It’s the Little Things…

This week will be a brief catch up as I am inundated with things to do and, as usual, I don’t have enough time to do it all in. After an incredibly busy two days at work Monday and Tuesday, during which we had non-stop customers and I smashed my week’s sales target out of the park. The temperature began to climb and another heatwave was predicted for the UK – just to remind all my non-UK friends – we don’t have air conditioning so a heatwave here is a real heatwave that we all suffer without the respite of having air-conditioned homes and work places.

By Tuesday afternoon it was becoming unbearably hot at work and we were all suffering in the masks that the company now makes us wear. I don’t think I’ve ever been so relieved to walk out of the shop and rip that damn mask off so I could breathe properly.

Wednesday, Miss F was going for a full day’s try out at the doggie day care centre she had applied to for a work placement for college. As she is training to be a zookeeper and is currently halfway through a two-year animal management course at our local college, she has to find so many hours voluntary work in an animal-based environment in order to complete her course.

This is harder than it sounds. We only live in a small town and the number of suitable placements available is sparse. Bear in mind there are over 150 other students on similar courses all looking for exactly the same placement, and you can see how it’s a nerve-wracking time trying to find something.

She got lucky last year. Someone she knew at college happened to mention that there was a space going at the stable and dog breeding farm she had her placement at. Miss F telephoned the farmer, was interviewed over the phone, and a week later was invited to go for a day’s trial.

She got the position, and we were very relieved she had. The only downside was that it was in the village of Keddington which is about a 45 minute drive away and as Miss F of course isn’t old enough yet to drive, that meant that I was having to drive her out there for a nine o’clock start every Friday, then driving myself home. She needed picking up at 2pm, so of course that was another double journey for me. So, for almost a year, I was spending three hours of my precious day-off in the car running her about.

But it had to be done, and that’s what you do when you’re a parent, and I was prepared to do it for another year. However, the farm decided to scale back its operation and no longer needed volunteers so that left us trying to find her somewhere else.

I was quite keen for us to beat the rush and get something settled before the long summer holidays, so back at the beginning of March I was urging her to press her placement officer at the college to give her some suggestions of where she could apply.

He gave her the name and email address of a doggie creche in town where people can drop off their dogs for the day while they are at work. With me urging her, Miss F reached out to them by email and had a lovely reply congratulating her on her forward thinking and inviting her for an interview a couple of weeks later.

But fate, or rather Corona, intervened. We went into lockdown a week later and she was unable to attend the interview. Of course, emails went back and forth about this and she was told to get back in touch when the quarantine period was over.

Mid-June, when things were beginning to open back up again, I advised her to send a little re-connection email just reminding them of who she was and that she was still around and still interested in a placement. Again, emails went back and forth and it was agreed they would let her know when it was possible to go for an interview but if she hadn’t heard from them by mid-July to email and remind them.

My birthday is the 17th of July, so it was easy for me to remember to remind Miss F to contact them when my birthday came and went with nothing from them. They invited her for an interview the last week of July, and then she went for a day long try out this Wednesday to see how she liked it, and I suppose, more importantly, to see how they liked her and to show them that she was up for the job.

She had to be there by 7:45am, which considering she has spent the last four months bumming around in the house with no need to be up before midday, came as a bit of a shock. I had made her lay out her clothes and pack her lunch the night before, but it was still a heavy eyed and grouchy teenager whom I drove across town and dropped off, with promises to be there at 4pm to collect her.

When I got home and closed the front door behind me, it suddenly struck me that I had the whole house to myself for the first time since early March!! Silence enveloped me and I could hear the voices in my head yelling to be heard. There was nothing else to do but switch on my laptop and write furiously on my latest work in progress which is now standing at a very respectable 35,000 words. Given that I’m aiming for a final count of about 100,000 words this puts me at a third of the way through, which I’m very happy about.

When I went to collect Miss F, it was a very sunburnt, grubby, and over the moon girl who jumped into the car. She’d had a wonderful day caring for 30 dogs, had got on with everyone, and, best of all, had been offered the placement.

They had told her that usually they have between twenty to thirty applicants, but because Corona had happened so early in the year, no other students had thought to apply. It was only because I’d urged Miss F to badger her placement officer for likely places she could apply to, and then encouraged her to be proactive in asking for an interview, staying in touch, and building up a connection with them, that she got not only an interview but the offer of the placement as well.

It just goes to show, the early bird really does get the worm!

That night to celebrate her achievement and the 5605 words I had written, we had a takeaway from a new restaurant in town which was surprisingly delicious and tasted very fresh and well cooked.

Thursday, I worked some more on my story, caught up on laundry, and tackled my ironing pile which had been steadily growing in the corner of my room until it was practically waist high! I managed to get half of it done – better than nothing.

I had a bit of bad news last week – well, not so much bad news as annoying and inconvenient news. Our lodger of eighteen months handed in his notice. Apparently, he has a girlfriend he’s now very serious about and they wish to move in together. He has paid up until the end of August but says he will probably move out mid-month, and then I’ll have the usual arse ache of trying to replace him.

I hate looking for a new lodger. Honestly, you just get one house trained and then they’re off and you have to start all over again. The room will need to be freshened up and put into perfect order for viewings. I will need to re-activate my add on the letting website I use. Then there’s arranging viewings and vetting all the potential candidates.

It’s a painful and stressful process at the best of times, but quite how it’s going to work at the moment I’m not sure. I guess masks will need to be worn during viewings, which is awkward because I rely on lot on gut instinct when choosing whom should live in our home. If I can’t see their facial expressions that will make things harder.

It’s also financially stressful. I do rely on the rental income to pay my mortgage so when it takes several weeks to find someone suitable it can be a little worrying. But we have been taking in lodgers for over fifteen years now and have always managed to find someone, so I’m sure this time will be no different.

This particular lodger has been alright in some ways and a bit of a pain in the bum in others. I never normally accept night workers. I have no wish to be woken up at silly o’clock as they slam the front door coming home from work, and then having to keep the house completely silent for them all day because they’re sleeping. I did question him during the viewing and he reassured me he was an evening not a night worker, but either that was a lie or he considered an evening to extend to 3am, because from the moment he moved in he was working nights. He told us not to worry about keeping quiet because he was a heavy sleeper, so sometimes days would pass without us ever catching sight of him.

We had teething problems with him. Like the night I was woken up by him coming in, then thirty minutes later I heard him go back out again. Thoroughly awake and thirsty, I got up to get some water from the kitchen and discovered my front door standing wide open at 3am! Given that we are in the centre of town and are on the main route home from the clubs and pubs, I was not very impressed by this.

He brought a bike with him when he moved in, which has stood in my tiny garden the whole time he has lived here and hasn’t been touched once! Damn thing is so in the way! If I stand it at the bottom of the garden, then my washing on the line blows over it and picks up dirt from it. If I stand it higher up on the pathway down the side of the house, we are forever catching ourselves on the handlebar because it sticks out so far. I will be very relieved to see the back of that!

He also does an inordinate amount of washing! For a guy who goes to work in a pair of overalls, sleeps all day, and when he does go out is clad only in shorts and a t-shirt, he is forever washing clothes! He uses the machine more than we do, and puts it on at odd hours so instead of hanging the washing out on the line to dry during all the months of gorgeous weather we have had, puts in in the tumble drier which eats electricity. So, that’s annoying.

My experiences with him have only served to reinforce my determination not to have a night worker again, and I will make sure in future that I question the candidates carefully as to their working hours, because it does matter. If someone is going to be banging into the house in the middle of the night, it will wake me up. My bed is directly over the front porch so when the front door is slammed – which it invariably will be – my whole bed shakes and I am shocked awake. I then can’t go back to sleep and unlike the lodger – who can then snore the rest of the day away – I still have to be up early for work.

There is also the fact that this person is going to be living in our home, so they need to be compatible with us and our lives. Men, especially, need to be thoroughly vetted. There is a 17-year-old girl living in this house. Very often she is alone here, so I need to know the person I allow to live here is trustworthy and decent.

I need to like them as well. This is not a massive house. We will run across them frequently in the kitchen and the sitting room they have access to, so they must be agreeable to live with. This is my home. It is my refuge and my haven. I cannot allow it to be tainted by a person who’s a nightmare to live with.

Friday, most of my day was spent doing an emergency proofread of a friend and fellow indie author’s new book. It’s due to be released next week and she’d asked me to arc read it, but I’d only got a couple of chapters in when I realised there were quite a few issues that she and her editor had missed. I was unsure what to do, but I figured she’d rather find out now from me, than publish and have readers tell her in reviews, so I contacted her and offered to read the rest as quickly as I could. In between reading, I wrote a book review, went to collect my hayfever meds, went to the PO, did some shopping, and wrote a few more words on my book. So, another busy day.

It continued to get hotter, and Friday and Saturday have been unbelievably hot and muggy. Stupidly, I had promised Miss F we would completely spring clean her bedroom, so for most of Saturday we were trapped in a small, hot room heaving furniture about, de-cobwebbing, dusting, sorting out, vacuuming, and rearranging. It was long overdue, and she really wanted it done before her birthday next week when she has friends coming over, but I seriously could have done without it. It also didn’t help that while I was sweating my nads off, she kept being distracted by her phone and finding any excuse not to help.

But it’s done, the room is at least now tidy and more importantly clean. What is it about teenagers? Why do they want their bedrooms to look like pigsties? I swear it must be a year since she last dusted in there, cobwebs were draped over everything and dust was an inch thick on every surface. Apart from looking disgusting, I’m sure it was a health risk.

And now it’s Saturday evening. I’ve showered, prepared dinner, and am finally able to sit down with a glass of wine and finish writing this. I have a real sense of catching up with things, of long-overdue jobs being finally ticked off the list. From the kitchen I can smell lamb kebabs grilling, and the fresh scent of mint from the pepper, pea, and potato salad I’ve made to go with them.

Yes, I’m back to work tomorrow, but I’m already through my target so that always eases the stress enormously. My blog is written. I’m up to date with my book reviews. I’ve written almost 10,000 words this week on my new book which I’m loving and am very excited about. I’ve received the first beta readers feedback on The Book of Eve ready to go through next Wednesday. And this week I have received a 4+ star review on at least one of my books every single day. I have wine, oh, and did I tell you that dinner is smelling really good.

Sometimes, it really is the little things.

Take care, and I look forward to chatting to you next week.

Julia Blake

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