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?!