Sunday, 22 July 2007

Rain, rain, go a-bloody-way

We've had Ali's folks up to stay this weekend - they all went out on a walk yesterday afternoon giving me a small moment to start this blog post in peace. It wasn't the most perfect weekend by a long chalk, and that's nothing to do with anything bad that's happened or us or them having a particularly shit time, but purely and simply because of the rubbish weather. They arrived on Thursday afternoon while I was long range planning in Cookham. When I got home at 7.30ish that evening all seemed well, we ate lasagne, caught up, admired Liam's gappy mouth and wobbly tooth, and had an early night.

Next morning the heavens opened. I drove to Cookham via the M40 and my word it was bad. Maniacs driving at 90mph in the middle lane causing wayyy more spray than was safe, windscreen wipers in a sort of panicky overdrive, thunder and lightning all round, my hands gripping the wheel in sheer terror. Still, I made it in OK, only to hear tales from folk who had been to the office in Maidenhead and seen flood water swirling round all over the place. Apparently someone saw a dead rat floating in the flood waters too. Nice. Leaving at 1pm the weather wasn't too bad at all, and I had high hopes of getting home at 2.30pm, and having the place to myself for a few hours (the Brown clan were planning to spend the day at Legoland). So I left the M40 at Junction 7 thinking I would cut across country and go back to Abingdon that way. BIG MISTAKE. Just as I came out of Chislehampton, the Polo took a drive through a mini lake that the flood waters had left in a dip in the road. My immediate thoughts were along the lines of 'uh-oh' as the Polo is a good 10 years old and hasn't been on tip-top form recently. Still, as I chugged along, things seemed to be going OK, until I got to a hill. Coughing and juddering, the car eventually just cut out. On the incline. On a blind corner. And me with no mobile phone.* Yikes.

A lovely white van driver was directly behind me, however, and instead of making a rude gesture and swearing at the incompetence of women drivers, he stopped, put on a flourescent jacket, and bless him, said he would give me a push to a gateway further up the hill. Even more luckily, a police car came by and a nice policeman allowed me to use his mobile to call Green Flag. 45 minutes later a recovery truck came along, did some tweaking in the engine (not sure exactly what but it did the job) and I was on my way home. Legoland hadn't been an option due to the appalling weather, so everyone was mooching about the house. Still, at least it meant I could go along as the trip was rescheduled for Saturday - hurray!

In the end, it was a good day on Saturday, albeit very wet in the afternoon. A car journey home with clammy wet jeans is not a nice experience. We all pigged out on fish and chips from the chippy round the corner and then felt so bloated and fat that everyone had an early night. All seemed well in the world.

And then we got up on Sunday morning, or to be more accurate, Liam got up at about 6.30am and started shouting 'there's a flood, it's flooded, look at the water!!!' at the top of his voice. The whole of the bottom of Spring Road was flooded (see for pictures etc) but as we are slightly set back from the road and have 2 steps before you reach our front door, the water didn't come in. The houses with front doors directly onto the pavement got the worst of it, and of course nobody came dishing out sandbags until after the flood waters had gone down. The waters are meant to rise again tonight, as the Thames surges at Oxford and causes the River Ock (a tributary) to flood.

All of which meant that yesterday was a very cooped up day, especially for poor Liam. Ali and I waded through the waters to get to Waitrose; they went for a walk yesterday afternoon; and in the evening we made jelly and fairy cakes and cooked roast beef with yorkshire puds. As there are currently no trains running between Reading and Birmingham, the family had to book tickets on a National Express coach for this morning to enable them to get their train on time, which luckily they did. All in all, a very wet weekend. I haven't even started reading the new Harry Potter yet!

*I cannot describe the absolute incompetence and lack of customer focus of Vodafone without getting far too worked up and angry...

Monday, 16 July 2007

good intentions gone to pot - but who cares really?

Since I started this blog there have only been so many blogging hours in the day and inevitably I have missed writing about trips taken, friends seen, experiences had. Luckily (or anally) I keep a spreadsheet to track what we're doing on which weekend, sounds very sad doesn't it but it is actually very useful, especially at times like the present where we don't know what we're doing from one weekend to the next. A large part of this is down to our jobs - mine in particular is shaping up to be a lot more time consuming out of the office than my previous one. I'm off to Munich next week for 3 days of financial planning for 2008, followed with a bit of light relief with some team bonding when we hike up the Alps to a log cabin, drink lots of Bavarian beer and traipse back down again. Good stuff.

Anyway, thanks to the wonders of home_calendar.xls, here's some highlights of the past 4 months or so:

In March we had Jenn to stay and we spent a great day out at Woodstock and Blenheim Palace wandering around the gardens and taking pictures (well Ali and Jenn did) of pheasants and lots of nice plants. Jenn is over on secondment from the US (she works for Urban Outfitters) and has stacked up more travelling within Europe and Africa in the past 18 months than I have managed in my lifetime. She also has a penchant for antique shopping so Woodstock was ideal, lots of little curio shops and a good pub lunch to boot.
We did a return visit to her grand apartment (on Sloane Square, if you please) a month or so later and took a trip to Kew Gardens, which I had never been to before but really enjoyed. Cue more snapping, this time of a very relaxed and gloriously iridescent peacock having a nice sit down near a Japanese garden.

Towards the end of April we went down to Matt and Nickiy's for some cheese, the first Pimms of the summer (expertly made by yours truly if I may say so) and a slide show of Nickiy's photos from her trip to Nepal earlier this year. A smashing early summer afternoon, the product of which was the first draft of a periodic table of the cheese elements. You don't want to know.

In May and June we seemed to stay closer to home, and the weekends round and about our wonderful holiday in Tuscany were variously spent on a pilgrimage to the Shoulder of Mutton in Wantage; a boozy Saturday in Oxford with Mum and Dad (lunch in Carluccios followed by some enthusiastic consumption of ale and Addlestone's cider in the White Horse, then back home for a meal and yet more booze); and a barbeque at Keith and Nikki's new house in Didcot. On that weekend it was absolutely peeing down all day - so we got soaked on our way there from the bus stop - however a strategically placed gazebo ensured that the afternoon went off excellently and our sausages were dry. I don't recommend chucking an empty cardboard Stella box on the smouldering embers of the barbie though.

Finally to the past few weekends - first off, watching Le Tour de France in London and Kent. Saturday we went down to London and as a surprise for his birthday, Matt and Nickiy had organised this for Ali. I don't think it made the news in the end but there was a police escort and a helicopter involved at one point. Susan and I were having a nice time mooching about on the South Bank and then stuffing our faces in Wagamama as it was all happening - much more sensible. Then we watched the time trials from Parliament Square and made our way back to Streatham for a late curry. A criminally early start the next morning ensured that we got to the previously staked out prime piece of grass verge somewhere deep in the Kent countryside before the hordes arrived, thus ensuring a trouble free breakfast picnic, while cheering on any and every car, bike, or trailer that came past. When the peloton came past it was actually quite stunning - we were at the top of a small hill and could see them straining their way up it for quite a while (though clearly nowhere near the heights they've recently climbed in the Alps stage of course) and visually it was fantastic. Matt and Nickiy and Susan between them had done an amazing job getting it all organised and keeping all the planning secret. Three cheers!

Last weekend was a little bit quieter but no less enjoyable - to Hitchin to see Cameron and Elaine and their 15 month old baby Sholto. The weather held out, the company was great (lots of parents and other 15 month olds from Elaine's NCT classes) and the kids angelic. Well, mostly. We ate well, drank well, and managed to get to bed by 10.15 on Saturday night (there's a song in there I'm sure). Totting up the points (more of which another time) I managed an impressive 96.5 points exceeded over my weekly allowance last week. Hurrah for cheese and cider and barbeque food.

So that's me up to date. This weekend we have the Brown family coming en masse to stay and I'm really p-ed off that I can't get to Legoland on Friday due to some long range planning thing at work. Still, expect a pretty knackered blog post some time next week...

Friday, 13 July 2007

The most perfect use of a capital mid-Sentence

The doorbell rang Ominously.

- from The Glorious Nosebleed, by Edward Gorey

Apparently you can buy postcards of the other phrases in the book, such as "They got themselves up Killingly." "They searched the cellars Fruitlessly." "She toyed with her beads Jadedly." "She danced on the sands Giddily." and "She let go of it Quickly." The last one is a bit of an anticlimax, I think, but the rest are ace.

Friday, 6 July 2007

Puppets on music videos

are always a good thing in my opinion. So when bengobaz mentioned the Lily Allen "Alfie" video in his blog, I searched on YouTube and had a look - and despite a previous mildly lukewarm (can you be very lukewarm about something?) opinion of her and her music, I quite liked the track as well. The video is just about long enough for it still to be cute but not too annoying:

I like this Interpol video too though it's a bit darker (well less humorous anyway):