Sick Puppy

May 19, 2008

Oh dear. Our Rayburn – part household god, part cantankerous family retainer and our only source of hot food – is not well. It started making sputtering noises a few days ago, and slowly started to lose heat. Cooking became even more of an exercise in zen-like patience than it was before, until finally we were forced to recognise the inevitable and turn it off. It takes a long time for a Rayburn to cool down, even a little one, but you have to wait for it to be cold before you can attempt to relight it (‘otherwise,’ as our neighbour warned us with great relish, ‘it can explode!’), but the other half’s efforts were in vain. It sputtered some more and went out. There is a dank chill at the heart of our kitchen, not to mention a faint whiff of oil. The plumber is coming, but with no detectable sense of urgency. We are living on sandwiches and salads and thinking with longing of the handy takeaways we left behind in London.

On the plus side, a red squirrel bounced across our front drive as I was doing the washing up the other day. It’s all go out here on the cute-and-furry front, I tell you


Salesmen are Human Too

May 17, 2008

Or so they say. I’m not convinced though…

Moving seems to involve buying an awful lot of stuff of the kind where you can’t just look at it and pay for it and then take it away but where someone has to stand there and convince you to buy it. Like a washing machine. We have a septic tank here and septic tanks are sensitive things, prone to block and overflow and generally misbehave with consequences too dire to contemplate, so we were looking for a washing machine that didn’t have a drink problem as well as a good energy efficiency rating. There are two big electrical retailers near us and one of them the salesmen aren’t paid commission, and one of them they are. We tried the first one first, but they didn’t have the machine we wanted in stock and as it’s costing us 10 QUID to get a service wash at the laundrette (who said living in the country was cheaper? Oh yeah, me), we thought we’d brave the other one. After a few minutes of being stalked by a spotty young man in a bright yellow shirt, we finally succumbed to the dreaded ‘do you need any help there?’. ‘This washing machine,’ the other half said. This model says it uses 60 litres of water for a wash and the very same model with the faster spin speed uses 160 litres. Is that just a typo?’ ‘Oh no,’ said the salesman. ’60 litres all right.’ ‘So why the difference? A hundred litres?’ ‘Oh well, it’s the faster spin speed, it allows it to get through a lot more water,’ he said, improvising desperately. Four raised eyebrows greeted this. ‘Oh yes, it’s accurate all right. 60 litres, no problem.’ We went back and checked the brochure. 160 litres it was.

We decided for the two week wait. But even over in no-commission land, the salesmen weren’t finished with us. They have to try and sell the extended warranty, you see, it’s in their job contracts. He knew we weren’t going to buy it, and we knew we weren’t going to buy it but the formalities have to be observed so he gabbled through the pitch, his voice rising faster and faster until he paused for breath long enough for us to say no. I wish there was an equivalent of the Telephone Preference Service that we could sign up to – maybe there could be a badge? – so that we wouldn’t have to go through this. It would save us all a lot of time.

But there is something to be said for some degree of salesmanship, considering the alternative. Down at our local not-quite-so-big town, we headed into the deli to see if there were some local cheeses we could buy. The guy was on the phone. We waited, he talked. We waited some more. He talked some more. And then, still talking, he stepped out from behind the counter and walked right out into the street abandoning us with his stock. We thought about walking off with a lifetime’s supply of oatcakes, but then thought better of it. And drove down to Tescos and bought our cheese there.

Cars next. Not looking forward to that one…

Top Gear

May 16, 2008

I think it may be time for a new bike. Actually, I think two years ago may have been time for a new bike, but back in London my bike performed its main job – not being stolen while locked up outside Vauxhall station – admirably while still managing to be more or less ridable in the flat former malarial swamplands of South London. But up here, where there are hills, it’s another matter. Technically, my bike has six gears if you believe what is written on the gear lever. In London, I mostly just cycled around in fifth, having decided to save the top gear for an unspecified emergency, sort of like turning the amp all the way up to eleven. Now that I’ve had a couple of weeks of riding around I find that its actual gears are as follows:

6: Top gear. Still saving for an emergency. Running away from dogs?
5: Suitable for flat bits. Not much use at the moment
4: Going up small hills
3: As far as I can tell, exactly the same as 4, but makes a strange rattling noise. Would be useful for going up small hills while warning, say, horses of my approach if I were ever going faster than a horse while going up a hill
2: Going up steeper hills, if it weren’t for the fact that the bike doesn’t like it very much and tends to pop it back into third.
1: Not sure what this does, as I have never managed to get into this gear. Possibly reverse.

So there you have it. Added to the fact that both mudguards are held on by mud and force of habit, I think it’s time to go shopping. The other half has 21 gears and claims to use all of them. This may be why I now only recognise him as a diminishing dot on the horizon…

I’m Back…

May 14, 2008

Did you miss me?

Gosh, you lose your city legs quickly don’t you? It didn’t help that I was accompanied almost everywhere by my wheely suitcase, that unavoidable sign of the out-of-towner, not to mention a complete pain in the arse. But even allowing for the effects its baleful presence, I still felt I’d lost a good half of my urban smarts after a scant two weeks in the company of sheep. In three days I managed to lose track of and have returned to me my notebook, a tenner and a bottle of wine; got my rube’s paper ticket stuck in the barriers at King’s Cross and then got told off for having the temerity to ask for help; forgot about the Victoria line early closure and managed to take a route to Palmer’s Green so circuitous that I’m not going to even confess to it here and got into conversation with three separate passengers I wasn’t related to (although to be fair one of them was more me being talked AT while I desperately tried to read my paper). At Oxford Circus I ended up helping a woman with the quick ticket machine thinking that at least must mark me out as a street-savvy Londoner until I realised that of course the real thing would have shouldered her aside and bought their ticket first, not patiently taking her through the touch screen process. I did at least, I promise, stand on the right of the escalators with my faithful friend and wheely companion. That much, I do still remember.

But now I am safely back despite the best efforts of Virgin Rail. Actually, to be fair, they managed to be on time both ways, but compensated for this uncharacteristic performance by having the heating on full blast at ankle level and then, in a magnificent display of joined up thinking, blowing freezing cold air out of the ceiling ducts to balance it out. But that sounds like a topic for quite another blog…

I’m Going Down to London, to Buy a Heat Magazine…

May 11, 2008

… OK, not exactly to buy Heat Magazine, and not to flee the rural peace and quiet either (although…) but because I’m off to appear here. I shall be dusting off my oyster card and digging out my A to Z and trying to remember what life is like in the big city…

Back on Wednesday, God and Virgin trains willing

Popping out for a Paper, Country Style

May 10, 2008

Back in the old days, nipping out for a newspaper offered only two choices. Turn left and walk two minutes to the corner shop which risked getting there after they’d sold out, or turn right and walk three minutes to the proper newsagents which never ran out of papers and had a nice smiley newsagent to boot. Up here in the country, we also have two choices: drive seven miles to the nearest Big Town and the Monster Tesco, or cycle six miles to the nearest garage. It would be nice not to have to drive to Tescos every single day, if we can help it so, the weather being fine, we decided this morning to try the latter.

It started off okay – bucking the topographic trend it was noticeably downhill or level for most of the way, although there were enough hills to keep it interesting. It took us thirty minutes (or rather it took me thirty minutes, and the other half filled in the extra time waiting for me to catch up by watching for dipper). Most of the cars* decided to steer round us rather than over us although there was one 4×4 driver who decided that, off-roading capacity or no off-roading capacity, it was the cyclist who should go up on the muddy verge rather than her pristine All-Terrain Global Warmer. We got there with my face now matching my fetching pink shirt and I scraped the worst of the bugs from my teeth and went into the garage.

Where they had run out of papers.

So Tescos it was, then.

* three

Pole Position

May 9, 2008

Brring Brring – another call from BT, somewhat more apologetically this time, to update us on the great telephone line saga. It seems that our innocent request for a phone line was the metaphorical straw that broke the camel’s back, and not just the cable but all of the poles from here to eternity will have to be replaced, possibly by the end of this month. And sure enough, when we set out this morning, there was a great big BT pole-replacing machine, working its way up our road. All this big machinery for little me…

Coming back much later this afternoon, (having angered the TomTom woman by missing her carefully selected turnoff and being sent down smaller and smaller roads until we were driving down something with not just grass, but a fine crop of dandelions down the middle of it – a blog entry in its own right one of these days), we inspected their handiwork. Alongside the old wooden poles with arms sticking out*, were new wooden poles with no arms sticking out, presumably the upgraded poles although their improvements weren’t really visible to the naked eye. They had done two. There are a lot of poles.

This could be a long month…

*You’ll have to excuse the technical language here. I’d have taken a picture but I don’t have all week to watch it upload to flickr…