Missing

I saw Henry on Wednesday. I didn’t see him Thursday. This is not unusual. Henry is the more adventurous of the two brothers. James will chase squirrels in the park. Henry will chase them 6 feet up a tree trunk before falling off. James will bring a mouse he caught into the house. Henry will bring in a pigeon.

But Henry didn’t appear at all over the weekend. His food was left uneaten. James started pinning. I feared the worst. I stood outside Saturday at midnight calling Henry’s name, convinced I could hear him meowing. Mr Standard said I was imagining things. Sunday night I imagined the same. Mr Standard tried to suggest we may need to prepare ourselves for the worse.

Monday evening we discussed putting up ‘missing cat’ posters. And then I went outside to weed the front garden instead. James followed and spent an hour getting in my way. Just as I was about to go in I noticed a face in the front window of next door. A pale ginger feline face. It was Henry. A very upset, trapped Henry.

Next door were away over the weekend, As far as we could see all their windows were shut. But Henry was most definitely inside. I had not been imagining the meowing. But what to do now? 11pm and no sign of any neighbour coming home I persuaded Mr Standard to climb over the back wall and see if there was any window open. A real cat burglar. There wasn’t an open window. But there was a cat flap. A lockable cat flap. Locked in the in-only position. Henry had obviously gone exploring a bit too far last week. We unlocked the cat flat but Henry remained mewing at the window. Clearly too spooked to come out. Or too afraid of banging his head again.

But this morning a very hungry Henry appeared for breakfast. And next door appeared home from their holiday. I can only hope Henry hadn’t been too messy a guest.

Tired

Today is the MS Society Cake Break Day. A number of us in work have baked cakes to sell to raise money for the MS Society. Yesterday, after school, Elder Son helped me with a chocolate sponge creation. It would have been torture to not let him also make something to eat himself. He requested that we also make a cake in his favourite colours: pink and purple. Out came the red and blue food colourings – pink cake, purple icing.
Daughter came home from nursery exhausted, to be greeted by enthusiastic sibling and mother who insisted that she ate dinner before the pink and purple cake could be cut. She ate. Very very slowly. But eventually cake was had. And eaten. And with the last mouthful she announced: “Tired is finished now”. Perfect. So just before bed all three kids ran around the house chasing each other madly for half an hour. And then took an extra hour to settle in bed.
I’m exhausted this morning. Fortunately, looking at the line up here in the office, it’s cheesecake for breakfast, brownies for elevenses, strawberry and cream sponge for lunch. I reckon with that quantity of sugar my tired will also be finished!

Intranet

The environment-conscious international-giant that I work for is constantly making a move towards a paper-free working environment. This means that more information is held on-line on our company intranet. And individuals wanting to save their eye-sight waste more time, money and paper printing out information to read and then have to throw it away (in the recycling bin) because there’s nowhere to store paper documents. And anyway, the information will be out of date in a week or so because the intranet is constant updated. I find the intranet a nightmare. There’s so much information on it now it’s impossible to find anything. I am not alone in this. When they re-branded recently they decided to re-name the site to ‘Axis’. I’ve just heard a colleague refer to it as the ‘Axis of Evil’. It’s so appropriate. It made me smile.

Sunday Hymn

I returned from church Sunday morning humming various spiritual songs. While Younger Son had his nap, Elder Son and Daughter decided that they would play musical bumps in the dining room. My humming wasn’t sufficiently musical so the proposed game involved carrying their toy keyboard into the dining room from the lounge in order to create some music. Elder Son refused my help in the move and enlisted his sister. She was instructed to hold one end and walk backwards while he held the other and walked forward directing operations. Halfway along the hallway he says to her, “shall we sing while we work?” Daughter agrees and without discussion of what song to sing they both start in perfect unison:

Twinkle, twinkle, chocolate bar,
My dad drives a rusty car,
Push the starter, pull the choke,
Off we go in a cloud of smoke,
Twinkle, twinkle, chocolate bar,
My dad drives a rusty car.

I’m not sure whether I was more delighted by the fact that they both had learnt a silly song at nursery that week and even Daughter knew every word (although pronounced in her 2-year-old not-quite-fully-developed-speech-way: “tinkle, tinkle… my dad dives a russ-e car..”), or the fact that they were clearly on the same wavelength that afternoon and interacting so well in their little world without need for any adult input/ interference. But whatever the cause of my delight, its expression was clearly a little over the top.

I endured 6 non-stop renditions of “twinkle, twinkle, chocolate bar” accompanied by less than tuneful banging on the keyboard and any previous idea of musical bumps was abandoned in order to “entertain” mummy. I was only saved by a friend and her son ringing the doorbell and suggesting a trip to the park. Although my salvation was not wholly successful… I spent the rest of Sunday humming the silly song.

Telling tales

Mr Standard went to pick the kids up from day nursery yesterday. It’s usually him that does drop-off and pick-up nowadays. On his walk there he bumped into a member of the staff. They’re friendly women, and always say hello on the street.
Staff: Hiya, hey Daugther has been telling everyone that there’s a baby in her mummy’s tummy.
Mr Standard: (Smiles) No, that’d be news to me.

Mr Standard arrives at nursery and door is opened by another member of staff…
Staff no2: Your daughter’s been telling everyone that there’s a baby in her mummy’s tummy!

A third member of staff appears:
Staff no.3: Hey, guess what Daughter’s been telling everyone?
Mr Standard: Yeah, I’ve been told. It’s so not true.

It may be true that in the 4+ years Elder son has been attending that nursery I have spent a large portion of it pregnant. But when Younger Son started there a year ago I willingly told the staff that this was the last I’d be having. Three is the magic number. My family is complete. But it seems Daughter disagrees and unless she stops telling tales I’m going to have to take some drastic measures…

I’ll have to put on my most figure-hugging clothes to collect her from nursery so that the staff can all see that, other than a bit of a flabby mummy tummy, there’s nothing to show!

Broken

While some parts of our home and being fixed many other things appear to be breaking.

First to die was our bread maker – it’s baked us bread at least twice a week for the past 3 or 4 years and is relied upon to make pizza dough (elder son declares that shop bought stuff is “yucky” and tells me “pizza is my favourite… but I only like mummy’s”). So I’m making pizza dough by hand and buying bread for the time being.
Next to go was my watch (posh solar powered thing bought by my husband). This means that not only am I struggling to know what the time is, but I’ve also totally lost track of the date. My watch has been sent off to be mended. Lovely lady at the jewellers says it could take 5 or 6 weeks.
Add to that the fact that my digital camera has finally lost focus (pretty good going since it remained just about working for a full year after being dropped on a rock from a great height by someone who wasn’t me… and a lovely friend has now lent me their spare one so I can take in-focus pictures again!)… and the fact our dishwasher started leaking which required purchase of a very expensive spare part and assistance of my dad to fix it… and you’ll understand why I was a little concerned when the washing machine started flooding the floor last week.

The first time it happened I wondered if new-lodger (we had a friendly law student move in last month) had just caught one of his items in the door seal and allowed the leak. As I have done on occasion before. I mopped the floor and carried on as normal. I did a couple of loads of washing myself, no problems.
Then one evening I walk into the utility room and discover bubbles everywhere. The floor was awash and I couldn’t see the clothes in the machine there was so much foam. I called to the new-lodger and asked if it was his washing in the machine. Yes, it was his. What powder or liquid had he used? He replied the stuff in the cupboard. I asked him to show me. I pointed at the 5 litre refill bottle that was sitting next to the empty washing liquid bottle (I buy ecological stuff in bulk and re-fill). Unfortunately the refill he pointed to was not the washing liquid one. It was the washing-up liquid. Subtle difference. Hard to spot if you’re Chinese and struggling with this weird English language. And even harder to spot when the washing-up liquid refill is usually stashed under the kitchen sink and has only just moved there on a temporary basis while the kitchen is refitted. But the results were not hard to spot. Particularly as he’d decide to use a double quantity to try and remove the grease that had been spilt on his work shirt the evening before.
Lodger returned to his studies hoping the wash would be ok when it was done. I spent almost a hour rinsing the washing (by hand following several failed attempts in the machine) and putting it on to wash with clothes washing liquid. Why waste an hour of my precious evening fixing someone else’s mistake? I guess I was just so relieved to find out that our machine is not broken.
And don’t think that particular lodger will make the same mistake again.

Our house

Our house is 100 years old this year. Much like a person of that age, it has some beautiful original features and amazing stories to tell (I met one of my mum’s friends who remembers visiting her great-aunt in this house over 60 years ago), but it has suffered from too much partying (particularly since it was rented to uni students for many years) and has damp problems.

So, rather than throw a big birthday party, we’re spending all our savings on sorting out the damp. Two weeks ago a man (Mike) came in, ripped out our kitchen and hacked off all the plaster from the back wall. Our dining room is doubling up as a kitchen. The microwave and toaster are our only means of cooking, and we’re washing up in the bath. The cats have gone down the garden to eat worms (literally).

Within 2 days Mike had determined the main sources of damp, and I had determined that we needed works to our upstairs bathroom as well as the garden boundary wall if the damp was to be properly fixed. Mike agreed to add the wall work to his schedule. I debated adding the bathroom to mine but then thought better of it. We can borrow money. Time is a little harder to create. I called on another trusted builder, Mal. He came, quoted, and said he could start immediately. Husband didn’t like the idea of total chaos of 2 builders in house at same time. I didn’t like the idea of prolonged chaos. So we consulted our lodgers.

Long-term lodger likened the situation to the when the Israelites disobeyed God and he gave them the choice of punishment or 7 more years wandering in the desert (not sure of exact reference). He voted not to keep wandering. We’re certainly enduring punishment now.

Last Monday Mal arrived and started sorting out the pumbing. In doing so he allowed a water leak to wash off some of the render Mike’s guys had just applied to the wall below. Tuesday Mal dropped ‘a tile’ through the bathroom floor/ newly plastered kitchen ceiling. By Wednesday it wasn’t just the cats that were hiding down the garden. Oh, and Thursday I got home from work to find that the new stud wall they’d put up wasn’t vertical. So friday Mal spent the day swearing at his carpenter and straightening the wall.

But I remain positive. The building work will all be over by middle of this week and we’ll have 2 lovely new rooms. Maybe we will think about throwing a party to celebrate after all.

Looking back we can laugh…

Despite the fact that Daughter and I were already rather outnumbered by presence of my Husband, 2 sons and 2 male lodgers, I’ve now added a further 2 males to the household. But at least James and Henry are both rather cute pale ginger cats.

Long ago made promises of “when the baby is almost one, we’ll get another cat” have now been kept. Younger Son was a year old yesterday. James and Henry have been with us almost a month. Elder Son was quite happy to tell the RSPCA lady and anyone else that would listen that “we’re getting a new kitten ‘cos Mitsy died”. Mummy put her foot down with respect to the kitten-ness of the cats. Despite small boy tears, cute 12 week old things were not going to come home with us. And the elderly deaf cat he took pity on wasn’t for re-homing. In addition there were a good number of lovely animals that were “not suitable for homes with children”. But the pair of 6 month old DSHs were too perfect to ignore. And Husband came around to the idea that “cat” could be “cats”.

They play very nicely together, and with the kids. Husband and I have a fair number of playful nips and the kitchen notice board has been adopted as a scatching post. But Younger Son can pull tails and not complaints at all. James and Henry seem to know that small humans don’t understand the word “gentle” and aren’t holding it against him. Daughter has taken to demanding that the cats sit on her lap and half carrying, half dragging them across the room to comply with her demands. They stay for about 3 seconds and then escape.

Tops of kitchen wall cupboards appear to be a safe haven. In fact, climbing is as high as possible is a favourite pastime. But the competition between the new boys has recently taken a new turn. It now involves food. James in getting fatter. Henry is getting more adventurous.

I returned from work yesterday to be greeted by an unusually attention-seeking fat cat. There was no sign of Henry. And I had things to do so I ignored the cat under my feet. Half an hour later I found Henry. He was crouched on the back door mat motionless with his head stuck in an empty cat food tin. His entire head. The tips of ears were just visible. It looked like someone had removed his head and stuck can on his neck instead. If I wasn’t so worried I would have laughed. I tried to remove the can. Plaintive mewing. I picked up crazy cat and called Husband for assistance. Together the crazy cat was released without injury. Hope he won’t try licking the bottom of the cat food tin again. But you never know. Cats have 9 lives… but their memories aren’t a patch on an elephants.

Language

There are pili-pala in our garden. When we bake cacen Elder Son usually ends up covered in blawd. He sings about Dau gi bach. And his school jumper is coch.

Mostly I love living in this land and hearing its language. But just occasionally the whole Iaith Pawb thing gets a bit silly.

I went to a client’s office the other day. (And I should add that the client was a government body.) Almost every sign was bilingual. Except one. The exception read, “If you wish to communicate in the medium of Welsh please inform a member of the Facilities Department”. It was in English.

Bribery and Corruption

I work for a giant multi-national company. But it’s ok because I work in a friendly local office doing environmentally focused stuff. Until recently I thought our office was untouched by the bribery and corruption expected from profit-focused giants. But it appears not.

Each Friday we are expected to fill in on-line timesheets recording how many hours we have spent working on different projects. This data is then automatically processed and used to bill our clients. Obviously if staff don’t enter their timesheets clients don’t get billed. If clients don’t get billed cash flow falters and profits reduce. If profits reduce the Big Bosses get cross. If the Big Bosses get cross they lean on the Local Bosses. If the Local Bosses get leaned on then they are meant to lean on us poor staff.

The past few months the Local Bosses have been getting frustrated at the failure of certain people in the office to enter timesheets. Company policy suggests that this failing is a disciplinary measure. Verbal warning. Written warning. And eventually the sack. But the Local Bosses are far too nice. So they’ve opted for the opposite approach. In most cultures the opposite of getting the sack would be getting a pay rise. But not here. Here the opposite of getting the sack is getting cake.

Soon I will be joining my daughter in thanking God every night for cake. Every week that the whole department enters their timesheets on time, the Local Bosses have promised to buy the department cake. The bribery seems to be working. This is the third week in a row we have had cake. Although this week the donuts are sprinkled with corruption… not quite everyone entered their timesheet this week. The cake-buying Boss failed to do his own.