Thursday, 26 February 2009

Religious Sat Nav

I had to drive to Wimbledon on Saturday so I extracted the Sat Nav.

I did have a passenger in the form of Mel and she and I like to chat. I’m rubbish at multi-tasking so didn’t always take the roads that were advised because I was talking, or (less likely) listening.

Strangely, the route it advised to Wimbledon was via the M25 and the route back was through London (always a hairy experience). Anyway that’s by the by.

I have set my system up for audible alerts for speed cameras. I’m rubbish at spotting the buggers and am not always looking at the screen to spot them there. The bleeping it does serves its purpose and keeps me on the straight and narrow.

What we found, however, on the route through London is that I also have audible alerts for churches, and maybe mosques.

I didn’t set this up deliberately. I don’t know how it happened. I also don’t know how to turn it off.

Is it trying to keep me spiritually topped up or is it warning me about religion.

I’ve always viewed the speed camera alerts as a warning. Are the church alerts the same thing?

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Experimental shopping

I recently undertook an experiment with my weekly online supermarket shop.

I have a naturally lazy disposition and was wired into the laptop in the sitting room. I know one should do a tour of the house to determine what should go on the shopping list but I couldn’t be bothered.

I was hooked into Facebook and Twitter and decided that Facebookers and the Twitterati might save me the short walk around the house.

I asked for advice and guidance. I asked for shopping list suggestions.

This is what I ended up with:

  • Wine
  • Chocolate
  • Kinder egg
  • Toilet roll
  • Bounty kitchen towels
  • BBQ Pringles
  • Light bulbs
  • Teabags
  • Tomato ketchup
  • Vodka

I considered this to be a highly successful experiment and plan to repeat the exercise regularly.

So my thanks to Lee, Jane, Kathryn, Victoria.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Conversation with husband

Me: Could you get me some chocolate?

Maybe I should point out that I don’t treat him like a manservant. Well maybe I do, but he was going to the kitchen anyway so I thought I’d make his trip worthwhile and productive.

Him: I think you should resist.

Me: Why?

Him: To feel good about yourself.

Me: Why will that make me feel good about myself?

Him: Can you resist?

Me: Yes.

Him: Well if you resist you’ll feel good.

Me: Why will I feel good?

Him: Because…oh whatever. I’ll get you chocolate.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Swapping party

I went to a clothes swapping party yesterday. It was a first for me and I was a bit apprehensive.

What does one take to a clothes swapping party? Apart from clothes obviously.

I did a wardrobe sweep and made two piles of clothes: a charity shop pile and a party pile. The charity shop pile were clothes that just needed to go. The party clothes were, mainly, items I really wanted to wear but whenever I tried to wear them I ended up changing my mind.

Well the girls at the party were a variety of sizes but that didn’t seem to matter. Strangely, rather than looking at the size on the label, we just tried anything and everything on. And things that the label said wouldn’t fit, did.

Not every item found a home but all bar one of my items did.

I took 13 items and came away with five. My wardrobe has more space and I have some items I might wear to replace items I didn’t wear (even though I’m not sure about a couple of items).

Anyway I can recommend the experience. And I think I can probably find more items in the wardrobe. Anyone up for it?

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

25 Random things about me

  1. My first name isn't Ann
  2. It's Carolyn
  3. The Post Office doesn't like or approve of this
  4. I wrote to my MP about the fact the Post Office won't let me have stuff addressed to Ann
  5. I am one of those people that might have died had it not been for a blood transfusion
  6. Ironically this means I can't now give blood
  7. I am a Black Country girl
  8. Who grew up in the West Country
  9. My favourite place in the whole world is Crater Lake
  10. I have done a parachute jump (tandem)
  11. I have done a bungy jump (not tandem)
  12. I decided I wanted to marry my husband on March 28th 1987
  13. He became my husband on December 4th 1995
  14. I was never sure I could or should be a mother
  15. I've taken Prozac
  16. Those last two are linked
  17. I have a very short fuse
  18. I'm loud
  19. And obnoxious
  20. I don't think I ever want to move house again
  21. I was on the other side of the world when my mum died
  22. My first pet was called Cheeky
  23. I have taken pole dancing classes
  24. I spend too much time online
  25. In pub quizzes my weakest subject area is music

Monday, 16 February 2009


Whilst I love my husband dearly, he is a complete luddite.

At work we have a programme Microsoft Office Communicator available to us.  For those of you who haven’t encountered it, it’s an office chat client that interfaces with Outlook.

It allows one to chat to colleagues in the same way one would with MSN Messenger.  The interface with Outlook uses an individual’s calendar entry and displays it as a status.  So if I’m in a meeting, others can see I’m in a meeting and choose to disturb me or otherwise.

I believe Communicator makes me more effective because I can be in an audio, preparing a presentation or sending an e-mail and communicating, answering or asking questions via Communicator.

I persuaded myself that our department needed the software and they now have it, and many use it.

I persuaded another department they needed the software and they now have it, and use it.

The only remaining person at work that I think should install the software is my husband.

Dave works in a completely unrelated department.  His calendar is very, very busy.  If I want to get in touch about something I do have choices.

I can e-mail him but often he doesn’t get a chance to see my e-mail in the vast amount of e-mails he gets in a day.

I can call him but I risk interrupting a meeting or the call gets picked up by a secretary.    If all I want to know is whether Dave had remembered to call someone about something domestic then I don’t necessarily want to have to talk to a secretary about it.

I can text him, but texts are often ignored all day long.

Communicator seems like a quick and easy method for establishing a dialogue that doesn’t impose but does provide me with feedback.  Clearly to persuade him it should be installed I needed to provide him with a business justification.

Well try as I might he just can’t see it.  The multi-tasking is lost on him as he has the typical “I’m a bloke.  I don’t do multi-tasking.” response.  I explain that men I work with can multi-task and the response comes back that they can’t be “real men.”

When I explain the convenience of the application he just says “I prefer to pick up the phone.”  Except of course he doesn’t phone me.

Any suggestions on further persuasion techniques would be welcome.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

In praise of…

I don’t often do product promotion.  When I do it’s because I really think it enhances my life in some way.

An ex-colleague tweeted the other day about losing a blog post because the computer ate it.  (Tweeting, for the uninitiated, is the verb used for posting a micro blog on Twitter.  If you don’t know what Twitter is, don’t worry.  I think it’s a phase that people, including me, are going through.  It’ll pass.)

This was a colleague who worked in IT so "the excuse of “my computer ate my blog post” seemed a little unusual.  I just have this impression that IT folk never have any IT trauma.  (I know this isn’t really true by the way in case any of the IT folk are reading this.)

Anyway, I didn’t hesitate to recommend Windows Live Writer.

I know, I know.  I was sceptical too, especially as the chap that recommended it to me works for the monster that is Microsoft.

But it works, really well.  And if you have a crappy internet connection or wireless thingy (you can tell I’m not a techie) you can work offline and, at the last minute, press the publish button without risking loss of work.  It’s WYSIWYG too which is fabulous.  I seem to be able to sort the formatting out much more easily than when using Blogger.  It works with most blogging platforms and I haven’t found something it can’t do.

So, I don’t say this often but, well done Microsoft.  You’ve enhanced my life.

Did I mention it’s free to download?

Wednesday, 11 February 2009



Number 5

In Ongoing ongoing saga there was something that happened when we got to number 5.

Chris was kneeling on the soggy wood balanced above the stairwell holding the light and and trying to connect wires and secure them with screws.  He had his hands full.

His phone rang.  I offered to answer it.

“Hi, Is that Sam?” (his wife) “He’s not really in a position to come to the phone right now.  He’s got his hands full.”

How dodgy does that sound?

And then we started chatting. 

“What time is Chris needed back to look after Thomas?”  “Oh…now….er, well, er.”  “Are you sure you’ll phone the school and cancel?”  “I’m not quite sure how long this last bit will take.  It’s a bit tricky.”  “How is Thomas, is he feeling better today because he’s been a bit poorly hasn’t he?”  “Ahhh, he had a haircut, how sweet.  How old is he?”  “14 months.  That’s such a lovely age.”  “It was his first haircut.  Bless him.  How was he, was he good?”  “I remember when ours first had their hair cut.  Hannah, our eldest was fine but Ethan yelled and yelled.”  “Yes, well I think you tend to have boys hair cut earlier”  “How was Harry when he went for the first time?”  “Did they both enjoy the snow earlier in the week?”  “Harry’s school was closed for a couple of days wasn’t it?”  “Yes, they loved it.  They had two days off too.”  “I don’t think children should go to school so young.  Maybe they should start school at age 10.”  and so on….and on.

Chris had started to go red in the face and was looking very uncomfortable.  Sam was lovely to chat to but I did feel I ought to try and finish the conversation and help Chris out.  It was a struggle, but eventually Sam and I stopped our mum talk.

We fixed the light and it worked.  While Chris was up in the stairwell he bashed a few difficult to reach cobwebs and we were done.

We’d thought it would be a two hour job and Chris was in the house for three and a half hours.  We were both exhausted.  It had been an illuminating experience.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Ongoing ongoing saga

Chris (good looking lighting engineer I met through Freecycle) is currently where we left him in Ongoing saga; halfway along a soggy piece of wood supported by two ladders balanced on stairs.

The bit of metal was relatively easy to fit.  I can say this because a) I have the benefit of hindsight and b) at the time I was the one standing on the stairs not kneeling on a soggy piece of wood perched above a stairwell.

It was a simple task.  A light piece of metal requiring two screws, one into the joist and one into our accurately placed piece of scrap wood which had been knocked together in the garage earlier.

The slightly (what an understatement) more complex and challenging task was fitting the light, the whole reason we had employed the services of a lighting engineer.  That and vertigo.

The light was designed by an idiot.  Had it been designed by those clever people it would be simple to hook the light onto the piece of metal that had just been attached to the roof.  Oh no.  This light designer could never get a job in the IKEA design department.  His, or her (but probably his), design required that we now use a screw and a washer at two points, to attach the light to the piece of metal attached to the roof.  Not forgetting the wires that need to be connected.

How the hell is one supposed to be able to do that with only two hands?  Let me tell you:

  1. Hold the two kilo lamp in one hand.
  2. With the spare hand try and manoeuvre the wires into position and do up the three screws.
  3. Huff and puff as this isn’t the five second task you’d hoped
  4. Realise that two kilos is a lot to hold aloft with one arm
  5. Something unhelpful happens – more later
  6. Take a break after fixing the wires and allow the lamp to dangle precariously held only by the electrical wire.
  7. Hold the fixing screw and washer between your lips 
  8. Once again with shot muscles hold the two kilo light in one hand
  9. Hold the screwdriver in the other hand
  10. Manoeuvre the light into position
  11. Grab screw with hand holding the screwdriver
  12. Put screw into hole in light and fiddle to try and get it into the hold in the bit of metal attached to the ceiling
  13. Drop the screw
  14. Ask someone to retrieve the screw (me) and try again
  15. Try and screw the screw in
  16. Experience extreme arm shake from the arm that’s been supporting the two kilo weight
  17. Refuse assistance from someone offering to join you on the soggy piece of wood
  18. Experience even more muscle collapse as the screw refuses to be tightened
  19. In a slightly tense voice ask if there’s a broom that could be used to help support the weight of the light
  20. Second person (me) retrieves broom and uses it to take most of the weight of the light while screws are fixed in
  21. Dirty marks from dirty hands are left all over the ceiling around the light fitting
  22. Broom holder starts to experience muscle fatigue just before the light is finally attached with two screws

I know this is ungrateful but as I was stood on the stairs, holding a broom atop which was a two kilo light, with my muscles about to give way I was thinking “I’m paying for this and it hurts.  Where’s my slice of the money?”

The image I want to leave you with is me, holding a broom, supporting a light, for Chris (the good looking lighting engineer), while he struggles manfully to do his job. 

I thought this might be the final instalment but I’d forgotten about step 5 above.  I’ll tell you about step 5 next time.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Ongoing saga

Continuing on from Fate part deux. The tumble dryer on Freecycle and the lighting engineer that came to pick it up, a tricky time in the loft and then it got worse.

We had fixed the supporting piece of wood in the loft and put the loft boards back where they belonged.  The loft was still a mess because all of the contents were now scattered and messed up more than usual but, these things happen.

Now I’m not sure I’d mentioned the intended location for this light. 

Imagine a staircase with three turns and a typical Victorian ceiling height.

When we moved into the house and had it rewired we had moved the position of the light fitting so that it hung more centrally over the staircase.  This made it harder to change bulbs and reach the light fitting, but we didn’t think about that, we just looked at it aesthetically.

This is why Chris (the good looking young lighting engineer) happened to be in the house.  Dave and I had no clue how we’d get to the ceiling without suffering severe vertigo and risking our lives.

Chris and I had discussed how to reach the ceiling and we’d set up something to make it happen.

There was an extending ladder (from the garage) balanced on one of the staircase turns and a stepladder (also from the garage) on one of the other turns.  Chris had brought a substantial three metre lump of wood which was then balanced between the ladder and the stepladder.   This provided a platform that was about four foot below the light fixing point.

The wood that Chris had brought with him had been lying out in his garden, and this meant that, while we were manoeuvring it around the house, this soggy wood was marking our ivory/cream (magnolia) walls.

Chris crawled along the wood and then sat, with two kilos worth of light, on a soggy piece of wood precariously balanced between ladders.

The next step was to fit a small piece of of metal to the ceiling.  To reach the ceiling adequately Chris found he needed to kneel on the soggy wood.

That’s enough for tonight…more another time.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Fate part deux

Remember Fate? The tumble dryer on Freecycle and the lighting engineer that came to pick it up?

Well, the lighting engineer, Chris, came over on Friday to fix our light. This is the light that’s been hiding under the stairs in a box for six years because we never managed to get around to finding someone with the appropriate skills to fix it. On Friday I discovered at close quarters what those skills were.

Fairly quickly we determined that the lath and plaster ceiling was not adequate to support the light which weighed in at roughly two kilos.

I know enough about DIY to know that meant going up into the loft.

What Chris didn’t know is that one of the first jobs we tackled when we moved into the house was boarding the loft. Dave did an outstanding job with tongued and grooved chipboard covering the entire loft. Each 12 foot board held down by eight screws. Boards were shaped to fit awkward areas with an accuracy one would expect from an engineer who’s also a perfectionist.

The other thing that Chris didn’t know was that our loft is full of stuff.

We got up in the loft together and we moved stuff, allowing us to analyse the problem.

We would need to unscrew several boards and then use brute force and ignorance to tent the boards thus easing their removal.

It was hard physical work.

We then nipped into the garage where we used Dave’s Black and Decker Workmate and some spare bits of wood Dave’s been saving (Honestly, what is it with men and wood? Our garage is full of wood) and we chopped and nailed using some nails Dave’s been saving. (What is it with men and screws and nails – we have thousands and yet whatever the job is, Dave insists on a trip to B&Q.)

We had fashioned a bit of wood that would fit perfectly between the joists providing a fabulous support for two kilos.

We fitted the wood support thing and then struggled man and womanfully to put the stupidly precision crafted chipboard back in place without damaging it.

I was a bit hacked off at this point. I was paying this bloke to do this and I was doing half of the work. OK, maybe a third. Alright probably 20 percent.

It got worse….

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Junk food

I bake, sometimes, not often, but sometimes.

I’m not very good but I do have tried and tested recipes that I know I can do. I also have no fear of new recipes that I haven’t tried before.

If I want to make fairy cakes, I make them, using a recipe. I have friends who have a different approach.

One friend, let’s call her Tammy, because that’s her name, has a different approach to making fairy cakes. She buys a packet, adds an egg, mixes it together, bungs it in the oven and then burns it.

I don’t know which one she buys but I’d hazard a guess at the Disney Princess mix (£1.99 which makes 10). This is the ingredients list to which an egg is added:

  • Wheat Flour
  • Sugar
  • Vegetable Oil (Containing Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oils)
  • Whey Powder
  • Soya Flour
  • Dried Egg
  • Skimmed Milk Powder
  • Raising Agents: E450, E500,
  • Rice Starch
  • Salt
  • Emulsifiers: E475, E471
  • Colouring: E160, E102, E129, E132, E133
  • Icing Sugar
  • Tri-Calcium Phosphate (E341)
  • Cornstarch
  • Egg White Powder
  • Arabic Gum

This is my ingredients list for fairy cakes:

  • Butter
  • Plain flour
  • Baking powder
  • Milk
  • Egg
  • Sugar
  • Icing sugar
  • Lemon juice
  • Hot water
  • Decorations

Tammy’s fairy cakes take about five minutes to prepare before they get burnt in the oven. Mine take ten minutes to prepare before they get cooked to a light golden brown colour.

I don’t understand the cakes from a box thing, and never will. I know what I prefer to eat, and I know what I prefer my children to eat.

Tomorrow I’m sharing a recipe or two with Tammy.