Thursday 29 April 2010

Normal room service has been restored

Hurray my life is back to normal and so is my temper. Such a lovely day yesterday, the sun was shining and I threw open the windows in the guest bedroom to turn it back to my kind of place.The cousins insist on bringing their own (polyester floral) sheets and pillowcases, their own towels and their own electric blanket, the latter possibly because we don't have one but they put it on the bed throughout the year. I restored my own linen, hoovered and dusted the room and cleaned the bathroom (yes they also provide their own toilet rolls). The guest rooms may be ready for guests again but it doesn't mean I want any for a while. It's been an absolute joy having the house to myself and I've fallen in love with my home again. Maybe you need some rubbish time to make you realise how fortunate you are, I'm certainly appreciating having space and time to myself. I ate lunch in the garden, hung out washing, pottered in the greenhouse, visited some blogs, just relished being at home. In the evening I baked rock buns to fill the cake tin, finished off the chicken in a pie with some mushrooms, did some calming knitting and felt absolutely bloomin amazingly happy, as happy as I do when I'm in Italy wearing my flip flops.
Thank you all for your comments, it's reassuring to know that I'm not the only one with family that deserve an anti social behaviour order. As they say, you can pick your friends, you can pick your nose but you can't pick your relatives.

Monday 26 April 2010

House guests from hell

I haven't posted for a week now, been too busy biting my lip. I'm not sure I should be writing this at all but I need to get things off my chest so I will.
As you know we didn't get to Italy as planned but our elderly relatives, who are actually my late parents' cousins, I'll just call them cousins for simplicity, came up from Yorkshire to house sit for us. They hung around whilst we re-arranged and re-re-arranged our flights finally cancelling the holiday altogether last Wednesday. We weren't sure what the cousins planned to do, we should probably have asked, but it seemed a bit churlish to suggest they just go home as we didn't need them and it transpired that they intended to stay with us for the whole 2 weeks. Lucky for us they received a phone call late last week asking them to attend a meeting tomorrow so they left this morning. They've been visiting Scotland for many years and when we needed someone to look after our elderly cats it seemed a good idea to let them use our house in return for some (albeit very slapdash) cat care. We continued letting them use the house when the cats died though I was beginning to find some of the things they did intrusive, examples
  • I had been encouraging moss to grown on the stone bird bath on the patio, I came back from one holiday to find it has been cleaned off
  • The white sand I had brought home from the beach at Sanibel Island off the coast of Florida which was on a pretty plate and topped by my collection of shells from the same place had been washed down the sink because 'it was only sand'. I was so upset I couldn't speak for the rest of the day
  • Every time we came home from a holiday I would find the house spotlessly clean, to the extent that full bottles of chemical cleaner had been purchased and used, despite my requests to use my own eco friendly products.
  • I came home once to find that all my everyday jewellery, beads, bracelets etc that sits on my dressing table had been put into washed out margarine cartons, in fact my whole dressing table had been tidied so that I couldn't find a thing

Anyway as I said, I lived with that, put everything back to normal and threw out the chemicals when our guests left. However, living with the same relatives for the past 10 days has left my nerves jangling. I may be over sensitive, I may be unreasonable but here are a few of the comments I've received from the woman

  • On arrival 'oh look how bare your garden is'. Excuse me, we live at 900' in the Scottish Borders and have just been through the worst winter ever, the alpine plants are glorious at the moment but you do need to get off your arse and look.
  • Speaking about her obscenely large and hideous collection of china ornaments 'I need someone sensible to dispose of them out when I've gone but you're not sensible'. Sensible enough to bin them madam
  • As we all sat at breakfast 'I've been knocking down some of your cobwebs but I see I've missed one there' Priceless.

My cousins always arrive with their own supply of preservative heavy cheap cakes, at least 8 boxes, their own shop bought jam rather than touch my homemade ones and an industrial sized vat of cheap spread because we use butter. I have in the past filled the cake tin for them before we've left on holiday only to return to find my baking untouched so I don't do that now. The woman was reluctant to eat any of the wholesome food I cooked, a vegetarian quiche was not sampled at all which I find insulting, and when I made a roast chicken dinner she would only have one small slice of breast meat (she doesn't eat stuffing or dark meat) and then plonked her own supply of cakes on the table and ate several.
It's a fine art to being a good house guest, in my experience it involves spending time away from your hosts so they have their space and providing plenty of wine, chocolates, intelligent conversation and periods of silence. I've been emailing my friend Pam over this time to release some of the pressure, this has been really helpful. Pam told me she has a three day rule, anyone can come and stay but after three days they have to leave. If I'd know that sooner I might have gone down to stay with Pam for three days as it is I just need to scream for quite a while and contemplate what the hell going to happen when we go to Italy later in the year.

Tuesday 20 April 2010

UK airspace remains closed

I have today finally given up hope of getting to Italy, even if the situation is resolved soon it would be the weekend at the earliest before we could travel and we are due to return next Wednesday 28. I'd rather add this time onto our summer holiday and spend longer in the house then, we already plan to take the car out in June.
We re-booked our Sunday flight to Monday, then our Monday flight to Wednesday but they have all been cancelled, we've also made three hire car bookings that we've had to cancel too. No great problem compared to the thousands of people still trying to get home. Mr FF is reluctant to admit defeat and concerned that if we don't fly we won't be able to reclaim the money for our return flight next week, which we've already checked in for. I'm of the opinion that getting to Italy is no guarantee of getting back so I'm staying here and Mr FF started work again on Monday so he's not using up holiday allowance.I have finally taken everything out of my half packed suitcase, its now as empty as the airport terminal and I've put my flip flops away for the time being, sad but just the way things happen.

Saturday 17 April 2010

It's all up in the air

Do you know the joke about the boy who has to complete a rites of passage ceremony to prove himself a man, its an old one but still makes me laugh. He has to perform two tasks, to kill a grizzly bear and make love to a virgin. Off he goes into the wood and comes back some time later totally dishevelled, bruised and bleeding 'done that' he says ' now where's this virgin you want killing?' Its been a bit like that for me this week, getting ready to go away, planting seeds, potting on, weeding, doing the laundry, planning a small carry on case of clothes to last ten days, selecting suitable sock knitting and reading plus sanding down the balcony handrail to allow the wood to dry out before re-varnishing. And possibly all in vain because since Thursday all flights in and out of Scotland have been cancelled due to ash in the atmosphere from an erupting volcano in Iceland. We were due to fly to Rome at 6.30 am on Sunday, currently Ryanair say all flights are cancelled until mid day Monday though strangely they have allowed us to re-book our Sunday flight to the Monday 6 am one.
We had planned to fly to Rome and drive to Tuscany to spend a couple of days with our friends there, the husband is already in Italy and the wife was to fly out this morning from Edinburgh to Pisa. She has re-booked to fly to Rome with us on Monday so we can all drive to Tuscany. I can't see it happening but Mr FF is optimistic and I'd like to be proved wrong. His first reaction yesterday when we heard that our Sunday flight was off was that we should drive the 7 or 8 hours down to Dover today, catch a ferry and drive the 2 days to Tuscany, but the girls weren't up for that.
Anyway, at least I finished the little cardy to take to Italy for new baby Lara and fortunately it's size up to 12 months, just as well as she could be considerably older by the time we see her. The garden is looking great, we have family coming up from Yorkshire today who would have house sat but may find themselves spending time with us instead. At least we are not stranded in some airport, many people have been trying to get home since Thursday and apparently received no help at all from the airlines. On the downside the weather has turned cooler and there is some snow forecast, just goes to show that you can't do anything about nature. Now where's this volcano you want me to cap?

Sunday 11 April 2010

We've had a blast

After weeks and weeks sitting on my bum looking at the snow and wondering when I could get cracking with some serious gardening the weather has finally picked up and it's been all hell and no notion this last week. Suddenly the daffodils are out, buds are popping everywhere and the early flowering rhododendron that we bought last year to have a bit of colour in January has finally bloomed.
I knew it was getting serious when Mr FF got out his mighty power washer. First he hosed down the garden furniture, which looks lovely and is waiting for an application of oil.Then he started on the greenhouse. He had to take some of the roof glass out of the lean to structure so he could reach up to re-fix the gutters that came down early in the year - yes I know that was a long time ago but I find the more I ask him to do the less he does so I've been waiting patiently for the repair. He then decided to give the windows a good power wash, inside and out, which has made a huge difference to the light levels though I did think he should have done a frog risk assessment first. I was in there today and saw at least three so no harm done they have been neither deafened nor washed away. Then he decided he might as well put some preservative on the wood so this will be the second night that there has been glass missing from the greenhouse roof. Fortunately the weather is so good I'm not worried about my seedlings, though I did throw some horticultural fleece over them just in case.
I still need to plant my potatoes and the broad beans, both of which must be done this week because we are off to Italy next Sunday for 10 days. First visit this year and just at a time when the good weather finally gets to Scotland. So busy busy this week getting as much done outdoors as I can possibly manage, plus I'm knitting a little cardy to take with me. The Italian neighbours, who look after our house, have a new granddaughter, Lara, she was born in February and its beyond me why I've waited till now to start something for her. As I said all hell and no notion.

Tuesday 6 April 2010

Wildlife and me

I like feeding the birds, I know I have to be careful with hygiene both from my own and the birds' point of view and I once visited an organic garden that had lots of information about why we shouldn't feed the birds at all, but I do. In exchange for a supply of food I like to think the birds help keep down the slugs, snails and aphids thus helping with my organic cause. I've had plenty of the usual small garden birds this winter, robins, tits, finches, sparrows, blackbirds etc as well as the woodpeckers that I like so much and they've all been very welcome. Because it's been such a hard winter, I've also been visited by the sparrowhawk, who I think might have been more interested in the little birds than my supply of nuts and seed. I hope you can see him here perched behind the green feeder. One day a buzzard came into the garden, now that was worrying, fortunately he didn't stay long. Quite a few pheasants call by, they are beautiful birds but they do cause damage in the garden, particularly pulling out newly planted seedlings. Then there are the really unwelcome visitors that hoover up under the feeders.I could do without this little guy in my garden, I'm blaming him for the crocus and bluebells that were beheaded before they had a chance to flower. I've also noticed that mice seems to have been collecting bird seed and storing it in the greenhouse, there was quite a pile in there. Finally there are the grey squirrels. I don't mind them taking a few nuts but I do object to the way they either chew through plastic feeders or demolish wire ones, they seem able to unpick the mesh to make a way in. Last week I bought two seriously squirrel proof feeders, I'd been putting this off because I don't like the look of the ones with big cages round them and I thought only the little birds would be able to get access but needs must. After a display of acrobatics and frustration trying to get into the new feeders, this squirrel resigned himself to clambering onto the bird table where he did clear up a lot of the seed that the birds leave. I think I'll let him get away with that unless he starts to demolish the table.