Friday, August 28, 2009

oop north

hello dear readers! this is a post from your globetrotting reporter, joker the roving lurcher. as i dictate this we are in birmingham! this is a place of tall buildings and a lot of roads.

some time ago, her maamship invited us all to join her and the prof on a canal boat holiday in scotland. the peeps were very keen on the idea but unfortunately, because of my boy's fear, it was a no no. my boy, as regular readers will know, has not been very far from the house since last year. so the peeps thanked her maamship and the prof for their kindness and reluctantly declined.

as the summer went on my boy got a little more adventurous, at least on foot. he took to coming out to the local park with young dave and i when we went for our run. he even went to visit his mate pj. the peeps began to think they might have a holiday after all. the big problem with the scotland idea was that scotland is about as far as you can go from where we live. the prospect of my boy on a car journey of such magnitude filled them with dread. my boy loves canal boats,and felt most miserable at the idea of missing such a wonderful holiday.

her maamship had an idea. herself rang the doctor and asked about getting a sedative to knock my boy out for the duration of the car journey. the doctor told herself of an excellent car sickness medication that had the added bonus of making the recipient sleepy.

so this morning at some ungodly hour we were awoken by herself, in her usual cheery morning mode. herself is the only member of the family capable of cheerfulness at an early hour. himself was decidedly uncommunicative. my boy was fast asleep but once awoken, sprang into action. the peeps had done about half their packing last night but there was still quite a bit of organising and sorting out of chaos to be done. we finally set off at just after 5am.

after a couple of stops to empty the old tanks we arrived in birmingham, where we are to stay for tonight in her maamship's flat. had it not been for a rather tiresome feline member of the maamship-prof family we could have stayed with them in cheshire. but the flat is rather nice. it has a lift. i have, of course, been aquainted with lifts before. but young dave was enthralled. there was a lady in the roof of the lift. when the doors closed she said "doors closing!" and as we went up she told us which floor we were passing. young dave was listening so hard his ears did that funny thing where they join at the top and look like a cheap toupee. at the top floor we spilled out of the lift and went into the flat. the floors are all covered in pale carpet, which i have to say was not a very good choice on the part of her maamship if she is going to make a habit of having disreputable characters like us to stay.

we have now settled in and have been for a little stroll in a local park which has strange metal trees. now it is time for a little snooze...

Thursday, August 27, 2009

the rakes progress

dear readers, herself has been having a fine old time this week. as regular readers will know, she has been having raking. this makes people more relaxed and in tune. the raking lady suggested that, because herself has such a lot of energy, she might like to share it with others and do a bit of raking herself. i was quite keen on this idea. the old hips have been giving me a fair bit of gip lately what with my arthritis and apparently raking can help.

it seems that in order to do raking you have to learn to sing properly. this is called attunement, which i assumed is something like tuning a piano. herself could certainly do with tuning up a bit. her singing is, to put it bluntly, somewhat feline (wash my mouth!). she only sings in the car, and only then when she is alone. however, alone in this context means with no fellow humans. young dave and i are expected to put our paws over our ears and get on with it.

so on monday the raking lady came round to make a start on the tuning. all four of us boys were banished from the house. unfortunately we returned before the end of the tuning. young dave was rather curious about what was going on. he spent some time sniffing the raking lady and tickling herself's face with his beard. we could not tell whether the raking had been successful or not as herself did not treat us to any songs that evening. tuesday was the second session, which was at the raking centre. part of this session involved herself learning how to do raking on someone else. the raking lady suggested that my boy might make an ideal model to practice on. herself suggested this to him.

"i'm not having black magic practiced on me!" he squawked, "i might turn into a toad!" herself tried to explain that raking was nothing to do with black magic but my boy was not moved. the raking practice therefore had to be done on the raking lady. she seemed to survive and gave herself some special stones. herself will also get a certificate which she can put on her wall next to the one that says she can use a chainsaw.

after becoming tuneful herself has to do a bit of meditation every day and practice raking for 21 days in order to make it stick in her head. she decided that this would give her a good reason to start yoga again as the raking could be tacked on the end of it. young dave has not been exposed to the joys of yoga. when he saw herself doing the downward dog thing he got very excited. herself ignored him so he decided to lie down on the yoga mat. i think this position is called 'child' which suits young dave rather well.

next week will be interesting. we have been invited to join her maamship and the prof on their boating holiday. i love a canal boat holiday. i am ideally designed to lie down along the middle of a boat. i am not sure how young dave will take to it. but what will be most interesting is the thought of herself doing yoga in such a confined space...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

from the sublime to the automatic

dear readers, the fun with cars has continued apace. as regular readers will recall, arthur the audi had a small lake in his rear footwell which was in danger of mucking up his inboard computer bits. herself tried to get estimates from a few garages but they said they could not guarantee that they would sort out the problem even though they would have to charge for their time. this did not appeal to herself, who tries to watch the pennies nowadays. so she went to the local audi dealer. while they are expensive, they at least know what makes an audi tick. or leak.

the estimate for the work was a scary amount but luckily herself had put some money aside for car repairs so all was well. the only problem was that herself was due to go away on her horse therapy course (or horse hugging course, as mr snake-charmer calls it) and driving up the motorway with the lights flashing randomly did not fill her with joy. luckily the audi dealer has spare cars which they lend to people. rather apologetically, the audi dealer said to herself,

"the only thing we have left to lend you is an A3." herself was fine with this as her old audi, sparky, was an A3 and was very pleasant. on the day when she went to drop off arthur the audi the man said, "change of plan. we are letting you have an A4 estate." herself was also fine with this. she likes audis in general. the paperwork was all done and the man went off to collect the replacement car.

herself stood outside, waiting for the A4. but the man appeared with a different car. it was a brand new jaguar. it turned out that the A4 had a warning light on which meant they had to let herself have a rather classier car than they intended.

"i'm sorry, its an automatic," said the man. "that's fine, i'm sure i'll cope," said herself, magnanimously.

the following day was the first day of the horse hugging course. as it was a long way away, herself had to get up very early indeed. even when herself can see what she is wearing she is sartorially challenged. when she gets dressed in the dark she is a sight to behold. add to this a distinct lack of sleep and you have a vision of loveliness. herself set off into the night. after a while she stopped for coffee. she noticed as she got out of the jaguar that she was being stared at a lot. the attention was not reduced when she set off the alarm on the jaguar by opening the boot instead of the fuel flap. it dawned on herself that the people looking thought she had stolen the car.

eventually, with one eye on the mirror in case of flashing blue lights, herself arrived at the horse hugging course. there were 30 other people on it, ranging from psychotherapists to people with livery yards. it seems everyone wants to learn to hug horses. i may volunteer as a stand-in huggee for smaller participants. i like a good hug myself.

the first evening herself was staying in birmingham with her maamship. her maamship has a flat in birmingham where she stays in the week while she does her judging. the following day herself drove to where the course was. this necessitated going up the M6. when you got off the M6 you had to turn left.

the second evening herself stayed with her maamship and the prof in their family home, which is north of where the course was. on the sunday morning, herself drove down the M6 and turned left, as she had the day before. even young dave could have worked out the problem with this. herself ended up somewhere miles away and was rather late, in spite of having risen very early.
the course ended that afternoon and herself headed home down the M6, proudly clutching her certificate. the jaguar had a little light on to say it was thirsty and needed diesel. herself saw that services were imminent. but alas, she had to turn off the M6 onto the M42 before she reached them. all was well as there was a sign saying that there were services in 20 miles. the on-board computer told her that she had 22 miles left in the tank. but as fate would have it, the turn-off to the M40 was before these services. there was a sign saying that the next services were in 20 miles. by now there was less than 20 miles in the tank. herself slowed down to 56 mph, having remembered that this was the most efficient speed. she also tucked in behind a lorry, a trick she remembered from her motorcycling days. as the distance to the services went down, so did the amount left in the tank. it became clear that there would be a shortfall of 2 or 3 miles.

herself got on the blower to himself. fortunately himself was on his computer.

"can you look up how accurate the fuel indicator is in a jaguar x-type?" she wailed. himself duly googled this, but found nothing helpful.

"just treat it like the diesel challenge!" he said. the diesel challenge was a game that the peeps used to play with my boy when he was young. for some reason not unconnected with lack of organisational skills and lack of money, the peeps were in the habit of driving round with very little fuel. it was often touch and go whether they would make it to the petrol station. so they turned it into an exciting competition between the humans and the car. fortunately the humans usually won.

luckily herself won the diesel challenge on this occasion too, with sighs of relief all round. when herself told people about her diesel adventure, everyone told her about an episode of top gear, on which some bloke had driven a jaguar right across europe on one tank of petrol. but he presumably had a film crew handy if he ran out...

Thursday, August 06, 2009

chasing cars

here is a picture of the next door's car. to put it bluntly this car is a very unlucky car. mrs next door calls this car "a corker of a car". i fear she is delusional. this picture was taken a couple of months ago. the next doors were having a bit of a busy time and the reminder for the car tax got left until the last minute. then when mrs next door tried to tax the car there was some bit of paper missing. when the bit of paper was found mrs next door's friend took all the stuff to the post office. but some other bit was now missing. in the end mrs next door had all the bits of paper and went along to tax the car. when she got back she found the car had been clamped. the nasty clamping people would not let the car go until money had changed hands. no amount of pleading made the slightest bit of difference.

then the next doors had a long journey to make. the day before the journey the corker of a car decided to drop its exhaust and develop a spluttering engine. as the journey was quite important herself lent mrs next door arthur the audi. herself drove mrs next door's car to work. this was a mistake. the corker of a car would not go out of second gear without spluttering as though it was going to die. herself would have got there more quickly on her bicycle. but arthur the audi did not let the side down in the bad car-ma stakes. halfway along the motorway a flood of water appeared from nowhere and soaked mr next door's feet.

it appears that the lack of power in the next door's car was due to a dodgy throttle cable. the cable had stretched to the point that when it was on the floor it hardly moved the engine. the garage did some greasing and fiddling and said that would keep it going for a bit. the next long journey that mrs next door went on the corker of a car did the opposite. it revved and revved with no encouragement whatsoever. in fact the revving was somewhat alarming. this it appears was due to the throttle cable sticking. herself knew about this because it happened once when she was on her motorbike, depositing her in a ditch. mrs next door managed to get back in one piece from this journey, largely because on motorways it is less noticable if one is going very fast.

as she drew into the little town where we live, the throttle cable gave one last groan and snapped. mrs next door managed to roll to the side of the road and left the corker of a car where it stood. when she rang the garage it turned out they did not do towing. this was something of a problem as mrs next door did not at this stage have breakdown cover. luckily the peeps have a tow rope. they set off with arthur the audi to where the corker of a car was malingering. having pushed it backwards to make a space arthur the audi assumed the position. herself got out and peered underneath for the towing bracket. there was none to be found. not a single thing presented itself as being vaguely suitable. at this stage himself was all for giving up and retiring home to the sofa.

but herself was not to be defeated. the manual was located and after some puzzling over diagrams of cars that looked nothing like the corker of a car the peeps found out what the problem was. i have to say that without the manual it would have been very unlikely that they would have worked this out. the peeps had to remove rather a lot of stuff from the boot, then remove the spare tyre, then locate a brass lump of metal which had to be unscrewed from the car body. even this simple task was not simple. the brass lump of metal (the towing eye to give it its correct name) unscrewed the other way to any other screw.

the peeps went back round to the front and peered at the bumper. it was not obvious where the towing eye screwed in. eventually they located a circular plate in the bumper which they managed to prise off. as the towing eye unscrewed the wrong way it also screwed back up the wrong way. but in the end they were ready. herself got back in arthur the audi and himself sat in the corker of a car. himself is an old hand at being towed as one of his brothers is a mechanic and himself learned to be towed long before he could drive. (unfortunately the mechanic brother lives hundreds of miles away so was not much help on this occasion). the peeps set off. almost immediately all the indicators on arthur the audi came on and stayed on, regardless of which buttons were pressed. this made it hard for herself to let himself know which way she was going. luckily the peeps had talked about the route beforehand. himself would have had very little choice anyway, given he was attached with a rope.

the corker of a car was duly delivered to the garage and arthur the audi was left outside the other garage which was going to look at the pool of water the next day. it seems the pool of water is the cause of the odd indicator behaviour. the electrics were very cleverly placed under the floor where the pool of water was.

as i dictate this missive the next doors are heading off to the west country to visit relatives. i just hope the corker of a car behaves itself...


readers, here you can see a rather poorly designed box. as you will see, the bottom slopes. every time the box is stood up it falls over. this box contains puff pastry. himself was making some sort of meat pie with pastry on top and herself decided to make a tart with the leftovers. but every time she stood the box up to read the instructions it fell over. so before she could make a start she had to modify the box. as you do.

then the tart was made:

and baked:

and was by all accounts delicious, although of course yours truly never got within a munch of it.

meanwhile, my boy was filling in one of the endless forms from the irritation authority. this form was to get my boys views about his education. my boy was scathing about the form.

"what do they mean 'what do i like about school?' i haven't been to school in months!"

"just keep it polite and try and answer the questions" said himself.

"and why has it got an exclamation mark after where it says 'tell us about yourself!' ? do they think i am going to be more motivated if they put an exclamation mark there? how patronising! i will not be controlled by punctuation!"

as my boy gives the Hoard of Menopausal Women a run for their money i somehow doubt a little bitty exclamation mark is going to cut the mustard...