The watch I wear has a fixed-length strap. The watch tells me the time and fluctuations in my size. Since starting my new job in July 2013, I’ve lost weight. The watch used to be a tight fit, now it swivels around my wrist and slides over the nobbly bit of bone at the base of my humerus
In my previous job I’d gradually grown pudgy and the watch had tightened on my wrist. It didn’t move, the strap left pink patterns indented on my skin at the end lf the day
Dad left two watches when he died. One, a beautiful Longines watch that mumsie had secretly saved for from her meagre housekeeping budget, a birthday surprise for dad. The second an almost identical visual design, a Tissot, that he wore on a daily basis. It’s a little scratched, battered. I remember it and can see it on his wrists in photographs
When I was a child mumsie gave me t-shirt with the word “Tissot” on it. I didn’t know what it meant, but the word was on the fast cars in the formula 1 racing that we watched on the TV every weekend. It was an adult size t-shirt, much to big for my gangly teenage body, I wore that t-shirt to school, proudly. It meant nothing to my friends. To me it was a present from mum, something special to her and dad
After dad passed, Mum gave the Tissot watch to me. I love that watch way beyond it’s aesthetic or monetary value. I get very attached to things
6 months after dad’s death and I’m no longer spontaneously crying. I wonder about mum…
Aloud sounds like Allowed
Permission to be noisey can be such good fun!
Estate Agent #1
- This is the only other coach house on sale in the area, one more bedroom but no garden or off-road parking
- Buyers can find out what you paid for this house, and when you bought it
- I had to explain to my Indian client what a coach house was, he just didn’t understand
- Someone will walk into the garden and fall in love with this place before they’ve even got through the door (Indeed, that’s what happened to me)
- Oh! That bath…
- We’ve never had a problem showing houses to people with cat allergies, we did have one client bitten by an owner’s dog. The dog had been locked in the garden and the client was told not to go into the garden
- I’m from Bristol
Estate agent #2
- This is the most desirable area in Reading
- Double off-road parking is worth around 20K
- We don’t get many character properties like this downtown
- I’m from Bristol
Estate agent #3
- I can tell you what the other agents said (he did, and he was wrong)
- Fantastic (repeatedly, like a carbon copy of his colleague that I spoke to on the phone)
- What a fantastic kitchen
- Our website is new and really good, it’s got pictures of the founding partners on it
- We’ll do a TV presentation for a character property like this one.
I didn’t get the impression that any of them offered anything that would add any real value over the property details and access to buyers that have been pre-screened for a mortgage. None of them really told me about their access to the type of people that would like to buy the Wendy house. I suggested excluding:
- couples planning to start a family – dangerous staircase, downstairs bathroom
- elderly people or planning for this to be a last, retirement, home – dangerous staircase, downstairs bathroom
- people over 5″8 – low beam crossing the dangerous staircase
- people that love to cook – tiny kitchen separated from the dining area by the hallway
Estate agent #1 was the least offensive, arrogant. She listened and related to me as a person most effectively. Maybe I’ll have to make my own promotional materials pack – showing related documentation from my purchase, guarantees on work done, local service professionals etc
Mumzie just phoned to find out what TV programme I was watching and suggest that I change channels. Then she hung up. Do I need to get a life? Or is there something strangely comforting about the informality and brevity of the conversation, as-if mum had just called me from another room. Yes, I like that call from a virtual room emotionally nearby
No key card.
Without my key card I can’t get into the safe, secure, place that is ‘work’. An hour searching the finite, small, tidied through previous searching, Wendy House, didn’t uncover the key card. Sigh. I’ll have to cancel this one and arrange a replacement. A photograph of my looking harassed and bedraggled will adorn my key card until the next time I lose it. Why can’t I put my favourite selfie on my key card? Resigned to the dull, administrative, overhead, I wander out to Thomas and open his door
On the drivers seat is my key card
Between then and my clean, sparkling-self dressing it appeared to have vanished of the face of the earth. I spent an hour searching the small finite spaces of the Wendy House, but nothing. Sigh. My watch has great sentimental value. Easy to replace at a functional level, but this loss left me saddened as I faced my daily jungle trek
After an outstandingly enjoyable jungle trek, de-robing for bed, I noticed my watch wrapped around my right wrist, not it’s usual left wrist
Seeing the winter tree skeletons defined against a soft canvas of white. Hearing the laughter and chatter of children as the emerge, ghostly forms made real, from the fog. I love the mystery of the fog
I’m not so keen on the smog
My wood burning stove uses special filters to reduce the pollution possible from wood smoke. I took this photograph thinking it was fog. Later published pollution levels imply this picture is actually of pollution. People were warned to stay indoors, mot exercise… …so sad…
Soon after moving home in 1968 Dad started to make this Marquetry games box. On one side is a chess board, on the other is a Mills board. The box has 2 drawers on each side to store the game pieces.
When dad got home from work, in the evening, and at the weekends, he’d either be using his Stanley knife to carefully cut and place the thin pieces of wood, glue or varnish them. I don’t know how long it took him, but I remember being fascinated by the process and watching the box slowly take shape.
Once the box was finished dad taught me, age 5, to play chess and mills. I loved it, quality time with Dad, the look on his face when he won or I made a good move - equally pleased. His pleasure in such things was inspiring and made learning fun. I’ve never lost the desire to learn something new, look for a strategy and ‘have a go’. A special box with special memories. Mum found it when tidying out the old games cupboard which included over 5 different chess sets. I only had 1 set, now I have 2. Both precious well beyond their financial value.
Wendy: I’d like to book my car in for a service
Service Engineer: What’s the registration number?
Wendy: (cited registration)
Service Engineer: Mr. House…
Wendy: I’ve not had a sex reassignment, to my knowledge
Service Engineer: It says here the owner is Mr. House
Wendy: When I bought the car from your dealership 5 years ago I was a Female and I still am
Service Engineer: Can I check the registration again?
Wendy: (recites the registration which like my sex, hasn’t changed)
Service Engineer: I’m sorry, I’ll get that changed
I wonder whether he’ll do the mundanely common thing of deciding to marry me off to someone when he changes the gender without having first asked what title to use. Applying another common stereotype in a prejudicial way.
Those lanes that are only wide enough for one car.
Driving slowly towards a corner because ‘oncoming traffic’ is in the middle of the road. There’s no sign to tell you this, its obvious.
Having to reverse until you find the entrance to a field, pulling into the mud to let an oncoming car pass.
I’m not well travelled, but this experience seems quintessentially English to me. It’s heart warming. It’s time consuming and poor usability, but something special that I treasure.
My mother lives further down this lane.
A last-minute trip arranged to Geneva, do I need Euros? No, Swiss Francs. Rumania and I couldn’t use my Euros, USA and I couldn’t use my Euro’s, now Switzerland and I can’t use my Euros. Grumble, grumble, currencies, exchange rates, coins and stuff. World, stop making my life complicated!
The hotel I stayed in, outside Geneva, was approved (recommended), by my employer. It was in France. Yay! I can use my Euro’s. I speak a little pigeon French, left over from a CSE French course in the mid 1970′s. To call my French ‘rusty’ is more than generous. I try, at the GVA airport information desk. The information person talks fluently and fast in French. My eyebrows raise and meet above my not insubstantial nose as I try to repeat my understanding of the tyrannical stream of words he’s just blown at me. It seems I’ve understood him about where to get a Taxi, how much it should cost and what I should have done to travel cheaply if I’d been shrewd like I should have been. I feel pathetic and inadequate. It shows, he smiles at me but doesn’t wander from his native French language.
The taxi driver spews French at me. I raise my eyebrows to join in the middle “Je ne parle Francais” He looks at me with pity and continues talking in French. The ride from GVA to the French town of Dionne-la-bain was smooth, comfortable, and silent. I suspect silent is not the natural way for this Taxi driver.
In the Hotel foyer a large, elegant, elderly British woman is talking in a very raised tone with a plummy accent. Wealthy lady. She’s hurling a range of dissatisfaction at the receptionist. I don’t really hear what she’s saying but I hear the very strong pain in her tone. After a while I can bear it no longer.
“Are you alright? You seem to be having some troubles here”
Her son comes up “let me deal with this” he hugs his mother who appears to ignore him but turns to me
“Yes, I don’t speak much French and this is my first trip to Switzerland, it’s quite overwhelming”
“My husband’s in Hospital, he’s dying…”
We’re near Switzerland, an English woman’s husband is in Hospital dying. I immediately think Euthanasia, and all the awfully difficult decisions and actions that lead to that pathway. No wonder she’s so upset, no wonder her adult son is with her. I wish the receptionist had the insight to treat her emotions and not the content of her words, she wasn’t really criticising him she was showing all the pain of having to fly her husband here to get a dignified death after what’s probably been a terribly painful illness. I wanted to hug her. I suspect she knew. With hindsight I wish I’d asked for her permission to give her a hug.
I thought of Dad and how lucky my family has been by not having to deal with a painful illness towards the end of his life.
Bus driver: where do you want to go?
He explained that for $1.75 I could travel anywhere in the city for 2.5hrs. Brilliant. I can get on and off any bus I want to. Luxury. I wanted to spend a day travelling on the busses but instead focussed on the more socially acceptable activity of going to a local art gallery.
The bus driver reminded me when I got to the stop I needed to get off at. He was very helpful. We met again on my return trip and he remembered me, greeting me with a warm smile hello. The bus drivers that I met were all very helpful and friendly. Very impressive.
I was able to explore some artsy stuff on a Sunday during my recent Minneapolis visit. The Walker Art Centre was a real pleasure. I found myself enjoying the building almost as much as the exhibits. First, they had a brushed-suede alcove for watching film exhibits.
Next, for visitors suffering from Museum fatigue they’d provided plenty of comfortable seating with views of the local scenery rather than the thought provoking exhibits. I watched children sledding down the hillside. Apart from myself the seats were…
Each corner that I walked around provided a new and interesting view of the architecture. There appeared to me more docents in the museum than visitors. I felt guilty looking at, and photographing, the building. There will be another post on the fabulous exhibits, to compensate for my guilt. The corridors were….
Normally I have to wait, twist, and stretch to find a view of a building without people messing up the view. Not in the Walker Art Centre on a Sunday in March. It’s a place where you can be alone.
Maybe even lonely.
Minneapolis airport had a surprise for me at gate G4. Tables with IPads, even outside the bars, everywhere people using their own or the airport’s computers. I slid up to a nearby bar and found the menu.
Kid’s under 12? I can eat them? Cool. I found myself a large glass of red wine and paid using the swipe-card slot on the bar. The bar staff talked to me about the system. She liked it, the customers liked it, I liked it. Sounds like an all around win.
I’ll go straight to the gate next time I’m at Minneapolis airport. No need to unpack my surface, no need to find a power socket or go through connecting to the airport WiFi. Just use the local iPad which even supplies flight information for the anxious passenger. That wasn’t me, I’m not the anxious passenger. I’m the one who’s snoozing after a large glass of wine….
Some good reading for my long flight home from Minneapolis, courtesy of the talented Peggy Pearl who gave me an exciting tour of the snow-bound city.
I’m now full and cultured.
The cars develop their own icicles while they’re waiting for the owners to return. These icicles took about 2hrs to form on a warm day. Things happen fast and frostily here in Minneapolis.
So much stuff.
Mourning is exhausting, relentlessly rolling, invisible to the people around who’s daily lives bring temporary relief.
The hangover tiredness hasn’t lifted 3 months after his leaving.
By the end of the year this room will look like a guest bedroom; shelves removed, walls papered and painted, new carpet. Dad’s stuff long since reorganised and prioritised. It’s this removal that hurts the most. I can understand why people keep rooms untouched as memorials to their past owners.
Based on a light weight trend analysis, I suspect I might be moving home this year.
- 86-93 home in Loughborough (including a year living in Edinburgh with my Mortgage, weekend place, in Loughborough).
- 93-20 home in Hampshire (Southsea then Warblington).
- 00-07 home in Seattle (Redmond, I meant to move downtown but somehow never got round to it).
- 07 -14 home in Reading town (intending to stay here for a while yet, but the trend suggests otherwise).
Andrea (English girl’s name) does not sound like Andrea (Italian boy’s name)
Why I love England #20: parks with wrought iron railings
The gentle sunlight, mist and frost make it all sparkly good.
Day 7: October 27th
The beauty of the flat Texan grasslands was awe Inspiring. A mystical beauty. I stopped the car and stood in the wind watching the clouds gently roll around the huge canvas above. The peace in such a place is invigorating. To be able to walk and live with these skies must make it easier to feel close to a god. It’s the sort of place I close my eyes and think of when I’m seeking peace and sleep after a crowded day in a busy world. Slow down, smell the grass, feel the breeze, see the clouds. I had some unexpectedly wonderful times alone on the road. This photograph captures one of them.
Flicking these white plastic switches had no effect on the lights they’re supposed to control. Unscrewing the faceplate showed that a small piece of plastic that acted as a ‘catch’ for the switch was broken. I needed to replace the faceplate and switch mechanism.
All the light switches in the Wendy House are the same style. Another one feels like it will break soon, frequently failing to work. I wanted to replace all of them with switches that have a firm action, are well made mechanically, are good looking, compliment the House style. I took my design brief to a local retail DIY store.
The switches were displayed to show their faceplate, they were packaged in a way that prevented me seeing the mechanical action, materials and quality. Darn.
I chose flat, reflective-nickel, switches. Black to compliment the old oak beams in my ceiling and wrought Iron door furniture. Black to make the switches easier to see against the light walls in the dark when I’m fumbling to turn them on. Unfortunately, the behind the scenes mechanism is deeper than the back-fittings of my old plastic switches. Replacing them was not just a process of swapping the plates and re-wiring. The masonry drill came out and the wall hole had to be made deeper. A bigger job than anticipated. Why aren’t switch box sizes a standard? Pah!
Now I’m loving my new sleek nickel switches, they have a very pleasing action with a good ‘thunk’ when they fall.
A temporary break in the flood production system. No rain this morning.
Laundry to be washed and dried. No modern tumble-drier accessories. My laundry its catching some rare sun rays in the Wendy House wind-swept garden.
Extra ballast had been added to the ‘airer’ to prevent it attempting a take-off garden tour. Bricks.
The ships that carried lumber from Seattle to San Francisco, to build the beautiful houses there, carried stone back to Seattle as ballast to weight the ships appropriately on the return journey. The stone was used to build many of the Historic buildings in the Pioneer square area of Seattle. Awesome.
The RSPCA has warned that cats are likely to take-off in these strong winds. Despite her own substantial personal ballast, Sampo’s a cautious cat.
Sampo’s not risking any unplanned flights.
- When your order a meal and he tells you, again, to be careful about your weight.
- Walk in the rain towards a warm friendly bar and he says he wants to go home
- The phone call to say he’s working late
A moment of a relief because of the freedom it implies. A deep seated pain because love is too wonderful a treasure to lose lightly. The desire to hold on, to try to rediscover that love is so strong that the temptation to disbelieve the moment is too often overwhelming. To hold on after love has died in the hope it will reappear in the magical way it first arrived. It can’t be gone for good, surely this is just doubt, just a moment of hurt. Surely love is still there, just hidden beneath the mundanities of everyday life, it’s head will rise again with all the joys that implies. But it doesn’t happen.
Don’t wait too long. Let go. Change direction.
Day 7: October 27th
My worry levels were slowly, but surely, rising. Maybe I should get back on the Interstate, the nearby I40? No, I’m here for Route 66 and I’m going to drive it with, or without my Satnav’s road recognition.
We wandered around the computer displays.
Wendy: which one do you like mum?
Mumsie: I can only choose based on how they look dear
Wendy: They’ll all work for what we want them to do, so that’s an ok way to choose
Mumsie: This one has a big space-bar, I want a big space bar. Why is that one [an Apple] so expensive?
Wendy: It’s for people who like showing off that they can pay a lot for their computer, I can’t help you with using that one, I can help you using with all the others.
The large store was very busy in January. We asked for an assistant and were put in a notional queue, we browsed while we waited for an assistant.
Assistant: How can I help you?
Mumsie: I don’t know, we want a computer with a keyboard
Wendy: Mumsie wants to do emailing, share her digital pictures, use Facebook and write the WI minutes. And I don’t want to push her into getting anything she doesn’t feel comfortable with
Mumsie: Oh, is that what we want?!
Assistant: You want a Surface RT, it comes with Microsoft Office installed for writing your minutes
Mumsie: Wendy, is that the ‘Word’ thing that I use? I just copy last month’s minutes and make small changes each month
Wendy: Yes mumsie [turns to assistant] Do any of the others have a version of word installed, and how much would it cost to add Word [annoyed because my surface pro didn't come with any version of Office, just the option to purchase the full version]?
Assistant: Only the surface comes with Office installed, it is a reduced version but should be sufficient for your Mum’s needs. You’d have to buy and install it on other Windows8 machines
He started talking about Bluetooth and other technical features at this point and I could see mumsie getting disengaged.
Wendy: can mum have a go with it?
He took us to see three Surfaces, each with a different coloured keyboard. Mumsie really liked the keyboard because it had a decent space-bar, but mostly because it was backlit so the letters on the keys were really easy to see. We bought the surface because the value for money and enabling mum to keep using word was important. Then on with the shopping, we wandered off to look at the winter coats. Mumsie carried the surface easily around the store as we continued browsing. Nice. It was like buying a computer had become just another thing you buy on a shopping trip. A bit scary for mum, but it was my money so it all went smoothly. The package even fitted under the table in John Lewis’s café as we stopped to treat ourselves to coffee and cheesecake. Mum doesn’t use a walking stick, but if she did she would have been able to carry the surface easily around John Lewis’s. Well done.
I was a bit scared about how right the Surface RT would be for her, I would soon find out, but that’s another blog post…
Day 7: October 27th
This is a Texas town in the panhandle. I’d seen a couple of ghost towns so this is positively thriving with its new fangled grain store technology and a couple of big cars. But no motel. No café. I was beginning to learn that Texas towns marked on the map could be ghost towns, a couple of shacks with no facilities for travellers, no cafés, no gas stations, no corner stores. Seems like a shack would qualify for a name on the map.
We want to buy a senior, computer-novice (Mumzie) something for emailing, sharing digital photographs, writing the Women Insitute meeting minutes and looking at her family on Facebook.
What’s our shopping experience going to be like?
To prepare I did some online searches. Would I be able to sit with mum using my surface, look through and decide between different available computers. No. The choice was overwhelming, the marketing was invariably lists of product features and Spec’s which would mean nothing to mum. There was a lot of reading required, small fonts, technical reviews. It was tedious for me and I could follow what they were writing about.
There was no way mum could choose a computer on the internet, even with me navigating and advising here.
Specialist technical shop?
I wandered into PC World (Currys) to check out what the experience would be like for mum. I wandered around the laptop displays, looked at the labels for each laptop. It wasn’t easy to choose between them even when you know a little bit about processors. A customer service person approached me and directed me towards a Surface Pro telling me how good it was. I started asking him questions and he not only didn’t know the answers he gave me the wrong answers e.g. you can’t buy a Surface Pro without a keyboard attached (which I’d done, so you can!). He was rude and condescending, he started arguments with me and didn’t let me draw them to a close. It was so frustrating that I ended up just walking off, there was no other way to get out of the conversation because he wouldn’t let it close and he wasn’t being helpful.
The company lost a potential sale because of his attitude. No way was I taking mumzie into this ignorant geeky tat-palace.
Shop specialising in service?
John Lewis’s have a department that includes computers, cameras and peripherals. The layout was similar to PC World, the staff were more stylishly dressed and so much more polite. They listened to me, they found out that I was looking for a computer for my mother. They answered my questions or said when they didn’t know and offered to find out for me. Thank you!
The store has a café with a decent menu, the store sells furniture and clothes, and kitchen stuff. Plenty of fun to be had here above and beyond the computer buying experience. A really good context. Hooray.
Mum’s coming to John Lewis with me for a friendly, well rounded, comfortable and possibly even fun computer shopping experience…