Thursday, November 30, 2006

Comments please!


A Fridge for an Ornament? Very Nice! (October post)

A new fridge is being delivered. On Wednesday 6th December. It has only taken 5 months. Why on earth did I ever get stressed about it?

Comments (but not on a postcard) on all posts please!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Ode to the Teenagers

It's so fortunate that I have teenagers in my life.

Without them I would not have a very elaborate tone that rings on my mobile every time I get a new text. This was put on by my eldest daughter who realised that ancient mother needed more serious alert to said texts, because she kept having the audacity to call her instead of texting.

It's also extremely fortunate that teenagers really don't have any concept of the value of money. It would have been so boring for instance if eldest daughter hadn't compained about my not sending texts, because then we would not have had the - slightly heated- discussion about the fact that I prefer to use a phone as a phone, because calls are included in my contract, and texts are not. Thankfully I had two actual and one almost teenager to put me in my place about that one.

And thank goodness they have such excellent taste in music, making their parents choices so utterly absurd. Without them we would never be introduced to the fantastic music of the next generation.

And without my teenagers I would not know when my fashion taste has gone awry, that school bags, shoes, ties and any other paraphernalia associated with those aged between 12 and16 should of course live on the floor. Also it makes me see that on rare occasions it can be quite fun to act the part of slave in some sort of noisy out of control modern day drama.

But mostly the best thing about having teenagers is that you can actually see what your own parents had to suffer, and you can appreciate that your younger children are just children. So when the younger ones jump up and down on the playroom floor when you are trying to write a blog (as they did earlier) and turn off all the lights in the house by tripping them... twice... you can take it in your stride, know that it is completely your fault because huge house with huge mortgage for huge family (oh that will prompt another round of mortgage related ads onto my blog site...) has needed rewiring since about 1850, and as there is no more available funding left to do such rewiring just yet, that really it might be a sensible idea to move the playroom to a different part of the house and ask Blogger to put some sort of saving mechanism onto the "create posts" page. (Now I know that those of you who are more experienced Blogging types will tell me that what I want to do is to change to a different blog provider. But being a mere adult, and not a teenager, and not very new to this game I think I'll just stick here for a while - but if anyone from Blogger is reading, it would be lovely if there were a save facility without having to save to draft and then re open the post............)

Meanwhile, have just got a bizarre test from eldest daughter: "Wat? That pot can't em everything? What?" Took a few moments to work it out and then I realised that it is a copy of a text I sent her, without looking to see if I was taking any notice of the predicative text, and that she is asking ME for a translation. May just let her stew for a while. Nice to have the upper hand for once on text speak, even if it is accidental. Oh yes, and if you can work out what it was that I was trying to say to her, let me know!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Age! Part Two: Forty four and fighting fit!

As I get further into my forties, and I am still the right side of 45, just, and holding on there, it never ceases to amaze me just how much I suddenly feel that I am considered old.

Five years ago I was 39. At that time I was only 10 years past my 20's, and therefore still "young", or at least I still felt so for the most part.

My first entree into the world of "age" happened at the age of 36, when, on going to a job interview something cropped up about my school days. "Well, excuse me," came the repost, but that was a very long time ago. Now, given that I didn't actually finish formal education until the age of 23, I didn't consider thirteen years on from that to be a considerably long time, and although school itself finished five years before that, I still at 36 did not consider myself a dinosaur. I passed these comments off however and happily continued for the next few years in the belief that I was certainly not "OLD" - yet.

On my 40th birthday I prided myself with the fact that maybe I have a picture in the attic somewhere, and that I didn't look very old for my age at all. It was of course possibly my eyesight starting to go, so I didn't see what others did. But nevertheless, I did feel reasonably good, just four years ago. But then one way or another we have nearly always managed to live in houses that have gone up as far as the attic, so perhaps I am the picture in the attic. But then that wouldn't be a good thing in other respects. So hopefully not.

At 41 I was just past 40. So was o.k. still. 42, an even number. I've always liked even numbers. 43 - oh no. Hubby (who is just 6 days older than me giving me just six days to be a younger woman each year, which over the twenty years that I have been married means that I have gained almost four months on him) said that that we were now in our mid forties. "MID" I shrieked. Don't be ridiculous. We're only just past 42. That's got to be EARLY forties.

Then 44 came. Even I had to concede at this point that I was approaching mid forties and that I was hard pushed by now to classify myself as a young thing.

But there was still my voice. That is young when I do voiceovers I said to myself. And I have always considered voice overs to be my main strength. So, I entered for the competition to be "The Speaking Clock" run as part of the "Children in Need" campaign. To say that I was disappointed when I didn't even get to the shortlist was a bit of an understatement. It was a bit like that scene in "When Harry Met Sally". Do you remember the part when she says, "And I'm going to be forty". "When?" "In 8 year's time."? I was wailing to hubby, "And, I'm going to be 50" 6 year's time.

It was as if I suddenly realised that people in their mid forties an on are put on the scrap heap. Now don't get me wrong, it's not because I didn't win the Speaking Clock competition. I thought that the girl who did win, Sara "double barrelled" had a beautiful voice, and ironically quite similar to mine. And I do think that as they didn't choose me, then she was the best man for the speaking clock job so to speak.

It's just that realistically the chances to be "noticed" as "somebody" get less as you realise that all those who have been "noticed" as "somebody" are getting to be five, then six, then seven, then eight , nine, ten , eleven, oh no, twelve, twenty, even twenty five years younger than you.

So, when we went to Spain last week, I was quite pathetically dead pleased when they were doing a "making of" video of making the adverts. Eldest daughter's agent had even negotiated a fee for me too, as I was to appear in the "making of" video. Sadly however, he phoned this morning, and I don't appear on the final cut, so I don't get a fee. Now I am trying to be very sensible about this, because I do know that final cuts depend on all sorts of things, but it is so difficult not to rule out (given that I was on the set the whole time, 27 hours, due to being there in official chaperone capacity) that maybe I have been cut because I really don't look the part.................

So come on everybody. Can we have just a little space in our life for some slightly overweight but certainly not past it 40+ year olds? What do you think?

Monday, November 27, 2006


Knew that we were firmly back home this morning, when at 6.45 a.m. eldest daughter shouted at daughter number two for having used the last pair of natural coloured tights. Apparently it was the fault of daughter number two that no other tights were available, because she hadn't been away last week. I proffer a pair of barely black tights. ED shouts that she can't wear barely black and that I know that. Daughter number two gratefully accepts the barely black, whilst daughter number one waits for daughter number two to pass her the last pair of natural ones.

We then scrabble around for the bus fare. Not enough cash in the house to buy a weekly pass, so between us hubby and I manage to scrape enough together for today's fare. Will have to do some major moving around of overdrafts today to fund family to the end of the month. Thankfully only a few days away. Hope the tenants pay on time.

Think of bizarre price of business class tickets from Madrid. I guess we are not the first parents of an angel to be paying huge mortgage on huge house for huge family and struggling to get to the end of the month, while at the same time discussing how best ED can save her money in a high interest account ready for university.

House looks like Hiroshima. Can't find anything. Million things to do, but can't remember what.

I'm SO tired!!!

Still, the "Orange" Spain Christmas ad campaign will be released on 4th December, so will scour internet for photos of ED then.....

That will cheer me up.

Welcome back Sally!

Friday, November 24, 2006


We get to the shoot at 11 a.m. See some of the clothes that eldest daughter and designer had between them rejected. Amongst them was a Hugo Boss coat retailing at 569 euros. She didn't like it apparently. Rest of team thought her a bit mad. She opted for one that cost around 40 euros on the High Street.

They work on a very long time clock in Spain. Start filming at 12 midday. I suggest at 3 p.m. that ED might need a little rest and maybe some lunch. Finally at 3.30 p.m. they give her some lunch and apologise to us for not being like (the very strange English) by having lunch at 1 p.m.

However, the people from Orange think that ED looks like an angel, which is why they chose her. Have called whole campaign Angel. Feel immense pride.

Get back to hotel at 6.30 p.m., then at 8.30 p.m. the voice coach arrives again, and after a very long scene in an outdoor carpark in fake snow, we finally get back to the hotel to sleep at 5.30 a.m. Body clock means that I wake up at 8.00 Spanish time, and can't really sleep properly after that.

At 12 0'clock I awake from from a half sleep with a start. Something prompts me to look at phone which had put on silence. Missed call. Was Forest of Dean Radio. Had arranged for one of my regualar guests on show who does a travel feature to fill in for me, with me do the travel feature from Spain. Look at time on phone. See that it is 12 0'clock and think that FOD radio were calling early, as know that they are not going to call me until 12, which is 1 p.m. Spanish time. Just about to try to have another doze, but something prompts me to decide to call them back. Look down at my phone again. It's Forest of dean Radio AGAIN. Answer. Hi Sally, we'll just put you on hold and then we'll bring you in. Oh, why is it so early I think. Suddenly realise that my clock in British time and they are calling me at 12.10. Do feature in bathroom, in nightie so as not to wake ED who is still sleeping like a baby.

Quick walk around Madrid (very beautiful city) this afternoon whilst feeling as if on a different planet.

ED now with voice coach again. Trying to find a way to make the script dubbable into Spanish. This is third script. First she did in Spanish (pretty tough given that she had never spoken it until yesterday) second started in Spanish, but at 3 a.m. someone suddenly remembered that the Spanish are experts at lip synching, as 99% of their programmes and films are dubbed. So, whe switched to Inglis! At 8.30 this morning during my period of restlessness I find a way of writing script number three as nonsensical but nevertheless learnable sentence in English that will fit in with the Spanish words for lip synching purposes, so that unlike last night, they won't have to rewrite the Spanish script for the voice over. Naturally ED doesn't like her mother's ideas, because they are her mother's ideas. Voice coach however has had similar thoughts and had also written a sort of script, so between us we tweak mine a little and then I make a hasty exit to write blog, and let VC convince ED to learn the silly English sentence, as time available before shoot this evening is short.

She has just come down to the room with computers, very happy, and gave me a note with thank you written on it. Clearly I do have my uses after all... She is now having some time to herself on the other computer recovering from her deprivation from Bebo. Her friends will be wondering how on earth she has coped without such for the last two days.

Time to go, as off to film shoot soon and then onto plane in middle of night, so as to get back in time for Stage School tomorrow....... Wow!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Spanish Oranges

We are very orange at the moment.

In fact we had oranges for breakfast, but actually we had lunch for breakfast. What a feast! Fresh fruit, tortillas, smoked salmon (ED VERY impressed, as favourite food), salami, other cold meats, bread of every kind a plate of cakes and puddings. Sadly couldn't face puddings at 8 in the morning. Didn't have the face to ask for doggy bag.

ED currently with voice coach in hotel lobby, and as was putting ED off, I have found yet another computer. I am strying to find my way around the Spanish keyboard, and had just about sussed it, when I realised that this one seems to have Spanish keys, but has been adapted software wise I presume for the English speaking market, so all the keys say the wrong thing. Confused? I am!

ED has to do a snow scene today. It is currently 15 C in Madrid, but rain is threatened, which could cause a problem. Apparently fake snow and rain do not mix well. Still, we have been to two capiltals this week. Maybe we'll have to upsticks and go to a third where fake snow can work? In your dreams Sally Lomax!

ED must wear clothes in shoot that she wouldn't normally be seen dead in. Amazing what payment can do. Perhaps the answer to all teenage solving difficulties is to pay them.

Better go. Orange in Spain is calling!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Going Mad!

Never knew that international travel can be included in the job description of a mother!

It is completely mad.

At 10.30 a.m. this morning I was walking the dog with mother in law and hubby and now here we are in Madrid. (Hubby had already taken the day off, and mother in law had come up to visit from Devon, because a few weeks ago he won tickets to a "Take That" concert in London tonight. We never win anything, so that in itself was pretty amazing. Took some organising. Hubby arranged day off and MIL to come and look after the brood.)

We had thought that as we had heard nothing by 5 p.m. last night that she hadn´t been successful at Monday´s audition. So in the words of all those nauseating people on t.v. competitions, we both said: "It´s ok We´ve had a great day out, and it´s been such a wonderful experience". You can imagine the sugary sweetness of the sentiment as we say it.

Then at 5.15 p.m. yesterday evening Tarquin phoned. Tarquin is ED's agent gained from mother running a stage school and trying out agency system on daughter, to see if students can get jobs.

"You´re the hot favourite" he said, but they are not making a final decision until tomorrow morning." Talk about last minute. We knew that the filming was to be in Madrid on Thursday and Friday.

10 a.m. this morning. Phone Tarquin. Still no news.

10.30 a.m. Go for walk with dog, as decide am probably going to London tonight to see "Take That" and not going to be international parental traveller.

12 0´clock. Phone rings. In a completely non excited way, T says. "Well, they´ve booked her. Where´s your nearest airport? And can I have both your passport numbers?" I am to go too, because ED is only 16 and they feel that it is more appropriate. Birmingham I reply. "I´ll call back," he says.

12.05. "No planes that work from Birmingham. Where else? "
Heathrow or Cardiff is probably best I say. (Decide to avoid Bristol, due to impossible drive across or round Bristol itself).

12.10. "We´ve booked you on the 3.35." We can´t, I say. It´s over 2 hours to Heathrow from here.

12.15. "Youré on the 4.35. Can´t be any later, because there is a costume fitting tonight. "

Hubby meanwhile has gone to collect eldest daughter from school, where he has to explain to Head the necessity to take her out of school for 2 1/2 days. She is in the 6th form, so legally she is covered, but he takes the educational viewpoint of course. "From the school´s point of view, as an educator, I have to advise you that I really don´t think that this is a good idea. But of course, it is your call." Hubby manfully rises to the occasion and tells Headteacher that it is important that Emily does this and that they have to go, now, as flight is leaving very soon. From Heathrow.

12.20. Throw my bag together very quickly, Probably pack completely inappropriate clothing. Have no idea what the temparature is in Madrid and no time to find out.

12.35 Talk to eldest daughter on phone. Directs me to do packing.

12.49. Write super quick blog to let world know the news. MIL downloads camera, so that we can take it, even though it has very weak and on way out batteries. Will buy some at Heathrow.

12.52 ED and hubby arrive home. ED runs upstairs and gets another 1/2 a dozen things to put in the bag.

12.55 Leave for Heathrow.

1 p.m. Help, I don´t think I packed any knickers I say.
Mine will fit you Mum says ED. Highly unlikely I think. (ED size 8. Old Mother pushing a 16 at moment).

3.05 p.m. arrive at Heathrow. Park. Walk away from car.

Walk back to car. Haven´t locked it..

Walk away again.

Walk back again. Didn´t take note of bay.

It´s E13.

Go to get bus. Very uncoolly take photos beforehand. Not regular international traveller.

We arrive in the airport at 3.30 p.m. and check in. Oh my goodness. We are going business class. Now for all you seasoned travellers out there, this is no big deal, but for me aged 44 and for ED aged 16, it is BIG!! Boarding card is marked as MAD. I presume that this is intended to show our destination, rather than the state of our mind.

I look at my clothes. Having had no time to change I am still wearing the clothes that I walked the dog in this morning and ED is wearing uniform. All the years I have HOPED to be upgraded for free and have dressed smartly at airports, and then the one day that I DO travel business I am dressed as dog walker. No problem. Everyone will know that I am cool and nonchalant person who travels regularly in business class with very glam and soon to be famous in Spain Daughter. No need to dress up.

Get to the security queue. I think of going up to the security guards and pointing out that we ARE tavelling business class, and do we have to wait in the queue? I then look at others in the queue, and realise that considering the number of suits in sight that such a comment is not a good idea.

Never mind we think. We can at least have a drink in the business lounge, before boarding.

4.15 We finally get through security. By the time we have worked out which way it is to the gate we hear a call. "Would all passengers travelling on the IB3177 to Madrid, please make their way to gate 4 now. This is your final call."

Adrenalin kicked in and I realised that the boys in Chariots of Fire had nothing on me. 44 year old woman and ED were NOT going to miss plane and international fame opportunity to Madrid.

No time for business lounge. Will have to wait another 44 years for that clearly.

Get to gate.

"Oh slow down, Don´t worry. You´ve got bags of time" says guard. "They always make those announcements. It´s really annoying."

4.35. On plane. It´s just the normal seats says ED, with a spare seat in between. Slight disappointment. Menu in front of us seems to have prices attached. Do you think we have to pay for food I say? Try to send text to hubby. Am told off by stewardess. Whoops!

AND THEN we take off!!!!

As the trolley comes round ED, who is sitting on the aisle seat listens out for transactions in front. Ascertains that it is after all free. Phew. Quite a relief, as have come out of the house with less than five pounds (no pound sign on this keyboard, of course) and have no way of getting euros, as didn´t have time to stop at bank in airport.

The menu arrives. We try very hard to look nonchalant, like the others on the plane, who are clearly seasoned business travellers. But it is no good. We are obviously amateurs at this game. Complete novices and so easily exicitable.

Anyway. We are now here.

They have just stuffed some euros into my hand for the "per diems". Haven´t got a clue what they are supposed to include, and no-one speaks very good English. Hope that it isn´t to pay for food in hotel. Assume not, as wouldn´t cover cost............. We´´ll see!

Meanwhile ED is having costume fitting and a meeting with the voice coach (It´s being fimed in English, and then dubbed, so they have to get the lip synching right), and they are talking about a two year exclusivity contract for "Orange" in Spain. They let me have a computer, as I am really a bit of a spare part. Perhaps they sensed that I looked like a blogging type, and thought that I could use up some time.

Our world has gone mad in Madrid! Will keep you posted.


This is going to be the quickest blog ever.

Have just found out that the "interview" that eldest daughter went to on Monday, which was actually an audition for an Orange commercial (but was sworn to secrecy by ED incase she didn't get it) was a success. What's more, they want us in Spain TONIGHT.

So am writing this in haste, as hubby, who happened to have the day off, because we were supposed to be going to a TAKE THAT concert tonight (he had won tickets in a competition), has gone to collect her from school. Then we are leaving immediately to get a flight from Heathrow at 4.35 tonight.

Amazing!!!!!!!! Will have to pinch myself!!!!!

Speak soon!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A visit to the BIG SMOKE!

Eldest daughter had an interview.

Being the country types that we are nowadays, going up to London is a big thing for us. Bit of a treat really.

We got a coffee before we got on the train. Found ourselves a nice set of seats with a table, and got ourselves sitting comfortably, as you do.

It was fortunate that I had had a major crisis of confidence, prior to setting out, about my size and had therefore settled for "slimming" (don't be perusaded otherwise by Trinny and Susannah) black, because as eldest daughter arranged her work on the table, the first cup of coffee went over and landed in my skirt. I say "in", because that is what it was like. A massive black receptacle for a seemingly rather large cup of coffee. Lovely. It didn't show, and miraculously even the pink scarf and maroon coloured jacket (concessionary colour allowance to show not in mourning) missed the coffee completely. I was just a bit wet, and smelt slightly unpleasant. Coffee isn't good secondhand.

I had just mopped it up as best as I could when the train jolted and Eldest (being a very slim teenager) got some coffee down her white shirt. Thankfully, she had packed a spare (white) shirt in her bag, not because she was anticipating spilling coffee, but just in case she changed her mind about what to wear, which of course being a teenager, she frequently does and can.

And then the train jolted again and this time just caught my maroon jacket a little..... Thankfully again I had taken off the scarf to avoid it sitting in puddle of coffee and as such was able to replace it later to cover spillage on jacket.

So, we arrived in London, stinking of second hand coffee. Given that we had come up from Gloucestershire, and I am naturally a very late person for everything, when I have to do something important I always overcompensate for time. We practically ran to the tube, both thinking that we had just over 40 minutes to get to Oxford Circus from Paddington. It wasn't until we arrived at Oxford Circus that we realised that we had left Paddington an hour and forty minutes before the interview.

Eldest daughter was delighted because we visited the BIG Topshop at OC, had some great girly time trying on some clothes, got an extortionately expensive but I did have to (grudgingly) admit, very nice, gingerbread coffee from Starbucks all before the interview. Then afterwards we had a look at the Christmas decorations (was amused to see that they weren't very different to those they used 20 years ago) and spent far too much money on some Christmas presents from Hamleys. Maybe I thought that I was going to be late for Christmas this year so had to do some shopping early. Something like that.

We'd had a really great day, despite the vague coffee aroma that we carried with us wherever we went. And, as we went down the escalator at Oxford Circus, it didn't occur to me that vast black coffee smelling skirt might be a potential health hazzard, until I was walking off the bottom of the stairway and could go no further. I realised when I seemed to be staying static and going a little bit backwards, that I was a bit caught up and going the wrong way towards the stairs. Fast. A kind passerby pressed the emergency button, and nearly sent hundreds of people flying off the staircase as it drew to a sharp stop. He then pulled out what was left of my skirt for me. I was very grateful, and very apologetic. He did look at me as if really I was just a little bit VERY STUPID and as if it was definitely MY fault, which realistically it probably was. Perhaps after all there is a benefit to wearing a belt in the place of a skirt, as does my daughter and her friends, because then there is no danger of being sucked up in an escalator via a big black coffee smelling skirt.

And of course, had I worn a shorter version of said garment I wouldn't have then had to make my way from Oxford Circus to Paddington with a smelly skirt with a very large rip at the bottom. Perhaps I should have sat down and put out a hat. I may have raised my train fare.

All I need now I thought is to bump into someone that I haven't seen for ten years. We turned the corner and there .........................

No not really, but it would have been great for the blog.

Instead I just brazenly walked around Paddington for 3/4 hour (early again!) waiting for the train, and if anyone did notice a slightly strange coffee smelling woman with ripped skirt and very glamorous daughter waiting for the Gloucester train yesterday, thank you so much for not staring or commenting.

Friday, November 17, 2006


On Wednesday I was our local shop buying some bits and pieces, and while I was there, one of the articles on the front page of a national newspaper caught my eye. They have discovered that if people don't drink or smoke too much, and keep fit, they will live longer. WOW! That really took some working out.

It got me thinking though, because when I last spoke to my 83 year old very physically fit father on the phone he said to me that my mother was feeling a bit low because her local amateur dramatic society, to which she has given her life for the last thirty years, no longer wants her talents.

They possibly feel that her ideas are old fashioned or inappropriate, in our (oh so much improved?) modern world.

Now, she is my Mum, so only I am allowed to say what I am going to say, and none of you are allowed to criticise her in any way shape or form. As far as YOU are concerned she is perfect. Admittedly though, she does sometimes have very strong opinions on the way things should be done, and for the last three or four years she has badly needed a hearing aid, but possibly for vanity reasons refuses to go and get her hearing tested and wear the said aid. This could mean therefore that she does miss certain things that are said, which could be important, and as sadly people are generally very intolerant of anyone with any aging disability, then they have possibly tired of speaking loudly to her to get their point across!

Grumble over however. My next point is far more important.

Why as a nation are we so intolerant of elderly people?

Why can we not accept that people who have fought in wars, had children, grandchildren, have cared for elderly parents, made money, lost money, paid off their mortgage, worn every fashion ever thought of and laughed each time it is reinvented, hosted more parties that your average celebrity goddess, were there when the word pizza was first used as a word in the English language, when courgettes made an appearance on the British meal table and when kiwis first turned the fruit bowl green - are not only older, but far far wiser than those half their age? And WHY do we not realise that if people are "written off" in their forties, there is a lot of life left yet - especially as everyone now understands thanks to said National Newspaper how to live a long and healthy life. Thank you National Newspaper.

I then went to pay for my goods. I didn't have enough cash on me - or wanted to preserve the little I had, and so decided to put it on a card. The joint account was the only one with any available funds. Knew that I couldn't remember the pin number, so looked it up before going into the shop in my secret pin number place that only I know about. Got into the queue. Had forgotten pin number again. Looked it up again. Got to the front of the queue................ and yes.............

But ........... I still intend to be a fit 80 year old. Just a slightly forgetful one at times. I'm busy. That's why I forget things occasionally!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The very very civil civil Forbidden England Office.............Oh!

We are supposed to be moving to Portsmouth.

Well, in 2000 it was to be Portsmouth in 2003. Then in 2003 it was to be Salisbury in 2006. And then in 2006 it is Portsmouth again, in 2008.

This week anyhow. We have known that a move is on the cards for almost seven years, but being the very very civil civil office of Forbidden England, we have also known that we have to wait for a posting letter until it happens.

So two year's ago, hubby wrote a letter to sensible people in relevant department to explain that we had five children and that there were very limited opportunites to move them over the next few years without major disruption to their educational milestones. He suggested that we could move two year's ago (summer 2004), this summer ( summer 2006), or failing that in 2012, as all dates in between were a no no given that each year fell between GCSE's, AS levels or A levels for one or other child. Naturally we got a very civil response, but sadly nothing could be done until we had a "letter of intent". Now for all those of you not in the know, the "letter of intent" comes before the "letter of posting". They post the letter of intent to you to tell you that they will be posting a letter of posting about the proposed posting at a given date in the future. They do explain that they intend to given you a "letter of posting" at a certain time, but obviously things can, and do slip, and so we all accept that this is an approximation.

In September, eldest daughter started A'level course meaning that she should preferably stay where she is for the next two years. Eldest son starts his GCSE course next September, and so can move any time up to next September but not thereafter, but then daughter number three starts her GCSE course the following September, so then she can't be moved for two years after that.......... and so it now goes on until 2012.

Meanwhile the letter of "intent" arrives at the end of September this year. Had it arrived six weeks earlier we could have perhaps made a case to move this summer - albeit very rushed move, and settled everyone in prior to said courses. It didn't though. And so we are now in our six year "no go" period. "Letter of intent" tells us that in October 2007 (approximately) we will get a letter of posting, which will mean that we will be moved in the summer of 2008 - half way through son's GCSE course. They will let us move up to three years after that or even a year before, but, naturally it still falls in the no go area for the academics amongst us.

So, hubby writes letter to nice people in civil department to explain in very civil way the state of our very civilian affairs. He puts forward a number of suggestions, such as putting one or other child into a boarding school for a couple of years to get round the problem of the company move, (with them paying......) or maybe to pay for the cost of a flat in Gloucester for a year for eldest daughter, so that she can finish her A'levels, so that we could move ahead of the group, in the summer of 2007, before son starts his GCSE course.

They want to see us. So we go to a meeting in highly secret location in rural England where hubby works.

I arrive at the civil civil office in Forbidden England. I smile at the security camera and am given a day pass with a completely unsmiling photo featured. Clearly the smiles are digitally removed to avoid too much human content. I am taken to a room with no windows and no airconditioning, but I see with relief, there is coffee available. We sit at the table and are faced by two women who look as if they would scare off your average prime minister.

We present our case to the scaries and their rule book. (This is a big volume which sits in front of them, only visible to them, but containing every dot, comma and crossed t on the rights and allowances of employees employed by the very very civil civil Forbidden England office.) Clearly they are not going to pay for boarding school fees for two years for one or other child. So, we suggest a state boarding school. Half the price because no fees involved, only boarding costs. Rough estimate £18000 for the two years involved. Stern faces. Not a liked suggestion. It transpires that the "help" that they offer towards boarding school fees for unsettled children due to the move is in the region of £195 a month, up to a maximum of 50% of the actual cost. Well, they must be basing their actual costs on the price of boarding schools circa 1975, because £2500 a year won't pay for very much in 2006!

We go back to the drawing board.

What about the "non Mover's" package? They say. Known around the office in Forbidden England as the job seeker's allowance, the none mover's package means that hubby can work weekly down in Portsmouth from date of official move to six years hence and will be paid a downwardly sliding allowance for a set period, until after six years it fizzles out completely. At that point he is expected to either move (at his own cost) to Portsmouth, or leave.

Not seeing a realistic way of paying for huge family to move down to Portsmouth for company move at our own expense, I point out to the scaries that that would possibly leave hubby jobless aged 50. Not a good time to be jobless, and despite new laws saying that age is not a problem any more, we all know that your average boss is not going to employ a 50 year old when he has a grand choice of people aged from 25 to 40!

Could we take the non movers package for six years and then move down to Portsmouth at their cost in six years time perhaps?


They then suggest that perhaps the best thing in our situation is for him to take the option to apply for redundancy. Hubby asks if that means that he can apply for redundancy now.


Why not?

Because you haven't had your posting letter yet.

But I have had a letter of intent which says that if we change our mortgage for a better deal over the next two years, we will have to pay any redemption charges ourselves.


So, therefore you are considering the starting point of these negotiations as being now.


But we can't change our mortgage and still have any reedemption fees paid by you when we move.

That's because you know that you might be moving.

Exactly, so as such, am I able to apply for a redundancy option now?

No. Not until you receive a posting notice.

So, to summarise, there is a job in Portsmouth, but we are not officially allowed to know or act upon the fact that there is a job in Portsmouth until we officially know that there is a job in Portsmouth, and although they will do everything they can to help us to move there, they won't pay for anything that isn't allowable in their little booklet of allowable expenses for employees employed by the the very very civil civil department of Forbidden England.

We have reached a stumbling block in the negotiations. They have one set of rules for them, and one set of rules for us. They have "budgets", but the budgets don't meet our needs. They have a job, but it's in the wrong place, and they are not willing to take this to a higher department to ask if the rules can be "flexed" a little.

Hubby suggests that this is effectively a form of constructive dismissal. Nobody can deny that.

I ask if I might have a cup of "the coffee". I don't wait for an answer, but stand up to help myself from the coffee sitting on the side. Clearly, this is a bad move. The "COFFEE" is not intended for "wive's of employees" of the very very civil civil office of Forbidden England, but for the scaries themselves. Hubby explains that I have left home early and driven a long way to get here................. Phew.... am granted a concession for a coffee.

Then somehow, amazingly, the term "Early Movers Package" emerges. Quite where it comes from nobody seems to know, but it means that he can "apply" for a posting letter early, and all going well can officially move to Portsmouth next summer. (I have a sense of deja vue here). Of course, there is no job down there until summer 2008, so he can't actually work there. But by some amazing loophole, we can move and hubby can stay up here in a flat during the week, which they will pay for, and eldest daughter can stay with him and finish her A'levels. It is officially hubby's "allowance" and not eldest daughter's, so can be paid for.......

For that, "in the budget of big invisible rule book" of "Office of Forbidden England", they will pay up to £7000 ish a year. Enough to rent a flat near here.

What happens if the move slips a little we ask. Oh that's fine, they say, we'll pay until you do move down to Portsmouth.........

Now bear in mind that the move has already slipped five years, so it could realistically slip another three, and, if it does, that will cost £21,000 ish in rent for hubby (More than the cost of a state boarding school, plus they will have to pay expenses at a mileage rate to get him back and forth at the weekends............. )

But it's o.k. because it comes out of a different pot so everyone is happy.

Now, if you really understand the ins and outs of all this, you are a better person than me!!!!!!

Thursday, November 09, 2006


When we bought huge house for huge family with huge mortgage we always knew that there would be some letting potential there. Part of the building was an old Doctor's surgery, and so after much discussion, many paint pots, many more thousands of pounds and four years we finally got a tenant in there. Well we actually got two tenants in there, but in doing so had to give up the part of the house that included the downstairs loo, much to the disgust of six year old who tells us daily the inconvenience that she is suffering as a result.

We found the tenants because one of our friends was moving away from the area and needed somewhere for her eighteen year old son to stay. Eighteen year old boy barely had enough money to pay for his cigarette and alcohol habit, let alone food and rent. He therefore asked if he could bring in other eighteen year old boy into the flat too to help pay for the rent. No problem we said, and prepared to move the office, forego aforementioned downstairs loo and soon enough we had another suitable room to incorporate into "the flat" as it became known.

Not having had a great deal of experience with tenants we then had a great learning curve to climb. We drew up a contract with all the things that we thought needed mentioning, but forgot to put in as one of the clauses that one of the rules was not to totally ignore the contract at all times.

A friend recently asked how it was going. Fine, I said. "Do they pay on time?" Mostly, I said. We've had a couple of problems. "Do they keep it clean?" Well, not very I said, but they are young boys. They do smoke in there though, and we did ask them not to, I said. "So", she said, "apart from the fact that they don't pay their rent on time and don't keep to the contract, its fine!" Yes, I said, meekly.

Of course I do accept that I have the word "MUG" written all over my forehead, and I can be taken for granted very easily. Somebody pointed out to me that I am not always clear in what I say, and as such people don't necessarily get the full message of what it is that I am unhappy with.

Until this morning that is, and then it all changed.

I walked past "the flat" and saw that despite it being rubbish day they hadn't put it out. Feeling benevolent, and knowing that they are young boys working hard, getting up early etc etc I thought that I would do it for them. Apart from anything else I didn't really want the rubbish hanging around for another week. So I moved a rubbish bag into the street. Then I moved another rubbish bag. Then another, and so it went on. I got down to the bits that had fallen out of the bags. The moudly yoghurt pots, the food smeared cardboard and paper, and then the "recycling". They hadn't quite cottoned on to the fact that nice people throw away or finish the contents of the bottles and tins prior to putting them into the recycling, and preferably give everything a rinse too. Instead it looked like the average pub bin must look like after a heavy night's drinking with the (hundreds of) fag ends dropped into the not quite empty alcohol containers.

It took me half an hour to clear the mess and clean the area, and unfortunately, the planet didn't get a look in. It isn't recycling week, so I had no intention of also rinsing out and recycling the recyclables and leaving it there for another week. Instead I found several large black plastic bags and threw everything. When I finally got to the bottom of the container that was posing as the recycling box (I recognised it only by its vague similarity on the outside to our own) I scrubbed it out and liberally used bleach (sorry planet, again) to give it some sort of hygienic smell, before using rest of bleach to clean out area where rubbish had been.

It then took me a further hour to compose very stroppy letter, which after phoning hubby to discuss, before taking round to tenants, I had to seriously modify as he quite sensibly suggested that we did need the rent money, and so a little more tolerance was perhaps required on my part.

In the letter I had mentioned that the flat always smelt of smoke, as when went in last week to allow them to have (big and expensive) speakers that they had ordered delivered, it did smell heavily of smoke. But on taking the letter round, found that they had had the window open and amazingly, this time, it didn't smell. There was another rubbish bag sitting in the flat though, full, but too late now as rubbish had already been collected. Tenants clearly weren't in, as had banged on door several times while cleaning bin area (very cross bang) , so knew could not possibly have slept though the racket. Checked bedrooms to see if they smelt of smoke. First one didn't. Opened second door. Horrified to see teenage boy asleep in bed. Closed door VERY quickly and ran.

Came back in, modified letter again and went round again. This time, banged on door. No reply, so opened door. Placed letter in hall and left, again, very quickly, as did not want to be perceived as some sort of forty something Mrs. Robinson type character with fetish for cleaning. Oh help!!!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Fireworks

Firework parties have always been a bit of an interesting phenomenon in our house. My son's name, being the same as one of the better known terrorists who plotted to blow up the Houses of Parliament was, in primary school especially, often mentioned at this time of the year. When he was seven, having just moved back from Northern Ireland, where they don't celebrate the fact that we saved the monarch, but rather instead revere the dead spirits of All Hallows, it was a bit of a shock to all when he ran in one day after school, petrified because he thought that he was going to be put on a bonfire and burnt!

Needless to say, we got over the problem reasonably quickly by the promise of fireworks, toffee and funfairs. Thereafter, every year became less of a torment to him and a source of glee as the public displays got grander. Then a few years back some of hubby's government employee colleagues with slight pyromaniacal tendencies and a link to a good source of cheap fireworks asked if they might use our garden to practise their firehandling techniques. This seemed like a great idea, and so each year since we provided a garden, they provided the fire based entertainment and we put on some food. The guest list got bigger, the fireworks got grander and the food table got more impressive, until this year. With the advent of our new puppy, we decided that fireworks in the garden were perhaps not such a good idea, and so we decided to go back to the public displays. Until that is we were invited to another friend's party.

I was really pleased. I could enjoy the benefit of a fireworks party at home, without having to do the work. So we got there with three princesses in tow (prettier and more colourful than demons and witches they said) and our son. Eldest daughter stayed behind to get uninterrupted Bebo time, and time away from arch rival and enemy, the brother.

The food was great. The wine flowed. The company was good. The puddings were fantastic. The host and hostess even had a refreshingly healthy attitude to their dogs, something that we have been finding little of since we have had a dog. It's unbelievable how many people want to tell you how to bring up your dog as well as your children. These dogs however were treated as members of the family which was good to see.

Then the fireworks started..........

Our host, an ex member of the bomb squad and self confessed to be suffering from withdrawal symptoms since leaving promised an excellent display.

And so it was...........

After the first quarter of an hour we had frozen sufficiently in the near icy temperatures that have just hit us, to last us for the next year, but we had had a good display so we were more than happy.

After the first half an hour everything was starting to go numb.

Three quarters of an hour, with the extremities feeling as if they might drop off any second, the wife of the couple who had invited us suggested that we might perhaps like a warm up, a break and a drink. I think that she had perhaps planned an escape route under the house to warmer climes.

In seconds the garden emptied and in went the assembled crowd to warm up by the fire and have a drink. Sadly though, it was not to last, and before long our enthusiastic host pulled us outside again to see the remains of the display. Eight more we were told. Well after six or seven, wife of host went over to have a look. "Don't stand there" said host. "They're the fireworks." She came back. "There's still another huge box to get through" she said, slightly dismayed. Next came the highlight for the kids when the most expensive firework of all exploded on the neighbour's fence, to the great amusement of all under the age of fourteen. All over that age were thinking what might have happened to the neighbours, law suits and ambulances. Host's wife made note to visit in morning to check state of affairs.

Finally, the display finished, approximately an hour and a half after the start. Had the host's wife herself not been quite so rude about her husband's pyrotechnics, which even outweighed the antics of hubby's colleagues the year before, I may just not have written it in a blog. To say that we were a little cold would be a bit of a serious understatement. Thankfully the drink flowed and the fire roared thereafter, and so the evening proved to be a great success...........

BUT, just in case anyone is thinking about inviting me to a fireworks party next year - PLEASE may I watch just a quarter of an hour of it from somewhere warm??!!!

Monday, November 06, 2006

The Bus

When your children leave on the bus every morning at 7 a.m., it should come as no surprise that at 7 a.m. every morning there is a mad flurry of activity before they finally are extracted from the house and placed on a pavement, outside your house, to catch the bus. Some would describe it as fortunate to have the bus stop so conveniently placed. Others, such as our teenage offspring and us take it slightly for granted that someone can bang on the door at the appropriate time and yell that the bus is coming down the road NOW.

How then did they come to miss it on a day that my eldest daughter has an exam at 8.45 a.m.? Not only that, but having jumped straight into the car, me in my pyjamas and outdoor coat, to drive to another bus stop, for a different route which leaves marginally later, eldest daughter suddenly announces that she has left her bus pass at home. Have you any money on you Mum? She asks. As I have jumped into my car, in my pyjamas and outdoor coat, with only a mobile phone in my pocket (thought that if car breaks down I didn't want to be stranded in pyjamas and coat walking to nearest village in rural area, five miles from human contact), I have no money at all on me, and despite scrabbling around in all the likely (and less likely) areas where change might reasonably be left in car, still find none.

Have big grumble at eldest daughter for missing bus AND forgetting bus pass. Eldest daughter gets very cross and throws lip salve at back of my head. (Amazingly good shot considering there was a head rest in the way. Perhaps if the dancing career ever fails she should take up darts.) At this point, given that I had to go back home anyway to change into some sort of decent attire before possibly driving her into school in Gloucester, I stop the car and ask her to start walking home. She grabs my mobile phone and slams the door. We head off, with me praying that we don't break down or run out of petrol as would have to walk down road in pyjamas. Get to bus stop in nick of time and catch other bus by pulling in front of it with car at the bus stop. Turn car round, very carefully avoiding the bus driver's eye, and go back for eldest daughter. Meet up with her as she is being followed down the road by herd of sheep in nearby field clearly telling her that she has a bad mother and that they will look after her. Or something like that anyway.

I get home and ask hubby if he could possibly take eldest daughter into school on way to work. Opposite direction. Got a meeting early. Needs to leave in less than five minutes. Is extremely apologetic but can't help. Panic! Start to prepare to take 6 and 8 year old in car to Gloucester in nightwear with change of clothes . Only then did we both manage to remember that child number two, son number one was upstairs asleep as still on half term.

Go to wake a very annoyed Kevinesque teen boy, and ask him if will take 6 and 8 year old to school. Get myself dressed in double quick time while hubby organises 6 and 8 year old (too risky to leave Kevinesque to dress 6 and 8 as well as walk them to school). Drive to school, other side of Gloucester and get there despite rush hour traffic (it takes an hour and ten minutes for a normal 20 minute journey) at 8.43 a.m., giving eldest daughter exactly two minutes to get into exam on time. Wish her luck in the exam - are by now best of friends as have chatted for long time in car - and turn round to get back home in time for Doctor's surgery appointment at 9.20 a.m.

Get to Doctor's surgery at 9.20 a.m. exactly. Look at their clock. See it is set fast (Have just checked my radio controlled clock in car so know watch is right), so surgery time is 9.22. Look appealingly at receptionist who in a very charming and slightly patronising way tells me that the Doctor is free now, if I would like to go through. Arrive in surgery in slightly humble and apologetic way.......... can you explain that you have actually been up three hours and driven half way around the countryside first? Would you?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Volcano!

It occurred to me over this particular half term holiday that just occasionally teachers are perhaps having a bit of a giggle when they set work for their students to do in the holidays. Possibly they intend for parents and siblings to be slaving away at a task set, while they go off on their hols, knowing that when they come back they will be presented with work that is clearly the rest of a whole family's efforts!

Last week, daughter number two, child number three was on half term. She informed us that her Geography homework for half term was to make a volcano with special effects. A volcano? I asked. And how are you going to do that? Oh it's easy she said, I'll get some plaster, bandage and some chicken wire and make a model like we did in Year 5. Well to be fair, she did make a good model in year 5, so good that one of our friends "commissioned" her to make one for them. Hubby and I were very impresed. We wondered momentarity if we could create a little cottage industry to help pay huge mortgage on huge house for huge family. But time passed and with it went the idea of child slave industry, along with many other good ideas.

However she did still have the knowledge to make a volcano, which, in the half term holiday of year 8 could prove to be very useful. Or so we thought.....

It meant a trip into Gloucester to buy materials, which one way or the other by the third day of half term still hadn't happened. So we gave her a bus fair and a lift to friend's house to accompany her on trip to Gloucester. Day one went by, and towards the end of that she phoned, said that they wouldn't be going to Gloucester today and could she stay at friend's house and go into Gloucester the next day.

Next day she arrived home, in tired sleepover mode, but with no materials. They had got to Gloucester, but not as far as the shop that sold the right craft stuff. Never mind she said. I'll do it with papier mache! Great, I thought later when we had wallpaper paste and newspaper all over the kitchen. The volcano started to emerge. Everyone put in their penny's worth and gradually with some lentils here, some stuffing, recently removed from toy by puppy, there, some orange peel on the front and masses of brown paint it was finished. The only problem was that it looked not like something that the dog had been playing with, but more like something the dog had done, and there didn't seem to be much in the way of special effects either. We had all failed dismally on that one . Suddenly I had a brainwave. Why don't you make a cake? Then you can take both in, look like a proper girly swot and the special effect can be that it can be eaten!

The next day daughter number two's friend came to visit. So they spent much of that day creating a cake suitable for a volcano. Then with a bit of intervention from the kitchen maid (me) we moulded it into volcano shape using much butter icing and a ton of chocolate. Eldest daughter then made disgusting looking orange icing for the lava, and hubby placed a candle in the middle, and hooray, we had a volcano - good enough to eat.

We then had the joyous task of working out how exactly she was going to get in on the bus with not one but two volcanos. That took a huge amount of discussion but, she managed, somehow, and amazingly came back with an "A" for all of us, and a promise to put the non edible one on display.

Clearly the teacher doesn't have a dog!


It all started the other night with a discussion about Kylie.

For some reason the subject came up with our teen children. Both hubby and I thought that she looked really good. Eldest daughter on the other hand said in no uncertain terms that she thought that she was effectively mutton dressed as lamb, and so "OLD". Ancient, I said. She must be at least seven years younger than me. Thirty seven perhaps? "She wears lycra, and leotards" came the response. Only when she's performing, I said. Surely that's acceptable? Clearly it wasn't and so the discussion moved on, as we certainly couldn't agree on the subject of Kylie Minogue.

Later I said to hubby that I wouldn't mind it if I look as good as Kylie.

"I'd rather have you any day." He said. Now don't get me wrong. I know that men have a tough time in understanding what is going on in a woman's mind, and that really they should have a manual implanted in their brain at birth so that they don't put their foot in it every five minutes, but sometimes, as a woman, it's hard not to accept that men don't have that implant at birth and that they can't say exactly what you want to hear. Perhaps men should be sent to charm school for a year after leaving school, and be taught how to repond to women in all possible situations.
I digress with the absurd, but I'm sure that many women reading this understand what I am saying.

"I'd rather have you for your personality," he persisted. O.K. I thought. I know that I have never looked like a pop idol. And I know that five children and many years of worrying about a very large mortgage have added undesirable lines and pounds, and it's great to be thought of as having a great personality, but it would also be nice to think that despite all that the person that you married thought that on the day that you married him that you were beautiful. And also that that opinion hasn't really changed in twenty years, and that when you scrub up for a party or something that you might just still pass the beauty test! AND also that of course WE all know that even Madge, Kylie and a whole host of others don't look as good without the make up, the designer garb and the touched up photos. So why not mention that too while you are in the process?

Naturally I just went quiet at this point and carried on with whatever I was doing and shortly made an excuse to go to bed. By the next morning, being a man, he had clearly forgotten that I had gone to bed feeling a bit hurt and carried on as normal. So the days passed and well here we are, back to normal again.

Never mind. Perhaps one day, I'll be rich enough to have a full makeover and a brand new wardrobe, go to a hairdresser that is somehow able to remove ALL the grey from my hair forever and get a personal trainer to sort out the excess baby flab! (Well nothing else seems to have worked in the last six years!) And by that time, maybe I'll be famous enough too to be featured in "Hello" with pictures that are touched up to the point that even fat frumps like me look good.

THEN he won't be able to say that he only wants me for my personality will he?!