Thursday, 13 October 2011

Home maintenance...

Well, I can't say my enthusiasm for all things new during the Autumn season is still as high as a few weeks ago. The reason? Decorating.
Now, I enjoy a reinvention as much as the next person. I'm like the Madonna of the property world - new season: new look (even new house quite a few times...) but the trouble is we're at the fundamental level of re-carpeting. New carpets will be great, don't get me wrong, but we hadn't anticipated the preparation and painting of all the skirting boards and beautifully moulded (but tricky to paint) Victorian door frames that would come as part of the whole job. This has turned into a big old project.
I thought I'd get out of lots of labouring because my bit of back trouble means I can't get down to skirting board level, but this just means I get to do all the chores while my partner does sanding and painting. Usually in our egalitarian household we both do a bit of all sorts. It baffles me how people cope with the role of housewife - I go to bed exhausted every night.
The financial drain of decorating should never be underestimated either. I am always seduced by advertising in DIY shops, which means I go into any such store for a single bulb or one paintbrush and come out at least £50 lighter with lots of useful stuff, like new lampshades, doormats and a "wundermat" (its' meant to soak up wet feet / paws upon entry...) Ikea puts a similar strain on my wallet. I go in for a bag of tea lights, I come out with a rug or a sofa. I'm not allowed into these places at the moment.
Fortunately, I will be kept out of trouble by painting walls this weekend. The jury's still out on whether to do walls or skirting boards first so we're following no particular method. I'm not sure if I'm on Egyptian Cotton in the hall or Skylight in the spare room. Pretty sensible names compared to some. I've often wondered who gets the brilliant job of naming paints and what method they use to decide these wonderful but not always descriptive names? It seems the more you pay, the more descriptive the title, so we travel from "mouse's back" at the higher end (brownish-grey, fair enough) to "high society" or "hobby horse" lower down the scale. Now, maybe I'm revealing my ignorance but I've no idea what colour either of these might be without a good squint at the chart. I've pondered what method I would use - how about a favourite animal coupled with a pleasing object near at hand...
Elephant shoes, Greyhound pencil? Hmm I think I'm only a Bear's candle or a Cat's cake away from being onto something here...

Wednesday, 5 October 2011


In this fast-spinning world, just as the leaves are starting to fall, I find my thoughts drifting towards my next holiday. Even in a world where you can buy a bikini in February but not a jumper, I would really be ahead of the game for Summer breaks - No, I'm thinking about a New Year break. I've not done this before and I'm starting to wonder why not.

Where might I be going for my luxury break - Southern Spain, Canary Islands? No. Gloucester, England. The reason it's a "luxury break" is it's not in a tent. We've tried camping for several years now, mainly because we got a dog and thought the outdoor life would be more enjoyable for her. Unfortunately, she hates camping. She can't tolerate getting cold or wet any more than we can. She spends a lot of the holiday refusing to get out of the car. I have never seen a dog as happy as she was when we returned from a particularly wet weekend in Wales - wriggling in ecstasy on her back on the sofa, then she slept for about 16 hours. In fact it's a standing joke that without fail as we approach our destination rain falls like stair rods from the sky, to the point where the windscreen wipers can no longer cope. We usually sit in the car for a while, bracing ourselves before trying to pitch the tent: "It'll pass in a minute", "Yeah..."

We considered getting a caravan, but would need to get a new car to pull it, so lets face it the combined cost equals a lot of holiday money. Also, as a friend once said to me, "I don't understand caravanning, I mean you wouldn't go and spend a week in the smallest room of your house would you?" She had a point, but clearly did not understand the allure of the great outdoors! So the decision was made to try to beat the weather gods this time and we've booked a cabin. Ha! No more wet and cold for us! Snug as bugs we will be, watching the rain pouring down outside...

Yes, we'll still be in this country which some don't understand - surely the point of a holiday is to "get away"? Well, yes, but I'm such a sad sap about aforementioned dog that it would break my heart to put her in kennels, and she overheats too quickly in hot weather, so no point chasing the sunshine! Might as well stay in good old Blighty. Besides, it means I don't need to squeeze into a bikini for my holidays anymore. Well, I could but it might look a bit seedy with a mac and wellies...

Despite them sometimes being a disappointing disaster, I think my main motivation for holidays is "absence makes the heart grow fonder" - not of those nearest and dearest (they'll be coming with me), but my own bed. Nothing nicer than sinking into my own bed after time away. So whether you're back-packing, luxury cruising or (like us) having an expensive fiasco only a few hours from your own doorstep, I hope we can metaphorically click our heels at the end of it and remember "there's no place like home!"

Coughs & Colds - That time of year again!

Apologies for the pause in postings - I've been suffering from "woman-flu". Personally it has always escaped me why the common cold is often referred to as "man-flu"...I think the gene that enables many women to push on through illness just passed me by: when I'm ill, I'm ill  - and everybody knows it! I freely admit that I'm the worlds worst patient. I detest minor ailments. I like to be up and about and doing stuff with my time, so when I have to pause to blow my nose every thirty seconds it puts me in a foul mood.
In fact, my partner who is always in rude health, has frequently appealed to the gods, "take me, take me instead!" This is partly to avoid the extra demands, fetching and carrying that my convalescence causes, but also because sitting about and doing nothing would not be a source of stress for H, who has frequently argued that the sick role is to be embraced, perhaps even enjoyed.
However, germ-ridden me finds that aside from the intense frustration of being incapacitated by sneezing, headaches and temperature extremes, the frequent nose-blowing causes a big, sore, red, flaky nose where once there was a neat(ish) button number on my face. Also, my eyes (not big to start with) reduce to little puffy, red-rimmed dots in my head. All-in-all the common cold attacks my vanity with a frenzy which compounds my misery no end.
So, clearly I am the population that the multi-million pound cold and flu remedies market is aimed at. I go to the chemist at the first opportunity and fill up my basket with linctus, essential oils, tablets, inhalers, menthol rubs, soft tissues coated in stuff to soothe my nose...then to the grocers for fresh lemon and ginger. Oh, I throw everything at it. Never works. The cold runs its course as always and in a few days I'm back facing the world, but it makes me feel better to think I've tried.
Clearly, I am now embracing my preventative stage, spurred on by the belief that one day I will create an effective immune system. Open my kitchen cupboards and out falls the high strength Vitamin C and Zinc, multivitamins and echinacea, along with lemon and ginger tea bags (can't faff around with fresh stuff every day). The fight against winter colds is on!
However, it's going to be a hard battle: I called at a friend's yesterday and he told me he'd asked some relatives to stay away for a few days because he had a sore throat and swollen glands...clearly that courtesy did not extend to me - where's that antibacterial hand gel...?!