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.

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!


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….

Germans & Trenches!

The highlight of the week was without doubt the return of Rebecca from Germany.

German Trip
Team England in Germany

She had been a mixture of homesick, tearful, joyous and most things in between throughout the ten-day trip, and so we were very glad to welcome her home on Friday evening.  She arrived with a case full of dirty clothes and presents from “her german’s” family.  For some reason they were all ginger based, with several different variations on the theme of ginger cake.  That is in no way a complaint, any gift ending with the word cake is welcome in our house.

She had of course “fallen in love” with a German boy whilst over there, and within hours of her return was missing him.  Having longed to come home for half the trip, she was very soon wishing she was back over there!!  This was not helped by an incident involving her phone.  You may remember a few weeks ago that she got a new Nokia E5?  Well, just before she left for Germany she reported issues with it, but we didn’t have time to get it sorted before her departure.

As 99% of her phone use is text based, which was working fine, she managed whilst away.  On her return I phoned Orange and they diagnosed it as faulty, and impressively said a new one would be with us tomorrow.  Saying that I called them at around 7.00pm, that was pretty good.  So true to their word a new handset arrived the following morning, and we had to hand back the broken one.  Retaining the battery, sim and memory card was however not enough to preserve all Rebecca’s contacts, and the text messages she had from Tom, the boy from Germany!

She was devastated! I felt awful, and she is now in the process of sourcing all her missing contacts, but can’t get her texts back.  This was not a “Dad of the Year” moment I can tell you.

As is the way, she seems to have got over it now.

This week also saw the snow finally arrive in the North West.  We have been a pocket of resistance against the seemingly unstoppable snow until the back end of the week.  I wouldn’t claim to be snowed in, but even the threat of snow caused a two and a half hour journey to work on Monday (I travel twelve miles), so on Thursday with actual white stuff on the ground, I elected to work from home.

This wasn’t an option earlier in the week as the garage work has well and truly started, and this manifested itself, in the first day or so, in a complete lack of central heating, as the plumber moved the boiler to a new location.  Had it stayed where it was, it would have been in our future shower!

Garage Trench
Our poo will go through that!

Safe in the knowledge that the house would be warm, Thursday at home was productive, if not dust filled, as the first week of the job, it turned out, involved lots of digging, to put in drains and soil pipes to remove our future ablutions.  So watching this also made me very, very happy to be an office drone.  Tedious it may be, but at least it is warm.  Watching the chaps trying to dig a trench through a concrete floor in sub-zero temperatures more than convinced me that I am in the right place.  Yes they may enjoy the four days of summer more than I, but the pay off is simply not worth it.

Temperatures were so low during this work that they broke three digger machine things!

Our house, it will not surprise you is a mess.  The assurances that the work would be contained within the garage were ambitious.  Dust gets everywhere, and we temporarily have a washer and dryer in the middle of the kitchen until they can replumb them into their future homes.

Saturday morning, early, I was out in my finest bobble hat, digging out Louise’s mini from the snow.  The need for food was probably the only possible reason that I would undertake such work willingly.  The mini was the weapon of choice as it seems to cope far better with these conditions than the marauding beast that is the Mondeo.

Louise returned a little later with enough food to survive a nuclear winter, so we should be OK should we get any more snow.

So with a house with a look of Beruit we naturally went out on Saturday to get our Christmas tree!  After years of falsies, we went for a real one this year.  The main driver behind this decision was that the good old fake one lived in the garage, and now with that becoming a bedroom, it had no home and had to go.  It was about the same age as the kids, so it was time.

So battling road conditions, and the urge to stay in the warm, Louise and I went to the local Garden Centre, and picked one out.  The cavernous world of the Mondeo boot proved essential once again, as it easily swallowed up the 6ft tree, and laughed in my face, as if this would be any sort of test.  I’ll be finding pine needles in there for about six months.

The decoration of said tree took hardly any time at all.  The lights worked first time, and crucially, and unusually, did not take the customary three hours to unravel.  I always put them away wound up nice and neat, but at some point in the intervening months some bugger finds them and ties them into un-doable knots!

Louise had been to John Lewis earlier in the week and spent an obscene amount on specific baubles, so these are all that adorn the tree.  Most years we have everything plus the kitchen sink on the old false one, as it was huge.  The minimal look is a winner on all counts!

The Louise update this week is that she did not return to work as planned.  The doctor wanted to do some more tests, for the “other thing” she may need an operation for, and therefore suggested she stay off until those are done, and they know what they are going to do.  The plan now is for a return on the 14th of December.  She did however get some good news this week.  She had word from work that she has now completed her NVQ Level 3 Health.  With her health woes this has been a fine achievement, and hopefully once back at work, will mean progression, and of course some more cash!!

Health wise she is pretty much fully operational now, as evidenced by her shopping ability.  In fact having her back in work for four days a week may be welcome to restrict the amount of time available to her to demonstrate this in retail establishments around the North West.

To complete the family round up, Emily is building up for her mocks, and should be revising.  She assures us she is, and only has two days left at school this term, as the rest of the time is taken up with the mocks themselves, or study days.  Unluckily for her, Louise will be at home to make sure these are not Facebook and MSN days!!  Life is cruel sometimes.

So with the weather looking like this outside….


Winter View

The plan for this afternoon is to stay indoors with the TV and the Xbox, and enjoy some lunch which will no doubt involve something of a ginger nature.

Till the next time…..

Auf Wiedersehen Becks!

I will point out now that the above title may well be the one and only time I shall refer to my youngest daughter as anything other than Rebecca.  I use it today for the sole purpose of creating a title for this post, as Rebecca sounds nothing like Pet, and frankly even Becks is a push!  Friends and even teachers use Becky and/or Becks, however, I stand firm, and use her given name!

I write this with a daughter in Germany.  Wednesday morning saw Louise and I waving Rebecca off, in a dirty, and mechanically suspect mini bus.  The hour or so prior to this were the usual pre holiday panic of case cramming, essential checking, make up applying and hair straightening.  I was not involved in the last two of those.

German Pen Pal
As Rebecca says, this is "her german".

Rebecca was quite nervous I think, as she is staying with a family she has never met before, who of course don’t speak English as their first language.  As previously documented, Rebecca speaks not one word of German, so to her credit she did get several key phrases off of the internet before she left.

As usual of course, to the perpetual shame of the UK, the German family all speak good enough English to communicate so she should be OK.  Rebecca’s fine as long as she wants some black forest gateaux as I have coached her well there.

She has updated us via text and a quick phone call that she arrived safe and sound, despite being left on the final train with one other boy, as the doors closed before she could get off.  Thankfully, they had the sense to travel to the next stop, get off, and somehow manage to find their way onto the right train to get back.  Not bad for a thirteen year old, in a foreign country I must say.  Perhaps the teachers should have been last off the train?  Just a suggestion!!

Earlier this week, I endured a trip to Harrow.  With all due respect to Harrowians, I have had better days.  The town itself was of course fine, but the journey to and from was frankly as horrific as I had expected.  Travelling down only took the four hours, without interruption from anything more major than a tinkle around Watford Gap (which I must point out is absolutely nowhere near Watford!).

My habit of being early stood me in good stead to

  • Find a car park
  • Find the Costa in which my colleagues were waiting
  • Find the venue of the meeting

The meeting was fairly unremarkable, and took the form of a workshop for a fairly large retailer/convenience store, comprising us, two competitors, and the great and good of the retail organisation.  With that sort of crowd it turned into a bit of a willy waving do between the three suppliers, and I happened to be sat next to one of them, who used the in the air punctuation mark sign with his hands so many times, that there was more of his contributions inside of virtual punctuation marks than out of them.  I had a special name for him, which did not require those in the air punctuation signs, from about ten minutes in, when my tosser radar went off.  It is remarkably accurate.

Finishing the meeting around 4.30pm meant that after a quick post meeting debrief with colleagues, I was back in the Mondeo at around 5pm, and trusting the sat nav to get me out of the gridlocked town centre and somewhere near a motorway as soon as possible.  Once on the M1, things were nice and easy until Newport Pagnall Services, where around two minutes before I arrived, a few drivers had decided to abandon all common sense and driving ability, and come together in a carriageway closing extravaganza.

An hour I sat there, just far enough past the services slip road that I couldn’t pull off, but close enough to be able to smell the stale Ginsters and over priced chicken wraps, as my stomach growled its complaints.

The growling was quelled a little further up the motorway with an overpriced sandwich, over sized bag of crisps, and under whelming bar of Milka chocolate that I was blatantly upsold to at checkout.  The remnants of said meal are still in my foot well, and may taste better now than they did at the time of consumption.  That lot will be going on the expenses I can assure you!

So with all that I eventually arrived home at around 9.40pm, feeling brain and bottom dead.  I’m not sure which affected me more!

Louise had her “back to work” meeting, and is indeed due to go to back to work next week.  However, as it now turns out she may need another “procedure” to fix other issues (not for discussion on here by a male!!) the debate now is whether they can fit her in pre xmas or if she has to go back to work and then get it sorted around February time.  It also turns out that the doctor she saw this week was amazed the other doctor/surgeon didn’t sort it all out in one go, but of course this would have been all too simple.

In what seems a strange move, when my frame expandeth in all the wrong directions, I have cancelled my gym membership.  With the new job, rubbish traffic, cold weather and general apathy, I am just not getting any use of the silly sums of money being given over to the gym.  I shall welcome the cash saving, but fear for the extra funds required to equip me with a wardrobe of clothes large enough to accommodate my expanding girth.  I MUST cut down on the stuff going in.

In what is turning out to be a busy week in retrospect, on Monday (and why am I outlining events of the week in reverse order??) my brother celebrated his birthday, so I popped round with a card and pressie to be entertained by George, my four year old nephew, who ran through his repertoire of every song from the Johnny Depp Willy Wonka film.  Truly impressive stuff, especially whilst wearing his Woody from Toy Story pyjamas….George that is, not my brother, as at 46 that would be silly.

It takes more power than a small town

I know many of you will have been awake night after night, scouring the internet, consulting with experts and haranguing HTC themselves to solve my bluetooth issues with my phone.  Fear not, I have found a solution!

That solution was to get a different (note that word does not say new) phone from the IT boys at work.  Found somewhere in the darkest corner of the dustiest cupboard, I have been presented with a HTC HD2.  If you seen a film on iMax recently, the screen is a similar size.  It is a Windows phone (for those who know or care), but alas not one of the new ones currently advertised on the telly, it is a 6.5 thing, and works OK, crucially in terms of bluetooth, but the Marketplace, where you go to get apps for these Windows phones is about as full as Gillian McKeith’s bookings diary for next year.

The choice of apps is pitiful, and I mourn the loss of critical apps such as Angry Birds, which I used purely as research for my job in the mobile industry.

The screen is so  large that if anyone phones me in the car whilst it is dark, it lights up the car, three surrounding streets, and causes several low flying aircraft to land on the M60, confusing the lights for the runway at Manchester airport.  Hopefully, the bugger will break soon and I can get a real one.

The weekend arrived like a long-lost relative, but one that you actually like, perhaps one that is at death’s door with a favourable will.  We then proceeded to insult it, by taking on a challenge greater than anything thrown at those jungle folk, and I almost fainted at the prospect.

Swedish for Hell!

With Christmas shopping in full swing, we “had to” go shopping for some stuff for the house.  Fine, thought I, we’ll nip into Bolton, do the deed, and be back in a few hours.  This was until Louise announced that we HAD TO go to Warrington!  I repeated the word WARRINGTON in a similar style to the well known Peter Kay Garlic Bread catchphrase.  Why Warrington?  No offense to folk living there.

It turned out that the holy trinity of retail worship, Ikea, M&S and Next all had large shops there, and would have (and I quote) “Lots more choice than Bolton”.  Remember that.

We arrived at Gemini Retail Park, and first popped into Porcelanosa, which is a bathroom shop.  With an ensuite to fit out in the coming weeks, we popped in to see what our options are.  In that shop, it turned out that our options were to get out before we were ejected on the grounds of my pitiful earnings.  They had some lovely stuff, and we can only hope B&Q have similar versions somewhat closer to our budget.

With that behind us we did M&S and Next, neither having anything we were looking for (a rug, and some lamp shades) so we entered the devil’s lair, Ikea.  I always feel like one of those lab rats in Ikea, forced to navigate the maze and find the exit.  The way in which you are forced through the store in that one way system brings out my deeply hidden rebellious side, and I always end up saying at least once, “How the hell do you get out!”

So, for all that driving and walking, we returned to our car with a pack of spotlights (one had gone in the kitchen), and on the wrong end of one of the worst cappucinnos in the history of mankind.  Let it be recorded, here, that I was indeed right and Louise was wrong.  We headed back to Bolton, and to cut what is becoming a long story short, we ended up buying a rug in a shop about seven minutes from our house!!  Sigh!

Last night, with Rebecca in the Fatherland, and Emily sleeping out at a friends, we had the unusual occurrence of being home alone.  With this in mind we decided to go out for a meal at our local Italian restaurant.  Don’t let the local tag fool you into thinking we’re regulars.  I think last night was our second ever visit, and having been overwhelmed by the total averageness of the food, that may well be our last.

Full up, we headed home to make the most of our time alone, and of course, this manifested itself in Louise falling asleep on the couch by 9pm, and me flicking through endless channels trying to find a TV show that didn’t include people voting for something!

Tomorrow sees work actually start on this garage thing.  It seems I have been on about it for weeks, so it will be good to actually have stuff happen.  Snow permitting, the chaps are quite confident that they will be done before Christmas, leaving us to decorate etc.  We should be in by early to mid January, depending on our ability to paint.

For me, next week nothing earth shattering is on the cards, and the best I can hope for is a downfall of snow so severe that I can work from home for a few days.  Rebecca is home next Friday, and to be honest it can’t come soon enough.

Till the next time….