I couldn’t resist posting a picture of my new stair carpet which was fitted today. Right at the beginning of this renovation project I had a vision for the hall and finally it is all finished. I’m delighted with how it looks.
Next up is the kitchen. I’m working with our builder on the design right now. Looking forward to sharing the journey with you all.
Anyone who follows my blog will know that I celebrated a birthday recently. My lovely daughter bought me a shiny, black Fitbit. I tend to follow an annual pattern where I start dieting after the Easter chocolate binge, in preparation for my holidays in September. Then over Christmas I relax my regime and the weight creeps back on again until the whole routine starts all over again the following Spring. This year though, I felt that I really should try to work on my fitness levels. My diabetic nurse is always banging on about doing a little bit of exercise every day to help keep my blood sugars stable, so I was delighted with my daughter’s gift. It took me a few days to get used to wearing the device all the time, especially at night, but the app logs the amount and quality of sleep you get which is fascinating. I can also set an alarm on the app which wakes me gently by vibrating on my wrist, rather than the nerve-jangling noise from my phone alarm.
As well as tracking my sleep, the app allows me to monitor my water intake, meals, weight and even my menstrual cycle. I always thought I drank plenty of water throughout the day but trying to hit my target of 2500 mls has proved tricky. It also means many more trips to the bathroom. I do understand the importance of keeping well hydrated, however, so the benefits to my wellbeing outweigh the side effects! Unfortunately I do have a slightly obsessive compulsive personality which means that I feel compelled to complete all the challenges every day. If I miss an hourly step goal I get really annoyed. I log every morsel of food which passes my lips to the best of my ability and check the app regularly, jumping up and jogging around the room when prompted, then feeling ridiculously pleased with the resulting praise it gives me.
The best thing though, has been how much I have enjoyed using the treadmill. We are fortunate enough to have a small gym space, with a treadmill, exercise bike and weights which has not seen much use until now, and I find that my mood improves greatly when I am working out, something to do with endorphins I think. Anyway, I’m finding it a really useful bit of tech to keep me on track. I might not be ready to run a marathon yet but I’m definitely a bit fitter!
On Wednesday morning I leapt out of bed. Tonight was Magic Mike Live night. I was so excited about my birthday trip to London. I spent the morning generally hopping about in anticipation and changing my mind a gazillion times about what to wear. My sister arrived in the afternoon to get ready with me. We were like school girls. giddy and restless. At last we were ready to go. The white limo turned up, Darren the driver was smart and attentive. The other girls arrived soon afterwards and all eight of us piled in to the car. My sister had bought me a sparkly birthday tiara and a huge badge, which announced to the world in pink glitter that I was 50. We were soon London- bound in our neon chariot. On the way we drank bubbly and listened to music we chose especially to get us in a party mood.
Once in Leicester square, a slightly squiffy gentleman honed in on me in my birthday finery and after telling me three times that I didn’t look 50 (which, let’s face it, is always good to hear), wished me a Happy Birthday and pecked me on the cheek, much to the amusement of my companions. We found a cocktail bar near the Hippodrome called The Alchemist and, again thanks to the balloons and birthday badges, managed to bag a table even though they were really busy. They even brought me a free cocktail. It had dry ice on the top so that when I added the vodka the drink turned flamingo pink and vapour poured out of the top and over the sides. It tasted like Ribena and went down a treat! After a little food to line our stomachs we headed off to the show.
Having never been inside the Hippodrome casino, I was surprised at what an elegant building it is, all art deco tiles in black and gold, absolutely stunning. My daughter, her friend and my younger nieces had to show ID to get in but obvs I was wearing my badge, so I didn’t need to show mine!! Every member of staff we encountered wished me Happy Birthday which was a nice touch. We were shown to the theatre where we had front row seats. It was not at all what I had imagined. The place was small, just a three hundred capacity, and dimly lit with a tiny stage in the centre. It had a slightly grimy, night club feel. There was a seated gallery above with a glass plinth running around the inside. We were informed by the staff when we took our seats that during the show our tables would be used by the dancers, which was exciting. Waiters bought us huge cocktails with suggestive names in what looked like fish bowls. Suddenly the music started and we were off!
Right from the start all our senses were assaulted at once. The dancers appeared on stage but also behind and above us, weaving among the audience, giving a sultry look or a gentle squeeze as they passed by. I quickly spotted a moody looking young man who resembled Channing Tatum, but there was someone for everyone, a boy-next-door type, a long-haired rock star, a dark, brooding Italian Stallion, a veritable mix-up bag of man. They were dressed casually at first in jeans and t-shirts, no stereo-typical stripper uniforms for these dancers. There was a loose storyline depicting a waiter who is taken under the wing of the female compere and taught about how to treat a woman right. The message was strongly geared towards girl-power and treating all women with respect, but it still delivered on what the audience had paid for, pretty men dancing for our pleasure and most importantly, no naked genitalia in sight! The stage management was slick, tables were cleared and people placed meticulously to ensure everyone’s safety at all times. I never once felt unsafe or uncomfortable. It definitely wouldn’t be for everyone, but the crowd was a blend of women of all ages and even a few brave men! Throughout the show the female inner “Unicorn”, voiced by Channing Tatum, urged us to give in to our feminine desires and submit to the experience. Unicorn money rained down on us and we embraced it all willingly.
Finally, as the atmosphere became super-charged with hormones, Baby Channing fixed me with a lingering glare and made a bee line straight for me. Swivelling me towards him on my chair he straddled my legs and placed my hands on his chest, all the while looking into my eyes. I have honestly never felt human flesh so hard and yet so smooth at the same time. He smelled absolutely amazing. I was impressed and slightly scared. My party looked on and I gave them a cheeky wink as they videoed me getting a lap dance. It was all over in a flash but it made my night. And yes, I know it’s all part of the show, and they do it twice a night, every night for months on end, but if the purpose of the show is to make women feel good, then it absolutely fulfils the brief.
The celebrations carried on all week. The following day was my actual birthday and it was truly lovely. Big was back from his business trip to Norway and it was good to catch up with him. After a lazy brunch with my mum and sister, during which my sister revealed that we were going on a girlie trip to Ilfracombe as her gift to me, I prepared for the kids and my grandson to come over for dinner. They showered me with gifts and my baby grandson gave amazing gummy kisses. It was heavenly.
Then, on Saturday evening, after spending all afternoon building flat-pack furniture for our lounge, Big took me to our favourite riverside restaurant for a romantic dinner. I think I would happily turn fifty all over again in a heartbeat, it was a magical few days. For now, it’s back to reality. The builders are due to start work on the kitchen in a few weeks time, so I intend to enjoy some peace and quiet while I can. Oh, and I have plenty of baking to keep me busy!
Next week I will be turning 50. Half a century on this earth. A real cause for celebration and I shall be celebrating in style.
I can’t quite believe how quickly those years have passed. In my head I’m still 25. Sure, the knees creak a bit when I bend them and I sometimes make a completely involuntary noise when I get up from a chair (what is all that about?) I can remember my sister and I giggling hysterically when our Nanna would groan as she sat on the loo and now I catch myself doing it. Well, I am a nanna myself now so I suppose it must come with the territory!
I distinctly remember, as a teenager, being unaware of how old my mum was, even though I knew somewhere in the back of my mind that she had been 20 when she had me. I group of friends were discussing how old their parents were and I remember thinking that their average ages, 35 to 38, were so old. I personally loved being 36. My children were becoming more independent by that point and I felt more comfortable in my own skin. I think I finally knew who I was, it took all that time to find my true self. I also think that as a family we were becoming more financially secure and I was content. Turning 40 was not a big deal as far as I was concerned. I didn’t find it depressing or scary. I got a few very rude birthday cards but that was to be expected given my family. I generally had a good time and once it was out of the way I didn’t give it another thought.
Approaching 50 is another thing all together, although again, it hasn’t been a negative thing for me. I mean, the increasing frequency of adverts for Vagisil popping up on my Facebook timeline is a little annoying. The scattering of liver spots on my hands is puzzling. And what is it with hair as you get older? My eyebrows and armpits have become somewhat sparse and yet the hair on my legs and my head still grows at the same rate it always has, how does that work? And I’m always hot. Not in a good way either. It’s like my internal thermostat is broken. I spend every waking minute either trying to decide what to wear or trying to figure out what to take off. I haven’t worn a coat, even in the depths of winter, for years. I can’t stand being in a department store for more than a few minutes, it’s like being in a sauna for me and I get very grumpy. When our underfloor heating was installed Big decided to test how high it would go. I accused him of trying to cook me. I had to keep going outside to cool down, it was unbearable. When we have our kitchen replaced I won’t have to worry because I will be able to cook dinner on our living room floor!
When my mum was coming up to her 50th birthday her best friend signed her up to loads of mail shot companies so that for the next year or so she was inundated with leaflets and letters promoting stairlifts, mobility scooters and incontinence products. She was not amused! Hopefully my friends will not be quite so cheeky. I have some wicked plans for my own “coming of age” saga. On Wednesday eight of us gorgeous ladies are off to London in a limo to see Magic Mike Live. Nothing like a night out with a group of scantily clad, oiled up hunks of prime man to make a girl feel young. The following day, my actual birthday will include brunch with my sister and a get together with the kids and my grandson in the evening. Then at the weekend Big is taking me for a slap-up dinner at a surprise location. He is amazing at organising gifts, always finding just the right thing I never knew I wanted. I plan to have a blast next week and I will definitely be growing old disgracefully.
They say that a mans’ home is his castle. I’d agree with that, judging by the queues to get out of our local Ikea on a Saturday. We are always trying to improve our homes, whether it’s hanging some new curtains or installing a state of the art kitchen. As a nation we are obsessed with DIY shows and many of us confess to regularly perusing sites like Rightmove to get our fix of ‘property porn’. With the housing market slowing at the present time, more and more of us are looking to give our homes a makeover instead of moving.
As you know we are currently about mid way through a big renovation project. We have been doing up the Money Pit since the summer of last year. It has been stressful at times, although I am learning all the time how to get the best out of the builders. They have produced some beautiful work and I can’t fault the contractor’s organisational skills but he is not always great at communicating what is in his head to us. He is here most days checking up on what is being done, while managing many other projects but he now knows that I will ask him each time what the plans are for the following day. I find that I can cope with all the mess and disruption so long as I know which tradesmen to expect each day and roughly when they will arrive. This gives me time to make sure I’m up and dressed and that I’ve let the dogs out so that we can all retreat to wherever we are camping out that day, usually as far away from the noise as we can get.
For the past ten days or so we have been using the orangery as our temporary living room while the floors are being laid. We have a sofa in there so when my husband is home we perch his iPad on a little table in front of us to watch tv, but while he is away I don’t like sitting out here alone once it’s dark. The thought of the garden being right there but not being able to see it creeps me out and the lantern roof, which during the day floods the room with light, seems to bear down on me, making me feel claustrophobic. So instead, I take the dogs up to the bedroom with me and read. I’ve become quite used to this nomadic lifestyle, moving from one area of the house to the next as work progresses. What I am really enjoying is being able to see the finished results properly. For a long time, things were being done randomly so it was impossible to imagine how the finished room would look. The wet room appeared to be disjointed until I dressed it with colourful towels and pretty soaps then it suddenly came together and I could see my vision, finally fulfilled. It still gives me a buzz every time I go in there to check that its clean and tidy (I’m really just going in to gaze at how lovely it is!)
The floor tiles in the hall did not come to life until the grouting was finished, somehow that black line in between each tile changed the appearance of it entirely, something I still find puzzling. Some people possess the ability to picture how something will look beforehand. I sadly don’t have that insight, I have to wait until it is completed and hope that all the items I have chosen will work together. Usually they do so maybe I do have a better grasp for interior design than I think. We are hoping to be back in our living room within the next few weeks, when the last of the furniture is due to arrive. We have decided to have a short break once this is all done before starting the kitchen and bedrooms. It will be wonderful to have a few weeks without the builders, to be able to lie-in and plan days out etc. Right now though, it’s time to buy a new television. Big wants a huge screen that he can see without his glasses on. I will leave him to choose the model, whether we have OLed, QLed, 4K, curved or no edge, that’s man’s stuff, but, whatever model he goes for, I have a feeling it will be like sitting in the cinema when I am watching Escape to the Chateaux!
As I write this post I am camped out in the orangery. This is day two. The under floor heating is being installed in my living room and the floor tiles are being laid in the hall, which means I currently have no access to the rest of my house. It is inconvenient but not unpleasant. This unseasonably warm weather means it gets very hot as the sun beats down on the glass roof but I have the bi-fold doors open and my dogs must think its wonderful as they can dip in and out of the garden at will. I have some books, my laptop, phone charger and a stash of snacks to nibble on. In the evenings I can watch tv on my computer, so it’s all good. In fact, if I had a Portaloo in the garden I could probably live in here quite happily. In reality I will be out here for the rest of the week I expect, with varying degrees of precarious access to the kitchen and bathroom. Vern is away all week so it gets a bit lonely out here but the results will be worth it.
It has been an emotional roller-coaster recently as Vern deals with an issue regarding an elderly aunt who sadly needs care as her mental health deteriorates. She is a very strong little lady and stubborn as a mule but has become vulnerable and unfortunately steps needed to be taken to keep her safe. The whole family is pulling together to help her through this transitional stage, this is when I realise how lucky I am to have such an amazing second family. It has also made me stop and consider what might happen to me in my twilight years. I mean, hopefully Vern and I will remain in good health for many years to come. We have discussed this issue somewhat and ideally we would toddle off to Switzerland together and enter a medical facility, happily downing a final, sleep-inducing cocktail at sunset and drifting off, hand in hand. Neither of us can stomach the thought of one of us having to watch the other decline into a vegetative state through dementia or be incapacitated by illness. As much as I adore my husband I have no desire to wipe his bum for him, and I know he feels the same. My daughter was horrified when we mentioned our plans for a joint departure, but I feel that if the time came when we were unable to look after ourselves, our children would hopefully be in middle age and just benefitting from their children becoming more independent and I for one would hate for them to have to put their lives on hold in order to care for me.
Of course, all this is pure speculation at the moment. I do feel that it is important though, to have frank and open conversations about the future. To at least let your loved ones know how you would like to be treated in old age, and after your death. I have always maintained that I am happy for any useful body part to be harvested if at all possible and the rest can be chucked in a skip for all I care. My spirit will already be gone to a better place, only the shell will remain and although perfectly functional, it has never been particularly attractive so I won’t miss it! I don’t have a favourite hymn, I don’t need kind words or funny stories to be told at my funeral. The people who know and love me, and there are relatively few, will hopefully respect that a simple send-off would be fitting for me. I care deeply for the environment and nature, I am a spiritual, gentle soul who bleeds easily. I’ll take the love of my family while I am living and when I am gone the world will keep turning.
Oh dear, this post has turned from a simple progress update to something deep and meaningful but I don’t apologise. Sometimes a period of reflection is needed to put things into perspective. Sometimes a reminder to myself of how much I have to be thankful for is a welcome distraction from the stressful situations we have to work through. So as I sit here, with the sun setting on another beautiful day I look at my three dogs, snoozing peacefully on the floor and I feel calm.
Last weekend whizzed past in a blur of activity. Our tiler Mark worked tirelessly on the bathroom to get it finished. Unfortunately he ran out of tiles right at the end so we are almost finished! The tiles look like planks of wood in a pale creamy colour with a darker version inside the shower. In the absence of any bathroom furnishings it looks like the inside of a Swedish log cabin but I think it will come together nicely.
Monday morning we all got up nice and early as we were expecting the plumber. I went to meet a friend for coffee and when I got back at lunchtime no one had materialised. I spent a quiet afternoon emptying the bookcase in the living room while Vern worked in his office.
Tuesday. Vern left early as usual for Birmingham and I got up soon afterwards to be ready in case anyone turned up. My mum popped round for a cup of tea. We sat in the orangery enjoying the sunshine and my sister also dropped in on her way back from the gym. Neither hide nor hair was seen of any labourers. By this time I was frustrated because I couldn’t get hold of anyone to ask if there was a problem so I just seethed quietly. As I had a free afternoon I decided to watch a film that I’d heard about on Netflix called Roma. Apparently it’s the first film on an independent tv network to be nominated for several Academy Awards and is tied with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon for the most Oscar nominations for a film not in the English language. I was expecting great things. Some people find films with subtitles hard to follow. I find that it depends on the film. Roma is set in Mexico, the title being the name of the district it is based in. It follows the life of a housemaid, Cleo, who lives and works at the home of a middle class family. It becomes clear that she is a well-loved member of the household, especially by the four young children she takes care of. Head of the family is Antonio, a doctor, who leaves early in the film for a conference in Quebec. His wife Sofia and her mother-in-law are distraught at his departure and it soon becomes clear that Antonio is in no hurry to return. The film is beautifully shot in black and white which seems to amplify the background noise so that the viewer really gets a sense of being present in the moment. We are not distracted by colour which forces the viewer to focus purely on the mundane of the daily routine Cleo must endure. Not much happens during the film until near the end, yet I remained enthralled throughout and I was not even aware that I was reading subtitles, it was so engaging. I would recommend you see it if you get the chance. It’s one of those rare moments when I felt that my outlook on life had been changed through someone’s story.
Wednesday was another non-productive day. I visited my mother-in-law in the morning as it was her birthday and Vern was away. I took a freshly made chocolate cake which made her smile, she loves chocolate! The carpenter turned up to board out the little alcove I had requested for the shower and later the tiler popped in and tiled it. That was the sum total of work done all day. I busied myself going to war with the dust which had returned with a vengeance.
Thursday and finally getting up early paid off. The carpenter was here bright and early to sand the wooden banisters and cover the hall floor with special boards which the new tiles will be attached to. I must admit it was good to see something happening again. My son and his girlfriend visited in the afternoon with my grandson Jason. It was lovely to see him but the state of the house meant that it was a little stressful keeping him away from all the dangerous scenarios. He does make me laugh though, he is a cheeky chappy who has just started to say a few words, his favourite being Oi! in a broad Berkshire accent. His mum thinks it came from her because when he is doing something naughty she shouts “Oi, don’t do that”!
Friday came and went without a visit from any workmen. Not sure what has happened to the plumber, maybe he was ill or sent off to another job but I have been promised his undivided attention next week so maybe by next weekend we will have a working bathroom downstairs, fingers crossed. We met with our kitchen designer Marco who has drawn up some splendid plans to refurbish the most important room in our house.
This weekend has been a strange one. My other half is normally a happy bloke. Nothing much gets him down. He often makes up silly songs and when he is singing or whistling I know that all is well. Every so often though, he becomes withdrawn and quiet. It often happens on the weekend and more often during the winter months. He just kind of shuts down and I can’t get through anymore. No amount of cajoling will bring him back. He loses interest in everything around him and won’t talk about it. I never know how best to deal with these black moods. I’ve learnt to just ignore it and carry on as usual. Eventually he snaps out of it but it can last for several days and I find it very distressing. My mood automatically drops too because I’m worried about Vern, but also I’m angry because our weekends are sacred. We spend a great deal of time apart during the week as he is away with work so any time we do get together is a big deal. I have suggested he sees a doctor but this is a waste of breath, after all, he’s a man and a stubborn one at that. He has tried to explain why this happens and he has assured me that it is nothing to do with me. I take it personally, thinking I must have done something to upset him but I know now that this is not the case but it doesn’t make these episodes of depression any easier to deal with. I’m not a naturally positive person myself, I’m a glass-half-empty kind of girl but I think I’m generally happy, so these sudden mood swings Vern has are hard to bear. I adore the very bones of this man. We will soon be celebrating twenty-five years of marriage but I still have no idea what is going on in his head most of the time. It is said that men and women are an entirely different species and I for one would agree with that!
Well, this blog is ending on a bit of a downer but I find that when I start writing it all just pours out onto the page, like a sort of therapy. Hope he comes back to me soon.
I delivered this beauty to my lovely mother-in-law this morning for her birthday. I got the recipe from my daughter who made it recently for her friend and it’s so darkly delicious that I had to make it myself. It’s a liquid cake, using oil instead of butter, with buttermilk and black cocoa so the texture is similar to a red velvet, dense and soft. The frosting is rich and fudgy, not too sweet, and sets to a truffle like texture. In short it’s possibly the most delicious chocolate cake you will ever taste. Xx