Hayfever, Buses, and Hamsters!

And just like that, we’re into July and the year is halfway over. Life has been hectic since we last chatted, so I’ll try to bring you up to date with everything that’s happened. Firstly, I know you’re probably wondering what’s transpired to my car. Well, it’s still up north. After asking for help on social media, a friend spoke to a family member who lives near Nantwich and came back with the name and telephone number of a garage there. I phoned and spoke to Dave, who then passed me on to his son – Dave was off on holiday the next day – so Chris arranged to collect the car from the university so at least it was off-campus. I’ve not heard anything since. The plan was that Chris would take whatever had any value off the car and scrap the rest. They would make what they could on the salvaged items, deduct their expenses, and then if there is anything left over I might get a few pennies back. I’m not holding my breath, but so long as it doesn’t cost me to get the car scrapped that’s all I’m worried about.

I’ve been two weeks without a car and to say it’s inconvenient is an understatement. I blithely assumed I’d be able to take the bus to and from work. After all, it is only about three miles away on a popular retail park where there are several shops, so lots of shoppers and workers want to get there and back again. It turns out I was only half right. Getting to work – not a problem. Getting home from work – not so easy.

There is a bus going out to the retail park at two minutes past every hour all day. So, if my shift starts at 9:30 I catch the 9:02 bus which gets me to work at about 9:17. If my shift is 10:30, I catch the 10:02 bus. It’s a pain if my shift starts at 10:00 because then I must still catch the 9:02 bus which gets me there forty minutes sooner than necessary, but I can deal with that. No, it’s the end of the day and getting home that has caused major problems.

If I leave off at 5:00, there isn’t a bus until 5:40, so I must hang around at work for forty minutes and then still have the bus ride home. If I leave off at 6:00 there isn’t a bus until 6:50. If I leave off at 4:30 then I just miss the 4:28 bus! And, of course, there are no buses to or from work on a Sunday.

The first day I had to get to work after getting back from up north happened to be a Sunday, but a neighbour very kindly offered to give me a lift there and back, which was fabulous. The next day, Monday, I got the bus to work but because my shift ended at 5:00 my neighbour couldn’t give me a lift home. I didn’t fancy hanging around for forty minutes waiting for a bus, so I decided to walk home. I mean, how hard could it be? I wasn’t that out of shape.

I knew there was a bridlepath I could take which would lead me over the fields and bring me back into town through the Abbey Gardens. It was a beautiful summer evening, so I thought I’d take it and maybe enjoy my walk home.

And it was a very pretty walk. There was a small stream running alongside the path which at one point I crossed over on a charming, wooden bridge. There were birds, butterflies and insects zooming about. Trees were overhanging the path and eight-foot-high banks of cow parsley and wild thistle lined the walk. Yeah, turns out my hayfever doesn’t like cow parsley. I mean, seriously dislikes it.

As I marched along my eyes began to itch and run, my nose gushed like a broken tap, and I could taste pollen in the back of my throat. Heck, I could see it floating in the air! I kept on walking. My eyes flooded with itchy tears which poured down my face. I did get funny looks from the few people I passed. It went beyond annoying to painful as I tried to not touch my eyes, knowing from bitter experience that it would only make things worse.

I finally left the bridlepath and walked through the Abbey Gardens. By now, I’m sobbing, and my eyes are burning as if chilli sauce had been rubbed into them. It was another twenty minutes from the Gardens to home and when I finally staggered in the front door, Franki took one look at me and recoiled in horror.

What’s the matter with your face?!

I went into the bathroom. My eyes had puffed up to three times their normal size and were an angry reddish-purple colour. Tears had washed every scrap of makeup off, and I had a grubby nose where I’d permanently been wiping it. Bright yellow pollen was seeping from the corners of my eyes. I was a complete mess. It took another hayfever pill, a good wash in clean water, eye spray, plus a couple of squirts of my steroid nasal spray to calm things down.

I decided not to take the pretty “shortcut” again. It had taken fifty minutes to get home, so I wasn’t convinced it was a shortcut anyway.

The next day I had to walk home again, so this time I played it safe and walked through town. I was still exhausted, hot, and sweaty by the time I got home, but at least my face hadn’t blown up, plus it only took forty-five minutes.

On Friday, I was working 10-4 so decided to catch the 4:28 bus. Typically, a customer walked in a few minutes before I was due to leave off. Time ticked by. It was now 4:15. The thing I’ve learnt about buses is that it may say on the schedule that they’re not supposed to leave the stop until 4:28, but if the bus is running early it won’t wait. It WILL leave without you, so I was keen to get to the stop. My boss knew the score, so when he’d finished with his customer, he stepped in and took over for me so I could leave.

I rushed to the stop, it was 4:18. Sure enough, a minute later the bus turned up. I got on and off we went. Now, the journey to work on the bus takes about fifteen minutes so I was expecting the journey home to take the same. We trundled off to the nearby suburban residential estate, Moreton Hall. Now, this estate is massive! Years of expansion mean it’s now the size of a village and is a complete rabbit warren of roads and cul-de-sacs. We whizzed by the pub – it looked very inviting, with lights twinkling around the large garden and people already sprawled at the tables outside enjoying a Friday after-work drink. Then we went into parts of the estate I was unfamiliar with. Round and round we went. Back past the pub garden – it was even fuller now – surely, we’d now head back into town? Nope, off we went again, almost to the next village, then back again. Down twisting roads and back onto the estate ­– Tassel Road, I was sure we’d been here before – we turned down a different road.

I was hopelessly lost by this point. I had no choice but to trust that the driver knew where he was going and that I would eventually get back to the town – or at least to somewhere I recognised.

If you’ve ever travelled by bus, you’ll know it’s an unwritten law there must always be one old crazy person on it. Hunched in a seat and muttering away to themselves, regular bus riders know to avoid them, but of course, I managed to sit down behind the crazy old man on this bus route. He mumbled into his sleeve the whole ride. His opinions about the houses and gardens we passed, the weather, the other people on the bus – all whispered into his sleeve like a crackpot secret service agent.

I looked out of the window and avoided eye contact.

We whizzed by the pub again. By now it was 4:40. If I’d known, I could have asked to be dropped off there the first time by, had a drink, and then caught the bus the third pass by. We reached an area I recognised and turned onto the main road. Surely not? Were we about to pass the bus stop I originally caught the bus at? Yep. Some thirty minutes after I got on the bus, we stopped at the identical stop to let people on and off. What the heck?!

Finally, we headed into town. But I didn’t end up at the bus station, which is a minute’s walk from my home, nope, he dropped us in the centre of town which is an eight-minute walk. I walked through my front door at 5:12. It had taken an hour and twelve minutes to make a ten-minute car drive home!

Looking at the bus timetable, I realised what had happened. There was an earlier bus from the stop outside my work, the 4:11 one. I think that bus was running late so I caught it at 4:19 believing it to be the 4:28 running early. So, when we stopped again at the same bus stop at 4:40, that was the 4:28 bus running very late. Think I’d rather walk home than sit for an hour on a hot bus seeing parts of the Moreton Hall I never knew existed.

The following week my neighbour very kindly picked me up from work on Monday, I walked home on Tuesday, and then my neighbour picked me up on Wednesday and Thursday. I have one more week at work until I’m on my two-week holiday. Maybe I will have a car by the time I go back – I hope so. One funny thing happened on my walk home through town on Tuesday. Crazy guy from the bus was walking up the road ahead of me, shouting into his sleeve – which looked even more peculiar than before as he was wearing a short-sleeved t-shirt so was yelling into his wrist. I crossed the road and avoided him. It was hot, I was tired, and I didn’t need the hassle.

I am guessing the other thing regular readers want to know is – did I evict the lodger? And how did he take it? To which the answers are yes, and surprisingly well. As you know, I left him a very tactfully worded letter explaining how due to personal circumstances and mindful of all the building work that was due to take place in the house over the summer, I had decided not to let the room for the foreseeable future.

When he finally spoke to me about it on Sunday, he shrugged his shoulders and said he’d guessed which way the wind was blowing and already had viewings lined up for other rooms. I gave him a month’s notice, which meant he had to be out by the 18th of July (the day after my birthday) but was kind of hoping he’d leave sooner. His rent was paid until the 30th of June, so any days he stayed after that would either be paid for or deducted from his damages deposit.

It has been more of a strain than I realised it would be, having four adults in a reasonably small house with only one bathroom! I want to enjoy having Franki and Rys home for the summer, and it is stressful worrying about disturbing the lodger – although he doesn’t care about disturbing us. Also, the youngsters are very keen to move into the basement as soon as he moves out. It makes sense. It’s a much bigger room than Franki’s old one they are currently occupying. A bigger bed that can be accessed from either side, instead of a small double against the wall. There’s tons more storage plus being a basement room it’s deliciously cool. Franki’s room is in the middle of the house and is small, so it gets hot in there.

The hamster will be going down into the basement with them, which I’m very pleased about. Noisy little sod has been waking me up at night with all the noise she makes.

Don’t get me wrong, she’s sweet, but I need my sleep.

The stupid creature managed to get the cork lining off her wheel last night and pouched most of it. It was quite impressive how much she managed to stuff into her cheeks. She went from being a small streak of black and white fur to a round tubby ball of fluff. There was an hour of concern until finally, she decided to un-pouch the lot so it could be removed from her enclosure.

When the hamster goes down into the basement, not only will I be able to sleep better at night, but it will free up the office for me to use if Franki and Rys are using the lounge so I can’t get to my desk there. It will just be nicer and more practical all-around to let them have the basement for the summer. Come September when they return to university, I will have to seriously think about my options. I might try Airbnb. There are pros and cons to it. The pros are a lot more money, plus flexibility. I can block out dates I don’t want someone in the house, for example, when Franki is home, or I have friends staying, or at Christmas. The cons are having strangers in my house without even the reassurance of holding a large damages deposit.

We shall see. Right now, I have two months where I don’t have to think about it.

I’m writing this on Saturday. So far, I’ve had a very early start and have cleaned and swept both the front and back garden and watered and fed all my pots. The neighbour across the road – the husband of the lady who has been giving me lifts – saw me pruning the Red Robin tree by my front door and offered to trim the hedge with his trimmer. He cut whilst I swept and bagged all the bits. It’s amazing how much light is now flooding into the lounge with the hedge at a more respectable height. I do need to go out there though with a bucket of soapy water and scrub the windowsill and the basement hatchway. The judges of the Bury in Bloom contest will be coming around any day and I want to win another certificate.

Talking of gardens, tomorrow is the Hidden Gardens of Bury. It’s the first time it’s happened since the pandemic and Franki and Rys are very keen to go. It’s good fun, you pay a small sum and get a yellow lapel sticker and a map showing which houses are participating. Then you wander about town looking for the yellow signs showing where the entrances to the gardens are and gloriously peer, snoop, and explore other people’s gardens. Most of the gardens are behind houses or high walls so are truly hidden, and this is the only opportunity to see them. I’ve done it before and have always been staggered at how amazing they are. It’s a fun day, joining the hundreds of people wandering up and down the streets, clutching their maps, and looking for the gardens. Some garden owners set up stalls to sell refreshments. One house even had homemade ice cream, which was delicious. Hopefully, the beautiful weather will hold. I will take lots of photos and share them in the next blog.

Anyway, that’s about it for now. Final news is that Pitch & Pace will be released in eBook format on the 11th of July. It is available to pre-order now at the low sale price of just £1.99 (or local currency equivalent) but that will go back up to its normal retail price on launch day.

Only £1.99 to pre-order

Between the 1st and the 4th of July, the eBook version of Sugar & Spice – book three of the Blackwood Family Saga – is on sale at only 99p (or local currency equivalent).

Only 99p 1-4 July

The paperback version of Pitch & Pace is already available to buy at the low pre-launch price of just £6.99 – as are Lost & Found, Fixtures & Fittings, Sugar & Spice, and Kiss & Tell!

ALL paperbacks only £6.99

That’s right! The paperback versions of all five books in the Blackwood Family Saga are available for £6.99 for the week before the launch date. All are available from Amazon and universal purchase links are on the books page of this blog.

Take care and I look forward to chatting in two weeks.

Julia Blake


2 thoughts on “Hayfever, Buses, and Hamsters!

  1. I’m so excited. I’ve ordered the paperback of Pitch and Pace. It should be arriving shortly after we return from our 4th of July mini vacation at the shore.

    The bus situation is pretty terrible. How frustrating it must have felt to have wound up where you started before you actually were on the right route with all that time wasted. Well, you figured out why. I hope you can find a car that works for you budget wise during your two week holiday. You certainly need it resolved by the end of the summer. So much stress you didn’t need.

    I’m glad the lodger will be leaving and was at least civilized about it. I hope he’s gone soon so Frankie and Rys can move downstairs. It will make their stay so much more comfortable for everyone.

    It sounds like that little hamster makes a big presence!

    The Hidden Garden walk sounds wonderful. And I’m sure you will win another garden certificate this year. Looking forward to the Hidden Garden pictures and more of your garden too.

    Have a wonderful and successful book release for Pitch and Pace. Of course I will read and write a review for Amazon and Goodreads even though I’m not posting just now. And enjoy your two weeks off that is coming up.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your review of Pitch & Pace, it was very much appreciated. Apparently, it could take up to four weeks from my birthday to get my pension money, so it looks like I’ll be walking and taking the bus for a while yet.


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