Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Flip-flop Frippery!

I think I have a bigger collection of flip-flops than anyone else I know. They are all living happily together in a giant M&S shopping bag, one of those strong ones made out of a woven webbing material. I'm sure you know the sort. I have them in every colour, from white to black with sequins. The only shade I lack is purple, and that's because I kindly gave them away to my daughter, who is also a fan of everything purple, being a kind of mystic heavy metal goth person who gives telephone tarot readings for a living.

The collection pictured is but a small selection of the ones nearest the top. Finding one flip-flop in the colour I want is easy, but finding its mate involves doing an impression of a large ginger-coloured dog digging frantically for a bone and tossing clods of earth/flipflops over its shoulders.

Now, if you study the selection in the photo, I wonder if you can guess which was the cheapest and which the most expensive? The second challenge is to guess the most comfortable and the least comfortable. Answers below, please. I shall give the correct answers in a couple of days' time. Whaddya want for a prize? A pair of flip-flops? Why not take two! They won't match, of course.

Friday, 24 June 2011

I godda code

It's been a long time since I last had a cold. In the interim, you forget how ghastly they are. The red raw nose, the constant sneezing and streaming, the earache, face-ache, headache. The feeling of being hot, dry and itchy outside and freezing cold inside. It's sheer misery. I found myself wondering why I had never written a funny rhyme about colds, and realised it's because they just aren't funny. I may look an amusing sight to somebody else, with my red nose and matching eyes, but they won't linger long to look as they'll be too busy running for cover to avoid my germs.

I went to bed at midnight with a hot water bottle under my cheek (I keep getting awful stabs of neuralgia-type pain) and a fistful of kitchen towel. I awoke around five and for a few moments I thought, 'Ah, I'm OK, it's worn off'. But that was before I stood up and instantly turned into a snot fountain.

I took my laptap to bed and watched the final episode of Injustice, which I'd missed. When it had finished, I occupied myself with trying to remember ghastly colds of yore. I found I could only recall one: Luxor, August 1991. Twenty whole years ago but the misery is as vivid as if it happened only last month. It was 45 degrees F in the Valley of the Kings. I was suffering the twin horrors of dreadful diarrhoea and a streaming cold at the same time. The dehydration caused by my ailments, plus the extreme heat, made me feel that death would be a pleasant alternative.

Then, lurking somewhere in my bag full of crumpled, soggy tissues, I found a phial of Nat Mur tablets, a homeopathic remedy for 'colds where one's nose runs like a tap'. There were only five left. I took two, then half an hour later I took the other three. Then, miracle! My cold ceased like a tap being turned off. If only the diarrhoea would have done the same! I had to visit the doctor for a needle in the bum to get that cured. I wasn't well until the last two days of the week's holiday and was severely castigated by my friend, who said I should have called the doc the first day (I went down with the tummy bug as soon as I arrived, so I must have either brought it with me or caught it on the plane) instead of ruining her holiday. Sympathy? Huh!

I tried the Nat Mur tonight and this morning. It hasn't worked. I've found this to be the case with all the alternative (and quite a few of the standard) remedies I've used over the years; sometimes they work, sometimes they don't and you never know why. This is definitely the type of cold in which the nose runs like a tap - so maybe I'll have to get a plumber in to fit a new washer!

Thursday, 23 June 2011


Thanks to Jacula who hunted through her old Lakeland catalogues, I now know that my tomatoes are a variety called Alicante. They are heavy croppers so I should have LOADS of toms to eat in a few weeks' time. Here's a photo of what they will look like (I hope!).

Monday, 20 June 2011

Just in time

I planted some tomato seeds in pots indoors and started hardening them off by putting them out every day and bringing them back in at dusk.

Then one evening I forgot them and it rained and around ten pm, I found the poor things were under attack by every slug and snail in the district. It took me a good ten minutes and a lot of 'eeeuws' and 'yucks' to pull the slugs off the leaves and find the hidden snails lurking in the soil and hurl them into the privet hedge but eventually I got my poor chomped and nibbled babies safely back indoors.

Mr G had gone to bed so I left him a note with some cartoon slugs on with speech bubbles saying things like, 'Meanie' and 'Where's my dinner gone?' Next morning, on the dresser next to the plants, I found a piece of paper. On it was a snail, firmly attached, and the words, 'You missed me. Yum yum'. Mr G had spotted it when he got up, merrily munching a leaf. (The snail, not Mr G to whom any kind of green foodstuff is anathema and causes him to make the sort of sign of the cross people use to ward off vampires.)

As it has rained almost every day since then, the plants have stayed indoors. But today Mr G pointed out that they were getting leggy and I should plant them out now. He was quite right. When I tried getting them out of their pots, the poor things were all root-bound and stuck tight. I could almost hear their screams as I wrenched them out. But I hope they sighed in relief as I eased them into their nice roomy growing bags which are up on the trestle table Mr B built for last year's crop. I have wound copper slug tape round the legs of the table, to keep the raiders off. Though last year I had problems with cabbage white butterflies laying eggs on the plants.

I had six plants last year, all different. This year I have ten (it would have been twelve but I gave two of my babies away to a friend of Mr G's), but I think they are all the same variety - and I don't know what they are as the seeds were given away free in the Lakeland catalogue. I shall wait and see, anticipating salads to come. As the snail said, 'Yum, yum'.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Poetry Reading (not!)

I turned up at the coffee bar this morning with a fist full of poems to read. The open mic session had been organised as part of Hillingdon Arts Week. It was pouring with rain and I didn't expect anyone to be there but the place was packed out and there wasn't a seat left. Unfortunately, the sound system was so poor that you couldn't hear a word that was being spoken, so after sitting through four inaudible renditions, I decided it would be pointless even to try, as I have a soft voice and nobody would be able to hear me.

I spotted someone I'd met at the rock gig I went to recently and found she'd come along just to support me. How lovely of her! We'd only met once before. I was very touched. So she, Mr G and I went downstairs and talked for an hour over coffee. She writes lyrics for a band called Pimp My Jazz - and they are playing a gig on Sunday so I am coming back from my long weekend in Highgate specially to hear them.

Although I didn't read, I was surprised and pleased to find I didn't feel nervous. That's a first for me. Normally, if I have to do anything in front of an audience, my stomach churns and I feel sick and shaky with stage fright. It would be fantastic if I'd got over all that and could now perform in public without a qualm. I'll have to try myself out again soon.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Cat stops blog

Our neighbour is out of Intensive Care but still in a High Dependency unit. His wife still spends all her time at the hospital and Chi Mimi is spending all hers on my lap. I can't type for her nudging my arm with her nose, licking my fingers, tapping my hand and then, if I defy all her efforts to stop me typing, she claps her front paws round my arm and swings from it. And if THAT doesn't stop me, she 6*((sx£$ x.................!

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Not a good day

Today I travelled to North London and found the perfect flat, right where I wanted to be. Close to several old friends, two minutes from my old GP's surgery (excellent), with a south-facing garden and lots of storage. I knew the lease was only 72 years but the vendor assured me she'd consulted a leasehold value advisory bureau and been told it would cost £16,000 to lengthen it to 120 years and that once I'd lived there for two years, I could renew it.

I put in an offer, it was turned down. I upped it £5,000 and it was accepted. Whoopee! Then came the bombshell: I had to exchange within ten days. My friendly surveyor is on holiday and comes back in... eleven days. That meant forking out £600 or so for a survey. I texted him to see if he knew anyone who could do it cheaply and he rang me from Paxos and as soon as he heard about the lease situation he said walk away, because in two years' time the lease would be down to 70 years or less, and the freeholder could ask for considerably more than £16,000.

So I rang my solicitor, who agreed and said that I could always go to arbitration to get the freeholder to charge less, but that would cost a lot of money. Which I don't have.

In the space of half an hour, I had gone from euphoria to total depression. I rang the estate agent, who was abominably rude and patronising, told me I had been badly advised and that the vendor was wrong and she could assign her right to extend the lease to me, so I could do it right away, and that it cost nothing to go to arbitration. He muddled my thinking so much that in the end I snapped, "Forget it, I'm withdrawing my offer, that's that," and terminated the call. I found I was shaking as I stood outside Kings Cross station, being deafened by traffic and roadworks. The slimy agent had treated me like an idiot when all I was doing was trying to protect myself from future huge outgoings. B******d!!!

Then I got off the train at the far end of the line and got caught in a cloudburst. I dripped into the house, to find a letter waiting for my from Scholastic Books telling me their were dropping my book, Love Cheat as it hadn't sold enough (it's the only one I have still in print) and the rights would revert back to me, apart from in several foreign countries where they extended until 2015. Fat lot of good that is. I'm not even free to re-publish it myself. It was definitely not my day.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Rant time

Does anyone else hate, loathe and detest that Verified By Visa security thing? All I have been trying to do for the last half hour is renew my Railcard (yes, the Senior one!), and would it let me? Would it hell.

The problem is, this is my third credit card in two months, as the bank stopped the original one, whose number and security code (and VBV password) I knew by heart, as they thought it had been used fraudulently. I was trying to pay for a computer for my daughter and have it delivered to her address, which Barclays did not like at all. They sent me a new one, which got gobbled up by a faulty cash machine. By then, I had had to think of a new VBV password as it wouldn't let me use the old one again.

The latest card arrived - the one I was trying to use today. I tried to use the last password. No joy. I went through the rigmarole of inventing a new one. Three new ones. It didn't like any of them. Finally, I found one it liked. For about the seventh time, I keyed everything into the Railcard website. Yet more red type. What had I done wrong THIS time? Guess. I was so confused by now that I'd filled in the wrong security code. Doh.

VBV popped up again and I held my breath as I keyed in the latest password which involved a rude word. And... YESSSS! Success. My new card is on its way. What are the chances of my remembering the latest password? Actually, considering I used this word many times while shouting at the screen, I think they're very high!

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Horrid Heathrow

I went to Heathrow today to see my goddaughter and her family off to Vancouver. Her parents were there too - I went to uni with my goddaughter's mum - and it was great to see them as they live in Shropshire and we don't see each other very often.

I don't know if you've ever been to Heathrow, but the one thing you need is a comfy pair of shoes because, to get from Terminal 3 to Terminal 5, you have to walk a very long way on the travelator, up and down in lifts, down corridors, onto the train (a rattly, fast, scary, underground experience, rather like being zoomed through the earth on the back of a jet-propelled worm), off it, up in a vertiginous glass lift that made me feel distinctly queasy when I looked down and saw how high up I was, and finally, after a couple of text messages to find out where we all were, I was there.

We had lunch at Carluccio's. I had the most boring pasta ever, tooth-bruisingly al dente with hardly any sauce and no free side salad (we had one last time), a hideously sweet sorbet, and a table full of drunk men next to us who upset my gorgeous two-year-old great-goddaughter so much that she climbed off her gran's knee, pointed at the 'nasty men' and skedaddled to the far end of the table. The man nearest me kept shoving his chair into my legs and throwing his arms behind his head and bashing me with them!

Saying farewell, not having seen them for a year and not knowing when I would see them again, was a real wrench. Perhaps it's time to steel myself for the long flight to Vancouver. By the way, if Daddy looks grumpy in the photo, it's just because he was worried about getting the bags checked in in time. Such things don't bother the pretty head of almost-two-year-old.) Her birthday is in ten days' time, bless her.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Latest reading list

I'm afraid I am falling a willing victim to Waterstones' 3 for 2 offers a bit too frequently lately. Trouble is, there are so many interesting new books that I want to read. Here's what I have read recently, with marks out of ten, Remember that these are purely my own opinions and you might feel completely differently about them.

The Hand That First Held Mine, by Maggie O'Farrell. I was disappointed in it. I found it bitty, I thought the plot was rather contrived and even the period detail (1950s and '60s) felt a bit shaky at times. I wasn't completely convinced by Lexie and I heartily disliked all the male characters. 5 out of 10.

A Week In December, by Sebastian Faulks. Masterly. Contrived in places, such as the pulling together of all the characters by the dinner party list, but full of fascinating detail about the world money markets, and marked by intense characterisation and tautly written prose. My only 'hmm' was voiced towards the end, where there was a touch of melodrama and a sprinkling of purple prose. 8.5 out of 10.

I have just started reading the second in Colin Cotterill's Dr Siri mysteries. Not a new book, but a world in which one can get happily lost.