Tuesday, 30 June 2009

a smallish mistake

A very pleasant middle-aged muslim lady at the checkout in the supermarket today asked me if I was old enough to buy the bottle of wine I handed to her. I was wearing a strappy summery dress and my (light)make-up by then had probably run into non-existance. Perhaps the flowery dress and no make-up are pre-requisites for teens nowadays (though I doubt it, where's the goth make-up and piercings, mini-skirts and fishnets??!); or maybe this lady's (rather naive?) impression of what a sixteen year old should look like, squeezed unlikely me into fitting the bill?

I hesitated, thought she was quipping a joke. But, she insisted on ID. I showed her my driving licence: 1969 - "That's 40, rather than under 18!!", I declared, as if she couldn't read the date herself.

"Oh", she said, "how do you keep yourself so slim and young looking?!"...
("you need glasses, me dear!" I quietly thought, despite being rather flattered, under the being majorly perplexed...)

Thing is, I had my daughter with me, who's 3 but could pass for 4. Which worried me even more than the lady's mistake. I mean, what is society coming to, bla bla bla, for had she been correct I'd have been a Mum at about 14....I'm sorry but there I draw the line!

Monday, 29 June 2009

A lovely day...

Ahhhhhh.....today. Today was the kind of day every day should be.

One. No traffic on the school run. Hot weather. Sultry beginning.

Two. Brunch at Fortnum and Mason's in Piccadilly with a lovely old friend (Lovely. But not OLD!). Simply perfect melt-in-the-mouth salmon cakes. Melt-in-the-mouth-company. And a nice glass of chilled white. And chilled company. Gorgeous.

Three. After school pick-up, impromptu drop-in invite to a friend's. Nice chat. Nice food. Kids happy in the garden. I love impromptu.

Four. Another friend calls. She's waiting at MY home outside the front door! Jeepers! (Forgot I was so much in demand!) For once, have to make my excuses NOT to socialise (...feels good, though to have such a full social calendar that you're turning people down... Apologise effusively to clear my conscience).

Five. Interlude, off to another friend's to pick up my son. We sit, making elegant chat, the kids are in no hurry to stop the clank and clod of football outside. Nice glass of chilled white. Simply gorgeous. We talk men, handbags, romantic summer evenings stretching on unto eternity (or something like that). Anyway, it's good, we're gorgeous, we're chilled.... (Oh!..and we're in London, not Miami or Cannes!-shucks - but never mind!)

Six. Hop back to Friend number 1 with son. More food, good stuff, cold drinks, and chat. Nobody's in a hurry to get home. She gives me dinner to take home for Hubby (she had a party yesterday, Sunday, and fridge is full). Great: even better, no cooking tonight, relax!

Seven. ANOTHER friend calls me for drinks tonight. There will be more sitting outside, more good company, more nice white: Life's good, goddamn!

Eight. I get home....oh. Umm. It's a TIP. Where's my maid?....(Oh Shit. Forgot. I don't have one: back to reality!)

Nine... Never mind. Get the kids to bed, and I'm off out soon again. The weather's still breezing warm and comfy, a balmy evening: people to see, things to do, life is GOOD (capital G!)

...If only more days were like today.

P.S. Soundtrack:

When I wake up in the morning, love
And the sunlight hurts my eyes
And something strange without a warning, love
Bears heavy on my mind
Then I look at you
And the world is all right with me
Just one look at you
And I know it's gonna be
A lovely day…
…lovely day, lovely day, lovely day…
When the day that lies ahead of me
Seems impossible to face
When somebody else instead of me
Always seems to know the way
It’s gonna be a lovely day (it’s gonna be)
It’s gonna be today
It’s gonna be a lovely day
Today I love the world and I love you
It’s gonna be today
A lovely day today
It’s gonna be today
A lovely day today

Monday, 22 June 2009

The winds of war

My 5-year-old son is teaching himself all about the Second World War. Because of his obsession with Spitfires and planes, he's found the entry in the encyclopaedia (kids' one, designed to help with exams and so on, but probably not for those who turned five barely a month ago) and is now surmising the lot to me. He tell me who was against who, who the Allies were and who the 'baddies' were. It worries me that he calls the 'Germans' baddies. I correct him: "That was a long time ago, Sweetie." "OK then, the NAZIS.." he counters, defiant."Look,Mummy, here's a photograph of that horrible dictator Hitler in a truck with Mussolini. William [sic] Churchill was against them. He was English." Sometimes, having a very bright child is quite humbling.

My boy's reading to me the different fronts on which the fighting took place. I was sort of aware of Egypt being included, but that was it as far as I could remember. "Look, Mummy, my plane says 'Palestine' on the wing" he notes, again. I crook to make out the minute letters on the Spitfire model his Grandmother's recently given him. "Maybe that's where it fought", I answer, something I've just realised now. I'm pretty amazed at the way the conflict spread like a disease to areas originally unrelated: somehow I had never linked Pearl Harbour to Kristallnacht but in a way one opened up a can of worms, a global belligerent mentality, as it were, and eventually enabled the other. I never really took note at school, if I ever did learn this much about WW2. I don't remember, but I should have. Why wars happen and who took part, (and why again), are things all children should have drummed into them, with the horror and senselessness of it all. At least, that's MY ideal.

"They didn't fight in India", says my son, proudly (he has Indian blood). I concur, and again (for the umpteenth time this week) try to explain to him how bad wars are, but he can't help dramaticising and romanticising it all. I wonder if it's in the male genes, or just the excitement of planes. Maybe a bit of the former and a lot of the latter, so I let him be.

"My God", says my husband, come evening, as I show him a whole portfolio of drawings: "Spitfire 1942...bommb Mesershmit...Franse, GM {sic: Germany, my little boy told me that meant, giving up on the spelling}, Hurricane, Dog Fhigte" reads one, clearly marked words fragmented around the paper in my son's neat childish hand. The drawing's good: the glass sectioned cockpit, an attempt at perspective with the wings, the badges, the propeller going round, the landing gear - the details are all there. Plus an enemy aircraft tumbling to earth in a mass of red crayon - furious scribbles. "I'm sure even the kids in Vietnam or Gaza didn't come up with this kind of stuff..." says my husband. He's a little shocked. I'm not. I'm actually a little proud, of my boy's interest and the detail of his learning. We'll keep it in perspective, I'll make sure of that, I say. "At least he can stop at drawing it and not have to live it", I add. And think: 'Yes. It's a learning opportunity'.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Salad days

As we're trying to combine going 'green' with some sort of semblance of the "Good Life!", we're growing our own vegetable patch (or vegetables, rather. Or slug-perforated salad leaves, rather. And to disguise a rather nasty parcel of ground where we pulled down a shed).

After weeks of waiting, I finally decided on a harvest, perfect with the fish for dinner, and duly proceeded outside with enthusiasm - delicately wielding a pair of kitchen scissors.

"The rocket's lovely - nice and peppery!", remarks Husband, pleased - and I quickly flick a minute green caterpillar off his plate with my napkin as he looks up contemplating the taste of our home-grown. (Thank Christ he missed that one, I must've missed it for sure when dousing the colander under the kitchen tap!)

"But what's this purple and green leaf, it's rather tough?...." "Oh God, you haven't. No, you haven't. I can't believe it. You have, you goose!"

...."What?" (I wonder if he's eaten another caterpillar. Or worse, a slug.)

"You've only bloody cut the leaves off the beetroot plants! How are they meant to grow beetroots now? These ones!" he digs, annoyed, at his plate. "I spent all that time planting them! You really are fucking ridiculous, sometimes!"

"Oh." I say. "I thought they were some fancy Italian lettuce leaf. You know, like rucola or something."

"Don't you think before you act?!" interrogates Hubby. He really is bugged. I can't think what to say in return except "Harvest your own Greens, then!" - but bite my tongue: it sounds so absurd, I'm worried I'll burst out laughing and snort all over his salad plate! ...which would make things worse.

So, I ignore, and we eat the rest of the meal in silence. Some sodding 'The Good Life'!

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Joining the little dots and dashes

I'm diving headlong into the technosphere....("God knows where the Hell I'm going!", I think with ignorance...). The metaphor reminds me of my mother: who started to learn 'computing' in her sixties, and ended up on a C++ programming course with eighteen-year-old males, one of whom became her 'best mate'- they used to exchange weblogs about tecnical problems on microsoft patches - or something like that. (Forerunners to our blogs? group of anoraks posting about how Bill Gates is the Devil?). Actually, I shouldn't compare myself: my mother is VERY much more technical than I am. She was always top at maths as a child (and tried to hide it - in her day if you were clever they called you a 'blue stocking', rolled you in a carpet and beat you - at least, they did her. As a result, she always hid her school prizes, which she won year after year...you see, I did mention that unfulfilled potential runs in my family...my mother, in a different era, in a different mindset, could have run a Multinational with her left hand. Mind you, she does a nice sideline in her village fixing people's computer problems. For which she gets a lot of goodwill and cups of tea).

Well, I'm "Pinging on Technorati" - whatever, dude. I REALLY DO feel 40 now, with a statement like that. The verbal equivalent of me going out in a mini ra-ra skirt with fishnet tights, a bustier, and goth make-up. Anyway, from words to action: Here goes, I have to embed a code for this to work so the little white men can verify it:
Technorati Profile
Heh heh! I feel like James Bond. Or Jane Bond. Or perhaps just Jane. I got to see lots of interesting tecky looking words in a secret code line. You guys just get the shrink-wrapped version.

Anyway, the aim of the game is: I'm claiming my blog. As mine. Bloody hell. What a possessive society - or blogosphere - we have. As if anyone else'd like my life ramblings?! Get real!!! Unless of course, someone's gonna offer me a six-figure book deal, like 'Petite Anglaise'. I write just as well, I just don't have the love life. Sorry.

About the teckie bit. Actually, I lied. I did do a bit of computing once. Programming, as part of a University exchange Course I did in Turin, Italy at the Technical Institute they use to train the Fiat production managers (didn't last long - read on). I was the ONLY one of 30 students to pass the programming exam. My classmates -many of whom where much brighter and MUCH more "technical" than me - mutinied, and accused me of having slept with the (middle aged, male) teacher to get the Pass. Fact is, I'd gone to borrow a revision book with some other students and left my bottle of mineral water by accident in his study. He kindly brought it back - "You've left this at mine!" (translation). Well, it was all used to fuel their conspiracy theories when I'd got the honours, and they not. I never slept with the guy, by the way. God, you'd have to have more taste and integrity.

I was blacklisted for the rest of the week (last of the year) and ganged up against. So-called friends, with whom I'd shared books, dormitories, the experience of studying and living in a foreign culture, different teaching methods, home-sickness, etc., cold shouldered me. When I staggered down the stairs with my cases at the end of summer term to trudge to the station, not one head in the common room or dorm turned or nodded a goodbye. The wall of silence was unbroken. I don't need to describe how you feel. "Fuck them! Fuck the course!" I thought, once out of there (sorry - but true). I changed courses soon after. And countries. And Friends.

But I never forgot the fact that, during the exam, sitting there and trying to twist my brain cells into knots, by realising the matter was perhaps more simple than I'd assumed, I lifted myself above the haze of obscurity and treated the 'code problem' (like maths problem!) as a child's puzzle. And it worked and I wrote the code for that silly little command, and the next four or five, and it flowed. Because I'd removed the mental detritus and the crap, removed the painful brain-bending, cleared away the psychological complications I'd initially read into it all. Looked outside the box, as it were, to a simpler outcome.

Now, I often use the same technique in life. Sometimes, you get a solution when you look at things in the most basic manner. Sometimes, simple is best.

So, I shouldn't get freaked out by joining Technorati, should I???

Monday, 15 June 2009

In the Lake District

So, the Lake District. Beauty. The weather complied.

"This is what England must have looked like in the Middle Ages", I thought (if you extrapolate a bit more of the forest across the fields). Blue green lakes, hills, soft snooker-tabled green with bracken and grass kept consistent by the grazing sheep. The odd white farmhouse. Sheep, white specks on the landscape. Fields of cows: caramel, mahogany, long-haired and short amongst your traditional black-and-white. And the baby lambs are all black - pitch black - beside white mothers. A nursery rhyme of a place. Traditional stone walls sinuous like backbones to the curves of the land, everywhere. Stone cottages, roofed with slate. And, no-one around for miles while the birds of prey circle and swoop in the silence.

On the first day, a half-day, we walked up beyond the farmhouse as the sun dappled the afternoon. We got all of the talking out of the way, my husband and I. His job, my ambitions, his ambitions. Mortgages. Bills. Quality of life. Life/work balance. Kids. Schools. Crippling school fees. Moving abroad. Moving jobs. Staying put. Future holidays. Renovations. Life/work balance. Mortgages. His job. Our ambitions.

And from time to time, reeling images and topics in our minds, we'd turn a corner and, head up, remember where we were. And stop, and just look at the views. Then again, head down, walk, and talk. The pebbles underfoot and the flowers and the weeds. And the time alone to wrangle out the marital discussions. The landscape took backseat.

Once all that was done, the air cleared, the evening air sweeter, a nice pub, a hearty meal and wine. Relax...

The next day, the scales fell from our eyes and we could finally 'be'. Walking, not talking. We climbed a hill adjoining lakes. 508m, not much, but paradise. The sun shone and the insects buzzed. At the top, we could see Scotland and the Isle of Man. Full immersion in the physical life. Sun on your skin, breeze cooling the exertion of walking, endorphins of a high. Take a great big breath of life and stand and stare. That lake ain't goin' nowhere...slot into the universe. A type of meditation (fuelled by the odd chocolate stop, I have to admit...)

The third day, we hiked around the only 'mountain forest' left in the British Isles, a wonder of fresh pine trees luscious across the rippled valley. Picture-postcard views, mental photos, we didn't bring a camera. In that air, in that solitude, in that freshness and oneness with nature, it's an injection of vitality.

That evening we ate far too much and drank far too much wine. Sod's law!

I'd never known the Lake District was so beautiful. Shame some people go to New Zealand instead, ignorant of what we have nearer. I'd go back and take the kids next time - mixing the outdoors with the only James Bond museum in the world....

On the way back we were stuck on the M6 motionless in the heat for almost 2 hours. Luckily we were 'zen' enough after the break to be philosophical...

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

The big one

OK so I admit it. I'm 40 today.

I woke up with backache. My first thought: "Oh bloody hell. I never hung up that pile of damp washing last night. It's left in a heap." Then: "Oh. It's my birthday today. Fortieth!" I went back to sleep.

After the kids had jumped on me 10 minutes later, came the first surprise. My husband usually doesn't do birthdays, or anniversaries. Not purposely, but it's a character trait. He forgets them - or to buy anything, if he does remember. Or simply is so rushed off his feet, he hasn't got time. But, today, I was presented (still in bed) with the confectionary equivalent of winning the lottery. A 750g half-a-metre-diameter heart-shaped box of none other than Charbonnell and Walker's (by appointment to HM the queen) finest truffles. Those who know me will know that presents (unless they sparkle) don't get much better than this. (I have hidden the lot away. No arguing, I am notoriously possessive of my chocs).

Secondly, a card from Hubby with poems to the effect of: "Even if I don't show it I think you're amazing all the same." Jeepers! He's learning!

Thirdly, said card also had a spidery paragraph (his handwriting's not the best): "We may not be able to afford to jet off to a tropical beach, but pack your bags for a relaxing break in Lake District for several days: we leave tommorow!" First I realised he'd missed out "the". Then the meaning sunk in. Jeepers again and double Jeepers!!! Bloody hell! Maybe all birthdays should be 40th ones! Now, that has never happened in 6 years of marriage. Perhaps predictability is being flung out of the window with impending middle age (I hope). Brownie points: at least a year's worth for my husband. As far as the kids are concerned, they're jumping up and down at the prospect of Grandma and Eccentric Grandad looking after them (with attendant treats and forbidden delights), and all this mid-week too! No Mummy nagging on the school run! No Mummy shouting to finish off dinner!

"We'll have to pack our waterproofs, I'm afraid", says Hubby sadly. I'm thinking more my Pucci print wellies and jeans and cute tweed baker-boy cap (I'm not that side of 40 yet, so hunting jackets'll have to wait!) I mentally pencil in the need to 'phone the beautician at 9.30 when they open to get various important things sorted out today, if I'm going on a romantic weekend. Girls must be girls.

My son rushes up for major kisses. Once he's got his fill, he gets serious. "Mummy. Why did you tell me you were 30? You fibbed to me as I heard you tell someone it's actually your fortieth birthday! So, I'm going to tell everyone you're 40!!" (This after last week: "Mummy, I'm not going to tell anyone you're going to be 30, promise!") Damn. Wrong way round. Kids! But, hey, he can go tell the world. I won't be around: I'll be drinking real ale in front of a raging fire in some pretty country pub in the Lake District (if it's raining) or losing my cares across the expanses of gorgeous sun-kissed countryside (if it's not). Being 40 isn't that bad after all. And Links of London awaits me on my return (thanks, girlfriends...sparkly stuff!!)

Oh. PS. Do read the last post "A fitting tribute" in my absence. I promised my little boy...

A fitting tribute

I took my son on a field trip to Tesco's the other day after school....let me explain.
The RAF Veterans were there with their stall (tea towels, badges) and their plastic coin boxes. Old men, but still straight, proud in their multitude of coloured medals and old-fashioned formality (tie, shirt, suit, even for fund-raising, even for Tesco's). My Great Uncle- whose funeral I attended yesterday - had been a fighter pilot flying Spitfires, too. I'd lived in the house he shared with his sister, my Grandmother, for several years when I'd first moved to London, and I'd never once seen him without the shirt and tie, tweed jacket. Even at home, watching golf on TV. Pride: pride in formality and correctness was what they were brought up with.

I was proud, too, the other day. Amongst the hustle and bustle of shoppers (several fat, pierced, slovenly, hurried, dragging screaming kids, pushing, not a glance, not a coin in the pot: many of them an anathema to the society these retired servicemen grew up in) then stepped up a little man, aged 5 - my son. His small figure, in his school uniform, hair nicely combed, tie straight, jacket on, standing up nicely, refected theirs, in a strange way. "Excuse me, Sir!" he piped up (I'd prepped him with the 'Sir': if you can't call gentlemen who risked their lives to give us freedom 'Sir', then what have things come to?) and the old RAF veteran bent down to hear, adjusting clear plastic hearing aid beside salt-and-pepper hair. "Were you a pilot in the Second World War?...Did you fly a Spitfire or a Hurricane?...I hope it was a Spitfire, I love Spitfires!...and did you bomb down lots of horrid Messerschmidts?" (and, yes, being gifted at music my little boy pronounced it perfectly. He'd done his research - ever since he went to visit the Spitfire Memorial museum in Manston, Kent, with Grandparents at half-term - in tribute to Great Great Uncle - he's been poring over books at home, making medals and drawing planes.)

There was silence and the old man smiled and placed a gnarled hand on my little boy's shoulder. "I wasn't a pilot, I didn't fly planes, young man" he answered. The disappointment started to drop like a curtain over my son's face, visibly. "But I was the one who TAUGHT the pilots to fly!..." The smile on my boy's face was like the sun rising. He looked up at the old man with wonder and awe: Wow! The veteran looked down, with paternal solicitude, and spoke again, delighted to be faced with such candid interest: "And the Gentleman over there, well he was a pilot... and the other Gentleman, he was Ground Staff, which means he was the one putting the planes up in the sky and making sure they all worked perfectly - like an aircraft mecchanic! And here....look....I'm going to give you something special. When you become a pilot we say you 'Get your Wings', so here are your very own for when you become a pilot." With trembling hands he peeled off a sticker, in the traditional 'wings' design, but with the letters: "FUTURE RAF PILOT". My boy read the words and his eyes grew wide, beaming as he looked down at the label being carefully placed on the lapel of his school jacket. "Mummy!" he gasped. "I'm a real spitfire pilot now! Do you think people really WILL think I'm a REAL spitfire pilot? I think, they WILL!"
I was too moved to speak. A little boy's fascination was tribute indeed to these old men's sacrifice long ago, to the events and acts which gained them their jangling medals. Who are we, spoilt and affluent, even to imagine what they went through?

We bought some spitfire and Hurricane badges, carefully chosen. The old man reached into a battered canvas bag on the floor and found a series of aircraft pictures which he pushed into our hands, each one depicting a different modern RAF plane. A keyring followed. He didn't want donations. But I gave over and above, gave handsomely, my son popping pound coin after 2-pound coin in the pot. One for each item. A good - a very good - cause. I gave until the coins ran out.

We had words with each veteran in turn. Each was delighted. And then it was time to go. Clutching his bag of goodies, my little boy approached the first gentleman to say Goodbye.
"Very pleased to meet you, Sir!" he piped up, as again the old, age-speckled cheek leaned in close. "Thankyou very much!"
I do believe, beyond the wateryness of old age, I saw the old man's eyes grow moist: "Thank you, too, young man. Thank you. And very pleased to meet you too." And a little man and an old gentleman reached out a little soft keen hand and an aged wrinkled hand, and shook hands, and then the veteran saluted, and a little person copied and saluted back. And this time, my eyes were moist.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Sorry to eavesdrop, but...!

Just checked on my real-time traffic thingy. Saw: "Christchurch arrived from google.co.nz on "The reluctantly frustrated stay-at-home mum!" by searching for what to do if 16 yr old child forges his mum's signature".

Sorry to eavesdrop, as it were. But... Might I attempt a stab at that one? I did that exact same thing at about 16! My Mum told me: "NEVER NEVER NEVER do it again...You could be arrested!" (those were the days, when the cops still put the fear of God into kids!)

However, I did decide never to do it again. At least, not officially. I didn't want to get into trouble, with the Police, or anyone else. Suffice to say, that if you're good enough to forge a signature, you've 1) Got a great eye; 2) Got a decent brain; 3) Could do very well at art/design school; 4) Are pretty canny.
All quite interesting points for parents to note.

PS I have used my skills since, though not to do anything illegal. Not quite.

On the value of showing goodwill

OK folks so I've been away a week. It's been frustrating not to write, plagued every day at random times by blog 'headlines' beeping across my consciousness....In the olden days, particularly in France I believe, I could've opened a "Salon des Artistes" and claimed to be an Artist with a capital 'A'. Which was generally the lot for those 'possessed' (in all senses) of creative urges. And, which meant you had an excuse to socialise with a bunch of interesting characters getting up to a lot of debauched activities, and drink a lot. Well, nowadays, instead, as a wannabe 'writer', I get to hang out on the ether with you anonymous lot. Rum job. No parties, no wine and absolutely no debauchery! Bloody shame!

I can't remember for the life of me all the blog posts I miscarried this week (I do lament them, for they would have given me much satisfaction had they come to life. So please forgive the metaphor, as politically incorrect as it is).

But there was one about 'HOW TO SAVE MONEY WHEN YOU BUY A HOUSE'. Raincheck on that: I'm not sure how many people really ARE buying a house nowadays (rainchecking on the housebuying itself!) although to be honest we all know that tips on saving money are pretty topical, even if you're an MP...

Oh, and there was the other potential post about Posh Private School Moneyed Mum coming to visit my home-in-progress (and being unimpressed). It would have been about how wealth really can skew your perception (I will resurrect that one, give me time, bloody pissed me off excuse my language. Just when I was so smug and proud of all my hard work you get someone who's only used to paying for interior designers and just doesn't 'get' the need to find (cheap)creative solutions oneself)....

And a post which popped through my head on Good will. Here it is:

All my D-I-Y-ing around the house over the half-term holidays, kids dispatched to grandparents, was a prime example of goodwill. I would personally have preferred to spend half-term doing something more relaxing, and less lonely. But, I showed my husband a form of "Good Will", as it were, by doing things myself, not purely demanding that he open his wallet (not that there'd be much in it! - not like Posh Private School Moneyed Mum who has an army of people to sort out her pad, just send-us-the-invoice type of thing).
No, seriously. Let us not forget that Good Will, Endeavour, Humility, Hard Work, are all endangered traits in our modern consumeristic age (though the credit crunch may well help to reverse the trend). The benefit of such old-fashioned values - young job seekers note!- is that they invariably attract people to your side: arrogance and materialism were rarely in vogue anyway (except amongst those who were already beyond help, financially and otherwise, if you get my drift).

Case in point. Action: my Good Will and hard work. Reaction: hubby, on discovering that a friend's Polish cleaner's father (who owned a building company back home before it went, in his words, "Kaput!") would do all sorts of juicy home-improvement stuff for a mere 120 pounds net a day (=2 hours ex-VAT usual London rate...say no more), suddenly sanctioned the use of a pro!...

Result: Yanush, a very nice and EXTREMELY diligent Pole, nuking my year's frustrations with my home environment, in a mere week:

Kitchen: wallpaper stripped, and painted. Door mended and painted. Floor re-grouted.
Front Room: wallpapered. Skirting boards painted.
Bathroom: regency wallpaper (yes!) stripped. Painted. Mirror hung. Nasty hospital one removed.
Hallway: painted. Mirror hung. Nice, Spanish style cast iron one. Illusion of space..
Loo: tiles put back on wall from which they'd fallen...thank Christ, intact. I wouldn't like to have bought a pack of 200 tiles just to replace 7 or so.
Shower: Damp dealt with, hideous floral brown tiles (you couldn't picture them in all their monstrosity, promise!) primed and painted over with white tile paint.

Conclusion: Voila'! I'm no longer so depressed and forlorn! My home's been reborn at the tune of about a grand! Grand designs - eat your hat!

Moral of the Story: Doing stuff yourself is such a valuable lesson. We underestimate ourselves savagely by outsourcing everything - a product of our convenience culture. It's so easy to learn new skills, if only we'd the courage to try! And...the kickback....first try it yourself before screaming for help (or the financing to pay for help), it shows Good Will! How much sweeter it is to give it a go yourself first and then, when exhausted, have someone else take over and do it propery...(breathe, readers, breathe, I don't mean to be suggestive!)

Let's dig up that old initiative: you'll see, Good Will CAN pay well - it did for me, this week!