Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Happy new year

So as 2008 staggers into history, the year the wheels fell off the banking system and may yet take lots of other people with it.

The temperature here has been right down there amongst the coldest we have seen.

So naturally we went off this morning to get a load of bits for the yellow goddess.

Then spent a pleasantly cool time this afternoon fitting some of them.

So now we are all set to go into town and see in the new year.

Management has volunteered to drive, and the IVECO too, some people say management drives so I can have beer, others know that I need beer if management is driving....


Tuesday, 30 December 2008

We're on the road again.....

An away day today.

A drive across the ice and frost to the mainroad then a blast up the motorway.

One child dropped with his nan then another picked up with a visit to managements mum in between. 98 years young the old lady, has a mind as sharp as a knife but the rest of her is starting to slow down a bit.

Back home and no repeat of last night. Last night she was letting her soft side show, poor little Sid the kitten, it was too cold for the poor little mite to be outside.

So out I was sent with a torch to find him.

About 4 AM and we have the katolympics, rumble, thunder, thunder, Da Man and him, up the stairs round the room, under our bed then downstairs again, with the odd bit of growl, snarl, growl, play fighting thrown in for good measure.

Management is a lot less keen and he is outside tonight.

Shame. Sid had found a seat under the log fire, I was trying to get a photo to put on here.


Monday, 29 December 2008

Cold snap - holy rolly...

Last few days have been a trifle inclement in the cold sort of a way...

We have given in, the log stove our main heat this winter so far has had to be helped by the central heating.

But we have still saved a fortune and the planet by vast consumption of wood over oil.

Some of the wood though is not quite as dry as it might be, soaking might be another way of describing it.

Management being nothing if not resourceful put a load of it in the aga main stove last night so that it was properly dry.

I will draw a veil of mercy and spare her embarrassment. But I can confirm that the fire might have been out this morning but that was no problem, all it took was to take a shovel and transfer the blazing inferno from the aga oven to the firebox of the log stove...

Still is is going well now and with the temperature barely above freezing all day the central heating has been off.


Sunday, 28 December 2008

We wiiii you a merry Xmas

One of the things we bought this Xmas was a Wiiii

Not for any particular child but for all of them.

It has been an unmitigated and total success.

Very unusual bt there is something different about the wii.

Previous computer games have been good but divisive. Kids always end up arguing and fighting.

The wee though is not like that.

It seems to be based on cooperation and fun. Even management for whom anything electronic is a no no has been doing various strange wii activities with something called a wiii fit.

Means I have to try and get the fire running.


Saturday, 27 December 2008

The green goddess vaccum.

In 2005 the Uk decided it could finally kiss goodbye to the cold war.

The very last relics of that "war" the green goddess pumps were to be stood down. Replaced by so called "new dimension" equipment. ND itself being a response to the new war or 9/11 and 7/7 anti terror initiative.

But it never quite made sense, The thousand emergency pumps were to be directly replaced by just 40 high volume pumps. It was clear capacity was something they did not have in a big flood situation.

The big pumping capacity for drought and flood was simply not replaced it was abandoned.

The greater mobility capability of the 4x4 GG was not replaced it was abandoned.

The ability to mobilise a whole fleet of simple to operate vehicles in support of the fire service was not replaced it was abandoned.

It could be argued that this was all too much to pay.

But the government had recognised that all it's little jaunts abroad were leaving the military overstretched and overworked. So they asked their good friends at group 4 to provide a fire service reserve.

Now the GG were costing about 1 million a year for which you got about 1000 fire engines 40 of which could be driven away immediately and every one of them could be working in 21 days. 500 miles of big bore water pipe, 1000 smaller portable pumps. Lots and lots of kit.

Group 4 were offering you, none of the above, a troop of people who might be there if needed but you would not know till the day if you had saved money by paying 10 mil a year for not a lot. Or blown it on smoke and mirrors

But of course now the government have decided they will not. They changed their minds. they don't have 10 mil a year to blow and now you get exactly nothing..

If the local managers of your fire brigade annoy the people at the coal face enough and they walk out: your house will burn down though you kids will probably be OK because our fire fighters will save life even if you don't pay them.

If the FBU decide that things are bad and their people deserve 50% this year, you better pray that Gordon has the money to pay out because that will be the sum of his options.

Oh and the final twist, the New Dimension deal was a private finance initiative. So, if your community suffers a major flood today there is no number to call to access 40 Green Goddesses and miles of pipe, the government would not pay for a 24/7 service. Catastrophe is only allowed in normal office hours.


Friday, 26 December 2008

"I wish it could be Xmas every day......"

One is often moved to wonder what exactly Roy Wood had been drinking or smoking when his twisted little mind came up with that line in his song.

I mean can you imagine, what if it was Xmas every day, what would we see?

Well thinking about it it might not all be entirely bad.

There would be no kids whining and whinging about what they wanted as the shops would all be closed so you could not buy anything.

No point looking to eBay and Amazon either, the post office vans would be parked up and nothing would be moving.

Just as well as of course everyone on the planet would be wasted.

Reality would be the little islands of hang over pain between a permanent alcohol filtered haze.

Obviously there would be a smattering of 24 hour garages and off licences open. So we would not starve or run out of things, though how in hell we would drive anywhere I cannot work out.

Neither would anyone live in fear of a plop on the mat, Visa bill would not be the nailbiting moment of January terror. Because of course in the run of things January would be like tomorrow and never come.

I wonder though, how long would it be before everyone got fed up with it all and demanded an unXmas day when everyone went to work, met people who were not their family, earned money and paid for the other 364 days spent drinking to much.

Of course by then with all that partying no one could get into work, they would need to be able to walk and with that never ending wine filtered, turkey, duck and goose dinner inside them that just would not be happening.

Perhaps Mr Wood was wrong, it is best that it is not Xmas every day.

Life here is ongoing, with Wii fit telling management she is underheight for her weight. Still it is keeping her quiet...

Which is more than can be said for.....

Serenity has displayed animal cunning by turning up with her four children and delayed opening grandads present till grandad could see them do it

Sooo I was seranaded with a mouth organ, recorder, tambourine and castanets.

Sir Bruce joining in with her new flute was the final touch.

When still recovering from an evening which featured the pop of the corkscrew rather more often than my GP might approve of that was just as unpleasant as you might think it would be....


I'm glad it isn't Xmas every day

And to be serious for once.

There has been a huge row about the UK channel 4 deciding to let the president of Iran send a Xmas message to everyone in the UK. Now the Iranians are a bunch of gay hanging misogenistic muslims who want to have the bomb so they can do for us all, or so we are told on every corner. Where they differ from some Americans is not very clear, but they are Arab and de facto the bad guys. The Sun says so so it must be right....

Reading the full text of what he said on the Guardians website really gives you food for thought. Makes you wonder if there is not a wisdom in the message, strangely absent from the queens homily, or the utterance of former members of the Hitler youth either.


Thursday, 25 December 2008

On Xmas day in the morning....

Ho Ho Ho merry wotsitmas.

The day is upon us, I had a celebratory morning splitting wood with an axe. Actually I quite love splitting wood.

I had a lovely Xmas morning, how excited and lucky, was I to get a cardigan?

Still the Wii has bought us a certain amount of peace.

Tallie has been quite amusing, announcing all the good things on the tellie that might tempt people off the wii so he can have a go. Not a man with a plan at all...

Dinner is in progress.

This year is slightly diferent though we have no P. He is not here, four years of work and he is back with his mum for Xmas.

Soon he is going back forever, foster care can be good, social work can be effective.

We should perhaps pay more heed to the times the service gets things right.

15 years I have woken here for Xmas, this should be the last one, if all goes to plan.

Who mentioned mice and men.....

Merry Xmas.


Wednesday, 24 December 2008

xmas nigh

It is upon us.

The annual festival of peace on earth and goodwill to "men".

It must be men since wimin are too bloody busy making it happen.

I walked through town yesterday following managements instructions.

Past me walked all these shoppers; their Xmas was their burden.

Of course that was so I could finish rewiring the damaged bits of utility room wiring, something that took a few goes to make work.

The local market town was an incredible tangle of nowhere to park and nowhere to walk with no one benevolent.

I told management that, yes we had bought a wii yes we had all sort of games, yes we had all sorts of controllers, no, if it turned out we had left behind one lead that would render the damn lot impotent, I was not going back into that inferno to get one.

I wonder at Xmas, my childhood Xmas was very different. My earliest memories are cold, in an old farmhouse where all the heat came from open fires and a big open chimney like our house in Brittany.

The house was often cold but we were always warm, it was magical. We could no more have an artificial tree than an artificial Xmas.

There are people who say that Xmas is about childhood - maybe they are right.

Maybe each generation remembers child Xmas fondly as a time of magic and parent Xmas as a nightmare.

But, I wonder where it all went wrong..

The Christians took over the Pagan tradition, where the nights stopped getting longer, the light got stronger, life restarted. It was a celebration of rebirth so the Christians locked their infant religion into what was already there.

But it was a celebration, not a spend fest. Not a time where you were measured by your ability to extend the Visa, move to a new card, extend into forever your inability to pay for what you have bought today.

Perhaps the usurers stole the show, oh but hang on the bible and the Koran have a take on that...

Still, this is nothing like Xmas 15 years ago.

15 years ago yesterday we moved in here.

Managements memories are so much more accurate than mine.

Did we really live like that.

She can tell you.

Well she might, she is a bit busy just now.


Monday, 22 December 2008

Countdown to Xmas....

This is is heading to Xmas.

Woke this morning and the fires were in that state of heat called out.

As I sat with my first coffee there was a tremendous noise and the lights flickered as the kitchen filled with smoke as one of the sockets exploded.

No power in the little Kitchen, emergency extension lead power up the fridge and freezers, no lights.

The Aga has decided to play up and is flaring flames.

Ahh yes

Must be Xmas at Penole


Saturday, 20 December 2008

Merry merry Xmas.....

Today ah totally slipping day.

Should have been out of bed and up and at them, did we do that or lie in.

No prizes, mind you lie in still saw us on the road at a time that started 09 something.

Annoying though, all those software companies that were holding back stocks of "must have" games so they could punt them out at to desparate punters at "you cannot be serious" must have realised they would arrive in the new year with a big pile of stock and a need to discount big style to move it off the shelf.

Games we have struggled to find online all week, that were listed out of stock in store were suddenly on the shelf this morning.

But anyway we got through, management went off to take Sir Bruce to have her hair professionally done for the first time at a cost of ")*)&*^&)&^) _)*_*&_&". Very happy she is too.

Wandering round, being Branwen, exploring her new persona.

This left me to meet managements ex, delivering Perfectos Xmas money.

This has been a bad year for them, his 18 year old step son wiped himself out in an awful car crash.

I don't want to give a lot of detail but there is something we used to do as newly qualified drivers who lived close to Daycastle. I was fond of it in my Morris Minor, he used to do it, in a moggy too, my mate the firefighter who was on the shout had done it too. Youthful exuberance, invincibility, unfortunately luck had turned against his step son and he hit a tree not the road.

A family propelled into tragedy.

But here's one for those who feel for the banking system .

The banks and credit card companies had not noted that at 18 he had no job. No they noted he could sign on the doted line....

So of course he had a big portfolio of visa cards, and these companies who had not thought to ask his parents if lending him money was a good idea, had been phoning his bereaved parents now he was dead to ask for their money back.

Death of a young person is a very sad thing, telling banks to get stuffed is a very small recompense.

But this is how the financial system works, they recklessly lent him money, and now he cannot pay. They wanted someone else to pay for their folly.


Friday, 19 December 2008

Management meets her match.

It takes a lot to get the management through a door with doctor on it, she simply does not do ill and few germs would be foolish enough to invade her body.

But it has to be admitted that she has not been 100 percent of late and so this morning she was marched into the quacks for examinations. Now, anyone suggesting that the management is not perfect in every way is sailing into seriously dangerous rock strewn waters.

But this was courage beyond belief.

I have thought for a while that management was a little underheight, but no doc mentioned the phrase overweight. Whats more, she lived!!

More courage was required in asking about managerial lifestyle, she has some strange condition that means that she should not eat bread. Knowing that and mentioning it are two diferent things but no, management has been told to knock all the cereal type products on the head forthwith.

Her corkscrew habits were also singled out for attention. Apparently, and i did not know this, but vin blanc is not good stuff, management has been instructed to switch to rouge. So this day the vin blanc is heading my way and she is selecting a pricey rouge, we don't actually do cheap reds. I am rather proud of our little cellar of classy reds which usually have a medal from some competition or other and quite often wear a grand cru label to boot

Not sure that is good, ohh yes red wine might be good for her heart but counting the cost of the bottles she is considering opening might give me a heart attack...


Thursday, 18 December 2008

Fun things to do.....

Lie in a puddle underneath a bedford truck freeing up the clutch in December.

Any mechanical job on an IVECO turbo daily.

Drive a Triumph Acclaim.

Ride a Honda Super Dream

Change the points on a Morris Minor 1000 in the dark in the rain.

Ditto BSA Bantam

Have a huge hangover and ride to London at a steady bang bang 40 MPH on a 1956 AJS 350.

Drive round the M25 at 4 PM, well when I say drive that should not be taken to mean that anything was actually moving at speeds that were measurable without a theodolite......

Sort out the electrical fault that is causing all the lights to blow fuses on your land rover whilst on top of a mountain in Mid Wales in the dark in November.

Go to a Conservative Party Rally.

Talk to Tony Blair for an hour.

Go to a 2 day LACS form training course. (Looked After Childrens System)

Invite Jehovahs Witnesses in for a chat.

This is a list (though it is not meant to be complete) of the things I have done in my life that I enjoyed more than going to Bookers Aldi and Tesco today.

Ok so maybe I never did go to a Torry Conference or invite JW's into the house either.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Social work today.

Now I cannot give details of anything that pertains to children who live with me. But I would like to give an example of how it is in children's social services today.

A carer I know became aware of something about a looked after child, not one in their care but one in someone elses. Turns out this was a very well trained carer and they picked up this was indication of a possible mental health problem. As I said this carer is well trained so they knew that their duty towards children is general not specific to children in their care.

This being Wales where carers status as mental health workers is recognised they immediately made a direct referral to the mental health services CAMHS.

CAMHS picked up the ball, and made enquiries, turns out the information had been known to the social worker for some time. The social worker being new and green had asked their manager. Neither had any specialist training in mental health I might add but the manager was holder of a budget which might have to meet some costs if the mental health professionals decided they might wish to take the matter further.

Based in no knowledge at all the manager decided no referral should be made, the information should not be shared with the CAMHS team.

Now in the run of things this was no serious matter, the worst that could have happened is the child suffered serious lifelong psychological damage.

This is not baby P, it's just another day another case you may not hear about, unless.....

Monday, 15 December 2008

State of shock

Some things can go on here some things can not.

A few years back we were the subject of such appalling bad practice by a social worker we were left with a gun to the departments head. Material held by our solicitor that putting into the public domain would cause huge embarrassment, end careers, not to mention unleash a telephone numbers law suit.

Well, something that came to light today is not quite that bad but it is right up there.

You can measure management humour by her driving.

Fairly brisk and lively is "normal"

Car bouncing round and passengers holding on is " a bit annoyed".

"Passengers praying" is seriously angry.

"Eyes closed teeth clenched" denotes full blown rage.

"Passengers Catatonic and rigid" indicates a risk she might spontaneously combust.

But there is one more state to go, when she is driving slowly, artificially slowly, as if she did not trust herself behind the wheel, that is "be afraid, be very afraid"

Some SW manager needs to be afraid.....

That's all I will say.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Which one is Noah??

Now we live in the country, 750 feet up a mountain. Look up our address on floodwatch and the risk is so low there isn't any.

So I must have upset the big guy somewhere as last night we had a flood of biblical proportions.

It started when Perfecto found his Kitchen under water. Quickly re clearing a drain on the drive cured that but left me soaked.

I staggered back into the house to find a scene of carnage developing quickly.

I thought I had misheard when management said we had a flood but a trip into the living room revealed a scene of growing devastation.

"Make pumps one living room!" I shouted mainly because I had always fancied doing that and knowing that the kids would know what it meant and it would be the fastest way to cause play stations and laptops to be abandoned as everyone came to see what was going on.

Within minutes we had GG buckets and every towel in the house deployed on the inside with Branwen and big D working hard with management in charge. Meanwhile, Taliesin and I were in full fire gear outside, in the tempest, diverting the torrent that was raging down off our fields with light provided of course by something large, green with an orange stripe.

We did debate building a dam to protect the kitchen using the debris sheet and lots of hose but by then Taliesin and I had things under control outside and water was running towards an existing land drain I put in a few years back.

The internet is nothing if not useful and as it happened one of my mates who has just be made up to station officer was online and I was able to bring him up to speed. I explained how water was running down off the fields and hitting the building at a point where the outside was higher than the inside. His advice "you are f******* then" was slightly less than useful. But by then we had the problem properly under control.

Of course, there has to be an angle and it turned out that whilst Taliesin and I were outside in the raging storm management and the rest were gorging themselves on nibbles that she had brought back with her on the weekly tesc.

A trip only just completed due to phenominal quantities of water running down every road.

This morning, all was transformed, a different place, me, I am gutted. I have just heard there were pumping opertunities errrrh floods everywhere. We could have been playing for hours.

Still that would have meant that managements new bath would not be fitted and I would not own the moral high ground...


Friday, 12 December 2008

The art of survival...... The Xmas play.

Now, every year like the good parent that I am I have to go to the children's primary school Xmas concert.

This is a fairly high profile affair which the whole valley attends and there is much comparing and contrasting of previous years and teachers, so all in all it's cut throat stuff.

Though not as dangerous as poultry bingo, the first few games of which one year were won by relatives of the caller. I thought there would be a riot and they were going to pounce on the number machine to see how he was fixing the results.

But anyway, in previous years this had consisted of a relatively brief little show with items from the infants and the junior class. Much appreciative applause when it was over and time to move on to the pub on the way home.

This trend to simplicity had clearly been noticed and a decision made to reverse it. in essence this meant a 2 1/4 hour extravaganza was inflicted on parents relies and the casual observer.

I think I survived the percussion band, just, then on came the juniors armed with recorders; my heart sank. A couple of numbers screeched through and two children produced violins, this was getting worse. Next, from somewhere a couple of guitars joined. Then, just as I was fishing for a knife to slash my wrists the cacophony came to an end.

We were then treated to two plays, one called babushka, delivered by the infants. To be fair this is a little valley school with about 30 children everyone gets a role of some sort and these children aged from 4 did really well.

Of course that was not all, we had the great juniors extravaganza, this was a remake nativity play set today with flashbacks to the bible tale. This featured all the Bethlehem's around the world (did you know there are 9??) and various scenes in various countries each of which required it's own song. I did start to wonder if we would end up doing the whole united nations but I think they did leave a few out.

Monumentally ambitious with a cast of about 15 with everyone having about 3 main parts each of which had been learnt over the preceding weeks. Tremendous effort all round and of really good experience that means my older children are so used to being on stage that they are all quite natural and relaxed.

Gwion was Herod though I didn't think it polite to ask if this made him the head of Israel or of one of it's neighbours.

Naturally not to be outdone by wise men (management still does not believe there has ever been three of those) every country gave the baby Jesus a gift. From Japan came a camera so that photos of the baby could go online using the computer given by the USA.

I could see a problem looming, getting up to stuff like that, Mary and Joseph would have child protection and the NSPCC all over them like a rash, I mused. And saying in mitigation they had to do it as the child was the son of god might not be an altogether wise idea either.

But of course this was a play, not real life. Of course not, if this was real life America's gift would be a stick of cluster bombs from an F18 and the British would mop up any survivors with Challenger tanks. Halliburton would then move in and pinch anything worth any money and charge for millions of meals they never cooked. Mary and Joseph would probably do OK if they got out quick enough. (Though the fact that Mary was 13, a single mum and hanging out with a lot older man who wasn't the father would have to be handled a bit carefully.) They would make a bundle on the film rights and McDonalds would cut them a deal to hand out free dolls with happy meals.

Ah yes, the Xmas play, makes your head go all funny so it does.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Build me a bath- continues.

One of the things about our postcode is that it throws GPS.

This morning I had worried delivery drivers concerned that their GPS wanted them to drive up what looked like a dirt track.

At least they stopped before they got to the bog. I would have had to reverse the Green Goddess half a mile just to get to them.... Actually that would not have been too bad, I could have got lots of photos.

So anyway with the bath delivered off we sallied.

Urgent mission since Gwion is apparently King Herod in the Xmas play on Thursday and dress rehearsal is tomorrow. That was managements day planned, well no it wasn't, the cloth place I had hidden so well for all these years does not do Tuesdays.

On to the plumbing warehouse where of course they did not have 10- 15mm adaptors in my normal quick fit hep fitting only having compression joints. I will draw a veil over the rest of the day but suffice it to say that what should have taken about 20 minutes, a simple connect two taps, did not. If it could go wrong it did, if there was not way on the planet it could go wrong, it did also. It is sort of finished now though, we have cured most of the leaks.

It has only taken three hours. Still I was now ready to finish off, fit the doors and shelves. Yes the shelves could go in, I would just get the hinges......

Fortunately management was in charge of procurement.

She has had enough; she has locked herself in the bathroom I am sitting here in a kind of shocked disbelief.

Now there's a funny thing......

So anyway bright and early yesterday morning I got an email. Our link worker wanted to pop in today and have a quick meeting.

"Great" I replied, "there is an awful lot to discuss".

Now I am sure something very urgent has come up.

That's why she has canceled.

Could not be that she is avoiding uncomfortable situations.

Of course not....


Monday, 8 December 2008

Build me a bathroom....

Those who work on cars will occasionally come across a job that tests your patience. Something so needlessly fiddly and difficult that you refuse to believe the job can be this badly thought out.

This includes almost anything you might chose to do on the IVECO a vehicle that sets standards for bad access.

Early Japanese cars were legendary centres of bad design and Citroen's regularly figure in lists of impossible jobs.

But if modern cars are by and large easy to work on the people who used to design impossible to do tasks into cars. They have all gone to work for companies that offer things to do with kitchens and bath rooms.

I have spent a day fitting a sink; contorted into impossible shapes securing things in inaccessible corners. Writhing to reach impossible to find screws and bolts.

Some of use can remember the old days when things were made in places like Tipton and Sandwell, then suddenly cheaper alternatives came in with oriental names and collections of random words in books with "instructions" on the cover.

Again there is no need to assume those writers of gibberish are retired. No they go and work for DIY companies. I looked at the instructions for the mixer 4 times before it dawned on me there was no way on the planet that mixer would go on the way the chaps in IKEA told you to. What a fiendish plot to drive you into the hands of a plumber.

The instructions for the waste was far better, well they might have been, management managed to put them with the rubbish and then burnt them.

It might have been pique, I was still laughing after putting the work surface she had bought on top of the units I had just fitted to the wall (with tools and bits from the GG store I might add) and I asked her which end of the unit did she want the 1 Metre gap....

That's it though, it's nearly done, in as many hours as it would have taken me to do a full service on two green goddesses.

Might be an early night for me.


Saturday, 6 December 2008

ON any saturday

We awoke to a lovely clear day today. Time for some wholesome family activity.

Processing a ton of fire wood.

With the less safe chain sawing over we got all the kids out and set about the task of splitting and stacking loads and loads of wood. With three of us splitting two on wheelbarrows and the rest on carrying and stacking duties, 11/2 hours saw everything done and out of the way.

Now I dare say some social worker somewhere will be horrified at looked after children being in close proximity to axes and flying wood but this is all normal country life stuff and we are set up with a few weeks supply of wood.

From there it was on to the big shed building project of Tallies and of course the sad bit.

Now management is rather a whiz with a sowing machine and Bethans choice of Xmas gift was therefore not entirely good news.

Then an "alleged" friend mentioned a place locally where a former television dress maker has set up a store that deals in cloth. Now I had known about this place for years but had successfully kept the knowledge to myself.

A bit like she would if someone set up a green goddess parts place just up the road well maybe that's not a good analogy, I already have my own.

But, anyway, away we went and got to a place of open wallet surgery. A former farm house and barns filled from floor to ceiling with rolls of cloth and bits.

Fortunately, this place lived up to it's reputation for value and management was able to get enough material for a number of projects for less money than I had expected.

There was a big down side, management has seen lots of good things and says she will be back.

Then again, while she is doing these projects she cannot be bothering me. I could be outside doing important things like building a fire station...


Friday, 5 December 2008

The weather has closed in and the wind has risen.

This house is odd cold is OK but wind is a recipe for coolness.

The fire is in blast furnace mode which is great, I don't think I could be without a wood stove now.

Management has been out and about, she has been to a house that uses wood to drive central heating, water and cooking. I suspect we would need to get seriously organised on the wood chopping front though.

Thing is when we moved here and this is 15 years back mind we were using 1000 pounds worth of anthracite coal every winter. Then we went to oil and were using about a third of the value in fuel first winter. A combination of efficiency and cheaper fuel. Next leap was a new boiler in about 2000 which was even more efficient.

But of course oil prices went bonkers they touched 50p a litre at one stage, our heating bill was heading for 4 figures again, now we are heavily into wood.

This winter we have burnt about 120 pounds worth of wood so far OK add in a lot of hours and litres of two stroke.

So this being green thing is actually a good sound economic decision.

Today has been survived, I am coming to hate our shopping days.

Starts with a trip to bookers and a bread grab.

Kingsmill bread that retails at about 1.20 for about 15p a loaf is good value.

Then a trawl through Aldi in pursuit of value, or in English grab whats cheap.

But today was frankly GREAT.

There in their specials section was the dream Xmas presssie, a box with a recorder (ohhh yes) A harmonica (welcome to pain) a tambourine (yes yes) and castanets (awesome). The very things to give my step grand kids for Xmas.

Serenity may never speak to me again - all in all a win win situation.

Actually she is not a bad old thing.

Maybe I will suggest Perfecto goes there for Xmas, now that would really make sure she never speaks to me again.


Thursday, 4 December 2008

Xantia xanadu - well not quite

With the weather looking like there is going to be lots more of it management and I headed off on firewood bent.

Now normally this is a matter of hitching up my big trailer to the IVECO and heading off. But as management pointed out there is the odd fire engine parked here and there.

Far simpler then to move the transit and try to squeeze through the odd small gap to the trailer.

This of course started very well as the transit, being very low in the ground pressure on ground that was soaked beyond soaked slewed immediately sideways narrowly missing the kitchen in the process.

Selecting a suitably big rope I hitched the Iveco to the transit and with barely any effort the big IVECO dragged the transit out of the way.

Then, on a whim, rather than reverse the heavyer IVECO through the mud I dived into the Xantia and tried to get that into place next to the trailer. This proved easier than expected and then, just to show off I dropped the suspension to low reversed so the hitches were one above the other, then put the suspension to normal meaning it hitched itself.

I was very pleased with myself so very carefully set off. Fortunately the gradient was a slight down hill and therefore the trailer combo came out with surprising ease.

This was all starting to feel dangerously easy. Off to the wood yard loaded up and back we came. The Xantia towed the heavy trailer with surprising ease and of course when we got back home it was far easier manoeuvring a saloon car with trailer attached than the larger IVECO.

Just to complete the show off element, as I got the trailer where we wanted it I adjusted the suspension to "high". Then it was simply a matter of chocking the trailer setting the suspension to "low" unlocking the hitch and driving the car out.

All very trick, now all I need is a dry day or two to get the chain saw out and in action...

And the Xantia heater has started to work again!!!


Wednesday, 3 December 2008

You could not make some things up.....

A short while back I wrote how I would be intertwining serious posts with silly humour.

Today I am at one of these "where do you start" moments, management is actually beyond livid. I have not seen her this angry since, well I am not sure when.

Picture the scene, last day the house is running along as nicely as a house where 11 children have just sat down to tea might do. Well when I say sat down I would have to admit that some of them SAT down for tea...

Anyway all is happiness and light and then the phone rang.

Now, two of the looked after children are part of extended sibling groups, one of them has been trying to contact his sibs for 5 years and has so far got as far as speaking to his brothers wife whilst the brother hovered in the background declining to speak.

The other was promised contact with his sisters last year but since then of course his social worker abandoned the case and nothing has happened.

Soo anyway out of the blue the phone rings and it turns out it's his sister.

Lets not get confused here, this is good, this is very good.

So anyway sister makes a brief first call then says she will call back shortly.

This is exactly the sort of mayhem yp's mum likes to cause so we rapidly get on the phone to the emergency social worker who was to be fair most excellent.

Young man was very surprised, confused and scared. What was she like, would she really call back or would she be like mum and not keep her promises.

Sister phoned back and spoke to management who found her totally delightful.

But it turned out that sis had phoned the office yesterday afternoon and the SW had given our contact details to someone he had never met in the same way as you might dish out smarties. Now, those not in the UK might not realise the technical word for this is illegal..

Not to mention of course the bombshell effect that this had on the household.

Lets add in some extras, 1 child doing their mock A/S 2 doing mock GCSE's the rest doing their normal end of term exams, fantastic timing then!!

But look at this realistically it's great for the one child but is this the way to treat a co professional?

Yes one child was happy excited and surprised, totally put off his stride for the exams in fact.

The other was deeply distressed and dismayed, totally put off his stride in fact.

Really this is the sort of stuff you could not make up.

The pearl in the crown though was the subsequent phone call. Poor hapless SW, OK so he did phone first thing this morning, but the poor little soul was concerned that he was being "blamed". Hang on, so far, we had not tried to blame anyone, we had actually asked if this was an OK thing to do, not blame anyone.

Apparently this was not about best practice courtesy or respect shown to us, the important thing was that he not be blamed. This is British social work in microcosm, the important thing is not harm, not best practice, not respect it's all about avoiding blame.

So all in all it's been a lively little day. The icing on the cake, she went outside this morning the windscreen was iced up and the wipers ripped as she switched them on.

It would be OK if this was a first but it was only a short while ago that they gave mum my mobile number so that she could contact her son whilst we were on holiday in France, OH yes, they volunteered me to pay the international leg of her phone calls.

And no of course they didn't ask...

I think I need to go and fill the chainsaw with fuel, a bit of chainsaw and axe therapy is indicated.


Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Children's Care.

The circus rolls on.....

Very interesting developments.

No one was able to explain why OFSTED had recently given 3 stars to Haringay and then quickly found there was stuff under the carpet that they had missed.

It makes you wonder really, how will lots more oversight of necessity improve things?

What will improve things is for the social workers, foster carers, nurses and police to actually feel able to stand up and say things are not acceptable.

A service that is set up in such a way that individual social workers have caseloads in the twenties cannot because of it's structure be adequate. That's something a director should know and if they don't they should be asking.

There is a culture of tick box assessments, did a visit take place on time - tick the box. What happened during the visit is not a tick in the box....

So three knock on the door and out in ten minutes represent a "better" child care service than an hour spent assessing the family.

This is a part of a knee jerk response that followed Climbie. What is needed is a bit of joined up thinking.

We have noticed as foster carers that we are recording lots and lots more but less and less of it is the key information.

Day to day stuff we have to write down but when a child is unallocated, has no social worker for and extended period, you might not find this written down anywhere...


Serenity superstar.

Serenity my stepdaughter has yet to make much of a mark here, though before I began blogging her exploits had a considerable following on the fostering support group.

Serenity used to live with the Great Intlectual Thinker whose best efforts got little beyond fathering her multiple progeny and running up big bills on internet porn sites and chat rooms. Following years of providing me with material stories so fantastic sounding that you could not possibly make them up, Serenity developed a serious outbreak of sense and threw him out.

Of course he could not possibly end their relationship without leaving her with something more than 4 children, yes he left her a whole pile of debt too. She has struggled with all sorts of ways of dealing with this but today she has resorted to bancrupcy as the only logical way forwards. As of today she is bankrupt.

This has left Bethan and I to look after one of her kids who is not terribly well. A continuous stream of daytime kids telly is slowly sapping my will to live. I don't care what those actors get paid, it's not enough money to expect a human being to make that much of a exhibition of themselves, as for script writers, I know exactly what they are up smoking, I bet you can smell a script writing meeting all round the building....

Serenity of course has gone to have her wisdom teeth taken out; very aposite. But it makes me think she should have taken me up on my offer to perform some amateur orthodontics on her ex. Far better than setting the CSA on him.


Monday, 1 December 2008

A grand day out.

Silly silly me,

Now, just because it is large Green (with of course the orange hi viz stripe) one would not expect management to realise there was a fire engine outside the house and not where it was on Friday. It was of course exactly where it was yesterday afternoon...

So anyway the car was not that badly damaged and the fire engine not at all.

A quick trip into the bank with my beloved all attentive in a touching way. A cheque paid in and off we went to the scrap yard.

Getting a rear light out of a xantia estate is not that complex. You open the tailgate, well unless the car is in a scrap yard and you can't open it in which case you open the back doors unless of course it's in a scrap yard and the door cannot be opened in which case you climb from the front seat over the back seat form there you get into the back of the car and using the skills of a professional contortionist you pull the trim apart at the back of the car and reach in to the nut that you cannot see and with lots of force undo the light unit.

That completed and you will be able to repeat your complicated contortions out of the car and rejoin the management outside of the car. This being the bleakest midwinter the heater motor in the Xantia has decided that now would be a good time to die. Filling the car with brutal electrical cremation smells.

I did think of going back to get the heater motor then thought better of it...

Naturally, the heater on the IVECO did not want the Citroen to feel lonely.


The path of true love.

It is great to be loved.

To bask in the warm affection of your familly

The love of those around you.

It is also great to have a cheque made out in your favour for several thousand pounds.

I am not at all suggesting that those two events are linked.