Monthly Archives: August 2007


I didn’t particularly want to preach at that church tomorrow and had made heavy weather of planning my sermon. Not that it wasn’t a hard subject to preach on anyway. And the way you work with the worship leaders there proved inhibiting to me, control freak that I am. Basically, they plan the service and then send you an order of service with the bits highlighted which they want you to do, and with guidelines on the theme of the sermon too. You’re free to get back to them and make adjustments, but it is not a way I feel easy with working… I mean, this is the woman who likes to “interpret” the national curriculum guidelines so that they actually fit what she wanted to do in the first place! 😉

But what I didn’t have in mind was that I’d end up emailing them my sermon for someone else to read aloud.

I went to the dentist for a filling on Friday and can only suspect that it’s triggered an abcess or something as my face is throbbing and numb, my mouth doesn’t want to open very wide (wide enough for toast but not wide enough for a new potato!) and my tooth is sending angry messages to my brain. I feel as though I’ve gone ten rounds with Mike Tyson. Needless to say, I rang the emergency dentist just after they’d closed so I have to wait at least until tomorrow morning. Which means, of course, that I’ll have to miss church as the emergency dentist only works mornings.

Still, at least I’ll have a lie in. :-S

They do only come in threes, don’t they?

Hopefully that’s our three disasters out of the way.

First there was the tree roots forcing the builders to dig the foundations 2.5 metres deep. It was quite something to look out from my front door and see a hand waving from deep down in the trench! It was amazing watching the digger driver though – such amazing expertise in driving such an ungainly machine with incredibly accuracy to make tiny precise movements in digging and in shifting the accumulated mass of clay and rocks. He was too polite to complain at my obsession with watching him work.

Then the moment came ….. they knocked the gas pipe. The Gas Man came to look at the damage. “Do you want the bad news or the really bad news?” The gas pipe was rotten and had to be turned off at the mains… permanently until the pipe can be replaced. That was bad enough, but the meter where it had to be capped was in the back of the garage – the garage full to bursting with carefully stowed furniture…. and the Gas Board Man wasn’t supposed to move any of it. Good job his boss wasn’t looking – Mr Gas Board Man did a good job for customer relations, as did my wonderful building team. A chain of people hard at work and it took a matter of minutes for all my father’s worldly goods to be relocated on the drive. Not so easy packing it all back in again, but teamwork saved the day yet again. He said the pipe had been rotten and it was an accident just waiting to happen. And who needs hot water, heating or cooking facilities for three months? Pah – we can manage!

With the hold up waiting for the gas to be turned off, the bad news was that there wasn’t really the luxury of time to allow me to have my long awaited go in the digger. I am sooooooo disappointed – even more resentful of that than of the extra cost!

Then came number three. They got to the last stretch of digging, only to discover a water main, electricity main and drainpipe at about one foot apart across the place they needed to dig. Fortunately they only had to go two metres deep at this point, but I can tell you two metres of clay is pretty deep when it’s got to be shovelled out by hand!

Still, it’s all looking very exciting. The foundations are now finished and the blocks have arrived for the first layer of brickwork to begin on Tuesday. Plans are in place for relocating the drains too. It’s looking totally different to how I envisaged, of course, but really quite exciting. And Smudgelet, home from Scripture Union camp today, was delighted to discover that we have to walk the plank to get into our home!


And to think I thought it was bad administering antibiotics to a reluctant gerbil!

Ratty is still suffering from his unsightly skin condition which, after a slight slowing down in response to the first application of mite-killer, has proceeded to spread over a lot of his body, leaving him bald and crusty. Not a nice way for a gerbil to be, especially such a pretty one. But he’s a strong and determined little fellow and continues to be too sprightly for me to contemplate giving up on him… even if it is costing me a small fortune disproportionate to the size of the gerbil.

Having ruled out infection (treated by oral antibiotics) and infestation (treated by spot-on stuff like you use on dogs and cats), the next possibility is that it is a fungal infection, so we’re onto the third experimental treatment. I now have to extract poor Ratty from the comfort of his cage every two days for a fortnight and bath him. Yes, bath him. He is not amused. Immersion in a margarine-tub of warm water is not his favourite pastime, although he doesn’t seem too reluctant to let me lather him in this special shampoo which has to stay on for ten minutes before being rinsed off again with another dunk in the margarine-tub. Poor Ratty – the indignity of it! After several months of manhandling and dosing with one thing and another, he’s doing really well not to have died of shock!

Must remember, though, to give the next pet a sensible name. It’s rather embarrassing when the vet comes into the waiting room and calls for “Ratty” to go through.

Sponsor a tree – £1 a day

Put like that, it sounds reasonable enough to me. Especially when the tree in question is my beautiful old oak tree in a corner of my garden, the tree where the red squirrel comes to play, where the birds sit and sing, where the evening sun burns with a golden glow that lights the whole garden; the tree which has stood on that spot far longer than I have been alive, far longer than the builders who first built this bungalow. Who am I to begrudge my beautiful tree £1 a day (and steadily decreasing) ?

Mind you, it was a bit of a shock when I found out that my extension was going to cost an extra couple of thousand pounds because the foundations had to be… wait for it…. two and a half metres deep because of the tree roots! And Charlie was non-too-amused to find this seven foot hole waiting for him straight beneath his catflap either.

I came home from a trip to the mainland with my friend to find my hedge demolished (gently, though, in the hope that it will survive the stress and grow again once it’s all over) and my garden resembling an archaeological dig (in which they managed to find the missing gardening gloves 😀 ) with a massive digger and a tipper truck.

Best news of the day – I get to have a go. I smiled sweetly at the digger driver and he said “Yes, if you want a go, just give us a shout – you can drive it if you like” Boy, will the Smudgelets be jealous when they get home. It’d be really nice, not only to have a go in a digger again but more to think that I’ve actually played a part in digging the foundations of part of our home. Something special in that.

Change of scene View from the front door

Cat-flap-trap Invasion

What is this invading my territory? My home suddenly looks very small

A room with a view There's definitely something missing


Slobbing in my pyjamas at 10.38 in the morning updating my blog.
What happens?

Just as I go into my bathroom (no longer shielded from the outside world by a veranda) I hear movements outside. A glance through the “not-quite-as-opaque-as-I’d-like” bathroom window reveals that most rare of
mythical creatures……. a builder who arrives early !!!!

It’s unheard of.

So here we are. 10.39 in the morning and I’m sort of washed (well, you can’t do much in a bathroom when the builder’s stood the other side of your “not-quite-as-opaque-as-I’d-like” bathroom window, can you? ) and hurriedly dressed, have offered them a cuppa (I knew these builders were mythical – they even turned down a cuppa cos they’ve got work to do!), and have locked myself in the room furthest from the pneumatic drill with a soothing cup of coffee, two traumatised gerbils and a pack of aspirin for when the drilling penetrates my rather delicate (after a weekend of partying, even though I don’t drink) head.


Hurricane Dean is heading towards my nephew and his family in the Caribbean. We pray that they’ll be safe.
One aspect of it, though, has already brought heartache to him, and to us as we think of it.

He’s a wildlife expert, a conservationist working for the government out there.

It’s customary to slaughter non-indigenous parrots (quite brutally by firebombing the nests, apparently) which he found himself unable to do. So he gathered the young parrots and raised them by hand, managing to get financial grant support to pay for a veterinary expert to come from the USA to neuter the parrots when they’re old enough before releasing them back into the wild. The time is nearly right for them to be neutered.


with Hurricane Dean due to hit them today, there’s a risk that the parrots might escape before being neutered. They are non-indigenous and would seriously endanger the indigenous parrot population. There would be a real risk of their cage being damaged in the high winds and its a risk he daren’t take. So yesterday my soft-hearted nephew had to force himself to kill them. Every one of them. Each bird rescued and lovingly raised by hand to adulthood. Poor parrots. And poor, poor M.

Please remember in your prayers all those in the path of Hurricane Dean this week, especially those in Haiti who have already lost far more than parrots.


The last things we made for the party were the meringues. My sister had baked them, then we topped them off with whipped cream and raspberries from the garden. They looked a treat.

My brother picked up the tray to carry it to the village hall (only three houses away) at the start of the party. One meringue leapt into the air, did a triple somersault and landed, splat, upside down on his newly-polished shoe. And there was nothing he could do about it, without dropping the whole tray.

One we got the two trays (minus one meringue) to the village hall, we put them on the serving hatch from the kitchen. Half way through the party, my brother and I were dispatched to the kitchen/food room to take the covers off all the food. There was a chocolate cake in the middle of the hatch, so J and I went each side of the counter and reached across to unwrap the clingfilm from around it. “Teamwork!” we declared as the clingfilm came free……… and then both of us involuntarily dropped our hands straight onto a tray of meringues! “Real teamwork!” we claimed, as we mirrored each other licking whipped cream off our hands and trying bravely to disguise the damage we’d done.

Then Smudgelet comes into the buffet room. Those meringues looked rather enticing. Mmmmm…. he just had to have one of those. He ran up, dressed to the nines for the special occasion, grabbed a meringue and… yes, you’ve guessed it… it flew up from his fingers and did a triple somersault in the air. Determined not to make the same mistake as Uncle J by dropping it on his foot and having to throw it in the bin, with lightning reflexes he automatically grabbed it … between his knees!

Anyone for meringue?

I’m just not old enough to have a sister with a bus pass!

Yes, the first of our sibling group has just turned sixty. We all gathered at their village hall this weekend for the most amazing party.

It was a bit odd because we’ve had many family parties there and this was the first time, when visiting the buffet, that I’ve only carried one plate instead of filling a plate for Dad too, but I know he was there in spirit. We had a fantastic time.

There was a jazz band who did loads of Rock-and-Roll music and the floor was full of people dancing. The music was amazing. (The same band, with some different members, did the music for my 40th birthday party) I was a bit frustrated at a) not really being able to dance very well and b) having nobody to dance with but I volunteered to man the camera and was able to get loads of really good shots and video, and managed to wangle Tiddles into doing the Last Waltz with me.

I had great fun decorating the hall and making a huge banner for the front of the stage. It was a bit of a challenge, having no free floor-space at home in which to lay it all out, but I was rather pleased with the effect. I got chance to practice my baking, too – again in rather tight circumstances as my kitchen is rather… erm… reduced at the moment. Lots of successes and even the failure was a success – the most delicious cherry shortcake got stuck in the dish and fell into pieces when I got it out, which of course meant that we simply had to eat it ourselves, still warm from the oven. Mmmmmmmmmmmm!


How disgraceful. I am sitting here blogging at 9.38 in the morning, still in pyjamas. In fact, I am making the most of it – my first chance to do so for ages, and my last chance too for a long while. I am all alone in a rather congested and seriously-in-need-of-cleaning home and the feeling is good.

Last week my brother stayed for the week to do the preparatory work for the extention. It was a wonderful week (apart from me being overtaken with unexpected degrees of misery when my new neighbour moved in and we finally had closure – in both senses of the word – on the sale of Dad’s bungalow). My brother’s friend joined him for a few days and they achieved an incredible amount.

Most incredible, mind, is the bruise to my brother’s pride and his posterior. It was a good lesson to the Smudgelets on the dangers of losing concentration for a moment. He asked his friend, who was holding the ladder, to pass him a screwdriver and suddenly found himself travelling backwards in slow-motion, landing with a bump on the low garden wall. I have never before seen a bruise which covers as large an area and is as brightly coloured as this one. As it spread (and swelled to rather noticeable size) we sent him off to Accident and Emergency – they sent him home saying “Stop being such a wimp and get some work done” – or rather, “It’s possible you’ve fractured your coccyx but you’d do best to keep moving and ignore it and just keep taking the painkillers and anti-inflammatories until it gets better”.

The biggest jobs were removing the gate post (ironic, really) and getting the roof off the veranda as the tar had melted onto the roof. On Tuesday I went out for a good cry (the day the sale of Dad’s bungalow went through), leaving them struggling with the last piece of roofing. I came home to find a naked man in my lounge – my brother had just got out of the shower and hadn’t expected me home yet – who greeted me with “I bet it was a bit of a shock seeing that when you got back, wasn’t it? ” I had to agree! Mind you, he meant something different – when I arrived home wondering whether they’d still be up on the veranda roof struggling to lift the felt, I discovered my doorway looked very different indeed – the whole structure was missing! Once the roof piece had lifted, my brother and his friend had just waggled it a little bit to see where the next weakest part was to tackle next and.. slow motion yet again… the whole construction (brother and all) had simply tumbled down, taking the garden wall with it (just as well that was going to be taken down) and my rather shocked brother had stood up from where he’d followed the door frame down, dusted himself off, and congratulated himself on two days’ work completed in one minute flat! Flat being the operative word!

He’s cut back my hedge to allow the digger through, put me an outside tap to save the builders coming in and out for water, put a new ceiling extractor fan in my bathroom to replace the one the builders are going to have to remove and block in, made endless trips to the tip, and stacked all the demolished brickwork to build me some raised flower beds some time in the distant future.

My architect has found me the most impressive project manager and work begins in earnest this afternoon. In late October my brother will be down again to start work on the inside of the extension, and we seriously plan to have at least one room useable by Christmas. I am so excited. It means my inheritance will go in and out of my account without me even noticing, but it was rather special to go from being in debt yesterday to having more money than I have ever had today. Better not get used to it – it’s all spoken for.

But more precious than any building work or money in the bank, my father left me a far more special inheritance. My brother and my sisters. What a wonderful inheritance that is. Thanks Dad.

Doing amazingly well

Goodness, I am having to sit down as I’m suffering from shock. Somehow, and goodness knows how, the total pile of accumulated bits and pieces from nextdoor requiring storage so I can sort them properly into “keep”, “ditch” and “car boot” seem all to have disappeared quite nicely into all the nooks and crannies of my home. I don’t think I have a crook or a nanny left, but for the time being I am feeling quite self satisfied.

This is, of course, until my veranda comes down. Goodness knows what we’ve got in there needing a place of sanctuary prior to “keep”, “ditch” or “car boot” ing. I need the extension because our home isn’t big enough – it’s a bit ironic that the process of extending is currently leaving us with far less space!