Tuesday, 30 April 2013

My Wok Cradle and other necessities

Four or five years ago, before I got my new job, my pension and my insurance cheque, money was a bit tight and I thought, I don't need anything so what does it matter?  I can just afford to pay my bills, I have a decent social life, the car is still working, the central heating boiler is okay, I hate going on holiday, what more do I need?
Just after this Lakeland, who sell superior kitchen stuff, opened a shop nearby and I went in once and I thought 'who on earth buys all these things', who needs a special floor polisher and a cup cake maker and all these new bright shiny pans? All this has changed now that I have a few bob. I want everything.
I went to Lakeland this morning and my eyes were opened at all the wonderful goodies and they have put me on their mailing list. I had to buy a special drainer for the dishes because my new kitchen has exquisite wooden tops which must not have wet things or hot things or possibly anythings at all anywhere near them. I have turned into the kind of person who says,
'Don't put that down on there!'
Many years ago I bought a beautiful three piece suite for my sitting room in pale pink and a carpet in pink and white and after weeks of warning people not to drop anything on either I spilled half a bucket of red wine over the whole thing and I thought to myself, as we used to say in Tow Law,
'That'll learn yer!'
Perfectionists should keep themselves well short of money. Now I am haunted by the possibilities of my life descending into chaos because I care about things that I didn't used to. I can have my day ruined by a hot bottomed frying pan.
I want to go and buy a new car and woe betide anybody who puts a dent in it.
The source of all these problems was the wok cradle which came with my new cooker.
I said to Ian, the kitchen fitter,
'What on earth is that?'
and being very cool, as you are when you fit kitchens, he showed me how the wok cradle sat over the flame so that the wok could sit nicely in it and that is what my life has come down to - a wok cradle and a future where everything can go wrong.

Friday, 26 April 2013

The Magic of Kitchenworld in Durham

I came back from M&S today to find Ian, my lovely kitchen fitter, hoovering up the dust in the hall. I say 'my' because I have become a bit like this about the men of Kitchenworld in Durham. They were recommended by my most discerning friend. She's the kind of woman who is very scary if you don't know her and she would never recommend anybody who did not get things exactly right. In this mood, plus my insurance cheque, I went boldly up to the Arnison Centre where George runs Kitchenworld and employs wonderful professionals to help him. Smart guy, George.
The kitchen designer, David, gives you the impression that he has all afternoon to spend waffling around in your kitchen but beneath the polite exterior beats the heart of a real pro.  He had my kitchen sorted out in five minutes, he knew what I wanted, he dangled before my eyes the kitchen of my dreams. Yes, another smart guy.
Then came the army of professionals, Ian the perfectionist kitchen fitter, Jimmy, who has been plastering for twenty years and another perfectionist, Stuart who sorted out the gas for my lovely new cooker, the smashing guy whose name I don't know because he never hangs round long who carries the appliances in his huge van, Carl who did the flooring and the electrician, whose name I don't know because he sort of dashes in and out, whom I accused of mucking up the telly. I got Jimmy to go in and look at the telly the following day and typical of a bloke, he got hold of a piece of wire and back on it came. Why can't I do that?
Dave, the painter, is coming on Monday morning and soon after that the whole thing will be over. I have enjoyed it. I did get rather tired of ready meals and may never eat instant porridge again but I'm definitely going to get them to come back and sort out the bathroom and possibly the bedrooms when I have some more money. Must work harder!

Monday, 22 April 2013

Between books

Last week I had a new kitchen fitted. Actually it's still being fitted and may still be being fitted next week. It has become the norm. It's worked in quite well as I finished the rewrite of my second novel for Quercus books on the Monday when the kitchen fitter arrived to be followed the next day by the plasterer and then after that by the plumber, the electrician and the guy with the big van who brings the appliances and the cupboards.
I deliberately planned it this way. I did not plan to have a nasty bug which is now in its fourth week. Nor did I plan to have the weather so bloody cold that I have all the stuff which should be at the caravan downstairs in my house, getting in the way of all the stuff which I emptied out of the kitchen into the dining room and sitting room.
Howard came to sort out the garden and today we finally got a guy from British Gas to mend the boiler. The kitchen fitter discovered what was wrong with it. What talents people have.
Now I'm fussing. I didn't realize that this was what I did. My daughter says it's because I have nothing to do. That isn't true, I am hard at work on my third novel but she's right in a sense. I spent two days going back and forth to Homebase trying to decide which colour between cream and grey ( the cupboards are cream, the floor is grey and the stove, microwave and enormous American fridge are black ) would go on the walls. She did point out to me that since most of the walls are covered it isn't terribly important but since ( it was her idea) the little garden room beside the kitchen where I spent my evenings, writing, drinking wine and attempting to dash back into the kitchen before my culinary offering turns into a cremation, is now going to have the same flooring and wall colour I have turned into Kirsty Allsop and that Sarah woman who goes around sorting other people's houses out. I do appreciate that it is their job and they get paid for it. I don't appreciate that I am being ridiculous.
'You usually say that people who fuss on about their kitchens have nothing worth thinking about,' my daughter told me.
This is true. So what I need to do is get back to doing more writing and forget all about the kitchen. As my daughter said also, 'You'll  never use it anyway, so why worry.'
She's right. Never more so than now since I have spent ten days eating M&S food three times a day, the kind that has to be microwaved and am beginning to wonder why people ever bother cooking at all.
So here I am with a beautiful kitchen which I have spent thousands of pounds on whereas I would probably have been just as well off like those new flats in New York which apparently don't have a kitchen at all.

Saturday, 20 April 2013


Joan and Malcolm a week after their wedding at the tea party for Water Aid in the kitchen at my house

I don't have many men in my life. Being a single woman and sixty has an awful tendency to be like a convent. My life is filled with other women. Let me say now to my fantastic female friends, I love you all, I couldn't manage my life without you but I miss men.
Most of all at the moment I miss my friend, Malcolm who died a few weeks ago. Malcolm was big. He was six foot six and incredibly handsome. He had gorgeous blue eyes and a shock of hair and his skin tanned when it got half a chance. You could disappear into Malcolm's cuddles but best of all,  his wife Joan and I long since decided, that Malcolm really liked women. He was the same with everybody. To Malcolm everybody was a friend and everybody who knew him misses  him so much but I had a special relationship with Joan and Malcolm because we spent a lot of time together. Couples don't do this. They don't take you to concerts and ask you to go with them to outdoor versions of Shakespeare but even if Malcolm just saw you in the street or through the window of your favourite coffee shop he always came in and then you got to disappear into the warmth and generosity of the loveliest man I have ever met. I don't understand why God had to have Malcolm when we needed him so much.
I am very angry about it. God should have more respect than to take away such a big part of my life when I'm so bereft of men generally. When Malcolm was ill in hospital and the specialist came round to see him he said to Joan and me,
 'Are you his family?'
and she said,
'I'm his wife,'
and I said,
'I'm his girlfriend.'
I loved being the other woman in Malcolm Thurman's life and I daresay a lot of his women friends would say the same.
When my husband, Richard, died, it'll be twenty five years this summer, I remember one of his friends saying to me,
'I know you've lost a husband but I've lost a bloody good friend,' and that's how I feel now.
Malcolm Thurman was my bloody good friend and I miss him.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

The Woman who went to Bed for a Week

I recently read Sue Townsend's book about the woman who gave up and went to bed for a year and we've all felt like that but it took a woman of her calibre to write about it so compellingly. I didn't want to go to bed. Life is quite exciting at the moment and I want to get out there and make waves.  I am busy rewriting my novel, worrying and working and beavering there. I was away for a couple of days with my lovely daughter and she said,
'Why don't you come for Easter?'
Well, I had planned to work over the Easter weekend. It's not that I deserve a halo, it's just that bank holidays are one of my pet hates, having lived alone for so long it's boring at bank holidays and things were too frozen to go to my lovely caravan which saves me from such things. I also had my book on my conscience so I did try hard not to go to Cheshire. But in the end my daughter persuaded me by means of the kind of blackmail which included huge amounts of wonderful food, including roast lamb which is my favourite and visions of outings to places like The Chesire Smokehouse which is a lovely very posh little place - well, they are all posh in Cheshire but this is food par excellence or whatever you call it. We could go for walks at Dunham Massey and take photographs of the deer and I could have the lovely little bedroom in her gorgeous tiny house and - you get the picture.
Well, I didn't feel too hot on the Friday but on the Saturday I really wasn't very well. I had to go and give a presentation to the music society I belong to and I managed that but by Saturday night I knew I had cold but I didn't want to disappoint my kid so I duly got up on Sunday morning and drove to Cheshire. It was a lovely day.
I did get through most of the afternoon and then collapsed into bed, more or less and stayed there beyond three very small and unsuccessful outings during the next week.
Going downstairs was a huge adventure. Getting in the car made me feel sick because my ears were blocked up. I was wheezing and coughing in equal measure.
My daughter is the kind of woman who makes things. She made breakfast buns, and soup and dinners. I lay in bed and went on to Facebook and Twitter through my Kindle, read Kate Atkinson ( brilliant book, a mix of Downton Abbey and Sliding Doors only  better ) and then downloaded Comfort Reads, Ian Rankin. Thank God.
I finally decided I could get in the car and drive home on Saturday and the roads were empty, the sun was shining and I fell into my door four hours later. Since then I have been out only for necessities and am still coughing and blowing my nose.
Apparently half the area has this stupid bug. I only wish they had a lovely place like Cheshire to be ill. If I had been here in Durham alone I would have been a shadow of my former self by now, not being able to make a cup of tea or venture downstairs into the unknown for several days.
And as Edina said on Absolutely Fabulous, well she didn't quite say this but here goes 'If your children can't make you breakfast buns then what is the point in having them?'