It’s been a funny old week, one that started with me having the mother of all migraines. Now, I used to get these quite a lot during my teenage years, but then hormones settled down and I seemed to shake loose of them and never really suffered from them again, until last year. Then I had one that necessitated me being sent home from work. It was horrible, that sick pounding in my skull and the wonky vision but spending the day in a darkened room with no stimulation, seemed to do the trick and I haven’t had one since.
But last Sunday morning I awoke with a strange throbbing in my brain, I got up and ready for work, managed some breakfast, but all the time could feel this headache getting worse. I decided to go to work anyway. Like most British people, I don’t get paid for taking a day off sick so always have to drag myself in. Driving to work, I was aware of the pain in my skull increasing and the pressure growing across my forehead – it was like a steel band was being tightened about my head – then suddenly, a sharp pain stabbed right through my right eye and my vision went blurry.
I managed to get to work and open up the shop as I was the first one there, but by now I was feeling really sick and dizzy, and my brain was pushing on my skull to be let out. My two male colleagues turned up, took one look at me, pulled faces and made disgusted shrieks like little girls and asked what was wrong with my eye. What was wrong with my eye? I went to look and found it was now completely bloodshot and swollen. The boss turned up, looked at me and sent me home. I think he was afraid I’d scare the customers away. Honestly, I think men are more squeamish than women.
I made it home, just, before the migraine really kicked in and I was vomiting every time I turned my head. It lasted two days, during which I lay very still in a dark room and kept my eyes shut. I have no idea what caused it. I have been under quite a bit of stress lately, so maybe that was a factor. I do know I didn’t like it. I hate being ill; and being ill and completely immobilised is even worse – at least if it’s a cold or a dicky tummy you can still read or watch TV – but this rendered me incapable of doing anything!
It was Miss F’s works Christmas do this week, and I’m afraid to say she learnt a hard lesson about how adult life can completely and utterly suck. She was so excited about it, Domino pizza was to be purchased for all the staff, there was to be drinks of both the alcoholic and non-alcoholic variety, games and just general fun. I was dubious about this last. In my experience, a party for adults with unlimited access to booze doesn’t usually include staid games of Monopoly and Mario Cart, more the type of games I didn’t want my 16-year-old to be part of. But I kept quiet and merely told her to text me when she wanted collecting, and to make sure it wasn’t too late as she did have college next day.
There was to be a Secret Santa and she’d drawn out the name of one of the male kitchen staff she hadn’t really had any contact with before. She was panicking about what to buy, and with a budget of less than £10 was stuck for ideas. So, mum stepped in. I bottled him up a small bottle of my homemade cherry brandy, bought a red waxed truckle of extra mature cheddar, a pack of posh oatcakes, a box of Guiness infused truffles and a bar of Guiness flavoured salted caramel chocolate (the pub where Miss F works has the name Guiness in the title, so it seemed appropriate). I made a nice little hamper with a box, thick brown paper, green cellophane and a big red bow and arranged everything in. It looked great and I thought anyone would be happy to get that and would be able to see that a lot of thought had gone into it.
The day came, Miss F got herself all gussied up in her best clothes, spent ages on hair and make-up and caught to 5:30pm bus out to her workplace clutching her present for the Secret Santa. I settled down to an evening alone, looking forward to catching up with my book and maybe an episode or two of Poldark. I wasn’t really expecting to hear from her much before ten and was prepared to extend her pick up time until eleven, appreciating that sometimes you just have to say “oh to hell with the early start tomorrow, I’m having fun.”
So, you can imagine how surprised I was to get a text at 8:40pm saying – “Pick me up! Now!” Oh crap, I thought, what’s happened. Quickly, I jumped in the car and made the twenty-minute drive imagining the worst. Perhaps the “games” had got out of hand, or they were putting pressure on her to drink, well, you can imagine what I was thinking. I got there and parked, sending her a quick text that I was in the carpark, and waited. The front door of the pub suddenly burst open and a couple of leggy blondes staggered out. One backed the other up against the wall and proceeded to snog the face off the other. Now, I’m no prude, live and let live I say, but this was inches away from the bonnet of my car and there was nowhere else for me to look. Awkward. The temptation to roll the window down and yell “get a room” was overwhelming, and I was very relieved when Miss F came out and got in the car.
Thankfully, we left the two blondes to their business and began to drive home. She was silent. I looked at her, waiting for her to say something. She said nothing. So, I did.
“How was it?”
“Was your pizza nice? What sort did you get?”
“Nothing. There wasn’t any pizza.”
“Oh? Why not?”
“Everyone got so pissed so quickly no one bothered to order any and then they all said they weren’t worried about food.”
“Oh no, that’s a shame. What about the games then?”
“Didn’t play any.”
“Oh, why not?”
“Everyone was too pissed, and nobody wanted to play any.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. Did the guy like his Secret Santa present?”
“Yep, he seemed really pleased with it.”
“Good, what did you get?”
“Yep, I got nothing.”
“But… but… how is that possible? I thought everyone was taking part?”
“So did I. But it seems two people didn’t agree with doing Secret Santa so me and one of the waitresses got nothing.”
Now over this I am livid. You don’t want to take part in a Secret Santa, ok, that’s fine. But don’t put your name in the hat to receive a present, because that’s just mean and so unfair. Miss F paid out good money to buy someone a gift. Ok, it was only £10, but that equals an hour and a half of hard work for her, and then not to receive a gift in return. I really don’t understand how some people think, or even if they think at all. Miss F wasn’t going to say anything about it but the other girl who didn’t receive anything, did. What is going to happen about it, I don’t know. I think at the very least the managers should compensate them with something, but I will keep you posted.
On my twice weekly trips to collect Miss F from work, I often see my fox disappearing into the hedgerow, or a pair of a eyes and a bushy tail running along the ditch. Last night he was in the middle of the road again. Silly creature, instead of jumping sideways into the hedge he ran along in front of the car for a few yards with me crawling behind him before vanishing into the fields. I think it must be a sign of middle age that I call him “my fox”, he’s not mine, of course he isn’t, but I’m like that with birds as well, I have a robin and a blackbird who visit my garden regularly and who are familiar enough with me to sit and listen when I talk to them.
Miss F went to her work placement as usual on Friday, and about mid-morning I received a text asking if I could go to pick her up a few minutes early so I could have a tour of the stables and kennels. I got covered in mud, but it was worth it for the chance to cuddle so many puppies. They were everywhere! So many squirming, adorable, loving little scraps, all desperate for attention and love. There were a pair of little runts whose own litters had bullied them, so they were now in together and had become best buds. Big cuddles with them and as I was being licked to death by the smallest one, Miss F came back from shutting the door and looked very surprised. Apparently, this little chap hadn’t let anybody else pick him up, just me. I felt very honoured.
People think because I have a cat and not a dog that I don’t like dogs. That’s simply not true, I love dogs, I love most animals, but I have a cat because that’s the pet that suits my current lifestyle. We live in a small house with a small garden in the middle of a town. I’m at work a lot, Miss F is at college, work placement and her part time job, neither of us have the time or energy to give a dog the care and attention it would need. Let’s face it, a cat is a low maintenance, easy care pet. Mine has a cat flap so attends to her own personal needs, if I’m late home it’s not the end of the world. She doesn’t need to be walked and I don’t need to follow her about to pick up her poo – ask not what your neighbours garden can do for you, rather where your cat has done it!
Mind you, mine is being a particularly lazy little article right now. It’s been quite wet, cold and windy these past couple of months, so Skittles has practically turned herself into an indoor cat, only popping outside for the briefest of essential visits. This means that she’s not running around on the slate paving in the garden, she’s not climbing the pergola or up the trees, and she’s not sharpening her claws on the edge of the wood box. Consequently, her claws are now registered as a lethal weapon. They are so long she could disembowel someone with them, and frequently tries to give me a belly piercing every time she gets on my lap. Miss F has suggested taking her to the vets for a pedicure, but I’m afraid of how much that will cost and think we should just wait a few more weeks until the weather is warmer, and she ventures outside again. I have to spend some time in the garden myself soon, as it’s almost time for the trees to have their annual haircut and to tidy up the beds, and she always comes outside to play when I go out, so I’ll chase her around the patio a few times and maybe that will blunt her finger daggers.
I posted the above on Instagram this week and it must have touched a nerve, because so many people have commented on it. Do you hate it when your supermarket moves stuff around so you can’t find it? It drives me mad. I write my shopping list according to the aisles and know exactly what I need. I want to get in, do my shopping, and get out as quickly as possible. The weekly food shop is not my favourite chore and the quicker I can get it done, the better. But sometimes, you know how it goes, you dash in and go to pick something off the shelf only to find it’s not there. You scan the shelves and realise everything like the item you want has been moved as well. Yep, they’re playing their favourite game of “make the shopper have to hunt all over the f*****g shop for something”.
We all know why they do it. They’re not stupid, they realise that most of us buy the same things, week in, week out. By mixing up the aisle configurations it makes us really look at stuff and maybe, just maybe, we’ll spot something we’d never noticed before and buy it. Well, that’s their theory. The reality is we just get mad because we can’t find what we’re looking for and even madder when we can’t find an assistant to ask. Why is it that when you don’t need any help, assistants are everywhere with those big trolleys, parking them right in front of the item you want to pick up and clogging up the aisles, but the moment you actually need help, they scatter, like rabbits spotting a fox.
I have sometimes got so irate I’ve marched up to an assistant – when I finally mange to track one down – and demanded, “Ok, I give in! Where have you hidden the teabags this time?!” One follower even commented on my post that they’ve said to a supermarket assistant – “When people say they like playing hunt the sausage, this isn’t what they had in mind!”
Sometimes you understand the reason for the change, the “free from” section has now got so big it practically needs a whole aisle to itself, so the crisps were relocated to a new section of their own, ok, it’s pretty obvious where they’ve gone to – the socking great sign hanging from the ceiling hanging stating crisps, nuts and snacks here – is a bit of a giveaway, it’s when they move something and leave you no clues as to where it might have gone, or even if it’s been discontinued altogether. And yes, I am looking at you, Tesco. Bring back the coleslaw dressing, it was delicious in potato salad and on French fries and I miss it. And no, mayo is not the same at all!
Following her disappointing first staff Christmas do (get used to it, Miss F, cos they don’t get any better), she’s also in a bit of a quandary about a tortoise. Ok, bit of backstory here, Miss F has always loved tortoises. For some reason they were her favourite animal to go and see at the zoo, and while the other kids were oohing and ahhing about the meercats and admiring the lions and tigers, she would make a beeline to the tortoise house and spend ages just watching them wander about.
We recently babysat a friend’s little tortoise while she moved, and this only made Miss F more determined to get one of her own. She did all the research. Looked into which ones required the least looking after, how big the various species get, how best to look after each type and the different food they require. She even took into consideration the fact that she’s off to university in a year and a half. Hopefully she’ll be able to take the tortoise with her, but, in case she can’t, she wants the most easy-care one there is, so I’ll have no problems looking after it. Gee, thanks a lot.
Now, when I was a kid back in the seventies, lots of my friends had tortoises. They lived in the garden and just sort of crawled about, eating stuff. If you had more than one, then you’d paint your name or something on its shell so you could tell them apart. They’d hibernate in the winter and you always had to make sure they didn’t hibernate under the bonfire. Girl at school had that happen to her tortoise – not nice. They’d mooch about, living their best life, eating your mum’s flowers and sometimes getting into the strawberry patch where they’d stuff their faces and come out looking like something from a horror film.
But things have changed since then, and tortoises are now big business. For a start they’re no longer a few quid each, instead, depending on the species, they’re more likely to set you back over £200! Yep, you did read that right, £200+. For a tortoise. I know!
However, it’s Miss F’s money and so long as she puts money in her savings account each week, contributes towards the petrol I use running her around, and leaves herself enough to pay for whatever else she needs, then what she chooses to spend it on is up to her, and, to be fair, she has wanted a tortoise for a very long time. So, after extensive research, she has decided that an Indian Star Tortoise ticked all the boxes and is the one best suited for her.
One small problem. Indian Star Tortoises are not a commonly bred or sold tortoise in this country. Nowhere local sells them. We’ve looked everywhere. The closest we can find is a breeder in Guildford who seems ok, but, really, how can you tell? All the advice says don’t pay an upfront deposit for the tortoise without inspecting it to check it’s healthy, but if we want this guy to courier the tortoise to us, then he wants a £50 deposit, which is fair enough, although it is all a bit worrying. I guess I could always drive to Guildford, but it’s quite a long way and I really don’t want to do a six-hour round trip on my day off. Besides the petrol, there’s wear and tear on my poor little car to consider, and my time of course.
If we were talking about smaller sums of money then it wouldn’t be a problem, but it’s over £200 of Miss F’s hard got wages and I don’t want her to be scammed or cheated in any way. But she really wants this tortoise. And he’s the only guy even vaguely local selling them. And so, we go on, round and round, in circles. I’ll keep you posted as to what decision we make and how it turns out.
Finally, other bookish news. I mentioned in last weeks blog how I’d decided to buy back the copyright for The Book of Eve rather than wait until November, when the contract expires and I automatically get it back. Well, I decided to go ahead and emailed the publisher that I did wish to buy copyright back. I finally got a reply from them early this week, stating that if I did it would be six months from now before I could republish, because apparently that’s how long they take to remove it from the various sales platforms it’s on and recover all my royalties. Six months?! So, I wouldn’t be able to publish until July.
The publisher has offered me a discounted buy-back, £90 instead of £120, but I still wondered if it was worth buying back the right to publish in July 2020, when if I held on until November I could republish for free. However, there’s a bit more to it than a case of waiting four months. Sure, if I do nothing I can republish in November/December 2020. But, do I want to? I’ve learnt through experience that the period from mid-November to mid-March is a really bad time to publish a book anyway, and over the Christmas period is a definite no-no, unless you’re publishing a festive cookery book or your novel has a title like “Christmas Hearts at Mistletoe Cottage”.
If I do nothing and get copyright back in November 2020, I realistically should wait to republish until March/April 2021, so we’re not talking about waiting four months, we’re talking about waiting eight. That makes it worthwhile paying the £90 and getting my book back to republish in July. Looking on the bright side, I guess that gives me plenty of time to get the book ready and I’ve already booked the excellent services of Platform House Publishing to make the cover and ensure the formatting is a beautiful as it can be. Should any authors out there need covers, formatting, promo material and book trailers, hop over to their website. They’re very reasonably priced and offer a top-notch service.
So, that has been my week. No real crisis for a change and I did actually get some down time, which was a lovely change. Hope you’ve had a good week and that you’re enjoying your Sunday – sadly I’m at work, of course I am.
All the best