Thursday, 28 February 2008

The Waitrose Walk of Shame

I'm not used to being a social pariah: I've never smoked, and I've always been very dutiful about things like drink-driving (easy when you don't like the stuff to start with) and not talking on my mobile when driving.

So, it took me aback a bit when I realised I was getting funny glances from the other people at the checkout when I cheerfully announced that yet again I'd forgotten my collection of bags for life. THEY all had them - some of them even had those even more green jute efforts. And I, wasteful mis-user of the planet's resources, did not.

Today I heard that Marks and Spencer are going to be asking people to pay 5p per carrier bag. The Radio 4 interviewer asked if using plastic carrier bags would soon be seen as anti-social a thing as smoking. No soon about it in Waitrose.

I don't think the down on using plastic bags is a bad thing (though I do wonder how I'd ever have managed to move house as a student, which seemed to involve shifting a thousand International Supermarket carrier bags). It's dreadful seeing them fluttering in their hundreds from the trees opposite Tescos, and frankly if I was more organised it wouldn't be a problem. When I heard the M&S story I did wonder briefly if there would be a sort of reverse chic - that plastic bag users would proudly announce that their 5p was going to improve parks and THAT IS A GOOD THING. But I think not.

The forgetful (me) and disorganised (me again) will soon slink from the supermarket aisles in shame, or else end up with the world's largest collection of bags-for-life. I had better clear out another cupboard.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

The Windows Blue Screen of Death

has hit me. We do have a new PC, but that isn't broadbanded yet (and won't be, unless BT pull their finger out and actually send me my modem - more snarky phone calls to come today. Humph.) So, I am on dial-up and boy am I noticing the difference.

The vast majority of my files are on the new pc, but the children's extensive itunes collections alas weren't - sadly for them, my even more extensive collection of pony book photographs took priority in the transfer.

And yesterday our until now faithful old PC died. So, if you emailed me after about 4 yesterday afternoon, can you please re-send?

These things go in threes, they say, though actually I think that is rubbish - sometimes it's one, and sometimes it's an endless string. As I had my wallet stolen on Saturday on the Piccadilly Line, I think though that I'm having a goodly share of being made to spend hours on the phone trying to sort stuff out. My bank, I must say, can knock BT into a cocked hat for efficiency. I reported my cards stolen on Saturday and today I have new ones.

The whole thing though was an object lesson in how incredibly good pickpockets are at their horrible job, and how very easy it is to fall victim. I lived in London for years, and I know all about the dodges, and the distractions. We were on a very crowded tube, in the doorway, I was holding my bag in front of me, hand over it, as you're supposed to. Just as the doors were closing a couple leapt on and cannoned into me. And I automatically turned and apologised to the guy I'd fallen against. And that was all it took. Or at least I assume that was it - it was the only time my hand wasn't on my bag.

The police asked me if I wanted Victim Support - I don't feel victimised; it's just one of those things. It was harder I think for my daughter, who was with me, and whose first experience of direct crime it was. She's still at the age when to a large extent she thinks Mum is going to protect her and sort things out, and then there we were, robbed, without either of us having had any idea about it.

The really ironic thing is that I had just bought a new bag, and this is a spectacularly good one for a pickpocket as it has an open top with a press fastening. I can't take it back, as the receipt was in my wallet.

Monday, 25 February 2008

The long silence

I hadn't realised until I looked at the date of my last post quite how long it had been since I last blogged. The long gap is due to what usually poleaxes me from contact with the human race: my accounts. I am determined this year not to turn into the usual bad-tempered, snarling and stressed out creature I become at the financial year end (it's not, after all, as if its coming is a surprise: it's been the same date ever since I started being self-employed way back when). So, the books went off-line, and the accounts, statements and a million and one receipts and I have been locked together. And I have managed to get everything up to date and sorted out. I don't feel smug about it however, as I know there's still a few weeks to go, and I have got to keep disciplined and not put off updating things because I'd rather be writing or researching. I have a genius for galloping off down other avenues when I should be doing other things.

I've also been having a huge sort out of old stock. As so much of it lives on a separate floor, neatly boxed up, it is incredibly easy to ignore the fact that it is there, and has been for some years. As I've bought so much new stock recently, I was left with no choice as I couldn't physically shut the door on it any longer. So, I've sorted out all the stock up to what I've bought this financial year; reduced and sold a load of it and carted masses off to the local homeless project.

I remember watching one of those sort-out-your-clutter programmes a couple of years ago when the object of it was waffling on about how light and free she felt having undergone the process. I can't say that I do, as I am still horribly aware of just how much new stock I have to catalogue, as it certainly isn't going to sell if no one knows I've got it, but I do definitely feel as if I've achieved something, and very often I feel as if I am trying to do a million and one things; and none of them well.

On a more positive note though, I have just spotted a corner of the house where I can fit more book shelves...

Monday, 11 February 2008

How many lives do dogs have?

Because our little yellow dog has just used up some of hers. Yesterday son and friend took her for a walk, but just as they went into the woods, a low flying hot air balloon appeared. Dog is absolutely petrified of hot air balloons. She doesn't mind helicopters, is less bothered by low flying jets than we are, and doesn't mind fireworks or thunderstorms: but hot air balloons send her into a complete panic. We have met them a couple of times before, but fortunately she bolted for home.

This time, however, she went in the opposite direction. Son immediately phoned home, and OH shot off to help look while I wedged the front gate open and then went to see if she'd gone up into our field. When I got back, daughter charged out: there was someone on the phone who had Holly. Huge relief. After profuse thanks, I asked where she was. "Opposite B&Q in Wellingborough," I was told. "We found her in the middle of the road." We live a few miles outside Wellingborough, so dog had covered a lot of ground, going in completely the wrong direction, and worse still, crossing one of the nastiest roundabouts in the area.

I am so, so grateful to the three people who nobly stopped and fished her out of the road and held on to her for me until I drove down to get her. I'm sure a lot of people drove right on by, but they stopped. If they hadn't, she'd have been in the vet's by now, or worse. So thank you, thank you, thank you to Debbie and her friends. We are all so thankful that you stopped.

It does leave us with a bit of a dilemma though. The thing about hot air balloons is they're generally silent, so you don't always spot them, and the other is that they're thankfully quite rare around here so there's not a lot of opportunity to get her acclimatised to them in case there is a next time. And of course next time she might not be so lucky. I was talking this over with a friend whilst doing our twice-weekly exercise session, and she suggested getting a sound effect of a hot air balloon and getting her used to that - which we shall. (And Anne, if you're reading this, I will be on the phone soon!) The puzzling thing though is what we do about the sight of them, as she seems to mind that as much as she does the sound. And bearing in mind she's so petrified of them, how do we get her even close? Much thought needed.

Friday, 1 February 2008

The table of shame...

Not the kitchen table - that has now gone back.

This is my bedside table. I like to have a book on the go; in fact several books. What I am not so good at is doing something with them once I have read them. The piles of books have now reached the stage where I have to move them as they have now become unstable, and if the cat decides to go marauding in the night and drink my bedside water (one of her less endearing habits) loud clattery disaster will follow.

This is what is on my table:

Bernard Cornwell: Wild Track

Gerald Durrell: A Zoo in my Luggage

Monica Dickens: Summer at World's End

Evelyn Smith: Phyllida of Form III

Patricia Leitch: Dream of Fair Horses
Samantha Alexander: Riders: Will to Win

The Shire Horse Society Stud Book

Alois Podhajsky: The Art of Dressage

H M Peel: Night Storm the Flat Racer

Mary Gervaise; The Secret of Pony Pass

J L Carr: The Harpole Report

Golden Gorse: The Young Horsebreakers

The Metaphysical Poets

Christine Pullein-Thompson: We Rode to the Sea

Folly 50th Anniversary edition

Colin Watson: Charity Ends at Home

Michael Morpurgo: The War Horse

Jenny Hughes: The Painted Horse

Juliana Hutchings: A Horse to Remember

Alan Clark: The Last Diaries

Katie Fforde: Practically Perfect

Hilary Bonner: A Passion so Deadly

K M Peyton: The Sound of Distant Cheering

Dervla Murphy: Where the Indus is Young

Dorita Fairlie-Bruce: Nancy to the Rescue

Jilly Cooper: Octavia

Patricia Leitch: A Pony of our Own

Elizabeth Grant... : The Highland Lady in Ireland

Jo Packer: Gymkhana Trek

T S Eliot: Collected Poems

John Wyndham: The Midwich Cuckoos

John WYndham: The Seeds of Time

Bernard Cornwell: Excalibur

Letters from a Lost Generation: First World War Letters of Vera Brittain and Four Friends

and a lamp, various lip salves and hand creams, and dust.

I don't claim that shows the width of my reading: when I put together my first CV at university my tutor commented on the authors I had put down that I read. "But don't you think it shows breadth of mind?" I asked. "No," he said. "Just that you can't make up your mind."

I am what my husband calls a cluttermeleon. My job doesn't help. When you regularly get in boxes of books, they have to go somewhere, and in my case there are an awful lot of somewheres, particularly when you have decided to have a purge of old stock and the landing is filled with boxes on their way out, fighting with the regiments on their way in.

There are times I wish I could do minimalism. I caught the end of Grand Designs when I came in from the PCC meeting. I love to look at that sort of modern, spare house, with its uncluttered purity, and I see how beautiful it is, but I could no more live in it than I could fly. I am the High Priestess of Clutter, with my faithful acolytes, my children, who have learned the lesson so well they are actually worse than me.