Sunday, December 31, 2006

there's no smoke without smoke alarms

the peeps have the prof, mrs prof and their son the extreme programmer staying. this is always a welcome event as these are the sort of guests who not only make their own cups of tea but even make cups of tea for the peeps. they also have the same sense of humour as my peeps so a good laugh is always had. added to this the extreme programmer usually mends the various computers round the place which makes for domestic harmony for a while as no-one has to borrow anyone else's computer.

the day before yesterday the peeps and their guests met the captain, mrs captain, the wild girl and their boy at the local pub for lunch. having got everyone in a mellow and relaxed frame of mind herself broached the question of the thermostat with the captain. "would you folks like to come back to our house for a cup of coffee?" she said innocently. "why that would be lovely!" they cried. she then dropped the bombshell on the captain "while you are round our place, could you just have a quick look at our new thermostat?" the captain is handy with electrical things. something to do with needing to understand wires in order to get a plane off the ground, i suspect.

herself is a master of understatement. the words "quick" and "look" are instructive here. nothing involving herself is ever as quick as it might at first appear. and most people do not need to stand with a torch between their teeth and a screwdriver in each hand to look at something.

regular readers will be familiar with the thermostat issue. basically the old thermostat has bitten the dust, with a little help from herself. so she and mrs prof purchased a new one. the new one is rather more technical than the old one. so instead of sitting quietly enjoying their coffee, the captain, the prof, the extreme programmer and herself found themselves in the bedroom in the dark, with several torches, trying to work out which wire went where on the new thermostat. meanwhile the rest of the assembled company sat in the dark in the living room making singularly unhelpful comments. my boy and his mate were most put out to find the computer would not work with no leccy so had to resort to the age-old art of conversing with each other.

eventually the combined intellects of the fearsome electricians won over the thermostat (after a couple of false starts) and some semblance of order was restored. so the peeps settled down to enjoy their by now rather cool coffee.

i can hear you wondering what the picture of a prof flapping at a smoke alarm has to do with any of this. not a lot, dear readers. this picture is to do with yesterday's roller coaster ride. in order to explain i will need to backtrack, which i hope will not leave too many of you behind. i would draw you a diagram but i fear the blog does not allow this.

our fire is a sort of box which for a long time i thought was a television. it has knobs to adjust it so this was an easy mistake. i did think the range of programmes was limited but not excessively so. my boy's viewing diet consists of wall to wall disaster programmes, many of which have a lot of flames, so i just assumed the fire was stuck on the same channel. it only dawned on me that it was not a telly when they opened the door and added logs to it.

anyway, one log too many was added a couple of days ago and the roof of the fire caved in. it appeared that a thing called a firebrick had collapsed. on closer inspection all the firebricks were past it. not to be defeated mrs prof got on the net and tracked down a man who was not only open during the festive season but who would cut us some bricks.

so yesterday herself and mrs prof set off to horsham. they returned from their trip with the bricks and triumphantly fixed the fire. amid much jubilation it was lit. all went well for a while. herself played with her new camera. the prof peeled potatoes for tea. the extreme programmer and my boy raced each other on computers.

but the peace was rudely disturbed by quite a lot of nee-nawing. the house was full of smoke. and i mean full. himself was flapping at the living-room smoke alarm, spouting his favourite smoke alarm incantation which is, i think, intended to lull it into submission. the prof was flapping at the kitchen smoke alarm. herself was overtaken with a fit of coughing so did nothing useful at all. my boy thought he would give her some encouragement by saying "i simply cannot believe you!"

all the windows were thrown open. the curtains blew all over the place as outside there was a gale. i have to say this was one of the peeps' most spectacular smoke alarm adventures. you could have been forgiven for thinking that we were in a disaster movie. usually only one smoke alarm goes off at once. no-one would believe that herself had only been playing with her camera. they were convinced she had done something to cause this commotion. it was eventually concluded that the new bricks in the fire had made it draw rather more efficiently than people were used to and that more care would need to be taken with the amount of fuel from now on.

tonight the peeps are cooking a huge meal for a bunch of friends as it is new years eve. on the draining board is a large lump of dead cow. next to it is a fish kettle containing a whale. i may pop out to the pub for the duration...

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

halt or you will be exterminated

today started fairly calmly. grandma and the uncles are coming for lunch so himself had purchased a rather tasty looking peice of pork. he was rubbing it lovingly with salt when my boy surfaced from his slumbers and wandered into the kitchen. "agh! what's that?" he squealed. "its a bit of dead pig" replied herself, who prefers her pigs alive and squelching around in a field. she then went off to play on the computer.

just then someone came to the door. this necessitated me heaving myself out of bed and barking. the peeps have not got a doorbell. the doorbell was removed a couple of years ago when they rebuilt the porch and they have failed to get a new one sorted. if i am out they don't know that a visitor has arrived as there is of course no barking.

at the door was a man with a large box. "yippee!" shouted my boy "its the new dalek!" my boy saves up marbles, which he gets for good deeds such as bringing in logs, lighting the fire and wearing scratchy new trousers. he usually negotiates one marble for each leg, which seems a bit steep to me, but before this system was arrived at he would grow out of his clothes before he would wear them so i suppose it makes sound economic sense in the end. when he has enough marbles he can buy things. he already has one dalek but i suppose he thought it was getting lonely.

in this picture you can see that a short interlude in the cooking was called for while my boy got the dalek up and running. this went down a treat with himself, as you might imagine. there then followed a period of tension while the two daleks got to know each other. "we are the supreme beings!" shouted the new dalek. "exterminate!" said the first dalek. personally, i think they need a bit of help with their social skills. their first interaction didn't bode well for a loving and mutually supportive relationship.

just then there was a loud bleeping noise. herself assumed that this was a dalek feature and carried on with editing photos on her mac. then there was a loud explosion of expletives from the kitchen. we all rushed in and found himself standing on a chair, dressed only in a towel, flapping ineffectually at the smoke alarm. on the draining board was the bit of dead pig with clouds of smoke coming off it.

"this f-ing smoke alarm!" he shrieked. he actually said the whole rude word but i am aware that some of my readers may be of delicate sensibilities and i have therefore edited this somewhat. "well what do you expect" bawled herself, "there's smoke everywhere! its a smoke alarm. its whole purpose in life is to alert us to smoke. its just doing its job! the bloody pig is on fire!"

"i'm just searing it" said himself. i just hope he doesn't ever try to burn anything. there was a flurry of opening windows, while herself tried to dissuade him from wrenching the smoke alarm out of the ceiling. she has only just replaced the old smoke alarm with a new one after several attempts and did not relish balancing on a chair with a screwdriver while the rellies tucked into the dead pig.

while all this was going on the daleks circled each other warily, uttering threats of extermination in their garbled and rather tinny voices. "i am not living in a wooden house with no smoke alarm!" she protested, "so you will just have to learn to put the fan on and open the windows before you set fire to your lumps of dead animal!" although i am not with her on the vegetarian thing, i have to say that meat cookery tends to be a bit fraught round here.

things have quietened down a bit now. the peeps are waiting for grandma and the uncles to phone. the plan is we meet them on the downs for a walk. normally i have no issues with grandma's girly dogs. they do pretty much what i tell them, as all girly dogs should. (it was hard getting herself to type that bit but i draw the line at censorship of my writings). however, grandma is looking after a third dog while his owner is away and she seems to have thought it might be a good idea to bring him along too. i am hoping he doesn't think he can come swanking in here throwing his weight around.

anyway, the plan is that we get to know each other on what the peeps call neutral territory. i am not sure why they think the downs are neutral territory, given i pee all over them every day of the year. just hope the new chap gets the hint without the need for spilt blood. i may have to learn to use the remote control on the dalek so i can tell him "multiple spectrum scans are enabled"...

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

the sofas have landed

the new sofas, originally uploaded by Joker the Lurcher.

today looked like it might be a more relaxing day when we got up. my boy was ready for school early. there were enough clean socks to go round. the peeps even managed to buy a present for my boy's taxi driver and his teacher. but then the phone went. it was the ikea delivery man. he was up the road with the new sofas and would be with us in 10 minutes.

himself went pale. he hates deliveries. as herself is very keen on internet shopping and not very keen on going to the shops, we regularly have lorries turning up with things. there is usually a lot of packaging and chaos afterwards. there is also the matter of strange men at the door wanting the peeps to sign for the packages.

shortly afterwards a very large lorry arrived. two men got out and spent the next half an hour struggling across the icy paths and up the icy steps into the house. three times. "you didn't tell me you had bought 3 sofas!" himself said. "i'm sure i did" said herself, nonchalantly. the room was full of sofas. "did you measure the room first?" he asked. that was a very silly question. he has known her a long time. even if she had measured the room she would have added it up wrong.

then the captain and mrs captain turned up. they were having the old sofa. so that made a bit of room to move round. herself started tearing off the packaging and getting out her electric screwdriver. at this point himself had to leave for work while he could still stand up.

there did not appear to be any instructions for the sofas. i retired to my bed, which had been unceremoniously dumped in my boy's bedroom for the duration. when i finally emerged there were 3 very nice sofas. i was looking forward to trying them out but when herself went out she cunningly placed clothes airers and a cricket bat in the way.

my boy was mightily impressed, in spite of having been very anti the whole idea. beefburger people don't much like change. "why can't you just leave the house alone for a couple of days?" he wailed. but he was soon snuggled down with the burping pineapple on the new sofa as though it had always been there.

after a little while he said "how much did these sofas cost?" herself told him. "so if we had that much money, why didn't you pay the leccy bill?" (the peeps have run up a big bill due to the direct debit not being enough to cover it). herself explained that the sofas were bought with plastic money rather than real money. she's a clever woman.

its no wonder my boy has a firm grasp of economics with a mother like herself. when he was a mere whippersnapper of 3 he apparently made a very perceptive comment when herself was telling some friends that the peeps were re-mortgaging the house to pay off the debts. my boy piped up "if we pay off the debts we'd better get some new ones". herself took this advice to heart and has been doing so ever since...

Monday, December 18, 2006

the heat is rising

i can hear all you readers scratching your heads. "why has joker posted a picture of an electrical terminal?" i hear you say. well, as you might imagine there is a story behind this. herself takes quite a few pictures of this nature. they are taken so that, once she has taken whatever electrical item it is to pieces, she knows which wire goes in which place. normally these pictures do not see the light of day but this one perfectly illustrates life chez nous so i stole it for my blog. (for those readers who don't speak french "chez nous" is french for "round at our gaff").

there was one famous occasion when, on a saturday morning, she took the sky box and the telly apart in order to move the telly. (there is a long and rather boring story behind this too - relating to the new sofas and having failed to measure the living room to see if they would fit first, but that is for another day. suffice to say that there was a certain amount of panic about himself going bonkers about not being able to watch the footie). a photo would possibly have saved the day.

anyway, this particular masterpiece of photography also relates to the "moving the living room round for the new sofas" project. a book case has had to be moved to a new home. unfortunately the new home was in front of the thermostat for the central heating. not only did this mean you couldn't reach the dial to turn it up and down but also it made funny readings of how hot it was on account of being behind a bookcase. so it had to be moved.

herself is on holiday this week. it would have been no problem for her to do the thermostat moving in the morning. but she got embroiled in watching films and reading stuff people had written on the net. then we went for walk on the downs and she took lots of pictures of grey sky. so by the time she got round to doing the thermostat it was beginning to get dark. not such a problem, i hear you say. except that the power had to go off so she didn't get zapped.

this job should not have taken long. but half way through the door was knocked by a friend of himself who was dropping off a christmas card. so herself had to down tools and make him a cuppa, which took twice as long as usual as the gas wouldn't light because of the power being off and she couldn't find the matches as they were by the fire with the logs. so by the time she got back to the electrical stuff it was even darker.

then she realised that the hole where the wires came out on one side of the wall was nowhere near the new hole on the other side. and in between was loads of glass fibre insulation. herself said "if only i did knitting i could tape this wire to a knitting needle and thread it through the wall". luckily himself's friend is a man of ideas. "how about a chopstick?" he said. and sure enough a chopstick was just the ticket. in a flash the wire was threaded through the wall. then herself had the tricky task of fitting the thermostat to the wall. as she had butchered the wall so badly trying to reach the wire, the place where the screws would have gone was no more. not to be defeated she turned the thermostat round and fixed it on at 90 degrees as there was still some wall at the top and the bottom. not a problem. the power goes back on and the lights even work. joy all round. especially for himself who came home in the middle of all this.

however, the heating is now on all the time. the thermostat has given up the ghost. then herself remembers that it has a funny mercury switch which works because it tips when the dial turns. now it is permanently tipped. so we have to adjust the heating on the boiler. so she could have simply joined the two wires together and saved all this aggro...

as i say to her on many occasions "stick to the day job..."

silent happy birthday

silent happy birthday, originally uploaded by Joker the Lurcher.

well readers, i am sure you have been waiting with baited breath to know how the birthday treat went. the cake was not as traumatic as had been feared, although there was a nasty moment when the melted chocolate cake covering overflowed the plate in a rather spectacular fashion. i did offer my tongue in place of a cloth but this was rather rudely and abruptly declined by herself.

my boy said "i thought my cake might be a gun" which showed remarkable perception given he has spoken of hardly anything except guns for the past 6 months. i just hope he doesn't become obsessed with spiders next. a spider cake might test herself's culinary powers to the limit.

and the silent happy birthday went down really well. my boy thought it was a very cool idea and the peeps plan to save the cards for next year.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


grandma and the uncles have given my boy a chemistry set for his birthday. i am not sure if this was an entirely good idea. i suspect it was uncle pete's idea. uncle pete is the astrophysicist and computer programmer uncle. he has a certain affinity with the way my boy's mind works as he is another beefburger person.

my boy tore open the wrapping paper with great glee and shrieked "oh brilliant - i can make a bomb!" the peeps spent a little time explaining that this would not be too clever on account of it being likely to destroy the house.

having read the instructions it appears that the chemistry set requires what is described as "parental supervision". i am not sure why the manufacturers of chemistry sets think that parents are likely to be able to supervise bomb-making any better than lurchers. having seen the destruction herself can bring to the kitchen making a chocolate cake i would not in a million years leave her in control of chemicals. himself is slightly more sensible. but he has a habit of wandering off to play computer games, leaving my boy with the test tubes and scary looking bottles of chemicals.

my boy started off being very sensible. i suspect that this was a deliberate ploy to lull the peeps into a false sense of security. my boy is crafty like that. he started out with litmus paper. this seems fairly innocuous. you dip it into liquid and it changes colour depending on whether the liquid is acid or alkaline. all well and good when the liquid is vinegar or washing up liquid. so herself went to sit on the sofa to watch tv.

almost immediately my boy came rushing in saying "this liquid has gone solid and the litmus paper has got stuck!" sure enough the test tube was fully of jelly. herself ascertained that this was calcium hydroxide which my boy had added water to. it turned out that he had not quite understood that the instruction given to him very firmly by both peeps that he was not to open any of the chemicals unless one of them was actually in the room. or more likely he had decided that they didn't really mean it. and that he knew best about the chemicals anyway...

it does bring to mind the occasion when he decided to practice striking matches. he went outside to do this, being conscious of the house being entirely made of wood and therefore rather flammable. however, herself found him squatted down about a foot from the house, dropping the matches into a pile of leaves when the flames reached his fingers. there was a certain amount of heavy manners about that.

i am keeping well out of the way. things can only go downhill. herself is going to make him a birthday cake this afternoon. my boy has an aversion to people singing happy birthday so herself has made some cards for their friends to wave to do 'happy birthday' silently. the cards say 'happy', 'birthday', 'to', 'you', 'dear' and 'owen'. the plan is that mrs captain will conduct and the other peeps will raise their cards at the appropriate moment. i do not seem to have been allocated a card so i will wag my tail instead.

the cake-making will almost certainly be traumatic. herself is planning to make a cake shaped like a gun. each year she makes one in the shape of my boy's current obsession. so he has had them shaped like strip lights, light bulbs and daf lorries, to name but a few. she has not managed to buy new blades for the whisk so i dread to think what she will use to mix it all up. i think it might be an idea to hide the electric drill...

Monday, December 11, 2006


being photographed, originally uploaded by Joker the Lurcher.

my boy has had a brush with religion. this is not, you understand, his first brush. but it was a formative experience.

the peeps are atheists. herself was brought up an atheist and was never baptised. himself on the other hand was brought up the son of the church organist and made to sing in the church choir which seems to have made him rather more atheist than herself.

herself is of the opinion that people should make up their own minds about religion. she is cool with people believing in any shape or form of god or goddess so long as they don't shove it down her throat. so my boy has had an entirely free reign as to what to believe in.

he started off being rampantly atheist. after quite a few long conversations where herself pointed out that quite a few of the peeps friends were of various religions and of none and that my boy at the very least had to learn a bit of tact about it all, he decided to be an agnostic. i think the logic behind this was that if he was wrong about there being no god at least he had some sort of insurance policy to fall back on. at his old school (where quite a lot of things were not all that brilliant) his school report said "it is a shame that he cannot see the value of the teachings of jesus christ". herself was pretty annoyed about this and pointed out that he as a 7 year old had probably given quite a lot more consideration to religion and god than most of the teachers. he had just approached it with a more questioning mind.

anyway, my boy came home a couple of days ago saying the giddy ones had been to school. i took this to mean that these people spent too much time on roundabouts. but no. it appears that they are a type of religious people. they had come to school to talk to my boy and his mates about god. this they did at some length. then they pulled out some presents for the youngsters. my boy and his mates were thrilled. "its grand theft auto!" shrieked my boy, who has been trying to persuade the peeps that this game, where people hack each other to pieces with chain saws, is educational and would be good for his development.

"lets hope its san andreas!" said his mate. this is a particularly gory version. one of its main features is the new airborne mode which presumably means you can cut people up from above as well as the side.

but when they opened the parcels they discovered that they were not grand theft auto. they were not even the sims. they were bibles.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

get a grip

herself has tidied her desk. "so?" i hear my readers ask. "what is so special about that? people tidy their desks all the time." herself's desk is something else. it is a small writing bureau which she bought when she was at college. it is made of oak and has a green leather bit where you are supposed to write. i suppose this is why it is called a writing bureau.

herself doesn't do all that much writing at her desk. she isn't really a writing sort of person. she does a fair bit of typing with a magic keyboard that is not connected to mac the computer by any visible means. next to the keyboard is a thing that looks like a bar of soap which seems to beam messages to mac through the ether.

the desk is the centre of operations for quite a few things. it is herself's dressing table. i don't have a dressing table but then i don't have any dresses. herself doesn't actually stand on the desk to get dressed but she has a little mirror which she looks into every morning while painting stuff on her face. this is apparently to make her look less of a wreck.

(herself came home from work the other day rather miffed. she had been showing one of her work colleagues her flickr pictures and one came past of a younger version of herself. the colleague was apparently shocked that this was one and the same person. it has to be said that a lot of water has flowed under the bridge since this photo was taken. life has not been entirely restful and easy. but you would think the colleague would have been chivalrous enough to pretend she hadn't changed a bit. the trouble with people nowadays is they have no manners.)

as well as the painting face thing, herself also drys her hair with a beastly contraption that has my boy and himself running out of the room with their hands over their ears. i would put my paws over my ears too but it makes running out of the room impossible.

she also burns cds, makes films, plays music on a sort of plug in piano, edits photos, plays her yoga dvd (so we can do yoga without getting in a knot), designs newsletters and leaflets for the autistic people, designs websites for various folks, makes birthday cards, shops (and boy can she shop) on the internet, researches a million and one things and drafts papers for injunctions, asbos and other legal things (which seem to be to stop bad people behaving badly).

on top of this she makes jewellry, tries to keep on top of the family finances (a hopeless task if you ask me), reads blogs and wastes hours looking at photos. so you can see that the desk can get in a bit of a mess. lately the mess has been increasing at a rate faster than herself can keep up. it took her about half an hour to bring some order about. this was spread over a longer period as in her inimitable way she was distracted by the need to order printable cds and dvds, order printer cartridges to print them with, have a bath and discuss with my boy what her favourite sort of dalek was.

but at last it is done. peace rains. or maybe reins. or perhaps reigns? herself is off to meet her work colleagues for their christmas outing. i gather it is bingo. herself used to work in a bingo hall so has given them a wide berth since. maybe she will come back shouting "legs eleven" or something equally opaque. i will take the boys for a walk and then sit by the fire...

Sunday, December 03, 2006

at last - the helium laugh!

just so my poor readers don't think life is all doom and gloom round at our place, i give you the helium laugh by mrs captain:

powered by ODEO

Saturday, December 02, 2006

the life of the modern woman...

herself has had a bit of a week. "nothing new there!" i hear you cry. indeed not. but somehow this week has got on top of her more than usual.

it seems work has been busy. the naughty people seem to be extra naughty at the moment. so herself has a huge bunch of injunctions and other proceedings to get rolling. this would not normally be a big deal but her assistant is out of action as a result of a freak accident so herself is doing two jobs.

as regular readers will know, herself works in an office with a bunch of police folks. herself and her assistant are sort of lodgers there from what i can gather. the office is horribly hot and stuffy all year round. this is particularly bad for the police folks as they have to wear stab vests and bright yellow coats. i gather they tend to remove these in the office which must be easier on the eye.

anyway, as usual, even though it is quite late autumn, the windows were open. this was on wednesday when herself had taken a day off to go to ikea to buy sofas (about which i will no doubt report more in the future). so once the police folks had gone off to catch criminals herself's assistant was alone in the office.

[there was a pause in the flow there for a brief interlude of chaos while herself went running into the kitchen having heard a horrific noise which it turns out was caused by a camping stove getting tangled in the fan - don't even ask]

back to the office... herself's assistant had to move a printer and climb on the desk to reach the window to pull it closed. herself has had a couple of near misses in terms of falling out of the window doing this so would have stopped such tomfoolery had she been in the room but she was of course off buying sofas.

anyway, her assistant did some serious damage to her back to the point where she could not walk or bend down to get her bag or anything. luckily she had the presence of mind to phone herself who as luck would have it was on the way back from ikea. herself is nothing if not good in a crisis. she phoned the police. not just any old police but sgt goose who dispatched a policeman to rescue the poor assistant and take her to hospital (there is a security keypad on the door so no-one else could have got in).

must have cut a fine sight, the lawyer's assistant being rushed through town in the back of a police car, sitting on her hands, then heaved out of the police car and into a&e with a policeman holding her arm. probably made the front page of the local paper.

anyway, after a couple of days of agony and some pulling around by a kindly osteopath, herself's assistant is on the mend.

but i don't think this is altogether the cause of herself's autumnal gloom. work is only work after all. i think the gloom has more to do with other stuff. herself is not so great with goodbyes and one of her friends is likely to be moving away to warmer climes. can't blame her given the damp and gloom here but it has caused a certain amount of the old trembling lower lip and wet eyes stuff.

herself will just have to make do with chatting to her trusty old hound. ho hum....