20 September 2011

More bad things

Kay's back at uni and I am back home in London again from taking her there. I had a nice 4-day break with her, courtesy of a dogsitter who came to look after Snoopy in London for me, while I was away.

To add to my previous woes over the last 2 weeks (cut telephone wire, parking fine and theft of Kay's vital cards) I can add the death of Kay's laptop to the list. It finally gave up the ghost of pretending to be a laptop on Friday, although it had been threatening to go on strike for a few weeks before that. Both PC World and a little computer repair shop close to Kay's digs confirmed that it was either a virus or a major corruption of the registry (at least I think that's what they said - a lot of computerspeak goes over my head, to be honest). We asked the little computer repair shop to save whatever data they could (vital essays, music and photos) and set off to PC World on a mission to buy a new one. My eyes tend to glaze over when faced with rows and rows of shiny new laptops, because I am hard pushed to know the difference between them. At the end of the day, I choose one because I like the look or feel of it and the price of it. Blow how many RAMs and GBs and whistles it has. I was relieved to see that Kay, despite her far superior knowledge of computers than me, chose on the same criteria. The shop assistant was a jolly middle-aged Yorkshire woman and we got on like a house on fire. By the end of the transaction, we had swapped life stories, listed children and husbands and pregnancy stories. I felt I knew her intimately. We even parted with a hug and kiss. You don't get that in London shops!

On the way home, we called in to the repair shop to collect the data they had managed to save on the old laptop. The man told me almost gleefully that they had found 67 Trojan horses on it, yet Norton had been reassuring us we were fully protected and secure. Obviously the Trojan horses has stampeded in at night under cloak and dagger! We staggered home with the new shiny laptop and software bulging out of its plastic carrier bag, just as it began to rain. I put the umbrella up. Not for me or Kay, but to cover the £500 of technology that even Norton wouldn't be able to protect.

Once home, we decided to brave the rain again as we needed to do a big shop to tide Kay over the next few weeks as well as restock her cupboards with all the staples like jam, coffee, herbs and ketchup etc. We headed for the nearest bus into town and intended to get a taxi back with all our copious bags. On the way to the bus, the rain got heavier, the sky blacker and my mood lower. Suddenly we were accompanied by the sight and sound of thunder and lightning. And then, all hell broke loose. I can honestly say I have NEVER in my sixty years seen rain like it. It didn't just bucket down, it came in sheets and swirled round like in a vortex. I reckon it was the tail end of Hurricane Katie or whatever she's called. The buses and cars all shuddered to a halt in the main road as they could not possibly progress in such a downpour, the rain ran in rivers down the hill and a fog descended so you could not see across the road. Kay and I ran as fast as we could, given we were in the midst of a mini-tsunami, and ended up at a bus-stop shelter where one other woman was cowering. However the rain was being lashed from both directions of the shelter, so even though we had a roof for cover, we had no protection from the rain at both sides. My clothes were so wet, they couldn't have been any different if I had stepped into a bath fully clothed and stepped out again. And there we stood, waiting for the bus. Going home was not an option, as we would have got even more soaked and still needed to get to the shops. The bus arrived,we squelched onto it and stood in the aisle much to the amusement of other passengers who had obviously boarded the bus in drier times. We squelched off the bus at the supermarket and pushed our way through the hoards of customers who were cowering at the exit with their full trolleys, too scared to brave the rain. We shivered round the supermarket, almost dying of hypothermia in the chilled and freezer sections. We made friends with another customer - a man who was as soaked as we were and (I think) was trying to chat me up, although what attraction he could see in a drowned rat, I don't know. We aquaplaned into a taxi home with our 7 supermarkets bags and changed into warm dry clothing as soon as we could. It took several pairs of socks and chocolate bars to warm my feet and my shoes were still not dry two days later.

Now I am back from my adventure, the house seems awfully quiet. Just me, Snoopy, the cat and the ticking clock. Only another 14 weeks till Christmas.......

10 September 2011

Bad things come in threes

To the low-life scumbag who stole Kay's purse while she was out at a nightclub on Thursday night, I wish you all the worst that can happen. Not only has Kay had to go through all the rigmarole of cancelling her bank card (thankfully before you could use it) but she has now had to cancel her driving theory test in two days' time which she has been revising for, as she is required to show both parts of her driving licence for the test and you saw fit to steal that as well. (She had only taken it with her as a photo-and-age-ID for the nightclub). Another little problem you have caused is to take her 16-24 rail card and we are going to have the utmost problem convincing the train guard on her return north to uni this week that she genuinely booked the reduced price if we are unable to show the card. Both replacement driving licence and railcard cannot be issued in time for Monday and Thursday respectively. Bastard.

07 September 2011

Good times, bad times.

Kay did the last day of her summer job yesterday and I went to visit her at work. Embarrassing? Not really, she has been working here, so I played the tourist.

She has actually been on the bridge itself, working for a tourist photo company taking photos of tourists, digitally enhancing them on computer and then selling them as photos, fridge magnets, keyrings or mouse mats, when the tourists complete their visit. She has made a lot of new friends and enjoyed the variety and the stresslessness of the job. She also did a few shifts for the same company at the nearby Tower of London, but had to wait to get special security clearance in case she ran off with the Crown Jewels.

She's also been taking driving lessons, so there has not been much time to relax, but that's how she prefers it, otherwise she gets bored (like mother, like daughter!) She's off to uni again next week to start the third year of her medical course and will be spending four days of the week in hospital doing ward rounds and only one day a week in lectures. It'll be quite a change from what she has been doing all summer, but still having lots of people-contact, which she loves. I've loved having her home all these weeks, but am happy to see her pursuing her dreams, so I am OK with her leaving again.

This does not seem to be my week. I received a letter from the local council this morning fining me £110 for being "parked" in the High Street last week in a non-designated parking space. The truth of it was that having cleared out stuff from the cellar last week I had stopped the car for all of three minutes on double yellow lines while I delivered several heavy box-loads to a charity shop. The nearby parking bays in the High Street were all taken (they never seem to be free when I drive past) and the nearest proper car park was too far away to go back and forth with heavy boxes. All I did was just go from my car boot into the shop several times and then drove off. As I say, it took about three minutes. If I contest the fine and they still insist on me paying (and I go over the 28 days' payment deadline) I have to pay £165. What with the cut telephone wire last week, it has been an expensive week, with nothing to show for it!! Grrrrrr.

02 September 2011

Bloomin' nuisance

Last week I managed to finish decorating my bedroom, wall-papering the bedhead wall, and was quite pleased with the look I had achieved. Apart from a few finishing touches still to do, like new curtains and a new bed, I was happy that I was seeing real progress in the house.Only two more rooms to go and the house will be spick and span - well, more spick and span that it was a year ago. At least now I do not feel ashamed to invite people in to what was once nictotine-stained ceilings and cracks in the walls! Paintwork is bright, walls are clean and there are a few feminine touches here and there (Greg hated flowery patterns of any kind, so many of our furnishings were a geometric pattern or plain as a compromise).

The two bedrooms still to be done are not rooms I use regularly, so I was quite pleased that the house was relatively finished, so far as I was concerned. I could breathe a sigh of relief and take things a bit easier from now on . I mentioned in my last post that Kay and I would be clearing out the cellar this week, but apart from that nothing on the horizon for a while and my bank balance could recover from all the one-off expenses of new furniture or curtains or rugs.

At the start of the week, I asked Kay to hold on to the step-ladder outside for me, as it was balanced on uneven ground, while I precariously climbed to the very top step to prune a clematis montana. This clematis belongs to my neighbour and grows up the wall between her front door and my adjacent garage door. As anyone who has ever owned a clematis montana knows, these are prolific growers and mimic triffids. Great, if you want to cover a whole wall, but not great if you don't want a triffid. I had asked my neighbour's permission to prune it back hard, as it was growing into the brick tiles that cover the front of our house between the storeys. Once the tendrils get in behind the tiles, they can force the tiles to crash to smithereens on the ground. Apart from being irreplacable nowadays, the falling tiles could also kill someone as they have pointed edges, similar to the ones in this picture!

photo from www.periodliving.co.uk

The original neighbour who planted it had cut it back over the years but in one instance had failed to cut a rogue piece out of the tiling and it had taken on a life of its own. Without any roots in the soil,it seems it did not even need earth to grow in as it was sprouting a whole new independent bush of its own from the dark of the back of the tiles. With this in mind, I happily set about pruning the monster - there were tendrils everywhere, trying to attack me as I fought my way in. I tugged at the handfuls growing into my tiles and successfully managed to free them, either with brute force or with the aid of seceteurs. By the end of the operation, Kay was knee-deep in what I had cut back, but it was a mere fraction of what was still growing up the wall. And then, to my utter horror, I noticed a little thin wire coming down through the tiles from my bedroom window to the garage beneath, which was dangling in the breeze and clearly severed in two by the seceteurs. It had been obscured by the monster. My heart sank as I had a feeling I knew what this wire was for. The fact that I had not electrocuted myself in the process confirmed my fears..... I had cut off our telephone/broadband link. Rushing inside and testing the phones, I confirmed it further. Unprintable words were uttered at this stage.

To cut a long story (or clematis) short, I rang British Telecom and after two days without phone or internet (how ever did we manage before?), an engineer came round to fix it. He was with me for TWO HOURS, scratching his head and trying to work out where the wires came from and where they should go. In the end, he had to drill new holes in my bedroom window and lead the wires across newly painted walls and paintwork, stapling them with his little gun into my newly decorated bedroom. In order for him to do this, I aso had to move my furniture out of the way for him, so by the time he left everything looked like a bomb had hit it.

Now I have to touch up some of the paint work again and the worse is I have to pay BT a hefty bill (they quoted me £130 for the call-out charge alone, not to mention the two hours' work). What a bloomin' nuisance and an expensive clematis!