Monday, 30 December 2013

Technology sucks.....

Facebook friends will be aware that I spent most of yesterday struggling with my new laptop.  Yes, this is the same new laptop purchased last month, to replace my old and infirm laptop, but which runs Windows 8, an operating system designed for tablet, which is apparently fine and dandy if all you want to do is faff around on the internet, but doing any serious work on it is a nightmare.  

It hides things all the time.... I can be doing something on a page and it will suddenly disappear. No amount of searching will find it, so I start again, only for the original page to suddenly re-appear from nowhere.  This is just one example of why I hate it so much.  There are many, many more.

At some point yesterday, I stumbled across an insignificant looking file on the new laptop's desktop, titled Additional Information, which turned out to be a guide to using Windows 8.
As I was already feeling quite bitey, this discovery flicked a switch in my brain and I threw, what in psychological circles is technically termed, a hissy fit.

Having been struggling  with the vagaries of Windows 8 for some time, in a complicated one step forward, five steps back tango scenario, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth that such a file shouldn't be called some useful, like "HEY, stupid! The answers you are looking for are HERE!  or "Windows 8 driving you insane? Look no further!"

But no.

A pissy little document file on the desktop called Additional Information.  I'd wrongly, (but perfectly reasonably) assumed it related to the laptop specs, as it was right next to a folder titled Toshiba Owner's Manual. 

How wrong can you be.

However, I've got the bit between my teeth now, and in characteristic bloody-minded fashion, I'm refusing to read the Additional Information and have decided instead to continue blundering around in Windows 8 hell, cursing and swearing and generally throwing my toys out of the metaphorical pram.

It's actually quite cathartic.

Take this morning for instance.  For the first time, I switched on the new laptop first, flying solo without the old machine riding shotgun, in reserve. (Yes I know I'm mixing my metaphors but I'm right on the edge here so deal with it.)

Having spent several hours yesterday finally getting my email accounts up and running, I decided that today should be Changeover Day so the newcomer was duly put through its paces.  OK, so the emails are all coming in in a jumble as I haven't set up relevant folders or instigated message rules, but at least they're coming in, which is no small achievement.

Then, as I have actual work to do today, I had to install the printer.

"Piece of cake" I hear you say.
"No problemo" you might think.

I even had the sodding installation disk FFS!  I've installed dozens of printers over the years, mostly without any problems at all.

I'll gloss over the whole debacle.  Like a toddler with a teatime tantrum, the new laptop kept spitting out the disk and throwing up error messages.  I tried downloading the printer drivers online but it wasn't having any of that either.

Meanwhile, the old laptop, which I'd switched on for backup, was sitting smugly with an "I told you so" look on it's monitor.

Eventually, with a combination of brute force and sheer determination, I think the printer is installed.  I haven't actually printed anything useful yet, like the packing slips and address labels I need in order to package the orders received over the past few days.  But it has printed several pages of gobbledygook, purporting to prove that the print heads are aligned.

However, perhaps I've finally turned the corner.  This blog post is being written on the new machine so all is not lost.

The next test will come when I try to access my old working files shortly. 

I have a feeling it's going to be a l-o-n-g day.....

(Edit - I was going to find an amusing image to illustrate this post, but I'm scared that if I come out of this screen to find one I'll never get it back again. *sigh*)

Saturday, 28 December 2013


After almost a week of family fun over the festive period, our last houseguests left yesterday.  It felt positively eerie in the house this morning, but on the plus side, breakfast was completed in just one shift.

We did have a lovely Christmas, despite the storms, which provided us with a whole evening of no electricity, so we sat round the fire by candlelight telling ghost stories.  That same storm ripped loads of hip-tiles from neighbouring roofs, almost demolishing next door's shed but thankfully missing our caravan just a few feet away. 

Unlike many poor souls, our electricity was re-connected in the early hours of the morning, so Christmas was able to continue unabated.

Food and drink was consumed.  Silly party games were played.  Sofa snoozes were had.
Nobody was sick and bad.   Bonhomie reigned throughout and no-one had to be physically restrained and confined to the study for outrageous behaviour except Small Dog.

Poor Small Dog.

She loves Christmas and she loves visitors, but a combination of the two usually proves too much for her tiny brain.  There is always too much going on so she misses her naps.  Sofa space is at a premium as is floor space, and she can't stretch out anywhere for fear of being trodden upon.  If she does manage to find a spot for a brief nap someone's feet will suddenly hove into view and she has to spring into action to avoid being squished.  Present unwrapping sends her into a frenzy and she is unable to grasp the concept that not everything being unwrapped is hers.

One of her presents was a bag of rawhide twist chews.  She likes to 'bury' her chews somewhere in the house but with so many people around she couldn't find somewhere secret enough for her.  Eventually she decided that behind a cushion on the sofa was the best place but then she had to sit guarding it, checking from time to time that it was still there and staring hard at everyone in the room who then had to pretend they didn't know where it was.  Eventually her neurosis about the safety of her chew pushed her over the edge and she unearthed it and had to carry it around in her mouth, whimpering pitifully.  

In the end we had to retrieve it and put it back in the bag, then try to distract her as she frantically hunted all of her hiding places trying to find it.  Inevitably, the heady mixture of light, noise, people, chew-hiding-place-worry, excitement, presents etc etc etc all became too much and she threw a doggy tantrum, resulting in her being placed in the study to calm down.

 Yesterday evening, when everyone had gone, she stretched out on the armchair by the fire and slept soundly for several hours, unresponsive even to the appearance of a selection of post-dinner nibbles.  Presumably her doggy equilibrium has now been restored as she's back to normal sunny self this morning.

Today we will be putting the house to rights, changing beds, washing bedlinen, hoovering crumbs and debris, running back-to-back dishwasher cycles, hosing down the oven, trying to work out how to amalgamate all the leftovers into one edible meal and perhaps, just perhaps, finally get round to having a 'play' with our presents.

Happy Twixmas........


Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Self-gifting at Christmas.....

Each year around this time, I like to start a little project.  Something to keep me occupied through the winter months while awaiting the return of spring.  

Something not too demanding, enjoyable, and if there's something at the end to show for it, so much the better.

This year I've been casting around for inspiration for my project and I've finally decided on what it's going to be.

I'll give you a clue......

I haven't knitted for years.  My grandmother taught me when I was very young, around 6 or 7 years old.  As I'm left handed it wasn't all plain sailing, but by the time I was in my teens I was quite advanced, knitting Fair Isle, Aran and really complicated lacy patterns.  

When my children were babies I knitted almost all their clothing, and when they were toddlers I created colourful picture knits featuring their favourite story book characters. 
 I continued to knit happily into my mid 30s.

But then, for no obvious reason, I stopped, and haven't purled a stitch since.  It's almost 20 years since I last picked up a pair of needles and a knitting pattern.  So I've decided to have another go, and this Christmas will be self-gifting two pairs of needles, a pattern, and some lovely wool to knit a jumper.
I'm going to start gently, with a fairly easy pattern and see where I go from there.  Hopefully it will all come flooding back to me....

I gave serious consideration to several other things..... scrapbooking, embroidery, needle felting.... but decided against them.  Scrapbooking takes up a fair amount of space and seems to require loads of different papers and materials.  Embroidery is OK, but needlework and sewing form a large part of my day job so I wanted something different.  I've always fancied having a go at needle felting but it would take ages to get any good at it, and I want something I can just pick up and do if I have a spare 10 minutes, and won't take ages to clear away afterwards.

During long winter evenings by the fire, I can keep half an eye on the TV, or listen to the radio, whilst knitting, and there's something supremely satisfying about seeing a garment gradually emerge from the needles.

Needless to say, Small Dog has given the idea a firm 'paws up' and has already placed an order for a made to measure hand-knitted jumper.

She was somewhat less keen when I showed her this......

Granted, she is technically a non-moulting dog, so she doesn't shed her hair, but it does grow, and it does need regular cutting, generally yielding enough clippings to knit a small guinea pig.  I'm sure if I collected it over the course of a year there would be sufficient to create her a jaunty beret like the one above.

And who knows, if the knitting bug really takes hold, this could be us next summer......


Monday, 16 December 2013

'Tis the season.......

I'm pleased to report that our dishwasher saga is finally at an end.  What should have been a simple, straightforward swap of like for like turned into a week-long drama during which a section of the kitchen floor had to be taken up and replaced.  That done, we re-tiled the area and set about installing the new machine.... a job which should take no more than 15 minutes but due to a leaking connection took 2 days as we had to get a new isolation valve.

Finally, this morning, the damn machine was installed and working.  If we ever need to replace this one we're moving house.

So, for the rest of the day we've been returning all the displaced stuff from the kitchen cupboards and reinstating the dining room to its intended purpose, rather than an overflow store room.

I've even made some inroads in to my Christmas shopping this morning and the final Christmas orders will be ready to go in the post tomorrow.

Thereafter I will be in full wind-down mode and not before time.

In other news, Small Dog is entering fully into the Christmas spirit....

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Light relief......

Today we managed to escape the carnage in the kitchen to go out for a posh lunch with friends, which was a welcome distraction.

We left Small Dog home alone, in the role of Cinderella, hoping that she might deal with the teetering tower of washing up which we'd been stockpiling in the hope we might have a working dishwasher this week.

On our return she claimed to have been totally overcome by an uncontrollable case of narcolepsy, which left her completely unable to leave the cosy warmth of her basket for the duration.


Anyway, that's neither here nor there.  Earlier this week, on FB, I bemoaned the current fad for fancy chefs serving *'foam' to enhance their dishes.  We've been watching the run up to the Masterchef Professional final, and it seemed that every other dish was served up with globules of frothy foam floating on the plate.

I will accept that I don't exactly live on the culinary cutting edge, but to me, foam looks very much like dog sick.  It's generally white or yellow and there's something about the look and consistency which, to a small dog owner, signals dog sick.

I don't know who invented it, but I'm fairly sure it wasn't anyone who has dogs.

So when my starter of  Loch Duart Salmon Carpaccio with Wakame, Pear and Caviar Lime Dressing arrived I had to suppress a snigger......

Yes, there was foam.  In just such a pattern as Small Dog might produce as she simultaneously heaves and prances around waiting for me to let her out the door as quickly as possible.

However, my initial scepticism was dispelled as soon as I tentatively tasted it.  I have no idea what 'dog sick' foam tastes like, but I'd hazard a guess it's nothing like that..... it was absolutely delishus.

I am a foam convert. 

Oh me of little faith........ 

*I did take a photo of my lovely starter, complete with foam, but my smartphone is obviously way too smart for me and somewhere between there and here the photo has disappeared into the ether. However, for blog readers who have no idea what I'm talking about, here is a generic example of a gastronomic dish served with foam.


I'd put money on anyone who has a dog thinking "some dog's been sick on that plate..... it's even got the grass in it.

But, if you can close your eyes and manage to get past that thought it's probably lovely.  Unless some dog HAS been sick on the plate in which case..... blearghhhhhh!

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Oh holey floor......

In one fell swoop, the minor inconvenience of having to wash our dishes by hand has turned into a major problem and things have gone from bad to worse in the kitchen.  

Further investigation today has revealed that both the floor and sub-floor are damp and rotten. Presumably the old dishwasher had a small leak for some considerable time..... not enough to run over the top of the tiles and make itself known at the front of the machine, allowing action to be taken, but just enough to slowly seep down between the joints in the tiles and gradually saturate the floor beneath.  

If it hadn't broken irrevocably last week, this leak could have continued unnoticed and eventually caused major damage to a large area of the floor.

All of the rotten wood has now been chopped and hacked out and the resulting excavation will have to dry out thoroughly before it can be repaired, hopefully later in the week. 

In the meantime, we now have a large hole in the floor at one end of the kitchen, and the new redundant dishwasher is taking up space at the other, in company with all the boxes of stuff from two of the affected kitchen base units. 

Not quite the stress-free run up to Christmas we were anticipating.

Perhaps we should give serious thought to a different sort of dishwasher...... 


So, just as it was looking as though things were finally returning to some semblance of order, life throws another spanner in the works.

Last week our dishwasher died.  I do accept, that in the grand scheme of things this is neither here nor there but it's dashed inconvenient, especially at this time of year.

It not only died, it attempted self immolation, melting a heatproof cutting board in the process.  Thankfully we detected and tracked down the strong smell of burning and melting plastic before the whole thing burst into flames and burnt us alive in our beds but it was a chastening experience. 

Since then we have been dishwasher-less, and while the manual washing of dishes is almost fun in the caravan, it's somewhat less inspiring on a relentless daily basis.

We did try to get it repaired, but apparently, according to our long-standing, trustworthy domestic appliance repair chap, the cost of the replacement parts, plus labour, took it into the realms of an uneconomic repair.


Just before Christmas too.

Undaunted, we emptied our piggy banks, raided Small Dog's holiday fund, checked trouser pockets, rummaged down the back of the sofa and gathered together enough small change to enable us to order a replacement, which arrived this morning.

So far so good.

But before installing it in its space, we noticed that an area of floor tiling was lifting slightly so PP found the adhesive and lifted the tile..... to reveal an area of very damp wood underneath.


We had the floor tiles laid when we replaced the kitchen about 6 years ago, and as far as we know there haven't been any leaks, either from the old dishwasher or under the sink adjacent to it, so why it's damp is a bit of a mystery.  The walls are fine and the damp patch seems to be confined to an area of floor about 2 feet square.  However, the wood is very spongy and will need to be cut out and replaced.  Which means that all the floor tiles in that area will need to come up, and possibly the base units at that end of the kitchen will have to come out too.

Buggrit doesn't even come close.

Hopefully we can get it looked at later today to ascertain exactly what needs to be done, but until it's sorted we have a new dishwasher sitting in the middle of the kitchen, and all the stuff which has been emptied out of the base units is now in boxes on the table and worktops.

To put it mildly, it's a right guddle.

Whether we can get it sorted before Christmas is debatable, although if push comes to shove we can temporarily install the new dishwasher so that it can be used over the festive period, and deal with the floor replacement issue in the New Year.

Typical...... SNAFU



Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Belated Birthday Wishes......

I have been somewhat preoccupied with family matters over the past few weeks, and as a result I missed a rather important anniversary.....

Cue kazoo fanfare.... this blog turned 7 years old on 4 December!

Yes, 7 years of penetrating insights into the human condition, hilariously candid snaps of Small Dog, random rants about life, the universe and everything and even some vaguely  interesting stuff about making a precarious living from creating tiny things.

So, anyway, here are a few Fascinating Facts from my stats.....

Apparently, since its inception, almost 125,000 people have viewed this blog.  No I can't believe it either.  It's not as if I regularly run cat videos.  Some people obviously have way too much time on their hands.  *cough*

In this year alone, it's had readers from 97 different countries. 

My most prolific blogging year was 2009 with 284 posts.  This year has been well below par.... I blame Facebook.

I've written a total of 1371 posts, of which 1322 have been published.  The remaining 49 are still in the drafts folder and I really should revisit them to see why I decided not to hit the 'Publish' button..... although perhaps all those warnings about never texting/posting on FB/Twitter/Blog after the second glass of wine finally hit home.

The most intriguing search term which has ever brought anyone to the blog is 'yorkie zombie'.... which presumably rewarded them with this.....  

It is a source of some comfort to me that though the medium of this blog I can connect with like-minded individuals.

Happy birthday blog.......

Edit: the zombie yorkie post was in January 2009 and can be found HERE  
It was a follow-up to THIS