Thursday, 29 July 2010

Missing Missy ..... comedy genius

Although I follow quite a few blogs, there is also a comedy website that I like to visit on a regular basis, purely because it makes me laugh my bloody head off. Ha ha bonk.

The website was created by graphic designer David Thorne and is called 27bslash6 . On this website, David publishes the details of email conversations that he has with random people. I know it sounds a bit vague, so I thought I would give you a taster of one particularly fine email conversation that David had with a secretary at his workplace. Enjoy!

Hi David

I opened the screen door yesterday and my cat got out and has been missing since then so I was wondering if you are not to busy you could make a poster for me. It has to be A4 and I will photocopy it and put it around my suburb this afternoon.

This is the only photo of her I have she answers to the name Missy and is black and white and about 8 months old. missing on Harper street and my phone number.

Thanks Shan. 

 David Thorne
 Monday 21 June 2010 9.26am
 Shannon Walkley
 Re: Poster

Dear Shannon,

That is shocking news. Luckily I was sitting down when I read your email and not half way up a ladder or tree. How are you holding up? I am surprised you managed to attend work at all what with thinking about Missy out there cold, frightened and alone... possibly lying on the side of the road, her back legs squashed by a vehicle, calling out "Shannon, where are you?" 

Although I have two clients expecting completed work this afternoon, I will, of course, drop everything and do whatever it takes to facilitate the speedy return of Missy.

Regards, David. 

 Shannon Walkley
 Monday 21 June 2010 9.37am
 David Thorne
 Re: Re: Poster

yeah ok thanks. I know you dont like cats but I am really worried about mine. I have to leave at 1pm today.

 David Thorne
 Monday 21 June 2010 10.17am
 Shannon Walkley
 Re: Re: Re: Poster

Dear Shannon,

I never said I don't like cats. Once, having been invited to a party, I went clothes shopping beforehand and bought a pair of expensive G-Star boots. They were two sizes too small but I wanted them so badly I figured I could just wear them without socks and cut my toenails very short. As the party was only a few blocks from my place, I decided to walk. After the first block, I lost all feeling in my feet. Arriving at the party, I stumbled into a guy named Steven, spilling Malibu & coke onto his white Wham 'Choose Life' t-shirt, and he punched me. An hour or so after the incident, Steven sat down in a chair already occupied by a cat. The surprised cat clawed and snarled causing Steven to leap out of the chair, slip on a rug and strike his forehead onto the corner of a speaker; resulting in a two inch open gash. In its shock, the cat also defecated, leaving Steven with a foul stain down the back of his beige cargo pants. I liked that cat.
Attached poster as requested. 
Regards, David. 


From: Shannon Walkley
 Monday 21 June 2010 10.24am
 David Thorne
 Re: Re: Re: Re: Poster

yeah thats not what I was looking for at all. it looks like a movie and how come the photo of Missy is so small?

 David Thorne
 Monday 21 June 2010 10.28am
 Shannon Walkley
 Re: Re: Re: Re: Poster

Dear Shannon,
It's a design thing. The cat is lost in the negative space.
Regards, David. 

 Shannon Walkley
 Monday 21 June 2010 10.33am
 David Thorne
 Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Poster

Thatsjust stupid. Can you do it properly please? I am extremely emotional over this and was up all night in tears. you seem to think it is funny. Can you make the photo bigger please and fix the text and do it in colour please. 


From: David Thorne
 Monday 21 June 2010 10.46am
 Shannon Walkley
 Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Poster

Dear Shannon,

Having worked with designers for a few years now, I would have assumed you understood, despite our vague suggestions otherwise, we do not welcome constructive criticism. I don't come downstairs and tell you how to send text messages, log onto Facebook and look out of the window. I am willing to overlook this faux pas due to you no doubt being preoccupied with thoughts of Missy attempting to make her way home across busy intersections or being trapped in a drain as it slowly fills with water. I spent three days down a well once but that was just for fun.

I have amended and attached the poster as per your instructions.
Regards, David.



From: Shannon Walkley
 Monday 21 June 2010 10.59am
 David Thorne
 Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Poster

This is worse than the other one. can you make it so it shows the whole photo of Missy and delete the stupid text that says missing missy off it? I just want it to say Lost.
From: David Thorne
 Monday 21 June 2010 11.14am
 Shannon Walkley
 Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Poster


From: Shannon Walkley
 Monday 21 June 2010 11.21am
 David Thorne
 Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Poster

yeah can you do the poster or not? I just want a photo and the word lost and the telephone number and when and where she was lost and her name. Not like a movie poster or anything stupid. I have to leave early today. If it was your cat I would help you. Thanks.

 David Thorne
 Monday 21 June 2010 11.32am
 Shannon Walkley

Dear Shannon,

I don't have a cat. I once agreed to look after a friend's cat for a week but after he dropped it off at my apartment and explained the concept of kitty litter, I kept the cat in a closed cardboard box in the shed and forgot about it. If I wanted to feed something and clean faeces, I wouldn't have put my mother in that home after her stroke. A week later, when my friend came to collect his cat, I pretended that I was not home and mailed the box to him. Apparently I failed to put enough stamps on the package and he had to collect it from the post office and pay eighteen dollars. He still goes on about that sometimes, people need to learn to let go.

I have attached the amended version of your poster as per your detailed instructions.
Regards, David. 

From: Shannon Walkley
 Monday 21 June 2010 11.47am
 David Thorne
 Re: Awww

Thatsnot my cat. where did you get that picture from? That cat is orange. I gave you a photo of my cat.

From: David Thorne
 Monday 21 June 2010 11.58am
 Shannon Walkley
 Re: Re: Awww

I know, but that one is cute. As Missy has quite possibly met any one of several violent ends, it is possible you might get a better cat out of this. If anybody calls and says "I haven't seen your orange cat but I did find a black and white one with its hind legs run over by a car, do you want it?" you can politely decline and save yourself a costly veterinarian bill.

I knew someone who had a basset hound that had its hind legs removed after an accident and it had to walk around with one of those little buggies with wheels. If it had been my dog I would have asked for all its legs to be removed and replaced with wheels and had a remote control installed. I could charge neighbourhood kids for rides and enter it in races. If I did the same with a horse I could drive it to work. I would call it Steven.

Regards, David. 

 Shannon Walkley
 Monday 21 June 2010 12.07pm
 David Thorne
 Re: Re: Re: Awww

Please just use the photo I gave you.

 David Thorne
 Monday 21 June 2010 12.22pm
 Shannon Walkley
 Re: Re: Re: Re: 

From: Shannon Walkley
 Monday 21 June 2010 12.34pm
 David Thorne
 Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Awww

I didnt say there was a reward. I dont have $2000 dollars. What did you even put that there for? Apart from that it is perfect can you please remove the reward bit. Thanks Shan.

 David Thorne
 Monday 21 June 2010 12.42pm
 Shannon Walkley
 Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: 

From: Shannon Walkley
 Monday 21 June 2010 12.51pm
 David Thorne
 Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Awww

Can you just please take the reward bit off altogether? I have to leave in ten minutes and I still have to make photocopies of it.

 David Thorne
 Monday 21 June 2010 12.56pm
 Shannon Walkley
 Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: 

From: Shannon Walkley
 Monday 21 June 2010 1.03pm
 David Thorne
 Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Awww

Fine. That will have to do.

Complete randomness

Ugh. I've just realised that Naughty George starts smelling like digestive biscuits when he hasn't been washed for a couple of years. I keep meaning to give him a bath, but I can't face wrestling him like a crocodile, and all his dog hairs clogging up my plughole. 

Even his dog-bed has started smelling. I put my key in the front door today, and the odour hits me; "Jeez George, that's a bit rich." He remained unconcernedly prostrate, just lifting his head slightly to see who had entered the house. I think the bed might need a blow torch.

Pic.No.1 Digestive biscuits

Anyway, on a totally different subject, I have got some really good news for those of you who can't bear to leave your patio behind when you go on holiday.

After witnessing the heartache experienced by homeowners who abondon their patios to go on summer vacation, an inspired inventor has developed a product that will lessen the wrench.

 Pic.No.2. The Portable Patio

Yes, yes, it is true! You can now take your Patio on holiday with you! And before you think I am pulling your leg, this was an actual product advertised in the Betterware catalogue.

Is it me, but what the bloody hell is that all about then? Who in god's name wants to take their patio on holiday? Even accepting the fact that some people prefer to travel with their patios, what do they do with them when they get there? Sit in a camping chair in a superior fashion, pitying those who are patio-less?

Finally, to complete my random blog, I saw this today.

Pic.No.3 Fence

So, I have a challenge for you. Can you 'out-random' me? It can be anything from a bizarre invention, to a weird sign, to an odd happening. Ummmmm, well can you?

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Teachers. Bastions of society? I don't think so

Last Friday I drove from Oxford to Leeds to spend the weekend with my friend Sarah. It was an arduous four hour journey in my old jalopy; the thing didn't like being driven above 65mph and protested by vigorously rattling and shaking whenever I attempted the feat. To make matters worse, the only form of in-car entertainment was my Sat Nav, and to be honest that got a bit samey a couple of hours into the journey. How I rue the day I dropped my iPhone down the toilet.

When I arrived, Sarah opened the front door and announced, "you're late."

"Am I?" I asked, "I thought you said 4pm? It's now 5pm, so I'm only an hour later than planned."

"Nope, I told you to get here at 3pm you drongo," replied Sarah.

Ooops, I must have put it in my diary incorrectly. So unlike me.

"Anyway," said Sarah, "we're going out, so hurry up and get ready."

Sarah is a teacher and Friday was the last day of school before breaking up for the summer holidays. It meant that scores of Teachers were now free from the shackles of school life and wanted to celebrate the fact .... and I was going to be joining in.

I had never been out with teachers en masse before, and I wondered what to expect from these bastions of society, guardians of our future generation, and cerebral educators. We took a taxi into Leeds city centre and met about fifteen of them in a pub. They had been there some time (yes, it was because I was late), so we ordered ourselves a chilled glass of Rose wine each and took a seat.

Pic.No. 1 Look! Real-life teachers. Jo (left) and Sharon. I haven't seen one of them up close since I left school

I was sitting next to a teacher called Jo, who introduced herself and then said, "we were just talking about interesting facts".

"Ooh, carry on," I said, "don't mind me". In my minds eye, I imagined them discussing something clever like the Socratic Method-Problem Method Dichotomy teaching debate, and so leaned forward to listen.

Jo continued, "Rob who is sitting opposite you, has just worked out that he is three shags away from Robbie Williams."

I laughed, nearly spluttering my drink over her. Blimey, I didn't see that coming. "How so?" I asked.

"Well," Jo said, "Rob's wife used to be engaged to a guy (shag 1), who had a friend (casual shag 2), who was propositioned by Robbie Williams (shag 3)."

How amazing is that? Bloody amazing, that's what.

Pic.No. 2 Rob of the 'Three Shags' and 'Six Toes' fame

Rob himself then entered the conversation; "Not only am I three shags away from Robbie Williams, but another interesting fact is that I have got six toes."

"No way. That's freaky." I said. "Can I take a picture?"

"Of course you can," he said obligingly, removing his sock.

 Pic.No.3 Rob's six toes

"How come you've got six toes?" I asked, after taking the pictures.

"I come from Burnley," he shrugged. [Note to Burnley readers: I did not say that, Rob did. So please can you aim all your rotten tomatoes at him. I thought his comment was bad and evil and I didn't laugh..... at all.... not even a little bit........ that would've been wrong.].

Pic.No.4 All the teachers in one big gang

After a while the conversation turned to dogs. 

"You've got a dog called Naughty George haven't you?" asked Jo. 

"Yep, he's a complete git," I replied; "and he never shows any signs of dying."

"I want a dog but my husband won't let me," she said, before adding; "Well that's not strictly true. He said I could have a dog if one of four criteria are fulfilled."
"What are they?" I asked. 

"Number one is if I get ill and won't ever get better. Number two is if one of the children gets autism or Aspergers, number three is if he dies, and number four is if we get a very old dog that will die within two years of receipt."

"Harsh," I said, and we both nodded in tempo.You just can't get the husbands these days.

Pic.No.5 Sarah and me. I've got men scrumming on top of my head. It's great

After a couple of hours, we decided to move to a more lively place called the Revolution Bar, by which stage things were starting to get a bit hazy.

There was me thinking that teachers were upstanding members of the community. Not a bit of it, they are all animaux de partie. Also, if I am totally honest, most of the night from then on was pieced together using a pictures and videos that I didn't realise I had taken, but found on my camera the next day. How bad is that? And how bad is it that I actually admitted to it? Thank god that Moral Police don't exist otherwise I would be stoned to death in the village stocks.

So, from a patchy memory and random videos and photographs, here is what happened last Friday night:

Pic.No.6. Suzie (left) loves Sarah.... "you're my best friend you are. I love you."

We met Suzie, who works with Sarah at the school. She was extremely friendly and soon we were all best friends.

Pic.No.7. Unknown teacher poses for photograph
We met an unknown teacher who insisted that I take at least twenty pictures of him in various poses. "Take another one," he kept saying. "I already have," I replied, and he would get into another pose and then say "quickly, just one more. Do you think I should be a model?" and I said, "yes of course you should, you are my new best friend and I love you."

Pic.No.7. Told you.... here's another one. There were millions of them

Vid.No.1. Sarah inside the Revolution Bar in Leeds

Vid. No.2. Sarah loves Gary in an animated arm-waving kind of way. "You're my best friend you are. I love you."

After a great night out, during which everyone had ascertained that everyone else was their most-loved best friend, Sarah and I finally left the bar and starting walking to the taxi rank. For some reason, we ended up discussing installation art.

"Installation art is rubbish. I could do that," I said to Sarah, waving my arms around in an animated way.

"Go on then," she replied, also waving her arms in an animated way. So I came up with this ......... sheer artistic genius.

Vid.No.3. Me demonstrating how installation art should be done. It seemed sane at the time.

The best bit about the video was the chap walking past. He stopped and asked, "is she ok?" To which Sarah replied; "she's just having a photograph taken for her blog, thank you." Bizarrely, he seemed quite happy with that explanation.

Pic.No. 8. More installation art, for definite. Damien Hurst, you and your frozen cows should be afraid, very afraid

You will be pleased to know that we did make it home safely, and more importantly, we managed to order a huge pizza each to top off the evening. And just in case you were wondering.... yes, my head did hurt the next day, and as a penance, I had to drink a hundred cups of Earl Grey tea because Sarah didn't have any coffee. Bloody teachers!

Monday, 26 July 2010

Monkey nuts and motorways

I know I haven't blogged for two days, but I have just returned home after a long weekend in Leeds, and haven't had a second to put fingertips to keyboard. Overdue blog posts are all lined up and advancing upon me like ants carrying chopped up leaves. It's like a cyber horror movie. Even though I am running really fast, and the blogs are moving really slowly, they are still catching up. I have tried stopping and throwing something ineffectual at them (like a small twig), but nothing stops their terrifying advances.

So I have resorted to writing this post under the duvet, because duvets are the only thing able to stop zombie blog postings in their tracks. Cunning... yep that's me.

I must apologise because the blog postings are all going to be back-to-front, starting with my arrival back in Oxford today, continuing with what I did prior to that throughout the weekend. There is a good reason that I am doing it that way round, and it's because I have a hundred million blog photographs to go through, and I am too tired to do it tonight. As Izzy would say, "I have got some tired inside my eyes".

After a three hour journey from Leeds to Oxford, I finally arrived at Steve's house ready to pick up Izzy and Naughty George, by which time I was feeling pretty knackered. I pressed the buzzer, and it was like I had never been away. Through the open window I could instantly hear a volley of Naughty George's barks, and Izzy shouting, "Is that Mummy? Don't tell her that I am going to hide under the bed."

"Hiya," I said to Steve as he opened the door, "do I really have to go through the rigmarole of finding Izzy's hiding place?"

"Yep," he replied, and then lowered his voice, adding; "she is under the bed."

"She's always under the bed," I replied wearily, "do I still have to act surprised?"

"Of course you do, she's five. That's what five years olds do."

Because I am like Mother Theresa, I feigned searching the entire house before 'accidentally' stumbling across Izzy's hiding place under the bed.

"RAARRRRR! I've found you!" I shouted, tickling her feet.

She laughed uncontrollably for about 15 seconds and then emerged from under the bed, greeting my four day absence in the way that five year olds do; "I'm hungry," she said.

I went to find Steve; "Izzy's hungry, have you got any snacks to hand?"

"Yeh, sure," he said before disappearing into the kitchen and returning with a handful of monkey nuts, handing them to Izzy.

Pic.No.1. Izzy's monkey nuts

Knowing that Izzy was preoccupied with her monkey nuts, I picked up the coffee that Steve had made me and turned to him to chat. Not thirty seconds passed before we heard an anguished wail coming from the other room; "Naughty George has nicked-ed [sic - it's past tense for five year olds] one of my monkey nuts!"

"Naughty George doesn't eat monkey nuts!" I shouted, walking into the living room where Izzy was hollering.

How wrong was I? It turned out that Naughty George was the mutt equivalent of those Brazilian Capuchin monkeys who have learned how to use tools to access food.

He had the monkey nut in his mouth, and he bit it gently until the shell fell away and then he scoffed the nuts inside. Bloody hell, my dog was transforming himself into the missing link. Question one: how did he know that there was something edible inside the shell? Question 2: how did he figure out how to get the shell off?

There was only one thing for it. After discovering Naughty George's ability to crack open nuts, I am going to have to pickle him in a jar of Formalehyde and sell him to some forensic Darwinists, making a huge profit in the process.

"Here, Georgie, Georgie...... here Georgie, Georgie......."

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Naughty George goes mentalist

Yesterday morning, I woke up and went downstairs to find that Naughty George was acting oddly. When I say oddly, I mean that he was standing on the sideboard in my kitchen as though he was an ornament. He was stock still, the only movement being his nose twitching.

Pic.No.1. Naughty George standing on my sideboard

"What the bloody hell are you doing on that sideboard?" I asked him, before remembering that he could only speak 'woof'.

He looked at me contemptuously (yep, my own dog), and then turned away to carry on .... well.... standing. How come I always end up with the strange dog? Someone should write a book called 'Dogs are from Pluto, and Humans are from Earth', it would be an international bestseller, and I would earn loads of money for coming up with the concept.

Anyway, I decided to leave him to his own devices and get on with some work.When I returned to the kitchen an hour later, Naughty George had abandoned his position on top of the sideboard and was now wedged in the small gap between the sideboard and the fridge.

"Right that's it," I said to him, "if you don't stop acting all weird, I am going to send you to a mental institution for dogs, and they will probably give you electro-dog-therapy." He backed out of the small gap, looked at me blankly before proceeding to start sniffing away at the bottom of the sideboard.

That's when it dawned on me; some food had probably dropped down the back, and he was trying to get to it..... hence the freaky behaviour. No problem, we could solve this one easily. I grabbed hold of the sideboard and pulled it away from the wall, only to be confronted by a bloody great rat sitting there.

I screamed and shot out of the back door, the rat squeaked (I didn't realise how loud they actually were) and shot back under the sideboard, and Naughty George tried to follow the rat, barking frenziedly. 

I stood in the garden and contemplated my dilemma with that old UB40 song spinning around in my head. 'There's a rat in mi kitchen, what am I gonna do?' I peeked around the kitchen door and saw Naughty George lying on his side with both front paws under the sideboard trying to get at the rat.

I mean, just how is one supposed to get a rat out of a kitchen? Bribe it with lumps of cheese (or is it only mice that like cheese)? Ring up a rat charmer..... I don't know.

All of a sudden my dilemma was solved. Upon seeing Naughty George, the rat had decided to make a run for the open back door, and at breakneck speed (I didn't realise how scarily fast they were), ran past me with NG in hot pursuit. 

Needless to say, Naughty George 1 - Rat 0.

"Naughty George, you are my hero!" I said to him as he reappeared looking pleased with himself, "I'm sorry I threatened to send you to a Mental Institution." He wagged his tail vacuously and climbed into his dog basket. Drama over.

P.S. I just want to add that I haven't got a rat in my house because of slovenly housekeeping standards or anything like that. It's because I live next to a farm, so they tend to be an occupational hazard.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Pregnant cousin comes to visit

"So," I hear you cry, "what the blazes did you get up to last weekend?"

Well, it was all rather exciting. My cousin, Jane (we've been close all our lives), suddenly announced that she was pregnant with her first baby and wanted to come and visit with her boyfriend Martin; probably to get top parenting tips from me. Yeh, yeh, I say that ironically. There are numerous past instances that will point to the fact that I am unequivocally not the most conventional (apparently that is the kind way of putting it) of mothers.

Like when the Health Visitor told me off for teaching Izzy to drive a Fork Lift Truck. She said it was 'inappropriate', but to this day, I still view it as an essential life skill.

Then there was the time Izzy when was first born and the Midwife visited to find out how I was getting on. I was desperately trying to impress her, and would have probably managed it if it wasn't for Naughty George. Firstly, as soon as the Midwife arrived, Izzy decided to fill her nappy with the brown stuff, so it looked like she had been sat in it for ages. DOH. I nipped out the room to get a new nappy, and when I got back, Naughty George was licking the baby's face. What a git.

At this point, I was getting increasingly nervous, but still managed a passable nappy change - a little skewiff, but it was still on. I lifted up Izzy to show the Midwife when all of a sudden, Naughty George created a commotion behind me. I turned to find him ragging Izzy's dirty nappy like it was a dead rat, showering the immediate vicinity with baby plop. That dog has got a lot to answer for.

Anyway, I digress. Jane and Martin arrived on Saturday afternoon, and we sat down for a cup of tea in the garden.

"Blimey", I said to Jane, "I can't believe you're up the duff."

"I know, it's freaky isn't it. Do you want to see a picture of my scan?" She replied, rummaging about in her handbag and producing a black and white grainy picture.

Pic.No.1. Jane's 7 week ultrasound scan

"Where's the baby?" I asked, studying it closely.

"There," Jane pointed at something in the black blob in the middle of the picture.

"Blimey, it looks like a pair of testicles," I replied.

"I know," she nodded.

"Cool," I said.

After our tea, we had decided to go into Oxford and have a wonder around the city.

"Before we set off, let me take some pictures of you guys in my garden," I said. First up was Martin.

 Pic.No.2. Martin posing in my garden

I took the picture and then turned to Jane, "blimey, is it me, or is he a right poser?"

"He's a right poser," confirmed Jane, adding "he has to look in a mirror at least 100 times a day."

"Wow, is that true?" I asked Martin.

"Yep," he nodded proudly.

"What do you do if there isn't a mirror available?" I asked out of curiosity.

"I always carry one with me, just in case," he said.

"Good thinking," I replied, impressed.

Pic.No.3 My cousin Jane and her chap, Martin

Once we arrived in Oxford, we decided to visit the oldest pub in the city which was tucked down a small alley off High Street. It was called The Bear and was built circa 1242 which is nearly 300 years before Shakespeare was born, and he is really old.

Pic.No.4. The Bear Inn. It's older than Joan Collins

The pub was divided into two tiny bar areas, both of which were full when we entered.

"Hey cous," I said to Jane, "can we play the pregnancy card in order to get some seats?"

"No," she said shaking her head.

"Why not? I thought it was one of the perks of the condition," I said.

"You're just bloody embarrassing," she replied, as I rued an opportunity missed.

After visiting The Bear Inn, we had 45 minutes to spare before going back to the Forest Hill to eat. So what better way to complete our cultural tour than a visit to another pub, called The White Horse Inn, this time situated in a building which dates back to Medieval times.

Pic.No.5. The White Horse in Broad Street, Oxford

So, even though we were in one of the world's most historical cities, we had only seen two pubs. That is a pretty poor effort even by my low standards. What's worse, was that we left Oxford in order to go and eat at yet another pub in the village where I live.

Rather confusingly, it also was called The White Horse Inn. Blimey, the day was turning out to be a dobbin-fest.

 Pic.No.3. My local village pub - The White Horse Inn

We had a large meal of Thai food, and then out came the camera again. At first things started out quite normally.........

Pic.No.4. Me in the White Horse Inn

Pic.No.5. Jane and Martin. Yes Martin is wearing shades inside...... at night-time

And then everything rapidly degenerated into a pose-fest, inspired by Martin 'I should've been a model, me'.........

Pic.No.6. Yo sister. You me homey? (you can see two bemused old ladies looking at us in the background)

Pic.No.7. To be honest, I am not exactly sure what Jane is doing here. I like it though

Pic.No.8. You no sister o' mine, not wiv dat yellow tee

After dinner, we headed back to my house, to be entertained by a Martin whose who weapon of choice was youtube. Yep, you read right; youtube.

"I am gonna play you some tunes," he announced. 

Jane turned to me and whispered in my ear, "you should never have let him on your computer," she said. 

"Why?" I whispered back. 

"Just wait," she hissed.

Pic.No.9. Jane on the sofa being entertained by DJ Youtube

Sure enough, after thirty minutes our ears were ringing after being bombarded with 1980's high octane dance music. Martin was jumping around the living room in appreciation of his choices.

"Blimey," I said to Jane, "is he always like that when you give him access to youtube?"

"Yep," she nodded despairingly, "and he can keep going for hours."

And so he did, and I can confirm that it was the very early hours when everyone eventually went to bed. Not bad stamina for a pregnant girl eh?

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Sweet milestones......

Last night I was trying to sort out the hundreds of photographs that were supposed to go into various blog postings, when I stumbled across a video that I took a couple of months ago.

It was a video of Izzy on the day she first learned to ride her bike without stabilisers. I remember it distinctly.

Izzy's dad, Steve, called me at lunchtime with the news; "Izzy is desperate for you to come over, she wants to show you that she can ride her bike."

"Great stuff," I said, "I will come round whilst I am taking Naughty George on his drag."

As I walked up to Steve's house, I saw Izzy sitting at the top of the driveway, poised for action on her bike.

"She's been like that for 15 minutes, waiting for you," Steve said. Awwwww, how cute?

Izzy saw me, and instantly became animated, "Mummy, watch me, I can ride my bike," she shouted excitedly.

"Go on then, show me what you can do," I said. 

"No," she replied.

"Why not?" I asked her.

"Because you haven't said 1-2-3 GO!" she retorted. Ah .... the things that are important to four year old minds.

"Ok. 1-2-3 GO!" I repeated. And so she set off on her wobbly, slightly out-of-control journey around the carpark in front of the houses, with her legs rotating furiously because the pedals were too short. 

Vid.No.1.Izzy's maiden voyage on the good ship 'Barbie Bike'

She pedalled determinedly up the hill and swooped and turned, narrowly missing parked cars, and tall kerbstones, before pulling up in front of me.

"Izzy, that was absolutely awesome," I said to her, clapping my hands and trying to shut up Naughty George who was barking vacuously for no reason at all. She swelled with pride and had trouble containing herself.

"Shall I show you again?" she asked.

"Wouldn't miss it for the world," I said.

"Well go on then," she replied.


"You haven't said 1-2-3 GO!" she added indignantly. Hey girl, is that a bossy streak I see in you?

So that was how I spent the subsequent hour, and it was great. 

I tell you, there is nothing better than witnessing your own child's achievements. Well maybe that was bit rash; a Hot and Spicy from Domino's comes close. And Pimms with Soda.

Monday, 19 July 2010

I want this comedy dog

How come everyone else has a dog that can do cool stuff like this (see video below), whilst I end up with Naughty George whose party tricks include pissing on children's toys and vomiting up bile during dinner parties?

Vid.No.1. Pug calls for Batman

That's it. I have decided to teach Naughty George a trick that would give him (and me) some street-cred. I am going to buy a large mallet, and I'm going to train NG to keel over and start twitching after I have pretended to hit him on the head with it. The kids'll love it. 

Thinking about it, I'm not quite sure how I would go about training him to do that. 

Maybe I should catch him unawares, push him over sideways, and then quickly reward him with a treat. I would probabably have to introduce the mallet gradually. The twitching though..... that's gonna be tricky. I reckon I'll have to hold his paws and jerk them around a bit, each time giving him a treat. 

Anyone out there who knows how to train a dog to twitch? 

P.S. With thanks to 'Nothing to Do With Arbroath' for the video

Sunday, 18 July 2010

TheTowersey Fete - it's oh-so-English dahlink

You will be pleased to hear that in amongst all the carnage that I have been dealing with the last couple of weeks, I managed to sneak an enjoyable day in.

Yep, last Sunday Sam and her husband Pete asked if I wanted to go with them and their three children to a village fete. The sun was out, and it was the perfect day to partake in something so quintessentially English. Cucumber sandwiches with Pimms, Tarquin?

[For the benefit of my overseas readers, a fete is an event organised by volunteers, generally with the intention of raising funds (in this case for the local church). The fete has games, entertainment, stalls and refreshments, and is a focal point in country life].

So, without further ado, I jumped into my car and followed Pete and Sam to the village of Towersey where the fete was being held. On the way, Pete nearly knocked down a pheasant that was in the road. "What pheasant?" asked Sam after I pointed out the bird's near demise.

"That big multi-coloured bird that you swerved to avoid," I replied.

"Nah, can't say I noticed it," she replied. Phew, good job it didn't get run over otherwise it would have died in vain. There's nothing more annoying than dying and nobody noticing.

Enough of discussing dead wildlife, let's get back to the Fete which was held in the magnificent grounds of Towersey Manor. If I was to try and recreate the atmosphere, I would say that it was like stepping back in time into a 1930s Miss Marple film; a band was playing, there were Morris Dancers jingling their bells, and there were stalls around the main lawn advertising various activities.

Because I am kind - like Ghandi, but not wearing a sheet - I am going to give you a picture tour showing some of the idiosyncracies of the English fete.  

Pic.No. 1 The fete was held in the front garden of Towersey Manor, a house owned by a jazz singer called Marie-Jane Barnet. And no, I don't know that woman who wondered into the shot and posed with her hand on her head.

 Pic.No.2 Sam (left) and Pete. No Pete wasn't stood far away, he is actually very tall. You can tell because his son in the pram comes up to his knees.

Pic.No.3 How retro is this? It is a 'coconut shy'. The aim is to knock a coconut off its perch with a ball, and the prize for doing so is........ a coconut. Not the best marketing concept in the world, but hey, it's proper English. How do you open a coconut by the way? The reason I ask is because I was faced with four tearful children who wanted to eat their winnings.

Pic.No. 4 Traditional English Morris Dancers. This form of folk dancing goes back to the 1400's and is the campest form of dancing you will ever witness. They hold little handkerchiefs and wave them around whilst doing a kind of pony trot. I defy you to find camper than that.

Pic.No.5 A Punch and Judy puppet show for the children. If you ever wanted a perfect example of an English idiosyncracy, this is it. It is downright macabre. Punch is a puppet and his wife is called Judy. Punch has a great big stick which he uses to beat all the other characters in the show, including his wife. WTF?!

Pic.No. 6 Honey and Izzy indulge in a lolly that they were given after they failed to win a coconut at the coconut shy

Pic.No. 7 This is the money shot. See that red canopy back there? It's a stall selling Pimms (an English liqueur) and lemonade. See that old granny crossing the path? Me and Sam knocked her down in our eagerness to get to the Pimms. And we weren't sorry.

 Pic.No.8. It's me! And there is something wrong with this picture......

 Pic.No.9. That's right. It was sunny and I wasn't wearing my shades.

I hope you enjoyed my guide to the quintessential English fete. It was actually last weekend that we went, so you can see how far behind I am with my postings. Also, I need to apologise for the pictures being a bit grainy. After my iPhone went down the toilet, and I lost my camera at the Cornbury Music Festival, I am now reliant on the camera built into an ancient (circa 2004) Sony P900 brick phone. It's one step above a pinhole camera.

Friday, 16 July 2010

It's like Beirut in my house

After all the trauma on Saturday, I was looking forward to a disaster-free and chilled Sunday. Ummmm yeh, that sounded like plan.

As I was getting Honey and Izzy ready to go out, I heard the beep of a text arriving. The text was from the tenants in my house in London. Let me tell you, after the Saturday saga, my tenants' texts have started eliciting a Pavlovian response.... dread. Preferable to salivating I suppose - that's never a good look.

I picked up my phone and pressed the 'read' button: "Hi Anne, just to let you know that the washing machine has packed up. Would appreciate if you could fix it because I am running out of underwear."

BLOODY HELL, it was like Beirut down in my London house. And really, I didn't want to know the status of my tenant's underpants. It conjured up images which were just wrong, and made my palms sweat a bit, if I'm honest.

So much was going wrong in London that I began to suspect that my tenants were sabateurs, and as such, I was seriously considering mounting a covert surveillance operation. Which of course would necessitate the wearing of combat trousers and facepaint, and donning a weapon. But what weapon? The UK isn't like America where you can readily buy over-the-counter fun things like guns, knives, surface-to-air missiles, crossbows, knuckledusters and tazer guns. In the UK, it's virtually impossible to build up a decent arsenal of weaponery with the pitiful off-the-shelf offerings. As far as I know, the most dangerous weapon available for purchase in this country is a stapler .

So, I decided to improvise and came up with this.......

Pic.No.1. My weapon of choice...... introducing....... the slotted spaghetti spoon

The cool thing about this weapon is that you can thwack someone over the head with it and it would really hurt. But even better, it looks a bit like a claw, so you could do menacing moves with it, like when a cat paws its prey. And, if you wanted, you could feed the long bit up your sleeve and it would look like a bionic hand.

The name isn't cool though, so I would rename it Spagoon (it rhymes with Platoon, which implies violence and fighting).

Hang on a minute, could you see what I was doing there? It was blatant work avoidance..... the washing machine breaking was a pain in the ass, so I had decided to focus on weaponery as a diversion [taps side of forehead with forefinger. No flies on me, but you can see where they've been].

I needed to get back to the task in hand, rather than clawing languidly at my enemies with a slotted spaghetti spoon.

I despondently replied to my tenant's text; "Thanks for letting me know. I will drive down to London tomorrow to assess the damage caused yesterday, and see if I can get the washing machine fixed" [note: it has only been two weeks since I paid an engineer £78.00 after it broke down the last time].

Sure enough, the next day, I hit the M40 motorway to London after dropping Izzy off at school. It was with trepidation that I opened the front door and surveyed the scene. It wasn't pretty. The only thing missing was shrapnel. It was enough to make you want to take to your nuclear bunker for a year and live off tinned spam and powdered egg.

 Pic.No.2. Leaky jacuzzi and spa bath with chromotherapy lighting... oh yeh.... this is the daddy bath

The leaky bathroom was subversive because it looked like hardly anything was wrong apart from the bath enclosure had been pulled out. Wrong. See those taps on the wall? That is where the leak came from, so all the wall tiles are going to have to come off in order for it to be fixed.

Pic.No.1. Dead washing machine, and a bloody great hole in the roof

Looking on the bright side, the washing machine engineer turned up on time. But after five minutes fiddling around with the controls, he turned to me shaking his head, "sorry love, it's dead."

"Dead?" I queried, with exasperation, "what does that mean?"

"The main circuit board has gone," he sighed.

"Gone?" I demanded, "gone where?" I had this imagery of a little green board with gold knobbly bits on it, sitting on a cloud drinking nectar.

"Blown," he added.

We weren't getting anywhere.

"Can it be fixed?" I asked, changing tack.

"Nope," he replied helpfully.

Absolutely. Bloody. Brilliant. In the last two days, the bathroom had leaked and will have to be pulled apart to redo the pipework, the kitchen ceiling had collapsed and the washing machine had broken.

I am at the point where I can't bear to talk about it any longer, so I will update you thus far....... I drove down to London two days later and had a new washing machine fitted. There were parts missing so the job couldn't be completed. Never mind, I am back in London again on Monday letting in tradesmen to give me quotes for repairing the damage, so I can do it then.

It is a bloody good job that I had Fish and Chips for my dinner this evening, otherwise I would have perished from the stress of everything.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Dear Diary, today was a bad day

'So', I hear you cry, 'what did you get up to at the weekend?'

Well, lets just say that things didn't get off to an auspicious start. The plan was: I was going to spend a fun weekend with Izzy and her lovely friend Honey, who was coming round for a sleepover.

In actuality, Saturday started at 8.00am with a text message bleeping in my earhole. It was from the tenants who live in my London house, and it said..... "Sorry to bother you, but the ceiling in the kitchen is a funny shape."

The ceiling in the kitchen is a funny shape? What the blazes was that supposed to mean?

I texted back, perplexed; "Hi. Don't know what you mean about the ceiling being a funny shape. Can you email me a picture?"

"Yes, will do it now." Came the reply.

I waited anxiously next to my computer until I heard the 'ping' of a new email.  I opened the attached picture and was confronted with this.........

Pic.No.1. The kitchen ceiling

OMG! The ceiling was indeed a funny shape! And it was also abundantly clear what had caused it. I picked up the phone and dialled my tenants faster than a greased weasel in a drainpipe.

"Hello?" said the tenant upon answering the phone.

"Hi, it's Anne. You've got a major water leak from the bathroom above, and it's causing the ceiling to bow," I said breathlessly.

"Oh," he said, sounding a little disinterested. Somehow, I sensed that he didn't comprehend the gravity of the situation.

"Look have you done anything to stop it?" I asked hurriedly.

"Erm, let me think....... " he pondered........ then added, "no."

"Ok, you need to listen carefully," I said authoritatively. "First of all isolate the electrics because it is leaking onto the light fitting and you could get fried. Secondly, turn off the stop-cock, to cut off the water."

"No problem," he said, and the next thing I could hear were lots of strange rustling sounds in the background. The tenant reappeared on the phone; "all done," he said.

"Phew," I said with relief. Then added, "I need to you make a small hole in the ceiling to try and release the pressure of the water. In the meantime, I'll get you an emergency plumber."

"Cool, thanks for that," he said cheerily, and hung up.

Welcome to the weekend. NOT.

So, from the moment I opened my eyes on Saturday morning, I was catapulted into disaster-management mode. And the next thing I needed to do was find a plumber who was willing to work on a Saturday.

This was no mean feat, because all the decent plumbers don't need to work on a Saturday ........... so after 30 minutes on the phone, I finally find one who was willing to look at the leak.

"Hi, I need a plumber to come and look at a water leak that is causing a ceiling to bow," I said to the plumber when he answered the phone.

"Oooph," he said, with a sharp intake of breath, "it's gonna cost ya, what wiv' it being weekend and all." I could tell that the bastard knew he had me over a barrel. "I'll be there at 10.30am or thereabouts," he added. [Note to self: I bet his eyes are too close together, and he probably has height issues too].

I kept in regular phone contact with my tenants to find out how things were going, during which time Mr plumber ripped half the tiles off the bathroom wall, dragged the bath into the middle of the bathroom, capped off the pipes that were leaking, then went home. Oh yes, you read right. He hadn't fixed the problem, he had only contained it, and for that, he had charged £190.00. I 'd been mugged. 

It couldn't get any worse right? Wrong.

Two hours after the plumber left my London house, I got a text from my tenants.

"Hi there, just to let you know that the kitchen ceiling isn't looking too good."

What's the blazes was that supposed to mean? 

I texted back; "Hi, can you send me a picture so I can see what you mean?" 

"Yes, will do it now." Came the reply.

Again, I waited anxiously next to my computer until I heard the 'ping' of an incoming email. I opened the attached picture to find this ..............................

Pic.No.2. Something's not quite right with that ceiling

Sacre-bloody-bleu! The bloody ceiling had collapsed! I was starting to feel battle weary, but I rang the tenant again; "Hey, look," I said, "I am going to drive down there first thing on Monday to try and sort it all out - is that ok?"

"Yes, no problem," he replied cheerily.

So, after a morning spent with damage limitation, I was finally free to turn my attentions to Izzy and her friend Honey. They were unconcernedly bouncing on the trampoline whilst I was dealing with the angst caused by the disasters in London. Oh, to be that carefree again!

A fun afternoon spent with the girls redeemed things somewhat, and hell, I was even feeling more optimistic. That was until evening arrived, and along with it, bath time. Whilst they were splashing around in the water, (would-you-believe-it?), a shelf inexplicably fell off the wall, covering us in toothbrushes, toothpaste and an assortment of toiletries.

Grrrrrr...... deep breaths....... I silently picked everything up and put it to one side to sort out later. At this point, I desperately wanted to sit crossed legged, chanting Ommmm, Ommmm, but I knew I would look like a mentalist.

Instead, I tried to keep my karma, supervising Izzy and Honey whilst they dried themselves after their bath. They handed me their towels. I went to put them on the towel rack and the bloody thing fell off the wall, landing in three pieces on the floor.

By this time I had run the gamut of emotions: Anxiety, annoyedness (have I made that word up?), frustration, despair and pessimism. I must have been really bad in a previous life right?

Now, only one thought entered my mind .......... "Candid Camera?"

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

The Cornbury Music Festival - Part 4

I'll tell you one reason why blogging is cool; over time you start following other people's blogs, then you kind of get to know them through emails and Skype, and then........... if you are lucky like me, you finally get to meet them!

Oh yeh, at the Cornbury Festival last weekend, I finally got to meet Sophie and Brennig Jones from the blog Brennig Jones (and friends). Actually, it's not their blog that they are most famous for. They produce a very popular weekly podcast called 'This Reality Podcast' which puts 'em up there (I'll give you details about the podcast later because I am like that.... a Mother Theresa type figure but without the teatowel).

Pic.No.1. Sophie and Bren's 'This Reality Podcast' website - how cool?

So there I was at the festival, and I texted Soph and Bren: "Are you here yet? where are you?"

The reply came back; "Yes, we are here. We are to the right of the Sound Tower, 20 metres back, next to some bins."

I pushed my way through the throngs, and eventually made it to the right hand side of the Sound Tower, only to realise that the 20 metre area they had described, probably contained about 2000 people. I also realised that I looked like a bit mentally ill, pushing through the crowd, and then stopping to stare at all their faces.

Just as I was about to give up hope of finding them in the crowd, I saw someone dressed in a white 'This Reality Podcast' t-shirt, shouting "Yoo hoo! Annie, over here!"

It was Sophie and Bren..... 'Houston. The Eagle has landed'.

After greetings all round, I realised that Soph was holding a recently procured plate of pie and chips. Isn't that a bummer... having to eat a full meal (standing up) in front of someone you have just met?

We had a bit of a laugh and chatted, and then I realied that Soph hadn't touched her pie.

"Why aren't you eating your pie?" I asked her.

"Because I can't eat it standing up," she replied, "I can't cut it up with one hand."

Awwwww...... how nice is that? She had neglected eating her pie in order to chat to me. Keen to impress, I immediately sat down on the grass so that Sophie could sit next to me and eat.

Soph also plonked herself down, and then said, "erm, sorry to say this, but I think that you've just sat in a plate of chilli and rice."

Sacre bleu. I stood up and turned around, only to find a plateful of chilli stuck to my butt cheek. I brushed it off, to the sound of Steve laughing loudly; "you've still got a jalapeno stuck to your ass!"

Sometimes in life, it is hard to retain your dignity.

After finishing her pie, Sophie turned to me and said, "oh, that reminds me, I have got something for you," and after fishing about in her rucksack, she handed me a 'This Reality Podcast' t-shirt. COOL!

Pic.No.2. Me in my new t-shirt with the offending plate of chilli and rice to the left of the picture

Well Soph and Bren, it was fabulous fun finally meeting up with you. I hope we can do it again soon.

P.S. Thanks for sending me your pictures and videos of the Cornbury Festival so that I could do my blog (*note to reader* I lost my camera see).

P.P.S. Readers..... check out 'This Reality Podcast', it's great. Go to iTunes and type 'this reality pod' in the search box. Or you can download it here 'This Reality Podcast'.

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