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Hi Everyone. I hope that this post finds you well and looking forward to a bright and sunny weekend, with or without Scottish Independence and irrespective of your personal views regarding the outcome. I won't go into my own political leanings on this blog to avoid debate. That said, I agree with you Matt P. Hah! Now you are guessing.

So what is new here with me and my kin?

We sold the house in Macclesfield that many of you may have visited in the past. It took the better part of a year to finally go through and I certainly wish the purchasing of property in England would learn something from Scotland. We went through a number of purchases that fell through and it wasn't until we were weeks away from completing that we started looking again in ernest at property down here.

The house that we decided upon was owned by the Devil. A knowing solicitor alternating between stories of illness, needs and threats. She gave away nothing and wanted everything. Our own solicitor kindly told us that our vendor was the most difficult person to deal with she had ever come across in a professional capacity. We 'had to' get the mortgage approved before she would take the house off the market, we 'had to' exchange with the tenant still in the house or the house would be put back on the market, we 'had to' agree to give her a deposit because we wouldn't exchange with a tenant in place. She was aggressive, and her agent called us an average of three times a day hounding us until we threatened to pull out if she kept threatening us... well either that or paying the damned deposit shut them up. I would prefer to think the former, but it is probably the latter than had the desired result.

Well, we are still looking at other houses in case something comes up but in the meantime we are on track to move next month. It will be worth it. The area, the house and the location relative to friends and family are big positives. We have a free Zoological Museum within 5 minutes walk of the house, a wilderness of forest to explore, a local produce market, theatre, auction house and a brewery all within easy walking distance of the house. Oh, and the train station isn't too much further away (2 miles from the house).

Anyway, I'll sign off now. I wish you all joy and I hope you will wish us luck in return.

Simon and I are well. Our 3 moggies are all monsters but well. Penny and her little one Hollie are equally well although my bully of a moggie Oliver had decided that he likes Hollie's food better than his own. We are all doing well in our little two bed flat, 3 adults and 4 cats.

Liz, Simon, Boots, Ebony and Oliver.

Some news at last

For the last few months I've been living with my housemate Siouxsie in the week. She runs an exotic pet shop below our flat and her work is typically brought home. I've helped wean a baby squirrel which was brought into the shop, I've helplessly stood by as Siouxsie manhandled extremely dangerous poisonous snakes, seen her handle a baby crocodile. I have played with her meerkats, they weren't going to hurt me. Something that I have learnt is that most snakes bite. Corn snakes are the least likely to. My adventure with Siouxsie is coming to an end.

I'm typing while sat at my balcony overlooking Bath Abbey and the main square, a jazz musician has started his set. I've been here a couple of days so I know the routine. He will soon be replaced by a Jeff Buckley wanna be who will compete with the abbey bells to win the hearts of the buzzing crowds. While I sit here on holiday with my husband, Siouxsie is moving out of our little flat. She will be moving into a house 5 doors down which she will in time be sharing with her boyfriend of 2 months, Matt.

What about me? Well, I'm staying at the flat because I also have some good news. Simon will be starting a new job in October. Everything has been moving so quickly and let me also point out that things are far from stable at my workplace at the moment which has led to a stressful few months. Simon and I will soon be together again. In time I might add a note regarding how hard this past 18 months has been while we have been separated. Many things have happened in that time and not many of them have been nice. That time is not now though. He is moving down and we are selling our house up north. The future is full of promise and joy.

Finally, if you are thinking of a cheap holiday with lots of historic interest, may I direct you to consider the many beauties of Bath. From it's Georgian architecture with Roman themes and bright Bath Rock, nearby historic houses, Jane Austen associations to it's open air musical sets throughout the day in most of the squares, free walking tours and gardens (Georgian garden free to visit 9am-7pm, just off the gravel walk near to the Crescent) it is a beautiful place to visit. Did I forget to mention the free Tennis Courts at Sydney Park? I should have said something about the independent shops. Why didn't I say anything about the SPA's? It has long been a Spa town. I'm an idiot. Come to Bath -it is amazing.


An appreciation of life

Granddad was born into a large farming family. He was one of 24 cousins and the youngest of 4 brothers and a sister.

As a child at school he was always in trouble as he was a bit of a practical joker.

He would walk home with a group of friends past a teachers house. Once, they decided to play a practical joke on the teacher and as no-one would later admit to the prank, it was decided that they would all get the cane. Granddad was mischievous and when it became his turn to receive the birch he moved his hands away at the very last minute, so the Head teacher instead of hitting Granddad, hit his own knee. Unfortunately Granddad didn't escape completely. He still got the cane and got lines and detention as well.

As he grew up into a young man he liked working in the open air and was never happy trapped indoors. He was brought up a farmer in Gawsworth and worked alongside his siblings in the fields and with the dairy cattle. He was very family orientated and when his brothers started a business he worked as a lorry driver for them. When the business was sold, for a short time he worked as an engineer but he quit after just 2 months because being stuck indoors left him feeling claustrophobic. He always used to say 'I'm just a working man, I'm doing the best I can' which was a line from one of his favourite songs. His last job was as the groundsman at Poynton Sports Club.

(Another of his sayings was ‘After a good dinner, you should have a good sleep – and after a bad dinner you should sleep ‘till your tea’s ready’)

He was a great sportsman himself and was a former trustee, president and a life member at the **** Bowling Club. Crown Green Bowling was one of his greatest pleasures in life and he was very proud to win a gold watch in a bowling competition with **** Bowling Club. Sadly, ill-health prevented him pursuing his love for bowling in recent years but his heart was always with the club. His picture is still hanging up there and I'm sure he was proud to know it was there.

He settled down and married Muriel and throughout their lives together they were inseparable. She doted on him and he on her. They had a son, Ian who they were very proud of.

When Muriel died 11 years ago in April it was a blow from which he never really recovered. I would like to think that they have now re-united in heaven.

Those of us who were lucky enough to know Ivan, will all remember him as a charming, kind gentleman who had a place for everything and everything was in it's place. He was a gentle person who was always ready for a laugh and a joke.

Maybe he kept some of that sense of mischief from his younger days though because he kept a ready slingshot in his drawers to scare away any unwanted cats in the garden. He loved watching the birds, his favourite being the Robin, and was very protective of them as he was of all his family.

I feel honoured to have been gifted with such a generous hearted and loving Granddad. We will always love you and treasure your memory.

Why travelling to Paris doesn't agree with me

I have traveled to Paris twice. Each time to attend important global strategic meetings representing my company affiliate. On both occasions I have had experiences probably only rivaled by Miranda Hart of ‘Miranda’ and only this knowledge and the fortitude in which she has dealt with these problems in the past has given me the confidence to share my shame.

1st trip to Paris:
After only a couple of months with my company I was invited to my first overseas global forecasting alignment meeting. I had planned out every detail of the journey, down to printing out google maps of each taxi journey I would require.
I landed in Paris late in the evening in preparation for my meeting the next day. As I confidently wandered out of the airport I was approached by a young taxi driver who offered to drive me to my hotel. Well that was lucky, I thought. My driver proceeded to chat away with me testing my French and teaching me little bits, laughing as I tried to replicate his words. As the journey progressed I became a little worried that what should have been a 30 minute max taxi ride was quickly becoming a 50 minute taxi ride with no sight of my hotel. I continued to chat away. My taxi driver then propositioned me and after I rejected him he charged me over 100 euro’s for the journey, far above the amount of money in my purse. My Taxi driver kindly offered to lower the charge in return for alternative forms of payment. I didn’t ask what he meant but following a short stop at an ‘ATM’ paid him over 100 euro’s to leave me alone.
When I finally made it to the hotel I was a little emotional and just wanted to go to bed. Unfortunately that wasn’t to be. My greeting at the foyer was less than friendly as it became clear the hotel was overbooked following an internet on the website. The hotel hadn’t even made alternative arrangements for those with booking. As I collapsed onto a nearby couch and proceeded to doze the hotel staff started ringing around nearby hotels. Finally another taxi picked me up and I was deposited at another hotel. Thankfully with the hotel picked up the bill.

2nd trip to Paris:
The second time I travelled to Paris I travelled by Eurostar on a day in which many trains were being cancelled due to icy conditions and others were delayed. My Eurostar was cancelled but I managed to get onto the delayed 19.01 departure. I arrived in Paris Nord at 22.55pm local time and having learnt my taxi driver lesson on my previous journey, carefully ignored all offers from local drivers and lined up in the taxi ranks. I was very grateful when I arrived at the hotel and felt a corner had been turned when I was secure in a luxurious room of black marble flooring, floor length mirrors and white porcelain décor. I had ordered room service, for the first time in my life and, being very hungry I quickly gobbled the sandwich arriving a few minutes later. Afterwards though, I had a conundrum. I was supposed to leave the tray my food had arrived on, cutlery and dishes outside my room door. The hallway to the main door of the room was as wide as the heavy tray so I would have to open the door as wide as possible to navigate the tray through the door and outside. How was I supposed to get the tray of dishes out of my room? I decided to try and balance the tray in one hand and open the door with the other. That didn’t end well. The tray toppled over and the white china plates, pepper and salt pots, side dishes, ketchup and mustard pots all smashed to the hard black marble floor. Pepper went everywhere and a flash of red ketchup spread in a bloody pool. After putting everything back on the tray and hiding the mess under a large metal dome reminiscent of falty towers type room service, I pushed the whole lot out of my room. I stood there, looking at the scene and wondering if I should write a note to explain. Then I heard a click. My room door had locked. Panic stricken I looked down at myself, I wore a nightshirt and nothing else. Thankfully the grey nightshirt reached my thighs and so covered my modesty but it was obvious that I wasn’t wearing a bra. Without my glasses, I couldn’t see very far but I had to get help. After a few unsuccessful explorations of the nearest lift and stairwells, I reached the main lifts and summoning courage ventured down. I was highly embarrassed to see a large party of people downstairs. I didn’t know, and still don’t know, whether any of them were in my team. All I could see were a mass of people blobs. After a very embarrassing trip back up the lift with a member of staff and a number of French onlookers I was let back into my room. My last view of my savior was of her reaching down to pick up my ill-fated tray. I really hope she didn’t look inside that metal lid to see the mess inside.
The next day my morning didn’t start very auspiciously when my alarm failed to wake me up and I got up late. I managed to get to my meeting though and although I wasn’t very impressive or feel very confident with my performance in the meeting I was happy to get back to my room to relax and prepare for the next days meeting. After a while, sitting in a relaxing bath, chatting to my husband on the phone, I heard a knocking on a door somewhere. It was repeated again…and again. Lost in my own thoughts and laughing with my husband I was surprised when suddenly there was a woman in my mirror filled room announcing her intention of giving me room service ‘I haven’t asked for room service!’ I managed to blurt out while trying to cover myself. She quickly left red faced but not before getting an eye full.
After this trip I’m in Paris again next week for another analyst meeting. Get ready for another Miranda story. How do I get myself into these messes?

Setting the challenge

Simon and I are saving to buy a house in the south.

With this in mind, in November we set ourselves a fun challenge. From November 2012, for the next 12 months we would buy any clothes that we needed, from charity shops. With the obvious exception of underwear.

I bought a trendy silk shirt today with pictures of birds on it. It still had the label and price tag on it. It was sold originally at "Resurrection" for £55. I bought it from Oxfam for £9.99. I also bought a new shirt for work (£4.20) and a new pair of shoes to replace some that have broken (£6.00).

I'm very happy.

Pretending to live in the 1890's

Simon, Matt and I are having a bit of fun with a current situation at home, which many people must go through at least once in their lives but no one really says how they manage with it.

We are having our one and only bathroom refurbished. This means there is no running water in the bathroom, not that that matters because there is no sink or toilet in there either. At night the workmen put the toilet back in so we only miss it during the day but as Simon and I are here throughout the day, having taken time off work to be here, we have a few coping mechanisms reminiscent of the 1890's.

1. We have put a bucket in the shed to create a makeshift outdoor communal toilet facility for number 1's. Whoever uses it has to put the produce down the drain and rinse the bucket out using the outside tap.
2. If someone needs a number 2, then it is only a 5 minute drive to Tesco.
3. Teeth and faces can be washed at the sink but as the window over the kitchen sink is not covered and the neighbours can see in we need to be more careful about washing other parts of the body.

With that final point in mind, together with the fact that the work has been ongoing since Monday morning, Simon and I had not had a proper wash in 3 days. Until that is, today. Today Simon had an idea and it was good. This evening we filled the laundry basket with warm water and washed each other by the radiator. We re-created the tin baths which went out of style after the 1950's. I feel clean for the first time in days.

In other news, my skyrim protagonist 'cat' is quite rich and I'm hoping that someone might sell her a pub soon so that the money can be invested longer term. She is now the Archmage of Winterhold University after completing her first major quest. It was very scary though and I screamed a few times.

One last point before I go. I've bought a Macbook Air. One of the 13.3 inch models. I'm having a few teething problems which the internet is helping me solve. Most of my issues are around learning different shortcuts - ctrl-alt-delete is now cmd-esc and I don't yet know what my friends ctrl-c, ctrl-v or ctrl-x have been replaced by. Other than that I think it is excellent. It is very light and fits into my handbag easily. The hand movements are intuitive and I don't now feel the need for a mouse which is liberating. The battery life is incredible and best of all I can create my own shortcuts. I feel that I can do whatever I want with it. I feel suddenly in control of what I'm doing with my computer. That my computer is suddenly accessible.

Needless to say, I bought a 3 year warranty with it in case I do anything stupid as I'm not the best with computers, however I've started to watch all the videos that Apple have to help you start using all the programmes.


A non-gamers view of Skyrim

Please let me start by introducing myself. I am 29 and I have in the past flirted with gaming. I have watched ex-boyfriends and current husbands playing shoot 'em ups, I have played RPGs like Pokemon and even taken part in co-op RPG's but when I'm playing a first person game, I instantly play as if it is me in the game and act accordingly. When I was younger I was scared playing Tomb Raider and saved the game after each step forward. I was scared that my large chested protagonist might get hurt and I coddled her within the training areas for hours on end.

Very recently, my husband forced me to play a scene in Half Life 2 and he laughed while I screamed, my heart nearly coming out of my chest, while a huge barnacle tried to eat me. I stopped playing when I got shot by a helicopter shortly after. Surfice it to say, first person games scare me.

With that in mind, I was surprised to almost enjoy playing Skyrim at the weekend. It is very scary but I'm carving my own little game out of it. I'm playing as a Kadjit(?) trader. I'm not a fighter and my enemies are the rats, crabs and wolves that I pass in the wilderness. I'm learning to make armour and potions from the items I collect and I trade/ sell them in the towns. On my travels I've met many irritable mages and bandits who dont seem to want to trade with me and instead take exception and want to kill me for no reason at all! When I reach a new town, cave or camp, I hover around waiting, trying to see if little red dots appear to warn me of any hostile intent. Then I scarper. I'm sure even bandits need to trade for food, weapons, potions but then again I guess they hope to get everything for free by killing me.

Maybe I can get stronger by honing my archery skills and magic so that I can protect myself. I'm getting quite good at hunting the deer and I've found that they seem to feel safe around the giants so if I track the giants then I can knock off a couple of deer. I am a wanderer, gathering flowers and items for my potions and armour. I am no adventurer and nor do I want to be but I am enjoying playing Skyrim on my terms.