Hospital Dramas

There’s something strangely reassuring that while my mum is holed up in Critical Care following a seven-hour operation, my father remains insistent on avoiding hospital parking fees by parking on a remote residential street at least half a mile away – simply because it is free.

My father never believes in paying for parking anywhere: a habit so firmly entrenched that even though my mother is lost somewhere in the cavernous corridors of Preston Royal Infirmary, he refuses to part with a few pounds for the convenience of the car park.

Lost in the hospital might sound a little dramatic but after an anxious wait all day, I phoned to see whether my mum had come out of theatre. There was a long pause and a bit of tapping on a keyboard. It seemed that she had left the admissions ward at 7am that morning but had yet to arrive in Critical Care, according to the computer. She was currently unaccounted for.

An hour later, I phoned back only to be told that the computer still said ‘no’.

At 7pm, with my father pacing around the lounge and fielding calls from feeble Great Uncle Keith, I phoned again and she was STILL lost in hospital No Man’s Land.

‘We don’t even need to come and see her,’ I told the nurse a little desperately. ‘I just want to know if she’s had the operation and if she’s STILL ALIVE.’

At 8pm, my father and I decided to go down in person. After parking in father’s aforementioned free parking spot, we set off on foot to the Critical Care visitor waiting room, swiftly renamed The Waiting Room of Doom. It was packed to the gills with desperate relatives but not a single member of staff in sight.

I had begun to imagine my mother languishing on a bed in a corridor somewhere, or stuffed in a store cupboard having to drink water from a vase. I was already penning my letter to the Daily Mail.

After what seemed like hours, someone eventually arrived and confirmed that my mum had finally arrived at the Critical Care ward, following a bed shortage. Relieved, we followed the nurse down the corridor.

We had been told that she might look terrible and would be covered in tubes. But as we rounded the corner, she was propped up in bed and looked remarkably well, all considering.

‘I feel like I’ve been run over by a double-decker bus,’ she croaked.

‘Everyone keeps telling my how well I look but I feel terrible. The nurses said I look like I’ve just stepped out of a hair salon!’

‘I have to laugh otherwise I’d cry.’

I took a closer look at her hair. It did – incredibly – look like she had just stepped out of a hair salon.

A doctor came over, ‘What is your date of birth and full address?’ he asked.

‘Ah,’ said my mother. ‘You’re doing this to check whether I’m compos mentis.’

She rattled off her particulars and for added effect said, ‘The current Prime Minister is David Cameron.’

‘What are your dislikes?’ said the doctor.

There was a long pause while both my parents pondered this.

‘She doesn’t like tinned tomatoes,’ said my father eventually. ‘And she doesn’t like going out to sea in the boat.’

My mother nodded in agreement.

Inevitably, now that my mum has been moved onto a ward, she has been put next to the most delirious woman in the whole hospital.

Mad Margaret doesn’t actually believe she is a patient; she thinks she’s a visitor. This means that she refuses to stay in her bed but wanders round ‘visiting’ other patients, including my poor mother. At one point she tried to climb on top of her. She is also perpetually preoccupied by when everyone’s birthday is.

‘She’s completely doolally,’ whispered my mother. ‘The best thing to do is keep smiling and be firm with her.’

Another patient – across from my mother – had a terrible experience in the shower this morning. Apparently, she was helped to the shower by a nurse who plonked her on the shower seat and then abandoned her.

Despite her cries for help and pulling the emergency cord, she was stuck in the shower for up to an hour! She’s still in a state of shock.

‘I’m just going to have a shower when I get home,’ whispered my mother, who is currently too poorly to move from her bed. ‘It’s just not worth the risk; I might never make it out.’

‘I couldn’t make it even to the door,’ she went on. ‘Just getting into the chair feels like I’ve climbed Mount Everest and run a marathon.’

So far, my mother’s visitors have been restricted to immediate family but now that Uncle Stephen is back from Benidorm, he’s planning a visit on Monday. Uncle Stephen, I’m reliably informed, absolutely loves hospital visiting.

My mum’s friend Valerie might also come but she can only turn left in her car so she would have to map out an anti-clockwise route if she were ever to make it.

In the meantime, I’ve been staying with my father which has been an enlightening experience in itself. In the garage, I found literally hundreds of cooking apples, which my father is insistent he is planning on eating, despite my incredulity.

photo-316 photo-317

There’s also several boxes of onions from Uncle Stephen, who has taken to growing them again, now that his pyromaniac neighbour has finally been wheeled off by the men in white coats and can no longer set fire to his vegetables.

As a treat, the husband and I took my Dad to Nando’s which he rather liked although he insists on mistakenly calling it Nachos. We also had a coffee in Starbucks.

When we got to the hospital, my mother said: ‘How was Stardrops and Nachos?’

My father was about to answer, when his mobile rang shrilly. A look of horror crossed both my parents’ faces.

‘You can’t bring mobiles in here,’ cried my mother. ‘They’ll interfere with the machinery!’

My mother went on to say that the doctor had been round that morning and asked if she wanted any morphine.

‘Morphine?!” said my mother, horrified. ‘No thank you. That’s what drug addicts have!’

‘I definitely don’t want morphine,’ she recounted to us after. ‘I might get hooked on it.’

‘I don’t think you can get addicted,’ said my father, in all seriousness. ‘You haven’t got a dealer.’

Herbaceous And Voracious

Ever heard of Giant Hogweed? It’s a voracious plant that grows on river banks and one touch could turn you blind.

In the 80s – when Giant Hogweed was at its most prevalent – my father started this bizarre competition with our relatives Jack and Jill in Scotland, over who could spot the biggest Giant Hogweed. They started posting pictures (in the old-fashioned Royal Mail sense) of the vicious weed – to see who could out-do each other. Some weeds were up to 15 feet tall!

This obsession meant that my father would march the family up and down the banks of the River Ribble in Preston looking for the tallest batch of Hogweed he could find. He would then plonk my sister and I next to it as height markers and snap away.

I wish I could find photographic proof of this but, after scouring old photo albums, I fear all the pictures ended up in the hands of our Scottish relatives. So you’ll have to make do with me dressed as a giant carrot instead.

photo 1-6

My mother always warned us never to get too close to the Hogweed as contact with skin could lead to a terrible rash.

As a result, I became utterly terrified of Giant Hogweed, convinced that a bit of it might touch my skin and turn me into an extra from Gremlins.

(This fear was only usurped by my mother telling me that pretty much all dogs in France might have rabies which, during our car tour of France one year, left me absolutely terrified that I might be savaged by a foaming-mouthed mutt.)

photo 2-6

I was recently sat wondering whether there was any truth to the perils of this perennial (my mother is prone to bouts of extreme exaggeration).

But a quick Wiki search revealed: ‘Giant Hogweed can cause severe skin inflammations when the skin is exposed to sunlight or to ultraviolet rays. Initially, the skin colours red and starts itching. Then, blisters form as it burns within 48 hours. They form black or purplish scars that can last several years. Hospitalisation may be necessary.

‘Presence of minute amounts of sap in the eyes can lead to temporary or even permanent blindness.’

Jeez. Mother was not wrong.

I’d completely forgotten about my ingrained fear of Hogweed until quite by chance, I came across its evil cousin: Japanese Knotweed.

When we were in the process of buying our apartment, our solicitor Jackie – nicknamed The Rottweiler for her aggressive approach to conveyancing – uncovered the existence of Japanese Knotweed lurking in the valley below. Untreated, this rampant weed, which actually EATS through concrete and STRANGLES brickwork, could bring the whole apartment block tumbling down like a stack of cards.

For weeks, emails were to-ing and fro-ing on how to treat this problem. I think a specialist was drafted in – and we were eventually give the green light to go ahead with the purchase.

And in that strange way when you’re just thinking about a subject and it crops up some time soon after, The Times ran an article all about indestructible Japanese Knotweed. Tag line: It eats asphalt for breakfast.

photo-277

‘In summer it grows 10 centimetres a day,’ wrote the journalist. ‘If you watch it closely enough, you can almost see it growing.’

He continued: ‘In 2012, mortgage lenders stopped mortgages if Japanese Knotweed was spotted on a property.’

I actually have no idea what happened to the deadly Japanese Knotweed at the bottom of the valley. Apparently, if chopped down, it simply grows back twice as quick; it’s the Hydra of the weed world!

The irony is, that for all their grumbles and complaints, our twitchy neighbours Susan and Dick never so much as uttered the words ‘Japanese Knotweed’. They’ve now moved out but I wished I had emailed them before they left with my concerns that The Knotweed Is Back: one final moan bone for them to gnaw on.

But if skin-singing Hogweed and concrete-chomping Knotweed were bad enough, there’s a new contender to the throne of Most Invasive Weed: Himalayan Balsam. If left unfettered, this beast will wipe out all other species across river banks.

Himalayan Balsam only hit my radar when I received an email from Friends of the Park last month. I thought I’d better join Friends of the Park (details here) given that out house is on the border of the park and I might need to garner sympathy for our much-maligned house extension.

The email contained an invitation to ‘A Big Balsam Bash’!

For those of you not aware, a new invasive species strategy has been devised for Leeds to tackle the main culprits: Himalayan balsam, Japanese Knotweed and Giant Hogweed,’ it said (cripes – the deadly trio, no less!).

As part of this strategy we hope to eradicate Himalayan Balsam from the tributaries of the River Aire.

Join in if you can – all you need is a pair of gloves, in case you grab a nettle by mistake!

I wonder how many takers there were for the Big Balsam Bash? No matter how you dress it up, the concept of throwing a party to spend the day clearing weeds from a river doesn’t exactly have the guests flooding in (no pun intended).

I might forward the invite to my father. I’m sure he’ll be interested.

My Mother… and The British Gas Debacle Part II

It seems that my mother has become an unwitting video star after waxing lyrical about her fiasco with her British Gas bill (here) and chewing the fat with my uncle Stephen over his pyromaniac neighbour (here).

So here’s an update on my mother’s British Gas saga (amongst other trivialities!):

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/109387621″>My Mother… And The British Gas Debacle Part II</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user33278695″>Palmersan</a&gt; on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

 

Twisted Fire Starter

Drama at my Uncle Stephen’s house this week after his neighbour set fire to his runner beans!

‘He’d been nurturing those beans for months,’ said my mother, recounting news of this terrible incident. ‘He’d grown them since they were little seedlings.’

It emerged that Uncle Stephen – quite the eccentric himself – was tucked up in bed when his pyromaniac neighbour decided to strike.

But having taken out his hearing aid, Uncle Stephen was oblivious to the fact his prized vegetables had gone up in flames.

‘I was in me jim jams snoring my snout off, when I heard lots of banging,’ recounted Uncle Stephen.

‘I peered out of the window and the whole street was full of people.

‘They all waved back at me!’

photo-273

This isn’t the first time Uncle Stephen’s crazy neighbour has started a fire. On five separate occasions, she’s burnt down her garage, her back wall, wheelie bins, compost bins, and a row of conifers.

With his runner beans and bins reduced to ash, Uncle Stephen now fears for his onions and Brussel sprouts.

‘She’s a tiny woman but she does a lot of damage,’ said Uncle Stephen.

‘And when you tell her off, she just shrugs. She’s barmy!’

Living next door to a pyromaniac is real worry, mused my mother.

‘Mrs Smith, the neighbour, wants to remove those other conifers,’ she advised. ‘They’re too tempting for a local arsonist.’  (see video clip below!)

‘You’d think her husband would come round and apologise,’ my father chipped in.

‘For emotional damage as much as anything else!’

‘Her husband’s ugly as sin,’ said Uncle Stephen. ‘He’s the ugliest man I’ve ever seen.’

Time And Tide Wait For No Man

It’s the annual family excursion to Cornwall and we are back in our rented house opposite Dawn French’s gothic mansion. But alas! After last year’s ‘Dawn Watch‘, well-placed sources inform us that Dawn is currently on a world tour of her stand-up show.

Still, this does not stop my father training his binoculars on her house every five minutes – ever hopeful that the cheery comedienne might make an appearance.

photo 2-10

Luckily, there’s plenty of other fixations to keep the parents happy. Namely, my father’s new boat. I say ‘boat’ but really its a souped-up dinghy – the type of inflatable that one might use to get from one’s yacht into the harbour (for my father, the dinghy IS his yacht. See previous blog here).

In fact, the husband and I have been known to disembark the dinghy and wave vaguely at a fancy vessel in the distance, on the pretence that we’ve just popped ashore on our tender.

So, my father finally invested in a new dinghy this summer – after spending six months meticulously checking out potential boats in a shop in Garstang. On his fifth visit, he finally decided to commit to the purchase (much to the weary shopkeeper’s relief).

Let me introduce… Chrismick III (and a rather ungainly image of the husband’s backside).

photo 4-5

One might think that this would mean that original Chrismick I (purchased in 1973, gnawed by mice in the garage, and covered in puncture patches) and Chrismick II (purchased circa 1985, world’s most well-travelled dinghy, and part of many a childhood adventure) might have been resigned to the scrap heap.

photo-37

But, oh no, father is now smugly driving around with not one but TWO boats folded into the boot of his car, while Chrismick I languishes in the garage at home – per chance it might be called upon to sail the seas once again (in the unlikely event that the parents should ever require the use of three dinghies simultaneously).

As we cruise down the River Fowey on board Chrismick III, my mother likes to recite a series of her favourite stories: the time her and my father got stranded in Polperro when a drunk ferryman never returned to collect them; how the trees down the river used to be covered in white China clay from the huge ships that entered the estuary; the time my father ambitiously headed out to sea in Chrismick I, where ferocious waves lapped over the dinghy and she was forced to frantically bail out water with a milk carton.

photo 1-7

Another of the parents’ favourite hobby horses is tide times. My father has an unhealthy pre-occupation with the tide and studies his tide times book several times a day. When the tide is coming in, it’s possible to travel all the way up the Fowey estuary to Lerryn and Lostwithiel – as long as you’re in a small boat. (No problem there!)

My mother has a series of oft-used phrases to explain tide times, such as, ‘it was like someone had pulled the plug out!’ and, ‘it was nothing but mud flats!’. The parents occasionally like to run the gauntlet with the tide, claiming it’s all part of the fun. Nothing pleases my father more than chugging up to Lerryn, having a pint in the The Ship Inn and racing the tide back to Fowey again (following the route of the channel on his special Ordnance survey map)

On one such visit to Lerryn this week, my father was delighted to find it was an extra special Spring tide, meaning the car park was flooded and water was lapping rather worryingly at the front doors of some of the pretty cottages lining the river.

photo 3-6

photo 1-10

There’s also a little bridge going into the village of Golant; at high tide the gap between the bottom of the bridge and the top of the water is pretty slim. Everyone has to duck on the count of three. It’s all part of the fun.

The Fowey Hotel is a slightly down-at-heel Victorian residence teetering grandly on the cliff above the estuary. I have fond memories of enjoying cream teas on the lawn there during those endless childhood summers where there was never a cloud in the sky.

photo 2-8

photo 1-9

The parents first visited the Fowey Hotel in 1973, after a friend recommended it to them. In those pre-internet days, they simply drove down to Fowey, having no idea what it would be like.

They were so taken with the Fowey Hotel and the area in general, a love affair was born. They even sent my grandparents down the following summer.

But after driving 350 miles, my grandfather arrived to find the Fowey Hotel had closed down and all the furniture was being auctioned off!

Luckily, it re-opened sometime in the late 80s/ early 90s (with a much higher-price tag) and though in latter years my parents couldn’t afford to stay there, they would check-in to strange Keith’s B&B on the road above and visit the bar each evening for their supper.

Now, the parents love nothing more than having a drink in one of the large windows, as they reminisce and watch the boats come and go from the harbour below.

photo 1-8  photo 2-9

As time has gone on, I’ve grown to love the Fowey Hotel too. Not least because of its air of slightly naff old world glamour, the rattling original period lift and framed yellowing letters from Kenneth Grahame to his son (he reportedly wrote Wind in the Willows at the hotel) in the lobby, and the seemingly never-ending stream of quirky guests.

photo 3-8  photo 3-7

On leaving day today, my mother pushed the button on one final obsession: the need to eat up everything in the house.

As the daughter of a post-war disciplinarian, she simply can’t bring herself to throw any food away. Last year, she was left with a tub of margarine that hadn’t been fully consumed and she actually toyed with the idea of buying some bread just to ‘use it up’.

This morning, my mother managed to empty the fridge, save for a pint of milk: first, she forced my Uncle Stephen to drink a glass. She then drowned my father’s Weetabix in twice the normal amount, and stood hovering nearby, desperate to whip the bowl and spoon off him to wash it up.

Satisfied that the milk was gone, the cupboards were bare, and the ‘boats’ were safely packed back in the car boot, it was time to bid farewell to beloved Fowey for another year.

 

She’s Got A Ticket To Ride

I took a trip back home on Thursday to spend the day with my mum. I miss hanging out with her and enjoying her everyday idiosyncrasies. She’s a lot of fun.

Isn’t it funny how you still refer to the family homestead as ‘home’? Even though I haven’t lived at my parents’ home for 16 years and they’ve since moved house from our childhood domicile, I still have their number programmed in my phone as ‘Home’. I suppose it always will be home to me.

Pulling up on the driveway, I ventured round to the back garden to find 67-year-old mother slide-tackling her grandson in a competitive game of football. When I said I was spending the day with my mum, I actually meant my mother and her little partner in crime aka my four-year-old nephew Max. As my mum loves to say, there’s no show without Punch.

‘You’re back!’ cried my mother, clutching hold of the garden bench to regain her breath. ‘We’re just having a quick kick around.’

My mother is the most virile 67-year-old you’ll meet. Having never learnt to drive (despite a top qualification in backseat driving), she still cycles everywhere on her trusty bicycle; her day is just one long list of energetic escapades.

In fact, nephew Max complained to my sister that after a day with my mother, he is absolutely exhausted. His favourite phrase at bed time is, ‘I’m so tired. Nanny’s worn me out – again!’

Inside the house, my father’s original inflatable boat ‘Chrismick’ was laid on the floor of the kitchen, sad and deflated.

‘Your dad’s been trying to pump it up but it keeps going down,’ said my mother. (I hope she was referring to the boat!). The parents seem oblivious to the fact that they bought the dinghy in 1976 and it would struggle to stay afloat in a swimming pool, let alone the sea. Even Max looked sceptical.

photo-204

Despite replacing it with Chrismick II in the early 90s (more on that here), my father seems unable to discard his original Chrismick (pictured in its heyday below), preferring to carry on adding more and more puncture patches, in the hope it will once again make a glorious return to sail the River Fowey (and stalk Dawn French).

photo-205

Over lunch, I made enquiries as to the welfare of my mother’s best friend Val. Every other Friday, Val and my mother head out to the local bingo hall (they’ve been meeting on alternate Fridays for the last 40 years). Unbelievably, they manage to play two hours of bingo without spending a penny.

I’ve never really got to the bottom of how this is possible but I think it is something to do with bingo hall offering free games of bingo, thinking that they will make money on drinks at the bar.

However, they’ve clearly underestimated my frugal mother, who doesn’t drink and gets by on glasses of tap water. Sometimes, they actually win at bingo so end up coming back in profit. This is my mum and Val having a boogie at my wedding (Val on left; mother on right).

photo-206

The trips to bingo have been a little few and far between recently after a terrible incident befell Val on her annual holiday to Benidorm. On the second day of the holiday, her husband Laurence took a tumble and took all the skin off his shin. He had to have a skin graft and was admitted to hospital for week.

During Val’s visit, a patient in the bed next to Laurence asked if Val would be so kind as to lift his suitcase down from the cupboard above. Unfortunately for Val, this particular patient appeared to be harbouring several slabs of concrete in his case. As Val struggled under its immense weight, her kind deed ended up giving her a hernia!

Poor Val was instantly admitted to hospital herself and found herself laid up in the hospital bed next to her husband. She went from hospital visitor to fellow patient within an hour. It was the holiday from hell.

Val now does all the driving in the family, my mother went on. But for inexplicable reasons, she is only able to turn left in the vehicle, being too fearful of right turns. This means that every journey she takes has to be meticulously planned so that the car only travels in an anti-clockwise direction.

In other news, the days of riding the Blackpool tram using a pensioner’s bus pass have come to a sad end. My mother, father and Uncle Stephen (pictured) used to regularly ride along the promenade for free, using their bus pass.

DSC_0236

They weren’t the only ones; scores of grey-haired pensioners would clamber aboard and ride up and down all day at tax payer’s expense. At the end stop, they were forced to alight the tram for 10 minutes for the driver to take a toilet break, where they would stand grumbling and shivering until the tram re-opened in order for them to repeat the journey all over again.

Naturally, Uncle Stephen drove up to Blackpool the day before the new ‘no bus passes’ rule came into force, and went up and down a few times on his own: one final free hurrah.

After watching one episode too many of Homes Under The Hammer, my family have recently invested in a bungalow and is in the process of doing it up. My mother was keen to show me how it was coming along.

We pulled up outside and my mother and Max tiptoed out of the car in an exaggerated fashion, like two pantomime characters.

‘What are you doing?’ I hissed.

‘Trying not to alert the neighbour that we’re here,’ said my mother in hushed tones. ‘She’s a bit S.I.M.P.L.E.’

Max nodded sagely, in agreement.

As I’ve mentioned before, the number of simple people my mother encounters on a weekly basis is disproportionately high.

‘What do you mean?’ I whispered back.

‘She not quite all there,’ said my mother, reciting another of her favourite phrases. ‘She keep asking me if I’m a farmer!”

Driving home from the bungalow, we hit rush hour traffic and I suddenly realised I was going to be late to meet my friend at Starbucks.

My mother foraged feverishly in her pocket. ‘Don’t worry,’ she cried triumphantly. ‘I’ve got my bus pass!’

‘Just drop us off here and they you can get to Stardrops!’ she continued, leaping out of the car.

‘Stardrops is what you use to clean the carpet with!’ I called out of the window. ‘It’s STARBUCKS!’

But she didn’t hear me; she was already marching purposefully in the direction of the bus stop, Max trotting obediently at her side.

With a free bus pass in her hand and an open road ahead, it was anybody’s guess where she might end up.

New Kid On The Blog No More

Happy 1st Birthday to the blog.

That’s one whole year of whimsical witterings, narcissistic natterings, and very first world woes. Thank you for suffering through it.

Here’s what I’ve learnt about blogging:

1. People read the blog but never, ever comment.

I seriously thought no-one read my blog apart from two friends and my sister. Then, I kept meeting up with random people who would say, ‘I like your blog by the way’. Apparently, some of the husband’s work colleagues read it too (much to his alarm). When you’re writing to a largely silent audience, you would just never know.

So, without wanting to write a gushing Gwynnie-style Oscar speech, thank you to the small band of people who do like, share and comment on a frequent basis. It really is appreciated.

2. Friends live in fear of me blogging about them.

My friend’s husband – a loveable hybrid of a harried Hugh Grant and a bumbling Mr Bean – is a walking calamity, frequently getting himself into sticky situations and social awkwardities. As a result, he lives in a perpetual state of fear that I’m going to blog about him.

He should be worried.

I mean why wouldn’t I want to write about the time he leapt up from the seat in our local bar and got a lampshade stuck on his head?

Or the time he came bounding out of his house – arm outstretched – to meet The Husband for the first time, hollering: ‘Great to meet you Phil, I’ve heard SO much about you,’ (The husband’s name isn’t Phil).

Or just the other Saturday, when I was conversing with him in Caffe Nero, he absent-mindedly STOLE another man’s £10 note off the counter, popped it in his wallet and ambled off with his cappuccino.

3. People actually want to be written about.

Contrary to point 2, people do actually love a name check. My friend Anna (actress/ psychologist/ Jacqueline-of-all-trades) said, ‘If I’m not in the blog by Christmas, something’s gone awry.’

Shortly after, she clambered up on to the bar, started dancing, and then set her hair alight with a nearby candle.

Another zany friend Abi – owner of the boisterous dog, a yacht that she impulsive purchased in St Tropez, and many other loveable qualities (terrible tardiness not being one of them) – also longs for a starring role. Given the amount of material I have on her, I think she should be worried.

Here’s a taster: This Saturday, Abi was hungover, tired, and faced with the prospect of cooking dinner for five people. So she did the only sensible thing: throw money at the problem.

Following a trip to Marks and Spencer’s – in which she somehow managed to part with £106 – she threw all of her vacuum-packed purchases into ceramic pots to give it a homemade feel, and passed it off to her dinner guests as her own three-course culinary concoction.

4. The blog evolves over time.

My Family And Other Oddities (inspired by Gerald Durrell’s famous novel of a similar name) began as a little way of charting my parents’ quirks and foibles, which I found so endearing I believed they deserved a platform of their own.

Over time, this kind of progressed to little stories about other eccentricities, including our nosy neighbours, strangers in the coffee shop, yours truly, and, of course, the long-suffering husband – poking fun at our largely middle class lifestyles.

Last week, I made an impulsive decision to change the name of my blog. I happened to be ordering my usual latte, when One Shot Extra Hot sprang to mind.

On a whim, I emailed the helpful people at WordPress and before I could say one-shot-extra-hot-no-foam-soya latte, they’d transferred the whole site to its frothy new name.

Things seemed to be going well until I was faced by a host of technical issues: lots of images hadn’t made it across in the transfer; my tiny fan base (Hi Ted!) couldn’t get the link to the latest post via their email; and all my old links were broken.

Things might not have been so bad, had I not have met up with friends Anna and Sam that very evening, who took one look at my new blog name and said curiously:

‘One’s Hot, Extra Hot?!’ (note the apostrophe).

Yep, depending on how you viewed my new URL oneshotextrahot, it could be read as either:

a: the way the author orders her coffee.

or

b: a posh mentalist proclaiming how ‘hot’ she is/ the Queen having a hot flush.

I hastily emailed WordPress back, who managed to switch it all back again (thank god!). My Family And Other Oddities is currently back in business.

I’m still thinking of new names… Cheese At Fourpence (a proper Lancashire saying) is a favourite. It means to be left standing awkwardly, as in ‘I felt like cheese at fourpence’. Lancashire folk actually do say it as well (my mother included). I like it.

5. People don’t like what you write.

Blogging about everyday stuff and escapades of your nearest and dearest invariably leads to upsetting the odd friend or two. I’m still living in fear of our busybody neighbours-at-large SuDick getting wind of my posts.

And who could forget Barry Scott the man who turned his shower power spray on me? ‘I’ve never read such vacuous, self-indulgent nonsense in all my life,’ he wrote.

I thought I was a pithy Carrie Bradshaw but it turns out I’m more of a loathsome Liz Jones.

I had a little read back through my posts. Old Cillit Bang Barry has got a point. The blog is frivolous, vainglorious and any other self-seeking synonym you want to throw my way.

But I hope a healthy dollop of self-irony still makes it through.

To quote another of my mother’s favourite phrases: you can’t please all of the people all of the time.

I suppose if you don’t like what I write, there is a simple solution: just don’t read it.

(But please let me know if you do!)