Tuesday, April 07, 2009


"You're not going to like this," said Hubby. "How about tonight?"

"NO!!" I said.

It was one word, with serious feeling. And then I put the phone down.

Hubby called again. I ignored it.

And again,

And again.

Still I ignored it....

How could they do that I thought? At the risk of being seriously prima donnarish, as opposed to just a bit, this was MY night. Eleven years after having got an Equity card I was finally getting an agent to come and watch me act. Anyone involved in the luvvy arty stuff will know that this is no mean feat. It takes a lot to get an agent to take you seriously, and even more to get one to travel as far as Cheltenham - a hundred miles from the big smoke - to come and watch you.

But they were coming. Tonight. Now.

I had had nothing else planned for the day. I was simply going to do a very simple dinner to leave for everyone and take it easy. It was my first night of my play and I was to say the least, nervous.

Hubby on the other hand had taken a call from Social Services. They were desperate. They had to place someone forthwith, now. It was another asylum seeker and it turned out that he was in fact a thirteen year old, in need of a home.

Hubby rang again.

"Fine. I'll do the room." I yelled down the phone.

I rang the social worker to find out a little more about the boy in question, including his name. I then rang the person that he was currently with to find out a little more.

It seems that she was aware that this boy was to be placed with us three days before.

But ...... no-one had remembered to call us, the people who they were planning to place him with for the next two and a half years. Nor had anyone remembered to to a "pre placement visit."

Unfortunately his emergency 28 day placement had now run out and he therefore needed to be placed in a home by the end of the day or else the social worker would turn into a pumpkin or something.

"Why didn't you just say no?" I eventually asked Hubby.

"Well I did effectively. I said that it might prove difficult."

"No." I remonstrated. "You said that it 'might prove difficult.' That means, in translation, that you will go back to 'Mrs Awkward', ask her, and then give an answer. If the answer is YES, then 'Mrs Awkward' has consented. If the answer is NO, then clearly she has acted awkwardly, and has put her foot down. Either way I look like a class one bitch with no feeling."

Hubby agreed to pick up the new incumbent on his way home from work. I left for the theatre feeling cross and a little upset that I had to leave Tinks and Gymnast waiting for our new arrival with no other adult in the house. I pleaded with ESOS.

"Would you mind just watching tele with them until Dad gets home?"

"Oh Mum".


Grudgingly he relented and went to watch his beloved (not) 'Hannah Montana.' "Have you any idea how much I HATE, and I mean HATE this programme?" he complained loudly.

As I drove into Cheltenham, I saw Hubby's car driving past me in the other direction. I called him.

"Why are you just leaving Cheltenham? I need you to be at home with Tinkerbell Mushroom and Gymnast!"

"It must have been some bloke that looked like me." He said. "Wasn't me."

.........The flowers left at the stage door were very nice.

And the new boy is very sweet..................

But next time..................it would be very nice to have at least twenty four hours notice please Mr Social Worker.........................

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Time Out

It was a day off.

I had arranged to go out with the girls in London.

The "girls" of course, are also in their mid forties and are in fact my friends from school. I have known them over thirty years and to me we all look and act in exactly the same way as we did thirty years ago.

Especially the "look" bit.

Sensible had a Duke of Edinburgh bronze medal training day in Gloucester. Amongst other things they had to cook their own lunch. So I dropped she and her friend off en route with their walking gear and lunch ingredients and went on to park the car, so that I could get the coach from Gloucester to London. This cost a stunningly low £11 for the return journey, including a mobile phone message with my ticket details.

"What if I lose my phone though" I'd said to Hubby.

"When have you ever lost your mobile phone." He said

"Well what if it runs out of charge?"

In the end, on his suggestion, I had texted the number to Hubby's phone, so that "just in case the worst happened" and I was left stranded in London without my phone I could grab a complete stranger on the bus, take their phone number and get Hubby to text them my ticket details ....................

Quite what that would have made me look like is debatable, and it's probably even more debatable as to what it would have made Hubby look like...

I got to Victoria Coach Station at 12.00 on the dot and tried to look for the bus stop. I mean of course the sort of bus that takes you around town, as opposed to one that goes from one town to bigger town. I must be getting a bit blind in my old age though, because try as I might I managed to walk to Victoria train station, a few streets away, before I found a suitable stop with the right number buses attached.

So, I got my ticket and waited in the queue.

Which is when the mayhem began.

It seemed from the phone call that I received that ED needed some help sorting out a problem, fairly urgently. This was fine. Except... I was in London and Hubby was out at a kickboxing class on the other side of Gloucester. The other problem was that due to standing in a busy London street with buses and cars going past at twenty to the dozen, I couldn't understand a word that ED was actually saying to me except that whatever the problem was, it was URGENT with a capital U.

"Text me" I shouted down the phone.

And then, when that apparently hadn't been heard at the other end.... "TEXT ME" in an even louder voice.

I started to get "looks..."

So I smiled at the onlookers....

The bar that my friend Jane had chosen was ... interesting. I hadn't been able to find it to start with and so had phoned my other friend Debbie, not having Jane's mobile number. Debbie was still on her train. "I think it's right at the bottom of the street." She said, "just by the tube station." If you can't find it, come up to meet me at Charing Cross."

I eventually found it. From the outside it looked like a Cordon Negro bottle, and on the inside it looked like um ... a Cordon Negro bottle.

I texted Debbie.

"I've found it. I think that it must be one of Jane's haunts from her journo days. Think Cordon Negro."

I was desperate for the "ladies" but still needed to continue texting Hubby, about Gloucestershire logistics. He was due out of his kickboxing class any second and so could take over at the Gloucestershire end, but it all needed quick action once he was back in circulation so to speak.

"Whoops. Sorry..." said the woman who walked in on me in the loo.

I shrieked, closed the door quickly and recovered my modesty. How did that happen?

I found a nice table though, in a relatively lighter area of the bar.

A waitress of about 150 came up to me.

"You can't sit there." She said. "It's reserved."

I looked to see how and where it said that it was reserved. There was no evidence of it., but being in a compliant mood, I moved.

"You can sit here if you want." She said, showing me a very dark area of the room.

At that moment my friends arrived.

"This table's a bit dark isn't it?" said Debbie.

I explained that I had tried to sit on the one on the other side of the room. "Oh I know said Jane. "I tried too, but that waitress over there said that it was reserved. I couldn't see any sign though. She's very old. I think that she probably worked here when I used to come here twenty years ago."

"Aahh" I said, "so who did you interview in here then?" Feeling pleased with myself that I had "guessed" correctly.

Oh no-one, she said. "I just used to meet friends here."

Hubby called. The lack of reception down in the cellar meant that I needed to go upstairs to take the call. Hubby had though taken charge at the Gloucestershire end. "It's all sorted." He said. "So just enjoy yourself."

We had a brilliant afternoon.

My friend Debbie treated me to a lovely lunch in a very nice Italian restaurant in Covent Garden. We could see each other in there too, which was a plus. On the downside, we weren't relying on nice dim candlelight to hide away the wrinkles of the last twenty years. Candle lit cellar bars do have some advantages.

It was over all too soon sadly.

Back at Victoria Coach station I went to where the buses looked as if they were departing. The only thing was that I was unable to see how to get into the departure lounge. There seemed to be buses in the way, which were being sprayed with water.

I looked around desperately for a door, and in the end decided that a bit of cold water wouldn't hurt, so walked through the shower.

It was very wet. I was... a little soaked.

I asked a man where I could find the bus for Gloucestershire.

"Over the road Madam. This is the arrivals area."

So that was why they were washing the coaches.... on their way IN to the bus station......

Ping, went the phone. Message from Hubby, with the ticket details...... thank you Hubby.

Ensconced on my coach finally with a nice cup of tea, I immersed myself in my book. It's good to have journeys every so often....

Just before I got off at Gloucester I thought that I would use the coach "facilities", before my drive home.

And then ................. the door swung open on me as we turned the corner ............and for a second time that day I had been "seen" in a somewhat uncompromising position. I walked back to my seat, averting all eyes..... and immersed myself in my book, once more.

I finally got home. Sensible was back home from her rugged training day.

"Was it good?" I asked.

"Yes." She said. "The only thing is. You know the tinned tomatoes that I took to cook?"

"Yes," I said.

"Well. They weren't tomatoes. It was a tin of custard.."

"Oh," I said. "Not so good on pasta then?"

We Lomax women have a way of doing things.........

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Big Dilemma!

It's a dilemma.

You see, I have been doing a maternity cover at a very nice comprehensive school in a very nice rural area. It started half way through the summer term last year and was due to last the best part of the year.

It's been a mixed bag of course. Somehow I seem to have managed to end up with a seriously large proportion of bottom set teaching, which can be ... challenging, and the journey in is, at 38 miles each way... tedious.

On the other hand, teaching does have huge advantages. Not many kids want to be taught in the holidays or after school, and as such you are usually free to be at home when your children are. Plus, as I am only working three days a week, I have time to do vital planning and preparation ...... on blogger and facebook.

So when I found out last week that it would indeed be coming to an end half way through May I was gutted. Of course, there was a little issue of hurt pride perhaps in that no-one wants to be rejected... and the little fact that as a trained teacher who had previously spent very little time in formal classrooms over the last twenty years, despite much teaching and dealing with children by running theatre schools, I have had to put in quite a lot of effort, just to do the job properly so to speak.

I moped.

And I moped some more.

In the end, Hubby could stand it no more.

"I don't understand you he said. You can use the time to do more acting, to be freelance and to work around the family commitments more. That is what you have always wanted. Now that we are fostering, it means that you have more flexibility. So what is your problem?"

What indeed? He had a point.

For the first time in twenty years I could actually do what I wanted to do, and life would and could be better.

I went into school on the Monday, feeling much more positive. Only eight weeks to finishing with a holiday in between. The end was in sight.

Then the Head called me in... "Would I possibly be interested in more work in September?" Very unofficial as yet....... But they want me it seems.

I am of course the girl who can't say no, so me immediate reaction was.. "Yes", "Great"...

"Why?" Said Hubby when I got home...

I went to Actors Lab in the evening. My acting class for the not quite made it, maybe they will maybe they won't professional actors.

"Don't commit yourself" my friends said. Everyone loves each other at Actors Lab. And I love Actors Lab. "Do some acting. It's what you have wanted to do but you have too been committed previously".

So ... I tossed and turned... and tossed and turned that night.

And then I tossed and turned some more...

If I took teaching seriously... maybe I could head up a drama department somewhere in a couple of years... I would have professional respect. A good salary...

But on the other hand... may be I could act in something like Waterloo Road....

Oh ... O.K ...

But I could do my workshops, role play work and voice overs and some stage acting...

And I would have time to write.

And as I would have large proportions of time not working, I would be there for the children even more than teachers are...

But on the other hand... I could teach until I was sixty and then act..

But then the parts are so LIMITED for sixty year old women...

So, maybe I would be better getting established now while I'm still young enough....

You get the gist.

It's a BIG dilemma...

Thank you for all your kind comments about Abdul. Sadly, we have now had a letter from the Home Office saying that if he turns up now he is liable for detention.... I do wish that Social Services would tell them the whole story before they placed them (as non English speakers) in families. He probably had NO idea of all this......

And ..... Very sadly Hubby's Grandmother died this week. She was 91 and at the end very poorly. But.. it was all very quick. She had been healthy only a couple of weeks earlier. So it was still a shock for all concerned and very very sad.....

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Somebody's Son.

It had been a normal weekend. Until late Sunday afternoon.

And then he didn't arrive home for our very late traditional Sunday lunch.

"He's possibly just got tied up with friends and forgotten that the buses don't run late on a Sunday." Said Hubby.

In the two months that he had been living with us as a teenage foster child, Abdul Qudoos had always managed to get home before the buses "ran out" so to speak. But not on this particular day.

Arriving in England as an Asylum seeker hadn't come without its difficulties. It appears that anyone in danger, for whatever reason, can pay a "people trafficker" to get them out of Afghanistan. The service doesn't come cheap however and so it's not for the fainthearted. They pay something in the region of 12000 euros - to someone who is really little more than a criminal. And for all that money, with mothers often selling their dowries to ensure that their sons have a better or safer life, the families have no guarantee that their children will arrive safely in England, or anywhere else.
All have a "suitable" birth date. This is always on the 1st of January of the relevant year that would make them just under 16. (They don't admit to knowing their actual birthday. They are possibly trained by the people trafficker to sell themselves as being under 16. This was they can be "looked after children", educated, and in with a better chance of asylum.)

We are fairly sure that Abdul is probably older than 16. We cannot know for certain, but the signs would say that he possibly is. However, as someone pointed out to us, he is "somebody's son." If he were your son, you would I am sure feel differently.

It is a seriously precarious business.

They travel via the underside of lorries, cars, trucks and anything else that you can think of, but not in any conventional manner or by any conventional form of transport. They arrive some months later in a very dirty set of clothes and no paperwork, to be picked up by the police. The lucky ones are then picked up by the Social Services and put into care - as is hoped for. From there they are usually put into emergency care for 28 days, and then onto a more permanent arrangement, such as our house. This is where we came into the equation, a month after Abdul's arrival. As far as we know he has been in England three months. A month with the first carer and then two months with us.

The boys, having established themselves in a foster home undergo a number of interviews with the Home Office and over the course of months and years that follow, their fate as to whether or not they can stay in the UK is decided.

Having put yourself through all that, it has got to be something seriously unnerving to make you risk everything and run away.
Back to that Sunday.....

Our other Afghan boy, also being fostered by us, started phoning round their mutual friends.

No-one had seen Abdul, so it appeared. Not since the day before.

At 6 o'clock Hubby went in search and I called the police and Social Services. As foster carers we do not have full legal guardianship of our charges, although in practice it is clear that on a day to day basis we are the ones who need to do all the things that any caring parent would. In fact it wasn't possible to get hold of Abdul's social worker, but the police were happy to come round and take a statement, and of course search our house. I had often wondered what it must be like to be at the receiving end of police searching your house for evidence. Now I knew. Nothing was left unturned. I went back into Abdul's room and put the drawers back. The police were polite and kind, but I couldn't help but think that they could have put the drawers back. Maybe I am just fussy. Or maybe I hadn't expected that we were being treated as potential suspects.
The next morning hubby scoured Gloucester again. I rang the lawyer that Abdul had been due to meet. They had been planning on discussing his immigration procedure. The lawyer, also in Gloucester, clearly needed a bit of clarification. I rang Hubby. "I'll go down there" he said.

Between them they deduced that possibly Abdul had become frightened about his story that he was going to present to the Home Office. It is a scary business telling the Home Office why you might want to stay in this Country, especially when your story isn't quite what the Home Office may consider a good case for political asylum. Especially when perhaps someone has maybe pointed that out to you. You may just be tempted in Abdul's situation to want to "tweak" the story slightly, to what you think might ensure that you do get whatever it is that you intended to get when you came to England.

This is what we think happened. Of course, we don't really know. We hope and pray that he is not hurt or worse...

Perhaps he has run away with a view to fixing his story and starting again as a "new" asylum seeker. Perhaps he intends to be "found" on a lorry. He possibly hasn't anticipated that the fingerprints that the Police took on arrival can be cross referred, and so even giving a different name wouldn't help.

Or perhaps he is hiding with friends in Gloucester in the ever growing Afghan community, with a view to maybe re-emerging at some point as an adult asylum seeker. This really wouldn't be a good idea. He may have to be there a long time...

Sadly, we really have no idea though, and we really would like to just know where he has gone. If he comes back soon, then we can help him. If he misses his appointment with the Home Office on Monday though, he will possibly be considered an absconder. His chances of getting asylum from then on in will be considerably reduced. And, of course he is almost certainly misguided if he thinks that he can restart the whole process again by being "found".

In the meantime ... having turned over every stone that we can think of, asked everyone that we know to turn over all their stones and turned up nothing ... all we can do is wait.

If you see him though, please ask him to go home to Sally and Derek's house. Soon.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Running the Country

"What they should do is use sea water," I said to hubby.

"What for?" he asked, clearly quite bemused.

"For the salt," I explained. He still looked at me blankly.

"When you were on your submarine," I said, "you drank drinking water that was made out of sea water."

Yes. Said Hubby

"Well then, surely it must be possible to do the same thing and use the salt from the sea for the snow. Also, there must be a way of pumping it directly onto the Severn Bridge to keep the ice at bay."

I was really on a roll. Buzzing from building snowmen and being out in the snow with the children sledging had seemed to make all my thoughts much clearer. The children had had a ball. The improvised sledges around the village were brilliant. In the absence of being able to buy a sledge when needed, we had used the bottom part of the slide, which, upside down had worked very well really..... but possibly not quite as well as a real one. I put a sledge onto my mental shopping list for next year, despite hubby's protests that we get snow like this once every 20 years, and as such "what is the point of buying a sledge now?" We could always use it for our first grandchild I thought.

The way that the snow had been managed by the County Council though seemed to be bizarre. I did wonder quite how they had managed to run out of salt when, even on a very "bad" British winter like this one, we have less than two weeks snow a year. I could certainly agree with the speculation that maybe that this was an excuse for the County Council not to spend, given that much of their spending power had been absorbed by Iceland. It was slightly ironic that they seemed to have given us a barter deal of some of their "weather" in exchange for our money.

My friend Jane came round for a cup of tea. "What they should do" I said, is so simple, "they should have a shorter working day for all schools in the winter and a longer one in the summer. That way schools wouldn't have to close every time there was snow, but the children could go in habitually later during the winter and come home before it gets dark." Jane, having lived in Germany as a child, where they did just that, agreed with me. Between us we came up with a way forward for the next time we have snow which didn't involve parents skidding around in their four by fours, or worse skidding around in non four by fours, just to get children to school by the start of day.... They would instead arrive once all the roads had been gritted, with the salt from the sea of course, all salt mines having been stripped bare by all accounts.

"We should be running the Country." I said.

"We'd probably get something done if we did." Said Jane.

"It is very expensive." said Hubby.

"What is?" I said.

"Making drinking water from sea water. So it wouldn't be a cheap way of getting salt."

Oh well. There go my plans for running for MP. And in truth, it is of course much easier to run the country from your kitchen table, over a cup of tea with a friend, than it probably is from Number 10.

Just then one of our Afghan boys came into the kitchen.

"I am going into Gloucester."

"There are no buses." I said, and the roads are sheets of ice. That is why you are off school." He looked at me bemused. It clearly hadn't occurred to him that the reason that he was not at school was because of the snow. Perhaps he had thought that it was some sort of occasional day. He looked positively disappointed. No school and now no town. Coming from a Country where education is still considered a gift, they find our own children's rejoicing at having snow and missing school slightly strange. Nothing would have allowed ESOS to exchange a snow day for a school day.

I had a sneaky look at my Facebook. There was a message from Sensible who was in Germany on a school exchange.

"Brilliant" She had written to me.

"The one time when everyone is actually off school for snow and I am not in the Country. There's snow here too, and we are at school."

My point exactly... They have twice as much snow in Germany, and they manage to handle their roads safely.


It was very nice having all those days off. And the snowman's good.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

The day that I looked like a Cavoodle - A cross between a King Charles Spaniel and a Poodle

The "Cavoodle" version of Sally ......Why did they think that I might want to look like this?

The Improved Version. (I think)

The "do"

Friday, January 23, 2009

I looked like some sort of cross between a King Charles Spaniel and a Poodle

It's hubby's Christmas do tomorrow night.

Well... they are scientists, details such as it not actually being Christmas are not important, and anyway it's very nice to go to a "do" in the middle of January.

So I booked a hair appointment. "Lucky you" said ED, "having a day off. I have to do 9 til 6 tomorrow at Uni." Never mind ED. One day you too will be a "desperately seeking to be a desperate housewife" and you too will get the odd day off to do little more than have your hair cut.

Hubby always groans when I go to the hairdresser. "Just why do you pay them to do exactly what you don't want" he says. "I need them to cut it." I reply. "But you always hate it." He says. "Why do you keep going back?" "I like the cuts" I say. "And the colour? And the styling?" "You just don't understand" I always retort.

He is right of course. Just why I spend money at these places is beyond me. That said, I do need my hair cutting properly and the wash in rinses did leave my hair in a dreadful state last year and grey streaks are just not my thing at the moment. Yet. Will never be.

Roll forward, to today...

Half way through having my hair done, my hairdresser says to me, "Sally would you mind if Jodie finishes off your hair, only I have another client waiting, and you are easier to ask than her.." "Of course," I said.

Jodie took charge. "So, do you want it straightened?"

"No thank you" I say. I have views on very straight hair. They come from having naturally dull drab and straight hair. "I am going to my husband's office formal tomorrow night. Do you think that you could make it bouncy please?" She starts to dry it. All seems to be going well. "Shall I make it spirally with the GHDs?" She says. I do now know of course that GHDs can make good curling tools, and so I accepted gratefully.

When she got to the bit where I thought that she was going to use a comb to put it into some sort of style I sat back and relaxed. Instead though, she said "I won't use a comb, I'll just get the spray and that can hold it in place for you if you don't comb it between now and then." I half smiled. I looked at myself. I looked like some sort of cross between a King Charles Spaniel and a poodle. The top was flat and the sides looked as if my hair hair been curled with corkscrews, horizontally from the ears. She sprayed it.

"Thank you." I smiled.

"Ooh, very glam." Said the owner of the salon. I had been there ages. I needed to get home. Please don't anyone see me, I thought. Please don't let anyone see me. I walked home quickly, averting all gazes from oncoming cars so as to avoid seeing someone that I knew. Got inside, took a photo with my mobile phone, confirmed that I did indeed look like a corkscrew head and then went upstairs to adjust the damage. The back was beautiful and the curls can definitely be used tomorrow night and once I had changed the appearance somewhat, I was after all quite happy.

I went to check my emails. There was a message from ASOS saying that my order for shoes had been dispatched and that my niece and nephew would be receiving them by next day delivery tomorrow, just in time for the ball.

The only problem is that they are in Bedfordshire and I am in Gloucestershire and they are for me, not my niece and certainly not my nephew.

It seems that the last item I ordered was dispatched to their address, being a Christmas present and, as such that for some reason has become my regular address... even though the billing address is my address.

I am currently waiting for a call from the Customer Services Department.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I have a new Face!

You need a Facebook Mum.

"Why do I" I started to protest.

"I'll make one for you."

Before I knew it, Sensible had created a profile for me, put my picture on and brought me firmly into the 21st Century.

"We'll get some friends for you." She said.

"I thought I already had friends."

"On Facebook," she explained patiently.

She then contacted all the people in my hotmail address people who have Facebooks asking them to join. That was fine.

Then... She clicked on all the people who didn't have Facebook, asking them to get one too.
"What have you done?" I exclaimed. Do you realise who is on there?

"People you email." She said.

Oh Sensible, what have you done? Who did you contact?

Well... apart from the Managing Director of a company I no longer work for, who for various reasons should possibly not be invited to join my personal friends on Facebook, the tax office, every bank and building society that I am in email contact with, Next Directory, any insurance company that I have had a discussion with over the years, somebody who we have been in legal dispute with........ well nobody really......

I cringed with embarrassment as I thought of various people that possibly I would prefer to communicate with only on a professional basis ..... But it was too late. They were all invited. You too I expect.

Not all accepted the invitation to be my friend. ED was reluctant to accept me at first, but has now become my best instant messaging friend. Her reluctance was possibly due to her not wanting me around her personal life which is fair enough really. What she won't know until she read this however is that due to a blip in the system, I discovered by accident that I was able to click on her profile, but not leave messages on her wall, prior to becoming a friend. She had always assured me that no-one can enter another's site without permission. Not so ED. Look again. If anyone sends you a message, and you respond, it seems you can in fact see their "wall".

So there you go....I'm not such a dinosaur after all......

and.... Facebook is great. You should all get one.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Guests from Hell....

And so, after a very busy Christmas, where night and day and sleep and waking seemed to merge continuously into one long blur of chocolate, wine and turkeys, on 28th December we managed to get ourselves out early enough to drive over to Bedford for a 24 hour "family do" with one of my brothers and his family.

Bravely they had invited all nine of us. My parents not wanting to spoil their nice relaxed Christmas memories of the 2008 Christmas, decided not suffer the chaos that the Lomax family brings in its wake and escaped back to East Grinstead before we arrived...

Of course, "all of us" also means bringing the dog...So technically there were ten of us. She is however a reluctant traveller and so it took a while to gather her up and get her into the bus. Bus for once was the true definition of our mode of transport. Needing to transport nine of us, plus the dog, we had hired said bus from the local garage. They didn't have a 12 seat one available though, so the 15 seater it was. Much to the kids delight....Children never cease to amaze me when it comes to what is and isn't acceptable in the form of transport. Somehow, ordinary space buses that seat seven are loser cruisers. And yet to have us all rattling around and being shaken from here to Bedford is just fine... "Cool" in fact. "Although possibly it is a bit of a loser cruiser anyway, but a cool one all the same," said Sensible.

As we arrived, the bitches looked at each other. A faint growl escaped. Then, without further warning it was a full scale fight, collars, ears, fur and all. Lucy was put outside and both were seriously told off. This was not a good start to the day.

We had arrived with plenty of Christmas goodies, but we sort of have this arrangement in the family where we don't buy actual Christmas presents for the adult children. Or maybe we do. Or maybe we don't...... Needless to say, when ED opened her very nice present, and our two Afghan boys also opened theirs..... I realised that I should have bought an actual present for my niece and nephew who are now 18 and 20. I cringed with embarrassment. It had been a bit of a rush, as with two new residents arriving just before Christmas, present buying had happened very late. In fact it had really happened in earnest when we had a Father Christmas type delivery of money, in the form of some pay for the boys, just a few days before Christmas. We then found that we could actually buy things at normal prices with normal paying methods. This was a new experience for the Lomax family as previously, everything including barter with the dog biscuits was a normal form of tender. But sadly communication between my brother and me had failed somewhere....

We sat down to dinner. My sister in law had cooked a gorgeous Nigella style mutton stew. At least, it was gorgeous until her foot slipped as she was getting it out of the oven and the beautiful ceramic pot landed on the floor. We ate fantastically well non the less and we all pretended to those who had less command of the English language that the words that came from the kitchen were some sort of English pre new year ritual.... or something like that... Actually in true British style we all pretended that we hadn't heard anything.

All was forgotten however as we all tunelessly ploughed our way through their Karaoke DVD, Tinkerbell Mushroom and Gymnast taking leading roles, and my niece actually singing in tune. Our Afghan boys looked on with what looked like a mixture of amusement and horror. Coming from an entirely different culture just a few weeks back, they must wonder about this very strange family that they have landed with.

I went to bed very late. It was imperative that my sister in law and I put the world to rights before heading upstairs. So we did, and went to bed feeling very pleased with ourselves, as you do on family Christmas get togethers.

It was a bit of a shame though to find on arriving downstairs the next morning, my brother, cleaning the carpet...... Mad Dog Lucy, traumatised by car journey, other mad dog and lack of any available adult on hand to let her into strange garden had disgraced herself. My poor brother, who recently lost his job, whose computer and telly had both broken in the course of the previous few weeks, and whose daughter had decided to leave her university course just before Christmas was wondering by now what it was that he done so badly in a previous life. Was there anything else that could go wrong for him?

We really were by this time the guests from Hell.

Our profuse apologies to bro were interrupted though by strains of a sort of singing. Karaoke is tricky of course....Even when you more or less know the tune... For those who have not been brought up with any exposure to Western music at all though, it is a very different experience. It was a bit like the bit in the second Bridget Jones movie where Like a Virgin is sung by the girls in the Bangkok prison........ This was Hey Jude... with a tune like you have never heard before.

My sister in law then went to turn up the heating. At that moment they realised that the boiler had gone wrong too....

Thankfully Hubby did manage to fix their flame lookalike fire for them. That having gone wrong just before we had arrived. So we did have some use as guests, but they did look as if they were smiling with quite some relief we drove our massive vehicle back down their drive.

And they really had made us all so welcome too.....