Saturday, May 17, 2008


Fair point Auntie Gwen – here goes!

My dad is not a detective in any sense of the word, but he knows his daffodils in the same way as he knows all the plants in all their many and variegated forms. This is, therefore, how he came to be involved in a little mystery of the daffodil variety.

The evening was by no means balmy, but the rawness of winter had left only a few traces in forgotten corners of the house. It was the end of a busy day and I had just settled down with Mansfield Park (Fanny Price is just so soppy but that’s another story - well Mansfield Park actually). A hard day in the office combined with the relative warmth of the evening (not the writing of Jane Austen surely) soon had me dozing off on the sofa.

I awoke around 9.45pm and decided to check the house before getting ready for bed. Moving to the front door (actually at the side of the house, but you know what I mean) I spotted something yellow through the glass. When I opened the door I wondered if I was still asleep and dreaming the episode. There on the doorstep lay about a dozen daffodils, freshly picked, neatly arranged and ready for water. I did what can only be described as a double take, feeling a strange mixture of fear and elation (felation if you will – or perhaps not). I looked this way and that to ensure that no one was about (a resurrected Jeremy Beadle perhaps) but the place was as quiet as normal. No one about, just a dozen daffodils lying on the doorstep. I couldn’t just leave them there could I? After deciding that I was quite wide awake and that this was no dream or other metaphysical realm in which I was inhabiting I brought them inside and put them in a rather nice glass of water. Then I phoned my dad.

My dad is a bit of an (amateur) plant expert (Geoff Hamilton is a hero) and I felt that any flower mystery could be solved by such an expert. Depending on your view of things both Geoff and Jeremy could have been looking down from on high at the moment the deed was done with grins of celestial and herborial pleasure.

My dad was, as you can imagine, quite intrigued by the evening’s events and promised to investigate. The very next day he let himself into my house while I was at work and was able to tell exactly the spot that the daffodils had come from. There wasn’t any sign I could see – I told you he was good. Sadly he was not able to tell me any more than that so it was up to me to try and figure out the rest. The daffodils came from my neighbour’s garden but there is no one living there at the moment so it couldn’t have been her. Perhaps I have a secret admirer, although leaving some daffodils is fine, some follow up would have been appreciated. I wondered whether it had been a group of kids pulling up daffodils and then, with some remorse at what they had done, had decided to leave them on the nearest doorstep which is actually mine due to an odd garden to house layout issue on our street.

Sadly I’m not Agatha Christie and I never did get to the root (ahem) of the mystery. Maybe one day a middle aged lady will come to my door and relate the story of how she and her friends pulled up daffodils in a lady’s garden all those years ago and left them on her doorstep. I will thank her and tell her that I immediately put them in water and that for a week she gave me a dozen little suns to melt the last ice of winter.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

La Gomera and the Quest for Achievable Deadlines

Well, back once again having been on holiday and the usual work keeping me busy.

As I have said before I do have a bit of an obsession with the weather. Perhaps all Brits do. On hearing that someone is going on holiday, my first thought would not be along the lines of finding out what interesting things have planned. Oh no, I would be much more concerned about the weather, worried that the prospective holiday maker may travel for half a day or more on a plane, and land to be met with the same sorry weather they had hoped to leave many miles behind. Surely just too hideous to contemplate. And so it was that my self and my fellow travellers studied the weather forecast in La Gomera for at least three months before we went, just to make sure that the prospect of actually seeing some sun was a likely one. Fortunately it was and we spent a wonderful, balmy time in brilliant sunshine amongst palm trees and cacti with just a cool breeze to stop us melting completely. Nasty beasties were also few and far between. We saw one cockroach which we got rid of over the edge of the balcony with the aid of a rather decrepid brush, all the while wondering if cockroaches can do your average human any harm.

A colony of ants also decided to hold regular strategy meetings next to my bed and against my strongest temptations I refrained from killing them all (massacre at plastic light switch if you will).

We did a lot of walking (there not being a lot to do in La Gomera otherwise) through steep mountainous passes where one wrong foot could result in serious trouble. I also got through three books (Alan Bennett, Saul Bellow and Zadie Smith having decided that my quest for classic literature can include modern classics too!)

And then it was home time. I actually missed home even if the temperature plummeted about 20 degrees on reaching Glasgow and the idea of going from T-Shirts to polo necks and scarves in one short day was a rather disconcerting one. As my mum would say “It’s back to auld claes and purridge" but these claes are not really so bad and I’m glad to be home.

Now it’s onwards and upward to finishing organizing the arrangements for a get together of friends next weekend. I think it is now close to 30 people including at least 4 small children to get into China Buffet King and bowling. Despite having a deadline date which passed a good week ago a number of people have been rather last minute about getting back to me with numbers. I kind of hope that China Buffet King can cope. And more to the point, can I?

Until the next time…..

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Hello Again

I just wanted to reassure you that I hadn’t fallen down a big hole. I wish I could tell you that I had been away doing something really exciting like trekking across the Andes or idling away my time under a Caribbean sunset. Sadly the truth is that work has been extraordinarily busy and I have had to do a lot of work at home. I am also going on holiday in a couple of weeks to La Gomera and have had to start now to plan for all the things that will need to be reallocated while I am away. It has all been a lot of fun but hard work.

As for the classic reads, I am still attempting to read Lolita, which is, I am sure a very good book, but at the end of a tiring day I tend to fall asleep while reading it so I haven’t got very far. Having said that, I am feeling good as I, like a machete wielding explorer, successfully clear my way through the undergrowth of my to do list. Sadly, I must go again as reports are calling and the vegetation is rising. I shall be back soon.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A Good Read

This year my new year’s resolution was not to make one. Resolutions, especially at this time of the year are generally made with bright hopes and high spirits. However, come the middle of the year (or the middle of January in many cases) those well-meaning resolutions have been quietly forgotten. That is why the following “thing that I have decided to try to do” is most definitely NOT a resolution!

I have decided to read more “classic” literature. I found myself in company, very pleasant it must be said, over the holidays where authors such as Dickens and DH Lawrence were mentioned. It occurred to me that the closest I had come to classics of this sort was while at school and the nearest I had ever come to Dickens was being in the chorus of “Oliver” many moons ago. My boss has also tried to draw me into literary conversations which seem to end at the mention of “John le Carre”. I felt that this situation should be remedied. On discussing this with my boss, her eyes lit up and she suggested “Brave New World”. My mum, however looked a bit doubtful and suggested “anything by Jane Austen”. I dutifully considered these suggestions and decided to start with “Lolita”. Whether this is what my mum or my boss had in mind is a moot point, but my copy has an introduction and notes and rather a lot of big words which does give it the air of something that one might have read in school. Providing I haven’t lost my appetite for the classics by the time I have finished the book, I might just move on to, oh I don’t know “War and Peace”. Any other suggestions would be warmly welcomed, just please don’t mention “Ulysses”.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

It’s OK because there’s no Blood

Post Christmas and New Year, with my new boiler settling into its new home and, for the time being, fulfilling its purpose, what better way to celebrate than to throw a party. However, when expecting anyone under the age of, oh about 10, just remember what you might be letting yourself in for.

Most of the guests had arrived and we were just settling down to a glass of two of Vino Collapso. The doorbell rang and I answered it to an excited six year old waggling her tooth. (Now here is where readers of a nervous disposition should look away and, if not, I did warn you!)

“I’ve got a loose tooth”, N. informed me “and it’s about to come out. Look if I just waggle it a bit more it will just pop out.

Forgetting the important law of reverse psychology (Why oh why!!!) I broke in “Look sweetheart I’m a bit squeamish so why don’t you wait until you are home again before you attempt to disengage your tooth from its moorings?”

“But it’s OK” she said perhaps thinking that I was not aware of the intricacies of losing teeth “because there’s no blood and it’s not painful”.

‘Not painful for you’ was my first thought, followed by ‘it was painful in my day – so what’s changed?’

“That’s really not the point” I countered but already she was giving me that “adults are no fun” look perfected by children over many millennia and running into the house.

She then sat opposite me and, with a demonic grin most definitely directed at me, proceeded to wiggle the tooth for about the next half an hour. If I dared to look away she would lean over and inform me of the progress of the tooth from mouth to within wrenching distance of the tooth fairy.

I pleaded with her to stop and think of my other guests. Sadly their enjoyment of the fun seemed in direct proportion to my squeamish agonies.

And then it was all over. I must have been looking away when the actual deed was done because the next thing I knew, a small sharp pearly white tooth was thrust in my direction and then laid triumphantly on the coffee table.

The idea of spending the rest of the night staring at a dislocated tooth lying on my table (and I’m sure there was some blood on it by the way) was just a bit more than I could take.

“Look sweetheart” I said “We don’t want you losing that tooth do we? Why don’t I wrap it up in this nice hankie and give it to your mum. You want to be able to get some money from the tooth fairy, don’t you?”

“Well ok” she said and allowed me, somewhat reluctantly to pass the object, now bundled up in the hankie to her mother who was finding the whole thing somewhat amusing.

“Now that that’s over” I said with some relief to the other guests, who’s for more wine?”

I’m not finished yet” N assured me. “I think there is another one loose. If I just give it a twist……”

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Normal Service has been Resumed

Slowly the fingers of heat found their way through the cold frostbitten pipes. From the pipes the heat danced through the air replacing the cold with fabulous warmth, for so long missing from this poor house. Oh yes, many hoorays I now have a new boiler!!

The two chaps who came to fit said boiler could have been a double act although Laurel and Hardy they were not. More Good Cop, Bad Cop. In a display of stereotypical nonsense that you just could not make up we had a cheery happy bloke and a miserable bad tempered fellow. Cheery fellow would attempt any feat of plumbing or electrical bravery with a kindly smile and a pleasant word while bad tempered fellow just looked on in disgust. Attempts at pleasing the customer were far from his priority. Bad tempered fellow informed me with some pleasure that he could not fit the thermostat to my new boiler while cheery fellow managed the simple task without problems. Bad tempered fellow was not amused, but regained his bad tempered ground on telling me that I was going to have a large hole in the wall to fill. With glee he took me to the kitchen to show me the rather disturbing spectacle of daylight forced through a large rough hole in the wall. A hole large enough that a window could comfortably have fitted into its circumference. However, the hand, and Pollyfilla, of cheery fellow was in on this, as when I next looked the hole was miraculously filled in. If you hold a light object up to it there is a slight motion but I’m not going to let that worry me.

I had been told that all you need to do to ensure happy workmen is to offer them tea/coffee and lots of biscuits. This I attempted to do, but both workmen were not interested. Perhaps with some food and drink inside them things would have been very different.

My dad came over and we tried a new trick. He asked me to hold my head over the gas hob (on but not lit). This could be seen as a) Child Abuse or b) Testing to make sure that I could smell any potential gas leaks. I’m kind of hoping it was b). Scarily the upshot of it was that Cheery fellow could smell it but my dad and I couldn’t. Should I be worried?

Come the end of the day’s work and cheery fellow was dispatched to the van. I felt that things could now get difficult with my erstwhile saviour engaged removed from the house and currently lashing the ladder to the roof of the van. Bad tempered fellow probably felt the same way and he loaded his final bad tempered bullet, took aim and fired. All he needed was well over £1000 there and then, cash or cheque only. I looked at him and laughed. He didn’t return the laughter. I tried a smile but the effect was the same. Eventually I persuaded him that, as the invoice I had signed stated 30 days to pay (I had checked this before I signed) that that is just what would happen. He tried to tell me that the “30 days to pay” didn’t mean anything. “It’s just what we put on our invoices but you don’t really have 30 days to pay. We just get the money right away.” My dad came in at this point and laughed even more. Bad tempered man remained bad tempered. There was a moment (only a moment but it appeared to last) where we stared each other out wondering who would be the first to flinch, to back down, to capitulate. I actually wondered if he would attempt to dismantle the boiler. Fortunately he didn’t and we were able to negotiate. Reasoning with him that we simply did not have the money and therefore we would have to get the money together before he would see a penny of it seemed to do the trick. We did reassure him that we would get it to him soon but you can be sure that “soon” will be 30 days!!! He seemed to believe us on the subject of the speed of his receiving his money and left, still bad tempered. I wondered if, in fact, his bad temper is what his customers know and love him for and, probably come to expect from him. If he started being cheery would they not be a little disappointed? Added to this, what would cheery fellow do? Would he be forced to adopt the affectations of bad tempered fellow?

Once he was gone I moved through my newly warm house. It felt strange not to have to be moving large electric heaters about with me and thinking about where best to put then to gain the best heat advantage. A small part of me actually missed the security of the newly abandoned routine.

I sat down and sighed. Then, just because I could and they were there, I demolished all the uneaten biscuits.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas

So it’s that time of the year again. Apparently Dustin Hoffman celebrates Hanukkah and Christmas. That could either mean double the misery; visits from the dreaded in-laws or double the fun; loads more presents.

As for me I will be spending it very quietly; seeing a few friends and family. Whatever you are doing over Christmas, have a lovely time and I will see you all back here in 2008.

I hope you all have a merry and peaceful Christmas.