Thursday, 28 May 2009


Another quick post while Ian is in the shower. Our living arrangements are quite basic but adequate. We have an airbed carefully balanced on two pallettes, a camping stove, a kitchen work surface consisting of a piece of hardboard (that will eventually go into the fabric of the house) on trestles, a washing bowl and porta-potty. What we don't have is running water to the house. This morning I was thinking about what a chore it was to collect water from the tap and walk 50 metres to the house when I thought about people without water where the women walk 4 miles a day to collect their water and carry it back on their heads! What weak feeble people we are here in the West.

Added later: Here are some pictures of our 'kitchen'

and 'bedroom'

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Time to relax

Time for a quick post curtesy of the neighbours wireless network while I wait my turn in the shower. We are 'camping' in the house and have now slept there for three nights. All in all it is very comfortable expcept for the fact that we have no flushing toilet or hot water. Our neighbours kindly offered to let us use their shower while they are away and so every evening when I can drag Ian away from work we trundle up the road with washbags in hand! I am sitting here overlooking the land with the sound of the bees buzzung away in the tree and the crickets getting a little exited after a warm sunny day. We are currently working from when we get up to when the sun goes down, after which time we collapse into bed! Despite the hard work I always feel less stressed when I get home.

More to come ...

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Crossing The Chanel

This is a post that I started on the first night of our trip while we were staying in the IBIS hotel in place called Alencon. (The 'c' should have a cedilla under it but I can't work out how to do it on blogger!) Supreme tiredness meant I couldn't finish it at the time, so I am trying again tonight now were are home, and will incorporate tales of our return journey as well. I always find traveling interesting even when it is at its worst, as you see such a mixture of people all together in one place, and as we had decided to travel at half term certainly met lots of people! (I must remember next time why we try to avoid half term like the plague!)

So as not to be caught out this time we arrived at the port with what we thought was time to spare only to see traffic jams and queues as we approached Dover! We were 10 minutes late checking in this time through no fault of our own. We had prepared our answer to the question 'what do you have in the van?' carefully and said 'just some insulation and a few tools'. "Insulation" said the lady behind the window, "Well, that's freight isn't it?" I could sense that we had not got our answer quite right and in my impatience I snapped at her. "Freight! No its not freight! We are building a house and it's for our personal use!" My annoyance (and the queues behind us) must have done the trick and she waved us through. We drove to our lane and waited to embark, at which point Ian said, "I really need a pee". Grumpier than ever, I replied, "can't you wait until we are on the ferry? We'll be going on soon"
"No, I really must go!" and with that he got out of the van and sprinted to the terminal buildings. After a few minutes the inevitable happened and I was beckoned forth to drive onto the ferry. I called the man over, "I'm so sorry, my boyfriend has just gone off to the loo"
"Drive the van over there then and wait for him", came the reply. And that was how it happened that the first time I drove the van (a medium wheelbase transit with a fully loaded 16 foot trailer with 2 tons of plasterboard on it) was to manoeuvre it out of our narrow parking lane and turn it round along side a row of park cars! I was not amused but quite impressed that I stayed calm and didn't hit anything!

The boat was packed and the queues for the cafeteria were long. We eventually managed to get in and treated ourselves to a proper breakfast. One thing that we both noticed was that those who were sitting eating bacon, egg, sausage, beans and fried bread were, on the whole of average size, whereas those not eating breakfast but sitting in the lounge having crisps and fizzy drinks were the larger passengers!

Coming back our embarkation was less eventful except Ian went off to the loo again just as the port security came round and asked me to open the van. The man smiled when he saw the leopard print wellies and the dirty washing strewn across the back and decided to investigate no further! As it was supper time we decided to eat in the Langhams Brasserie on the boat; an expensive treat but the respite from fellow passengers justified it in out eyes! The restaurant was busy but we were in a quiet spot with two other couples either side. They were respectable looking but we were a bit shocked to see that they both downed a bottle of wine with dinner. Now as it was a car ferry and they didn't look like foot passengers I was a bit more wary of other drivers as we got off the boat! Interestingly the table of four surfers who looked like they were going to be loud and irritating drank soft drinks!

Thursday, 21 May 2009


Just time for a quick post before we are off to France for another week. Although we work hard it always seems a bit of a break. Our itinerary is as follows

Saturday morning:- ferry to Calais (must remember not to put in any cans of foam filler this time)..cooked breakfast on the Ferry.

Go shopping for wire in Leroy Merlin in Calais (French for B&Q). See if I can persuade Ian to let me go shopping for food while he is in DIY shop!

Drop off trailer with ton of plasterboard with Ian's friend Mike (something we agreed to do after he helped us for a week).

Drive to somewhere near Le Mans and find a hotel. Go out for dinner.

Sunday: Drive to the land, set up camp in the house,

Monday-Saturday: work on house

Sunday: Drive back via Mike's to pick up empty trailer and head back to Calais for an evening crossing.

Of course I shouldn't be here blogging! I still haven't started packing!

Tuesday, 19 May 2009


Overheard at lunch time. As I was walking along the street I heard a man approaching, talking into his mobile rather loudly. He was walking at a faster pace than me so the sound was getting louder and he was getting nearer and nearer.

"Hey mate..guess what happened?.... You know I got done for speeding.. well I'd just been to the police station to show them my licence right.. and then on the way back I ran a red light and I only got stopped by the cops again!!.. yes.. would you believe it! well I said to the copper, no mate, you can't do me again, I've just paid my fine for the speeding thing.. but he said he'd have to book me.. I said you can't book me, I pay your wages... but he wouldn't have it..I was saying to him like.. I bet you have to drink a lot of Horlicks so you can sleep at night.. I mean, I had the kids in the car..."

Then the topic changed

" yes, I'm on my way to the doctors..well he reckons I've got high blood pressure.. yes.. and I've got pains in my neck..and now he reckons I've got to be tested for this diabetes thing.."

At this point he caught up with me and passed by, still talking on the phone. He was around 30, overweight and racing around without paying any attention to anything around him. He may pay towards the wages of the cops that gave him a ticket but we will pay for his insulin, his amputations and his coronary artery bypass in a few years!

It was the fact that he was totally oblivious to the consequences of any of his actions on himself or others that amazed me!

Another day in parliament

What a load of scumbags our politicians are. First of all they are caught with their hand in the till and then in indignation and to deflect the attention from themselves (and no doubt gain some kind of political advantage- I didn't know the name of the leader of the liberal-democrats until now) they blame the speaker. Not that I am saying he is blameless, but he is not responsible for all those individual MPs that submitted receipts for dog food, kit-kats, and mortgages that didn't exist. If any young person with an ounce of integrity was thinking of a political career this will undoubtedly dissuade them from that choice and attract those who are more interested in the power and the kudos and will get to their grubby ends by any means. Such is the way of the world I fear!

Sunday, 17 May 2009

I can't wait for the day....

What defective evolutionary process was it that decided that it was a good idea for women to have to endure 40 years of fluctuating hormones, painful cramps, etc. and then, just when you see that misery coming to an end make you suffer from 'hot flushes' instead?

Here's how it goes.. wake up in the night sweating, pull off the duvet, freeze 5 minutes later, pull on the duvet, wake up sweating.. continue until morning.. Get up, have a hot flush just when you have finished drying yourself off after a shower and have to start again..have a hot flush after drinking a cup of tea, get into the car, have another hot flush driving to work, saying hello to boss, opening emails etc etc....

My periods have caused me nothing but trouble all my life. When all this is over I will be very happy! I will not have a crisis concerning my femininity, I will not grieve the passing of my youth but just be bl**dy glad I can live my life without being at the mercy of my hormones!

Planning the next visit

Monday approaches far too quickly! Ian and I are both in a busy period at work and also trying to plan our trip to France next week. It doesn't seem like it was only a month ago that we were there last. This time I can't take my bike as the van is full from floor to roof with insulation, copper pipe, wires, toilets, sinks etc! Good job we are not planning to travel by Eurotunnel as we would definitely exceed our 3 cubic metres of cargo. This time we will stay in the house. We have walls and a roof and windows but the water tap is up at the road and we have a temporary electric supply. These things however are all minor inconveniences. The main problem is that we have no septic tank and hence nowhere to pour the contents of the portapotty! Getting the builder to get on and install that is our next priority!

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Human nature

Elliot Morely's accounting skills were so poor that he 'mistakenly' managed to claim for a £16,000 mortgage that he had already paid. Of course we don't believe that at all, but if it were true for one moment what would it say about the level of competence of government ministers?! Thank God he was only doing something as unimportant as climate change minister! Clare Short, on the other hand was a member of the cabinet in 2006 when she claims she made an 'honest mistake' in over-claiming £8,000 in expenses for her second home. I can't help thinking that if I made an 'honest mistake' on that scale I would be out of a job and struck off the professional register and if my neighbours happen to "forget" to tell the Benefits Agency that they worked a few nights in the local pub while collecting their supplementary benefit they would probably be sent to Prison.

Another thing my father used to say was that Labour politicians always got caughtin the end with their hand in the till and Tories caught in bed with someone they shouldn't have!

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

No stopping the ladies

I went swimming this morning for the first time since the changing rooms at the gym have been upgraded. The ladies who don't get their hair wet were still there, walking up and down the fast lane, chatting to each other leisurely at each end and sometimes in the middle as well. Overheard in the changing room from a group of ladies:

"Hello Maud. You are looking a shadow of your former self. Have you lost weight?"

"Yes, I'm down to a size 16 and I haven't been that for over 30 years"

"Oh, well done..." (Maud leaves)

"Didn't she look well?"

"Yes, but she's lost the weight that quickly she'll probably put it straight back on.."

You're probably right. Don't you just hate these new changing rooms? There's nowhere to put your things!"

(I should add here the new changing rooms are luxurious compared to what was there before with large lockers, plenty of space, and clean and functioning showers!)

The wedding approaches

The day of my sister's wedding is approaching and we have all been given our roles. As well as reading something at the wedding my job is to look after my mother. She is a bit of a reluctant 'mother of the the bride'. She is not really comfortable with fuss and attention and once told me that if it wasn't for family pressures she and my father would have had a plain civil wedding. On her wedding morning she returned from a trip to the hairdressers and stuck her head under the tap to wash out what she considered a far too fussy hairstyle. Age has not moderated her views and the other day she said to me

"I hope you're not planning to get married soon. I don't want another one to go to!"

I looked up wedding etiquette in Lady Behave: A guide to modern manners (written in 1956, the year before my mother got married). In relation to the bride's mother, it says

" She is no longer required to dress up in any more than she would if she were going to a friend's formal wedding. The days of grey chiffon and a bouquet for her have gone.The smartest of brides' mothers we have seen usually wear a tailored silk frock or suit, not black, possibly a buttonhole and a rather gay hat and gloves".

Great Lies

I can't understand why everyone is so surprised that members of all political parties have been caught fiddling their expenses. As far as I can see fiddling expenses (or claiming that you have not fiddled your expenses) is one of the great lies of mankind. (Other great lies include "I gave at the office", "the cheque's in the post" and "It's me not you").

Take this recent reminder from our workplace...

Just a gentle reminder about your mileage claims and how these work in relation to the travel to your normal workplace. I have copied the relevant extract from the staff handbook below:

1.1 When travelling between sites you should claim mileage in accordance with the distances given on the inter-site mileage chart published on the website and in the Staff Handbook.

1.2 If you travel between your home and a location other than your normal place of work, you should deduct the miles/cost of your normal journey to work, if ascertainable, from the total and claim only for the additional cost incurred.

1.3 You are entitled to claim for parking charges. Parking fines will not be paid.

I enclose the inter-site mileage chart and also the mileage chart I have compiled using previous travel claims etc. The mileage on my chart should of course only be used if you actually travel from work.

Now who of us have not slipped in a few extra miles or combined some work related travel (which we have claimed back) with a visit to an old friend in the area? Have you ever extended an overseas business trip into the weekend and had a nice jolly with the travel expenses paid by your employer?

You are only disappointed that our politicians have been doing this as well (all be it on a larger scale) if you believed that somehow politicians were more honest than the rest of us and that would be naivety in the extreme!

My father used to say to me when I was a child

"Lovely, everyone is one the fiddle".

I used to think he was an embittered cynic!

Monday, 11 May 2009

All in a weekend's work

The weekend at home was just in time and mostly spent cleaning and oiling the decking in the garden and painting the shed roof. We did however manage a little a break as my brother and his wife came down on Saturday and stayed the night. We went out for dinner to the Cricketers Arms in Berwick. It is a nice pub which does a great selection of the local Harvey's beer and has an OK menu. The visit was a nice respite from work!

On Sunday we did more of the same. I discovered that it was my neighbours daughter's eighteenth birthday today and decided to impose one of my mad cakes on her. It was a rather hurried job making use of anything I could find locally but I enjoyed creating it!

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Good intentions

This week has seemed rather busy and despite all my good intentions the headache from hell that I ended the day with yesterday prevented me from doing anything other than sitting on the sofa and going to bed. To avoid that excuse today I have come straight to the gym but rather than heading for an exercise class I have found the computer in the bar!

This weekend I am at home and Ian is coming down. I am going to see if we can have a break from working so hard and at least take a day to relax.

I decided that if I get the pig flu I am not going to tell anyone. I know that makes me a bit anti-social but then I really don't see how I would know if I got it. I am currently experiencing the delights of hot flushes; at least 15 before breakfast, and my MCTD means that I often have achey muscles, so I really don't know how I would know whether I had flu, the menopause or a flare of my MCTD! I guess if I want a week off work.......

Well, I can put it off no longer.. off to the gym!

Monday, 4 May 2009

Bank holiday weekend

This weekend was spent with Ian in London and it seemed to fly by in a haze of DIY shops, gardening and jobs. I feel at the moment that I work harder at the weekend and on holiday than I do when I am at work, which is a chance for a rest!

On Saturday we did some chores at Ian's mother's house; consisting mostly of mowing the lawn. Sunday started with a trip to B&Q and Wickes to buy some laminate flooring for Ian's flat. Not something we would choose to do for ourselves but as we are planning to rent or sell it, solid flooring seems the best choice. Over the next two days we successfully completed the floor in Ian's bedroom. Of course, the part of the job that takes the longest is emptying the room, finding somewhere to store all the contents, taking off the doors of the built-in-wardrobe and working around the mess. Despite the claims that laminate flooring is a task that any DIYer should be able to manage, it still turned out to require a fair degree of skill from Ian and a good bit of 'easing to fit'.

The other thing we did was buy all the insulation for the house in France..a full van load of fibreglass rolls. We had hoped to use paper insulation but at three times the cost we decided on the more traditional material. I think that I will have to assist with the installation on our next trip to France.

So, now I am tired after all this activity and off to bed!