Monday, October 31, 2005

A month earlier than is usual, I find myself with a four-week countdown. Tomorrow we will sign the contract on the Sett. I’m trying to nail down a completion date today; likely it will be the 28 November, which is when the stubborn tenants will leave.
We have arranged to stay, or at least pay rent and keep the room, at the Palais until 1 December. It is like living in the eye of a hurricane – all around us things are swirling and being uprooted but – for the moment at least – we are calm. Housemate M has left the building and taken her plastic shoppers with her. Temp Housemate has decided that her boyfriend, the commercial pilot, should move in with her. Temp Housemate is between contracts right now as is her boyfriend but, since we will cease to be landlords on 18 November and TA’s sister will take on the mantle of responsibility, I’m not going to worry about their ability to pay rent and bills or the legality of endlessly subletting rooms.
A moment of Googling tells me that the colours of advent are purple, colour of royalty, and the blue of the night sky. And, as flippant or irreverent as this may sound to those with deeply held beliefs, I do draw a number of parallels with the following explanation:
“Advent is marked by a spirit of expectation, of anticipation, of preparation, of longing. There is a yearning for deliverance from the evils of the world…It is the cry of those who have experienced the tyranny of injustice in a world under the curse of sin, and yet who have hope of deliverance by a God who has heard the cries of oppressed slaves and brought deliverance!”
There are a few other areas of our life that TA and I would like deliverance from – the tyranny of unemployment, the tyranny of struggling with money, but as the season requires we are remaining hopeful that this deliverance will come to pass.
Finally, I’m very much looking forward to lighting an Advent candle in our new home – I love the festive season, bringing light and love to dark, cold nights. Celebrating family and marking the year’s end. My own celebrations and rituals encompass many sensual pleasures. Rereading the Dark is Rising sequence. Listening to the BBC’s adaptation of the Lord of the Rings on cassette. Drinking cocoa. Scuffing through the dead leaves and enjoying the smell of leaf mould. Pretending to hibernate under our wedding blanket. Cuddling and holding hands. Pumpkin soup. Mulled wine. Spices. Ugg boot slippers and velvet skirts.
Come February I shall be heartily sick of the cold, bleak damp that London exudes, but right now I welcome it and the way in which my world slows and the mind focuses on home and hearth.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

in a pickle
I was going to title this post "expletive deleted”, but then since I’m still spinning and fuming and – albeit quietly under my breath – swearing it didn’t seem appropriate. If the path of true love never did run smooth what did the path to house buying never do? Yesterday I was confident that contracts would be exchanged this week and, with completion following two weeks later, we’d be in our new flat with a week to spare. Fool! Complacent fool!
It turns out that the tenants in the sett-to-be were not given their two months notice when they should have been (blame can be apportioned equally between vendor and agent), even though I was assured that they would be. As a result, we will have a ten-day period of homelessness – ten days of transience for us is not that big a deal, but finding somewhere to store all of our belongings is a major, major problem. Not to mention, now instead of one period of upheaval we are looking at two as we move everything once into storage and then again to the sett. I’d like to think this is a family-friendly (for the most part) place. So I ask you to imagine the air turning blue for an extended period of time, rather than actually transcribing my thoughts verbatim. I don’t believe it!
Anybody got any bright ideas?

Monday, October 24, 2005

plat du jour
Where on earth do I start? Flat, food, family – I have thoughts whirring in my head about all three right now, sort of like gumbo: a bit fishy, a bit spicy, with lots of unidentifiable bits bobbing around. So then, the flat. Well, Rebecca – our solicitor – has completed all the requisite searches and we might just be on track to exchange contracts this week. Can you believe it? Finally at the ripe old ages of 33 and 28, respectively, TA and I are going to be homeowners. I’ve got to admit it’s giving me the heebie-jeebies, which is silly given the lengths we’ve gone to get to this point. Also, I keep wondering if my relationship with my home will change – will I get better at keeping the place clean and tidy, will I develop a sharper design vision? – somehow I doubt it, but I’m kind of hopeful.
Related to the subject of the flat is the family stuff that’s bubbling and simmering away merrily. Yesterday TA and I met up with my parents, deceased Aunt’s brother (long story, she was actually my father’s cousin’s widow, so her brother isn’t really a relation, except that he certainly feels like one) and various other extended family members for a bit of a Sunday lunch knees up in Woking. It was a bit awkward because, well it just was for reasons I can’t quite put into words, but it was also really lovely.
The uncle who isn’t really an uncle was very jovial and welcoming – offering glass after glass of various alcoholic beverages along with lovely food and cheery conversation – and then halfway through the afternoon the sales particulars of aunt’s house were produced and we were asked to flick through the brochure and see if there were things we wanted. Essentially, they want us to clear the place as far as we can so that her belongings don’t go to waste. So the new flat will have two beautiful room-sized rugs – possibly kelim or similar, hard to tell from the photos – which means that we’ll be able to take up the carpets sooner rather than later (the jury is still out on whether we’re going to settle for laminate or live large with reclaimed wood – no prizes for guessing which I’d rather do). TA will get a ‘new’ desk – this is wonderful since his current desk is quite literally on its last legs and although when we bought it it was the right shape for the space (it’s a corner desk) we’ve moved twice since then and it has not travelled well. Also, frankly, why keep Argos flatpack laminate nasties when you can replace them with 1950s-era real wood lovelies? The kitchen and our linen closet will suddenly become fully stocked. We may get ‘new’ white goods, I’m not sure yet since we asked the vendor to leave the washing machine and fridge. Our new living room will benefit from a high-quality three-piece suite – or possibly just the sofa, I’m having difficulty imagining fitting a sofa, two chairs and a desk into a small living room. We will have a dining table and chairs – which means that we’ll be able to sit down to dinner properly instead of balancing our plates on our laps (a practice I abhor). Depending on what happens with our bedroom – we both have our hearts set on proper built-in wardrobes, but I haven’t a clue how we’re going to finance such an extravagance – we may take a wardrobe or two as a stopgap measure. Phew! I’m being dull aren’t I. All you really need to know is that through a supreme stroke of luck, it appears that our new home will be furnished with some very high-end pieces of furniture; not perhaps what we would have chosen (and certainly more than we could have ever hoped to afford), but classic and enduring – saving us hundreds if not thousands of pounds. And, since TA and I eventually plan to rent the flat to city workers, timeless good-quality furniture is no bad thing. Can timeless, good-quality furniture ever be a bad thing?
There are more entwined thoughts on the flat and family – more precisely the advisability or otherwise of starting a family in a one-bedroom flat – but these have not entirely come to the surface of the gumbo yet. I think it’s best to leave them undisturbed and unexamined to cook a little longer.
The final F was food. TA and I are going to stay with my parents on the Isle of Wight at Christmas after all – mostly at his instigation, since he has been having his own thoughts about family, its fragility and the passing of time (funnily enough, he fails to see how this might apply to his own parents). Also at TA’s instigation, we have told M&D that we will cater the day, including all the shopping (but excluding making the pudding, mince pies, sausage rolls and other long-range seasonal delicacies) as our Christmas present to them. We thoroughly enjoyed cooking for our friends last year and, anyway, the thought of traditional turkey and boiled sprouts leaves both of us rather underwhelmed. TA and I sat up with the recipe books on Friday night in a fever of anticipation. I’m so excited; I just have to share the news of what we have planned with someone (we’re keeping it secret from my parents). So here is our plan! At around midday we will convene around the fire for chilled champagne, cranberry royale and amuse bouche of smoked salmon blini, Kalamata olives and mixed nuts. After, say, half an hour of chatting and relaxing we will move from the living room to the dining room to sit down at a sumptuously laid table and pull the crackers – for the Americans in the audience, crackers are an integral part of Christmas celebrations and, in my family, it is compulsory to wear the paper hats throughout the meal and tell the corny jokes before digging in.
For a first course, we have settled on a Salmi of Guinea Fowl with Roast Chestnuts – this is a Hugh FW recipe and, since neither of us have ever eaten, let along cooked a guinea fowl before, TA and I are planning to have a trial run next week. I’ll be sure to report back on our verdict. This course may change – TA has been petitioning for roast pork belly, but I’d like to serve some kind of bird to atone for the lack of turkey.
Do you remember the bottle of claret I scored from my grateful employers? Well I’ve decided to save it for Christmas day – it came from Fortnum and Mason after all. So, we will have the choice of Claret or Cabernet Sauvignon to accompany roast beef (which will be bought from our favourite beef stall at the farmers’ market just like last year – I can’t remember the name of the joint, but we were told it is the Rolls Royce of joints and I seem to remember it featuring in Hugh FW’s MEAT book) cooked quite rare and all the trimmings. And we’re planning quite a spread of trimmings! Yorkshire puddings are a no brainer as are lemon and rosemary roast potatoes. I love pumpkin mash with spicy onions (a Nigel Slater recipe from last year’s Guardian Christmas feature) and, for my parents, it wouldn’t be Christmas without Brussels sprouts so we will be serving creamed sprouts with bacon (another Hugh recipe). The final vegetable dish will contain glazed carrots and honey-roast parsnips. All of this will be lubricated with freshly prepared creamed horseradish and “nice gravy”. Nice gravy is quite a legend in my family as each year my paternal grandmother would compliment my mother’s gargantuan Christmas spread, her Herculean labour (with meals on wheels for the three old men and various aunts and cousins staying in our little bungalow, my mother often cooked for twelve or more), with the immortal words “nice gravy”. My mother has a similar weakness for inappropriate compliments – any new outfit I model for her garners the response “it looks nice at the back”. Anyway, to ensure the niceness of the gravy I have plans to make the beef stock before we travel to the Isle and transport it as a block of beef-flavoured ice in a cool bag.
Once the savoury delights have been despatched, TA and I will clear the dishes and give everyone the chance of a breather before serving a dessert wine – probably a Tokaj – and white chocolate mousse with cranberries or (but knowing my family AND) Christmas pudding (made by my mother) with brandy butter (made with great ceremony by my father).
The final insults to our digestion will be a selection of fine British and French cheeses served with Port followed by coffee, Godiva chocolates and a selection of liqueurs for those of us who like our coffee fortified!
Traditionally, if we finish lunch before 3pm we then watch the Queen’s speech before opening our presents. However, I doubt we’ll manage to finish this lunch before 3pm, even though I’m going to be fairly strict with the portion sizes of the opening courses. Are you excited for us?

Friday, October 21, 2005

the beautiful game
TA and I met two friends in the Southwark Tavern's dimmest, darkest, quietest booth last night. Once we were comfortably ensconced, I spent the next three hours pretending to be a feral 20-year-old girl called Mando, with a giant badger for a familiar, who was exploring a deserted city as one of a motley bunch of adventurers. Yes, we've begun game testing TA's creation again. And, really, it's going okay. I don't think I'll ever be absorbed by it like TA and his cronies are, but honestly it's not a bad way to while away the hours - and I sure enjoy the bar snacks and wine!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

odds, sods, and housemates
Just to recap for those of you who have been asleep at the back, the Palais is currently home to:

  • me, your gracious hostess and token English person
  • TA, my long-suffering husband, love of my life, light of my heart, the only Australian I'm actually happy to live with
  • Housemate J, otherwise known as sister in law (SiL) or TA's sister - an all-singing, all-acting future star of the West End. Other distinguishing features include an interest in aromatherapy and counselling. Currently dating someone after ditching ex-Housemate D (a two-timing, odious, cretin who is currently starring in Woman in White, possibly the worst of Andrew Lloyd Webber's many assults on the reputation of musical theatre).
  • Housemate M, occasionally called Bonnie Langford or the ginger one - an all-warbling, all-dancing whirling dervish, multiple-audition-failing former chorus girl from the Southern Hemisphere.
  • Temp Housemate, also known as Suddenly-and-with-no-Warning-Perm Housemate, a rough-and-ready (with the emphasis on the rough) Aussie lass who works with, from what I can gather, mad people and is dating a commercial pilot. A side note, it was she who unleashed the plague of fruit flies.
  • The Palais has three double bedrooms and Housemate M, whose replacement is Temp Housemate, seems to be shuttling between J's room and Temp's room (which itself was formally M's) depending on which of them has a boy staying. Are you getting dizzy yet? And have you noticed something odd? How is it that M and her "replacement" are in residence at the same time? Indeed, that very thing has been puzzling me.
    All of Housemate M's worldly goods were packed into enormous plastic shoppers (the stripy ones you find at pound shops - dollar stores to you yanks) at the weekend. These shoppers were left in the hall, by the front door, in the living room... Woo! I thought, Housemate M - bane of my existence, most annoying of the annoying - is finally going to leave the premises and perhaps we'll have some peace. BUT NO, she's still here and so are the shoppers! Every morning hope returns - perhaps today is the day she'll depart for her new home (since the lease was signed days ago), but every evening the heart sinks like a discarded trolley in a stagnant waterway as my eyes spy the malingering bags.
    All of which makes me even more eager to assume the soubriquet home-owner as soon as is humanly (and legally) possible. Housemate J keeps sending TA text messages asking "when are you leaving?", how's that for sisterly love? We have another five weeks left of our notice period, but it seems J wants us out sooner. Meanwhile, the completion of the legal niceties for our purchase of the Sett are gathering pace, but seeing as we started at snail's pace that isn't saying all that much. Will we meet our deadline or be homeless for a few weeks, who knows?

    Monday, October 17, 2005

    cupboard love
    Cupboard love – meaning being sweet because you want something – is an expression my mother used a lot when I was growing up and now I find myself wondering if it is well known or a bit of an “Isle of Wight-ism”. Regardless, I am frequently guilty of having cupboard love feelings.
    Recently my aunt died after a long and drawn-out illness and I felt so ashamed – mingled in with the grief was a feeling of quiet expectation. It was terrible, I felt that my grief was polluted and I was sordid for even thinking that I might inherit a little money that might help with the new flat. I fought against this hopeful expectation and hated myself for having it, but still it lingered and entwined itself around my ankles like an affectionate cat, just waiting for me to trip up. So it was that when I heard what was in the will my heart leapt and I felt unburdened.
    My wealthy aunt, with no children and few relations, had left everything to the RNLI and the National Trust. My mother shared the news with trepidation, saying that she knew how welcome a little money would have been. It was wonderful! The RNLI deserves support and visiting National Trust properties had given my aunt a great deal of pleasure – the donations were a fitting memorial to her and I could miss her without feeling guilty about looking forward to an inheritance. And so what if that meant that buying the flat – or, strictly speaking, furnishing it – would be made more difficult. Frankly, why shouldn’t something like that be a bit of a struggle; there’s no reason why that should be made easy for us. I was a little sad that I wouldn’t have anything to remember her by – and if I’m honest I truly coveted the fabulous chessmen that I’d lovingly gazed at in her sitting room, despite the fact that I play rarely and badly – but I genuinely thought that the work of the RNLI was the best tribute.
    Mum called on Saturday. My aunt’s belongings – furniture, kitchen appliances and so forth – had been valued (as every part of her estate must be so that the RNLI and National Trust can get their dues), but because she had cut the labels off the furniture (removing the fire-retardant information) the suite was unsellable. The man from the auction house said he’d give £200 and take everything, but my aunt’s sister in law said no thanks. Sister in law rang my mum and told her that TA and I could have the lot – whatever we wanted – for the new flat. She also asked if there was anything in particular we wanted and mum told her that my aunt had promised us the chessmen (apparently this is true, who knew – certainly I’d never shared my envy of and desire for the beautiful chessmen).
    My aunt was “comfortable” as they say in the stockbroker belt, and her house was tastefully (and expensively) furnished; she was a compulsive cleaner – everything was kept absolutely immaculate. She was also a cordon bleu cook and I’m salivating at the possibility of raiding her kitchen for pots, pans and everything else. I’m thrilled and excited to be the lucky recipient of free stuff (items that are better quality than TA and I could possibly afford right now) and astounded that an object of lust will now take pride of place in my new home, but, but… The guilt is back. In spades.

    Friday, October 14, 2005

    It's just been one of those weeks. Work has been high-pressure hectic, I was ill, the cold war is continuing unabated, the house is (hopefully) progressing (albeit slowly), I have a to-do list as long as my arm and growing, I had a rejection letter through from a job application that had taken me a whole day to complete, TA's hernia is still hurting him... It's just been one of those weeks.
    However, the weekend looks set to be a blinder with lots of social activities planned and at least I have scored various treats from work (the highlight being a boxed bottle of Fortnum & Mason claret) in recognition of the crazy demands they have placed on me. This evening we are having work-sponsored pizza and beer.
    If I sound a bit "crispy fried" (this is agency speak for burnt out) I think it's because I've had far too much caffeine, sugar and stress already this morning. I wrote a rushed post yesterday and deleted it as too dull, but since I can't do any better today this will have to do.

    Tuesday, October 11, 2005

    cold war
    The Palais has become very quiet, full of whispers and scuttling. TA and his sister aren't talking; no one except TA is talking to me and I admit I'm returning the favour; and those who are talking to each other are doing so in hushed tones, suddenly falling silent when someone from the other side walks in the room. It's immensely silly and quite enjoyable or at least it would be if TA and his sister were talking, which they're not.
    I've never seen TA this riled up about anything, although being TA, his being riled up manifests itself as withdrawal and a particularly muscular form of quietness. Usually if I've really upset him this gets directed at me for a day or so - but it drives me potty and I end up shouting at him until we resolve whatever caused the falling out. TA's sister is made of sterner stuff it seems. In fact it's entirely possible that, since she's cut from the same cloth, she too is doing stealth assult. Muggins here feels caught in the silent crossfire. I have my own grievances with sister in law but feel gagged by the all-pervading lack of speech. It's dumb. In all senses.
    What worries me is that I only have part of the story. I really can't figure out why they are not talking - I think perhaps SiL took an ill-judged swipe at me to TA. Now, let's face it if somebody slags off your partner it doesn't matter how close you are or how justified the criticism, you are going to leap to their defence. That's been the story here all along. One of the housemates does something to upset TA, he withdraws and tells me (only me) about it, I go in with all guns blazing to put the situation right so that TA is no longer upset...and get branded the unreasonable troublemaker for my efforts. Finally, the housemates have rebelled and become openly nasty to me and TA has become incandecent with rage, wanting to protect me and leaping to my defence in a way that he'd never do for his own benefit. (The funny boy told them that if anyone upset me their belongings would be out on the street in minutes; how's that for a misplaced sense of chivalry?) But if that's the case what is it SiL said or did that set TA off? And can't the pair of them see that they are only punishing themselves?
    For the last two days I've been saying gently "Please talk to your sister" and "Why don't you talk to your sister?", but to no avail. TA said he probably won't talk to her until after we move, when he'll be able to forget how angry he is with her. However, I'm not sure I can handle six weeks of the muted offensive, even if I'm not in the firing line. And I'm annoyed that I have been cast as a supplicant for SiL when she's sulking at me too and... well you get the idea. Crazyness, the whole thing is bonkers.
    Anyway, the good news is that we have signed draft contracts, handed in notice and *hopefully* will be on our way very soon, either that or we'll be homeless.

    Monday, October 10, 2005

    Where to start? In a moment of madness strolling through Covent Garden while TA was in Montreal I signed up for an ‘experience’. A friend and I could go to a studio for an afternoon of pampering – champagne, facials, hair and make up and a photo shoot where we could have a variety of pictures taken in up to five outfits. Exactly. What on earth was I thinking?
    Thursday was that day. TA was my friend and I had told him that he would need five outfits for his birthday experience. There’s some back story here – I hate weddings where hours are spent on photos; always the photos seem to be more important than the experience, as a result we don’t have any wedding photos and we’ve always said that it would be a good idea to get some wedding outfit photos at some point. Of course he guessed in advance what it was (git) but at least that meant that he’d be prepared. Only he wasn’t, and much time was spent yesterday morning agonising over outfit choices and ironing shirts.
    We had to get a taxi to the studio. They had told me to arrive 20 minutes before the official start time to enjoy a champagne reception. We arrived on the dot of twelve, our appointment time, and I was anxious not to miss out on the “free” champagne I had been promised. We sat on a couch in a warehouse-type area waiting for our experience to start. I got a glass of bucks fizz, the orange juice doing nothing to disguise the ropeyness of the fizz. And then it began. I was whisked away to a chair – what kind of thing was I after, I was asked. Natural, I said. Please keep it very natural. Having ensured I could see nothing by placing pads over my eyes, the beautifiers got to work. I could hear TA getting similar treatment in the chair next to me – face mask, cleanser, toner, hand massage, he even got a rather nice manicure. TA had powder liberally applied to his face and I, well, I wasn’t altogether sure what they were doing to me but it seemed to involve a lot of wet brushes. When they allowed me to look in the mirror it became evident that I’d been photoshopped and someone else’s head had been stuck on my shoulders for comedic effect. I’m not sure who this head belonged to – a Vegas showgirl, page three model, a particularly minging lady boy? – whoever it was (and the new head clearly belonged to someone at least ten years older than me) I wish they had left my face alone as I didn’t think it was funny. English manners prevented me from saying anything more than “that’s natural?” and “thank you so much” to the woman who had performed the photoshop face swap. I stumbled back to the couch and let TA persuade me that under lights the fright mask would transmogrify back into my face and look very natural.
    We went upstairs and met our photographers. Oh dear, I’d made a booboo it seemed. Although it was clear that we were a couple we couldn’t have a couple’s photo shoot. I stamped my foot until they compromised and they agreed to do a decent number of couple shots split between the two photographers. First off we did our ‘casual’ look – TA in a tee-shirt emblazoned with a funky monkey and cords, and me in a jumper and jeans – then we went back to the changing room to get our wedding finery on. TA zipped me into my corset. He opened his suit bag to get his dress shirt, but it became evident that both shirts were still hanging in our bedroom. I thought it hilarious, but having come all this way TA was really upset. I was sent to enquire about the possibility of borrowing a shirt. Meanwhile, the changing room next door was playing host to three very large ladies in black sparkly outfits and an anorexic girl wearing a dress that didn’t cover her skinny rump who was being told to get a move on by a rude photographer. In the end there was a shirt for TA and the shoot went as well as these things can.
    We were ushered into a room and the photos were projected on to a white wall. Let’s just say we are not the most photogenic of couples! We escaped at around 4pm with our dignity just about intact. And, after going home and freshening up a little, went out for an early dinner. The day of treats ended as it began with a plate of cheese and some biscuits.

    Wednesday, October 05, 2005

    sixteen candles, twice
    Happy birthday, beloved - here's hoping this is a year when your dreams come true.

    Tuesday, October 04, 2005

    the meal of glass and other tales of cooking triumph
    Last week we roasted a chicken – I say we because TA started the process, he followed Jamie Oliver’s instructions to the letter, every one of them except the bit where it said put the chicken in a preheated oven. TA, ever one for originality, put the chicken under a preheated grill, covered in foil, breast-side down. Hunger eventually drove me to the kitchen where I discovered his error(s); the chicken was eventually ready at around 10pm that night. I was not happy!
    I made a chicken curry with the remaining meat the following night and TA had the leftovers for lunch the next day. It was a bit crunchier than he remembered from its previous outing; chicken bones? He crunched on happily until he noticed a fragment of glass on his plate. We cannot figure out how it came to be in the curry, the rice or the tub of leftovers and TA spent a day or two with stomach ache saying, “One of the best ways of killing a person is to feed them glass you know.” Great.
    This morning I unexpectedly found myself with 20 minutes before I needed to leave for work. I chopped carrots, leeks, half a swede and made a sausage casserole for the slow cooker. We keep the slow cooker in our bedroom to avoid imposing on the housemates as it takes up a fair amount of work surface. (You can see where this is going can’t you?) I carried the pot into the bedroom and was in the middle of asking TA to set it up – a towel on the carpet and on top of that a slate to protect the floor from heat and the chance of spitting or splashing – when my wrist knocked against the door handle and the pot slipped from my grasp. Tomatoes, oil, veggies…all over the once-upon-a-time cream-coloured carpet and, at my feet, a broken slow cooker.
    Please rewind. Please rewind to before I dropped the pot, before I unwittingly fed my husband glass, before TA mis-cooked the chicken, before we moved to the Palais. Either that or please fast forward. Fast forward to a time when we are settled in our new home, when the mornings aren’t a whirlwind of trying to do ten things at once – dancing around housemates and queuing for access to the fridge, the bathroom, the cupboards. Because right now everything feels as though it is slipping though my fingers.
    Looking on the bright side, e-mail from our solicitor tells me that she has “got most of the papers, will be going through them and providing [me] with [her] report shortly” – just as well since today is the deadline for handing in our notice if we want to leave on the same date as Housemate M. I can’t wait to start the six-week countdown. Although, note the worrying use of the word “most” in the above sentence.

    Monday, October 03, 2005

    joyful, joyful or sorrowful, sorrowful?
    I thought, yesterday, at least I'll be able to write about... The crisp blue sky, cold hands finding warmth in the clasp of TA's, walking along the river, shopping at market, cooking (and eating) pies and celebrating the turn of the season by reading cookbooks and thinking of Autumnal delights (safely ensconced in our room, pretending the rest of the flat doesn't exist). I thought there's no need to mention the invasion of fruit flies that Temp Housemate unleashed on us by not bothering to throw her rotting fruit away and then making it worse by overstuffing the kitchen bin and leaving it lidless (we have waste disposal, but will she use it?). Neither will I dwell on the distinct possibility that our flat purchase is about to fall through (the vendor's solicitor still hasn't sent our solicitor the paperwork); even though it was choosing paint colours and planning wardrobes that kept me sweet tempered enough to just about prevent myself going thermonuclear when I discovered that M&J had attempted to sublet our room from under us, despite the fact that TA and I are the only ones on the lease. I won't bore people with the sad state of the bath thanks to Temp Housemate's inability to rinse the hair she's shaved off down the plughole (I clean it every time she has a bath, but somehow it's difficult to keep up) or the state of semi feud we find ourselves in because I had the temerity to clean up sister-in-law's mess in the kitchen. Really, there's no point using the UB as a soapbox to proclaim my belief that unless all dishes have been dried and put away and the draining board wiped down then you haven't really cleaned up after yourself. And certainly this is not the time or the place to milk the bile that collected in response to discovering that Temp Housemate had been watching The Bill three(?) times a week even though we don't have a television license. No, I shall write purely about happy things. I shall not mention that Temp Housemate has invited her boyfriend to stay for a week even though Housemate M, in whose room they are staying, is back on Wednesday. And certainly, I'm sure no one wants to know that Temp Housemate now seems to have become de facto Perm Housemate, without a deposit, a lease update or anything approaching a conversation to ask TA and me if it's okay.
    I was totally committed to only writing about berries and nuts and celebratory goodness, if only to relieve the doom I feel every time I approach the front gate of the Palais. But then, guess what, this morning TA - who has been the rock my sanity has been holding on to by a fingernail in this deluge of disaster - told me that the mystery pain is back and that he's going to need to see a doctor again. He thought last night he could feel a lump - a hernia? - but locating it (by prodding, no doubt) made the pain unbearable. And where is there for all these thoughts to go? If it wasn't so bloody awful it would be rip-roaringly funny. And, selfishly, I'm not sure I can be strong for TA now; in fact I need him to continue to be strong for me. So you'll have to forgive the lack of beauty and happy appreciation of life's joys in this post, but the news that he's sick again has just about pushed me over the edge with worry and despair.