Thursday, 24 December 2009

Snow snow and... more snow!!!!!!!!

Last night it started snowing again, and I like an idiot went out in it (in the car) to collect some computer speakers that a bloke advertised on Freelge. It was a little slippy in places, but at 8pm last night it wasnt too bad.

We woke up this morning to find that it had been snowing through the night.. everything was covered in a beautiful blanket of white stuff :-) We decided to leave the car under its snowy blanket, and go to work by tram.

Douglas and I got the same tram together at 7.30 this morning. He got off at his stop, then I had another 15 mins to mine, then eventually got to work at about 8.30.

The rest I will leave to the photos!

Tuesday, 22 December 2009


Seasons Greetings to our friends and family this snowy Yuletide!


I booked the 21st off and spent the afternoon cooking a right royal meal for us both...

Douglas had Garlic roast chicken, roast parsnips, roast potatoes, brussel sprouts and carrots, not forgetting the chicken gravy..

I had home made nut rost (with loads of garlic in) roast potatoes, carrots and broccoli.. and some delicious veggie gravy!

We had a really lovely evening, and washed our meal down with some sparkling chardonnay, then chilled out on the sofa watching a film. Billy came and sat on me for a while, which was really sweet, but hes a heavy lump, and when he became too heavy I moved him off :-(

I think he has just about forgiven me, so he and I will head up for bed, and join the already sleeping Douglas :-)

Have a lovely Christmas, and a Happy and Healthy New Year.

oh PS come visit us next year!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

An exhausting day off work

My nephews and neice go to a school that has already broken up for the winter holidays, but their Dad (my brother) is still busy being a GP, and their Mum, (sis in law) who is a teacher, works at a school that only broke up this afternoon, so I booked the day off quite a while ago to sit on all three kids for the day.

Being a nice Aunty, I offered to have them from last night, to make life easier for Katy - one less morning trying to get the kids to us and herself to work on time.

I had decided that it would be fun cook something with the kids.. they told me previously that they adore pizza, so rather than make cake I thought it would be fun to make pizza from scratch!! We started after breakfast at about 9am.

They all took turns in grating cheese, chopping up chunks of mozerella and pineapple, then squishing garlic in Elaines (the late, much missed DMILs) amazing garlic squisher.

Martha was very dissapointed we didnt use our amazing hand blender with attachements, that also used to belong to Elaine. Elaine and her sister (DAIL) called this hand blender the "UM" as many years ago, when I was up at their house I kept saying "please pass me the "Ummmm" as I couldnt remember what it was really called...and the name stuck!

I organised the cooking by getting the kids to take turns being "chef" whilst the other two read or played on the computer etc.

It kept arguments down to a minium and gave them all important parts to play in pizza making :-)

After we had everything ready, they decorated their pizzas and we popped them in the oven. That took us till about 11.45am, and we were due at the local swimming pool to meet up with a school friend and friends mum.

We had a great swim, then about 1pm ish Carlo (smallest one) and I got hungry, so we sat out in the cafe area, and ate our amazing pizza. Carlo said it was the best pizza he had EVER eaten (in his whole 5 years lol) the twins came along and enjoyed some too. They adored it, so I think we will have to make it again some time!

The twins went off with their friend from school (and mum) for the rest of the afternoon, and Carlo and I got back home at about 3pm (me pretty exhausted by now lol) We watched a little kids tv then went to collect Douglas from work.

Carlo is growing up very well.. he loves reading little bits from books, can count up to at least 40 and probably beyond with very few mistakes, and spent quite a while discussing the "sticky stuff" that held the flap of his book bag together, what shape the "sticky stuff" was in, and whether it could be made into a mouse shape. He thought the main problem with this was that a mouse tail is too think and curly :-) The new word for the day was VELCRO.

We took Carlo, and quite a bit of spare pizza back into the loving care of his mum then went home ourselves.

I had a wonderful, incredibly busy day. Being with all three kids can be a bit difficult at times, especially as the two boys tend to provoke each other and need to be separated, but mostly it was lovely to be with them, great to see them cooking, swimming and just being themselves :-)

Being an Aunty is great.. I can steal the kids, play mum/teacher/chef/swimming helper with them.. and then.. HAND THEM BACK!!!!!!!!

Im now looking forward to a quiet, restful day at work tomorrow lol!

Monday, 14 December 2009

Blowing my own trumpet (again lol)

I have said in the past that I get quite a few compliments from my customers.

Now, for the first time ever, our "cool wall" has got one of my compliments (known here as commendations) as the star letter of the month!!

I got 3 commendations this month, but 4 if you include one for our waste carriers team.
Im reet proud of meeself, as they would say here in Yorkshire!!
The ones with little red lines round are my commendations for November.

I hope this shows that its not all "play" here, and we do actually work very hard, and our customers appreciate us :-)

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

What we did at work today!

For the last few months, every team in our contact centre has been spending a bit of time on a challenge our managers gave us.

Each team had to find out what our customers think of our service, and where we can improve. My team deals with people registering as Waste Carriers, so they were the customers we were interested in.

We created a questionnaire, put together a list of customers who had recently received their certificates, contacted them and asked them to take part in our survey - many very kindly did.

From the survey, and various other spreadsheets of lovely stats that we keep, we got lots of lovely raw data, that was then sorted out into some useful info, and put into graphs.

We have a very creative and talented team - some put together a story, some created props, others did the graphs, and one created some music then played it on his guitar for our presentation.

Here follows a quick outline of our story!

Santa is sitting in this grotto with his Elves (one of whom wants to be Elvis, so is known as Elfis). He gets a letter from the government saying they cant afford to give him money for all the toys children want for Christmas, but they will give him some money towards creating gifts out of waste wood (after all we are in a recession!)

Santa goes out and a local carpenter gives him lots of offcuts of planks etc. Just as the reindeer are having a drink at the local river, an Officer comes along and asks Santa for his Waste Carrier Licence (as hes carrying waste wood). Poor Santa does not have a licence, so has to return the wood, and go home empty handed. the Officer tells the Seasonal Fellow that he faces a heavy fine if he does not stay within the law!

Santa is shocked and thinks that if he does not get this licence, he might go go Jail.

Elfis appears and starts singing Jail House rock.

Meet Elfis!

Elfis is my dear colleague Arshid who is an Elvis fan!

Santa calls the Environment Agency, who explain all about it, and show him the site on the web where he can apply for one.

As Santa waits for his licence, the good fairy (aka Ricky) tells us all about how fast our process is, and what our customers think of how we are doing, and what we can do to improve our service. (lovely graphs and charts illustrate this)

Next scene.. Santa gets his licence, collects the waste wood and takes it back to his workshop where he makes toys for all the children, and all ends happily ever after!

Meet my lovely team!

From the left top.. Tim, musician, Lucy, Narrator and organiser, Arshid (aka Elfis) Ricky (aka the good fairy) Ali (the Officer and elf) sitting down.. Alice, (an elf and prop mover) Sonia (Narrator 2 as I had lost my voice) Robyn (elf) and Rob (aka Santa!)

We had a great time, and the information that we got from our project will be used to make the process faster and easier for our customers, and help us help them!

Monday, 7 December 2009

More photos of the wonderful conservatory

This is the cheerful chappy who painted our conservatory.. its really beginning to look nice!

The finished article looking clean and beautiful!

The inspector gives it the final seal of approval
(tempted in by cat biscuits lol)

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Our lovely new conservatory!

As some of you will remember, a few months ago I put a photo in my blog of the beginnings of our new conservatory.

The rectangular space next to our kitchen had been dug out by the previous owners of the house, and was really just a muddy weedy space with our kitchen one side, and an old wall the other.

Now, many months later the conservatory is very nearly finished!!

Here are some photos.

This used to be a window, now it is a lovely double door. There are doors each end of the conservatory, so in the summer we can keep both open and have lovely fresh air going through the house.

Before the walls were painted and the floor was down:

Looking in from the garden end when I got back from work one evening.

More photos of the finished article yet to come!

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Silly goings on at work

Whilst I was on holiday, my dear work colleague Malcolm had his penguin office desk toy kidnapped.

The poor peng was put, head down, into a mug of water, and stuffed into the office freezer. Notes were left to lead his owner on a trail to the place his much loved bird had been hidden.

By the time he got there, Penguin was frozen into his watery prison, and Malcolm was rather distressed. In a desperate attempt to free his desk toy, he got hold of penguins lower half and pulled.. and pulled.. hoping that he would slide out of the ice.

Penguin lovers may wish to stop reading now..

The worst imaginable happened.. Penguin snapped in half.. his upper half stayed firmly in the ice.

Poor Malc. When our team leader found out, she told our team off for their tricks, but probably had a bit of a laugh about it too!

Malcolm has a new desk toy now.. a rather manic looking Octopus that he has named affectionately (?) after his Wife, by calling it "Pauline 2".

Pauline 2 can be seen in Malcolm's hand any time he leaves his desk. He is not leaving anything to chance now!!

I made an ID badge for the Octopus today in a spare moment, so in a few days time, I hope my friend on the facilities desk will email the real Pauline and tell her that her new ID badge is ready. I'm sure she will enjoy the joke when she sees what I created!!

Ps We do work hard at work.. I created the ID badge in my break lol :-)

Monday, 16 November 2009

Photos of Wot we did on our holidays

Douglas in the town of his birth - Jedburgh

Melrose School. Douglas spent a year here.

A newly purchased rubber band bouncy ball! (And Dreaded Sister in Laws younger son lol)

DSILs Older son. I think the caption should be "Id rather have a pint of beer"

DBILs lovely youngest, and of course she is my favouite Scottish Neice!
(shhh dont tell her shes my ONLY Scottish Neice lol)

The Firth of Forth from the train window. It was incredibly beautiful!


Special apologies to TDBILs oldest. I dont seem to have uploaded a photo of him from my phone yet!

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Wot we did on our holidays!

We decided it was about time to go "up North" and see Douglases side of the family.

We went up on Thursday the 5th November to a small border town called Jedburgh, where Douglas was born, as its many years since he last went there.

I had booked a most superior B&B for our one night there.. and lovely it was too. Willow Court is a large bungalow set up into a hillside. I think they have about three double rooms that they let out, and according to our host (with the most) they are the oldest B&B in town!

We had a meal in a cafe very close to the B&B called Simply Scottish. Douglas enjoyed Haggis, Neeps and Tatties, and I had a really lovely spicy bean burger. The meals were rather large so with that and the best of a bottle of wine on board we staggered back to our room.


After our one night there (with a lovely breakfast) we had a look round Jedburgh. We drove around and after a while found both of Douglases old schools (primary and secondary) The house he lived in with his family was very close to the B&B, and hadnt changed much.

We went to Melrose, another small town nearby, where Douglas went to private school for a year, and had a wander round the shops and a drink in a little cafe.

We drove a little further North, had lunch in a shopping centre that D's mum used to frequent, then on to Douglases Auntie (TBAITW) who lives in a lovely little village on the Firth of Forth.

D's Auntie had very kindly agreed to put us up for a few nights, so we took all our clobber up to the spare room, with lovely views out over the water.

On Friday, TBAITW and partner cooked a wonderful lump of Roast Beef, Yorkshire Puds, roasts and all the trimmings. Ds sister and gang came. Our Hosts with the mosts kindly made me Yorkshire puds and roast with veggie fat whilst the others enjoyed theirs with goose fat. I was (still am) very grateful for their care and understanding of my diet!!

On Saturday we got the train up to Dundee, where we met up with Ds Sister & Partner, and two kids, and his older Brother and his two kids. All the kids (yes, us included) had a really fun time in the water - the pool there is fab.. it has 3 or 4 flumes, a river rapid and waves!

Douglas did the biggest of all the flumes, and was shot out of the exit a few meters above water. The momentum from the descent and turns in the pipe caused him to shoot out and twist and a strange angle (Douglas says "elegantly" lol) he landed with an almightly splash belly first into the water, giving his poor insides the fright of their lives.

According to Sister, sisters partner and big brother, Douglas displaced an impressive amount of water at that moment (they got a perfect view from the stands) . Newton would have been delighted with the result!

After a while the "adults" got bored of watching us "kids" and slipped out into town to find us a good place to eat. We met up and wandered slowly up a hill to a great burger joint called Ketchup. I had another bean burger, but it didnt quite match up to the one I had in Jedburgh!

For meat eaters, the menu was vast and varied.. various family members had the "Who killed Bambi" burger (Venison) and one nephew, who likes trying new things had a CROCODILE BURGER!! (YIKES!!) He ate it all much to my surprise!

We got back to our base exhausted having done swimming and some shopping (after lunch we took the kids to Waterstones, and let them choose a book each as an early Xmas present)

Our Hosts with the mosts were also exhausted. They and their dogs had been at a shoot (Pheasants and such) being "beaters" and the dogs had been "collectors", so we settled on some dishes from a local chinese takeaway, which was huge and very pleasant.

On Sunday, Douglas and I took charge of the kitchen, and spent a few pleasant hours making a large veggie curry, bombay potatoes and lots of little Sambals (a bit like chutneys) to go with it. Ds sister and clan came down again to help us eat it.

After an impressive firework display which we could watch from the garden, we had a drink to Ds late mum, Elaine (DMIL) who loved watching the fireworks with a glass of Noilly Prat in her hand. We still miss her very much, but it was nice to be with family and raise a glass or two.. or three to her. I'm sure she would have approved totally :-)

Monday was packing up and going home day. We went home via a lovely farm shop that both Elaine and her sister (TBAITW) and then Tebay Services near the lake district.

We had such a lovely time, but it was good to be back home again with our two moggies that were really pleased to see us again.

Photos to follow!

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Photos from camp..

Samhain is not just about remembering death .. its also about looking forward to new life. In this photo, one of our friends came dressed as Death and Rebirth - a great reminder of the circle of life.. death and rebirth.

After some rather heated discussions on the Sentry Circle Forum about the differences between Swedes and Turnips, and exactly what was wanted by Chef Dangerous Dave to go in the stew, these two came dressed as.. Swede and Turnip!! lol

Some more lovely costumes.. Including a dead convict! (she looks strangely lively in this photo though lol)

Finally.. Jack the dog came dressed as..... Himself!

Samhain (pronouced Sah-wain)

This weekend we celebrated Samhain.. the end of the Pagan year and beginning of the new one. Its a time to look back on things past, and also to look forward to things yet to come.


Douglas had suggested we go out to our favourite tapas bar in town on Friday evening, so when I heard (via email and facebook) that his younger brother Simon would be back from Ethiopia, and in town that weekend it seemed the perfect time to arrange a little surprise!

I arranged with Simon that he should meet up with us at the restaruant on Friday, but that it would be a nice surprise for Douglas. I booked a table and as we went in, Douglas told the waitress we had booked a table for two, but i made some hand and mouth gestures behind D's back to say "NO! Its a table for three!!! but shhhh!"

Douglas, bless him didnt see this, or comment on why there were three plates laid out instead of two :-) We were a bit early, so I stalled him from ordering food by suggesting that we ordered cocktails first. I ordered one that D had last time thinking I liked it, but it really wasnt a patch on the lovely raspberry one Douglas ordered.. so he had both and I ordered a rasberry one for myself ;-) Yum! My first ever Daquiri!

We ordered some food, and shortly before it arrived Simon did!!!! He looks very well if a little wild.. his hair was very enthusastic and untamed lol. Douglas was totally surprised and delighted to see Simon. We had a really nice meal whilst the two brothers caught up and chatted away.

Its easy to arrange surprises for Douglas - the only thing is if I do something like that, I know I can't even give him a tiny clue because hes very good at guessing what the item/surprise is, so although I was dying to wind him up and give him some clues but managed not to. I told my mum and people at work though, cause they wouldnt let on! :-)


We had been invited up to Sentry Circle near Northallerton for a Samhain party and a friends birthday party combined. The land belongs to a farmer, who has allowed a stone circle to be built on a hill, and many native trees to be planted. The circle has taken many years to build, all the stones being pulled up the hill and put into place by pure person power - no motors involved.

It took about an hour and a half to get up there. We were very happy to meet up with our friends, and spent lovely evening just sitting and chatting. Douglas also helped with baking some mutton in the earth oven, then looking after a huge stew that was created to feed everyone who wanted some.

After the birthday celebrations, and enjoying peoples fancy dress costumes, we reluctantly headed for home, and got back about 11pm.

This was the communal fire that heated the stones for the earth oven.

More photos on next entry

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Catch up

Hi blog readers, sorry for the lack of news for a while.

Douglas came out of hospital as I said, and we had a lovely evening together. This episode of illness has taken the stuffing out of him somewhat, and hes still been feeling sick now and again so although he did attempt to go back to work on Thursday, he only managed the morning.

Lets hope next week brings better health for him :-)

I've been incredibly busy at work these last few weeks.. I managed to keep going to work all through the week D was in hospital, knowing that if I didnt, I would only mope at home, miss him and feel miserable - I also really wanted to be at work because there is so much going on!

Over the last 6 weeks here are some of the things I have been given as projects/responsibilies by my fab boss... this is ontop of normal daily paperwork and being on the phones giving advice to our customers :-)
  • Organising and printing off thousands of renewal reminders for people with waste carrier licences..
  • Training a few extra people from different departments to help cope with the huge influx of renewals my first job generated
  • Organising work for these extra people to do, fielding questions and problems they have
  • Keeping various statistic spreadsheets up to date (Government departments loove stats!)
  • Helping to organise a few events for Customer Service Week
  • Organising others in the department to check the certificates and paperwork printed out for customers to ensure its correct and ready for our marvellous letter stuffer machine
  • Organising for application packs to be put into envelopes by the afore mentioned machine ready for advisiors to send out to customers who don't or can't register themselves online
  • Teaching various members of my team how to process registrations made by online customers
  • Providing support and advice about the Waste Carrier process for other staff members who had queries from customers (ie have you registered me yet, how can I .. what do I do because.. )
  • Reverse cherry picking the more complicated queries and sorting them out .. I love the harder stuff, its so much more interesting!
  • Making banoffe pie to raise money on our dress down day for a local charity (YUM)
Well, i think thats all I have been doing.. I've been coming home quite knackered, so thats one reason why I have not blogged.

Some of you know that I help our local Freegle Group...

FREEGLE is a play on the word Free and Google. Its about giving freely easily and locally.

If you have an item that still has some use left to it, but that you no longer want, you can put a message on the Feegle forum for your area saying

Offered: Item (describe it), still works but no longer needed (then the area you live in)

(Long pause in typing.. Lilly is on the desk demanding to be worshipped)

The chances are pretty high that one or more of the members (we have 3500+) of the group will email you and ask for the item!

This morning we hired a church hall (In conjunction with the Council who think our group is great) and held a non-internet Freegle giving and getting morning. People came in, dropped things that they no longer need off, and taking a few items that they fancied. It was a very wet day, so we didnt get many visitors, but those that did almost all went away with something given by another.

Someone brought in some mini tree ferns that they had grown by spore. By the end of the event, there were two left, so I have taken them to my parents who are both very keen on ferns, so they will be added to the collection.

In very many years time, they will look like this, but at the moment they look like ordinary pot plants :-)

Look hard enough at the bottom left hand side of this picture and you will see a man!!

Not sure what we are going to do tomorrow - but I know that it will NOT involve housework as Douglas just suggested lol.

I will keep you posted.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Better update

Hes coming home tonight!!!!!!!!! yipieee!

Ps this is Fridays news :-)

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Recovery - Douglas bounces back :-)

After a busy, productive enjoyable day at work (despite being very tired) it was lovely to pop in and see Douglas, who is so much better.

It seems that this time its a proper tummy bug thats doing the rounds... there are quite a few other kidney patients with the same problem in the same hospital at present... so many that he can't get a side room on either of the two renal units.

As you can see he dosnt look too upset about this, I found him a hair brush for his beard, and got him a card so he can watch TV and phone people. I doubt he will be doing much phoning, and until I get his mobile charger into him, he wont be doing much of that either lol.

He hopes to be out on Friday.. will keep you posted.

Douglas brushing his beard :-)


Just a quick note to say Douglas isnt well again.. hes had diahorreah and vomiting since sunday evening. This sadly isnt uncommon so we thought we would see how it went.. last night D was getting worse and wasnt able to keep any fluid in, so at 7pmish we phoned the out of hours Dr service, and after a very long wait, we went to the hospital via ambulance (first time Ive ever been in one!) and he was admitted straight to a holding/assessment ward. We got to the ward at about 11.30pm.

I phoned them this morning.. hes been given anti sickness medication and is on a drip (probably just saline) and was sleeping.

I will call them again at about 11.30 after they have done the busy bit of the morning.

He has his mobile with him, but probably wont feel like texting at present. I will have mine at work and can see any messages etc at my break times.

updates as and when,

Anna xx

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Cute Lilly captured in mid roll!

Lilly, not wanting to be out done by Billy, posed for the camera in mid roll as if to say "look at me, Im MUCH cuter than he is...

its up to you to decide!

Its such a hard life...... being a cat...

Dear Billy, after nearly a whole day of sleeping on his favouite armchair in our lounge, was obviously very tired, so he came up to the office for a snooze on his favouite cushion cover!

I think it must be hard work maintaining those lovely whiskers :-) He may be sleeping now, but as soon as he hears the sound of his biscuits falling into his food dish, he will magically wake up and be very hungry after his hard days work lol.

I think Lilly is also sleeping somewhere.. either the spare bed or on/under our bed.

The hair cut!

As some of you know, I have really really long hair. For those of you who dont.. I had really really long hair until yesterday!!!!!!!!

Now I have just longish hair. I was brave and went to a proper Salon de Hair.. although I have been to barbers shops now and again, and demanded a quick chop of the worst bits, this time it was serious.. a wash then a chop!

The last time I had my hair washed cut and dried was when I lived in Leicester with my parents.. I must have been a young teenager at the time. All I remember is it was jolly expensive!!

The young man who did the chopping yesterday said about 5 inches really needed to come off to make it look all tidy. He did so, and I was very brave in not crying!!

As a special treat he got some flattening irons out and straightened it all.. it looked amazing!!

You can see the choppy bits here!

Douglas, sainted moggies and I are all fine. Douglas had a diabetic eye scan, which is why we went into town yesterday, and Billy.. well Billy brought in a HUGE DEAD RAT on Friday evening, looking ever so proud of himself.

I dont really need to explain ~(but I will anyway) that Douglas freaked out a bit, but very sensibly put the dead specimin into a carrier bag, praised Billy and binned the "prize".

We are pretty sure he didnt kill it, as he was only outside for a few minutes before he brought it in. My older brother, by way of facebook, suggested we should put it on the compost heap as a warning to others of its kind, but we really didnt want it to be brought back into the house again, so into the bin it went!

Sunday, 4 October 2009

On the March - a cat visiting my parents pond

This is a picture my mum took recently of a very beautiful cat walking round my parents pond.

Not quite as beautiful as our two cats (in case they are reading this) but very pretty indeed, and a wonderful photo!

Click on the photo to view it at its best.

Monday, 28 September 2009

What we have been up to PART THREE (final bit)

The path has been done, is down and looking great, so the next step is to put a lid on the odd space next to the path that is also adding to the damp problem!

Im delighted to say that this "lid" is taking the form of a conservatory (Thanks Parents!!!) so in this photo you see one of the builders putting the wooden slats in place ready to take the concrete base. They did this at the same time as the path, as it saved them getting two lots of concrete delivered.

You will see more photos as the work goes on.. its going to be great!!

A day trip to Sheffield Town Centre

Now and then Douglas and I go to Sheffield Town Centre. On this visit we went to the indoor market to get him some goat (for Curry Goat) and also to support my new choir (Im new, not them) Body of Sound who were busking their raising money for charity.

I have been to my choir for 3 practices now. I'm slowly learning the songs and their way of doing things, enjoying it very much but nowhere near busking standard yet lol.

Do not follow our example of getting goat meat at the market. It was in a frozen pack and turned out to have a very high percentage of bone, which sadly took a chunk out of our best chopping knife :-( We found a local-ish company a few days after this called Black Sheep Meat Company. We will get their meat next time!!

Anyway, I digress... whilst we were in town, we decided to take a trip up in Sheffields version of the London Eye, and saw some lovely views!

It was a bit expensive, but very interesting. I recommend it if you visit Sheffield!

Finally... the post brought a padded envelope for Douglas from Scotland!! Ds talented Step Mum Sandy has come back from visiting Simon in Ethiopia, and made the second of his birthday socks. You can now see two very happy feet!!

You will just have to imagine the huge smile on Ds face, but I assure you, hes delighted with his lovely hand knitted jolly socks that keep his toes nice and warm. I just hope he doesn't start wearing them in bed, or I'm moving down to the spare room!!!

I hope thats a good update for you all.. if I dont post for a while, feel free to phone, email or generally prod me :-)

What we have been up to PART TWO

If you look back, you will see the story and photos of the cat who adopted my parents for a few days until her real humans came back from holiday. My parents went away just before Crunchy was claimed under her real name of Binos, so we went to visit on cat sitting duties. Crunchos as I like to call her, is a very friendly little lady, as you see from this delightful photo of Douglas et cat.

Crunchos still visits my parents now and then, but has been rather snooty and not very social recently. I hope this is just a phase, and she will decide she likes them again after all very soon!

Next up in the hall of cat fame comes our Billy, doing a very good impression of a cushion. Hes very good at this, but then again he gets a lot of practice in! lol

One last cute picture for this posting.. is it a bird, a cat, a plane? No!! its Douglas Square Pants (or should that be Douglas Square Kilt?)

He we have Douglas on the tram. We were going out for a meal in late August to celebrate his birthday. He is a big fan of Sponge bob Square Pants (as seen on the T Shirt) and I think he looked great in this and his lovely kilt. For those of you who still have no idea, Sponge bob is a cartoon yellow sponge who lives under the sea with his friends.

What we have been up to (with photos) PART ONE

Well, to start with, I have been making loads of plum jam (I think I may have mentioned this already?)

Various family and freinds have had some of my jam, and its gone down very well. I gave some to our builders (see story further down) and one of them said the whole pot was more or less demolished within a day. He had help from his wife and two sons, and all of them adored it!!

This photo is the plums and sugar getting used to each other before the boiling starts.

A few weeks ago, we had our side path taken up, dug out, a waterproof membrane put in and a lovely new path put down on top. We did this mainly because the path was in a very bad condition, and was letting water into the foundations of our house, and making the side wall damp. We have had problems with damp on that wall for quite a long time. Hopefully it can start to dry out now!

Its now got a nice ridged concrete path that we put our initals and the year in at the top before it dried :-)

We are still alive!

Just to reassure you blog readers.. we are all still alive (thats me, him and the two furries who own this house)

I have loads of photos to put onto the blog relating to things we have done recently, I promise to sort things out soon!

Anna xx

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Rainy Season in Addis (Yay another long one from Simon)

Trout brown scales of water slip down the road to form churning lakes of tea whereever the ground levels out. The garbage filled canyons that criss cross town are now turned to a writhing, muscular flow of chocolate milk. Peals of thunder ring out throughout the day, making it tempting to spend your days dramatically laughing for effect. Now and then the sun comes out for a steamy interlude.

The rainy season in Addis has a rather fearsome reputation, and indeed an awful lot of water falls from the skys, pours along every surface and jets out of the overfull storm drains. But now I have new shoes it's really not too bad; there's a lovely fresh look when the rains stop and the clouds pinken at sunset. The lightning can really come in handy as well, like when you're going home late at night through a district with a power cut in a taxi whose lights don't work.

Plus my life here is pretty amazing. Our cook Ziggy is amazing, plus she makes my bed, washes the dishes and does my laundry! I can't believe domestic servants went out of fashion in Britain. I do occasionally feel guilty and try to help but she really tells me off - I never do it the way she likes. She's also an awesome person though a little possessive of her kitchen. I help her son with his homework and he flounces around singing the interminable Ethiopian hymns which I don't feel is a true repayment.

My housemate is sound - his name is Jason and we get on well. He was a bit of a wildman in his time but has settled down now, and he has good taste in music. The whole Addis crowd is pretty cool as well; I've had some good nights out with them. It's certainly nice having a crowd of rent-a-friends to hang out with, though rest assured they don't compete with The Real Thing. I think the problem is that if you have a genuinely interesting job that makes the world a better place then you tend to focus on it to the exclusion of being a bit of a fucknut, and where's the fun in that?

There just doesn't seem to be that many people I can bounce off of, but that may be do to the fact I'm being slowly weaned off red wine. Suddenly getting to South Africa doesn't seem like such a bad option: will I finally come to terms with Pinotage?

The scene in Addis generally revolves around Bole Rd, an anywhere road which stretches its modern flats, good restaurants and expensive bars down airportwards. Some of them have live music, though there's a real lack of good drummers, and a night of purported Ethio Jazz was
very lame - Death Ray Trebuchet were far better. Check out their Gypsy/Ethio Punk if they're in your neighbourhood soon. Sometimes the bands play 70 covers of tunes you'd throw up to back home, so it isn't really worth it. Only the Reggae bands are really much cop, as long
as they don't go into an extended tribute to Bob. The other joint everyone heads to is the Geez Bar, down some dodgy (though perfectly safe - it's Addis!) backstreets and beloved by Faranjis becuase the beer is only twice the normal price, not five times. It's owned by some French people and heavily populated by la Francais - I spent my first evening there deep in onversation with Julie Delpy, probably. I was already a bit monkeyed when I got there.

Some Faranjis did put on a good night up in the old Piazza, which was wicked. I was meeting a German friend up there and he didn't know the area well, so we agreed to meet at the biggest landmark - St George's church. He was a bit late so I was hanging round the main gates with
all the usual pilgrims kissing the wall, crossing themselves and mumbling prayers. One chap approached from the shadows with a vigourous "Seulam no!" [Hello].

After swapping greetings he just lingered near me for a few minutes, before leaving and promptly being replaced by another fellow. In fact, friendly guys kept on approaching me for about twenty minutes until I started getting suspicious. There's always that feeling of "Maybe I'm reading this wrong - this could just be one of those cultural missapprehensions", but my suspicions were brought somewhat to a head when I went to look for a payphone and one of them ran after me and asked me "Do you want six?"

When I finally bumped into my friend, it turned out he'd been approached in a similar manner, and it seems that Addises holiest site is also the main hang out for its Rent Boys. Which given there's No Gay Africans makes you wonder how they earn a living. We proceeded to a local bar where a prostitute accidentally grazed my knee about 50 times in the most forward display I've ever seen out here, whilst we listened to bizarre 80s Ethiopian music. Think Phil Collins with
exclusively minor chords and major ululations.

But the main Faranji DJ event was actually awesome - as much as I love (old) Ethiopian music it was really good to dance to loads of good old Western stuff. The DJs were pretty good and I would have had a really good night there even had it been back home. It did get me missing
the old house party scene.

Rest assured it's not all partying though, the writing is ongoing. Typically I spend the days with power at home writing, and the days without in the lobbies of expensive hotels using their free Wifi and power. The novel's going alright,* see bottom* though I'm running out of descriptive things from my trips to Poland previously and am having to focus on 'plot' (booo!) and dialogue/characterisation (yay!) until I can make a return visit to the land of constenant conjunctions and very flat. This is making me think I should postpone the India trip, and come back once I get fed up with Africa but still have some cash left, sometime next year.

I'm actually thinking of doing a bit of volunteering at Care International (where Jason works): just a couple of days a week but will be good to 'give something back', as if the Ethiopians haven't
taken enough already! I fear it may be a bit of a shock to be gainfully employed again but I can always quit and go back to writing if it gets a little much.

Anyway, this e-mail is already seriously out of date so I shall send this one now, and split the rest into another 2, to start the catch up and save you from reading fatigue. Still got the Omo tribes trip and my travels with parents *see bottom* to write up, and in a week I'll be off to Yemen. Busy busy busy! For someone with no job. Blimey. Keep smiling one and all,


Note 1 Simon said he planned to write two books whilst out in Ethiopia, one fiction and one philosophical. I'm not sure which one hes writing, or if both have blended lol

Note 2 His parents (Ds dad and step mum) have gone out to Addis to spend two weeks with him. I look forward to an email all about it from their perspective in a few weeks!

A lovely weekend at home

A busy weekend again.. I feel as though I almost havnt stopped.

Ive given away most of the jars of plum jam I made about a week ago, which makes me really happy. There is no way we could eat all i made, and its nice to be able to give home made gifts to friends and family!

My Parents and little Bro got a jar each, Alan who gives me a lift to work got a jar, another two jars went to elderly neighbours.. Margaret, who recently lost her beloved doggie, and a few days later lost her brother got a jar, also Edna, who lives a few doors up got one too. Edna gave me a big hug in return, and this afternoon, Margaret came round with some yummy scones.. can you guess what sort of jam we will have with them??

We also went swimming, and gave the house a well needed tidy and hoover. We were going to see "A Picture of Dorian Grey" but as we needed to buy some extra veg so thats on hold for now.

On Saturday morning I got some more plums and a few more jars from my parents, but I wanted to make a big batch, so I put out a request to see if anyone had too many plums on their tree. I was delighted to get several responses, one of them from a lady who lives just a few miles away that had some saucepans from me.

I went to her house Saturday afternoon. She has an 8 foot plum tree that was absolutley covered in beautiful ripe fruit!! She had moved into her house recently and had no idea what to do with them, so I took half a tescos hessian bag full away (huge amount) and emailed her a recipie, hoping that she will make jam with some of what she has left.

I spent Saturday evening chopping plums, then Sunday making the first of all Crabapple jelly, then plum jam, which is quite a lengthy process as it takes a lot of boiling to get it to setting point. I'm glad to say I have finished it now.

Anyone who reads this that comes to visit might just be rewarded with a pot of jam!!

Ive got a load more plums to sort out anyway, but they will have to wait their turn.

PS Douglas is doing well.. he swum more than he normally does when we went swimming, and is currently relaxing after a healthy portion of my blue cheese veggie crumble, and some garlic roast chicken he cooked whilst we were out.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Busy Saturday

The day started with D going off to do the shopping (Its wonderful to have a partner that can do this, and dosnt come back with all the wrong things! lol). I decided to clean the kitchen, so by the time he got back it sparkled!!

As I'm now a moderator for my local Freecycle group (fanfare please) , Im getting to know the other members of the team, and one, who lives about 5 mins away from us, offered to let me pick some fruit from her plum tree.

In early afternoon, I went over to Elise's house, picked about 4lb of lovely Victoria plums :-)

After a quick diversion to my parents to pick up some jam jars, I went home to spend a couple of hours stoning and cutting the lovely ripe fruit up into little bits.

After getting the plums ready, and making about 7 small jars of lovely plum jam, making a blackberry and apple crumble, and bread and butter pudding for lunch with various bits of family tomrorow Im pretty tired!

Oh.. also two freecylers turned up, and took all but 3 of the pans I had for grabs.. one stayed and chatted for about an hour!

I think after such a busy week, and a busy Saturday, bed might claim us a little earlier than normal for a weekends night :-)

Oh what a week!!

Last Saturday I didnt feel very well, so I stayed in, did nothing, ate pain killers and hibernated.

On Sunday, we had been invited to our old next door neighbours new house. Douglas didnt feel very well, but we went anyway. It was lovely to see Matt, Katy, toddler Eliza and baby Agnes, who was born about a month before they moved. It was also lovely to see their very calm friendly ginger cat Milo.

Douglas felt more poorly, and didnt go to work Tuesday or Wednesday, which of course was very worrying. Had he still been feeling awful on Thursday, I would have thrown him at the hospital, but luckily he was well enough to go to work. Phew!!

Meanwhile, my Boss had given me an interesting, and time consuming admin task .. printing out thousands of letters to remind customers to renew their waste carriers licences! Had this been just a single paged letter the task would have been an easy one, but with the application form and various other documents to put in, it took longer.

I started off printing each type of document that had go into the pack separatley ... letter, application form, two help documents, a charges sheet and a transfer note had to go in, the ones with multiple pages were stapled, the others not. This was very time consuming and rather boring!

By Thursday, with suggestions from all sorts of people in the office, we had streamlined the process considerably.. we abandoned the staples, and printed off all ten sheets of the "pack" at one together, so all we had to do was bung a pack with a letter, and let the envelope stuffer machine do the rest!!

I was kept busy moving between 3 printers, keeping them busy, and filled with paper, liasing with various people and departments and taking stuff to the post room ready to send out. It was exhausting but very enjoyable!!

On Friday morning, 4.30am, Douglas woke me and mumbled something about not being able to feel half his face which was very weird! When I turned the light on, I could see that the left side of his face and his lips had swollen very badly! It was very difficult to understand him, and also pretty scary.

Douglas, on waking and feeling so strange had felt his arm and leg, made sure they moved and felt normal just in case it was a Stroke.. I'm so glad to say that it wasnt!!

We got up, hoping that if we waited, the swelling would just prove itself to be Odema (water staying in the tissue of his face) and that it would go down when he was upright and not lying on his face.

5.30am.. face still very swollen so we called his work GP advice service who said go to A&E!!

We stuffed a quick breakfast down, went to A&E at our normal hospital. We got seen by the Triage Nurse pretty quickly who fed D a piriton (antihistamine). We waited in the almost empty waiting room for about an hour until the Dr saw us.

I took this unbecoming picture of the poor boy whilst we were waiting to be seen. He has given me permission to put it on the blog!

Mr Rubber Lips Man!

The Dr told Douglas that it was just an allergic reaction to something (we dont know what) and that it would go down in time.

By now the time was 9.30am. I had called work and let them know what was going on, and Douglas had mumbled to his work place too. The swelling was going down a little, but it was still quite pronounced!

I drove D to his work, as he wanted to see if there was anyting non verbal he could do, but 5 mins later he had been ejected as I had predicted. Working in a call centre and not being able to talk properly is never a good combination.

D then drove me to work, and then went home... goodness knows how I survived the rest of Friday because I was exhausted from the week and the very early start!

Im very glad to say that Ds face has now gone back to normal, and hes feeling fine :-)

Thursday, 3 September 2009


A few weeks ago, when Ds brother visited, he brought us down a beautiful pan set which belonged to Elaine, my late mum in law (DMIL)

As a result of this, over the last few days, I have sorted out our pans, as we will be using the new ones.. they are beautiful! (Elaine had good, and expensive taste in all things lol)

I am a member (and now a moderator) of our local Freecycle Group, so I put a message one saying

OFFERED: 5 pans with lids (home post code and area noted)

I had about 6 emails back from enthusastic people saying "oh yes please I'd love some!" I chose two people out of that 6, and they came round to pick them up a few days later.

One person was just setting up home with her new husband, the other also said he was in dire need, and was just using the microwave at present for lack of pans.

I told my mum about how pleased I was to be able to find new homes for my saucepans via Freecycle, and she mentioned that at the charity shop she helps out at, there were loads of saucepans that were in the "going for scrap" pile as no one wanted to purchase them.

Yesterday, I went round to my parents house to collect some of these saucepans and a "surprise" as well.

I was thinking what the surprise could be.. a computer? a laptop? a new kitten??? Well I was wrong on all counts :-)

My parents had spread about 10 saucepans, a colander, various decent baking trays, a lovely stainless steel ladle and a brand new potato peeler out on their kitchen table.. So much stuff that was all destined for the metal recylers. I'm pleased to be able to give this stuff new homes rather than being scrapped, albeit to be recycled.

Its not the charitys fault, I hasten to add.. people just don't go in and buy that stuff so what can they do but send the metal to scrap? ( thats before I found out about this anway lol)

Amongst the clutter, my mum saw a lovely green and white Denby plate, which matches the set Douglas and I had for our wedding ten years ago. As you would expect, the odd peice has bitten the dust since then, so my mum hunted round and found quite a nice little collection of it!

Yesterday evening, I contacted one of the people who collected a few pans from me the other day, and invited him round to come and take what he wants. When he has taken some, I will offer the remainder round to some of the others that I couldnt help before.

I love freecycle!!!!!!! Why don't you join your local group.. you might have the odd bit here and there that you don't use, and you might find something you want on there too. Just search for "Freecycle" and the name of your city or town, and I'm sure you will find a group near where you live.

Let me know how you get on :-)


Saturday, 29 August 2009

Birthday Boy

It was Ds birthday on the 26th but we have managed to make it last until the weekend.

On Wednesday, the day itself, I gave Douglas a bottle of the best whisky in the world.. its from Edradour, the smallest legal distillery in Scotland. We went there whilst in the area for his 40th Birthday. I got him some un-chill filtered whisky, which I like too! It will probably last him about 6 months.

On Thursday, D went to see my parents, who gave him a very funny card, a cuppa tea and some biscuits, some lovely home grown tomatoes and some home (or neighbour grown) plums - seen here in his hat.

Also on Thursday, he received a special delivery parcel from Sandy, his step mum. Ages ago, when we went up to Scotland for Ds mums funeral, we saw Sandy knitting some socks and she very kindly offered to make a pair for Douglas.

About a month ago, we carefully measured Ds feet and calves, and passed on the measurements, so in the special parcel was the first sock of the pair! The wool Sandy is using is very thin and as you see brightly coloured... she has made one, the other is still in production! (they are taking her longer that she thought.. but its worth the wait!)

Douglas was delighted to get the first of his socks.. and said it fitted like a glove (or should that be a sock?)

Last night, Friday, Douglas and I went out for a meal to celebrate his birthday. We went to a Tapas Bar in town and had a really wonderful meal.

Douglas said he would give it 4/5, the point being lost for not having crispy Patatas Bravas but they were one of my dishes anyway, so I have revised his score upwards to 5/5 lol.

The menu was diverse enough to give me (the fussy veggie) plenty to choose from, and D on his renal failure/diabetic diet plenty to eat as well. Suiting both of us down to the ground is no mean feat!! The waitress was very pleasant (and pretty) and the food came quickly. The cocktails were beautiful.. I had a Mojhito and D had two!

After a really nice evening out, we wobbled our way home on the tram, watched some good stuff on TV, then, realising it was midnight, took ourselves to bed and slept like two logs :-)

Photos of D in his lovely kilt and lovely Sponge Bob Square Pants T-shirt will follow soon.