20 June 2024

Wedding of the Year

Well, after a build-up of at least two years, the wedding of Kay and Darcy took place last Saturday. It seemed so long coming and the last month seemed slow too, but suddenly the day arrived and because of supeduper planning on Kay's and my part, it went like clockwork.

Darcy's parents and two siblings plus their partners (six people in all) were put up in Darcy and Kay's house two days beforehand. We had the church rehearsal on the Thursday evening to figure out who went where and how. On Friday, we had access to the reception venue in the late afternoon to deliver things we needed there and on Friday evening we had a wonderful Turkish meal with all the arriving bridesmaids, groomsmen and their partners.

The weather forecast had looked atrocious for the days building up to the wedding and to a certain extent did not disappoint. On the morning of the wedding, the sun did try to break through, but the sky remained largely full of dark clouds and it was cool for June. Things kicked off very early. My house was the hub of the bride's party. Kay had stayed with me the night before as her last night as a single girl. Her hairdresser turned up at 7:45 and started work on Kay's hair. The make-up artist arrived at 8:45 and pretty soon started on my make-up. The five bridesmaids and one bridesman turned up around 9:30, so pretty quickly my house was teeming with people in every room. We had laid on a prosecco/croissant breakfast with fruits and smoked salmon too, so people were bobbing in and out of the kitchen-diner for several hours. After my make-up was done, Kay had hers done and then one of the bridesmaids too. I tried to dive in  wherever needed and tidy up where I could. Flowers were delivered and the chauffeurs of the two Rolls Royces  we hired  turned up two hours early so I had them sitting in the lounge too.  

The beautiful train on Kay's dress


Suddenly it was 11:15 and the photographer arrived and I was not dressed. A hasty dive into my outfit and then on to help Kay into hers for the official photos. The bridesmaids were all buzzing around getting into their dresses and doing their hair so there were people everywhere all up the six flights of stairs and every room of my house. Suddenly it was nearly 1:30 and time for Kay and I to leave for the church, the bridesmaids having gone on ahead. We had had rain showers all morning, but fortunately it was dry as we got into the car and out the other side again at the church. We were about 15 minutes late arriving, which I guess is allowed for the bride to be late.

Despite my nerves, I walked Kay down the aisle. When it got to the bit in the service about whether anyone had any objection to the marriage, there was a rumble of thunder. I did hope that was not Greg putting in an objection! Although I am sure he would approve wholeheartedly of Darcy. At the end of the service, the two mothers (myself and the mother of the groom) both signed the marriage certificate - can you imagine if that would have even be possible a hundred years ago?

On leaving the church, everyone was supposed to form two parallel lines and throw dried rose petals over the couple as they ran along, however the heavens opened with torrential rain and we all stood under umbrellas trying not to get soaked. The long train on Kay's dress sadly got rather muddy in the process. Everyone dashed off to the reception but Kay and Darcy and a few of us remained behind for a few photos. Fortunately the rain dried up and the strong wind dried the ground a little and the sun even tried to push through.

A break in the rain for a quick photo


The meal at the reception was amazing and soon it was time for the four speeches - mine being first as substitute "Father of the Bride". I was nervous as hell, as I don't like public speaking, but I think Greg was somehow by my side and helping me on. In fact, everybody laughed at the funny bits and at least 20 different people came up to me afterwards to say it was the best of the four speeches and the best they'd ever heard, so I must have done something right. The other speeches were from the bride, the groom and the best man. Just at the end of the speeches we saw a wonderful rainbow - again as if Greg were putting his contribution in - so that was quite an emotional moment for Kay and me. There was more time for photos when fortunately it was dry if not sunny and allowed the couple to have some nice photos in the walled flower garden. Then cutting the cake and dancing til 1 am.

Kay later rang me from her honeymoon hotel in Dorset to say that a little robin had hopped through the French doors and onto her bed, stared at her, then flew out again. I know it sounds silly, but we both felt it was a sign from Greg and burst into tears at the very thought.

A wonderful day was enjoyed by all. Sadly I have since gone down with Covid, no doubt picked up at the wedding, but at least it was afterwards and not before!

09 June 2024

Symi

I have been following the sad news about Dr Michael Mosley whose dead body was found today  on the Greek island of Symi. Not all the facts are in about what happened to him, when he failed to return to his wife after leaving her for a walk on Wednesday lunchtime. He was supposedly unwell, which is why he decided to leave his wife on the beach and return to their accommodation. Temperatures were nudging 40 degrees Centigrade and he was walking on rocky terrain in incredible heat. Did he have a heart attack or heat stroke? I expect the facts will emerge eventually, but despite an incredible search investigation both on land and at sea, they reckon he probably died days ago. I feel for his wife and children (the latter having flown out yesterday to help with the search for him).

Greg and I visited Symi back in 1983. We were staying on the Greek island of Rhodes and had taken a day trip to Symi, about an hour's crossing away. The ferry had dropped us off on one side of the island around late morning and would collect us again on the opposite side of the island in the early evening, giving us six hours to cross the island on foot and enjoy a meal before our return to Rhodes.

We set off on our walk leaving the small harbour behind us and entering into what I can best describe as utter wilderness. I have never been happy around snakes and am terrified of encountering one that isn't behind a glass partition, so when half-way through our walk, I saw a snake writhing in some undergrowth, it stopped me in my tracks, terrified to go on in case there were more. Greg knew I was in panic and so said it was a legless lizard, which reassured me no end and allowed me to continue our hike. It was only once back in Rhodes, he confessed he had doctored the truth and it was indeed a snake. Every time I hear of Symi, I think of that and it brings on a smile.

Symi is such a beautiful place - very unspoilt back in 1983 - and somewhere I would have loved to return. It is such a tragedy that Dr Mosley met his end there and that will be a sad memory for his family.



03 June 2024

Stressing

With a matter of 12 days to go to the big event, Kay and I are stressing. There is still so much to organise for the wedding. Kay is at work, so cannot do much except in the rare spare time she gets and I try to help where I can, but fate keeps throwing us boulders which either crush us or we have to leap over to avoid, like in some warrior video game.

As I mentioned in my last post, the bridal dress was altered too tightly and we had to meet the seamstress, who was recommended by the bridal shop where we bought the dress,  to alter it yet again. As she lives some hundred miles away, it involved a very long drive on the motorway to reach her.  In my amateur dressmaking eyes, the simplest remedy was to unpick the side seams that had been sewn too tightly and re-sew them. There is both a lace outer layer and a silk inner lining. When we got there, the seamstress chattered non-stop (as she always does) and talked over us when we were talking (which she always does), so consequently she never listens and therefore always gets the task wrong. My daughter tried the dress on to show her the problem. The seamstress produced a pair of scissors and to our horror cut right through the centre lace layer from waist to bust, so that it could spread out across the bodice more and release the tight tension. She then proceeded to pin random lace offcuts she had to cover the rips she had made. We were speechless. I could see my daughter was close to tears but trying to control it. The seamstress babbled on and ignored any attempts by us to say we didnt like what she was doing. In the end we left the dress for her to sew where she had pinned and drove home, my daughter in floods of tears. The dress was literally in tatters and resembled nothing like the one we had paid £1800 to buy and an extra £400 to be tailor-adjusted by the so-called professional seamstress. We had a very sleepless night then rang the bridal shop the next morning to express our dismay. They were just as horrified as us and promised to collect the dress from the seamstress in two days and to ensure she sorted out the problem. We went for another fitting on Friday at the bridal shop and were relieved that the dress is 95% improved on what we last saw, although we  still can see where it is not perfect. To procure a replacement dress in the few days we have left is not practically possible, as it takes months to order, so we have to "make do and mend". Fortunately the bridal shop were so understanding, they have refunded us the £400 which presumably they in turn will enforce a refund from the seamstress,

As if that is not enough, our local council has decided to chose June to build a mini roundabout and zebra crossings just round the corner from me with 4-way traffic lights which will seriously impede traffic flow along the route our wedding party will use to get from the church to the reception. Work started today and finishes in September!! I can see that people will end up being delayed and missing the wedding meal!

Furthermore the weather forecast is still unpredictable and looks like it might rain on the day. Is there anything else that fate wants to throw at us?


Also, in changing Tasker Dunham's location, I have just managed to delete the "blogs I follow" widget, so if you know I followed you in the past, but your blog no longer appears on my feed, then let me know by email.  Thanks!

Update: Problem solved, thanks to a website link called web archive. Just put into the URL box the following 

https://web.archive.org/web/20201001102724/

with your https:// or http:// blog URL added at the end and it should call up previous pages of your blog randomly archived. So  for example

https://web.archive.org/web/20201001102724/https://BLOGNAME.blogspot.com 

25 May 2024

Wedding preparations

With less than a month to the wedding of the year, things are getting very busy. There is so much to sort and arrange, I can now understand why some people turn to wedding organisers to do it all for them. Kay is doing most of the hard slog, between her 14-hour shifts at the hospital, so she is rather stressed. I help where I can, but have to leave decisions to her as it will be HER day and not mine. Weddings have changed a lot since I got married in 1976, so I am out of touch. 

The caterers are on stand-by. So are the florist, the make-up artist, the hairdresser, the photographer, the limousines, the entertainment, the vicar and the venue.  Kay is busy designing posters for seating plans, menus and order of events. I have my dress, hat, shoes, bag all resting quietly in the wardrobe. Sadly Kay's bridal dress is not finished. The seamstress who alters the shop version into a more fitted version has somewhat made a mess of the dress, first not taking it in by enough and then taking it in too much. We went to collect the dress last week to discover it was far too tight and the bodice did not look right, making lumps and bumps on her chest, where there should be no lumps and bumps. The bridal shop them told us the seamstress lives some hundred miles away and only comes up to London about once a month, so in a few days we have got to go down to a town half-way between us to get it sorted. All a bit nail-biting so close to the wedding date.

I have the Father of the Bride speech to edit. Another thing I wish Greg were alive to do, as it falls to me now. I am rubbish at public speaking, so am keen to get it right and not lose nerve. I've also got to walk her down the aisle, another role I never envisaged many moons ago. I wonder if we shall feel Greg's presence on the day - he will certainly be conspicuous by his absence.

Today is gloriously sunny and warm, but, knowing our luck, we'll get a tornado on the day. Who knows? Onwards and upwards.

from etsy.com

                    

04 May 2024

Mouse in the House II



I mentioned in my last two posts that mousekind had shaken my faith somewhat. The continuing saga of the mouse invasion had lasted quite a few weeks. I have lived in this house for 36 years and NEVER had mice in the house before, so it really unsettled and unnerved me. With the impending wedding of my daughter coming up in a few weeks, I was anxious to solve the problem quickly, particularly as one of the bridesmaids has a phobia about them and cannot even bear to have the word MOUSE mentioned.

It began a few weeks ago, when one day I suddenly noticed droppings like little black grains of rice all over my kitchen floor,  along the work surfaces and in the cupboard under the sink. In the kitchen in front of my patio door, I had stupidly left open some small sacks of bird seed and peanuts which I used to throw out into the garden for the birds and squirrels. Whatever had left the droppings had helped themselves to some of the peanuts as they had spat out beside the sacks the fine brown skins that cover the peanuts. I suddenly realised with horror that I had mice in the house.

Whilst I had been happy to watch them playing in the garden foraging for seed under the bird feeder, having them have a Glastonbury festival under my kitchen sink and along the kitchen work surfaces was another kettle of fish, so drastic action was required. How they had got in or out remains to this day a mystery. There were no air bricks to climb through, or holes or gaps from outside. I discovered my neighbour also had the same problem under her kitchen sink and so we concluded the mice were getting down into a shared drain between us and somehow coming up through the pipework under the sink. No doubt the smell of the seed and peanuts had attracted them as I had a greater problem than my neighbour.

Humanely killing them was not an option as they would only return once deposited outside again.  So I am sorry to say, I had to consider more drastic action. I got rid of the bird seed and peanuts in our local park; vacuumed every dropping up; bought enclosed traps with poison; liberally sprayed peppermint oil, which they apparently hate the smell of; taped off the outflow pipe of my dishwasher so they couldn't climb up that; stuffed wire wool in any indoor crevice I could see; and scrubbed and cleaned with bleach and disinfectant until my hands were raw. 

All seemed quiet for a few days and no sign of any droppings, so I thought I was getting on top of it. I was reluctant to get a professional pest controller in, as they would be hard pushed to find entry and exit points either, as my house is not a conventional layout and I was doing all the right things they would only do.  However, one evening, I was watching TV at 10pm, when out of the corner of my eye I saw something scuttle across my lounge carpet. Now bear in mind my lounge is two floors above my kitchen (see here) so that really threw me as I had considered the problem contained in the kitchen. The fact that it had come up two flights of stairs was worrying, although there were no droppings anywhere else (believe me I searched and continue to search EVERYWHERE now). I chased the critter round the lounge but it hid behind furniture . Eventually I had pulled most of the furniture into the middle of the room, and it still darted from one hiding place to another!  In the end I had to give up as it moved so fast. I had a very sleepless night that night and then the next morning I discovered a dead mouse near the kitchen, which I presumed was the mouse from the night before. Either it had died of shock or from the poison. 

After more discussions with my neighbour, I ordered some plug-in vermin scarers that emit a shrill signal that only mice can hear (but thankfully not humans, cats or dogs). They came in a pack of four, so I plugged two in the kitchen, one in the hall and one in the lounge for good measure.

Again for a few days, there was no signs of mice or their droppings, so my anxiety levels started to subside again, until a few days ago, I came home from the gym to find a little mouse in the kitchen beside the trap, lying on its side in its death throes..... its heart was racing, its legs were twitching, but it clearly was unable to run away.  I had to finish it off to put it out of its misery (I won't say how, but I felt like the most awful human on this planet). Since then, there has been peace again. I feel confident I have solved the problem (until of course the next corpse turns up). I hope I have caught the problem in the early stages and that now the bird food is no longer there, they have lost interest.  

Fingers crossed, they don't appear like Micky and Minnie to watch the wedding preparations or we shall be one bridesmaid short!



25 April 2024

My faith is restored

It seems nowadays that dealing with large companies and organisations can be a headache to negotiate sometimes. Not just a headache but an uphill struggle on slippery mud, where you get nowhere fast. I've had one such experience lately where I felt I'd be better off banging my head against a brick wall.

About six months ago I received a letter to my address but with a strange man's name on. Let's call him Mr Putin. (That is not his name, but it did sound Eastern European). Now I have lived at my address for 36 years and, apart from my husband and daughter, there has been nobody else living here, and certainly not by the name of Mr Putin,  unless he's hiding in my loft somewhere. I asked all the neighbours in my small cul-de-sac if they knew who this man was and nobody had heard of him. Reluctantly I opened the letter. It was from a leading UK High Street building society (let's call them BuildSoc) telling the said Mr Putin that his account was overdrawn and to contact them.

Now, call me paranoid,  but I was worried someone, or to be more precise Mr Putin, was using my address fraudulently, so I rang BuildSoc's head office and reported this. I was told to return the letter and it would be dealt with.

A couple of months later, I received another letter to Mr Putin. This time I took the letter to my local branch of BuildSoc and the counter clerk there promised the account would be blocked and investigated and that should be the end of the matter. 

Then in March I received a third letter to Mr Putin asking if they had the right address for him! Well, clearly not, as it was sent to my address again. I rang head office again and was on the phone for ages explaining, then being put on hold and then cut-off after 28 minutes!  I rang again and was cut off again after 11 minutes.  In the end I sent the letter back to BuildSoc with an explanatory covering letter. I asked them to sort this out once and for all and to let me know the outcome. Of course there has been radio silence ever since.

Then, yesterday, I received a fourth letter to Mr Putin asking if they had the right address for him. By now I felt like tearing my hair out. I rang BuildSoc again and was advised to take the letter into my local branch, which I did.

Within an hour of being home, I received a telephone call from a very pleasant lady (let's call her Diana) who apologised profusely and said she would look into the case and ring me today, which she did. Diana explained that she had listened through recordings of the very long phone calls I made in March and had traced what had happened since. She was amazed that I had been kept on hold for so long and she explained that indeed my phone calls were cut off because of technical faults the company was experiencing on that day. She said someone should have rung me back and had failed to do so.  She also explained the legality of trying to trace someone when they don't reply to letters and, whilst not promising that I may still get some more correspondence as they have legally to show they are trying to contact someone who may be forced against their will to not reply, she said it should all stop soon. Meanwhile to compensate me for my troubles and holding on the phone for so long, they would be sending me a cheque for £50. She asked me to contact her on her email if I experienced any further problems. BuildSoc has certainly gone up in my estimation. My faith in humankind is restored. 

Meanwhile my faith in mousekind has been shaken and slightly stirred. More on that another day...........

13 April 2024

Mouse in the House

For many months now, I have seen the cutest little mouse come through from my neighbour's fence, scurry from one side of my patio to the other, where it nibbles on seeds dropped from the birdfeeder which hangs on my lilac tree. It is a tiny little thing and very cleverly hides behind plant tubs until it thinks it can safely negotiate the big open space it needs to traverse to get to the seeds. I have shown it to many a visitor to my house and we have all agreed how cute it is. Sometimes I have fancied I have seen two mice as as soon as one scurries next door, another appears almost instantly a bit further away in search of the seeds, so there is no way it could be the same mouse.

I keep bird seed and peanuts in my kitchen ready to throw out to the birds and squirrels. There is an injured pigeon that comes daily and  literally walks pigeon-toed, placing one foot on top of the other as it walks and seriously losing his balance. He spreads his wings in an attempt to steady himself and looks a sorry sight so I always throw seed and peanuts out to him. The antics of the birds and mice have kept me amused over the long winter months and I felt happy to feed them. Until now.

About 6 weeks ago, I was thoroughly cleaning out a corner of my kitchen that I confess I don't clean often enough. Behind a piece of furniture,  alongside where I keep the bags of seed and peanuts, I discovered what looked like lots of  tiny black seeds or black grains of rice.  Now I know the seeds I feed to the birds are not black, so I was a little clueless as to where these seeds had come from. I vacuumed them up and thought no more about it.

Last week, I was cleaning near the bags of seed and peanuts and found some discarded  peanut skins and another scattering of 'black rice grains'. Also there was a chewed hole in the plastic bag of peanuts. Suddenly the penny dropped! I have mice in the house! I have never felt so uneasy in all my life. I love the little critters outside, but sharing the inside of my home with them is definitely unacceptable. Unfortunately I have no idea how they are getting in or out, as there is no trail. The droppings seem to be clustered around where the seed and peanuts bags were and a few along the works surfaces and behind the microwave (ugh). But as my ground floor is entirely made of concrete and there are no floorboards, it is mystifying. It called for desperate measures.

One week on, I still have a problem, although I think I am winning. I have put down traps with poison in them. I checked this morning and the poisoned sachets have been chewed open and the contents obviously taken back to the nests, but that has not stopped the occasional dropping here and there, so they are still alive.  But the dropping are a lot less than they were. I have also bought peppermint oil as apparently mice do not like the smell of that, although last night's visitors did not seem perturbed by it. I gather it may take a week or two to see the results I want, so I persevere. A friend rather seemed horrified that I had used poison and suggested a more humane trap would be better, but if I catch them alive and put them outside, they will only return. Should I put them in my car with seatbelts on and drive a few miles away and dump the problem on someone else? If anyone has any further advice, it will be gratefully received. Meanwhile today I have thoroughly cleaned all kitchen work surfaces with bleach and disinfectant and await tomorrow's findings with interest.

Maybe I should get a cat, although, knowing my luck, it will be vegetarian.


26 March 2024

Wedding nerves

There's less than three months to Kay and her fiance's wedding. 

A year ago it seemed - well a year away - but too far away to panic. Rough hazy plans were made, deposits paid and it seemed way into the future. Suddenly with less than three months to go, it's panic stations as things start to get finalised, concrete decisions made on food, lighting, flowers, clothes, invitations etc. Suddenly it seems more real and VERY CLOSE!!!!

Kay's dress has been made and we have been having last-minute fittings and alterations. I too have been dress-hunting. As mother-of-the bride, I have to look the part, not least because I shall be accompanying Kay down the aisle in lieu of her father, and I shall be making the father-of-the-bride speech. I have written countless drafts and keep tweaking it over the months, trying to make it funny, succinct and not boring. Public speaking does not come naturally to me, but I want to make Kay proud, so do it I shall. I just hope Greg can send me some of his BBC journalistic skills through the cloud he sits on to help me through it.

I've just ordered 13 pairs of shoes - all different shapes and sizes to try on at home with my dress and get a perfect look. It's cost a bomb, but hopefully I can return the 12 pairs I don't want and get refunds. It's easier to do it that way, then drag my silky dress round various shoe shops and potentially damage it and in any case, I can't expect to try the dress on in the shoe shops. I've also arranged to hire a hat, as the shop where I bought my dress tried to sell me one for £295. Given that I would only probably be wearing a hat for about 3 hours (for the church and the meal, then ditch it for the dancing and never wear it ever again),  I thought that was a bit excessive. Once you mention the word "wedding" the extra noughts on the cost of things start appearing. 

Onwards and upwards. So much still to do.......





06 March 2024

Back to the Future

It is fourteen years since Greg died. In some ways, it doesn't seem that long. I can still remember vividly the weeks leading up to that, the last week in Intensive Care at the local hospital and the last hours of his life, as his blood pressure sank and his heartbeat flatlined on the monitors. I can vividly recall the conversation with the doctors afterwards and the journey home as the reality sank in.

In other ways, it seems an eternity. Days, turning into months, turning into years of coping without him, solitary confinement, climbing the stairs to bed each night and turning out the lights on my own, sleeping on one side of a huge bed with just emptiness the other side.  Waking the next morning with that emptiness still beside me. Sitting alone in the evenings all year round watching endless, mindless TV programmes to fill the silence. 

People have commented to me how much I do to occupy myself, considering I am retired and should be taking life gently. I go to three gym classes a week, two choirs, help out at the local food bank and charity shop, volunteer at the local park information centre to name a few. Not to mention single-handedly doing all the housework, gardening and house decoration.  People say it makes them dizzy just reading that list. But the alternative for me is sitting alone at home. I already watch far too much television and have lengthy discussions with the wall on a regular basis. There is only so much of that I can do without turning completely into a recluse or a zombie.

As the fourteenth anniversary comes up, I contemplate if this is what the future holds. The grief gets less painful and changes into something I can't quite put my finger on. A sort of faint longing for how things were, how things could be, a definite fear of missing out, an acceptance but not entirely accepting.  Many people have suggested dating websites as an answer. I don't know if I will ever be ready for that. Once bitten twice shy. Supposing I jump from the frying pan into the fire and that works out to be a disaster? Companionship would be lovely but at what cost, if he is an axe murderer or will rob me of my possessions or we simply fail to co-exist? I'm nervous to try. I really don't think that's an option. But what else is there other than what I am already doing?

At choir, we are singing a medley from the musical Jekyll and Hyde, getting ready for a concert at the end of the month.  This song in particular jumps out at me with the words being so relevant to my situation. I'm not depressed, in case anyone thinks otherwise, but just pensive.

I peer through windowsWatch life go byDream of tomorrow And wonder why
The past is holding meKeeping life at bayI wander lost in yesterdayWanting to flyBut scared to try



17 February 2024

Celebrity Cat

I do have Facebook as one of the apps on both my phone and laptop and have found it useful for many things. When Kay was younger and away at university, it was a way of keeping up with (or stalking) what she was up to, as she and her friends posted a lot on there. It was also a way of keeping up with what MY friends were doing or letting them know what I was up to. Often unrequested random things would pop up such as a recipe or craft pattern that interested me or a cute video of animals or people doing hilarious things. 

I also decided at some point to join the local Facebook group for my part of London. Again it was useful for all sorts of reasons. Somebody might ask for recommendations for a local plumber, electrician, washing machine repairer, gardener etc and I would save the replies in case I needed them myself in future. There might be a post about a traffic jam somewhere so best to avoid, if I were going out, or a post to tell us a new restaurant was opening or closing, there was a fire on a local road or what were the best schools. Sometimes the post would just be a joke or beautiful picture of something in the area, so I visit the group online everyday to keep up to date. 

One thing that has been impossible to avoid are numerous comments about a cat whose name I shall change for its privacy. Let's call her Snowy. She is a predominantly white cat but with tabby patches and tabby tail. The most remarkable thing about her is that she has become a local celebrity. She obviously has a home and an owner in our local community, but loves to wander about in a mile or so radius visiting all sorts of places. Her beat often takes her down our local High Street, so shops will post pictures of her in their showrooms. She seems to like most our local library and gym, as well as the local hospital, but she often frequents chemists, opticians, charity shops and hangs around outside Sainsbury's supermarket.  About a year ago, despite being electronically tagged, she completely disappeared for 3 months and the local Facebook group were in uproar. We looked out for her- but to no avail- and eventually she was feared dead, as the tag was not reporting back her whereabouts to her owner. An article about her disappearance even appeared in our local paper. Then three months later in May 2023 she turned up again, minus her tag, somewhat thinner, but none the worse for her adventure. If only she could talk about where she had been.  The locality was beside itself with joy. 

Since then she sports a new electronic tag and continues her daily wanderings sighted by the community. Someone with strong media links has also suggested making a film about her. Here are some of the pictures of her in the places she has visited in recent months.....


At the library



Buying a house



A quick half pint at the pub

The books in the chemist are boring

Playing peek-a-boo in the library again


A quick nap in the charity shop.....
 
......and another nap in the chemist shop

A stroll round the churchyard


Waiting for a blood test at the local hospital

a check-up at the dentist


Another day, another charity shop


Going to the bank is exhausting


Popping into Marks and Spencer for a bit of cod
 
Needed a hammer at the DIY shop

I have been lucky enough to see her once personally at the  gym, but didn't have a camera on me at the time. I'm sure I'll see her again one day, but meanwhile I'll have to make do with the almost daily photographs and sightings on Facebook.

UPDATE - She is now a television star! She appeared on primetime breakfast TV  this week, shortly after I posted this,  as an example why all cats in the UK must be microchipped from June 2024. 

30 January 2024

Technology - improvement or hindrance?

I sometimes think modern technology, such as computers and the internet can be a double-edged sword. I am all for progress, after all, without it, we'd all still be wearing sabre-tooth tiger cloaks and be killing woolly mammoths for our supper. But I guess through every generation of progress there have been pros and cons. Take the industrial revolution. It took production output to the next level for factory and mill owners, but at the cost of exploiting their workers. I feel today with the internet we face advantages and disadvantages of different kinds.

Computers, mobile phones and the internet have drastically changed the world we live in. At the touch of keypad we can look up answers to any of our questions in a heartbeat (assuming we have good broadband connections). We can instantly convert dollars to pounds, look up US presidents at the time of Queen Victoria, the next train from London to Edinburgh, the best hotels in Sydney, the weather in Guatemala or get a supermarket delivery. We can send emails, attend meetings from home, glance at our bank accounts or arrange bank transfers. We can reduce the wastage of paper (and thus save the planet) by having online accounts for utilities and other companies we deal with, rather than get hard paper copies sent to us through the post. We can "visit a street" on the other side of the world and see what it looks like.  There are so many more advantages.

BUT. There has to be a but. There is a lot to be said against it. For starters what happens when there is poor or no broadband connection and you cannot research something online or send an email? What happens when you have no mobile phone signal and cannot contact someone urgently to tell them you are going to be late or not show for a meeting with them? What happens if your computer dies or your mobile smashes on the ground and you cannot transfer money or receive online paperwork until you can fork out for another computer or mobile? What if you mis-type an email address and the person you are targeting doesn't even get your message or some stranger finds out things about you?

I have noticed with the younger generation (I am not naming names, dear daughter of mine), that they tend to religiously contact colleagues by email and then wonder why they get no reply for days or weeks on end. Where as I would pick up the phone, dial and get my answer there and then. I am advised that NOBODY does phone calls these days. It's all done by email. Similarly, when seeking a quote for work to be done or goods to be provided, an online request form is de rigeur. Again, I would pick up the phone, dial and ask what they charge!!

I am afraid I still insist on bills being sent to me, rather than having online copies, as I always worry, if my computer goes down or dies, I won't have anything to rely on.  I am sure recycling paper will still save the planet, given that we have already chopped down millions of trees and already have a load of paper hanging around waiting to be recycled. I do have an online bank account - it seems almost impossible not to these days, but I have to have 100% of my wits about me not to be scammed in a moment of sleepy lack of concentration, when I receive a phone call from a stranger purporting to be from Amazon telling me I have just paid £4,000 and do I want to stop this purchase and hand over my bank details.

Another disadvantage of the internet is social media and the way it can put stress on children's lives. Once kids were bullied at school but it stopped at the school gates. Now, with mobile phones, kids are getting bullied round the clock, even as they're turning out the bedside light at night. On the plus side, CCTV cameras,  Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) and Face Recognition cameras can fight crime and solve complex cases in much shorter times.

I sit on the fence on this one. There are good points and bad points. What say you?

19 January 2024

Winter blues

It's already the 19th of January and I have just realised I have not posted anything at all since December. Life seems to get in the way sometimes, although I cannot really boast of anything exciting. 

It seems as one gets older, there's a lot of bad news flying around and stuff to deal with. There have been two deaths in recent weeks - one the sister of my best friend and the other an old friend/neighbour of my parents whom I have known for nearly 40 years. The first had specifically requested no funeral. I attended the funeral of the second last week. 

I have also been following up appointments on my own health and saw my gastric consultant on 4 January. She wants to do another gastroscopy to stretch a stomach valve which should help with the acid reflux I get from time to time. I last had this procedure back in September, but it needs doing again as it did not do the trick last time. The gastroscopy was due to be done today, but because of a mix-up with the appointment's department, it never got registered, so has been delayed until 2 February.  It's probably just as well there was a mix-up, as I have gone down with a dreadful cold - I haven't had one in years - and am feeling sorry for myself. I've lost count of the number of times I sneezed yesterday (probably well over a hundred) and I feel as if someone has attached a permanently running tap to my nose. I know I'll survive, but together with this cold snap in the weather, it is making me listless. 

To cheer up a rather depressing post, I got the train up to the Midlands to visit my niece and six-week-old grand niece at the beginning of the week, thankfully before any of my cold symptoms appeared. She got lots of cuddles from Great Aunt Addy. She is such a poppet and has an amazing head of hair. See what you think....







27 December 2023

Christmas Tidings

It's been a funny old Christmas this year. To kick off with, I went down with a virus - the second year running - and I reckon I have a choir concert on 13 December to blame. A soprano directly in front of me was coughing her head off, despite us all being told not to turn up to rehearsals or concerts if we have colds or covid. Lo and behold, three days later I went down at first with a sore throat, then several days later I completely lost my voice and ended up over Christmas with a tickly cough which was worse when I lay down in bed. Last year at the same concert I picked up covid (probably from the same woman, as she always stands in front of me.) Next year, I'll trip her up at the rehearsal the week before and save myself the bother of being third Christmas unlucky!!

The second problem was that Kay was working nightshifts over the Christmas period. So she was working  the nightshift on Christmas Eve into Christmas Day at a very busy central London Intensive Care Unit. Her fiance had gone home to his parents for the festive break, so as to avoid being home alone. Fortunately Kay came home (very exhausted) to me on Christmas morning and went straight to bed. We arranged I would wake her at 2pm to give her a bit of rest and at the same time help her flip back to daytime hours again. We therefore managed to have a nice Christmas meal in the late afternoon, wonderfully prepared by me while she was asleep. With the meal and a prosecco or two or three, we were both dozing on and off during the rest of the evening.

On Boxing Day, Kay left to drive down to join her fiance and his parents in deepest Kent for two days. I'll see her again on the 28th when they both return to celebrate a proper Christmas with me. After that it will soon be the end of another year and a very exciting 2024 ahead. Happy New Year in advance.  May we all get peace in the world and health and happiness.

20 December 2023

Germany - Part 4 - Hamburg again

Apart from the day on my birthday reminiscing and revisiting all the old haunts, as I described in my last post, we also did the usual tourist things and went on two walking tours to see the main sights of Hamburg. The weather was still very cold and, despite wearing five layers of clothing under our coats, we were still shivering, as we stopped at various points to listen to the tour guide. I knew a lot of the sights from having lived there, but of course Kay and her fiance had never been there before, so it was all new to them and there were one or two surprises for me too.

We started off at the Rathaus or City Hall which is a magnificent building in the heart of Hamburg. It was also the site of the main Christmas market, so we ended up there quite a lot during the few days we were there and because it was not far from our hotel.




Inside is even more impressive.




Not many people know that Hamburg, although known for its docks, has a massive lake in the centre of the city known as the Alster.  It is so big, that ferries operate to take commuters from one end to the other.  It is cut in two by a road bridge so the smaller bit of it is known as the inner Alster (Binnenalster) and the larger part known as the Outer Alster (Aussenalster). I always found it amusing that a shandy (half beer and half lemonade) is known there as Alsterwasser (Alster water). The smaller Binnenalster is close to the Rathaus, making the whole area very attractive and home to many 5-star hotels and embassies.




In winter this huge lake freezes over and people go skating on it. You can already make out the ice forming and it's not mid-winter yet.



The walk took us past two famous Hamburg churches - St Michael and St Nicholas - the latter having been left a ruin since it was bombed.


St Michael



St Nicholas

We then moved on to the Dockland area. There are many sights to see in that area. The newest (and one I had not seen before) was the Elbphilharmonie, a concert hall finished in January 2017 to a cost of 870 million euros.  The glass construction resembles a hoisted sail, water wave, iceberg or quartz crystal resting on top of an old brick warehouse. Inside is quite impressive and you can get on a long escalator to the top with amazing 360-degree views of the dockland and city.



The escalator to the viewing platform at the top

The views of the docks are magnificent. Germany does not have much coastline and Hamburg (although not exactly on the coast but downstream on the very long river Elbe) is the main shipping port for the entire country. In the past, it built U-boats and navy destroyers, as well as being a major import/export hub. We were told it is now a favourite place for Russian oligarchs to have their yachts built - for the same price as the cost of the Elbphilharmonie mentioned above!







The area houses a lot of warehouses which, like many in the UK, have been turned into expensive flats and shops.



The walk ended up in the area where I had not spent my student life - The Reeperbahn. It is Hamburg's infamous night club and red-light area close to the docks. (I had visited it once with a gang of students on a rowdy night out but never seen it during the day.) It is still a red-light area but women visitors are not allowed in certain streets or the ladies of the night will throw vile things at them. It is also home to where the Beatles first started out and this has been acknowledged in various monuments  and street names.





Beatles monument


Poster still in the club where the Beatles used to play

Can you believe,  I took over 300 photos of my nine days in Germany and these are but a few. There was so much to see and so much to reminisce in. I leave you with a couple of pictures of the Christmas market to get you in the mood for Christmas.



 
mulled wine and hot eggnog


We left Hamburg in driving snow and -6 degrees. As we sat on the plane, waiting for them to de-ice the wings and clear the runway, I was sad to leave. It had been the most wonderful return to Germany after so many years. I can't wait to return.