC or whether it was one of his helpers.

Nikki added that although Santa is a bit magical he still can't be everywhere so his helpers help out by turning up when he can't make it.

Hannah thought that one of the Santas that she'd seen this year was a helper, because the first one, at Kirsty's house hadn't worn glasses but the one at nursery had worn glasses.

I often don't even notice when my friends wear glasses, let alone complete strangers. It's all in the details.

Friday, 14 December 2007


We did have a visit from a Tiscali engineer. And nothing is better.

I sit here using a neighbour's unsecure wireless network - cheeky I know but these are desperate times. Why do people have unsecure networks?

If I want to watch TV then I can sit in the kitchen to watch the portable that works off the Freeview box.

Tiscali still plan to fix the problem but I'm no longer convinced. I'm very, very fed up and I just want everything to work. I'm holding back on the abusive e-mail that keeps creating itself in my mind:


Subject: Expletive deleted, expletive deleted Tiscali TV

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Going to the top

I've mentioned the problems with Tiscali.

Today I took my discontent to the level where I thought it might produce results.


Mary Turner is the CEO of Tiscali. I found her e-mail address on Facebook in a group of Tiscali malcontents.

Within two hours of firing an e-mail to Ms Turner I received a call. And things start to happen. I now have names and direct numbers so I don't have to go through call centre pain. I have assurances of best efforts and people calling and things getting fixed.

Time will tell but it's amazing how useful some e-mail addresses can be.

Clever clogs

Today I relied on my senses and figured getting a cab at the station was important rather than how drunk, or otherwise, I was.

I judged the train carriage to be closest to the exit.

I raced to the cab queue.

I saw there were two people in front of me and they had jumped in the first two cabs. I opened the door of the third cab because there was nobody in front of me.

The cab driver told me to join the queue. At this point I had been overtaken by about 12 people.

So I waited about five minutes for my turn. The thing is - it had been my turn.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

When is enough enough?

I've just been out for the department Christmas do. I walked into the house and Dave said "you're pissed". Thanks Dave, I thought, but I can still walk and talk - that's good for me.

But it made me think. What is it that tells me to stop drinking? and I decided that my feedback loop isn't particularly well developed.

I tend to rely in my senses. And when they start to fail I stop drinking. That's probably too late.

Any advice?

Monday, 10 December 2007

Value, not valued

When we started to have problems with Tiscali broadband and TV...

I'll say that again in case you missed it "When we started to HAVE PROBLEMS WITH TISCALI BROADBAND AND TV..."

When we first started having problems we had responsive people at the end of the phone (OK after half and hour of listening to some blasted Vivaldi or similar pacifier) who would suggest fixes and book engineers.

As we are now customers who CONTINUE TO HAVE PROBLEMS WITH TISCALI BROADBAND AND TV we are raised to the status of High Priority.

This new status means that people won't talk to us, they won't respond intelligently to any e-mails and we have to wait "up to 72 hours for 'someone' to get in touch."

I'm not feeling valued which is perhaps why I feel like shouting a lot.

Dave wants to give them one last chance and he's willing to wait the 72 hours. I tried to explain that this is a Tiscali imposed target for contact; it bears no relation to what the customer actually wants. We're being treated worse the more our service deteriorates.

I say remove their testicles.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Winter trifle

I completely lost all sense of what is reasonable today because I'd mislaid a recipe.

I was a screaming, wailing, door slamming, cupboard-thumping banshee. I's difficult to believe. Or not.

Anyway, I called the person that originally gave me the recipe and all was well with the world once more.

If you have ever made and tasted this dish, you'll understand the depth of my distress.

For those of you who would like to try it, here is Winter Trifle:

This is a very flexible recipe and all measurements are approx. It feeds six people very nicely and whilst it can be accompanied by cream, this isn't essential. It's also a great recipe to take to other people's houses as you can take the ingredients along, assemble quickly and cook it on site. This works best if the pouring liquid is whisked and then transported and the chocolate pre-chopped.

It should be cooked in a large baking dish at 160 Celsius for 30 mins.
  • 450g brioche (often sold in 400g sizes and you can use just 400g)
  • 400-500g raspberries (fresh or frozen - just add 5 mins cooking time if using frozen)
  • 100g white chocolate (I buy the 200g bar, eat some and then add a bit extra to the dish but you could also use white chocolate buttons or white choc chips)
  • 400-500ml creme fraiche (can be half fat)
  • 100-200g caster sugar
  • 5ml vanilla extract (optional)
  • 1 egg
  • Dusting of icing sugar
Tear the brioche into rough two inch squares.
Chop the chocolate into pieces roughly the size of your little fingernail.
Put half of the brioche into the dish.
Spread half the raspberries over the brioche, together with half the chocolate.
Repeat this process with another layer of brioche, raspberries and chocolate.
Whisk together the creme fraiche, sugar, vanilla extract and egg.
Pour over the top of the brioche layers.
Bake for 30 mins or so and if desired, sprinkle with icing sugar before allowing to cool slightly for 20 mins or so.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Friday, 7 December 2007

Upsides Downsides

It wasn't true. Well in theory it's a good deal but the broadband etc. package from Tiscali has a drawback, a disadvantage; It doesn't bloody well work.

That's the downside. The upside is that all the engineers, so far, that have visited to install or fix the problem have been very nice young men. Ladies I think you know what we're talking about.

Anyway, despite this, I would still rather have a reliable internet connection. I think that's a sign of middle age.

Choice: Good looking bloke in the house or a reliable internet connection? I'll take the latter.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

I'm gonna kick your furry arse

Once upon a time Ann and Dave acquired two rescued kittens: Sydney and Darwin.

Ann and Dave treated these kittens like babies; attending to their every whim and buying them everything a kitten could want.

Two years later Ann and Dave were off to America and so were Sydney and Darwin, except that Darwin had gone missing. Two days later after much frought local door knocking we discovered that Darwin had been run over.

Sydney travelled out to Detroit and was soon joined by another rescued cat - Stanley. Ann and Dave had to lie to be able to take Stanley home with them. The American Humane Society believes cats should be kept indoors and will not allow adoptions to 'parents' who have a different philsophy.

When it was time for Ann and Dave to return to the UK, Syd and Stan went into quarantine for six months. Ann and Dave had become used to living without cats but soon fell back into the routines of pet ownership.

Two years later Ann and Dave moved house and a couple of times Stanley made the trip back to the old house and had to be retrieved. Not long after the move Ann and Dave received a telephone call early on a Saturday. Stanley had been run over and he was soon buried in the back garden.

Sydney got older, slower and more ignored as the family grew with the addition of two children. He went for his annual check ups and at the last one he had some teeth removed.

He now eats meat as well as biscuits and is very vocal when the meat supply runs dry, as it did two days ago.

Which is why, tonight, I heard a lot of miaowing followed by Dave saying "I'm gonna kick your furry arse if you don't shut up."

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Love something, hate something

I have mentioned the dear and lovely, and indeed gorgeous, Gok Wan before.

His show, together with Trinny and Susannah, What not to Wear, 10 Years Younger and all programmes in a similar genre encourage, mainly women, to disguise the negative and accentuate the positive using clothing make-up or, in some cases, where all else fails, cosmetic surgery.

I think everyone has bits of their body they love, and bits they hate. And if not then at least there will be things one likes and things one does not like.

I'm not a fan of wishy washy emotions so here goes. I have things I love and things I hate about my body. Why else would I watch Gok et al (excepting the fact he's adorable)?

I wonder though, as we appraise other people's appearance, whether the bits we admire or dislike match the individual's own preferences.

I love my lips, but hate my stomach. There, I've said it. I don't feel any different for having admitted that, but there is a change.

Normally I would just focus on the negative. Mentioning the positive provides balance and perspective, qualities I wish my tummy would possess.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Bah bloody humbug

I do like Christmas, and for all the wrong reasons.

I like the drink, the food, the party atmosphere, the Christmas lunches, the decorations, the catching up with people I haven't seen for ages and so on.

Actually I like decorations being up. I loathe putting them up, and taking them down is even more painful. I start unfurling the tree with a great deal of enthusiasm and very soon I'm bored and wanting someone else to take over.

But the thing that has got my goat this evening is the modern version of carol singing.

I remember doing proper carol singing, in which real people actually did real singing. Admittedly this probably caused offence because I can't sing or hold any tune, even Jingle Bells.

I know I sound like a grumpy old woman. Well let's check:
  • Grumpy - yes
  • Old - ish, OK call it a yes
  • Woman - last time I checked, yes
But I don't think that riding around with a huge speaker on the back of a pick-up blaring out pre-recorded Christmas tunes at 130 decibels should be legal. In fact it probably isn't there's probably an infringement of rights associated with recorded music.

Anyway, my point is that it's not carol singing.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Successful pilot - my arse!

Today, at Liverpool Street, I found my normal route to work blocked. Something was going on underground and access to the tubes was closed.

Having encountered this before I resigned myself to the stroll through Finsbury Circus and a dip down into the depths of the Northern Line at Moorgate to emerge at Euston for the walk to Mornington Crescent.

The last time I'd done the walk from Euston I'd emerged on the wrong side of Euston. The route was lined with shopfronts obscured with brown paper, newspaper or paint hiding the porn shops and massage parlours. Today I decided to try the west side of Euston in the hopes it might be a little more pleasant and less intimidating.

It looked promising and as I walked north I spotted a park that would provide me with a cut through.

As I entered St. James' Gardens from Cardington Street I noticed there was an exit in Hampstead Road which was just perfect.

As I walked through the park I noticed it was empty and did have a flicker of worry about my safety but it was an open park and I could see my exit so I didn't worry unduly.

As I moved towards the gates at Hampstead Road they seemed to be shut, but as these were large double gates I just assumed that there was a smaller gate that would be open but that must be out of sight.

As I got close to the gates it was clear there was no other exit and that the gates were padlocked shut. I was in a dead end with no exit and I no longer felt at all safe.

There was a note on the gates. During July and August the council had conducted a successful pilot and as a result, the gates to Hampstead Road were to be closed until further notice.

What pilot? And what were the measures of success? And what was the reasoning behind the whole pilot anyway?

Less litter? Maybe fewer people are now using the park.

Less crime? Ditto.

No complaints? Maybe nobody could be bothered to complain because it doesn't achieve anything or maybe it's because the first telephone number they listed doesn't work.

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Argy Bargy

Dave and I were in Stratford this weekend seeing Henry V. We had time to meander through the streets and to explore different topics of conversation. This gave Dave the opportunity to reveal his plans for retirement. This is perhaps a little premature as we're a few years away from pensionable age but it's always good to have plans (or is it, I'm not sure).

When Dave retires he wants to buy a barge and travel the waterways of Britain. I have assumed he'll want to take me with him, although there is a risk that he'll retire before me because of the fact my years of service with the company has been reduced because of years working part time. So maybe he's actually planning a solo venture.

We think we can see quite a bit of the UK and, by the time we make this epic trip, Britain's waterways should have seen even more regeneration than they have thus far.

We discussed a name for the barge and we'd both had similar thoughts. Dave thought Argy, and I'd thought Argy Bargy.