Tuesday, 24 December 2013

From the Cotswolds to pre-Christmas rush in Birmingham

A final picture of Isla in Jackies arms

We’ve had plenty of things to do since we left Tresham and our two pussy cats, we went home via Oxford in order to meet Rob, my friend and former work colleague at Andantex. He was out delivering Christmas wishes to customers, so Jackie continued the journey home while I went with Rob to revisit people I have known well for many years. Dave and Jan on Wednesday and then a full day on Thursday in Colchester to see Allan and Ian at one company and Chris at another, all of whom reported that they are very busy and business is very good, so maybe we should believe the politicians this time, who tell us how well the British economy is doing now! 

Tea in Tresham to celebrate Roni's birthday via Facebook
The early start, followed by the ‘rush hour’ traffic on the A14 (particularly that stretch between Kettering and Cambridge which is almost a permanent car park!), a full day seeing people and then driving back in the dark and rain (this time avoiding that A14 stretch as the overhead signs said ‘A14 J21 to J26, long delays’ and going via Ely), but still getting stuck in queues on the M6 at Coventry, it reminded me just why I wanted to retire; I’ve done enough of this!

With Jo and Mike in the Big Wok in Birmaingham
Poor Love, he makes swanning around the countryside sound difficult! While he was pottering about socialising I was working hard with Alex (Rob’s partner, as described below). We painted the front room of the new house, first coat, though I may have at one point caused more work than I did! Walking along the top of the newly constructed platform, I stood on one end of the metal sheeting, it went down, I went through and the paint tray (fortunately nearly empty) spread its contents over me, the wall and the dust sheets on the floor! By the time I’d cleaned myself up, Alex had salvaged the wall, and fortunately I hadn’t managed to hit the window or curtains. I do have a lovely bruise on my inner thigh though! We then scrubbed the kitchen and bathroom, because you have to, though in truth they weren’t too bad before a second coat of the walls.

Rob and Alex's old house
This last weekend has been a weekend of helping Rob (the same Rob as above) and Alex move house, something we doubted would ever happen. They have been living in a rented house in Kings Norton for six years or so (Alex is from Aberdeen and has a broad Scottish accent, Rob is from South Wales and has a broad Welsh accent, how do they understand one another?) and have finally bought a house about two miles away, still in Kings Norton, after nearly buying probably a dozen or so in the intervening time. Alex told Jackie in an email that they had bought one just before we arrived home and I said ‘I’ll believe it only when they have signed on the dotted line and can’t back out’, but it happened and just in time for us to help. 
The dressing table on the stairs
Rob broke his ankle in July and still has various plates inserted (that’s apart from his other breaks and injuries over the years!), Alex has MS and sometime struggles, so if two people needed help it was them! In addition to us helping, an email they sent to the Solihull Mountaineering Club membership produced other helpers, Jo and Mike, Margaret, Ian, Phil and Helen, Tony and Debbie and Mark so, with the help of the Andantex large Transit van and Tony’s campervan it made the job relatively easy and good fun.

Ian, Jo, Mark and mike still there half hour later!
The bedroom dressing table would have been easier if it had been decided to remove the mirror before getting it halfway down the stairs, but they decided it would fit down still assembled, on finding it wouldn’t, Jo had to unscrew while Ian, Mike and Mark supported it on the stairs. Thankfully Phil convinced Rob the triple wardrobe would not clear the stairwell and need dismantling in the bedroom before getting that halfway!

Why does the garage door have this small door in it?
I thought it had all gone quiet at this point and that everyone must have gone to the new house, so was really amused to stick my head out of the kitchen, my home for the day, to see them still on the stairs with an assumed air of nonchalance as though this was a normal way to spend a Saturday! I’d made my way into the kitchen on arrival as Al was packing up the fridge, and never left, once empty, Al had gone to supervise at the new house, so I started cleaning, and never left! Jo did the bathroom and Helen the living and dining rooms. Fair division of labour? Who knows, but boys can’t be trusted to clean properly can they? Brian: I always knew a womans place was in the kitchen! (did I really write that and will I have bruises next time you see me?)

Here's their new house. Not very different, but they own this one!
Crystal selecting what we're going to eat, yes, that's Chinese writing!
Fortunately we had a deadline, a meeting of the ‘Sunday tea club’ (yes, yes it was Saturday, but ……) this involves meeting up with Helen and Ian, and Crystal and Manu, in Chinatown, and Crystal (who is Hong Kong Chinese) selecting which of the little restaurants we are going to and selecting all the food, in Chinese, from the Chinese menu. Spoilt? Us? Oh yes!

Us with Crystal (you can't see the others, but they were there!)
Carefully balancing on the perspex roof!
The next day Jackie and Alex continued the unpacking while Rob and I spent the day on the garage and ‘lean-to’ Perspex roof trying to seal it. Rain (we’ve had plenty of it recently) had been pouring into the garage through a leaking roof gutter and into the lean-to through the corrugated Perspex roof sheets that are notoriously difficult to seal (however the quantity of water coming in meant we could at least improve on the sealing). The time spent in the cold (it was really cold) and sometimes rain (we covered ourselves in plastic sheeting and used a hairdryer to dry the surfaces we were trying to seal), balanced on a ladder laid over the Perspex, which was held up by only small bits of wood, giving us the distinct feeling it could crack and give way at any moment (don’t lose balance or step in the wrong place, it would all go horribly wrong!) at least seemed to seal the garage roof and reduce the lean-to roof to only drips. Not the perfect solution, but it’s only temporary as they are going to replace it all next year with a proper extension with proper walls and roof.

All rounded off by R&A taking all available willing volunteers out for a balti on the Sunday night, and jolly yummy it was too! What with Al’s mince pies and scones (specially for Brian) to eat all w/end we certainly didn’t go hungry!

(L to R) Margaret, Alex, Jackie, Mike, Jo, Helen, Phil and Rob at R&A's balti treat
Going to make another one of these today! Better get started...
So now it’s Christmas Eve, the first two storms with huge quantities of wind and rain seemed to have passed (but there is another on the way for the 27th apparently) and today seems a bit calmer with a good but cold forecast for Christmas Day and Boxing Day (we may even get a ‘white Christmas’ if the weather forecasters are correct – only one flake of snow has to fall on the London weather centre for it to be officially classed as a white Christmas and they think that is a possibility), but wet and windy after that. Ah well, we are baking cakes today, including mince pies for my family’s ‘mince pie competition’ on Christmas Day. I think only my niece Steph will be my competitor this year as Denise, my sister, is not taking part this year after losing to me in 2011, something that had not happened in the five of six years of the competition before (naturally I was satisfied with the result of the blind tasting panel). To be fair, she is cooking Christmas and Boxing Day dinners this year, as well as hosting her Christmas Eve party, so I suppose she has enough on her hands.

Happy Christmas to all our readers!

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