INTRODUCTION


Planet Retirement can sometimes be a bewildering place and with a scarcity of UK retirement blogs out there (other than those proffering financial advice) I thought I'd keep my own.

Please visit from time to time and do add your comments. Popular posts and those highlighting my journey are specifically pinpointed on the right hand side together with a list of topics covered. Alternatively you may prefer to look at the Summary or the Tips from Wisdom Acquired or even our Have Visited List with its retirement atlas and dip in and out of the blog using the links given.




Showing posts with label Homemaking. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Homemaking. Show all posts

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Mins Game Revisited




It is now 3 years since I played the Mins Game, ridding myself of 496 items of extraneous stuff.  Across at The Minimalists they are urging everyone to play again this month (only 30 days and 465 items this time). 

What is it about stuff ? I'm convinced mine indulges in asexual reproduction. It doesn't matter how much I trash or donate to charity there always seems to be more oozing from the corner of every room I enter. You would think after all this time, I'd feel on top of the task in hand but somedays I actually wonder if, in order to succeed, relocating and downsizing is going to be the only the way. 

Now the truth is I don't like stuff and am not particularly driven by material possessions. Consequently, I don't tend to make a habit of  unneccessary or impulsive shopping. Thinking about it though, I wonder if that isn't the root cause of the problem. Instead of embracing the throwaway society, Mister E and I are inclined to hoard items that might come in useful one day or to which we have a sentimental attachment because we have held onto them for so long; a fatal flaw when you have been around for as many years as us; all that useful junk increases in line with the wrinkles.

Perhaps I'm being hard on myself. We have made progress  with our plans to declutter and redecorate our home; we just have to accept it's a longterm plan not an instant make-over. Anyway I took advantage of today's rainfall to give a cupboard an annual overhaul and in so doing and, only after a discussion with Mister E as to whether or not we could make use of anything in any other way, jettisoned: a 9 year old pair of paint splattered jogging bottoms (they went into our rag box); a roll of wrapping paper that sheds a glitter-like substance over everything when you try to use it; a Happy Retirement banner with my face adorned upon it, albeit after detailed consideration as to whether it could be used as a cover for one of the newly constructed vegetable beds or as a dodger on the boat. Yes, I know, we really can make hardwork of this tidying up phenomenon.


Friday, 1 June 2018

Friday Finish




Back in the day, hot summer Friday afternoons were tedious affairs heralding the start of something much more relaxing after a stress-filled working week and then followed quickly by weekend plans, invariably spoiled by unseasonal rain.

Retirement Land  is so different that at the end of a Friday afternoon and a series of days in the garden all with  pleasant sunshine, it was hard not to feel a little smug when, at 5pm, the heavens opened. Fortunately it must just have been a passing cloud as the shower was fairly brief. With more rain forecast for tomorrow, however, it's good to know that seeds have been sown, borders weeded and all is beginning to look under control outside.

After a couple of  summers of unsettled weather, it is a joy to be able to savour home and garden, stepping from one to the other as the mood suits with doors and windows wide open. We have managed to proceed with plans for our herb and wild flower borders and Mister E has been skilfully constructing timber frames for my vegetable beds. Having built the house almost twenty years ago, one of the plans for retirement was to be able to enjoy both it and the plot on which it stands; this year our aspirations are being realised.


Tuesday, 1 May 2018

DIY Postscript




Nestbuilding on Mister E's part has continued unabated since the messy incident with the radiator. In fact it would be fair to say that heat radiates throughout the house as I type and for which I am truly grateful as the sun may be shining during the day but temperatures are plummeting at night; indeed it was only 3.5 degrees when I awoke this morning, not helped by a stiff northerly breeze.

However Mister E has hardly seemed to notice the cool air as he has toiled continuously and added to his achievements the fixing of a leaking shower and the felling of various dead trees and hedging that have failed to survive the long damp winter.

He has been so immersed that I decided to chance my luck in asking him to fix a broken drawer which even an appentice like myself could see required the insertion of new tacks or staples. He willingly took up the staple gun like a cudgel and attacked the drawer as I stood by appreciatively noting his handiwork. 

What is it about my presence? Staples sprayed across the room in my direction, attaching to my outer layers, pinging the flesh and causing me to jump, as well as fear that he was practising voodoo and I would soon be doing porcupine impressions.  Reader you will be well advised never to employ me as your gopher; jobs go wrong, and I potentially end up squealing.

Mister E, however, is not easily fazed. I was in the greenhouse when he appeared with a bucket and ladder. "I'm going to clean the guttering now," he announced, "Would you like to steady the ladder whilst I sluice them out?"

I may be a slow learner but I am not completely stupid. Stand at the bottom of a ladder whilst Mister E clears gunge out from a height above my head? I had a premonition of what might surely happen and declined the invitation.

Thursday, 26 April 2018

The Plumber's Mate




One of the exciting opportunities in retirement is the potential to become embroiled in other people's projects especially, in my case, Mister E's. 

As I made reference recently, he has been flushing out our central heating system and so, unsurprisingly I have been enlisted as a plumber's mate. Initially this involved no more than online research with a view to making what were dismissed as unhelpful suggestions. This was followed fairly quickly by providing copious mugs of tea together with motivational phrases like, "I think we should call a real plumber out."

Ultimately, however, I gained promotion to manual assistant and was deployed to watch for drips and then, after Mister E was satisfied he'd drained it, to help lever a radiator away from its connection pipes.

Surely by now I should know better, so I won't even ask you to guess which one of us it was who got sprayed in black sludge along with the wall and carpet and despite the protective cover on the floor that is never sufficient in such circumstances.

At least I can confirm that we found the blockage, even if it did free itself all over me.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

The Effect of the Sun




Just like last year, Spring sunshine makes a sudden and unexpected appearance and I get an urge to declutter. I sometimes think that it's a shame I don't live nearer the Equator because with more sunshine, I really could get this job tackled. Or perhaps I wouldn't because when it comes to reducing stuff, I truly suffer from complete indecisiveness.

Take today when I discovered that I own three pairs of brown shoes, none of which I have actually worn since I retired. Nevertheless I convinced myself that I should retain at least one pair, but which was it to be? I tried on them all. There was a comfortable but slightly worn couple, a very elegant but tighter twosome, and a polished and, if I recall correctly, expensive pair.

Decisions, decisions, decisions. 

Talk about procrastination. In the end I persuaded myself I would be best served by retaining all three, or would I?

Then Mister E appeared and I explained my dilemma. "That's easy," he said, "Give away all of them!"

I was astounded. This from the man whose old clothes have to be holed, stained and discoloured before he accepts their best use is as a rag.

Maybe I sounded a little whining as I explained that I did need to keep one pair just to match the brown handbag that I haven't used since retiring either and who knows when brown accessories may be just what I need. 

"In that case," he advised dispassionately pointing with his index finger, "You should keep those; they look the best."

Talk about taste, maybe I should deploy Mister E as my personal guru a little more often, as he had correctly identified the expensive pair. It was after all a decision I can live with and the collection designated for the charity shop was duly added to.

In the meantime the sun has been affecting Mister E too. No he hasn't taken to sorting his wardrobe. Instead the golden rays seem to bring out the engineer in him. So today was the day he drained our central heating system and then couldn't refill it because of an almighty airlock and/or accumulation of sludge. Maybe in retrospect I ought to have encouraged him to have gone to that Activated Sludge Conference before we retired.

Instead I can only hope that the sun stays around a bit longer, otherwise we'll have no heating and no primeval urge to fix it!


Sunday, 8 April 2018

Preparing for Disaster




I'm conscious that when we retired in the summer of 2014 it seemed that we were never still, dashing from place to place, event to event for many months. Winter, coupled with a touch of retirement-complacency, however, seems to have a dampening effect on activity levels and it can be all too easy to slip into a hibernation malaise or even, in light of recent weather conditions, a rain associated disorder.

The return of the youngest for a week was therefore a welcome wake-up call making up for the lack of Spring, that seasonal harbinger of action.

So as well as our Easter Sunday venture, a trip to the cinema ("The Greatest Showman") and a day splashing in the pool and hot-tubs (inside and out) at the spa attached to the gym I frequent, we decided that learning how to make cheese would be a useful diversion.

In my quest for a simpler life, I am conscious that were the backbones of society ever to crumble then my chances of survival as the last person on Earth would be slim to say the least. Once I had raided the local shop of provisions and eaten my way through my vegetable patch, to what extent would I be able to endure? Surrounded by wild flowers and plants from hybrid seed would I ever produce an edible bean again? Could I dig a well, generate electricity or even construct a wheel? How would I round up a field of cows or shear a sheep and spin its wool to knit or weave?  Winters in retirement obviously give me far too much time to ponder.



In that vein and pandering to my imagination, we ventured into the Yorkshire Dales and to the Wensleydale creamery at Hawes. After a detailed demonstration as well as a peep into the actual factory, I'm not sure that it will be worth my while practising the ancient art of cheesemaking. If disaster strikes, however, I learnt enough to experiment, assuming always that I have it in me to extract some rennet from the stomach of a calf. 


Of more immediate use and greater enjoyment was the opportunity to sample some twenty or so varieties of cheese produced on site, as well as delighting in a wander around Hawes which we hadn't visited since those non-stop days of early retirement and Le Tour de Yorkshire.



Saturday, 24 February 2018

Going Grey



The past few days I've been going grey. The height of fashion some might say or just a sign of the times. The green shade was so last century; it's time for a complete revamp. I'm not of course talking hair colour but rather walls.

Grey, it seems is the new magnolia, fast overtaking all those washed out green and beige (greige) shades and harsh whites as the current neutral backdrop for the home. Now that the days are lengthening and the sun sitting higher in the sky, somewhat predictably in the annual cycle of retirement, I am again overtaken by the nesting instinct and a  need to decorate and declutter. 

Scandi minimalism; I'll get there one day. 

 

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

A Shout Out


I just wanted to give a shout out for Lakeland (formerly known as Lakeland Plastics). Yes that's right the company that has specialised in all kinds of useful plastic scoops and pegs. The kind of shop where, when you get to an age where kitchen gadgets excite you more than clothes shopping, you go to browse.

I know that I now have to be wary of buying plastic, but it never stops me browsing. Imagine therefore my delight to find that they have reinvented the good old paper bag. Forget those packs of cellophane, you can now have brown paper!

Funny how the old idea are always the best and even better that they still have the capacity to excite.  I did tell you, of course, that in retirement I seem to derive a great deal of pleasure from the simple things in life, but paper bags? Who'd have thought it!


Saturday, 7 October 2017

Giving Up with Household Dirt


Continuing with the quest to live more simply and clear home and life of extraneous matter including plastics, I have been looking to wind down reliance on all those bottles of household cleaners. It's also better for both the  environment and potentially our health.

I can hardly claim to be the most house-proud of women, hating the time wasted on cleaning with a vengeance but anti bacterial sprays, window cleaners and stain removers in spray bottles have on occasions allowed me to go trigger happy. However well they buff and shine, they are not risk-free with links to respiratory problems, skin irritations and in extreme cases it is alleged chronic or long-term illnesses including potentially cancer.

In search of a solution I have therefore taken up the use of white vinegar, bicarbonate of soda and even lemons instead. Moreover, and without a plastic bottle or trigger in sight, they do pretty much the same job, naturally at half the cost and with significantly less harm.

The various application of these three ingredients is widely documented across the Internet (just put "natural household cleaners"into your search engine). I certainly recommend trying vinegar to clean your windows (inside and out). White vinegar almost avoids the fish and chip shop perfume and it dissipates quickly in any event. Bicarbonate of soda works better than any proprietary stain remover ever has for me; dab a small amount onto a cloth and rub well. Finally when we have used the juice from a lemon in cooking, I rub the remaining squeezed fruit across the tiled splashback behind the cooker and the grease spots disappear instantly.

The house is sparkling and there is once again space in my utility room cupboards for cloths and dusters where previously there was an array of bottles containing noxious chemicals masked by false floral fragrances.

I'd like to say it is emancipating but I'm still looking for a substitute for the effort required from elbow grease. Liberty was never intended to chain us to the kitchen sink, and it is definitely not where I want to spend my retirement.




Sunday, 24 September 2017

So Where Did the Summer Go?




Did I blink and miss it or was it all the recent travelling? Either way, I can hardly believe it is now Autumn and the second half of September. Moreover, and whilst walking in the Lake District today, we spotted holly with red berries all ready for decking out the halls. No Indian summer this year I guess and at least we'll hopefully get to do a proper garden clear up with plants dying off before the weather turns too cold, perhaps.

In the meantime and in advance of turning our attention to leaves and branches, the passionate culling of extraneous stuff within as opposed to outside our home has continued, alongside the rejection of both plastic and added sugar. 


For instance after months of tripping over a box full of camera equipment strategically placed on the floor, I was determined to create shelf space for it in a cupboard stoved off with a combination of knitting wool, craft materials, DIY tools and, just to add to the mixture, board games, many of which have lain there unused for 15 years or more.  In dramatic fashion, not only, therefore, did I empty the cupboard but I also repainted it. Making it look like a completely new area (how easily a new colour scheme can fool) somehow made it easier to rearrange the contents and throw the excess away. In fact we have done such a good job that not only has my reputation for tidying cupboards reached new heights, but the top shelf remains unfilled, although that may just be a matter of timing.


As the intensity of decluttering, physically and mentally, increases, I have begun to realise that its meaning goes beyond tidying up and letting go. What seemed at first to be a sensible clear-out of old, unused  stuff is actually so much more. In retirement we are finally making the time to rid ourselves of extraneous trivia built up over decades in an instinctive anticipation that, once liberated, we shall be able to enjoy the important things in our lives instead. The clear aim is now to live not only more simply but also more purposefully. I just sometimes need direction!



Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Book Lovers' Day




Somewhat unfittingly for a day described as Book Lovers' Day, I have made a pile of paperbacks ready to donate to the Save the Children charity shop. It's all part of that mad phase I've described as giving up with aggression, although "reduction with passion" may actually be a more accurate description.

To be honest, I have always had a difficulty when it comes to parting with books but when it reaches the stage that they are piled on the floor, tumble out of wardrobes and are even stored in suitcases, you know it's time to take action and building yet more shelves isn't what we have in mind.

I'm not sure why it is that so many of us accumulate books, especially when they are not rare first editions. Perhaps we are all latent librarians at heart. 

I once read that bookcase displays were indicative only of a desire to demonstrate one's learning so all could applaud, but, as some of my paperbacks fall very definitely into the category of chick-lit, I am not convinced. On my part, I believe retention has been governed more by a prospect of either reading the book again or passing it on to someone with a brief endorsement. That said, some books have sat on our shelves so long that they have yellowed with age and although they have that wonderful attractive, musty smell they really would no longer be a joy to peruse and in some instances might even fall apart when you turn the pages. 

Sadly and save as a curio of doubtful scent, many of my old books serve no purpose although the sentimental attraction remains strong. Take the copy of Alice in Wonderland given to me when I was in hospital at the age of eight as an example, the typeface is unattractive, the odd drawings which it contains are crudely sketched, the cover is torn and, were I to seek to reread it for the nth time I'm sure there must be a free e-book version to download instead. It's hard, but the proper place for books like this is clearly re-cycling and if I donate them to a charity shop it may even be able to  make some money from having them collected.

Newer books are harder to part with but I have resolved to limit my paperback collection of read books to a few shelves of my favourite novels, ready to pass on and recommend. The others will be sold by Save the Children to raise funds for a good cause. There are occasions when I know I have lovingly fingered through a read book, recalling the story with enthusiasm and the memory of the enjoyment it brought at the time but I know I am not going to re-read every one of the books I have been hanging onto; they were enjoyable but there are so many others out there to  be brought into my home and read instead.

I hope that I am not making this sound easy. I'm keen and eager to see the task through but reducing let alone giving up treasured books is painfully difficult. Fortunately I have been helped by the discovery of Goodreads a wonderful app that allows me to keep a virtual bookshelf of  the books I have read, aided by a brief synopsis of the story and all sorted alphabetically by author or even title if I prefer.

Of course paperbacks are only half the story; there are of course still the hardbacks and non-fiction to sort, as well as "coffee-table" books, not to mention the suitcases I've already referred to and, after my initial sort-out, now a greater percentage of books to read before disposal even becomes an issue. However, the space created by giving up is exciting and liberating and where once I could never have envisaged a shelf without an array of books on it, now I see scope for simplicity and unencumbered living.

It's Book Lovers' Day and I love reading; is this normal?

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Giving Up




After my last blog entry I have been contemplating my retirement and am beginning to feel that the next driver is "giving up." I don't mean by surrendering but rather in a very physical way in order to reach that nirvana of a simplified life.

So for me July has been a month to embrace Plastic Free July and abandon added sugar. 

The statistics on plastic are appalling and when I looked in my own waste-bin at the beginning of the month I saw with horror that, despite our conscientous devotion to re-cycling, we were still disposing of more plastic in the form of cellophane-wrapping and cling-film for landfill than any other form of waste. Just realising the extent of the problem that we were creating (and we consider ourselves good at sorting re-cyclable waste from our other rubbish) was a start in the right direction and now it has become a crusade to deliberately shop to try to avoid the worst excesses of single-use plastic whilst looking for items made of other substances for repeat use. It's too late to undo all our errors in the past; the children's toys, coffee capsules, melamine picnic plates, garden chairs, plant pots, all now presumably buried deep in a local authority pit never to decompose in our lifetimes. The plastic containers in the fridge and coathangers in the wardrobe provide a daily reminder of  our wilful disregard for green living. We are, however, now stepping up to become eco-warriors as, going forward, we relinquish the plastic trappings that go with an early 21st century lifestyle. Giving up is good, providing both challenge and ambition whilst benefiting the planet as we hopefully reduce pollution.

Sugar is another horror now scientifically linked to obesity and the development of type 2 diabetes. The Action on Sugar website highlights the issues but it is only when you start to read in detail the written information on food products that you get any appreciation of the scale of the problem. Have you for instance ever tried to find bread without added sugar in your local supermarket? It does exist but elusivity means you have to track it down. On the plus side, the eradication of added sugar from our diet in the last couple of weeks has done wonders for weight loss and energy levels and I can thoroughly recommend it.

In September 2016, I posted a blog entry which I titled Letting Go and Making a Difference.  They were for me the second and third phases of retirement, the movement or divergence from one to the other blurred by an overlap. Giving Up, following  a period of what I can best describe as plateauing, seems to be a natural progression and whilst many might say there is no obvious distinction there is actually a subtle difference stemming from the maturing of retirement. Letting go was as much about the mental state of change from worker to retired person as the relinquishment of physical stuff; there was an understanding of the need to shed and a start to the process. In making a difference I had reached a point where I was energised by my efforts and strove to achieve. To give up is I now believe a natural sequitur but it is more brutal and deliberate, requiring passion, renewed energy and aggressive determination. It goes beyond recognition of and lip service to what must be jettisoned, to deliberate deprivation in order to achieve it. To let go, I must now give up previously perceived comforters rather than extraneous stuff; to make a difference I must give up the comforts of self-indulgence and infinite time. 

Retirement has turned up more challenges.



Sunday, 7 May 2017

Beauty and the Box


Nesting instinct, Spring and cardboard boxes; they all came together today. Is it the level of the sun in the sky or the birds hopping around building nests and feeding their young? I'm not sure, but it is always at this time of the year that I get an uncontrollable urge to clear out cupboards.

I confess that when I was working, it didn't get much further than a fleeting feeling but the early years of retirement are a time to tackle all that messy storage and I'm proud to say that I have actually attacked all of my cupboards at some point since retirement, making a better job in some than others.

It would be nice to think that having tidied them once, they might stay that way especially after being previously neglected for a decade or more. Sadly, no. Once that Spring feeling dissipates, the rest of the year is spent filling them up as random items get squeezed in anywhere.

It had reached the point that just opening the door of the cupboard under the stairs was sufficient to send me into a spiral of gloom, so today I took action to dispel it. Piled high with boxes, I had assumed that family members had been placing objects for future use or of sentimental value there and was genuinely not looking forward to the heaving and shifting that a clear out might entail. Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I discovered that the boxes were completely empty! 

Mister E was the culprit and under caution confessed all. He has always been a magpie when it comes to cardboard boxes; items of abundant usefulness, he claims. However, and up till now I had always thought he stored them in the garage and disposed of them on a strict rotational basis, assuming always that they failed to prove their use in the interim. I now realise that whilst that may have been the pattern pre-retirement, the cupboard space I have created since has just been too much of a temptation for a boxoholic.

His support during my various decluttering missions and our shared aim for a minimalist approach to living has proven secondary to his love for cardboard boxes. My own struggle with ridding the house of my accumulated "stuff" has been nothing compared to his addiction for packaging.  When I conquer my inability to sling, he fills the empty space with cardboard. Can there be any hope at all for us succeeding with our quest for simplification, to restore the mess amongst which we live into a state of order and our home into an oasis of calm? Keep reading, I know not.




Friday, 3 March 2017

Leaping Forward



In the twilight of my working years, I began to accumulate a list of jobs that I thought I would leave until retirement. Obviously there were the mega tasks like decorating but there were also any number of simple chores and whilst, in an initial wave of enthusiasm, I may have cleaned the iron and screwed a wobbly handle or two back on, I confess that, almost three years on, for the most part the list remains to be tackled. 

"Life's too short to stuff a mushroom," (per Shirley Conran) remains my mantra even on Planet Retirement.

However, today I notched up a significant success. I kid you not but for the first time in a decade, I finally cleaned, sorted and tidied the airing cupboard. Moreover OCD got the better of me and I bagged and labelled duvets, pillows, and bed linen not used on a daily  basis. In the course of an afternoon, the cupboard went from chaotic muddle to methodical order.

One small step indeed but it really does represent a giant leap forward. In my quest for simplification, it helps to know what towels and bedsheets you have and where exactly they are. Playing hunt the pillow case could make an entertaining party game but eliminating the need to dig for buried duvet covers is, I assure you, joy itself.

 

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Blind Making the Blind




I shall begin with the proviso that I am unsure whether or not the statistics I am about to quote are correct, but I do know that Pareto would at least approve.

So: I am one of the 20% of women who own a sewing machine. Until  last week I was also one of the 80% of women who own a sewing machine and do not use it.

However, in a sudden burst of creative activity my reliable little dressmaking aide has been placed on the desk in the eldest's bedroom which, since he did kind of leave home seven years ago, I am slowly taking over as craft room.

The task which I set myself was to make a window blind for the small box room in the Nottingham property. The previous blind had given up the ghost but an inspection suggested to me that it would not be beyond the wit of man nor indeed Caree's limited ability to replicate the design.

I confess I have never made a blind in my life before. To be honest I would also struggle to recall anything I have ever made with the sewing machine except perhaps a cushion cover, generally having used it only for mundane tasks like hemming trousers. 

Nevertheless the result has given me great pleasure. I hung it over the weekend and was certainly relieved to dicover that it both fitted and worked. There's a lot to be said for creativity; success definitely endows a halo of self satisfaction.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Letting Go and Making a Difference




Three months into my third year of retirement and it is good to realise just how far I have come. Reflecting on the period of time that has passed, I can now look  back and recognise three different phases. They are not separate or distinct; the boundary between them ebbs and flows but there is nevertheless an obvious progression.

The early days, weeks and months were a time for healing and recovery. An opportunity to relax and to take the first steps towards a new healthier, fitter self. There may still be some way to go but the pattern has been set.

Gradually and alongside those baby steps from enervation to vigour grew a sense of letting go. Like healing and recovery, it manifests itself on two levels: the physical and the mental. The clutter from both house and mind is being dissipated. Life is simpler; the habits of a working existence have been dropped. Activities and commitments have altered. Although there remains much to clear out especially of a physical kind ( household stuff and clothes with no longer any clear purpose in retirement),  there is now obvious and steady progress. 

A milestone was reached this week when I even made the decision to change the name on my driving licence from the birth name that I used professionally throughout my career to the married name I have always used at home. There are other changes that I know I shall be making in measured and deliberate fashion over the coming months. To let go in the early days felt brave, in Year 3 it is empowering.

Now too I have begun to recognise the dawning of a third phase; the period where I make a difference and which gives the motivation for getting out of bed every day. Whether I am decorating at home or in our rental property; clearing the garden; helping out in the Save the Children shop or campaigning on its behalf; acting as Parish Clerk or as an almshouse trustee; even just cleaning the windows: I am making a difference. To know that I am achieving, that my pursuits are worthwhile and that I can perceive the change as a result, is exciting and a spur for further self-enterprise. 

Life is invigorating and stimulating despite not knowing what the ultimate outcome or next phase will be. After 27 months, retirement is still novel enough that it remains an adventure into the unknown.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

American Relations



So just as the youngest left England for Texas, one of our US cousins and his family flew in from Wisconsin. We played host for two nights of their trip and it was an absolute delight to meet the children who I'm sure thought we were another pair of boring old relations living in a strange country that can't spell simple words like flavour, puts dessert spoons above the table mat rather than to its side, drives on the wrong side of the road and calls jelly "jam".

However, having as yet failed to complete the decluttering of our home (a job that remains on the retirement to do list) we were able to win them over by sorting out the youngest's old dolls' house, rekindling my own plans to renovate it and proving once again that parting with possessions is never easy.

Still visitors staying over has proved a useful spur in finishing the makeover of the bathroom and cleaning corners of the house that probably haven't seen a duster for longer than I would care to confess. We got rid of  a broken ornament or two and had a general tidy up. Now to keep it that way, make haste with the redecorating and maybe throw away a few more items, we just need to invite the whole of the American continent to join us. 



Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Manual Labour




There is something intrinsically gratifying about toiling with your hands. I find the application of emulsion paint to walls (of which there has been much lately) almost therapeutic, whilst the delight of the outcome remains a source of pleasure for many weeks. It is probably just as well as the last fortnight has seen us remodel the bathroom, continue with the painting of the hall and begin work on external masonry at the eldest's home in Nottingham where I surprised myself by repointing an outside wall of the house ready for a coat of masonry paint on my next visit.

In the meantime and with temperatures that are now happily average for the time of year, the vegetable patch has continued to grow successfully and the sweetcorn I was fretting over has pollinated and sprouted horse-tails which is surely a good sign. My angst now is focused on the ripening of my tomato crop; the greenhouse has gone into overdrive in producing  the most delicious tasting cucumbers but the masses of cherry tomatoes remain steadfastly green.

Of course any spurts of growth amongst the vegetables is usually accompanied by an increase in weeds. Sadly that's where the manual toil offers less satisfaction. Pulling a hoe across hardened clay soil has never been my idea of fun. Enter, therefore, the youngest just back from volunteering on an organic farm in Sweden. She can now weed like a demon on a mission, leaving me to lean back in my garden chair and think about the next decorating project.


Monday, 11 January 2016

A Return to Normality



The last of our Christmas Holiday invaders, in the form of the youngest, left us to return to university yesterday. Normality now reigns supreme after what has seemed like a hectic festive period.

As previously recorded it started with erecting the Christmas tree at the last minute and playing host to a Yorkshire Terrier, small in stature but big on making her presence known. In various stages we were then joined by the youngest, the eldest, the eldest's girlfriend, family on Mister E's side, family on my side. We have only 10 dining chairs which is meant to limit the number we can cater for at any one time; this year the limit was exceeded at 11 when one guest went chairless, but hey he did get fed!

So during our 12 mad days of Christmas we were visited by two eccentrics dressed as elves and a glove puppet. Our youngest suffered from an infection which led to a fever which in turn led to vomiting. I had to take her to the doctor on three separate occasions including Christmas Eve and Boxing Day and during which period we were constantly accompanied by a bright orange bucket. I also worked out that the out of hours GP telephone number is 111 for a reason: if you dial it often enough you realise it actually spells ill!

Meanwhile, the dog seemed to think it was in charge of the cooking, refusing to leave the kitchen during the long periods of food preparation. We solved a murder mystery when our guests included Sigmund Fraud and Dame Barbara Carthorse. Several people ate too much chocolate and the bright orange bucket made another appearance. 

The dog seemed to think it was the only being that deserved to be eating Christmas dinner and when excluded barked constantly. As it did so, the ghost of Christmas present wandered through, gin bottle in hand and in search, presumably, of an orange bucket.

We had a mini disaster in the form of a fire when, instead of burning out, a candle tried to continue its life by eating its way through a table decoration, resulting in Mister E blistering himself by rising to the occasion and extinguishing it single-handedly and before the wet tea towel or orange bucket arrived.

The dog seemed to think it was the only guest at the party and objected to the pulling of Christmas crackers. The living room (still suffering in part from books and other items that properly belong in the study) started to resemble the council tip as gifts were unwrapped and it stayed that way for several days. 

Life was turned upside down, when for the first time in living history, Mister E and I lost the Boxing Day Family Challenge to the next generation and the ghost of Christmas present (or maybe it was one of those elves or a bright orange bucket) walked through again.

The dog seemed to think that our smallest nephew was hunt potential for the New Year's Day Meet and insisted on chasing him around our downstairs. With only three teeth left, however, it rather detracted from the sense of viciousness. At this point someone handed the gin bottle around again or maybe it was the orange bucket but nobody really cared, in fact there was even a suggestion that we had a lion in the house.

Lions, elves, orange buckets, and ghosts; at least we were able to track down the murderer. The newly furbished study was spared the grief of Professor Plum and the lead piping and instead the culprit on this occasion was one Mike Bison.

One mystery remained unsolved however, namely the disappearance of two forks but a search of the wheelie-bin has only revealed a pastry brush and spoon. I'm blaming the ghost rather than family or the dog.

Utterly exhausted, primarily from tidying up, waving goodbye and putting away that orange bucket, I am now about to start on the laundry. I have heard tell that it is a new tradition at Christmastime to bless the family home with a whole term's worth of washing; certainly it is a tradition that both the eldest and youngest seem to have embraced wholeheartedly.

Happy New Year everyone and let's have a peaceful and less frenetic 2016!





Thursday, 4 June 2015

The Never Ending Paint Job


I have been busy painting recently. Unfortunately you will recall from a previous blog post that decorating was  one of those chores that was left for retirement. Although I do actually enjoy painting there was just never the time to do it and the thought of being disrupted by "getting a decorator in" never appealed. Now there are walls aplenty to paint and theoretically heaps of time, except that there are still other activities competing for attention.

Speaking to the youngest on the telephone tonight she told me that she had been staying with a friend whose home was nicely decorated, the implication being that it was not like ours. 

Hmm, maybe it was a little over ambitious or even plain silly to leave such a momentous task for so long, in the naive hope that, once we had a little time, we would quickly sort it. In fact I have an overwhelming feeling that our home could become like the Forth Bridge and when we get to the end, it will be time to start again in the hallway.