35. Village survival. For Sale or To(i)Let!

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We are outgrowing our home, so Ted and I have tentatively started to look for a new house slash cottage. We don’t want to leave Vertonbridge (our village) but last week we made the treacherous decision to go and see a house in…… another village! Ok it’s only up the road and turn left but nevertheless it felt rather perfidious. It was still a local village, just different horse sh*t in the lane and I (get this right) didn’t know everybody’s name, inside leg measurement or their current electric meter reading.  On the plus side as well as horse sh*t in the lane this village has an award winning pub and a small cafe, imaginatively titled The little Tea Shop (the cream teas are crazy good, set aside a days calorie intake for this pleasure, 5 stars yadayada). In a bid to make the house viewing go smoothly with our children Toby and Lottie ( 9 and 7 years old) I primed them in the car by suggesting that:-

-they didn’t touch anything in the house.

-they wiped their feet before we went in.

-they didn’t say anything impolite about the house until we get back in the car.

– bribery was implemented in the form of a reward of chocolate brownies and hot chocolate in The Little Tea Shop if the above was adhered to.

There was a two hour open house viewing of the property so we knew there would be other people milling about. It was a strategic and insidious ploy by the estate agents to whip up interest and rivalry amongst we unsuspecting viewers. We were welcomed into the house by Paul (the painfully thin) estate agent, he had the kind of puny and skeletal physique which can only be maintained with a 20 a day habit and infrequent Pot Noodles. I wanted to invite him round for a hearty Sunday Roast (plenty of crackling and goose fat covered roast potatoes) apart from I didn’t because (my new oven is such a ball ache) and Paul wasn’t that friendly and kept flicking over his phone looking bored. He was however happy to inform us in inverted commas that we’d just missed the rush and had the house to ourselves. A vague scent of bullsh*t wafted up my nose which to be fair made a nice change from the more traditional horse sh*t. Toby and Lottie both wiped their feet as I had requested and then dissolved into the house before rushing back to us with really helpful questions and observations:-

“I don’t like that bedroom, it’s got a purple carpet and flowery wallpaper.”

Try and imagine this room decorated how you’d like it with your bedroom furniture in it darling!

“Can we keep the parrot in the cage?’

No, it belongs to the people selling the house and they won’t leave their pet parrot behind…..

“What about the Iguana in the tank in the dining room then?

*Shudder!*

“The TV isn’t big enough.”

Yes, if we move here, we’ll have to leave behind our big TV and have this smaller one instead……(insert horrified tweenage faces and enjoy small snigger behind house particulars!)

“Euuugh they like pineapples, will they leave the pineapple when they move out?”

By now I wanted to bang my head on the nearest feature wall…….. 

“I don’t like the painting of the lady with her boobies out, I don’t think we should buy this house if that’s on the wall.”

All remnants of parental patience were gone and I was just about able to resist punching a hole through the closest non load bearing wall……

By this time all I could think about was consuming a large coffee in The Little Tea Shop and putting Paul out of his misery too. He looked to me like he badly needed to get back to the office for his Pot Noodle (original curry or even possibly Bombay Bad Boy flavour?) and/or a cigarette (Lambert and Butler potentially).

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A Pot Noodle. Original Curry.

Paul sensing our waning enthusiasm for the house began prevaricating about the garden and the attractive summer house, (actually so gnarled and misshapen with green mould and moss) it looked like Bilbo Baggins lived there. So we went outside, which was more of a hit with the children and particularly good fun when they started running about and we had to prise them off the damp garden swing, slimy trampoline and other multifarious kiddy apparatus. We found that the swing-ball worked marvellously which was demonstrated all too well when Paul was nearly tw*tted in the face by the ball at 30mph.  The lawn was also very wet and muddy. Ted and I stuck to the path wondering if sunlight ever reached the garden at any time of the day/year. Not even on summer solstice apparently. No one was going to throw up a stone (or twelve) into a henge and call it a world heritage site any time soon. There was also a large bloody pond. There’s a simple parental equation that goes with ponds! Yes, I’ve done the math.  Pond + young children = ball ache (squared) to the power of 100.

Back in the house, Ted and I decided to have one last nose around and the children could be heard ferreting about upstairs. Now, I don’t seem to have a problem seeing past nasty furniture, badly fitted laminate flooring circa 2009 and pelmets but this house was littered with trite quotes everywhere. Every wall, and surface seemed to be heaving with cliched cliche placards. I couldn’t move for banality! Here are a few of them. A word to the bromidic sayings makers distributing to gift shops and department stores nationwide, make up/find some new b*stard sayings would you ever!

I like to cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to my food.

Tired!

Marriage is a relationship where one person is always right and the other is the husband!

Just inexplicably naff and sexist!

Sometimes I wake up grumpy and sometimes I let him sleep!

Purr…lease!

Every love story is beautiful but ours is my favourite.

Excuse me while I vom my spleen!

I’d just about had my fill of matching wallpaper, duvet covers and pelmets plus the aforementioned hackneyed sayings. This house wasn’t the one, we weren’t sold, it was time to shuffle off. So we located Paul (possibly even slightly thinner) to say we were going, thanks very much and all that. We found him in the master bedroom trying to clean a brown patch on an area of the cream shagpile carpet with some toilet paper which was disintegrating in his hands.

“I think one of your children may have brought in mud from the garden,” he said faux politely through teeth so gritted he’d be spitting enamel for days….”and your daughter wanted the toilet…”

Ted and I exchanged worried glances. I felt a rush of cold prickly fear. Lottie had been to the toilet just before we left home, could she be? Yes I feared the worst, she wasn’t just doing a wee! Mortification swept over me like Storm Doris bashing the Devon coastline. Sound effects wafted through the door. Paul looked horribly pained. I began rustling in my handbag noisily for the car keys and humming, yes humming! Just as Paul was diverted by  the doorbell announcing that more house viewers had arrived, I heard Lottie unlock the bathroom door and I hurriedly barged in. I was all over the damage limitation, you know kids….they like to leave their mark!

Have you viewed a new home with children in tow, how was it for you……???

As you were!

Well, if you liked this post here’s my last post. If you didn’t, fair enough.

Featured blogger on #fridayfrolics with Claire www.lifeloveanddirtydishes.com Emma www.islandliving365.com and Lucy risforhoppit .uk  A big yay!!!!

Life Love and Dirty Dishes
Life Love and Dirty Dishes
Prose for Thought

34. Village survival, the joy* of a new oven!

Last week the oven blew. It made a terrifyingly sinister zz..zhsh..zzz sound, sparked and flashed momentarily and then gave up its shiz like a dying Darlek. To be fair it was a bit knackered, the oven door seal was falling off and the knobs were getting tired!! Anyway, the thing was kaput so as we like to eat cooked food we decided to get a new one……oven1.png

So here is my handy cut out and keep guide: How to get a new oven delivered and fitted (in a rural Devonshire village) in 10 easy steps. Ok so it’s a bit niche.

Step 1. Talk to Dan ‘no eye contact as standard’ at a large electrical superstore near you like Barely Adequate Electricals R US!

Or indeed order your new oven online for ease and convenience. I personally need to feel up/fiddle with knobs/try out any possible home appliances before purchasing (can’t bring myself to buy online – even from dependable stalwarts John Lewis) so I trekked to the thriving metropolis of Exeter to probe a few possible oven candidates. Dan who served me did in fact manage a whole ten minutes of sales patter and the completion of said appliance sale without making any eye contact. At all. Impressive. I could have undressed seductively and been totally starkers when he passed me the receipt and he’d have been none the wiser. Equally if I’d ‘lifted’ a Vegetable Spiraliser on the way out he wouldn’t have been able to identify me in a line up. Something to think about in staff training don’t you think Barely Adequate Electricals R US!……

Step 2. Arrange a day time delivery slot so it doesn’t interfere with school drop off/pick up time because the village lane is too effing small to accommodate an articulated lorry from Barely Adequate Electricals R US plus the school bus and parents who will be really arsed off by such a vehicle in their way.

Step 3. Receive a text at 8:10am on Monday morning, we’re on our way- we’ll be there at 8:40 – mostly because the village lane is too effing small to accommodate an articulated lorry from Barely Adequate Electricals R US plus the school bus and the parents who will be really arsed off by such a vehicle in their way.

Step 4. Allow your monday morning angst and first world oven delivery problem stress you the big one! The massive lorry (we live on the narrowest lane in the village – you may want to put that on the delivery notice said I to Dan ‘no eye contact as standard’ and to be fair to him he did pop it on the delivery details) pulled up outside our cottage dwarfing it like a big thunder cloud and spraying horse poo as it travelled! A smattering of ill-disguised tutting could be heard from the early mums who had to squeeze past the lorry to get their offspring to school.

Step 5. Start oven replacement hoohar. Have bants with delivery drivers about how they are supposed to take the old appliance away (payment had been made for this pleasure). Not on the delivery sheet appaz! Cajole delivery drivers to take old appliance. Plead and then bribe delivery drivers with tea and McVitie’s Belgian chocolate chunks Boasters to remove the old oven. Huffily phone Barely Adequate Electricals R Us and ascertain that arrangements had indeed been made for the old appliance to be disposed of! Hastily remove McVitie’s Belgian chocolate chunks Boasters from play ….

Photo source: britishshopabroad.com

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I tried to draw a Boaster but it didn’t look like a Boaster or certainly didn’t evoke enough reverie for this venerable beauty of a chocolate chip cookie.  McVities you can thank me later when my one reader in Mid Glamorgan buys a packet!

Step 6. Swing (like an effing skilled trapeze artist) between tweenagers who can’t find their shoes/PE kit/water bottles/bookbags and delivery drivers needing attention. Holler “put that iPad down and find your school shoes. NOW!” Locate school bookbag remove green Furby Furbling before realising it is actually last friday’s uneaten mouldy break time snack. Point driver in the right direction for the fuse box. Replace mouldy Furby Furbling snack with a fresh one and homework book. Holler “You haven’t found your school shoes have you but….(seriously)….you’ve managed to pick your nose until it’s bleeding.” Sign officious looking documentation that declares electrics are in accordance with UK electrical standards and therefore the delivery drivers can proceed with installation (ffs). Stuff a tissue up older tweenager’s nose.

Step 7. Leave delivery drivers installing the oven to run up the road and drop kids off at school. Smile placactingly at arsy parents who aren’t happy at having to go the long way around the articulated lorry. Be accosted by Mr Bygraves the headmaster about the preposterously large Barely Adequate Electricals R US! lorry. Point out politely that ‘delivery at the time of school morning drop off’ had not been requested. Listen to his passive aggressive suggestion that the highway should be kept clear at all times during school pick and drop off. Passive aggressively suggest that Vertonbridge is a living breathing village for village dwellers and not just a school destination. Then make excuse to get home and therefore facilitate the speeding up of the offensively large Barely Adequate Electricals R US! lorry blocking the highway.  

Step 8. Arrive home to find polystyrene, cardboard, plastic packaging and shiz everywhere, plus several McVitie’s Boasters missing but…new oven installed. Receive instructions to turn on the oven to burn off noxious factorynesses!

Step 9. Show delivery drivers out, pick up all polystyrene debris wafting about on the pavement and thereabouts. Skilfully deflect arsy looks from late straggler parents whilst receiving a light spray of horse sh*t as the Barely Adequate Electricals R US lorry wheels spin off.

Step 10. Turn on oven and gas out whole kitchen with vile noxious and possibly poisonous fumes for forty minutes. This is akin to a hike around Sellafield Nuclear Plant or five minutes in a fart infested fug that is a tweenage boy’s bedroom. Spend next two weeks getting to know the oven! Not liking the touch screen bit and wondering why the bastard is always beeping? It beeps when the timer is put on and beeps in a distressed way if the timer hasn’t been put on, then beeps when it’s at the desired temperature. It then automatically starts the timer for the length of time that the oven is at the desired temperature because it has control issues and thinks everything should be timed (and beeped). Feel harassed and bullied by appliance. Google recipes which do not require a conventional oven. Find 100 Essential Recipes on the Hob and nearly buy it. Finally stand up to appliance by actually properly reading the instruction manual. But feel head screwed some more when finding all manner of sub-settings, as well as the bog standard fan assisted oven, things appear such as forced air, convective heating, maxi cooking and other multifarious settings shiz! Pass the manual to husband or **other responsible adult who also registers 9 on the new oven panic scale. Book Sunday lunch at the pub and order in a job lot of baked beans.

Have you been bullied or intimidated by a new household appliance? Does it feel like there’s a stranger in the house? If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this blog post – pop your woes in comments – and although I’m not qualified in counselling, remember I know first hand that new household appliance pain is real people.

As you were X

PS. Hard to believe I know, but this post was not sponsored by McVitie’s Belgian Chocolate Chunks Boasters. They just get a lucky mention which will no doubt boaster sorry bolster their sales immensely!

*joy, read, effing awfulness!

**responsible adult of your choice, perhaps a nurse or teacher….

Yay for frolics on a Friday (did that because it rhymes) I was featured blogger on Friday Frolics! Thank you to the crew Emma, Claire and Lucy xx

Life Love and Dirty Dishes
Life Love and Dirty Dishes
Prose for Thought

33.Village survival, beefing on about Wellingtons!

You may remember that back in September I was interviewed for Execellent magazine (lifestyle in the Exeter area and shiz). Well, Lucy, my interviewer – the effervescent winsome young media luvvie emailed me just before Christmas (just to recap, Lucy is a bubbly and enthusiastic 20-something with the kind of unacceptable joie de vie that can only be maintained with a constant stream of; double lie-ins at the weekend, items of Whistles clothing in her wardrobe, regular impromptu after-work drinks and frequent European City mini-breaks).  Lucy wanted me to write a piece on Wellie Boots for the magazine. A short witty article of fashion/social commentary (don’t drone on like you do in your blog posts she intimated) for their February edition.

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After the Christmas break I had to make time to nail my Wellie Boot copy for Lucy so I  hauled arse to ‘the shed’. My writing shed is akin to a walk in freezer when I first enter in the morning. It’s like the Ice Hotel apart from the lack of snow, hotel rooms, 15 euro vodkas in ice glasses and northern lights! So just *jeffing cold then – as in minus 6 degrees inside. *My new years res is to stop jeffing swearing. On entering the shed – it’s imperative that I  take a hot water bottle, mug of coffee and wear a ski jacket to survive the first twenty minutes while my blow heater puffs out inadequately against the arctic ambience. My little window is covered in showy offy swirly whirly patterns curtesy of Jack Frost so I can’t see out. No bad thing when my vista is a ripped mildew covered trampoline, a diseased and arthritic looking apple tree and next doors cat’s turds which it never bothers to bury.

So – my Wellie Boots article! Fashion and footwear are things I like to take peripheral interest in. I know I don’t like bootleg jeans. I also don’t like those very long puffer coats which look like people have wrapped a duvet around themselves and then wandered absentmindedly out of their homes. I also intensely dislike those chunky leather shoes with extra large stitching/latticing that make the wearer look like they’ve shoved their feet into a couple of extra large traditional Cornish Pasties. Just stop it with the bootlegged, duvet wrapping, pasty wearing whoever you are? But it’s fair to say I can’t get myself terribly excited by waterproof boot trends and I know *Jeff all about wellies and the fashions thereof. However, in the interest of this paid piece I’m going to pretend like I give a shiz and instead of ‘fashion’ I’m going to concentrate on the psychoblaaaah connection between wellie wearers and their wellies. I’m in no way whatsoever qualified to do this but I’m prepared to lift the lid, an expose if you will, on people’s wellie wearing habits here in my small village in Devon. All names have been changed to preserve the identity of the wellie wearers. Obvs…..

The Wellies and the Wellie wearer of Vertonbridge Village!

1.’The Dullard’ – as the name suggests – a very dull wellie boot, supplied to the nation via a plethora of dimly lit and cavernous outdoorsy clothing warehouse emporiums, such as Go Outdoors (I hate a shop that tells me what to do! Build A Bear! Accessorise! Eat! Ahhh Jeff off!). 

Dullard Debra. Debra isn’t interested in wellie boots, her bog standard turbid green (little-toe grating) stalwarts are perfectly serviceable for mucking out the ferrets, driving the John Deere up the back paddock (sadly not a euphemism) or doing the school run. She doesn’t have any truck with those expensive fleecy welly boot socks either. Yes, a pair of inflexible Dullards are perfectly adequate and (not that Debra cares) they go well with her dog-haired covered fleece of the same joyless colour. Debra *may* have been hoping for a pair of pretty spotty wellies from Asda for Christmas (sad face emoji)………and some of those frivolously cheery fleecy welly boot socks (sadder face emoji).

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2.’The Fakeass Jolly Spotty’  – ‘Joules’ type wellie boot effort (no rubber trees were harmed in the making), supplied to the nation in bulk by leading supermarkets. On a busy (multi-laned bastard) roundabout near you.

Spotty Suzanne. Suzanne loves a floral/stripey/spotty welly boot, it adds a little colour and pizazz to her welly boot days (it’s always pissing down when she has to get Poppy to playgroup) and there’s no way Suzanne is paying through the nose for a pair of muddy puddle jumpers (so do one Peppa Pig) especially when Mondelli Pinot Grigio Blush is on offer and the kids swimming lessons want paying for. And you can do one dry January as well!.

fake jolly.png3.’The Aspirational Jazzy’  – patterned wellie boot that aspirational people wear, supplied to the nation by aspirational shops LIKE Joules, Cath Kidston, Boden etc.

Jazzy Julia. Julia loves an aspirational patterned wellie boot with the extra buckle detail. They are a bit like Hunters only prettier and more patterny. Julia likes the way they go with her indigo skinny jeans and they even seem to coordinate with her jazzy patterned anorak too (if you squint – with the sun behind her). Yes, Helen loves a patterny branded wellie that was expensive enough but not silly money like Hunters. Helen says,”Why pay nearly £100 for a pair of welly boots? Seems ridiculous!”. Helen just wants a pair of Hunters……

4.’The Lurid’ – brightly coloured Hunter Wellie Boot, worn by ‘bonkers’ people all over this land – supplied to the nation by companies LIKE Hunter at multifarious garden centres across the British Isles.

Lurid Lizzie. Lizzie loves her Hunters, she considers them to be the superior wellie boot but she’s not going to have a safeass navy pair or gah! – the black ones! No siree Bob! When she’s taking Whippets – Andy and Murray out she wants to be noticed in her (canary cadaver) yellow Hunters – bonkers – what is she like! Yes she likes a sturdy, iconic, royalty endorsed wellie but she’ll be damed if she’ll conform to dreary ‘farmer’ green especially when she can get the stupid coloured ones at a knock down price in TKMaxx. “What am I like? Bonkers, you know what I’m like!” she says as she bends down to scoop up Murray’s third turd of the walk, even her warm crap-filled poo bags are a jolly jazzy colour! Lizzie is going for bright coral when her current Hunters wear out……what is she like?

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5.’The Leathery’ – looking boot which isn’t a wellie that pretentious people who may not actually own horses wear because they think they’re above the humble welly boot. Supplied to the nation by companies LIKE Dubarry in those 1950’s style posh independent shoe shops for old and posh people who always wear waxed jackets.

Leathery Lavinia. Lavinia did have a pony when she was growing up but her top rider days at Pony Club are alas a distant memory. Nowadays she doesn’t favour a wellie boot and as such will only wear her (like) Dubarrys and would never go back to conventional wellies. “I just don’t like the feel of rubber on my skin,” says Lavinia whose husband nods disappointedly in the background. Lavinia is secretly pleased that her daughter Isabella went off ponies, ballet is so much more…well how do I put it – economical! Especially as her husband’s post redundancy ‘consultancy’ work hasn’t panned out, the house needs re-thatching and the Land Rover keeps breaking down…..she may have to get a job or face a life of abject financial misery……a Ford Focus….rubber Dullard wellies……shudder!

6.’ The Champagne’ posh Welly – Le Chameur, worn by people with 400 quid to spend on wellies, supplied to the nation by proper posh companies such as Le Chameur and quite possibly sold at Harrods (I haven’t done the research if I’m honest).

Champagne Charlotte. (Lady) Charlotte (St John Smith) lives in the Great House (old money you know) and she is often seen strutting about the village in her (like) Le Chameurs. She isn’t even really aware of the leather lining or the full length zip, it’s just luxury that she has always known. Lady Charlotte walks her grounds shod in (like) Le Chameurs all year round with Bunty and Bracken, her Airedales yapping at her side.  But she isn’t smug or snobbish and often integrates with us commoners. In fact she’s always first in the wellie wanging arena at the May Day village Fete  – ready to hurl some low grade rubber…….be a dear and pass her a Dullard would you!

Wang trphy

I’ve just heard back from Lucy (the effervescent) at Execellent Magazine– she’d been away on a mini break to, you won’t believe it, only the jeffing Ice hotel – I dislike her smugass mini- breakness even more. Anyway, they’re not going to run my wellie boot piece because they’ve printing her article on the aforementioned jeffing Ice hotel. She says she might be able to shoe horn my wellies into the March edition if I’m lucky……..

What sort of wellie wearer are you? Do they brighten your rainy days or bring shame upon your shoe rack?

Happy jeffing January to you all from the village!

As you were! x

Prose for Thought
Life Love and Dirty Dishes

32.Village survival, a sad lamp.

It was (local best friend) Anna’s Birthday coming up and I have to say I quite envied her youthfulness. Her birthday still began with a 3! Ok she was going to be 39 but the all important first digit was still a 3!!  My birthday is just after Christmas and this year I’d been feeling even more dread than normal at the thought of it. My Birthdays now start with a 4 and have done so for a little while. But anyway I needed to put my birthday angst aside so we could get on and celebrate Anna’s. This year she wanted to go for a ‘lovely autumnal’ walk and have a pub dinner with me and her best friend from Uni – Tash. As much as I love Anna, I can just about manage a couple of hours of Tash if alcohol is included. I can’t even insert a joke here about her name corresponding to her upper lip because she’s not mistashey at all – dang. You may understand what I mean and not lurve your best friend’s best friend from Uni??

Tash is a GP and lives in Lincoln. Tash is – let’s say ebullient, full of unrelenting enthusiasm and gung ho-ness. She’s a chess champion, regularly goes handgliding and also plays lacrosse which she is super good at it – is it like Quidditch?? She’d be good at that too. And definitely in Gryffindor House!

My mother had also picked up on my downess of late and held me to inquisition during a routine skype call. Awks.

“You really do seem quite grumpy at the moment, is it the children?” she observed irritably much like you’d be annoyed by a wasp at a picnic. She always assumes that any problems arise from my kids or my modern parenting.

“I’m fine Mum,” I mumbled unconvincingly. That was the trouble with Skype – I couldn’t get away with feigning jolliness (or emptying the dishwasher) while looking at her chin on the screen – she of course got a full head shot of my ill disguised miserableness.

“I think you’re just feeling sorry for yourself! Buck up darling, have you painted the spare room yet? That’ll give you a boost,” WTF? “And it would make it more pleasant for your father and I when we visit at Christmas, which reminds me, shall we bring the Amuse Bouche for the big day!”

My mother loves christmas and she always brings the effing Amuse Bouche/starters. Usually something really ‘grown up’ like mini reindeer steaks or worse- gazpacho. And when the kids baulk at eating Rudolph or cold soup my mother actually wonders why ….. She insists that we have a ‘selection of puddings’ (according to her preference) so she brings a homemade trifle which is so laden with sherry that it would blow up if it got too close to the lit Christmas Pudding.

“Well?”My mother insisted. A disembodied voice could be heard from her moving chin.

“Well what? ”

“Why are you feeling so mis then?” My mum thinks its acceptable to say mis instead of miserable – it isn’t, she sounded irritated, “Is it writer’s blockage?”

“No,”

“What then?”

“Errm, I’m not quite sure, maybe because…..” God I don’t know – was it the run up to Christmas? The pressure of making the costume for the fourth sheep on the left? The threat of doing 4 hours involuntary service at the PFA Christmas ‘Bizarre’? The early darkness and shorter days? The cold and driving rain? The compulsion to stockpile Lidls Stollen and eat all the Christmas Pringles well before the end of November and other British problems? I don’t know, I just felt low. Hashtag not allowed!

“Get yourself a sad lamp and some echinacea and for goodness sake snap out of it before Christmas Eve, must dash I’ve got Bridge now.”

So there we have it. Snap out of it! Buy a SAD daylight lamp and paint your spare room -wise words for anyone like me who was feeling a bit sh*tty.  I’m hoping my Mum wasn’t going to offer her voluntary services at a local Christmas Soup Kitchen over the festive period. Unfortunately I could imagine her bustling in as a helper and suggesting gazpacho as a ‘nice change’. She’d try to ween long term drug users off class A’s and onto Murray Mints and force them to learn how to play Bridge whilst telling homeless people to buck up! Of course she would be told to buck off herself and rightly so.

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Bored of effing autumn leaf shots – well here’s another one!

So, anyway back to Anna and her birthday. Last Saturday we set out with Tash on our ‘lovely autumnal walk’ which emcompassed a pretty (National Trust owned) stretch of woods before arriving at an estuary side pub with a roaring fire and gastro menu. And as we walked I asked myself what autumn means to me? Did I b*ll*x! Course I didn’t but in the interest of writing this post, imagine that I did (I was probably mostly visualising the dinner I would consume with lashings of Prosecco). At least the walk was fairly uneventful – with no children in our party we were spared the following – a Pooh Sticks altercation where a twig was thrust in one tweenagers eye by another tweenager. A plethora of wet socks from predictably overzealous puddle jumps and a myriad of face planting incidents resulting from bastard slippery leaves.

There was still the unavoidable you know I’m damp but you’ll still sit on me – you tw*t bench.

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The forlorn and lost article of clothing left behind. Lost my arse!

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And shuffling through leaf covered dog sh*t while Tash droned on about handgliding off the Breacon Beacons, but at last we finished the (frankly unnecessary in my opinion) ‘lovely autumnal walk’.

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Thank eff for that!

At the pub I glugged on a large glass of Prosecco. Anna went to the loo, which filled me with dread! What was with all this dread? I didn’t want to be left alone with ebullient Tash. I jumped up and made like I was going to read the specials board and waited for Anna to return before I sat back down at the table with them.

“So what’s the matter with you then Hillie,” commented Tash unceremoniously, “You’ve got a face like a five day old Morrison’s halibut,”

“Yeah, you’ve defo been a miserable cow of late,” colluded Anna, as she plonked herself back down.

“I’m fine,” I said, looking at them as if they were the idiots. Attack is the best form of defence you know!!

“She doesn’t seem herself,” Tash said to Anna.

“No, she doesn’t does she,” Anna concurred.

“I’ll get us some more drinks,” suggested Anna, thinking of a bona fide solution and left the table.

Tash fixed me with a stare.

“Come on – what gives?” she ordered. I’m glad I’m not one of her patients.

“I’m fine, and this is Anna’s night out,” I reminded her.

“Yes, but she’s worried about you, so you may as well say what’s on your mind.”

I stalled a moment because I could see Anna bringing one of the drinks over.

“Ok,” I conceded, “I’ve been feeling weird recently, like I’ve been going a bit mad.”

“Go on,” said Tash.

“I feel pissed off, my head feels like its full of crap and…..” mumbling I added, ” I’m getting hot flushes and palpitations.”

“You’re far to young to get hot flushes! I keep telling you to shut the door on your woodburner,” chided Anna.

“Any other symptoms?” enquired Tash slipping into GP mode while slurping deeply on her glass of wine.

“Yes, I feel like a dozy tw*t most of the time.”

“Hmm, I think I have an idea what it could be,” said Tash knowingly.

“Dozy Tw*ts disease?” suggested Anna helpfully.

“Hmmm, yes. I think you’re peri, yes you might well be peri…….”

“Peri what?” I interrupted.

Perilously pitiful? Perry from Kevin and Perry i.e moody and monosyllabic?

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“Peri-menopausal. Basically the bit or should I say long drawn out bit where your body moves towards menapause. Symptoms include, anxiety, hot flushes, depression, palpitations, night sweats, lack of libido and in Hillie’s case – brain fog.”

“Doesn’t sound very appealing and you’re only 42,” squeaked Anna!

“Don’t worry Anna, we’re in our thirties and so a way off being perimenopausal,” Tash replied.

Oh that’s ok then!

Tash went on to elaborate, “It’s your body’s way of adjusting from the more fertile years into the next phase of your life, but it causes your oestrogen levels to change and fluctuate, hence the low mood. It can take a while and be quite a drawn out process. Some women are more affected by it than others. ”

“Bloody marvellous,” I said but it all made a lot of sense.

“You may be affected by the darker days – known as Seasonal Affective Disorder too, although research does not actually confirm this is a disorder” advised Tash before telling me to visit my GP and get a sad lamp (no harm in a bit of extra light).

“Make an appointment with Dr Garry,” said Anna, “and you know I’m always here to talk to!” she added reaching for the menu and perusing it.  I looked at the menu too for something comforting.

“Hmm, here’s a main course you might like Hillie,” Anna pointed at the menu “How about the Peri Peri (menopausal) chicken,” she quipped.

As you were!

More next week.

PS, If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this blog post – talk to a friend, see a health care profesh and buy a sad lamp which you can get from somewhere like Dunelm Mills but if you’d like to try a SAD daylight simulating lamp I’d recommend a specialised retailer. Perhaps you’re the right age to be/feel peri peri-menopausal, feel free to anecdote on down in comments.

PS, this is a work of fiction, therefore all mistakes of any kind are my own. I thank you.

Mumzilla

31. Village survival, Top(iary) revenge!

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Is revenge a dish best served cold? It depends I guess if you’re having a bowl of rice pudding revenge or a cheese sandwich of retribution? Enough with the food/revenge analogies, here’s Anna’s story……….

“I bloody hate topiary,” said Anna randomly. Actually it wasn’t that random because we were discussing an older couple in our village who were topiary experts. They also happened to be Holly’s parents. If you’ve read previous blog posts you’ll know that Holly is the young woman who had an affair with Ben (Anna’s husband)……………I know.

Holly’s parents Howard and Lilian Perry own a large farmhouse which was tucked away at the back of the village. They have a garden full of topiary and they’re never happier than when they are bastardising some defenceless bush into submission with a pair of top grade and possibly lethal garden shears. Anyway, they were so good at the art of Topiary that they ran courses on it and wrote about it for flouncy home and garden magazines – you know the thick ones you find on coffee tables in posh hotels that give you an achy hand from just picking them up – lots of glossy photos, quite boring but ultimately make good draught excluders. The Perrys even entertained TV production companies from time to time to film in their extensive grounds. Anyway, so what, I hear you cry, I’ve got sh*t to do (cool way of saying stuff), crack on with the story. Ok, I hear you.

Anna had passed the stage of shock and disbelief about Ben’s affair and had moved on rather seamlessly to anger. Or incandescent rage. Holly herself had scarpered the village as she had swanned off to University (aged 22, far too much gap yearage if you ask me!). Ben on the other hand had come under heavy fire, he’d rightfully received about 20 b*llockings and actually seemed contrite. He also wanted to make another go of it with Anna. I tried to stay out of the mud slinging and name calling because I was well aware that whereas it was ok for Anna to scream every name under the sun at him – it wasn’t ok for me to do so. I get that. He wasn’t my husband, ahem, it wasn’t my privilege per se. Although in the early days of hearing about his infidelity I could have quite cheerfully twatted him with a frozen roast dinner for one had I come across his sorry arse in the village stores.

Well anyway, back to Howard and Lilian Perry and their topiary gardens because it’s all relevant – stay with me. A real life production company was coming to film a scene for a new  TV drama starring, you’re not going to believe this, Luke Norris (the good looking kindly  doctor in Poldark who is having an on off ‘liaison’ with heiress Caroline Penvenen as long as he doesn’t get killed off in the war or die of typhus/common cold/Ross Poldark’s monotonous monologues). The production company were making a period drama, Norris was playing a super posh, emotionally inhibited, slightly arrogant and yet outrageously handsome and ‘very nice really’ Gentleman of the era! Luke.png

Photo source: Radio Times

Dr Dwight Enys *off of* Poldark

    Luke Norris:  Actor, Playwright and also looks mighty fine in a cravaty type neckerchief thingy. 

Love a period drama me – and especially one that draws in the likes of famous TV actors. So the word on the street (horse sh*t lane) was that Holly’s mum Lillian had told Mick the arsy landlord (Holly’s old boss) who told Ted (my husband) that Holly was coming back from Uni for a couple of days to ogle Luke Norris  help her parents with the event and the film crews etcetera.

Anna was understandably anxious at the thought of seeing that bleeping bleep Holly back in the bleeping bleep village.

“I bloody hate topiary,” commented Anna.

“You’ve already said that,” I reminded her huffily. Personally I’m quite indifferent to tree/bush coiffure. Not keen on the silly animal ones. Don’t mind a neat boxy hedge! We had dropped the kids off at school and were having a nose in the vicinity of the topiary garden to see if anyone famous was knocking about. We pretended we were walking Anna’s dog Binky but we were quite obviously loitering with intent to look out for semi famous lovies from a polite distance. We didn’t want to run into bleeping Holly of course.

“And I bloody hate Holly…..and Ben apart from I still love him too…… an annoying cross between love and hate,” her words trailed off to a whisper.

Later that day the production company started to roll into the village. All kinds of lorries and vehicles thundered up the main horse sh*t lane and past my cottage. I *may* have abandoned my writing shed and worked on the kitchen table so I could keep an eye on proceedings! This was really going to mess with my novel writing if I spent all my time peering out of the window or going on tenuous custard cream runs to the village stores to spot minor TV actors and extras. Just before 3:30pm that day Anna and I wandered along the lane to pick the children up from school when she said something that frankly curve balled me somewhat and shocked the hell out of me.

“I’m going to toilet paper that bastard topiary garden tonight so that it looks *king awful for filming tomorrow!” she said menacingly without a hint of humour in her voice. I waited for the ha ha ha! Ha ha ha! It didn’t come.

  • Toilet papering is the act of covering an object, such as a tree, house or another structure with toilet paper. And lots of it!

“Have you been watching too many teen movies again?” I joked but but couldn’t help feeling slightly disturbed such was the seriousness of her demeanour!

“Sure have! I’ve had plenty of time to watch crap TV and teen movies since Ben left,” she said bitterly, “I’ve looked it up on Wikihow and now I know how to do it properly!” she added sounding decidedly clued up!

“You’re telling me there’s a right way and wrong way to toilet paper someone’s property?”

“Oh yes, and I’ve got every intention of decorating their fancy bushes just in time for filming”

“You can’t,” I squeaked, horrified. “if you get caught, they’ll do you for criminal damage or vandalism or something??” I didn’t know? – not ever having done anything more criminal than 33mph in a 30mph zone. Ok, there was this time when I managed to walk out of Sainburys with a pack of hairbands for Lottie in the bottom of my trolley which I had somehow genuinely forgotten to pay for but it’s fair to say I didn’t got rushing back to Customer Services to rectify my misdemeanour/shoplifting. That’s criminal isn’t it? But as such I wasn’t generally speaking a law breaker, as much as anything I knew I wouldn’t look good in an orange boiler suit.

That night I went to bed wondering. Was Anna serious? Could she be toilet papering their bloody beloved topiary bushes right now?  I couldn’t even go out and sneak around the village looking for her because Ted was working away in Bristol and I couldn’t leave the kids! In the morning, first thing, I texted Anna worriedly.

You didn’t did you? (no emoji, there’s a time and a place).

You notice I didn’t mention the deed just in case she or I had our phones checked by the police. I didn’t want to be an accessory to criminal bog rolling and go to prison. If Scotland Yard are reading this, it’s all fiction ok.

Anna texted back. Might have! Angry emoji face. The one with horns.

Holey shmoley, once I’d dropped the kids off at school – I couldn’t get round there quick enough. My heart was in my mouth, knowing Anna’s wrath at Holly I could well imagine their manicured garden strewn with reams of wet toilet paper and people running hither and thither in a state of bog rolled hysteria. As I walked up the lane I heard raised voices! Sh*t! I kept going, trying to look casual – nonchalant. Then I heard someone scream something, then more hammy screaming ensued.  As I turned and the topiary garden come into view I scanned the scene, the place was teeming with crew, props and actors who were rehearsing but there was no toilet paper in sight, the bushes looked to be bog roll free. I even heard Holly’s mum cheerfully chatting to someone important looking – probably the Director?

I rapped loudly on Anna’s front door.

“Thanks so much for putting the fear of god into me!!!!!” I squawked barging in. Anna’s hallway was full of toilet roll packs stacked up everywhere.

“I’ve got no where to put them,” she said referring to the great wall of bog rolls. She looked like a mad woman in an unusually themed padded cell!

“What stopped you doing the deed then?” I asked, curious, as I squeezed past the loo rolls, still miffed at her.

“My Mum wasn’t free to babysit and she would’ve wanted to know what I was doing going out with 5 packs of loo rolls, she’s nosey like that!” admitted Anna, “It’s horrible hating Holly, it’s so exhausting,” she added sounding tired.

“What you need is a flamin’ night out and a few drinks,” Anna looked non plussed, “so we’re going to Band Night in the pub tonight with Babs and Lorelle whether you like it or not.”

“I haven’t got a baby sitter!”

“Yes you do, I’ve already spoken to your errant husband and he’s coming over at 7pm, so make sure you’re ready and for gods sake iron your ‘going out top’ and find your heels,” Anna gave me a droopy look but she didn’t tell me to bog off (pun most definitely intended) so I knew she was up for a drink after all.

We got to the pub at 7:01pm, clattering on the stone floor in our various heights of going out heels. We were the awesome foursome, Anna, Lorelle, Babs and me. We hadn’t met up for a night out for ages and we hadn’t been to a band night in a very long time. It was organised by Mick the arsy landlord in deference to his days of being in a rock band – like 40 years ago. He saw it as his duty to promote local up and coming bands, some of which were crap and others even more crap. But each band agreed to play some covers during their set to keep the regulars happy so we knew we’d recognise some of the songs if not the rest of the durge. Plus we all needed a drink and cheesy chips and something from the puddings specials board! Wolfie the annoying pub pooch who happens to be a Pyrennean Mountain Dog and therefore the size of a shetland pony welcomed us with his usual indiscreet crotch sniffing/butting and general over exuberance. “More of a Perineum Mounting Dog” quipped Babs as we fought off the lecherous great hound in our bid to order some drinks! No one wants a bearponydog in their way when they’re trying to get to the bar.

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Wolfie (next to an average male adult stickman – just for your visual reference).

Not long into our foray of school night alcohol embibement and listening to the first crap band Babs slapped me on the shoulder,  “Shiiiit,” she hissed into my ear (it bloody hurt, and I probably now have a fungal infection in my left lug hole). “Holly’s just come into the pub with a load of actor types.”

“Has she no mo fo shame,” I muttered my gaze following the sassy cow as she strutted into her former place of employ with a gaggle of extras and a couple of recognisable TV actors (not Luke Norris, he obvs had better taste). Mick the arsy landlord seemed vaguely pleased to see her (traitor) and Wolfie was beside himself at the arrival of his former favourite barmaid.

Indeed Wolfie was so thrilled and excited to see Holly that he bounded over – on the look out for a sly dry leg hump and knocked her flying – it wasn’t just a clumsy collision. The dog was huge and therefore heavy and Holly was jettisoned into the air before she came down hard on the flagstone floor. An ambulance was involved. Much drama and squawking and screaming ensued. Mick the arsy landlord was now seriously arsy about the noisy scene and the subsequent upset of his band night! Since this was posted I hear that Holly is hobbling around on crutches at her parents house with a broken leg wearing one of those oversized and somewhat unattractive ski bootesque contraptions!

“How was that for a taste of revenge? No bog rolls required!” asked Babs while the paramedics trollied a distressed Holly off to the waiting ambulance.

“……actually revenge feels like showering but then putting on yesterday’s skanky underwear again! Get me a *king drink!”

Suffice to say we got her another *king drink. And a big *king pudding!

As you were!

More next time.

PS, any more successful revenge stories in comments if you will! Thanking you!

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Life Love and Dirty Dishes
Prose for Thought

30. Village survival, slightly offensive Fencing!

fence.pngNot this!

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More this!

So the half term hols have passed by in a purple and orange swirl of pumpkin sludge (that stuff really grosses me out) and highly flammable/handwash only lurid halloween costumery. For part of the week off we escaped the village and went to a well known holiday park for a little get away! Now, I’m not going to talk you through it or mention the name of said holiday park. I’m also not going to go on about the usual staycation gubbins such as cycling through soggy leaves, drinking deluxe gingerbread flavoured hot chocolates and splashing about on the swimming pool slides because no one gives a kipper’s dick.

However I did book the tweenagers into a kids Fencing class which I think may be worth a mention. I thought Toby and Lottie would love being able to legitimately and repeatedly thrust a sword into each other without getting a rollocking and I knew that the class  would be held in a safe and controlled environment with a Sports NVQ wielding Yoof to preside over proceedings……….

Fencing – the ancient art of swordsmanship and the ancient art of orderly vertical planks stuck together.

The Sports Trainer Yoof welcomed us into the Fencing Salle! (may drop a few more french words for added pretentiousness later on – keep a look out). Toby and Lottie had worked themselves up into a heightened state of excitement at the thought of stabbing and maiming each other for the next 45 minutes. This was partly due to the wait outside with a happy band of exuberant children and *Fencing enthusiast* parents waiting for the class to begin. One of the Dads, I’ll call him Hugo for arguments sake was practising Fencing steps with one hand behind his back and offering advice to his 7 year old son who didn’t seem to think his Dad was a total prat at all (ahh bless, give it another 5 years). My prat alert radar was bleeping loudly because another Dad (let’s call him Crispin) had also started earnestly showing his twin daughters proper fencing lunges with his oversized umbrella as a blade. I say proper Fencing lunges – they looked very foppish and swordplayish and my previous experience – watching the Fencing scene in Die Another Day with Pierce Brosnan and Madonna -hardly qualified me to comment on this Olympic sport.

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Madonna and Pierce Brosnan (properly dishy in his day) and always liked to keep his tip up in Die Another Day.

Once ensconced in the Fencing Salle and after a quick warm up the children were issued with fencing gear. The swords were Foil? Epee? Sabre? Nah, they were Foam (innit). Like the ones that kids always want you to buy at multifarious stately homes/castles, you know the ones – conveniently placed at toddler height next to the wooden swords (for all your cut lip needs) and probably near the erroneous book selection – ‘That’s not my castle’ anyone?  All with a free and guaranteed Dolby Surround Sound melt-down when not purchased.

Engarde

It was clear from the off that Sports Trainer Yoof didn’t have full control of the class. All of the 10 children were giddy and some of the parents were frothing a little at the mouth too. Toby and Lottie were old enough to spar together so Ted and I were simply there as entourage – the support team, on hand to take photos, utter encouragements and issue fresh towels/Haribo on demand!

Sports Trainer Yoof began by showing the class some moves and paired the children off to have a ’bout’. Once unleashed, the kids started stabbing, thrashing and flailing at each other and it didn’t look terribly controlled – scrappy – if you will, but as you already know – I’m no Fencing expert. So Sports Trainer Yoof reined it in and demonstrated again how to lunge and parry.

“I’ll have to stop you there,” piped up Hugo (the expert Dad) with a florid and agitated expression about his gouty face, “I did Fencing at university and I really think you aren’t covering the basics properly,” I’m surprised he could remember his university days frankly.

Then uninvited – Hugo along with the assistance of Crispin (other umbrella wielding expert Dad) proceeded to demonstrate how to fence properly complete with terminology and mincing steps.

This started very politely and formally but once Crispin realised that Hugo wasn’t to be outshone in front of his 7 year he too stepped up his game and a full on fencing ‘p*ssing contest’ ensued. Hugo’s son (Charlie) started cheering and shouting indecorously for his Dad and so the twin daughters of Crispin (Henrietta and Iona) entered into the shouting and heckling fray. Sports Trainer Yoof looked perplexed nay flabbergasted at this audacious display of peacocky buffoonery! He eventually recalled his health and safety training and mustered the children over to the other side of the salle from where he tried to continue his lesson amidst the duelling, stamping and grunting sound effects coming from the two pompous Dads. As we were leaving, sweaty and puce faced Hugo and Crispin were still sparring/bouting/whatevering each other and it looked to be an old fashioned contest – until first blood drawn from the torso! Bit tricky with a foam sword………

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As you were!

More from the village next week.

PS, apologies if you are properly into Fencing and all the lingo, any mistakes are the fault of my ghost writer. Crap research on her part!

Super chuffed to be a featured blog on #FridayFrolics this week. Big heart emoji!

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When you get Liebstered!

dhsdgshgdshgdsThe lovely Sam at Mouse Moo and Me Too has given me the old Liebster (it’s better than nits or a Lily of the Valley Toiletry set). I’ve done this before but always happy to oblige! I’ve answered the questions and set the same homework for my Liebster nominees (have a look below my answers) enjoy! I’d like to see you show workings and hand in before the end of term. Go ahead and nominate a load of lovely bloggers for the Leibster and spread that Leibstering lurve. X

The Aloha Mummy   Shinners and the Brood   Coffee and Bubbles

I’m not telling you what to do but…..

1) Acknowledge the blogger who nominated you and display the award.
2) Answer the questions the blogger gives you.
3) Nominate some bloggers that you think are deserving of this award.
5) Let the bloggers know you have nominated them.
6) Give them questions to answer.

My Answers:-

1) Best burger topping evs?

Ooh a nice knob of St Agur – bien sur.

2) What’s the last book you read, and was it any good?

I’m currently reading The Singles Game by the author who wrote The Devil Wears Prada. Reading it because I LOVE tennis. Ahem *Not a classic* is my comprehensive review. You’re welcome.

3) What’s your one must have baby product?

Did love my Phil and Teds buggy, twas a veritable Black Beauty of a carthorse and lugger of erroneous crap during those arduous baby and a toddler transportation years.

4) What’s your favourite season?

Summer of course, all the others are colder and decidedly more pants, don’t try and convince me otherwise with one of your luxury hot chocolates with squirty cream and marshmallows.

5) You’ve got two unprecedented childless hours. What do you do?

Go to the village pub for a pint of prawns and a couple of Babyshams what else?

6) What’s your one desert island survival item?

Fishing tackle. Sod that, someone(s) very funny like Mel and Sue for all the larfs while starving to death without any fishing tackle.

7) Favourite Spice Girl?

Posh because I like to take an interest in fashion, I can’t sing either and she’ll always be that little bit older than me!

8) What’s been your worst job?

When I was a student I was a waitress in a greasy spoon near Gloucester Bus Station. It comes under ‘Outstanding Achievements’ on my CV.

9) Does swearing denote a higher level of intelligence?

Abso-bloody-lutely but only where necessary! No need to be effing and blinding on loop now is there .

10) What’s more scary, spiders or clowns?

Clowns! They are particularly unsavoury and Daddy Long Legs are waaay easier to remove from the bath.  

11) You find £4 in change in the self-service checkout coin dispenser. Do you swipe it?

That would depend on my mood, if I was ‘on one’ I might swipe, if I was cheerful I’d probably stick it in the charity box at customer services.

Here are some Liebster questions I prepared earlier for those nominated blogging lovelies, copy and paste at will and let me know via Twitterville so I can have a gander at your answers. Ta.

My questions to you lovely Liebster nominated Bloggers are:-

1, What’s your favourite weirdest sandwich filling?

2, Which celeb would you have around for dinner?

3, Your worst holiday destination (like ever).

4, TV, Computer or Book and why?

5, What is your favourite Kid’s film?

6, Henry Cavill or Tom Hiddleston for a date?

7, What’s your secret favourite (not really allowed) pop song!

8, If you could fly in the sky or swim under the sea, which would you do and why?

9, Victoria Sponge or Carrot Cake and why if you can be arsed?

10, What makes you you in 5 words (soz a bit like extra homeworky)?

29. Village survival, last week’s Harvest Festival.

blackberries

It was the school Harvest Festival last week in the village so I thought you might like to take my ‘Vest Fest Test!  

When Harvest Festival is mentioned at the school gates or the letter comes home in the book bag do you start humming/singing? :-

  1. We plough the fields and scatter
    The good seed on the land,
    But it is fed and watered
    By God’s almighty hand.

2. Cauliflowers fluffy and cabbages green, strawberries sweeter than I’ve ever seen etc

3. Cabbages and greens, broccoli and beans, cauliflower and roasted potatoes taste so        good to me……it’s another Harvest festival etc

4. Big red combine harvester, big red combine harvester….

Answer mostly 1. You’re a child of the 70s and early 80s.  You say that you still listen to Radio One. You struggle with *all the new fangled* Harvest songs!

Answer mostly 2. You also love the line “Broad beans are sleeping in their blankety bed…yeeeah”. And yeeeah you’re gunna sing it loudly in the church while your kids pray for adoption!

Answer mostly 3. You’re totes into this sic ‘Vest *tune*. Admit it, you want to throw some shapes too (and I don’t mean Kellogs Multigrain).

Answer mostly 4. You are probably the proud owner of a four or five year old and will be singing this tune on loop until Aldi spins out its Christmas bird in a bird in a bird in a bird 30 bird roast advert! (is there a sparrow in the middle?). You’re so down with the kids you can see all the cheerios squished into the carpet.

How did you get on with the test? Answers in comments if you would.

T’was that time of year again when we all crammed into All Saints Church to watch our little darlings perform in the School Harvest Festival Celebration Service. Anna (local best friend) and I went together on account of our husbands being at work (and Anna’s husband being a philandering errant *twit with an a* anyway). It was the only occasion of the year when every village heathen was super keen to pack into the church to watch their offspring pick their noses in the front row, warble about leafy green vegetables and hold up dodgy hand drawn pictures of corn on the cob. Even the trusty Christmas Carol Service didn’t draw the same kind of numbers as the blessed Harvest Festival.

It followed the same format each year; parents queued and jostled for the best positions inside the church. They elbow jabbed their way to the best pews where the line of vision wasn’t obscured by giant marrows or oversized bags of pasta. The church smelt like that delightful first burst of odour you receive upon opening the waste food bin to scrape in erroneous vegetable matter.

Every year we were asked to bring in some garden produce for the PFA to sell afterwards. I brought a punnet of blackberries that I had picked the weekend before. Also this year we were all encouraged to bring a box of cereal for a local charity but I’m not sure the headmaster Mr Bygraves had thought it through because there was an ominous tower of them on the font and a great wall of them stacked way too close to where the Reception kids were sitting…. the pile was getting higher and we could barely see the little blighters!

I spotted Toby (my 9 year old) who gave me a stiff look as if to say ‘I see you but don’t acknowledge me under any circumstances’. Lottie (my 7 year old) on the other hand was straining out of her pew to wave at me and giggle. Mr Bygraves stood up and introduced the service, the whole church went quiet apart from tittering from the Reception children and then they all broke into a cheerful food inspired song and the parents were instantly  enthralled. This year the village’s Vicar Dennis was away on a cruise (Eastern Mediterranean Delights aboard the Princess Star Aurora Spirit Dream Adventurer) and so a supply Vicar was drafted in. Vicar Dennis knows from years of experience that the parents children can’t cope with a long sermon type thing and so he keeps it short and sweet – along the lines of “come to church more you bunch of ungrateful atheists!” and other motivational words to that effect.

Anyway young new supply Vicar Mark obviously hadn’t been briefed by Mr Bygraves on keeping it brief and began droning on about sharing the world’s resources and breaking down global barriers. Certainly a worthy conversation but the Reception kids were by now full on fidgeting, moaning, flicking their bogeys and trying to scale the Anglo Saxon church pillars. The Teachers and TA’s for those classes grew restless. Irate. Then suicidal. I can neither confirm or deny that they were all mantra-ing Pinot Grigio this evening over and over in their heads. Vicar Mark finally sensing unrest in the crowd closed his sermon with a flourish about how we should break down international frontiers and be more globally aware. As if on cue the wall of cereal boxes came crashing down as a bunch of Reception children, frustrated that they couldn’t see their Mums or Dads, knocked them over revealing the rest of the class – all in some stage of nose excavation, happy slapping each other and desecrating the pews. Young Vicar Mark styled it out with aplomb! “Err hmm, thank you to Acorn Class for demonstrating quite literally how to break down barriers, and now let us bow our heads in prayer.” About 96.3% of parents took this as their cue to slide out their phones and upload photos of their little darlings holding up a vegetable/singing/ear-picking (then flicking) onto their favoured social media.

marrow.pngThe last effing marrow.

After the Harvest Festival Service the PFA sold off the produce that the parents had brought in – back to the parents! All proceeds to local charities and towards a new roof for the Church Vestry.

“What are you going to buy?” asked Anna pulling her coat around her, it was cold in the Vestry (probably due to the holy holey) roof. The PFA had set up ‘stall’ and were trying to sell off a glum array of seasonal fruit and vegetables. I always ended up buying the last marrow which I never made into chutney or stew or whatever you’re meant to do with a freakin’ marrow. I have not and never intend to – fill one with savoury mince and bake it – so do one Delia!

“I think I’ll go for the blackberries I brought,” I harrumphed, scanning the miserable looking choice.

“Ahh Hillie, there’s a large marrow left, I know how much you like them,” trilled Clare brightly (vice Chair of the PFA).

“I’ll buy the blackberries thanks,” I said smiling and offering Clare a couple of pounds for the blackberries that I myself had singlehandedly picked for an hour (braving thorns and stinging nettles) then soaked, washed and punetted (probably not a word)…but I won’t go on about it!

“Oh. I think Vicar Mark has his eye on those,” she said taking them off the table proprietorially and putting them underneath. “I’ll pop that marrow in a bag for you shall I?”

Anna and I were just leaving via the church gate and wondering whether 11:30 am was too early for a cheeky drink in the pub when Clare caught up with us after tactlessly trotting over numerous gravestones in a bid to reach us before we scarpered off.

“Hillie, you are daft! You forgot your marrow! Oh, ladies while I remember – can I put you both down for running the sweet stall at the disco?” she asked expectantly – a sickly *I dare you to say no* smile about her lips. And so it was that we moved seamlessly onto the next event in the village calendar ….. that popular paganistic PARTAY – the good old Halloween Disco. Bloody Marvellous I thought as I shoved the marrow under my arm.

As you were!

Is revenge a dish that tastes best served cold?  It depends I guess if you’re having a bowl of rice pudding revenge or a cheese sandwich of retribution? Coming soon, what does Anna do about her husband’s philandering ways?

PS. I *may* have had the last laugh because I made a totes delish marrow & pecan cake*.

*all opinions are my own. The kids weren’t having a bar of it – small wins #yum.

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Life Love and Dirty Dishes

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28. Village survival, it’s nit always good news!

Last Friday morning before school, I noticed that Lottie (my 7 year old) had nits. Oh arse. It was too late to drag a nit comb through her long hair so I would have to de-nit her after school. She seemed unfazed by the crawling critters and she only had (ahem) a few anyway! I had a sneaking suspicion that Lottie *may* have given me one or two as well.

“When is a nit not a nit?” Lottie asked me cryptically.

“I don’t know? When is a nit not a nit?” when I’ve nuked it with (trademark) Nittaway?

“When it’s a gnat!!” beyond hilario if you are seven! Sorry if you are not. Seven that is.

I pulled her untamed locks up into a tight bun and hoped she wouldn’t inadvertently spread nit-joy amongst her friends that day or worse – keep scratching in a really obvious nitty way. I didn’t want any barbed teachery comments over the bulbous marrows and tins of baked beans at the upcoming Harvest Festival next week! Where was the bloody nit comb anyway? I scratched my own head like a dim cartoon character…….hmmm itchy.

HEADER

After school drop off I made a big cup of coffee and made my five second commute to my new writing shed. I was pretty much all moved in and had cleared up after Ryan (my needy electrician) who had left me with power in the shed but also all out of my favourite Costan Rican Coffee which he consumed in vast quantities. He had also left *builder’s dust* everywhere as well as several erroneous drill bits mislaid on the floor. All of which were stepped on by me or my passing tweenagers Toby and Lottie who never seem to wear their bastard slippers. I had spent the past few days fannying around in my writing shed – doing the nice bits like putting up photos of Ross Poldark the children and Ted (husband) and the like. Of course it had been necessary to buy new stationary and shiny up-to date office wares for my desk and I still wanted a cosy rug for the floor and a compact blow heater for when the weather turned! I also required a daylight table lamp so that I could pretend that living in England wasn’t dark and ****king awful after Halloween and before Easter. Except of course for Christmas, everyone loves Christmas*.

shed1-copy

Shameless re-use of last week’s imagery!

I plonked myself down and slurped on my coffee absent mindedly scratching behind my left ear. The air felt cold, there was condensation pooling at the bottom of the window and it was decidedly un-bloody-cosy!  Ted had built the shed in a shady part of the garden so that we didn’t waste the sunny area where the children played. I couldn’t be creative like this I decided diva-ishly and hand hugging my coffee. It was quite obvious that I needed to go shopping again. So I texted Anna (local best friend) to see if she wanted to come with me to buy extra crap I didn’t actually need and a portable heater for my writing shed.

She texted back no, she was busy. Something wasn’t right. Anna, as you’ll know if you have read my previous posts has had lots of trouble with her ‘maritals’. Her husband Ben had moved out just before the summer into a rented flat above the village stores and Post Office. On the plus side he was never without a stamp and envelopes or a packet of Happy Shopper Bourbons biscuits. Anna had started to accept that Ben had left the marriage, she was beginning to deal with it but intuition told me to abandon my steaming coffee and cold shed and go and check on her. I walked over to her cottage and let myself in through her kitchen door – creepy thing you learn to do when you live in a small village community -unsavoury but everyone does it. The kitchen was empty but just at that moment Anna walked in wearing a dressing gown over a tracksuit with her dog Binky at her heels.

“Holy crap, you scared me to death,” she shrieked. Binky also yapped noisily at my unwarranted intrusion.

“Sorry,” I said. I could see by her face and her demeanour that something was seriously up. Ok perhaps I should have texted that I was coming round, after all this wasn’t an episode of the Archers ahem this was real life…..

Anna slumped down into the wing back chair next to her Aga.

“Put the kettle on would you,” she said heavily as if the words were difficult to expel from her body. I could tell she had been crying.

I turned to put the kettle on and locate her teabags. There were a number of glass teabag jars, oh sh*t which one was the builders? I found myself scratching my head. Hmmm itchy. Particularly behind the ears.

“Apparently Ben has been having an affair for the last 18 months,” Anna said faintly, almost inaudibly above the sound of the kettle.

WTF. I spun around theatrically. She was rubbing her forehead with her thumb and forefinger rhythmically, as if to smooth out the creases of her thoughts.

WTF?

“Are you sure?” I asked cautiously. Ever the optimist slash resolute dumbass non believer of very bad news.

“Sure…” the word came out like a sinister whisper.

A flurry of angry expletives filled my brain and threatened to leap out of my mouth but I held them back and waited for Anna to elaborate. She bent her head. Silence.

“Sod the bloody tea, we’re getting the hell out of dodge,” I announced surprising myself with the kind of spontaneity I didn’t usually employ.

“I’m not going anywhere,” squeaked Anna visibly recoiling into the chair.

“And get out of that rancid dressing gown…..find some sunglasses, ” I added decisively and bossily – as I reached into my handbag for my car keys and jangled them at her menacingly. Perhaps there was a crappy old bridge somewhere in Devon that I could drive us both off?

Anna looked to me like she needed air. I also suddenly wanted to go somewhere I could breathe. It felt like the the walls of her cottage were falling in on us. I wanted to get us away from the cloying village, away from the pristine gardens, the twitchy curtains in the quaint cottages, the windy lanes and the blackberries clinging to the hedgerows and the old church which the PFA stalwarts were preparing for the school harvest festival. Away from the all encompassing suffocating village. It was a flight or fight reaction and I was fleeing on both our parts. Plus we might be able to stop in at Lunnery Mills on the outskirts of Stockton Abbott to get a portable heater! And Boots to get some Nittaway (sh*te product that you feel you should use but doesn’t kill nits and smells like your Nan’s favoured talcum powder from 1983).

The day was turning into one of those very warm autumnal anomalies, after an early frost it was as if summer had flounced back on stage like a diva for an encore. Our village wasn’t that far from the coast so I pointed my clunky old Mini in that direction. Anna sat mute beside me in the car dressed in just her tracksuit, at least she’d jettisoned the skanky dressing gown. Small wins. She was shivering even though the warmth of the sun was so hot I wanted to switch on the air con. I accepted that Anna needed to be silent as we drove so I put on Sea Breeze Crap Coastal FM  Radio One of course. We finally parked up on the seafront at Teignmouth. I bought us take-away coffees and we wondered onto the pier almost accidentally. A selection of slot machines and other amusements rattled and broke into tactless tinny tunes. It felt end of season dead. Outside, at the end of the pier, everything was also shut down and the view out to sea was unbroken apart from a lone motorboat. The sun was surprisingly and blisteringly hot. We found an empty bench to sit on which was remarkably free of seagull sh*t and fish’n’chip wrappings. No one else was about except a middle aged couple who were feeling very smug about the glorious weather they were having on their *out of season* holiday. I actually have no idea if they were feeling smug at all…I just totally made that bit up. No disrespect to that couple from the East Midlands.

pier

I gave Anna a sideways look which she ostensibly ignored.

“I’ve got all day…..well until school pick up at least….no presh, ” I told her stubbornly. More silence ensued. I waited and slurped on my coffee.

“It was Holly from the pub,” whispered Anna, “they’ve been seeing each other since our 12th wedding anniversary,” I tried to compute the information.

Holly?” I gasped, “the barmaid?….from the pub?…..Holly?” I caught on quick me! “Sh..she’s only 18 isn’t she?” I stammered.

“She’s 22 actually, and can you stop scratching your head like a flea infested tramp!” Anna sighed as I finished rummaging about in my hair.

“I’ll never drink in that pub again!” I sneered blinking back tears. Perhaps that was a bit rash!

“It’s ok….” Anna gave a hollow chuckle, “….she’s leaving the village. She’s going to Uni and Ben says it’s over anyway.”

“Over?”

“He says he’s sorry,” Anna spoke hoarsely.

“Sorry?” I repeated incredulously like a complete half wit.

“Are you just going to repeat everything I say like a complete half wit?” Anna asked.

“Probably,” I admitted trying to absorb the shock of it all. We sat in silence and then I pulled myself together. “And how do you feel about that?” I asked evenly, my voice measured. Like I was acting the part of a therapist – my Equity Card wouldn’t be arriving anytime soon.

“I hate him…I love him….I hate that I love him…I hate that I hate him,” she sobbed and the tears came. And came.

We continued to sit on the bench for ages in a quiet snivelling snotty silence. I put an arm around Anna’s shoulders and our heads touched. There’s something about being by the sea that makes you reflective and floods all the senses.

“You do realise you’ve probably got nits now,” I admitted.

“Some bloody friend you are!” she replied but she didn’t pull away.

GNASH I hate u I love u (ft Olivia O’Brien) This is a great song and sums up how Anna was feeling. After the first bit the song does contain all *the swears* so not suitable for small ears and if you’re at work Julie in Accounts might think it’s a bit much too….

As you were!

More from the village next week.

*disclaimer – some people in actual fact find Xmas to be a total arse.

Very chuffed indeed to be a featured blogger on this week’s #FridayFrolics! A very big YAY!

Life Love and Dirty Dishes

Island Living 365

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27. Village survival – my new writing shed!

shed1 copy.png

He’d done it! Ted (my husband) had finally finished building my writing shed in the back garden! It had *only* taken him the best part of two years but there it was constructed and painted! I had always envisaged a cosy bolthole inspired by a Devon shepherd’s hut (with a log burner and daybed) but then I reminded myself that I wasn’t married to Amazing Spaces George Clarke. So I was grateful for Ted’s simple four sided ‘shed’ construction complete with a rusty window that we’d found in a skip. It was a lucky find because my skip searching or *skip skanking* as I call it was tentative at best. I didn’t dive in head first like Kirsty Allsop with her Kurt Geigers waggling in the air and just the hem of a Reiss coat discearnable amongst the detritus. I would take a furtive glance at the gubbins/tat/crap on the surface and have a *risk assessed rummage* to pick off (using the least amount of digits as possible) anything interesting on the top. My new writing shed also had a proper door! Our neighbours had given us their old wooden front door complete with a letterbox flap and door knocker! Small remittance, in my opinion, for their rutting cat’s usage of our garden as a knocking shop!

Now! I wasn’t going to go all whimsical and sit out there in my shed freezing my extremities off writing on an A4 jotter with a bic biro wrapped in a duvet so I needed power sockets and a kettle. I wanted to be snug in my writing cave, a place where I could sip good coffee and diligently tap away on my laptop. It wasn’t as if I fancied myself as Roald Dahl or Virginia Woolf or any other famous writers-with-writing sheds I just wanted a little place to call my own. Somewhere I wasn’t distracted by festering laundry or Poldark on demand. And so it was that I needed a qualified electrician. ‘Ryan’ the electrician as it goes (recommended by the door/randy cat neightbours) and after a not taking the piss quote we asked him to do the work. I think I knew he was a bit *needy* from the start but didn’t give it much thought such was my excitement at getting wired!

He started texting a lot, not in a creepy stalkery way but in a just plain old annoying way to keep me informed!  Of course it wasn’t just a case of running a cable from our house out to the shed, there were all kinds of boring details and guidelines to adhere to. You might want to stick the kettle on for this next bit –  you won’t be missing anything. Pop back in 5 minutes.

  • A qualified electrician should be employed to install a Steel Wire Armoured cable in a deep trench to provide mains power in your shed.
  • Your electrician will want to locate your fuse box and may need to upgrade it before your shed is wired in.
  • You’ll receive hourly texts from said electrician that you weren’t expecting – about your plug socket requirements; chrome? shiny or matt? bevel edged? Further text updates will be required on the progress and depth and your abilities to dig an adequate cable trench across your garden plus an abundance of other electrician- jargon loaded messages that will right royally get on your nerves.

It’s ok, you can come back now, techy stuff over.

The evening before day one of project Power up the shed Ryan texted me to say that he would be arriving at 7:30 a.m (ouch). Yes we’d be up and about and getting ready for school but actually it would be a right pain in the jacksy having a bloke lumbering around in bovver boots (my spell checker wants to say beaver boots! – I think that’s an entirely different type of boot all together) at that ungodly hour.

Day 1. He actually arrived at 7:20 a.m with a jaunty disposition – super jolly. He had no business being that jovial at 7:20 am with not one but two biros angled behind his ear and a bulging tool belt slung about his skinny frame like an undernourished Bob the Builder. His van was parked outside our cottage (he’d run over a lovely big pile of horse poo and it was nicely squelched into the tred of his left tyres) and as he unloaded it he whistled! Hold your effing horses! Whistling at 7:20 am in the morning? When is whistling even allowed anyway? Right, I’ve looked it up and whistling is only permitted after 2pm if you are a farmer and you’re trying to make your sheepdog herd a flock of sheep in a force 9 gale – that is officially the only time – glad I could clear that up. You’re welcome.

I went to make breakfast as he traipsed all his tools through the house to the kitchen-diner and plonked them next to the french doors leading to the garden. He brought in builder’s dust (from where exactly?) like a swirl of snowflakes as he persistently whistled through the house. Quickly I thought of a way of shutting him up – I’d make him a hot drink. I put the kettle on and offered him a cup of tea. It was then that he muttered six ordinary words in an ordinary sentence and yet they drilled ten bells of terror into my soul…..

“I’d love a coffee actually love!” it wasn’t his Devon accent (so thick you could stick a sandy wig on it and watch it run for president) that bothered me, I love a regional accent. Or even the toe curling use of ‘love’ in 2016.  It was the request for coffee and not tea! I had Devonshire Tea, Earl Grey, Chai, Green Tea with Camomile (for all you grass and cow piss flavour needs) and even some ancient Lapsang Souchong festering in the back of the cupboard. But my only coffee was my best Costan Rican Aromatic blend filter coffee (Fair-trade)  and it was all mine (even Ted knew to leave off) so there would be *swears* before *shares*. I could barely bring myself to do it but I plunged his coffee to the tune of his bloody persistent mouth music and the expletives in my head. Ryan and I had not got off to the best of starts and then to compound my 7:25 a.m irritation he replaced his whistling with slurping my coffee. Was there enough depth to drown myself in a milky bowl of weetabix I wondered?

coffee

After I’d dropped the children at school I came home and set about doing some writing. My romantic novel *Twelve Days and the Thatcher  (inspired by a hunky thatcher who had worked in the village) was coming along now and I really needed to focus focus focus! Ryan continually interrupted me to ask questions or give me fascinating updates on my router cables and other developments in my shed’s electrical journey. You’d think he was project manager at the Blackpool Illuminations not wiring up an outside office but at least he took his work seriously I suppose? So when Anna (best local friend) texted suggesting a jolly up to the local garden centre for lunch: a meander round viewing varieties of bird table fat balls, over-priced chimineas and end of line *sale* rattan garden sofas that were still priced higher than a family holiday to Florida. I  texted back that I’d be delighted to leave Ryan to his cables and drilling and pop out for a bit……

“Oh no! You can’t go out. I might need to ask you something about the job,” blustered Ryan seemingly hurt – told you he was #needy. One thing I liked about working from home was the freedom of movement (Ryan and Brexit seemed intent on completely bollocking that up). So you can imagine my irritation when I had to text Anna back that I was confined to barracks because of my overzealous lecky man. She didn’t mind swapping a nice garden centre toastie for a decidedly average one at my house and fully accepted that she wouldn’t get a cress salad garnish! I also asked her to grab a jar of instant coffee from the village stores on her way round. No probs said she…..

“He’s not a patch on *Thatcher Man is he,” whispered Anna unapologetically disappointed by the attractiveness of my electrician after her introduction to Ryan. In all fairness Ryan wasn’t a looker but there was no need to compare all skilled tradesman to Thatcher Man. A bit sexist in 2016 and like comparing all of us to Rosie Huntington Whiteley (Devon born super model off the telly and M&S adverts) such was the gorgeousness of Thatcher Man. “Oh and I forgot the instant coffee, soz!”she added. In my head *swears*.  

After Ryan had interrupted our decidedly average toastie lunch for the third time (we were discussing Anna’s errant husband and Poldark plot lines) Anna couldn’t help but comment.

“Err see what you mean by needy, he seems to require a lot of external affirmation and recognition – poor lad,” she lamented sympathetically.

“He’s just annoying,” I countered.

“Yeah, bloody annoying!”

Later that afternoon I called out to Ryan,”I’m just popping up to school to pick the kids up…is that alright?” Is that alright? What was wrong with me? Sorry I didn’t pick you up from school kids – I had to make expensive coffees and keep up persistent bants with the electrician.

Just before I ran up to school, I would pop in the village stores and grab some of their instant coffee (unknown and suspicious coffee brand no one has actually ever heard of alert). When I got to the shop there was a sign up in the window saying that due to staff illness they’d shut early – please use the Post Office in Stockton Abbott. Oh arse.

“Cup of tea Ryan?” I asked – all faux jolly on my return with the children. Listen to my sing songy voice – I am only offering tea, that’s tea! You are allowed tea, only tea and if you could finish up one of my sh*te herbal teas mores the better……what is it about herbal tea that is so deeply deeply unsatisfying? Discuss.

Cup of tea

“I’ll have a coffee ta, and a coupla extra sugars wouldn’t go a miss love.” Ryan had very quickly and efficiently located my short fuse, he was obviously very good at his job. Annoyingly he downed the dregs and promptly announced that he was off for the day.  Luckily I noticed before he went home that he’d left a phalanx of drills and sharp looking tools next to the french doors. Each power tool seemed to be suggesting that a passing tweenager might like to impale themselves on it or lop off a limb on an unsavoury looking blade. Ryan huffily traipsed back through the house to put the most lethal Freddie Kruegaresque looking ones in his van till the morning.

Part 2, will Ryan ever power up my writing shed?…find out next week in the second exciting instalment! It’s ok, I wouldn’t put you through that. I’ll wind it up in this post.

Day 2. Was much the same, he arrived at the ungodlys whistling – mostly the X Factor theme tune and demanding coffee. Out came my best Costa Rican etc again and a small part of my soul dissolved into builder’s dust. If you’re a coffee lover this will not seem overly dramatic. Ryan had the electricity on and off all bloody day and when the power was on he seemed to be drilling and every time the power was switched off the internet died and then took an age to fire back up – just in time for him to turn the electricity off again. I couldn’t check my email or Twitter. Imagine how many Groupon alerts I’d missed! I couldn’t do any writing and to make matters worse I wasn’t able to bake any effing cakes for the PFA cake sale at school. I’d be shunned by Clare (PFA Vice Chair) when I didn’t show up with 24 Bake Off standard identical fairy cakes or a twelve slice Victoria Sponge.

Day 3. Picture me in my cosy, electric light filled writing shed drinking my Costa Rican  coffee, pouring over my laptop……………………………watching Poldark! Yes our wifi worked a flippin’ treat out there!

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Err excuse me, I think the Poldark series writers are missing a trick here, shouldn’t Ross Poldark have a devastatingly good looking cousin/long lost brother/smuggling pirate mate in Devon? Come on Poldark don’t just pass through on the A30 in your horse-drawn camper van……stay a while!!!!

As you were!

*Twelve Days and the Thatcher: gritty love story set in a Devonshire village and stuff. Starring a very handsome and buff thatcher called Marcus.

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