Sunday, August 31, 2008

Starry, Starry Night

So thrilled with how Emily's new room is coming along. Woke up yesterday morning about 8.30 to find that Jon had been up since six and had already painted half the room in the beautiful deep, rich blue that Emily chose :-))

During the rest of yesterday he painted the rest of the walls, and Gramps put in the door frame, and this morning Jon painted the skirting board and radiator, while Emily stamped stars on the walls and Gramps started work in her beauty counter. The stars look stunning now they're done in silver glitter paint. They're scattered around the room, vaguely following the lines of where the furniture will go, so they look like constellations across a midnight blue sky. Together with silver curtains, the blue sofa bed with big silver cushions, Emily's desk painted silver, blue carpet, silver lamps, and her assorted bookcases and cupboards in shades of blue and silver, it's going to look fantastic.

We're getting close to done now. We need to install the new lights, move some plugs around, lay the carpet and paint some bookcases, but then it's action stations to move Emily into her new room :-))

Here's where we are. The paint is a much deeper blue than it looks in most of these photos. It's called Lapis Blue on the pot and it's a match for the deep blue in Tutankhamun's mask (which I believe had a lot to do with why it was chosen, lol). I'm so glad we went with Emily's vision instead of trying to talk her out of it - despite having been told several times over the last few weeks by well meaning people that we shouldn't have "let" her have total say and that it would be much too dark and look awful. Rolls eyes. The paint looks a little patchy in some of the photos, but that's more the way the flash catches it; it looks great in the flesh :-))

And as you can see from the last photograph, even Juliet was impressed!

Work-wise it has been a hectic weekend. Jon has worked his socks off with putting up lining paper and painting, I've been mostly stuck on boring old deadlines, and we've both been trying not to think about the state of our bank account once the first of September rolls round tomorrow. I've also been working on a plan for getting back to Emily's education with some degree of sense and structure. Mind you, we'll be going away at the beginning of October, so it's not as if there's long between then and now to get back into a routine!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Birthday Bliss

Well, it was my 37th birthday on the 27th August and my, I had a truly lovely day :-))

First thing in the morning Jon and I took Emily out to Lincoln with a budget of £30 for her to spend in Waterstones. Since we have accounts with various book wholesalers, we have only very, very rarely bought books from "real bookshops" over the last ten years, since it's a heck of a lot cheaper to get them from the wholesalers or from somewhere like amazon, but with fond memories of many mispent hours in bookshops when we were kids, we wanted to let her loose, lol, as a birthday treat for me and absolute heaven for her. In the end, we spent just over £40, but for that she has seven wonderful books. We also had a coffee and cake in the Costa Lot (ooops, sorry Costa Coffee) shop within Waterstones - another rare treat!

Back home, my Mum and Dad cooked us all a fantabulous birthday tea; Emily and Daddy had made me absolutely *the* most delicious carrot cake *ever* covered in candles :-) I was a very lucky lady with some superb books from Emily and Daddy and an extremely thoughtful present that had me in tears - I've always had a thing about golden eagles.......last time we went to a wildlife park in Cumbria I couldn't tear myself away from their eagles...... so my lovely hubby and daughter bought me a year's adoption of one of that park's pair of eagles as part of which I get to go and spend time with the keeper and get up close and personal with the eagle :-))) I'm so excited about that! To go with that part of the present, they also bought me a stunning eagle statuette which now has pride of place in our bedroom. I was spoilt rotten by my Mum and Dad too, who bought me lots of wine. Always a Very Good Thing.

Later that evening, we were just about to settle down for a family games evening when friends turned up unexpectedly and brought me another beautiful present, a stunning Chinese display plate. Jacki stayed and chatted for an hour or so while Mei Lin and Emily played in the garden in the dark, lol, much to the amusement of the assorted cats. After they had left, we played Balderdash, which had everyone in hysterics and which Jon won by a mile (as always) followed by lots of games of Coffee Pot. So all in all, a very special birthday - I feel very honoured :-)

Yesterday afternoon another friend and her daughter dropped by unexpectedly too, so that was a lovely chance to catch up on some news and for Emily and Maisie to play in the complete chaos that passes for our house at the moment.

The decorating continues apace. Yesterday we stripped the wallpaper; this morning Jon papered the wooden partion wall with lining paper to give the paint an even base and we all chipped in with painting the other walls with the white base coat; then I painted half of the sash window frame. Decorating and me don't mix well, alas - yesterday morning was very fraught when I started to clear the last shelves in the room only to discover that we literally had *nowhere* left to put the contents of the shelves or the two large chairs that needed moving out of the room. Tears and tantrums and other very un-adult behaviour followed. Not one of my finer hours. As ever, Jon came to the rescue and calmly moved stuff around, aided by a very grown up Emily.

Yesterday, the BBC finally got back to me regarding this month's payment. They sent a cheque. I was livid. It only arrived today, and even after depositing it same day it will take another 4-5 days to clear into our business bank account and then another 4-5 days to transfer to the personal account. I had been banking (definitely not a funny pun) on receiving the direct payment into the bank account on the 22nd, as they had promised, leaving me just enough time to transfer payment to our personal account to cover our outgoings on the 1st September. Obviously, that's not now going to happen, so everything will bounce - for the fifth month running. To cut a long story short, it's time to take legal advice over this farce since they are consistently in breach of the contract; it's also time to invoice them for the hundreds and hundreds of pounds in bank charges we've incurred over the last five months as a direct result of this fiasco. Colour me distinctly unimpressed.

I'm set for a crappy weekend meeting non stop deadlines, my mood not exactly heartened by the thought of our financial situation come Monday the 1st. I'm still trying to catch up with work that was lost when the PC crashed, although the super duper new (tiny!!!!! the box is about a quarter of the size of the old one!) PC that my Mum and Dad stepped in and save us with is up and running like lightning. Had to cancel our weekly Friday date with Jacki and girls this week, so we could press on with the decorating, but next week Emily's been invited to go and stay there for a couple of days, so she's a very excited bunny :-) One the new room is finished, she has a long list of people to invite for sleepovers here, lol, so it should be a busy few weeks ahead.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Fun and the Fury

Emily's new room is progressing very well. We've cleared two thirds of the room and Gramps has built the partition wall in absolutely record speed, despite today being his 75th birthday :-)) In chronological order: The first part of the frame going up:
Frame in place, boards leaning against it:
Same view from inside the room formerly known as the Dolls House Room:
The master at work:
The railings are now down, leaving a sheer drop from the framework down the stairs:

Starting to put in the main panels of the partition:Emily inspecting the handiwork so far:
The Master and The Apprentice square up :-))
Taking shape from inside the room:
What a thing to be doing on your 75th birthday: Gramps in a precarious position, with Nana acting as ladder support!

And taking a bow - the partition structure is done, now it just needs decorating on both sides, and the door fitting, when it arrives :-))
Clearing out the room has prompted mixed emotions. It's very hard work, for a start, and whilst it's in progress, of course, we get to live in total chaos with boxes stacked everywhere. However, it's been satisfying. If a little fraught. Tempers have run high at various points, admittedly. Looking at old photographs and school reports we found has been a deeply philosophical journey for me. I look at photographs of me aged around 12 and I don't even recognise that person. I long to know what I was thinking when a photo was taken, and who I was. What was worrying me? What was I looking forward to? What was going through my head seconds before someone pointed a camera? And the photos we take of Emily now.....she too is no doubt destined to ask the same questions of those photos in twenty or thirty year's time. This life passes so quickly. More and more, I'm starting to realise that the only sensible option is to grab the moment and live for the now.

Sunday was an "interesting" day. First thing in the morning, Jon, Emily and I went out and bought the paint for her room, stencils, new carpet, lamps, cushions and other bits and pieces. From home, we ordered her sofa bed and curtains. Whilst inwardly crossing our fingers that the BBC will actually pay on time this month, on which all of the above expense hinges. That bit was the fun. Then came the fury. At about half past two, our main PC descended into a spiral of despair that was only to end at about half past two in the morning this morning when it finally died and refused to be sparked back into life.

I'll spare you the gory details - basically, the damn thing's buggered, and that's that. The hard drive is completely gone and apparently our only option would be to reformat it, losing everything in any case. So it's gone. And with it, years' worth of important business files and all of our existing email account. There was screaming and there was sobbing and there was cold, hard hair-pulling fury. It was not a good afternoon, evening or night. Fortunately, we still have Emily's PC, that I'm using now. We also now have new email addresses, but I've had to re-write several large pieces of work that were due in today from scratch and the stress is only just beginning to die down.

Today is my Dad's 75th birthday. We had a lovely little sit down and cake with him while we gave him his presents; meanwhile he and my Mum gave us a very large present indeed, by offering to buy us a brand new PC to replace the heap of junk that even now sits, smouldering and glaring at me, in the corner. The day after tomorrow is my birthday - we're taking Emily out for a shopping spree in a bookshop to celebrate, lol, and coming back for a joint birthday meal for me and my Dad. Then it's wallpaper stripping and room decorating with a vengeance. So much for the nice bits. The sofa bed that I ordered for Emily yesterday was supposed to take 14 days to arrive. They rang up this morning, in the middle of our PC induced fury. It's coming on Thursday. We have *nowhere* ready to physically put it. American Express broke their record with no less than 58 phone calls to our answering machine yesterday. There is no sign as yet of the BBC payment despite repeated assurances from their end that payment would be released early this month. Life continues to conspire to induce maximum inconvenience and stress. And we continue to try to smile through it - mostly. What else can you do?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Before

Shortly to be followed, one dearly hopes, by The After. Our attention has been focused this last couple of days on clearing the space affectionately known by some as The Dolls' House Room (and known by others as The Junk Hole). We're preparing to turn it into an amazing deep blue and silver retreat for Emily.

Well, that's the plan. Her choice of colour scheme is....brave. We've dithered about it for weeks now, wondering whether to veto it or to persuade Emily to go for lighter colours (it's a very dark part of the house), but finally we decided to trust her judgement. She's not normally wrong :-)

The room as it stands at the moment isn't actually a room - it's a large rectangular landing above the entrance hall downstairs, so it only has three walls. My Dad is going to build a partition wall, no doubt dangling precariously above the sheer drop of the stairs as he does so......Emily doesn't call him her "Angel Who Fixes Stuff" for nothing. He's also going to fix the lighting for us and add some new power points, and build a corner "hair and beauty unit" for Emily with a high work surface and mirror backing, at which she can sit on a bar stool. He and my Mum created one for me when I was a teenager, which is what gave us the idea :-) Meanwhile, Jon's going to take care of the room and ceiling painting, with Emily's help of course.

We've been working solidly to clear the room for the last two and a half days....and we don't seem to have made much progress. For those among you with a strong stomach, here are some "before" pictures........and if these worry you, it's a good job you didn't see it two and a half days ago.

We're going out to buy the paint, new carpet and assorted DIY bits this weekend. Hopefully by next weekend, it will be more or less done, although the corner sofa bed Emily wants may have to wait a couple of weeks to be ordered, given our dire finances. Exciting stuff. Or traumatic, depending on your point of view. We'll go for exciting, shall we?

Education-wise, we've been having a bit of a break. The house is in absolute chaos, which makes it hard to get organised for "work" - besides, it is school summer holidays. Emily normally works through the holidays, so I'm sure it won't hurt to have a few weeks off until we get back into some sort of order. There have been odd educational moments - we're still doing maths every day, and some form of English on most days, and Emily's reading a great deal and writing X-Files scripts every five minutes, lol. She was very proud to have a comment on our last blog post from Nick Green, author of The Cat Kin, saying that he liked her poem, so thank you Nick! I'm being nagged to read Cat Kin at the moment, as apparently Emily would like to do some work related to animal ethics based on themes from the book. I haven't read it yet, but it's on my list :-)

There's been a fair bit of craft and fashion related work going on too, come to think of it. Emily and I made Barbie clothes the other weekend, which was fun. I really need to get our huge craft collection in some kind of order. Clearing out the Dolls House Room today I found an enormous stash of tissue paper - only the other day I'd been running around looking for tissue paper for the festival tree, and couldn't find any. Rolls eyes.

The BBC sent us a cheque in the end. Very late. Again. We've been promised that this month the payment will be early. We live in hope. American Express have taken to ringing me very twelve minutes on the dot. Or should I say, ringing our answerphone. Yep, that'll work. I don't have the money to pay you, but hassling me to that extent will make the money appear faster. Of course. I *would* have the money to pay if the BBC didn't make such an almighty mess up with their payments on a regular basis. Perhaps Amex would like to hassle them.

Took the baby kibbles Voldemort and Severus to the dreaded V.E.T on Tuesday for their booster vaccinations. They escaped. From the basket when it was all over and I was trying to put Severus back into it. Good job the window was closed. V.E.T. lady had to help me and Emily catch 'em. £65 that little escapade set us back....I wonder if they charged extra for the stress factor?? We have to take Romeo and Juliet soon for their boosters too. Cassie-cat's due hers in November, but I think we might leave her be. The stress (for her) of keeping her in all night and then getting her into the basket and in the car and into the V.E.T. is a little bit much at her ripe old age, I think. She's still fighting fit and was playing like a kitten in the garden the other day with Jon........but when considering whether to take her for the vaccination our thoughts inevitably turn to the way her brother, our beloved Merlin, went so rapidly down-hill after his "routine" vet treatment for fleas two years ago. We're convinced that sparked off his rapid and traumatic decline, as he'd been fit and healthy before it. Yes, I think Cassie-cat and "routine" vet treatment are done. She doesn't need the indignity and fear factor at this point in her life, for minimal health gain.

Took this of Juliet a couple of days ago - she was almost completely hidden in the basket, camouflaged against the leopard skin. She's been a lot more loving to the babies recently - she even licked Severus without hitting him!
Work-wise I'm still plugging away at my existing contracts, and Jon's still plugging away writing stuff and working on the online shop. I've been very busy at Best of the Web, where I was very chuffed to be asked to lead an important and satisfying but highly complicated project, which is taking up lots and lots of time. It's all good stuff. And it's nearly my birthday :-))

Sunday, August 03, 2008

The X-Files and Financial Recklessness

Oooh, look, another month. Rolls eyes. Can't believe I used to find time to post here regularly. Oh well!
X Files Mania
Since I last posted, Emily has developed a passionate interest in, of all things, The X-Files. Jon and I have been watching the entire nine seasons worth of episodes, one on most nights, for months now and have just about got to season 5. It was something we used to watch while I was pregnant with Emily, although I don't think we ever got that far along with it, and we're re-visiting it now. Random fact alert: Emily was actually named after the series in some respects, in as much as Emily is Dana Scully's daughter, and Dana is Emily's middle name.

Anyway. So Jon and I have been working our way through the series after Emily's gone to bed each night. She's always *hated* anything to do with aliens or outer space and even the music to the X Files terrified her, to the extent that she accidentally overheard it one night and was hysterically upset, bless her. Needless to say we'd always been turning the sound right down after that. BUT. She saw an interview about a week ago with the actors, promoting the new film, and suddenly announced that she was interested in it after all. Now, nobody could say that my daughter ever does anything by halves. Within an hour of deciding she wanted to know about the series, she'd read everything she could find on the internet about it, had made posters of it and was playing the theme tune non stop, rofl!

And it's become something of an obsession since then. We've been carefully picking and choosing episodes to watch with her that aren't way too adult in nature or too gory or too frightening. Or rather, she's been carefully picking them herself after diligently reading through countless episode guides. She has a very good handle on her own tolerance levels.

I guess it counts as citizenship, at least. With Jon and I on series five, even I'm starting to get a little lost in the conspiracies to cover up conspiracies to cover up lies to cover up conspiracies - if nothing else, watching it with Emily, as she gets past the first series, will prompt interesting discussions about how far a government might go to protect its own interests and about how much one can or should trust what we're told or not told. She was doing a quiz about the series this afternoon and she got more right than I would have done!

Financial Recklessness
I turned down the opportunity to take on a very large writing contract from the press association last week. It's quite simply not what I want to do any more and it would have taken up way too much time, leaving me unable to develop the things I DO want to do. So, financially unstable though we are, it was a big No Thanks. Which I suppose was reckless, but hey, a little bit of recklessness never hurt anyone. It's time to trust that things will work out OK, financially. And they will. I've had it with doing stuff I hate doing. I'll honour existing contracts, but I'm not taking on any more. If I wanted to spend all week doing things I don't like doing, I'd go out and work for someone else doing it, and get a guaranteed income. I can't see the point any longer in working for yourself and not enjoying it.

Reiki Master
Jon completed two full day's training recently to gain his qualifications as a Third Degree Master Practitioner in Tera Mai Reiki and Seichem, which he's exceedingly chuffed about. He can now teach, and is considering where he wants to go with it. I'm very proud of him!

Father in Law Issues
We've spent a goodly part of the last few weeks running around after Jon's father, as usual. And he has been even more obnoxious than ever. In one particular bout of vitriol he raged at Jonathan that he (Jon) should be going out to get a "proper job" but then swiftly followed that up with a spiteful "But nobody would ever want to employ *you* anyway." What a delightful thing for a father to say to his youngest son. Seems he's conveniently forgotten that Jon *chose* to give up a lucrative career position as a company director in order to move up here. Seems he's also conveniently forgotten that Jon's practically singlehandedly supported us for the last ten years via self-employment. I'd be spitting with fury if I hadn't already used it all up, years ago. We're subjected to nothing but constant praise and adulation of his eldest son followed by constant put downs of Jon. It would be sickening even if we weren't running around after his every whim, but to be treated this way when we're doing our best to take care of him is just beyond words. I have no idea where such spite comes from or why he's doing it. All I can say right now, at the very end of my exhausted tether, is that Jon's father had better be careful not to ever turn that kind of deliberate, spiteful, mental cruelty onto our daughter, because if he does, father in law or no father in law there will be consequences.

Emily's Social Life
Well, Emily's certainly seen plenty of her friends recently. We're still seeing Jacki, Mei Lin and Jasmine every Friday; last week she saw them for four days running as we were at theirs on the Friday, then Emily spent all day Saturday with them too, then on the Sunday it was Mei Lin's 11th birthday and Emily was there all afternoon at her party, and then again on Monday night. Miraculously, they didn't manage to fall out even given the constant company, lol. We've also had friends over to play at our house and Emily's been busy writing lots of letters to friends too.

Emily's Education
There's been lots of education, honestly. I just can't remember much of it. I know Emily's done plenty of fractions work, and she's also done lots of geography and geology. We made salt dough sheaves of corn for Lammas, learnt about why the Normans won the Battle of Hastings and Emily's been keeping close tabs on the flowers and caterpillars in the garden. Speaking of caterpillars, both kittens (must stop calling them that, they're over a year old now) have been on constant butterfly patrol. Poor flutterbies. Keep finding dead ones on the floor or spotting a kibbie dashing up the stairs with a mouthful of wings :-(( Not very nice.

This Friday just gone I did some poetry work with Emily, Mei Lin and Jasmine, using the famous "I Saw a Peacock with a Fiery Tail" poem, examining how you can twist the lines around to make sense, and then the girls all wrote their own versions using half a sentence on one line and the other half on the line above. Here's Emily's:

I saw a rat floating on the breeze
I saw a leaf cover up his sneeze
I saw a man shining with light
I saw a crystal squawking with might
I saw a bird swallow a whale
I saw a salmon jump through a gale
I saw a raindrop, fluffy and proud
I saw a rabbit climb through a cloud
I saw a pegasus skating on a pond
I saw a dragonfly with its chicks so fond
I saw a swan crack on the floor
I saw a plate squeeze under a door
I saw a mouse as a house so tall
I saw a cat who saw this all.

Future Plans
Jonathan's going to Grasmere for a meditation and spiritual retreat for a week in October, so Emily and I will be going up to stay in the caravan during that time. I'm hoping to stay for several weeks longer too, so we'll be away for most of October. It sounds like a long way off, but it can't come soon enough as far as I'm concerned.

Meanwhile, Jon is writing a runes package, and I'm going to be starting on some children's spirituality books. Having turned down the writing contract I didn't want has actually made me feel very empowered. Yep, definitely time to start pleasing *ourselves* for once instead of chasing every penny or running round after others all the time. The BBC failed to pay us on time at the end of July. Again. That's five months in a row now. The payment won't reach us for another week, apparently. All of our first of the month payments out went bouncy-bouncy. But you know what? It's only money :-))