Wednesday, September 28, 2005

I took my Grade 1 exam in the Nigella School of Hostess Studies last night. I had spent most of Sunday afternoon and evening preparing and was remarkably confident that all I would have to do was switch on the oven when I got home from work and then set about trying to make myself as fragrant and attractive as my chosen dishes.

Then I got the text informing me that Paul's new girlfriend is vegetarian. I should have known. Not only is she tall, beautiful and intelligent, she eats sensibly, doesn't smoke and drinks socially but in moderation. I allowed myself a little flap. I don't know why. I was veggie for 12 ( slim) years but that was when you'd be lucky to be offered a cheese omelette. Vegetarianism has got so much more sophisticated.

From nowhere I managed to conjure up a roast tomato and sweet pepper tart with mozzarella. It was nothing short of miraculous and having just tasted a slice of it for my tea tonight, it was rather delicious too. I may invite more vegetarian friends next time just so I can show off the new addition to my repertoire.

My guests were perfect and entertained one another throughout the enjoyable evening and Jack managed to pick his knuckles up off the floor and give the impression of a young adult in the making rather than perpetual teenager unable to communicate beyond grunts ( no doubt he'll have reverted to type by the time I pick him up from rugby practice in an hour).

I take Grade 2 of the NSHS on Friday when I have 40 assorted Aussies and their adopted families coming over for a curry and some beers. Not having the luxury of a Sunday to prepare in advance and more to the point, not getting paid until midnight the night before, I fear I may drop some points but then given the difference between the levels of discernment of last nights guests, who included the delightful Sophie, the eternally enthusiastic Martian and the beatific Richard besides Paul and the Vegetarian freshly-welded to his side and a roomful of antipodean teenage testosterone, I might just scrape a C.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Forget fireman fantasies. Lifeboatmen are officially the sexiest, coolest, most desirable of all the male species. Not only do they wear kinky rubber wellies and all-in-one dungaree thingies, they also have cool helmets like racing drivers, carry out death-defying Bond-esque leaps across boiling seawater at breakneck speeds and the boats are nippier, sleeker and not as noisy as your common or garden Dennis firetruck. I know. I saw them at first hand on Sunday, far closer and more interesting than the lesser-spotted sooty red-throated sheardivers or juvenile greater-photographed watsermathingies.

The sea proved to be just as choppy as I'd hoped and I was enjoying the day far more than I would a trip to Alton Towers whilst most about me turned green and the RSPB women began handing out nappy sacks by the dozen. Some poor bloke, in his eagerness to get a sighting of a Skua, fell and bumped his head. The captain decided to head back to harbour as quickly as possible to avoid further injury and get him to A&E without delay. He also, sensible man that he must be, called the Coast Guard who, not taking any chances with a boatload of mainly bearded men of a certain age and one woman with a rather fetching pair of waterproofs, sent out the RNLI lifeboat from Flamborough Head. It drew up alongside and without either boat slowing down, 2 incredibly brave Stephen Segal-meets-Andy from Emmerdale lifeboat men clambered aboard right in front of me. It was terrific. It was all I could do not to faint ( which would have just been the icing on the cake if I'd got CPR as well).

The injuries didn't warrant the Air-Sea rescue helicopter which hovered above us for a time and then moved off on exercise. If you ask me, it probably didn't warrant the RNLI either but you can never be too careful with head injuries however slight the scratch. It did make for a fantastic day out and I shall definitely be booking another next year, during Puffin breeding season and if it gets a bit dull, I'll just throw myself at the floor and pray for the dark-haired one to deliver mouth-to-mouth.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

I'm looking forward to my weekend. I'm going on an RSPB boat trip off the East Coast to see migrating sea birds. I've been wanting to go on one for ages and I discovered quite by chance that they had some running this weekend.

My first plan was to book into a tacky B&B on Saturday night and enjoy the whole corny seaside thing, including a full english breakfast to line the stomach in case of choppy seas next morning and fish & chips for lunch on the way back. Unfortunately the only person daft enough to agree to go with me on this boat trip is busy tomorrow night ( although what is so good that it can't be cancelled in favour of the opportunity of staying overnight under a candlewick bedspread with flock wallpaper and more to the point, me for company in seperate rooms of course, is beyond me). Instead he's picking me up at 7am on Sunday and I'm going to drive us up there ( his hip is still painful from where he broke it earlier this year).

He has admitted to having not terribly good sea legs, which is a bit of a bugger 'cos from my point of view the rougher the better, I love all that up and down rolling motion, sheets of spray coming over the front of the boat and drenching the few passengers brave enough to venture out on deck. I've told him the forecast is good but in reality I haven't checked and couldn't really care less just so long as it's not predicting Hurricane Katrina.

There's a fungus forage in the local park on Sunday afternoon I noticed as I was flicking through the council's newsletter last night. It's the first one they've done and I'd have loved to go on that but I doubt we'll have made it back in time. Besides, I'm probably pushing my luck with Bernard already. I'll have to look out for another and try and lure some of other schmuck along.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

I got home from work really early last night. So early that the little bakery-cum-butchers down the street was still open so I popped in to have a nosey in the hope that I had discovered some secret gem of a deli within walking distance of home. Sadly not, the pies looked and smelled good, the cakes were temptingly sugary but on the whole it all looked a bit tired. I took some sausages and a couple of pies ( oh! and 2 rhubarb and cherry slices - I've only got up to Chapter 1 of Dr. Phil's Ultimate Weight Solution so there's still time for a little wicked indulgence).

I had a relatively well-balanced meal bubbling away within minutes and was looking forward to greeting Jack with a pinny tied round my waist accentuating my hour-glass figure, a glass of sherry in my hand and a 1950s demi-wave. I was a bit disappointed when he sent me a message at 6.30 to say he was going out for dinner with his Grandma. I didn't do what a 1950s housewife would do when faced with a ruined dinner and an errant spouse, after all I'm a Noughties sophisticated career girl and how was Jack to know that for once he was going to be offered something other than a Pot Noodle mid-week. No, I ate my pie, most of the runner beans and thought long and hard about eating his pie too but remembering those wise words in Chapter One of the Ultimate Weight Solution, I decided to eat his piece of the rhubarb and cherry slice instead.

I'm getting a new sofa tomorrow. I haven't had a new ( well, new to me) one in years and then I get 2 in as many months. Dad picked it so I'm not quite sure what to expect but I'm told it is cream and not draylon so I'm hopeful. Sunday sees the first match of the season. There are already rows and petty squabbles, and that's just between the parents. It's gonna be a long slow winter.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

My home is filled with the wonderful aroma of bread sauce. I haven't actually made any bread sauce. That's a treat preserved for Christmas only when I make a pan big enough to keep me going every time I go to the fridge for the next week. No. I made bread sauce-scented potato gratin to accompany the sage and onion chicken and sausages that I cooked for Janine yesterday. How did I ever manage to feed myself and my friends before Nigella?

I did the whole menu finishing off with chilli-cinnamon chocolate pudding with extra sauce. Jack complained bitterly about the unnecessary addition of spices to what should be a purely sweet dessert. It didn't stop him almost licking the pattern off the bowl though. I might make it again tonight and take some into work later if the week for poor old Rachel who is recovering from a bad back allegedly caused by kicking off her slippers! I've heard some good excuses in my time, made up most of them myself but that really is inspired.

I've just finished my last shift at one of our satellite branches. Lynsey's still away for another 2 weeks but Jane's back now so the Boss expects her to see all the clients. I've told the secretaries just to book the appointments into my office and persuade the clients to travel into the town. That way everyone's happy.

I quite enjoy my brief trips into the sleepy holiday camps that are the branch offices. The secretaries are always so grateful for any help, they make me cups of coffee and fetch me a sandwich at lunchtime ( one of them is next to a bakery that does wonderful pies so it's a good job I only have to go a few times a year) and no-one knows which extension I'm on so the phone is refreshingly quiet. It also reassures me that I am still the fastest and most efficient conveyancer I know when I see the amazed looks on the girls faces when they see how quickly I devour a pile of files and fill tapes. I suspect that's another reason why I only get asked a few times a year. It wears them out trying to keep up with me.

I'm glad I was out of my own office this afternoon. Someone had thrown a large metal object through my window when I got to work this morning. I'm on the first floor so I'm not taking it personally. It probably broke off one of the windows opposite and they just threw it out not realising that the street between us is so narrow, we could almost shake hands if we leaned out far enough. Kevin the handy man was coming to fix it. There's nothing wrong with Kevin, he's pleasant enough, but he has that irritating habit of holding a conversation with a woman's cleavage. I'm sure he'd have no idea what I looked like if he ever saw me from the head up.
It also meant I couldn't saunter around the room in my stockinged feet. I'd bought new shoes at the weekend and they were pinching my toes. Jacquie had done a good job of clearing up the glass but it was better to be on the safe side.

Jack's out with his mates so I'm going to cook myself a minute steak and then finish off the rest of those delicious heart-attack inducing potatoes for supper with lots of black pepper and some creamed spinach. I've already had a pie today so the diet might as well start tomorrow (again).

Thursday, September 08, 2005

I very nearly turned round and went back home when I finally got to the Basecamp on Friday night. It was like walking into a bible reading group. Not that I've ever walked into a bible reading group but it's how I imagine one would feel. Everyone was being intensely friendly and smiley and the corniness of the jokes was almost at Kellogg levels. I suspect my inability to fit in had much to do with the huge waves of guilt and worry that were washing over me at the realisation that I had left Jack home alone.

I was the last to arrive, as usual, so I got a top bunk. The occupant of the bottom bunk was one of those weird creatures that falls asleep the minute their head hits a pillow wherever they may be. She then proceeded to snore, fidget and fart all night. I think I managed about an hour's sleep before getting up to start the first morning's work. I decided to stay only once I had met James, the warden. At last a handsome Mellors type! His boss wasn't bad either. North Wales definitely breeds the best NT wardens.

The rest of the weekend was spent cutting back scrub and hedging, manouevring overflowing wheelbarrows up steep inclines, and polishing a horse-drawn carriage. My gluteus maximus certainly knows it's been worked and my arms do look as if I have taken to self-harm. I'm doing it all again in about 6 weeks time but til then it's back to the grindstone.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Did you notice what just happened? An entire Bank Holiday went by without me moaning about it or manically scrubbing my kitchen floor. Ok, so my new kitchen is carpeted but I would have put money on me transferring my energies to the vast expanse of laminate in my conservatory.

But for the first time in years, I actually had company. Mark the Moustache called in on Sunday. He was still here when Rachel and her Maltese suntan arrived. He stayed for another coffee and listened to Rachel & I catching up on 3 weeks worth of gossip. I rustled us up a speedy risotto after he'd gone ( Rachel might have a slightly different interpretation of how long it took but remember, she's a graduate of the instant gratification cookery school).

I expected to be on my own with my supply of new books on Bank Holiday Monday after dropping Rachel back home. I certainly hadn't expected to be driving to Grimsby with my godson and his family. I'd have put a bra on otherwise!

It didn't stop there. I arrived home to find an email advising me that male company would be arriving from Birmingham that very night. Johnny Red and I enjoyed a chat and rather too many bottles of wine and then the next night Paul came over and we had a thoroughly good time talking all about his failed marriage, disastrous rebound ( it broke up 5 days into a 10 day trip to New York) and promising new love.

Before I know it Jack's back demanding hair gel and cotton buds, admiring his tan in the mirror and draping wet towels all over the house. I'm leaving him on his own this weekend while I go to Wales wearing wellies. I shall be mostly clearing out a moat and worrying that he's burning down the house or entertaining young ladies. I may decide to withhold the hair gel to ensure he doesn't leave the house.