Wednesday, 12 February 2014

HMRC - Oh my!!!

What a time I'm having. I got a nasty letter from HMRC which arrived 1st Feb saying that I should have filled in Henry's tax form online before 31st January and that they would be charging me £ 100 for my late form. Also that I had no other choice but to fill in the form online. For this, I had to register on their website and they would then send me an activation code. This I did. The code arrived much more quickly than I anticipated, yesterday, so I thought I'd give it a go at work this morning. That was a non-starter as it turned out that I couldn't use the Unique Tax Number, I had to use the number that was generated when I logged on, which was in my notebook at home. I only found this out after many tries and after ringing their helpline from work. Undeterred, when I got home, I hopped onto the computer and had another go. I kept looking for something that said ACTIVATE HERE, since the man this morning had told me that the account had to be activated using the code that was sent in the post. It gave me an error message saying that I was using the wrong user name or password. I had the password reset. I tried again. I got the same error message. I had the password reset. I tried again. I got the same error message. I rang the Techinical Helpline. She just repeated over and over that the system had locked me out because I had tried too many times to log in. I mean rudely. She talked over me and kept saying that she would repeat what she'd just said and said it again. She would not let me speak at all. What a rude person. If there was any justice, this phone call would have been recorded and she would have been reprimanded. I bet it wasn't though. If the system had locked me out, it would have been more helpful if it had an error message telling me that, rather than telling me to keep trying to put the correct user name and password in. That's all. I'm bored with this now, I want something to eat. THREE FUCKING HOURS OF MY LIFE I'LL NEVER GET BACK AGAIN!!!! Did I mention that I'm poorly? Or that I'm missing Henry worse than ever? Well I am.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Too much change - and all at once

It's now almost five months since I lost Henry, and life, goes on, as indeed it has to.

My financial situation when Henry died was a total nightmare. At a time when all I wanted to do was sit in a corner, rock, suck my thumb and sob myself dizzy, instead I had to borrow money to pay for the funeral, as the undertaker wouldn't release the death certificate until he was paid in full and I couldn't claim the life insurance without the death certificate, which incidentally had to be translated into French..

I panicked about how slowly things were happening, even now I couldn't tell you exactly what my monthly income is, but I do know that the life insurance isn't going to be there forever. Teenagers are expensive things. Particularly those who are at university. This was the driving force behind me actually plucking up the courage to apply for a job I saw advertised in the local English newspaper. The heading was "Parlez vous Francais?" which caught my eye, having just escaped from 15 years purgatory in France. An estate agency about half an hour away from where I live was advertising for an office administrator who's fluent in French. Apparently the Belgians (who I didn't even think had a government last time I looked) are buying up property around here and they like to be able to speak in their own language when enquiring about properties. I went for an interview. I went for another interview. I start work on Wednesday. I would have been starting work today, but there are a couple of bank holidays this week, so it was put off till Wednesday - at least that'll make it a short week. I don't know why I told you that bit, but that's me! Here's the link, if you're interested..

After twenty years out of the workplace spent running the gites, and bringing up the children this is daunting to say the least! Having thought I'd managed to avoid being a single working mother, I now find that that is exactly what I am..

Luckily for me, lots of folk have rallied round - they're like that around here, and I've got firm child care arrangements in place for after school for DD (nearly 15) with several back up options, and one of the neighbours even dropped off a French/English dictionary!!! I had to laugh at that!.

The funny thing is that I've been spending the last almost two years, since we came here, trying to forget all the French and replace it with Spanish. Now I'm trying to re- remember the French! No wonder my brain doesn't switch off easily. Torment! .

I can tell you this, because you're my blog and I can tell you anything, but there's been another "development"..

One of Henry's golfing buddies, another widower, has moved from being on the sidelines to being centre stage (well almost). He's been so kind, patient, generous, helpful, understanding of everything I'm going through and I just started to realise, this past weekend, that the relationship seems to be turning into something deeper, and he's become more and more important to me. He's put me under no pressure whatsoever, beyond letting me know that he's there, isn't that sweet?.

All of this feels like too much change in too short a time! I've been crying all morning, and when I analyse the reasons why it's loud and clear..

The trouble is, all I want is my old, predictable, familiar, unchallenging life back!.

... and above all, Henry!

Monday, 25 February 2013

Slowly emerging from a very dark place

It's taken a long time to feel able to write about what happened on that fateful day in early November 2012. Following a meeting at the school to discuss our daughter's proposed school ski-ing trip, I met up with Henry in the local bar for a meal with friends. The proposed day's golf had been cancelled due to heavy rain but it had been too late to cancel the meal afterwards, so we all met up for salmon baked in the oven and copious amounts of alcohol. Them, not me - I had to be up early the following morning.

I had my usual half of Guinness and was persuaded to have another one before I came home as our daughter was home alone. As I left, Henry was organising a Christmas meal for the next golf day, which would be held in early December. I took myself off to bed and he came into the bedroom, stood in the doorway and said what a good night we'd had and how pleased he was to see me having another Guinness. That was the last conversation I was to have with him.

I woke up the first time at 1.30 am. Did I hear anything? I think now that I did, but believed it to be our son coming home from his stint in the bar/restaurant where he works. Certainly nothing untoward. I went back to sleep. I woke up again at 4 am, saw that the light was on under the bathroom door, needed a wee, so instead of disturbing Henry, I went to the main bathroom. When I came back to bed, I realised that his side of the bed hadn't been slept in. I started to realise something was wrong, but it wasn't unusual for him to be reading in the living room or watching golf when he couldn't sleep. I opened the bathroom door. Nothing could have prepared me for what I found there.

Henry was bent double over the bath, with his lower body in the air. I knew immediately that he was dead..

What to do? I walked backwards and forwards from the bedroom to the bathroom to the living room and back again. I got into the bath and talked to him. I stroked his ice cold arm. I stroked his back. I asked him if he'd done a silly thing. All this is so clear to me that it could have happened yesterday..

I rang his sister, who lives at the opposite end of the street from us. She came with her husband very quickly and rang for an ambulance, which seemed to take absolutely ages before it arrived. In no time at all, we had about twelve people in our tiny house. The doctor told me that Henry had died of a broken neck. He'd fallen into the bath and died instantly. There was only a tiny amount of blood and some yellow liquid where he'd been..

I remember ringing our eldest son in France before he left for school at around 6.20 am and breaking the news to him. They finally took Henry away at 7.20 am. They performed a post mortem immediately and I had to go to the police station at 9 am with a translator and make a statement.

The next few weeks were like I was existing inside a dreamworld. I expected Henry to walk in through the door at any moment. I still do. People tell me that the memories will bring me a great deal of comfort, but I'm not ready for Henry to be a memory. I want the real Henry, sitting in his chair, watching golf, making me cross.

I'm now starting on another journey. Getting used to being on my own with my teenagers, instead of being half of a couple. I'll let you know how I get on.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Hot and sweaty no more!

Here I go again with an occasional post to my blog. I could go into great detail about how the kids have grown and settled into our new lives, all the ups and downs (mostly ups, I have to say) of our move to this bit of Spain, bringing two teenagers with us and leaving one behind in France (swallows lump in throat), but I'll save all that for another post. What I would like to tell you about may be a surprising subject for this blog but it's about a new exercise and diet system that I've accidentally stumbled across.

Despite always trying to keep an eye on my weight and following various exercise routines over many years, I've discovered that I've been wasting my time! Better not dwell on that fact too much or I'll work out what I could have been doing instead with all those hours I spent at aerobics, yoga, weight training, callanetics, treadmill and lately Pilates classes since I was in my twenties and Jane Fonda started a revolution.

Earlier this summer, I enrolled, out of curiosity, onto an online two week fat busting course that my then Pilates teacher casually mentioned at the end of a class one blustery Tuesday morning at the caravan park. I didn't really think I had that much weight to lose so I was pretty sceptical about the claims that were being made. I'd been around 60 - 61 kilos for years but had noticed the steady gain in weight since I started to go through the menopause five years ago (I'm 52). Like a lot of ladies of a certain age, I put put it down to age and didn't think there was very much at all I could do about it. However, I had a half baked idea that it would be nice to get into a bikini I'd bought reduced at the beginning of the summer, but really I was more curious than serious when I signed up to the regime. The cost was low so I thought "What the heck?"

You can find out much more about this system than I can detail here at this website, run now by said Pilates teacher. She's lovely, but I'm not trying to plug her courses, this stuff really, genuinely works!

It centres around two weeks of detoxing and ten minutes high impact exercises per day, all given to you daily on a private Facebook page. You literally don't have to leave the house. You can be living anywhere in the world, which is another advantage.

As regards the detox, alcohol, caffeine, dairy products, bread, potatoes, rice and pasta are all banned. "Come on, you can do anything for two weeks", I told myself! I'm amazed that after the two weeks were up, I didn't even miss my cups of tea, which previously if anybody had told me I would give that up I would have thought they were mad. I mean, I was weaned onto tea as a toddler! I was regularly drinking three or four pint pots of strong tea per day just to get me through!

As regards the exercises, okay they take some doing, but again, you can do anything for ten minutes a day! It's only two weeks! There are lots of modifications for all levels of fitness. Basically, you have to make your heart rate go right up but for a very short, intense period of time. It's lovely that there are others out there going through this and the Facebook page gives all the support you need, with daily videos and inspirational postings from the group leader, and other fellow sufferers. I was amazed at how I came to rely on the support of complete strangers, but I did! By the end, we were all best buddies!

At the end of the two weeks, I had lost 2 whole inches and 5 whole kilos (or 11lbs) of pure fat! Yes, there was even a photograph of what this lump of fat actually looks like.

I think that says it all! And that's not all, since then, I've managed to maintain this weight loss, right through the summer although I've reintroduced alcohol (in moderation) and some carbs, such as an occasional bowl of breakfast cereal. I've lost the longing for bread and spuds that I once had. I'm happier with less food and my very favourite, spinach is one of the foods that is actively encouraged. You can eat as much protein as you like, with certain exceptions, notably processed meat. The tenet is to "Eat Clean (and Get Lean"!! Hence ECGL.

So all those hours that I spent sweating it out in various draughty village halls through my twenties, thirties and forties were wasted! All I needed was ten minutes of targeted exercise per day. I'm converted to this way of life. My pulse rate and blood pressure are much reduced, I feel full of energy all the time, I'm sleeping better, my body feels light and comfortable in my clothes. That bikini? Too big - I had to buy another one!

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Have we had enough fun yet?

A very good friend of mine started me off on blogging. I have to admit that I'm dead jealous of hers. She writes interesting, engaging, funny posts and has followers the world over.

Me? Even though there's always so much going on in my little world, writing about it just don't come naturally! I just think that to another person, my own life is a bit, well, boring! Not to me, of course, it fair keeps me on my toes, but to an outsider, well...

Take today, for instance. Saturday. Weather a bit iffy (most unusual for this area). DD (13) was staying at a friend's house. DS (17) has been working all week, so slept in till lunchtime. What did we do? We walked the dog on the beach, then went off for lunch at a new restaurant (new to us) and had a paella. Excellent. I love paella. Just as well I'm living in Spain, I hear you say.

Next up, DS had a hair appointment. Took him, brought him back, he looks lovely. Boys' hairstyles have really come on in recent years. I especially like his blond highlights and the short at the back long at the front style.

Next up, doggy's second walk, then night out to see an aged rocker called Wardie and to sing karaoke. Bed, I suspect, late, that and the fact that we're losing an hour's kip tonight, and you can bet Monday will be a struggle. Hey ho! We have to suffer to have fun.

That's it. Hope that wasn't too boring for you! Zzzzzzzzzz!

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Now sort of installed in Spain

Well, here we are! We've been in Spain now for a whole six months, already halfway through the rental agreement on our little bungalow in SE Spain, not far from Cartagena, where all the cruise ships call off (hopefully none of them sink)!

Such a lot to say, so little time, so I'll just give you an overview of what we've been doing. DH has just finished his treatment for prostate cancer, and is now in recovery. He has another appointment next week to check all's well, so I'll let you know when he's had that visit.

DS (17) has settled very well at his new school, ten minutes away or less by car. He has a lovely new girlfriend, lots of new friends, is learning Spanish at a rate of knots and has even managed to find casual work from time to time to augment his pocket money.

DD (13) however has found things much more difficult. She was originally at the same school as her brother, but found it overwhelming and has now moved to a different school where some of her English friends already go. It's early days, but she's already much happier there and is even looking forward to getting a school uniform! That'll be a shock, they never wore uniforms in France.

DS (18) has stayed in France to continue his studies. He's in his final year of a course in Biological Engineering, doing very well and it didn't make much sense to take him away at this stage and start again in Spain. Luckily for us, he's very mature in his outlook, has a lovely girlfriend and enjoys coming to Spain for his holidays.

The house still hasn't sold, but we live in hope! You can see it here : so if you know anybody who might be interested ...

As for me, I know you're all wondering. Like a lot of wives/mothers, my happiness is to a large extent dictated by those in my family. If they're unhappy, so am I. Known as "Kick one, we all limp" where I come from!

There's plenty for me to be doing here, I love being in an English speaking community with no real pressure to learn Spanish (though I start "proper" lessons tomorrow!). I thoroughly enjoy my keep fit by the pool three times a week. Love keeping our tiny bungalow clean (a full time job with four/five of us in there, as well as big dog and various friends/family/acquaintances!) In all, I can't find a single thing about living here that I don't like! So there, I've said it!

Monday, 26 September 2011

Pretty pictures

Dear Daughter (13) didn't appreciate twelve hour's on the road - with our labrador at her feet!

Our beaded curtain keeps out the flies.

The local wildlife is extremely well fed.

Penascal is my new tipple - especially on a hot sunny day.

Sunset on the Costa Calida