Tuesday, February 26, 2019

A Bit Of A Siege

It was Bert who I first heard using the expression 'a siege' to describe a situation that was somewhat fraught. It must be a Northern Ireland Protestant thing, Derry never far from their minds, the taste of rattus norvegicus still on the tongue.

Well, it's been a bit siegy at Nellybert's this past week or more what with all the dog visitors (Gracie, Maya, Dora and Jack) and the kitchen fitting. Good news. It's nearly done. It's almost functional but, as it is sore in need of decorating, there will be no photographs until that is completed.

Today was a complete siege. Thankfully I had Zoe by my side to support me through it. It was The Return To Ikea.

There was a lot of stuff to bring back. For some reason, Ikea sold and delivered to us an entire set of drawer fittings for a unit that was meant to be shelved. So that had to go back as did various white bits, some superfluous fittings, a damaged door and some knobs that we'd changed our minds about. The whole lot came to about £250. Shame I'd lost the original receipt. So it was off for a bit of a wait and a people watch at Returns.

There are some funny people around. One woman returned three packets of paper napkins. I cannot imagine bothering to do that myself. I'd have kept them to use another time even though when that time came I'd have totally forgotten where I'd stashed them.

Eventually, my number was called. I wheeled my laden trolley to the young man's desk and began explaining that I was going to be a complete pain in the ass as I had no receipt as it had become buried under four grands worth of kitchen and then I'd gone to Amsterdam and never saw it again.

Amsterdam? he said. No problem, he said. And then efficiently worked his way through everything while telling me how much he loved Amsterdam and how he'd been there eight times and was going back in July. Did I partake? he asked. Sure, said I. When in Rome and all that.

As sieges go, that part wasn't too bad.

Zoe and I had arranged to meet in the restaurant. I was to phone her when I was done but, siege!, no coverage. Eventually, I had her paged. What's the name? asked the Ikea co-worker. Zoe Surname, I told her. Soon this message rang out throughout the store,

Customer Announcement. Can Zoe go to the restaurant where her Mum is waiting for her?

I was worried that there might be flocks of Zoes descending on the restaurant but just one turned up. My one.

We had the usual run through the store. I replaced handles and damaged door, bought another pull-out tray for the larder and inserts for the cutlery drawer. The door and tray had to be ordered, paid for at the till and collected from another desk. Somehow, between the till and the collection desk, I mislaid the receipt and another one had to be printed. Siege! Meanwhile, Zoe started gathering her bits and pieces to take to the van and somehow between the till and the collection desk and the van a little alarm clock she'd bought for her youngest daughter was not to be found. Siege! First thought was that it had been left at the till but apparently not. What happened next was that an Ikea co-worker had to take details and then go and watch security footage whereupon she returned and informed us that they had Nelly on camera picking it up at the till and placing it on top of some shelf brackets and then leaving the till area. So that was gone. Dropped somewhere and picked up by someone who has got themselves a free alarm clock. Good luck to whoever it is, may they never oversleep again.

To console ourselves for the loss of Evie's clock we returned to the restaurant and ate cake. Nothing else for it. As siege tucker goes that had to be a whole lot nicer than boiled rat.

This is the style of our kitchen. Not the handles. Ours are black.

Sunday, February 17, 2019


I said to Bert the other day,

We'll need to get those worktops off the floor before Frank comes. You know he'll piss himself silly all over them.

Well, as it turned out, Frank paid his last visit to our house this very evening. In the gloaming, there was just enough light for Bert to make ready his little grave.

Jazzer was distraught. She'd just made a very hard decision but the right one for Frankie.

He was nearly eighteen years old. That's a long time for a dog. A dog that lived with one family and one home for his entire life.

Guarding the younger members of his family. He was around four then. Already a regular visitor to Nellybert's.

And this was on his first visit.

Scared of nothing. Frank faced up to other dogs, cattle, cats, horses, goats and...



Dear Frank. We will never forget you.

Friday, February 15, 2019

After Amsterdam Before Ikea Kitchen

At The Minute

I got back from three nights in Amsterdam on Wednesday and, honestly, it's taken this long to regain my equilibrium. The house is literally upside down. No kitchen sink, no worktops, no oven. Yet Bert has been working flat out. It didn't help that Ikea's picking and delivery service did not come up to scratch. Only today I had to hotfoot it to the Belfast store to get the brackets that hold the oven up. And had to wait an hour to get it sorted. There is no word of Ed the Electric. (We're having to move plug points and light switches around) and the kitchen sink worktop won't be cut until Monday/Tuesday at the earliest as Bert has decided to have the experts do that. Then we'll need a gas fitter to connect the hob. So much for do-it-yourself.

My private secret sitting room has become a flatpack store room as has the hallway. The dishwasher is disconnected so all dishwashing has been moved to the scullery. Still, a week will make a big difference.

A Day Or Two Ago

Amsterdam was lovely. I walked for miles and miles. Walking in unfamiliar cities has to be one of my very favourite things. I set off each of the two mornings with no particular plan. I might go to the Botanical Gardens, I might go to the Van Gogh. I will stop off at any interesting place or site that catches my eye.

Hortus Botanicus. 

Things I noticed about Amsterdam,

1. The men have amazing hairlines.

2. David Beckham must have Dutch ancestors.

3. The people (notably the men) are very polite.

4. The Men! Still sexy in their sixties and seventies.

Some other things.

1. There were no apparent homeless people or beggars. I'm told there are two reasons for this. The Dutch social welfare system is supportive and Dutch people have no time for beggars.

2. The ladies on the trams are very impatient. Not very Dutch. Still, I expect they have to deal with a lot of very silly tourists.

3. The cyclists take no prisoners and they do not wear helmets. Neither do their children.

4. There are hardly any children.

5. In keeping with the Dutch refusal to wear cycling helmets, they are also fairly unconcerned that there are acres of deep water hazards everywhere, and that their stairs are amazingly tricky and steep with no warning signs to watch one's head or beware of falling. I found this refreshing. Dutch people (unlike the British) expect people to take responsibility for their own personal safety.

Where we stayed.

In a hostel! I always thought that hostels were grim, utilitarian places inhabited by penniless youth. The hostel was called Generator, 4 years old and formerly a university building. It was lovely. Great atmosphere and everything one could possibly need except room service and a heated swimming pool. It was well-connected, public transport had one at the centre of things in no time but during the day, I found it more fun to walk.

Other things I found interesting.

1. A huge amount of ring-necked parakeets just like in London.

2. The city felt safe.

3. Walking through the red light district (daylight hours) there was a commotion. A woman, wearing a lacy slip, little else, outside on the cobbles trying to entice a little French bulldog back to their shared apartment.


1. Vacation time means reading time.

2. I brought Ian McEwan's Amsterdam. Seemed appropriate. By the time I got to the section actually based in Amsterdam, I'd already walked those places.

3. I finished the McEwan on the third night and immediately swapped it for another in the hostel's book exchange shelves. The book I picked was The Genocides by Thomas M. Disch. I'd heard of neither the title or author before. It was a thought-provoking and gripping read. I finished it on the plane home the next day.

4. Of course, I found a bookshop. It was wonderful, specialised in English language books and was alphabetized! I bought Sula by Toni Morrison. The bookshop owner seemed impressed with my choice (or maybe he was just being polite?). Still, you never get that fellow intellectual knowing nod when the paperback proffered is a Cecilia Ahern.


Then I ate what Amsterdam calls a space cookie but our friend L. calls home baking. Things might get surreal. Best stop.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

In Search of the Perfect Mop

I wrote this in 2006, proof that mops and mopping have been on my mind for a long time.


You will need a cauldron of boiling water, a broom and a floor mop. To the cauldron of boiling water, you may add any of the following potions or powders. Do not mix these potions or powders for the results may be catastrophic and you could blow up your happy home. You should add to the cauldron of boiling water PARAZONE or FLASH or MR MUSCLE.  Next, take your broom and thoroughly sweep your floor. Then take your floor mop and dip into your potioned or powdered cauldron. Use your floor mop to clean your floor. When the floor is beautifully clean lean on your floor mop and admire your handiwork. It is at this stage that your man will arrive home and will begin stomping all over your lovely clean floors with his big dirty feet. Works for me every time.

Like my mother and her mother before her, I started out with the galvanised metal bucket and string mop. That was a lot of hard work, carrying the water, the mopping, the rinsing and always the feeling that the mop itself was a filthy old thing even if I did occasionally steep it in bleach - which perished the fibres.

In 2007 Bert bought me the Ladybug Combo Wringer unit

I was very taken with it at first. It had wheels and the wringer unit was very efficient. It was very robust but you would have needed muscles like Popeye to operate it and it slopped water all over the place. It was back to the string mop. 

Then in 2013, Marty told me about the Whizz Mop. He'd bought one for Jazzer and she was delighted with it. Just like Bert, Marty knows the type of gift that a wife will cherish. I rushed out and bought one.

Now, this was a mop. Easy to operate and with washable mop heads. I liked. Of course, there was a fatal flaw. Despite being more expensive than the other mops it was flimsy and it broke. So did Jazzer's mop. I liked it so much I went out and bought another one and swore to be gentle with it. It lasted a few months. Back to the galvanised bucket and the string mop.

I wasn't alone in my search for the perfect mop. Jazzer too shared my hopes and dreams and eventual bitter disillusionment. She had given up on mops entirely and was cleaning her floors on her hands and knees and that really upset Marty and Ben because, you know, men coming home and trampling all over clean floors in search of sandwiches and the like. They felt bad. But they were hungry. So Marty too was looking out for the perfect mop.  At last, in late 2018, they thought they'd found it in Antrim Asda. As soon as I heard I raced to Asda but the mops had sold out. I turned to Google and found the nearest thing to Jazzer's new mop in Lakeland. The E-cloth Deep Clean Mop. Cheaper than the Whizz Mop. Didn't need detergents. Detachable and washable microfibre pads. 

I was so looking forward to its arrival and on the day it was due I stayed close to home but popped down to the polytunnel for ten minutes to check on some perennial seedlings. When I got back there was a note on the door. Sorry I missed you. Your parcel is in the shed at the front of the house. There is no shed at the front of the house but there are nine at the back. It took me about twenty minutes to locate it. But when I did! It was the best, I immediately started mopping floors and strangely enough Bert did not come home until they were all dry. The best mop ever. Even better than the one Jazzer got in Asda. So Marty said. But  she was not to be outdone. She bought yet another mop, this one with an attached sprayer for detergent. Silly nonsense. I'm delighted with the Lakeland E-Cloth Deep Clean mop and my floors have never been so clean. No buckets or detergent are necessary and the floors dry so fast that Bert just can't get home quick enough to trample them.

A true story and proof that dreams can come true.

Friday, February 08, 2019

Ikea Kitchen

So. We bought this Ikea kitchen on Wednesday and it was delivered on Thursday. Which was great. Everything worked out really well, the design team at Ikea were really good and the entire experience right down to the guys who delivered it was the very best. The delivery fellows even threw balls for our dogs and were sweet beyond the call of duty.

A little bit of kitchen

So. Bert started to build the big pantry cupboards today and he noticed that there were no suspension rails so we looked again and then Peter and Heather turned up and they looked again but no suspension rails and Bert reckoned there was no sink and no worktops. So I did a complete ticking off a checklist (with Heather's help) and it took an hour and there were ten packages missing to the value of almost a grand. While I did this Bert (with Peter and Heather's help) built most of the biggest cupboard and I phoned Ikea. The call centre was somewhere in London and me and the Ikea rep both had accents but we were very patient with each other and she took all the details and said there would have to be An Investigation. I did not like the sound of that.

After the phone call, I upset myself by going on to various online forums where people were complaining about poor treatment from Ikea in places like Philadelphia and Ilford, Essex and I was beginning to think that we had made a huge mistake shopping in Ikea. Then the phone rang and it was the delivery people saying that the missing items would be with us in half an hour.

What had happened was that one of the trolleys from the warehouse had not been loaded and that when this was noticed the delivery firm had been informed and we were supposed to get a phone call but that hadn't happened.

Sighs of relief all round.

In other news, I bought some euros for my trip to Amsterdam and am very excited. I'm going with Hannah and we're meeting Mel. Bert is not going. He will be minding dogs and cats, chickens and pigs and building an Ikea kitchen.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Loudmouth and Alpha

On Monday I engaged in a little bit of food stockpiling, just instant coffee and long grain rice but it's a start. Only joking! I've been hoarding food forever.

The reason why that lot is sitting on the kitchen table is that Nellybert bought a new kitchen from Ikea today and the first unit that is being built is the larder cupboard.

The Kenco coffee and long grain rice were purchased in Lynas (wholesale to the public) and after stashing enough rice to last six months and enough coffee to see us through a month I decided to pop into the charity shop next door. There was a lot going on there. A four-way conversation about shoplifters (foreigners) and attitudes towards. The one doing most of the talking (I'll call her Loudmouth) was a woman of mature years with a bad hair dye job and a worse attitude. She was ranting on about how much she disliked foreigners. She was talking about the Roma people as they are the ones with the bad rep for nicking stuff in charity shops. Anyways, Loudmouth was giving it harsh about what she'd like to do about all these thieving, gipsy foreigners who come over here, live in our houses, take our jobs, rob our charity shops and shit in our second-hand Sunday best suits.* Really! What Loudmouth would like to do would tip their boats into the sea and drown them! She'd hold them under. She would!**

Obviously, this woman was an evil bitch. And crazy. You wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of her. I didn't. I never said a word.

And the other people, the volunteers, the other few customers - they didn't say much either. Just sort of smiled and nodded. Loudmouth left the building. A few remarks were made, not entirely disapproving. One of the women said something, I didn't quite catch it but I gathered it contained some mild swearing. What my mother would have called 'rough talk'. Immediately the alpha volunteer lit on her. We'll have none of that kind of talk in here! The poor woman was mortified. She made some reference to Alpha being 'good-living'. Ballymena talk for a person who considers themselves to be 'saved' or 'born-again'. I may not have mentioned that this particular charity shop was raising funds for Christian missions.

I left the shop (without making a purchase) and went for a walk. I felt soiled and cross with myself for not speaking up. This woman, Alpha, the saved Christian, was happy to listen to the vilest of racist abuse from one woman yet baulked at another, milder woman, swearing. I wondered what Jesus Christ would have made of it all if He'd*** been in the shop with us rummaging through the menswear rails. Alpha would have been keeping a tight eye on Him, with His swarthy Middle Eastern looks, most likely a thief. Those bloody foreigners.

*She really said this!

**Loudmouth was a complete ignoramus. The people she was talking about do not travel here by boat.

***Capitalisation for dramatic effect.

Sunday, February 03, 2019

Thought Avoidance

I was making a sauce and got out the plain flour and wondered if there were mites wandering its surface. You know how it is, if one fixates on an idea then one visualises it. I could really see those mites travelling the flour dunes. Marty came in, I asked him if he could see tiny creatures marching over the flour. He could not but he was fascinated by the idea. I don't think he knew such animals existed. Of course, I assured him that even if there were mites in the flour they would be no threat to our health and might even enhance the protein count in a very small (miniscule) way. That is when he told me he had a magnifier app on his phone. So we used it and there were no discernible mites. And I made the sauce.

And isn't technology amazing? Who'd ever have dreamed we could have an electronic magnifying device in our pocket for an affordable price? Not me. But someone did and then made it accessible to me as long as I looked occasionally and briefly at some dreary ad. Since then I've been taking photographs of this, that and everything using the magnifying app. The first one was Bert's mole that he has been treating with cannabis oil. It's too horrible to share and I really think he ought to show it to the doctor. Much nicer are pictures of flowers although they are in short supply midwinter.

This one is pretty.

It's witch hazel, Hamamelis pallida, apparently deliciously scented but I usually have a sinus cold at this time of the year so don't get to appreciate it.

This is what it looks like unmagnified.

And this is the wrapping from Lidl Christmas chocolate going very cheap and all gone now. Sorry, Martha and Evie but you did get your share.