Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Coming home, Newcastle.

At long last (10 months after arriving) I'm going back to Newcastle tomorrow. I have so far managed to avoid packing anything at all but Youngest who is travelling with me (Eldest coming next week with Husband) has all of her clothes, etc laid out on her bedroom floor, carefully checked off her list, and has her hand luggage packed (as of last week).  If she had her own way it would all be in our suitcase by now,  however, I accept only a few personal faults and one is that I'm rubbish at packing a suitcase and should I put it all in it would inevitably have to come out again. I'm great at bringing the right things, plus lots of extras, but inordinately bad at putting it all in a suitcase. Funny really because I'm great at Tetris, but the ability to make best use of the space in a suitcase is a mental block. Husband would argue that I'm equally bad at 'packing' a shopping trolley but, of course, packing a shopping trolley is ridiculous. And anal.

So...I've spent some time buying Canadian things to take home. They are all typically tacky of course and I have no idea how I'm going to divvy them out.  I don't have enough for everyone (i.e. family of huge proportions and friends of fewer proportions), nor do I have anything that will bring much joy. If my family loved hockey it would be a different matter but the only hockey they may have encountered involves mud and bullying off.  I can only hope the sight of me is reward enough. 

Some items I have bought:

- moose key rings
- a Quebec mug
- Hershey's kisses (not strictly Canadian)
- Kraft Dinner (worse than Pot Noodles but strangely addictive to some)
- some Jell-O (North American blancmange, but Oreo flavour....mmmmm)
- maple syrup (of course)
- maple syrup biscuits (of course again)

I had hoped to buy a Canadian wedding present but...well.....I'm not quite sure what Canada does better than anyone else. Or uniquely. And I don't think moose/beaver/maple themed presents at weddings are quite the done thing.

Some things I'm going to do/buy when I'm in England:

- buy Charles Worthington hair products
- eat slabs of decent butter
- eat my Mam's chips and rice pudding
- go to the Hoppings
- buy spray on deodorant (only roll on/stick here)
- buy Molton Brown
- watch the telly
- buy Yorkshire tea bags
- argue with my family about nothing and everything
- sleep in my old bedroom
- go drinking with my nutty mate until she gets me so drunk I fall asleep wherever I am
- not walk dogs 

I think I'm going to be busy. Except for the not walking dogs bit.

Can't wait.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

How to save wildlife our way.

For about 3 weeks now we've had a bird's nest somewhere in the venting leading from our cooker hood to the outside wall - this venting travels across the top of a whole room so it's fairly long and we couldn't work out exactly where the nest was, only that we heard the babies chattering for their food every now and again. Of course this meant we have been unable to use our cooker lest we murder them.  So the waiting game long could we bare to have a BBQ AGAIN versus give in and risk baby bird slaughter. It was getting pretty close I can tell you - my desire to save the birdies was reducing in direct proportion to the prospect of more frazzled chicken and corn on the cob.  

Then something happened. Just as our willpower was really weakening one of the baby birds decided to travel our way along the vent and launch itself over the edge onto the top of our cooker hood and there proceed to squeak and flap and, rather curiously, run on top of the fan like a hamster.  Having a husband who is more of an animal lover than Johnny Morris (though he doesn't pretend to be animals like Johnny) he set out to rescue it.  It's worth pointing out here that my husband isn't most famous for his DIY skills unless they involve glueing fingers together with superglue.

After much deliberation he decided that the only way to possibly get access to the bird was to remove part of the kitchen. I must say that a feeling of foreboding grabbed me by the gut at the idea but it seemed he was intent on the rescue so I agreed to help.  After a trip to the local hardware shop to buy allen keys to remove a kitchen cupboard and discovering they were the wrong tool we eventually found the right tool in the basement, left over from the previous occupant. So, picture this.....cooker hood attached to cupboard above it which is attached to the frame of the rest of the kitchen. He unscrewed the cupboard which keeps the cooker hood in place which meant one of us had to try to pull out the heavy cupboard while the other one supported the equally heavy cooker hood. I don't mind telling you that I have weak wrists so neither prospect was attractive, but I didn't have the luxury of thinking about it much as it all sort of came apart at once. I grabbed, then lugged the cupboard out and staggered a couple of feet before placing it on a very handy, though unplanned, chair. This left my husband holding the cooker hood but happily at this point the bird dropped out and flew across the room.
'Get it out,' he shrieked. It is understandable that he spoke so urgently; we have 3 Ridgebacks who looked both interested and hungry at the same time.
'Wait, help me.' Sweat had broken out on his forehead as he held the cooker hood up looking like a weird Strongest Man contestant.
I picked up the cupboard in the absence of anything else big enough and shuffled it under the cooker hood where it still sits some days later.

After shooing and waving failed to do anything except get us running from one side of the room to the other and the dogs to drool in anticipation my husband threw a tea towel over it, grabbed it,  and let it go in the garden. My hero. 

The prospect of trying to put the kitchen back together has meant more days of BBQs. We had chicken last night. For a change.  The thing is, he only had to actually undo 4 screws under the cooker hood and the bird would have dropped out. I told you about his DIY skills didn't I?

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Mustard gas.

Wednesday night seemed much like any lovely; had a BBQ (because there are birds nesting in our cooker extraction piping and we don't want to kill them); watched the dogs, greyhound-like, running around the pool; had a few glasses of wine. All seemed well in the world. Then on Thursday the Yellow arrived. My husband noticed it first around the pool, on tables and chairs...then as we looked we saw that a fine layer of fine yellow dust covered absolutely everything. What could it be? Icelandic volcanic ash? Sulphur? Or (my guess) mustard gas from some weird Canadian faction who hated foreigners (they really exist).  My husband tasted it - stupid on reflection, but it seemed like a good idea at the time apparently. No taste. We smelled it - no apparent smell. Hhhmmmmm.  

Before I tell you what this mystery powder is, and the embarrassing way I found out, I should say that I have a stunningly overactive imagination.  If my children or husband are 5 minutes late I have them in some awful accident, cut from a wreckage, ambulanced to hospital and in an operating room. So mustard gas was my first thought...but I quickly moved on to napalm and then on to some unknown stealth killer designed to poison every living thing and discolour my clothes.  Too late to phone the Town Hall....who to ask? My neighbour has lived here for years and always available on emails so I flew a quick 'do you have scary yellow dust in your garden?'

Her reply began with LOL which didn't bode well for my pride. 'It's pine pollen you dufus.'  She didn't quite phrase it like that but she may as well have.  So - not a secret killer - pine pollen. Nobody told me about this before or after I got here. Do they think it's normal?  Nothing in the guide books, nothing in the Welcome to Canada leaflets, no forewarning from neighbours or, indeed, my English friends.  

Oh, and not only is it not poisonous - it's a health food.