Sunday, July 29, 2007

Hey! I Rock!

Dearest Akalemalu has told me that I rock!

Well thank you Ak! You rock too!

And in return I am to tell some other people that they too rock. But, if I nominate you, please don't feel that you to have to pass it on, unless you want to of course. You can of course though display one of the very colourful awards on your blog...I think that many of my blog chums have already been told that they rock, but I will nominate some bloggyites anyway. If I mention you, but you have already had a Rockin' Girl Blogger award ........then, have another! After all, there is no limit on the amount of Oscars you can pick up, so why not Rockin' Girl Blogger awards too?

And so, this evening's awards go to:

Enidd, who despite a move to California recently has still managed to keep up her blogging to its wonderfully high and very witty standard.

Beccy (who I think has probably had this already??) who never ceases to amaze me at the speed at which she produces blogs.

Wendz, who is poignant, clever and witty and who, like me I think, wears her heart on her sleeve.Lisa, who cooks clever stuff, does clever spinning around and stuff at amazing times in the morning, as well as having children and work to do.

Headless Chicken, who entered the blogging world with a bang and is a bit of a star.

Alice Band, who seems to be telling my my life story in a better and funnier way than me!
And last, but not least, the most recent blogger of all.......

Little Gymnast, of Gymnast fame on my blog, who at the tender age of nine has started her own blog, and writes and posts unaided. I know that she's mine, but what a star!

P.S I understand that this is a girl's own award. But, if no-one tells, I think that I will also include Meredic and Iggy and John G. Just for today, you understand, you three can be honorary girls. For the sake of the award only now, so don't go getting any ideas. We can't all be girls all the time.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

On the island of the Forest of Dean

Shhhhh..... in a rare moment in rain soaked summer holidays of not being needed by anyone to do anything, I've sneaked in to the computer room early enough for it not to be inhabited by teenagers or younger.

It's been an interesting few days......

ED and Sensible went to school on Friday morning. Both were finishing school for the summer at lunchtime.

Hubby left for work at around 8.30 a.m.

ED had planned to go out for the afternoon and bring some friends back later on as part of a birthday celebration. Sensible had planned to spend a caffeine filled afternoon in Starbucks with friends. ESOS, Gymnast and Tinkerbell Mushroom were at home, having already broken up from school.

All were expected home early Friday evening.

Then the rain started.

By the time the roads were seriously flooded and Sensible was on the bus home and ED changed her plans to stay overnight in Gloucester, Hubby, who had left work early so as to hopefully get home, was bravely facing the Malvern waters in seriously old car, only to be stopped by said waters with Noah's Ark style force. The only problem was that unlike Noah's Ark, or Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, "Old Car" did not look after him until safely home. Instead it stopped, dramatically, a few miles out of Malvern.

He had been on the road for three hours by this time and had gone no further than a couple of miles. His persisitence had only been so apparent due to Sensible being stuck on the bus out of Gloucester and looking as if she might be in for an overnight stay on a public bus.

Meanwhile I was stuck in the Forest of Dean, which often very nearly an island in its own right, actually became one, as all waters from all sides engulfed us with good measure.

Suddenly Gloucestershire, as far away from sea as you often get in England, was, to all intents and purposes, an island.

The only problem was, that Hubby was on one island in Malvern, Sensible and ED were on another island in Gloucester and we were on a third one in the Forest of Dean.

Looking bedraggled and seriously in need of kind charity, some lovely people took pity on Hubby and took him in for the night. The RAC who were off rescuing fifty thousand other cars
too weren't able to get to Hubby for a few hours.

Sensible walked in to the house 11.15 p.m. Amazingly, despite having sat on a bus for seven hours, having got off the bus a couple of times to use loos in people's houses and run back to the bus to get back on it again, despite having had no food in this time, she walked in as if she had just come home from school on the bus as normal....

Where did she get those genes?

Meanwhile, on the other end of the sensible or not teenage spectrum, ESOS still wanted to go and get Harry Potter from Waterstones’ at Midnight, in Gloucester…

"Mum, the roads are obviously clear enough to get through to Gloucester now", he said. Sensible got through."

It had been a planned event..... And he looked so sad...... And it had been a horrible few hours worrying about everyone.....

"I'll try" I said, as we piled into the car, knowing that the chances of getting more than four miles down the road were seriously unlikely.

Ten minutes later we turned back into our drive. The only problem was that as went to turn off the road, half on, half off, the car "cut out". With a dodgy fuel gauge and a tendency to run out of battery every so often, the combination does leave a little to be desired sometimes in automobile technology.........

Sensible, ESOS and I managed to push big heavy bus onto the drive, just inside the gates.

ESOS, being fourteen, was still disappointed about the excursion to fetch Harry P...

Now don't get me wrong, I had some sympathy, but it was wearing................ thinnish shall we say?

Next morning Hubby phoned the RAC again. "Call back at 2 p.m." they said.

2 p.m. "Sorry, it's going to be Tuesday before we can rescue you. Can you leave your car there, and we'll collect it and deliver it to your local garage?"

Having just got my car going again, by means of a petrol can, a jump start off ED's mini (Sitting on drive awaiting her driving lessons) and ESOS, who having got over the Harry crisis, seemed to be more knowledgeable about car engines than me, I went out. Braving the waters of Gloucestershire and Malvern, to nobly rescue Hubby, I took Gymnast and Tinkerbell Mushroom with me.

Half way along the route, the car stopped. Thinking that it was the same age old problem of needing jump leads again, I flagged down a passing motorist.

It didn't go.

I called Hubby whose saintlike strangers who had taken him in for the night gave him a lift to where I was. We tried to jump start it again. We called the RAC. Small children in the car. Half an hour they promised.

Said Goodbye to the Saint and waited.

A few people came by. Each one helped to try to jump start it. No chance. Car was clearly hot. Hubby tried clever things involving puddle water and stuff to replenish the parts that needed refreshment. No joy.

Four hours went by. I Spy, Number plate games and all the imaginable word games in the universe had run out....

As had the water. It had gone in the car along with some puddle water.

We were considering drinking the puddles.....

As it costs a second mortgage to call the RAC on a mobile phone (will someone PLEASE tell these people that we need a landline to call? It is ONLY the phone companies who are benefitting from the 0800 numbers) we called ESOS, who rang again. Eventually, after much persistence on his part, they rang me. "Sorry", they said. It will be another 8 hours or so at least. Can you make your own way home?"

Called friend (Headless Chicken's Husband), who performed a Knight in Shining armour rescue and got us home.

10.30 p.m. Saturday evening we arrived home, 38 hours after hubby had left for work the previous morning.

ED finally got home on Sunday, with our Harry Potter books. Meanwhile, seizing a very rare clear road moment and a willing friend's mother who came to collect her, Sensible had gone again... party at a friends house. Re-emerged four days later, having got through more floods with friend's mother this time.......

We did get a letter from the RAC today though.

Apologising for any inconvenience.

Will make sure that I tell them about the 0800 number nonsense though. Grumble, grumble.........

p.s. Other than losing two cars, and a few hours of worry, we haven't done too badly in all this really. The house is up high and our children are all safe....

There have been some real horror stories with all this weather. We do count our blessings.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

There are no rules to being utterly irrational when it comes to pets.

MIL is visiting.

Selectively incontinent senile pacifist cat disgraces himself.


In the children's playroom.

"You are going to have to take a managerial decision over this one", says MIL, whilst explaining to Tinkerbell Mushroom the dangers of toxocariasis.

MIL leaves to return home, and I go into deep depression. Well, yes of course I know the dangers of having an animal in the house who feels free to adopt certain rooms as his bathroom. And yes, I can see that it is purely selective, because he never "goes" where he sleeps or eats. And yes, I know that he was a stray that we adopted three years ago, that he didn't belong to us in the first place and that he isn't an ideal pet, or even proper cat material.

But he's a pet. And although I have always thought it absolutely bizarre that people become quite so attached to their pets, I suddenly begin to see their point.

There are no rules to being utterly irrational when it comes to pets.

Admittedly it was possibly a bit over the top of my mother for instance to go into full dress mourning for five years after the departure of our old English sheepdog. My Dad must have felt a bit left out really.

I ring my friend. She has two cats who live outside. They have a farm. She has said before that she would be willing to rehouse the pacifist cat, but when push came to shove I didn't have the heart, and so he stayed again for a few more months.

I pluck up the courage and I arrange to drop him off the next day. I tell the children , quickly squashing any ideas that it might be the type of farm that Phoebe in "Friends" parents use, and that they will be able to visit him.

The next day comes. It is ED's birthday.

"I need to see PC" she says, “before I go to school. To say goodbye."
Seizing the opportunity I say, "Would you prefer that he didn't go today?" I say. "I can rearrange it."

"Yes please she says."

Relieved, I phone my friend, and we rearrange the handover for Friday.

He's been good since Monday.

Yes. I know.

It's only Wednesday now. And it's not been raining. He's definitely worse in the rain. He doesn't like going outside in the rain. Trouble is that he won't use a litter tray either, unless its in a central area of the house that isn't cold or anywhere near any food or sleeping quarters.

But it's a bit of progress.

Maybe by Friday he will be completely cured of selective incontinence and will be able to stay? Maybe it will stop raining forever?

No.... I know.

Cat pee does smell. The dressing up clothes and hubby's trunk in which they were housed have been ruined. A dozen books have been ruined, not to mention Sensible's shoes and countless toys.

Hubby is not a cat lover. Actually he and his whole family hates cats. PC was a concession to that lifelong hatred. But he let us down. The contrary animal!

I fear that I will have to make that journey on Friday.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Happy Birthday ED!!

ED is 17 today!

That is 17 on 17th of the 7th month of the 7th year!


Friday, July 13, 2007


"I'll go up on the roof this evening and sort them out." Says Hubby.

I nip into the local town and and do my bit by buying some stuff that should work.

Call ED to tell her the news that although since she left this morning the house has become invaded by black and yellow mini monsters, mostly hanging around outside her window, that she doesn't need to worry, because Hubby is on the case and will have them gone in no time.

The location of the nest of said uninvited guests appears to be on the roof.

"He can't go up on the roof", she protests. "Mum. Tell him he can't go up on the roof."

Undeterred, Hubby climbs up onto the first level. Then onto the next bit of the roof. Then onto the top. I'm inside the house at this point.

My mobile rings.


He's fallen down I think. He's lying in the drainpipe with one leg still on the roof.

"Sal, can you come outside?"

"Why?" I say.

Yes, he has definitely fallen off, I think again. I know he has. From top to bottom, and now having managed to survive, he is paralysed, unable to move and needs me to get an ambulance.

I rush outside to see the extent of the damage.

No sign of Hubby.

"Where are you?" I call.

"I'm up here. On the roof."

I look up into the skies and there is hubby, a dot on the horizon.

Huge house with huge mortgage for huge family is three stories high of course, with 9 ' high Georgian ceilings.

It's a long way to the top.

"Can you just direct me to where that hole is? You know? The one in the lead flashing just above ED's window?"

I direct him.

He sprays generously telling all unwanted guests on roof to disappear forever and never come back to darken our rooftops again.

We agree that the job is done. I then go inside to wash the blood spots off my hands, while he climbs off the roof again.

Five minutes later, no sign of Hubby.

I'll call the ambulance first I think. That way it can be making its way here, and I'll waste no time.

Something stops me and instead I go outside again. Still no sign of Hubby anywhere.

Go to the front of the house. He's climbing down there.

Eventually he gets back down.

We go into the garden to inspect the progress of the departing wasps.

"I didn't mean that hole in the flashing", says Hubby. "I meant that one."

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Pobol Y Cwm Wallpaper

It was just another "drive everyone over the age of 12 to the next bus stop in dressing gown" day for hubby. Fortunately, my call wasn't until 11.30 a.m. in Cardiff, so I had time.

"So where are you going?" Asks Tinkerbell Mushroom.

"I'm going to be in Pobol y Cwm for the day." I say. "It's a Welsh t.v. programme."

"So will I be able to see you?"

"Hopefully" I say.

"So, I can watch you on telly, today?"

"No, not today" I say. "In a few weeks."

A look of disappointment crosses her face as, being not far removed from the age when you still think that the actors are inside the box in your living room, she had clearly thought that she was going to be watching me live on TV when she came in from school.

It makes me nervous having to be somewhere 50 miles away at a certain time. My driving, never very good, becomes erratic and, despite being a persistently late person, I allow so much time, leaving just as I dispatch the youngest two to school, that I arrive an hour early.
As I walk into the BBC Cardiff studios, I get the distinct impression of dèja vu. Remembering though that Torchwood and Dr. Who are made here, I feel slightly relieved.

That's why I think.

I sign in and explain why I am here.

"Do you know where to go?" Says the security guard?

"No", I say.

So they get a runner who runs me through a rabbit warren of corridors. I stare like a tourist at the in built street set, and then realise that I am supposed to look professional, and try not to look to obvious. Too late for that really.

Being an hour early I ask if there is anywhere I can get a coffee or tea while waiting. The runner directs me back to the restaurant. By reception. It is seriously touch and go finding my way back there, and on my way back to the green room I am even more at a loss, so I look pathetically at a couple of seemingly helpful types and get redirected back to the right place.

Not being a Welsh speaker of course, I couldn't actually say any lines even if the opportunity were there and so I am background, which in acting terms is sort of equivalent to being wallpaper. Of course, on actual paper you are referred to as an artist... A serious exagggeration!

In truth you are a tool that the artists use. Essential, but no more significant that a piece of moving wallpaper.

A few more wallpapers arrive and we all chat.

Then we get bussed out to a location.

Then we chat some more.

Then it's lunch time.

They haven't got to our bit yet. So, we are bussed back to BBC Cardiff, taken to the restaurant to eat lunch.

Then we get bussed back to the location again.

In the bus are some of the main characters. They all speak Welsh to one another, but if you ask them a question in English, they switch so easily that you feel highly inferior. In this little Principality are a whole nation of bilingual speakers, who over the years have occasionally got a little cross with the way we manage things here over the border, and we in turn have sometimes previously treated their Welsh speaking habits as a little bit of a joke. But in truth I am in awe. My O'level French is pretty poor and my German worse, so to hear people converse completely naturally in two languages is sickeningly admirable. Here, these people get directed by the director in one language, act in another, and speak quite happily in either.

I ask another Welsh speaking wallpaper, who has just asked a question in Welsh to someone else who was previously speaking English, how they know that that person speaks Welsh. I think it must have been by some form of telepathic communication, because there was nothing else to suggest otherwise.

"Of course, you understand that we switch to Welsh, so that we can talk about you, don't you?" he says. We all laugh, and it is funny, but the biggest laugh is on we English of course.

At about 3 in the afternoon, they say that they need someone to walk across the room in a dressing gown, this being a hospital location.

Practically gagging by now to do something, I volunteer to make myself look especially unsexy and do said job.

"Ooh very sexy" says one of the other wallpapers.

Very not of course. But I do my bit and am quite happy.

The strange thing about doing a job like this, is that for a whole day you are put in incredibly close proximity to people that you have never met before, and in a short space of time you get to know their entire life stories, warts and all.

I also discover that Pobol y Cwm means "People of the Valley". So at least I have learnt some Welsh for my day's efforts.

At the end of the day, like true luvvies, everyone kisses everyone else goodbye. Of course, we will probably never meet again, but it's sort of the way its done, so we do it before wending our way back up the motorway, avoiding the Heddlu with any erratic driving and back home again.

As we leave, one of the actors thanks us.

I have done a few bits of wallpaper work over the years, but I have never ever been thanked before by one of the main artists. It may seem a little thing, but bear in mind that these people are making this half hour show day in day out from 9 til 7 , 8 , 9 every week day of the year.

They see hundreds of wallpapers.

It was a small and unexpected gesture.

So nice and so charming...

It made my day.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Tart with the Strawberries

"How did you lose your way going to Monmouth?"

Hubby looked at me with utter amazement at my latest prematurely senior moment. Monmouth is just 12 miles from where we live and a much travelled road. We sometimes use Waitrose in Monmouth as a disasterously expensive way to save cashflow when needs must, by using the small bit of flexibility on their very flexible storecard.

My mind had been on other things. I started driving through the tunnel at the other end of the dual carriageway, held my breath and put one hand up to hold up the tunnel, as you you do*, when I realised that there is no tunnel on the way to Monmouth.

Eight miles later was finally able to come off the dual carriageway, somewhere in the middle of Wales. Returned to Monmouth. Another eight miles. Then did as much of my shopping as I had time for - which was much less time than when I had started out of course - before returning to school, another twelve miles to pick up Tinkerbell Mushroom and Gymnast.
I had driven forty miles to do a weekly shop.
"So, anyway I 'm working tomorrow, and I've run out of time to make a cake, so please can you get two cakes for the Gymnast's birthday?" Ever mindful of the pennies (which is fortunate that one of us is, given that there are never any available at the beginning of the month, once huge mortgage for huge house for huge family has swallowed all finances in one gulp) Hubby questions the need for two. "One for her birthday, and one for her party."

The party has to take place on the Monday, as on the Sunday, her birthday, Gymnast, true to her name. has to perform in a gym competition. This means that I will be out for most of Saturday at work, and most of Sunday, at said competition, leaving no time available for making cakes. The gym that Gymnast attends is not renowned for good timings. If a competition is due to end at 3, that usually means 3 the following morning. The lady who runs it has only been doing it for 30 years so she needs a little more practice before she can get it right. Meanwhile, on competition days it's wise to keep the day clear of all other activities if by any chance you happen to have any other life.

So .............Hubby bought two cakes. One chocolate and one vanilla.

Very nice.

And then...........

We got home at 4 in the afternoon, after the gym competition.

So, we had the first cake and sang happy birthday.

Saddled with shock at not being stuffed into a hot gym for another twelve hours and having time for the guilt monster to trip in, I suddenly realised that really what I really really wanted to do was to make a cake for Gymnast after all. And, because it was a big guilt trip, it had to be a truly elaborate cake. Something really special.

And....we had some strawberries. So, what better on 1st July than to have a Tarte aux Fraises?
No recipes anywhere, even Delia couldn't oblige.

So onto the internet.

Found one.

In French.

Not quite trusting my knowledge of the language sufficiently to read it completely correctly, I used Google translate, which came up with the following method:

Tart with the strawberries
For the paste: put the flour, salt and butter in small pieces in a bowl. Exhaust end of the fingers. In another container, beat sugar and egg until the mixture bleaches. Mix the two preparations. Knead and make a ball. Let put back it 30 min with the refrigerator in a plastic film before using it. To preheat the furnace with 220°C (thermostat 7, 430°F). For the cream pâtissière: make boil milk. In a bowl, beat the egg yolks with sugar. Incorporate the flour, then ebullient milk without ceasing whipping to avoid the formation of grumeaux. Give the preparation in the pan and bring to boiling, then let quiver 3 minutes with soft fire without ceasing stirring up. Add the vanilla extract. Pour in a bowl or a bowl and cover. Reserve for the refrigerator. Lower the paste to sink a tart mould 25 cm in diameter. Give 20 minutes to the expenses before making cook 10 minutes. Lower the furnace with 190°C (thermostat 5) and leave 15 more minutes. Let warm and unmould. Pour the cream cold pâtissière on the paste. Lay out the strawberries cut in 2 overcoats. Powder with sugar freezes and are useful immediately.

And.........despite the lack of furnace available, and having to use icing sugar instead of blocks of frozen sugar, and using my food processor instead of exhausting my fingers, it worked quite well really.

I put it on the table after dinner, feeling slightly smug at my brilliance of having made a magnificent Tarte aux Fraises.
At that moment, Hubby looked over to the Gordon Ramsay calendar which has sat on the wall since arriving free in the Sunday Times at Christmas.

Did you know that the July recipe is for a french tart?" He said.

And there it is indeed. Not a fishnet in sight, but a tart recipe nonetheless, written in perfect English.

*Family tradition when driving through any tunnel. Stops it falling down on you.