Saturday, 26 January 2013

The Wife of Bath's Tale

Remind me, when did the re-fit of our bathroom begin? Oh yes, Wednesday 2 January was the date I received the phone call and had to remove all the gungy half-bottles of shampoo and hand cream from the cupboards, dump them in the spare room and allow the fitters to dismantle the rest.

Three weeks of plaster dust, noise and numerous mugs of coffee later we now have a bathroom, albeit without new blinds and accessories: everything we had before complemented a blue and white scheme and are therefore not allowed back in. They will remain in a 'just in case' box which will never be opened again.

Initially the disruption upset the family routine. Dougie had to get showered at 6.30 am so he could vacate the en-suite in time for Rory to take up residence at 7. Once the boys were off to school and work this didn't leave me any time to get ready myself before the fitters arrived each day. Occasionally if I knew they were going to be late, I could be done and dusted in time, but usually I had the unsettling experience of showering in one room whilst a strange man hammered the life out of the adjoining wall, so much so I had the awful image of him knocking a hole through then handing me a bar of soap and a loofah.

I don't know how people manage to oversee house renovations without being on site. Every day I had to make lots of very important decisions: height of mirror, colour of tile grout, positioning of loo roll holder. Things didn't always go to plan. A few days ago our resident fitter cut his hand badly while pulling tiles off the wall. Although the bleeding stopped reasonable quickly, there was quite a gash so I sent him five minutes down the road to the surgery for Dougie to patch him up. He returned in ten minutes with his hand glued, dressed and covered in a fetching rubber glove.

A crack was found in the bath....twice. On our third bath I was assured it would be perfect but after two faulty ones, I'm a tad wary and haven't yet tried out the Archimedes principle on it. Our wacky choice of radiator - a huge sheet of copper - was sniffed at by the fitters who thought we'd lost our minds and wondered if we really wanted it in the bathroom as it looked like scrap metal. In the end we agreed, it looked ridiculous in the bathroom but was just perfect for the kitchen so it is now going to be mounted there instead as a functional piece of artwork. The fitters just roll their eyes.

Work has now begun on the en-suite so Dougie and I have moved ourselves to the spare room so the bedroom can be dust-sheeted. We quite like it in the spare room: the novelty makes it feel we're on holiday which is just as well as that's the nearest we're coming to one at the moment. And going into the new bathroom, which is clean and hasn't yet become stuffed full of rubbish, feels like being in a hotel. Maybe I should find all those stolen hotel toiletries and pop them in the room to complete the effect?

I suppose I ought to show you what the new bathroom looks like, though I suspect most of you have just scrolled to the bottom anyway. The photos don't exactly show the proper colours. The floor tiles, though grey in natural light, look more like a light sandstone under the ceiling lights or with a flash: the tiles are called 'anthracite' which doesn't help at all. The cabinets, though described as 'natural', would be far more accurately described as 'double-shot full-fat latte'.


Monday, 21 January 2013

Punk Pegs

I posted this photo on Facebook last night and lots of friends were quite taken by my spiky-haired Lakeland pegs so I thought they ought to show their faces on my blog for posterity.

The hoar frost we had earlier last week was mainly shrouded in an eerie cold fog but luckily we had one beautiful sunny morning which was enough to shove me out of the door and into the garden to take a few shots.

Does show me up rather, as I realise you can see I have left the pegs on the line for a good few months: it's been tumble drier weather since about October.

Here's a selection of other photographs taken that morning before the lure of coffee, chocolate and a seat near the radiator brought me back indoors.



Wednesday, 16 January 2013

The Gallery - New - Rubber Gloves

rubber gloves

The theme for this week's Gallery is 'new' and the photo above shows my new rubber gloves. Not any run of the mill rubber gloves, mind you. These were given to me last night as a gift from the director of our local production of Acorn Antiques, The Musical. 

For those of you who didn't catch my previous post, I've been fortunate enough to land the role of the infamous Mrs Overall in this amateur production which will be performed at the South Holland Centre, Spalding, in May. Mrs Overall was played by Julie Walters in the original sketches in Victoria Wood: As Seen On TV and also in the musical version. I have big shoes to fill, or rather, carpet slippers, a pinny, hairnet. and Marigolds.

New gloves for my new role which began last night with our first rehearsal. The script is a joy, the rest of the cast are fantastic and I think the next few months are going to be a blast.

Wish me luck!

More entries for this week's Gallery can be found at Sticky Fingers


Monday, 14 January 2013

Mum's gone to the Acorn Antiques auditions

You might remember before Christmas I mentioned I would soon be auditioning for the next SADOS musical, Acorn Antiques? That day arrived yesterday: a whole day of auditions from 10am until 4pm. Crikey! Surely it couldn't be any worse if we were auditioning in the West End?

I left the boys in bed while I packed my bag with spare shoes, drinks, a packed lunch and a bundle of nerves and headed off to a local school hall. The heating hadn't been on since Friday so it was quite cold which meant a morning of singing and dancing was the ideal way to warm up. Some vocal exercises first with Craig, our Musical Director -  'your diaphragm will soon be your friend' - followed by group singing of 'Wouldn't it be Loverly' using different emotions. I was in the 'angry' group, shaking my fist at the sky as I railed against the lack of chocolate and enormous chair. My favourite group were the basses who had to sing the song as if they were French. So very 'Allo 'Allo.

Next up was our talented choreographer, Abi, who gave us a series of dance steps to accompany the 'loverly' song. There was plenty of character acting involved, a bit of tap, and, because Acorn Antiques is meant to be a spoof of poor quality soap operas, the opportunity to exaggerate and ham it up a bit. We all seemed to enjoy it and I decided early on to make sure my face was playing a part even if my feet were doing something completely different to the choreography.

A break for lunch before the specific auditions for each part in the show. This took quite some time as many people didn't really know which parts they fancied, so there was about half a dozen people trying out for each character. I decided to audition for Miss Babs, Miss Berta and Mrs Overall with Mrs O being my first choice. The first two auditions went well but I was pleased that the audition piece for Mrs O included one of my favourite lines from the show:

"Well. Somebody offered her a cocktail. Next thing you know she's headed for Bermuda with a trunk full of provocative scanties. If she'd stuck to a lattice jam tartlet and a Vimto, all this could have been avoided".

I must have done something right as I'm pleased to tell you that I was offered the part of Mrs Overall. I'm so delighted and can't wait to get started...tomorrow, in fact, is our first rehearsal. I have a few months to learn my part before we take it to the South Holland Centre theatre in Spalding in May.

Came home to tell the boys my news and Rory was pleased I wouldn't be embarrassing him this year by going on stage in my underwear as in other years. No, this year I will be wearing thick tights, flat shoes, a pinny (apron) and a hairnet. I'm meant to be playing a cleaner, aged 60 +

Bring it on.


Saturday, 12 January 2013

Review of personalised Valentine's Day cakes by Baker Days

Valentine cake by Baker Days
They say the way to a man's heart is through his stomach. So, for Valentine's Day this year why not buy him a cake? Cake shouldn't just be for birthdays; there are so many special occasions when a cake would be the perfect gift, especially if it can be easily ordered online, personalised and delivered swiftly to the recipient.

The online company, Baker Days, asked me to review one of their Valentine's Day cakes. No need to ask twice: cake is always welcome here.

Baker Days supply and deliver high quality, personalised party cakes and cupcakes but they also do fabulous 'letterbox' cakes: "Perfectly petite and personalised, exquisite mini celebration cakes that safely slip through a letterbox". It was a letterbox cake I was testing for this review.

The website is easy to navigate - over 400 designs for every occasion, a simple way to change the words to suit and the option to include a photograph. The basic price for a letterbox cake is £14.99. Delivery is free. The price goes up if you choose a cake which is different from a basic Madeira sponge: carrot cake (£1.20 extra), fruit cake or gluten and wheat free cake (£1.80 extra) and double chocolate chip cake (£2.00 extra).

The cake is 12cm in diameter (15cm if you include the edging) and comes packed in a sweet little tin with the words 'Just for You' embossed on the lid. I do think the company should shout about the tin more on their website as it makes the gift much more special. The tin is packaged in a plain sturdy box 22cm long and 3.6cm high, which should fit through a letterbox. Unfortunately, as my letterbox has draft-excluding brushes attached, the postman left my parcel at the back door instead.

Hubby was delighted with his cake and the little packet of Love Hearts included in the box. But what does the cake taste like? Delicious: a very light sponge and just the right amount of icing. The company says there are 3-4 portions but I think I'll get a few more than that out of it, if I cut the wedges a little smaller.

I would certainly use Baker Days again to send someone a little gift: maybe a Good Luck cake or a Get Well cake: it's such a simple idea and the £14.99 isn't too expensive when you consider the recipient also receives a pretty tin which they can keep afterwards.

Cake from Baker Days


Sunday, 6 January 2013

Arse about Face

You'll be pleased to know that the new downstairs loo was completed just before Christmas: the paint had only just dried when Mum arrived the day before Christmas Eve and pronounced new loo to be 'just like a hotel'. I take that as a compliment but, truth be told, the loo had been a disgrace ever since the washing machine overflow pipe had leaked and lifted the vinyl flooring in our smallest room. For the last six months the loo has been floored with cardboard. Added to this, the flush on the loo has been particularly tricky, requiring a specific technique of one quick push followed by steady pressure. This takes time to master and poor Mum found it nigh-on impossible. So, you can imagine, she was delighted to find a push-button flush and a properly tiled floor.

Of course, the refurbishment of this room was a precursor to the main event: the creation of a new bathroom and en-suite.  This was to begin in the New Year. So it shouldn't have come as a surprise when, at 9am on Wednesday 2 January, the bathroom people rang up to say our fitter would be with us in an hour to start on the main bathroom. Dougie had gone to work, Rory was fast asleep and I was still in my dressing gown. Had we done any clearing or sorting of the bathroom in preparation for their arrival? No. Did I think we had a few days to do this, as they probably wouldn't be starting until Monday 7th? Yes. Did I panic? Yes.

I can't quite believe it but, in under an hour, I managed to get showered, dressed, hoist Rory out of bed and then completely empty the bathroom. I found some old boxes and threw everything from all the cupboards and drawers into them - medicines, shampoos, a mountain of half-used Lynx cans, sheets and towels from the airing cupboard, a chair, ornaments from the window-sill, the whole lot was deposited in the spare room.  There were several boxes looking just like the one below:

Ah, the Arse/Face novelty soap from many moons ago. This has now been moved to the chucky-out-box along with, I reckon, 70% of the remainder of the hoard. I have given myself a good talking-to. In future I must refrain from stealing toiletries from hotels as I never use them. And can members of my family please take note that I have no need for any more hand cream. Ever.

Unfortunately, as I was running around like a madwoman, I neglected to photograph or video the empty bathroom so you, dear readers, would have the benefit of a before and after shot, as you did with the infamous kitchen update of 2011. I can tell you, however, that the bathroom, having been installed about 15 years ago, was in need of an update. The showers were leaking and mastic-ed up to the hilt, the bidet was cracked as I'd dropped a tap on it (don't ask) and we were having an ongoing battle with limescale and mouldy bits. Plus it was blue. I've gone off blue. Bit cold for a bathroom, although probably all the rage in the 1990s.

On Thursday I did manage to take some photos and it looks something like this now:

The plaster dust and muck is settling onto every surface like a delicate hoar frost, the delightful sound of drilling fills my head with its penetrating pitch and it's hard to feel at home in my own home as I squeeze past the loft ladder and proffer a mug of coffee to the electrician above me. But it's good to see the sturdy mugs again which have emerged from their place at the back of the kitchen cupboard: the far-too-jolly Mr Happy mug; the red and white, came-with-an-Easter-Egg, KitKat mug; the funny-at-the-time Flirty at Forty mug.

I reckon we have a few more weeks of this to come. Am girding my loins.