Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Moose cookies

The visas have just arrived!  Hurrah! 

We have our passports back, with rather handsome US visas laminated into them.  It says the visa lasts for ten years, so I assume when I renew my passport next year I can just take the old one with me to show Customs, or Immigration, or Homeland Security, or Michael Moore, or the CIA or whoever that I have jumped through all the requisite Embassy hoops.

Flaming hoops.  With broken glass around the edges.  And a big tank full of flesh-stripping leeches underneath.  Yeah, that's how it felt. 

I'm going to buy myself a new suitcase this weekend.  We'd put all the holiday plans on hold after we discovered we needed visas*, so I feel like I can start looking forward to going now. 

We need to book a hire car to get us around New England.  We fly into Boston, home of the most mental traffic system ever, and stay in a hotel there for a few nights, then we're off to New Hampshire, Maine and Cape Cod to see various lovely mates.  There is also, hopefully, going to be a boat trip to Nantucket to see the whaling museum. 

We went to Nantucket before, but the museum was shut for the summer, which the woman who sold us the boat tickets "forgot" to mention, so we spent a wet, warm day mostly sitting in cafes, or peeking through the windows of expensive antiques shops.  This year, though, we are determined to see the harpoons. 

We're also going to go to the LL Bean store.  Last time we went there we bought a smoker.

And a moose-shaped cookie cutter.  I might make some moose cookies at the weekend. 

I'm all excited now.  We're going on holiday.

*Yeah, Shitstorm from Hades, you guessed it

The Long March

So, other than the visa excitement, what else has been happening chez WithaY lately?  I know you're all dying to ask, but are too polite.  Well, that's my assumption, anyway.

The other weekend was Mr WithaY's birthday.  This year both of us have been lucky enough to have birthdays that fall on a Saturday, so we have both had parties.  Hurrah for us.

Mr WithaY, having a Spring birthday, gets to have a partially outdoor party.  We get the brazier out, and hang lanterns in the apple tree, and light the fire, and people can sit around and look at the stars in a romantic and nature-loving manner.  Or, as usually happens, smoke fags, talk bollocks and sing loudly.  Both are good, of course. 

Mine is usually a smaller, less rowdy affair, perhaps a grown-up dinner party* or a few friends round for an elegant cocktail soiree**.  Always chic and well-planned though***.

Anyhoo.  The party.  We took Friday off work and got the house sorted out, ready for all the guests.  Mr WithaY spent hours, HOURS, tidying his study.  His study has been a bit of a bone of contention for, oh, about 5 years now.  It's normally a cross between a fishing tackle shop, a historical weapons exhibit at a museum, Ray Mears' Winter wardrobe, and the office of a dodgy tax accountant who never files anything to avoid trouble. 

The cleaners were given strict instructions when they started with us not to go in there.  Hell, I don't go in there. You never know what you might turn up. 

A hand-made fish spear?  Some carefully scrimshawed ox bones?  A hundred five-year-old copies of Shooting Times?  A large, lavishly-illustrated book on sausage-making?  A filing cabinet stuffed with telephone bills from the 1990s?  A Victorian chamber pot?  It's all possible. 

He spent the day sorting it all out, and by the time he'd finished, the place was just lovely.  We had a whole new room that people could go into, sit on the futon, have a drink, listen to music**** and chill out.  The carefully-placed coasters added to the total trance-room ambience, I think. 

It needed doing, as we had mates staying over, and unless that room is habitable there is no bed for some of them to use. 

Anyway, the party was a success, everyone had a nice time, or at least told us that they did, nothing caught fire, and nobody punched anybody else.  Always a sign of a good party, that.  We didn't overcater too dramatically, which was a pleasant change too.  Well, I say that.  I found several uneaten platters of party food in the big chiller in the garage the next day.  We had them for lunch.  Nom nom nom.

Party aside, what else?  Very little that I've felt compelled to write about in here.  Mr WithaY is in into the second week of his tree-climbing, coasteering, adventure training course, so the house feels big and quiet and empty.  Not that he usually runs around it shrieking and waving his arms when he's here, but I still miss him.

I went for a Long Walk on Sunday with some friends and their unfeasibly huge dog.  She is charming, well behaved and gentle, and a pleasure to be out and about with.  We drove up to Heaven's Gate, walked through the woods to the amazing stones and then down the path to the edge of Longleat Safari Park. 

The rhododendrons (sp?) were all out, and looked wonderful.

Obviously my photos don't do them justice, but you get the idea.  The stones looked fantastic in the weird kind of half-cloud that was going on.  I like this photo very much.

I didn't know that you can just walk right into the estate for free.  You only pay if you want to ride the gorilla boat or go in the mazes or go round the house or whatever.  We sat and had a drink at one of the cafe places there, walked around the gardens, then back over the fields and then UP the very steep hill to Heaven's Gate again. 

We walked from where I took this pic through the woods and along the road in a big loop to the house (helpfully arrowed) and then back up the hill that drops away in front of the bench in this picture.  By Swansea it was steep. 

It was all very pleasant; despite having to practically crawl up the last part of the hill on my hands and knees, stopping to wheeze at frequent intervals, I made it to the top without collapsing.  The friends I was with are both very fit.  Very, very fit.  The husband of the two ran - RAN - to the top of the hill, stood there for a bit, got bored and ran back down to where I was toiling up in the manner of an ant carrying an entire leaf on its back, and then ran - RAN - back to the top.

I had just about enough strength in my lungs to shout "You're not helping!" at him as he did laps of the hill.   It made me feel better.

Longleat House is gorgeous.  If I was Lord Bath I think I'd be very happy living there, despite the hordes of great unwashed traipsing through the garden. 

The gardens aren't half bad either. 


There are some excellent bits of sculpture and statues and so on.


Other news:  Very little.  I have not really felt much like blogging for a few days, I think Mr WithaY must be my Muse, and with him out of the house, I have no ideas whatsoever.  Heh.

*shedloads of wine and hilarious shouting, often with the hostess falling asleep on the sitting room rug in front of the fire
**shedloads of cocktails and hilarious shouting, often with people falling asleep on the sofa and having to be evicted at 3am
***Not really.  Too much shouting for chic. 
****Trance, unfortunately, but hey, at least they didn't have to stand up to listen to it

Monday, 19 April 2010

That'll do nicely

Today was interesting.  Mr WithaY and I were up at the US Embassy for our visa interview, to see if we would be allowed to go on the holiday we booked before realising we now* need a visa to go anywhere even slightly exotic.

We've spent several hours over the last few weeks negotiating the obstacle course that you must complete to get as far as the Embassy.  I'm fairly sure it was designed by the same people who develop those logic/warfare computer games, where you have to solve complex riddles and hack scaly monsters with cleavers to progress and achieve points. 

There are confusing electronic forms that you have to fill in, after which you wait for a reply to let you continue to the next level of form-filling.  If you tick certain boxes they send you links to more forms to fill in. 

You send them scanned copies of relevant documentation so that they can decide if you are allowed to continue the process. 

You have long, long telephone conversations with them (at £1.20 a minute) during which they tell you to do more, different, form-filling.  During these conversations you have to go into painful detail about the reason why you now need a visa.  They are not unsympathetic, they probably hear stuff like that dozens of times a year, but it still smarts to have to justify yourself to a stranger as if you are a criminal. 

Degrading.  That's what it is.

One of the forms you fill in has to include a scanned passport photograph.  They decide online, as you are filling it in, if the photo is acceptable or not, and if it is you get to submit the whole thing.  If it isn't, I assume that they send a painful electric shock through your keyboard while a disembodied voice tells you to start again at Level 1, back with the smaller monsters and slightly easier riddles. 

Finally, FINALLY, they email you and tell you to phone them (still £1.20 a minute, remember) to arrange a date for your interview.  You do so, and the fact that it clashes with a long-planned training course that your husband has been booked to attend for the last three months is a mere bagatelle.  He arranges to arrive at the training event a day late, and you both book a day off work to trek up to London** for the interview. 

The US Embassy has VERY strict rules about what you are allowed to take into the building.  You can't take mobile phones, Blackberries, iPods, laptops, or keyfobs with electronic clickety things to open your car while you stand far away***.  We assumed that guns, knives and sharp sticks would also be frowned upon, so left all those at home. 

If you turn up with any of the banned items, you will NOT be allowed in and your interview will be CANCELLED.  You will LOSE your fee of $131 (about £80) and have to make a NEW appointment which you will have to pay for AGAIN. 

They use a lot of CAPITAL LETTERS to make this point in the emails they send you. 

What they don't do is send you a list of what you need to take.  That would be handy, if any of the Embassy staff are reading this.  A checklist of everything, all the various forms, passports, associated documentation and additional passport photos would be helpful.  Oh, and please ask the reception and security staff to use the same terminology when they talk about the forms, that would avoid a lot of confusion when they ask you if you have brought them with you.

Anyhoo.  We arrived at the Embassy building, a veritable fortress in the heart of London, and went through the first two perimeter checkpoints.  Unfortunately, when they put my handbag through the x-ray machine they saw my headphones, which I had forgotten were in there.  The list of BANNED items didn't mention headphones.  But they are banned, apparently.  What made it especially annoying was the fact that we had already travelled halfway across London to my office to drop off the car keys and my iPhone in my locker, to ensure we complied with the rules.  

I was within an ace of saying "Just throw the fucking things in the bin then," as I was exasperated and stressed to the eyeballs, but the security guard told me that there was a pharmacy down the road which offers storage for contraband (for a small fee).  I legged it down there, handed over my headphones, got a cloakroom ticket in return and made it back in time for the 11am appointment. 

That pharmacy must make a small fortune renting locker space. 

The lady on the main reception desk told us we only needed one appointment ticket as we had an appointment for both of us at the same time, so we took it, and skipped upstairs cheerfully. 

That didn't last long.

When you open the scarily heavy door to the Visa Room, there are about 400 chairs set out in rows on either side of the room, facing the screens in the middle.  It's like a very, very depressing cinema, or a squalid airport departure lounge from the 1960s.  It also made me think of something out of Brave New World, or possibly 1984.  There is a palpable atmosphere of despair and anxiety.  I felt myself ageing by the second.  

They were announcing ticket number 274 as we walked in.  We were number 440.    Fuck.

We sat and waited till they called our number, then went to the bullet-proof, axe-proof, dragon-breath-proof window.  The girl there checked our documents and said "Can I have your additional passport photos please?"

What?  Seriously? 

We hadn't brought additional passport photos, as the online application process had said our pictures were fine.  But no.  They weren't fine at all, so we had to pay another £4 each to have new pictures from their machine.  She then told us we needed another ticket, which Mr WithaY ran down to reception to fetch, and we were asked to go and sit down again and wait to be called to the next stage of the interview process. 

She gave us another form to fill in, in case we were getting bored.

The form she gave us warned that we should expect a wait of "some hours" for this next part of the process to pass.  Fuuuuuck.  We sat on the horrible hard chairs, along with dozens of other stressed, nervous, miserable people, and we waited.  And waited. And waited.

One bright spot was a chap who had just bought some food from the snack vending stall at the back of the room.  He had been there a fair while, the same as us, and had obviously decided to have some lunch.  He had literally only just started to unwrap his Cornetto****, and they called his number.  He walked out laughing to himself, his Cornetto in his hand. 

I hope he sat and ate it while they interviewed him.

So.  The long day wore on; we eventually got summoned to the Room of Delinquents and Scamps to explain to a very nice young American chap exactly why we needed a visa.  That was lovely, as you can imagine. 

He was very professional and polite, and very very thorough.  After we had explained all the horrible, depressing, nasty circumstances he said "I am not going to punish you for this, it doesn't seem fair, so I am authorising your visas."

I could have hugged him.  If the bullet-proof, axe-proof etc glass hadn't been there.

We had to queue up in yet another long line, and do a bit more paperwork before we were allowed to leave, but the end result is that we should be getting our envisa-ed passports back in the next few days, and will be able to go on holiday as planned in June.


This week I am mostly going to be looking for a lawyer.  I think the police ought to be footing the bill for all this, at least the money we have had to spend, if not the additional time, anxiety and indignity of it all.  I'll let you know how I get on. 

*Thanks to the Shitstorm From Hades

**To be fair, they did also offer us Belfast.  Very helpful.

***I forget the technical term

****That's not a euphamism.  A Cornetto is a type of ice-cream in a wrapper, non British readers.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Lost and found

This is a public service announcement.  Were you driving through rural West Wiltshire last night?

If so, did you lose this?

Or this?

Or these?

Does this look at all familiar?

Did you perchance leave these marks on the road?

Did your car make contact with this at high speed, flattening it into the pavement?

If so, please contact me as soon as possible, as I wish to slap you upside the head, you selfish, noisy, police-car-fleeing bastard, whoever you are.

Mr WithaY and I were having a lovely time in the land of the deep and dreamless sleepers, until we were rudely awoken* by the sound of cars being thrashed at high speed through the village.  A resounding crash, blue lights flashing through the curtains and continued squealing tyres and engine-gunning ensured that whatever hope either of us had for continuing with our comfy snoozing were dashed.

It was like being in an episode of The Dukes of Hazzard, but without the amusing rednecks** or cute girls in short shorts.


Other news:  Today is the lovely Mr WithaY's birthday.  Happy birthday, you mad bugger. I love you to bits.

*and not in a fun way
**Wiltshire orcs excepted

Friday, 16 April 2010

Sheesh, kebabs

You know trains?  You know how they can be a bit, well, not to put too fine a point on it, stinky?

Quite aside from the stale air, massed humanity, dirty upholstery and lord knows what being trodden into the floor, I discovered another offender.


Yes, you heard me.  Keeee-babs.

This epicure was tucking into one on the train home last night.  He was having a high old time, picking out every scrap of salad, or anything that might contain a vitamin and casting it aside, alternating with dangling long floppity dripping shreds of meat (origin unknown) into his gaping maw.

Pasties, I can tolerate, although the smell makes me hungry.  Chips, the same.  Pizza, burgers and now added to the list, kebabs, no.  Just, no.

If you want to eat that stuff, at least have the decency to sit in the "restaurant" where they shovel it into the customers.  Failing that, sit on a bench at the bus stop outside and lap it out of the styrofoam bucket.  Don't get into a train where all the doors and windows are closed for fucking hours on end and pollute the entire carriage with your greasy stench.  You bastards.

I think I'd almost prefer people to be smoking.

Talking of food, well, sort of, I had a slight setback at my slimming group this week.  Despite having been mostly good, I put ON 4.5lbs.  I mean, wtf?  Heavier clothes? Lead earrings? Diving boots?  Gah.   Still, I am half a stone lighter than I was at the start, so I am not giving way to despair.

Our group leader was giving out some salad recipes for us to try, and told us we ought to try "mango towt".  I had to read the list of ingredients before I worked out she meant mange tout.  Bless.

Other news:  Met up with my mate Spence last night for a meal after work, which was very pleasant.  We were discussing money-making schemes using our combined talents of blogging and cartooning. 


Hey, it might catch on.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Bee do bee do bee do

I am sitting here, trying to type as best I can with one and a half hands.  No, we haven't had another Lawnmower Incident, in case you're worrying.  Nothing so exciting. 

For a while now I have noticed a weird tiny little lump on the palm of my left hand, almost exactly in the middle.  Last night, I realised it had got a bit bigger, and so of course, I started dicking about with it.  I rubbed it, and it moved around as if there was something stuck under the skin. 

How interesting*. 

A bit more dicking around, and I realised that there was a little lump of something under the skin.  I fiddled with it a bit.

Well, what would you have done? 

I kept playing with it till I had managed to squeeze the lump right out.  It was hard, like a bit of chalk, or a teeny bit of gravel or something.  Very weird.

Once the initial excitement of getting a foreign body out of my hand (right out from under my SKIN!  Ew!) had passed, I inspected the damage.  There's a surprisingly large hole there now, which is bloody sore.  As the evening wore on, it got more and more painful, till I ended up slathering it in antiseptic and sticking a plaster over it.  Now it just looks absurd.  A plaster right across the palm of your hand makes you look like some clumsy galoot who has had a run-in with a particularly tough ketchup bottle.  It's really not impressive, and it feels weird.

This morning, as part of the Spring Madness that is currently gripping the WithaY household**, we went out to the local garden centre and bought a load of plants.  We've got some thyme planted in the flowerbed in front of the house, so it will smell nice as we walk past, and whenever the postman tramples on it.  We planted some Woodruff under the huge hedge out the front, which (apparently) will brighten up a gloomy corner.  We'll see.

We planted two blackcurrant bushes in the fruit bed out the back.  I have high hopes.  The raspberry canes have started to show some green shoots, and the redcurrant bushes have lots of buds.  There might be jam in the summer.

There are now two new climbing roses against the fence at the side of the house, but I am not very confident about them as the soil there is terrible***.  I chucked in a load of compost from a bag, but if they aren't happy then we will have to move them. 

More roses have been planted in the front garden; two ramblers at the side of the drive in an attempt to repress the weeds, and two taller bushy ones in the bed the other side of the drive to add some height and colour.  Fingers crossed that they don't die.

We chose varieties that have old-fashioned open flowers to allow bees to get in and feed.  Apparently the more modern hybrid tea roses are not very bee-friendly.  Speaking of bees, we attempted some bee rescue yesterday.  As we sat on the bench out the front, surrounded by all the flowers showcased in the last blog post, yeah you remember, we spotted a bumble bee.  He didn't look very well. 

He sat sadly on a leaf on the bay tree, so Mr WithaY carefully picked him up and put him on the heather, in case he was hungry.  Nothing.  He just hunched up, looking wretched.

Mr WithaY decided that he needed to make up some sugar and water solution to feed the bee, in case it was too tired to find food in the flowers.

It wasn't very interested, so we left it on the heather, and hopefully it will recover.

Other gardening news:  The potatoes we planted have yet to make an appearance.  Bloody things.

My camellia's have flowered, although they are a bit feeble.  The one at my lovely Mum's house is about 8 feet tall and laden with huge flowers.  Mine do not look well by comparison.

Please admire the delightful pipework on the wall behind it.  All adds to the charm and ambience.  We've got shitloads of charm round here. 

*By which I mean "slightly gross and freaky" of course.

**Mr WithaY is spring-cleaning his study as I type.  That time of year again already. 

***I dug a hole in three different spots, each time hitting fucking hardcore or paving slabs about 4 inches down.  Lord knows what the previous occupants had buried under there.  Some kind of Doomsday bunker/fallout shelter possibly. 

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Spring fever continues

Continuing the hippy dippy Spring theme, here are some more pictures of flowers.  God, I'm such a big girl.  I know.


These are some hyacinths I planted a while back, from a pack of about 100 bulbs from Homebase or some such non-specialist shop.  They smell wonderful.

Next to them are some cute white crocuses, from the same mega-pack of bulbs.

They don't have a strong fragrance but they are very pretty.  Plus I got to use the funky techno MACRO setting on my camera.  So it's a technically more interesting photo.  Honest. 

This is a rather nice shot of the planter with all the bulbs in it, lit up in the sunshine. 

We've had some unexpected snakes head fritilleries (Is that the correct spelling? I have no idea, any botanists in the audience please advise) make an appearance.  I planted bulbs a few years ago, we had a few grow that spring, then nothing more till now.

They don't look quite real somehow.  Maybe that's the macro setting.

We've also got a few primroses in the lawn.  Mr WithaY is planning to get the Mower of Doom out this weekend, and will have to take care not to mince them to bits.  And not to mince any more of his fingers, of course.  Last year involved more than enough panic-stricken dashes to hospitals, so no more of those thanks.

Other news:  I was genuinely delighted that Dhruv won the Masterchef final.  His food sounded appealing, it was beautiful to look at, and if he opens a restaurant I think I'd like to go and eat there.  There was a spontaneous round of applause in the WithaY sitting room when the winner was announced, such was the level of excitement here.

Lordy I'm old.

Ooh, almost forgot.  Have lost another 2.5 lbs, making a grand total of 11.5 over the last 8 weeks.  Yay me. 

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Animal magic (again)

Spring has sprung, new life is abounding.  I have proof. 


Puppies!  How cute are they, eh?  It wasn't exactly a planned pregnancy but they are very much loved. 

I love the one on its back, little pink paws in the air, fast asleep.  They are tiny.  More like hamsters than dogs at the moment.

That's the proud mum on the right.  She's not much bigger than a hamster herself.  Well, a cat maybe.  Oh alright.  A small Jack Russell. 

Ok, that's enough cute puppy pictures for now.  But they are very endearing.

Other spring-like evidence:

Violets, growing in my lovely Mum's garden.  They have self-seeded all over the place, even making a break across the wall and onto the grass verge. Marvellous.  They are the most beautiful blue colour.  Violet, I suppose you'd call it.

Each flower is perfect.  And they smell lovely, but you have to scooch right down to them as they are very subtle. 

Also, I took some pictures of the fish, in case you were wondering how they were getting on.  We've not had any more tragic floaters, and Mr WithaY has bought three more shrimp.  These shrimp, though, are HUGE, rather than teeny and shrimpy, as the last ones were.  They'd make a decent starter in a posh restaurant.  We wanted them to be able to defend themselves from marauding carnivores, and we though that if they were too big to fit into any other fish's mouth that might help.  So far so good.

This is a rather nice picture of three of the leopard cory all chilling out atop their rock.  They are waiting for feeding time, when things really kick off.

A shot of the leopard cory from behind (the glamour element) with some of the tetras and a pentazonal barb in the foreground.

I just like saying "pentazonal barb".

Other news:  A sad farwell to Elvis the cat, a member of Youngest Sis' family for many years.  He's the one that caught fire one Christmas.  I told you about it here.

He was much loved and will be missed. 

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Easter basket cases

I've done a lot of driving lately.  I went down to Sussex on Friday to pick up my lovely Mum, who is staying with me over Easter.  We're having a bit of a girlie weekend, which is very pleasant. 

Mr WithaY has made himself scarce, off on some woodsmans training course, where he will be honing his bushcraft and survival skills.  I daresay that even now he is sitting by a campfire, munching on pemmican, trying to dry himself off.  He made a batch of venison jerky last week, ready for the weekend.  Then, struck by inspiration, he finely ground up some of the jerky, added dried cranberries and suet, moulded the whole lot into squash-ball-sized lumps and packed it in his survival kit.  He was very proud of it. 

Pemmican.  Mmm.  Fatty.  And if he doesn't get through it all, I daresay the birds will enjoy it.

Anyway, the driving.  I went down to Sussex, as I said, a journey of just about 100 miles which usually takes me 2 hours, give or take a bit.  The weather was horrific.  Heavy, heavy rain, thick blinding spray on the roads, and of course all the fuckwit holiday drivers who are determined to drag their caravans all the way to the South Coast despite the fact that it is like the end of the world outside.


I know I've mentioned this on the blog a few times before, but why oh why oh fucking why do people insist on driving with their lights off in poor visibility?  I almost sideswiped a silver van as he came up fast on the outside, completely masked in the spray and gloom.  Luckily I spotted him before I started to overtake the car in front of me, but even so it was close. 

The trip home was marred by traffic.  Traffic traffic traffic.  We sat on the road into Salisbury for 45 minutes, just waiting to get into the city.  Once in, it was fine.  The roads were relatively clear, but the queue on the way was just appalling.  I only went that way because I had driven past miles of traffic heading west down the A303 on the way out that morning, and thought I'd be wily and avoid it going home.

Schoolboy error.

Here's a picture of similar traffic on the A303 I took a while back.  I daresay some of the same cars were in the queue on Friday. 

I logged the queue on Friday at about 6 miles.  Nice.

It took us 3 hours to get home. THREE.  Once here, however, we have been having a nice time.  Yesterday we went for lunch to the rather funky Indian restaurant on the side of the A36, which used to be a Little Chef.  They kept the elephant slide outside but have decorated it tastefully.  Today we plan a trip to the garden centre, as the sun has made an appearance. 

It's all go here.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Dust in the wind

It's been snowing here, on and off over the last two days.  Well, sleeting.  Heavy rain, with lumps in.  Mindful of the poor starving birds in the garden, I thought I'd crumble up the last remaining bit of the loaf I made on Sunday.  It was a wholemeal granary one, with loads of seeds in it, so I thought it might do the birds some good.

We feed them with "real" birdfood too.  Mr WithaY has a whole system of nut feeders, seed feeders, fat ball* feeders and a birdbath, which he keeps a close eye on, replenishing as required.  We get all manner of small birds in the garden:  finches, tits, song thrushes, blackbirds, robins, and sometimes a spotted woodpecker, which is lovely to watch.  Oh, and a pair of ducks the other day which seemed to be looking for a nice spot to build a nest.

However, yesterday I thought that the birds could have some tasty homemade bread as well as the regular free-for-all buffet we normally provide for them.

I carefully crumbled up the bread, which was still fresh - before I get hate mail accusing me of palming off rock-hard crusts onto the poor defenceless birdies.  None of that nasty stale shite for our birds.  Oh no.

I made a neat little heap of crumbs, lots of nice sunflower seeds distributed throughout, scooped them up into my hand and opened the back door to toss them artfully onto the lawn where I'd be able to watch the birds enjoying them.

In future, I will check which way the wind is blowing before I toss a large handful of small breadcrumbs out of the door.  Top tip there.

I spent about 20 minutes picking seeds off my clothes and out of my hair, and the birds got bugger-all**.

* I know it's juvenile, but I can't help it.  I snigger every time I see the display of Fat Balls in the supermarket.  And when we spotted the Fat Peckers I had to be helped away.

**Unless they were watching, and enjoyed a good laugh watching me shouting "Oh bollocks!" and brushing myself off vigorously.