Sunday, 31 March 2019

A Break From The Drudgery

By Thursday of my week off, I'd decided that cleaning the house was becoming a bit of a chore.  On the morning dog walk I took the dog over to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for a change of scenery. It means a very short car journey, but I utilise a free car park on the other side of Hackney Marshes and it's not a long walk from there.

We sauntered across at a leisurely pace, it's always pretty quiet during the week, save for the summer holidays when there are families everywhere enjoying the children's play park and picnicking on the grass.

When we got to the Timber Lodge Café, I did something that I never do on dog walks, usually because I don't normally have any money on me, I went in and got myself  a hot chocolate and a croissant that I then shared with the dog.  It was pricey, of course, but I figured that I was holiday from work, the sun was shining and why shouldn't we have a treat. 

We sat outside the café with a view of the infamous Mittal's Orbit which is an enormous helter skelter type ride.  We went on it last summer, when some family visitors came to London and we met them in the park. It was one of the scariest things I've done, as it is very high, but was an interesting experience.

On the walk back to the car, I couldn't resist a walk up the hill to the Olympic rings. Below also seen with the beautiful velodrome in the background. OH spends at least a couple of nights a week here on the inside or outside track.

Just as we'd gone past I saw a coach load of French students run excitedly up to the rings and gather round for a group photograph.

It got me thinking what a positive legacy the Olympic village has become for East London.  Not everyone may agree, but from our own personal experience of it, it has vastly improved the facilities for people living in this part of the capital.  We feel quite proud to have it on our doorstep and for it to be such a success, which can't be said of some Olympic villages over history.

I didn't actually get  home and get cleaning until gone 2 on this occasion, as I followed up the walk with a visit to a nearby ASDA and Poundland.  Having spent £37, it was home for lunch before I could begin the day's spring cleaning work, but it had been a nice morning of self indulgence and running errands to keep us in everything we needed for the rest of the week.

Thursday, 28 March 2019

The Spring Clean Begins

A couple more days into my week off and I've well and truly got started with Spring Cleaning the house.  I have to admit that on Tuesday, I didn't really know where to start.  I pottered around a bit to begin with, pickling some beetroot I'd harvested from the allotment and doing the washing up, before deciding to get properly stuck into cleaning the kitchen.  This is probably the most used room and it's a room I spend a lot of time in, so when it gets dirty, it really does bother me. I watched a few YouTube videos as I cleaned, as it always keeps me from getting too bored.

All of the kitchen cabinet fronts got cleaned and I cleaned inside most of the drawers and cupboards.  I didn't take everything out of every cupboard, as the insides weren't actually all that dirty, I just cleaned the fronts of the shelves where they seem to get the dirtiest.  I know this is a bit of a cheat, but it's one I can live with.  With so much else to do in the house, I had to prioritise what was essential and what wasn't.

All the worktops were cleared and cleaned down and I tried to thin things out a little, as over time stuff accumulates and needs dispersing again. I always love it when I eventually get around to vacuuming and mopping the floor, as this is always the most obviously dirty bit of the room. I don't think I've tackled the kitchen thoroughly since before Christmas, so it felt good to get on top of it again. Everything feels a lot more hygienic now.

On Wednesday, I got an earlier start and continued up through the house, tackling the downstairs vestibule, toilet, hall and stairs.  This at least means that the house looks clean when you come in the front door, which it hasn't in at least a month. Now the weather has turned warmer, it shouldn't get quite so dirty, but with a dog and OH's bikes coming in and out, it doesn't ever stay clean for very long.

I spent the afternoon ironing and watching a new series I've found on Netflix about a jazz bar in Brazil.  It's quite interesting. I can't quite remember the name as I write this, but it helped me with the monotony of the ironing at least.

I needed to do it, because today I'm tackling the two reception rooms, one of which houses the laundry on a day to day basis, so I wanted to clear some of it out of the way to make life easier for myself.

Bit by bit, the house is getting cleaner.  I can't say I'm enjoying it, but sometimes these things just have to be done and now is as good a time as any. I'm going to break up the week with a trip to Poundland and ASDA today for a small top up food shop and a few very small bits that I need.  Not exactly a shopping trip, more a necessary distraction from the housework for an hour.

I'll post any further progress later in the week, when hopefully, I should have done most of the cleaning and can finally breathe a sigh of relief.

Tuesday, 26 March 2019

My First Allotment Visit of the Year

Monday afternoon, saw me visit the allotment for the first time this year.  OH had visited a few times and bless him, he'd dug half of it over before I'd even set foot on the plot.  This has saved me a lot aches and pains I can tell you, as digging always results in me aching all over, from muscles I never even knew I had.

We headed down to the plot in an attempt at getting it in some kind of order before OH went away for 5 days on his cycling trip, and before the inspections at the end of this month.  OH dug over the remaining half of the plot, whilst I transplanted some strawberry plants from containers on our decking at home, to their new permanent home on the plot.  I also had a couple more raspberry plants to put in, that I'd bought from Poundland.  I noticed that the existing ones had sent up a few new shoots, so in all we should have quite a few more plants this year.

After all the digging was finished, OH sowed our potato tubers and stacked up the soil to keep them well covered.  He sowed four different varieties, one early, and three main crop, one of which was made up of tubers we'd grown on the plot last year, so cost nothing.  The other three were also Poundland purchases. Last of the big spenders - not!

I watered in the fruit plants and felt very happy that the plot looked tidy and we'd made a start on cultivating it, which is what is required by the first inspection. I harvested some parsnips and beetroot, leaving some celeriac in situ, which hadn't fully grown yet. I will definitely be sowing more beetroot this year, as now that I have found a good way of pickling it, thanks to my friend, it saves me buying any for a large part of the year.

Other things we'll be growing this year will be tomatoes, cucumbers, sweetcorn, beans and lettuce.  I'll probably buy ready grown plants for the first three and sow seeds for the latter two.  We've decided that you get better results this way, as the plants are well established and don't get so spindly. I've not really got the patience for growing things from seed in the greenhouse these days, and my greenhouse is on it's last legs too, as the metal poles are starting to rust through, making it a bit unstable.  I may just take it down and do without one, as I don't  really need one any more.

Here's a couple of pictures from the plot as we left:

Monday, 25 March 2019

Space and Time to Just Be Me

Well, finally my week off came around.  I finished work on Friday and I have 8 glorious work free days ahead of me. It feels so good. It makes me realise that I really haven't been able to switch off for the whole of the last 3 months, but I'm certainly going to do it now.

The weekend didn't get off to the greatest start.  LB called from a friend's house at 1am on Saturday morning, where she was supposed to be having a sleepover.  She wanted to come home, as she couldn't sleep and had a full day's work ahead of her the next day, working on another Vintage Clothing Sale. I had to jump out of bed and drive round to pick her up. I didn't mind though, as I'm always happy to have her safely tucked up in bed at home.

While she was working on the Saturday, I suggested to OH that we go out for lunch and to visit a local garden centre.  I had a £10 voucher to spend, that I'd won as a prize for having the Best Newcomer plot on our allotment site last year. The garden centre itself was lovely, if a bit pricey, and I came away spending an extra £18 or so, which was okay, as I hardly ever spend money on the garden. I bought these lovely euphorbias and primulas, but I'm not sure yet exactly where I'm putting them.

The problems started when we went for lunch.  All of the cafes tend to be busy on a Saturday morning, but we stumbled upon a small café and ordered our food.  Forty minutes later, I was still waiting for my bacon and egg sandwich. (Nothing fancy!) OH had eaten his sandwich and we'd already consumed a small green smoothie given to us to placate us on account of the wait.  OH was starting to get really agitated, as he hates bad service and had things he needed to do when we got home. Eventually, my sandwich came, with an extra egg in it.  (I'd much rather it had come 10 minutes earlier minus the egg). I then had to listen to the two guys in the kitchen arguing with each other.

On leaving the café, we decided to visit a nearby Poundland, to get some potato tubers for the allotment. I set off walking with the dog, but completely lost my bearings.  I asked a cyclist, who then tried to send me in completely the wrong direction.  Luckily, I saw OH in the car take a different turning and found the correct route, but I could easily have followed the stranger's instructions.  I wondered if it was a genuine mistake. Call me suspicious, but people can be very strange sometimes.

Eventually, we got home and things got better.  I spent the afternoon in the garden pruning a few bushes that I never got around to pruning in the autumn. I planted up a basket that I bought from work with some herbs. It was a job I'd intended to do nearly a year ago now, but never got around to.  Here's a picture:

I just need a couple more herb plants to fill it, possibly some sage and chives.

On Sunday, I was up and out with dog and then to the gym for the first time in about two months.  The studio refurbishment was finally finished, although it is now all painted in dark grey and black, and takes a while for your eyes to adjust to. The class was good though and an ankle niggle I had the week before seemed to have resolved itself.

The rest of Sunday was completely leisurely.  I compiled a new music playlist for the shop (and for my own personal use), caught up on YouTube, blog reading, etc. and then caught the first episode of the new series of Victoria on TV.

This morning, I was back at the gym again for Zumba, but with no food shopping to do, as I'd done it the day before, I could come straight home and chill.

It's been a slow start to my week off, but that's all good, because I want to savour it and completely relax this time around.  OH heads off on his cycling holiday tomorrow morning and then I'll start work on cleaning the house.  It's always so much easier when everyone is out.

I'm perfectly happy to just stay close to home, to not have to deal with people and to take care of the things I own. I don't feel the need to go shopping or buy more stuff with the money I've actually got left over this month.  I just want to stay put and enjoy what I already have. I'm working my way through my to do list and if I get everything on it done, I'll be a very happy bunny.

Sunday, 17 March 2019

Just When You Think......

Just when you think things are going to improve a little, doesn't life sometimes throw you a curved ball?  It certainly did this week. The shop got broken into, and of course, it was the night before my shift, so I had the job of cleaning up and getting the police in, etc.

Due to the actions of the thieves, we had no internet or phone line for a while and had difficulties with the till, too. We battled on though and got through the week without losing too much money (save for the items stolen) and things are back to normal now for my fellow manager returning to work this week after his week off.

As a consequence, it's been a tough week, and I've hardly got much stockroom work done at all, what with the above and the recruitment.  I've still got quite a lot of recruitment work to do, but at least I've stopped advertising now, so it's not still coming in at the same rate. I'm hoping to get as many volunteers inducted as possible by the end of this week, as I then have a week off and I'm not going into the shop that week, come hell or high water, as I need a total break from work to maintain my sanity.

In other news, I had an email from the Allotment Society this week laying down very firm guidelines for maintaining plots this year.  They are going to come down hard on people not tending their plots properly and there are quite a few people who don't do this on our particular site. OH and I are always grumbling to each other about the lack of effort by some of the other plot holders.  They just seem to want to hog their plots, but not actually cultivate them properly.  They plant things and then don't harvest them and the fruit/vegetables just rot in situ, which is a total waste and isn't really fair, when there are over 100 people on the waiting list. Maybe it will give certain plot holders a kick up the backside and make them appreciate how priviledged they actually are.

Living so close to our current plot, this isn't really too much of a problem for us, as we can drop in on dog walks and do a little bit here and there.  In fact, OH has already started digging the plot over and digging in the manure he spread on it a few weeks ago.  Bless him.

I didn't make it there last week, as the ground was just too wet all week, but I'm thinking of going today at some point.  I did manage to sow some salad seeds into one of the garden beds here though, which was progress.

Today, is sunny and bright, but the ground is still quite wet after rain last night, so I might have to just check out the situation on this morning's dog walk before I make a decision about doing anything today.

I'm having a very lazy day today.  OH has gone off to a cycling event with the car, so I've not booked to go to the gym, and besides after working yesterday, I don't have much energy for it. Instead, I'm going to have a leisurely walk with the dog, pop up to the Co-op to do a top up food shop until I can do my proper shop tomorrow and then just chill.

I have fallen into the habit of falling asleep on the sofa at the moment.  It seems the minute I lay down on it, I fall asleep these days and often can't raise myself to take myself off to bed.  This was the case last night, so I feel a little groggy this morning, although I had a great night's sleep.

I've got a bit of a cold at the moment too, which has now gone to my chest, so if I can fall asleep anywhere without coughing and spluttering, I'm lucky and go with it.

We took the dog to a new vetinary surgery this week for her vaccinations. One of surgeries we use got bought out by another company and the location moved further away, but with a voucher for half price vaccinations we decided to move with it and get them done.  The vet was lovely, but our dog was not happy having the thermometer stuck up her bum.  She does make me laugh.  She hates vets, especially the one who took all her teeth out.  Needless to say, she won't be seeing him again if we have anything to do with it. So, that was another job ticked off the list.

LB took a day off school this week to go to the Climate Change march in Central London with some friends. I haven't responded to texts and emails from the school about her whereabouts, as I don't want to lie and I don't know how they'll feel about her going. She didn't have any lessons that day anyway, as she's just finished another round of mocks, so we gave her permission to go on this occasion, as it is an educational experience and it is her generation's future that is at stake, so why not let them have their say.

As the Brexit debacle rumbles on, I'm just bored of it all now and have completely lost interest. Let's see what another week brings.

Thursday, 7 March 2019

Enjoying A Day At Home

Today, I'm on the first of a couple of days off work and I'm thoroughly enjoying being at home pottering about.

It's been a tough week, as I am in the middle of  a volunteer recruitment campaign at work.  Our numbers dwindled so much ,that we got to a very critical point and it had to be done with bells on.

Anyway, the last two days I've had a dozen candidates coming in to chat about the volunteer roles we offer in the shop and to be honest, it's been exhausting.  I'm sick of hearing my own voice.  It's very intense and in between candidates, I'm trying to get some work done in the stock room.

Having said this, I think by the end of next week, we'll have a lot more volunteers working with us, which is a relief, so it's been worth it. From now on, it's just got to be an ongoing task that doesn't get overlooked.  We just got into a downward spiral of being so busy, because we were short of volunteers, and then not having the time to recruit, so we've been forced to do it and it has been successful, although very hard work.

We have had lots of lovely young and older applicants, but not all of them become volunteers sadly. Many must get put off or maybe aren't serious in the first place.  Many don't even turn up at the arranged time which is annoying, but sometimes a relief. In fact, I'm not sure how long the recruited volunteers will stay with us either, some stay for a few weeks, some for a few months to even a year, but we've got to keep going. After an intense month of  recruitment, I'm going to give myself a 2 week respite shortly and just tackle the applications I have already received.

In other work news, our returning Manager will be working with me on Sunday, when he officially returns to our shop.  I'm looking forward to working with him, as I haven't done so properly yet, save for one day way back when I began in my current post.

Work covered, today I'm having a stay at home day. I took the dog out this morning and it was lovely sunshine and blue skies.  A bit windy, but I'd call it bracing and fresh.  It's now a bit cloudier and looking like it might rain, so being at home is probably the best place to be.  I'm catching up on paperwork, banking, laundry, etc. and doing my best to unwind and just chill.

I read on the web today that the Queen (aka The Royal Family) has started her own Instagram account (well, her assistants have, I suspect), so I am now officially one of her 4.6 million followers. It's interesting to see who she follows i.e GB Hockey, the Royal Navy, the Duke of Edinburgh Awards, etc.  It's all a bit of fun and good to see her getting involved. If anyone's seen her posts, doesn't she look fabulous in that orange outfit. Very stylish.

Talking of Instagram, and yes work again, I've taken charge the Instagram account for the shop, for the moment at least and I am trying to post regularly and increase followers.  I'm quite enjoying it.  If I take a couple of photos whilst I'm at work, I can post them when I'm on the bus on the way home, thus saving time doing it at work. It's good fun and gives me something to do on the journeys to and fro, plus keeps up the social media profile of the shop.

On my days off recently, I've been watching a programme on TV called 'The Best House in Town', where a panel of residents visit three houses/apartments, etc. in their own town and then they all vote on which was the best house.  It's quite interesting and there's some lovely homes in it.  I find it quite compulsive watching when I'm not at work. In fact, I'll probably interrupt this post to watch today's episode.

My house, however, is currently a mess.  I'm now waiting until I have a week off at the end of this month to do a big blitz of it all.  OH is going away on a cycling holiday with some of his chums from the cycling club, so I'll have the place to myself during the day and can just get on with it. It will feel good to get it done and then I can really chill on my days off, knowing that I've got it under control again.

I'm itching to get to the allotment now.  It just needs a quick dig in of the manure.  There's not too much weeding to do, but it's a bit wet at the moment, so I don't want to go until it dries up a bit.  Maybe tomorrow if we don't get another downpour. I'll create a post if I do go. The dog is itching to get back there too, to sniff out any rats, cats, foxes, etc.

Anyway, I'm now back from watching 'The Best House in Town' and getting lost down a Netflix rabbit hole watching multiple half hour episodes of 'The Kindness Diaries'. A series about a British guy who travels the world on a vintage motor cycle with side car, relying on the kindness of strangers.  It was quite interesting to watch him cross the US and Europe meeting random* people who offer him shelter and food. It makes you feel like you want to be more generous in your everyday life, especially when we have so much in this country and many people have so little.

*I am always slightly suspicious when watching this type of programme, that the meetings are all random events, as television needs to be entertaining, but it was interesting nevertheless. Maybe I shouldn't be quite so cynical, as we ourselves have often benefitted from the much needed random kindness of strangers on our family travels.