Footprints in my Heart

Some people come into our lives and quickly go, while others stay and leave footprints in our hearts and we are never the same

Today was meant to be a happy post. The second part of Paying it Forward. I was meant to feel all elated, having spread unexpected happiness and joy. How very un-British. It was meant to be awesome.

It wasn’t.
A friend is dying.

I ugly cried into Teflon Man’s jumper. I then spent the morning trying not to cry at my friend, instead trying to be terribly British and stiff-upper-lipped, and strong for him as he sat in his chair, a yellow shadow of his usual self. All I wanted to do was puddle into a pool of tears. I’m rubbish at being British. But he was being so pragmatic and accepting that it would have been self-indulgent to sob about all that’s now not to be. So we cracked lame jokes that fooled no one. But there are no words.

His body is broken and my heart is in pieces.

He’s already using the past tense. 

The Pay It Forward biscuits can wait until next week. Today is for my friend, whose footsteps will forever foxtrot in my heart.

  

Advertisements

0843 724 2036 and the Midlife Crisis

I don’t know why 0843 724 2036 tried to call me today. Or rather, I know why they called. I just don’t know why they called me.

It seems they wanted to talk about pensions. Or at least the robot at the other end of the line wanted me to register my interest in talking about pensions.

I don’t have a pension. I am unlikely to have a pension any time soon because living in the moment is hard enough; planning to live in the future is a luxury I can’t afford. 

I am also unlikely to be able to retire before I die as the government keeps moving the goalposts as they’ve realised there’s not enough cash in the pot. (If the government can’t afford strategic planning of future spending without thinking ‘oh fuck!’ on a national level, how am I meant to do it on a personal level?)

But these aren’t the reason I’m sad. I’m sad because I’m 40. And because I’m 40 marketing people think that’s tantamount to being on the last stretch towards the grave. 

I’m sad because you’re talking about pensions  whilst I’ve still got my student debt to pay off. But actually I’m more likely to have it written off…because I’m getting old rather than getting on.

I’m sad because I suspect they wanted to talk to me about the alternatives to having a standard pension and somehow paying it to them for embezzlement purposes when – if! – my time for that ever comes. Aren’t there plenty of baby boomers out there that they could be discussing this with? I’m not there yet, buddy.

I’m sad because I don’t get targeted for sexy things any more, like free entry to clubs or trial gym passes or discounts on fast fashion. No, now I get offers for funeral plans and catalogues featuring a lot of linen slacks. In beige. With elasticated waist for comfort. I’ve even started to think they look like a practical option. (Ok, I’ll admit I actually own a pair of dark beige slacks – with an elasticated waist – and I love them. My only saving grace is that I didn’t get them from a catalogue.)

  
I’m 40. The average life expectancy for a woman born in the UK in 1975 is 75.9. So why am I being written off? Pushed towards the grave, even though Sunday supplement magazines keep trying to tell me that the grey pound is the new pink one? Apparently you can still think ‘hip’ without automatically following it with ‘op’ but it really doesn’t feel like it. I know the years are flying by – the twins are half my age and are adults! They’re now the age my head thinks I am before reality kicks in in the morning – but still, hopefully, I’ve got a while to go yet.

I won’t even be entitled to a state pension until I’m 67. So I have 27 years to figure out how to pay for the last 8.9 years of my life. 

Except…OH MY CHRIST! Theres only 27 years until I can retire! I got my first job at 14. That was 26 years ago!!! But that feels like yesterday!!! *Starts to hyperventilate* 

And what with banks and investment types being the biggest rip-off merchants since insurers and politicians I’m guessing 27 years of squirrelling isn’t going to get me much. But then maybe it’s best if I just assume a life of working until the grave. Who wants retirement anyway? After 4 kids I’ve had my share of daytime TV and sitting in rooms where half the people in it are peeing themselves. Do I really want to end my days back in that situation when instead surely technology will have advanced so that arthritic fingers can still tap figures into a computer? Besides I’m rubbish at gardening/knitting/casual racism. Sod a pension. I think instead I’m better off working out a retirement escape plan! 

0843 724 2036 can assume I won’t be calling them back. I’m too busy rocking in the corner weeping to myself.

Water World

If the Gluestick family was to have a motto it would have to be:

If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. If it IS broke probably still don’t fix it because it will just lead to other things.

And not good things like, ‘Great, we’ve got the new windows in but we’ll have to redecorate!’ or ‘That’s central heating installed, let’s redecorate!’ or ‘The kitchen re-model looks amazing, let’s get the oven installed and enjoy our Pinterest-worthy lifestyle!’
No. More like ‘It’s about time we redecorated the living room. Oh, look, the plaster’s come off with the wallpaper and look at that gaping hole in the floor through to the cellar after pulling up the carpet!’ (True story.)

  
Yep, we’re always best off just leaving things alone and then living without forever. Things like a dishwasher or tumble dryer or central heating. (When we tried to get that one fixed they told us our whole system had been installed the opposite way to conventional systems and it would therefore cost double to fix. We left it. Warmth is so over-rated.)

So this week we had to decide whether or not we could possibly live without hot water as the immersion heater broke. The look on Teflon Man’s face told us that would be a no. 

I could have just called up the favourite plumber from work. Reliable, capable and not a rip-off merchant, it could have been sorted by the next day. 

But, no. Because Grandy is a hands-on sort of bloke he could get it sorted himself. Although not that night because the big chain DIY stores assume that no one uses such out-dated methods of water-heating (they have a point) so no longer stock immersion heaters. We know this because Grandy spent the evening trawling the big chain DIY stores and explaining to staff that it’s like a giant kettle element that goes in the hot water tank, when his request met with blank stares.

But, by the next evening he’d managed to track down a new immersion heater. It only took a visit to five specialist plumbing merchants. (I didn’t even know our town had five specialist plumbing merchants.) 

It wasn’t that easy though. 

For one thing, a washer was missing. Sort of essential, the washer. So it was back to the specialist plumbing merchant. Actually, it was back to three of the specialist plumbing merchants. It turns out washers aren’t held in stock, but have to be ordered in specially. I’m not sure whether it’s because of space issues, what with them being small flat rings of rubber, or the cost implications of holding stock of any quantity of a product that retails at 34p per unit.

  
Sheesh.

Luckily someone had ordered in a washer, but Grandy managed to negotiate it for himself. 

48 hours after We’vegotnowatergate we had hot water again. Grandy then discovered that actually the new immersion unit had contained a washer all along – it had just got stuck to the bottom of the box.

But we also had a bigger problem. But of course.

Venturing into the cellar to turn the water off, Grandy couldn’t help but notice that the pipe connected to the mains was leaking in the cellar. Well, it was hard not to notice as it was a) spurting quite vociferously and b) had partly flooded the cellar.

‘I’m not fixing it tonight,’ he announced. As the flood was draining out the front of the house and, pfft, it’s not like we actually use the cellar for anything other than storage of crap we’d otherwise need a skip to get rid of because none of us are either dwarves (the ceiling’s quite height-limited) nor keen to hang out with spiders (and potentially a ghost baby) we weren’t that concerned. We live with probably hazardous electrics and a gas oven that was hooked up in the dark ages, so on the list of The House Could Probably Kill Us subterranean flooding wasn’t a particular emergency. We all shrugged and went to bed.

Actually it took another two days to get the flood sorted. Make that two days, one baffled Chinese man roused from his Saturday morning lie-in so Grandy could turn the mains water off (except he couldn’t because you need a special tool to turn it off, so make that one baffled Chinese man roused for no reason) and many many many swear words. At least it’s merely seeping now, rather than spurting, which in our world is as good as it gets.

Perfect time then for the kitchen sink to become blocked then.

 
That’s  after the application of sink unblocker. Looks like the wrench will be coming out again tomorrow. May God have mercy on our souls!

  

Who eats half a cookie?

Sometimes life, and in particular, the internet brings to light concepts that I struggle to get my head around.

Such as the idea of having a recipe for one cookie.

There are just two reasons on Earth as to why I would choose to make just one cookie:
1) I actually intended to make 12, but ate so much of the dough that I only ended up with one solitary biscuit;

2) I decided to make one enormous biscuit so that I wouldn’t have to share with anyone else (which, now I think of it would make phenomenal sense).

But, no. The crazy (and I assume skinny) fools on Pinterest have suggested a recipe for literally a single cookie.

  
Why would you do that? Why?

But it gets weirder. Because rather than assuming (correctly!) that you – ok, I – would promptly sit (stand at the kitchen worktop) and devour the whole thing (and then wish I’d made another 11), the recipe suggests this one cookie would constitute TWO servings!!!

  
💥

That would be my brain exploding at the very idea.

For one thing, in that case, why not make TWO cookies? Otherwise, secondly, why on Earth would you eat half of something so delicious (the Pinner said that it was one of her ‘FAVORITE recipes EVER’ so it must be good) and then leave the other half for later? You just know that someone’s just going to put it in the bin. Why take that risk?

Maybe it’s just a smug willpower thing: ‘Ooh, look, I’m so good I only bake one biscuit at a time and then leave half because my appetite is so small that I can’t manage it in one go.’ Well, in that case, those people deserve to have their half-eaten cookies binned. If you’re going to the trouble of making it at least eat it!

There are already enough issues around food. Let’s not add to them. Either make a normal batch of cookies – share them around if you like the baking part but not the weight gain – or if you must bake just one cookie at a time at least eat it in one go. The world is not a better place for having half-eaten cookies lying around.

Should’ve Gone to Specsavers

Q: What’s worse than going to your car to find you’ve got a parking ticket?

A: Finding you’ve got TWO parking tickets.

It’s not even a joke.

 
Marvellous!

My heart dropped when my dad handed them over to me this evening. I got one last month too. That time the permit had blown from my dashboard so it couldn’t be seen, but when you’re wrangling children along with bags of shopping that you’ve then you got to negotiate safely through the car park and then trudge home because the council have banned you from parking in your street because it needs to be used as a temporary bus stop then checking that the permit is still where you left it is the least of your worries. But it must have happened again and I’d got a ‘never let it happen again – next time we won’t be so lenient’ warning last time. Oh balls!
So imagine my surprise when I went to the car  and could very plainly see the white card of the permit in the middle of my dashboard.

  
I can’t help the dashboard design of my Ford Focus, but it didn’t take a lot of effort to be able to make out that it was very definitely:

A) ascribed to my car;

B) in date;

and

C) valid for use, not only for that specific car park, but also for the ground floor.

  
It was in the very same position it was in since Draughtgate, so had been deemed visible for the previous 20 days. And yet, according to my penalty notices it had suddenly become invisible to the naked eye of the parking warden, even though it hadn’t moved. Even Teflon Man idenitified it as my permit when I asked ‘What’s that on my car dashboard?’ Which shows how very much of a muppet the warden must be.

Now, I would have been a tad frustrated if it meant I had to pop along to the council office responsible for parking fines. Having to take a ticket and sit on a plastic chair for a bit is a nuisance. But if you get to talk to a human being (ok, I’m not sure all council employees are actually human, but I can be an optimist) then it’s done and dusted and all is right in the world. (It’s how I got the addition of the ground floor to the permit after all. Negotiating with jobsworths is a skill I have and I like to use it whenever possible.)

But what really pips me off is that I don’t get to talk to a human being directly about this. No, I now have to fill in an online form. TWICE. I have to attach photos – the same photos – of my evidence to said form. TWICE. If it goes the same way as last time I’ll then get a reply back to say that the photos didn’t attach to the form properly. TWICE. And I’ll then have to go through the rigmarole of doing it all again. TWICE!!!

And all because I the warden couldn’t see what’s right in front of his frickin’ nose!!!

So, yeah, I’m more than a tad annoyed. And when I am more than a tad annoyed I get just a little bit snarky. Which isn’t good when it comes to dealing with council officials. Yet filling in to a faceless void of an online form just encourages the worst. Surely it’s the reason forum comment section are full of such hate.

So wish me luck tomorrow. It won’t so much be a case of bitemarks in my tongue as gnarled up fingers from having to stop myself from typing torrents of snidy sarcasm.

And at least I got to vent here. If it only serves to feed the fire of my frustrations would one of you please be kind enough to come and bail me out of the cells/loony bin (depending on which vehicle gets to me first).

Here’s hoping they overturn the penalties. If they don’t it may be small town Armageddon!

In the meantime maybe I should attach a Specsavers voucher to my wipers. Or would the warden’s guide dog not pick up on it?

In Defense of the ‘Mercenary’ Mom

Things you don’t tend to think when you hit Send on an email:

– ‘I hope this gets misconstrued.’

– ‘I hope my relative then bitches about me to their colleagues.’

– ‘I hope one of their colleagues then uploads it to the internet where it’ll go viral.’

– ‘I can’t wait to read all the vicious backlash, including judgements on my parenting skills and jokes about one-year-old son getting kidnapped.’

Oops.

Ok, the email in question wasn’t exactly worded brilliantly:

 
You can see why it raised the hackles. Maybe a lighter tone wouldn’t have gone amiss.

HOWEVER…

The actual points are pretty valid. And so I’m here to stick up for Mercenary Mom (and Dad, cos his name was on that email too, but – unsurprisingly – Mom’s getting 75% of the blame, because guilt is a mum’s default setting).

 Shoddy assumptive journalism ensuring the blame is squarely attributed to Mom? Oh, it’s the Daily Mail – no surprise there then.

1) Host a kid’s birthday party and you will get asked what people should buy. In fact, it’s my instant response to an invite: ‘we’d love to come. Is there anything in particular little Johnny/Jill would like?’ And if I get a definite reply I’m over the moon because it saves me standing in The Entertainer in a fit of blind panic trying to pick something when chances are if they like it they’ve already got it and if they haven’t there’s a reason why not.

Misery averted all round.

2) They weren’t asking for a Swarovski-encrusted quad bike. If you’re going to resent spending $14.99 on a play tunnel for your grandson/nephew (because they were only asking grandparents/aunts/uncles) then shame on you, original recipient.

  

Obviously just a money-grabbing bitch to have the audacity to ask for one of these for her son! How dare she!

3) Duplication of gifts does suck. It sounds like it’s going to be a small gathering of family. Chances are presents will be opened in front of everyone. So the list avoids the following scenario:

  
– Oh, a play tent. That’s perfect! Just what Timmy will love playing with that so much! Thank you so much, Granny!

  
– Oh, another play tent! Wow! Err…no, no, Pops, don’t worry about the receipt – no, don’t you worry either Granny. No, I’m sure we can have one indoors and one outside. I mean, who doesn’t need two play tents right? 

Awkwardness avoided all round.

4) Retailers can be arseholes. Too right if you don’t have your receipt they’ll sting you when it comes to a refund or exchange. 

Retailer: Yes, the water table is very much in its original box, in line with the new repackaged product. And with a reference label showing that it was purchased from us. However, we once featured it in our one-day-only 99%-off sale in 1934 where we sold it for 9 shillings and 6 pence, so without the receipt that’s all we can offer you as a refund or exchange price.

All right, there was no need to start banging on about milk, but still, the point is clear and not unreasonable: if you can’t stand to buy from the offered list or talk to us about what you’re thinking, please provide the receipt. We then have one up on the thieving shops. 

Frustration avoided all round.

5) The kid’s just not that into books right now. It would appear that possibly the family is. And to be fair, again, if I’m not given a definitive gift to purchase and I’ve had a meltdown in The Entertainer I will then head to Waterstones and buy a book. I’d rather know in advance than later see it marked as ‘unused’ on a Facebook selling page (as happened to me with a toy train I bought a friend’s son for his birthday).

Landfill – or the nuisance of refitting – avoided all round.

6) Internet reaction has been incredulous at the personalised clothing thing. No, having your name on a t-shirt doesn’t mean your child will be snatched. BUT if a stranger can use a child’s name they’re going to assume familiarity and trust. It may be over-protective, but it’s also their choice. 

Or maybe they think personalised clothing is tacky and they’re reframing it in a way that they thought wouldn’t cause offence? I have a friend who was aghast to find her daughter’s name on a personalised plate because a) the name was therefore ‘common’ and b) those things are ghastly but kids love them.

If the parents don’t want personalised stuff though then fair enough. They’d only be put on for a single ‘Thanks for the t-shirt!’ photo and when visiting said relative. (Oh yes, been there, done that!) With the speed a year-old baby grows that’s possibly three wears max. And instead the parents would have to go out and buy other clothes.

Pay attention to the email and it’s money saved all round.

And so, Mom and Dad, I couldn’t agree with you more! The way you worded the email? Erk! You may want to rethink that in the future. But that doesn’t mean you deserved to be slated from every comer. I hope Black Rectangle’s 1st birthday is lovely. I assume the  family member responsible for sending you viral is uninvited? I’m sure it will be a better day without them.

Some of the commenters have got it right though:

[–]lmfoley79 4676 points 4 days ago 

Whoever wrote that has absolutely NO social skills. Clearly they have no ability whatsoever to analyze their own actions and predict the reactions of others, whether spoken or unspoken. 


‘No ability to…predict the reactions of others’? No, I don’t suppose you did expect the email to end up all over the place with the world adding their fourpenneth. And for adding to the fire I’m sorry. I just wanted you to know that from where I stand you’re not in the wrong and, in fact, I wish more people would do the same. Ok, not the same, similar (I’m British and we’re not so good with tell-in-straight brusqueness). I get that your intentions were to be helpful rather than mercenary.

I also hope your son gets the water table – that looks ace!

  

Pay It Forward Part 1: A Cherry

Remember when I hoped to win the lottery? I didn’t, obviously, otherwise I’d be posting from the Maldives. But it did start a chain of events that resulted in a cherry as good as a win.

Because, you see, the world is a cool place. Watch too much rolling news and it can seem all doom and gloom: Isis, climate change, aeroplane disasters, Ebola, the national deficit, corruption, lies and death. (I’d say I’m immune as I’m largely restricted to watching CBeebies, but that just leads to a different sort of madness). 

But, actually, in reality, people are mostly good. And so special things can happen that can set off a whole chain of unpredictable loveliness. Because, when I wrote that post I didn’t expect the following email:

I loved your post on winning the lottery.  I’m not wealthy, but it would make me very happy to buy you a mix-master.  That way, you would have won a little something.  Afterwards, if you choose, do a little favor for someone else who isn’t expecting it. Don’t need to spend money at all. It will make you feel so good…Just so you know, I am not wealthy or nuts.  I have a little money stuck back just for myself.  This is not out of my household funds.  I don’t send my grocery or rent money to televangelists. 

Now, that took me surprise. I felt like Cinderella – a bit embarrassed to have been caught crying with self-pity, but excited to have an offer out of the blue. I wrestled with my conscience – would it really be the right thing to do to let someone I admire (I promised them no names, but I’m a HUGE fan of their blog) but don’t actually know buy me something? But the idea of paying it forward did put a huge smile on my face and got the cogs whirring. And Cinders certainly didn’t reject her Fairy Godmother. So I said yes (on the basis that I pay for delivery because there was an ocean involved).

And then the planets aligned some more.

Chatting to a friend I told her about the offer I’d received and how exciting the prospect was of having a stand mixer in my kitchen. She makes cakes as a sideline to her normal job and is a devotee to her Kitchen Aid mixer so knew where I was coming from in my excitement.

‘I’m getting a new one for my birthday. Do you want my old one?’

Hell, yeah!!!

She offered me a bargain price and as of Thursday this has sat on my worktop:

  

That right there is my cherry!

(And Teflon Man has yet to notice!)

So I thanked my delightful blogger fairy godmother and said that I didn’t need for her to buy me a mixer, but she had been the instigator of the series of very fortunate events and thank you. I will still very much be paying it forward. (Look out for Part 2 – I have a plan, which I may coincide with international Pay It Forward Day on 30th April. See, Kismet plays its hand again – it gives me time to organise my plan perfectly. It’s already giving me the warm and fuzzies.)

In the meantime I’ve been playing! One flour-covered kitchen later and the inaugural mixer-produced cookies were done!

 

They definitely wouldn’t cut it on the Great Britsh Bake-Off, but they are rather the yummy and a making them was a wonderful way to spend a late Sunday afternoon.

Now to find the perfect bread recipe! And cupcakes! And pastry…!

(Oh my God – I’m going to get so fat as a result of my new toy!!!)

So, Fairy Godmother, 

  

THANK YOU! For showing such unrequited generosity – may it be an example to many; it’s definitely been an example to me – for triggering events that have led to my house smelling of vanilla and sugar and for making me smile more than you could know. Because for some girls it’s glass slippers and ball invites, but for others it’s balloon whisks and baked goods. Ok, so my ever after is likely to be Type 2 diabetes rather than a handsome prince. It’s the difference between pumpkins and cherries, I guess. Thank you for helping me get mine. 

GSM xx