Category: Family (page 1 of 2)

Watching paint dry

I mentioned last month that we had finished decorating Amelia’s bedroom.

Well, now we have almost finished doing Harry’s.

Similar to Amelia’s, he has new fitted wardrobes; new carpet; a new bed and new furniture.

And it all looks very nice.

But there is one thing we have recently discovered, during our decorating activities.

Mrs M always used to help out with the decorating, but the bulk of it was always done by myself. 

That has now swapped around.

Because, it turns out that Mrs M is actually a pretty good decorator and, though it pains me to admit it, her painting skills are much better than my own.

I’ve tried slapping it on quickly and I’ve tried putting it on slowly, but however I try it, I always seem to get runs and drips when glossing the woodwork. Doors, especially.

But Mrs M’s doors are always pristine: evenly covered and not a run in sight. It’s quite annoying, actually.

But, it’s an annoyance I am happy to put up with, because it means I don’t have to do it.

And, much as I hate decorating in general, my ego is quite pleased that I still have the edge when it comes to doing the wallpapering.

Doggy Style

Having a dog again has made a significant difference to my life.

Some good differences and some not so good.

Of course, overall, the good outweighs the bad, or we wouldn’t bother having a dog.

Just like with kids, I s’pose.

There are the negatives:

  • like having to take her out for a walk twice a day, whatever the weather
  • or not being able to go out visiting people so much, because we always “have to get back for the dog”
  • or being woken in the early hours because she’s growling at someone who had the temerity to just walk past the house
  • or every coat that I own having all the pockets permanently stuffed with poo bags

But there are also positives:

  • like taking her out for a walk twice a day –  if it wasn’t for that, I’d probably just be lounging on the sofa watching telly 
  • or not being able to visit people – sometimes that can be a blessing
  • or being woken up because she’s growling – let’s face it, twice she has been proven right
  • or every coat that I own… actually, I haven’t found a positive for that one yet.

Caveat Emptor

We all get spam emails.
And occasional nuisance calls.

Mrs M has been subjected to these recently and has been treating them with the disdain that we all do.

Except, it turns out that these have all been coming from one company. A firm of debt collectors, who yesterday, finally managed to get hold of her.

Why should this be?

Well, 14 months ago, she bought something online – can’t remember what, or from where.

As a thank-you for buying from them, this company offered Mrs M a free pot of face cream… all she had to pay for was the P&P – £3.99, so she accepted and sent off her money, via credit card.

A short while later she received the face cream.  It was from a company called RegenesLift.

It was alright; nothing special, but fine for 4 four quid.

Mrs M put it in a drawer and forgot about it.

And then she changed banks.

It was shortly after this that she started getting the calls and mails, but she didn’t connect them with anything, so she just ignored them.

The calls, she ignored: not recognising the number and assuming them to be PPI or some rubbish like that.

The mails and texts mentioned that she should contact them at her soonest as her “account was overdue”.
Very spam-like, so she ignored those too.

But – to cut a long story short – it turns out that  the face cream offer had some small-print attached in the Terms & Conditions  at the bottom of the website, that stated that by accepting the free offer, she was agreeing to having money debited from her account each month for further supplies of face cream.  I hasten to add that no extra pots of face cream were ever received. If they had, we might have been alerted to what was going on.

Fortunately, she had changed her a bank account straight after, so the company (American, btw), had failed to debit her further.

But what they did do, was hand it over to a debt collector to sort out. The debt collector told Mrs M that she now owed £390.00.

Three hundred and ninety quid!

For face cream that she never received and never asked for.

Mrs M spoke to various people, including the Financial Ombudsman, who was incredibly helpful, as he was already aware of this particular rip-off as many others had similarly complained.

A quick web-search has thrown up several sites exposing this as a scam, such as this one.

Anyway, after some hasty email exchanges between all parties, Mrs M has had her “account” closed with the American company and the debt collector (whose website mysteriously disappeared a few hours later) agreed to stop chasing her for money.

 A result in the end for Mrs M, but I wonder how many others didn’t fair so well.

Nobody reads the small-print, do they?

Maybe we need to start giving it at least a cursory glance.

Painting the Forth Bridge

I think I mentioned earlier that we are in the throes of decorating Amelia’s bedroom.

It’s just about finished and it looks wonderful. She is well chuffed.

And so she should be: new fitted wardrobes; new carpet; new furniture; new bed; new lights; new everything.

It’s cost a small fortune, hence no holiday this year.

And now that it’s finished, we get to start on Harry’s room next month. Hurray!

Of course, I’m damn sure that once those two bedrooms are looking all spick and span, Mrs M will want ours doing, to match.

That just leaves my playroom (AKA Masher’s Man Cave) and the bathroom to be done, so that the whole of upstairs is all fresh and lovely.

Of course, if you are going to do all the upstairs, then…

And repeat.

Birthday Girl

Yesterday was the current Mrs Masher’s birthday.

I didn’t buy her a laptop in the end, because she changed her mind.

So instead, I spent ages trudging up and down the shopping mall, before eventually deciding that I probably wouldn’t go far wrong with a substantial gift card from Debenhams.

Well, it’s the thought that counts.

And I thought “That’ll do.”

Anyway, she seemed happy enough with it.

We went to the pictures in the afternoon, to see the latest Marvel epic and then followed that up with a meal. Well,  a Nando’s.

At least, that was the plan.

It all started going wrong when Mrs M booked the tickets.  We turned up for the 3:45 showing – a little late, due to Amelia hobbling slowly all the way from where I had parked the car… more on that later – only to find that Mrs M had actually booked the 2:45 showing.  Oops. There’s 32 quid down the drain. So, we spent another 32 sovs and booked for the 4:45 showing and had a coffee whilst we waited.

The film – The Black Panther – didn’t really work for me… not the best from the Marvel canon, in my opinion. And Mrs M didn’t enjoy it at all.

Afterward, I said that I would leg it back to the car and drive it down to save Amelia hobbling all the way.  I expected them to wait at the bottom of Alma Street, which which was the route we had taken when we walked from the car. When I got there, there was no sign of them.

I rang Mrs M. No answer.

I rang Amelia. No answer.

I rang Harry. No answer.

I drove round again, ringing them as I went.

No answer.

I parked the car and walked back to the cinema entrance. No sign of them. I rang again. No answer.

I walked back to the car and drove back up to where I had originally parked it, just in case. No sign of them. I rang again. No answer.

Not knowing what to do, I just kept driving around and ringing… and getting annoyed. What’s the point of them all having phones if I can’t get hold of any of them?!

Eventually, Mrs M answered.  “Where are you?” she asked, “we’ve been waiting ages”  Arrgghh!

“Never mind me, where are you?” I shouted.

Well, you can’t park at the front, so we walked round to the left, to make it easier for you”

“You went left?  Oh, OK, well I wasn’t expecting that. Just stay there, I’ll drive round” and I hung up. I was not happy. Why had she gone left when the obvious direction to take was right: back toward where the car was parked?

With the one-way system, it took me a little while to get there. There was no sign of them. I rang again.

Where are you?” asked Mrs M.

“Me? Where the bloody hell are you? I’m at Guildford Street now.”

“What are you doing there? I’m at Alma Street”

“But you said you turned left”

“Yeah, I did. I turned left and now I’m at the junction with Alma Street”

“To get to Alma Street, you’d have to turn right when you come out of the cinema!”

“Well, I turned lef… no, you’re right, I did turn right.” Aarrgh!  “You wait there, I’ll come to you”

“No you won’t! You bloody wait there!!”

I drove back round to Alma Street and saw them waiting… right where I was expecting them the first time round, twenty minutes earlier.

We drove home in silence.

When we got home, Amelia was in tears. She had stubbed her toe quite badly on her bedside cabinet on Saturday and it went a bit purple. But now it was really hurting her and it had gone black, purple and red and was quite badly swollen. Mrs M decided it would have to be a trip up the hospital. Just what you want at 8 o’clock on a Sunday night.

Four hours later, she returned home, with Amelia hobbling behind her. X-rays had confirmed a cleanly broken little toe.


Best Birthday ever?

Probably not.

Gift Horse

Next weekend is the current Mrs Masher’s birthday.

And what does one get for the girl who has, well… me?

Darned if I know.

I can’t get her chocolates, because she’s on a diet.

I can’t buy her clothes because… well, she’s on a diet and what fits now might not fit later.

I can’t get her a 21 piece socket set with a ½ inch drive reversible ratchet,  because I got her one of those for Christmas.

So, I asked her: “What would you like me to get you for your birthday, Mrs M?”

Even she struggled with that one! I was expecting a list of options, but no.

After some thought, she said she wanted a laptop.

A laptop? Now THAT I can do!

I wonder if I should get her a pink one or a white one.

Knowledge Is Power

I don’t mind admitting that, when I was young, I was a bit of a swot.

I loved reading and I loved learning from reading.

Even if I were reading a storybook (a novel, in adult parlance), I would generally learn something. 

About the world.

About nature.

About humanity.


Many times, I would just learn a new word. I loved learning new words and would often take two books to bed with me: a novel and a dictionary – so I could look up any words I didn’t understand.

It’s no idle boast that as a young teenager, I easily had the largest vocabulary in my family.

My parents bought me a small set of encyclopaedias – I remember they had purple covers – and they took pride of place on my bookshelf.  I’m pretty sure that I read them from cover to cover more than once, over the years.

On a Saturday, I would go into town on the bus and would spend a happy couple of hours in the Town Library… just reading anything that took my fancy or – more often than not – looking up something that I’d heard or read about and just felt I needed to know more.

Once I started work, I never had the time so much, to go into the library. More than that, my thirst for knowledge became more immediate: if I wanted to know about something, I wanted to know about it now! And so, I spent over a thousand pounds on a set of Encyclopaedia Brittanica.

A beautiful set of books and, undoubtedly, the best repository of knowledge that money could buy… at the time.

I kept them for years.

And then Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web.

A game changer.

In an amazingly short period of time, all the major knowledge houses had their encyclopaedias or dictionaries and the like, online. Even Microsoft got in on the act with it’s own encyclopaedia: Encarta, which, to be fair, was really very good.

And then, of course, we got Wikipedia – another game changer… because it was free.

Nowadays, just about anything you want to know (and at any time you want to know it), is available somewhere online. For free. It’s bloody fantastic!

And, at Amelia’s Parent’s Evening, last night, the teachers were extolling the virtues of several websites, aimed specifically at helping kids with their education, by providing online, extra-curricular lessons and teaching.

Wow! If I’d had all this when I was their age, maybe I would have done better at school than I did.

Maybe I’d have gone on to university and made a huge success of my life.

Or maybe I’d have been a winner on The Chase.

Last Night

I was awoken by the dog at 4am this morning. She was laying out on the landing – where she sometimes sleeps – and was growling.

“Shhhh”, I whispered, but she continued.  I listened, but couldn’t hear anything.

She continued with her growling and I listened more intently.  And then I heard a faint rattling noise. It sounded like the gate to the back garden shaking in it’s latch, as if it was windy.

But it wasn’t at all windy.

I got up and craned my neck out of the bathroom window – the only window with a view of the gate. I could just about make out a figure in the shadows, but couldn’t see what he was doing.

Quickly, I pulled on a pair of jogging bottoms and my slippers and dashed downstairs.

Putting the kitchen light on and flinging the door open would be enough to scare off any ne’er-do-well , I thought.

But no. He was still there… one hand atop the 6ft gate.

I rapped his hand with my knuckles and opened the gate. Before me stood a young man in jeans and a t-shirt, leaning against the wall. He was very much the worse for drink.

He was slightly taller than me, and I realised I was pulling myself up to my full height and sucking my belly in as I confronted him.

“What do you think you’re doing!?”, I said in a loud, authoritative voice.

“I live here”, he said, his speech slightly slurred.

“Like fuck, do you”, I said, keeping up the aggressive stance. “I live here… me and my big dog”.  I turned and pointed to Saber, who despite all her growling earlier, was now just standing there in the kitchen with her head poking out the  door, looking decidedly non-threatening.

“This isn’t 132 High Street?”

“You know it’s not. You’re nowhere near the High Street. Now bugger off.”

He apologised and I watched as he staggered up the road, going in completely the wrong direction for the High Street.

I suddenly realised how cold it was, standing outside topless, at that time of the morning.

I’m glad it was still dark.

Lofty ideals

I have spent the last two nights up in the loft, trying to clear some space, because we are decorating the kids’ bedrooms and some extra electrical wiring needs to be run in.

Now, I know that most of the stuff up there  (which Mrs Masher refers to as ‘a load of old junk’, but is actually all really useful stuff) is mine.

And I know that I really do need to sort it out, sometime.


It’s not ALL mine.

You know those Really Useful plastic boxes that they sell in such places as Homebase and Staples?  We’ve got loads of ‘em up in the loft. All different shapes and sizes. And all full of tat. Apart from a couple of them that belong to me, that are obviously full of really useful stuff.

Really Useful boxes filled with really useful stuff.

But, there are several boxes full of stuff that the kids did when they were young: paintings, small clay models; shit like that. Why are we keeping it all? It’s memorabilia.


There are boxes of clothes that Mrs Masher is hanging onto, just in case she’s ever likely to squeeze into them again.

Slim chance.

Wallpaper!  You know when you finish decorating and you have half a roll of wallpaper left over, and you think “I’ll hang onto that, just in case some bizarre accident ruins a single piece and I have to re-hang it” , then up in the loft it goes?  Well, yesterday, I brought down dozens of rolls and semi-rolls of wallpaper that had ended up up there. Some of it dated back twenty years to when we first moved in and Mrs M and I spent quite a while going through it all; recognising various wallpapers but not being able to remember which room they’d been hung in.

And suitcases!  We are a family of four. So why did I count thirteen different suitcases? Jeez!

Now, I’m not one for New Year resolutions but, that loft IS going to be sorted out.

This year.

You heard it here first.

But I think I may need to order a skip.

I Was First!

In readiness for the Christmas Quiz – which we have every year at the big family get-together – I wanted some Quiz Buzzers, to stop the arguments over who shouted first.

The ones I used last year – which I built many years ago, from a circuit in one of the electronics magazines – worked well, but there were too many wires spread across the tables and chairs,  between the push buttons and the control unit.  A Health & Safety nightmare!

And so this year, I looked around for a wireless version. They are bloody expensive to buy (300 quid and up, from what I could see), so a homebrew version would have to be the order of the day.

After a bit of searching on the internets, I found a wonderfully simple Arduino design from a German chap called Felix. I say ‘simple’ but of course, all the cleverness is in the software. 

His design only allowed for two buttons though and I wanted four.  I thought that I would be able to figure out how to add more, from his code, but my coding skills are rubbish and I couldn’t make head nor tail of it… it might as well have been in Greek!  So, I dropped him a line asking if he would be so kind as to amend his code to allow for more buzzers. 24 hours later, he’d done so. Splendid fellow!

I then added a little bit of simple code of my own, to allow the Master control unit to give an audio alert when any button had been pressed, as I found in testing that it was quite easy for a player to lock the other players out, by pressing his button and then just keeping it covered with his hand, so no-one could see (Harry, you little cheat!).

I won’t go into the circuit here, or the code, as that can all be downloaded from Felix’s GitHub Repository.  But, if you plan on building one, I’m happy to supply my extra bit of code for the audio alert – which I feel is a definite requirement.

The Arduino Nano boards were sourced from ebay, along with the NRF24L01 radio modules for a very reasonable price. The big buttons are 60mm ones from Arcade World and are very good quality. The Tupperware came from Sainsbury’s.  🙂

I’m pleased to say it all works wonderfully.

I just need to put a quiz together now!

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