I was hoping that by now I could be posting photos of the burgeoning Springtime, trees in early leaf, blossoms, tweeting birdies, flowers in the dell, all that stuff. Instead, it is grey, cold and blowy outside. Also, dear readers, it is cold and grey (but less blowy) inside.
Because we have managed to run out of oil. For those of you who live in towns and cities where things are all piped into your homes and you never have to worry about them (except paying the bills) allow me to explain.
Where we live, there are not a lot of mains services. We have electricity which does tend to fail at times, plunging the entire village into the Fourteenth Century. We have running water, although that too has issues sometimes. We have telephones, and therefore the Internet, thank goodness. Other than that, we're on our own.
Thus our cooker runs on bottled gas, bought at huge expense, and our central heating and hot water run on oil, also bought at vast expense, stored in a tank in the garden. When we had the oil tank installed about 12 years ago, we had a sensor fitted. A little radio/wireless thingy that transmitted to a readout in the kitchen, telling us how much oil was in there. When it got to one bar (much like a mobile phone battery life indicator) you knew it was time to order more oil. When the one bar started flashing and little icon of an oil pump lit up, you knew it was really time to order more oil, or to start panicking that the oil you had already ordered hadn't arrived yet.
There's always quite a wait. Sometimes three weeks, depending on the oil supplier, the time of year and whether the tanker driver can be arsed to come to our village. Of course, to add to the complicated nature of this system, you have to shop around, as the price of oil varies considerably from supplier to supplier, so you seldom use the same supplier twice.
Oh, if you're bored with this story, imagine how it feels to have to LIVE it.
Anyhoo. The oil tank sensor thingy failed last year sometime - the batteries ran out and you have to replace the whole thing, as apparently it's dangerous to dick about with batteries in a tank full of oil. Cuh. Lightweights. So, we bought a new one, exactly the same as the old one, and Mr WithaY installed it in the tank.
The sensor in the tank worked ok; it told us we had oil. However, the receiver unit in the kitchen didn't do what it was supposed to. It flashed up a random and annoying set of bars and icons, and then defiantly went blank. On referral to the Internet, which as we know is never wrong, it seemed that the unit wasn't set up quite correctly. Several months of tweaking, resetting and giving up in exasperation followed, leaving us with a receiver unit in the kitchen that was left permanently turned off in disgust, and a sensor in the oil tank which Mr WithaY went to check every so often.
Just before Easter I said "How much oil have we got?" Mr WithaY went out to check the sensor, and came in to report that we were down to the last bar. Time to order more. The tiresome research was done, and the cheapest oil price was obtained, and we placed our order. They told us it would probably take "up to two weeks" which was fine. We knew from experience that we had enough oil to last a few weeks, as we were only on the last bar, not the flashing "get more oil NOW" icon.
However. On the Tuesday after Easter, Mr WithaY announced that the boiler had locked up. He went out and checked the tank - physically dipping it, rather than looking at the sensor - and it was empty. The sensor still showed one bar. Arse.
Since Tuesday last week, therefore, we have had no heating or hot water, as we are still waiting for the oil delivery. They've taken the money for it - over £500 - but of course we are still at the mercy of their delivery schedules, and they told us how long it was likely to take when we placed the order.
On the plus side, we have an open fire and plenty of logs, so are able to keep the house warm. The dishwasher and washing machine still work perfectly well, it's just getting ourselves washed which is inconvenient. Thankfully, we have lovely neighbours* who have kindly invited us over to use their shower when we need to.
Last week also saw the visit of Middle Nephew, who was unphased by the lack of showering facilities, merely complaining that he couldn't do his hair properly. He declined the offer of a shower at the neighbour's, saying that he'd wait till he got home. Ah, teenage boys.
Mr WithaY took Middle Nephew out in the Landrover one afternoon. They managed to get stuck in the mud, and had to walk miles in the snow to a v posh house at the edge of the woods to ask for help. Fortunately, as so often seems to be the case, the locals were friendly and willing to help; some of them towed the Landrover out of the mud, and they all went to the pub afterwards. Middle Nephew was unimpressed by this, and decided not to go out in the woods again.
I went to see my lovely Mum at the weekend, as I took Middle Nephew home too, and was able to chill out, have a bath and enjoy a very relaxing visit. We went out for a drive on Sunday, up onto the Trundle, home of Goodwood Racecourse, where I almost managed to drop my car down a steep incline after misjudging the angle of approach to a car park entrance. A swift change of plan and a backwards hill-start onto the main road (not recommended, kids!) meant we escaped unscathed but it was a little alarming.
Oh, that reminds me. There was an impressive car accident in the village the other week. The road outside our house is remarkably lively, not least because there is a popular pub, a very busy petrol station, and several minor roads all joining it within about quarter of a mile.
One afternoon, a car came trundling down one of these minor roads, and the driver - newly qualified, apparently - didn't realise she was approaching a junction with a major road. She failed to stop, and sailed out into the path of a huge oncoming lorry. The lorry hit the car, flipped it across the road, through a set of railings and down the pathway into the side of the pub. Incredibly, nobody was hurt, although apparently the lady in the pub who was sitting on the other side of the wall which the car smashed into didn't stop screaming for some time.
Other news: Dog still lovely. Weather still shite, but improving slightly, although that might be my metabolism getting used to the cold, what with the "no heating" thing. Mr WithaY has been working up at Old Sarum, constructing Neolithic roundhouses as part of an experimental archaeology project. More on this anon. Catering stuff still plodding along slowly but surely. Work still going well.
How are things with you?