Thursday, 30 December 2010

Gluten free polenta, lemon and pistachio cake for Olivia

I promised my niece I’d share this recipe with her. 

This is a moist cake that can be made in advance (up to three days) – apparently the flavour only improves and it can be frozen.  It’s also great served with sliced oranges drizzled with some honey, apparently, but I just settled for oodles of cream.


  • 150g unsalted, shelled pistachio nuts – I only had 100g so substituted 50g with pecans
  • 200g unsalted butter softened – recipe doesn’t specify unsalted but I only buy unsalted and also the softening the butter thing is important.  When I made it it hadn’t quite softened enough and I had to give it a good bash in the mixer.
  • 200g caster sugar although I invariably substitute granulated
  • 3 large eggs
  • 100g polenta – I couldn’t find this in Sainsbury.  What you’re looking for is something that looks a bit like couscous, not ready made polenta which looks more like a lump of mashed potato.  I found it in the local farm shop eventually.
  • 150g ground almonds
  • 1 tbsp gluten free baking powder (isn’t all baking powder gluten free?)
  • zest and juice of one lemon, unless like me your lemons were looking very sorry for themselves, in which case use your own judgement.

For the syrup

  • zest and juice of 3 lemons – see above
  • 100g caster sugar – see above


  • You’ll need a greased and lined 22cm springform cake tin and an oven pre-heated to 160 °C (fan oven).
  • Start by blitzing pistachios in a food processor until they are finely ground.
  • In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Gradually add the eggs, mixing well after each addition. 
  • In another bowl mix polenta, almonds, pistachios and baking powder and then add this to the butter, sugar and egg mixture and mix well.  Stir in lemon zest and juice and mix well until combined.
  • Pour mixture into the cake tin, level the top and bake for 20 minutes and then cover with foil (to stop it browning too much) for another 30 minutes until golden and firm to the touch.
  • While the cake is cooking put the lemon zest, juice and caster sugar in a pan and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar, and then simmer for 3 minutes.
  • When the cake emerges from the oven, pour the syrup over the top and leave in the tin to cool.
  • Yum.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

An update

I’ve just had a call from the CEO’s office at Tesco.

Apparently Philip Clarke doesn’t take over until March and Terry Leahy’s still in charge.  Oops.  Nonetheless the lovely lady I spoke to had done some investigating.

The text I received that said my delivery had been cancelled due to bad weather was erroneous.  As I suspected, the roads were considered to be passable.

The reason for the cancellation was a systems failure.  Apparently the Gallows corner store was unable to download order information and therefore unable to fulfil orders.  Customers should have been contacted with this information.

Tesco is sorry that I was given the wrong information.  They are also sorry that both and the Tesco store did not return my calls as promised.

I am, once again, a happy customer.  It didn’t take much, just the truth.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Direct Line loves lazy customers

I changed our home and contents insurance provider last year to Direct Line.

The renewal quote came through last week; a 33.5% increase.  I phoned up to see what the issue was.  We hadn’t claimed, our circumstances hadn’t changed significantly and in fact we were minus a cat compared with this time last year.

Nothing had changed.  Our introductory discount had expired.  “OK” I said, “where’s my loyalty discount?”  Some mumbling followed and then a loyalty discount was produced, a whopping 8.3%.


I went onto the website and generated a quote, in my husband’s name.  It was £50 cheaper than the policy I signed up for a year ago.

I phoned again.

Apparently even if you request a quote with the details on your current policy the website sees your quote as new business.  The call centre staff are not authorised to match the quote.  In order to access the cheaper insurance quote I need to cancel the renewal and start a new policy with the new quote.

This may seem ridiculous, but I see it as a blessing.  All those lazy customers that just renew without checking they are getting a good deal are subsidising the policies for the likes of me, and maybe you.

OK, it is ridiculous.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

An open letter to Philip Clarke, CEO, Tesco

Dear Mr Clarke

I was expecting a delivery today to my home in Brentwood from Tesco Online.  At 10:00am I received a text advising "We are very sorry we have had to cancel your order due to bad weather.  Please re-place your order at when conditions in your area improve.

There was bad weather here yesterday, but not today.  Roads were impassable yesterday but today are completely clear from the entrance to Tesco at Gallows corner to the spot outside my front door.  I'm fortunate that I live in an area that is covered by the County Council's gritting policy.

The order I had placed had a value of £320 and had the majority of the items I wanted for Christmas.

The crass wording of the text I received fails to recognise that there are no delivery spots available prior to Christmas.  As it happens there are no Collect from store spots available either.

I checked the status of my order online and it showed the order had been picked so I called Customer Service department.  I advised that the roads were clear and asked if Tesco wasn't willing to deliver, whether I could collect.  The call centre operative I spoke to advised she would call the store to see if that would be possible and she gave me the direct line for the store too.  She told me she'd call me back.

After a couple of hours I had heard nothing and I called the store.  I explained the situation to the person at the store who thought it perfectly likely I'd be able to collect my order.  She advised she'd find the person responsible and I'd get a call back.

At 4:00pm I hadn't heard from or the Gallows corner store.

I called and was told that even if the system states a shop has been picked it may not have been and, in my case, it hadn't been.  I was told there was nothing that Tesco could do for me except suggest I re-order which, as I mentioned above, is a ridiculous suggestion.

At this point I was less than pleased with the way I'd been handled and I was left trying to figure out how I was going to get food into the house.  The call centre operative I spoke to offered a £10 e-coupon which, on an order of £320 and for a very regular customer, is an insult.

There is one final thing that makes this even more frustrating.  A friend received a delivery from today and, as she was chatting with the driver, she mentioned my plight.  He couldn't understand it given that he'd done deliveries in Brentwood and Warley today.

I am angry, frustrated and I feel ignored and let down by a brand I had come to trust.

Can I suggest the following little things which may help:

  • Fitting winter tyres to your delivery vehicles in the winter (optimal performance below 7 degrees Celsius).
  • Your managers consider the route required to make a delivery before cancelling all deliveries.
  • If you have to cancel a delivery at least try and assist the customer.
  • If you are unable to assist the customer and rectify the situation, then offer some meaningful compensation. 

Yours sincerely

Ann Cardus (Mrs)

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Selfish selfish selfish

We had a parcel to collect from our local CityLink depot in Chelmsford.  I think it’s probably something I’ve ordered from John Lewis for the hubby; one of the very few items not ordered on Amazon this Christmas.

At lunchtime it started to snow and I thought I ought to nip in the car and pick the item up before everyone got snowed in.  I checked the delivery card and it said they were open from 8:00-16:00 so I knew I was OK.  Well I say I knew but I have had a bad experience at this depot before.  I’ve turned up at at 8:05 on a Saturday to find the doors locked when finally at 8:15 a surly individual has opened the doors with the cheery greeting “Is that the time?”

I figured I was safe.  Arriving at one o’clock, what could possibly go wrong?

As I arrived I saw someone I knew heading to their car empty handed.  We had a chat and Stuart told me that they’d decided to close early because they had enough of a queue to last an hour and a half and weren’t willing to accept any more people.

Meeting Stuart helped with my anger management.  Stuart is a persuasive guy and he had a valid reason to be annoyed.  Their package hadn’t been delivered on the nominated day and he’d driven further than me to collect it and then was refused entry.  My situation was different.  Delivery had been attempted and failed twice.  If Stuart had failed to negotiate entry then the only thing I had going for me was cleavage, which was covered by multiple layers.  I stood no chance.

This meant that when I approached the poor chap who was given the job of imparting the bad news to customers I was in a milder mood than one might normally expect.

He gave me the news he’d been asked to impart: the office was closed as the people inside (I counted six) had been waiting for an hour and a half and the manager had decided to deny anyone else entry.

I gave him my details and requested re-delivery with the request that the item be left in the porch if nobody was in to accept the delivery.  He told me this would only be possible with the consent of the sender, the company supplying the goods.  This was contrary to advice I’d had from a CityLink driver just days before who said if I consent to items being left in the porch then that was enough authority to make it happen.

I gave bearer of bad news my home and mobile telephone numbers.  Probably a mistake on my part.

I also said that it was ridiculous that the information they supplied about opening hours was blatantly incorrect and asked how I could have any confidence in the depot being open if I made a return journey in the future.  After all they hadn’t cited weather as an issue at all, and actually the snow was extremely light in Chelmsford.  My prize was the number for the Chelmsford depot which, if anyone wants it, is 01245 495904.  

Clearly I’m not asking or recommending that you make any nuisance or hoax calls.  This number is provided to you as a public service.  Use it wisely.  I will…

Friday, 17 December 2010

Microwave Christmas Pud

Last recipe I promised Lianna.  Had a bit to drink last night and did contemplate blogging at 1:30 ish when I got in but we both know that would have been a “disaster darling.”

Serves 8-10


For overnight soaking

  • 50g glace cherries
  • 85g currants
  • 85g sultanas
  • 100g raisins
  • 50g mixed peel
  • 50g chopped blanched almonds
  • 50g chopped apple (cooking or eating apple)
  • finely grated zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 4 tbsp brandy

Pudding mix

  • 85g plain flour
  • pinch salt
  • 85g shredded suet
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 40g fresh white breadcrumbs
  • 50g golden caster sugar
  • 50g dark muscovado sugar
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 1 tbsp black treacle


  • Mix all of the items to be soaked and leave overnight.
  • Mix flour, salt, suet. spices. breadcrumbs and sugars.  Add soaked mixture, eggs, milk and treacle and mix well.
  • Tip mixture into buttered microwave-proof bowl and smooth the top. 
  • Cover bowl with clingfilm and pierce.
  • Cook on high for 5 minutes, leave to stand for 5 minutes then cook for 5 minutes.
  • Leave for 5 minutes, turn out and serve.

Can be served with Brandy Butter:

  • Beat 100g softened butter until soft and light and then beat in 85g of caster sugar and 50g light muscovado sugar.  Gradually beat in 4 tbsp brandy.  Serve in a dish.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Hoisin Chicken in Crisp Lettuce (Gluten, dairy and egg free )

This looks like a delicious starter or canape, and quite easy too.

Serves 8-12


  • 1 tbsp dry sherry
  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 5 tbsp chicken stock (Gluten free if required)
  • 1tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 large garlic clove, crushed
  • 3 spring onions, chopped, green separated from white plus 1 shredded to garnish
  • 200g minced chicken/turkey
  • 220g can water chestnuts, drained and chopped
  • 2-4tbsp chopped, fresh coriander
  • 3 little gem lettuces, each broken into into 8 individual leaves


  • In a bowl, mix sherry (and why not a glass yourself) and cornflour to a smooth liquid.  Add soy and hoisin sauces, sugar and stock and set aside.
  • Heat oil in wok or large frying pan, toss in garlic and whites of spring onions and stir fry for 2-3 mins.  Tip in chicken and stir fry over a high heat until it colours, using the back of a spoon to break up any lumps.
  • Tip in water chestnuts and fry for a further 1-2 mins.
  • Push chicken mixture to side of pan and pour sherry mixture (and why not have another glass) into the empty part and stir for 1-2 mins until it thickens.
  • Combine thoroughly then leave to simmer for 5-10mins.  Stir in the green part of the spring onions and coriander.
  • Lay lettuce leaves on serving plates and spoon in the warm mixture without overfilling and scatter with the shredded spring onion. 
  • It should be possible for guests to roll lettuce around the filling to make this the perfect finger food.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Roly Poly Mince Pies

This is the first of three recipes I’m posting for Lianna.  I could photocopy them but I like having an online recipe because I can always get access to it even if I’m away from home.

I haven’t tried these but I will be trying them next week.  They look so easy that I’m sure nobody could fail.


  • 50g golden caster sugar
  • 375g ready rolled puff pastry
  • 411g jar of mincemeat
  • 1tbsp milk
  • 25g flaked almonds, optional


  • Pre-heat oven to 220C or 180C for fan oven.
  • Scatter sugar over worktop and unroll pastry and place it on top of the sugar.  Roll it out a bit until it’s about 25% bigger but still a rectangle.
  • Spoon and spread mincemeat evenly over the pastry leaving a 2cm border along the longest edges.
  • Fold one of the longest edges over so it just reaches the mincemeat and then roll the pastry tightly into a sausage shape while gently pressing the pastry into the mincemeat.
  • When you get to the other edge, brush the “sausage” with milk and press down to seal in the mincemeat.
  • Press both ends in gently to plump up the roll and chill for at least 30 minutes to firm. (Can be frozen whole or sliced for up to 3 months.)
  • Cut the roll into 12 rounds about 3cm thick.
  • Lay them evenly spaced on a baking sheet and flatten them with your hand so that they look like squashed Chelsea buns.
  • Scatter almonds on top, if using, and bake for 20-30 mins until golden brown and the mincemeat sizzles.
  • Store without stacking or they will stick together.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Christmas shopping

This whole Wikileaks thing is confusing. 

As I understand it Wikileaks published semi-secret documents.  By semi-secret I mean thousand upon thousands of people had access to the information but it was supposed to be secret.

The U.S. Government wasn’t very happy about this.  And we know that not only because of the headlines but because behind the scenes American politicians were ‘avin’ a word in the shell-like of corporations that had supported Wikileaks and asking them to desist.  These companies included Visa, Mastercard and Amazon and one by one they withdrew their support.

Wikileaks didn’t take the snub lightly and recruited people around the globe to engage in retaliatory activity.  The plan was simple; join together to bombard the servers employed to support these companies.  The excessive traffic loads result in a denial of service.

It’s quite childish really, a double tit for tat.

Anyway the upshot is that my Christmas shopping is scuppered as Amazon went down just as I was adding a million things to my shopping basket.  I blame the U.S. Government.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

A recommendation


I went to see Aladdin tonight at the Civic in Chelmsford.  Let me tell you what made it a success.

It was good old-fashioned panto with all of the old jokes and a traditional storyline.  There was lots of audience participation and then there was the water fight.

What it didn’t have was a D-list celebrity which didn’t detract from performance and may even have enhanced it.

If you haven’t booked to go and see a panto, then you ought to get it sorted.

Details here.  You won’t be disappointed.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Christmas parties

I love Christmas parties, especially work ones.  They invariably involve alcohol which is the bit I like.

I was at one last night and the best bit is the loss of inhibitions and the verbal honesty that follows.

This can be dangerous.  I have seen others affected to the point of it almost being embarrassing.  One of my favourites was a girl who, during a meal (Chinese restaurant – very festive), stood on a chair and confessed her undying love and admiration for the boss.  I mean he wasn’t a bad boss but I’ve had better. (For reference that was “I’ve had better” not “I’ve had better.”)

There was the adorable woman who chose the Christmas party as the opportune time to tell the boss exactly how he could do his job better.  I watched and listened and, to be honest, her view was only barely discernable through the slurring.

We all know there is a tendency to slip into the “I really love you” speech when talking to anyone, of either gender, after a few drinks.  Sometimes that’s a face to face conversation but it can also be text, or Facebook message, or Twitter direct message, or instant messaging or… you get the point.  But the great things about Christmas parties is that everyone who’s drinking has an equally dodgy memory and nobody can remember everything, and what they can remember is excused.

So enjoy your Christmas parties, let your hair down and let go.  It’s the end of the year and you deserve some relaxation.  Just make sure you take ibuprofen before you go to bed, and don’t forget the pasty at the station on the way home.

I really love you.  All of you.  Really.  I do.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Taking it further

Some of you will remember my lifetime guarantee

Well the saucepan brand Meyer came through.  I got in touch, sent the saucepans back and today some lovely new saucepans arrived in the post.

All of this is lovely but the shiny new saucepans aren’t the same as the ones we returned.  Saucepan design has moved on.

So my shiny new saucepans don’t match the saucepans I still have, and haven’t returned.  Would it be cheeky to write to Meyer once more and suggest they replace the entire set and not just the faulty two?

Monday, 6 December 2010

Did you know…?

Our house leaks energy like a sieve.  Everyone knows what you need to do to insulate their house, or do they?

Everyone knows that loft insulation is key and we have that, maybe six inches depth of insulation with chipboard boarding on the top.

Everyone knows about cavity wall insulation and we don’t have that because our walls don’t have cavities.

Everyone knows about fitting double, or even triple, glazing but we haven’t done that because we like our wibbly wobbly glass or what’s left of it that hasn’t been broken by Dave.

Everyone knows that pipes need lagging and we think ours are.

Everyone knows about underfloor insulation.  Well actually I didn’t. 

I learned this evening that 15-20% of heat is lost through the floor and it only costs a few hundred pounds to have underfloor insulation.  Much cheaper than I thought it would be and more effective than I imagined it would be.  Now can anyone recommend a contractor?

Sunday, 5 December 2010


My relationship with Breakthrough Breast Cancer goes back a few years but in 2003 it got personal.  In 2003 I was part of a pilot for the Breakthrough Generations study.  I’ve continued my involvement and I currently owe some very talented scientists some blood samples and a completed questionnaire.

I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to visit the Breakthrough research facility which is attached to the Royal Marsden hospital.  Using a microscope to look at cancer cells that are physically moving towards lung tissue cells that have been placed in the same Petri dish is a very compelling experience. 

Losing someone close is bound to affect the way one feels about a disease and about supporting a charity devoted to finding a cure.  Having seen the professionalism of this particular charity and the quality of the research scientists employed merely reinforces the strength of that support.

I would encourage you to participate in the study, but having checked the website I don’t think they need more recruits.  Instead I’d just say to you that Breakthrough is a worthy cause.  I’ve seen the work they do and I’ve worked closely with them.  And they need money to process my questionnaire and to analyse and store my blood samples…

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Let me insult you

This cold weather has brought with it lots of well intended advice, but some of it is difficult to follow.

We have a retired couple living next door to us.  I have no idea how old they are but they were a retired couple when we moved in eleven years ago.

They seem fit and healthy but the Government have told me that they need my help.  So what do I do?  Do I wander round, knock on the door and say “You seem to be a kindly, elderly couple, can I help you survive this terrible weather and nip to the shops for you?”

How would you feel if you were perfectly fit and able and you were visited by your neighbour who offered help with the implication that you were no longer capable?

I am happy to help, and my contribution was to clear the snow from my neighbour’s piece of pavement without being asked.  I just feel really awkward about offering help in such a way that it could be insulting. 

I remember my Dad refusing to ask neighbours for the tiniest bit of help when he needed it, and he would have been most put out if anyone offered help when it wasn’t required. 

I guess we just don’t know our neighbours well enough.

Friday, 3 December 2010

So sue me

I plan to walk across the road tomorrow to Travis Perkins and buy some rocksalt.  I’ll put it on the ice on the pavement outside our house.

But this may be a foolhardy activity.  I found this from a BBC article in 2004:

Clearing snow 'can get you sued'


If snow is left, the council is liable

Clearing snow from pavements outside your home could make you liable to legal action if somebody slips on ice, the government has said.

But if householders leave the snow, the council is liable, Lord Davies of Oldham, for ministers, told Tory Lord Burnham at question time.

Claims against householders were "few and far between," he added.

But Tory Baroness Carnegy of Lour called for a law change, to encourage people to "do their bit".

Labour ex-minister Lord Dubs added: "Something I have done for years every time there has been snow is leaving me liable to legal action."

Lord Davies said: "No householder is at all responsible, providing they do not touch the pavement, which is owned by the local authority."

If people completely and utterly and totally clear away all snow and return the pavement to the situation it was in before the snow landed, they have done an excellent job

Lord Davies of Oldham

But he added: "The moment they address the issue of the pavement with a view to improving things, which may lead to a deterioration, it may be their action that makes them culpable."

"If people completely and utterly and totally clear away all snow and return the pavement to the situation it was in before the snow landed, they have done an excellent job.

"If it is done in a less than complete manner and leaves ice, which is more dangerous than the original covering of snow, it may not necessarily be the local authority that is responsible but the householder for having dealt with the pavement."

If the exchanges led to fewer people clearing snow, Lord Davies added, "that would be a great pity and I would have acted to the detriment of the nation".

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Another Dragon’s Den idea

I’ve decided I should share my ideas when I think of them.  I clearly had the idea first so if any of you develop it and make your fortune then I’m due a cut.  Let’s say 50%.  I think that’s fair.

My latest genius idea is a snowball maker and chucker and should be called “Snowchuck.”

Basically any invention starts with a problem that needs solving and my problem is in two parts; the inability to make a decent snowball and then to chuck it with power and accuracy at a target.

My solution, the Snowchuck, is a scoop on a stick.  The inspiration came from the tennis ball chucker that people use when exercising dogs.  I envisage a scoop with a shape that works rather like an ice cream scoop forming the perfect ball of snow.  The reason that the scoop is on a stick is to facilitate chuckability, tennis ball style.

RRP probably £2.99 with production costs per unit of £0.20 based on estimated volume in first year eight million.

Are you in?

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Leaky roof anyone?

I had to go into the loft today.  At this point you don’t need to know why I went into the loft (needed to get a suitcase) but you do need to know it’s been snowing quite a lot and it has settled on the roof.

While I was up in the freezing loft space I noticed something that shouldn’t be there.  You see there are things that shouldn’t be there that I know about; the spalling bricks on the chimney breast above Hannah’s room and the mouldy roof beams that you can’t miss as your head pops through the loft hatch.  I’m not sure it’s mould but it looks like mould.  And there are things that shouldn’t be there that I didn’t know about.

Should there be water on the inside of the roofing felt? 

I thought not. 

There were drips everywhere, sort of hanging from the roofing felt.  Condensation?  Leaky water?

Either way I’m not sure it’s right.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Dysfunctional tech

We had a broken light that Dave fixed. After it was fixed we decided we really ought to change to energy efficient bulbs.

We couldn't figure out why the light worked with regular bulbs but not with energy efficient bulbs.

After a process of elimination (husband is an engineer) we discovered that if all three bulbs were energy efficient the light didn't work. If only two were energy efficient and one was regular then the light would work.

The thing that enabled the light to work with all energy efficient bulbs was to change the light switch.

We're a fan of dimmer switches but for some reason these are incompatible with energy efficient bulbs. Which is ridiculous!

Does anyone know why and if there's a workaround? My whole life is a workaround.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Reality rebellion

It’s all going wrong with reality TV.  The wrong people are winning.

In Strictly Come Dancing the worst dancer, by a mile, is Ann Widdicombe and yet she hasn’t been in the bottom two at all because the public have kept her in.

Wagner does not have the X Factor but he seems to be attracting the public vote in some kind of bizarre “Let’s annoy Simon Cowell” sort of way.

I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here is retaining the awful Gillian McKeith because the public want to see her suffer.

It’s twisted and sick and there will be a rebellion.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

I’ll never do it (she lied unwittingly)

I remember having a light-hearted argument with the lovely Steve Grossman.  (Where is he now?  Still in St Albans?)

Steve argued, at the time that mobile phones were just starting to include camera functionality, that I would want and use a phone with a camera.  I held the opposing view that if I needed a camera I’d take a camera with me and I wouldn’t want a poor quality camera when I could have a reasonable quality camera.

I’d like to say, here and now, that Steve – you were right.  I use the phone on my camera more than 99% of people I know.  (Exaggeration of reality for effect only.)

I take photos of everything with my phone.  Steve, you were ahead of your time.  I doff my metaphorical cap to you.

N.B.  I am never wrong

Wednesday, 24 November 2010


I was there when MySpace kicked off.  Well maybe not quite as early as kick off, but soon after.  I think I still have my MySpace account.  It was where I started my blog.  Big mistake.  I remember the slog of cutting and pasting to move it across to Blogger.  I did this because somebody scared me by suggesting MySpace would run out of storage space and would delete old blog posts.  I’m pretty sure none of those posts I moved have tags.  Search Engine Optimisation be damned.

I was there for Facebook and abandoned MySpace quite quickly.  I never blogged on the Facebook platform because there was no need.  I could import my blog straight into the Facebook platform as a Note.

I was on Twitter before Stephen Fry.  I know.  Nobody was on Twitter before Stephen Fry, but I was.  March 07 if I remember correctly.  It took a while for me to see the benefit of Twitter, probably when Stephen Fry joined Twitter, which I think was when he was shooting his American series in the taxi cab.  And I found a way to annoy my friends on Facebook by copying across my Twitter feed into Facebook.

All of this Social Media adoption can be attributed to one man.  Thank you Geoff Lloyd.  My career has moved in its current direction thanks to my Social Media addiction.

I’ve tried other things but there hasn’t been enough of an advocate.  Geoff tried to persuade me that Bebo was worth a look but it wasn’t.

Recently Robert Wallis keeps persuading me that Google Buzz is worthy of my time.  It’s not doing it for me.  What am I missing?

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Christmas hell

Christmas messes with my head every bloody year.  It starts in November and it’s relentless.

Scheduling my family’s life is hard enough at the best of times without having to overlay all of the stuff that Christmas entails.

Everything just becomes super complicated and the calendar starts to look very busy.  I still try to fit everything in making sure everyone is getting the most out of their weeks but actually I think all my family gets is a very stressed and uptight me.

I told Dave my work Christmas do was on Thurs 16th December and he said his was then too.  My thought process went something like this:

  • Kids need picking up from school – they could go to the after school club
  • Ethan has a karate class at 4:25 – he could miss it and stay at the after school club
  • Hannah’s karate class is at 5:10 – she could miss it and stay at the after school club
  • Check.  Ethan’s taster sessions at the church choir happen in November and December but he will have finished them by the 16th.  Phew!
  • After school club finishes at 6:00 and someone will need to pick Hannah and Ethan up.
  • Dave’s Christmas do is likely to start at lunchtime and continue into the evening.
  • I know nothing about my Christmas do except the date and that it’s likely to be in London.
  • Let’s think about who deserves to have fun this Christmas the most between Dave and me.
  • Dave works full time whereas I work part time and actually finish work at 12:00 on a Thursday.
  • Dave is gets paid more than me (even pro rata) and he has a team, whereas I consider that I’m part of a team.
  • We both started new jobs earlier in the year and could benefit from getting to know the team better.
  • Can we really ask anyone to babysit just so that we can both go out and drink?  No.
  • OK fuck it, I give in.  He can go out (just like last year) and I’ll stay at home and do what I normally do on a Thursday.

At this point I’m more resigned than resentful.  And then there’s the bombshell.  Dave tells me a week later that his team are actually going out on the Friday.  And if I want to go out he can take the Thursday afternoon off.

Dave doesn’t understand why I find this incredibly frustrating.  I know I should be grateful and happy but I’m not. 

Because Christmas is complicated enough without my husband adding to the Christmas scheduling stew with inaccurate information.  I’m still calming down.  I might be happy tomorrow.  Maybe.

Monday, 22 November 2010

How much?

I just booked an appointment at a private hospital. But it's OK because we've got private healthcare.

The doctor said those words "It could take a while to get an appointment." which I countered with "We've got health insurance." This prompted an easing of tension and everyone relaxed. Well sort of.

You see I knew there was an excess on the policy of £100.

I asked which consultant would be the best one and the receptionist seemed to base her advice on when the appointment was wanted.

I asked about the excess because I wondered how that would be settled. Would the hospital bill us or would the insurance company bill us?

She explained that they bill the insurance company and they would then send us an invoice for £100.

I must have looked puzzled because she then explained that the first consultation would last for 45 minutes and would cost £200.

How much? For 45 minutes?

I retained my composure. Just.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

The lunatics are taking over the asylum


I liked this so much I thought it could live on the blog permanently.

Apple spice muffins

Tomorrow I shall mainly be baking apple spice muffins.  They’re easy, a piece of cake.

Makes 12ish


  • 250g plain flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, pinch of ginger, pinch of cloves OR 1 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • 110g sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 150ml milk
  • 170g chopped apple, chopped into small pieces about 4mmx4mmx10mm approx (eating apples or cooking apples)
  • 90ml corn oil
  • 85g raisins (optional)

Topping: 3tbsp soft brown sugar (or any sugar actually)


  • Oven on to 190 degrees C and put muffin cases in the muffin tin in preparation.
  • In a large bowl sift flour, baking powder, salt and spice and then stir in sugar.
  • In another bowl, beat the egg with a fork, stir in milk, chopped apple and oil. (When chopping the apple I peel and core apple and chop large apple wedges.  I put these in water with a little lemon juice to stop it going brown.  I then weigh the wedges, without lemony water, until I have the right amount and then I chop it.)
  • Pour wet mixture into dry and stir until combined adding raisins during final stirs.  The mixture is very dry/thick which is generally OK as the apple releases moisture when it cooks but if it super difficult to mix then don’t feel bad about adding a little milk or water.
  • Spoon into muffin cases, sprinkle with the topping of sugar and bung in the oven for 20-25 minutes.  These muffins don’t go as brown as some other recipes and if they do then you’ve overcooked them.  They should just be turning a light golden brown when they’re ready.

Once again these muffins freeze very well and straight from the freezer a quick 30 blast in the microwave prepares the muffin to accompany a cup of tea (tea rather than coffee for these muffins).  Alternatively if popped into a lunchbox in the morning the frozen muffin is defrosted by lunchtime.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Neighbourhood watch

We don’t have a Neighbourhood Watch but maybe we should.

It wasn’t the first time I’ve reported this car, or even the second time.  It’s the third time I’ve reported this car (well actually the driver) for travelling the wrong way down the one way part of our street.

Here it is again: Crappy Silver Merc A-Class M16 REM, and a picture….


And I know where they live!!!

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Killer brownies recipe

Killer because they are capable of inducing heart attacks.  Brownies because they’re brownies.  Recipe because…


  • 250g unsalted butter (I use organic but you don’t have to)
  • 200g dark chocolate (recipe actually says Fairtrade 70% cocoa solids and in handwritten capitals it says Green and Blacks but I didn’t use Green and Blacks)
  • 50g chopped pecans
  • 80g cocoa powder (don’t know why recipe doesn’t say Fairtrade for this)
  • 65g plain flour (I use organic)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 360g sugar (recipe says caster sugar but I used golden granulated sugar, whatever that is)
  • 4 large free range eggs (recipe says free range or organic whereas I didn’t think they were mutually exclusive)


  • Recipe states 25cm square tin and I’ve bought a lovely one from Lakeland which has a removable base.  The first time I made these I didn’t have the right tin, so I looked at which tins I did have and did some maths and used a round tin.  I know I have a maths degree but you too can figure it out by checking out this link here.
  • Meanwhile, line your tin with greaseproof paper and grease tin and greaseproof paper (I know this is a faff) and turn the oven on to 180 degrees (or 160 degrees for fan oven).
  • In a bain marie (large bowl over a saucepan of simmering water) melt chocolate and butter then stir in your nuts (the chopped ones).
  • In a separate bowl mix cocoa powder, flour, baking powder and sugar.
  • Sieve flour and cocoa mix onto melted chocolate and butter. (I tip melted stuff into Kenwood Chef bowl and then add flour and cocoa mix).  Mix until combined.
  • Beat eggs then add and mix well until silky consistency (I don’t really know what a silky consistency looks like so I just mix for a bit until I get bored - I have a low boredom threshold).
  • Pour and scoop and scrape your mixture into the baking tin and chuck in the oven and cook for 25 minutes.  There is no point in guessing whether it’s “done” because with brownies it’s a dark art so just stick to the 25 mins.
  • When the killer brownies emerge from the oven, allow to cool before cutting into heart attack inducing chunks and serve to your murder victims.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Who knew

Having worked in both the 20th and 21st Centuries I sometimes forget that there are little pockets of “before women had the vote.”

Had a little chat with someone who’s recently moved jobs and I asked him how it was going.

He explained it was a bit of a shock and I asked why.  He replied that he’d never worked with so many women, and apparently they talk.  A lot.  And what’s worse is that they have opinions.  On everything.

Who knew.

Of course it could just have been said for comedic effect, with a heavy dose of irony.  Could have been.

Sunday, 14 November 2010


I’ve had a letter published, in that illustrious publication, the Sainsbury magazine (which they call Sainsbury’s magazine, which to my mind is all wrong).

I should be pleased, except…

  • I’ve had people telling me about it but Sainsbury didn’t tell me, and it’s taken ages for my local Sainsbury had the latest issue of the magazine in stock.
  • Mine wasn’t the star letter despite the fact it was clearly better than the one that was chosen.  I had clearly understood the nature of the task at hand and had written something that clearly put the magazine in a very positive light but without being overly sickly.
  • The bastards edited my letter.  How dare they?!

I think the star letter would have won me a saucepan set, which you all know I need.  I’m still smarting.  I may ghost write a letter of complaint from my husband.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

The ageing process

A while ago there was a lot of hoohar in the press about changes to Facebook privacy rules. 

I read a post on Twitter I think by a certain Mr Petzny which advised that if one didn’t fancy faffing around with one’s privacy settings all one needed to do was change one’s age on Facebook to be under eighteen.

Always happy to take advantage of a shortcut, the easy path, I changed my age to a youthful 15 years old.

More recently I was involved in some “work stuff” for which I needed to be able to change my Facebook profile to be a female over the age of 21, interested in fashion and living in Newcastle.  This would make me the perfect target for some advertising we were doing and I wanted to see the adverts.

I set about changing my location and interests but was unable to change my age back to something resembling reality.  Facebook insisted that as a minor under the age of 18 I should not be allowed to change my year of birth.

I wrote to Facebook and explained.  They wrote back and told me it was important I used my real date of birth and explained how to change my privacy settings if I didn’t want people to know how old I was.

I wrote back and explained that what I wanted was to let people know exactly how old I was.  And how on earth did they think it was possible for me to have left school in 1986 and Uni in 1990, be married and have children, aged eight and six, and yet only to be 15 years old myself?

They changed my profile and I’m back to my real age of 28.  Thank goodness.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Wet blanket

I’m not supposed to be here.  I’m supposed to be in a pub.

I feel I’m letting people down because I did think I would make it, but then Friday evening came along.

The weather is rubbish, I have nothing to wear, I feel fat and ugly and I have had a busy week and I’m knackered.  All of these are excuses really even though they are true because if I forced myself I could find something to wear and I could drag my sorry arse into town.

I just don’t think I’d be good company, even if I had a drink or two, or ten.

I might be amusing, but that’s not the same as good company.

Thursday, 11 November 2010


I’ve got some posh poppies.

I gave up on paper poppies because, when worn, they last about five minutes before being trashed by the handbag on my shoulder.  I only gave up on wearing the paper poppy, I haven’t given up supporting the Royal British Legion.  As a child I used to accompany my mum in November going door to door collecting for the Legion.  I couldn’t possibly stop supporting.

Anyway a lot of people have commented on my poppies in a positive way.

My poppies were bought without any of the purchase price going to the charity so if you’re thinking of following my example, please carry on supporting in the way that you normally would.

But if you want a poppy like some of mine (I have three gorgeous poppies) then try the following sites and search for either poppy brooch or poppy corsage.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010


If I have to be somewhere at a particular time then I have to be there, at that time which usually means getting there ahead of time.

I have to be in Weybridge tomorrow at 9:00am.  Well actually there’s breakfast at 9:00am and the meeting starts at 9:30am.  In my head I still have to be there at 9:00am and I’m storing the 30 minutes as a buffer.

Google directions shows the journey time as one hour and one minute.  But this route includes the M25 and we all know that the M25 is the biggest car park in the world, especially at rush hour.

Tomorrow has nothing to recommend it travel-wise.  It’s not a school holiday and there isn’t a fuel shortage or imminent terrorist threat affecting the road network.

I reckon that during rush hour I need to double the Google estimate which would mean leaving at 7:00am.  But that doesn’t take roadworks into consideration.  So maybe I need to leave at 6:45am.

The last time I had to do a similar trip I arrived over an hour early.  For me it’s better early than late and never is probably better than late.

And then there’s the return journey.  I must be back by 3:15pm as that’s the school run.  This isn’t normally a problem because I finish at 12:00 on Thursdays.  Tomorrow however the meeting finishes at 1:00pm and then there’s lunch. 

I’d like to stay for lunch because a) it’s a chance to catch up with people in the industry I haven’t seen for years and b) I’ll be hungry, but I think I’ll have to pass.  Almost every day there’s an accident on the home stretch of the M25 which causes massive delays.  My deadline to get home really isn’t flexible and actually I need to be home before 3:15pm to give me time to walk to the school.  Ideally I’d have time to change out of my skirt and heels for the school run too.

So on Thursdays my working hours are 8:30-12:00.  Hours out of the home on account of work tomorrow will be nine.

When will they invent teleportation?

Tuesday, 9 November 2010


Ford is running a competition, sort of, and there’s $10,000 up for grabs.  There are some catches.

The $10,000 actually goes to the winner’s nominated charity not the winner.  So what’s in it for the winner?

Well if the fact that there’s $10,000 going to the charity of your choice isn’t enough then there is more.  The winner gets an all expenses paid trip, with a friend, to a, yet to be announced, location in southern Europe and the chance to be one of the first to experience the new Global Ford Focus.

So what do you have to do?  Submit a video and get people to vote for you.  Simple really.  The link is here.  If you do enter, please let me know and I’ll support you.

Monday, 8 November 2010


How many freezers should a household have?  Or more accurately how much freezer space should a household need?

I have three freezers, and I’m not including any icebox thing that might sit in a fridge, because I haven’t got one of those. 

I have an under the counter freezer in the kitchen, another in the conservatory and a third in the garage.  I say conservatory but junk room that is gradually disintegrating is more apt.

Sometimes, but not often, I feel I don’t have enough freezer space.  Is this abnormal or does everyone struggle?

I batch cook, producing sometimes 20 meals at a time, all stored in take-away style foil containers.  I bake and freeze too, generally muffins but sometimes cake or bread.  I cook our own produce and, because we can’t eat it quickly enough, I freeze that too.  I’m currently suffering with a surfeit of Bramley apples, which I love.  So I stew and pack for the freezer.  I have been known to do the same for “in season” fruit and veg.  I know I have frozen blanched rhubarb somewhere and maybe some runner beans.

And then there’s shopping.  If there’s an offer it makes sense to buy six, rather than one, especially as a freezer should be tightly packed to run efficiently.  And the freezer saves me from shopping several times a week because I can store temporarily and defrost.

And this is before the normal stuff that everyone has in their freezer, you know, the frozen food aisle.  The ice-cream, the frozen peas, the fish fingers for when other people’s children come round because it’s a safe bet.

We’re thinking about a new kitchen and I want a huge fridge freezer.  Is it wrong to have four freezers?

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Inspired Bicycles

I’ve shared this before but time doesn’t diminish it.  It’s inspiring.  If you feel you’re banging your head against any metaphorical walls then watch this.  It will do you good.

Saturday, 6 November 2010


Just watched Timewatch.  The programme focussed on the last day of the First World War and particularly the time after the Armistice was signed (5:00am) and the time it took effect.  It was horrific to hear about Generals who sent troops into battle when they knew about the Armistice.  The most ridiculous was General William M Wright who sent the 89th Division to try and capture Stenay because he wanted his troops to have a bath.

“The division had been in the line a considerable period without proper bathing facilities, and since it was realized that if the enemy were permitted to stay in Stenay, our troops would be deprived of the probable bathing facilities there.”

They lost 365 men to howitzer fire.

And then I watched Have I Got News For You in which the Entente Frugale was discussed; the recent agreement in which the British are to share military resources with the French.  And there was this quote from Stormin’ Norman, General Norman Schwarzkopf:

"Going to war without the French is like going deer hunting without your accordion”

Friday, 5 November 2010

Junior Masterchef

Hannah made dinner tonight.  It’s the first time she’s attempted anything on this scale and I deliberately stepped back and only intervened when she asked for help.  Oh and to do the washing up.  We modified the recipe and I thought budding young cooks might like to try it too.

Hannah’s Pasta Bake – Serves 4

pasta bake


  • 250g pasta shapes (we used macaroni)
  • pinch of salt
  • 55g butter
  • 40g plain flour
  • 450ml milk
  • 125g Cheddar cheese grated
  • 125g of a mixture of chopped ham and salami (original recipe said just ham but we didn’t have enough)
  • 115g sweetcorn
  • 1/2 red pepper chopped into pieces the size of your thumbnail
  • 25g Parmesan cheese
  • Preheat the oven to 200 C. 

    Heat some water in a large saucepan with the pinch of salt.

    Add the pasta carefully and cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet.

    While pasta is cooking gently melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat. 

    Add the flour and mix well, cooking the mixture for a minute and then remove from the heat.

    Stir in the milk, a little at a time, to make a smooth sauce.

    Put the pan back on the heat and stir carefully while the sauce thickens.

    When the sauce boils, turn down the heat and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring all the time.

    Remove from the heat and mix in Cheddar cheese, sweetcorn, ham/salami, red pepper and drained pasta.

    Place in ovenproof dish and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes.

    Thursday, 4 November 2010

    You too can have this

    I went to the school this evening, at a cost of £5, to watch other mums and school staff on a catwalk wearing end of line clothes which were later brought out for purchase at knockdown prices.  Knockdown compared with full RRP but more expensive than their usual outlet in Chelmsford.

    I tried things on is the area at the back of the school stage in a communal area with all of the other school mums that turned up.  A “free” glass of wine lessened the pain of looking vile in everything I tried on but I didn’t win anything in the raffle, a further £1.

    I did manage to get pounced on for a ticket for a Robbie Williams tribute act, a further £12, so not all was lost.

    Evenings like this can be yours too.  All you have to do is have children.

    Wednesday, 3 November 2010

    My lifetime guarantee

    I have a lifetime guarantee.  Not for me, because that’s silly, but for some saucepans.

    They’re hard anodised aluminium.  I think.  I’m not too sure and even if I’ve remembered it correctly might just be a made up phrase created by saucepan marketeers.  Those same marketeers lured me with their marketing speak and their lifetime guarantee.

    The saucepans aren’t as non-stick as they were.  And they were quite expensive, not very, just quite.  So what do I do?  I feel I should take them up on their guarantee. 

    We’ve never put the pans in the dishwasher or used nasty scourers to clean them.  They have been used a lot, but isn’t that the point of a saucepan and a lifetime guarantee?

    What would you do?

    Tuesday, 2 November 2010

    Fashion blog

    I used to be blonde.

    ann4 Ann age four.  Butter wouldn’t melt. Much.

    But now I rely on bleach to give the effect of blondeness.  That and my general blonde behaviour.  This morning is a case in point.

    Today was the first day back at work after a little half term holiday and I was not in the best of moods.  I’d say I was feeling sharp, not in the well-dressed sense of the word, more in the “come near me and I’ll cut you” sense of the word.

    I needed clothes to match so the trouser suit called to me from the wardrobe and so did my evil boots (one of several pairs).

    So, sharply dressed, I left the house sharply and got to work sharply.  Half and hour early for work, which was good because I knew there would be an e-mail mountain waiting for me.

    I got into the lift with someone I recognised but didn’t know.  That happens a lot at work when you’ve worked for the same company for 19 years.  As we reached the fifth floor he turned and asked “Are you feeling a bit tired this morning?” and I thought “I barely know you.  Damn cheek.” but replied “Yes a little, first day back after a week away.”

    He then looked at my feet and my gaze followed his.  And this is what I saw.


    I know they’re both black boots, but I’m not quite sure how this happened.  I got dressed while daylight was streaming in through the windows.  I have no excuse, so I’m blaming the bleach, or my four year old blonde self.

    I drove home, rectified the situation and made it to my desk by 8:30.  The e-mail mountain could wait.  There was no way I could continue the day with odd boots.

    Monday, 1 November 2010


    We went trick or treating yesterday.  We’re responsible trick or treaters.  We accompany our young children and only knock on doors where occupants have a carved pumpkin on the doorstep or where the house is otherwise decorated for Halloween.

    While we were out I witnessed a new phenomenon: drive by trick or treating.  Parents had driven their children to the street we were on, allowing the children out at a likely looking house.  The children got out, gathered their loot, got back in the car on to the next property.  Unreal.

    While we were out I’d left Dave holding the fort, on hand to answer the door and supply sweets to little hands.  When I got back I thought I’d tidy away the Halloween decorations and pumpkins.  And some snotty-nosed little creep had stolen one of our carved pumpkins.  Not. At. All. Happy.  And it was the pumpkin I’d bought with Hannah, and carved to her design.

    Halloween magic…what magic?!

    Sunday, 31 October 2010

    Not quite The Truman Show

    Jim Carrey’s fabulous film The Truman Show is what the Disney experience should be like.  It’s not quite there.

    As we were walking around Disneyland Paris I found myself noticing the imperfections.  I know I should have been swept up in the sugar-coated fun and excitement but I was noticing the flaking paint, the faded colours, the peeling decals, the mould, the less than perfectly saccharin staff attitude and the graffiti.

    I think portraying perfection is something that Disney thinks it does well, which is why it needs more people looking for the detail and a bigger maintenance budget.

    I know most people won’t spot the flaws that I found (I’ve been told I’m picky) but it’s the thin end of the wedge and, if others notice a fraction of what I noticed, it starts to shatter the illusion.

    Saturday, 30 October 2010

    What’s the difference…

    What’s the difference between Bing Crosby and Walt Disney?

    Bing sings but Walt Disney.

    No?  Try a Scottish accent. 

    Still no?  Never mind.

    Went to Disneyland Paris this week and I’ve got it sussed.  We spent a lot of time queueing, not surprising for anyone who has been to Disney.  I was trying to figure out why on some rides, even though the queue caused waits of about 45 minutes, not all of the ride was open meaning the ride wasn’t operating at full capacity.  And then I sussed it.

    Disney’s main business, theme park-wise, is crowd control.  It’s possible to occupy more people for longer by keeping them in a queue than letting them queue for a short time, do the ride and then get out ready for another queue.  By keeping people queueing unnecessarily in rides where there is additional capacity Disney manage to reduce the queues for rides where there is no additional capacity.

    Cynical, moi?

    Sunday, 24 October 2010

    Artificial or not

    I've argued for a sign on photoshopped images used in advertising but another thought has occurred to me. What if the image hasn't been altered but the person in the image has had cosmetic surgery? Should the image similarly be marked to show it's not natural?

    Thursday, 21 October 2010

    Kulula branding

    Following on from yesterday I thought you might want to see the livery for the Kulula aircraft.  Enjoy.






    Wednesday, 20 October 2010

    My favourite airline

    I’m cheating a bit as this came into my inbox today and I thought it was worth sharing.

    Kulula is an airline with head office situated in Johannesburg.  Kulula airline attendants make an effort to make the in-flight "safety lecture" and announcements a bit more entertaining. Here are some real examples that have been heard or reported:

    On another flight with a very "senior" flight attendant crew, the pilot said, "Ladies and gentlemen, we've reached cruising altitude and will be turning down the cabin lights. This is for your comfort and to enhance the appearance of your flight attendants."

    After a particularly rough landing during thunderstorms in the Karoo, a flight attendant on a flight announced, "Please take care when opening the overhead compartments because, after a landing like that, sure as hell everything has shifted."

    "In the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, masks will descend from the ceiling. Stop screaming, grab the mask, and pull it over your face. If you have a small child travelling with you, secure your mask before assisting with theirs. If you are travelling with more than one small child, pick your favourite."

    "Your seats cushions can be used for flotation; and in the event of an emergency water landing, please paddle to shore and take them with our compliments."

    "As you exit the plane, make sure to gather all of your belongings.
    Anything left behind will be distributed evenly among the flight attendants.
    Please do not leave children or spouses."

    And from the pilot during his welcome message: "Kulula Airlines is pleased to announce that we have some of the best flight attendants in the industry. Unfortunately, none of them are on this flight!"

    Heard on a Kulula flight. "Ladies and gentlemen, if you wish to smoke, the smoking section on this airplane is on the wing. If you can light 'em, you can smoke 'em."

    Tuesday, 19 October 2010

    Where’s the truth?

    I went to see my old team today.  A work-related trip but it was nice to catch lunch and just catch up with people.

    As Jane greeted my she complimented me on my hair.  Which was lovely of her.  And I don’t mean that in a patronising way.  Hear me out.

    I am long overdue at the hairdressers.  I did get my roots sorted recently because with this level of “platinum highlights” it’s important to cover them up regularly.  But I haven’t actually had my hair cut for ages.  I feel my hair is lank and in need of a sorting out.  I sort of feel that my hair needs a boost in the same way my wardrobe gets a boost every time I get a fix of personal shopping.

    So I felt that Jane was being kind, in the same way that when someone has had a hair dressing disaster, friends will comfort with phrases like “Well, it’s different.” or  “Wow, what do you think?” or even “Wow, you’ve had your hair cut.”  So it was a friendly thing that Jane did, to make me feel better than I looked or felt.

    Tracey, this evening, and I’ve known Tracey forever, said “Are you OK?  You look tired.”  Well I am bloody tired.  Knackered actually.  I know it’s not acceptable to admit that and whenever someone asks “How are you?” the only acceptable response is “Terrific” or “Marvellous” or “Great.”  Well I don’t.  I feel run down, tired, lacking in energy and my face shows it.  I have dark circles under my eyes and to say I was fine would be to deny the evidence in front of Tracey’s eyes.

    If you meet me tomorrow though and ask me how I am, I’ll be “Great.”

    Monday, 18 October 2010

    We’ve done the maths

    Ashford to Disneyland and back is 751km.
    Fuel economy figures for S-MAX diesel model we have are:

    • Urban: 7.2 litres/100km
    • Extra urban: 4.9 litres/100km
    • Combined: 5.7 litres/100km
    My fuel economy advisor says that these numbers are obtained by a driver who is going all out for fuel economy and they won’t have a car full of distractions, luggage and children.  My advisor tells me that for everyday economy the Urban figure is a good guide.
    So to work out how many litres of fuel I’ll need for my return journey I need to divide my distance (751) by 100 and then multiply by 7.2.
    Fuel needed for journey = 751*7.2/100 = 54 litres
    An S-MAX has a 70 litre tank.
    Woohoo!  We don’t have to worry about the French fuel blockades and, because nobody else will be able to get fuel, there will be nobody else on the road.
    The only thing I need to worry about is the Saudi intelligence advising France that there is a threat of an al-Qaeda terrorist attack.

    Sunday, 17 October 2010

    Bloody French

    Just as we’re planning a trip to France the French decide to get stroppy.

    I don’t really know why the French have a reputation for being awkward.  I’m pretty sure none of you remember the lorries full of lambs that were set alight.  You won’t recall baggage handler disputes or air traffic controllers going on strike.  Nobody would recognise a French lorry driver protest.  French train drivers striking, surely not…

    Of course I jest.  The French are a feisty bunch and that’s something I like about them.  They do love a protest, and so, frankly, do I. 

    I’ve protested and I’ve marched.  I even made it onto the local telly while I was at school and we decided that to protest about our school bus passes being taken away we’d walk to school along the main road and hold up the traffic.  I remember being quite impressed by the queue that built up behind us.  We never did get our bus passes back.

    I remember getting on a coach in Torquay to protest outside the county offices in Exeter.  I was a hardcore member of the National Union of Students who fancied a day out of lectures.  I think I was also outraged that budget cuts meant a course in pottery was going to be axed.

    Anyway the French appear to be unhappy that the retirement age is being increased to 62.  HELLO!!!  Don’t you realise we’re recovering from economic meltdown?  And, more importantly, if, as a result of your daft protests, petrol stations run out of fuel we won’t be able to return to the UK from our holiday, and we won’t be able to get back to work….

    You know, protests might just be a good thing.  I’ve always loved the French.

    Saturday, 16 October 2010

    It pays to complain

    We bought Hannah a pair of school shoes in August, just before the new school term.  It was the usual “My haven’t your feet grown.” “30 quid.  Blimey, that’s a bit steep.  Oh well.  I’m sure they were less than that last time. *hands over credit card*”

    Last week Hannah complained that her shoes were falling apart.  This was a slight exaggeration but the soles were coming away from the leather.  We determined to go back and complain.

    We took the shoes back today and after Hannah tried on loads of shoes we found a pair that accommodated Hannah’s inherited high instep.  I have told Hannah that both her father and I share the awkwardness of a high instep making shoes and boots nigh on impossible to buy.

    We went to the checkout.  I didn’t know whether it was going to be a straight exchange or, because the newer shoes seemed to be better quality, we’d end up paying more.  I was pleasantly surprised; Hannah’s shoes were in the sale at £9 which meant I was due a refund of £21.

    Bargain!  I’ll be back.  For plimsolls for Ethan and trainers for Hannah, before the month is out.

    Friday, 15 October 2010

    Can't sleep

    Hannah has had a couple of evenings when she's not been able to sleep. The evenings have been a week apart so I'm ruling out a physical cause even though there are physical symptoms: shivering, funny feeling in her tummy, funny feeling in her throat.
    I think there's probably a psychological cause and these are stress symptoms.
    I've asked what she thinks she might be worried about and the only thing that comes to mind is "learning about the two World Wars at school."
    History is important but Hannah has been worried, and might still be worried, about it happening again.
    It's not possible to say it won't happen again as the UK is currently already engaged in war.
    She knows the first and second World Wars involved Germany and Germany is still "there".
    I've told her that today's Germans are embarrassed by their country's past and that is associated with guilt and shame too. They are the last people likely to be responsible for starting a war.
    I don't really know what else to do or say.

    Thursday, 14 October 2010

    Misleading advertising

    I’ve long held the view that airbrushed ads should be clearly identifiable as such with some kind of brush logo and maybe the word “fake.”  I could have sworn I blogged about this before but can’t find the post so either I have and Blogger search is rubbish, or I haven’t and am slightly senile.  Both of these potential scenarios is plausible.

    Anyhow, I was delighted but not really surprised and then annoyed and then non-plussed and then delighted again, to learn that the Guiding movement have obviously read my (non) existent airbrushing blog post.

    Delighted because they’d read my blog and taken note.  Not really surprised because the Guiding movement has always been forward thinking.  Annoyed because they didn’t credit me with the idea.  Non-plussed because I realised I probably wouldn’t have done anything further with my idea and then delighted because I’d gone full circle.

    Research done by Girlguiding UK shows that girls are concerned about the pressure caused by unrealistic images in the media.  Go Guides, go Brownies, go Rainbows.

    There is a petition to support the call for a kitemark that distinguishes between airbrushed and natural images.  If you’d like to support this idea, and I would encourage you to, then pop to and you have until 2 November to sign up.

    Wednesday, 13 October 2010

    A new addition

    Yesterday my husband told me that his parents will be getting a puppy, a little Border Collie.  I think this is a good thing but it begs some questions.

    Do they realise that looking after a puppy is harder work than looking after a newborn baby?

    Do they realise puppies have “accidents” on nice cream carpet or wherever the hell they want to?

    Do they realise that puppies sometimes chew furniture, skirting board, cushions, shoes, slippers, bedding etc?

    Do they have a plan for where the puppy goes when they go away for the weekend?

    Do they know that a house will smell of dog if it contains a dog?

    But these are details.  It is a good thing.

    Tuesday, 12 October 2010

    I need a plan

    OK, I need your best idea.  I need a marketing gem, a genius plan, a killer idea.

    I need to know about all those things you’ve either wanted to do yourself while you’ve worked in marketing, or things you’ve seen others doing that you consider to be the best.

    I plan to plagiarise, steal, nick, borrow, re-work, amend anything you throw my way. 

    You see our bosses have hatched an evil plan.  Future marketing budget allocation rests on our collective creativity.  I’m passing the buck, so now this all rests on your creativity.

    The product, no surprise, is a car, and to be honest that’s probably all you need to know, except there’s not a whole lot of budget.  Forget all that namby pamby target customer stuff and think “what can start small but grow to be the biggest social media success in the world ever?”

    OK, maybe not that huge.  Hyperbole aside, I need something with legs.

    I know I’m not making sense, but that’s what happens when you’re trying to work past 11pm.

    Monday, 11 October 2010

    May I recommend…

     never use

    May I recommend the Children’s book Never use a knife and fork by Neil Goddard with illustrations by Nick Sharratt.  It’s a good one for young cheeky children, and my children can recite the whole book.

    And, for your delectation, I will let you know what you’ve been missing:

    Never use a knife and fork.

    Stuff your face till you can’t talk!

    Soak your pigtails in your soup.

    Squish your fishcake into gloop.

    Slosh your squash around your cup.

    Use your sleeve to mop it up.

    Suck ice-cream from underneath.

    Scrape your biscuit with your teeth.

    Squirt your yoghurt from the pot.

    Tie your sausage in a knot.

    Paint a picture with your peas.

    Squeeze some cheese between your knees.

    Drink your gravy through a straw.

    Bounce your burgers off the door.

    Bung your thumbs in hard-boiled eggs.

    Trickle treacle down your legs.

    Pile up puddings on your toast.

    Give your dog the turkey roast.

    Hide spaghetti in your hair.

    Keep crisps in your underwear.

    Juggle jelly, tread in bread.

    Balance bagels on your head.

    Wolf down waffles while you walk…

    But never use a knife and fork!

    Buy this book, or borrow from the library.  Your children will love you for it.

    Sunday, 10 October 2010

    What a load of

    I spent a bit of time up a ladder today.  I cleared some guttering, took the gutter apart to clear the downpipe and then descended.  I then tried to go back up the ladder to continue my work and then I was visited by my enemy Height who had me freaking out just 20 foot up.

    I came down and the job continued with me playing the less active role of ballast at the base of the ladder for my far braver husband.

    We removed the dandelion and the thistle and thought we were doing quite well, until we got to, what Dave calls, “The Valley”: an area where two roofs meet.  This is what we (Dave) removed from half of “The Valley.”


    I think it was a job worth doing, even if Dave did most of it.

    Saturday, 9 October 2010

    High altitude weeds

    Our gutters need clearing and I’m not just saying that because some dodgy bloke has chucked a tennis ball in our guttering, and has knocked on the door a fortnight later offering to clear our gutters for a bargain basement £1,000.

    My eyes tell me they need sorting because we have both thistle and dandelion growing there.  They must be growing in something and I’m guessing that something is leaf mould.

    It’s on my list of things to sort this weekend, which presents me with a problem.  My husband, being chivalrous and wanting to hang on to a mother for his children, doesn’t want me shinning up a ladder.  Apparently it’s a bit high and a bit dangerous.  And yes I did know that and I’m no stranger to danger and heights.  We’re not best friends you understand, especially Heights, who has a tendency to make me go weak at the knees, in a wobbly way.

    But all of this leaves me (no pun intended) stuck with something on a to do list and an inability to sort it myself.  My options are

    1. wait for Dave to sort it
    2. wait for Monday and book someone to sort it.

    The thing is, that neither of these is a guaranteed fix for the weekend, unless I nag.  I don’t really like nagging.  It’s a technique of last resort and I’d rather shin up a ladder myself wearing a pair of Marigolds.

    But I am out of options.  Unless I defy my husband.  But then I’d need his help carrying the ladder.  And that would seem like I’m dropping a really big hint.  Which is a bit like nagging.  …

    Friday, 8 October 2010

    Winter Trifle

    I’m reposting this so that Shona can find it easily if she needs it for Come Dine With Me.

    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 30mins.

    • 450g brioche (often sold in 400g sizes and you can use just 400g)
    • 400-500g raspberries (fresh or frozen - just add 5 minscooking 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.

    Thursday, 7 October 2010

    I need it

    Conversation in the back of my car tonight.

    “Hannah, do you know what I’m saving up for?”

    “No, what?”

    “An Xbox 360”

    At this point I interject “Why on earth do you want an Xbox 360?  You’ve got a Wii and a DSi.  When would you play with an Xbox 360?”

    “It would stop the other boys picking on me for not having an Xbox 360” and at this I shut up, but am saved by Hannah.

    “You just need to ignore those people Ethan” and Hannah went on to demonstrate a wonderful understanding of how to deal with bullies.  And then she went all philosophical.

    “And anyway, you don’t need an Xbox 360 you just want an Xbox 360.  There’s a difference between things you need and things you want.”

    They then devised a game in which I suggested something and they said whether it was a need or a want.  Here are some of the results:

    • Kitten: want
    • Lawnmower: want
    • Shoes: want
    • Glasses: need
    • Pants: need
    • Haircut: want

    I disagreed with lawnmower and shoes. 

    The children argued we could just let the grass grow but I said that would make the lawn unusable as a lawn.  Hannah then said “Well you could use scissors” so my very adult response was “Well then you’d need scissors!”

    The argument against shoes was that you could use flip flops.  I said that might not be great if it was snowing and they conceded that shoes were a need.  Frankly I thought they could have progressed the want argument by suggesting that flip flops and wellies could serve all footwear needs but as I’d won the argument I didn’t push it further.

    The whole discussion was quite reassuring.  No parent wants a spoilt brat and it was great to hear that my children understand the difference between need and want.

    I did caveat the conversation by saying that “Mummy needs an iPhone.”

    Wednesday, 6 October 2010

    Good memory, bad memory

    I am really badly rubbish at remembering the things I’ve remembered.  I know that doesn’t make sense to you, but it makes perfect sense to me.  Allow me to explain.

    Say one of my friends has a birthday on June 8th.  It might be written on the calendar or I might just have it lodged in my brain.  I may have a special way of remembering the date.  For June 8th it would be easy to remember because it was my mum’s birthday and also the date of my dad’s second wedding, just six months after mum died.  But anyway…

    So I will have stored that Susan (chosen from my random name generator) has her birthday on June 8th, the same day as an important day in my life.

    At the end of May I will think “I must buy my friend Susan a birthday card.  I mustn’t forget.” and then I promptly forget until June 8th or sometimes June 9th.

    So on June 8th or 9th I will think “Bugger.  I forgot Susan’s birthday.  Doh!  I must buy a card and post it today.” and then that doesn’t happen. 

    On about June 15th I’ll think “Oh shit.  I’m so useless and forgetful and Susan will think I’m a right arse.  Is it worth sending a card or does that just remind Susan that I am useless and forgetful?  I ought to send a card.  I’ll sort it tomorrow.”

    Then it just goes from embarrassing to really embarrassing and I honestly don’t know what to do for the best.  Advice?

    Tuesday, 5 October 2010

    Favourite buttock

    My favourite bit of Tuesday evenings happens during my regular yoga class.  It’s normally when we’re in the shivasna pose (lying down).

    Our yoga teacher says “Make sure you’re evenly balanced.  Check you’re not favouring one buttock over the other.”

    I find it difficult not to giggle.  Doesn’t everyone have a favourite buttock?

    Monday, 4 October 2010

    Chat assistants

    I’ve just been perusing UK mobile sites.  My contract is due to expire in January and I would quite like an iPhone4.

    While I was on the T-Mobile site I encountered a pop-up offering help from an assistant who’d be happy to help, via online chat. 

    I’ve encountered a few of these with varying levels of quality.  Some have computers powering the responses, and some have real people in a call centre.  I consider it to be a really valuable sales tool for a company if budgets allow.  It’s particularly useful if the product or purchase method are complex, as is the case for mobile phones, and cars. 

    The best I’ve encountered was a few years ago on the Mazda North American site.  They used real people who were employees of Mazda.  They weren’t agency call centre staff, and I think the pride in the company really came across.  That could be because they were employees or it could just be that they were American and therefore just generally more positive.  Either way they were helpful and knowledgeable.  It wasn’t a true test because I wasn’t a real American customer in market for an American car but it set my own personal benchmark for evaluating this service.

    Tonight’s T-Mobile experience was at the other end of the scale.

    “Samantha” started by introducing herself and enquiring after my health.  I explained that we were near contract end with O2 and we were previous T-Mobile customers looking to return but that there didn’t seem to be a great deal on offer.

    I’ve encountered “Samantha” on a BT site so I was thinking I was talking to a computer.

    “Samantha” replied, with poor grammar, that she was “off” and it seemed strange that a conversation had been initiated if her shift had finished.

    I sent back “what?” because the reply didn’t seem to make sense and I received a further poorly constructed sentence that I understood to mean “Samantha” could only tell me about the offers on the website.

    I closed the conversation and then up popped a satisfaction questionnaire including views on the chat assistant.  I completed it with the conclusion that the grammar was so poor that there was a real person at the other end of the chat and that real person was probably based offshore.

    Frankly if you’re going do online chat then it needs to serve a purpose and it needs to add to the customer experience.  Done poorly, it damages your brand.

    Sunday, 3 October 2010

    Taking it further

    I’ve been thinking about yesterday’s blog and I have a further thought.

    There are plenty of people that have neither the time, a sewing machine or a local haberdashery and fabric shop that are required to knock up a costume for historical days at school.

    I should point out that Hannah’s Ancient Egyptian outfit comprises old curtain cut offs, a freshly purchased cord curtain tie-back and a pillow case retrieved from the loft but bought years ago in the States.  I still need some fabric stiffener stuff and I have no clue about where I should buy that.

    For the Nativity last year, when Hannah was an angel, I cheated and bought from Tesco.  For £8 I bought a white dress with gold sparkles and stars which came with wings, a halo and absolutely zero effort.  The biggest value item on that list is the zero effort.  If I calculate how much my time is worth, then the Ancient Egyptian outfit which has used offcuts turns out to have been far more expensive.

    All of the big players: Tesco, Sainsbury, Marks and Spencer, Asda, etc. are all on the ball for Nativity and are making a killing from people like me.  We’re happy to spend a small sum to save the hours involved with trial, error, fabric and thread. 

    Why aren’t these companies looking at the National curriculum and realising a massive opportunity?  I could buy on Amazon or eBay and buy something of unknown quality for an inflated price but I’d rather buy from a supplier I trust where I can see the goods before parting with my cash.

    So come on Marks and Sparks, Sainsbury, Tesco and Asda, step up to the plate and meet your customer demand.  You’ll make a killing by doing Ancient Egyptian, Victorian, Roman and Greek outfits.

    Saturday, 2 October 2010

    Dear Weasel


    This perhaps should be titled Dear Mr Gove but I really can’t stand the odious Michael Gove; I recoil at the thought of him.  But Gove has to be the addressee as he is the current Secretary of State for Education.

    I have just spent a few hours trying to come up with a simple tunic that can be adapted to look vaguely Ancient Egyptian.  I did this because Hannah has to turn up to school dressed as an Ancient Egyptian.  I’ll be shopping for curtain tie back cord which will serve as a belt and, at the moment I have no idea how I’ll manage the colourful neck collar thingamabob.

    I am not very creative and I don’t instinctively know how to make things like this.  I usually spend hours online looking for hints and tips and racking my brain for solutions that will be effective but with the minimum of effort.  I don’t expect someone to do this for me but I think it’s reasonable, given that the stuff I need to create is part of the national curriculum, that the Government provide some ideas.

    A nice set of patterns with easy instructions on the Department for Children, Schools and Families website, together with supplier details would be great.  Throw in a hefty dose of optimisation for search and I’ll be a happy bunny.  And so would Hannah, because when she turns up in my creative effort she’ll look like an Ancient Egyptian loser.  And that’s not fair on her.

    Friday, 1 October 2010

    Mark’s lemon and poppy seed cake

    Mark kindly baked this cake for my Macmillan Coffee Morning.  (Total raised to date £220).  I recognised the recipe and, because it was such a hit, am sharing it.  I haven’t made it myself yet.

    You will need a 24cm ring mould, greased & dusted with flour

    85g unsalted butter at room temperature
    245g caster sugar
    grated zest of 1 1/2 unwaxed lemons
    15g poppy seeds (plus extra to decorate)
    165ml whole milk
    235g plain flour
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    pinch of salt
    3 egg whites

    Lemon Syrup
    Juice and zest of 1 lemon
    50g caster sugar

    Lemon Glaze
    Juice of 1 lemon
    250g icing sugar

    Firstly preheat your oven to 170c, gas mark 3.

    Beat together the butter, caster sugar, poppy seeds and lemon zest in a large bowl.
    Slowly add the milk in stages and beat well (don’t worry if it looks slightly split at this stage).
    In a separate bowl sieve the flour, baking powder and salt.
    Add this to the butter mixture in 3 additions, beating well after each addition.
    In a separate bowl beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks.
    Fold this gently into the cake mixture using a metal spoon.  Don’t overmix.
    Pour into mould and bake for 30 - 35 mins until the sponge bounces back when gently pressed.
    Whilst the cake is cooking make the lemon syrup by mixing the sugar, lemon zest and juice in a saucepan and gently boiling it until it has reduced by half and a thin syrup has formed.
    When the cake is cooked remove from the oven and spoon over the lemon syrup whilst the cake is still in the tin and still warm.  Leave to cool slightly in tin before turning out onto cooling rack to cool completely.
    Make the icing while the cake is cooling by mixing the icing sugar and lemon juice together until thick, smooth but still pourable.
    Once the cake has cooled, spoon over the glaze and let it run down the sides of the cake.  Sprinkle with a few poppy seeds.

    Thursday, 30 September 2010

    Local politics


    This week’s Brentwood Gazette front page story is about the fate of the town hall.

    Our town hall was built in 1957.  There’s a picture of it up there….look.  Looks quite imposing doesn’t it?

    Well apparently it’s not fit for purpose.

    Apparently it’s worth £5 million but costs £500K a year to run the 56,000sq. ft.of office space.  To fix the leaking roof would cost £750K and apparently staff are largely rattling about in dark and dingy corridors.

    The options to fix this “problem” are:

    • selling the town hall to developers and buying or renting at another location in town
    • knocking down and redeveloping the existing site
    • undertake major repairs and refurbishments to the current building

    Selling the location to a developer won’t be a problem as this Tory council have a history if over-sized developments being passed be the planning department.  But buying or renting a place that can accommodate council staff in a location that can be accessed easily by Brentwood residents will be a challenge.

    Knocking down and rebuilding so that we have a bland building that might last for 50 years seems to be a waste of inconvenience and investment.

    The final option to me just begs the question: Why didn’t the council conduct ongoing maintenance?  How is it that we have a council office with a leaking roof?  Why haven’t efficiency issues been sorted before now?

    Oh, and the roof costing £750K to fix….this is explained by the fact that our council has a history of awarding contracts to one contractor, usually the only one asked to bid, and usually Halladale, although naturally I’m not suggesting any bribery or favouritism…

    Wednesday, 29 September 2010

    The man with the blue umbrella

    I'm typing this on the train feeling both relieved and just a little bit silly.
    I walk through fields and woods on my way to the station even if, as today, the weather isn't perfect.
    I'm used to meeting the occasional dog walker and being annoyed with those who don't clear up after their animals (yes bins are provided) and those who can't control their dogs leaving me covered in muddy paw prints and dog slobber.
    What I'm not used to is company.
    This morning soon after I joined the footpath I was aware someone was behind me.
    A man, perhaps on his forties dressed for office work and carrying a blue golf umbrella. I picked up my pace and walked as fast as I could without running.
    He kept pace with me and mind started exploring possibilities.
    I'd not seen this guy before but I was travelling at the same time as usual. Most people wouldn't choose my route or my station because there is a station that's closer and there are routes that are less muddy/doggified.
    What was his motive? Rape? Murder? Mugging?
    I discounted mugging because he was in a suit. I discounted rape because he was wearing a suit and it was raining. I discounted murder because that was just my imagination running away with itself.
    But there was a mugging on that pathway last year so I kept up my pace.
    And for the rest of the walk along the path I had a mental battle between my rational brain which was telling me not to be ridiculous and my imagination which saw me raped and left for dead in the woods by the man with the blue umbrella.

    Tuesday, 28 September 2010


    You know that thing I lost.  You know…that thing.  No not my mind, the rucksack.

    We have had a call from Liverpool Street and hurrah they think they’ve found it!  This means it didn’t escape into the clutches of nasty national rail lost property but has instead somehow found its way to friendly Liverpool Street, which, let’s not forget, is a completely separate company.

    This means our bag is not in Norwich or Cambridge but in dear old Liverpool Street where I shall be just tomorrow morning.  How fortunate.

    The price we pay?  Well a fiver apparently, and the loss of the packed lunch.  As I said to Dave, “Does that include the fridge cake AND the Marmite crisps?”

    So to whoever found it and handed it in to a sensible station, I thank you from the heart of my bottom.