Friday, 31 December 2010

New year, new blog?

I just Googled 'Hillingdon Wildlife' and it came up on the first page and leads readers straight to this blog, too. So, in order to keep the two separate, I am investigating ways to export this blog to a new blog address. Don't worry, I know who my regular readers are, so I shall let you know where to find me!

In the meantime, Happy New Year!

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Property decision

There is a huge problem weighing on my mind which is keeping me awake at night. Next week, I am supposed to exchange contracts on a flat I saw way back at the end of October. I knew it needed work, but it was big and bright, on the top floor of a block, and just round the corner to where I used to live, in a Highgate cottage I wish I'd never sold. Plus, it was a very good price for a 2-bed flat in that part of N. London, being under the £250,000 stamp duty level where it jumps from 1% to 3%, making a difference of around £5000 to the purchase price.

My surveyor took a look and said it needed rewiring, gas central heating installing, new kitchen, new bathroom, new flooring, total redecoration, ripping out of old fitted cupboards that were falling apart, and both balconies needed work. Weeks passed and I heard nothing from the solicitor and had kind of put it to the back of mind and forgotten about it. Then suddenly I was asked to exchange contracts before Christmas.

OMG! I hadn't even had a builder look at it to give me a quote. I threw myself into a flurry of activity and rang everyone I knew who had used builders. One in particular was recommended - a friend had used them for four property renovations - but they were Cypriots and had gone back to Cyprus until Jan 10th. I found another, but the day we were booked to go round the flat, the weather was so bad that we couldn't go. Deep snow, ice, blizzards, the estate agents only had one member of staff in so nobody could go down there with the key.

Then it was Christmas and everyone shut up shop for a fortnight. The agents reopen on Jan 4th. But in the interim, I went into panic mode. How do I supervise building work when I live 25 miles away, don't drive and am 3 miles from the nearest station? How can I do it whilst continuing to work on my editing jobs? Do I really want to take on something which may well turn out to be a money pit and cost me upwards of £30,000? Plus, I'd be paying the monthly service charge of £150 on top of council tax and the other bills.

I am having very severe second thoughts...

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Merry Christmas!

I hope you all had at least as good a Christmas as I did, if not even better! There were a couple of low points. The first was when, with talk radio blaring in the kitchen, Mr G whacked the telly onto Vintage TV, showing clips and bands from 1968.

I was at the kitchen table in the middle of writing a complicated email and said, maybe with a slight whinge in my tone, that I couldn't cope with both and could he choose which one he wanted, radio or TV. Well, he went into one, switched them both off and went into a sulk, refusing to speak to me. This was before we'd even exchanged presents! I got a note shoved under my nose which read, 'Wot time u want 2 eat?' I wrote back, '2? 3? 4?' Then, fearing that this would go on all day, I turned the telly back on, gave him a hug, made him a cuppa and chivvied him back to some semblance of normality.

The second glitch was when he took the turkey out of the oven to rest it for a few minutes and test the temperature with his new meat thermometer, and discovered he'd left the giblets in, inside their plastic bag. Aargh! Panic! My mum had done the same thing years ago and the chemicals that had leached out of the plastic contaminated the turkey so that it smelt and tasted vile and had to be thrown out and we made do with the chipolatas and veg. However, they must use idiot-proof plastic bags nowadays and the turkey tasted fine. I had been wondering why the kitchen was full of fumes and my eyes were streaming, though!

The third was when poor Mr Grumpy took the roast spud tin out of the oven to turn them over, burnt his hand and dropped the lot on the wooden floor. I rushed to help him spoon them back into the roasting tin and hoped the heat would kill any germs. This was when I was glad we didn't have a dog!

Apart from that, the food was great, Step dropped in with some lovely presents - necklace and some moisturiser for me and a diary and calendar for Mr G, which actually was just what he wanted and I'd had to forcibly restrain him from buying some for himself (I'd chosen them when out shopping with Step last Tuesday). She also gave us an extremely filthy book - Pets With Tourettes - forgetting she'd given the same book to us two years ago. I have a friend lined up to receive the spare copy.

I only managed to drink half a bottle of wine, and crashed into bed before Murder on the Orient Express had even finished. Great night's sleep, lovely, sunny day today making the frozen snow sparkle. Happy Boxing Day! Above is a pic of our teeny, tiny tree.

And here's Mr G pretending to get stuck in the fleece-lined, hooded lumberjack shirt I gave him, and ending up REALLY stuck. Serves him right for being so grumpy!!!

Friday, 24 December 2010

Candle-wax reading

When I was 11, my oldest friend's Russian mother announced that I had the gift and taught me how to do candle-wax readings. Over the years, I have done quite a few. I can't say all of them have been spot-on, but generally there's a glimpse of something that ends up coming true.

I shall never forget one in particular. A doctor who is now a well-known author and medical journalist, lived downstairs to me in 1995. He asked me for a reading, I dunked the wax into the water and all I could see was a giant sperm! We laughed about it, and joked about his rampant sex-life, but two weeks later, his regular girlfriend announced she was pregnant!

Last night, Mr G's lovely 28-year-old step-daughter came round, bearing gifts and a very nice bottle of wine! I had already started on the remains of one I'd had on the go for the last three days (I normally don't drink more than two small glasses in an evening). Over the next three hours, though, we polished off the lot. Mr G had to get up at 4am and get down to the butcher's shop to help his mate out with the Christmas turkey orders so he went to bed at ten.

As soon as he'd gone, Step asked for a reading. I did it around midnight. She's had a rough year, with trouble at work and the break-up of a long relationship which she thought would end in marriage, but as soon as the wax hit the water, I smiled as all I could see was happiness. Flowers, love, help and support from good friends and a brand new relationship. The letter M featured a lot and I had the feeling he had a connection with water - lived by the sea, or went diving or sailing. Mind you, her last boyfriend was a Pisces, so you could say he had a water connection. She says the last thing she wants to do is date another Piscean, but I had the feeling this new guy was born under the sign of Aries. Now I must look up some astrology info to see if Sagittarius (Step) and Aries are compatible. Bear with me...


Look what I've just found!

Aries Man and Sagittarius Woman
The love match of an Aries man with a Sagittarius woman is one of those matches that were truly made in heaven. He will keep her entertained with his intelligence, while she will mesmerize him with her creativity. Their conversations will be intellectually stimulating. Both share a love for adventure and will mostly be on move, exploring new people and new places. Sagittarian woman will love his funny sense of humor and Aries man will find her charm intriguing. Except for a few glitches here and there, they will hardly find a problem with each other.

She could be in luck!

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Sore tongue!

I've chipped my temporary filling again, which has to last until the tooth makes up its mind whether it wants to stay or be taken out (don't flare up over Christmas, please!). Every time I speak, my tongue rasps against the rough place and as a result, it's red and sore and my speech has started to sound as if I am slightly drunk and slurring.

If I get to the point of not being able to stand it any longer - my dentist has already shut up shop for Christmas - I shall consider taking the nail file to it, or at least an emery board.

Two other solutions spring to mind.
i. Don't speak at all for at least the next ten days
ii. Drink so much that I'm really drunk and slurring.

Which route do you think I ought to go?

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Christmas fun

I've really enjoyed the last two days. Met Mr G's step-daughter for some Christmas shopping. Then a friend travelled up from Pimlico and met us in a bar for some festive drinks. My friend, T, an ex-boyfriend from 25 years ago who is still a friend, is witty company and is also a brilliant astrologer and he and Step got on brilliantly, and he may be doing a chart for her in the New Year.

Funny thing is, I am always moaning about how bad it is to live at the furthest end of a long tube line which doesn't work half the time. When he arrived, he went straight into one about the terrible journey he'd had, being turfed off trains which decided they were stopping halfway, or changing their destination. Aha, thought I. At last there's somebody who knows I'm not exaggerating! I hope he got home all right 'cos I glanced at the Transport for London site later, and found that there were no trains from Uxbridge at all. I think it was a signal failure this time. Perhaps T is still walking wearily back to Pimlico!

Today I returned to old haunts. I used to live in an area between Kentish Town and Highgate, called Dartmouth Park. There's a great cafe there called the Cafe Mozart and I met two old friends for lunch and had the best ever tomato and butter bean soup. Double yum!!!

Saturday, 18 December 2010


What a wonderful blizzard there was this morning.

It may have made our road hazardous...

... but the trees in next door's front garden look magical.

The temperature of romance

It's 32 degrees fahrenheit in my old office upstairs. This is the open plan landing area where the windows don't fit and the north wind whistles through the holes around them, which I blocked last year with Kleenex and parcel tape. Thank God I have moved my main computer into my bedroom.

I really don't know how I survived working up here in previous winters. It must have been like this in Victorian times, if they were too poor to light a fire. Now I only have to nip up here to to use the laptop. Like now. I brought a mug of tea with me and it has gone stone cold in ten minutes. I know I keep writing about it and probably boring you stupid, but it amazes me how Mr Grumpy can live like this.

Apparently, the Christmas after his previous partner died, the boiler failed and he got pneumonia but he still stayed here freezing his wotsits off. Bloody masochist! Mind you, this is the man who pulls out his own teeth when they give him trouble, and set his own leg when he broke it, and wouldn't go to hospital after his brain haemorrhage and strokes (not until I insisted and dialled 999 for him, anyway) so he probably IS a masochist!

He really is the oddest and most off the wall man I have ever met. Admirable in so many ways, yet in others, completely nuts. It's probably that combination that has kept me with him for almost 14 years. It's the longest relationship I've ever had and certainly the most interesting, yet conversely also the most uncomfortable and definitely the least passionate. Mr G's idea of a romantic physical gesture is ruffling my hair occasionally in passing. Hugs and kisses? Absolutely not. If you approach him and go to kiss him or put your arms round him, he flinches and shrinks and goes stiff as an ironing board. I sometimes feel I want to throw hot water over him to melt him a bit. He's not going to change now. Thank heavens I have someone else to cuddle. Flad!

Friday, 17 December 2010

The Garden

Doesn't it look lovely after that fall of snow? I keep having to de-ice the birds' water, though, and I have cleared a patch of snow so I can put out catfood for the hedgehog - that's if the fox doesn't find it first.

Snow art

The snow fell just as the kids were coming out of school. When I scrunched down to the shops, I found they had been at work doing artistic things.

I am looking down the street here (you can just see the angel in the snow), gazing at the retreating snow clouds. This is the next street along to ours, which never gets gritted so it becomes a skating rink after a while. I do feel sorry for the people who live there! As our road is a bus route, the council keeps it clear.

Even more brrrrrr!

33 degrees F upstairs in my old study today. Indoors!!! What IS wrong with this house? And why can't I have the bloody heating on? I think he wants to freeze me to death. Often, it's warmer outside than in - except in the lounge, where he puts wood in the wood-burner and it's a cosy 76F. Okay for him. I can't work in the lounge.

My main computer is now in my bedroom, with a fan heater next to it, but it still doesn't get beyond 17C, according to the thermostat on the fire. I am FED UP! I have to get out of here.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Poor ginger plant!

It started off doing so well. But I left it on the freezing windowsill for too many nights and the shoots started to shrivel at the ends. There was still hope, for the shorter of the two shoots was still doing okay, so I began moving it to the top of the fridge at night, away from the window.

And then... tragedy. I pulled my laptop charger out of its resting place in a box behind the plant, and knocked the plant pot onto the floor. There was soil everywhere and the two shoots were bashed to smithereens.

It has now gone to a lowly grave in the rubbish bin and I shall start a new one in the Spring. At least I know it can be done.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

The extremely rare nadger beetle

On Friday, a package arrived with a florist's label and instructions to open it immediately. I waited for Mr Grumpy to come home, which wasn't till the evening as he was looking after his friend's shop for the day while said friend was on a course.

We knew what it would be. Every year, the lady next door (the other side to the owners of Chimimi and the other Bengal cats), who is now 94, buys Mr G a plant. I hacked open the box and inside, packed in moss, was a pot of narcissus bulbs, amid loads of those horrid polystyrene packaging bits that go everywhere.

I upended the box over the bin, holding carefully onto the plant, and they all fell out, as did a rather peculiar beetle in a fetching shade of shiny bronze, which promptly made a rush for the doormat and disappeared beneath it.

Ten minutes later, Mr G was enjoying a cup of tea when he suddenly yelped and grabbed his leg. "Something's crawling up my leg!" he shouted and promptly ripped his trousers off. Nothing. So he put them back on.

"You must have imagined it," I said. Then he clapped his hand to his leg again. Off came the trousers, out fell the bronze beetle. Out came my camera.

"It's a nadger beetle!" cried Mr G. "It made a rush for my nuts!"

(For any non-UK readers, 'nadgers' is a slang word for testicles: you can find Kenneth Williams' hilarious song, 'Green Grow my Nadgers-O' at!)

The beetle was now scuttling towards the living room. I did a rugby tackle with a piece of kitchen towel and it clung to it and ran determinedly towards my sleeve.

So why is the nadger beetle extremely rare? Because I slung it out into the frozen garden and if it was the last of its kind, it will be the extremely extinct nadger beetle by now!

Sorry about the poor quality of the photo. I was too busy laughing to find the macro setting. You can just make out the beast waving its claws aggressively, though!

Saturday, 11 December 2010

The red bag

My friend wanted to order a bargain leather bag online but she was going away to Oz for Christmas and asked if she could have it sent to my address. It arrived today in a ginormous box! I emailed her so she asked me to unpack it and... well, it's an enormous bag! Gorgeous, but simply huge, and this a lady whom I have only ever seen with small bags. I have just taken this pic and emailed it to her. It's not a bag you wear; it's a bag that wears you. Oh dear. I can see one of her sisters getting a rather expensive birthday present!

Thursday, 9 December 2010


Today it is 38 degrees F INSIDE the house! Upstairs in my old study. I've now moved my main computer into the downstairs bedroom, but the thermostat on my fan heater said 7C when I woke up this morning. What is wrong with this house? I have never lived in any place that has been this cold. It occurs to me that it might be haunted. After all, Mr Grumpy's previous partner died in the living room!

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Dave's dog

I said I wasn't going to talk about such things for a while, but as I was trying to get off to sleep last night, having downed 1 1/2 Senokot tablets, I suddenly remembered an incident from long ago involving the very same tablets.

Mr Grumpy has a nephew called Dave. The two of them are the spitting image of one another, though 20 years apart in age, and they get on extremely well. So when Dave, his 8-year old daughter, and Daughter's best friend, who was a rather posh and stuck-up young lady wearing her best pink taffeta princess dress, went to choose a new dog from the Dog's Trust, they stopped off on the way back to show him off.

He was a handsome young thing, a grey and white Australian cattle dog with black spots and one blue eye and one brown one. He bounded round the kitchen, snuffled his way across the floor, ate a biscuit and looked adorable. I had, of course, quite forgotten the accident I'd had with a plastic drum of tablets the night before, when, in wrestling the tight lid off, I'd sent a load of them up in the air and all over the floor. In any case, I'd swept them all up... or so I thought.

Halfway home, the pup was ill. Violently. From both ends. And he was sitting on the lap of the Princess Posh at the time. Dave rang up and said he couldn't understand what was wrong but the dog was all right now and had downed his dinner with no further mishaps. "Perhaps he gets travel sick," wondered Dave.

"Er..." said I, "I spilt some Senakots on the floor last night. I thought I'd swept them all up, but you don't think...?"

Dave DID think. We all shrieked with laughter, especially when he told us about the sobbing Princess Posh, covered in puke and poo. It wasn't fair of us to laugh. Well, not really. But honestly, it couldn't have happened to a nicer young lady!

Sunday, 5 December 2010


Despite drinking more than the recommended dose of hospital laxative, 'nothing happened', so
yesterday I took Sennacot and Dulcoease as well and they hardly worked, either. You know the expression, 'sh*****g a brick'? Well, I had enough to build a house with and now need several more pile operations.

And on that merry note, I shall shut up about the blasted things unless anything dramatic happens, like my entire derriere falling off. It's a lovely sunny day and I have taken some even better pics of the goldcrest which I shall add to the wildlife blog later. Have a good day, folks!

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Never again!

Had my op on Wednesday. As usual, you're not allowed to eat or drink anything for hours beforehand. My last sip of water was at 10 am and I wasn't sent down to theatre till a quarter to four. By that time, I was so dehydrated that I had a banging headache.

I have been anaesthetised nine times in the past - once for over three hours - and have never thrown up afterwards. This time was different. One minute I was feeling fine, and the next was a case of 'hasten, hasten, find a basin'! So they gave me an anti-nausea drug and I could feel it burn its way down my arm and within minutes, my mouth went paralysed and I couldn't speak. Mr G had just turned up to drive me home, and there I was pointing at my mouth, with a hand that was rapidly going floppy and weak, and trying to tell him I couldn't talk. Then I started shaking convulsively, they thought I was going into anaphylactic shock and the upshot was that they had to keep me in overnight.

I had a six bed ward all to myself. With a couple of hours, the symptoms had worn off and I was looking forward to a peaceful night's sleep, but it was not to be. The next door ward was a men's one, one of whom was determined to bellow to the nurses in a very loud voice all night. Toilet doors kept banging, trolleys kept rattling and finally, at 1.40 am I asked for a painkiller. I dozed off around 2.30, then was awoken at 5 am by a nurse snapping on the lights and taking my blasted blood pressure and temperature. It was the first time I had had a thermometer stuck in my ear, but what an improvement over the Dettol-flavoured one they used to stick in your mouth!

At 6 am the tea trolley came round. Then I was sick again and forced to turn down breakfast. In the meantime, Mr G had been told he could come at 7 am to take me home. Someone had misinformed him though, for he wasn't allowed to come in and had to drive all the way home again. This was his 5th journey there or back, at a minimum of 45 mins each time. I had to wait for the doctors to do their rounds and sign me off, which took till 1.3o pm as it had snowed heavily and everyone was late getting in. So... no breakfast, no lunch and no tea since 5 am. I was suffering.

I hadn't brought in my phone as the letter said you shouldn't bring phones or valuables in. Everyone else had their phones, though, and a nice lady who had arrived at 8 am to have a knee operation lent me hers. I got home at around 2.3o, made some soup and was just about to dig in my spoon when the phone started ringing and wearily I had to assure several friends that I was OK, with rumbling tummy and cooling soup.

I'm feeling better today, though it does hurt down below. To add insult to injury, I found out that the surgeon had only tackled one of my piles. He banded it (look it up). So I still have two and no way am I going to go through this again. It was really awful. Though I must say the nursing staff were all very kind and very helpful. I was given a form to fill in before I left, rating various aspects of my care, and I gave them top marks.

If I had had a category about how much information I had been given, I would have given it a zero score. Nobody had told me about banding. Nobody had told me they only tackled one at a time. I thought I was going to go through a certain amount of pain and emerge with brand new butt! Now I feel disappointed, let down and sore. But I shall see how it goes. Maybe, in a week or two, I shall rate my op as a vast improvement. Who knows?