Thursday, 28 July 2016

Life etc.

Well it’s been a while. What can I say? Life has been a pretty unrelenting steaming pile of poop. There I was hoping for a bit of a quiet year, to carry on getting our heads around all the drama of last year and continue to support my Mum and Himself’s Dad as they each come to terms with living life alone.

It seems the universe however had different plans. Right out of the blue we were completely floored with the unexpected news that our landlady had decided to sell the house we have called home for the last 10 years and we had just 9 weeks to find something else. Looking back over the last few weeks I have actually been surprised at just how hard this has hit me. Much harder than the death and serious illness that coloured last year so darkly.

I conclude that I was able to roll with those blows because I had a sanctuary to go back to, to shout and weep and rail against the world from, to hole myself up in and mostly to feel safe and secure in. To have that snatched away from me was like having my boat upturned in a stormy sea. I like my security and If I’m honest I just fell to bits.

I’m not great with change, a fact I’ve known about myself for a while so that is no great revelation but the uncertainty this time has been unbearable. 

We started looking for somewhere straight away but it quickly became clear just how much of a reduced rate we have been paying these last few years. The one upside of having scrooge for a landlady was that we got the property super cheap because it needed so much work doing to it. We soon realised we were going to have to find a lot more money each month.

Everyone around us has said the same, “don’t worry, you’ll find somewhere” “it’ll be great, so much better than where you are” “at least you’ll get away from the terrible landlady” but mostly a breezy “don’t worry you’ll find somewhere” Oh how I wish that had come true. 

 At first there was nothing suitable but we didn’t worry too much because we had time. We saw the house that was too small, the house that was too short (a bungalow with a loft conversion where the only place either of us could actually stand upright was the bedroom doorway where the apex of the roof was, nothing like having to crawl on your hands and knees to get into bed!)

We saw the house that was too big, the house that was falling to bits and the house that looked like a shitpit (this was literally, the toilet was unflushed!?!) but nothing that would work for us. The weeks kept rolling relentlessly by and if anything instead of more, there was less choice available.

Then Brexit happened and the whole housing market literally ground to a halt overnight in this area, not sure if it’s the same for the whole country but certainly for Oxfordshire it died a death. According to the agencies within a day viewings on sale properties were being cancelled in droves and people who were due to move out of rentals decided to take them for another year. It was desperate, we were desperate.  Finding ourselves homeless and relying on the kindness of friends or family was looking more and more like reality.

Usually when I’m upset or stressed I comfort eat, my vastly expanded waistline since last year has been the very visual proof of that. This has been different though. I have found myself literally sick with worry. I can’t eat because I feel physically sick all the time. I’ve actually lost a stone but it’s definitely not a diet I recommend.

I wake up multiple times through the night heart pounding, going hot and cold, mind racing, in a panic, panic, panic! I know it’s crazy and I’m making myself ill but I can’t seem to stop it. The slightest thing and I’m in tears and I am not a weepy person, frankly if anything I’m a more of your hard hearted bitch, now I just sit and bawl my eyes out.

I’m truly starting to feel like we are jinxed or cursed or something. Like a dog who’s been kicked too often I now cower waiting for the next hammer blow. Even my lovely neighbour put ‘I hope your luck changes soon’ in my birthday card, my fear is it won’t! Which is not like me by nature a usually a positive person and I really hate feeling as negative and low as this.  

Having said all that last week we finally managed to find something, literally at the 11th hour. The downsides are I really don’t like the house, at all, bah. Plus it’s too expensive (we are having to borrow money to pay the bills) it has no storage as well as the tiniest kitchen and bathroom known to man.

On the plus side though it’s only available short term, we have it for one year, which is great because we can’t actually afford it for any longer. It’s a roof over our heads whilst we regroup and decide what to do next and it’s owned by the manager of the rental agency so if anything goes wrong we don’t have to go too far to get it fixed!

I thought I would be relieved when we found somewhere but I’m not, it’s bloody hard to feel joy about somewhere you don’t even like. I just keep saying ‘it’s only for a year, it’s only for a year’ over and over in my head, it’s my new mantra to make myself feel better when things get too much.  

Packing is endless (you know what a shopaholic/hoarder I am!) and 10 years in a big house means a lot of accumulated ‘stuff’ I have got rid of SO much stuff. Oh my god so, so much.

Seriously bags and bags and boxes and boxes but looking round you wouldn’t even know anything has gone which is really quite depressing.  

A couple of people have said to me I should consider it a cathartic experience and to be fair if it weren’t for all the stress and worry it probably would be. It’s certainly something I plan to continue even after we have moved. As we are only there short term I’m not going to bother unpacking properly, frankly at the moment I can’t even be bothered to unpack at all!

So I will make the effort to re-sort boxes and get rid of more. It has been an eye opener actually how some things I can junk without a second glance and some things I clutch too me like Golum with his precious!! No rhyme or reason to the objects in question either. Mad.

It’s been one hell of a wakeup call. I realise how terribly complacent we had become, expecting life to jolly along at our pace and on our terms, never expecting to be asked to leave. How foolish it is to make a rental property ‘home’.

I have also had the scales fall from my eyes about myself and what I see has made me thoroughly ashamed. I realise I have spent the last few years like the cricket in Aesops fable. Merrily dancing through life being all about the excess and the good times and spending, spending, spending. Just like him my metaphorical winter has come and I find I have nothing to see me through to the next spring. What a mess.  

Not sure if and when normal service will be resumed.


Monday, 16 May 2016

How Not to Travel Light.

I'm currently drinking tea, watching Jeeves and Wooster and nursing a sore arm. I don't know if it was Thursday's pilates, too much gardening, or a combination of both but I am in pain dammit. Thankfully it's not my drinking arm.

This weekend plans changed at the last minute so I got to spend a good long stretch outside, finally sorting the flowerbeds which were so overgrown it was shameful. I'm pretty much done out there which makes me very happy.

Last weekend was a birthday trio (Himself. his Dad and my friend Kay) so we hotfooted it down to Margate to spend some time with Himself's Dad.
As we were only going for one night and might be carrying our bag round with us all day I had to pack light. Not even an overnight bag for me, oh no!, I was going for broke with just a messenger bag.

I was hyperventilating by the time I was done, packing light is not my forte. I still find it hard to believe I backpacked around America for 2 months, I can't go anywhere these days without the kitchen sink at the very least.
I had hardly left the house when I realised I had forgotten my sunglasses, close enough to quickly nip home for them, not so when I realised I had forgotten to pack the handbag I planned to use when we went out for dinner that night.

Oh irony of ironies. The woman who collects handbags, indeed has a house full of handbags was without!!

My options were going to dinner with a bright yellow messenger bag with a huge cartoon monkey face on it, Going to dinner with my possessions in a white carrier bag proclaiming 'Bicester Market - Every Tuesday' or the option I plumped for, diving into Peacocks en route to dinner and buying the first half decent bag I could find, get the girl behind the till to snip the tags off and tip all my possessions into it!
This was what I grabbed in desperation. Good grief.

Dinner was sublime. We went to Giorgio's in Margate, a fab little restaurant and somewhere Himself's family have always gone for special occasions, so it was bitter sweet to be there without his Mum for the first time.
 Beautiful end to a beautiful day.

From there we headed to the old town for a drink in Barnacles
Another place full of happy memories both of Himself's parents and the early days of our own love story.

The next day was another glorious hot day and I managed to grab a couple of hours with Kay sitting on the cliff top at Palm Bay, catching up on all the news. Bliss.

On the shopping front, other than the unexpected bag purchase, I had a voucher for Lady Vintage.

I wisely spent it on their sale page therefore getting three dresses for the price of one. I dithered over this green one for a LONG time. The model is meant to be wearing my size
However she has, well, acres more in the bust department than I, so I was really worried it was gape horrendously on me.
What I hadn't realised was the dress is made from stretch jersey so it was absolutely fine. I would have taken a picture but I spilled my dinner down it so it's in the wash!

Next was this one that I had been eyeing for a while.
I love the quirky key print and I know I will get lots of wear out of it.

The final dress was a real punt. I'm not sure I will have quite have the guts to wear it, or even quite where I shall wear it, but I kept going back to it again and again.
I just loved the summery fruity print so in the end I thought bugger it and bought it.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Trials and Tribulations

Not much to report from Magpie Towers. It's been a very trying week I'm glad it's over.

Thank you for all the outrage over the builder next door nicking land, I should have clarified we rent not own, otherwise believe me I'd have been in there giving him what for!
Instead I took pictures and reported it to our rental agency who came out on behalf of our landlady on Wednesday to measure and take more pictures. Apparently a cease and desist letter will be winging it's way to the builder very shortly, so there's mud in his eye.

We did a little bit more of the mammoth patio clean. This time round it wasn't so bad as I was prepared for just how much mess Himself was capable of making!
Only the last strip at the side there to go. No idea what that big grey splodge in the middle is, clearly something of a different mix got spilled at one time!

Work has been a bit of a nightmare, we had an interview day on Monday and I wore a new frock. New in that it hasn't managed to have an outing since I bought it a little while ago.
It's a bit big around the boobs but fine under a cardigan until I get round to taking it in.

Anyway to set the work scene, we have one head of department and 3 managers in my office. Of those the head of department and one of those managers in on long term sick right now, one other manager finishes on Friday for a year's maternity leave and the last one goes on holiday for 3 weeks on Wednesday. We also have 2 empty posts right now, so to say those of us who are left are feeling the strain is a bit of an understatement.

I also realised I had managed to lose a stone out of my engagement ring at some point. It's one of the pinprick sized diamonds so not something I'm likely to ever see again but very upsetting none the less. I've had the ring 15 years now so I'm kind of attached to it.

I took it in to get a quote on replacing it and came away thoroughly patronised. I think the girl thought she was being friendly and chatty, well she was certainly chatty.
When I said it was Miss not Mrs for the name she went "Oh you're STILL just engaged" "Oh bless you" in such a pitying voice I couldn't decide whether to burst out laughing or punch her.

She clearly thought that I have been stoically waiting with my upper lip stiffened for Himself to finally come to his senses and marry me.When the truth of the matter is he'd gallop down the aisle faster than his feet could touch the ground if  I'd only agree to it, so it's actually been me who has balked at the idea all these years!  

In fact a couple of friends joked that maybe this was a sign and I should finally replace the engagement ring with a plain band, but frankly that seems like a very expensive and excessive way to replace it to my mind.

Then on top of that our washing machine died, and being the notorious tightwad she is, our landlady replaced it with the cheapest piece of junk she could find. I'm absolutely gutted. We have gone from a very reliable workhorse to something that barely scraps a 1 star review on various sites on the internet and even the washing machine engineers call it 'cheap and nasty'.

 It has such a small drum capacity I can't even do the bedding in one load!?! That's only a duvet cover, 2 pillow cases and a sheet by the way, it's seriously that tiny.
The average 40 degree cycle also takes a whopping 3 hours and 20 minutes from start to finish. So not only am I going to have to do many more washes than before they are going to take me forever.

We don't have the spare cash at the moment but if we did I would seriously look at buying our own machine and asking for this thing to be taken away. It really was a shit way to end a shit week.

Having said that we did go out for drinks on Friday night. Someone I used to work with at the library was leaving for pastures new. We met in the K.A (King's Arms) which was kind of weird, I haven't been in there since I left the library 5 years ago. It's the pub right opposite the library so always full of students and library staff.
The funny thing was they have clearly redecorated and yet they have just put all the old pictures back up in exactly the same places, right down to the incredibly faded Guinness adverts above the noticeboard!
 I remember them doing the black and white photo shoot of all the staff and regulars back in 1989 so in a way it's quite cool that they still have those pictures up nearly 30 years later but god it made me feel old.    

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Spring Cleaning

and getting some of those little chores done that have been left languishing for ages. I've had a couple of crazy busy and frankly pretty shit weeks but I'm not going into that. Thankfully the weekends have been free for pottering about quietly at home.

I did a little bit of gardening in, thankfully not too much now it seems the weather is going to get artic again! What has happened to spring? *sigh*

With spring cleaning in mind I decided to buy a pressure washer. Our neighbour has one we have borrowed in the past, failing that we could always borrow my brother's......but I wanted my own. Himself made lots of valid arguments against but he's known me long enough now to recognise when I'm not going to be moved, and I was not going to be moved. I had found a good deal on a Karcher for a start.
Last weekend Himself set too on one side of our huge ugly concrete patio. It took him about 2 hours to do and then me twice that to clean up behind him, who knew a pressure washer could simultaneously clean and make a mess?

Where once there was greeny sludgy brown there is now a sort of cream.

The lawn got it's first cut which gave this self seeded cowslip the room to flourish

Pootling about outside revealed there has also been some cheeky land grabbing going on by the builder next door. Don't get me going on how I feel about the block of flats going up at the bottom of our garden!
 They are using part of what was next door's garden to be the car park. Not only did they remove our fence, as in the one that belongs to our property, they also dug out the soil right up against the trunks of our hedge stealing between 1-2 feet of our garden into the bargain, (the hedge isn't planted in a straight line) the thieving bastards!!

It's enough to get the calmest gardener raging.

On top of that my pilates teacher has been on holiday for 2 weeks so I haven't even had that release. Of course I haven't done any at home, I always say I will but I never do because truth be told I'm a lazy git.
I have to say I am struggling with the advanced pilates class, I feel my teacher was perhaps a tad over confident in my abilities. I'm basically the dunce of the class, I seem to spend my time alternating between trying to keep up and flailing around like an upturned tortoise.
Having said that it's clearly had some effect. The other week I sat on a wet chair on the train to work, (thankfully it was nothing more sinister than spilled water!) and ended up with a wet bottom. I was able to bend right over with ease and dry myself under the hand dryers in the ladies toilet so I'm clearly more flexible than I once was. Something at least.

Anyway I digress.

I finally got round to framing a couple of prints

 and putting them and a few other pictures up around the house.

I sorted and tidied one wardrobe and had a good tidy and clear out in the small front bedroom.
I even dusted my handbags.

Talking of handbags
I picked up this raffia beauty on Ebay, it turned out to be of epic proportions, much bigger than the slightly daintier bag I was expecting that's for sure. However great for any future outing where I might be required to bring the kitchen sink!

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Films, Specs & a Dress Dilemma.

So what else have I been up to lately?

Well I've been to the cinema twice to see two fairly dreadful films.

In both cases I enjoyed the first film so thought I'd give the sequel a go, and yes this was probably a mistake. I didn't hate them as much as Himself, but they were both a disappointment.
Having said that I tend to hold all bad films up against the 2011 version of The Three Musketeers and I can safely say neither where anywhere near as bad as that, but they were pretty bad.

I also got a new pair of reading glasses. I have to have my eyes tested annually due to a hereditary condition.
I've worn distance glasses since I was 15 and that prescription hasn't changed for years but 3 years ago I got told I needed reading glasses for the first time. Basically every year since then has meant new reading specs. *sigh*

Apparently this is quite common, the optician assured me your eyes deteriorate rapidly at first and then plateau. Here's hoping my plateau is soon, I don't fancy my eyes getting any worse as this year it's been a pretty drastic deterioration and difference in prescription, also it's not exactly cheap getting new Geps every year.

The girl asked me what sort of frames I like so I showed her my current pair, which are turquoise with leopard print arms and said something colourful, like red or purple, but NO PINK!!
She looked a little taken aback at my vehemence but then set to suggesting options. We settled on these.

 So this is me in my new purple frames, just in from FINALLY being able to get out in my garden for the very first time this year, and for a good 7 hours solid too which was absolute bliss. Hence the happy but weary make-up free face, and the mental wind swept hair!

Wilkinson's had marked all their bedding plants down to half price so I filled my boots and now all my tubs are looking colourful and springlike. I also decided this year I wanted a pressure washer, we usually borrow our neighbour's one but once I have decided that is that. Himself made all the right arguments against and then took a look at my face and said there's no point arguing is there? You are just going to buy one aren't you? to which I replied "yes, yes I am!" So I did and then felt very middle aged.

A month or so ago I bought us some Rocky Horror Show tickets, (we see the show every time it tours.) then last week I got a letter to say they had changed the dates for the show.

This meant I had to pop into the theatre and choose a different date, which I did, and as I just happened to have a £3 off voucher for Debenhams, and as they just happen to be on the same street, I stepped in.

Once there I was instantly presented with a dress dilemma! A sale bargain = tick, Plus an extra £3 off = tick, Teacup & teapot print pattern = huge double tick, Pink accents = Eek.

It probably has just about the most pink in it I've worn since my Mother stopped choosing my outfits,but, it's got teapots.
 I dithered until my lunch hour was almost done but knew I just had to have it. Everyone at work knows about my extreme lack of love for the pink so when I got back to the office I voiced my dilemma to my colleagues and they insisted on seeing the dress.
They then basically told me I was being a mentalist because it was the bluest pink dress ever seen.

Himself agreed when I got home that it was indeed the bluest pink dress.


Sunday, 10 April 2016

Ride a White Horse.

To Banbury for a shopping trip as it goes, and actually it was Soo's car that got me there and not a horse which is a good job really I'm not really a fan of the horse.

It's been many, many years since I was last in Banbury. They now have a new shopping centre called Castle Quays which is built in a sort of star shape so it gets very confusing, especially for a couple of old ducks like us, somehow you seem to leave a shop, walk forward for a bit, only to see the same shop again in front of you.
This level of confusion continues in the town centre too.Banbury is very old and still keeps it's medieval layout, with lots of alleyways off the streets, so you can find yourself distracted by an interesting shop or building down an alleyway head back to where you thought came from but actually suddenly find yourself on another street completely.
Or maybe you step into a charity shop, which unbeknownst to you actually has 2 doors, so you browse round, maybe buy something, then step out into a completely different street to the one you stepped in from! In the end we gave up trying to figure it out and just embraced it.

There are some absolutely gorgeous buildings in Banbury and I loved all the suns around the city. It turns out the 'sun in splendour' is the coat of arms for the council so they are to been seen everywhere from buildings to, wrought iron to even the bins.

The main plan of the shopping trip was to buy presents for various upcoming birthdays but I seemed to keep finding things for either myself or my Mother, and neither of us have birthdays for months yet!
Eventually after a delicious lunch in The Bay Tree tea shop we found the Banbury Museum Shop (as recommended by Soo's Mum) and I hit my present buying stride. I'm not going to show you any of those but I will share with you my other purchases.
From one of these stalls at the mini flea market I bought the appropriately giant sunburst-like brooch.

The green scarf and bunny came from one of the 2 door charity shops and were £1.49 and £1.99 respectively.

From the St Katherine's Hospice shop. I bought this blue dress for £5
Look at the amazing deco building the shop is housed in....
but dear lord was it carnage inside! A jumbled mess of stuff in no particular order laid out in a way that seemed to detract from, rather than make a sensible use of, the layout of the rooms. Sadly no vintage I'm guessing that must get sorted and sent elsewhere.

I also bought this mini coffee/chocolate pot for 95p
and this lovely green blouse for £4
There were a couple of scary parts of town, but then what town doesn't have it's dodgier areas? On the whole though it was a fun and successful day out.

* Yes, yes I changed the first line of the poem but I want to avoid the kind of traffic the C word would bring to my blog!

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Vogue 100 and Some Leopard Print

Last week was a short week anyway due to Easter, but Charlotte and I took a cheeky extra day off work to visit the VOGUE 100 - A Century Of Style exhibition at The National Portrait Gallery.
Being a lover of fashion and photography I genuinely don't know what I liked this exhibition for the most, the pictures, especially the black & white ones, or the fact that a large majority were pictures of fashion. As ever no picture taking was allowed so I can't weigh this post down with all my favourites, and there were many, it really is an extraordinary exhibition.

I loved the fact that it was deliberately set up to lead you from the present day back in time, decade by decade, to 1916 when the first issue was released. Each decade had it's own room and what a difficult and amazing job it must have been to choose the most representative pictures of each era. I'm afraid I'm guilty of dismissing Vogue as one of those coffee table fashion mags made up of 80% adverts and no proper articles, so it was good to also be reminded of some of the groundbreaking photo-journalism they have produced.

The exhibition clientele was almost as fascinating as the pictures themselves. An interesting mix of young and old, including unexpectedly, quite a few young men, and some very, very glamorous and well groomed ladies of a certain age, who for the most part clearly came from the industry. We spent quite a bit of time ear-wigging their conversations, particularly in the room that had two long cabinets with glass cases displaying open copies of various issues of Vogue.  Being such a lover of history it was interesting to go from things I've lived through (1980's supermodels darling) to eras I've read about voraciously (The Bright Young People & WW2)  In fact we got quite lyrical about our own youth, what we wore and the celebrities and supermodels of the day.
All in all a fantastic exhibition and one I thoroughly recommend.

Conversely on Friday I had to work late as we had a yield event at the school which meant I had to be on my very best behaviour ALL DAY!
The only plus to this was there was a college dinner involved so not only did I get to eat some lovely food I got to do it in the stunning surroundings of Harris Manchester College in Oxford.

Mind I would have loved to have seen a picture of the horror on my face, when on arrival, I was told the drinks reception would be in the library! Food and or drink near precious books goes against every fibre of my being. Having said that what a gorgeous library it is,

I also think I am little in love with their librarian who ever they may be, they are clearly a librarian after my own heart allowing quirky touches like a skeleton in a hat and a sleeping bat to take their place among the stained glass and polished oak. Apologies for the crappy phone pictures.

I shall sign off with the leopard print. I bought this frock from the Lady Vintage sale
I dithered for some time over whether to buy it or not as whilst I have always loved the leopard, even back in my rock chick days I never dressed in it head to toe, and lets face it a swing style dress equals a LOT of leopard print. *but* it is a style of frock I love and it does have sleeves which is always a Brucey Bonus when you get to a certain age/weight in life. So I took the plunge and hit the 'Pay Now' button.

I ordered it to be delivered to my work address as there is always someone on the main desk to sign for it and sure enough I soon got an email to say there was a package for me. I didn't half get some looks when I scooted down to collect it and here's why

 A huge expanse of leopard print clearly visible through the packaging!

 Let's just say my work wardrobe would never lead one to suspect I might be a full on Bet Lynch in my spare time!!