Saturday, 31 May 2014

Is it that time already....?

Somehow, without my noticing, almost half the year has slipped by already.  It's the first of June tomorrow, and the summer solstice is looming, after which we'll be on the long, slow slide of ever shortening days into winter.

It's one of the many disconcerting things about getting older...... the months and years seem to flash past.  No sooner have I seen in one New Year and taken down the festive decorations than it's time to put up the next lot.


Glancing through my 'To Do' list this morning didn't do much much to lift my spirits either.
In January, full of New Year enthusiasm and derring-do, I drew up a list of stuff I wanted to achieve by the end of June.  Needless to say I've only been able to cross off a fraction of the items, while all the while adding more.  

For instance, I still haven't made a start on my tax return.  Regular readers will know how much I enjoy this annual task, and while I was thinking of things I could do to avoid it, I came across THIS, which fairly accurately describes how I feel about it.

I WILL get it sorted by the end of June but I will have to lock myself in a room, with absolutely NO distractions and most importantly NO INTERNETS!

In fact, I'm seriously considering trying to find one of these.......

This nifty bit of kit was designed in the mid 1920's and was called The Isolator.  And no, it's not a joke.  It was invented by Hugo Gernsback and was designed to help the wearer focus and concentrate by removing external distractions.  Apparently the contraption blocked out all external sound and limited vision to a tiny horizontal slit.  Fortunately it came with its own pumped oxygen supply. 

I'm unconvinced that it would enable me to 'concentrate with ease on the subject at hand', what with the crippling panic attacks and claustrophobia it would induce, not to mention struggling to deal with my overwhelming taphophobia.

Hmmm..... on second thoughts, perhaps not.

Friday, 30 May 2014

Feelgood Friday......NOT!

This week has been a bit of a bugger.

First the damage to our little caravan followed by several days of stress attempting to pin down the culprit.

Then Small Dog's leg injury and subsequent trip to the vet.  If you're not on my FB you will have missed all of that kerfuffle, but rest assured she is much better now and here's the patient recuperating.......

I'm not, by nature, superstitious, but my grannie always used to say that bad things come in threes so I've been looking over my shoulder all week, anticipating the third in a series of unfortunate events.

I never thought the coup de grâce would come from Google though.

Scrolling through my blog feed this morning, I noticed a new post from one of my favourite bloggers, aptly named The Bloggess which you can read HERE.

Naturally, I couldn't resist......

Googlism for: sandra morris

sandra morris is vice president and chief information officer of intel corporation
sandra morris is vice president
sandra morris is a member of the data coordinator team
sandra morris is well known for her signature dolls which are equally elaborate when viewed from the back as they are from the front
sandra morris is a math teacher at isaac young
sandra morris is currently director

So. From that list of classic over achievers can you spot the odd one out?

Thanks a lot Google.....way to go to make me feel better after a crappy week.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

All's fair....? Obviously not!

If there's one thing that riles me above all else it's unfairness. 

unfair - adj.  

1. characterized by inequality or injustice
2. dishonest or unethical 

Having been subjected to both of those definitions today it's easy to see why people who are put upon can easily rise up and incite revolution.

It would appear that the fencer who damaged our caravan is going to get off scot free. Having presumably considered his options overnight, he's apparently morphed seamlessly from Uriah Heep into Wackford Squeers.

Yesterday, he didn't deny he'd caused the damage, confining himself to stating that he didn't know HOW he could have done it, and leaving us with the words...."OK, leave it with me and I'll see what I can do".

OK.  We have no actual proof he did it, but the circumstantial evidence is compelling. To wit...

1. Before we left on Thursday there wasn't a mark on the side on the caravan.
2. When we returned on Sunday there was.  An almost perfectly round, deep dent.
3. Initially when questioned, he didn't deny it.
4.  The caravan is well back off the road/pavement and the damaged side is 'protected' by the fence.
5. He was working on the fence in close proximity to the caravan using a variety of hand tools. including hammers, bolsters, chisels etc, many of which were scattered around on the driveway for the duration.
6. While we were away he was working on the section of fence right by the damage.
7. Several times I saw him he was bleeding from superficial wounds to his hands or legs, leading to the conclusion that he was either extremely accident prone or cack-handed.**

Today, presumably bolstered by the appearance of the male neighbour, he came out fighting,  absolutely denying he had anything to do with it and accusing us of trying to pin something on him which could have happened months ago.  When we requested that we leave it to his insurance company to sort out, he turned nasty, refusing even to give us his surname, the name of his company or any contact details. (No, his trading details aren't on his van... he drives a private car with no identifying information.)

So we requested that he leave our property and not set foot on it again until our complaint was resolved.

In retaliation he has (apparently deliberately) made the worst possible job of the remaining fencing by the side of our house.  It's appalling.  I only hope people don't think it's our fence and that we sanctioned such shoddy work.

If I were the neighbour I wouldn't have paid him for it, but more to the point, if I were the neighbour, I wouldn't have stood by while someone HE had contracted was so blatantly rude, unhelpful and unpleasant to two of my neighbours with a perfectly legitimate complaint.

In fact, if there had been a complete fence in situ, he'd have been sitting right on top of it.

There was one tiny glimmer of hope, in that the neighbour subsequently dropped round a copy of the letter he had just written to his own insurance company, disclaiming any personal responsibility and saying that his contractor had denied causing the damage and requesting clarification of any liability he might have.

In the interests of complete fairness, I have to say that we've always had very good relations with those neighbours.  Perhaps because of that I expected that they would be more sympathetic and inclined to try to help.  We're not blaming them, we're blaming their contractor, but they have been extremely reluctant to give us any information about him at all.

Whether or not we get any form of compensation via the insurance company (it's probably unlikely) I can't help feeling aggrieved that the bloke who did it is just walking away with a smug look on his weaselly* face.  However, presumably, if the insurance company does take it up, he will have to divulge his insurance details to them, or they may request that the neighbour take it up with him directly.

I strongly suspect that no such liability insurance exists, as if there was, what possible reason would he have not to play nicely and simply put the matter in their hands and let them deal with it?  Isn't that why tradespeople have to have insurance?  Or am I being hopelessly naive?

Either way, we now have a caravan with a hole/dent in the front/side wing and a section of fencing which looks as though a five year old erected it.

I ask you.... does any of that seem fair to you?

*Actually, that's a dreadful thing to say.  It's doing a massive disservice to weasels.

** You might think that No. 7 is stretching it a bit, but circumstantial evidence usually accumulates into a collection, so that the pieces then become corroborating evidence.
I rest my case.....

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Rant of the week......

It's been a while since I had a blog rant.  Looking back, the last time was in August last year so I'm probably overdue one.

So here goes.

Last week one of our neighbours called to say he was finally having his storm-damaged fences replaced, one of which runs alongside our driveway, next to our caravan, and would we mind if his fencer came onto our drive to remove the existing fence panels.  

While the neighbour was chatting to me to fencing bloke came over and I asked if he wanted us to move the caravan further across the drive but he assured us it was fine where it was as there's plenty of room.  Later that day, before he knocked off work, I asked him to clear up the mud, grass and debris he'd left littering our drive, which observant readers will recall was newly laid just over a year ago, and still looks like new.

Or it did before Barney Bodger the Bargain Builder piled a load of muck on it.

He made a desultory attempt at sweeping up some of the dirt but left most of it, so next morning, before we were due to leave for a few days away with friends, I again asked him to clear up his mess so as not to stain the bricks.  He took umbrage at this and sniffily informed me that he ALWAYS cleared up after himself and muttered that anyway "it's only mud".

So off we went, hopeful that he would be as good as his word, and had a lovely weekend in Whitstable with good friends, eating lovely food, drinking delicious wine and laughing fit to bust a rib.

On our return we were dismayed to find a builder's bucket full of debris right in front of our little caravan, and loads of muck spread all along the side of the drive and behind the van.  

This was annoying, although PP is of the opinion that we'll never get all the mud out of the cracks and that there will definitely be a stain left.

What's worse though, is that while checking out the van I discovered a large hammer dent on the side towards the front which most definitely wasn't there when we left.  To add insult to injury, he'd obviously attempted to cover his tracks by scouring a large section of the paintwork around the dent, completely removing the shiny finish.

To say I am annoyed is putting it mildly.  Incandescent with rage doesn't quite cut the mustard either. 


PP and I went round to the next door neighbours, who weren't in, but we left a note asking them to ring me.


UPDATE!  Received a phone call from neighbour's wife,who listened to me patiently then promptly disclaimed all responsibility.

No she can't contact her fencing bloke.
No she won't be there when he shows up on Tuesday morning.
No her husband won't be there either as he's away.  

How convenient.

If she thinks that gets them off the hook she's got another think coming. Having Googled extensively, as the damage to OUR property was caused by THEIR contractor, they are liable.

It's going to be an interesting few days, starting Tuesday morning but I could really, REALLY do without it.


Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Troll snot.....

PP is nothing if not inventive.  

I sometimes say..."Hmm... I've had an idea.  I need a hoojamaflip with a basic reciprocating flange socket on the left side.  Can you make me one?"

She will look thoughtful, go off, there will be some banging/sawing/drilling noises (possibly interspersed with some colourful language) and some time later she will re-appear with a perfectly functional hoojamaflip with an IMPROVED rotating, oscillating, reciprocating flange socket.

Recently she has turned her inventive skills towards saving us £££'s, which is most welcome, especially after recently having to fund the purchase of magic knickers and the like.  She is already making our washing powder for just a few pence, which works just as well as the most expensive stuff from Tesco.

Yesterday, after extensive research, she set about making liquid handwash. For quite a while there were sounds of industry from the kitchen....  chopping, macerating and whizzing, eventually followed by bubbling, boiling noises.  Closely followed by some cackling giggling, which alerted me the fact that things might be going awry.

The secret ingredients (which not even I am allowed to know) had started out in our smallest saucepan.  However the resulting 'matter' expanded, grew and spread till eventually it escaped and had to be contained in ever larger pans.

In no time at all she ran out of pans and had to resort to filling a flower vase and assorted tupperware containers, including one empty handwash bottle, conscripted from an upstairs bathroom, which promptly melted as the stuff was too hot.

This is a small amount of the handwash

Eventually the stuff ran out of steam and stopped expanding and after watching it suspiciously for some time, PP decided that it was safe to start pouring it into a motley collection of random bottles, including empty milk cartons, water bottles etc.

This rapidly proved easier said than done.  Whatever the 'stuff' was, it didn't exhibit any of the normal properties of liquid.  

For one thing it could flow uphill. 

I was of the opinion that she'd invented a completely new material, previously unknown to science and should set about obtaining a patent.  It might have no end of uses, from medical to military.

We all stood around regarding it.....

It was very viscous.  Positively elastic.  This spoonful stayed like that for ages.....

After a while it CLIMBED BACK UP the spoon.........

Before hanging on tenaciously for what felt like forever.

By this time we were getting a bit scared of it, so I was volunteered to test it out and see if it actually worked as handwash.  To say I was sceptical was putting it midly.  For all I knew I would slither all over me, block my airways and suffocate me.

Persuading any of it out of the vase was a delicate task, as it had tired of escaping and was hellbent on remaining en masse.  Eventually I gathered about a teaspoonful and carefully rubbed it into my hands, before rinsing them thoroughly.


Fortunately my skin didn't melt off.  Indeed it left my hands feeling lovely and silky, which after several weeks of porcelain casting followed by the same amount of soft cleaning is no mean feat, as my hands were like sandpaper.

After leaving it to cool overnight, this morning PP diluted it and poured it into a variety of bottles.  I think we have about five litres.

She posted her endeavours on FB, and another 'frugaller' reported that her children call the stuff she makes 'Troll Snot'.  

Which seemed the perfect label to stop unsuspecting visitors taking a swig from any of the full to overflowing milk carton and water bottles.  We are now self sufficient in handwash for the next three years.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

In the workroom today.....

Flushed with success after her barnstorming performance during March, which earned her the much coveted Tower House Dolls Employee of the Month Award, Small Dog hasn't been resting on her laurels.

Today she was overseeing PP putting the finishing touches to some little wooden trunks in her role as Quality Control Assistant.  From what I could make out, this involves a lot of sniffing and a fair amount of extremely close CWN* supervision.

At the other end of the desk I was up to my wrists in tepid water, valiantly trying to get to the end of a marathon week of soft cleaning and I'm delighted to report that I FINALLY got it all finished..... YAYYYYY!!!

These three boxes represent the result of several weeks of casting and subsequent soft cleaning sessions.

The darker coloured castings are still damp from being immersed in water for the soft cleaning process, but soon dry out.

It's then time to load each individual piece carefully into the kiln, hoping that I've judged the amount of castings just right so that the kiln is filled to capacity so that it will fire to maximum efficiency.

I load heads and torsos on the bottom shelf, which is covered with a thin layer of kiln sand to prevent the pieces moving around and potentially coming into contact with each other. If this happens, they can stick together and be ruined.  So each tiny casting has to be meticulously placed on the shelf with a gap between each one.

Bottom shelf - heads and torsos

In this firing I have a mix of castings in different porcelain tints.... some are flesh coloured and some are white.  Different colours require subtly different firing temperatures so I place white castings on the middle shelf, and the remaining limbs on the top shelf.

It always gets a little nerve-wracking towards the end, wondering if I have enough space left....  this time I judged it perfectly (admittedly more by luck than judgement!) and I couldn't have fitted in another tiny arm or leg.

Top shelf -assorted arms and legs

I'll set the kiln to switch itself on automatically early tomorrow morning, so it should be finished by mid afternoon, having reached a top temperature of 1215 degrees Celsius.

So fingers crossed for a perfect firing.....

*CWN - Cold Wet Nose

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Back to normality.....

Good grief.... is it really a month since my last blog post?

It's now a week since the wedding and life is returning to what passes for normal.  Despite some last minute panics over our respective outfits, the entire day was wonderful, in spite of the weather which meant that the outdoor ceremony was hurriedly moved indoors.

The bride looked beautiful and radiantly happy, the groom was handsome and impeccably dressed.  Everything went without a hitch.... the ceremony was emotional and moving, the congratulations effusive, the wedding breakfast delicious, the party great fun and a lovely time was had by all.

I came home with a camera full of photos, but as I was behind it all day, there was not a single one of us!  So far one has surfaced on FB but we're awaiting the release of the official photos which definitely feature both of us.

It's difficult to see exactly what I was wearing, but for the fashionistas among you, that's a very fitted ladies Victorian-inspired tailed jacket over black trousers and a silk chiffon top.  PP wore a gorgeous ladies tuxedo suit.

Thankfully on the day, although my waterproof mascara and magic knickers were both put to the test (I ALWAYS cry at weddings, and the humungously amazing pudding might have been a step too far even for spandex!) in the end they both performed beautifully.

Definitely a day to remember......

Since then, we've been gradually de-weddinging the house and trying to pick up the scattered reins of our lives.  

In other news, it's turned really cold and very windy so this weekend, unless the weather gets it act together, I shall be tackling the mess in both the office and the workroom and attempting to restore order to the chaos.

I suspect it will take some considerable time......