Sunday, December 28, 2008

winter fuel

dear readers, yet again i have neglected you all. this has partly been due to what is known as the festive season. although this year the peeps have not had the usual amount of shopping for gifts to distract them. they agreed not to get each other anything in order to allow them to purchase a nice present for my boy. he has been wanting a satnav for quite some time and it was decided that he could have one as a joint birthday and christmas present.

some of my more astute readers will have spotted the slight anomoly in this idea - my boy does not have a car. this has not stopped him, of course. he has navigated the peeps on foot round the neighbourhood. and of course whenever the chance to go out in the car has come up he is there like a shot, in contrast to recent weeks when the prospect of going in the car caused fear and trepidation.

as well as a decidedly scrooge-like approach to gift-buying, another side effect of the credit crunch chez nous has been a fall in the ambient temperature in the house. herself has, as regular readers know, been trying to make the family finances add up. this has stretched even her creative genius. the price of domestic heating has gone up exponentially in recent times. gas (as in the blue stuff that comes out of the cooker, not the stuff my readers in the usa run their cars on) has gone up in price 76% in the last 5 years.

herself has always paid the fuel bills by a nifty little thing called a direct debit. this allows the fuel company to sneak into your bank account every month and help itself to a large chunk of money. the upside of this arrangement is that you don't get hit with scary bills that you can't afford every 3 months. instead you get hit with slightly less scary bills that you still can't afford every month.

herself has increased the direct debit several times recently in an effort to keep up with price hikes. but the peeps are still considerably in the red with the fuel companies. so herself decided to do an online energy survey. this was on the website belonging to the fuel company so it may be seen as being a little biased, but herself entered into the spirit of things. however, there was soon a general air of disatisfaction.

" 'how do you heat your house?' " she read from the screen, "they give you a choice of gas or electricity. they don't have a box for 'i go out in the freezing cold and pouring rain and collect wood which i then bring home and saw up and burn on the fire like an old troll-woman!' "

and then she read some more.

" 'when do you have your heating on? a) all the time b) evenings and mornings in the week and all the time at weekends c) evenings and mornings 7 days a week' how about d) 'when one or both dogs teeth are chattering' !"

herself finally got to the bit where the recommendations for saving energy were delivered. this caused even more mirth.

" 'turn your heating thermostat down by one degree.' how is that going to save us any money? you would have to have the heating on for that to make any difference!"

luckily uncle martin's generosity got us through christmas in a warm and cosy glow. uncle martin works in a place where they make things from wood. there are big chunks of wood that are offcuts from this and just before christmas uncle martin gave himself 3 large bags of this wonderful stuff. it burns very hot and does not need sawing up. so we had a roaring fire to sit by over the festive season.

i hope all my readers had similar good fortune and that your paws are warm and cosy.

Monday, December 08, 2008

how does your garden grow?

today provided ample blog-fodder, dear readers. in order to explain events today i will have to rewind a little. i hope those more distractable among you are able to keep up.

you may remember before himself's operation there was frantic activity involving mick and martin the builders. among other things they constructed a raised bed. this was for the knit-your-own-vegetables project, which is part of the money-saving drive. anyway, the raised bed has been sitting there waiting for herself to fill it with soil. she came home from work the week before himself's operation grinning like a cheshire cat (wash my mouth out!)

"i've met a man in the street and he is going to bring us some soil!" she said. it transpired that this was not quite as insane as it sounds. the man in question lives round the corner and has a lurcher so he can't be all bad. herself decided on him supplying the soil, not because of the lurcher, but because he has a truck which says that he is a landscape gardener. he came and had a look and a price was agreed for the work.

however, before the soil arrived, disaster struck in the form of a water bill. it seems we now have to pay for water in accordance with how much we use. regular readers will be aware that my boy likes to take his time in the shower. in addition there is a lot of hosing up after young dave. and the peeps are always washing clothes. so the water bill was huge. it ate up all the money herself had earmarked for the soil, so she had to tell the man she met in the street that it was not going to happen.

fast forward to the last time we saw the snake-charmers. they have a large garden which they have great plans for. they also have a large pile of topsoil which they don't want. herself, ever the resourceful one, said she would take it off their hands.

today was the appointed day for the collection of the soil. young dave and i were put in the back of the car. my boy was put in the front. he is off school with mysterious queasiness and dizzyness and general out-of-sorts-ness. the trailer was hitched up to the back. i had assumed that we were off on one of herself's wood-gathering expeditions but no sooner had we moved off than we pulled up outside the snake-charmers' house. the wheelbarrow was taken off the trailer, the trailer was unhitched and pulled off the pavement onto the drive and herself disappeared from view.

she soon returned, pushing very hard on the wheelbarrow, which had thoughtlessly acquired a flat tyre. in the barrow was a huge pile of soil. herself shovelled the soil into the trailer, while young dave and i watched in growing disbelief. it was quite obvious that the walk was not going to be for a little while. the operation was repeated at ever-increasing intervals, as herself got more and more tired. eventually she ground to a halt and my boy was collected to help hitch the trailer back up. they tugged away at the bit that attaches to the car but it would not budge off the ground.

herself went in and fetched mr snake-charmer. he doubled-up with laughter at the sight of the stricken trailer. then the three of them tried to lift it but it still would not budge.

"why us?" wailed herself, "i only want to grow a few vegetables!"

the trailer was left where it was to await a time when mrs snake-charmer would also be available. my boy also pointed out that removing the wheelbarrow from the top of the pile of soil might be helpful.

those vegetables had just better appreciate all this effort...

Friday, December 05, 2008


oh readers, has it been that long? i have been remiss in the extreme in keeping you up to date with events chez nous. herself has been somewhat distracted by the men in her life. the largest of these has been backwards and forwards to the hospital having blood removed and peered at, and worse still, having a little pipe removed.

this latter procedure occurred last friday. it seems that when superkidny was placed in himself's rather fine belly the doctors thoughtfully placed a little piece of plastic between superkidny and himself's bladder. this was to make sure superkidny's wonderful output of wee found its way to the great outdoors. once things are all working swimmingly the little piece of plastic is removed. i am not sure i can bring myself to tell you how this is done without my eyes watering, save to say it involves a tiny camera called a shuftyscope, and an even smaller pair of pliers on a very long stalk. and a man with very steady hands.

the hospital told himself to bring someone to drive him home. presumably this was because his eyes would be watering and he might not be able to see. herself accordingly took the day off work. my boy was off school and so the peeps set off at some unearthly hour, leaving myself and young dave in charge of things at home. the peeps were gone for hours and hours and hours. as time ticked by i mused on the ear-bashing himself would be in for. herself does not do waiting. and she does not do hospitals. and she does not do london all that happily either. for a procedure that was due to take 2 minutes, things appeared to be dragging rather.

when they finally returned, it was with stories of kafkaesque systems within the hospital. herself can rant for britain on the subject of systems. i will confine myself to just one example, lest you fall asleep. himself had been sent a letter saying his appointment for the shuftyscope was at 12 o'clock. the peeps had to get to the hospital for 8.30 so himself's blood could be peered at, so they were very early for the appointment. they dutifully went along to the day surgery place and checked in at about 11am. they were told to wait. at 12 o'clock himself was called over and given a rather fetching gown. he was told to put it in a locker and to come back at 1 o'clock as the shuftyscope man was at lunch between 12 and 1. so why send people appointments when the man would be eating his sarnies? especially for something so nerve-wracking. the waiting area must have been full of men with shrinking wedding tackle. i suspect this would make the shuftyscope man's job much harder. trying to get the shuftyscope down the end of a todger that has turned itself inside out in fright must be quite a skill.

the other man in herself's life has also been keeping the peeps busy. my boy got through all the weeks of serious medical stuff in one piece but fell to bits when it all stopped. he was off school for a week a while ago with a little tummy trouble. then he went back, but not for long. soon he was off again, complaining of feeling sick and indeed showing all the signs of someone who was feeling sick, from the green tinge to the shaking hands. visits to the doctor followed, for his ears to be peered down and his chest listened to. meanwhile he got even thinner, having decided that eating was not a great idea. it became apparent to the peeps that there was more to this than met the eye.

after forensic cross-examination by herself my boy finally admitted that the feeling sick was being triggered by the thought of school. things there have been a little tricky, with my boy coming out with rather too many of his tactless and inappropriate comments in lessons and getting into bother. he has also been causing grief to his mates, to the point that they are beginning to avoid him. all of this became clear to the peeps after a meeting with my boy's teachers, which had herself in tears when she got home.

the upshot is that we are going to have family therapy. and my boy is going to have some other sort of therapy as well. so at last we are going to get some lessons in how we are supposed to go on. better late than never is all i can say.

and as for young dave and his delicate insides, the tale of that will have to wait for another day...