Saturday, 31 December 2011

Godzilla service pack

I've got several blog posts sitting in the Drafts folder, started, then abandoned, like a too-big sandwich that you thought you could manage, but it turned out you couldn't.

There are several reasons for this, including the old favourites "utter laziness", "lack of enthusiasm for the subject matter that is my life" and of course "distracted by watching a film on TV and forgetting all about the blog."

Additional reasons which are slightly less dull and objectionable include:

Christmas.  I know it happens at the same time every year, but even so.  Things were busy, what with going out a fair bit, and enjoying spending time at home with Mr WithaY and various friends who have been calling in to visit.  A couple of Mr WithaY's former colleagues called in the week before Christmas for tea and mince pies, and it was very nice to hear about how shite things are in the office.  Mr WithaY was able to enjoy the gossip and then sigh happily to think that he is well out of all that madness now.

We had a party.  It was successful, in that all the food was eaten (and I think enjoyed), nobody left in a high dudgeon (as far as I know) and nothing got smashed.  Well, only a few of the guests.  In fact, that felt like the start of Christmas, and things have been mostly very nice ever since.


The night of our party, ten minutes before the guests started to arrive, we had a phone call from a very dear friend.  His wife, another very dear friend, had been gravely ill following a heart attack.  Horrible.  We'd been informed of this by her brother a few days earlier, so were already anxious.  Anyway, her husband rang us to let us know that there had been more tests run, including an MRI scan, and that the results were devastatingly bad. In fact, he all but said that they were now just waiting for the end.  Well, fuck.  We (me, Mr WithaY and our recently-married mate who was staying with us for the party) had a stiff drink, I had a bit of a cry, and then we had to put on our best smiley faces and greet our guests.

All things considered, it was a very good party, but it was a bit weird.  At one point I went and sat outside on the bench in the front garden and looked at the stars, and had a surreptitious little weep (I had been drinking a fair bit, if that's any mitigation) but other than that, it all went well.

Recent news of our friend's progress  is fractionally encouraging, but not much.  We're waiting to see what happens.

The traditional Christmas Cold has made its annual appearance too.  Mr WithaY succumbed to it on Boxing Day, and since then has spent his time wrapped in many, many layers of fleece and wool, taking Beechams and accruing a huge mound of balsam tissues on the floor beside him, which then get ritualistically thrown on the fire, in a sort of Viking burial for germs.  I thought I'd got away with it until today.

I have not got away with it, however, and today I am developing my very own germ Valhalla mound.

Also, I got my car back this week.  It had a broken turbo, it turned out, and as a result I had to spend £1500 to get it fixed.  Fucking Toyota parts.

For that kind of money, I want my new turbo personally delivered by Godzilla.  On a bed of carefully-sliced fugu fish.  With a band of high-ranking Samurai warriors as escort.

They should do that.  Call it the "Godzilla Service Pack."  I'd buy it.

Anyhoo, the car is running well again, and if I felt less shite I dare say I'd go out in it.

So, Happy New Year to you all.  Thank you for taking the time to read and sometimes comment on my blog, I appreciate it very much.

I'd still write it, but it's more fun knowing there's an audience out there.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011


Christmas is almost here!  I'm excited, which is nice.  The last couple of years have been slightly odd.  Two years ago we barely celebrated at all, what with all the SSFH* crap that we had to deal with, and last year we both had heavy colds and chest infections, but this year (so far) we are both hale and hearty, and looking forward to the festive season.

I've been very busy Making Things, which has been both productive and enjoyable.  I have made (in no particular order):

1)  About a gallon of Christmas spiced cranberry and port preserve, containing cranberries, oranges, apples, sugar and port.  And spices. Nom nom nom.

2)  A beautiful rose out of wired parcel ribbon, which I just made up as I went along, and was very pleased with.  In a gesture of largesse, I gave it to one of Mr WithaY's mates who had popped in quickly for something one evening.  He took it graciously, if bemusedly, and said he'll put it in his Landrover.  So that was nice.

3)  A huge and delicious fruit salad, containing cherries, pineapple, grapes, blueberries, mandarins, peaches, lychees and figs.  It was splendid, though I say so myself.

The fruit salad was to take to my lovely Mum's house, as we had the tradtional pre-Christmas family gathering last weekend.

London Niece's birthday is around this time of year, so we all met up to celebrate that, and to exchange Christmas presents and cards, and to see each other before the holidays really got under way.   It was lovely, if noisy, everyone was looking well** and looking forward to Christmas.  We ate and drank and pulled crackers and popped party poppers, and had birthday cake.

The cake was interesting.

As we didn't have the required number of small candles (16), there was a blinding display of ingenuity, and this was the result:

Thirteen, plus two, plus one.  A maths lesson AND a cake.

Previous birthday cake entertainment involving candles can be found here.

4)  The manga-stylee frock, which was London Niece's birthday present.  Readers, though I say so myself, it turned out rather well.


I had suggested that the best way to create it was if a top of the correct size was bought, sent to me, and I would make the skirt to match.  Which is what I did.  In the picture I was sent, the character has more decoration on the front of the top, but I left that off, as the top already had sequins all over the front, and adding anything else might have looked a bit weird.

Anyhoo, London Niece was very pleased.

The amount of swearing involved in making those ruffles though....gah.  It would have made a sailor blush.

Other news:  My car is broken again.  It's the same problem it had a few weeks ago - when you put your foot down there's a dramatic loss of acceleration, and the Engine Warning light comes on.

I took it to a local garage who ran a diagnostic check (£58 thank you very much) and returned it to me with the diagnosis "There's something wrong with the turbo.  Or maybe the electrics.  You should take it back to the Toyota garage"


I took it back to the Toyota garage last Friday morning.  I rang the Toyota garage yesterday (Monday) morning to ask if they had any idea when I could have my car back.

They said they'd have a chat with the chaps in the workshop and ring me later.  At ten to five that night they rang.

They hadn't found the problem, but it's something to do with the turbo.  Probably.  Did I want to come and collect my car?

I declined, on the grounds that if it was still broken there wasn't much point me driving all the way back here, then taking it all the way back there again in a day or two.


In other, more cheerful, news, we have put our Christmas tree up and it looks lovely.  This is the top half.

Our decorations include the Christmas Lobster.  He has a teeny sprig of holly in one claw.

There's also the Christmas Hunter, complete with hound and dead deer.

And the Christmas Lobster Pots.

And the more traditional glass reindeer.


*Shit Storm From Hades, now thankfully very much behind us.

**Except poor Youngest Sis - hope your back is feeling better!

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Flouncing about

It's a bracing 11 degrees in my study this morning.  Mmmmm.  Fresh.

Yesterday afternoon, around 2pm, I was sitting in here, pleating ruffles for a funky dress I am making.  London Niece asked me to make her a costume to wear to some Manga convention, and helpfully emailed me pictures of the relevant character to work from:

I'm not making the umbrella, hat, boots or creepy ghost thingy. Just the frock.


Radio 4 Extra was on; I think I was listening to a Sherlock Holmes dramatisation.  Well, that's what always seems to be on Radio 4 Extra.  That and endless dull dramatisations of twentieth-century political novels I've never read.  Oh, and Elvenquest.  I like Elvenquest.

So, as I said, I was sitting in here, pleating miles and miles of black satin, and I thought "Hmm, it's getting a bit chilly now. I'll put the heating on a couple of hours early."

Normally our heating only comes on for an hour or so in the morning, just before getting-up time, and then again at teatime until bedtime*.  

So, I scampered downstairs, pressed the Advance switch on the boiler, made a cup of tea and scampered back up here.  Another half-hour, and more Sherlock Holmes, passed.  I realised I was still chilly - the tea masked that for a while - and felt the radiator.  Stone cold.


Did I press the wrong button on the boiler?  Not the first time I'd have done so, if I had.  Back down to the kitchen, and a proper look at the boiler control panel.

All the correct lights were on.  I ran the hot tap and ensured that there was hot water.  Yep.  Checked the oil tank sensor thingy.  Yep, still loads of oil there.  I pressed the heating button uselessly a few more times, then dug out the "Welcome to your new boiler" booklet that lives in among the cobwebby filth at the bottom of the boiler cupboard.

I read all the "Troubleshooting" advice, then tried everything they suggested.  The options were limited, to be fair.  I had to turn the hot water and heating temperature dials up to MAXIMUM POWER and listen for the burners igniting.

It was like the launch of the space shuttle.

The burners ignited with a satisfying THUMPFWOOOOOOSSSSSSSSHHHHHHH but there was nothing going on with the radiators.


I rang the boiler people and after a 20 minute wait on hold, interrupted by repeated attempts to make me go to the Internet, I got through to a helpful lady.

She listened to my babbling account of the problem - I suspect the only thing she was really interested in was my address and credit card details - but she made sympathetic noises and assured me that a repair man would be here on Saturday.  I asked when. Oh, any time between 0800 and 1600.


After that, I went out to the impossibly awkwardly-placed log pile in the shed and managed to scavenge a basket of firewood.  We have far too many sheds.  You'd think at least one of them would be easy to use, wouldn't you?  The log shed (formerly the dog shed) has our supply of firewood in it.  I discovered yesterday that it has a leaky roof, and that Mr WithaY has rigged up a complex system of boards and tarpaulins inside the shed to keep the wood dry.

Unfortunately it makes it almost impossible to reach the log pile.  I perched atop flimsy boards and slippery tarpaulin, grabbing at logs randomly, feeling the whole heap move each time I removed something.  It was like playing Extreme Jenga.

It added an element of excitement to a routine chore, I suppose.

So.  I lit the fire in the sitting room at about 4pm, as it was getting dark and cold, and then sat there like a Victorian miser, doling additional firewood out according to a complex calculation involving the amount of heat required, estimated duration of log burn, critical mass of fire needed to retain structural integrity and number of logs left in the basket to last me the evening.

I went to bed at 9pm, cheered by the thought that I have a hot water bottle in the back of a cupboard.  I was going to fill it from the hot tap in the bathroom, wrap it in a small towel and a pillowcase, then snuggle in bed under a duvet and a heap of blankets, watching TV till I was sleepy.

I may even have hummed a happy tune as I filled my hot water bottle, after running the hot tap for ages to ensure maximum warmth.  I screwed the lid on and turned it upside down over the sink to shake out the water in the neck of the bottle.  Water poured from a myriad of tiny holes all over the bloody thing.

It's old.  It's rubber.  It's perished.


I went to bed in a bit of a sulk and contented myself with posting grumpy and petulant messages on Facebook, watching TV and finding extra blankets.

Mr WithaY is away on his bushcraft course this week.  Every time he goes away in the winter the boiler plays up.  Every bloody time.

Anyway, the boiler man rang me at 0730 to tell me he was on his way, and he is currently up to his ears in the boiler cupboard, fixing it.

In fact, update, he has finished, and the heating is back on.

So ignore the above.

Sorry about that.

*You should see our clocks.  No numbers involved.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Extra long honkers

I've been looking at some of the search terms people have used to get to my blog.  Many of them are as you might expect - "home made cake," "lives in the woods,"  "extraordinarily talented unpublished authors of the twenty-first century" - but some are just utterly pure genius bonkers.

For example:

Elven tea.  As far as I know I have never offered recipes for any elven food or beverages, certainly not tea.  Perhaps I ought to start a cookery suggestions section for all the non-human races.  Elven tea.  Gnome quiche.  Orc battenburg.  Troll eclairs.  Fairy cakes.  Heh.  I do remember ranting about the bastard elves in Iceland who threaten to break your legs if you upset them.  Maybe that's what they were looking for.

god for harry.  Marvellous. I am attracting semi-literate people who are keen on Shakespeare.  Or Kenneth Branagh.  Or who are frantically researching Henry V for their homework, up against a deadline.  Either way, hello, non-capitalising culture fans.  Bet this wasn't what you were looking for, eh?

have a proper cold.  I like that this sounds like an order.  For goodness sake, stop sniffling and whining and just have a proper cold, can't you?  Sheesh.  No, blood pouring from your ears doesn't count.  Nor does the broken bone poking through your shin.  Come back when you have a temperature, blocked sinuses and a red shiny nose, not before.  Timewaster.

Yellow circles malta bird intrigues me.  I can't imagine what that person is looking for.  If it was you, please drop a comment and tell me.  I bet you were mighty pissed off when all you found were photos of my terrible tie-dyed sheets and some holiday snaps of Malta.  Fool.

Dalek blown up toilet seat is another mystery.  Dalek, yes.  Toilet seat, yes.  Both of those subjects have made at least one appearance on here.  Both together?  Unlikely.  Mental.

Extra long honkers.  This one made me laugh out loud, and I Googled it myself.  All I found out was that it refers to one of the magazines read by Scruffy the Janitor in Futurama, along with "Zero G Juggs."  Don't say you never learn anything here.  It could also possibly be referring to the many and varied duck/goose decoy honkers which I have commented on in the past.  However,  I prefer to imagine disappointed cartoon porn magazine seekers finding this blog, and becoming interested in cake and car problems despite themselves.

Look, the hilarious picture of honkers that I took waaaaaay back when we were in Maine last summer,  remember? Yeah you do.

In other news:  Business plans are gathering pace, to the extent that I am going to be in touch with an accountant next week.  More news once stuff is signed.  But it's all very exciting.