Parenting, profundities and humour

A Post About Posts… — July 7, 2016

A Post About Posts…


‘Stealth Post’

So today I was assembling a netball post in the kitchen. This opening probably needs some explanation. Soon Youngest is turning 9. In keeping with our plans to banish the children to the garden for the whole summer holidays her main present is a netball post.

Thus far Operation Banish has not been a huge success as it has fallen foul of our shocking British summer.

However mine break up from school tomorrow for eight and a half weeks. Yep read it and weep. Eight and a half weeks. And so the weather had better pick up to allow Operation Banish to move to full, well, operation and provide me with the time to brush my teeth and occasionally do something other than coax children off electronics. And when I say ‘coax’ I really mean ‘shout at futilely and repetitively’. If the weather doesn’t cooperate I will provide copious amounts of old small hand towels for trampoline wiping. And they can learn to play table tennis in the rain. Extreme table tennis.

So anyway as this is my last full day alone for the said eight and a half weeks it occurred to me that I ought to assemble the netball post. So as not to end up doing it at 9pm on the evening before her birthday. Which wouldn’t be ideal. Especially as I am singing in a concert on that particular evening.

I started assembly on the kitchen floor. There had been some low starred Amazon reviews based on missing pieces and badly aligned holes. Along with one lady who had found the instructions ‘incomprehensible’.

Of course I had taken these reviews with a pinch of salt as the vast majority had been favourable. Read enough reviews on line and you are bound to find someone grumbling about something. We have been to some lovely all inclusive resorts abroad almost universally praised on Trip Advisor. But there will always be some ‘one star’ reviewer complaining that there wasn’t enough choice at the breakfast buffet which when you first attend blows your mind with its vastness. Especially when compared to the two slices of toast and half a grapefruit that is your usual fare.

Anyway I digress. These reviews were another reason I decided to erect the netball post ahead of time. Just in case Nut C was missing. Or my holes failed to line up.

I initially thought the net was missing. Quite an issue really. For a netball post. But, no, on closer inspection it was concealed in the nut and bolt bag. It took a bit of untangling from the washers but all parts were present and correct. I was good to go.

Those ‘incomprehensible’ instructions were not the worst I have seen. They contained words which is an improvement on some flat pack I have attempted in the past. The pictures were a little ambiguous but you know a bit of common sense goes a long way.

I struggled with understanding the wheel, axle, bottom post, struts configuration. Until I realised that I had the struts on the wrong sides. Luckily I had yet to retrieve the socket set from the garage so my nuts were still loose. I always leave my nuts loose until I am sure they are all in the right place. Before turning the screw so to speak. I learnt this the hard way a long time ago with a bookshelf and an Allen key.

It was after sorting this little issue that I realised building the post in the kitchen was a bad idea. I stood up to answer the phone and hit my head on the corner of the worktop which I had managed to work my way under during my exertions. It took quite a crack. The granite seemed unaffected, my forehead less so. I failed to get to the phone as stars danced before my eyes. Quite a lot more than one too.

I then tried to get the remaining four post sections in the right order. And learnt that netball posts are quite a lot higher than ceilings. I think the downlighter has survived. I relocated to the patio. Which put me in full view of the roofers next door. Always a worry to have real craftsmen able to observe ones amateur attempts.

I also understood why the health and safety part of the instructions asked me to take care if using a ladder during assembly. I had no desire to use a monkey wrench and socket set up a ladder. I also had a quick look at the net attachment which seemed to require a degree in origami. Again not something that should be attempted up a ladder. I usually stick ridgidly to the instructions but this time decided to do things out of order. So my last nut tightening was going to be doable from ground level.

That misaligned hole issue mentioned by other purchasers raised its head on the second to third post section attachment. A hammer took care of it. Which was a relief as some of the other reviewers had mentioned drills. Gulp. I have a drill. But it scares my family when I use it. And it is a hammer drill (bought to combat the solid brick walls in our previous abode which resisted curtain poles quite doggedly) which is probably not a precision enough instrument to deal with re drilling a hole in a cylindrical post without the aid of a vice. Which I don’t have. Thank god for the hammer. Luckily I had double checked I had the right bolt in first because it ain’t never coming out again. Ever.

So I managed to get it all together and set to with my socket set and adjustable spanner. I love the ratchet sound that that tool emits. It makes me feel all ‘handy’.

The last step was to fill the base with sand and water. Luckily when we moved house last year our extremely efficient removal men had packed the half used bag of kiln dried sand left by our block paving layers in 2006. In case we ever wanted to brush more kiln dried sand into our driveway. They recommended we do this every year after a jet wash. We had used precisely none of it. I wasn’t going to move it. I was going to leave it for our purchasers one of whom lays floors for a living and might have been more inclined to re sand his drive way.

But no it came in the van. After 10 years it is no longer kiln dried. More ‘beach after the tide has just gone out’ sand. With slugs and worms. I tried to remove most of those before entombing them in a plastic netball post base. It didn’t really pour. I scooped it in through the small hole. Slowly.

This step took longer than I thought.

All that remained was to wheel it around the side of the house, move some logs and ‘hide’ it between the two chimney stacks. It isn’t really that well hidden but then my kids are very unobservant so I am hopeful all will be well.

All I need to do now is find the ball pump for the ‘flat packed’ netball I also bought on line. I don’t know why I thought it would come inflated. It didn’t.

Birthday present wrapping used to be a whole lot easier.





Bouncy, bouncy, bouncy, bouncy, fun fun, fun, fun, fun….. — August 9, 2015

Bouncy, bouncy, bouncy, bouncy, fun fun, fun, fun, fun…..


Today my husband and I built a trampoline. A trampoline was one of the ‘conditions’ my off spring made before they would agree to move house. Clearly we didn’t actually need their permission but it is good parenting (I think I read somewhere once) to make them feel that their opinions are actually valid. And anyway we were stuck for birthday ideas for Middlest and Youngest and so buying the bouncy apparatus killed several birds with one stone, without taking up any more of our indoor storage space, which whilst increased following our house move is still at a premium.

Anyhow I digress.

Husband had researched trampolines on line- exhaustively- as is his wont. We had estimated that the 12 foot version would be large enough to hold our three offspring but still fit in a ‘corner’ of the garden. We hadn’t actually measured the garden you understand- that would be much too sensible. We had plumped for 12 foot on a gut feel and sincerely hoped we weren’t going to experience a ‘Christmas tree’ moment. We have all done that. Looked at a fir or a spruce in the forecourt of a petrol station and decided it would ‘fit in that corner of the lounge’ before getting home and having to attack its base with a hack saw and remove the three piece suite.

Anyhow I digress again.

Somewhere along the line husband told me the trampoline was oval. Which is a bit different. And gave me a small frisson. I wish he had disabused me of this idea before we began assembly. It would have made everything make a bit more sense. It is actually circular. Oh well.

Normally my husband and I don’t do that well building things together. In fact doing anything practical together is a little challenging. He is not ‘handy’. But he is taller than me and stronger than me. So in some ways useful.

What happens is this. I am able to understand the intellectual parts of the job quite quickly but often am physically incapable of carrying them out which leaves me trying to impart this knowledge to husband. With my limited ability to grasp the right word at the right time. It is probably as frustrating for him as it is for me. I usually  end up holding bits, which are often heavy, whilst trying to get him to understand that next part of the procedure. And I get impatient. Why can’t you just get it right man? What can you not understand about ‘Put that bit there, no that bit there, yes that bit, in the black thing, no the black thing has to be the other way round, rotate it damn it, no not that way the other way, left, no sorry I mean right, yes yes yes finally, now get the smaller thingy, nut, no sorry screw and put that in the hole, no you need to line the other hole up first, did you use a washer, no not the spring ones, the other ones, take it out and get a washer, here, here, here I have one here….Oh no now I have dropped the really heavy thing on my foot and dropped all the washer thingys….’ Etc. Every year we go camping. Every year we nearly get divorced pitching the tent.

When the trampoline boxes arrived (worryingly all three were long and rectangular and in no way oval (or even circular), that is when I think it hit me that assembly was going to be an ‘enterprise’) I toyed with trying to start the process on my own. I opened all three boxes before finding the instructions which stated that the trampoline would take 2 adults two hours to build. I was one adult with one hour before I had to leave to be somewhere else. I very nearly gave in and began the process egged on by my exceedingly excited and impatient children but thankfully discretion won out. I guess that is what makes me a grown up. The kids had to wait.

So today was our first window of opportunity when we did indeed have 2 adults and two hours. Despite my having impressed upon the kids the fact that the instructions stated it would take those 2 adults 2 hours to build all three thought it would be ready ‘after breakfast’. That didn’t allow for daddy mowing the lawn first- a sensible precaution really. Or for us having to go out to buy food and drink for an impromptu BBQ party which husband had managed to arrange almost by accident during my absence for the previous three days with the kids on a mini break. O-Kay…

So lawn mowed we began our assault. I had pre-read the instructions. Which was a ‘good thing’. In the manner of flat pack today the instructions are multi lingual. Which means they contain no words…at all… you are reliant on your ability to follow diagrams. Luckily for me these ones ‘seemed’ fairly self explanatory and I had mentally noted the pitfalls helpfully laid out with little warning signs in the booklet.

All went quite well to start with. We managed to get the frame assembled (here it would have been useful to know its actual shape but still we coped) and attach all 72 springs. In the right order. Here husband’s brute strength and my counting came into their own.

Ah and then we came to the legs. Four of them. With two attachments each. And here we hit a snag. Between us we could not get the legs on. Without previously attached legs falling off. Words would have been useful here such as….If the trampoline is not being built on a bowling green (and not a crown one at that) you are going to have issues with legs. Or…. try the legs in other configurations before giving up entirely. Or…. don’t try to build it upside down as it is impossible to turn back over without the aid of a crane. Etc

There was nothing for it. It was time for the cavalry. The offspring were roped in to help. They had started helping at the beginning of the process (muddling up the spring counting, losing bits, inappropriately wielding Stanley knives, generally annoying husband) but had wandered off in the manner of small people denied access to the really exciting tools after the first half hour or so. Middlest was now reading upstairs and occasionally leaning out of his window to shout down his enquiries about how much longer we were going to be- in that really ‘helpful’ way 9 year old boys have. But now we needed them to give themselves hernias by holding up the springy bit whilst we ran round like headless chickens trying to insert legs before one of their biceps gave out.

After about four goes we got there. Nobody was permitted to breathe or move whilst we ran round inserting screws, taking out screws and re-inserting them with washers and fetching the mole wrench to clench some bits that had been warped during our extended leg insertion process. Until it was in a sturdy enough place to risk leaving it while we went to the local supermarket to eat and gather burgers.

We got back and attacked the net part. I was tempted at one point- I  think it was when we had to undo a whole lot of work as we had done something in the wrong order (where was that hazard sign) and even my six foot (if you listen to him, really 5’11”) husband was unable to reach the ‘next phase’ – to let them bounce un-netted. That was good enough for me in the 1970’s. But then we had those BBQ guests’ off spring to worry about. Damn it.

So anyway some velcroing and hooking later, voila, a trampoline. And it only takes up about a quarter of the garden.  They went on it eagerly. During what remains of our holidays they will be spending at least an hour a day on it. At least.

And before anyone asks no I will not be bouncing myself. The assembly was a purely altruistic process on my part. I have had three children. If you need to know why I shall not be bouncing ask a mother. I am not going to elaborate here.

And those instructions need to be amended. It took 2 adults, 3 kids and a mole wrench at least three and a half hours to build. I feel a momentous sense of achievement. I think we should really unveil it at this BBQ or at least crack open some champagne in its honour, if not off its ladder.

However I am mentally and physically exhausted. And so I am having a cup of tea and writing this blog. While husband makes kebabs. Serves him right really.

The View — June 18, 2015

The View

image image

Today my house is full of men. There are six of them here currently. And whilst there are slightly too many pairs of underpants on show and the kettle is in over drive I am quite enjoying myself.

I scheduled replacement French doors (we broke the old ones it’s a long and boring story involving wind, an insurance claim for half the damage and buggered render) and carpet fitting on the same day and I am now beginning to realise that I hadn’t really thought it through. Much. Maybe I got carried away with underpants. Who knows.

So currently I have no doors on the back of my house. The back of my house is my kitchen diner which goes across the whole width. Luckily it’s sunny and relatively warm. Unfortunately the prevailing breeze is northwards and therefore helping to cover everything in my large kitchen diner in a fine layer of plaster and cement dust. And further because there appear to be swarms of carpet fitters in the rest of my house nearly all my furniture is currently in my kitchen diner.

I must think of a collective noun for a group of really quite young and beautiful carpet fitters…may be a ‘grip’ as in get a grip of carpet fitters….too 50 shades? My apologies.  I am not really sure when I turned into a middle aged lecher. Hey ho. Soon my sons will be teenagers bringing their friends home. I must get over it now before I turn into a jaguar…or is it some other large cat? Anyway I digress…

Rather ridiculously, it appears now, I had down on my list of jobs to do (which can be achieved whilst still leaving time to field workmen) baking a cake for youngest’s imminent birthday party.  I think I may need to hold off  until my house is again weather tight…get me all Nick Knowles… Unless she fancies a plaster dust cake… Maybe not…

I had just finished making my shepherd’s pie, there I go again, sorry kids, cottage pie before “I Came From Alabama” rang out announcing the arrival of the door men….(an architrave of door men?) so at least tea has escaped the light dusting with the intervention of a hastily thrown tea towel…out of the drawer…one of my precious drawers.

So that cake will have to wait. I do have my on line Sainsburys shop to do. I can’t use my computer because it is under a dust sheet it being perilously close to one set of…holes… And the last time I used my I pad to order my groceries it cut out half way through and I swore a lot….so again I’ll save it for later.

So here I sit stuck in my dusty kitchen diner…literally…my stairs are currently out of bounds as one of the grip is working there banging….gripper….into my treads… The family room has another one…he is currently under laying. And oh my goodness all the banging… It’s interminable. And now right over my head. My car is blocked in by a fleet of vans…clearly they don’t get on that well as they all came separately.

So I am trapped, without chores, without the ability to speak on the phone without hollering and there is really nothing left to do but to write to you all and gaze at the view…. Brew anyone?


My Brain — June 2, 2015

My Brain

Just a quickie…

So today I was in the middle of hanging my laundry on the airer. It being rainy here…again…

My doorbell rang, well I say bell, actually it plays an extremely tinny version of ‘I came from Alabama with a banjo on my knee’ …the previous owners of this house were just…weird…I can’t seem to change it…Interestingly on the Fixtures and Fittings list they said they were taking it with them which I thought was a bit odd, seeing as it is sooo hideous, but they possibly ran out of time to remove it as they were too busy taking down every….single….curtain rail… which were on the Fixtures and Fittings list as staying…ho hum, I digress.

At the door were a national bed company who were here to deliver our new flat packed double spare bed. I supervised the process. And then being a little odd I decided to start assembly. I quite like flat pack, as long as I am not doing it with my husband, when I hate flat pack. I like to read ALL the instructions, count ALL the bolts, and nuts, and gizmos and Alan keys. He doesn’t. Let’s just say we are slightly incompatible in this regard.

I was expecting a handyman to call to tell me he was on his way to fit some of the aforementioned missing curtain poles.

I realised I perhaps ought to have my mobile and landline handset upstairs, in case I missed his call through all my grunting and swearing.

I went downstairs and could not find my mobile. So I called it from my land line. I located its muffled ring under a pile of wet washing on my futility room side. Oh, yes, I remember I was doing the laundry. I pocketed the phone and finished hanging the laundry.

I then checked my phone for missed calls from my handyman. There was indeed a missed call, damn. I didn’t immediately recognise the number but thought it odd that it was a landline not a mobile. So I called it.

And got myself…

I actually do worry gently.

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