Monday, February 26, 2007


The boiler's broken.

The trouble is that it's not just broken, it's probably heading for the boiler graveyard in the sky.

On Friday evening I was out, rehearsing for my play, saying lines that weren't supposed to be there and not saying lines that are, due to a serious memory problem that I seem to be suffering of late. It had been a technical rehearsal, just two weeks before the play, so we had all arrived early to help with the set and everything else. It had been a long day.

I left feeling very upset with myself, partly because I seem unable to grasp this part, despite countless hours spent learning it, hence lack of blog this week, and partly because I have this annoying habit of being oversensitive whenever anyone says anything remotely personal to me. This means that I probably annoy people more because I am over sensitive than because I need another week to learn my lines. And besides my lines were SO much better than they were the previous week, and it is a VERY large part, and why did no-one see that........... Well of course no-one is interested. That's the job in hand. No-one wants to know how much work you have put in. They just want the job done.

So I got home, expecting full sympathy and understanding, to be greeted by hubby with the news that he was very sorry to interrupt me, but that there was a much more pressing issue at stake. The boiler had died. It had in fact been throwing out yellow flames before he had turned it off. So it was fortunate that he caught it in its stride. Otherwise we might not have been there to catch it all.

That's the problem when you buy huge old house, with huge mortgage for huge family. You don't have anything spare to fix the old bits. Like a boiler throwing carbon monoxide poisoning into the room.(Well, some might..... We don't.) Furthermore, in old houses they didn't think that when they attached gas boiler to old fashioned chimney that European legislation would dictate that this would be illegal in twenty years time, and as such, not only will we need a new boiler, we will need an entirely new system, and we will probably have to knock down some (albeit disgusting) conservatory style lean to affair, so as to accommodate new boiler on an outside wall somewhere close to where it currently is. It is a major job. Major. And there is NO scope on the mortgage for an extension of funds.

Of course I had been hoping for a while to replace said boiler, with a range. One a bit like the one that was taken out of the said fireplace by our predecessor. In the days before the fashionable became unfashionable, before it became fashionable again. In the days when they thought that a white boiler slightly yellowish with age was more attractive to look at than a black cast iron range. I live in wild hope. I even have picture of a nice green range on the wall above the boiler. If you close your eyes to a certain point and concentrate very hard, you can almost see what it would look like, and if you get really good at it you can miss out the yellow boiler from your sights all together.

I did wonder momentarily if I could blame my line learning on the boiler's emissions. Probably not. It's probably down to needing more hours...... Perhaps we could invent a new calendar with a twenty eight hours day. Those extra four hours are probably all I need.

So I had less sympathy than I wanted, and I was cold too.

The next morning 6 year old came downstairs. "Mummy", she said. "Yes" said I, wondering what little piece of wisdom was about to come forth. "The boiler's broken." "Yes I know." I said. "That's a nuisance". "And you know that bread you made last night for us? In the breadmaker, before you went out?" "Yes" said I. "Well, I think that you had forgotten to put something in it. Because it was all flat and tasted like dough."

Amazing what a bit of yeast can do.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Precious Cacophony

With thanks to Karmyn

Eldest Daughter and Only Son child number two are fighting. Again.

They always fight.

They always tell me that I am being unfair, because I never tell the other one off enough in their opinion. It seems that there should be a written scale of told offness to adhere to when the chips are down.

This is a bit of motherhood that I am clearly lacking in and need some lessons on. Or so my eldest two would tell me at least.

As a mother, it's hard sometimes to get it right. You want to be fair, but as they get older, you are not necesarily present when the fight starts. So you try to listen to both sides of the argument, and before long you realise that you are simply in the midst of a cacophony orchestrated by both sides.

It's a loud cacophony.

Daughter number two, child number three, is torn. She likes both of the older two. Can see the side of both, and can see that both are giving me rather a hard time.

Meanwhile, daughter number three, child number four, aged 8, is throwing a hissy fit about the fact that she has to go to gym in the middle of half term. Words like not fair, tired, holiday, all come to the fore. And daughter number four, child number five is being dressed up by eldest daughter. The end result is stunning, hair and all. She is still blissfully unaffected by older siblings' battles. Either that or she is so used to it that she passes it off as just part of daily life. I suspect strongly that it is the latter.

Later, we get home having dropped off eldest son off with a friend and daughter number three, child number four, (quite happily) off at gym to do amazingly athletic gymnasticy things that I have never been capable of. Eldest daughter is picked up by a friend to go shopping. She too looks happy.

It being the middle of the day, Hubby is out at work
Just three of us left.

It's so quiet.

It's too quiet.

Bring back the cacophony.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Breakdown Cover!

Hubby rings me from work.

My clutch has gone on the car. Please can you call the AA for me?

Fortunately we are members of the AA. We are loyal customers, and my car insurance is with them too. Have been with them for around 9 years.

Ring the AA.

"Sorry", but you are not members. Your membership lapsed in December.

"We've been members for 9 years" says me.

"No I'm sorry, but we have had no payment since December".

"You must have done" says me. "We changed our bank account in December, and I rang you to change our details, because my car insurance is with the AA too. Please can you check that I my car is insured?"

She checks.

I am insured, and direct debit is in place. No problems there.

"It's a different policy Mrs. Lomax. The payments are taken separately.

"But it's the same bank account, and you are the same company, and I rang to update my details, and you took those details."

"Did you tell us that you wanted to change the details on your breakdown insurance?"

"Did YOU ask me if I wanted to change the details on my breakdown isurance?"

"No, it's up to you to tell us."

"But I don't know how your systems work. I simply handed over my bank details in good faith. Could you not put a chip into your system to flag that the customer has more than one policy with you?"

"Oh no, that would be very expensive!"


Decide that this is going nowhere, and ask if I can pay the outstanding premiums of £28. "No, you can't".

"But my husband is stuck with a broken down car."

"You can rejoin, but you will need to pay a full yearly premium in advance.

"Can I pay in installments, given that I am a customer paying insurance by monthly direct debit and have done for the last nine years?"

"No. that's on your motor insurance. This is your breakdown insurance. We would need full payment today."

It is now as clear as mud. That is an insurance policy that I have. Whereas the breakdown cover is

Ask to speak to a manager. In a meeting.................. of course.

Ring the RAC.

Same policy for £40 less a year. Still have to give the full premium in advance, but they don't want it until the beginning of March. Can we pay on the 24th February I ask, as that is when the money goes in to the account.

You can pay on the 24th March they say.

The RAC gets the business and go out to rescue hubby.

Later the AA eventually phone back. Explain situation. Explain that I have now taken the business elsewhere, saved £40 in the process, and that when my motor insurance runs out in June I may feel the need to move that too.




Too late.................................

The next day I have a different query with the AA, about my motor insurance. A much simpler query which they are able to sort easily.

As the call is ending the customer advisor says.........

Mrs. Lomax, before you go, can I ask, do you have breakdown cover with the AA?

Monday, February 12, 2007

What I wanted to say about the Forest of Dean

(For Marnie......)

On Friday we were snowed in.

We were seriously snowed in.

There were severe weather warnings and people who lived here but who were currently outside the Forest were being told not to drive home under any circumstances. It was bad. 10 inches of snow outside our back door alone. It was so bad that they were thinking of sending out some gritter lorries.

Cars were stuck on the road leading up to Monmouth from our house, unable to move because the ice wouldn't let the wheels do anything other than spin.

One car was stuck immediately outside our house. The driver looked at a loss as to what to do, and didn't appear to be making any phonecalls, or showing that he had a way forward.

Being a friendly sort of neighbourhood, people were looking on, wondering if maybe they should offer some help. No-one was actually doing anything you understand. But they were looking at him.

Being a brave sort, I decided to take the plunge.

I approached the driver of the car and asked if he needed to use the phone. He didn't. He was trying to get to Chepstow, and asked me if I thought that the road that links from here to the main road to Chepstow would be ok.

The road in question is a country road, which would not have been gritted and was probably, by the time in question, (3.30 p.m.) pure ice.

I suggested that it probably wasn't the best road to take. By this time a few other people had also ventured forward and were offering suggestions involving sticking to main roads, taking long detours to avoid the snow logged Forest of Dean roads, or leaving his car overnight in the village.

He looked at us.

Now do bear in mind you can't be a local in the Forest of Dean until you have four generations dead in the grave. Or is it five? You can't "become" a Forester, you have to be born a Forester. Conversion courses, immigration procedures, or citizenship exams just aren't available. However, as I have lived here for almost eight years, and as this is my longest stay anywhere throughout my entire life, I do feel a sort of loyalty to what has become my home - even if they do not yet accept me as a local. Even if they don't until fifty years after my great great grandchildren are dead and buried. It's my home, and I have no other. So I can be loyal to it.

So when the man in the car from Chepstow said: "I've been told that you shouldn't leave your car around here overnight" I felt mortally wounded, seriously hurt and extremely righteous all at the same time.

I wanted to respond "Actually, did you know that the Forest of Dean has one of the lowest crimes rates in the country and you would probably be safer leaving your car here overnight than virtually anywhere else in the world, the universe, in infinity and beyond. And actually, that is one of the things I love about living here."

I didn't of course, but I wanted to.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Tin Pot Bank

It all started back on 17th October last year.

The blogging that is.

And the blogging all started because of my bad experience of the bank which, Enid, a blogging friend with similar frustrations, calls HBSC. She has written two brilliantly funny posts about HBSC.

Similarly, my first ever blog was about HBSC. Like Enid, I am using the heavily disguised name for this particular bank, because I wouldn't want to be accused of libel.

Now with thanks to Enid for pointing out that my comment on her recent blog site should become one of my blogs, I have indeed recreated said comment, with just a few tweaks for all of you to enjoy...........

You see, lots of people gave us tins of chocolates for Christmas, which are now empty. I'm thinking of doing a trade in them, and calling them banks.

It will work like this:

If you want to put some money into one of my tins, you can, on the basis that I can use the money, place it in high interest overnight acounts, and won't give you anything for it.

If you want to write a cheque against the money in the tin, I'll let you, as long as you pay me a nice fee for doing so.

If you don't have enough money in your tin to write a cheque, because I haven't put the new money that you have given me into the tin yet, because it is sitting in a nice high interest overnight account, then I won't pay it for you, but I will charge you £35 for checking to see if there is enough money in the tin.

At the end of the year, I won't pay you any interest on any money that you have left in the tin for me to use, but I will charge you interest on any of the charges that I have charged you for not having enough money. A sort of poor tax.

If you want to start a small business I will give you a sort of loan, which I will call a business overdraft. This will be similar to an overdraft, exept that I will make sure that I charge you a very high fee, several hundred or more (depending on the size of your tin) pounds a year for saying that you can have the business overdraft, and I will make sure that the amount that I lend you is just slightly short of the amount that you actually need.

Then, as I will have very cunningly have made sure that you don't quite have enough money to write a cheque to pay your business bills, I will charge you for that. I will of course charge you more than people who don't have a small business, because they are not as enterprising as you, and so it will be necessary to charge you an enterprise tax too. If I succeed in making sure that your small business fails, I will then charge you a much higher interest rate on any remaining debt to the tin, because by now you would be very poor and therefore you have to pay a bigger poor tax.

Would anyone be interested in one of my tins?

Thursday, February 08, 2007


I was going to write about the fact that it snowed today and that the children all convinced me that they shouldn't go to school. That is before it was announced that the school of the youngest two would be closed anyway. Good job, because it would have been difficult to get there.

It's across the road.

The older three possibly could have gone, but as the official school bus was cancelled, and the radio said that the public buses were cancelled (even though we saw one go past the door) and daughter number two, child number three, was saying at 6.45 this morning that we were the worst parents ever MAKING them go to school on a "snow" day, and as we do live 12 or so miles from each of their schools, and as it could have frozen over in the afternoon, so then even if we could have got them there we may well not have been able to get them back, and they would be lost and cold forever in Gloucester..............

It was all just a bit too difficult, and so they stayed at home.

Then the power, which had only been running at half speed since we got up, finally went off and because the gas central heating is run by an electric pump, as they are, we had no heating.

I lit the woodburner.

Then I said to hubby that I thought that I might light the fire in the playroom which is upstairs, next to the bedroom of the youngest two and on the other side of the house of the woodburner, and would therefore give us heat all round the house.

It had however never been lit since we moved here four and a half years ago.

Hubby pulled a face.

I persisted.

He then gave me lots of reasons why not to light it. Smoke around the room. Bad day for that on top of everything else. Soot. Dirt...........

So, I undertook a highly scientific experiment of looking up the chimney for blockages. It looked clear to me. I lit some paper in the grate. It didn't blow smoke into the room. I lit the fire and as hubby went off to work shortly afterwards (new job this week, so could hardly skive for snow, however bad), I felt that slightly smug sort of feeling that you get when you know that you were right all along. Fire was going nicely, house wasn't getting cold despite the lack of heating. Smoke was only where it should be. In the chimney.......

But anyway - SNOW is what I WAS going to write about, and all the trials and tribulations that it brings. But then I figured that everyone else would all be writing about snow, and so I thought that I wouldn't. Write about snow that is.

Instead I thought I'd tell you about my trip to the post office, and the amazingly clever woman that they seem to have employed there recently.

I had a parcel, which was in a large envelope, to send to a friend's daughter. A birthday present. A week late because I'd ordered something from Next which had arrived with the wrong thing in the bag, so had to send it back and of course have a bizarre disussion with them as to why I would not have ordered the gross and horrible that was enclosed and why I would have ordered the nice and jolly that was not enclosed............ but that's another blog, another day............

Back to the post office and my very intelligent cashier.

The large envelope didn't fit into the slot for larger than first class envelopes.

Had it weighed. Was going to cost £1.42 to send. Looked at parcel. Thought might be better to buy a new envelope to send package, which inside was quite small.

"How much is the jiffy bag?" I asked. Didn't know, because that belonged to the store, not the post office and the person who was on store duty was out at the back. Took about a minute and a half for her to reappear and after vast negotiations, which included the cashier needing to look up the price of the bigger "standard" postage (there being two options available, first class and big first class), it was decided that the sum total of new jiffy bag and cost of posting it (being larger than standard but not too big to not fit into the larger slot on the dummy model on display) was more than the sum of bigger parcel that we had in the first place.

So, I decided to go with the original parcel and asked for the postage for that.

Of course, you don't get colourful stamps in different price denominations nowadays do you? You get those computer generated stamps on white labels that say "first class" on them. This is progress.

I handed over my £2 coin.

I got back over £1 in change.

Being an honest type.......... Well actually, because it was a present, and I wanted to make sure that it got there in one piece without my friend having to pay for postage at the other end......... I told the cashier that she had given me too much change.

"I asked you if the envelope fitted the slot" said she, and you said it did.

"That was the other one" I said.

"Which other one?"

"The jiffy bag. But the cost of the jiffy bag and the postage was going to come to......... blah blah blah. Etc etc etc."

So then she got out a piece of paper and did a sum.

The sum was to work out the difference in postage between big envelope and big standard envelope. I then handed over some more money, which for the sake of the said parcel arriving in tact I pray was the right amount. She then got out some real stamps - the old fashioned sort - and stuck those on to the parcel.

I'm assuming you can mix stamps? If not, then my friend may end up paying for postage at the other end.

I hope not.

p.s. I'm also not going to write about the bizarre conversation that I had with the tax office today about family tax credit. But I might do soon............ Watch this space!

p.p.s. It was sort of romantic having the experience of the old fashioned morning. We'd got quite into the swing of it. Tea made from water in a pan from the woodburner. Baked potatoes wrapped in foil, ready to be cooked in the fire....

At 1.45 p.m., I saw, on walking across the road to the little shop, that the traffic lights were working. The lights in the little shop were working too. "How long has your power been on I asked idly. "Oh, it didn't come in until about 9.45." "Really", I said. "Ours is still off."

Checked the trip switches in the cellar on my return and found that when I reset them the house was once more fully powered. Lucky that I needed something from the shop really.


For all those who asked for pictures. Just to prove that I DO have a camera! I have added some nice snowy pix for you, a picture of outside our front door, a picture of the outside of the window from our Christmas picture, and a picture of how close it is to get to the Primary school from our house!! Now all you have to do is to work out which is which!!

Monday, February 05, 2007

Hair Flatteners

Eldest daughter wanted to buy something nice for herself with her Orange money. That is money that she earned from doing the Orange advert, not money that has been dyed in the wash.

She had been talking for some time about GHD's. Hubby, whenever these are mentioned, makes one of his slightly slightly irritating, but nevertheless somewhat endearing "repeated jokes" jokes, by insisting on calling them JCB's. For those of you who don't know what they are, they are as Hubby's name for them would suggest, heavy duty. Heavy duty straighteners. Or flatteners perhaps.

Now call me old fashioned please. But will someone please tell me why, when I have spent a lifetime bouncing up my limp hair, that was a given the tag "as curly as candles" by my Mum's hairdresser when I was a child, but which thankfully seemed to develop a bit more life of its own after having children, would I ever want to straighten, smooth out, or flatten my hair?

Everytime I go to the hairdresser, I spend half an hour when I get home "unflattening" out my hair and putting it back to "normal". Hubby cannot understand that one either. "Why do you keep going back and spending money when they don't do what you want?" he asks. "The cut's good" I say.......

One of my oldest friends has the same problem. (That is old because I have known her a long time, not old because she is old. In fact in SAY years only in her 20's (SAY)). "Just been to the hairdressers," she will say on the phone. "How is it?" I ask. "Flat", she says.

The modern generation thinks otherwise. They therefore cannot understand why I am not leaping for joy at the results of the JCB's, or thinking that they are the best thing since sliced bread. In fact, in my humblest humble opinion the idea of straight straight hair is actually slightly worse than plastic white bread.

"But they can be used for curling hair" says Eldest Daughter. That's why I got them.

Now, let me get this straight. Pardon the very bad pun. You want to use straighteners to curl?

Apparently so. And indeed, weirdly they seem to do a very good job at doing the job they weren't originally designed for. The ringlets they produce look great.

Just don't EVER, EVER, EVER ask me to have GHD'd or otherwise FLATTENED hair!

p.s. If you came here via Beccy's post from the fun Monday thingy then thank you Beccy! What a lovely tribute you wrote about me. I am very honoured.

Beccy and I, we have discovered, not only started blogging within a day, not only fight for the computer to blog, and fight for the tv to watch that dreadfully written but addictively ridiculous soap from down under, we also, I realised recently, moved to Ireland in the same year. She moved there to marry an Irish man. I moved there because my English hubby was moved there with his job. She moved to the South and sunny Dublin. I moved to the North, where amongst other things, I discovered that lots of people there had more than three children. So, not to feel left out, we had a fourth child while there and conceived number five just before leaving (we think). (Well, the "think" is that we think she was conceived there. Her presence thereafter is undisputed.)

Beccy stayed in Ireland, and still lives there. We had to move back home after four years. I found Beccy when looking for Irish bloggers - feeling nostalgic about my time in Northern Ireland. I then added her as my first person on my "have a look at these blogs list". She became my first blog friend, and I have read her posts every day since. One day I hope to meet her in person! in the meantime, take a look at why she called her blog the inspired name of "Peppermint Tea"!