Friday, 15 December 2017

Thank You!!!!!


When I said in my last post that this blog was my support, I wasn't trying for the pity party.  It's truly been a massive support for me for years.  There's been some sound advice given, which I've appreciated and sometimes takne, and some great stories and experiences shared - there are so many lovely people out there and I am lucky enough to have some of them following this blog.  I am very grateful and thank you so much for the messages.  I feel hugged and inspired.

Susan said that she thought I was brave sharing my problems.  I don't feel brave.  I think it's important to admit that sometimes things go wrong and, to be honest, sometimes life is so much more entertaining when there is a little less perfection.  For example, it took me days to get all the dried rose petals out of the toilet brush and that's much more fun to share than me saying how I keep my bathroom perfectly (I don't - but that's a work in progress and it's okay).

If this was fiction then the house would suddenly be gleaming after I decided to pull myself together.  It really isn't.  However it's cleaner.  I've sorted through a few shelves, tidied others and I've found a place for the washing powder stash.  It's a start.  It is better than it was yesterday by a little bit, and I'll take that. 

The freezer came.  I was up until the early hours trying to defrost the old freezer.  It was deeply encrusted.  I'd manage to use up most of the stuff and so there were only the dregs of some frozen mixed veg and some dubious chicken pieces that had to be thrown out.  The old freezer was as tall as me and it took a lot of towels to soak up the mess, but by the time the men came I had defrosted it, moved it out of the walk in cupboard and into the kitchen, mopped where it had stood for the last ten years and cleared every chair, box and hanger out of the path for the new freezer. 

The delivery men were very nice, and unpacked the new freezer with frightening and ruthless efficiency, but they seemed to be shocked that there were steps into the kitchen.  I had warned them, and the same firm (AO) had previously taken a fridge and a washing machine down the same steps, but these men seemed shocked at their very existance.  Once they had got over that, though, the old freezer was taken and the new fridge installed in double quick time and they were off.  I'm letting it settle and Tesco are delivering lots of frozen food tomorrow.

Bear has had his last day of term.  It was Christmas Jumper Day.  He was wearing the same one he wore last year, which had been big on him.  It's still got plenty of room for growth in it and should he need a Christmas jumper next year I'm sure it will still do.  As ever, bear came home with one more Christmas present than he left with, but that's okay.  It means that there is now a home for the duplicate chemistry set I bought accidentally when it was an excellent deal.  I'll have to hand it over in January, but I don't suppose that it will be a problem. 

I think Step Two is going to have to be getting me out of the house on a daily basis.  I've tried to set that goal before and not managed.  I'm going to have to work on that, and with the holidays it's probably going to have to wait until after New Year.  However I feel positive that things are a little further on than they were yesterday, so Step One is continuing. 

Thank you again for listening to me and for the amazing support.  Hugs x

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Another Day, Another Fail

Jake's a Girl - massive hugs. 

Bear was complaining bitterly about being forced to walk miles (around a few hundred yards) on really slippery roads (they were fine) in the pouring rain (it was dry) to go the Carol Concert at the local CofE church.  When he got home he was out playing football in the freezing rain.  I am getting very good at a 'nod and smile'.

I've been thinking about the whole issue about getting out of the house.  I realise that I've been basically assuming that the only thing I can do is pull myself together.  I would never encourage anyone else to take this attitude, but I can't imagine another way of doing it for me.

Back in the early eighties I escaped from my mother and went to university.  I never graduated.  I had a breakdown and lost all my short term memory.  I could remember who I was and where I lived, but I couldn't remember anything from one moment to another.  I have very fuzzy memories of the time but I remember being lost in Preston bus station.  At the time it was the biggest bus station in Europe and one of the few things I can remember is knowing that I could keep walking around because I'd never remember whether I had been somewhere or not and the helpless feeling that went with it.  Looking back it's one of my most vivid memories.  Yet I have no idea why I was in Preston.

I couldn't go home.  My mother was a big part of the problem.  I didn't have anyone to advocate for me at the university.  I didn't know what choices were possible.  I spent some time in the University Health Centre (again, I'm a little hazy on the details) but the stalker I picked up made it impossible to stay there.  I wasn't offered any medical treatments and I was unable to make it to the counselling that was arranged because it was too complicated for me.  So I got a part time job in a supermarket and sort of got on with things. 

Antidepressants have helped me in the past but the anxiety I'm suffering from at the moment makes it impossible for me to swallow tablets.  I don't want to discourage anyone else from trying counselling but it didn't work for me.  I'm very good at saying the right things and then utterly failing to manage.  My main support network is on here.  At the moment I can keep bear clean and warm and fed (and I fight his corner for school and all the extras) and DH always has dinner and a clean shirt, but I am getting able to do less and less. 

So today I'm making a conscious decision.  Today is the day I start to pull myself together.  I am really not recommending anyone trying it, and to be honest, I'm not sure where to start, but I'm starting.

Step One - post something positive on here every day. 
Step Two - I'm working on step two, but I'll share when I know. 

Today's positive - the kitchen, dining room and walk in cupboard look like they are in the middle of an explosion but while I've been clearing I've found enough old towels to mop up the defrosting freezer - new freezer tomorrow!!!

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

More Nothing of Much

If you look in the comments on the last post you will see the issues Eloise is having with the snow.  In fact, the comments on the last few posts reflect how different it is across the blog community.  Margie in Toronto is having far more snow and far fewer problems.  Eloise and Jake's a Girl are having a lot of issues with unfamiliar weather.  We had rain.  There are times when I really count my blessings.

I have not yet replaced bear's gloves.  The last few pairs (yes, I know) have been quite padded.  Bear claims, with mingled innocence and indignation, that it can't possibly be his fault, they just fall out of his pockets.  As he usually takes less than five minutes to go between school and home, plays football relentlessly at breaks and it isn't that cold here, perhaps a few days with cold hands will focus his attention.  I'll look for thinner gloves next time. 

Today was difficult for me, as I went out of the house.  It was incredibly hard.  I am starting to get really worried.  Still, I made it to the bus stop and chose to get a bus that meant I needed to do more.  When I got to Leeds I looked in Home Sense for candles.  There wasn't many nice candles.  I suspect that they don't get many overstock candles at this time of year and the time I'll really score big is probably nearer March.  It was all very disappointing.  Then I got another bus out to Aldi, where I just picked up some cola and some chocolate, then home.  So I did it.  I just need to keep doing it. 

I have my last Approved Food order of the year on its way.  I think that there may then be a really possibility of the house bursting at the seams.  Like I say, I'm counting my blessings.  I have good stuff coming in a Morrisons order tomorrow, a new freezer on Friday and a stock up for the freezer on Saturday.  I'm looking forward to Christmas. 

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Weather (such as it is) continues

Yesterday I called into Matalan, to pick up a pair of gloves for bear.  I had seen the weather forecasts and I knew that he had lost his last pair so I got the next of no doubt a series.  He forgot them this morning.

Unlike a lot of the UK we are barely affected.  It's cold, it's icy and I got hit by at least six snowflakes yesterday but it's nothing to the disruption caused in other parts of the country.  While places like Canada (hi to Jean, Margie, Sharon et al over that side of the pond and subject to snow!) and Norway are dealing with banks of snow just fine, we are really struggling.  However we rarely get snow in the Midlands to the extent that has fallen, and snow is usually after Christmas.  I don't think most of the UK (with the usual exceptions) know how to deal with it so that it's a problem when it comes.  Sending out huge hugs and good vibes to all those affected by it.  Snow and ice are treacherous and even dangerous for people unused and unprepared for the conditions. 

I can consider myself blessed in that the biggest problem I have had today is that the very inexpensive scented candle I picked up was inexpensive for a reason.  The whole house smells of cheap cleaning fluid instead of the Lime and Mandarin I was promised.  I've had windows open (not all day!  I'm too nesh for that) but I still feel like I've been splashed with toilet cleaner.  I'll put out some saucers of vinegar if it doesn't fade soon.

I've put in the last Approved Food order of the year and hopefully I will soon get a very large box stuffed with treats.  I even got free shipping.  I've got the last few bits of grocery shopping and then I'm done.  If I've forgotten anything, tough.  It will have to do!

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Anticlimatic

Snow was forecast for the UK.  Around here there is very little snow.  In fact I don't remember seeing any last year at all.  However the BBC forecast snow so I made sure that I had hot chocolate in and got on with things. 

The Daily Express forecasts dreadful storms and snow every year so I ignore their weather pages.  If the BBC forecast snow, however, I usually keep an eye out.  In places like the Highlands there have been really low temperatures.  In places south of here there has been a lot of disruption caused by snow.  Places in Scotland, the Lake District and Wales get plenty of snow and know what to do.  Here in Leeds the buses faint and disappear at the first snowflake and people watch anxiously as the temperature drops.  We've had a few flakes.  It's nothing special.  There's a trace of snow on the walls and bear managed to make a snowball the size of a small grape.  Tomorrow is likely to be more hazardous, but as far as I can tell with the weather forecast (as much as you can tell!) not only are we likely to miss most of the snow but we are also likely to miss the worst of the ice which is going to cause real problems elsewhere.  I am not complaining.

Bear did manage to score some serious complaints about his glasses in the fifteen minutes before getting used to them.  He looks so serious in them.  I just hope he doesn't break them before he grows out of them. 

Friday, 8 December 2017

Bear's Christmas Play

Bear's school put on a play every Christmas.  They have done a few different once, this year it was the Lion King, and they are amazing.

One of the teachers actually writes a script in rhyming couplets.  It's absolutely tailored to insult the area and all of the teachers.  There are dance numbers, lots of songs and some of the kids sing solo and dance solo.  This year I really appreciated how amazing the school is as they put on a performance with 10 and 11 year olds, dancing, singing, almost acting and following all sorts of different cues.  They were also in costumes.

Bear only had a few lines (every kid had a few lines) but he was dancing away with more than a reasonable amount of elbow flying around.  I swear his arms looked like bits of broomstick connected with elastic bands.  He also started a shoving match with the lad next to him during one of the numbers and nearly ended up pushed off stage.  Neither DH nor I had the will to challenge him on that but we were very limp when it came to sympathy. 

Also we have had to pay out a lump of money because when we woke up this morning, one of the downpipes from the guttering had snapped in two and was completely away from the wall.  I managed to get someone to come out, quote, and fix it this afternoon for an extortionate amount before the builders and roofers were overbooked by people affected by the current storm.  I'm not exactly sure how it happened, but there is often someone lurking at the corner by the drainpipe.  I usually notice a shadow as someone disappears a step or two back, I've no idea who they are or what they are doing, but I suspect the wind more than any phantom lurkers and so far they've been okay.  Besides, they smoke and a hand with a cigarette disappearing into the shadows lends a sort of film noir air to a rather dull terrace.   

Monday, 4 December 2017

Boys will be Boys

Bear's pal came round tonight.  I fuelled them up and left them to get on with it, just as I usually do, but not before giving bear's pal a joking complaint that in this weather, around 7 celsius or around 45 Fahrenheit, he thought it was a good idea to wander through the streets in just a short sleeved shirt. 

I mentioned the concept of jackets and sweaters as bear and he chuckled, and obviously he took no notice of me.  He's two years older than bear and already looking like a teenager.  I know that nothing either me or his mother could say would convince him to wear anything more than a short sleeved shirt in quite cold weather.  I know it's not cold cold but it's not warm either.

Bear is far worse than his pal.  Sweaters and shirts get dropped wherever he sees fit as he just sheds as he goes.  I have spent most of his life putting blankets back on him, insisting on a coat, insisting on a jacket or insisting he at least puts a t-shirt on.  He does not feel the cold. 

Lucky him!  I feel the cold to a ridiculous degree.  I huddle down with blankets and sweaters while bear looks at me in bewilderment and takes off his vest.  He sometimes snuggles under blankets, but it's more for the cuddles than anything to do with temperature.  I can see that I will spend around half of his teenage years trying to get him to wrap up. 

In other words, it looks like bear will be a perfectly normal teenage boy.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Bear Needs Glasses

Well, he just about needs glasses.  And he really only needs them for close up reading and/or writing.  The Optician thinks he may have even outgrown that within a year or two.  His long sight is excellent. 

Bear didn't take it well.  He did not want to wear glasses, it wasn't fair.  However he kept grumbling about pain in the eyes then he started complaining that he didn't have the glasses right now and that it wasn't fair. 

Then he spent today doing dot to dots and colouring in pictures and complaining about eye strain.  Apparently his teacher uses colouring pictures as a way of teaching mindfulness.  I'm all for it.  I hope to be able to pick up one or two books inexpensively over the next week or so for Christmas.

I won't be going out tomorrow.  I'm waiting on the tv, which I have been doing since @ 27 November.  It arrived yesterday but with a smashed screen.  Tomorrow someone is picking it up and someone else is delivering the new one, which will be encased in yet more cardboard.  Cardboard is taking over the house.  I'm really looking forward to the first week in January when I can finally get rid of all the boxes! 

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Doing the Right Thing

I have been trying to write The Prince and the Paladin for over ten years, since long before I published The Forgotten Village.  In fact, I used concepts in The Forgotten Village that I had been kicking around for a while.  I must have written a dozen starts to it.  Currently I'm just over 16,000 words into the current version - around a quarter if it is the same length as The Forgotten Village and I've managed that since Wednesday.  I've just dropped a character and suddenly everything is rattling out.  I may get back to the White Hart before you know it.

I've also, coincidentally, added a new character.  I'd noticed that back in the trade directory of the 1790s was a widow who was listed as an apothecary.  A few years later a 'chemist and druggist' with the same surname but male was listed as a 'chemist and druggist' and, at one point, 'East India Company Agent' was listed in Briggate.  I've rattled through some of the trade directories in Leeds Library for the nineteenth century and there's been a chemist under that name for most of the century and a lot further on.  They moved shops a few times and seemed to have had branches in other places.  The name, which is quite unusual, is still extant in Leeds.  I don't know if the person I found on Facebook is descended from the widow selling medicines back in the 1790s, but I can't risk it.  I'm going to have to find a different name that is a lot less distinctive.  I can't make someone's grandfather or great grandfather randomly into a vampire, no matter how interesting the story sounds.  I'll play around with names and details.  It's the right thing to do.  I don't want to, though.  The name was awesome and perfect for an early nineteenth century vampire.  I'll never manage to make up something with the same ring to it.  Darn it to heck. 

On another note, in their infinite wisdom Leeds City Council have decided that the Central Library only needs one, single stall, gender neutral toilet and one disabled toilet.  The queue was horrendous.

And I have to share a gem I found as I leafed through some of the directories I found this gem in the 1857-58 directory.  Henry Elam, Human Mechanician, provided Elastic Spring Uterus Supporters and 'Machines for the Deformity of the Human Form' from his shop at 34, Beast Market, Huddersfield.

Just to prove I left the house, a picture of the exit from Leeds Library that I took today


It makes me feel like a proper writer when I do research in a building with stonework like that.  I have to go back for some further research and I'll take some more photos of the good bits. 

Friday, 1 December 2017

Tomato Soup

Morrisons online shopping are sneaky.  As you are checking out they have what they call 'flash sales' or stuff that is radically marked down.  Sometimes they are worth it, sometimes they are not and you have to keep a close eye on what you get.  I spotted this


It was £1.74 instead of £4 so I thought I would give it a go.  That is a pic of the actual box that I received, and you can see how fresh the tomatoes were.  In fact, all the veg was good quality.  You recieved around a pound of tomatoes, three fat cloves of garlic, a single small carrot, fresh thyme, an onion, two stock cubes (shaped like Knorr, and according to the ingredients they are gluten free) and a small tin of tomato puree.  You soften the onion, garlic and carrot in a tablespoon of oil (supplied by you), then add the tomato puree and the fresh thyme and then the quartered and cored tomatoes with 750ml of water (supplied by you).  You then simmer for 15 minutes and then blend with a stick blender.  It tasted gorgeous! DH and I practically inhaled it.  Bear had eaten earlier with his pal from school and I regret not saving him a taste.  I am definitely using the recipe again.  I may even buy the boxed kit.  Otherwise I will keep my eye out for good deals on top quality tomatoes, because it really is the ingredients that make the difference.

There was a small downside.  I haven't used fresh garlic for a while and I got a little over-enthusiastic with the garlic press.  A squirt of garlic ended up in a cardboard box full of Christmas goodies.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed that modern packaging can deal with it and dealing with that tomorrow, I'm far too full to manage it now.  The recipe says it is for 4-6 and it would, for a starter and possibly a nice main with some bread and a solid dessert.  DH and I finished most of it off and we are stuffed but it was so pleasant!

Due to a weird shake of circumstances we won't be able to try out the other box I got until the day after tomorrow.  This time I paid full price for £4. 


There is onion, sweet red pepper, aubergine, courgette, couscous (I'll have to swap that out with gluten free couscous), dried fruit and spices.  I need to suppy 300g of minced beef.  I'm keeping all crossed that the veggies will be okay as they were delivered yesterday and we will be eating it on Sunday.  I'll let you know how that eats. 

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Feeling Miscellaneous

A while ago I posted that I got a voucher for free roast potatoes.  Tonight we tried them.  The serving suggestion gave cooking time for 500g of potatoes.  There are 800g of potatoes in the bag.  I just bunged some in the hot over.  For those interested, they are McCains

DH enjoyed them so much that they are going to be part of Christmas dinner.  They were lovely and crisp on the outside and pleasantly fluffy on the inside but they were very heavy on the fat.  

Then there is the whole issue of bear's school shoes.  They are battered and extremely worn.  He has had them since September, and he plays football at most break times.  They still fit him, probably just about and because the leather has moulded itself to his feet.  He really needs new shoes.  If they pinched or had holes in, I wouldn't hesitate but they are almost okay.  If I spend over £40 getting him the good school shoes next week he will grow out of them in days, I know it.  I don't know if I could bring myself to buy cheaper shoes, and I guarantee that if I pick up some less expensive school shoes from Matalan then he will be in them for months and months and I will worry about his feet. He is a lot better than he was yesterday, so it looks like he just had a bad cold.  He's still not eating much, but I'm sure he'll pick up soon.  

I also remembered to look up Spirits of Salts.  I found this Wiki entry after getting my Approved Food delivery complete with a bottle of the stuff.  It's hydrochloric acid.  I am not sure I'm safe with anything stronger than vinegar.  I think it was Mrs Beeton or someone similar who recommended spirits of salts for getting stains out of tablecloths.  I'm sure it would get rid of the stain - and possibly the tablecloth as well!  I read the article but I didn't really understand it, although according to one of the references, it was recommended for household cleaning in the Telegraph in 2003 and you can buy bottles of it on Amazon, for a much greater price than I managed to get at Approved Food.  I officially have a bargain I'm scared of.

Mind you, according to this source, the White House Cookbook of 1887 recommended using chloroform for getting stains out of tablecloths.  My search history doesn't bare looking at.  Now I've found that the website 'Vintage Recipes' exists I intend to enjoy it.  If I try any, I'll share the result.  

Monday, 27 November 2017

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

I thought my mother's family was mainly Welsh with a dash of Cornish and Breton.  Apparently I am only slightly correct.  I was talking to my brother and apparently I underestimated my mother's family.  My father's family have been happily settled around Crewe, the Wirral and the Northwest in general for as long as you like.  My father had that clicky thing in his fingers that usually means Scandinavian ancestry and the Wirral was settled by Vikings centuries ago.  My mother's family, however, have been a lot more adventurous.  According to my brother, who has been researching the family tree, they were well travelled even before the start of the railways.  They've popped up in Plymouth, Ipswich, St Malo, over to Dorset, back to Suffolk and all over North Wales.  He says it's quite a challenge tracking them down with all the changes between the different census. 

I have a theory about this, based on my own observations and the stories of my grandmother and my great aunts.  I think that families travelled unreasonable distance to get away from their mothers-in-law.  My great-grandfather was a sea captain.  He used to be away for three years at a time, come home, move house (probably to get away from the recently moved mother-in-law who was notorious), get his wife pregnant and be off again.  My father contemplated moving to the Falklands Islands (which according to Google is nearly 8000 miles) and my grandmother was a much better than a lot of my ancestry.

It wasn't just in-laws, however.  It was accepted in my family that the safe minimum distance between myself and my late mother was 100 miles.  Any nearer and it got vicious.  She was lovely to DH but the invention of the telephone meant that 100 miles was a little on the near side for me.  She never saw bear as she passed a few years before he was born.  She would have indulged him shamelessly (you should have seen how she spoiled the cats!) but I wouldn't have had a lick of peace.  The hard part about it is that while I can put a lot of my mental health problems directly down to her, I know that she did her best under often difficult circumstances.  It makes me very aware that I can get things wrong with bear.  There are times when I fail with bear and I think that I should not judge my mother too harshly.  Then there are times when I talk about something that I thought was normal in my childhood and I register the shock on DH's face and realise that perhaps I need to not mention that again in front of bear.  I just keep trying to keep the love going and hope it will turn out okay.

As for bear, he is much better.  He's still a little croaky but he's fine in himself.  I am much relieved. 

Sunday, 26 November 2017

I'm a Day Behind

Yesterday I posted about bear buying a fountain pen on Friday (he's on his third cartridge - Witch Hazel, he will find an assortment of coloured in his stocking, including purple and brown!).  Today I will post about what happened yesterday - the Church Fair.

There was a fair amount of people being lovely there.  I always feel like I can't quite live up to some of the ladies.  They really are amazing.  We all know that Church Fairs, along with Village Fetes and School Fairs, can be hotbeds of bitterness and feuding which involve abiding rifts over who got which table cloth and who was promised the extra table.  There was a complete lack of that.  I hadn't been there for the planning so I just told them to put me down for anything they needed.  That's how I came to run the Bran Tub last year, and this year I was pencilled in to run the 'match a card to win a prize' stall.  However, as is common in these situations, there was a last minute change of plans and I was suddenly down for the Teddy Tombola.  After seeing how the 'planning' goes here, I didn't even break step.  All I can say is that they are the loveliest bunch of people who ever were in need of a proper chair, an agenda and a forceful character. 

I was glad to get back home.  Bear is poorly.  He's got a vicious sore throat, has had an upset tummy and is losing his voice.  He's not really himself today, either, and has spent all weekend in a onesie, coughing and sneezing with occasional croaks as he carries on filling up the expensive notepad with actually legible handwriting!  I keep checking his eyes.  He's complaining of pains behind his eyes, which to me could mean sinus pain or eye strain.  However there is an outbreak of measles currently in Leeds.  Bear was sent home with a Letter from Leeds City Council which laid out all the symptoms of of measles, and bear has all of them except red eyes and a rash.  As the early symptoms of measles without the red eyes and rash are basically the symptoms of a bad cold/flu I'm know that it's probably a bad cold.  Bear has had the MMR and there is no known measles contact.  Of course I find myself worrying. 

Bear is feeling low but after my refusal to spend any more on him, DH and I let him use his own pocket money to buy a computer game.  It involves cars.  I don't know anything about cars, but I suspect I may be about to learn.  Actually, it was quite nice.  We sat watching a video of one of those 3D artists while his programme loaded, chatting and admiring and it was wonderfully snug. 

Saturday, 25 November 2017

I'm Learning About Fountain Pens


I don't actually want to learn about fountain pens.  I tried them when I was younger and it didn't end well.  The main ink in those days did not wash out easily, if at all.  Apparently you can get washable ink these days.  I shall believe it when I see it.  That will probably be quite soon.

Bear somehow found himself watching a YouTube video about someone writing with fountain pens.  They were knowledgeable, articulate and were able to throw in enough jargon and then explain it to completely hook bear's attention.  He came home from school yesterday and asked carefully, 'Do they sell fountain pens in England?'  I told him that, yes, fountain pens were available in England.  'Do they sell them in Leeds?' he asked with equal care.  Yes, I said, there are plenty of places in Leeds where you can buy fountain pens.  'Great,' he says.  'We can go now.'

My instinctive reaction was to tell him that anything like a fountain pen was not going to happen this close to Christmas and his birthday and he would have to wait.  On the other hand, I can only get bear to leave the house under extreme duress or to play football on Tuesday evenings.  He was volunteering to get out of the house!  I got my coat and out we went.

We called in at Rymans, in the Merrion Centre and a wonderful assistant helped us find an inexpensive pen, ink cartridges (apparently there are international standard cartridges, who knew?) and some expensive paper that was slightly heavier weight than standard.  Bear explained that it had to be greater than 80gsm for the best writing experience and to avoid 'bleed through'.  I was just glad he was in an actual shop so he got away with it.  Further supplies may come out of his pocket money.

Bear has had a lot of issues with writing.  It is one of the constants of his parents' evenings.  Bear is awesome but his handwriting is like the footprints of a drunken ant that has fallen into an inkwell and hit its head on the way out.  It is very hit and miss, and it gives him blisters.  However in the twenty four hours that bear has owned a fountain pen he has filled page after expensive page with legible handwriting, I think he is half way down his second ink cartridge and he doesn't have blisters.  I'm happy to encourage the fountain pen, especially if I can find a good source for the paper. 

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Free Knitting Patterns

Marriners Yarns are doing free knitting patters for Black Friday here.  I am going to indulge myself.  I've had a couple of patterns from there which have been okay.  I find the yarn from there inexpensive and pleasant to knit with and their customer service is great.  They are an old British firm that started (according to their website) in 1784 and they are currently based in Cardiff.  

I really like their yarn, but I don't think that they are awesome at naming their colours.  For example, this...



,,, is the yarn and colour I am currently using for a shawl for a friend.  It's a pleasure to knit with, the colours are lovely and the shading is amazing.  The knitted fabric is snuggly, warm and drapes incredibly well.  I shall definitely get it again.  It's called 'Rockpool'.  I may have had a sheltered life but I've never seen a purple rockpool.  I'll post when the shawl is finished.  

I'm on here because I'm avoiding clearing out the walk in cupboard.  It needs to be done because next month I am definitely getting a new freezer and I need to be able to get the old one out and the new one in and also any day now our new tv will arrive and I want to rearrange the dining room before it's all swapped around and at the moment it's filled with rubbish, junk, boxes, barely concealed Christmas presents and ironing.  I found some old mini bath bombs that I got in for the bran tub at church last year and tried putting them down the toilet.  I suppose it was a worthwhile experiment but bathbombs do not clean toilets and I now have a toilet brush clogged up with leathery rose petals.  

I had better get going as I have already received a large Approved Food delivery and packaging and cheap goodies are already strewn everywhere and I am losing what is left of my sanity.  Just want to say that I really appreciate the comments, and I am definitely using Carol's suggestions on my steps.  I can't tell you how much I appreciate the help that I get from the lovely people that stop by.  

Gas? What Gas?

Apparently, when Scottish Power put in the smart meter on the gas in our house they forgot to tell their computers about it.  And, due to automation, no-one seemed to find it odd that we had a smart meter for electric and estimated readings for gas.  So I spent half the morning on hold and the other half trying the patience of someone really lovely while working out exactly what bit of the sticker I was supposed to be reading to them, while bending in an awkward corner (whoever installed the meter must have hated meter readers) and waving a torch around.  Now they know we have gas.  I am braced to see what comes up, but they seem to think that I have used less than estimated so I shouldn't get hit by a large bill.  Back in the early nineties we ended up with a lot of estimated bills for gas when they didn't realise that gas central heating had been installed and their estimates were so wildly low that when it all caught up we found ourselves with a bill for over £700.  I'm taking nothing for granted until it's all sorted out.

Shopping continues.  I have a weakness for tinned beans and sausage.  It's not exactly healthy, but it could be worse.  It's gluten free, it's quick, it's easy and, most importantly, bear and his pals will all eat it for lunch, even the fussy ones. 


Currently it's on offer at Morrisons for 5 for £3 or 60p each instead of £1.05.  I stocked up.  However there is barely room in my cupboards.  I also have a small stock of Heinz tomato soup, tinned tomatoes and lots of tinned chickpeas and kidney beans.  I can barely move.  I have also started stocking up the Christmas treats.  Heaps are starting to form.  In addition I invested in a Morrisons Wonky Veg box which seems good value for money but is also adding to the congestion. 

Meanwhile boxes keep arriving and I can't move for cardboard.  Until DH takes the old piano stool (which is not salvageable) to the tip, it is stuck in the middle of our living room, blocking the flow of traffic and getting in the way.  I am feeling overwhelmed. 

I also have a massive Approved Food order on the way.  Memo to self - do not order from Approved Food while under the influence of alcohol.  It never ends well.  I've got some good stuff coming, and a lot of it will be stashed for Christmas, but I have also bought a bottle of spirits of salts.  I am not exactly sure what spirits of salts are but I think I've seen reference to them in books of Victorian household hints.  Apparently it's good for drains.  I'm not sure I'm safe with it.

I can't use it on the steps down to the kitchen.  They are looking very green and are getting slippery when it rains, which they do at this time every year.  However I saw a toad crawl into the cupboard under the steps so the normal method of 'wait until it rains and douse everything liberally with bleach' isn't going to happen.  I suppose I can try scrubbing with some soapy water, but I'm not sure how the toad would take that.  I'll have to consider my options. 

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Bear versus the Piano

I started bear on piano lessons out of desperation.  Bear was rattling through his lessons and it was all far too easy.  I thought that with the piano he would have to at least practice.  Since then we have gone through two piano teachers and a lot of nervous exhaustion on my part. There have been the most spectacular arguments between bear and I over piano practice.  I have been at my wits end.  At times bear will be thrilled to show off his latest piece but when it comes to practicing he is an utter nightmare.  A few weeks ago I said that we were cancelling the piano lessons.  I was on my knees.  Bear looked devastated and wanted to continue.  Lessons continue.  So does the wear and tear on my nerves.

I was thrilled that he was carrying on, of course, but I was a little sad that I wouldn't be reclaiming the corner of the room currently occupied by the piano and I have just spent £27 on a new piano stool before the old one collapsed.  Then there is the issue of the piano.  It was 'free to good home' and while we had to pay for the transport of it, we didn't need to pay for the actual instrument or stool.   It sort of needs tuning, in that the piano is playing four notes lower than it should but all the notes are four notes lower so it's in tune with itself.  When we consulted a piano tuner they pointed out that the piano was old, unbranded and that once we started fiddling with its knobs it was likely to start failing.  I'm going to need to get another 'new to us' piano.  There's no rush but it's on the list. 

Meanwhile the new piano stool arrived.  Bear took it out of the box, looked at the instructions and put it together.  I didn't give him any help at all, he just cracked on and now we have a new piano stool which bear is currently using as he does terrible things to the first few bars of the Blue Danube.  I can't tell you how proud I am of him.  It may have only been sorting out a few bolts, but he just did it without fuss or fretting despite not doing anything like that before.   He is really growing up - easy self assembly furniture at ten years old, who knows where he'll be next year!

Monday, 20 November 2017

Still Shopping

I've succumbed to one or two things on the Amazon Black Friday sale (that started incredibly early).  I picked up an iron for when I break the current iron.  They have a very short life expectancy here.  I also picked up some silicon cooking utensils, which I was already shopping for, and a microfibre towel that I've been tempted by for a while.  There haven't really been other deals that appealed.  I picked up a few other bits at the same time that weren't part of the Black Friday Sale but were good enough prices. 

The house seems to be awash with cardboard and padded envelopes.  I think that the house feels constipated, all bunged up, as boxes from The Works (they had a great cashback deal last week), The Book People (of course!), and sundry eBay sellers lurk in every corner and block up access to cupboards.  The stash for Christmas and bear's birthday is growing.  I have completely lost track, as usual, but I am confident that bear will not be going short. 

When it comes to the actual Black Friday, I am very wary.  I know enough of the prices to know that a lot of the deals are not really deals but just about the usual price.  You really have to have your wits about you to just break even.  It doesn't stop me looking, of course.

I am determined that in the next month we are getting a new freezer.  I've not seen any 'must get this now!' deals yet, but I'm keeping my eyes open.  We also need a new TV.  The one in the dining room has stopped working.  Fortunately DH really does know what he's talking about when it comes to televisions so I can ask him whether it's a good deal or not worth it for the brand.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Questions from Bear

Sarah - that is an awesome video and I found it really helpful.  Thank you. 

Also, thank you to all the kind wishes, I don't feel I deserve them, but I am very grateful.

I'm sorry I've been missing.  It's a very long and dull story.  However I thought I would get back to business with a question that bear asked me last week.

Apparently the school were 'doing Christianity' in RE last week and bear came home and announced he wanted to read the Bible.  I was mildly surprised. I am a Christian (not a good one, but I do my best) but bear has had quite a secular upbringing and I am as careful as I can not to disparage any other religions.  I dig out a New Living Translation Bible and leave bear to it.

Bear reads through Genesis.  I make approving noises but don't push.  He starts on Exodus.  I continue to make approving noises but I am bracing myself to deal with some of the questions about the laws.  I mention very clearly that the sacrifice of Jesus has freed us from the Law of the Old Testament and keep everything crossed that I can keep up.  Then one night bear comes down and carefully asks, 'Mum, what's circumcision?'

I explain to the best of my ability.  We both have full body cringes.  He goes back to bed.  He hasn't mentioned reading the Bible since and I know I should be sorry but I'm also incredibly relieved.  I hope that this hasn't given bear a distaste for Christianity.  I am also quite glad that bear thinks that it's okay to ask me questions.  I just hope that the next questions are about something easier, like land tenure in the Danelaw or the legal foundations of the Agricultural Revolution.  I'd find them a lot easier.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Bear is Sensible

Last night bear and DH went outside to set off fireworks.  Both are very cautious and risk averse and I felt happy to let them go out and enjoy being Men and Doing Men Things and Explosions.  They had a blast, literally. 

DH took the cue from father.  Father was in the Royal Engineers.  They were sent to Egypt in the 1950s to blow up the arms dumps left by Rommel in WWII.  He said it was great fun.  They started off learning how to up tree trunks and worked up.  He had some training in bomb disposal (not like they do nowadays) and a can-do attitude to all sorts of mechanical and electrical stuff.  He treated fireworks with extreme caution. 

I'm glad when Bonfire Night is over, for the sake of the pets.  We are not affected now, but I remember the cats reactions.  Psycho cat was a complete wreck.  Malevolent cat suffered with stoic disapproval.  Evil cat used to enjoy watching fireworks out of the window.  I miss having cat stories. 

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Stealth Voucher

I'm the person who got a Christmas Card from the local Tesco Online Delivery people last year.  I'm really into Tesco.  Obviously I also dabble in Morrisons (nearly £40 in More points but I got a load of those through deals) and Sainsburys (I'm ignoring their coupons until I'm ready to spend £90), but Tesco is my main love.

So I am tootling around the site for today's order and up popped a link - 'Add this code for free McCains Roast Potatoes'.  I added the code and got the free roast potatoes which happen to be gluten free, so a win for me.  The offer ends tomorrow, 5 November 2017, if you're interested and getting an order tomorrow anyway.

I've been rummaging around on the Tesco site and I didn't find any other vouchers, but I'm going off to have a real look around the internet.  I wonder how many of these deals are lurking around.  btw while I was working I saw a good deal on baby wipes which was almost as good as the one I got from Approved Food and it's a shame I bought a year's worth.  I'll share if I find anything out of the ordinary. 

Also btw, for those who are interested, reddit has 'Tales from Tech Support' and one of their regular contributors is someone who mends sewing machines and has a lot of crazy tales.  I'm fascinated by the whole thing.  The link is here, I particularly like the one with the teddy bear and I am totally going to use the idea. 

Thinking Freezers

I need a new freezer.  I have been writing on this blog about my need for a new freezer for easily over a year.  I am definitely going for it at the end of the month. 

I am so looking forward to getting a space where I feel I can put frozen food in and feel confident about eating it when it comes out.  However, lack of confidence in frozen food isn't new.  I fail at freezing.  If I ever try to freeze soup or similar, I never have the confidence to use it later.  Or I look at it and think, 'meh, can't be bothered'.  Or it gets shoved in the back until the next time I come to defrost the freezer and I realise it's been in there for so long that it thinks bear is still a baby. 

I still need a freezer, but I'm not sure I need a big freezer.  The current model is a big upright freezer.  It's great for someone who freezes the bargains they find or who freezes stuff from the garden or who batch cooks and freezes.  I have never successfully batch cooked and I'm not going to try and fool myself that I will in the future. 

I am seriously considering going for a smaller freezer.  It will cost less as an initial investment and there is less chance of things being lost in there never to see light again.  It will reduce the chances of me having six different bags of frozen peas, all open and half used.  It will limit my ability to freeze bargains but the only time I can think it would make a difference for me is the once a year gluten free sale at Tesco as their gluten free chicken nuggets are really, really nice.  But all the money saving places say that I need a big freezer to save money. 

Bear is fine.  The thump with the football seems to have worn off quickly.  He his now looking with interest at the packages that are starting to pile up ready for Christmas.  I don't want to even think about how much I'm spending on him.  However I think I've got all the big presents sorted out. 

Monday, 30 October 2017

Poor Bear

Bear is fine now, but I got a call from school at lunch time today saying could I come and check out bear.  He had been hit in the side of the head with a football kicked at full force.  Bear did have a tremendously red and swollen ear (now almost back to normal) and he complained of ringing in his ears and a pain behind his eye (now gone).  I brought him home.

So bear had an easy afternoon, and there's no sign of anything off.  He polished off dinner without much trouble and is now winding down for sleep.

I managed to get out today.  I was determined to get into town.  The Knit and Natter needed a particular type of wool and I thought I'd try and pick some up, and bear has decided he felt much better with almond milk.  It's also easier on DH.  And I made it.  It would have been easier if the buses had turned up.  I spent ages hanging around, but I got in and I came home, so I consider it a win. 

There's always a bright side.  I have a £9 coupon if I spend £90 at Sainsburys.  I was thinking I wouldn't manage to make the total this week, but the iron started playing games tonight.  I just about rescued bear's school shirt.  I suspect the heat setting is broken as it just got hotter and hotter and hotter.  So it looks like a delivery that includes a new iron.  I'll see how it works out. 

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Bear Likes Halloween

DH has carved a pumpkin successfully (there is a face and no fingers were lost during the process).  Also bear tried on Halloween makeup...


He's actually quite a good looking lad underneath that! 

The next challenge is to get all the make up off him before school tomorrow. 

Saturday, 28 October 2017

I got out of the house

Today I helped at the church's table top sale, selling donated kids' clothes.  It was okay.  I sold a little, chatted a lot and generally had a good time. 

I feel like I am being chased around by kids clothes.  First there was a donation through the facebook I do for them, then there was the stalls, then more and more of the stuff keeps appearing!  I sorted a load out last Monday but when I turned up this morning there were two extra boxes and an extra bag.  I couldn't get it all out and it spilled out over two tables.  Some of it was gorgeous and some of it was less so but it was all given with love and that is what matters. I was going frantic trying to set up.

I couldn't do much yesterday when the rest was set up as bear had a pal around and I couldn't leave them.  They were busy hanging out and talking rubbish - almost like grown men!  I've seen exactly the same sort of wandering, irrelevant, subject changing discussions in bars.  You know the sort of thing, where the discussion goes from someone at football to something to do with travel on to something to do with cats. 

Then my brother and his partner came round and we had a time hanging out and chatting.  It was good to see him. 

Tomorrow pumpkin carving is supposed to happen.  I have reservations and plan to put down a lot of oil cloth and newspaper. 

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Serious Shopping Fail

There has been a significant shopping FAIL.  I can't believe I'm getting it so wrong.

It started on Sunday.  I wanted some bits for the week as it's Half Term and bear is at home.  I also was running short on the Sainsbury's flavoured water that bear and DH like, so I got a Sainsburys order, with added stockpot that took the total to just over £90.  Then I found that I was short of other things and that I was almost out of the Tesco shandy that DH likes chilled with dinner (I never run out of things, so this shows I wasn't with it!) so I got a Tesco order on Tuesday for just over £60.  Wednesday a very significant Approved Food order arrived and that was a hit to the bank account, I don't want to even type how much except it will set me up with wipes for at least the next year at a very reasonable price and the treats that came will keep us going for a while.  Today, Thursday, a Morrisons order came because there was an extra 5,000 points (£5 on the More card) if I ordered this week so I chose Morrisons but I would have had an order from somewhere anyway as I was picking up treats and fresh goodies as a friend of bear's is coming tomorrow and that was another order just over £40. 

My brother and his partner are visiting on Saturday and I promised to get some bits in.  We can have a sort of buffet type thing with some Halloween decorations up and a pumpkin.  The last two times our schedules have properly aligned have been last Christmas when we were supposed to visit them but the car battery died and this summer when we had the car crash.  I am cringing as I type this, but it means I'll be getting another order in on Saturday, and it's probably going to be Tesco as my Morrison Delivery saver doesn't work on a Saturday and Tesco are doing a promotion that ends 5 Nov where if you spend over £60 you get a coupon for 10p off per litre of fuel at a Tesco petrol station, which is no good for DH but my brother drives past a Tesco petrol station and it seems a shame not to take advantage if I can justify spending more than £60.

Then some time between 29 Oct and 4 Nov I should put another Sainsburys order in as if I spend £90 then I get £9 off and I suppose I can stock up a little more for Christmas.  Or I can not bother at all. 

Speaking of Sainsburys - apparently they do a Double Nectar Points event.  You have to go to a Sainsburys store between certain dates then you can get a voucher worth double the amount of Nectar points so if you have £5 of Nectar Points then you can get a voucher worth £10, maximum amount of points is £20, doubling to £40 and only certain categories are allowed.  These categories include Lego Dimensions and Skylanders - Ricky at Skint Dad has all the details, the Sainsburys version which isn't so well written is here.  Bear is very keen on lego and Skylanders at the moment. 

I just need to sit on my hands for November and avoid paying out anything more!

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Showing Off

wherethejourneytakesme - I can't resist showing off.  I self published Dinner at Dark last year. 

Important - anyone can self publish.  You just need to have an internet connection and a little time to work out the formatting.  You can self publish a shopping list.  I didn't use outside editors or anything like that but I did get my book cover from designer Melissa Alvarez.  Even though I didn't use outside editors, I do think I managed to do okay with grammar and spelling (please let no-one point out really obvious mistakes...again!)

The intro I use is

How would Martha Stewart deal with a dinner party where two of the guests were vampires, four of the guests were werewolves, one guest was completely unaware of this and one was a housekeeper with very high standards? What happens when you buy Holy Water from the Internet? When eight guests are trapped in the rugged British Pennines, the dinner party at Darke Manor takes an unexpected turn.

and I don't exactly know where you are in God's Own County but I set the story above Hebden Bridge during the awful floods.  It's not gory - I get scared too easily! - but there is some horror and some humour and I hope it's not too obvious.  I like to think it's very British, but I can't always tell. 

I strongly believe that if you really want to write a book then you can.  It may not be popular and it may not make money (mine don't), but I found a wonderful satisfaction in writing the story.  If you want to write, go for it!  Alan Moore said that you become a writer by the act of writing.  If all you ever do is enjoy working on the story then it's completely worth it! 

Now I'll step back from showing off back to business as usual.  If you do dip in  I hope you enjoy it.(important I never mind if anyone doesn't want to read my stuff, I'd rather just 'chat' passing through and keep friendship than you feel obligated)

Half Way Through Half Term

Bear went to a pal's birthday party today and I tried plantain for the first time and loved it.

there is still a significant fly problem despite the cider vinegar and washing up liquid traps.  The air is thicker than I like.  Tomorrow I need to take the kitchen apart.  This is likely to be more possible as I've written @ 600 words since I got back from bear's pal's party at 5pm and if I manage another 1500 words I think the kitchen will be sparkling.  I hope so - I've a very large pumpkin and a pumpkin carving kit.

wherethejourneytakesme I remember trying to decipher legal handwriting.  Those who worked on the Rossetta Stone had it easy in comparison!

As I mentioned, I did have a fly problem as part of the plot of Dinner at Dark and I admit I enjoyed writing it far too much.  If anyone is interested, if you click on the above link it will take you to Smashwords.  Smashwords is a place for self-published authors and there are some awesome writers there.  If you are interested you can use Smashwords coupon WS52Q and get Dinner at Dark free.  The coupon is good until December 31 2017 and I hope you can enjoy it. 



In other news, bear has decided that he wants to learn to touch type.  I had a quick google, checked out some reviews and bear started learning with Typing Club.  It's quite good, and the basic version is free.  I'm going through the course at the same time as bear, partly because although I've been touch typing for twenty years, I'm self taught and I'd like to improve my speed, and partly because I want to keep up with what bear is up to.  He's having a great time, and I'm finding it curiously soothing.  I can't wait to see bear's essay on 'what I did in the holidays'.   

Monday, 23 October 2017

Fail Costs me Money

I've had another fail getting out of the house.  I just can't do it.  I can do it sometimes but mainly if it involves bear.  I can do all sorts of things with him.  Today we met up with his pal and his pal's mum and sister and went to the Knit and Natter and had a great time.  It may have only been in the church at the end of the road, but it was possible.  On our way home we went around twenty yards further out and had bear's hair cut which was well overdue. 

Later in the day bear got an invite to a birthday party the day after tomorrow.  I don't have a card in.  I couldn't bring myself to go just ten minutes away (at a very moderate pace) to go into a shop to get a card.  I just couldn't get out of the house for that.

I ended up ordering a card from Amazon - not the least expensive way to buy a card!  And because the card was an 'add-on' and I needed to buy extra stuff to get the next day delivery I ended up putting some bits for Christmas on the order.  The card sort of cost me over £20!  I know that the stuff I put in the order to make it up will be great for bear at Christmas, but I really resent that a dippy fit cost me money.  At least I'll be able to get out of the house on Wednesday to drop bear off and pick him up.  Ironically the way to the pal's house is actually past the shop where I would have bought the card. 

Also the house is full of those tiny fruit flies.  Tomorrow I am going to pull the kitchen apart.  I need to revisit  'Dinner at Dark' which, despite being a novella about supernatural goings on in an isolated house, had some good advice about getting rid of fruit flies. 


I had so much fun writing it.  If I can get writing again then I'm confident I will get a lot more done!

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Hygge Happened!

As far as I can tell, this weekend hit perfect hygge. 

DH, bear and I hung out in the study.  We were all comfy, the weather outside was awful (but not as awful as some, I am grateful that we haven't been hit hard), we had nice food, talked, joked, watched stuff separately and together and generally relaxed.  Now it's Sunday evening so DH is upstairs, bear is allegedly going to sleep and I am taking this weekend as a win.

I was quite grateful as I made the application for bear's school places today and I needed all the hygge.  For those who are unfamiliar with the process of getting secondary school places, it's relatively simple.  You go online and register an account.  Then you choose five schools in the order of preference.  Then you press submit.  Then you hope to heaven you've made the right choices. 

I admit I looked through all the schools in Leeds.  It was quite depressing.  Some looked good but were distant, many were okayish or failing and near.  DH's old school has gone from being pretty awesome when he was there with lots of students reaching A levels down to a state where it is barely scraping by.  I was also saddened by how few schools got more than 50% of their pupils through a decent grade in English and Maths, the absolute basics that they will need later in life. 

On the bright side, I used my Sainsburys coupon and I included some ravens in the order.  We have a fondness for ravens in this house, or at least a healthy respect from a safe distance.  Sainsburys have been selling plastic ravens for Halloween so I used the money from the coupon for two ravens (and purchased one extra, what can I say).  I left one in the dining room and when I went in without turning the light on I really jumped.  The silhouette in the shadow was incredibly lifelike and my first reaction was 'how the heck did that get in here?'

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Sainsburys are Tempting Me

I got a booklet of coupons in the post today.  I can get up to £13 off a shop - if I spend £90! 

I don't know about that.  It's easy to spend £90, but I'm not sure I want to spend that much.  The total doesn't include alcohol either.  Also I would rather do two shops of £45 each per week rather than one of £90. 

The coupons are spread over five weeks, so it's not even worth doing one big shop and stashing a load away.  I can't use my freezer as it really is failing.  I'm trying to hold out for Black Friday (and keeping an eye on the current prices).  I can't use it to hold stuff. 

I suppose I can stock up for Christmas.  I can put aside a few nice bits and have a look at some of the presents.  I don't really need that much, though.  I think I'll have to do some seriously careful sums.  If bear is going to grammar school then I'll need to learn to drive and we will need a second car.  I can't afford to waste money.

I managed to get out today.  I had a quick look around the art gallery.  I liked some of the paintings and didn't understand the rest of them.  One thing that struck me was how dusty some of the frames looked.  I think it says something about me - I go to the art gallery and look at the frames!

I had a quick call into Aldi on the way back and then home.  Tomorrow I have to go out as I have promised to help out in the church.  It's a work in progress.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Parent's Evening

Bear had his parents' evening tonight.  He got a very good report and will be getting a reward this time. 

I don't want to take bear for granted, but there was a hint of 'same old, same old'.  For the last few years the reports have been the same - he is significantly above expected levels across the board, his behaviour is fine, his handwriting is awful and the teacher has had to google something bear has told them and found that it was right.  This year it was apparently a town in Norway.  I hadn't heard of it either.

Bear has not got a large part in the school play and is very disappointed that he only has a few lines, but I pointed out that he passed the grammar school tests and some of his pals didn't.  I had an uncomfortable encounter tonight with a mum who's son didn't and had no idea what to say. 

Bear's handwriting is a thing of wonder and has been all the way through school.  He'll produce an awful scrawl, get pulled up about it, he'll reform his writing and then it will slide into a different type of awful.  His teacher has offered to send home sheets so fingers crossed he will crack it this time.  I hope that a lot of stuff is typed in high school. 

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Bear Did It!

The letter came on Saturday.  Bear passed the grammar school exam.  Over 800 children passed the exam, around 200 passed - and bear was one of them!  I am so proud. 

This doesn't mean that bear automatically gets in.  There are a limited number of places.  Children in care, get automatic entry if they pass the test, as do those with siblings already at the school, those who live in the local area and those whose parents work at the school.  Bear doesn't fall into any of these categories.  It now depends how well he did compared with other children.  We will find out in March whether he is going there or not.

I can't tell you how proud I am.  Bear, of course, is taking it very much in his stride.  I hope his pals who sat the exam the same day pass as well. 

Friday, 13 October 2017

Darn it to Heck

I wondered where the gluten was coming from.  I knew I was having some, but I couldn't figure out where.  I have been very scratchy.  I'm not sure that I have the better deal than those who have really bad stomach reactions to gluten.  It must be horrific for them, but I feel very unclean with the amount of eczema I'm now struggling with, and of course it can take months to work through the skin.  To be fair, it looks like I haven't had much, just enough to make me feel unpleasant but not enough to mean a trip to the doctors.

It turns out that the Sainsburys version of bear's favourite hash browns, while not actually containing gluten, are manufactured using a method that involves wheat.  It serves me right for not making them from scratch.  Other brands of hash browns are fine.  Ironically they are sitting next to the Tesco Curly fries in the freezer.  While Tesco hash browns are gluten free, their curly fries aren't.  I really ought to just stick to the healthier options. 

Tomorrow I'm off on a coach trip, away for two nights.  Bear and DH are staying at home.  I've stocked up the fridge and the treat cupboard.  DH patiently explained that they were unlikely to starve in the three days and two nights that I would be away and that the kitchen was already stocked.  But, as I said, you never know.  I'm sure that they'll be fine. 

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Bear Considers Value

Bear loves to play Eurotruck.  I sort of half watch over his shoulder as he trundles his truck along from Iceland to Poland, down to Romania and across to Portugal.  He finds it soothing, and along the way has learned the relative positions of the countries of Europe and their major cities.  As the parts of the game are sometimes divided by country, he also knows whether, for example, Liege is in France or Belgium (it's in Belgium, I had to look it up). 

Bear has a comparatively inexpensive steering wheel and pedal set that plugs into the PC but told me that his experience would be greatly enhanced by an H-stick gear.  I asked him to translate and as far as I can see it's a sort of gear stick that also plugs into the PC.  I asked him how much it was.  Bear was evasive.

I had a look on eBay and Amazon and flinched.  The only thing that nearly fit bear's description was over £100 at the cheapest. apparently unavailable second hand and would still need to be used with a different type of rig which would bring the cost to over £200.  I could more or less almost possibly consider that amount for something like a tablet that he needed for school work, or perhaps a reconditioned phone to play his favourite games, but not a gaming accessory, not at 10 years old.  I suggested that he had a good think about it, and as he had a lot of pocket money saved up then perhaps he could pay for it himself. 

Bear does have a lot of pocket money saved, and one of the reasons he has a lot saved is because he strenuously resists spending it.  He thought about it for a few days and then told me that regretfully he couldn't justify getting a gear stick as it looked very complicated and he probably wouldn't get the benefit.  I was unsurprised.

He is willing to spend his own money on Lego, however.  I did try him with a large Block Tech set, which looks like Lego, is apparently Lego compatible, but is a lot less expensive, especially when the sets are half price in the Tesco toy sale.  I got a couple of absolute bargains, stashed one  and passed the other to bear to see if he could trade down. 

Bear gave the whole matter a lot of thought and decided that he would rather have less Lego than more Bloch Tech.  Apparently Block Tech just don't reach Lego's standards.  Some things, he said, are worth paying a little more for, even if it's with his own money. 

Mind you, Parents' Evening is next week.  Bear will expect a reward for a good report.  He didn't get a good enough report last year, so he will be on pins seeing if this year he gets a treat.  If he does earn a treat, I have a good idea what he'll ask for!

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Getting Ready to Snuggle

I didn't get out today. 

But I did start getting ready for the autumn nights.  I've replaced the pillows on all beds, which was overdue, and I swapped the old mattress toppers on mine and DH's beds for new ones and also swapped the duvets.  I'm going to have to get rid of my old bedding.  The sort of eczema I've had over the last few years has taken a toll.  However I'm going to take DH's bedding to get washed and I'll stash it.  It will be great for spares or, if the winter gets really cold, I'll layer the old duvets under the sheets and put extra blankets on top.  I really recommend a blanket of sorts under the bottom sheet in cold weather.  It makes a surprising difference.  

I have a very large heap of blankets anyway.  Some are those I've knitted and some have been acquired over the years.  I'm very keen on using blankets before fires this winter.  I just need to get the curtains sorted.  It's not going to be this weekend, and next weekend I hope to be away, but the weekend after I hope to hang the winter curtains which are duvet covers with heading tape sewn on and lined with fleece kept in place by fabric glue and a few stitches.  I still need to line them, but it's not that complicated (I hope!).  

I'm feeling cautiously optimistic about getting ready for winter.  The window in the junk room really needs to be replaced, and the windows in the living room and study are heading there, but otherwise the windows and doors are snug, there are plenty of blankets, the boiler is getting serviced soon and I feel that we are ready to settle in. 

Thank you for the support.  It means a great deal to me.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Bear is very Bear

I have posted before about the impossibility of keeping blankets on bear at night time.  He is a small furnace.  He is also getting older.  The teen years are looming.  This morning he was happily getting ready to go out and asked me, 'Mum, where's my coat?'.  There are only a few places that coats end up, even unofficially.  We tore the place apart.  He'd left the coat at school.

So yesterday, when it wasn't particularly warm, he'd raced home in just a shirt (he left his jumper at school as well, which is another issue) and now while I could scrape up a spare jumper, I was stuck about the coat.  Bear sighed and wore a sort of hoodie type jacket.  It was dry when he went to school, but it was wet when he came home - fortunately in his coat.

I did leave the house today, but only the few hundred yards to the doctor's where I got my flu jab.  I now feel a little achy, a little headachy, I have a sore throat and I am feeling a lot better than if I had the real flu.  I intend to take alcohol tonight and take it easy tomorrow.  I hope to go out on Friday, as the weather forecast is good, but Saturday is looking grim.

Thank you for all the supportive comments.  I honestly don't think I would have got out of the front door yesterday without them.  I really appreciate it.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

I Did It! I Got Out of the House and Found Weird Stuff

I can't believe how much of a struggle it was, but I got into town.  I managed to get out of the house.  It took two hours longer than it should have done and I felt poorly while I was out, but I did it!

I went to the Leeds City Museum.  I was unlikely to buy anything there, and there was an exhibition on of skeletons.  How could I resist?  There were a dozen cases, each with the remains of a person found at an archaeological dig.  There was a notice that politely reminded the public that these had once been living people and to be respectful when it came to taking photographs.  There were a few other bits as well, so I took a picture of those instead.  Here is a memento mori, a very Victorian thing where they kept a memento of their lost one, in this case, a bracelet with the band made of human hair.

I found the thought of that very icky indeed!

One of the skeletons was from a dig before they built the Barbican in York.  Apparently they hoped to find the lost church of York, All Saints Church, and while they didn't find the church building they did find a lot of medieval burials plus some of Cromwell's soldiers. 

I should say that the exhibition said that it was a lost church that vanished with the dissolution of the monasteries in the sixteenth century but apparently there is an All Saints Church in North Street, York, with all the details that the exhibition referred to, so Wikipedia obviously has different sources.  They may be more reliable because All Saints, York, is also on Trip Advisor

Regardless, the excavation dug up over 500 sets of remains from a previously unknown burial site.  Any decent storyteller would have the place dripping with ghosts.  As far as I can tell from Google, the Barbican, now built on the site, is no more haunted than the rest of York. 

There must be dozens and dozens of unknown burial sites in the UK.  They were always getting found by Time Team.  If I believed properly in ghosts I would feel very undersupplied and would want to check my reciept.  As it was, it was fascinating to see the remains from lots of different time periods, from Bronze Age to 18th century, and to see the marks their life left on their remains. 

If I ever can get writing again, I've got material for a lot of stories.

Monday, 2 October 2017

Typical!

The nice man came about the washing machine today. 

The washing machine has gone from whistling to moaning, a really awful moan that makes me think it's about to break down.  I have insurance that will either repair or replace, so I was hopeful.  I shifted the stuff in the kitchen so that the washing machine was available and kept my fingers crossed.

The nice man set the machine off, pushed different buttons and tried different programmes.  The machine practically purred.  It never made a murmur out of line.  It gave a wonderful impression of a perfect machine, darn it.  The nice man said that this was normal and could I try recording it next time I hear it.  I nodded politely.  However it doesn't always make the noise and I'm usually on a different floor.  I'll just have to work on it.  The nice man recommended I buy the manufacturer's washing machine cleaner sachets (buy three year's worth and get the fourth year free!) and I'm still considering it. 

But isn't it typical that the dratted thing works like a dratted charm once I have a dratted witness?

Sarah thank you for that massive hug!  I can't tell you how much it means to me.  You are right, I don't have much local support, I consider this blog the main source of support in my life, but I'm not too isolated.  I suspect that you are right - I have had so much over a few years and now it's sort of 'safe' to collapse.  I am able to do less and less.  Tomorrow I have no reason not to go out, except I am finding a gazillion reasons why I have to stay in.  I'll update with how I do.  Thank you again for your comment, and thanks to all who have commented with support.  I'm very grateful.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Before the Internet

I didn't have a perfect childhood.  I honestly believe that both parents did their best but they were only human.  Sometimes I talk about my childhood and DH is frankly shocked.  It has affected my attitude to the internet.  When I was young, there could be me, my mother and two brothers in the house and all of us reading in separate rooms.  We were never really a unit.  So I don't see going on the internet in separate rooms as very different.

Today was like one of my best childhood memories.  When I was very little I would sometimes stay overnight with my gran and grandad.  They had an open fire and in the dark evenings we would all be sitting together in the living room.  Grandad would be reading and gran would be knitting and reading (my gran was an amazing, dedicated and high speed knitter that churned out a complicated sweater or cardigan roughly every week) while I read or watched the fire which made the only sound along with gran's knitting needles.  There was no conversation but it was wonderfully calming and quiet with a sense of companionship. 

This afternoon we were all in the study on our electronic devices, but we weren't cut off from each other.  We had a woodwick candle flickering and it felt cosy and loving.  Bear was stuffing his face with fruit and was apparently 90% leg, dh and I shared the occasional tidbit from the internet and encouraged bear in his game or browsing, and it felt safe.  I suppose it was our version of hyyge.

I'm not too worried about bear and his pal.  They sometimes play together on the computer, sometimes play separate games while talking rubbish at each other in the usual way of young lads, but they play enough football that I have a serious challenge getting all the mud out of the clothes bear was wearing yesterday.  I let them manage their own time when it comes to hanging out. 

We make a point of keeping Sunday afternoons locked down to 'family time'.  It's when we make sure that we're still in touch, that we know what's going on and relax together.  We sometimes dig out boardgames or watch films together but often it's just us doing our own thing in a shared space and feeling happy with each other.  Today I had to break off to take the soup to the Church but I came straight back and settled in. 

Jake's a Girl - may you come back victorious from the sale!  And well done on the score at the sale yesterday!

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Internet Generation

This afternoon we were spread out.  DH was on his computer working, with YouTube playing music in the background.  Bear was playing a game which he had downloaded from the internet but also had a YouTube video (dumb tweets - not suitable for those easily embarassed or shocked but very, very funny) playing on my old phone over the wifi while his pal sat next to him playing Fifa 17 online.  Meanwhile I had YouTube music on in the background while I sorted out a delivery for tomorrow and got dragged into trying Amazon Pantry.  We pay a lot for our broadband connection, but I think it's worth it.

Witch Hazel - I shall look out for that offer and stock up.  You pass on some awesome info so I'm glad I could pass something back

Jake's a Girl - I like your tactics.  Sending good vibes and I hope you get something awesome with your vouchers


Friday, 29 September 2017

Cake!

I should have taken a picture before bear got home. 

I went to a MacMillan Coffee morning this morning at the funeral home at the end of the street.  It was awesome.  They had the most amazing cakes and were so lovely and friendly.  I won a bottle of wine in the raffle which will see me happy over the weekend.  I brought home some cakes for bear aned DH, who very much appreciated them. 

It made up for the fail I had on the shawl.  I couldn't tell how it was going so I cast off.  It was far too small and I felt very inadequate, but I have a full ball of the yarn left so I'm going to see what I can manage with 250g and some serious increasing. 

I've got a few bits ordered for Christmas.  I've got a few books inexpensively from eBay and I'll see what else comes up. 

I can't face going out tomorrow, but as I'm supposed to be making a few litres of soup on Sunday for the Harvest Supper I may as well deep clean the kitchen and get the house a little cosier.  I've decided that I'll be easy on myself tomorrow (deep cleaning kitchen), Sunday (making soup for the Harvest Supper and working on my Hygge), and Monday (washing machine repair man) but on Tuesday I go out.  I can do this. 

I'll be glad to see the washing machine repair man.  The washing machine is making some awful moaning sounds.  Fortunately I've got a policy with AO which means that for a very reasonable monthly payment I get repairs or a replacement machine.  I won't try and fiddle things, but I would love a new machine.  I've never really got on with this washer, it doesn't do what I want.  I like a washing machine that doesn't randomly turn itself off and that has separately adjustable temperature so that I can do a long, cool wash.  I got it in a hurry a few years ago as my last washer gave up halfway through washing all of bear's school uniform and I was too desperate to read the details properly. 

I did have some awkward questions on the phone as I set up the appointment.  I don't use the 'washing machine cleaner' type sachets but instead run it hot with vinegar in and I don't clear the lint trap often enough.  I just hope I don't get into trouble. 

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Gambling

Important - thank you for all the kind words.  I feel hugged and supported.  I'm sure I'll be able to pull myself out of this.  When all is said and done, it could be worse. 

Today I have been crossing my fingers and hoping fervently that it will be okay, but I've bought something for bear for Christmas.  Bear's absolutely, desperately, must-have things change more than the British weather, but he's been quite consistent about Lego for a few months.  It would, of course, be Lego, one of the most expensive (and best quality!) toys around.  

Tesco have a deal that lasts until 1 October where you get an extra 1000 clubcard points if you spend £60 on Lego.  It is frighteningly easy to spend £60 on Lego.  I spent @ £68 to be split between Christmas and bear's birthday.  I'm keeping everything crossed that he doesn't go off Lego before December 25th.  It's a risk!

I remember seeing something about what children should get for Christmas, I think it said that they should get four presents - something to wear, something to read, something they want and something they need.  I've just blown that out of the water.  Bear will, of course, get something to read.  He will get a shedload of books as ever.  The Book People are on Top Cashback and have very reasonable prices, a good selection and they often have deals so I'm starting to watch them.  He'll almost certainly get something like goalkeeper gloves for something to wear.  He definitely 'wants' Lego in large quantities.  The 'something he needs' is a problem as he doesn't really need anything.  I'm trying to avoid getting him something like a phone or tablet for as long as possible, but they may well be 'needs' next September.  I'll worry about that then.

I'm off now to wander around the inexpensive eBay auctions of children's books and stocking fillers to see what I can stash now.  

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Bad Day

I try and keep things up beat here, but I've been struggling a little lately, and today was a reminder of how bad things are getting.

Today I had to pop along to pick up some plants for the garden from the local flower shop.  I've just checked on Google maps and they had the walk at around 0.1 of a mile, or a few hundred yards.  I was also going to call in at the Funeral Home where they were organising a MacMillan coffee morning and were donating to the Methodist Church.  The funeral home is literally the same postcode as me, we are a few houses away from each other on the same street.  Speaking to the people wasn't a problem.  It's very rare that I can't make small talk.  It was just getting out the house.  I can't explain it.  I don't feel bad when I get out.  I don't think it's agraphobia.  If I'm outside I feel okay.  It's just as if there's a huge, complicated wall between the inside and outside of my home.  It's become a lot worse now that I don't even take bear the few hundred yards to school.

Today I sat and cried because I was struggling to force myself to go out and walk a few hundred yards to speak to some lovely people.  I managed it in the end and had a lovely chat with really, really nice people.  Tomorrow I had half a mind to go out and walk in Roundhay Park while the weather's still fit but I can feel a gazillion and one excuses piling up inside me about why it makes sense for me not to leave home.  I can try and think things through logically, but I can't fool myself.  I have a massive mental block about leaving my home.  If it was for bear then there wouldn't be a problem.  If it is for me then I can't do it.  I feel like I would be crawling out against huge resistance, scraping along on hands and knees.  I don't know what to do.

Tomorrow I will post something more cheerful, but today has been tough.  There are always smiles around, though, and I found this on the page of Sir Thomas, Knight of the Kind Thoughts Thinking Circle