Almost a month after I posted this I got a one line response with no salutation or sign off – how rude! – though there was a kind of backhanded apology.  Apparently he is actually paying a marketing company to break the law by sending Spam to Canada and display their idiocy by attempting to sell business insurance to a housewife.  So read on and enjoy.  Somehow I doubt they are going to send me the tickets for a jaunt to West Columbia.  Ah well………..a joy I shall just have to forego.

Original blog post: Yesterday I received an e-mail from Brad of an insurance company in West Columbia, South Carolina, USA telling me that my business insurance is about to expire and that he can help lower my costs and inviting me to have a meeting with his company to discuss it. This is my reply:

‘Dear Brad,

I can’t begin to express just how thrilled I was to see your spam….sorry enticing e-mail cluttering up my inbox. I am so touched that you wish to help me renew my apparently expiring business insurance and of course I will be completely delighted to discuss it with you. My business is quite complex: it involves cooking, cleaning, ironing, driving, sourcing, menu planning, consulting, budget control, diplomacy, scheduling, psychological counseling. I am also a mixologist (mixing and pouring drinks), massage therapist, designer, painter and decorator, garden design expert, vegetable market gardener, flower garden expert and I share responsibility for grass control. Oh and I am also a travel agent, book-keeper and car maintenance scheduler, including swapping the winter/summer tyres when needed. In the past I was responsible for child rearing and guidance but that portion of my business is no longer active so you can drop that one off the list when preparing your estimate. Eliminating that portion of my responsibilities has freed up real estate (bedrooms) and allows a lot more time for my favourite part of my job – sex therapist, both hands on and via texts depending on my ‘client’s location – work, travel for work, in the next room just to make him laugh.

As you can see all of these activities will require considerable insurance cover and I look forward to discussing them. I have been to South Carolina but not for a very long time and not to West Columbia in particular. I am willing to travel business class though of course I would prefer first. I prefer Marriott chain hotels though anything 5 star or above will do. A clothing and food allowance is probably a must as I will be traveling from Canada to attend the meeting that you have so kindly invited me to. I look forward to receiving my flight e-tickets from you, copy of the itinerary and confirmation of my hotel booking showing that you have paid for it. Oh and before I forget, something completely up your alley, I will obviously need travel health insurance as I am pretty sure the Ontario Health Insurance Provision won’t stretch to South Carolina. I am in good health and have no pre-existing conditions that I know of but I am 61 so some bits are beginning to show some wear and tear.

Will I have time to see the thrilling sights of West Columbia?

I await confirmation of my trip. ‘

So far…. silence. Yet yesterday he was so keen!

We went mad and bought new furniture, the deal was too amazing to give up, so the sofa I am sitting on will be moving to the basement where Alan can finally have his dream, a man cave where he can watch American football. He doesn’t drink but I’m thinking I should get some n/a beer and put a cooler down there for him so that he can pretend as he yells at the tv and gives advice to the players on his team, not that they ever appear to listen to him :o)

Parenthood ain’t easy. Today got reminded of the time Alan kicked one of our kids across the room. I can just hear the intakes of breath and people wondering which authority to inform but bear with me.

So there we were, in the Emergency Room (Casualty) with both kids, Jonathan around… 6 years old and Matthew around 18 months to 2 years old. Matthew with a gash in the back of his head which was bleeding. Apparantly scalps bleed like crazy even when the wound is superficial. I guess I should hasten to add at this point that there had been no concussion or trauma of that type, it was a half inch cut on the back of his head. The nurse bent down and asked Matthew “What happened to you sweetheart?” Matthew replied “Daddy kicked me.” She got this look on her face and asked Jonathan “What happened?” Jonathan said “Daddy kicked Matthew across the room.”

We were immediately separated from the kids and from each other.

So there I am in a room with a very stern looking doctor asking what happened? Me: “Well it’s all my fault. There is a chest of drawers opposite our bed. I had left the top drawer slightly ajar. It’s Sunday morning.  On Sunday mornings the boys come into our room and climb into our bed. Then we play Humpty Dumpty where we lie in bed, our knees up, the kids climb up and sit on our knees, we all recite the Humpty Dumpty poem and at some random point we drop our knees and the kids, like Humpty, fall down and everybody laughs. Matthew was climbing back up onto his daddy’s knees for another go…. Alan has an ingrown toenail. Matthew stepped on his toe, Alan kicked out, and Matthew sailed across the room and ……then he hit the drawer.”

The doctor just kind of looked at me, silent. Then he left the room and after a while they showed Alan in. I said “What did you tell them?” Alan said “The truth, how about you?” Me: “The truth. Oh gawd we are never going to see our children again…”

Then two doctors came in and said “You’re OK. That story is so stupid it has to be true. If you had done it deliberately you would have come up with something more plausible.”

They put a stitch in the back of Matthew’s head and we all went home. Both kids are now adults and no, we didn’t kill either one, accidentally or on purpose. But as I said, parenthood ain’t easy. And to any ‘authorities’ reading this please, accept that sometimes a step on an ingrown toenail and an involuntary kick is just a step on an ingrown toenail and an involuntary kick. Those doctors showed common sense and gave us the benefit of the doubt.

Boy am I ever going to get flamed for this one I reckon……

With Alan being away for work for weeks and weeks at a time I have found a new passion in my life.

I am totally in love. I am trying to come up with a cute nickname for my new fixation, suggestions gratefully received!

As some of you know my favourite thing indoors is my dishwasher. I love dishwashers. Washing dishes is my least favourite pastime, way more unliked by me than peeling potatoes and putting away groceries and I loathe both of those as much as I hate shopping. I drive Alan nuts because I will put recyclables like tin cans and empty jars through the dishwasher before setting them out for collection. If it’s not nailed down I put it through the dishwasher. If it doesn’t move for more than five minutes, in the dishwasher it goes. I have been known to put plastic bags through the dishwasher. The cats have learned to hide.

Now I have a favourite outdoors friend. Our roof needs to be redone, we have the scaffolding and have ordered the underlay and arranged for the shingles – going with dark forest green this time. What we are lacking is the manpower with Alan only home one and a half days a week so that will have to wait until September. But I had also been getting a bit down about the siding. It was becoming dusty and grimy and on the north side of the building, a wee bit green and mossy. But my new beau has come in, all power and brawn, and now that I can I turn him on several times a day, he just blasts it all away. I love, love, love it.

Allow me to introduce: The power washer! I love this guy. A little on the short side, about 2 foot tall at most, and fashion sense… he favours a bright yellow plastic jacket but I can live with that because when it comes to doing the thing that he does so well…. wow!

I am only just started. The siding is half done and during the week I will blasting the heck out of both decks plus the little one by the main door to the house. Next weekend I will get Alan to show me how to use the power sander and smooth the surfaces down again and then go buy deck stain/sealer. I am on a roll!

Spring must be arriving soon, there is an awful lot of courtship going on out there.

Squirrels should be on Ritalin

Why have playpens gone out of fashion?

When I was a kid we were left to our own devices, I babysat my siblings when I was just seven years old. Was that right? Probably not. Feeding them cornflake sandwiches was possibly not the best idea but I was seven. It seemed OK to me and anyway, was all I could find at the time. In the days of my childhood from the age of 5 or so I could leave the house in the morning and not come home until evening and it was pretty much considered normal. Maybe not for all of my friends but I was by no means the only one.

Fast forward fifty years and parenting is so restrained, constrained and legislated that children are wrapped in cotton wool and never spend a second unmonitored or free. Is that right either? I doubt it. These days if you pay attention to all the warnings about how to parent it’s downright freaky. It’s a miracle any of us made it past toddlerhood.

Somewhere in between when I was a young mother there was a kind of balance. We let our kids play but maybe with a little less freedom that we had enjoyed. And we had playpens. For the uninitiated these came in various forms. Basically they were cages. Some were made of wooden doweling, some were formed with a nylon mesh. Some had cushioned floors. Some not. But the point of them was this – you could put the kid in them and know that they were safe while you got on with doing other things. I’m not talking about leaving them alone for hours. I’m just saying that the kid was OK, could play, or fall asleep, or even cry and they were SAFE. Meanwhile you could go and make the beds, hang washing on the line, make dinner, even go to the loo in peace. I know that playpens are still around because you can buy them. But I have not met a parent who actually admits to using a playpen for at least 20 years.

I know, some of you will laugh and comment that I am only saying this because I believe that ‘in my day’ it was the best. You are, no doubt. right. Hindsight and rosy glasses and all that. But some of ‘my day’ was good. Especially playpens.

Another one……… saw a a newspaper article about some daft thing called a ‘mixologist’ and they even have some college qualification. When I was a lass I was a barmaid. I bet I could ‘mix’ the drinks just as well then as they can now, not to mention pull the perfect pint. I enjoyed the badge of honour of being a barmaid.
Me as a barmaid.

I haven’t been there in decades but my memories of the place….. If you have not read other blogs of mine, please bear in mind that my Dad worked for an airline so I had the priviledge of traveling extensively and flying back in the days when it was still quite expensive and I got upgrades. Please understand, I am very grateful and appreciate how lucky I was. Especially as I now pay every cent for any flight I take! I saw the first ever 747 take off from New York, it was parked beside the 707 I was booked onto. The first flight had passengers made up of employees of PanAm. I was in awe, even though I knew because Dad had taught me from a very young age how planes work and what gets them off the ground, but even I just looked at that thing and thought ‘Wow! that plane is HUGE!’.

During my early and mid-teens I traveled through New York several times a year en-route to where ever home happened to be. Staying at a hotel called The Taft. Back then it was a great hotel, then fell into some disrepair and I believe it is now a condo thingie. Going across the road from the hotel to Choc’Full’o’Nuts for breakfast because I always woke up too early – flying in from London meant I was 5 or 6 hours out of sync. The all night noise of sirens and car horns honking.

I was never that keen on NYC in the summer, my memories are of garbage and taxi strikes and the heat. But in the winter, it was a magical city. I loved it best in December, Santa Claus on every street corner, hot chestnut sellers, the craziness of Macys Store with that constant ding ding ding noise and (back then) Gimbells (sp?) which was a competitor and if I remember right, pretty much on the next block.

Radio City Music Hall with those incredibly tall guys in top hats to welcome you in to not just a movie but a show too. Not to mention the Rockettes.

When people found out I was travelling as an unaccompanied minor to New York they would freak out but nothing bad ever happened. Of course back then I had no idea that I had really poor eyesight so maybe, a bit like the cartoon character Mr. Magoo, all hell was breaking out all around me, but if it was, I certainly never noticed! And really…….. I don’t think it was. I think NYC got a bit of an undeserved bad reputation back then.

Some major life events for me happened in New York, I’ll gloss lightly over one but let’s just say I remember thinking ‘That’s it!? That’s what the girls at school are going on about. I don’t get it.’ A few years later in an entirely different country I finally did understand and thanks to Alan have a been repeating that understanding ever since. ;o)

Other funny things that are New York related… As many of you who have met me in real life know, in my family we tend to look a lot older than we really are. My Dad, me, my brother. At 13 I could ‘pass’ for 18 at the very least. This great for men as they tend to do really well in business, my Dad, my brother, but not so great for women, especially if, like me, you happen to be married to a man who looks younger than he really is. But that’s a whole ‘nother issue.

Once en-route to NY from London I was wearing my hair up and warmer clothes because London was still cool while I knew that NYC would be hot and a guy chatted me up all the way across the Atlantic. He asked if I would be in NY long and I said that I would be there just for the one night. He asked me out on a date. Then about an hour before we landed I went to the loo, changed into a mini-dress and let my hair down. I got back to my seat and the poor bloke visibly blanched and said ‘How old are you?” I replied ’13, I take it the date is off then?’ Poor guy, but maybe I taught him a lesson on judging books by their covers! LOL.

Another time going from the Caribbean to NY I was sitting beside my dad on a plane (me by the window, Dad in the aisle seat) and …… well basically a blonde bombshell ‘Marilyn Monroe type’ flight attendant came wafting towards us and said ‘Harry!!! Baby!!’. My Dad leaned over to me and said ‘Do NOT say a word about this to your mother.’ Blonde Bombshell then caught sight of me and if looks could kill I would be dead. Dad kind of spluttered ‘This is my daughter!’. Blonde Bomshell said ‘Uuuuhhhh hhhhuuuhhh!’ and flounced off. I thought it was hilarious.

On that trip Dad took me for dinner for my 14th birthday at a really nice restaurant. I was wearing what was then called ‘A Trouser Suit’. For all you youngsters it was a pair of trousers, I had on high heels, and the top was a bit like a military tunic and reached the very top of my thighs. The Maitre’D stopped us at the desk and said that women were not allowed in the restaurant if they were wearing trousers. Can you imagine? I told Dad to hang on a second, went to the ladies room, took off the trousers and put them in my handbag (purse for you North American types) and the manager let us in with no problem. The top was so short that I could not have shrugged my shoulders without showing my knickers but that was apparently OK; wearing trousers however might have cause horses to bolt, ladies to faint and small children to vomit.

But now I am going to sound like the grandma I am. While I found the ‘no trousers’ rule ridiculous and wore miniskirts, I did cover up bits and pieces. What saddens me now is the way that young women show underwear in the workplace and more flesh than anyone wants to see……… Does that make me a hypocrite? Probably/possibly. It’s not the clothing that bothers me, it is the underlying fear that these young women feel that their only value is in the flesh on parade. I sound like an old blue-stocking feminist now but we wanted more than that for you girls, so much more.

Back to the working world.  As you must have gathered by now I have had many jobs, all kinds of weird, sometimes wonderful, sometimes downright dreadful jobs.

Carolyn story of one company I worked at back in the UK on the English/Welsh border:  The company made ‘surroundings’ to protect computers from being hacked.  They were pretty much selling a suit of armour for computers to protect them from enemies reading the data and what is even funnier, armour for the screens not the boxes!  It was all smoke and mirrors and absolute rubbish but for a long while they did make sales.

My job was half secretary/half sales sourcing. Every week I would read Jane’s magazine, pick up the phone and start calling.  My ploy was fairly straightforward, get to receptionist (in those days always female) and say something along the lines of ‘Oh God I hate to ask but I am a temp/newly employed/in my first job and I have forgotten who my new boss told me to ask for.  He is in purchasing.  Please, can you just tell me
who I should be connecting to?’  I have a voice that sounded younger than I was – telesales people used to ask to speak with a parent until I was about 35; even today it is quiet and most people ask if they have just woken me… but I digress. Inevitably they would give me a name and on up the pile I would go.  Eventually reaching the ‘real’ guy.  One asked me how on earth I had reached his number and I said ‘I lied.’  He laughed and agreed to let me send him our brochures.
The guy I worked for though, what a plonker.  He was a couple of years younger than me and loved his ‘Man from C & A’ pin striped suits.  He told me that he ‘liked to keep his wife pregnant because it kept her out of trouble and he had bought her a little car to run around in’, he also used to refer to anyone in the company that he didn’t like as ‘a bit ‘AIDsy’ implying they were gay and therefore less than human’ – seriously I kid you not and yes I had to fight the urge to just do a flying leap for the jugular. But I didn’t.  I waited.  And waited.  And waited.  And then finally…. ah bliss….opportunity knocked.

I was two weeks away from quitting because I had found another job and he was planning to go to a trade show in London.  Plonker had never been out of Powys/Shropshire before and wanted to know about clubs in London.  He knew I was from the south.  So I gave him the following advice – this was 1989

C is me P is Plonker.
C: ‘You need to go to Heaven.’

P: ‘Heaven?’

C: ‘Yes it’s a fabulous nightclub, the best’

P: ‘Will I see celebreties?’

C: ‘Oh yes, lots and lots’
P: ‘What’s the address?’
C: ‘It doesn’t matter, just get into a black cab and say ‘Take me to Heaven”
P: ‘They’ll know where it is?’
C: ‘Oh yes, they will take one look at you and know exactly where you need to go’
P: ‘Great!’

I left the company before the trade show ended. My fond hope is that he is still there, trapped in some kind of Star Trek time warp heh heh.  For those of you who don’t know what Heaven is, Google it.  Sadly I doubt they would have let him in but it would have been a sweet revenge.  Especially if he used his ‘I think he looks a bit AIDsy’ comment.’

I am a nice person really……… seriously…… well most of the time ;o)

Twice in our lives we have followed the path to make a small fortune:  start with a middle sized fortune and buy a restaurant. Won’t make that mistake again.

But it did leave me with a wealth of experiences and stories. Like the one about…… well let’s call them Sebastian and Seymour. One of the gentlemen involved has since died – old age, not our cooking – and anyone who knows or knew them will easily recognise them from the descriptions below but out of respect I will keep names and places vague :o)

They are/were artists, well-known and very well respected.  Sebastian is considered very collectable in certain high blue-blooded circles.  Seymour was primarily known as an illustrator, particularly a collection of very famous novels with his work on the covers. Though he should not just be remembered for that, particularly in trompe l’oeil.

When we knew them they had been together for decades – in fact they lived together for 70 years in total.  They lived in a riverfront townhouse across the square from us. The village we lived in was/is knee-deep in people involved in the arts, jornalism, etc. and also is very close to a university so it was the perfect place for them.

Their house parties were the stuff of legend though I have no first hand knowledge as I am pretty sure I didn’t fit the criteria to be on any invite list.  Story has it that Sebastian in particular liked to add a little something to his glass of champagne and I don’t have the right equipment.  But I would see Seymour around the square from time to time and greetings were always very affable and charming.

One day I was setting up our restaurant and Seymour wandered in and asked if it would be possible to book the place for a little intimate luncheon (his words) for about a
dozen or so of their friends with a couple of provisos.  One: preferably no female wait staff and two, no other people in the restaurant, they had to have the place to themselves.

He explained that due to some unfortunate misunderstandings Sebastian had been banned from most of the local pubs and restaurants which quite limited their choice of venues.  We had already heard the tales, though in competition with each other most restaurateurs do actually know, like and socialise with their peers.  One of Sebastian’s reported habits was to approach any man in a pub or restaurant who happened to take his fancy and if the man was with a wife or girlfriend, Sebastian would proclaim ‘Ditch the bitch and I’ll show you a good time.’ Didn’t always go over that well. :o)

I happily made the reservation and on the day a pretty good time was had by all, copious amounts of food and drink was consumed and after several hours the party departed.  At which point Seymour wove his way up to the bar and explained he had forgotten to bring his cheque book and apologised.  He then suggested that perhaps I could  ‘Send your pretty little husband round tomorrow and I am sure we can work out something to cover the bill’.  I smiled and replied ‘Ah, but Seymour, I own 50 per cent of this debt…. er… restaurant… so somehow I don’t think your suggestion would quite work out.’  He came back with a brilliant line ‘That’s alright sweetie, you can come too, I swing both ways!’.

He dropped the cheque off the next morning. He was a delightful man and I am so glad I had the honour of knowing him.

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