Furnished

So, we have moved, mostly. We are doing it somewhat gradually, with a lot of stuff here, but not in place yet, as it transpires that some of my lovely vintage finds are just not going to fit into our new space, either lookswise or spacewise. To that end, I posted a few photos of some furniture I’m looking to offload on social media earlier today and got quite a vehement response!

I know I am pretty much renowned for giving stuff away, but as I need to buy replacement furniture, these guys will have to be sold. I don’t really know what to charge for them, so I thought, as people are so keen on them, I’d let them make an offer. Is that you? Just email me at mrspiquante@gmail.com, I’ll collate all the offers and then contact the lucky winner. Think of it as eBay but without any of the faffing or stress. Please use the bold title in the email subject line.

Vintage wooden wall-hanging hall stand. This was actually a gift years ago from a friend’s mum and I really am swithering over whether to rehome it as I do love it. But it’s just not got a place in our new home. It’s about 2.5 foot tall and has a wee ledge at the top, the original mirror and there is a flip-top drawer at the bottom. It’s great for keeping your keys safe and lived by our front door for years.
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Mid-century modern sideboard – this is by Beautility.It’s in pretty good condition except that one of the handles came off – it has been glued back on. The right-hand door is a little less secure than the left, but both open and close properly. This is a real wrench to let go of, but it’s just too big for my living room. It’s about 8ft long, so is quite a big piece!

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Vintage corduroy covered chair – I bought this from an antiques shop years ago intending to recover it – I never did, natch. It’s pretty comfy, needs a little TLC but is in fairly good nick.

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Wee wooden cabinet – check those pigeon holes! I again bought this years ago and it has served me well as a medicine/bathroom cabinet for ages. It just doesn’t go in my house now. It’s about 2ft tall maybe – medicine cabinet sized! Has wee holes at back for wall-mounting.

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If you’re into instagram, I’m also looking to sell a bunch of vintage tins, urns and some stationery – my username is @tinyotterpaws. Look me up!

All of these furniture items would need to be collected from me in Bishopton or we could arrange a hook up (or you could send a courier).

Let me know if you have any questions about anything! Back to unpacking now.

This Is Not A Drop In Centre…

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A full 7 years ago (that makes me feel old), I had a customer get in touch to ask me to make something for the office wall – I think they were a doctor or social worker, I can’t remember which now. It is without doubt the most chucklesome custom piece I’ve done to date.

If you have a piece you’d like to see stitched up, I can make it happen, you know. Just email me at hello@thebellwether.co.uk and we’ll talk.

I’ve moved my Bellwether blogging over to this one, too, so hello to any new Bellwethery people reading!

Free Cross Stitch Charts

I inadvertently marked my free cross stitch chart downloads as out of stock a little while ago, but I’ve just made them available again.

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This little Easter bunny was the first free chart I produced but I’ve since added a Great British Bake Off inspired sampler and a little Halloween pumpkin. I should really add another one at some point soon.

Meanwhile, have at it.

Bacon By Post

I know that sounds like a made-up fancy notion, but it’s actually a real thing and I can confirm to you that it is ACE.

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Just before Christmas, I saw a random tweet in my timeline talking about Cure & Simple. They were offering a monthly bacon-by-post subscription service for £5 and I was intrigued. I clicked through and quickly signed up for a monthly plan for Lee as a Christmag gift and one for my friend Ryan, too.

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It arrives in a letterbox-friendly package every month and is absolutely delicious! You can either choose to have one type sent each time, or sign up for the variety plan, where they send you a different cure each time in rotation – so far, we’ve had pancetta and bourbon as well as the original.

You can even opt to have your bacon delivered in a dog-proofed packet if you’re worried your four-legged friend might get to the post before you do – genius!

It’s super-simple to set up and there is no minimum contract or anything, so you can start and stop it when you like. And if you’re a true afficianado, then you can even have it delivered weekly – perfect for a weekend treat.

This isn’t a sponsored post, I’m just pretty impressed with the great service and the quality of the product -delicious! I do have a referral code though if you fancy using it which will net me a free pack of bacon, so, y’know, feel free to use it herenm2gn3.

Presenting Plant Flair

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It’s been a long time in the planning, but today is the day to introduce Plant Flair to the world! They’re something I’ve had in my mind for ages and now they are finally real and ready to go.

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The little tags are laser-cut from birch wood and I think they are perfect for adding to a plant to give as a gift – just stick the tag in the soil, and away you go. The tags also come mounted on a lightweight notecard with matching stylish envelope, so it’s easy to post as a fun message, too (at large letter rate, fact fans).

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The cards are A6 size, and the tags are approximately 10cm from top to tip and are mounted on the notelets with a little glue dot that’s easy to remove.The envelopes are really snazzy – lined in the same green as the card with a self-seal closure. Stylish!

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These here tags are not suitable for children due to their dinky size and sharp point – please handle them with care. You could even use them on a cupcake or something – particularly the happy birthday one – cute! I’ll probably have them done in acrylic at some point to make them more suitable for food use.

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There are 4 designs at the moment – happy birthday, good luck, happy new home and my personal favourite, hiya.

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I’m super-pleased with how these turned out! And am so pleased they are finally here! You can find them on my Not On The High Street shop now, priced at £3.95. I’m also thinking of adding a slightly cheaper loose, un-mounted option too. And I am delighted to say that they are selling already!

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I’m also somewhat chuffed that they have caught the eye over on Instagram of the founder and president of NOTHS, Holly Tucker – she loves them! High praise indeed! That made my 4.30am alarm call today a bit more palatable. Hoorah!

Crazy Cat Lady

 

 

 

I think I’ve retired from retirement, just about. I missed the making stuff and selling it game, so I’ll probably be back to full strength soon. I’m still thinking through what I’ll do, but I’ve enjoyed designing and making some new things recently, including these two cross stitch hoops:

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I know several in each camp. I also have a new line in something different coming up very soon which I’m pretty excited about. I have loads going on at the moment, but hope to be able to unleash it this week.

In the meantime, the Crazy Cat Lady and the Dog Botherer are both available to purchase as ready-made pieces at my Not On The High Street store.

Malmaison, Glasgow

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A few years ago, at a loose end around new year, Lee and I booked into the Malmaison in Glasgow for a treat. We had stayed at the one in Leeds before and it was quite swish and thought as a bit of a luxury night in, we’d book in, eat in the restaurant, relax and just have a fun evening.

Cutting a long story short, it was nothing short of awful. The room was shabby and rundown, and not at all like the one we had experienced in Leeds. The food in the restaurant was terrible – I had a steak so covered in pepper that it was impossible to eat. The staff were all grumpy and rushed, I imagine they had drawn the short straw to work at new year. The room was so noisy that by 8am the next morning, we were checking out and going home for a kip.

Flash forwards to a few months ago, when Briony, head Yelp-er in Glasgow and all-round good egg, was talking about the newly-overhauled Malmaison on Twitter. I let her know about my experience and lo and behold, if the new manager at the Glasgow Mal wasn’t earwigging and asked me to get in touch. So I did, and he asked us to come back on the house and let them show us a good time. Who was I to disagree? So off we toddled last Friday to take up the offer.

>I should point out that they did this without asking me to write a review anywhere, it was pretty much no-strings. I don’t know if they had briefed everyone to be extra-nice to us, but the level of service we received throughout the whole stay was really second to none. Everyone was super-nice and friendly, helpful and welcoming. Already winning over last time!

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We were booked into a Club Room, which we learned had recently been renovated. I loved the decor and it was really nice and spacious.

IMG_3726The facilities were really good within the room – hairdryer, ironing board and iron, mini bar (which wasn’t too extortionate to actually use!), coffee machine, tea, TV, robes, slippers…really nice little touches that made it feel like a special deal.

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Bonus view of the old Strathclyde Police HQ where I used to work when Lee and I first met – awww.

The bathroom was really nice, too – a massive shower cubicle with a fancy shower head and good water pressure. I’m so fussy about showers, so this was a big thumbs-up from me.

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Another nice touch to welcome us was a card from the management team, enclosing some free cocktail vouchers – I’m not sure if everyone gets that, but it was really appreciated!

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The mojito was really delicious. The bar staff were really friendly and you could tell that they took their cocktails seriously. The bar was quite busy for a Friday evening, so it’s obviously a hit with the office workers around there.

And so, to dinner. I was really very impressed. The restaurant has been taken over by fancy-pants Michelin-starred chef Martin Wishart and is called The Honours. Look at his twinkly wee face. He’s a clever clogs.

Again, our dinner was on the house, with us only paying for a very reasonably priced and delicious bottle of vintage Viognier (£18). It was really very refreshing and kept us going whilst we perused this fine menu and nibbled on some homemade bread and butter.

IMG_3740The room itself is much improved from the old dark and imposing room – it’s now light, airy and welcoming, no mean feat in a room with no windows. The table settings are simple but I liked that, as it wasn’t too pretentious, and was unfussy. We were sat at a large horseshoe-shaped booth which was very comfortable and felt private but with still a nice aspect on everything that was going on.

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Our waiter, Robert (I think), was just fantastic – he was extremely knowledgable, friendly and really wanted to make our meal special. We asked him for his recommendations and rather than rhyme off specials, he took the time to explain why he liked the things he suggested, and was just really friendly, but professional throughout.

Lee opted for the scallops with Belotta ham to start, whilst I went for the Honours salad, as I love Comte cheese. I don’t eat seafood at all, but tried the scallops which were really surprisingly delicious – so sweet! The salad was very tasty – I did not have the egg or foie gras with it and found it a perfect portion.
IMG_3742 IMG_3744For mains, we opted for the acorn-fed Iberico pork and the Glenarm shorthorn himalyan salt ribeye. I was initially kind of wary about the ribeye as I have a real bugbear about water bath cooking! But I am so glad I had it as it was literally one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten. It melted in the mouth like butter, truly a divine dish.

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The pork was also extremely flavourful, and the accompaniments we had in the buttered spinach and fries were perfect. The only slight let down was the glazed carrots – it doesn’t say on the menu that they are glazed with orange juice – I felt that they were a bit too heavy on the orange and they ended up tasting like canned peaches. That’s the only downside I could find! (Apologies for the terrible photos, we were too eager to get stuck in!)

IMG_3747 IMG_3749For dessert (and let’s face it, who doesn’t have room for dessert?!), we had the chocolate mint souffle and the chocolate parfait. The pear sorbet with the latter was a real hit. Both desserts were again, faultless, and a real high note to end the meal on.

Whilst this was gifted to us by the manager of the hotel, I felt perfectly happy to pay the service charge (and a bit more on top) as the service was really exceptional. The whole experience was truly special and memorable and we would not hesitate to return as paying guests. Neither the restaurant or the hotel asked me to write this review, so this is really my true opinion and I really did love it!

We had a few drinks in the bar after dinner which was quieter and a nice vibe. I really like the industrial decor in there.

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Sleep-wise, the bed was really comfortable, but the pillows were a little bit meagre – the ones in the Premier Inn are better, which is a shocking revelation! I am fairly sure if I had asked at reception they could have offered replacements,but I was so tired that I just wanted to sink into bed. The one downside to the Malmaison is the noise from the street outside – it’s still noisy. Some wiseacre in a souped-up Micra was driving round and round the block for what felt like hours which stopped me dropping off. I always carry ear plugs when I travel though, so popped those in and was asleep in no time. I am a bit of a light sleeper though, this didn’t bother Lee in the slightest.

Next morning, we were up fairly early as I had to go to work, but we still had time for a delicious, hearty breakfast (which I seem to have lost the photo of). Suffice to say, there was a plentiful supply of pastries, cereals, juices and a nice selection of cooked items. We both opted for the full Malmaison breakfast extravaganza and the ingredients were top quality and delicious.

Even our check-out process was quick, smooth and very friendly – the lady on reception was so pleased that we were converts to loving Malmaison again!

All in all, I would recommend that if you have a special occasion coming up, say, your 35th birthday next month (ahem), then dinner at The Honours at Malmaison would be a perfect celebration! And would I stay there again? Absolutely – I would definitely be happy to pay for it, too! I really did enjoy it a lot.

Disclosure: We were guests of Malmaison on this stay. They did not ask me to write this review though, so suck it up, guys.

36 Hours In Dublin

Last week, Jo and I took off to Dublin for a very mini mini-break. A 4.30am alarm call is never good, but when it’s for fun times, you can just about accept it. We traversed the icy countryside, pitched up at Glasgow Airport and headed off on a very short flight to the Emerald Isle. What do you do on such a limited timescale? I’ll tell you – firstly, catch a coach to the city centre, it only takes about 20 minutes and costs 6 euros each. Bargain. Once you get there, faff about trying to remember which hotel you’re staying at and then go in search of shopping opportunities! I had never been in Cos before, but Jo, a devotee, took me on a tour and I only found the dress of my dreams. Which fitted me. I was in shock. So much in shock that in L’Occitaine next door, I drank some peppermint tea and am somehow now addicted to the stuff. I don’t know who I am anymore. Of course, you should always make time for cake, too. We stopped in at Le Petit Parisien which was much more Parisian than anywhere I went in Paris. 16301178036_1f8313cd9f_o Tres chic. It was cold but nothing we couldn’t handle after weeks of snow. We had time to sight-see as well as shop, from the open top bus and on foot. Obligatory post office shot, of course: 16139546598_3b90ac10cd_o To carry on my transformation into person I do not know, we stopped off on a whim at this crazy looking nail place for a manicure – Tropical Popical. They give you Lilt and a Bounty to keep up their theme – genius. And a great manicure, too! 16348647886_0eb3835d51_o   Look, Ma! I gots nails! Amazing. After some more browsing and wandering, we headed on the bus over to our hotel, The Ashling. The verdict – good, but a little out of the way. We headed back to Temple Bar for dinner on the tram and ended up at Gallagher’s Boxty House. The food was really delicious, the bacon ribs in particular! But I wasn’t so much of a fan of the cocktails served in jars – USE GLASSES. 16186946898_10404dc434_o You couldn’t even lift that fellow off the table without bashing your teeth. Ridiculous! This lovely old signage I saw on our travels really tickled me. 15752169484_85794d3b3f_o Back to our luxurious lodgings where I fell asleep mid-conversation – we both slept like logs! Breakfast the next day was a big Irish affair nearby – delicious! And then a taxi driver who I am sure was a leprechaun in disguise (he laughed like a pixie the whole journey) took us to the Guinness Storehouse. 15754669533_39dece5bca_o Amongst other things, we learned how to pull the perfect pint and got a certificate to take home, too.  If I ever have to return to bar work, I have got that shit down. The view from the top is awesome on a sunny, crisp day: 16348716896_2be81887d3_o   Then we did something mega-touristy and caught a horse and carriage back to Temple Bar. I think his name was Steve. 15730956534_3138bbec72_o 16167193999_0df3e8f4ef_o Time for some more cake and a wander in Temple Bar before heading to the airport, this time at Queen Of Tarts (service not so good, food pretty ace). 16348766586_2ff72c3629_o   15754744723_73c6820b3c_o 16373028871_d6f9751fcf_o This shop in Old City was just divine. After a quick browse in some independent shops, we headed back to the bus stop, via the Happy Ring House, and then to the airport. 16159055850_619881e575_o

Observations about Dublin include:

  • they bloody love their coffee. There are more coffee shops than pubs. You can’t move for them.
  • lots of people from all over have moved to Dublin and made it their home, just like I almost did 13 years ago. There is a wide variety of accents to be heard!
  • no one cares all that much about anything, everyone just goes about their business at their own pace. It’s nice and relaxed.

Mini-break – done.

On London

By rights, I should love London. I love reading about historic London, about the Victorians and the street urchins and the crazy stuff they got up to. I’m obsessed with the Tudors and so much of their story plays out around London. I should go nuts for a trip to London, really.

But why is everyone in such a hurry all the time? Why does it smell bad? There are so many miserable people galloping around and pushing everyone out the way and not smiling. It makes me quite irritated as the week progresses and I find myself becoming more like them – head down, no eye contact, elbows out, just to make it onto a Tube train 3 seconds before everyone else.

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I had a lovely time though catching up with two of the ladies what used to work with me – I really miss their chat, so it was great to have a right old chinwag over some lovely wine in a very nice pub which inexplicably does amazing Thai food, too. If you’re ever down old Chiswick way, check out The Old Pack Horse. It was very cosy and atmospheric for a rainy winter evening.

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On Tuesday, I shrugged off a mild hangover to attend Top Drawer at Olympia – the last time I’d been there was for the Horse Of The Year Show when I was about 12. It had a lot less horse and a lot more awesome stuff. Jolly Awesome in fact – they were my highlight. Pleased to say that we chose a great selection of cards from them for Penny Black – yay!

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A rock and roll night ensued in ye olde Premier Inn as I was too tired to do anything else. Still sewing in hotel rooms, even after retirement.

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I had a lot of work stuff to do for the remainder of the week – both at work and in the pub – team drinks, leaving do… it’s tough, sometimes, working in television. I came back on Friday, making time to grab an awesome burrito at Kings X.

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God, that was good. I was looking forwards to getting home and washing the London gunk out of my hair – I don’t know how Londoners manage with the hard water. It just sticks to my hair like gum and makes it feel like a helmet. Someone suggested washing it twice, which helped, but I was itching all the way on the train to get in the shower! So, it was mildly vexing to realise en route that we had too much snow for me to make it home and that I’d have to stay in Glasgow overnight. But that did at least mean I got to stay at my favourite hotel in the city…

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..which just so happens to have an awesome shower. Hurrah! It was still snowing on Saturday when I woke up.

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I finally got home on Saturday at lunchtime, just in time to get my car and go back to work. Bah. I hope I don’t have to go back to London for a while. I can’t face it again in a hurry. But it did turn up one very chucklesome moment, when I saw this pass me…

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Oh, London – just when I think I’m out of the game, the game drags me back in. Keep up the good work, London, sir.

Snow Joke

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The view from the kitchen last night, just before bed – it had doubled by this morning. Just in time for me to go to work – bah!

We’re forecast for snow for most of this coming week – which is unfortunate timing for me again, because I’ll be in London all week for work. I have a love/hate relationship with London – from a distance, it looks like fun, but in reality, I’m always overcome with how rude people are, how busy everything is and how many germs there are – I always get ill when I come back! This time though, I’ve had my cold already, so hopefully, I’ll escape it.

Looking forwards to – seeing my friend Jane for drinks and a catch up, a flying visit to Top Drawer and meeting some work colleagues I have only emailed with before.

Not looking forwards to – eating at the Premier Inn, the Tube, astronomical prices for basic items, missing playing in the snow with Lee and Max.

I think I have one free evening on Tuesday – any London must-sees?

Hoppy New Ears

 

 

Happy new year! We’re already a week in, time is flying past. I had the foresight to take the first week of the year off, so I’ve been enjoying all the moaning on Twitter, etc of people struggling to get back into their routines, whilst I lounge in bed, eating leftover selection boxes and mainlining Netflix (it helps that I have a horrible  cold). Here are some of my festive highlights:

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Not quite a white Christmas day, but we did have some snow. It was pretty icy cold and we got through a lot of wood on the old stove.

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Turkey and ham pie made with the leftovers from Christmas dinner – delicious.

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Christmas wrapping is something I always enjoy, especially when it’s with recipient-appropriate tags (a gift for my friend who owns post offices).

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A very special gift from Lee which I am looking forwards to using.

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Even Max had plenty of gifts to open, including this monkey, one of his favourites.

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He didn’t get to even put his noggin on this awesome cushion though.

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Found these nativity ducks in America!

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The traditional viewing of Elf was accompanied this year by homemade eggnog that Lee made.
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Boxing Day snacking.

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Then putting all the decorations away until next time.

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And spending New Year indoors on the sofa, under a blanket, scoffing chipolatas and watching shit telly. New year’s day dinner was the traditional steak pie, neeps, tatties and Irn Bru. Braw.

Today, my new year’s gift to myself arrived…

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I haven’t had a new laptop in about 7 years and my little netbook died last year, so it was time to let this guy into my life. Yay!

Christmas Miracles

Such terrible, tragic, sad news from round these parts with the dreadful accident in George Square on Monday. Really shocked me, and having to watch the news professionally, I don’t easily shock. I’m not ashamed to admit I had a mini weep at my desk as the details unfolded, truly horrific.

It was a funny old day, Monday. On Sunday night, we’d been sat at home, watching something rubbish on telly, when one of those rubbish adverts on STV came on, for the text in the answer to a dead-easy question and win £4,000. The bored-sounding woman drones”wow, imagine what you could do with £4,000,” her tone implying that she wouldn’t get out of bed for any less than 10 grand. As is wont to happen in some households, a brief discussion ensued about what we would do with that amount of money – a holiday, a credit card bill, a drugs binge (I’ll let you imagine which of those my mother said).

Imagine my utter shock and amazement the very next morning to open a letter from my bank about my failed PPI claim from over a year ago, awarding me…

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It’s blurry because even my phone was crying with joy. My bank (smile) had been writing to me almost daily last year, telling me to put in a PPI claim before it was “too late” (I had 2 years in which to do it in. They’re prone to exaggerating). Eventually, I gave in and filled in the blasted form, though I couldn’t remember a good deal about the conversation I had when I took out the loan it regarded, given that it was almost 10 years ago.

A few weeks later, a chap rang me up and quizzed me on a few things and I just repeated what I’d written down, that I didn’t know it was optional, that the lady who sold me it sounded quite clear to me that it was a required element and that I couldn’t remember a good deal more than that. A couple of weeks after that, I got a letter saying, “Ah, but look, you signed the form on the loan application, so no, you can’t have it back”. I didn’t think much more of it, to be honest, I didn’t think I’d get anything anyway and had only done it because they were so persistent.

And then, the other day, out of the blue, three days before Christmas, a letter arrived to say they’d reviewed my application for a refund and decided that yes, I should have it back and that they’d sort out the tax and how would I like my £4285.12, cheque or BACS?

I actually cackled out loud in the kitchen, then I re-read it about 9 times and then I had a shower and went to work. Life goes on. What will I do with all that extra bonus cash?! The possibilities are fizzing round in my brain. What would you do with that sort of bonus cash?

And now it’s Christmas Eve and it’s time to get on and enjoy Christmas time. I’ll be sparing a thought for those people who have had their Christmas and their lives turned upside down by Monday’s accident though. Sad times for them, this year and every other now.

Day In The Life Revival

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I miss Day In The Life posts, so I’m determined to resurrect them for next year. To thisend, I am going to propose Boxing Day, aka Friday 26th December, as the next one.

If you’d care to join in, basically just write a blog post about what you do on Boxing Day. It can be a few short lines, a full blown hour by hour account, or a photographic journal. We’ve even had pie charts before. 

It’s always fun to read the minutiae of other people’s lives (or it is for me, at least), so if you’re inclined, let me know if you join in by leaving a comment with a link to your post and I’ll collate them for posterity. I’ve found some great new blogs to read as part of DITL, hopefully you will too.