Regulars here will know how much BW dislikes football. All ball games, come to that.
Fortunately, Mr BW's only TV sporting vice is a fondness for motor sport. Which is OK by me. I've always liked F1, probably because Daddy BW always watched it when I was a child. And read a magazine called "Motor Sport" which had a dark green cover (maybe with thin white vertical stripes?) with a picture of a racing car in the middle. I was fascinated by that magazine. It was so glossy (for its day) and always smelt of glossy paper, unlike the magazines Mummy BW read. Plus, 20-odd years ago, I was briefly involved in some hill climbing racing in Minis. Until I started beating the blokes whose cars I was being lent. Then it all had to stop. Actually, there was slightly more to it than that, but that's a blog for another time ;)
Today is the last day of the World Championship Athletics in Paris. I love watching athletics. Again, probably because of my own personal involvement in the past. Back in my secondary school days I was a county level athlete, and was even selected to train for the England squad. I decided it was too much like hard work though, and feigned a long-term ankle injury in order to be able to concentrate on academia. I've still got the Alan Pascoe team t-shirt though. And a box of medals and certificates.
My main event was short distance hurdles (80m then 100m as I got older). Every time I look at a flight of hurdles now I can still feel myself making the three strides between each and then getting my legs in the right position. And feel the adrenaline charged eternity between getting into the blocks, the command to be ready, "seeet", and the starting pistol. Even writing that I can feel a little adrenaline rush coursing through my veins. Call me competitive if you must. I was. Very, very competitive. I got over it. Sometime about 6 years ago when I learnt the hard way about burning out by attempting to do too much and be all things to all people.
I also did long jump, 100m, and relay. And some field events, when they were desperate for numbers in the team. I did very little training for field events, but could still throw a javelin or a shot further than most of the other girls who did it as their main event. I guess that being 5' 9" (even in those days) and broad-shouldered helped (sorry to spoil your mental image of me Mr D :)). However, I wasn't allowed to do the discus after a discus accidentally slipped out of my hand, and into the games mistress' car's bonnet, during a practice session.
In the 4 x 100m relay I always ran either first or last. Usually last as I was well-known for my false starts. I was telling Mr BW the other night about a particular race I recall where I was running the last leg and won it by about 20m. Momentarily, anyway, until they (and I) realised that I didn't have the baton at the finishing line. I still don't know how that happened.
I think athletics on TV, and when competing, suits me perfectly. It's all over in a few seconds. I've never been one for endurance events. I have very little stamina for the long-term, but I can always find huge amounts of interest for something that will be short-term and require enormous effort and concentration for a finite period. I remember Alan Pascoe saying to a group of us creme de la creme county athletes that had been got together for training, "Right, two laps of the track to warm up for everyone except Blue Witch. She can run over to the bins and back or else she'll be worn out before we've started." True, but I was later proved to be the best of the athletes there. I just didn't care to waste my energy on pointless exercises.
So, I'll be glued to my TV this afternoon for all the finals. Oooh, how I love those little retrieval trolleys that go out in the field events, and Black Hat and White Hat (as we've called the green cameras on rails positioned on the straights in the track events). Not to mention the male long jumpers in their all-in-one lycra suits which get peeled down as soon as they've jumped. No, I wasn't going to mention them....
I have a habit that I didn't realise I had until today when Mr BW noticed. When I send email, I always wish it on its way with the little phrase, "Wheee, bye!" as I hit send. Mr BW laughed earlier, and I just caught myself saying it again. I wonder how long I've been doing that for? Is it worrying?
This week there are 4 contenders and 2 Honourable Mentions.
Right, having now picked 2 huge buckets of surplus damsons from one of The Nice Ladies' farmhouse garden (is that correct, I can't decide?), with my blue hands (from the juice), I can now post this week's Funnies as I Found Them.
Mr BW is busy making damson chutney, damson jam and damson jelly (and that's just for starters, apparently) in my cauldrons on my Aga, so he won't notice just how many BW Points I'm giving away this week (you will recall that I am under strict orders not to laugh so much cos we haven't had a very good honey crop this year).
Contender 1:Marcus (and I think I laughed because I empathise entirely with him over this as I too have bad sight - so bad, in fact, that the NHS allows me free eye tests, and a complex lenses voucher worth a generous £27 towards glasses or contact lenses):
"The thing is that my sight is very, and I mean very bad. I mean if I was in a club without glasses or lenses and I would bump into my biological dad, I’m most certain I would think he would be a hunk, and probably pay him to shag me. And believe me he is one pig ugly motherfucka."
Contender 2:Darren reports a problem that dave was having (although dave's version in the comments box later was rather different, but, hey, what's a bit of exaggeration to make a good story, between friends) (by the way, Edward's a dog (a cute, sweet, adorable dog), for those who don't know):
" "eeeeee, I've copied all the Beastie Boys albums except the main (& best) one. Where could it be, Edward?" "
"So hurrah for chillis. Unhurrah for tomatoes, which have grown well but have a horrible gritty texture, and for strawberries, which have attracted strawberry-eating creatures other than Mr Muchly and myself."
And it carried on in the comments. After I left a suggestion for storing surplus chillis, Somewhat commented,
"Unlikely to be excess chillis as they are so tasty I am eating them raw. We dinosaurs are closely related to dragons, and therefore must keep up our fiery breath."
Although anybody who can eat raw chillis isn't going to like BW honey, I just know it...
Contender 4:Matt, who proved that he reads BW too carefully and perfectly summed up my lifestyle choice. After Eloon mentioned blue mascara, I commented,
"Blue mascara? I thought I was the only one who had ever even heard of that! I, however, still use it. Only one company making it now (well the electric blue I like anyway). Dread to think what I'll do when they cease production..."
"Knowing you BW you'll probably invest in the animals/plants that go into making it and harvest it yourself."
As I always say, many a true word spoken in jest :)
Honourable mention, but can't have any points as this person had no ID:
A couple of days ago, Lisa was complaining that she hadn't received any emails with attached viruses. Beerzie Boy commented:
"If you aren't getting a virus, perhaps you are hanging with the wrong type of people."
"Could have a point there, Beerzie. I've only received one email of any description in the six years I've had an account. Got it very early on, too: "Welcome to Outlook Express", I believe it was."
Another Honourable Mention (but no MBWLA Points as there'd be no point, now would there?) to MrBW, who replied to Debbie's question under this post of mine in an entirely amusing manner.
And drD, comments, like wot I have just spotted, such as "I have finally managed to render BW speechless - result" are likely to result in deduction of BW Points, OK? :)
While we're doing messages to familiars,Alan, Brick and Steve, "You just get back to your blogs!", OK? My sidebar is like the Marie Celeste. No excuses, your audience need you :)
So, a point each to each of the 4 contenders, and the winner will be announced later, when I've done whatever it is that Mr BW is shouting at me to appear to do...
OK, I'm back - the winner of the 2 MBWLA Points and Keeper of the Trophy for this week is .....Dino Features. But only because Darren won't put the picture of Edward back at the top of his blog. Witches like Edward better than some half-dressed scrap, Darren ;)
He took his car in for a service today. Complete rip-off as it had to be done by a Ford garage in order to keep the 3-year warranty. He's only done 10,000 in 2 years (that vehicle is only used for travelling to work). The supposed service interval is 12,000 miles, but, if you do less, they still insist that you pay the £110 service charge every year. They're supposed to provide free courtesy cars too, but you need to book 7 or 8 weeks ahead for that, and even then they sometimes aren't there when you turn up.
Anyway, I noticed that if you booked your service through their website you got 5% off.
Therefore, £110 - 5% should have been £104.50. The computer system kicked out a bill for £104.62. Mr BW refused to pay. He stood there and argued for 5 minutes over the 12p. And he won. I'm very proud of him :)
I was having some fun with one of my children yesterday afternoon. Well, not one of my children, one of someone else's, the sort I borrow for an hour a week, and their parents pay me to amuse myself with them :) (Actually, parents of said child are going to be paying me more next week. I'd already decided to put up my rate by £2 per hour for the new school year, but after said child told me that his dad had just bought a new Porsche, I decided to put up the rate by £4 per hour. When I told the mother she said, "Oh, fine, you're still incredibly good value BW!" Damn, should have made it £5 per hour increase....)
Anyway, we were doing some work on collective nouns. Not that they'll ever be of any use to said child, except for obscure quiz questions, but, never mind. Never one to be conventional, I think there's much more chance of learning sticking if it's fun. So, we started devising our own names for groups of things. Some of the ones that I can remember were:
a group of presents = a 'thank you'
a group of mobile phones = a 'ring' or a 'nuisance'
a group of cuddly toys = a 'soft' or a 'comfort'
a group of tents = a 'canvas'
a group of shoes = an 'octopus'
a group of children = a 'nuisance' or a 'noise'
Now then, who's got any more ideas for novel collective nouns?
To start you off:
What's the collective name for a group of bloggers, for instance?
It's raining, it's pouring, the old man is snoring
The last bit's a lie actually; Mr BW is busy making apple and blackberry jelly (that is, like jam but without bits - you strain the boiled up apples and blackberries through a jelly bag (made of fine muslin-like fabric) to get a liquid that you then boil up with sugar. Saves getting pips in your teeth).
But, we do at last have rain. Hurrah! The garden is smiling.
I went out this afternoon, just as it started. 14 miles there and 14 back. In that time I saw frothy roads (a sure sign of diesel or other road film from a long period of drought), and 3 major accidents. All, in my opinion, could have been avoided if people hadn't been driving up the bumper of the car in front.
Rain = double your normal stopping distance.
Rain after long drought (6 weeks now) = triple (at least) your normal stopping distance.
The accidents I saw involved 14 vehicles. Probable cost of repairs/write offs, around £100,000. That's my insurance premium that just went up. And yours, if you're a motorist. Carelessness annoys me. You don't get there any quicker by being 20 centimetres rather than 20 metres from the vehicle in front. Mind you, having said that, I've sometimes thought that if all the traffic on the M25 kept the recommended stopping distance between vehicles, it wouldn't all fit on...
It appeared that my fame is spreading. At the other end of the country, Ron's local paper seemed to have picked up on our leaking stop-cock over the Bank Holiday problem. The Google News Service (as mentioned here last week, or the week before, can't be bothered to find the link...) has just emailed me the following excerpt:
"... But leaks appeared and halted the work. A spokeswoman for BW said: "Work has been progressing over the weekend and is now moving to its conclusion."
Now, I do quite often get journalists ringing me up asking for comments on this or that (sometimes even the other), but I couldn't recollect having commented on our water on the cloakroom floor situation.
This morning I've dusted off the candle that burnt resolutely on BW throughout the conflict in Iraq.
I suspect that few other than Bush and Blair were naive enough to believe that war with Iraq would solve anything.
Strange how the media is largely silent on that subject these days. The suffering of Iraqis amidst the carnage of what the allies (sic) have left is out of sight, so out of most people's minds. And yes, I'm as bad as the next person. I haven't even been reading Salam Pax much lately as it was all just too horrific. I'm a believer in local issues and local politics as I can usually do something about things in that way. Iraq is too far away from anything I can do to make a difference. Cop-out, but true. I can't take on the world. Particularly when there are idiots like B&B 'in charge'.
But, put something in front of my nose, and I'll take an interest. Particularly if it concerns one of my favourite issues. The rights of women. Thanks to Lisa for bringing to my attention the blog of 'Riverbend', a young Iraqi woman. Baghdad Burning is a beautifully written account of how her life (and that of all women in Iraq) has changed for the worse since the war. Essential, compelling and very disturbing reading.
This morning I said to Fluffy (the ginger outdoor cat familiar), "Hey, Fluffy, leave those Baby D'Oves alone, do something useful like catch mice and rats today. Black things, not white things, OK?"
I just went out to the workshop to get some milk out of the freezer (it's 2 miles to a small shop where they sell only whole and semi-skimmed milk, at 58p per pint, usually near its sell-by date, and they close at 5pm) and almost trod on a 'present'.
All summer there have been molehills in the orchard. In the last couple of weeks they have been ominously heading for the nice croquet lawn (no, that's a joke, it's actually as bumpy as anything, although we have played croquet on it once or twice). We have cursed the mole, and Fluffy for not catching it. Now, the culprit is dead, lying on its back, huge earth-stained paws akimbo, and mouth open in a screaming gesture, outside my back door. And I feel very sorry for it.
Meanwhile, outside the front door there is a shrew.
I just daren't look any further, although I have counted all 5 D'Oves safely at home.
I guess Fluffy took me seriously...
I suppose I should give her some cat treats for her trouble...
Dave the blogless commentator now has a blog called clear blue skies. Witchy likes blue things, great choice of name Dave :) Looks good, pop over and say "Hi" to him!
Mr BW assures me that our 10th Anniversary Trip for the beginning of next year is now all safely booked. We're off to Australia, via Hong Kong (out) and Singapore (back), for over 3 weeks. There was a choice of 2 hotels in one place. Mr BW couldn't decide and handed me the details. One said, "All rooms with internet terminals." I said, "That one, no question about it!" Mr BW has sorted it all out, he's such a sweetheart, I haven't had to do a thing.
I'm very bad at long flights though. I don't mind flying at all, it's just that I can't bear to be trapped in small spaces with lots of people and nothing constructive to do for hours on end.
Once, on the way back from San Francisco (on my own) I ended up with a young woman with a baby sat next to me. The baby cried all the time, and there was nowhere that either they, or I, could be moved to as the plane was absolutely full (even in First Class - I went to check!). So, I told the stewardess that I wanted a G&T brought to me every 20 minutes, unless she wanted an infant massacre on her hands. I got my G&T drip-fed to me, just as I'd asked. Mr BW picked me up from the airport at about 7am the next morning. "You been drinking BW?" he asked. "Yes," I said, and explained why. I'd had 27 G&Ts and still felt, although didn't, apparently, smell, sober. Such is what babies on long flights reduce me to. I've got 5 months to prepare myself mentally for this though...
And yes, I know that a trip like this is extravagant, and that I'm meant to be Value Witch, but that treat (including spending money) will be more than covered by the amount I have saved on mortgage interest this year by using 0% credit card balance transfers into our offset mortgage account. Oh yes, BW, taking advantage at every opportunity since 1962 :)
At last, at last, a way round the NThelL caches that works every time!
I'm so excited, at last! I'm sure I can't be the only one who didn't know what Darren has told me - a ? after a URL will automatically bring up any updated version of a web page.
To my Wonderful Man Ooop North who is currently beavering away on BW's new dress, just to prove to me that nothing is impossible, could you put in a ? at the end of all my links, please? (private joke, all should be revealed soon).
Mr BW successfully changed the mains water stopcock last night. Sigh of relief and lots of soggy bath towels.
The Baby D'Oves look like they might be pushed out of The Dovecote later on today (hopefully not straight into Fluffy's mouth - but, just in case, we have put their little identification rings on, so at least Fluffy will get indigestion on the hard metal bits). Sink or swim time for them. Or, perhaps more fittingly, fly or crash time.
We need rain. The last time it rained here was on the afternoon of the Nice Ladies BBQ, and that was back on 16th July. All the trees are losing their leaves due to the stress of the weather conditions. It's like Autumn a month early.
Oh, and I've got some paperwork that I must finish today, so I've got to get on with that. No blogging allowed until I've done it. Probably.
Our teachers are many. There are mentors who take the time to show us who we can be. There are those who see who we can be. And, maybe the most important teachers are those who show us who we don't want to be.
The principled, idealistic type. Ones are conscientious and ethical, with a strong sense of right and wrong. They are teachers, crusaders, and advocates for change: always striving to improve things, but afraid of making a mistake. Well-organized, orderly, and fastidious, they try to maintain high standards, but can slip into being critical and perfectionistic. They typically have problems with resentment and impatience. At their Best: wise, discerning, realistic, and noble. Can be morally heroic."
and I was nearly a:
"Type Six: The Loyalist
The committed, security-oriented type. Sixes are reliable, hard-working, responsible, and trustworthy. Excellent "troubleshooters," they foresee problems and foster cooperation, but can also become defensive, evasive, and anxious—running on stress while complaining about it. They can be cautious and indecisive, but also reactive, defiant and rebellious. They typically have problems with self-doubt and suspicion. At their Best: internally stable and self-reliant, courageously championing themselves and others."
On Sunday night, as we sat down to a dinner where everything had come out of the garden, Mr BW said to me, "BW, do you think George would be pleased with what we've done here?"
George was the old boy who owned The Coven before us. He was a master carpenter, and was on the point of retiring when he inherited The Coven (then a small bungalow, originally built in 1929) from his uncle in 1978. With the help of his buddies from work (all master tradesmen in their own right) he slowly modernised it and extended it. He was a perfectionist, and, judging by the 6" nails he used where everyone else would have used 2", also a pessimist.
The Coven had been on the market for over 2 years when I first viewed it, at the beginning of 1995. We nearly didn't see it at all as the estate agent's details were dreadful and the picture was taken from the wrong angle. One look, and they were in the "discard" pile. However, Mr BW was off in Italy on business and I was bored, so decided to have a nose just out of interest. From the first minute I walked through the door, I knew it was the house for us.
George and his wife Doreen were both fast approaching 80, and the house and garden had got too much for them. There was a lot of modernising and redecorating, not to mention gardening (or more precisely, garden redesign and jungle clearance), that needed doing. We were "interviewed" for the privilege of buying their house. They asked us questions to ascertain that we had the skills that were necessary, in their opinion, to keep the place as they originally had. I nearly blew it when Doreen said, "That sink, I'd never have one like that again, it needs polishing twice a day!" I was about to laugh and say, "Don't worry, our cleaner will do it once a week!" when I realised that she was serious and quickly changed my comment to, "May I ask what brand of sink cleaner you've found works best as it looks so lovely and I'd like to keep it that way?"
Anyway, we passed the interview and duly moved in, just over 8 years ago. Since then we've done a lot. In response to Mr BW's question, "Do you think George would be pleased with what we've done here?" I said, "Well, apart from the fact that we've replaced the windows he painstakingly made himself, torn out all his fitted wardrobes, cut down his old Christmas trees (they were 30 or 40 feet tall!), moved his beloved vegetable garden and reduced it to less than half its original size, yes I guess so!"
HOWEVER, I must have been wrong. George had his own answer to Mr BW's question. As he has been dead for over 3 years now, he was able to demonstrate his displeasure at the demise of his windows, cupboards and vegetable patch.
During the night on Sunday/Monday, the main stopcock (which is in the cloakroom) started leaking. By the time we noticed on Monday morning, there were probably 10 gallons of water on the floor, the skirting board was soggy and some of the panelling on the wall had sagged. As Mr BW removed the skirting board for easier access, I said, "You do have another piece of that skirting board left, don't you?" (it is a very unusual size and was very expensive). He said, "I did have, then a couple of weeks ago I thought, what the heck, we haven't needed it for 8 years, so I'll just use it to start the BBQ." Grrr.
Anyway, Mr BW is quite capable of changing a mains stopcock, so, as we couldn't get the replacement parts until the plumbers' merchant opened this morning, we've had old towels on the floor, and have been wringing them out every couple of hours. I trotted along to the trade counter earlier and did my usual Daft Witch Act (they're ever so helpful if you do, give all kinds of handy hints, and there's always plenty of delicious eye candy workmen popping in and out, so I keep them chatting so that I can stay for as long as possible. Also, if you say things like, "It won't be too expensive will it?" with a worried look on your face, they give you the bits they sell to the trade rather than the DIY-ers; better quality, and much cheaper. I usually try to pay cash rather than use the Platinum AmEx card (2% cash back on every purchase :), as that so gives the game away :) However, today I got 'Charlie', an older, very avuncular man, who mistook my Daft Value Witch Act for, "This woman shouldn't be let in here alone!" and insisted that we call Mr BW and drag him out of a meeting just so that he could check that I'd got what we needed correct, "Because you can't be too careful with water you know."
So, I now have a bag of copper bits, and extra olives (not the eating type) for adapting metric to imperial. Total cost - ten quid. Total cost of a plumber on a Bank Holiday would have been - probably about £250. Thank heavens for Mr BW!
Oh, and George, you've made your point now, let Mr BW get on with fixing it tonight without further meddling, OK?
Excellent guide to the prices and qualities of service from the eleven new Directory Enquiry services now competing to con you for your business here (link nicked from Random Mike).
Much simpler form here, courtesy of DG (the man no-one could be bothered to question, I'm sure he's heartbroken ;)
However, Witchy can now reveal, thanks to Martin the Money Saving Expert (it's well worth signing up to his free email service) that there is a *loophole* that will allow you free directory enquiries calls.
"On 1st August One-Tel declared all Directory Inquiries calls to its 118-111 service from its own home or mobile phone systems will be completely free. As well as a great benefit to One-Tel's existing users, the company has unwittingly opened a loophole, for anybody to make free Directory Inquiries calls.
This is because it isn’t necessary to change your home phone to call One-Tel. You can set up a One-Tel account for free either via www.onetel.co.uk or 0800 957 8111 then you access it simply by dialling a freephone number. Therefore to get Directory Inquiries calls at no charge, once you have set up a One-Tel account simply dial its freephone number, get connected then dial its Directory Inquiries number.
It is even possible to take advantage of this from mobile phones. There One-Tel’s freephone number isn’t free, but it is only charged as a standard call, then just make your Directory Enquiry call. This is massively cheaper than the very cheapest standard call from a mobile phone. Even better, for holders of Orange contract mobile phones, use One-Tel’s special override number system, which to stop Orange charging for the freephone number, it reissues a new one every few weeks – so your freephone call is free.
One-Tel originally said it would review the situation on free calls to its own customers on the 1st January 2004. It is likely to stay until at least then, and if you are willing to make the effort, it is without doubt the cheapest way to call Directory Inquiries."
If you really can't be bothered to spend 2 minutes setting this up, then, in terms of cheapness, Martin reckons that:
"After crunching the numbers, one provider is head and shoulders above all others. 11-88-88, is cheaper to make one enquiry and substantially cheaper for making more than one. Its pricing policy is quite simple; it is 20p a minute, with a minimum charge of 20p and it allows unlimited inquiries."
Value Witch - keeping your money in your pocket (Yes, I was the one who used to walk 100 yards down the road to use the phonebox for free directory enquiry calls, until they made you pay for those too....)
*All* the comments prior to today seem to have disappeared. You can imagine how pleased I am about that :(
I've been out all day, so it wasn't my useless IT skills, despite what some of you might be thinking.
I've asked Enetation to see if they can magic them back, cos I can't...
8pm Update: Helpful John at Enetation has magiced them back (all 1400 of them, plus whatever was there in the couple of months I was using the free version, plus however many I'd made. Probably about 2,500, in 8 months. Wow! Thank you to everyone who has contributed (*wipes tear*)).
John had to write a whole new chunk of code specially for me 'n' LaP (and probably other Pro-users who'd been put back onto the free version, which runs on a different server, during an upgrade). All that in less than an hour and a half - and he bothered to reply to my email, then to send me another asking if it was all OK, as well as reply on the forums.
It *is* annoying when the comments go wrong, and it has to be said that there have been a fair few problems this week. But, as most people use the system for free, I really don't think they can complain. Some of the comments over on the forums have to be seen to be believed. I just don't know how people can be that rude.
So, a BW Gold Star, and thanks, to Enetation John for his efforts on a BH Sunday :)
Mr BW: BW, I'm just going to the Post Office to get a paper.
BW: OK, but no buying sweets while you're there OK? You admitted to buying 12 near-to-their-sell-by-date bags of McCoys crisps for £1 on Friday, therefore no extra snacks are permitted.
Mr BW: Whew, so chocolate's OK then?
BW: No, you know jolly well that chocolate is a sweet!
Mr BW: It's just been recategorised as a "staple food" actually.
If he comes home with chocolate (or chocolate-smelling breath), there will be trouble.
Mummy Blue-Witch in-law told me the other day that he's now buying sweets with cash when he buys petrol using the (2% cash-back) credit card, rather than listen to me moan about the unnecessary calories he's consuming. Well, it was taking me ages to split the expenditure when I entered the amount into Quicken. Can't have my "Motor: Fuel" expenditure category distorted due to Mr BW's chocolate habit, now can I? :)
I almost wish I hadn't bothered to shave my legs (for the second time this summer) last night, now. Why *do* I bother?
This week there are 5 now only 4 contenders (see below).
Coming later as we have a large amount of honey extraction to do. Look, these honey prizes I keep giving out don't just magically appear in jars you know! It all has to be painstakingly removed from the honeycomb....
Later: Much poorer honey crop this year than envisaged (only half of last year's), so I've been instructed to be meaner with the MBWLA points. I know there were 5 contenders, but there's only 4 in my little cut-and-paste-good-bits-all-week file now.... So, you may well be forever the one that got away, sorry.
Contender 1: Invisible Stranger who was having a spot of bother with some DIY. I've never actually met any gay person who actually manages DIY. I think that that is one of the characteristics you know. Although why that should be so, I have no idea.
"With all three blinds now chopped to their correct size, and only one splattered with blood, Bruce (Springsteen) and I set to screwing the mounting brackets into the wall. Pounding power-tool in my hands for the first time (well, one made by Black & Decker anyway), I handled it like the DIY pro I'm sure you've realised I've now become. Even when I worked out that the holes I'd marked on the wall now no longer corresponded to the length of the sawn-down blinds, I didn't pout and stamp my feet and throw a queeny fit. No, I just said "f**k-s**t, f**k-s**t, f**k-s**t", like any respected workman would, downed tools, went to the pub, and two Stellas later returned to start all over again.
They're up now. With a bit of luck they might just stay up too: I've liberally applied some No More Nails, that lifesaver of the DIY-inept, to the mounting brackets just to be on the safe side. I swallowed only one rawl-plug, and the whole place is covered in a light layer of plaster-dust. I might just leave it like that: it lends a glamour of butch masculinity to balance the camp nelliness of the zebra-skin cushions and rugs, and the framed portraits of Louise Brooks."
Contender 2: DG's ongoing digital radio saga has finally resolved. He has his new box of tricks. And let's hope it lasts longer than the last one did.
"I can vegetate to what appears to be the Simply Red channel, and there even appears to be a channel solely devoted to the sound of distant birdsong. Sadly the scrolling text doesn't tell me whether I'm listening to a thrush or a starling."
(Aside - just exactly where are all your questions about everything you really want to know about DG? We've got him worried y'know. Don't let him waste all his weekend popping into Internet Cafés to check up on us - come up with something to make his day next time he pops by ;) )
Contender 3: At last! A point for Troubled 2-Agas Mike, for this gem about having his country 'residence' (said with l'accent francais) photographed for a posh mag (do go and read it in full, the paragraph below just doesn't do it justice):
"Oh yeah, and for the "couple on the sofa in the sitting room shot" (well, me on the sofa and K sprawled at my feet, actually - a glaring mis-representation of our power dynamic if ever there was one, but I wasn't complaining), the photographer insisted I change out of my best shoes, because they looked too much like trainers. The readers of Menstrual Moments might be ready for Challenging New Design Concepts Which Successfully Fuse The Period And The Contemporary - they might even be ready for Swanked Up Poofs Flagrantly Sprawling At Each Other's Feet - but they were clearly not ready for Cutting Edge Casual Footwear. The horror!"
When I first started reading TD (at the time of The Shirts), he'd have had points every week, but, for some reason, although I love the way Mike writes (thank god he came back from his hols when he did as this week I was running out of blogs to read to escape working), while often very amused, I'm not often laughing out loud. This week it must have been the subject matter, being a little close to my, erm, heart.
I'm going to make a risky -ist comment here (might get away with it as Mike started it ;) ): Why do so many poofs appear on TV house makeover or new house search type shows? But, to the best of my knowledge, this is the first time a gay couple have (obviously) appeared in this kind of magazine shoot. Well, I only have a subscription to Country Living, and don't go to the doctor's enough to regularly read any others, so maybe I'm wrong? "Mike & K, Pushing Back the Boundaries of Upper Class Periodicals" - I love it boys, good on yer :)
Contender 4: Alan's blog holiday is doing him good. He's managed to make me laugh again (however, if he doesn't come back soon, there'll be spells ;) )
This one, a comment after my Thursday 'Thought for the day' just has to be seen (read the comments after) to be appreciated.
Bonus BW Points this week to: Ron (who told me a secret about harvesting permalinks that I didn't know yesterday. It will save me hours. I am too embarrassed to say what it was as it is so obvious, now that I know....) and to Dave (who is, we are assured, soon to be blogified - is that the correct term for someone who acquires a blog of their own?) for trying to explain DG's puzzle to me when no-one else would :)
(You haven't forgotten your once-in-a-blogtime opportunity to de-cloak De Geezer have you? Put your questions in the box below ;) (*Thinks* I haven't over-sold this concept yet, have I? :))
And the winner is....Mr Teapot in the Bottom Oven! Well done Mike, the trophy is all yours for the next week. Polish it well (but not with beeswax polish, that's only for furniture, really) before you give it back will you please? :)
Updated Scoresheet is here. Oooh, Ron, so near, yet so far :)
Fascinating things, aren't they, the mental images we conjure up of people we speak to on the phone, read about in fiction books, or on blogs. How many times have you read a book and later had your mental images of the characters spoilt when you've seen a screen version where the casting doesn't match your ideas?
Well, as noted in various of the comments boxes below (it's so difficult without the counters, isn't it?), when asked about their image of me,
Eloon thought I was American (that was, before she met me)
Mr D thinks I am, "Physically: slight/petite; Mentally: kindly-sharp, with a genial countenance masking a razor brain; Personalityally - a self-deprecating good person. "
And Dave answered the question, What do you think I'd be like if you met me? with:
That's something I've given a bit of thought to lately (about bloggers in general, not just your good self). It's difficult enough to get an idea of what a blogger's really like when they are completely up front about personal details but when everything is hidden behind a layer of false names and general subterfuge then it's much tougher. Where you're concerned, I don't even have much personal experience on which to base my image; I don't know many people who live out in the country and keep bees and doves, whereas I know lots of people who live and work in London. The only thing I do know is that I think I'd like you. But then, I like most people that have more than a couple of brain cells to rub together."
All I can say is, you're after my honey Mr D and Dave, aren't you? Flattery will get you everywhere, you're right :)
And those who actually know me in real life, you can jolly well stop laughing right now :)
I go off to earn a crust for 2 hours, and I come back to find....
1. Still no comments numbers, but 100s of comments!
2. Over at RW, Ron's been encouraging Eloon to get pissed (actually, at her request he kindly offered her a biscuit and she immediately took the opportunity to demand alcohol instead - what's a Witch to do? Just can't get the familiars, and just can't trust them to behave when allowing them to go out visiting, can I? ;)
4. Mark has done his answers too. Your comments are down Mark, sorry! But my girls aren't safe with you are they? You'd want to eat all 8 of them, so I've withdrawn my prize demand :) (my girls = my hens; BM likes chicken dinners)
5. Mr D's answered his questions (somewhere below) - all I've got to say is, I'd agree, Mr D, the world is better off without your blog if it would be about "footie, soaps and the M25" :) Great title though. Copyright it or Eloon will nick it for sure... (Afterthought - somehow I don't think someone who'd pick those 5 desert island discs would write (much) about any of those things :)
6. The only question about DG is Alan's one about why he put an ace in some hole or another. I despair - I offer you the chance to find out anything he'd never tell you himself, and you don't want to! Well, you've got till Sunday afternoon now.
BUT - and this is the highlight of my week! (yes, it's been a bad week)I've worked out DG's puzzle! Actually, I got a 10 year old to do it for me. It's amazing how I can always teach people to do things I can't do myself. My tip - do BOTH diagonals first. I only did one before and it was much harder impossible. You wouldn't believe that I have a non-verbal IQ that is two standard deviations above the mean, would you? ;)
Update: Ron at Ronsworld assures me that he is still alive (at least until 3pm when he bunks off home, if I know anything about him at all). We need a slogan for our campaign. How about: BW & RW, keeping the blogworld going, all on our own! (despite Enetation's best efforts at not counting our comments)?
Ron's given some great answers to what were very uninspired questions from me over at Ron's World. I now have a printed list stuck on my wall of all I ever needed to know about his commentators at Ronsworld :)
Dave's answers are in the comments box below now. Interesting stuff. I love the "false names and general subterfuge" bit. But Blue Witch is my real name! And no footie on your upcoming blog, please. Witches are allergic to football.
And if you still haven't been interviewed, just put "Yes" in the comments and your wish will be granted.
More importantly, if you have a question you'd like answered about that most esoteric of bloggers, diamond geezer, I can grant that wish too, just put it in the comments.
Comments counter isn't working, there are comments below
In true BW Style, just when I hadn't got time to do something, I volunteered.
Just in case there is possibly anyone left who hasn't already stumbled upon this somewhere, it's The Interview Game. It started I can't remember where (apologies to whoever) last week. If you want to be interviewed, these are:
1. Leave a comment, saying you want to be interviewed.
2. I will respond; I'll ask you five questions.
3. You'll update your website with my five questions, and your five answers.
4. You'll include this explanation.
5. You'll ask other people five questions when they want to be interviewed.
Actually, also in true BW style - I like quietly and subtly subverting rules, and building on ideas - so, if you're one of my non-bloggy commentators (you listening Dave, Douglas, Mr BW et al, I know you're lurking out there? ;) you can join in too, leave a comment; where there's a will there's a way.
I sort of limbered up with my questions yesterday, but now I'm going to have a go at answering those I was set by Mike (Ha - got him discussing Aga teapots earlier, just trying to keep his feet on the ground, really ;) ). I decided that Mike could be trusted to ask the sort of questions I might want to answer. I also decided to test out my Powers of Witchy Prediction. So, I sent myself an email soon after I'd asked to take part. Now, I know I can't prove that this is real, so you'll just have to take my word for it. It said:
----- Original Message -----
From: "Blue Witch" To: "Blue Witch" Sent: Wednesday, August 20, 2003 4:48 PM
Subject: Interview Question Prediction
> Witchy predicts that there's at least one gardening
>question and a question
> about my knowledge of a certain other blogger.
So, Witchy claims 100% predictive success :)
1. Are you supposed to do anything further with alliums after you've lopped off the seed heads, or do you just wait until next Spring, when they will magically re-sprout?
You've chopped their seed heads off, right?
Nic said I should have been more specific with my previous advice on deheading...
No, don't worry, it's not the end of the world :)
Many people (myself included) prefer to leave the heads on for decorative purposes. They look beautiful in the low sun in the early morning in the Autumn / early Winter, with the dew glistening on the webs the spiders have built on them. There's always next year though :)
Other people remove the heads and use them for decorative purposes indoors (spray them with hairspray - the cheaper the better, nothing posh - to prevent them dropping seeds everywhere).
Alliums are pretty hardy and pretty tough and will thrive in most soils with little attention. As with all bulbs, don't cut off the foliage, even if it looks messy (which it will!) just let it die down naturally (the bulb needs to reabsorb the goodness from the leaves in order to flower well the next year). Actually, while I think of it, the same applies to the leaves of herbaceous plants (that is, most of the traditional cottage garden plants that die down in winter and come back in spring) - once the colder weather comes, let them die down naturally, don't cut of the foliage even if it looks a bit rough (it's fine to keep tidying up and cutting back until it gets colder in about a month's time though). Better to tidy up and prune in Spring than in Autumn, for most shrubs, too (exceptions, IMHO (Nic might disagree, but he's on his hols), buddleia, hardy fuchsias and lavatera - take back about half to two-thirds of what you want to lose in the Autumn, finish off the job in Spring; that way if the frost bites hard, the dead wood is only the bit you would otherwise have cut off in Autumn). Don't ever be tempted to remove any plant material that gets brown and frosted as Winter goes on - it will provide protection to the developing new shoots. Beneficial animals and insects will also be using it for shelter, food and winter protection.
2. It's time we started thinking about ordering some bulbs. What do you recommend, particularly tulip-wise? Are there any good specialist mail-order suppliers which we should know about?
I don't think you're going to like my advice on this as it involves a trip to Woolworths :)
It's very easy to think that buying from specialist nurseries is best, just because they are specialists and because they charge more. It's also very easy to get carried away when you've got a catalogue in front of you (I've done that, but don't tell MrBW, eh?)!
What I'd suggest is:
1. Get a few glossy catalogues from the 'bigger' specialist companies (eg Bloms and Bakker (not quite in the same class as Bloms and comes with nasty 'free' gifts and raffles, unfortunately)). Have a good look through to get an idea of what sort of thing you like (eg for tulips: small flowering, Greigii hybrids, Kaufmanniana hybrids, Darwin hybrid, Fosteriana hybrids, early single, early double, paeony flowered, multi flowered, mid-season, May flowering, parrots flowered (my favourites - the frilly petalled ones), Viridiflora (green + colour petalled), fringed).
- Flowering time (if you're clever you can have eg tulips from February to May).
- Height (some tulips and narcissi and very tall and need to be (a) staked - which is a pain - and (b) look out of proportion against other nearby plants).
- What else in the garden will be flowering at the same time as the bulbs you are choosing.
- Colour - fewer colours are more effective; use shades of a theme colour to add interest.
- How to plant - our soil is heavy clay, so we tend to plant bulbs in pots as they rot if placed directly in the ground. These pots are then strategically placed and moved around the borders to give an overall effect as the Spring goes on. Tulips are prone to tulip blight (which kills them and often any other bulbs or rhizomes nearby), so many authorities are now suggesting that they are planted just below the surface in colander-type specialist containers, lifted when flowering has finished, dried off and replanted every Autumn.
3. Having looked through the catalogues, take a trip to Woolworths (or several trips as their gardening stock changes week on week). I honestly think that their bulbs are some of the best available. In your position, I'd buy the backbone bulb structure for my garden at Woolies the first year, then visit some flower shows (eg RHS Spring Shows and Bloms stand at Chelsea - you have joined the Royal Horticultural Society haven't you, now that you're officially a self-confessed Middle Aged Diva? ;) and various Spring Gardens (eg National Trust - lots of lovely ones near you - and RHS), and order the pretty pretties (ie the more unusual, maybe species, ones) that take your fancy for the year after.
4. Don't buy bulbs until you are ready to plant them, and plant bulbs as soon as you have bought them; don't leave them in their wrappings or they will go bad. Avoid buying in garden centres and DIY sheds at this time of year as they will be old stock and will often not grow, or not grow well. Narcissi and daffs especially need to be planted deeper than you think they should be, for best results (at least 15 cm of soil on top of the bulb).
1. Dwarf narcissi, especially the white hued ones, with 'flying backwards petals' are less ostentatious than daffodils and narcissi and would fit in well with your style of planting.
2. Deep purples, mauves and cerise pink together are wonderful, as are yellows with mauves/blues (I'll see if I can get some photos up over the weekend).
3. Don't buy snowdrop dry bulbs. They rarely come up. Buy them 'in the green' from a reputable company (see adverts in the back of the gardening magazines) in the Spring.
4. Don't try to get it all right in one year. Mass planting in colour swathes (or colour hue swathes) looks much more effective than a few of this and a few of that. Be prepared to dig up and move anything that doesn't work.
3. You used to manage a punk band, didn't you? Please tell us more about the days when you were Street Cred Witch.
Oh yes. Aardvarks Anonymous. I need to Google that, see if there's anything anywhere about this. Then I need to have a look on Friends Reunited to see whether any of the band members are still alive (if they are I'll have to be more careful about what I say!) Then I'll get back to you, OK? Later: Hmmm. I think I'll blog this separately sometime soon. I have to see if I can find a cassette tape and some photos I know I have in my loft, somewhere...
4. What is Diamond Geezer really like? Are there any anecdotes involving you both, which you can safely relate without causing him unreasonable embarrassment?
I've already answered this question, back in the latter part of June :)
Not going to link it to make it easy either.
This is actually the hardest question for me to answer, because I don't actually know the answer myself. So, I'll let him tell you in his own words, in list form as you might expect:
The short answer to the anecdote question is "No".
However.... that's not playing the game, is it?
And besides, DG has today again refused to tell me the answer to his puzzle from the other day (extra BW Point to anyone who will though :) He told me a whole lot of stuff I already knew and implied that I was being dim, so all's fair I reckon ;)
So, I'll tell you Mr BW's favourite DG Gem.
One evening, probably about 4 years ago now, that mathematically talented blogger (well, it was actually pre-blog days then, obviously) came round to The Coven, and we decided to bottle some of the mead we had made the previous year. Yes Mike, in answer to your supplementary question earlier, we even make alcohol from our honey, and bloody good stuff it is too. One lot was 22% proof :)
This 'bottling' involved syphoning the clear liquid off the sediment in the bottom of the demijohn, into bottles, then inserting the corks into the bottle necks using a mallet, an applicator and a wet cork.
The only thing I remember about the evening was that I drank far too many samples of the concoction that was in production and that DG was left in charge of the syphoning process. Now, as most people know, to stop liquid travelling down a syphon tube, one has only to raise the tube above the level of the liquid in the container from which one is syphoning.
Now, it's OK to make an error once, isn't it? Even when to lower rather than raise the syphon tube involves wasting precious mead and making the kitchen floor wet and sticky?
But to do it on more than one occasion is....
Well, just downright bloody hilarious really :)
I am charitable and believe that DG was actually so bored by the whole caper that he was working out the maths of the physics behind the syphoning process rather than concentrating on not over-filling the bottles. Others present had a different view. Then and now.
Of course, DG's recollection of this event may be totally different ;)
5. You find yourself stuck in an empty train carriage with Tony Blair for ten minutes. What do you say to him?
Unlikely, oh so very unlikely, that you'd find BW on a train...
A 1: "Hello, as we seem to be stuck in this carriage together, I guess we'd better introduce ourselves. So, I'm Blue Witch, and you are?"
A 2: *Pulls communication cord*
Loudly, animatedly, and to anyone who will listen:
"That horrible man over there exposed himself to me, then tried to grope me... Just who the hell does he think he is!"
*Appoints media agent (Mr BW, let's keep the pot of gold in the family), does million pound deal for the full story with hitherto unread (probably only by BWs though) magazines and tabloid newspapers*
A 3: BW is not naive enough to believe that anything that she could possilby say to that arrogant muppet would make one blind bit of difference, so BW saves her breath, avoids eye contact, and continues reading her copy of 'Country Smallholding'.
Don't forget, to get some Magic BW Questions for yourself, leave a comment below.
A: People who post puzzles and not the answers. And the commentators who tease Witches more ;)
(Warning: don't try this at home unless you want to be very frustrated and late to bed like we were last night; it's more frustrating than a Rubik's cube and equally pointless.)
Q: How do you define 'Public Nuisance'?
A: The local Public Library, which seems to have metamorphosed into a Community Centre cum Internet Caff cum CD/DVD/greetings card shop since I last ventured inside. First floor - geeks games workshop in one corner, old dears' bridge club in the other. Ground floor - kids running amuck, eating sweets, screaming, in one corner, three tramps (they had bottles of Value Cider, so they must have been) reading newspapers (aka sleeping), in another. And to think that I was made to whisper in our local library when I was a Small Witch.
Q: How do you define frustration?
A 1: Asking a red/green colour blind Mr BW to pick the ripe tomatoes in the greenhouse :)
A 2: Bloody Enetation who email me comments that are made but don't appear them on the screen. Thanks to today's commentators who have found themselves non-published. Particular thanks to Tony who was trying to answer my question about names of the Baby D'Oves:
"I found out from my greek housemate, that its aspro but the older version could be lefko, which also means blank. at least you got two moe versions of white. Have you thought about finding out what it is in aborigine or eskimoe at all, what about the amazon tribes, and theres all those different indian and chinese dialects as well. on the eskimo thought, you could start naming them all after snow coz apparently the eskimoes have a gazillion names for snow........."
That is very strange as Daddy BW engineered the very first machine that plastic-bubble-wrapped a headache tablet of the same brand name, nearly 40 years ago, when I was a Very Tiny Witch. If only he'd been given even a 0.1% share in the future of that machine...
Q: What did I buy the 81 year old Husband of Good Friend for his birthday today?
A: He's a great tea drinker (like me then), and I managed to find a beautiful Dunoon bone china mug decorated with sheet music and musical instruments. He was delighted. My friend looked relieved as she was convinced it would be what Alan suggested in the comments ;)
Thanks to an emailed contribution to the D'Ove name saga, we now have a name for the second baby. Did you know, baby D'Oves are actually called squabs, which is a horrible word. But then I suppose that they look absolutely horrible, so it's probably appropriate. Must get round to putting up a picture of them. Actually, must get round to taking a picture...
"White in Afrikaans is wit (not pronounced with the "w" sound as in the English "witty", but with a "v" as in "verb". The "i" is a short sound as in the English "bit"."
I just went and asked Baby 2 if s/he liked that name and s/he said, "Tweet" so I guess s/he did.
So, we now have some nice pairs, Wit and Weiss, Blanche and Blanco, and Alba.
But I still want to know what "white" is in Ancient Greek.
A very quick Google search failed to turn up anything except a translation site that couldn't translate the word, a translation site that was actually selling dictionaries, a site offering a free download complete dictionary (about 5.7MB), a site only comprehensible if one knows the Greek alphabet, a site of Ancient Greek vocabulary as it relates to the Olympics, some nasty sites with pop-ups that my pop-up killer didn't, and one where the side-bar moves when you scroll down. I hate things like that.
The D'Ove darlings have been doing lovely flying displays for me to watch from my window. All soar, glide, turn, flap slowly, flap fast. Synchronised flying. Sometimes in pairs, sometimes in threes. I haven't actually seen them doing loop-the-loops yet, but I'm sure it won't be long.
Weiss and Blanche have been doing a good job with their two hungry mini-mouths to feed. The Baby D'Oves have turned from squirming pink objects with yellow fur and large noses to squeaking pink lumps partly covered with white embryonic feathers and large noses. Oh, and they've grown from egg-size to half-parent size in two weeks. One is going to be called Alba, but I'm now totally out of pronounceable names meaning "white" in other languages (well, those known to me and Babelfish anyway). Anyone know what "white" is in Ancient Greek?
Anyway, when not flying, the D'Oves have taken to sitting on the gabled roof over my Inner Coven (my office), when I am up there, and cooing to each other. Or maybe to me, I don't know, I'm no better at Dove than I am at Ancient Greek. Sadly, they have also taken to doing the unthinkable while up there. As my windows are wide open, they seem to be catching the fall-out...
And, the husband of a good friend of mine is 81 tomorrow. Exactly what does one buy an 81 year old composer/musician with more books and CDs than the local library, no real love of food and everything he could possibly ever need?
Thanks to drD and the other juicy one for bringing to my attention a little gem about doctors' use of slang - or, more correctly, doctors' use of derogatory terms. The research, by one Dr Fox (not the one of chart show fame methinks) was published in the medical journal, Ethics and Behaviour.
"Far fewer doctors now annotate notes with acronyms designed to spell out the unsayable truth about their patients."
CTD - Circling the Drain (a patient expected to die soon)
GLM - Good looking Mum
GPO - Good for Parts Only
TEETH - Tried Everything Else, Try Homeopathy
UBI - Unexplained Beer Injury
NFN - Normal for Norfolk
FLK - Funny looking kid
GROLIES - Guardian Reader Of Low Intelligence in Ethnic Skirt
Dr Fox recounts the tale of one doctor who had scribbled TTFO - an expletive expression roughly translated as "Told To Go Away" - on a patient's notes.
The number of terms for patients believed to be somewhat intellectually challenged is enormous:
From LOBNH (Lights On But Nobody Home), CNS-QNS (Central Nervous System - Quantity Not Sufficient), to the delightful term "pumpkin positive", which refers to the implication that a penlight shone into the patient's mouth would encounter a brain so small that the whole head would light up.
Regular visitors to A&E on a Friday or Saturday night are also classified:
DBI refers to "Dirt Bag Index", and multiplies the number of tattoos with the number of missing teeth to give an estimate of the number of days since the patient last bathed. "
Update: More terms for your amusement here (courtesy of Alan who has just made a surprising revelation of his own...).
One thing he fails to mention, though, is that one of my favourite cookery writers is curerntly starring as a not-dead-really wife/mother in East Enders. And, the most amazing thing is, I recognised her! That's BW, with a visual memory measured at the 2nd percentile (bottom 2% of the population). According to the back-flap-blurb in her book that I used to make chana dal with spinach yesterday, Madhur Jaffrey is actually a "famous actress" as well as one of the world's leading authorities on Asian food.
Oh, and on a sort-of related note, the BBC IT bods messed up mightily this week when they sent the weekly BBC Gardening e-mail out under the subject line "EastEnders Newsletter - Win Billy's Bomber Jacket". Well, I suppose the confusion arose because Martin is currently pretending to be an allotment holder, and grow on that allotment (or rather, in the shed) what the Birmingham Allotment Manager had to destroy live on camera on Friday's Gardeners' World Special on Allotments...
We shook our heads in sad disbelief at BBC Breakfast's feature on poor service in restaurants this morning. Apparently we have more of the same pathetic attempt at consumer journalism to look forward to for the rest of the week. I think I shall have an extra hour in bed instead.
I seem to be having one of those days of extreme customer dis-service. Earlier I received a letter from Bradford & Bingley (no link cos I'm not pleased with them) informing me that my TESSA, taken out in September 1998, was about to mature. The letter enclosed no fewer than 6 leaflets selling me all the different places I could put my nearly £12K (grown from £9K 5 years ago). However, there was no form for me to sign and return to say, "Gissa me money as a cheque cos I think your offer of 3.45% is pathetic when I can get 4.6% tax free in my offset mortgage account".
So, I looked for a number to phone. There was an 0800- number for new accounts if you wish to re-invest the money. Or there was a non-freephone number for "other enquiries". I rang it. I waited, and waited, and waited. After almost 5 minutes, I finally got to speak to a human.
Call centre woman: Oh, right, yer, if you want your money back you need to go into the account holding branch on the actual day your account matures.
Me: Really? I think that the least you can do for me, as a customer of 12 years standing, is to send me a cheque on the date that account matures!
CCW: No, it don't work like that.
Me: Sorry? Surely there's another way?
Me: I'm sorry, I'm not happy with that. Can you put me through to a supervisor, please?
CCW: She'll just tell you the same.
Me: Thank you for putting me through to your supervisor...
(another 5 minutes on hold)
Supervisor: I understand that you have a problem?
Me: (*Thinks* Probably only that I won't be able to afford to pay the phone bill...) I don't think so! I was just enquiring what I have to do to get my £12K TESSA investment back from you on the date it matures, without having to make a 24 mile journey to the account holding branch.
Supervisor: Well, you have to write a letter to your branch asking if they would be prepared to do that.
Me: It seems to me that you are making it as hard as possible for me to move my money from your accounts? My husband has a similar account with another building society (BWs never put all their eggs in one basket), and he was simply sent a form to sign and return with his pass-book.
Supervisor: Well, we don't do that.
Me: So you are unable to help me?
Supervisor: Well, all you have to do is send in a letter and your request will be considered. Me: All I can say is that I'm jolly glad I got some free shares when you demutualised, because all the promises customers were made about improved customer service were clearly lies!
Supervisor: Most of our customers feel that our service has improved.
Me: Really? No-one has asked me. I'd like to feedback my thoughts to your manager. Could you put me through, please?
Supervisor: I'm afraid there is no manager available.
Me: Luckily for me one of the leaflets sent out to me was one called "What to do if we don't get it right." I think it will come in handy... what was your name again?
Supervisor: Line goes dead.
Of course, I already had her name :)
B&B is added to my list of places to avoid in future.
A passage from "Finding the Joy in Today" by Sefra Kobrin Pitzele (1988):
"Our definition of success varies as we move through stages of life. While we once may have dreamed of a large lake home and a large salary, we may have settled for a modest home and salary. As we reevaluate our goals, we become aware that we have succeeded in our own way.
Success, for us, might mean we have many friends. Or that our children have become worthwhile citizens. We may feel successful largely because we have learned to accept ourselves - the total package of strengths and weaknesses. We set and reset our own goals throughout a lifetime, and our successes are measured, not by specific deeds or accumulations of cash, but by how well we set our goals and how faithful we are to them."
This made me think of something that Oddverse Alan posted the other day:
"It's very easy to be excessively goal-obsessed. Particularly when society tells you that in order to succeed you must achieve. Frankly, it's a load of balls, and the quickest way to stress and a breakdown."
Erm yes. Been there and done that.
It also made me think of something I said to Mr BW the other night.
I really don't understand this I want, I must have culture that we live in. I have no interest in media-driven consumerism, hero-worship or lifestyle. I don't have goals any more, I've learnt the hard way that they aren't healthy, or necessary. I have reduced everyday life necessities to the most minimal, predictable, easy-to-control level. I do what I do because I want to. I no longer do things because they are expected. I don't conform unless I choose to, and, frankly, I please myself. I say what I think, but I also think about what I say. Anyone who doesn't like it can do the other thing. And, right now, the only thing that I can think of that I actually want is a broadband internet connection (and that is outside of my control). I don't need that of course, but, who actually needs most of what they want?
I think I'm old. Actually, I don't, I only say that because I don't seem to share the attitudes of most people my age. I much prefer the mentality of people who are 20 plus years older than me. Therefore, I must be "old". But, I'm quite happy about that. I have certainly finally accepted (as it says above), "We may feel successful largely because we have learned to accept ourselves - the total package of strengths and weaknesses." I have more and more of a suspicion that people who are constantly striving for the next material reward or hedonistic experience that they can buy (often on credit) are actually dissatisfied with the person they are. But you can't tell people that. They have to work it out for themselves. Eventually. Or not, as the case may be...
The garden is being a bit too productive and harvesting beans, courgettes, tomatoes, lettuce, rocket, artichokes, radishes, garlic, onions, cucumbers, plums, raspberries, blackberries and alpine strawberries is keeping us busy.
We like to make use of everything, so if it can't immediately be eaten it's frozen or turned into something to put in a jar. Mr BW has taken over the 'Preserves Department', so, jams, jellies, chutneys, pickles.... you name it, it's making a mess on the top of my Aga, and in my washing (remnants of yesterdays crab apples from the mint flavoured crab apple jelly got left in the jelly bag and we now have sheets with brown blodges on; delightful).
Great tip that - for yummy accompaniments to cheeses (mozzarella sticks, fried camembert or brie, and grilled goats cheese particularly) add herbs to any kind of apple jelly. Last weekend it was crab apple with sage, this weekend mint. Lemon balm might be good, as would rosemary. We chuck a handful of stalks (as picked, although washed first, as fur off the ginger familiar - who loves sleeping in the herb garden - is a bit nasty) in with the apple/water pulp, then add a couple of tablespoons of chopped leaves just before jarring.
Another tip for herbs - any surplus you have - be it in the garden or in those posts you buy from supermarkets - can be chopped and frozen in twists of cling wrap (or in an ice cube tray), ready for use in recipes that need 'fresh herbs' in the winter months.
Coming later as the electric net that keeps the hens safe has failed and I have to ensure that MrBW reads the instruction manual for the power heart before totally ruining it while taking it apart...
Later - the power heart is well and truly f*d, but, it's an agricultural appliance, and farmers always require to be able to mend everything rather than be forced to buy new for just one failed component, so at least one can supposedly buy a new PCB for it. Hopefully. We'll see on Monday. In the meantime, we're on 24-hour fox alert.
So, on with the matter in hand:
I was thinking, the other day, that the more I find someone amusing, the fewer MBWLA points they get in the longer term.
DG often amuses me. In real life as well as en blog. But, I'm almost vaccinated (through repeated exposure over time) against actually laughing out loud now. One can't laugh all the time after all, or all those good endorphins that release themselves when one does would stop making one feel better. The same seems to have happened for Oddverse Alan. Already winner of 2 MBWLA jars of delicious honey (I hope you haven't left them around for the film crew to find in your absence Alan?), I haven't had cause to give him a point for ages. Has to be said that his latest offering, the "boyfriends on the fridge" has given me cause for, erm concern (although it is clever), though ;) I was worried when he first spoke of 40 ex-boyfriends, but, it seems, the term 'boyfriend' was being abused ;)
It seems that Contender 1, Ron, has not crossed my threshold of jokey expectation just yet, and is still able to make me laugh aloud. I'm giving him another BW point this week for this (you need to know that he went on a 2 day flash course at the beginning of the week):
"The tutor bless him was, would you believe it, a former Apple employee and a self-confessed ‘Mac evangelist’. Oh dear. I think I scared him when I started banging on about server-side interaction, and by the end of the two days we had a begrudging respect for each other. It probably started when he said 99% of the worlds web design agencies used Macs and browser with Safari (Mac’s latest native IE equivalent) and I said 99% of the worlds users used PC’s and IE 5 or higher. Touché. We also swapped notes on our various, ahem, ‘file acquisition techniques’ (as usually happens when two nerds meet and attempt to establish a nerd hierarchy. I’m not sure who came out top, I mean come on, he did’t even have DSL!)."
Contender 2: dave, just returned from a trip to the wilds of East Anglia with Darren and Edward (lovely dog):
"Our mini-tour of Norfolk seaside towns began at Wells-Next-The-Sea , which was lovely. Small with a cute harbour. Lots of shops selling buckets, spades, rubber dinghies and general beach ephemera. We sat on the harbour wall and ate chips while watching boy-racers whizz up and down the tiny main street in souped up council cars."
We've been there, we've seen them too. If you've ever wondered what happened to that old car you got rid of, chances are you'll find it there, similarly, erm, transformed, or in some other small seaside town or backwater.
Contender 3: Ian (currently on holiday at Butlins - almost worth another point in itself :) in Ron's chatroom comments on Thursday 14th:
"If you remember rightly Ron (which you very rarely do, since it usually undermines your argument), I enquired as to whether you were bothered about putting 'raunchy' content on RW, since anybody could read it (e.g. your nan, parents, current/future employer). You said you were not bothered. I said OK. End of story."
Not too many contenders this week, but my blogland is beginning to resemble a graveyard - some of you having blog holidays, some of you having real holidays and some of you having awaydays. What's a Witch to do?
And the winner is...Ian, by a whisker, as his comment brought to mind two people I have known for a very long time, both of whom I have already mentioned this week, and both of whom display a similar kind of selective memory loss when it suits them (NB Ron, I wasn't laughing at it as it may or may not have pertained to you, honest, as I'm not in a position to judge :) I've stored that phrase up for use as and when... Thanks :)
(a) The water is getting rather dirty
(b) The base is getting rather slimy
(c) The grass underneath is getting rather flat and yellow
(d) The sides need re-inflating and that can only be done when it's empty
Now, being BW's paddling pool, it isn't small. Earlier in the week, Daddy BW (bored while Mummy BW was relating tales of my brother's sprog), worked out that it holds about 400 gallons (or, if we were on a water meter, about £2 worth) of water.
It not proving possible to lift it to empty it (even though at least three quarters of the water has already been used to water plants in the last couple of days), BW decided to stand on the edge, so lowering it enough for the water to channel out.
The sides weren't quite soft enough to allow this to happen easily, and it was a bit like a bouncy castle, and not easy to keep my balance. Nevertheless, the water started coming out. Then a wasp landed on me. I hate wasps. Considering how much I like bees, that may surprise you. Wasps make me panic. I slipped. I fell in. I got wet. It was very cold. I bruised my knee. It's not funny.
Having moved house in August, and now being in the fortunate position of being able to afford to buy new cars (0% finance deals or cash I hasten to add, none of this 23% credit lark for us Value Witches) (3 years of warranty - so known motoring costs - together with the more obvious benefits, are worth more than the depreciation on small, economical cars), the majority of our insurances all fall due within the space of this month.
As I've said before, as I choose not to work full-time, part of my contribution to The Coven GDP is to ensure that we make our money work for us. This includes shopping round for the best deals available. All year I collect and file leaflets offering insurance. Come August they are pulled from the relevant files and I get on the phone (and only to 0800- and 0845- numbers, never to 0870- numbers). I never use the internet for quotations because past experience has taught me that these quotations are slower, more inflexible and frequently more expensive than those done by humans. Besides, I enjoy cheering up the call-centre staff :)
It probably takes me about 10 hours in total every year to ensure that we have the best value policies as we do have separate policies, with different companies, for each item. It is rarely beneficial to take, for example, buildings and contents together, even with the so-called '20% off' that most companies offer for so doing. Also, once you have had to claim for anything, it makes it even more beneficial to shop round for the best deal.
Just doing a quick bit of adding up (pressed a few keys in Quicken), this year we have spent just over £1,000 on domestic, vehicle and holiday insurance (2 cars, one motorcycle, buildings, contents, annual travel policy, all at the premium level of all-risks, accidental damage cover). Taking the worst quote I got for each insurance it would have cost us nearly £3,000 for the identical insurance.
So, 10 hours work saved us £2,000. Hmmm.... £200 per hour. But, that's the worst-case scenario. Even supposing we overpaid by not shopping around by, say 30%, that's still £300 saved. Still £30 per hour (which, as it's tax free, would be nearly £40 if I'd earned it). Not a bad hourly rate for chatting on the phone.
I know people who laugh at me for doing such things. I just smile and wonder how much money they waste in the course of a lifetime.
One thing I have noticed while doing this task this year is that several companies have changed the excesses and levels of cover in the small print on the actual policy schedule documentation, without mentioning it in the accompanying 'invitation to renew' letter. That, I feel, is very sneaky. A lot of people would just pay up and not notice - until they needed to claim. Stand up More Th>n and Ford Insurance. The former tried to increase the excess from £25 to £75 and the latter from £100 to £300 even though we hadn't made a claim, or changed any details on either policy! Needless to say, BW doesn't take kindly to this kind of tactic, so those two companies have lost our business.
Insurance is a minefield of complexity. It is very difficult to compare like with like, and different companies try to include different things in with their basic price. I always write down exactly what cover I want before I start. I also note down exactly what questions they ask me, and the answers I give, just in case. If a quotation looks good, I always ask for a policy booklet to be sent out so that I can check all the small print before actually taking out the insurance. you just cannot be too careful. Remember, insurance companies are not in the game to protect you, or to make it easy for you, they are in the game to make a profit.
Anyway, I've also found one huge advantage to having reached 40. Motor insurance costs have gone down. Something for those of you who aren't yet there to look forward to. See, it's not all bad!