Thursday, September 27, 2007

Chicken Run

We were dead pleased with ourselves last weekend. We spent hours constructing a massive chicken enclosure so that our three feathery ladies can be free range, but not destroy the 'human' bit of the garden.

We hammered in fence posts, went crazy with the chicken wire, and felt confident that it was escape proof.

Not so.

Nick went out last night to lock them safely away from the foxes and discovered Scramble and Margo had gone to roost on top of their house, instead of inside on their perches. They had escaped the confines of the run, then been unable to figure out how to get back in at bed time. Omelet was safely asleep inside like a good hen.

They looked so forlorn, squashed up together, trying to get as close to their normal roosting spot as possible. When chickens are roosting it's really easy to pick them up, so we had no trouble lifting them down and putting them safely inside. The punishment for escapeeism is the loss of their large ranging enclosure until Saturday and we can discover where the defences were breached. Until then they will just have to make do in the smaller caged run. Naughty girls.


Every so often I go through a phase of having really bad nightmares. I wake up screaming blood curdling screams, or trying to drag Nick out of bed because I think something is trying to kill him.

Last night I dreamt that my teeth were falling out one by one over the course of a day, and I couldn’t close my mouth properly, and it really hurt. I had to walk up loads of never ending steep hills of terraced houses to find a dentist but it was a Sunday so no-one could help me. It was awful.

On tuesday night Nick was away in London, so when I was sleepwalking there was no-one to put me back in bed. Somehow I had managed to move our heavy oak bed across the room. God knows how – I couldn’t do it if I was awake. I vaguely remember thinking that I had to move the bed away from the wall because beetles were eating the floorboards, and would cause the floor to collapse and/or they would crawl all over me while I was asleep.

As with all dreams they seem so real at the time, and even when I wake up it takes a minute or two to realise that it’s all ok, I still have a full set of teeth in my head, and no oversized creepy crawlies have munched my arms off. Still, it sets me up badly for the rest of the day, and I carry the uneasy feeling for hours after waking.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Caveat Emptor

There is a legal term which is applied to all house sales in England called ‘Caveat Emptor’ This means ‘Let the buyer beware’ In other words, once you have handed over your cash you are stuck with any defects that might come to light in your new house.

In Scotland however, the buyer has 7 days to notify the seller of any defects and arrange for them to be fixed. Having only ever sold houses in England before* I didn’t know this, so it was a bit of a surprise when I got a letter through the post with a list of defects from our old house. Once I started to read the defects I realised that I need not get stressed. Here are the best ones:

The grill pan handle is missing.
The lid to the toilet cistern is stuck
There is an area of rough plaster on the living room wall that was concealed by the sofa during the initial viewing.
There are some wall plugs remaining in some of the walls.
They cannot find the heating thermostat.

I have offered the buyers £50 so they can buy a new grill pan handle, a tub of Polyfiller and call out a plumber to lift the cistern lid. Unfortunately I can’t supply the buyers with what they really need: Some common sense and a life.

* Thank god for Caveat Emptor when it came to selling our two houses in Sheffield. There were more defects in those houses that you could shake a stick at, not least the huge leak in the kitchen that brought all the paint off the walls just after we agreed the price with the buyer, and the cellar in the other house that filled up with water when it rained.

Monday, September 24, 2007


Which of these DFS sofas did we buy this weekend? a, b, c, d, or e?

A plus for Customer service

I usually use this blog as a forum to vent my anger at the sheer fuckwittage that seems to follow me around. (see here, and here, and here oh, and here)

But I am pleased to say that, for once, I have had a weekend of rather organised, helpful and pleasant customer service.

1) B&Q warehouse, Strathkelvin.
They have a dedicated person in each section who (and hold on to your hats here) actually seem to be knowledgeable about the items they are selling. They also seem to be above the age of 20. Anyone who has ever tried to squeeze DIY information out of a spotty 17 year old, whose sum total of knowledge is what he can read off the back of the tin, will know that to meet a 50 year old bloke in the plumbing section who can lead you to exactly the right connection in seconds is an absolute god send.

2) Currys, Bishopbriggs.
On our trip to buy a washing machine we were impressed that, once again, the staff at Currys were not just students who don’t give a toss, but friendly, informed and motivated staff, who took real care to help us find the right washing machine. The after sales care was also good. Granted, the delivery people cocked it all up when they dropped our machine at the depot and missed the delivery slot, (fuckwittage) but the shop staff ensured we had a replacement immediately.

3) DFS, Glasgow
Now look, I know what you are thinking: How is it that a girl with such impeccable taste in interior design, and frankly a snobbish attitude to mass produced ‘fashion’ furniture aimed at the proletariat, ends up buying her sofa from DFS. (Ooooh those adverts. I can’t abide them.)

Well, to be honest, after scrutinising the current sofa market, and our current bank balance, we went for the cheap option. We looked round DFS and out of over 120 different styles on offer, 119 of them were, as I suspected, absolutely hideous. 1 of them though was simple, unpretentious, and supremely comfortable. We bought it. The salesman was friendly, un-pushy, well-informed, and we should have our new sofas in 5 weeks.

I admit it - I do feel slightly dirty. I have abandoned my principles for the sake of a few quid. But at the end of the day when the sofa I had dreamed of cost £2500, and we have ended up with a 4 seater, a 2 seater and an arm chair for much less than that, then I am prepared to look the other way just this once.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Nose whistlers should be segregated

The concert last night was fantastic. I found I was grinning my head off during the first movement of The Plants, Mars the bringer of war. It’s such a great piece of music and hearing it live and with such a huge orchestra belting out was just mind blowing.

The only down side was the man sitting behind me had a really squeaky nose. Once I had noticed I couldn’t un-notice, and found myself leaning forwards in my seat to try and escape the high pitched noise. It’s so irritating, in the same way snoring is irritating if you are trying to go to sleep. There is a brief 2 seconds of relief while they breathe in. - and then there it is again, like nails down a black board.

There is something fundamentally wrong about being forced to listen to someone’s breath whistling past their dried up old snot. He should have been escorted from the premises and forcibly ejected onto the street, closely followed by a roll of bog paper and some Vicks.

10 mins later...
I’ve just researched this phenomenon on the web it would seem it’s a serious medical problem for many people cause by a deviated nasal septum. Whilst I sympathise with such Unfortunates, I still think they should be forced to confess their disability when purchasing tickets for musical or theatrical evens, or attempting to enter a library or other quiet public space.

Electronic tags should be introduced, a sort of modern-day leprosy bell, if you will, and based on the ankle tag technology currently fixed to inmates on early release. Alarms would be triggered if a whistling nosed tag wearer enters the concert venue. Staff members could then escort them to a specially constructed booth where they could sit and enjoy the concert with as much accompanying whistling as they liked.

(Nick’s nose never whistles, scrupulously and beautifully devoid of bogeys as it is. I have to say that I am now concerned that he may bring on a premature case of deviated nasal septum precipitated by his meticulous nostril maintenance programme.)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

At last - some real glamour!

The title of my blog reflects that fact that, despite having a job most people would think interesting and rewarding, and being married to a handsome BBC Big Wig, and all the other wonderful people and things around me, my life is really rather mundane and unglamourous.

Well, at last the Glamometer is set to rise sharply. Nick is taking me to the live broadcast of The Planets, by Holst, which will be shown on BBC 2 tonight. (I think only in Scotland though)

Apparently we will be sitting next to the Chairman of the BBC Trust and just down the row from the Director General. I hope I get some time to put on some lippy.

Glamometer rating: 9.2

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

'Quick but shoddy' back in business

Long standing readers will remember our last bout of frantic house renovations, and the creation of the QBS brand. Well, the 'Quick but Shoddy' team is back in business, and had thier first proper job last night.

Enthusiasically I donned my old jeans and set about trying to lag the hot water tank. Much more easily said than done. The instructions showed a lovely clean, accessible tank, sitting by itself in a well-lit loft. My tank is wedged in the corner if a tiny triangular eaves space that’s criss-crossed with pipes, filthy dirty, and in the pitch dark.

Undaunted I squeezed my torso into the space, trying not to impale my head on the nails sticking through from the slates. From this uncomfortable position I was able to reach the front half of the tank. I wedged a torch in between some bits of roof structure and cursed Nick for going out.

Instruction 1
Arrange the 4 insulation panels evenly around the tank.

Reality 1
Holding the top of the first panel, throw it over the tank and hope it doesn’t snag on anything. Reach as far as you can and attempt to pull down the panel, feeling your way through the dark and grime. Give up. Note that, if you ever have children in the future, you can send them in to finish the job.
Wedge the second panel as best as you can between the tank and the wall. Drape the third and fourth panel neatly as these are the ones you can kind of reach.

Instruction 2
Using the chord provided, tie the 4 panels together through the eyelets, pulling them tightly.

Reality 2
Drop the chord provided down the back of the tank. Find shoe lace. Tie panels using granny knot.

Instruction 3
After ensuring there are no gaps between the panels, use the tapes provided to secure the panels to the tank. Space the tapes evenly down the tank and tie securely.

Reality 3
Due to the tank being wedged against the wall using the tapes to wrap around the circumference of the tank will be difficult, nay impossible. Persevere until you get one of the tapes around the top section of the tank. Resort to using parcel tape to stick the panels to each other. A useful technique to employ for this task is peeling back an inch of tape, then launching yourself at the tank, arms outstretched, hoping that you can reach the edge of the back panel that you can’t see. Shut the access hatch to the eaves. Have shower to remove black 100 year old dirt. Job done.

I should write a book based on my vast knowledge and skill.

Glamometer rating: 0.4

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Caption competition

Given my recent piano fiasco, I thought this was a good image of the cat and the piano for you demonstrate your witty side.

piano pics

As promised, here are some snaps of our new (but very old) piano. 2 of the ivory keys have come unstuck but otherwise it really is a beautiful thing.

I'm really looking forward to the family coming for Christmas so Grace can do her thing with the carols. For years my parents have had a Christmas party where my youngest sister (last seen pictured on this blog wearing a wet suit indoors) plays the piano while everyone raucously sings carols. She starts off well, and gets better and better as my special mulled wine* kicks in and she plays with more abandon. 3 years ago, just after my sister qualified as a music teacher, the head of music from a local school was at the party and heard her play the piano. On the strength of her drunken playing she was invited for an interview and eventually got the job!

My special 'mulled wine' is only created once a year and is a bit of a family tradition. Since the weather has turned cold today, here is the recipe to get you feeling all cosy:

Heave down Granny's huge copper jam pan.
Get an orange and stick in loads of cloves into the skin so it look like sputnick. (My architectural training will not let me do this randomly. I have to arrange the cloves in perfectly even concentric circles or it just feels wrong.)
Slosh a box of red wine over the sputnik orange.
slosh in a box or 2 of orange juice.
Add a small bottle of brandy.
tip in a load of sugar.
chop up any fruit you have lying about. Oranges and apples are best.
Raid your spice cupboard. Find the most out of date bottles you have and sprinkle liberally into mixture. The best ones to go for are cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, ginger, that kind of thing.
Pull everything out of your booze cupboard. Decide what you haven't touched in the last 12 months and glug in as much as you think you dare. In that past we have used up dodgy melon liqueur, half empty bottles of rum, and dregs of whiskey. Most famously this is when we use up our stash of 'Romanian Gut Rot'. This a quince based spirit distilled by the parents of my Romanian Brother in law. They always bring us bottles every time they visit. It is soooo strong and frankly undrinkable in any other circumstance, but adds a real something to my 'mulled wine'
To finish it off bung in some white wine, and then top off with more red wine to fill up the jam pan.
Put on a low heat and leave it to warm through for an hour or so.
Serve with a nice ladle into wine glasses.
Promise your guests it's not that alcoholic, and anyway, most of the alcohol will have evaporated off. Here, have another...

The house will fill with the most fabulous aromas that for me is the ultimate Christmas smell.

Monday, September 17, 2007

WD-40 fact

Here is something I never knew before.

WD-40 stands for Water Displacement, 40th attempt. The name came straight from the lab book used by the chemist who developed WD-40 in 1953. The chemist, Norm Larsen, was attempting to concoct a formula to prevent corrosion - a task which is done by displacing water. Norm's persistence paid off when he perfected the formula on his 40th try.

Well I never did.

new house

We made it. We are now the proud owners of a gorgeous Victorian stone house with bay windows, roses round the door, a distinct smell of cat wee and a very leaky roof.

Not that the ingress of water had damped our spirits - oh no! We have spent the whole weekend wandering from room to room with silly grins on our faces, and wondering aloud where we are going to get enough furniture to fill it.

We knew we had moved to a 'nice' street when a jar of homemade jam appeared on our doorstep with a welcome card, and yesterday we were invited across the road for a glass of wine. Oh how civilised. Not sure what they made of me. Naturally everyone is impressed by Nick - he only has to mention the 3 magic letters BBC and everyone fawns at his feet hoping he can get them on the telly.

The chickens seem vaguely confused at the new surroundings but egg production has been unaffected. In fact Scramble laid an egg while she was in the removal lorry!

We had a little to-do with the piano. When we originally looked round the house, the owners said they probably didn't have room for it in their new bungalow, and we expressed an interest in keeping it. We told the agent this and nothing more was said. When we walked in on Friday there was the piano - sitting in glorious isolation in the dining room. We were thrilled, and Nick spent a happy hour on Friday night reacquainting his fingers with his favourite tunes. I even recognised some Pink Floyd creeping in amongst the Beethoven.

Then, on Saturday morning, as we were unpacking, the door bell rang and a man and a little girl were standing on the door step. 'Hello,' he said, 'we are here to collect the piano.' Well, we were a bit aghast, confused and disappointed. We had no idea what was going on, who this man was, or why he had any claim on the piano. We sent him away saying we would contact the agent to find out more.

During the next few hours we got more and more adamant that we were damned if any old stranger was going to turn up at our house and lay claim to it's contents! What would be next? 'Hello, I've come to collect your light fittings.' 'Hi, I'm here for the Sanitaryware.' Oh no you don't! The previous day we had handed over our life savings, and been given the house key. This was our house, and this was most definitely OUR piano! On the other hand we really didn't want to become the neighbourhood bad guys who deprived a little 6 year old girl of her promised piano, so we waited to hear back from the agent.

2 hours later another couple from the street came round to sort out the piano kerfuffle. They explained that the previous owner thought we didn't want it, and had been desperately trying to find a new home for it. The neighbour explained she had rung round and found this family who would take it, the girl was really excited, and would we mind if they came for it, after all it wasn't a very good piano and we should buy a new one really etc etc.

We nearly capitulated, but a stubborn streak in both of us kicked in and we said we would prefer to speak directly to the previous owner. They went off promising to get her to phone us. An hour later the man and his daughter came back. He gave us his number and looked expectantly at Nick. I don't know how he was planning to move a piano with only a 4x4 and a 6 year-old girl to help him. Maybe he was planning to wheel it down the road! That would have been the death of it - it's a very old thing and not in great shape or tune.

Nick ended the encounter swiftly and we awaited the phone call. It was weird. If we had arrived and the piano had already been taken we would have been none the wiser. But because it was sitting there looking so glorious (it really is a beautiful thing) and we had been so happy to think we owned it, we really couldn't bear to see it dragged off to a life of chopsticks down the road.

The previous owner phoned and told us straight away that she wanted us to have it. No question. She said it was sad the girl would be disappointed, but she wanted her Grandmother's piano to stay in the house, and that because we were musical people she wanted us to enjoy it. She is even bringing us her grandmother's piano stool back! It turns out she didn't even know the people who were going to take it; she just wanted to make sure it didn't get put in a skip. The neighbour had organised the finding of a new home for it, which accounted for her keenness for us to give the piano up and save her face.

So the result is we have got ourselves a piano! I will take a snap tomorrow to show you.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Rachel's Moving and packing guide

There are loads of packing guides available on the web to help you plan your house move and ensure all goes smoothly on the day. Lets be frank, unless you are totally anally retentive then forget those guides - all you need is

Rachel's Moving and packing guide
The average person countdown to moving day!

2 weeks before:
Find your good intentions. You will need these for about 10 days, at which point you will throw them out of the window. Use your good intentions to do the following:
Get packing boxes, tape, bubble wrap etc,

1 week before:
Carefully decide how you are going proceed. Begin by meticulously packing your belongings in to boxes, ensuring that heavy items are put into small boxes to safeguard the health and safety of your removal men. Ruthlessly throw away any accumulated clutter. Have a jolly good sort out of your underwear drawer, airing cupboard etc, and make a charity shop box.

4 days before:
Try not to let panic set in. Don't bother being so meticulous in the packing - the removal men will just have to work that bit harder! Besides, as long as it come out at the other end in one piece does it really matter if a box labeled 'living room' also contains half empty boxes of breakfast cereal?

2 days to go:
Oh sod it, just bung stuff in boxes. Tip: Tea towels make excellent make shift bubble wrap if you run out of the real stuff. Stealing shopping baskets from Tesco IS an option if you get desperate for sturdy containers for the contents of your booze cupboard.

1 day to go:
Empty the contents of drawers into carrier bags and shove them under the seats in the car. Packed your hairdryer by mistake? Don't worry, the bed head look suits you. If it's dark then the neighbours can't see you filling up their wheelie bin with your rubbish, and anyway, even if they do see you you're moving tomorrow so what do you care?

Night before:
Shut chickens in coop and undertake emergency alterations to the run to make sure it fits together properly at new house. Make sure chickens have food, water and a box for the journey. Speak gently to chickens to warn them about what is about to happen as they get easily stressed and may die from the move. This nearly happened last time we moved Scramble 1. Try to disguise huge mountain of chicken poo from new house owners with the clever use of bark chippings (This advice only applies if you own chickens)

I can't tell you any more because as I write I am still at the '1 day to go' stage. This time tomorrow I will be rattling around my lovely new house! Lets hope the chickens make it without karking it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Slatted Shelves

I have seen a huge increase in the amount of Polish guys on our building sites in the past 5 years, and on the whole things work out OK. We have the odd difficulty in communicating, but they work really fast in comparison to most British builders who always seem to be sitting in the van, drinking tea and ‘reading’ the Sun whenever I turn up for my site visits.

The language gap is the biggest obstacle, as demonstrated by this morning’s site visit. Our drawings show an airing cupboard, and a note saying ‘Fit timber slatted shelves’. We discovered today that the well meaning and hard working Poles had carefully installed a cupboard full of slanting shelves. Very nicely built, but not much use for storing your laundry.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Taken a fall or just fallen over?

My 72 year old Mother-in-law took a fall a while back. Being 72 the relatively minor trip resulted in major damage to her tendon, so I would say this definitely constitutes 'A Fall'. On the other hand our secretarial temp apparently took A Fall at the weekend and will be off work for a week and a half.

I'm at risk of seeming callous and unfeeling here, but I really don't think a 26 year old girl can take A Fall. Surely she just fell over and now can't be arsed to work for a temping agency in a company she has no loyalty to or interest in whatsoever.

So, in the interests of fairness, here are the criteria that you must fulfill if you are to ever have A Fall.

1) Be over the age of 65, or
2) Weigh over 20 stone, or
3) Have some physical disability or mobility problem
4) All of the above

If you don't meet this stringent criteria then you just fell over. Brush yourself down, rub the painful area briskly, and get on with it. Don't forget, bruises make an interesting topic of conversation to entertain your colleauges with at coffee time.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

more packing musings

1) The day after I spend £50 on cardboard packing box products, the pub across the road from my office places a huge stack of empty boxes on the pavement for the bin man to take away.

2) Maggie the cat is highly confused at the packing going on, but has taken full advantage by hiding behind stackes of boxes so that I can't reach her to put her out. She may look stupid but she's actually not.

Well, alright she is. She spent 20 mins last night 'hunting' something invisible under the TV.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Accumulated junk and teddy bears

I'm up to my eye balls in bubble wrap and packing boxes this week. Here are my thoughts:

1) Accumulation of Stuff

We only moved into our current house 2 years ago. At that point we dumped loads of Stuff, some of which seemed a real wrench at the time. I can't even remember what we threw away, so it can't have been that crucial. Looking round me at the mountains of possessions that have accumulated in the mean time I am stunned at our ability to increase our worldly possessions and shudder to think of the financial cost of it all.

2) Tendency to hoard, but never to use.

Last night we emptied the loft. Stacks of boxes containing VITAL possessions (which were packed, put in the loft, and never unpacked,) will get transferred straight into the new loft next week. There they will remain until we die and our grieving kids will wonder why Dad held onto all these old bits of computers and cables that he never used and were obsolete even in his day.

(To give him his due, Nick did poke through some of the 'VITAL but never unpacked' boxes last night and had a bit of a cull. I kept hearing wounded groaning noises as he finally committed 10 year old mother boards to the wheelie bin, but the volume of Nick's VITAL Stuff does not seem to have diminished much)

It's not just Nick that hoards old and useless stuff that no-one would notice if it went mysteriously missing - I am just as bad with crafty stuff and half finished bottles of cosmetics.

3) Sentimental attachments to odd objects

This I don't mind so much, especially when it's my sentimental attachments. However I find it hard to understand Nick's sentimental attachment to his stuffed South Park toys, which is why I managed to sneak those into the charity shop pile last night. To make up for the deception and to provide a diversion to my underhand actions, I lovingly hand-washed Nick's childhood teddy bear that I found squashed in a crate in the loft, blew-dry him so his fur was all fluffy again, and sewed up his severed arm. I think that's a fair deal.

Monday, September 03, 2007


I read somewhere this weekend that 2500 left-handed people are killed each year as a result of using things designed for right-handed people. Amazing.

My middle sister is left handed and once got a catalogue of things designed especially for left handers. Obviously it included things like scissors and potato peelers, but also odd stuff like rulers where the numbers start at the right hand side and go backwards, and upside down guitars.

You can even get left-handed scythes; very handy if your career aspirations include taking over from Death when he retires. Judging by the yearly death toll, it would seem that Death is indeed concerned about being usurped by scythe wielding lefties, and it taking them out as fast as he can.

My Gran was left handed but it wasn't the done thing when she was growing up. At school she was forced to write with her right hand, and as a result had really bad handwriting which ever hand she tried to use in later life. I can't imagine how awful it must feel to be forced to use your 'wrong' hand. I don't know what the reasoning behind it was - was it superstition or religious? Did the devil lurk in my left-handed Grandma? If anyone knows the reasons for this bizarre prejudice, leave me a comment.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

More diving

This summer we went to Ireland to stay on the Dingle peninsular, followed by a short visit to my brother in law, who lives in Waterford.

Dingle is a very nice little place, with hundrerds of pubs and lots of rain. The scenery is beautiful, but everytime we set out for a walk we ended up drenched.

Naturally, wherever there is water there are divers, so we booked a days diving with the Dingle diving centre. We had a fab day with some really nice people, but one day was probably enough. It was absolutely freezing. Nick suffered more than me because in his vanity decided not to wear a hood. Plus I have that lovely layer of female flab that I noramlly despise but on this occasion was rather thankful for!

The first dive was slighlty dull; lots of kelp, some lobsters and not much else. The second dive however was a spectacular cave dive, and I've never seen so many star fish copulating in one place. Incredible.

My two sisters were persuaded to do a try dive, which they enjoyed, but also got very cold. Grace, bless her, tried on all my diving kit the night before in the holiday cottage. She wanted to eat her tea like this. (Warning: this woman may be teaching your kids.)
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