A happy week.

Last weekend should have been Miniatura, which is always a happy week.  It lifts me, cheers me, gets me out among those I regard as blessed, being the folk who miniaturise the world and all their troubles.  But it did not occur.

However, that saying about doors and windows – when one shuts another opens – turned out to be wonderfully true.

Early in the week a lady stopped by to ask if I would like a lot of books for the community library, as she was clearing out the loft.  I accepted with alacrity and two big bags full of books arrived on the drive.  The next day the OH was out in the garden when another lady stopped by with exactly the same question and result.

I took myself off to the local hardware shop, where I found a lovely metal three tier trolley, perfect for the books. It was so desirable that the one in the shop had been thoughtfully glued to the wall.  Taking my queue from this, and the theft of the first metal table, I requested assistance from the OH who helpfully sunk a huge metal ring into the drive, and with the addition of a padlock and chain there is now a modern take on a mediaeval chained library on the drive. It really looks the biz, there is still room for a plastic table with big books and children’s books behind it and I now have enough books to rotate the display and probably keep us all going through the next lockdown and beyond.

I went off to the opticians for drops in my eye so the optometrist could look at the back of my eye.  The eye that suffered the blow, which was my good eye, has responded by very quickly growing a type of cataract and I am now borderline for driving and have been referred for cataract surgery to save my sight.

I came home trying to console myself, reminding myself that at other times in history and in other locations on the globe, I would just lose my sight and to be glad that I have enough inherited money left over to have the surgery privately.  I did know I was struggling to see, so do you, if you’ve noticed the typos.  On a bad day I squint to see the words on the screen.

But as I came back, weighed down with dark words, determined to stay positive and grateful, it suddenly got a lot easier.  For lo! A big cardboard box of crafting things as a thank you from Hochanda for the lengthy birthday card, was waiting in the porch.  I was thrilled, absolutely thrilled.  They really didn’t have to do that, because I didn’t win.  There are stamps in the box, dies, paint pens, enough card to make all of my Christmas cards, bottles of glue, ink pads and some lovely little glass rectangles, which you are supposed to put in memory albums but which look like real dolls’ house glass windows to me.

The box was huge and so was my delight.

I instantly used the black paint pen on the frieze, of which more next time.  I shall use every single thing, and the box.

Such a pleasure, a box full of lovely things just for me.

I have put so much into giving things to other people since March.  At least once a fortnight I go off to the post office with a parcel, to lift spirits and keep the people round me and at a distance going, it was an amazement to find something coming in the other direction.

Bad things happen and good things happen.

Sometimes in the same week.

But to bring the good things into sharper focus all I have to do this week is put my head in a box.

Magic!

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A poem.

In the course of the tidying up, which, as courses go, has lasted a year, I discovered a poem I wrote on the back of an envelope, the inside and three sheets of telephone message paper.   I remember writing it and have searched the website for where I have put it, without success.  Quite a lot of stuff gets put in the wrong place – there’s a lot of Dementia diaries in Uncategorised, such as Sayings, which were reported verbatim from my mother.  The second lot of Sayings ended up in The Parrot Has Landed, because they were quite hilarious.

I cannot find this anywhere, except, of course, here.

The haberdashery continuum.

My Great Uncle, Mr. Scroate
Lost a button from his coat.

It dropped off down the nearest drain
He could not fish it out again.

It floated down the sewer and then
Joined more sewers in a giant drain.

One giant drain, then two, then three,
The button floated out to sea.

Being made of bone it did not sink
But floated onwards through the drink.

I bet you bet a million quid
That it was eaten by a squid.

Or bravely saved by clever Flipper
And you’d be wrong; it was a kipper

Unkippered yet, a fishy glutton
It nearly choked upon the button.

He swallowed it, he thought he should
The calcium would do him good.

But though he got it past his jowl
It caused a blockage in his bowel.

His gasses trapped, a dreadful fate,
The poor thing started to inflate.

He rose, and having reached the top,
Exploded with a nasty pop.

Expelled from one fate to another
The button struck a passing plover.

Who caught it, like a circus trick.
She swallowed it; it made her sick.

It made her cough, it made her frown
She struggled hard to keep it down.

Her powers of flight were sorely tested
She held her beak till she’d digested.

Thus knackered, looking for a rest
She made a landing on her nest.

And there she stayed till well past tea
Not even getting out to wee.

She yawned and preened and stretched her leg
And finally she laid an egg.

I know you think the egg contains
A chick with button bone for brains.

But that’s not so because the plover
Was sterile, as she had no lover.

But needing one without delay
She left the nest and flew away.

And thus it was two horrid boys
Could steal the egg to swap for toys

At break in school, and so they did.
The egg then rested with a kid

Elijah Scroate, who has a dozen
Eggs, or more, he is my cousin.

One day he chanced to show them to
The very same great uncle, who

Had lost the button.  So rheumatic,
When passed the egg he dropped and cracked it.

And thus the button was recovered
Drained, and sewered, and fished, and plovered.

Devout religious students know
Because the good book tells them so

That bread, if cast upon the waters
Brings loaves to feed your sons and daughters.

You’ll note this self-same text refrains
From telling you with might and main
To chuck your button down a drain.
And why? Because, as is quite plain,
You simply get it back again.

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It’s litritchure, what we do here, litritchure.


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Fame at last.

The long birthday card

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got on television!

It was on Hochanda’s birthday round-up show at 5 o’clock on September 2nd.  You can see it by going to www.Hochanda.com clicking on Rewind, then, on the next screen, on recent, then scrolling back via the right hand arrow to 5th Birthday round-up and there it is.

It got a bit lost in my life, however, because, in the normal way, so much was going on.

I had a day of intestinal trouble again because I ate one mushroom by mistake and then couldn’t get out of the bathroom.  I emerged in time to open a parking fine.

I had leant my car to the OH to take our neighbour to the airport.

My neighbour had only asked to be taken to the train but I could tell there was a time constriction.  The OH offered to go to the airport far away, which was near the location to which he commuted every working day for fifteen years, which left the neighbour, who is a doctor, an extra hour for patients at the hospital.

Off they went but apparently, entering the car park at the other end, the doc’s phone hadn’t registered on the payment screen.  Happily he had done a screen capture.  Happily the OH can email him in Russia, where he is now able to go for his Mum’s 80th birthday, which he missed because of lockdown.  So the OH has all the evidence and is now writing a letter to the car park people.

I have no idea if this is a case of oh!  Technology!  or oh! Why do bad things happen to good people?  or oh! why has my poor little car got a bad mark against it when I have just spent a vast amount on a service and wasn’t even in it at the time.  Or maybe just …….oh!

And the lift, which I was so happy to have, had a whole day of lift engineers, after half a day of engineer who had to shoot off to someone trapped, because it isn’t working.  (That’s two in a day, was this such a good idea?  I won’t know until I’m too decrepit to climb upstairs.)

And someone sent the same parcel twice, which I didn’t realise until I had destroyed the delivery note and the packaging.  I always used to keep these.  I have delivery notes going back 20 years for QVC the shopping channel, in a folder in the loft.  (Is this normal?)  Thinking it was probably not normal I have just begun destroying delivery notes.  Third one chucked and for lo!  I need it to return the goods.  I printed the order out from my computer, which ran out of toner subsequently. Does this represent a change of luck?  It could have run out of toner before it printed it, leaving me with nothing to enclose in the parcel (because I had cleverly just destroyed it.)  But no, the printer printed it three times, lucky me.  One to send, one to keep, one spare and then I rummaged around in the printer queue and stopped the other six.  It would have been a lot simpler to have kept the original delivery note, which now, obviously, I shall do for the next twenty years.

All of which answers the question you have always wanted to ask, namely – are famous people who have been on television, happier people with more organised lives than the rest of us?*

Except that, of course, I haven’t been on television, just my bit of card.

But it was on telly.

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*Not if it’s me, dear.

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The long happy birthday.

I do enjoy a shopping channel, most of all a craft shopping channel.  What a good invention!

I am currently enjoying Hochanda, which stands for Home Of Crafts Hobbies and Arts.  It announced its fifth birthday and a competition to make a birthday card.  As I was supposed to be designing the frieze and was stuck I didn’t need inviting twice.  Just as soon as I had finished the moving house card I was doing for a friend.

Having then only three days to do it before the deadline, I naturally planned to make a card five and a half feet long by six inches tall.

I thought I had gone past the days where I worked myself into exhaustion, but apparently not.  I worked until my eyes stopped working, which is not a thing I have experienced before.  Sunday morning, after a few hours sleep, I simply couldn’t see. Roll on the cataract operations, this is very frustrating.

Finally finished and photographed, yesterday afternoon, I took it up to the post office, where they carefully explained that there was no way it would go before tomorrow morning.  As the deadline is tomorrow afternoon I have failed miserably.

But I still enjoyed doing it.

Here it is.

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I have photographed it at the top of the stairs, which was the only place I could find to put it down, spread out. 

Here’s a closer look

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Hochanda studios are, like most television studios designed for the cameras.  They are a row of sets, like room boxes.  They are ranged on either side of a long hall with a huge area in the middle for the cameras, their electric cables and assorted technical bits and pieces.  Each set is a box simulating a room and a table in front for the wares they are purveying to be displayed and the demonstrators to stand or sit behind and do the demonstrations that make us, the shoppers, want to buy stuff and have a go.

So that is what I have tried to reproduce in cardboard, for what is after all, a birthday card.

I started by measuring my available card. I had some kicking around that was six inches by sixteen. which, scored, would give me two back walls of six inches, two return walls of two inches and two left over to bend behind and glue to create an endless run of however many studios I wished to make.

I consulted the presenter details on the web site.  Ten presenters were mentioned, so I made ten six inch square zig zags, all joined together.  I didn’t realise until the entire length and the counters were all constructed, fastened and decorated that there are, in fact eleven presenters.

I cut a six inch square to decorate for the back of each studio, based on the actual studios, as on television.

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The tables in each studio are supported by white wood trestles.  I cut the tables twice the height, bent them in half and drew and cut the trestles on the bottom.  As the birthday theme was the Wizard of Oz I embossed gold card to a brick pattern and glued a strip to each table top to reinforce the structure..  The backs were drawn and decorated with alcohol marker pens, cut embellishments, such as windows and so on.  The return of each table has a cupboard with silly things drawn on it, such as presenter props, comfy slippers and so on.  I am quite proud of the cage with Matthew Palmer’s bearded chough in it.  Some of the cupboards have cardboard doors.

The presenters are drawn with a matching shape glued to the waist, then bent out so they will stand.

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There is a space behind every counter for a presenter.

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I enjoyed doing them all, especially Leonie Pujol.  Leonie, who has a show twice every Wednesday, called Let Leonie Loose, has practically lived at the studios since the start of lockdown.  It has been her endless cheerfulness that has helped me to keep going through lockdown.  I have been trying to support elderly friends by telephone; when it got me down it was Leonie was pulled me back up.  Needless to say, if you are the arty type, who inhabits the same studio for several months without having to tidy up, you eventually get to inhabit a creative space with about six square inches left to work on.  Just like the rest of us.

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I loved every minute of doing this, even though I know it is sitting under the post office counter and will go nowhere until tomorrow and not be in time to enter the competition. 

As you know I have spent the last year redoing my house.  As you can see, I am still waiting for carpets.  Time off to do something for a lark has been a bit of a holiday.

It will probably arrive through the post mangled, mashed and late but. as all arty stuff, the joy is in the doing.

And I did enjoy the doing.

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Isobel’s lockdown house.


Many readers may, like me, have conceived the laudable ambition to fill the endless hours of lockdown stretching before us with a dolls’ house, emerging at the other end with an actual achievement.

Isobel Ridley managed it, using only materials she had to hand. She says she has mis-spent many years cutting up cardboard and there is a certain degree of wonkiness. (To those of us with years occupied assessing photographs of miniaturists cookie-cutter houses, all made from the same kit, the individuality is the goal that turns the hobby into art.)

Isobel 1

The base is 21cm by 25 cm and 28.5 cm to the top of the chimney. The exterior is similar to the Triang Mayflower 50 House (from the catalogue pages in Marion Osborne’s book but made into two storeys with the additions of the porch and extra shrubs.) The original Mayflower was backless, Isobel has cut away the roof to access the upstairs bedroom.

Isobel’s house was once a box holding packets of coffee. The walls are double thickness and the corners are reinforced with paper strips. The base is the back of a pad of cartridge paper, the floors and roof are cut from a shoebox, which was made of lovely thick card. Tiles were cut in strips from various packets, mostly biscuits. The inside walls were all lined, before painting with emulsion testing pots. The exterior walls were also papered before rendering with kitchen roll and wallpaper paste. The lattice work in the windows is cut paper, painted black and varnished. Isobel says it was a fiddly job, but she had a lot of time on her hands.

Chairs and the bedside table are cotton reels, the bed is from the shoe box, the table is a chess piece and a piece of wood. The masterpiece is the chest of drawers, made from a halved matchbox, with the halves stacked and re-glued.

Miss Peg was made by a friend and dressed by Isobel, the doll on the bed is by J. Laverick, dressed by Isobel.

Isobel 4

Curtains are scraps of fabric, the blanket is a place mat.  The shrubs are cardboard covered with paper and paste.

Triang made Mayflower houses for just a few years from 1928.

Isobel 2

Isobel is an inveterate collector and maker of houses.  She counted them and arrived at 31 but missed one and the two still in their boxes and isn’t including the shops or room boxes or the Mouse Village.  Her ambition was to represent the 20th century with a house for every decade.  She loves miniatures because the hobby includes woodwork, modelling, needlework and bodging things together from cardboard.  She has a house in each room except the study, her bedroom and the kitchen as she exercises restraint.  (If I had any restraint myself I could make a smart remark here.)

I first met Isobel when she was wearing a press badge, in her capacity as editor of much-loved magazine, Galatea, at Miniatura.  She has been a volunteer at Oxfam for over 20 years and is a keen local historian.

Very definitely One Of Us but the one who thought of making the lockdown dolls’ house and then actually did it.

Isobel 3

If the lockdown comes round again and you manage to make a mini from what you have to hand (or even get out one of the kits that is behind the settee and, you know, do it), let me know and be up here in the hall of fame because there is no one more inspiring than the person who takes a negative situation and turns it into a positive reality with hand and heart and brain.

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What is on your bookshelf?

During the lockdown, on the television news, pundits broadcasting from home found it very necessary to ensure the presence of a bookshelf in the background.  Some were high up, some were a bookcase, touching the floor, a couple were kitchen shelves with the junk removed and books put there instead, one was obviously in an attic where the poor dusty books lived.  What they all had in common was very neat shelves full of unloved books.

Over the ten years (eleven in September) that JaneLaverick.com has been going, the one characteristic that links every reader is being a reader.  If that sounds a bit zen, I refer to your habit, your hobby, your interest.  The interesting fact that many readers of this column appear to be absolutely fine with not going out raving, dancing or sightseeing, as you have emailed me to say, but the same readers would be lost, utterly, if some virus wiped the books out.

Unthinkable!

As a real reader, therefore, you are in a better position than the ‘trying to look intelligent’ brigade on the telly, to say what is on a frequently-used bookshelf.  Mine do have books on them, off them and overflowing generally. Wedged in, piled up, shoved in corners and flooding because the new bookcase in a house like yours or mine will be empty for less than a week and inadequate within a month.

Where is your current reading pile?  I usually have three.

In the cupboard beside the loo, on the floor beside the desk and (first and most important) beside the bed.  I seem to be incapable of getting up or going to bed without reading.  This is a lifetime (so far) condition.  My mother frequently used to tell her friends the entertaining story of how she used to shout upstairs that the school bus wouldn’t wait and then go upstairs to find me, sitting on the bed, in  underwear and one sock, reading a book. She thought it was funny, I thought it was normal.  The S&H was the same; in his bedroom his natural state was reading something either from a book or off a screen.

For you and me and the S&H reading is the same as breathing, really, got to do it.

Not for us the neat, fake, tallest on the left, shortest on the right, colour co-ordinated bookshelf.  The real bookshelf, or pile, I make no distinction, is as constantly evolving as a compost heap, for the same reason, it is the sustenance of life, it is where ideas get born.  Other life forms, attracted by the ideas wafting around, colonise the heap.  Pots of pencils, bookmarks, pieces of paper, lists, gloves (in the winter) numerous spectacles, sweets, biscuits, gadgets (reading related) devices such as electronic readers, plastic rulers, many tickets. advertising material, seed catalogues, pennies, cough drops, pots full of brushes, cameras, labels, sticky tape dispensers…………………

To name just a few.

What is on your bookcase?  What is the most unlikely item?

I ask out of interest because I am currently drawing and cutting the stencil to make the frieze round the top of the lounge wall. It will be a bookshelf, but not a neat, fake one.  I am making it on several sheets of paper A4, sideways, because that is the size of the RSJ supporting the ceiling between the dining room and the lounge.  The shelf will be edged with gold doilies, because I have a commercial stencil which almost exactly matches the medallion on the chosen carpet and I have seen bookshelves in a library of some stately home, which had lace edging.  Anyway, in theory I am nearly an old lady, so if I am having a bookshelf which is a witty social comment I should have an edging to match, I feel.

I have drawn and cut the first stencil, which is the simple one.  It has books upright, piled and a pencil pot.

Now I want to get interesting.  Today I plan to do a sleeping dragon.  A small one.  And some books.

Then what?

What is on your shelf or filling your bookcase as well as the books?  How many interesting things are hanging out of the pile?

I don’t for a moment believe you put them all there.  Once you collect books you are creating a force.  All that thinking, wedged in tight.  Those minds, jammed between the pages.

Collections of books are like thought magnets, they attract items of the subset of ‘aids to thinking’.  Could be anything from a piece of paper to a hat to keep your brain warm.

So, what is on your bookshelf?

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The zen of painting walls.

I am a day late posting because I have been painting.

The lounge will be white, for which I blame the OH and Charles Rennie Mackintosh, with a frieze, for which I blame me.

Previously we had apple white, which was done in the days of long ago, or about twenty years, when some genius in a paint factory, waved his mixing stick injudiciously and dripped a drop of green in the white and stirred it in, hoping no one would notice.  Then he went for tea break; on his return the hot girl from accounting was there with a chitty and the foreman was approaching, so he told them both he’d invented apple white which could be sold under the umbrella of white and also under the umbrella of shades of green, and he batted his eyelashes at the girl from accounts.  Twenty years later they are married with three children, the eldest has gone into the paint industry, though hasn’t produced anything that has earned everyone a ton of money yet.  It’s not his fault, everyone keeps telling him he has large shoes to fill if he wishes to emulate his dad.  The second son has, inexplicably, at Uni, though currently on furlough, filled in every form that asks what he wants to do with a degree in social sciences as: anything but the paint industry.

I could just have made that up.

The third son, who is only fifteen, keeps changing the colour of his bedroom and has just discovered, after a whole wall, that a drip of red in the white makes pink, which he’s going to have to change if he wants to entice his potential girlfriend hither to watch him play a game on his Xbox.

After the first coat, which was matt white on apple green, a variation relatively easy to play spot the difference with, came white on white, all matt.  The OH, who had volunteered to roller the middles of the walls and ceiling, and, as it turned out, the carpet, began to protest.  As the white went on the white, the reward diminished.  No one could stand back and say how much better that was, on account of it looking absolutely no different until it had dried, when the glaring errors marched before your vision like a battalion with their tongues out.  Of course you could have waited to see what would develop, but that would have been very similar to watching paint dry.

I, on the other hand, was enjoying it.

Of late, a term encompassing the past ten years or so, there has been much to worry about.  Yesterday would have been my father’s 101st birthday, had he not died in 2012.  The rot had already started creeping upwards a year earlier when I had played name the disease at the doctors and had been pointed in the direction of Al-Anon family groups.  Then there was five years of my mother, featuring the beginning of the broken arms.  Then the big broken arm, then the cancer, then the bungled surgery, then the ten trips to stay in hospital, do not pass go and throughout the OH getting worse, hence the flattened eyeball, what ever is he going to do next?

Oh yes, there has been an adequate sufficiency of stuff to worry about in the last decade.  I have a theory that those who do not worry, do not have an adequate grasp of the situation.

However, painting white on white, in comparison, is practically zen.  There is nothing whatsoever to worry about except getting the paint on there, with a dripless texture and an adequate coverage each coat and keeping the paintbrush clean and unrunny and there you go.  Backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards, angle the brush down the edges, get it on. Get it on, bang a gong.

Washing the brush out is satisfying too.  You just keep going until you could eat ice cream with it.  Easy.

I have always loved painting large flat surfaces.  Apparently I threw a fit at the age of three when my father would not let me join in with painting the garage door.  Yellow.  Perhaps they did not want a forerunner of the Simpsons as a daughter, who can say?  I am told I cried for days.

I could probably have been a painter and decorator with encouragement.

In a world gone bananas with infection, painting a large, flat surface is very comforting.

The task before you is incredibly simple.  All you have to do is cover the surface with paint.  If someone calls you can gesture to your painty self and say: I’m sorry I’m painting the wall.  They go away.  Simple.

The Forth Road Bridge, we are told, is a structure which is always being painted.  As soon as they get to one end the painters have to begin at the beginning again.  I hope they have continued during The Present Difficulties. Roped on the bridge, in the breeze, life will have continued as ever.  Alone with your thoughts, make sure there’s enough paint in the kettle, mind the step.  Very zen.

Having a wall to paint in a world gone mad is a great blessing.

Zen as owt.

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Going up the walls.

I have not much time to write because I am literally going up the walls.

Yes decorating beckons.  I try to remind myself that I am two rooms short of a house full, which isn’t exactly right, The kitchen has remained untouched because we did that about ten years ago and, not only was that quite enough then, thank you, I will have no money left to do it this time after the lounge and my bedroom, which are the last two left.

We went, the OH and I, up to the extreme north of the county to visit a fabric shop. I live in the county town which had a range of things nearby such as fabric shops but these have dwindled, as has the enthusiasm for participating in them. The current situation has not helped.

I visited the nearest large fabric shop in the next town last week, unaware that Hitler was alive an well and running a fabric shop.  To the queue, socially distanced on the pavement, orders were issued:  You!  Stand back!  A customer is leaving!

At a run, it transpired, when I was eventually allowed in, causing difficulty because I wished to go upstairs to the curtain fabrics and had to stand on the naughty step until the other customer had finished downstairs and left the building when the lady owner followed me round demonstrating all the things that were not what I wanted at first glance.  Her frustration at my inability to purchase despite my recklessly touching a fabric roll with my sanitised gloves was apparent in her address to the next customer.  As I left, the queue evaporated.

So it was after a phone call the OH and I trekked to a shop far away, offering many books of swatches to discover that the fabric alone, without lining, was likely to cost £500.

Blimey, I remember when that was the down payment on a house or an entire foreign holiday for several people with an all-you-can-eat buffet.

When the lounge is finished there is a strong likelihood that my bedroom, last on the list, will be decorated with hessian on the floor and crayon-your-own wallpaper.

So today it is finishing the prep for the lounge, which started with destroying the angels.

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Many years ago when we went to Pompeii, the frieze that the ancient Roman cowboy builders had in their very posh dining room, of cherubs making wine, impressed me so much I copied the Vetii and did some of my own round the top of the lounge walls.

But now they have to go, which entails scrubbing them with rubbing alcohol.

Here they go

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going..going

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gone

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I don’t expect many folk start decorating by rubbing off the angels.

According to Terry Pratchett you only get one angel.  According to me I had lots.

I am planning to have a bookshelf up there.  The OH doesn’t want another frieze.  He didn’t like the previous one, which was squirrels.  He believes you should buy one. printed, by a wallpaper company because they have proper artists.

See what I’m up against?*

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*The skirting board with sander, after I’ve been out to get some primer.  I might be the one person you know who never got bored in the lockdown, I never had the chance.

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Senior Super Quiz.

Wake up and welcome to Senior Super Quiz, the gameshow for anyone who can remember where they put the channel changer, or how to use it, or which channel we’re on – or when.

Question One, for half a damp biscuit.

Have you seen my glasses?

Question Two, for half a cup of tea containing a partially dissolved portion of biscuit and some swimming crumbs.

What is his name – my grandchild, the little one?

Question Three is for a sock with a soft welt that won’t make a dent in your leg.

What was the colour of that car we had after the war?  Was it blue or was it grey?

Question Four, for a pair of hearing aid batteries.

How do you find out if your prescription is ready if you haven’t got one of those phones?

Question Five, for an new elastic bandage that still has some stretch in it.

And about those phones, why does everyone keep looking at them and laughing, or no, really why does everyone just look at them all the time?

Question Six, for half a tube of embrocation.

What sort of gravy do you call this?  It isn’t brown, what’s the point of that?

Question Seven, for an orthotic insole.

Who does she think she is?

Question Eight for a visit to the chiropodist.

Have you got an aspirin?

Question Nine, for a nice early night.

Where are my glasses, have you seen them?

Question Ten, for an interesting book, with no swearing, in big print.

A first class stamp is how much?

Question Eleven for six months help vacuuming the stairs.

Can you give me a hand out of this chair?  It’s a bit low, I wouldn’t have sat on this one if I’d realised how low it is.

Question Twelve for comfy slippers in an acceptable colour.

What do you have to do to get a cup of tea round here?

Question Thirteen, for a nice sit down and a bit of cake.

Call that a pair of knickers?  It wouldn’t cover a midget and you’ll get a chill on your kidneys, mark my words.

Question Fourteen, for soup.

Do you know where my glasses could possibly be?

Question Fifteen, for a whole box of cotton wool.

What was the name of that feller on the telly? You know, not the little squitty one, the other one?

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The Madis touch.

I’m sure you’ve heard of King Midas, everything he touched turned to gold, a bit like Bill Gates.

It is a little known fact that he had a brother, Madis, (for the one lot of of school name labels, obviously: M.Poppodoppolopolous.) When he grasped the handle and lifted, the jug fell off.  When he loaded the bow the string broke and the arrow fell down and wedged between his toes.  When he collapsed in despair on the couch the springs went twang and the leg crumbled, chucking him into the Aegean in a dry-clean-only Chiton.

Today the OH had a Madis day and the lift engineer and I both belatedly discovered it was catching and joined in.

The new, expensive pine staircase is going to be varnished by the decorators and carpeted eventually.  Before we get to eventually, numerous tradesmen, all in filthy boots, have ascended and descended the unprotected wood until it no longer looks like something that cost a lot of money, it looks filthy, tatty and naff.  So I decided that, even though it will be invisible under carpet, that I would sand the treads and risers and varnish them today.

Accordingly I requested that the OH, who has been loud in his scorn of my use of the new platform lift, predicting loss of use of legs and worse, should utilise the lift hitherto mentioned. leaving me in peace to varnish the staircase.

So the OH got in the lift, which has worked perfectly for two months, pressed the button, and for lo!

Nothing happened.

Well we got in and out, pressed and didn’t, were surprised and not and every other combination of let’s make the lift work that you could imagine.

In the end it was decided that the OH should call the manufacturers whilst I got on with the staircase.

So we moved essential stuff downstairs, I sanded the stairs, got a coat of varnish on, which I assured the OH would be dry enough to walk on in two hours, no summoned tradesman ever having arrived earlier than two hours after the phone call, and we had lunch.

Half an hour later the lift engineer arrived and walked up the stairs, sticking at every step.

So the lift engineer got on with engineering the lift while the OH went outside to mow the lawn, breaking the lawn mover handle in the process.

The lift engineer said he was done, therefore I got in the lift as the lift engineer was shouldering his back pack and the lift didn’t work. 

So the engineer got on some more while I washed the footprints on the stairs, which were hardening.

Next I asked the OH to help me with the task which subsequently occupied me, which was scraping the sticky off the plastic window surrounds.

Some years ago when the S&H came home with two cats, Cleo thought it would be nice to sit on the outside window sill upstairs and I didn’t.  So I put Velcro round the window and attached a net.  The net is long gone but the sticky backing is left and can be removed a millimetre at a time with a fingernail but I couldn’t reach the top ones. So I asked the OH for assistance.

Being unable to access patience, because he has none, the OH brought upstairs a gallon bottle of solvent alcohol.  This, it turns out, was not ideal for removing sticky from the window but utterly perfect, when spilled, like a fountain, down every tread, for re-stickying the varnish on the stairs, which more people had walked up and down than had been traipsed since they were installed.

So now we had: a lift in bits, a sticky staircase, which everyone needed to use every five minutes and a broken lawnmower.

After three and a half hours the engineer gave up and left.

The dirt in no longer resting on the stair treads because it is permanently varnished into them and I have thrown the lawn mower handle in the bin.

If I get up at crack of dawn the new engineer will not arrive until the afternoon, if I lie in bed until eight he’ll be banging on the door exactly as I step out of the shower.  And I don’t want to get up early tomorrow because I have to get up early the following day to let the decorators in so they can pour scorn on the stairs and paint blobs on the corridor.

Oh why is nothing easy?*

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* It’s the Madis touch – poke, break, drop off and sticky sticky sticky every one of thirteen steps+

+So magically touchy, it even works with feet.

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