Thursday, 29 January 2015


Many of our regular customers in the shop wear what is loosely termed "Country Attire."  This may consist of a filthy pair of John Deere overalls, or ancient Wellington boots over waterproof trousers, or rigger boots and moleskins.  A lot of them wear shooting breeches, as they are involved with one of the local shoots.  Many customers are keepers, or beaters, or even guns on the shoots, so it makes sense.

Last weekend I was at work, serving a very elegant lady.  She was in raptures over the local honey, and the fact that we sell part-baked baguettes.  As I packed her stuff and took her money we chatted about this and that.  Whilst this was happening, one of the regular customers came in, and I handed him his newspaper from beneath the counter.  He smiled and said thank you and walked away.

I apologised to the lady for having interrupted our conversation, but realised she was staring in wide-eyed amazement at the departing customer, who was walking back to his car.

"Are you alright?" I asked her.

"I'm fine," she said, then she laughed.  "Did you see his TROUSERS?"

I glanced out of the window at the chap, who was sporting a fine pair of tweed breeks, which probably cost a fortune.

"Um.  Yes." I looked at her, she was still laughing.

"I didn't think anyone actually wore clothes like that!"  She was genuinely amused.

I asked her where she was from.



Wednesday, 28 January 2015


Ah, technology.

Once more I am able to converse on the telephone. Once more, I can surf the myriad wonderful shores of the Internet. Once more I can dick about on Facebook.  Once more, we discover that life is not like Star Trek.

Last Saturday, about teatime, I was sitting on the comfy sofa, dealing with some mindless nonsense on my iPad, eBay, possibly, when the gloomy message "You are not connected to the Internet" popped up in the middle of my screen.  I tried refreshing the screen.


I went into Settings and tried to reconnect to the relevant WiFi thingy.


I turned it off and on again.   The last resort.

Nope.  Well, bollocks.

On further investigation (going upstairs and glaring at the blue lights on the BT Homehub box) it was clear that my Internet connection was broken.  Mr WithaY emerged from his study, blinking in the light, and asked if there was a problem with the phone, as his Internet wasn't working.  A second investigation revealed that the OTHER BT Homehub box (yes, yes, yes, we have two, long story, probably going to get rid of one this year) wasn't working either.

The handset on the phone in the hall displayed the message "Check Line Cord" which we know from experience means Serious Issues With The Phone.  As we live in the Village Of No Mobile Reception, we couldn't ring BT to let them know, so left it till the next day, hoping that the phone line might have magically sorted itself out overnight.

I went to work on Sunday morning, and was not particularly surprised when a neighbour from further up the road called in to ask if our phone worked.  The shop phone did, but I told him our home phone was out of order.

"So's ours! And all the neighbours' on either side! AND the phone box!" he told me.  He'd already been on the (mobile) phone to BT to report the fault, which meant finding a spot at the top of the hill by the church where there's intermittent reception, and then spending almost £10 on his emergency pay as you go mobile whilst BT kept him on hold. He wasn't happy.

One of the more endearing quirks of reporting a fault to BT is their insistence that you listen to their instructions about resolving faults at your end.  They ought to call it It's All Your Faults.  They insist that you check that your phone isn't unplugged, or the dog hasn't eaten your WiFi box, or the house hasn't burned down while you weren't concentrating, and only then will they agree to send out an engineer.  Even then, you have to agree to pay a huge fee (almost £200!) if they find that it's Your Fault.

Anyhoo, the fault had been raised with BT, so I rang them as well, told them that our phones were also affected, and agreed to hand over a huge sack of cash if it turned out not to be their problem.  On leaving work, I spotted a BT engineer doing something at the base of the telephone pole on the corner. I wandered over to see.

Me:  Hello.  Have you come to fix all our phones?

Engineer:  Hello.  Yes.

Me:  So what's the problem?

Engineer:  Well.  Look.

The engineer gestured at the thick black cable that runs up the length of the phone pole.  It had been neatly cut in half about a foot from the ground.  A myriad of small wires poked out of the two severed ends.

Me:  Ah.

Engineer: (wearily) Yep, this is me for the next couple of hours.

He declined the offer of a cup of tea, so I left him to it.  By the time it was dark, his van had gone, and so had he, and the broken cable was all patched back up.  However, the phones still weren't working.

I went to work on Monday morning.  To my non-astonishment, a neighbour came in to ask if our phone worked.  I told her it did, and asked if her's was out of order.

"Not exactly," she told me.  "My number is now in Jean's house.  And Jean's number is ringing in my house."


As more people came into the shop, it became clear that a terrible, terrible thing had happened to our phones.  We all had each others' numbers, but nobody knew who had which, or where they were calling.  I tried calling both our numbers from the shop phone but they just rang endlessly so I gave up.

Once again, BT were called.  Once again I had to agree to give them all my money if the fault was mine.  I explained that at least 12 houses were affected, and that it was most likely that the problem rested with the massive severed cable that had been sellotaped back together inaccurately.

Early on Monday morning, a BT engineer appeared at my house.  I explained the situation at length.

Me:  BT have run line tests and said my phone is fine, but look - there's no dial tone."  My voice might have gone a bit squeaky as I waved the dead handset about.

Engineer:  (backing away slightly) phone is dead.  And yet we have a good line signal.  (He looked at his electronic handset thingy, then back at my dead phone.)

Me:  YES.  My phone number works, just not in my house!

Engineer: Ok.  I'll get on with this then.  (More fiddling with his tricorder) Ah, your phone is ringing at a Mr Sanders' house.  Do you know him?

Me: (coldly) No.

(He went back out to his van, possibly to have an aspirin.)

An hour or so later, both our phones were working, and we had Internet access once more.  Hurrah.  The engineer stood on the doorstep chatting cheerfully as we said our goodbyes.

Me: And will you be going to all the other houses now to sort them out too?

Engineer:  Um.  What other houses?

I told him about all the neighbours' phone issues, and the phone box.  He was appalled.

Engineer:  I only have two call-outs for today, and neither of them are in this village!

Me:  Well, there are at least a dozen houses with this problem.  And the phone box.

Engineer:  So why haven't they reported them?

Me: No phones! No Internet!  No mobile reception!

When I went to work that afternoon, there was a huge BT cherrypicker truck with a bloke deedily reattaching wires at the top of the phone pole.  It was there quite a while.

In other news, I am now working full-time in the village shop.  I really like it.  There's a shift pattern which suits me well, as you do four days on, two days off, so your days off vary from week to week, and even on the days you work you either have a morning or an afternoon to yourself.

The first couple of late shifts I did were nerve-racking, as you have to lock everything and set alarms and so on, but once I got the hang of it, it was fine.  It's sociable and friendly, and apart from my feet hurting at the end of a shift - there's nowhere to sit for most of the time - I like it very much.  I daresay my feet will adapt.

A customer came in the other day, bought a few bits and pieces, and then gave me a handful of change to pay for it.  As he dropped the money into my hand I realised it was sticky. Very, very sticky.

Me:  Ewww! What's all over this money? Why is it so sticky?

Customer: (who was very, very Welsh)  Oh, sorry love,  That's just orange juice.

Me:  Really.

Customer:  Yeah. Had a bit of an accident in my cab, see.  Sorry about that.

Me:  Orange juice.  Hmmm.

Customer:  Yeah, it is, honest.  Go on! Smell it!


Thursday, 8 January 2015

Glorious victory. And inglorious ailments.

Hello, happy 2015 etcetera etcetera etcetera.  To be fair, I have very little clue what day it is, never mind what year.  This is down to the usual Christmas/New Year bewilderment that happens every year, but also because this year, for a change, we all got really ill over the holidays.

I don't know why I refer to them as "the holidays," given that Mr WithaY and I no longer work a standard Monday to Friday pattern.  Every day we're not working could be described as a "holiday."

Anyhoo. We had all kinds of plans for Christmas, all sorts of parties and events we were planning on going to, or hosting.  Day trips, even.

Mr WithaY and I went to the Bath Christmas market, where we bought gee-gaws and trinkets and trumpery*.  These included:

  • A wooden trivet made of slices of wood all set in some sort of resin, which looks like an arty photograph.  I love it.  
  • Some beautifully soft grey and blue lambswool fingerless mittens which I wear almost constantly outside, 
  • A stained glass Christmas tree decoration from a very young, very silent, Belarusian nun.  
  • A wreath made from dried apples, oranges, cinnamon sticks and (I think) Scotch Bonnet chillies, which now hangs in the front porch.  
We shopped for food, we made sure there was Champagne for Christmas Day, we moved furniture to ensure the tree would fit in the sitting room.  The decorations went up, the house looked festive, we were ready.

Things started well with several members of the extended family arriving for the weekend before Christmas, much jollity and dog-walking, and a tremendous curry where we all sat at a great big long table and ate a vast selection of lovely food.  The remainder of the family arrived the next day and there was more hilarity, dog-walking, exchanging of gifts and a buffet.  We do like a buffet in our family.  Mostly because you can have three slices of ham if you want to, AND a sausage roll AND some celery AND a bit of cheese.

The majority of the family went to their respective homes again, leaving just Mr WithaY and I, and my lovely Mum here for the Christmas period.  The first few days were perfect. We went out a bit, drank lots of tea, ate lots of delicious home-made food, watched some Christmas TV, and looked forward to the Big Day.  I went to work on Christmas Eve, Mr WithaY and Mum stayed in and watched a DVD together.

By the time I finished work at 6pm, I was feeling very odd.  Dizzy. Hot and cold.  Headachy.  I got home, and the others were feeling much the same.  And that, dear readers, was that.  We all went down with the flu as if felled by hammers, and for the next three or four days hardly moved.

Mr WithaY and I, whilst feeling dreadful, were able to eat a little, and even make cups of tea and so on, but poor Mum just got worse and worse, to the point where she ended up staying with us for an extra week, and was then only taken home on New Years Day to go straight into hospital. Thankfully, after a week of top-notch care, she has returned home and seems to be much better. but it was a horrible time for all of us.

Mr WithaY and I have both been left with horrible racking coughs, and intermittent high temperatures, but we are both much better than we were.  I have no energy, and even walking the dog around the village, or pushing a shopping trolley round the supermarket leaves me shaking and exhausted, but hopefully in a few days that will pass too.

The good news is that I have lost a stone, for the first time ever over Christmas, and am definitely less podgy than I was.  A few days of eating normally will probably put paid to that, but it's nice to begin a New Year feeling like I am already on the right track.

 Other news:  Prior to the Great Flu Outbreak, I was the proud winner of this:

The Stonehenge volunteers had their Christmas party, and held a Great British Bake-Off competition, where people were invited to submit cakes for JUDGEMENT.

I made this, a coffee cake with home-made apricot jam in the middle, and butterscotch chocolate ganache icing. Mr WithaY added the Neolithic deer drawing:

And it won!  I assumed, when Mr WithaY came into the pub to tell me (I was at the work Christmas meal, so wasn't at the Stonehenge event, clashing dates, sadly) that there had only been one or two entries, and we'd all won a cup.

Oh, but no.  No.

There were apparently about 30 entries, and the judges did it all very seriously, tasting everything and making their decision very carefully.


Hurrah!  Here's the glorious cup in situ, dominating the room:

I am hoping I get to keep it forever, rather than having to return it next year.   That reminds me, I must add it to our insurance.

So.  The flu.  A quiet and very worrying Christmas.  A lingering annoying cough.  No other news.

Here's a lovely picture of the dog that my Middle Sis took on one of our family walks.  I really, really like it.  It shows you exactly what a friendly, sweet-natured girl she is.  And the dog is nice too.

Here's to a good New Year, and that nobody gets the flu again.

Oh, and once again there was no Dinotopia on TV.  Outrageous.

*you have to talk like that in Bath. It's the LAW.