Monday, 31 March 2008


Saw the first gypsies of Spring today. As I was driving to work, there was a traditional Romany wagon parked up by the side of the road with a couple of piebald horses, and an elderly gypsy couple cleaning them, or brushing them or whatever you do to tidy up a horse.

All most picturesque.

Other news: They are digging up Stonehenge. Went past this morning and there was a huge marquee in the car park with BBC Timewatch written all over it. When I went past again tonight, there were several film crews all filming each other, presumably because it was more interesting than filming a small hole in the ground.

How exciting.

Got a hectic week at work planned, a day in London and a ton of planning for various big meetings coming up. Still, the lighter evenings make it more bearable. Mr WithaY is off to a big conference for a few days Up North, so it will be very quiet here indeed.

So, turn the amp up to eleven and raise the goblet of rock, I reckon.

Sunday, 30 March 2008


That's what we are, here in the WithaY household. We decided to have a slightly impromptu* dinner party on Saturday night, and Mr WithaY did the most fantastic "belly pork with stuff on it" dish.

It's a Rick Stein Mediterranean recipe, and basically involves making up a marinade/paste thing out of garlic, rosemary, chilli, loads of black peppercorns and olive oil, rubbing it all over the meat, leaving it to itself for many hours, then roasting it slowly in the oven. Bloody great, it is.

I did my becoming-famous Indian baked yoghurt pudding, and we got through a lot of port. Great fun.

This morning (even allowing for the clock change) has been very lazy and relaxing. We lounged about on our respective sofas and watched "Paint Your Wagon" on TV, which was excellent. Perfect lazy Sunday morning viewing.

No other plans for today except doing the washing-up as and when I feel like it, and possibly doing some sewing if I can be arsed.

Other news: Got my car back, after having to fork out over £240 for a service, new brake bits and some other stuff. Gah. And it still has to have the mystery possibly-terminal problem looked at.

Most depressing.

On the bright side, the weather today is glorious, and I think we have a lot of birds nesting in the garden. Hurrah.

*i.e: Invited people on Friday night if they happened to be free on Saturday.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

That's Entertainment

We have been culture vultures. In a very small way, and not proper black tie and opera glasses culture, but still. Culture sparrows, perhaps.

We went to see Omid Djalili on Tuesday night at Salisbury City Hall....Ahhh, the bright lights, the roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowd etc. He was interesting and amusing, but to be honest his support act, Boothby Graffoe, made me laugh more.

Just Googled him...he's from Hull. Who'd have thought?

If you haven't already seen it, I can recommend Omid Djalili's "Nigerian Traffic Warden" impression. Apparently it has got him out of a few parking tickets.

It was a very pleasant change, going out in the week. We went out for dinner* first and everything. How grown up we are. Most of the other people in the restaurant were also at the show, we realised as the evening progressed.

I love tiered seating in the theatre, you can look at everyone else without appearing unduly nosy.

I took Wednesday off work** and during the day I rang the local garage to book my car in for a service. I mentioned to them that it has been a bit juddery of late. The ensuing conversation left me very depressed.

Apparently there is a known fault with the hjdgi ybfps vfdg jfdsfg jvfdzdfs*** and the manufacturer is going to do a recall. So, I might be without a car for a bit. In the meantime, it is going in for a service tomorrow. Hopefully I will still be able to at least use impulse power after that.

Mr WithaY's Landrover is a bit shagged**** as well, so we could be completely car-less. Nightmare. If we miss the bi-weekly bus to town we're buggered.

Other news: We had a threatening letter from a satellite TV provider today. Straight up.

We had a subscription to a couple of channels which, to be totally honest, we had forgotten about and never watched. So, when we remembered we were due to renew our subscription soon, we decided not to and cancelled the direct debit at the bank.

Today, we had a letter saying that unless we sent them the payment within 7 days they would be contacting a debt collection agency.


Mr WithaY got on the phone straight away to them. He got, not as you might expect, an apology, but a grudging "Oh yeah, our system made a mistake."

It's just crap and intimidating, and there's no excuse for it. We shall NOT be using their services again. Ever.

On the bright side, watched X-Men 2 last night on DVD, which we hadn't seen before. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Can see why Hugh Jackman's wife got him to take his X-Men uniform home after filming had finished.

Mmmmmmm Wolverine.

*Ask, where we both had pasta. I know some of you keep tabs on what we eat.

**Not hung over, as my staff accusingly assumed, just tired after a v late night.

***It was a bit like Star Trek where they give a v long gibberish tech explanation of why the ship will explode in EXACTLY 2 hours. I went "mmhmm....mmhmmm....oh shit, really?....mmmhmmm" a lot.

****Conked out 3 times on a 4 mile trip to the supermarket and back. Gah.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008


There was a bloke driving to work this morning with a pair of blue boxer shorts flapping out of his driver window.


If they were to block the sun from his eyes, surely having them wedged in securely would be more effective?

And if they were to warn other road users of a hazard, surely they should have been red?

A mystery.

Sunday, 23 March 2008


Yes indeed.

It's been snowing like you wouldn't believe, here. Not for very long, and not so that it stuck, but still. Impressive blizzard thing going on this morning as we sat devouring our Easter boiled eggs and bagels. Mmmm. Bagels.

Had Middle Sis and her family here for a few days, which was very pleasant. We went into Salisbury yesterday to get a bit of shopping; the children had pocket money burning holes in their pockets, and Bro-in-Law was on a quest for new shoes. I was after some iron cleaner, Middle Sis needed ant traps.

If you had told us when we were 18-year-old rock goddesses that we would get mildly excited about going to Lakeland to buy ant traps and iron cleaner, we would have mocked and derided you. Or possibly shot ourselves.

Strange how things turn out.

Middle Sis amused herself whilst in Lakeland by giving her children various hilarious items to "give to Auntie Lucy", including large jars of Wrinkle Remover. Ha bloody ha.

It was bloody freezing walking round town, so we all scooted into a very nice pizza place* for lunch, then fled back to the car, stopping to stock up on lovely greetings cards and Faberge stylee eggs at the Museum Shop, which I had never been into before.

One of the nice things about not living in town any more is that there are always new shops to look at, especially as I only get into Salibury about once every 6 weeks these days.

We made a rather fab (though I say so myself) Indian meal for supper last night. Tandoori chicken, a great beef curry, samosas, onion bhajis, naan bread, rice and all kinds of pickles. And, a first for me, an Indian baked yoghurt pudding, which worked really well and which I will be making again.

Then we all settled in front of the fire and watched Stardust on DVD, which was lovely. Most relaxing.

Bro-in-Law and Mr WithaY dragged the chidren out of the cosy warm house at knifepoint this morning for a brisk** walk around Heaven's Gate. They came back bitterly disappointed that they hadn't seen any rhinos. There were camels and "cows with very long horns" but I could tell it wasn't really the same.

One huge roast chicken lunch later, they headed back to London. The house feels really big and really, really quiet now.


*Prezzo, where Beech's bookshop used to be.

**They were told they'd enjoy it when they got there. Heh.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Rubbish II

The plot thickens.

Ok, so we are getting used to not having a bin by the desk.

We are getting used to having to remember not to fling stuff onto the floor in the approximate area of where the bin used to be.

We are even (well, most of us) remembering not to empty the hole punch thingy over the bin that isn't there any more.

What has developed is an unforeseen obsessiveness about What Is Being Put In The Plastic Box In The Kitchen.

Let me explain. Several members of staff arrive very early* in the morning, and of course one of the first things they do is make a pot of tea. It was like an Agatha Christie story, as it was explained to me:

0715 Tea was prepared in kitchen. Plastic rubbish box empty and clean.

0715 - 0730 Tea was enjoyed by early arrivals. Plastic box in kitchen mostly empty, apart from a few used tea bags.

0745 Second pot of tea suggested (they were very thirsty apparently)

0747 Teapot taken to kitchen to be emptied out, washed and refilled with fresh brew. Plastic box now contains complete, cold, picked-clean chicken carcase.

0750 Tea enjoyed by early arrivals, but not quite as much as the first pot, as spectre of mental Henry VIII stylee entire-chicken-for-breakfast colleague now haunts them all.

Someone, somehow, in the 15-ish minutes between making two pots of tea dumped a chicken carcase in the box in the kitchen.

How? And more importantly, why? Did they bring it to work with them? Had it been in their desk all night? Did they find it in the car on the way to work and think "Bollocks, meant to boil that up for soup."

And they say office life is dull.

Other news: Went to the pub for supper** where I remmbered how much I like cider. Mmmmm cider.

We played spoof. Listening to the rules of spoof being explained to someone who was patently unable to follow them was interesting.

Remember that scene in Monty Python and The Holy Grail with the guards in the tower on the Prince's wedding day? "We're coming with you!"

It was a bit like that.

Spencer knows.

*like 7am....far too bloody early.

**Chicken curry, thanks for asking.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008


Or garbage, for the Americans among you. Trash, possibly.

Feeling much better today and am in the office. And hey, guess what? All the bins have vanished*.

The individual metal waste bins by the all the desks have gone.
The big plastic flip-top bin in the little kitchen place has gone.
The waste baskets in the conference rooms are still there I think, but for how long we don't know.

Apparently everyone came to work yesterday and discovered a bin-free zone.


Well, we asked that question.

It's all to do with recycling, apparently. We now have to put all our scrap paper into the recycling bags, which get picked up about once a week. Fair enough.

But what about banana skins, orange peel, milk cartons, apple cores, used tea bags, sandwich wrappers etcetera etcetera etcetera?**

Well, it seems that all that stuff is being dumped in a small plastic box on the counter in the kitchen. By 0945 this morning, the box was already full, mostly of tea bags. It already smelled bad.


Today is a quiet day, it being the Easter week, lots of people are off on holiday. And the weather is cool today. What will it be like in a few weeks time, when the offices are all fully manned, and the weather is 10 degrees warmer?

And, more importantly, what the FUCK have they done with all the bins? Melted them down to make Spitfires?

*I don't think those two facts are related.

** Copyright: King of Siam

Monday, 17 March 2008


Been under the weather today, so have done very little. Not something that normally stops me wittering on, I know, but I am not really feeling brilliant.

One thing that has contributed to the whole "not having a great day" - picked up a voice mail from my boss' boss' secretary asking me to call him "at my earliest convenience". Picked the message up at 6pm, it was left on my phone at 10 this morning.


So, some explaining to do tomorrow. It's like living in the eighteenth century sometimes here.

Other news: Bugger all. Sorry.

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Hedging my bets

Was in the pub last night having a chat about gardening with some of our lovely neighbours.

The WithaY estate* is surrounded on one and a bit sides by a large leylandii(sp?) hedge, and I loathe it. With a deep and abiding passion. It's tall, thick, dark and depressing.

Good in that we don't get gawped at by passers-by and people using the petrol station, but bad in that nothing else grows near it except ivy and moss, and it looks gloomy.

My dream scenario would involve a runaway lorry demolishing it (leaving everyone unhurt), the hedge totally flattened beyond redemption, and Mr WithaY and I getting it replaced with a beautiful stone wall and hawthorn hedge at somebody else's expense.


We discussed various hedging and walling solutions**. Some of our neighbours are thinking about having one of their hedges taken out, and it's a surprisingly complicated thing to do. Unless you don't mind having your garden gradually collapse into the road and wash away in the rain, of course.

I said I would like to replace our huge front hedge, and our wise foresting neighbour asked what kind of thing I would put in its place. I said "Oh, maybe hawthorn." He nodded, and asked me how old I am. I told him, 42, why? He shook his head sadly and said "You don't have time for hawthorn."


Other news: Local paper headline which made me snort tea out of my nose: "Wind Makes Minor Impact".

*front garden

**bet you wish you drank in our pub, eh?

Friday, 14 March 2008

A lament

I know it feels like a long time ago, but this actually brought a lump to my throat when I read it.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008


How impressive is this? I received an email from Virgin Vie, responding to me whining about them stopping selling their face cleaning stuff:

Dear Livesbythewoods!

I just thought I would email you as I can’t seem to respond to your blog, but we understand that you are a fan of our Vitamin C Face Wash and are disappointed that it has been discontinued?

Well – the good news is, that we have recently relaunched our Skin Care range, to rave reviews and if you were a fan of the previous VIt C face wash, you will love our new VITALITY BOOST CLEANSING MOUSSE! Same fab refreshing, zesty fragrance, just a new improved formula and it’s only £7.50!

Why not check out our Online store to have a look at all our new products!

You know, I think I will.


Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Gutter press

Honestly. I wanted to buy some more lovely orange Virgin Vie face cleaning stuff and it seems they have discontinued it. Gah.

Filthy, pore-clogged misery for my face then, from now on.

So, anyway, the storms. It was truly terrifying down our way. We had someone else's bucket in our front garden the next day. And some flowerpots got blown around a bit.

Total devastation.

Although, to be fair, the guttering fell off the garage again, but Mr WithaY wanged it with a hammer and it seems ok now.

Saw the picture on the front page of The Sun today showing a couple of complete numpties standing on a huge-wave-lashed seafront with a baby in a buggy. Top parenting there then.

"Nice walk dear?"

"Yes, was great, went to the seaside."

"Ooh, lovely...where's the baby?"

"Ah. Well, it was a bit rough, like..."


Other News: Am having a guitar lesson later so will find out from my lovely teacher if I will get to sing with them again any time soon. I hope so. If I do, I am going to ask to be allowed to do a less difficult song. I love Tom Petty but his stuff is a right bugger to sing when you have what is best described as a folk singer voice.


I have asked if we can learn a few Pretenders songs tonight. I am a cunning evil mastermind.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Guilty pleasure

Oh yes, I know what I was going to say.

Has anyone else seen the repeats of Space 1999 that are being run in the evenings on one of the freebie satellite channels? I have become completely hooked.

Everything about it makes me laugh. The risible "all jiggle about at the same time" acting.

The flares and anorak-based costumes.

The implausible romantic leads, who all either look like your old geography teacher, or like Dutch porn stars.

The bizarre, more holes than a Swiss cheese, plots.

But the point where I realised I was hooked was last week when Brian Blessed was in it. With truly astonishing makeup and a cape that he swirled villainously.

God it was great.

He had blue stripes in his beard and got to cackle and shout a lot. More than usual I mean.

Ah, I avoided the show as a teenager because it was lame and cheap and British*. And now, those are the very reasons I like it.

*And it wasn't Star Trek. And this was pre Next Generation, mind.

Intellectual poverty

Stole this from Badgerdaddy. Time to start using long words.

blog readability test

Movie Reviews

...if you want to rock and roll

Did it. Sang with the band. Just one song, not especially brilliant, but not dreadful either.

Hurrah for me.

Next time (assuming they let me do it again) I will play guitar as well, and see how that goes.

Mr WithaY came along to offer moral support, which was great. A few of our neighbours were there as well, so it was nice to know there were some friendly faces in the audience.

Mind you, I did get the impression that everyone who was there knew the band in one way or another - parents, workmates, friends, fellow guitar pupils. So it was always pretty unlikely that the chickenwire stage* protector would have been needed.

Their lead singer is superb. He's very young, like still at school young, but has a voice and a half on him. And real stage presence too. I like to imagine that in years to come when he is headlining at Wembley I can say "Oh yes, I sang with him when he was just starting out."


Other news: Work is still hectic, and looks set to continue that way, but at least I have some more people in the team now.

Mr WithaY and I are on an "Eat less, you greedy fat bastards" diet, which is working. We are now using portion control when we cook, rather than just using huge quantities of everything, and both of us agree that we are not hungry, and are probably eating about 2/3 of the amounts we were.

I need to be very strict about getting out of the office in time to get to the gym after work though. I get hooked up in late meetings, so by the time I get away it's 6pm and the last thing I feel like doing is waddling and wheezing on the cross trainer for 30 minutes.

Excuses, excuses. One day at a time.

Ooh yes - the rooks are back. Within about 2 hours of Mr WithaY filling all the bird feeders in the garden we were inundated with many, many birds, which is excellent. And shortly after that, a gang of rooks turned up and sauntered about under the apple tree, eyeing up the fat block**. And the next time I looked out, the fat block had gone.

Whilst buying bird food in the pet shop, Mr WithaY had a chat with the pet requisite vendor. Apparently another customer had asked him "Why would anyone buy food for birds they don't own?"

I can't imagine what kind of mindset you would need to ask that question. It's like saying "Why would anyone smile at people they don't know?" or "Why would anyone take part in any kind of voluntary work?"

Left us all rather bemused.

*Front of pub alcove

**Block of fat, in a little metal cage thingy. In case you were wondering.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Its a long way...

Been unbelievably busy with work this week. Anyone would think they paid me, the amount of stuff I have to do for them.

We had a Huge And Important Meeting on Tuesday which took a ton of arranging, what with all the admin stuff (book room, book coffee, book IT, get agenda and reading materials sent out etc), and all the face to face pre-meeting briefing that was going on.

And that's before having to round up the 20-odd people who all had to be there. Herding cats. Oh yes.

By the time the actual meeting came around I was all set to do a Bridget Jones and shout "Oh, why don't you all just go and fuck yourselves!" as they turned up.

I didn't do that.

Well, maybe in my head. Briefly.

Anyhoo, meeting went ok, lots of useful stuff was said, lots of key people were there, nobody threw anything, nobody demanded my head be placed on a spike outside the building. So. A good day.

Wednesday night was interesting.

I went and sat in on the band rehearsal. Boy was it interesting. And boy did I realise I am pretty fucking far from being a musician. Rather dispiriting, to be honest.

Apart from a couple of karaoke encounters* I have never sung into a microphone before, and the whole "not being able to hear myself" meant that I had no idea if I was even in tune. So, not good.


Managed to play rhythm guitar** on a couple of songs, which was nice. But I am feeling really low today. It's horrible to feel that rather than being quite good at something you are in fact mediocre and a rank amateur.

I went to London today, which meant an early start and a long, busy, demanding day. So I am knackered right now.

On the bright side, met up with my most excellent mate Tall Richard and had a fine lunch in a subterranean bar place in Whitehall. Was fab. Wish I'd paid more attention to the name so I could recommend it to you all.


Overheard a conversation on the platform this morning as we all waited for the train. The local school was celebrating (if that's the right word) Book Week by having all the children dress up as their favourite character from a book.

Parent 1: We were up till 9 last night making wizard hats out of cardboard and gaffer tape.

Parent 2: Oh yes, Harry Potter. My eldest is going as Professor McGonnagle (sp?). Hair in a bun, glasses, robes, the lot. What are yours going as, Parent 3?

Parent 3 (gloomily): The eldest is going as Captain Jack Sparrow. She's read the book of the film, so she says it counts.


Parent 1: And your youngest? What's she going as?

Parent 3 (even more gloomily): Perseus. This morning I had to make a bag with a load of snakes poking out the top for the Medusa's head.

What a way to start the day.

*when I was drunk. And out with a load of mates.

**well, the easy bits at least

Monday, 3 March 2008


That's what we've been living in for the last few months. And not the fun sort, either.

I have been slowly becoming aware that our hoover was on the way out. Well, it's a Dyson.

What do you call them? It isn't a hoover. It isn't a vacuum cleaner. And saying "the Dyson" sounds really pretentious and crap.


It was on the way out. I knew this because it was failing to suck up all the dirt, fluff, hair and biscuit crumbs from the floor. That wasn't too bad. I would just kind of coax the bits it didn't want onto the the wooden floor and then sweep it up with a dustpan and brush.

Then, a development. When you pressed the pedal thingy to change the angle of the handle, a large and dismaying pile of grey crud was spat out the back.

Again, that would get swept up with a brush, rather missing the point of having a gadget to do the job in the first place.

The final straw was when you pulled the hose bit out to clean the stairs, and a HUGE grey fluffy pile of crud, gravel and assorted filth was coughed out the back of the hoover* onto the floor.

Eventually, I had to accept that we needed to replace the hardware. Time for the sad one-way trip to the tip. There was a 21-hose salute as we waved it goodbye. It was about 16 years old which I think is pretty good going, to be fair.

And so, on a sunshiny Saturday morning, Mr WithaY and I went to Argos. I can honestly say that it was about the best cleaning appliance shopping experience we could have wished for.

We looked in the book, found what we wanted, filled in the little bit of paper, went to the "pay here" terminal, typed in the details, entered the payment card, did all that "enter PIN now" stuff and then sat and waited for 5 minutes till they brought us a new Dyson.


Barely any human interaction at all. It was like internet shopping, but quicker.

And then I came home and played with it.

Oh, the filth. The FILTH. The filth. Yes, it was that bad.

Put it this way: We emptied the filthbucket 5 times. In one afternoon. That is going some, I reckon. I did go a bit mad and clean the rugs, the curtains, the sofas, the cushions and all the carpets. And the wooden floor. And the lightshades.

But even so. We were a five-bucket house. Ugh.

Still. Nice and clean now. I might do the car next. Or offer to go round to the neighbours, just for comparison purposes.

Other news: Went to a family party on Saturday night. Was a surpise birthday do for a cousin, and she genuinely had no idea it was planned. It was lovely to see so many members of the family, some of whom I haven't seen since I got married, 14 years ago.

As we were leaving, one of them said to Mr WithaY "Don't leave it 14 years till we see you again", to which he replied "It takes me that long to get over seeing you lot." Heh.

He loves us really. Even though we're mostly Welsh.

Also went and saw fatherinlaw WithaY on Sunday. He needed to go to the shops as he had run out of groceries, and since he got rid of his car** it is a struggle for him.

We loaded him and his wheelchair into the car and headed for Tescos ("that bunch of bastards") in Blandford. En route we discussed immigration ("Hungarians. Bastards"), politics ("Gordon Brown. That bastard") and the weather (nope, that was ok).

Once in the shop I scooted round with a little trolley picking up a ton of carrots and parsnips (more soup is planned) while Mr WithaY wheeled his dad and the grocery list round. It was like watching the chariot race in Ben Hur. I think we're doing it again next week.

*Yes, I know. Old habits die hard.

**We finally persuaded him that being unable to turn his head or feel his feet was making him a dangerous driver. Thankfully.