14 March 2017

Making savings

Image result for when do £1 coins come out 

At the end of this month the new 12-sided bimetallic £1 coin makes its premiere appearance. The current pound coin was too easy to counterfeit apparently. Apart from being made of two metals and having many sides, the new one will have, among other things, milled or smooth edges on alternate sides and an image like a hologram that changes from a "£" symbol to the number "1" when the coin is seen from different angles.

You are advised to search deep into your sofa cushions, piggy banks, coat pockets, tooth fairy stashes, car compartments and anywhere else where you might horde coins, as the old pound coin will cease to be legal tender after 15 October.  You might be surprised just how much money you could be throwing away, if you don't.  Foreign tourists might also take note and trade them in at their local banks, as they probably still have the odd pound coins lurking in the midst of their travel paraphernalia in the hopes of returning to Britain one day.  I know I still have a motley collection of ancient US dollars, Italian Lira,  East German Marks, Yugoslavian Dinar and goodness knows what else which are now probably worthless. I doubt even as a collector they would be worth that much

Talking of throwing away money, I have just (sickeningly) discovered how much money I could have been throwing away over the last ten years .... enough to buy a new car or an extremely luxurious round-the-world  holiday. Yes, sickening. It would seem I have been paying something like £500 over the odds each year by not having a water meter. I have just been signing over £750 per year to the local Water Board without questioning it. Last week, a newspaper article highlighted the savings to be made by having a water meter and gave a link to check whether a meter could save you money. Living as I do now on my own, I did wonder, so I went online and even with gross exaggeration* of how many showers (14) I could possible take in a week and how many times I used the washing machine (10), flushed the toilet per day (20) or hosed the garden, I still could make savings of about £500 per year. 

*I stress these are gross exaggerations - whoever has 14 showers in a week and flushes the toilet 20 times a day should surely have some serious hygiene and bladder problems!

Image result for water meter thames water I do recall at some murky point in the distant past that the water companies were offering water meters to their customers, but at the time, there were three of us living in the house, hubby was in the throes of his alcoholic meltdown, daughter was a teenager showering a lot and the dog was getting senile and weeing in his bedding every night which meant the washing machine was on at least once if not twice a day. My eye was taken off the ball. I suppose in my cynical frame of mind, I also discounted it as an advertising hype that would no doubt benefit the water companies more than the customers so I ignored it. More fool me. My total idiocy has been rectified: a surveyor came last week to decide where the meter should be located and it will be installed in the next few weeks. 

I feel a luxury holiday coming on......

06 March 2017

Seven years and still counting

It's seven years to the day  and to the hour since Greg died. Or to be even more precise 2,557 days (and nights) without him. Why do I still mark the anniversaries? Does a time ever come when the date arrives and I forget?  Immersed in something else? Or I don't even try to remember the date in the first place?  Someone once commented on this blog saying I'll know you are on the road to coping with Greg's death when you start a new blog, all about you, leaving the old one with its running ticker of days since Greg died to count on quietly by itself.  I've long since removed the ticker counter from the blog, but I still cannot yet remove the anniversaries. Will that ever happen, I wonder?

I  don't particularly want to remember his last five years on this earth, as they were truly horrible, so why do I need to savour that last day and make it stick in my brain in case I should ever forget? Is to punish myself for things not said or not done to stop it? I suspect it is because we had 35 years previously to that which were wonderful and it is THAT which I don't want to dust under the carpet.  He was a good man. Kind and understanding to all he met. He would give the shirt off his back to help someone or defend them if unfairly wronged. A good father. A good husband.  He was not bad, only the alcoholism. I try to remember him as I first met him and not as he was when I said my last goodbye.

For the first time in seven years, Kay is with me (on a week's leave) to mark the occasion. We shall go to the chapel of rest together and lay flowers and look at the book of remembrance. She too still feels the pain of those last years, although our anger has mellowed. Ironically she is now working for two months on the liver ward of a large teaching hospital in London and seeing many cases of, you've guessed it, alcoholic liver damage. She's got past the stage of being upset about it. If anything, she is more understanding than any of the other doctors, because she grew up knowing how hard it is for an alcoholic to give up the alcohol. Alcohol becomes the master and the alcoholic is the slave. If anything, in Greg's case, alcohol was the one who gave him up.  It had no further need of him. He was wasted, done with, of no further use. It took what it wanted from him and then spat him out on an intensive care bed with a flat-line on the monitors. It's knowing he didn't deserve that which drives me on to remember him as he was and to keep on remembering.

27 February 2017

GP Surgery Blues (or Yellows)

Sitting in the GP's surgery is not a barrel of laughs. My local surgery has four doctors and one nurse, so at any one time there is usually at least eight or ten patients (with or without family members) waiting to be seen. Most avoid eye contact and, because they are generally unwell, they have a world-weary look about them that suggests they are on their last. The silence is  only perforated by the ring of the telephones and the two receptionists' whispered comments to the caller.

The only entertainment  is a handful of well-thumbed magazines (vintage 2015) and an electronic wall screen reminding you to switch off your mobile phone, how to recognise the signs of  meningitis, how to treat a loved one with dementia or avoid malaria if going abroad. Like I say, not a barrel of laughs.

Of course, the wall screen has the main function of flashing up the patient's name and directing you to the right consulting room, but in between, the list of dreary reminders about dementia, malaria and meningitis pop up on continuous loop. God knows why, but I always make a point of getting to  the surgery far too early  - about 10 or even 15 minutes before my appointment. I don't like to be late for anything and the wait allows me to compose myself and get my brain into gear. But even once I've seen the adverts, turned off my mobile, taken stock of who I think is ahead of me in the queue, I've still got time to fry an omelette.

Image result for doctors waiting room
courtesy of gponline.com

This morning was different. Entertainment-wise, that is. There was a young woman with a little girl around the age of two or possibly three with an adorable face and her long hair scraped back into two jaunty bunches. They sat down in the row in front of me. The ads continued to flash on the screen. 

"It's my name," said the little girl pointing quite excitedly.

"No," said the mother "it's an advert. That's not your name."

The screen flashed to another ad.

"It's my name now," said the little one again, jumping up and down on her seat and pointing animatedly. 

"No, it's not," said the mother with a world-weary tone.

"It's my name now," shouted the little girl, as the screen changed yet again.

"Look," said the mum, "when the doctor calls you it's black writing on a yellow  background. Look out for the yellow." 

A few people smirked. Just then, a blue and white screen gave advice on how to stop smoking.

"It's my name" said the little girl, pointing vigorously.

By now a few people in the room were trying very hard to smile without moving their face muscles.

"I told you to look for the yellow background with black writing. Is that yellow?"

The little girl looked sternly as if she was trying to visualise yellow.

Then the screen showed the meningitis ad again - on a yellow background.


The whole waiting erupted into giggles. 

I tell you, the surgery ought to employ that little girl. She brought a smile to everyone's face and best of all got every  body talking!

16 February 2017

Branching Out

I rarely make new year's resolutions but this year I was determined to make this the year I stop saying I haven't got time to do things. One of those things is to research the family tree. So in the first week of January, to give me an incentive, I signed up to and paid for two online ancestry websites and started to beaver away into the Alcoholic Daze family history. It has been labour-intensive but fascinating. On at least two whole days for every week since I have been glued to the internet researching.

I have a box full of some rough paperwork I have gathered over the years - jottings of conversations with  close relatives, photos with captions on the back, addresses, letters - all in a muddle and a heap. I systematically started to divide it all up into my side of the family and my husband's side. Then for each side I subdivided material into maternal side and paternal side.

I started with my mother's side. I have a lot of information on this part of the family and still have my mother around to ask any questions, if need be - or so I thought. However my 93-year-old mum now has lapses in her memory, it seems, and cannot even recall the name of the hospital I was born in, so obviously she is no longer a reliable source for anything or anyone even further back in history.

My paternal side will need a bit more thought as those records stem from Germany. Maybe I need to go out there for a holiday to research them. Yes, I shall book a flight some time.

My first realisation is that the material available online is not totally reliable. For example my maternal grandmother was called Elsie but the census online shows her as Elni. I knew I had the right person because all the parents' and sibling details on the census are correct. However, when I compared the original hand-written census where her name was clearly "Elsie" with the later typed-up version, it had become "Elni". Another relative who has the name Armstrong as a middle was clearly shown as Armstrong in the handwritten version but shown in the typed version as Arabella. I am sure HE would not have been happy about that! My daughter reckons they use electronic readers to transpose the handwritten versions into typed versions and the electronics go a bit haywire sometimes. You're not kidding. 

Another problem is finding the correct dates. For relatives I know well, I may know the exact date of their birth but even this is not straightforward. My mother-in-law, for example, was born in late 1925, but her birth was not registered until 1926, so in researching ancestors back in the 1800s, I am not entirely sure I have found the right birth or death dates or even the right person as there can be hundreds of John Smiths and surprisingly as many Edith Hedleys (which you would think much rarer). How to know for sure that you have the right one? It is only recently that mothers' maiden names have been added to the birth certificates, so before that there is no way of being sure you have the right John Smith unless you cough up £10 each time to receive a copy of the actual certificate. It can get quite expensive.

The last few weeks I have concentrated on Greg's side of the family, as I was invited up to my sister-in-law for a special occasion last weekend and wanted to take some f my research to show them. I have found some interesting things and interesting professions on their side of the family.Even two sets of cousins marrying over two generations. I've gone as far back as the late 1700s and am now working out how to go further back still.

I am getting a lot of fun out of this and it will be something to leave the next generation. The sad thing is that when we are young, we don't really give a toss about our ancestors and it is only when living relatives pass away, that we wish we had asked more. I intend to leave plenty of records so that Kay and her cousins can have this information to hand, when they feel ready to ask those questions.

Look up this link to a video clip from BBC's Who Do You Think You Are when actor Danny Dyer (who plays pub landlord in  our long-running soap Eastenders) finds out who his ancestor is. The look on his face is priceless.


31 January 2017

Changing Passwords

We are still not quite into the finger-tip tantalisingly close season of Spring, so need a bit of cheering up to cope with the grey skies and gloom, not to mention endless reports about Brexit and Trump.  A friend sent me the following which apparently won Best Joke in a competition. I'm sure we've all experienced this......

WINDOWS: Please enter your new password.
USER: cabbage
WINDOWS: Sorry, the password must be more than 8 characters.
USER:  boiled cabbage
WINDOWS: Sorry, the password must contain 1 numerical character.

USER: 1 boiled cabbage
WINDOWS: Sorry, the password cannot have blank spaces.
USER:  50bloodyboiledcabbages
WINDOWS: Sorry, the password must contain at least one uppercase character.
USER: 50BLOODYboiledcabbages
WINDOWS: Sorry, the password cannot use more than one uppercase character consecutively.
USER:   50BloodyBoiledCabbagesYouStupidIdiotGiveMeAccessNow!
WINDOWS: Sorry, the password cannot contain punctuation.
USER :  IWillHuntYouDown50BloodyBoiled CabbagesYouStupidIdiotGiveMeAccessNow
WINDOWS: Sorry, that password is already in use. 


23 January 2017

On the wild side

It's been quite chilly in London for the last few weeks. It's noteworthy because our winters here have been a lot milder over the last decade or so, with only the occasional flurry of snow. Other countries can run quite efficiently with snow reaching depths of several feet and even to the North of Britain, deep snow is quite the norm, but at the sight of the first snowflake we southern wimps go into panic mode and despair. Roads are gritted with mine-fulls of salt to cope with the half-dozen flakes that settle on the ground and commuter trains grind to a halt unable to cope with the wrong sort of snow. Is there a right sort?

That said, this winter it has been unusually frosty since Christmas and I have been leaving the heating on 24-hours (reducing temperature at night) in case the water pipes decide to freeze and spring a leak when they thaw. Each morning I wake to dazzling white frosty roads, white grass and cars looking like they have been dusted with icing sugar. We have also been blessed with clear blue skies and by mid-morning the sun has melted any ice to give the plants in the garden a chance to rally round.

However I have been feeling sorry for the wild life. I love the squirrels that now visit my garden. I could never encourage them before when I had a dog and a cat as both hated squirrels with a passion and the dog would hurl himself at the patio window in an attempt to get at them, forgetting there was glass between them. The cat would hide incognito among the shrubs in wait for them, so any decent squirrel who wanted to see another day became used to avoiding our garden. Now my dog and cat have passed over the rainbow bridge, I recently decided to buy bags of peanuts for the squirrels to fatten them up over this cold spell. I painstakingly hide the nuts between the garden tubs on the patio, so the birds cannot get at them. Each day at breakfast time, I often come down to the kitchen to find at least one if not five squirrels waiting patiently for me to throw the nuts out for them. They sit on their haunches munching away until they are full, then take the remainder to bury for another time.  Some are now so tame, they no longer scamper away when I throw out more nuts for them. We are slowly getting to know one another. I study them while I sit inches away  on the other side of the patio door and have my breakfast.

But now I have also started feeling sorry for the birds. Not wanting to deprive the squirrels of their peanuts, I  have added bird seed to my weekly shopping list. I watch while the pigeons, blackbirds, thrushes, jays, magpies, parakeets, crows and two robins peck hungrily away at the spread on the ground, while the squirrels weave back and forth between them. Word is spreading as more birds seem to arrive each day. There's a good cafe five gardens to the right of the big chestnut tree. Plenty of seed and plenty of nuts. Come and join us. I like to think I'm doing my bit to keep their tummies full and survive the harsh winter. (OK, well, harsh by London standards!)

Apologies for the quality of the photos but they were taken through the patio window glass on zoom lest I scared them all away.....
Where's breakfast?

Oh, there it is

brown pigeons

One of two robins that usually come together


Two of the five squirrels have turned up. I cannot photo them all in the same place as they are so skittish, duck and dive all over the place, and run off to hide their finds.

Nom, this nut is so tasty

Hi. Any chance of some more?

I need both paws to hold this one.

Image result for jay
of course the jay did not turn up as I was taking photos, so  you will just have to believe me, but here's one I grabbed from the internet, courtesy of mbaker.co.uk

11 January 2017

Blooming marvellous

I live in London - one of the biggest cities in the world. I have lived in my current house on a wide tree-lined avenue for the last 29 years, having moved here shortly before Kay was born. I've seen many changes to the area over those 29 years,  in terms of new housing, changes in shop ownership in the High Street, introduction of one-way traffic systems, new night clubs and new schools to name but a few. But recently just a wee bit down the road from me, one community-spirited man has started planting flowers underneath the chestnut trees on the public grass verges that line the bit of the avenue outside where he lives. 

He has even planted herbs and put a small sign (and two pairs of scissors) beside them, inviting people to snip off any herbs they fancy as they pass (you can just make out the bright green and red scissor handles in the front of the photo). 

It makes me feel warm inside. We might be a huge city, but it takes one person to make all the difference. I hope his idea catches on and some jobsworth at the local council doesn't decide to slap a fine on him for contradiction of some by-law or another.

01 January 2017

Happy New Year

Well, I can't say I am sorry to see the back of 2016. It was a horrible year personally with major surgery and not so good for others either. The list of celebrity deaths in my newspaper was amazingly long. Big household names went one after another. The Syrian war scaled new depths and showed man's inhumanity to man. Brexit and the American elections turned everything on its head and made the unthinkable became possible. The year ended with a trip to A&E with my mother to sort out a swollen and very painful leg which masqueraded as DVT. Thankfully it turned out to be no more than cellulitis.

I have just returned home having spent the New Year with dear friends in Brighton.  We ate loads and drank loads and welcomed in the New Year with gusto. Good riddance to 2016 and hopes for better health and luck in 2017. That goes for you all.

19 December 2016

The Joy of Christmas

Well, the Christmas tree is decorated......

..... and the halls decked with holly and ornaments.

 Every surface is covered. The window sills......

......the pot plants......

..... the pictures.....

......even the kitchen table.

Rudolph is on stand-by for his busy night......


.... and a wish list has gone to Santa Claus.

 There's a warm welcome for guests.......

 .... and the true meaning of Christmas has not been forgotten.

Last night, Kay and I went to our local church for the most magical Carol service that they put on every year. Lights are turned off at the beginning and the nativity is narrated and acted out by adults in front of us at the altar. The Angel Gabriel brings lit candles in turn to Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and the three kings, who walk among us until they reach the tableau at the front. During this the choir sings the most haunting classical pieces. Eventually, towards the end of the service, candles are lit along the pews until the whole church is bathed in light. It's very emotional. This will be the seventh Christmas without Greg, he is never far from our thoughts at this time, but more so last night when the closing music for the church procession was Widor's Toccata which had been played at our wedding as we left the church. I somehow felt he was there with us.

All that remains now is for me:
  •  to thank you for all your comments over the year. I always look forward to receiving them and cherish them ; and
  •  to wish each and every one of you a peaceful Christmas time (even if that is not your faith) and a happy healthy 2017.