Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Is today the day?

Tuesday 30 December 2014

Absolutely bloody freezing

Awake with cold nose and crank open the shutters to discover silvery world with half moon suspended in the clear blue.  Awesomely cold.  Cars frozen solid.  Our normal technique is to point them in an easterly direction so that the rising sun melts the windscreen.  Have trouble finding clothing that combines smart with warm.

Quick breakfast and down the flats.  ED OH sends FB message to say that RJ and ED spent night at a friends house.  He is mega pissed off with ED for not ringing either last night or this morning to say where they were.  RJ arrived back at SIL house at 7 am (they would really have appreciated that after sleepless night) and probably got it in the ear.  He always has to have a drama.  I FB him and tell him he is complete moron.  As usual, I don't get a response and he doesn't ring in the day either.  WF has his phone switched off.  Perhaps it was better in days of yore when you didnt expect to be able to contact people quickly.  I am sure girls are better at communicating (apart obviously from SIL ED)

OH wires plug to the extractor fan and hides with plastic cabling case.  We then try and sort out the problem of the non sliding door under the oven.  The oven sits on a shelf which is held by only a few screws and it keeps slipping down and resting on top of the under oven drawer.  We have to compromise by taking oven out, shoving drawer back in and putting oven back.  Floors are looking fabulous and very shiny and not at all old and crap like normal.

OH leaves and AA and her OH arrive immediately.  They live on an island which looks absolutely idyllic but apparently they have an urge to live in a little town like mine

Even paradise can pale, evidently, as this year I have also sold to a couple from Tahiti. Personally, I think living in a Caribbean tax haven is about as good as it gets.  Something to add to the Life Bucket list!

I was with a German lady, who is over 80 years old, and rattling around in an immense chateau just over the border in France.  She has a huge life force, in marked contrast to the locals, and was telling me about the Prussians (she was born in the region formerly known as Prussia). 

 'the Prussians are very CORRECT' she emphasised, with a rather worrying chopping motion of the hand ' when I came to France, it was so good to relax and to have so little regulation'. 

This opinion is in marked contrast of every free living British ex pat I have ever met.  Our general opinion is that we are regulated to the point of being unable to earn a living.  

 'Of course, I am still Prussian and will always do things CORRECTLY' chop chop.   

She is very keen on politics and extolled the virtues of Angela Merkel and told me many examples of her humour.  Angela Merkel apparently is also Prussian.  Prussian humour, I can assure you dear readers, does not travel well but  I was happy to eat the German Christmas biscuits with the hole in the centre and drink her excellent coffee.  The library was unheated and we could see our breath. There was an immense open hearth and hundreds upon hundreds of mouldering books.  On the table in front of us was, incongruously, a Star Wars chess set.   

I digress.  Back to the revisit.  At first I thought it was going splendidly, with AA discussing where they would put their furniture (grade 1 buying sign).  Her OH was concerned about where they would have their yoga room.  It transpires that he has a yoga business which was news to me.  We spend an hour in the flat and then I take them to TP's house on the outskirts of town.  Unfortunately AA OH was much keener on this house but not enough to make an offer.  Tell them that we are prepared to take an offer and also give them a long completion date.  They say they will get back to me over next two days before flying back to Paradise.  

Feel suddenly very deflated and teeth-rattlingly chilled.  Go to take keys to another agent who will be having a visit tomorrow.  Have quick coffee with him and thaw out.  He is deeply unhappy as someone took the opportunity, sometime during the previous evening, of breaking his quarter window and smashing out the back lights.  I would have experienced immense Shadenfreude at this in the past, but now we are working together so I am being nice.

Shadenfreude is German and means harm/joy.  An English equivalent is  epicaricacy which derives from Greek and is probably unused as it is a real mouthful to enunciate

Back home and am cold to the bone.  OH makes me a fire and I thaw out in front of it.  He is not surprised that I have not achieved an offer as he was not expecting AA OH to love the property as much as she did.Out in afternoon to see a couple who had bought a second property in the same town and are now having to sell it as they can no longer afford the bridging loan and cant sell their first property.  I have their first property for sale and it is a gorgeous clean modern contemporary house with swimming pool.  Unfortunately it has views of the motorway in the distance.It is blissfully warm inside and she offers me coffee and my feet are gently warmed by the underfloor heating.   I take as much information as possible about the second property whilst enjoying the warm of the first and then we head out.The lady had said to me that she had dreamed for at least 25 years of owning the second house.  What strange things dreams are, and how personal.  The property was an old church which is a total renovation.  Huge holes had been punched in the plaster (by the congregation or the pastor?) and the ceilings were feeling the pull of gravity.  The windows were hanging on by a nail or two and there was no heating.   The lady pointed out how lovely the parquet floors were.  I was still being traumatised by the ceilings at this point.  The price they had paid for it was refreshingly low so we agreed to take it onto market at this price plus our agency fees and suck it and see.Back home and rung some enquiries and did things off the task list.  OH made killer teryaki chicken with stir fry potatoes and some mange tout from Namibia (sourced at Lidl).  Enjoy Father Ted Christmas Special from many moons ago.Things you may not know about the Craggy Island residents

Dougal Maguire was relegated to the island after an unfortunate incident on a SeaLink ferry that put the lives of hundreds of nuns in danger.Ted Crilly is sent to the island as punishment for using money, earmarked for a sick child, and taking a holiday in Las Vegas.

One of my favourite episodes is one with Graham Norton where they are all in a caravan and GN sings and laughs and wants to play games all night.  Ted is outside having a cig and Dougal says to him 'Ted, I think I'm going mad'

Dermot Morgan (Ted Crilly) Had a habit of phoning in to Irish chat shows (especially the Late Late Show (1962)) when well-known politicians were appearing and willing to answer questions from the public. He would then proceed to ask a pertinent political question in their own voice.

Will the cleaning never end?

Monday 29 December 2014

0 degrees
Rather nippy

Hurrah, the last day of preparation before the revisit.  More shifting things up and down the stairs. My knees start complaining and creaking.  Wash the skirting boards and the window frames.  How on earth can there be so much dust on the doors.  The water access is in the flat below and have to do many trips to boil up the now leaking kettle.  Home for lunch and then we take a last minute decision to varnish the floors, the missing cans of varnish suddenly appearing when I start taking down the paint can mountain.  OH does main rooms.  It is starting to get dark.  He goes back to walk dog and cook and I get to varnish the staircase.  Oh joy.  The light goes out every four stairs.  I feel very, very tired.

SIL rings to say that RJ and her ED have gone out drinking and have been out hours and she doesn't know where they are and they are not answering their phones.  I am too exhausted to participate in this drama.  OH ED is out looking for them.  I go to bed and switch off my phone.  Bloody children.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Not a day of rest

Sunday 28 December 2014Crisp and clear 7 degreesMore cleaning.  The cleaning is not getting to me but Levon Helm is.  I don't care if he loves this bar and the poor old dirt farmer ain't got no corn, I just wish they would stop going on about it.  Told OH no Levon Helm tomorrow

On May 26, 1940, Mark Lavon Helm was the second of four children born to Nell and Diamond Helm in Elaine, Arkansas. Diamond was a cotton farmer who entertained occasionally as a musician. The Helm's loved music and often sang together. They listened to The Grand Ole Opry and Sonny Boy Williamson and his King Biscuit Entertainers regularly on the radio. A favorite family pastime was attending traveling music shows in the area. According to his 1993 autobiography, This Wheel's On Fire, Levon recalled seeing his first live show, Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys, at six years old. His description: "This really tattooed my brain. I've never forgotten it." Hearing performers like Monroe and Williamson on the radio was one thing, seeing them live made a huge impression. 

Diamond is a fabulous Christian name and I love the idea of an experience being tattooed on the brain.  Dolly Parton is another country classic singer and here is a little of her story.

Parton was born in Sevier County, Tennessee, the fourth of twelve children of Robert Lee Parton, a tobacco farmer, and his wife Avie Lee (née Owens).She has described her family as being "dirt poor".Parton's father paid the doctor who helped deliver her with a bag of oatmeal. She outlined her family's poverty in her early songs: "Coat of Many Colors" and "In the Good Old Days (When Times Were Bad)". They lived in a rustic, one-room cabin in Locust Ridge, just north of the Greenbrier Valley of the Great Smoky Mountains, a predominantly Pentecostal area.Music played an important role in her early life, and her grandfather was a Pentecostal "Holy Roller" preacher.Many of her early performances were in church, along with her family. Her siblings are Willadeene (born 1940), David Wilburn (born 1942), Coy Denver (born 1943), Bobby Lee (born 1948), Stella Mae (born 1949), Cassie Nan (born 1951), Randel Huston ("Randy"; born 1953), Larry Gerald (July 1, 1955 – July 6, 1955), Floyd and Freida Estelle (twins; born 1957), and Rachel Ann (born 1959).Makes me wonder how different our lives would have been if we had been born 'dirt poor' - are we now too soft and have not made the most of the chances given to us because our lives have not been tough enough?

Last verse of Coat of Many Colours

But they didn't understand it
And I tried to make them see
That one is only poor
Only if they choose to be
Now I know we had no money
But I was rich as I could be
In my coat of many colors
My momma made for me
Made just for me 

Saturday. And the rains came down.....

Saturday 27 December 2014

No idea of temperature as was raining too much to go out and look without waterproofs

It is not often that we wake to the sound of the rain lashing down on the shutters.  It was also sluicing off the barn roof and bouncing out of the gutters.  OH had pillow over his head and was groaning 'this is just what we didn't need'.  Our Forth Bridge somehow absorbs water and then develops pale yellow markings on the walls and the ceilings.  The roofer assures me that all the tiles are in place.  The damp takes about two to three days to show through.  Just in time for the revisit.  Some remedial painting may be required on Monday.

Have remains of trifle for breakfast - one benefit of the 42 steps is that my clothes are looser than they have been in some time.  Spend morning washing down the remains of the banisters plus the entrance hall floor.  Plaster has welded itself to some parts and the new floor paint chips up with it. Another job for tomorrow.  OH goes shopping and walks the dog around the lake and gets so wet, he can actually wring water out of his socks.  He shows me his wet underwear and I tell him to put it in the laundry basket.  Oh the romance of marriage.

I am not as fed up of cleaning as you may imagine.  In fact I am not fed up at all as almost anything is better than having to deal with the exigencies of the house selling and buying general public who drove me into the manic, gibbering state normally displayed by Chief Inspector Dreyfus (Clouseau's superior).  Wikipedia informs us that Herbert Lom was Czek and died at the age of 95 in 2012.

Herbert Lom and Peter Sellers in The Pink Panther Strikes Again

My clients have yet to give me a twitch.  This feat was achieved however by a Chartered Accountant who gave his unfortunate employees an authentic Bob Cratchitt experience.   I have just realised that his eye used to twitch when he saw me too.  How cheering!

Amongst the memories of that year, are the following:

1.  Despite the very low wages paid to all, we were expected to contribute five pounds to the Partners Christmas present.  Everyone hated the Partners.  Everyone complained but everyone paid up.  I didn't pay up.  First black mark.  I took the opportunity of calculating the hourly rate of the lowest paid staff - myself included - and we were just over two pounds an hour.  I was on a training contract whilst the others were being exploited long term.

2.  Christmas Party.  Everyone was expected to attend the Christmas party (and bring a bottle).  I was walking down the steps out of the building when the Senior Partner ran out of the Board Room and shouted, 'you will be deducted a half day's holiday if you don't attend'!  I didn't and duly lost a half day.

3.  One of my colleagues' father was seriously ill with cancer and died just before Christmas.  The Senior Partner came around with our wage packets (they paid us in cash on a weekly basis) and informed her that she had not received the ten pounds Christmas bonus because she had had a lot of time off during the year.  There was a deathly 'you absolute bastard' silence as he stalked out of the room and quietly clicked shut the door behind him.  I looked in my wage packet and discovered less money than usual.  My Christmas bonus had taken me into another NIC bracket.....

My last experience as an employed accountant came many years later when OH had been made redundant and I thought it would be fun to be the one going out to work.  Alas, deeply wrong.  I obtained a job (I never seem to have trouble obtaining the blooming things) and was delighted to find that my good friend from our training days was still there.  She was not the happy young thing of days gone by but a chain smoking, embittered senior with the joy sucked right out of her.

The days were from 8.30 to 5.30 with 40 minutes for lunch.  I did VAT returns back to back.  No one talked.  Budgets were to be strictly adhered to.   I used to think that my ears had stopped working, it was so quiet.  Even at lunchtime (most people sat at their desks and made the most of the short access to internet) no one spoke.  I brought crisps in one day and had to suck most of the packet because the first crunch had sounded like rifle shot and attracted the attention of everyone in the room.  I exceeded all of the budgets and was definitely a non profit centre.

At the end of three tortured months, I was called into one of the Partners offices.  He said he felt that I didn't really fit into the team (aka you are not making us any money) and that they really regretted that they would not be able to offer me a permanent contract.   I wholeheartedly agreed with his assessment of my suitability for their firm (ie not a zombie), picked up my stuff and left with a heart bursting with joy and lungs full of suddenly fresh and fulfilling air.  They paid me for the next three months as compensation and it will be probably the only time in my life when I am paid for not doing something.

I worked for a number of Chartered Accountants and there wasn't a one of them that I haven't left without feeling a sense of profound relief.  Actually, that holds true for most of my employments. OH suggests it is not them, it is me and that I am a bad employee.  I don't do politics and I don't do backstabbing and I don't do false.  If that makes me a bad employee, then it also makes me a better person.

Later in the day went to see a house on estimation which had come via a notary with whom I have worked for many years.  Stunning views, terrifying cracks in the ceilings, on sale for over two years. Well, miracles do occur and I did sell another property within view of this one and with just one visit. The main living room is over 55m2 and has wonderful vistas of the river and the Pyrénées.  A potential future problem is the fact it is being let to a Vietnamese family without a written rental agreement.  They were away in Belgium for the festive season.  They do not like housework by the look of it - the cobwebs and dust had some ancienneté.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Boxing Day

Friday 26 December 2014

12 degrees - sun and cloud

Horrifically, OH got up and started down the stairs in a very loud fashion at just gone 7 am.  It is very cold and dark at this time of the morning and I have very little experience of it. He then growled at the dog (who had chosen to evacuate his bowels AGAIN on the kitchen floor).  Much rustling of newspaper.  The mop and bucket are down town and this means that newspaper is piled on top of the mess until I come back with the cleaning stuff.  He brings me a cup of tea at 7.20 and is absolutely freezing.  We both go back to sleep and wake at 9 am and feel exhausted.  I might just throw caution to the winds  and buy another mop and bucket for this house....

TV shows that it is the tenth anniversary of the Boxing Day Tsunami.  So many dreadful losses but so many survived.  Someone said that they felt really lucky.  It obviously wasn't their time and someone was watching over them.  I truly believe that there is a time when you are meant to go and people will survive in amazing circumstances and go on to live long and yet others are destined to go so early.

Back down town and OH carries on plastering over small cracks and I tackle two more floors and the banisters.  They are rotten with woodworm and hall light, which is on a timer, keeps on going off. Town is very quiet even though today is a normal trading day.  Three days left to get this place into shape for the revisit.  

Take ceramic tiles down to the store room on the ground floor.  There are 42 steps between the top floor and the ground and the tiles weigh a ton.  OH had wanted me to knock off all old tiles in the bathroom and re tile - all before the revisit on Tuesday.  Words cannot express how much I do not want to do this - the wall plaster is old and cracked and the whole bathroom would then need re tiling. I had to put my foot down with a firm hand and tell him that the bathroom is staying as is.

Back home and I find two promising IT apprenticeships on a government website - WF is not answering his phone so email them through to him.  When I try later, his phone is now switched off. I wonder what he does all day?

Write and complain to the CEO of the company that should have been interviewing him tomorrow. Tell him that I am counting on him to come up with a job for Will.  Appeal to his human nature. Take dog for walk and feel optimistic.

Make potatoes dauphinoises, turkey, pigs on horseback and stuffing balls.  Watch a Shot in the Dark which is hilarious and Downton.  OH is convinced that Lady Mary is going to get together with the ex chauffeur.  I am still upset that she didn't actually marry Tony Gillingham who is rather tasty.  All of her suitors are starting to look the same.  My favourite ever Downton scene is in the snow, where Matthew asks Mary to marry him.  Love it.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Day

Thursday 25 December 2014

Woke up just before nine am.  Downstairs to wrestle turkey into the oven and make stuffing balls, pigs on horsebacks and peel veg.  Drink much tea.  Ten o'clock comes around and, as agreed with the group, open up Secret Santa present.  Patchwork bag which is OK and nicely made and wrapped but not as much effort as I put into mine.  Tell myself not to be miserable and it has been made with love. WF phone still switched off.  RJ not responding to FB messages.

Find Carol service on a Welsh radio station.  Would much rather be at church but OH refused to go and he only finally emerged from bed at 11 am.

Was considerably cheered by the opening of presents:

Olay Regenerist
Two books - one by Sue Limb and one by Phillipa Gregory
Pringle socks with appropriately seasonal decoration
Spring form pans and muffin set
Fat face top
North face top

K gets me gorgeous wool, patchouli soap and angel figure - lovely and just what I would have chosen for myself.

I had also treated myself to fabby craft books

Had second breakfast and took dog around the lake.  Lots of ducks - mallards, coots and others, swans, grey and white herons and shoals of field fares in the trees.  No one else around apart from a middle aged guy, sitting on a bench, with an I have had a huge row with my sodding family expression on his face.

Back home and finally WF rings us on Skype and says he wasnt doing anything in particular yesterday or today and by the way, the interview on Saturday has been cancelled as the position has been 'withdrawn' - bastards - he could have gone to SILs house and had a lovely time instead of being on his own with a tuna salad.   Give him pep talk and agree to talk tomorrow.  His friends are over at the weekend so he will be going out with them then.

Have immense Christmas lunch.  RJ rings later on and, good news, will be made up to sous chef in the New Year!!!  Last time he was home, we counted the jobs he has had before finding one that suited and was stable and it came to thirteen.

There is nothing on the telly - how on earth can the programming executives think that On the Buses is entertainment.

Christmas Eve

Wednesday 24 December 2014

4 Degrees foggy

Back to the floor scrubbing.  OH discovers new cracks in the ceilings and puts plaster on the parquet as a change from paint.  Everyone in the market place is having fun and wearing silly hats and laughing although finding time to complain about the horse droppings from Father Christmas calèche and ponies which are having some difficulties navigating the stalls.

Stop to wish Merry Christmas to lovely friend and am waylaid by RH who, as usual is not wearing his hearing aids.

'Have a cup of coffee with me darling'
'I cant, I have to clean floors'
'you have to scream at doors?'
'I have to do some CLEANING'

I do hope he has found someone to take him for Christmas dinner but my nerves wont allow it to be us.

Am obliged to drop off OH's urine sample and have hidden it in a cereal box.  The box attracts a surprising amount of attention.  I refuse to let people know its contents. Jokes are made about me not being able to afford wrapping paper for my presents.  I have to keep backing off so they cant smell the sample.  I am sure other people's lives are not this complicated.

Back home to bake mince pies and make trifle.  WF tortures me by having his phone switched off ALL DAY.  I do hope he is doing something interesting.

OH comes back much later having consumed what he assures me is a lot of free Christmas Guinness and regales me with a tale of how the local publican has managed to get early pension for being unable to do his job and is in receipt of 800 euros a month.  He opens after five pm when all the gendarmes and public servants have gone home and is very happy as his bills are covered by the State.  OH suggests I can apply for the same status on grounds of stress.

I make paella and put in too much rice and when I take the lid of the pot, discover I have enough food to feed the five thousand.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Musings on health, heating and frugality

Tues 23 December 2014

2 degrees

Had trouble sleeping last night as my head was cold.  The floors of our farmhouse are also the ceilings and because no fire was lit in the front room last night, my bedroom didn't get heated.  Spent night wrestling with sheets and pillows and trying to keep my nose warm.

Awoke to sparking silver landscape - so rare now to see for us.  A fine fingernail of moon hung on the tiniest of rouged cloudlets.  Sky the palest of blues.  Windows running with wet.

When the technician came to take the readings for the diagnostic reports, he asked how many stères of wood (one stère is a cubic metre) and couldn't believe it when we said about six.  He said he couldn't possibly prepare a Diagnostic Performance Energetique showing that consumption because it would indicate that the house was thermally efficient, which is it manifestly not.  Our DPE report is therefore vièrge which means no readings could be taken or not enough information available.  The technician said a French couple would easily burn their way through twelve stères during an average year.

Both OH and I come from families where you don't put the heating on until your nose is about to drop off.  I have never known a French family who subscribe to this view point.  Perhaps it is a Northern England thing too.  It is certainly an old persons thing but that is another kettle of fish.  We had not anticipated, on leaving chilly England, that you would need to do much heating at all.  We tend to light the wood burning stove in the front room between November and April and have the upstairs electric heaters on for a brief period before going to bed.  Beds are heaped up with duvets like the Princess and the Pea and there is always the two nighties option.  OH has already started wearing a bonnet but his room is significantly colder.

There is a French version of an Aga in the kitchen diner and this is lit for perhaps a couple of weeks a year when the weather is exceptionally cold - and I am talking under 10 degrees in the house.  When we bought the house, there was only one source of heat and that was an open fire in the front room.  The previous owners (all one family) must have spent the winters of all their lives in front of that fire, when they weren't out looking after the livestock.

OH has developed a pathological dislike of wood burning stoves and says in our next home, there will be no more wood burning.  I love a fire and will continue to have one.  I am however,sick of renovation and would dearly love to build something brand new with everything that works and no painting or fixing needed.  Somewhere with huge plate glass windows and views right over the sea.  A huge kitchen with an island and a massive Swedish style hanging wood burning stove.  And an aquarium wall with shoals of tiny flashing fish and huge brightly coloured ones like diving bells.  And people to look after the shopping, cleaning, washing and lists.  A list free life - free of annoying things that pop up into your head when you are trying to enjoy yourself.  I could give lists to these people and then stop thinking about them myself!!  I am at the moment, the permanent receiver of lists.  Lists are bastards - probably reason why I am feeling so good at the minute is that I have had list free week.  OH loves giving me lists and they always fill an A4 sheet.  How can they always fill an A4 sheet?

The morning's activities included going to the Radiology Centre for OH prostate scan.  Suffice to say it wasn't pleasant for all involved and he made an inordinate amount of fuss about it.  If men were in charge of reproduction of the human race, they would have figured out another way of producing live human beings.

Went to lovely tea rooms in town and was enjoying lovely cup of coffee and chocolate cake (OH had gone into other nearby town to get fuel) when WF rung to say that his interview WAS on the 27th so he could not get to SILs house and would be on his own at Christmas. Told him to ask his friends nearby if he could go and stay with them over Christmas but I bet he won't.  OH reappeared and told WF to prepare and they would do mock interview over Skype tomorrow.  Felt sad.

Went into nearby town myself in the afternoon as had been promised free diary and calendar by an insurance agency with whom I work.  Turned out to be pocket diary.  Lady told me that WF should make up experience on his CV as that was the only way her son managed to get his first job.  French people never ask for references interestingly.  She was surprised to learn that Brits inevitably do.  Bought myself a lovely craft book and did some ordinary shopping.  The supermarket was absolutely heaving and there were some very unhappy children screaming their way around the aisles.

OH made delicious prawn and mussel dish with ginger and chili.  Yum.

Have just discovered Inkscape vector graphics programme so spent hour watching Youtube videos.  Very interesting and not too difficult.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Monday Monday

Monday 22 December 2014

2 degrees

Fraught Skype conversation between OH and WF.  Christmas is coming up on the rails with some speed and he still doesnt know what he will be doing.  There is a possibility of a job in a bike warehouse which will be interviewing somewhere between the 27th and the New Year.  If he goes to SIL house, he cant get back on 27th in time.  If he doesnt go, he will be on his own at Christmas which will break my heart.  He is still my baby.  There is a scene in Soap, not renowned for its pathos, where the character played by Billy Crystal is about to have a sex change and asks his mother if she will love him and she says 'you will always be my baby, when you are old and grey and wrinkly, you will still be my baby and I will always, always love you'.  I cried and I bet I wasn't alone.  What a fierce and tender thing is a mother's love.  Ones children are the great love of life and you grow a special new love for each and every one of them.

Drove down town through buffets of mist which cleared up at the top of the hill to show a thick puffy blanket over the fields and the brown cows.  Into our building to clean floors.  This property is our version of the Forth Bridge (for those of you who do not know the adiom, the Forth Bridge is a cantilever bridge over the Firth of Forth in Scotland.  This has spent most of its life encased in scaffolding in some part and perpetually being painted.  The last actual paint job took ten years to paint and cost 130 million quid).  Well if the Scots can get to grips with 1.5 miles of rusting iron, perhaps I can scrub my way around 120m2 of parquet before Christmas.

Boil up some water and get down on my knees to examine the floors at first hand.  There are paint spots everywhere and when I chip them off, what I had hoped to pass for interesting patina turns out just to be dirt.  There is an awful lot of scrubbing - four hours go by and I get scrubbers fatigue, scrubbers knees and scrubbers elbows.  Develop new arthritic tendencies in fingers.  Drink tea and play on Play Buzz.  I am a Medieval Warrior.   I have plenty of straw at home.  I could just pretend it was rush and cover up the bloody parquet.  A pony drawn calèche circles around the town.

Back home for 2 pm and am treated to stir fried prawns in soy sauce.  Yum.  OH then goes back down flats to put some more paint spots on the floor and I look for jobs for WF.  Find one suitable one, online funded diploma in something businessy and lots of good apprenticeships.  Send him links. The problem today is that all HR is online and so you don't actually get to talk to anyone.  Often, the applications don't even get an acknowledgement.

Go to see Interstellar in VO local cinéma.  Stunning.  Follow small brightly lit car all the way home through thick fog.  We could be anywhere in the universe, just us and the tunnel of light and the car in front and the bouncing walls of mist.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Winter Solstice

21 December 2014 Sunday

Stayed in bed til 11.30 and then woke up OH with cup of tea and we drank it in bed and listened to the small birds singing in the high trees.  Sky was sky blue and the thermometer at 14 degrees so we headed over to the big lake to walk the dog.  OH infuriated by cormorants (drain the reserve of fish) and lobbed stones at them.  Cormorants just dived and then popped up somewhere else but they did follow us for a while, just out of stones reach.  Fortunately the dog was too occupied with smells and bodily functions to follow the stones into the water.  Cormorants have very jagged swimming motion and apparently are able to be hunted in the UK.  Not over here, where it would actually be useful and to some purpose.  

Came back and I went out to gather mistletoe which is so prolific at the top of inaccessibly high trees. Had spotted some on an old apple tree.  Time for Wikipedia.  It appears that the seed sticks itself to the host tree, takes a year for the root to penetrate the bark and then becomes parasitic once it reaches the hosts conductive tissue.  It then forms a haustorium which penetrates the host tissue and takes water and nutrients.  As for the kissing part, Norse legends tell the tale of Balder, son of the goddess Frigga (from the family of unfortunate names), who was killed with by an evil spirit with an arrow made of mistletoe.  Frigga wept tears of white berries which brought Balder back to life.  Frigga blessed the plant and promised a kiss to all who passed beneath it.  Balder seems an excellent name for all newborns but who would want a mother by the name of Frigga.  Certainly not yours truly.... 

Tackled the ironing mountain whilst listening to Doris Day and Jimmy Cagney replaying the lives of Ruth Etting and her hood husband manager.  Glamour and misery, Zigfield and alcohol.  Fine actors and excellent script 'Love Me or Leave Me'.  On reading about the Ettings later in the day, transpired that the story had been somewhat smoothed over for general consumption.  

Etting fell in love with her pianist, Myrl Alderman, who was separated from his wife.[15] In January 1938, she began receiving threatening telephone calls from Snyder, who initially claimed Etting withheld assets from him when the divorce settlement was made. Though the couple was divorced, Snyder was also upset because of reports that she was seeing another man. Snyder told Etting that he would come out to California and kill her.[14] Snyder's first threat was delivered to his daughter, Edith. When Snyder telephoned and found his ex-wife unavailable, Snyder told his daughter that he "would fix her ticket, too". He called again that evening; this time Etting took the call with her cousin, Arthur Etting, listening on an extension.[16] Etting requested police protection after the telephone call and arranged for private protection.[17] She believed the danger was over when Snyder did not appear soon after his telephone call and released her bodyguards.[18]
On October 15, 1938, Moe Snyder detained Myrl Alderman at a local radio station and forced the pianist to take him to the home of his former wife. In the house at the time were Etting, and Edith Snyder. Edith, Snyder's daughter by a previous marriage, worked for Etting and remained living with her after the divorce. Snyder held Etting and Alderman at gunpoint; when told his daughter was in another part of the house, he made Etting call her into the room. Snyder said he intended to kill all three, and told them to be quiet. When Myrl Alderman attempted to speak, Snyder shot him. Snyder then told his ex-wife, "I've had my revenge, so you can call the police."[19][20][21][22]
Snyder claimed Myrl Alderman pulled a gun and shot at him first and that his ex-wife would not file charges against him because she still loved him. He also claimed he was drunk when he made the telephone threats to Etting in January 1938, saying that at the time his intentions were to kill both his ex-wife and himself. Ruth Etting said that the only gun in the home belonged to her, and after the shooting of Alderman, she was able to go into her bedroom and get it. Upon seeing Etting's gun, Moe Snyder wrested it away from her; it landed on the floor. Snyder's daughter, Edith, picked it up and held it on her father, shooting at him but hitting the floor instead.[22][23] During a police reenactment of the shooting three days later, Edith Snyder said that she fired at her father to save Ruth Etting, weeping as she continued, "I don't yet know whether I am sorry I missed my Dad or whether I am glad."[24] Snyder was accused of attempting to murder his ex-wife, his daughter, and Etting's accompanist, Myrl Alderman, the kidnapping of Alderman, as well as California state gun law violations.[25]

Even without the background and hairstyle and makeup, this lady looks like she comes from the 1920's.  Do you know a person in their twenties now who looks like this?  Or is it that the people who look like this never make it to our screens because they no longer conform to the modern standard of beauty?  Why does the accepted idea of beauty change over time. Who on earth was Gladys Swarthout?  Heavens, a mezzo soprano.
We then pulled the Christmas decorations down from the loft and I banished OH to the kitchen hence avoiding unnecessary strangulation of innocent wall features by excessive tinsellation.  Front room is so small that there is no room for a large tree which is a source of great sadness for me.  Our next house is going to have room for an immense tree with a scent of pine that you can smell from the front door.   Each year I buy new decorations and this years contributions come from the wonderful Tiger which I presume is not in France because it costs too much to employ people.  The current trend is Scandinavian so I have two small stags heads with badly behaved antlers, knitted red and white hearts, crystal angels and small raffia headed dolls.   Effect is rather pleasing and I jazz up the net poles with a selection of baubles and tastefully arranged tinsel.   Dinner and final of the Apprentice.  Auzzie guy pulled it out of the bag at the last minute.  Zeds before the new week.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Twas the Sunday before Christmas and all through the house

21 December 2014  Winter Solstice

there is a mouse running about on the floor above my head.  Actually the most enormous mouse or one with feet of clay.  Can hear it chewing too.  Remember that there is one also in my craft room and is probably munching its way through my stocks of fabrics, cottons, ribbons, stuffing, felt, silks, books.  It is using them more than I do.   My exotic neighbour who has an ideal lifestyle of having a very rich but irritable husband who happens to live in a different country ('we are very happy together' - I bet you are) had shipped over a load of books belonging to her mother.   Her mother collected books and fabrics and craft stuff and never actually got around to doing craft.  Mea culpa.

I have got to the stage when I am even starting to be intimidated by the amount of cook books on the kitchen shelf.  I don't think I have enough days left in my life to eat all the dishes even if I started today.  Fond memories of Master Chef when it was just Lloyd Grossmann and a host of lucky celebrities (the ones you had actually heard of) who came and tasted and said 'oh this is simply YUMMY' and no one said Cooking Doesn't Get Any Harder Than This.   Have a number of these MS cookbooks gleaned from a thrift shop.   Cooking did get a lot more varied back then and I liked the regional element.  Have to say that Strictly Come Dancing is a big improvement on the old Come Dancing which I vaguely remember also had a regional element and involved immense amounts of sequins (sown on my candle burning mothers and aunties) and tulle.  The wearers sailed around the floor like galleons in full sail.

I have informed people 'no more cook books' please though I have not banned myself from buying craft books.  They are a joy and also research so therefore essential.

Surprising how dark it is at eight am.  Realise I am no longer early riser and in fact both of us have taken to sleeping til about nine.  With the kids no longer at home, we don't have to set an example. Getting up when it is dark is extremely disagreeable.  Coined word 'berking' - working in bed.  Ideally with catheter and permanently hot beverage (thank you Sheldon Cooper for reintroducing me to this word).

Last week a local was attempting to direct me to her house - 'we are just past the hall where the local fetes are held every year' - I had to admit I had never gone.  'we are just past the Q's house' - I don't know them despite the fact they are Brits and only live 2 kms away.  The list of places and people continued and in the end I had to insist she gave me her actual address.  We are more unsociable than I realised.  I have low boredom threshold.  OH claims to hate bad wine but it never seems to stop him drinking lots of it, providing it is free.  We both hate boring people.  There are a lot of very boring people out there and they don't come with a remote control.

I can hear bells outside and alas it is not Santa.  It is those bastard hunters with their bell wearing dogs.  Out to celebrate this lovely morning by tramping through the forests to kill wild animals.  If I was in charge, it would be the Hunger Games for that lot.  Interestingly, the deer seem to be wise to them and lurk in areas where the hunters are not, usually at the top of a high field, and watch with interest all the shenanigans going on down in the forest.   It is wild boar's turn at the moment.  Their babies are so cute and spotted.

Last year we were walking the dog on an old railway track.  The ground was thickly carpeted with orange and gold fallen leaves, our breath curled up into the air.  Our dog was going for the World record of peeing on every fifth tree.  The sound of wood cutting rang out and then, from around the side of a cabin, a stout man with an outstanding white beard appeared.  Bonjour!  he said and waved his axe.  Cold weather today but not as cold as in the North!  Must get on.  He stomped back around the back of the shed.  The dog had not noticed him.   The house was closed up with a faint wisp of smoke laying a blanket over the slates.   Even the birds were silent.   We decided we now knew where Father Christmas lived.

Status Quo or how I will be getting a new normal

20 December 2014

There is a picture doing the rounds of FB with the words 'if you aren't happy with what you have got, how can you be happy with more ?'.  True, I am not happy with what I have got - with the shite work, money worries, the bastard clients, the crap that circles around my head.  I need a change of reality.  I need to leave normal.  2015 is looming and I must do something different if I want this year not to be a repeat of the last eight years.

OK what do I want - lets focus on the positive

1.  Spend six months over winter in Paris in somewhere good with views of the Eiffel Tower and paint.

2.  Spend six months over summer in Provence and paint in all the places that the romantic painters painted.

3.  Do Strictly Come Dancing

4.  Make Angels and become well known for Angel making like Little A Designs and Mr Finch.

5.  Sell all properties in bastard, bastard town where I live

6.  Build grand designs property overlooking the South Coast of England.

7.  WF gets job which makes him happy and they both get decent caring girlfriends.

8.  End the year knowing I am on the right road.

Positive things about this year

1.  Have done level 2 reiki

2.  Link up with other agency means I wont be alone

3.  FB group going great guns - could it be Andorran version of the WI

4.  Have actually lost over a stone by giving up dairy and bread

5.  Apparently have had a lot of weeks away and have forgotten virtually all of them because have spent so much time stressing about work.  I take pictures on iPhone which faithfully records where I have been and when.  Completely forgot about Cordoba and Seville.   Heat was murderous and choosing to go to a spa (hot salt pool) and drink Turkish tea was unfortunate.  Combination of excessive wine, snoring disturbed sleep and over tapa-ing usually leaves me longing to get into my own cool bed and sleep twelve hours.

6.  I have got to the end of this year in one piece and avoided nervous breakdown.

Football blasting through the floor of my bedroom which is also ceiling of the front room.  Battery on laptop about to run out.  Not feeling inspired.  Here endeth Day 1 of 365 days which will be different.  Normal will be eradicated.  Leaving launched.