Gardening at last

I should mention that Dave the Builder has gone away to France for a couple of weeks. For that reason, I’m going over to the house every day. Just to keep an eye on things and be on hand for any questions…or problems. So, this morning I had an early Skype call with mum and dad before heading over on the 9:30 bus.

At the moment, my office is a bit depressing. It’s being used as a store room for various bits of left luggage. Given there’s no shelving or cupboard space, everything is, basically, on the floor. I can just manage to get to my desk but, once there and settled, I quickly get discouraged by the surrounding mess. Needless to say, I don’t like spending much time in there. Once the rooms are finished upstairs, I can start tidying up but until then, I’m stuck with it.

This morning, after checking in with Lee the kitchen fitter and Clive and Robbie, I sat at my desk for a bit to write up the last blog posts before heading out into the garden. Actually, calling it a garden at the moment is a stretching the point somewhat: a wild, untamed thing, would be closer and more accurate. I figured out a good way to occupy myself at the house.

And so I spent most of the day clearing out weeds and grass from around bushes and gazebo legs, making it start to look the way it’s supposed to. It was very hot work, given the day was very hot and the sky completely free from clouds. Fortunately I had plenty of water, my crumpled Panama/Ecuadorian hat and some isolated pockets of shade. As long as the weather holds, this will be my task for the week – to rediscover the hidden treasures of our overgrown garden.

While I toiled gently away, Clive and Robbie were working steadily on the terrace, finishing the brick work and, finally laying the first section of hard core prior to stamping it down. They ran out by 3:30 so Robbie was sent off to buy more while Clive packed up for the day.

Lee the kitchen fitter made very good progress with the kitchen. It’s really starting to take shape. My two new cookers have been installed and the fridge in place, minus the doors. The worktops will not go on until they’ve been measured up then formed. This happens once the kitchen is complete.

The biggest surprise, however, was out the front of the house where the decorator had been extremely busy. After the back of the house was rendered, Mirinda decided the front should also be spruced up. We decided on masonry paint rather than the very expensive option of rendering the pebble dash away. In order to paint it effectively, our beautiful wisteria had to be chopped right down to the brick level of the house. While a bit sad, it does give us the chance to train it properly rather than have it going mad all over the house. As the decorator said, we’ll suddenly have quite a light lounge room.

As I said, he’d been very busy on his own, wielding ladder, roller and chopper. By the end of the day, the house almost glowed in the afternoon sun.

As for me and Day-z…we went for a walk, we spent some time reading under the gazebo, we ate lunch, we went back to Frensham. Oh, and we stopped off in a pub on the way for a lovely, cold pint of Peroni. Needless to say it wasn’t the Farnham House Hotel.

PS: The fridge freezer arrived safely at the suppliers in the afternoon…thanks, Al the Courier.

Kitchen installation

Mirinda and Bob dropped me off at the house at 8am this morning in time to meet the kitchen installer (Lee) as they headed into town. Mirinda was going to work while Bob was heading back to Greenwich.

I met Lee and showed him where everything was. We went over the plans and he set to work. Meanwhile the flooring guys arrived and laid a few more boards upstairs. Tim the electrical engineer, finished up a few bits and pieces (including earthing the cables to the pipes in the laundry, unlike the previous cowboy builders who decided this just wasn’t necessary) and Clive and Robbie continued working on the terrace.

We even had a flying visit from Paul the Brickie, who is presently working on another job but needed to pick something up. It was like meeting up with an old friend. He looked well and very tanned. He’s clearly run out of work shirts.

I spent most of the rest of the day working in the garden, answering questions from various tradesmen and typing up blog posts. Day-z spent most of it asleep though she quickly woke up when I suggested a walk in the park.

And what a grand idea that was. I haven’t been in the park for yonks and it all looked delightfully verdant in the summer heat. Dappled sunlight, full leafed trees, a tractor mowing the playing fields…it was all happening.

Summer

As I walked along the Avenue of Trees towards the castle, I noticed that one of the squeeze gates had been replaced with one of the hinged jobs that swing both ways, with a little section to stand in. They are an excellent form of cow control as well as providing an excellent automatic method of closing which some humans struggle with. A little further along the Avenue there was a crew of men pulling out another squeeze gate ahead of, I assume, installing another new one.

Brand spanking new

The park must have received some sort of funding for gate improvements. However it’s being funded, it’s a welcome change, particularly given the way the young cows managed to squeeze through the old ones earlier in the year.

On Sunday, I ordered another fridge freezer (from a different company, I hasten to add) but the order didn’t appear on my account. I noticed this halfway through the day but only had my phone to check, the Internet being long dead at the house. I was concerned that it hadn’t gone through, though the payment certainly had. I decided to head off to Frensham a bit earlier than I’d planned in order to call them about it.

It had also occurred to me that in order to get some supplies in the Orangery, I’d need to get to the village shop before closing time.

The funniest thing was how suddenly happy Day-z was when we left the bus at Frensham. Her tail was up and she pranced along in her jauntiest of manner. When we reached the cottage, she knew exactly where to go and happily stood waiting at the door as I found the key and let us in. She walked through all the rooms as if she’d come home after a long absence.

When we walked to the village shop, she happily led the way, knowing where to walk on the footpath and where to cross for the park. Extraordinary. It also highlighted how much she hadn’t liked Bishops Waltham. I think it mostly the lack of interesting smells. The field we walked around was fallow and, therefore, probably free from dog appeal.

So, we bought what we needed then headed back. Once the laptop was happily humming away, I logged on, brought up my order and rang them. No problem, the guy said, it would be delivered and installed on Thursday. What a pleasure to deal with someone who could think for himself rather than the awful robots they have at Appliances Direct. He even took me through the order to make sure it was correct.

The rest of the prevening was spent updating the blog and loading some photos onto Flickr.

When I took Day-z along the Bluebell Walk a little later, she was once more happy and contented, sniffing new scents and checking out the old haunts of rabbits and squirrels. I think she’s going to really miss Frensham when we finally leave. I’ve decided not to tell her.

Coffee beans

It’s beyond me why some people think it’s reasonable behaviour to listen to a downloaded Radio 4 programme on Fairtrade chocolate production without the aid of earplugs. Two chaps sitting in front of me on my unexpected train trip into London seemed obsessed with the minutiae of cocoa bean distribution from Kenyan farmers to Britain for use by such companies as Cadbury’s.

It seems there’s a fixed price for Fairtrade crops so the farmers will only trade with them. On the surface, this seems to defeat the name ‘fair trade’ but, as one of the chaps, loudly explained, it means the farmers get al the money rather than the government taking a big slice of it.

It’s important to note that I didn’t want to know any of this (as interesting as it possibly is) but had little choice given the volume of the smartphone it was running on. It was loud enough to give a Fairtrade chocolate education to everyone in the carriage (of which there were lots). When the pair, eventually, decided to move to a carriage nearer a toilet, my fellow sufferers breathed an almost audible sigh of relief.

The reason I was on a train to London was in order to wrap the damned fridge freezer from last week in an adequate covering of cardboard. After the fiasco that was my dealings with the awful Appliances Direct, it came to pass that they wouldn’t pick up an item for return if it didn’t have it’s original packaging. Never mind that it was their guys who unpacked it and took the original packing away.

I managed to find a courier who would take it up north for a reasonable price but I needed to wrap it in order to ensure it’s safe journey and arrival. I had also ordered some corrugated cardboard, ‘fragile’ tape and some protective felt from a reliable company who said they’d deliver it to the concierge at the flats yesterday. Bob wasn’t convinced that it would arrive but I was in little doubt.

And Bob’s fears were totally unfounded. Sitting in the flat was a little white slip telling me there was a parcel for me and it was just a matter of collecting it. Which I did. I then spent a couple of hours, drenched in sweat, cutting and shaping and generally turning the fridge freezer into a big cardboard box with fragile taped all over it.

I stood back, admired me work with pleasure then had a shower. It was a long trip with a hot and bothered job to perform but it was rather nice to have the shackles of Day-z removed for a day. It was also pleasant visiting London for the first time in ages.

The visit, however, was all too soon over and I was quickly on the train back to Farnham where Mirinda, Bob and Day-z met me at the station. They had been over to see Waverley Abbey (our wonderful Cistercian ruin) and the chapel at Compton. And it seems that Bob really doesn’t like abbeys very much. (Perhaps one bit him as a small child.) Even ruined ones. He didn’t mind the chapel.

Back at the hotel we had a short ‘quiet time’ in which I snoozed on the bed, before meeting in the bar for an evening drink. It was here that we were served by one of the worst hotel staff members I think I’ve ever come across (I’m ignoring the guy in Marrakech because he was in a league of his own).

The bar at the Farnham House Hotel specialises in tasteless beer. It’s all lager (apart from a lone John Smith’s pump which I won’t have because of an ongoing spat I have with them) of the worst kind.

When it comes to having a cold beer on a hot day, I rather enjoy a Peroni. It’s Italian, refreshing and has a pleasant flavour. Though, to be fair, I like most European lagers as long as they’re cold. The beers I don’t like much (mainly because they’re tasteless, making them pointless) are Becks, Heineken, Budweiser and Fosters. These are four of the most successful breweries in the world. It goes to show what a big advertising budget can achieve.

As I said to Mirinda, it’s amazing how human beings can be so easily duped. Tasteless food like Macdonalds and equally tasteless beer are the most successful. Talk about selling rubbish to idiots. We sometimes look at the Chinese and think they’re slaves to the state, doing whatever they’re told while we, in the free west, are convinced tasteless food and drink are the best thing since tastebuds evolved. Very odd.

Anyway, Mirinda mistakenly asked the barman for a Peroni. He suddenly went off on one saying they had never sold Peroni and never would sell Peroni. This was very odd behaviour. All that was required was a simple “I’m sorry, we don’t have any.” And while I wondered why he had such a problem with Italian beer when he sold German, Dutch Australian and American, I really didn’t want him to go off again. I had a Budweiser.

He then listened in to our conversation, interjecting unwanted information along the way. I mean he was on the other side of the room! Even so, he decided to tell us that the Farnborough Airshow was on this weekend, that we could catch a train into London tomorrow morning at 8:58 and how to get to Greenwich (“I’m a Brixton Boy,” he proudly told us).

His inappropriateness resumed as he bought our food out to the garden with stupid observations and suggestions. He even made a snide comment about the three pots needed for coffee, herbal tea and normal tea we ordered. While the hotel was very comfortable and the food was good, this guy has definitely put me off ever staying there again. Mind you, it was very handy for Day-z.

We didn’t let him put us off our last night, though and we sank back on the bed, for our final night.

The daring young men…and women

The main reason Bob had decided to come to Britain at the height of summer was in order to attend the world famous Farnborough Airshow. It’s only held every two years and is just a few miles up the road from us. We’ve never been but had been reliably informed (by the Cansfields) that it is well worth the risk of traffic and queues.

Bob had bought Platinum tickets back in Australia and we’ve just been waiting for the day to arrive…which it did today.

Of course, as usual, Day-z was the problem but I’d fixed that by finding a lovely lady over near Hankley who took dogs for the day. I’d tried our usual outlets but they were all busy but Karon came up trumps and we duly deposited our bundle of poodle love before heading for the show.

Firstly, I have to say how wonderfully organised the whole thing is. There are heaps of signs to point attendees in the right direction with entreaties to turn off satnavs. What a brilliant idea that was. Poor Linda would not have coped. And though the traffic leading into the car parks was pretty heavy, we were soon parked and happily walking over to the entrance, tickets grasped firmly in our hands.

Secondly, the airshow itself was AMAZING! Afterwards we discussed the highlights. For me they were, in no particular order:

The Breitling wing walkers. Four incredible women who do all sorts of acrobatic things on top of the wings of four bi-planes. And, while they were firmly held in harnesses, two of them unhitched themselves and climbed down into the open cockpit before landing. Very brave with expert balance.

The little figures on top are the women

The massive, triangular Vulcan bomber which seemed to defy all known laws of gravity as it swooped and swam in the air. A beautiful, if somewhat bulky, plane. She ran the longest bombing raid in history when, during the Falklands War, she flew from Britain, fully loaded with 21 1,000 pound bombs, dropped them on the airfield there and flew back. Non-stop. She had to be refuelled, in the air, 18 times.

The enormous airbus 380 which performed slow, looping turns so slow it appeared to just hang in the air. Given it weighs 1,200,000lbs (560,000kg), it’s extraordinary that it can actually get off the ground at all. A thing of beauty.

Posing in front of one of the Rolls Royce engines

Of course, the Red Arrows were amazing and spectacular as were the other aeronautic display teams but, possibly the best display was by the Great War Display Team. We saw an incredible recreation of dogfights, giving us the merest glimpse of what it would have looked like for the soldiers in the trenches as the war was fought overhead.

Tri-planes, bi-planes and Junkers buzzed around, trying to get behind each other in order to shoot the enemy down. It was extraordinary to watch, made all the more emotional with songs and sounds of gunfire. A great testament to early pilots and a reminder that 2014 is the centenary of the start of the war to end all wars…that didn’t.

And who could possibly forget the amazing helicopter acrobatics. You wouldn’t believe it was possible for a big Lynx chopper to do airborne tricks but it did. We saw it!

The commentators, too, need a lot of praise. They kept up a wonderful, almost non-stop accompaniment to the aviation skills. It all sounded a bit Test Match Special with the main guy (a commercial pilot) having the same qualities as Jonathon Agnew. They also told us what we were seeing and hearing, including the impressive, never to be forgotten, Vulcan Howl, when it happened.

But, really, the whole thing was just wonderful. Even the static displays, enhanced by Bob’s expert knowledge of each and every plane we studied on the ground. He really knows an awful lot about planes.

Enjoying the show

It would be awfully remiss of me not to mention the DeLorean, kitted out exactly like the car in Back to the Future. A surprise, and I’m still not sure why.

Where’s Marty McFly?

To top the day off, perfectly, Karon reliably informed us that Day-z had been a perfect poodle. She’d been for two walks and managed to get n with all the other dogs. I think she’s like one of those kids who are terrible with their parents but absolute angels in day care.

Red Arrows, signing off

Combined combine harvesters

So, finally we get to leave the wearisome Bishops Waltham. Carol (our friendly taxi lady) picked me up at 10 and we headed back to the house.

It’s been a dull week, punctuated by dull walks around the dull reserve. Even Day-z was unimpressed with the walks on offer. Still, it all ended this morning so I shall not dwell on the overwhelming dullness of it all.

Last week I had a call from Optiplan to say the kitchen would be delivered today. The driver would call me half an hour before they arrived at the house. I’d told the woman on the phone that I wouldn’t be there before 11 (at the earliest) and she assured me that she would let the driver know. She put us as the second of two drops.

My phone rang just before 9:30 to say they were half an hour away. I explained I wouldn’t be there until 11 (at the earliest) and he seemed fine with that. He had to wait for me because I had to give him a cheque.

So, Carol arrived (just after the gardeners who tidied up the back of the cottage), we packed up the van, and headed for home. We hadn’t driven very far when we hit road works at a roundabout. Carol was tempted to drive through the red light but, unfortunately, decided not to. This allowed two huge combine harvesters to get ahead of us.

Ordinarily, the trip back to Farnham should take just less than an hour. When you’re stuck behind two very slow combine harvesters with nowhere to overtake, it takes considerably longer. We exchanged stories of Outback and Ice Road Truckers as we dawdled along various country lanes with no means of escape.

Eventually, and perhaps bored with my conversation about the Strezlecki Track, Carol turned off and headed towards Petersfield, hoping to head around and back. She reckoned it would take the same amount of time but she’d had enough of looking at the back of the yellow trucks.

We arrived at the house at about 11:30. The kitchen had been unloaded and the two guys were lounging around the cabin of their truck waiting for payment. They seemed cool, I paid then and they were off in a cloud of dust. (There’s a lot of dust in and around our house.)

It was easy to see the work that had been done since last Saturday. Mark had finished laying most of the tiles in the extension, which now played storeroom to the kitchen bits and pieces. He’d managed to grout the kitchen area ready for the fitter to start on Monday.

Day-z approves

Meanwhile Clive and Robbie were hard at it, forming up round sections leading from the terrace to the path with the Staffies. I thought it looked fantastic.

A beautiful curve

Upstairs, the flooring guys had finished the green room and most of the corridor and started working on the Pink and Blue rooms. The wood looks wonderful. So much better than Engineered Wood. The light oak looks beautiful. I do feel a bit sorry for all the work that Dennis did with the sanding and staining last year which is now underneath the new boards. Still…he’ll never know.

Light oak floor boards

Tim had finished fixing the new, whizz-bang lighting control panel and proudly showed off the zones he’d programmed so far. It feels a bit more complete when the lights work. Of course, the smartphone app won’t be operational until the Internet is reconnected but, even so, it looks fab.

It was very hot today and I felt for poor Clive (already short and thin) as he sweated buckets. Robbie is a big, burly chap so I’m sure it didn’t bother him. But, eventually, they packed up and left me to pack for our stay at the Farnham House Hotel and, finally, I waited for Mirinda and Bob.

We’ve never been to the Farnham House Hotel before. It’s just outside Farnham and is a popular wedding venue as well as a hotel. It has a restaurant and a bar and allows dogs. That works for us. We settled into our room (on the ground floor with easy access to the garden for Day-z) then went and had a pre-dinner drink in the bar before eating in the garden.

Bob regaled us with his various adventures. Some were good; most were bad. Particularly the long, sunny wait for the ferry having been told the next two were full.

My Story of Joan

As promised…

Travelling through France and visiting churches (as I do very often) one comes across a lot of statues of St Joan, the Maid of Orléans. Like rampant St George in English churches, she looks at you, shield in one hand, impossibly huge sword in the other and encased in form fitting armour that would make a young Madonna jealous.

In fact, it’s interesting that this cult of Joan has often depicted her as a sexy, Xena-like warrior saint…or a pretty, dream-like warrior waif, eyes heavenward, looking for all the world like an angel waiting for her bus home.

“How long before the number 3?”

In truth (though there’s only one actual sketch of her and it’s execution is pretty woeful – I saw it at Chinon and it does no-one any favours) she was supposed to be a bit dumpy, remarkably plain and extremely simple.

She was also supposed to be a virgin. This was proven by a bunch of Catholic leaders in a closed meeting with her. I have no idea how they proved it, given she’d ridden horses all over France by this stage and seen quite a bit of fighting action. I’m no gynaecologist but I reckon that would skew any chances of visual proof of virginity.

So, the story goes that Joan emerged to spot the Dauphin, Charles VII in a crowd, led his armies against the English and wound up on a stake. If you want to believe the superstition (and many millions do) she was told by god to go and kill lots of people so that France could be ruled by the Dauphin rather than the English king…clearly something god wanted for reasons of his own, something he does a lot of.

I kill in the name of god!

However, I think it went a little differently…

In a nutshell…The Dauphin, either alone or (more likely) in league with a secret band of political fellows, planned the whole thing. He wanted dominion of France; believed it was his right to have it. He needed a cunning plan and he either thought of one himself or (more likely) a very clever person close to him did. That plan became the Cult of Joan.

Secret agents were sent out to find an effective symbol for the French to unite behind. They found Mad Joan, a simple milkmaid with a split personality problem and voices in her head that she figured must be divine.

The agents convinced Mad Joan that the voices she heard were from god, not that she took much convincing, and she was soon out and about telling the world at large how god thought France was the greatest thing since Sancerre and a lovely slice of liverot. She, like all other god fearing people of the time did not explain why this god seemed to hate any other kind of Christian though. Possibly because it would weaken the central argument that they (being the Dauphin and his followers) wanted to rule France rather than have the English do it to them.

And, amazingly, it worked. The French armies saw nothing wrong with fighting under the command of a mere child of 17 who could snicker snack along with the best of them. And poor Mad Joan was really convinced that she was doing god’s mysterious work.

I’d just like to make a slight diversion here while on the subject of god’s mysterious work.

The whole Joan thing took place during an almighty power struggle between the French and the English in what became known as the Hundred Years War. The French wanted their country for themselves without being vassals to a foreign sovereignty while the English just wanted a much bigger slice of Europe for themselves. The solution for both was to gather together as many fellow countrymen together as they could and try and kill as many of their opponents as possible.

I fail to see anything ‘godlike’ or, dare I say it, Christian in either aim. After all, both sides believed in the same god; they prayed to him constantly (or so we’re told), built massive structures proclaiming his goodness and wisdom over everything and everyone and yet they each fought in his name. Surely that’s wrong.

Mind you, I don’t understand why the different branches of Islam keep trying to kill each other either and that’s happening constantly all over the world, so I guess it’s just me. Oh, and god moving in his mysterious ways. Sounds like a right joker to me.

Anyway, back to Mad Joan as she ploughed her way through the rank and file of the English fighters. And she was pretty good at it too, from all accounts. Battle after battle she helped win, leading her men ever onward. She was so keen on total decimation, in fact, that during a temporary truce at one stage, she was bereft, kicking her heels impatiently, for a chance to return to the blood-letting and horrors of war.

Like a lot of war criminals, she was eventually brought to justice and in a court case reeking of religious mumbo jumbo to hide the fact that they were actually planning to emulate a poor, crazy teenager, she was sentenced and burnt at the stake. The reason given for her execution? Because she was wearing men’s clothing which went against biblical law. That was heresy…apparently.

Of course, Charles and his crew continued the fight, especially given he’d managed to become king, mostly because of the Joan Plan. The war went on for another 22 years, ending, in part, upon the accession of Henry VI in England. He was too young and not very good at it. His lack of leadership skills ended almost a century of pointless, bloody war.

And what of Joan? She had a posthumous retrial, and was found innocent in 1456. Didn’t do poor Mad Joan a lot of good though as she’d died in 1431 having been burnt three times to deter relic hunters and crazed monks.

So, a messenger of god’s will fighting in his name with the almost obligatory flaming sword of righteousness or a very cunning plan to put someone on a throne by killing lots of people. You decide.

Poor, lovely Joan

I have no idea whether anyone else has come up with this ground breaking theory before me and I apologise, most humbly, if they have. I’ve made it all up from things I’ve read and seen while in France this time.

Horrid, horrid day

There are some days, and I’m sure we’ve all had them, when all you want to do is run away and hide somewhere for about 30 million years. The sort of days when things just don’t go wrong but all seem to conspire against each other to go wrong at the same time. It’s a sort of snowball effect, as if the first problem has let all the other potential problems know that now is the time to strike. Well, that day was today.

And it couldn’t have started any earlier. I had set my alarm to wake me at 7am so I could wake Mirinda. She had a very important meeting to get to in North London and Bob was going to the flat first thing so it was pretty important. For reasons known only to the great Hypnos, I managed to turn off the alarm without waking and continued to sleep until 9:30.

I woke with a good long stretch before looking at the time, thinking I’d woken up an hour before I had to when I realised what had happened. I frantically scrabbled for my phone and rang the flat. No answer. This was the result for the next dozen times I tried as well. I texted Mirinda but didn’t get a reply. I had to assume she was, in fact, not talking to me (or writing) because of my lapse rather than head buried in a pillow somewhere.

I should have realised that this was an evil portent for the day to come. Not that I know what I could have done had I been forewarned. Drink, maybe. There’s always the half empty bottle of sherry sitting in the kitchen…and some pommeau in the fridge. But that’s all strictly academic because I don’t have the power to glimpse the future, no matter how rabid it might be.

For reasons that will become crystal clear, I’m going to call today the Day of the Great Fridge Disaster. When Mirinda returned to the flat on Sunday she discovered that the fridge was dead. The light still worked but the cold bit, the reason you have a fridge, wasn’t. Apparently the smell was quite rank. She called someone and they said they’d send someone the next day to have a look at it.

Long story short…a fridgie with barely a word of English, turned up and pronounced it dead from condenser failure. It would cost about £200 to fix. In his opinion we needed a new fridge. I was tasked with buying the new fridge. Which I did after a prolonged bout of Mirinda measuring the space it had to fit into (it’s in a cupboard with two doors). It was to be delivered today.

A brief pause while I state at this point that the website I ordered the fridge from had “installation provided” slapped all over the particular product I was ordering, complete with a graphic of crossed screwdrivers. I figured I’d have to select the install option when I reached the actual order section of the website. When I did, the items were the fridge, an option to have the old one taken away, one of those stupid money making extended warranty things and a bottle of expensive cleaning fluid. There was nothing about installation. The next screen was for payment. I figured the installation was part of the deal since nothing had indicated anything other than that. Oh, how wrong I was.

I had a sudden call from Bob (who was at the flat to take delivery of said fridge) to say the delivery guys were there but they weren’t going to install it because it wasn’t part of the deal. I spoke to one of them and he said they didn’t “…even have a screwdriver or nofink.”

Great, I thought, now what do I do? We had a bloody great fridge sitting in the middle of the kitchen and an empty cupboard for it to go into with no-one to put the two together. I rang the company I’d bought it from to see what the problem was. It was soon clear that the problem was, in fact, the company I bought it from.

The person I spoke to on the phone was obviously well trained in circular talking. Rather than address the actual problem, he thought it better to repeat the same thing in an attempt to blind me with giddiness. I told him to stop talking in circles a number of times while trying to hold my temper. I wasn’t successful. Here’s a taste of our conversation:

ME: The product said installation was provided so I assumed this meant you’d install it.
HIM: Not all products have an installation option.
ME: I’m aware of that but this one did. In fact, I’m looking at your website right now and I can see it clear as day.
HIM: Then you should have taken the option at checkout to include installation.
ME: There was no option to include installation, as I’ve been telling you, otherwise I’d have selected it. This led me to believe it included installation.
HIM: Not all products include an installation option.
ME: But this one does include installation.
HIM: Then you should have selected the installation option.
ME: Seriously? Do you hear yourself? This conversation is getting nowhere very quickly. If I’m correct, what you’re saying is that you don’t install a fridge unless it has an installation option at checkout even if it says on the product description page that you do.
HIM: The installation option would have appeared in the checkout list if the product had an installation option.
ME: So, I’m stuck with a useless fridge in the middle of a useless conversation. Can I order an installation now then?
HIM: I’m afraid the installation option can only be chosen when ordering the product and not the next day.
ME: So to get an installation, I’d have to order another fridge?
HIM: Only if it had the installation option.

And so it went. Needless to say, I hung up and then rang around trying to find someone who could install the fridge ASAP. And wouldn’t you know it, everyone in London is really, really busy installing integrated fridges at the moment. So much so that the next available slot was Monday (most were three weeks away). Not knowing the various schedules of Mirinda and Bob, I decided to play safe and opted for Tuesday. I dusted my hands, thinking all was well.

Stupid boy.

While dealing with this atrocity, I was busy emailing Dave the Builder regarding various house matters. Things like a deposit for the gas fire, when, where and what was happening generally and the problem with the Optiplan delivery and installation times. Dave is away from Friday (off to France with the family) and won’t be back till next Wednesday so he wanted to make sure I could be there when the kitchen put in its first appearance. I managed to work out that I’d be there Friday after 11, Monday morning and the rest of the week, if he needed. This was all fine. Anyway, said Dave, he was waiting for Optiplan to get back to him ith dfinite times and dates.

I breathed a slight sigh of relief and took Day-z for a walk. It was while we were on this pleasant walk (as pleasant as it can be on the reserve) when I had a text from Mirinda. She was due at the hairdresser in Canary Wharf at 3:45 but would be 15 minutes late and could I call them and let them know. My first thought was why she didn’t do it but, as it turns out, her phone was almost flat.

I rang the hairdresser and explained that she’d be a mere 15 minutes late and I was just letting them know. The girl spoke to, very pleasantly, informed me that she’d have to cancel then because the stylist had another person booked in straight afterwards and the colour took half an hour. Rather than enquire how hair colour had anything to do with it, I told her I’d call back. I texted Mirinda, knowing she’d not be best pleased (and she’d not found out about the fridge fiasco yet).

Following an expletive, she said to cancel it because she’d never get there in time. She also said she’d need a new hairdresser to which I agreed and suggested another, the details of which I would supply her with when I reached the house. I then called the hairdresser again and cancelled the appointment.

And can I just say at this point, that one thing sadly lacking in the Claypit Nature Reserve is benches. All of this texting and phoning is a pain while standing around. So much better if you can have a seat.

On the way back, my phone rang. It was Optiplan, the kitchen people who sound like an optician, letting me know when the kitchen and the fitter would arrive. This also included their names. I didn’t have the heart to tell the very nice woman on the other end that I couldn’t write anything down as I was walking the dog at the time. Mind you, the call was long enough that I was in the house and with pen and paper before we finished so I could take down all the details I needed.

So, the kitchen will be delivered Friday and the fitter would start fitting it on Monday. Marvellous, I thought. Something good, I thought. Stupid optimism. It just sits there waiting for the right moment to send your dendrites into a happiness frenzy knowing that just around the corner there’s a huge truck of disappointment about to crash into you.

After ringing up the local Optiplan and making the final payment, I sent an email to Dave, letting him know what I knew and forgot about it.

There was then a rather large flurry of texts from Mirinda wanting me to let Bob know that she was early and could he meet the ferry. Now, again, you’re wondering why she didn’t just text him directly. Well, something we discovered in France is that texts between their phones take a couple of days to arrive so anything even remotely urgent is pointless. For this reason I have become the relay station for all inter-family communications.

Well, I rang him, I texted him, I sent a very fast pigeon to tap on the sliding doors but all to no avail. No response. Nothing. I rang the flat phone quite a few times in case he was having a little snooze but it didn’t work. Eventually, and following a final desperate text from Mirinda, I rang his mobile. He quite happily informed me that he was walking home with her and did I want to talk to her. I said no.

And I thought all was well. You’d think I’d have learned by now, wouldn’t you.

Mirinda took one look at the fridge and called me to say it wouldn’t fit. The doors were the wrong size. I’d have to arrange for it to go back and buy another one from a better company that actually did install rather than draw pretty pictures of crossed screwdrivers on their website.

So, back to the phone I went to organise a retrieval. Of course I tried their returns page first and, of course it didn’t work. Three times I tried it and three times it failed. Bloody useless. So I rang.

I’ll not bore you with the actual conversation this time but the upshot was that I could have it returned and be repaid the cost (with the cost of the delivery as a penalty) as long as I sent them an email with photographs of the fridge attached. This was so they could see it wasn’t damaged or anything. I immediately called Mirinda and she took a couple of shots which I forwarded to the company. By this time it was a bit late and I think they’d all gone home so the conclusion to that will have to wait until tomorrow.

In the meanwhilst, I had an email from Dave the Builder saying that Mark the Tiler was going to grout on Saturday which would be difficult with the kitchen bits stored all over the floor. I was about ready to pull my hair out. I suggested putting the delivery back to Monday but he said he’d tried that and the company wanted the fitter to get stuck straight in on Monday morning. I offered to try calling them in the morning but hold out little hope.

The new plan is for Mark the Tiler to grout the kitchen bit tomorrow then do the rest after the kitchen is in. Very annoying because he’ll have to vacuum up any bits that have fallen between the tiles before grouting but we can’t see any way around it.

And so that was my day. I feel I should apologise for this mammoth post but, really, it has helped an awful lot to vent so you can forget it.

By the way…Mirinda woke up early and managed to get to her meeting without any problem at all.