>Rain

>When I got up this morning it was raining. Hallelujah! It’s not that I’ve gone off the snow at all, but it’s been dealt with so badly it really is getting in the way of everything and causing all sorts of problems. I’d be happy for it to rain and rain and rain and rain and rain, but then, when coupled with the thaw, that would probably lead to flooding problems.

Last night I watched the beginning of a special Tonight programme on telly all about the big freeze. They interviewed someone in Scandinavia, or similar, and they said if they kept their kids off school because of a snow dump, the social worker would come to visit. They also said that if the temperature dropped to below -15 degrees, then the kids wouldn’t have to go outside during their break.

So-called experts were pointing out that this kind of weather is a once-in-30-years occurrence and they asked if it was worth forking out to “snow-proof” Britain. When you also consider how many lives are lost or how many accidents there are and what the estimated “clean-up” cost is going to be, surely it is worth forking out, especially when the last once-in-30-years crisis happened less than 12 months ago when we ran out of grit again and roads weren’t cleared and people couldn’t get to work and kids couldn’t get to school.

Perhaps we’re all supposed to do what The Villager snapped people doing in his village. Perhaps this is what the powers-that-be would have us all doing, including the elderly or the infirm. Shocking.

But anyway, it’s raining now so hopefully we’ve seen the last of this once-in-30-years occurrence for now … until February …

My amendments are coming along, I hope to get those shifted today. The magazine is coming along, I hope to get my confirmation emails off to contributors today. The website work is coming along, I hope to get the words off to the people concerned for checking and to have replacement photographs organised. I also may get to transcribe a tape today for the Voices book.

I’m watching the pennies again between now and pay day, but I may venture out tomorrow evening for a glass of pop in one of my more local clubs.

>In perspective

>Yesterday’s To Do list for January seems to have scared a few people, but if you think about it, I’d bet that if everyone wrote down everything they did in any one month, their lists would be just as long. I tend to write down every little thing because I find lots of ticks as I do them hugely motivating, even the little ones.

There are 40 items on that list, but remember that I put outline, draft 1, draft 2, draft 3 and edit for every story, article or chapter, whereas other people might just write “The Magic of the Wilderness” or “The Beast Within chapter 1″, making my 5 steps or jobs just one. So if you divide my writing list, for example, by 5, it would be a lot shorter. There are 3 edits on there, which means 3 completed items, plus a walk review and at least one filler or reader’s letter, but I’ve included the writing stages for the main items too.

Of the 40 items, I’ve already ticked, or greened out (green for HURRAY), 14 of them. My Life section is already fully completed, and I have one more job to do for the day job, and the Day Job section will also be completed. Of course, the actual day job is ongoing as I’m working on this stuff all the time, but soon as it’s going, it’s ticked. There is also just one thing to tick in each of the Household and Health & Fitness sections too, because everything else is already started.

So it’s really not that bad, it just looks like a huge list. A huge list will put some people off, and sometimes it does put me off. However, a huge list full of ticks (or all green) is far more satisfying. And when I get “so what have you done all month?” (which I used to get when I was married), I can say “I did these 40 things, what did you do?”.

This is the way it works for me. It works other ways for other people. But when other people scoff the way it works for me, I get blocked because I feel stupid, eccentric and inadequate. Whatever way it works for you, do it, and don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise. But if you’re trying out different procedures and prompts, try out some of mine. You never know, they may work for you too.

If you think this is scary, though, take a look at what Devon and Kate get through. I’m an amateur in comparison.

Yesterday I got the first lot of amendments done and submitted for confidential job #1, and I managed some website work for the day job, got the departmental brochures ball rolling, and started planning the spring magazine.

Today, I need to finish the rest of the amendments, complete the draft website copy for approval, and get the plans for the magazine up on the magazine database.

I also need to call the library to renew my books (not wanting to drive into tiny villages where the roads may still be treacherous), and collect some basic grocery supplies on the way home (milk, bread, eggs, bacon, etc).

We have fog today. Yesterday we had severe black ice and very dangerous paths and roads everywhere. We have “light snow” forecast for Saturday, and brilliant sunshine forecast for Sunday.

>January to do

>A bit late, but here’s my to do list for the month, including the last week of December (so some duplicates and quite a big writing list):

General/admin

  • update blog & gig list daily
  • gig list for January
  • gig list for February
  • freelance calendar work – January
  • invoice confidential job #1
  • diary work for February

Writing

  • Confidential job #1 amendments
  • OUTLINE The Magic of the Wilderness
  • #1 The Magic of the Wilderness
  • #2 The Magic of the Wilderness
  • #3 The Magic of the Wilderness
  • EDIT The Magic of the Wilderness (competition entry)
  • #1 Lycra Louts
  • #2 The Beast Within chapter 1
  • #3 Barcelona
  • EDIT Romulus
  • transcribe Voices from the Dearne Valley tapes x 4
  • OUTLINE The Beast Within chapter 2
  • #1 Walking in the Wye Valley
  • #2 Lycra Louts
  • #3 The Beast Within chapter 1
  • EDIT Barcelona
  • arrange more interviews for Voices from the Dearne Valley
  • filler/reader’s letter x 1
  • walk review x 1

Day job

  • weekly timesheet
  • website work
  • departmental brochure work
  • plan spring magazine
  • confirm contributors for spring magazine

Life

  • attend at least one rock gig per week
  • monthly hair appointment
  • read at least 1 novel

Health & fitness

  • nurse appointment
  • long-distance walk x 1
  • update slimming blog weekly

Household

  • weekly, fortnightly and monthly household chores
  • weekly grocery shopping
  • weekly baking/batch cooking
  • arrange to have guttering fixed

>Let’s do the time warp

>You may have noticed that I have several nicknames for where I live, so I thought I’d start with a bit of a geography lesson. Make notes, I may quiz you once this has dropped off the front page. :o)

Geography lesson
My new home town is Barnsley, or The Land That Time Forgot. The town where I work, Rotherham, is The Land Not Far Behind. My village is Great Houghton, or The Back of Beyond (sometimes also called Brigadoon due to it having its own passage of time as well as its own weather front). The road where I live is The Road to Nowhere, because it’s a dead end. The actual dip where my house is, it being at the bottom of said dead end, is Baggins Bottom. And the place that I work (Swinden Labs) is known as Sleepy Hollow. Solihull, from whence I came 6 years ago, is Civilisation.

I’m really not being mean when I use these terms of endearment. People still wear shell suits, many are still one car families, full mains water only arrived in the village when the pits closed in the mid-1980s (many residents reminisce about the “soft, sweet water” – pronounced watter to rhyme with clatter – that came from an overhead tank at the “top of road t’ pit”), full mains electricity arrived as late as 1973, and the pace of life is so slow it’s horizontal. Traffic? They don’t know the meaning of the word. Oh yes, and we have horses – horses to pull carts, horses to ride, working horses.

Hey, perhaps one of these can be used as the basis for the new blog name. Tales from Baggins Bottom, maybe? Hmm, I like the Tales from part and am trying it out for size. (Was going to change it to Baggy Bottom but think Baggins has more of a hobbit-like feel to it.)

Mention-of-snow alert
The biggest gripe in both towns these past 2 weeks has been the lack of grit on snowy and icy roads, but The Land That Time Forgot has been ahead of The Land Not Far Behind, which was quite a surprise. I’d seen reports, but experienced it for myself last Friday when I ventured out of Baggins Bottom for the first time.

Only 2 or 3 cars have made it out of our dip, so naturally the snow is still quite deep there. It’s now either very wet or very hard, though, so cars aren’t getting stuck like they were. The roads in and around The Land That Time Forgot are clear, as well as in The Back of Beyond. I was surprised this morning when I headed out, though, that The Land Not Far Behind seems to have finally caught up. However …

Time warp
Here is a prime example of the kind of time warp in which I live – although it could also be something technical, I’m just making light of it. :o)

This morning, I passed a gritter. Yup, you read that correctly. I passed. A gritter. Only it wasn’t quite a proper gritter that has a little attachment thingy on the front for a plough or a whirly thing on the back that scatters the grit while driving at around 10mph. (What about my technical terminology, eh?) No, this was a flat bed truck with a drop down back flap and two men. With a shovel and a pair of feet each.

Pause a moment while that registers.

Forgive me, but aren’t we a First World country living in the 21st Century?

Rock salt
I’m probably being unfair, but it made me smile while I thought of it. I actually think this is the rock salt that’s been donated to several cities across the country, including Sheffield and Leeds, that has to be mixed with coarse sand. It may be of the wrong texture or something to be used in traditional gritters and I heard it can’t be used on major roads.

Nice to see something being done at last.

I did have a mini-skidlet on the side road leading to Sleepy Hollow, but it was a straight forward one and only for a few yards, as opposed to the 180 degree turn I made during my last and only previous skid in Civilisation more than 20 years ago. That one scared me so much I learned, very quickly, how to deal with a skid.

Saying that, I heard they had it quite bad back in Civilisation yesterday, with buses and cars unable to move along one of the major arterial routes due to lack of salt/grit.

Waifs and strays
It has often been my wont for attracting waifs, strays, loonies, and other lost causes. This morning it was another stray cat. I’ve seen this cat a few times since (Fats) Domino came to live with us, but it’s always been a bit timid. This morning, however, it came quite close and I was able to see a trail of blood down the side of its face. There’s quite a lot of blood coming from the ear, and I’m hoping it’s coming from a tear – as ear flaps do bleed profusely – rather than from inside the ear.

The cat was as timid as ever, but it did come to eat some meat Domino had left plus some cat biscuits I tipped into the empty dish (in the yard). What worried me more was the copious amount of water it drank. Cats are known for being able to find water and I don’t often see them so thirsty.

Fed and watered, it wandered off and I’m hoping it will be ok and maybe find its way back home. When I fetched the water bowl back in, blood had dripped into it, so this is a fresh wound. Hopefully the cold temperature will reduce the risk of infection.

Technology
I made it in to work in the end, even though I left later to allow the ice to melt a little, and when I got here it took 40 minutes for my computer to boot up. It seems we had a connection problem between here and the Netherlands, although yesterday people from work were coming in to the blog from Scunthorpe for a change. It took me about 35 minutes to get here. I should have called ahead and asked someone to switch on for me, it would have been almost ready by the time I got here then. ;o)

We could get on locally and email between us, but at around 11am UK time our connection came back. I typed this up in Word and copied and pasted it into the blog once we were back up.

WIP
Today’s jobs include more amendments for the confidential job in my own time, and website work in day job time.

Reminder
So, the address for where I live is:

“Baggins Bottom”
The End of The Road to Nowhere
The Back of Beyond
The Land That Time Forgot

And the address for where I work is:

“Sleepy Hollow”
The Land Not Far Behind

>The big thaw?

>I got my laptop back – check. I have no idea what goes wrong with it when it does that. If I send it to sleep, or if it goes to sleep in front of me, I just hit a key and back it comes. If it goes off while I’m not there, I have to wait for the battery to run down before rebooting, and that can’t be good for it. Perhaps it’s a power-down or something. I’ll have to look at my energy saving settings. BUT, it’s back, and that’s the first positive for this week.

The big melt – check. Yesterday teatime it got very wet here in the Land That Time Forgot. We’ve not been able to get out of the End of the Road to Nowhere because those that have tried have often got stuck. The top road is fine, down here in Baggins Bottom it’s been arctic-like. But yesterday, when reports of more snowfall started to come in from Sheffield and parts of Barnsley, it was raining here. It froze over night, but the big melt seems to be continuing today and more people have got out of the road.

Hot water – tentative check. I’ve been without proper hot water for about 4 days. I’m convinced it’s either the outside temperature (it’s a combi-boiler so the water comes through from the outside mains rather than sits in a hot water cylinder), or it’s the deployment of my gas supply. The central heating is on high, the hot water is on high, the fire has been on, and sometimes the stove has been on too, and it’s all gas.

Running the hot tap, the flame has either not come on at all, or switched itself off halfway through. This morning I had hot water to both the kitchen sink and the bathroom wash hand basin, not piping hot, but warm enough and continuous. So I’m hoping it’s struggling back to normality, which isn’t great but usually adequate (temperamental).

Snotty nose – check. I seem to have the beginnings of a streaming cold …

Home
I haven’t been able to get someone down to look at the running guttering because, (a) they can’t get down the road, and (b) I wouldn’t put a ladder up in this. However, the keep fat buddy’s hubby has already been up there and he knows what needs doing – it needs replacing. But I can’t get the work done until I’ve been paid for confidential job #1, and they keep coming back with yet more amendments so I’ve not been able to finalise the invoice yet.

Holiday
I’ve not paid for my holiday to Fishguard yet either, for the same reason. I’m hoping they’ll keep my place open for me. I got a reminder on Friday and it was supposed to have been paid for at the end of December. Pay day isn’t for another fortnight, but I understand there’s a solution on the way, which is most gratefully received, so as soon as I can, I’ll get the thing paid for.

Work
Today I have more amendments to do on confidential job #1. When they went quiet for 3 weeks I thought it was all ok, so I’ve had to rejig the diary to fit that in and get it back to them. I’ve done the slimming blog this morning, and I’ve kept the gig list up to date (ish) via the phone and this morning, but those are 3 more ticks (including this one) for the day.

Day job
I also have with me some copy for our website at work. I need to check through the existing stuff we’re keeping, then work through the extra stuff to decide what I want to replace and add. I brought it home in case I got stranded again, and if the weather’s icy tomorrow, I may give it one more day and work from home.

This work will keep me going for a good chunk of it. Once I’ve decided on the copy I’m keeping, I’ll have to send it off to the people concerned to see if they’re still happy with it (much of it was taken quite a while ago), then maybe arrange for new photography to accompany the updated words. I brought the work laptop home with me in case mine didn’t come back – now all I have to do is remember to take it back in with me when I go back to work.

Cooking
I baked a dozen fairy cakes (currant buns) and made a raspberry trifle, but I didn’t make the chili con carne. The meat I got out of the freezer looked a bit pale to me, and anyway, the company I was going to share it with couldn’t make it due to the weather.

I know the snow is old news now, and I know I don’t usually mind it, but it’s been a nuisance for me this time out too, in more ways than one. Bring on more of the big thaw.

>It’s all gone potty

>I can’t remember it this bad for so long. We had light snow showers during the night with a bottom temperature of -8, and more snow forecast for today with a bottom temperature of -10. I made it into work, though, for a couple of hours, but I’m off again shortly.

I did make it out yesterday. Our road was really bad, the main roads were ok, but the Tesco car park was a joke with shopping trolleys (carts) abandoned any old way by bone idle shoppers. I got a few provisions, was only gone for 30 – 45 minutes, but by the time I got back my laptop had gone to sleep and I can’t wake it. This happened once before and I had to leave it 24 hours.

So I am without laptop and relying on the mobile phone. I’m taking the work one home with me so I can at least work – I collected some work too.

Have a great weekend.

>Executive decision

>This week should have been a 4-day week, but with the weather I made an executive decision that I’d rather do 2 x 4-day weeks on the trot than risk going out in these conditions more than I need to. So this week will be up to 3 days off my annual leave (2 if I go in tomorrow), and the tele-conference I dialled into yesterday and the emailing and phone calling I did on Tuesday will mean I’m in credit.

The snow is still lying very deep at the end of our little road. More cars have made it out today and the snow is starting to pack down on the actual road. Later, when the sun comes over (it’s brilliantly sunny today), I’ll go out and clear the car, make sure it starts, and make my little tyre tracks in the snow while its soft so I should be able to get out tomorrow. I may also nip to the supermarket to get some provisions and take a look at the main roads – we’re very cut off and isolated down in our dip. I only need basics like milk and bread, although if they’re short of bread, I’ll whack one in the bread machine. This evening I may make a chili con carne for tea and freeze 3 portions. If I can get milk, I’ll also make a raspberry trifle with one of the pints of milk I already have.

So I’m having an admin day today at home. I need to do some rejiggery in the diary and I need to get that invoice sorted for confidential job #1. Until that money comes in I can’t afford my writing weekend in Fishguard or the emergency guttering repairs. The night before last my central heating boiler started to play up too. I’m hoping that was the cold weather – it was struggling to heat the radiators and the water, but that may be because both thermostats are quite high and the water must be icy cold when it comes in.

If I need a new boiler, that’ll be another £1,000 (apx $1,600) I can ill-afford. Well, I simply don’t have it. Time to get marketing my freelance work.

I hope the roads are passable tomorrow. Aside from getting in to work, I’d quite like to go to a gig tomorrow night. I was looking forward to the company.

>Snowed in

>It finally happened. We eventually had so much snow that we got snowed in down here at the bottom of the road to nowhere. The bloke opposite, who normally makes it out and back, got stuck this morning for over an hour, right in the middle of the road, so stopping another four of us. He gave up and stayed home. One or two cars are making it in and out today, but all I did was brush mine off and clear a path to it.

Time was we were advised not to clear our snow because if it froze and someone, like the postie, slipped, we’d be liable. These past couple of days we’ve been told we have to clear our little bit. I cleared my little bit then covered it with salt … time was we were advised not to use salt as it cracks the slabs, but as we don’t have slabs any more, I don’t think it will crack the tarmac.

I could get the bus, but it’s a 2 hour journey at the best of times, 2 buses plus a train each way. However, I believe many of the buses are off today and it’s quite a long walk.

At 10am today I had a telephone conference to dial into. I was quite pleased because every UK person present save one was working from home today. I didn’t feel so bad then. We had our conference, but two people were on mobile phones and the signal was bad, and we lost another two. We should get some kind of dialogue out of it though, to respond to by the end of the week.

Holly and Domino are hardly going out at all. Only when necessary, and then they’re entertaining themselves with the cat toys. Yesterday evening Holly pulled out every single one again, and left them all over the floor … again.

I might make it to the office tomorrow. We shall see. I’m getting lots of other stuff done. Yesterday I did spend much of the day watching the snow fall, the shenanigans, the children play, the weather and travel on the telly. But today I’m getting a mix of stuff done, work and chores. But I might make it to the office some time tomorrow.

>Snow day!

>I’m shocked and stunned. We finally have proper, big, real snow. The stuff that ensnares gritters (apparently they do exist on t’other side of Pennines), stops buses, shuts schools, closes roads, causes accidents, halts flights and trains. I still don’t understand why it’s come as such a shock, though. We’ve had snow (of a fashion) on the ground for the best part of 3 weeks now, and we knew there was a big dump to come this week.

Some people have made it in to work. I was advised not to bother, so I didn’t. It took next door over an hour to get to the chemist to collect essential medicine and back. The kids across the road caught a bus to school, then got lifts back with some of the parents. The primary school is closed. The secondary school has closed. Our buses are stopping at 10am. And there is NO GRIT on any of the roads.

I did ring my boss in Holland first thing – about 7:30am our time, 8:30am their time, which is 1 hour 15 minutes past his start time – but he hadn’t arrived yet either. I left a message that I’d try to get in later, then got the message from a work mate in Rotherham. This snow may be here until the end of the weekend.

So, what happened at the weekend? I did set a couple of posts to upload automatically, but when they didn’t (maybe I hit “save” instead of “publish”) I deleted them.

On Friday night, New Year’s Day evening, I did make it to my home club in Sheffield to see a band I’ve been promising to see for a full year. Not many made it, not even the locals. But the band did and they had lots of fun anyway. I loved them. In the break they told me their other band was playing the next day in Leeds, and did I want to go?

It’s a pub I’d not been to before but a band I really like, so I wanted to but didn’t fancy the drive. “That’s okay,” they said. “You can come with us. There will be room for you on the ‘tour bus’,” (aka, in the van). So I said I would, and then they said they’d ask the guitarist to take his car so he could pick me up. Then I felt a burden so told them not to worry, I’d see them again another time.

Next morning the text came in saying the guitarist was taking his car and would pick me up anyway. So Cinders did go to the ball, and she had another fantastic, fun evening. All that way to a pub I’ve never been, and the (very young, but very lovely) landlord actually knew who I was. 😮 So that was nice. I was supposed to be returning the driving favour this Friday, but if this snow continues, we may have to take a rain cheque.

I’m not used to going on the road with a band, certainly not for any distance, or for any very late nights, so I spent much of Sunday recovering. I didn’t make it back to my home club that evening either – what a wimp.

Yesterday was a bit of this, a bit of that, and today I’ve been up since getting-up time watching the weather and travel on the telly.

Unexpected day off – I expect I shall waste much of it watching the snow fall.