Too nice to go on the floor

A couple of weeks ago when I went round to my friend Lin’s one evening I noticed that she had a new mat on the floor behind the front door. It was a mat with an animal picture on it and my immediate thoughts were that (a) even though it was washable it was too nice to have dirty feet and paws wiped all over it and (b) I just had to have one myself, so I asked where she got it from and was told that her daughter Dee had won it on a tombola stall at work.
Dee actually works at a local pet store not far from home and the staff there support my favourite local charity, Bleakholt Animal Sanctuary. Every so often they allow someone from the sanctuary to have a tombola/items for sale stall just outside the door with any money raised going to the sanctuary, and the mat had been one of the tombola items. Dee is usually quite lucky on tombola stalls and that particular day was no exception with the mat being one of the things she won, though as it was obviously a one-off the chances of me getting one like it were slim.
The mat was new but there was no clue as to where it had originally come from, though a bit of later Googling told me that mats like this are made in America and to get one from there wouldn’t be cheap. The ‘get lucky’ gods must have been smiling down on me that day though as I found a new one for sale on ebay at a very good price, and best of all the seller was in another area of my home town. I emailed her to ask if I could collect the mat rather than have it posted out to me and she was quite happy for me to do that so we arranged to meet the following day – and it turned out that she was the lady who had the charity stall outside the pet store where Dee works. Also any proceeds from animal-related items she sells on ebay go to the charity so I was more than happy to know that my purchase would, even in a small way, help the sanctuary.
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Apart from the colouring of the eye patch the little pup on the back right of the picture reminds me very much of my own little Sophie when she was younger. The mat is currently propped up on one of the bathroom units so I really need to find somewhere to put it, but needless to say it’s definitely not  going down on the floor!




A new toy and some random silliness

A short while ago my camera developed a fault, and though it didn’t prevent me from taking photos it became increasingly annoying and frustrating. Initial enquiries at a local well established camera shop told me that to get it repaired probably wouldn’t be cheap and it would also mean that I would be camera-less for a while so as I’ve had it for just over five years I decided to treat myself to a new one. It was ordered on Thursday last week, and arrived on Saturday – apart from having a bigger zoom it’s identical to my old one in looks and features so at least I didn’t need to read through the manual before using it. Unfortunately, since I got it the weather has been abysmal with rain most of the week and I haven’t been able to go out anywhere to try it properly so just to experiment I’ve taken a few random photos of things around the house.
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The new camera
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I got this little bear (shown larger than actual size) to sit on the unit in my bedroom but decided he was too pink so he now sits on the bookshelf in my study 
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This came from the £1 shop in town, I couldn’t resist the cute kitten. At least the camera flash works well, it certainly shows up on the bag
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Anyone remember Zingy, the dancing ‘blob’ in the EDF Energy adverts several years ago? I would have loved a proper one but the official ones were very expensive so this advertising card was the nearest I could get – it’s pinned to the memo board in my study
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This Jack Russell pup was on a page of last year’s calendar – I liked it too much to bin it so it hangs next to this year’s calendar near my pc
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I was given these rabbit slippers by the boss who I clean the house for, he’d got them for his sister who was in the local hospice but sadly she never got to wear them
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And finally something sensible – my coffee of choice and the mug I drink it from
All the photos, except the first two (obviously) were taken with the new camera – it seems to be working well and so far I’m happy with it, now all I need is for the current rain to stop and the weather to come nice again so I can put it through its paces on some outdoor shots round the local area.

Boot sale bargains and a kite festival

Back in the 1970s, in the days when Woolworth’s sold furniture, I bought a small display cabinet/bookcase to house my growing book collection and a few ornaments, and when we moved to this house in 1979 the cabinet came with us. Over the years though, as I began to replace various items of living room furniture, it was relegated to the spare bedroom, still with the books in it, and that’s where it’s stayed. Fast forward through the years and just over eighteen months ago the spare bedroom became Michael’s room when he moved back home, and since then he’s amassed quite a collection of dvds and PS3 games which he needs to find a home for, so a couple of weeks ago he asked if he could box up all my old books and use the cabinet for his own stuff.
Now call it sentimentality or whatever but the books in the cabinet aren’t ones which I want to see boxed up and hidden away in the attic so I said Michael could only have the cabinet if I could find a reasonable alternative for the books. I wasn’t really sure what I had in mind other than it needed to be narrow enough to fit in a certain space in the living room – it was very much a case of “I’ll know it when I see it” and last Sunday I found the very thing.
With the weather being nice we decided to have a ride to the big car boot sale at St. Michael’s near Garstang and on one of the stalls I came across two not-very-wide dvd/video units, the type which swivel so you can put stuff in each side – and they were narrow enough to fit in the space I had in mind. With the swivel bases removed we had a choice, we could either have one each or I could have both and put one on top of the other, which would be more than adequate for the books which needed to be relocated. When I enquired about the price of them I fully expected to be told they were about £10 each, which would have been okay, so I was really surprised and more than happy when the stall holder told me I could have them both for just £5! That really was a bargain, so I rang Michael who was in another part of the field and between us we carried the units back to the van then continued on our mooch round.
It was while I was looking along the next-to-last line of stalls that I picked up my second bargain – a short black leather-look skirt fully lined and with a colourful embroidered front, just the sort of thing that I’ve always liked. It was obviously new too and still had the original shop label attached – unfortunately there was no way I could try it on but I was sure it would fit, and for just 50p it was a no-brainer, I just had to have it. If it was too big I could always have it taken in but when we got home and I tried it on it was a perfect fit – I also tried half a dozen books in one of the units and they fit well too so I was more than happy.
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The bargain units – actually nicer than they look
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My bargain skirt
From the car boot sale we headed over to St. Anne’s for a meal in our usual cafe, but even though it had been nice and sunny at the boot sale it had clouded over quite a bit by the time we got to the coast. Driving along Lytham sea front we got held up in slow moving traffic but it wasn’t until we got round onto St. Annes sea front we realised there was something going on somewhere – there were cars parked everywhere and on the approach to the cafe we saw that the nearby green had been turned into a massive car park and in the sky up ahead all sorts of brightly coloured objects were floating about in the breeze. Luckily when we got to the cafe car park someone was just about to leave so I pulled into the space and we went for our meal – it turned out that we’d arrived in the middle of St. Annes Kite Festival and the coloured objects were all kites flying above the beach further along.
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After our meal we went for a walk along the promenade – stalls lined each side as far as the pier and there were so many people that it was difficult to walk in a straight line or find a decent space to take some photos. Down on the beach was a funfair, bouncy castles and other attractions, and hundreds of huge colourful kites were flying above the sand at each side of the pier – even with the very grey sky it was worth taking a few shots when I could find a space to get them.
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With the possibility of the dogs being accidentally trodden on or tripped over I didn’t want to walk back to the van through all the crowds so I decided to go through the gardens instead – it was much quieter there and in spite of the grey sky I snatched a couple of photos as I walked through. Back at the car park we decided to return to the cafe for another brew then we set off for home at 5.15, arriving back just after 6pm.
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Had we known in advance about the kite festival we probably wouldn’t have chosen to go to St. Annes that day as it really was incredibly crowded but if we hadn’t gone to the car boot sale I wouldn’t have got my great bargains so all in all I think I can say that our day out was quite a success.

The dog bed didn’t get me but the kettle did!

Maybe a strange title for a blog post so I’d better explain. Bear in mind that I don’t watch a lot of tv – when I’m not walking the dogs I spend most of my free time on my pc in the spare bedroom, so to save having to go down to the kitchen every time I want a brew I have tea, coffee, sugar and a kettle on a small unit. Also in the same room is my cross-trainer – it came out of a commercial gym so is quite a sizeable piece of equipment. Last Saturday evening I washed a dog bed and because my pc is on from the moment I get up until the moment I go to bed the room is always warm, so I draped the dog bed over the cross-trainer console to dry out.
Early on Sunday morning, with my pc switched on, I made myself a brew then checked my emails and blog notifications, and I was just about to go for a shower when it happened – for some unknown reason, and with no-one near it, the dog bed decided to slide off the cross-trainer onto the floor. Now had it gone one way it would probably have caught my computer chair on its way down but it went the other way and caught the kettle – which promptly overturned and sent scalding hot water all over the top of my foot and the carpet. Luckily I had my slippers on so that minimised the damage but it was still enough to be excruciatingly painful.
So I hopped into the bathroom, stuck my leg in the bath and turned the cold water onto my foot for as long as I could stand it. It did ease the pain so as we were going out for the day I swallowed a couple of painkillers and stuck a gauze dressing over the burn, held on by a cotton sock, and with my most comfortable trainers on it felt fine all day. Then as I was driving home I remarked to Michael that my foot felt wet, and when I took my sock off later on I found out why – the skin had blistered and the blister had burst with the friction from my trainer, and when I peeled off the sock and the dressing the skin came off with it, leaving a large red-raw patch even more painful than before.
There was no way I could go to bed with my foot like that as anything touching it would send me through the roof, and I didn’t fancy spending hours waiting to be treated in A&E at the hospital, so I wrapped it in clingfilm, covered it with another sock, and went to the doctor’s first thing on Monday morning. He prescribed some ointment and some silicone dressings to be used once each day, but actually getting the stuff proved to be a total nightmare as it seems that no pharmacies actually stock these things, they have to be ordered – and a 2 to 3 day wait just isn’t on when I’m burnt and I need them NOW! The last pharmacy I tried did prove to be more helpful though and the guy there said that if he ordered the stuff there and then I would be able to collect it later that same day – and he even went one better than that and had it delivered to me.
To be honest I’ve only used the ointment twice since then as it seems to produce more pain and stinging than I can stand, but the silicone dressings are brilliant and are really helping to alleviate the pain. It’ll be a while before my foot heals but at least I can get about even though I’m supposed to take it easy. I should have gone camping this coming weekend but I’m staying home instead, though I’ll probably find somewhere nice to take the dogs – it’s not long off my proper holiday anyway so hopefully my foot will be well on the way to being better by then. And the one thing I’ve learned from all this? – next time I dry a dog bed over the cross-trainer I’ll move the kettle first!

The washing machine saga

A couple of weeks ago my washing machine decided it no longer wanted to work as it should – although it would wash it wouldn’t spin properly and everything was coming out still wringing wet through. Now although it was an older machine (it was given to me by my daughter-in-law when she was clearing out her grandma’s flat eight years ago) it had always worked well so I thought it may be worth repairing – an internet search came up with the names and phone numbers of a few local domestic appliance repair people so I rang the one nearest to home and he called round a couple of hours later. Unfortunately though, his attitude left a lot to be desired – as soon as he stepped through the kitchen door, and without going anywhere near the machine, his words were “I’m not touching that!” When I asked why he said “Too old, can’t get the parts, not worth bothering with!” He then offered to supply a reconditioned machine at a ‘good’ price but knowing that for only £50 more I could get a brand new one from Currys/PC World I was a bit hesitant, and his following words were “To be honest I’m not bothered if you get one from me or not, I’ve got plenty of work to keep me busy so I don’t care one way or the other!” So I said I’d let him know and off he went.
Now it’s not easy to convey in typewritten words just what sort of attitude this guy had but he was abrupt to the point of being downright rude so on principle alone I wouldn’t get a machine off him – I’d rather scrub my washing on a riverbank first! I phoned another local firm and was told they don’t touch anything older than six years so I rang a third one but got no answer so I left a message. It was three days before this guy got back to me and he arranged to call on Monday last week; he was much nicer than the first guy, he did physically have a look at the machine, told me what was likely to be wrong with it and said he would try to get the parts for it – unfortunately though I hadn’t heard anything from him by Friday morning and my phone calls to him just went straight to voicemail.
Michael then told me about shop not too far away which sold reconditioned domestic appliances, apparently during his marriage he’d got a washing machine, tumble drier and fridge-freezer from there and he’d been very happy with them so he said that if I got a cheap-ish machine from there to be going on with he’ll buy me a brand new one once his ankle is okay and he gets back into full time work. That sounded good to me so on Friday afternoon I went over to the shop to see what they had – prices ranged from £60 to £110, delivered, installed and my old one taken away, though there was a £20 delivery charge. I decided on the one I wanted but unfortunately didn’t have enough money with me to leave a deposit so I said I would go back the following day and make arrangements for them to deliver the machine yesterday (Monday), however when I called back on Saturday the shop was closed. Even though the guy there had told me they were open every day except Sunday they were closed again when I went back yesterday – so not knowing when they would  be open I decided to give up and look elsewhere.
A few blocks down the road from there is a shop dealing in good quality second hand furniture and appliances and my luck turned the minute I walked through the door. I found the perfect machine at a really good price and with only a £5 delivery charge I could have it within the hour – okay, I’d have to install it myself and get rid of the old one but neither would be a problem so I left a deposit and my phone number and drove back home. Sure enough, only twenty minutes later I got a phone call to say they were on the way and ten minutes after that they arrived; the machine was brought into the kitchen, I paid the balance and once they’d gone I set about sorting it out. Disconnecting the old one and installing the new one was easy enough and fifteen minutes after it was delivered it was merrily washing my cream jacket. Disposing of the old one was soon sorted out too – I’d intended putting it in the van and taking it to the council tip at the weekend but I was just about to go out with the dogs when the scrap man came round so he took it instead.
Looking at the new machine I don’t think I could have made a better choice, it’s in absolutely mint condition and looks almost brand new so I’m really pleased with it. Before the scrap man took the old one away I noticed a small sticker on the back of it with a date in May 2005 – I don’t know if that would be the date of manufacture or something else but for a machine at least 13 years old it’s done well, so if the new one lasts half as long as that I’ll be more than happy.

A microwave mishap

Over dinner yesterday Michael and I were having a general discussion about Roscrea and his time spent there while he’s been off work with his broken ankle, and the conversation turned to something which happened while he was there a few months ago. It wasn’t funny at the time but it makes me laugh so I thought I’d write about it here – I know he won’t mind if I share it.
It was round about the time of his birthday in mid July, just over three weeks after he’d broken his ankle. Nellie was going away for a couple of days with one of the groups from church and on the morning of the day she went she prepared an evening meal for Michael and left it plated up in the microwave ready to heat up when he wanted it. Come the evening and he duly warmed up the meal but it was when he wanted to take it out of the microwave that disaster struck.
The microwave door was one which you just pull open and Michael, unable to put much weight on his bad foot and therefore leaning on crutches, overbalanced slightly and stumbled backwards while opening the door. Fortunately he didn’t fall but unfortunately the microwave did, straight off the worktop, and having detached itself from its own door it landed on the floor leaving the door in Michael’s hand. Needless to say, the dinner which had been inside was a complete write-off ; the plate was smashed, there was mashed potato, carrots and gravy plastered up the front of the fridge, bits of chicken on the floor – and a rather stunned Michael wondering what the hell just happened.
Once he’d got his brain back into gear, and with the help of Trixie, who ate up most of what was on the floor, Michael managed to do a reasonable clean up job and make himself something else to eat, then he went to bed to ponder on the problem of the broken microwave. The following morning, with the help of Paul who lives across the road, he got it sorted ; he hopped up the road to the electrical shop in town, bought a new microwave and asked them to deliver it as he was unable to carry it himself, then with the new one in place Paul took the old one away, though Michael didn’t ask what he did with it.
Nellie arrived home the following day while Michael was out and when he got back he fully expected her to mention the microwave but she didn’t, even though it was obvious that the one she had come home to wasn’t the one she had left. Now we don’t know whether Paul ever said anything to her when Michael wasn’t around (I’m sure he must have done) but to this day she’s never mentioned it – obviously if she ever does then Michael will tell her exactly what happened but until then I think he’d rather keep quiet about it, even if it was  an accident. It does make a funny story though!

And talking of mice….

A comment on my previous post about the mice reminded me of something which happened maybe seventeen or eighteen years ago. For some reason only known to himself Michael had bought me a hamster for Mother’s Day one year. We’d had a succession of hamsters years before when he was younger and I’d even had one since he left home; there was still a redundant hamster cage stored in the cupboard under the stairs so as he knew I like mice he maybe thought I might like the old cage to have a new occupant, hence the Mother’s Day present.
The hamster was a cute little thing, a brown and white male with a faint black mark on his back, and I called him Weeble. He lived happily in his cage here in the spare bedroom and he would often be running in his wheel while I was working on the pc in the evenings. Then one evening, when he’d been here for just about twelve months, I suddenly realised that he was being exceptionally quiet – maybe he was asleep in his little house, or worse still maybe he’d died. When I took the top off the house to check though I found he wasn’t in there, in fact he wasn’t in the cage at all – somehow he’d escaped, but as the door was still tightly fastened I couldn’t see how he’d got out. All was revealed however when I looked at the back of the cage more closely – two of the bars were bent as if they’d been forced apart by the Incredible Hulk, and the resulting gap was big enough for a determined hamster to get through. Heaven only knows how he’d managed to do that but he had, and I now had a hamster on the loose somewhere in the room.
I dreaded the thought of having to move everything to find him so I set a trap – some food in the bottom of a bucket and a ramp with a trail of food on it from the floor to the top. In theory Weeble should follow the trail up the ramp and fall into the bucket, from where he could be returned to his cage with the now-straightened bars, but in practise it didn’t work and he remained at large. Then one evening while watching tv in the living room with my partner I heard a pitter-patter sound above my head, a sound which seemed to move from one side of the room to the other – and we realised that the little devil had somehow got under the bedroom floor and was running up and down between two of the joists in the space between there and the downstairs ceiling. The question was, which two joists was he between? So Plan B came into force – with the landing carpet taken up my partner stayed upstairs and I armed myself with a broom handle and returned to the living room, then once I’d figured out exactly where above my head Weeble was I knocked on the ceiling, enabling my partner to determine which floorboards to take up.
As hamsters are nocturnal and sleep during the day I put Weeble’s house down between the joists and put some food round it – hopefully when daylight came he would go to sleep in there and he could safely be removed back to his cage. Unfortunately Plan B didn’t work and though I checked his house frequently over a couple of days he stayed on the loose – it was if he was determined he wasn’t going to be caught no matter what I did. Now while I could live with a couple of floorboards missing from the landing (after a while we got used to stepping over the gap) there was one major problem – we were going camping for five days at Easter and meeting up with friends, it had been arranged for ages and we didn’t want to cancel but I didn’t like the thought of going away and leaving Weeble where he was. Reluctantly however, that’s what I did, having put plenty of food down for him first – he had two chances so I just hoped that he would survive.
As soon as we got back from our Easter break I checked for any sign of Weeble; some of the food had gone but his house hadn’t been disturbed and even after another couple of days there was no patter of hamster feet above my head while I was in the living room so reluctantly I came to the sad conclusion that he had finally died. Although the thought of a hamster corpse somewhere under the upstairs floor didn’t exactly fill me with joy there was no way we could take up the whole floor to find it so the two floorboards that had been pulled up were put back, the carpet was relaid and life returned to normal. Then several nights later, while lying in bed, I heard some rustling noises coming from the narrow space between the side of the wardrobe and the wall; at first I thought I was hearing things but eventually I got up to investigate – and sitting among the rolls of Christmas wrapping paper which I kept there was Weeble.
He was too far back in the narrow space for me to just reach in and get him so I came up with the idea of using the small fishing net which I kept for the fish tank, but as I moved it closer to him he backed even further away until he was completely out of reach. Moving the wardrobe was out of the question so I went back to bed happy that Weeble was still alive and determined that come hell or high water he would be caught the next day. By the following morning he had transferred himself from the side of the wardrobe to the small space behind the chest of drawers and that proved to be his undoing. Armed with the small bedside waste bin my partner crouched at one end of the cabinet while I gingerly moved it a couple of inches away from the wall, then with the broom handle I gently poked and pushed Weeble along towards my partner and finally success – he scuttled into the bin and after almost a month on the loose he was well and truly caught.
Weeble lived for another eighteen months after his great escape and when he finally died of old age his cage was donated to a local animal charity. I haven’t had another hamster since then and to be honest I wouldn’t want one, but if I ever did get another one it would have to have an escape-proof cage – I certainly wouldn’t want to go through all that again!