Monday, 28 March 2011

Progress of a sort

The weather has cheered up a bit at last and we seem to be in real danger of experiencing Spring.   Although the clocks went forward again this weekend, so that it was of course darker again first thing, there is still a hint of blue in the sky and the daffodils that have managed to survive in our garden are all in flower.  I did buy some crocuses and some primrose-type plants for the tubs near the back door and they’re all flowering quite successfully, although the crocuses are beginning to look a little weary, leaning against the nearby foliage for support.
Meanwhile, what is happening in our little village? The oil tank was fitted last Monday although the boss of the firm did not appear and it’s unfair to take out my irritation on the chap who did turn up.  Words will be had at some point, but clearly it’s going to have to be some other time.  The post office has a collection box for our post-lady who is getting married soon.  She did a sterling job in all the snow just before Christmas and is always polite to me, so I need to remember to take some extra money with me next time I’m going past and then also remember to put the money in the collection box.  The dog walkers have been out in force and the council have even been trimming the grass verge along the edge of the main road just beyond the village.  We are all responsible for our own grass verges, it seems, so I doubt they’ll be here, but it’s better than nothing, I suppose.
Verity came last week for a coffee and a natter; she seems to have been so busy lately, what with her charity committee and holidays and various luncheons that I have hardly seen her.  Fortunately, I have been getting to know Delyth, Annie and Jenny rather better so we occasionally visit each other, although Annie is a bit of risk because with all the children she looks after, you either have a house full of sticky hands to clean up afterwards or, if you visit her, you have to check before you sit down in case there are some building bricks or other toys on the chair that are unlikely to contribute to your comfort.  Verity has been doing a poetry course and thinks I should join her.
“It’s great fun,” she told me.  “We read each other our poetry, say what we don’t like about it and then drink lots of wine.  And they don’t have to rhyme.”
I’m not at all convinced that I can write poetry even if it doesn’t have to rhyme but since Verity is rather like a force of nature, it’s easier to go along with her at least once and then I shall have more ammunition to turn her down for repeat visits if I don’t like it.  And I know she means well.  She worries about me and my rather limited circle.  She shouldn’t; there was a party in the village hall at the weekend, someone celebrating a fiftieth birthday and the OH knows them a bit so we were invited, and I realised that I knew quite a lot of the people there, either from seeing them in the post office or out walking their dogs when Chloe was making me run around the village.  I may not know all their names, yet, but we’re on nodding terms and everyone was very friendly, even before the champagne had been opened.  Not having to walk home after the party had a very clear effect and I suspect some dogs had to wait with crossed legs on Sunday morning as their owners found the paracetamol.
The Famous Writer and his wife were around at the weekend too, because I saw them walking towards the pub as we were heading to the village hall.  The builders live at their house more than they do, so I suspect there aren’t many habitable rooms yet, but progress is surely being made.  The house over the road that’s being let also has a resident, and I have a horrible feeling that...  But I won’t say until I’m sure.  It wouldn’t be fair, and knowing how gossip travels in the village, I could give someone an undeserved bad reputation.  Though I suspect it’s not undeserved at all!

Saturday, 19 March 2011

A Rant

As weather blogs go, this one is probably a bit of a failure.  I haven’t quite got round to keeping it up on a daily basis and consequently there is no onus on me to complete it at all regularly.  Anyway, all I shall add for now is that yesterday the sky looked like one of my old duvets, a dull grey lumpy uninspiring sky.  Today, on the other hand, the clouds had all disappeared and I saw several people driving through our village with their roofs down.  I’m not convinced it was really warm enough to put the roof down, but I suppose if someone’s spent that much money on a convertible, they’ll probably want to get maximum use out of it.
On a more specifically village-y note, I’m now going to have a rant.  In some ways, this isn’t specific to the village, but if we lived in a town, we’d probably have gas, so the issue wouldn’t arise.  The issue I’m referring to here is that of heating oil, or more accurately, replacement heating oil tanks. 
Our village doesn’t have gas.  We’re not alone, many villages don’t have gas and I know this because British Gas has told us as much.  They have offered to convert the village to gas if there’s enough demand, and then we’d have to pay thousands of pounds each for the privilege.  You can guess the reaction to that letter.  Some people stick to electricity, some have calor gas cylinders or tanks, and the rest put up with oil.  There’s been a lot in the news lately about oil being stolen from tanks because it’s so expensive that thieves think it’s worthwhile pinching.  I don’t know if they use it themselves or try and sell it in the pub, though even the daftest brush would have to be suspicious of someone selling buckets of heating oil.  Anyway, the OH decided we should have a new tank with a padlock on.  I did point out that there’s enough folks go past our house on a regular basis that a thief would have to be pretty desperate to target us rather than, say, one of the remote farmhouses on the edge of the village, but I suppose it’s better to be safe than sorry.  So, a small local firm was booked to do the work because the OH likes to support small local businesses rather than feed the coffers of multinationals who don’t pay any tax.
Big mistake.  To begin with, we got a call on Monday asking if they could start the following day.  That was fine.  Except then they finished at lunchtime on Tuesday, came back for Wednesday morning and said they’d be back Thursday to finish.  Unfortunately that wasn’t an option, as I had agreed to drive Delyth to the out-patient department in our nearby city hospital for a minor procedure that I promised faithfully to keep secret, so I won’t tell you what it was, but it meant that I would be out all day on Thursday.  Never mind, said our small local business, we’ll come and finish off on Friday.  So I spent Friday haunting the windows and listening out for the doorbell and not doing anything noisy like vacuuming and not going out, on the off-chance that they turned up.  Which they didn’t.
All of which means that we have a half-finished mess at the side of the house and no access to the garage.  Naturally, because the sun was shining today, the OH though he’d go for a bike ride before settling down to watch some rugby.
“Ah.  Can’t open the garage,” I reminded him.  Where he keeps his bike.
His reply is not really suitable for family viewing.
So my rant is about firms that don’t turn up when they say they’re going to, and don’t bother phoning you to let you know that they’re not going to turn up.  And don’t even anyone answering their phones at 12.30 on a Friday afternoon, when I tried phoning to find out what was going on and had to leave a message.  I know oil-tank replacement firms aren’t the only ones that fall foul of this rant, but they’re what inspired it.
P.S. Delyth’s procedure went very well and she’s taking me out to lunch next week as a small thank you.  Probably the day that they decide to come and finish the oil-tank job!

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Cloudy later with a chance of freezing your bits off

It’s been a busy time, what with one thing and another.  First of all, during half-term week, I was roped in to helping with the Front of House duties for the local am-dram group again, this time for their pantomime.  It was considerably less arduous than that sounds and there were lots of happy audience members on the way out of each of the six performances.   Apparently it’s likely to raise at least £3000, all for charity, according to our FoH coordinator, who has been doing it for over twenty years and can tell to the nearest pound how much the ice-cream sales will have made.  He’s a fairly fearsome chap, former deputy head now retired, who rejoices in the name Basil.  I know there’s nothing wrong with the name, but I can’t hear it without thinking of Prunella Scales and imminent disaster.  He probably used to terrify the kids at the inner-city school he taught at but now he’s a popular choice for Father Christmas at the local primary school.  Running the FoH affairs, however, you sense he would have made a good sergeant-major.  Smooth as clockwork we were, most of the time.
So that was half-term week.  Then one of my fellow FoH ice-cream ladies, Isabelle, called me on the Sunday evening to ask if I could possibly help out at the village school for a couple of hours as both the usual volunteer helpers in the Year Three class had come down with a tummy bug.  Probably the one I acquired after Valentine’s Day.  It was quite enjoyable, mostly hearing children read and making sure they hung their coats up after playtime, but a couple of hours turned into four and a half days.  The OH started making comments about the state of the laundry basket and the accumulating dirt – he like the house cleaned more than once a week – so I couldn’t spend all week at the school.  Fortunately one of the two regulars was back on the Friday so I was able to leave at lunchtime.  One little group of children made a ‘Sory your leving’ card which was immaculately coloured in so I couldn’t possibly complain about the spelling.
Then yesterday I had an unexpected trip to London.  Verity had two tickets for the RNA annual awards presentation and the Mills and Boon enthusiast she had been planning to go with was bitten by one of her goats in the morning and needed stitches. 
“I can’t waste the ticket,” Verity told me, “and you seem all excited about there being a writer in the village, so why don’t you come with me.” 
Hoping that the OH wouldn’t mind eating a solo shepherd’s pie which I left in the oven on timer, I accepted.  I won’t bore you with the details of an event that most definitely did not take place in my small village, but it was good fun and I got the chance to congratulate Elizabeth Chadwick personally on winning Historical Novel of the Year.  I haven’t read her novel yet, but if I ever get enough time at home, I shall certainly include it on my list.
More significantly, Verity introduced me to a lot of people – goodness only knows how she knew them all because I don’t think she’s a member of the RNA – and when I said I wasn’t a writer, Verity immediately contradicted me.
“Yes you are,” she told me.  “What’s that blog thingy if it’s not writing?”
I couldn’t disagree with her exactly but it meant the conversation moved on to types of blog and one lovely writerly lady, Helen Hollick, whose books will also soon be adorning my bedside table because I am nothing if not loyal and completely celebrity-struck, asked if it was a weather blog.  I had no idea what she meant and asked for clarification. 
And it’s simpler than it sounds.  You blog each day about the weather.  Apparently it’s useful for writers as a sample of different kinds of weather instead of the usual cloudy/sunny/pouring with rain.
So I am going to attempt to include a weather blog in my village notes.  It should certainly be specific to the village, even if some people elsewhere have similar weather.  Today is sunny with blue skies that necessitate using sun glasses when walking to the village shop for something for dinner.  I saw one person drive through the village in a convertible with the roof down, but they had at least wrapped up very warmly to do so.  I checked the thermometer when I got home again and it’s only 7°C.  Warm enough that you can no longer see your breath but I can’t see myself sun-bathing in it.