Sunburnt Underbelly

Yes, yes I know this is very late.  I am sort of relying on the fact that with all these bank holidays nobody will have a clue what day it really is, particularly if like me you are not in work on these inbetweeny days.

I enjoyed the summer, and it was good to get a nice long one this year, with a good four days of lovely sunny weather in a row.  Sanity was restored yesterday though with the heating going back on.  Obviously May is the new Autumn!  As ever a few days of nice weather does a couple of things –

1.  The whole country is in a better mood

Jamaica

Jamaica, not St Anne's.

I am more sure than ever that a country’s weather determines its personality.  Nowhere is this more clear than in our country and somewhere in the Caribbean.  Here, we are uptight, serious with a mild persecution complex, based on the fact that we have bobbins weather inflicted upon us for eleven and a half months of the year.  We rush everywhere, as we want to avoid being outside as much as possible, and our only interaction with our neighbours is an occasional battle over a boundary.

If you compare that with the renowned laid back attitude of somewhere like Jamaica, it is indeed chalk and cheese.  They are known for their relaxed lifestyle, friendly demeanour and yes I’ll grant you shanty towns and drug crime!!  Still, my point remains.  If we had nice weather all the time this would be a better place to live, and most of us would be a whole lot happier with our lot.

2. It brings out our sunburnt underbelly.  What???  Let me explain.

Why is it that at the first sign of a temperature starting with a 2 (I’m old school), folks appear in the uniform of the pasty?  The three-quarter length “trackie” pant, football socks and black trainers, accompanied by the distinct lack of a shirt, inflicting their milky white, oven chip raised torsos upon the world.

Like some sort of Orc infested underworld, they speak their own language, are sustained by Stella and Silk Cut, and raise their children in beer gardens in the sunnier months.  Strange markings adorn their skin, as a badge of honour of those who wish to be different, but somehow all look the same.

Their voices take on a uniform timbre, much like that of a football fan, who speaks in one voice, but when required to chant at the match, adopts the bass laden acoustics and accent deemed to be the acceptable way in which to give encouragement and fit in.

Any sunny day, in any crowded beer garden, it will be crammed to capacity with what to me seem like aliens, but like District 9, the threat of overspill and dominance strike fear into snobbish oafs like myself.  Aggressive dogs, beaten into submission, sit with even more aggressive women going pint for pint with the men, balling obscenities at Harrison and Kylie who are throwing rocks at each other and poking the dog up the arse with a new-found stick to see what happens.  Cue a news story of a toddler being mauled by an aggressive dog!

So doesn’t this contradict my first point?  Probably, but my theory is that because we have so little fine weather we don’t quite know what to do with it.  If we had more than half a dozen days a year then these folk wouldn’t feel the need to spend every minute of them in such a manner.

That rant was brought to you by the right-wing fascist arm of the Daily Mail!

Now on the subject of the whole country feeling better, has anyone else thought it odd that the royal couple decided to get married in April?  Could it be that there is some scheming afoot?  Could it be that the date is absolutely no coincidence, with that extra day off thrown into a time when we already have a glut of bank holidays, in an attempt to lift the mood of the nation?  Throw in the glorious weather that is also obviously part of this government master plan, and I am suspecting some sort of “What cuts, have a look at this wedding and have a day off” master plan.

Whilst I recognise that, I am not aversed to taking part in days off!!

We’re hoping summer returns for the next couple of days, not for the Royal couple, but for a little break we are having up in the Lakes.  With any luck, all the televisions in the Lake District will break sometime today so we can be spared all the ridiculous overdoing it of the whole thing.  I have no beef with the couple themselves, they seem like decent folk as royals go, but for goodness sake, how many different formats of TV show can one event spawn?  I can only imagine the 48 hour continuous coverage with stressed and overtired news folk desperately spinning out what will be about half an hours actual action into two days of non stop news.

brown horse

I bet they do Horses Douvres!

Tomorrow Louise and I are heading off the Lakes for a night away, which was in fact my Valentine’s gift to Louise.  We are staying at the Brown Horse Inn at Winster.  This is somewhere we have stayed before, and loved it.  It is just far enough from Windermere to be peaceful but close enough to have a wander in the town centre if we want to.

I am thankful to the royal twosome for the day off that allows us to do this, and apologise that the booking of such a trip was intentionally done to avoid the non stop over the top fawning and drooling that will dominate the TV this week.  As an added bonus I am also hoping that most of the world will be indoors watching the thing which will mean places are fairly quiet too!!

You will have noticed that the girls are not included on this trip.  Well Emily is away anyway.  She has gone to Northumberland with a couple of friends.  One of those friends has grandparents with a cottage or two up there, and she has been a few times over the years.  I am restricted in my revision nagging to text only at the moment!

This just leaves Rebecca who will be home with Grandma who has kindly volunteered to house and animal sit for us.  You are welcome Rebecca!!

Right time to go, I have not being at work to do!!

Till the next time….

For you, the exchange trip is over!

And so the eagle has flown the nest, and our contribution to the cordial relations between England and the Father Land come to an end.

Kathl, it has to be said, was a delight, and her ten days with us flew by.  This was mainly as school had them out on activities almost all the time, and so we actually saw very little of her.  It was a nice change to have a teenager in the house who could manage a smile and a hearty good morning.  I’m not too hopeful that this is going to rub off on Emily any time soon.

We escaped the rest of the week without further sleep overage, and with the nicer weather, Rebecca and Kathl spent most evenings at the local park with various other friends of both nationalities.  I think some of the local boys had ideas of improving Anglo-Germanic relations somehow, but Kathl was having none of it.  On Thursday evening a few of them went out for a traditional English meal as a goodbye.  Yes, the local curry house was the scene of this truly English celebration.

Kathl

Smiling, and this was pre breakfast!!

So the week drew to an end with me taking Friday off to do the farewell honours, and most of the early morning was spent in the giving of presents to Kathl and some to take home to her family, and then weighing her enormous suitcase to make sure it made it in below 20kg.  There were ounces to spare.

I dropped her off at school, and left both nationalities to say their goodbyes.  So then I had most of Friday to do with what I wished.  However, amidst housework, and the inevitable intrusion of work emails, I didn’t get to do a lot of nothing.

Typical of another quiet Williams week, Dad was back in hospital on Wednesday, but this time it was planned.  He was to have something drained (details omitted for those having eaten recently), and all was well.  He felt much better for it, and I visited him on Friday evening, glad to see him much more like his old self, with some decent colour and in jovial mood.

He was allowed to go home early on Saturday, and knowing my Dad, if he thought for one second that my Mum would let him, he’d have been planning a round of golf on Sunday!!

In other health matters, earlier in the week, our seemingly Benjamin Button style cocker spaniel, Henry, had a turn for the worse health wise, and we took him for the millionth time to the vets.  The usual dispensation of steroids and a bill saw him improve rapidly, but at 14, we are, and to be honest have been for some time, bracing ourselves for the inevitable.

However, by weekend he had perked up no end, and on Saturday I took him on a lengthy walk, of about four miles.  How did I know it was four miles? Well, by the wonders of my phone with an i, I have an app for that.  It is a good one which shows my route, tells me how far I walked and how many calories burnt.  Yes, as I have said repeatedly, I am indeed that sad.

Anywho, despite seeming to enjoy the walk at the time, in hindsight, one of that length and pace may well be beyond him now.  He was knackered, and also seemed to be suffering a few aches and pains all evening, and indeed most of the bloody night too, as he whimpered and wandered around keeping us awake.  He has slept most of Sunday too…well, that’s alright for him!!  You can see that he was a little sleepy afterwards!

Henry

ZZZzzzzzz

Saturday morning started with a lovely little battle and shouting match, with me “encouraging” Emily to get her arse out of bed to do some revising.  How cruel of me to insist she joins the world of the living at the ungodly hour of eleven o’clock.  I have to admit that I raised my voice ever so slightly, and then together we constructed her revision timetable for the Easter holidays.  She was delighted.

I for one will be delighted when these bloody exams are done, as I am sick to death of going to war with her over her revision.  She’s done a fair bit this weekend I have to be honest, but finding that balance between letting her make her own mistakes, and putting a rocket up her arse every few minutes is one I am struggling to find.

On the positive side I only have four days left at work until a welcome break.  I finish on Thursday until the 3rd of May.  I cock my hat to the Royal couple for the additional holiday, but saying that I’m no doubt paying for a vol au vent or two so it is fully deserved.  I will not be glued to the TV watching the event to be honest, I have lots of grass growing in the back garden that demands my attention more.  It is a close call as to what would make my blood boil most, having to sit through this nonsense or watch Britain’s Got Talent.  It returned on Saturday and it never fails to make me angry.  Apologies for those bearing the brunt of that via Twitter at the time!

Another uneventful week comes to a close, with a new one around the corner, which of course means a Monday.  What joy.

Till the next time….

Ask them why they bombed our chippy…..

Right, this may be brief as I have an appointment with the couch and TV for the conclusion of the Masters.

Along with an early summer, this week brought with it a German invasion of our little corner of the country.  The preceding few days had seen a one woman attempt to reverse the retail spending figures from Louise, as we readied the house and the spare room for her arrival.  I’m sure Kathl, our German, now thinks that all English bedrooms smell of paint and pot pourri.

By the time I got home on Thursday evening, Kathl was tucking into sausages and mash, and none of your Germanic nonsense, these were Asda’s finest, literally, and full of English porky goodness.

It soon became apparent that Kathl is a delight.  Polite, multi lingual (German, English, Spanish and just to rub it all in a little Latin too) and a credit to her parents.  Her one weakness does seem to be the ability to pack, as her case was the size of a small house, and almost needs its own room!!

As usual, with our girls, no matter what the nationality of the friend, without exception, we host all get togethers and events.  Friday was no different, as I single-handedly oversaw a sleepover of mammoth proportions, with Louise out with work for a meal and drinks.  Luckily, for most of the evening all the kids were out for a meal and then the cinema.  Yep, that’s right these German kids are bright enough to sit through an English film at the cinema and understand enough of it.  This meant they got home at around 10pm, and from there I retreated to my bedroom, watched The King’s Speech, and left The League of Nations to sort themselves out.

Sleepover

Carnage International

There was no disharmony that I could make out, and it was more football in between the trenches at Christmas than fixed bayonets over no man’s land.  The noise subsided quite early with the German folk still tired from a long journey.

The morning saw the largest example of cultural difference so far, with a choice of bacon barms or chocolate brioche, not one of our foreign guests plumped for a bacon barm, and vice versa.  When I asked them if they would like a bacon sandwich they looked at me as if I’d asked them to eat each other!!  This is no doubt why they lost the war….oh, don’t mention the war!!!

Saturday was slightly easier as once we had all eight, yes eight females out of the house, we dropped them at the Trafford Centre and left them there for a good five hours.  It was certainly good for me!

You will have noticed that we dropped everyone off, and yes we then picked them all up again later.  Why change the habit of a lifetime.  Thankfully, Saturday evening saw another parent host a BBQ, and we made the most of the chance and went out for a sneaky curry with my brother and his wife.  A lovely night it turned out to be, with the amount eaten just being enough to start to cause me physical pain, which is always a sure sign of a succesful meal.

Today, we have had a wander around The Last Drop Village.

Rebecca and Kathl

Thatll be Kathl

Then we bit the bullet, and despite the lovely weather guaranteeing that half of the western world would be doing likewise we took a drive out to the coast, and had a walk up the beach at St Anne’s.

Beach

The sea is out there somewhere

It was very nice, despite the overwhelming amount of milk bottle coloured torsos on display, with the tell-tale pink shoulders of those who will regret it in the morning.  Have chav will travel!  We took Henry with us too, which is always a risk as he is truly awful in the car, but today he was OK and slept most of the way there.  He did his usual trick of finding a piece of wood to carry around for half a mile and then insisting on burying the bloody thing with his hooter.  No wonder he has cost us a small fortune at the vets with his snotty nose!!

Henry

No-one nose why???

Kathl did not know what a chav was, but after a loo stop at the local Toby Carvery, and five minutes in the beer garden, she does now.  The benefits of these cultural exchanges cannot be ignored!!

So overall, things are not going badly at all.  I have used my expansive range of German, much to Kathl’s amazement, and just to prove the point further, I ensured that our weekly shop included my entire repertoire of German knowledge, so that I could again slip that into the conversation.

Gateaux

Schwarzwalderkirschtorte

Three years of German study was not wasted for me!!  I know you will be surprised to hear that my one recollection of a German O Level would be cake related.  I also today remembered the German word for pregnant, but I shall draw a veil over that.

As I type, we have a collection of children again, encamped upstairs, up until now peacefully.  As long as they do not interrupt my golf and gateaux then there will be no need for cruel recriminations.  For me, the weekend is over….

Oh and finally, this week’s title is a contribution from my Dad, who has a natural flair for international relations.  He can speak any foreign language, as surely that is just English but louder?  When told we were entertaining a German girl, his first reaction was to recount a tale of a bombed chippy in his youth, and this, along with a myriad of other reasons is probably why we shall not be taking Kathl to meet him!!

Till the next time…..

Stick it!

I apologise for the late posting, and missing my usual Sunday tea time slot.  I was humbled to see a surge in visits around that time expecting a new post!  A busy weekend and Mother’s Day led to the missing of the deadline.  Hence me rattling this out over a lunch time sarnie at my desk.

USB Stick

I hate you, I hate you , I hate you!

To be honest, it was more a mild rage last night that led me to not feel inclined to blog.  What earth shattering event led to such a rage?  Homework!  You may well think that I am a little old for such things, but no, I have found that homework these days is “fun” for all the family, and unless I have kids who are severely educationally challenged, it seems that most homework is now so involved that it would be impossible for the young folk to complete it without help.

To be fair to school, Rebecca had done the usual trick of having been given two weeks to complete a project, she had taken that as a signal that she could leave it in her school bag for one week and six days and then have a thrash at it on the Sunday before it is due.  I gave her a very rare rollocking for this one, and having done so, did what I shouldn’t, and helped her out with it.  So through Sunday afternoon we cracked off two weeks’ worth of project, and it was looking pretty good.

Work was stopped whilst Grandparents visited for Mother’s Day celebrations, and then when Rebecca took to the laptop once more to finish it off in the evening, the law of sod struck and rendered the USB drive upon which our labours were stored useless.  I wrestled with it for hours, googling for solutions, and even using the tried and tested violence on both laptop and stick, but to no avail.  The work was lost.

At this point the dark clouds descended, and I have to say I was mightily upset.  Louise had the good sense to leave me to it, and Rebecca retreated upstairs for a shower.  Safe to say I emailed the teacher involved, and explained that the work would be late due to technical issues, as we were not starting again at that time of night!!  I can wallow with the best of them in a pool of victimisation, persecution and why me??

So a long explanation of the bloggage blockage.

The last week has been fairly mundane to be honest, and with all hotels booked for the holidays, the main fun of planning is over, which I am always gutted about.  We are now making final preparations for the impending arrival of Rebecca’s German, with Louise redecorating the spare room.  We’ve warned the girls that we cannot have the usual World War 3 style shenanigans of a morning where we have to shout, wrestle and throw things at them (well, to be honest Emily) in order to get them up, dressed and heading towards school.  For ten days we shall have to live the text book family life shown in all cereal ads, where they all sit, perfectly dressed, around a breakfast table enjoying a meal it clearly took three hours to make, before bouncing off happily to their daily lives.

German

Rebecca's German

In reality, our house is a blur of last minute panic, shouting, loud music (to wake the girls up), and animal shepherding always resulting in leaving five minutes later than we should, with the girls cramming some sugary breakfast bar down their necks as a vague homage to a proper breakfast.

I wonder what “If you don’t get up now, I am going to sell your drum kit” is in German?

On Saturday, Louise went out on a rare girl’s night out with her work colleagues.  As it is rare, she had of course to purchase a new outfit, the cost of which I am yet to fully understand, as it included the obligatory handbag and shoes, and more creams, lotions and potions than a Dark Arts class at Hogwarts.  Add to that the meal, drinks, taxis and petrol and I think it is coming close to one of our mortgage payments!!  As she arrived back home on Sunday morning, tired, and declaring she couldn’t do that every week, I could not agree more.

So what did I do on Saturday?  Well, it was odd.  I was home alone for the first time in years, with Louise on the razz, and the girls out and about for most of the evening; I wasn’t quite sure what to do with the peace and quiet.  I usually spend Saturday nights with around seventeen teenagers in the house, praying for some peace and somewhere to sit down.  So to make the most of this rare occasion I filled in our census online and watched Where Eagles Dare!!

I also corrected a long time wrong, and watched Wall Street…the first one.  Nope I’d never seen it, and I don’t know why.  I did enjoy it, and of course was incredulous as to how young Charlie Sheen looked!  Now with all his millions in the bank, and having no job he needs to go to, I have to ask where did it all go wrong????

Sunday was dominated with lots of ironing, by me, as Louise was not back till lunch and she then had to prep the house for incoming oldies for a Mother’s Day tea.  We had a relaxing meal, as it was mainly made by Louise’s Mum to be honest, and we ate whilst watching the Florida DVDs again, which my Dad particularly enjoyed, and he seemed to be a similar emotional wreck to me the week before, and began telling Louise’s Mum, for about the hundredth time, that she should go and it is the best holiday in the world!!  Agreed.

I hope his return to full health comes quickly and that he is able to do Florida again soon.

We then sat back and watched the girls play Just Dance on the Wii for an hour, astounded by their apparent energy levels that seem to only apply of a weekend, and are sadly lacking at around 7am on a weekday.

And so begins another week, which brings us one week closer to the 27th of July, the official start of our next adventure.  Between now and then, we have a German visit, Rebecca’s birthday (and she wants a house party!!), Emily’s GCSEs, her prom and her departure from school.  So a few landmark events, and I am struggling to comprehend that she has finished full time school education already.

For anyone else with a child of GCSE age, I only hope it is not just us who only seem to talk to their child about revising, a lack of revising, not going out so they can revise, and some plans for revising.  Are you getting the idea?  I really have to remind myself to talk to her about other things, and have some fun; otherwise we could become enemies very quickly!  Add to that Rebecca sitting on a two week project for the best of two weeks, and the mere mention of anything academic at the moment has me breaking out in a panic.

By the way, I have cheekily asked one of our IT chaps at work to see if he can rescue the contents of our defunct stick, and if he does I may just full on mouth kiss him in the middle of the office.  Bloody computers!!

Onwards then into the week, with the consolation that I am off for most of the back end of April, making the most of the endless Bank holidays and weddings.  I hope I can stay awake until then!

Till the next time…..