Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Pregnant or just fat?

It might just be ingrained paranoia but I've noticed that people have started staring at me. Some of them look quizzical, others look concerned and slightly disgusted (probably because I've just pulled an "I'm going to be sick any moment" expression) and others just plain gawp. I've decided that this probably has something to do with the fact that they can't work out whether I am actually pregnant or if I've just got an unusually large pot belly. At 17 weeks pregnant what you wear really makes a difference.

On a rare outing to the pub the other day I was wandering off to the loo (wearing a skirt held up with a hairband and spotty Boden top - I'm clinging to the Boden for as long as possible) when I encountered a group if clearly underage drunkards on the stairs. "Ahhh look," slurred one. "She's got a baby in her tummy." I smiled at this and thought - it's a good job I have because otherwise I may have had to slap you.

Mr Jones and I went to the Nutcracker at the Royal Opera House the other evening and had dinner before the performance (a bit poncy and we'd eat somewhere else next time - but pleasant all the same). Having battled my way through half a shallot tart tatin I gave up and sat rubbing my bump which was ensconced in a damson coloured Betty Jackson frock which still fits. The waitress came over and asked if everything was alright with my meal. After explaining I was full she remarked - staring disdainfully towards my distended gut - "yes you look full!" Mr Jones laughed - and I smiled kindly and said - "Well there is a baby in there too". "Oh" said she. "Congratulations" and ran.

If you see someone in the street who could perhaps, maybe, possibly be pregnant - just smile politely and try not to stare - it's really not nice being made to feel like a side show at a circus. Thoughtfully Baby Jones is still campaigning to prevent me from gaining too much weight - so I have little risk of becoming fat - so in my case it's all bump.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

I had a dream...

...last night that my waters broke at a Spice Girl's concert in a caberet bar. I insisted that Mr Jones take me home to pick up my face wash before we went to the hospital. Hmmm.

Yesterday I didn't make it out of bed - which is probably a good thing given that Stamford is still covered in snow. Mr Jones and my mother have become very protective. Mr Jones doesn't want me to drive in the ice and my mother would rather I didn't walk anywhere for fear of my falling over. As I've been informed: "it's not all about you anymore".

Today I will be defying them both and will be scraping a week's worth of snow and ice off the car and taking Miss Penny to be de-fluffed. I will then be walking to the Pig Roll man to see if Baby Jones can't be tempted out of this current bout of hideous nausea with some stuffing and roast pig in a bap. If he's lucky he might get apple sauce too. Tonight all being well we're heading for a pizza in the Tobie - I am determined to eat.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

The Strange Behaviour of Cats

It seems that pregnancy hormones do funny things to cats. Mr Jeremy - who is usually rather aloof and non-clingy has suddenly become my shadow. He likes to sit close to my face and has taken to dribbling on me with much affection.

Miss Penny - who I usually can't get rid off - is far less entralled by me and keeps trying to trip me down the stairs. We fear she has a vendetta against Baby Jones and will have to be watched in a FBI like way once he/she is born.

However - when Mr Jones is away - visiting the Scots as he is now - Miss Penny becomes a tad protective, especially when I'm being sick. As I kneel over the toilet bowl she likes to lick my leg or rub up against my back in an attempt to be soothing. She does not do this when Mr Jones is here - clearly she thinks it's his job, despite the fact that he never does it. (Not that I'd want him to lick my leg you understand - but the odd back rub wouldn't go amiss).

Friday, 11 December 2009

Feeling all creative and a bit festive...


To stave off the non-working boredom I thought I'd indulge in a spot of floristry. The smell of eucalyptus makes me feel better and concetrating on something other than Murder She Wrote must be good for my brain.

Behold my wreath - made with ingredients from Miss Pickering and my garden. The oranges I dried myself and they smell yummy. I now have florist fingernails - nice and grimey - and a sore back from standing for so long - but I think the results are worth it - don't you?

In other news Baby Jones seems to like pig rolls with stuffing and apple sauce - I'm thinking of installing a spit in the garden. My jeans no longer fit and are being held up with a hair band.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Beery boys + pregnant girls = yuck

If anyone is in need of a sniffer dog to solve a crime just give me a call - I'm currently in possession of a blood hound's sense of smell. Should the local hunt be short of a hound I'm your girl - if someone can pull me along in a cart because I really don't have the energy to run.

So it goes without saying then the nasty niffs are readily picked up and tranformed into stomach turning hell. The effectiveness of my overactive olfactory sense was demonstrated to excess last night when Mr Jones returned from a post football pub session.

He was soon asleep, snoring the foul stench of toothpaste mixed with beer into the atmosphere of our room. Bless him. I buried my face under the duvet and proceeded to suffocate. I shoved him to stop the snoring and received a brief respite. I'd just dropped off when he turned towards me and let out a huge sigh - I was awakened by stomach acid rising up my gullet.

Thus I spent the night sleeping on my left side, with my back to him. This morning I am the proud owner of one very crumpled left ear which aches when pressed. I did not sleep well. It goes without saying that Mr Jones' next pub trip will be followed by a night in the spare bed.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Headstands and hiccups


Not me you understand - if I was to stand on my head I dread to think what would happen - no not me, but Baby Jones.

I went back to the hospital today for a second scan, because at the first one Baby J was still growing his/her intestines outside his/her body. Apparently that's quite common at 11 weeks. I'm now happy to report that they are now fully inside where they should be. Not that Baby J wanted to show us that, upside down as he (lets call it a he for ease) was. He was flipping about, hiccupping, kicking his legs and waving his arms about.

I wore my glasses this time so that I could actually see the little critter. The midwife saw a lot more than I did - apparently he was praying(!) at one point and she could see his face and all sorts. It all looked a bit blurry to me but I nodded and smiled at her.

In two weeks he's grown to 7cm - which I suppose is justification for all the sickness and the fact that I am now comfortably filling my fat jeans again. The skinny pre wedding jeans are banished to the back of the wardrobe.

In other news my Grandma informed me that she suffered with the sickness until 20 weeks - joy of joys. Oh and we're very happy that Delia appears to have recovered from her hideous frozen mash and tinned mince phase and is back to speaking properly and cooking from scratch. Though I'm not convinced by a fruit cake that takes a week to make.

Monday, 30 November 2009

An hour and a half I'll never get back

Yesterday after some fresh air and a visit from the sister girl Mr Jones and I settled down to watch Arsenal vs Chelsea. Mr Jones was born and bred in Highbury and is therefore a bona fide gooner - I am a mere bystander. Mr Jones was asleep after 10 minutes. I spent the first 15 minutes being impressed by the skillful passing, then I got bored due to the lack of action and took to pondering:

1 Why Arsene Wenger feels the need to dress in a duvet? Who can have any respect for a man who wears such a hideous puffer jacket? Warm it might be, but with your salary Mr Wenger surely a cashmere coat and some silk thermals would be more appropriate? But then I suppose taste is inherited, not earnt - just look at the Beckhams.

2 There should be a law against people over the age of 21 chewing gum. Gum is disgusting at any age - but if you're an ageing football coach you should most certainly not be chanking it on television for all to see. Try a mint - I like M&S Curiously Strong Mints - which freshen your breath without rendering you incapable of polite conversation.

3 If I owned a football club I would provide each player with a tissue and suggest they tuck it in the waist band of their shorts for use during matches. This would do away with the unnecessary and totally offensive spitting and nose clearing onto the ground that seems to be rife amongst sporting types.

4 Just what conditioner does Mr Rosicky use on that hair of his? Even in the pouring rain it still looked touchably soft.

Why I didn't change the channel is beyond me, what a waste of 90 minutes, I could have been watching the food channel and living vicariously through people who are able to eat food other than build up shakes and keep it down.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Sick leave

The rash has gone and the sickness has returned - in full scale horror proportions. Luckily given my current slovenly nature I hadn't gotten around to empty the bedroom bin so I dug out the discarded anti-sickness tablets at 1am on Thursday morning in the hopes of retaining at least some of my innards.

The doctor looked at me with a "bugger - I thought we'd fixed you" expression when I presented myself in his surgery for what must be the fiftieth time in the last month. He threatened hospital, I said I'd take the tablets and risk Mick making a come back. He signed me off work for two weeks. Some might rejoice at this break - I live in fear that I might actually start to enjoy watching Bargain Hunt and Homes Under The Hammer. Oh the horror.

Today Mummy is coming to be my nurse and save me from daytime tv hell. Mr Jones returns tonight - hurrah! Baby Jones better be growing big and strong in there for all this trouble.

Monday, 23 November 2009

The Honeymoon - Zanzibar



At last the final installment of the honeymoon stories - Zanzibar. It was lovely - but I wouldn't go again because the journey to get there was hellish.

Picture the scene - a Kenyan Airways flight, some unearthly hour post midnight, Mr Jones has the window seat and I have half of the one in the middle - the other half is being occupied by a huge Kenyan man who spent four hours using my hip bone as a arm rest and tutting every time I tried to wriggle free. I was unable to sleep thanks to the chap in the seat behind me - another large person who seemed to need to use my headrest and hair to hoist himself up in his chair every five minutes. Mr Jones felt sick.

I hoped for relief when we reached Nairobi airport - but know. Nairobia airport is twinned with hell. For three hours we sat in an airless room, packed with people, with nothing to drink and no loo. There were no announcements or boards to tell you when your flight would be leaving - just a man wandering about with a clipboard and a marker pen.

Mr Jones committed a cardinal sin according to the Mrs Jones book of holiday survival. He made eye contact with a very stroppy Irish girl and her Mancunian husband. We spent the next 30 minutes being partially involved in a domestic as she ranted about the fact that they were flying to Tanzania via Nairobi and Zanzibar because her dumbass husband had some imaginary issue with British Airways and had forced them to fly Kenyan the whole way. I smiled weakly in encouragement and scowled at Mr Jones for getting us involved.

Finally out "flight" was called and we made our way onto the tarmac towards what resembled an airfix kit waiting to transport us to Zanzibar. I very nearly kissed the runway when we landed. Next came the handing over of $100 -- $50 each for simply passing through the airport. We were informed that it would cost us another $30 to leave. You wouldn't mind if you thought the cash was going somewhere useful - but step outside the airport and it's all mud huts and wagons pulled by oxen.

The journey to the hotel took an hour. We drove through stone town and marvelled at the markets and the people in their brightly coloured clothes laughing and talking. The traffic was made up carts pulled by donkeys and oxen, people riding two or three on a push bike, weaving all over the road, and rickety old trucks and minibuses packed with people - and of course the obligatory tourist taxis.


We went through a gated compound off the dusty road, away for the mud huts and into complete luxury - which grated at our consciences a bit. But the tourist industry is providing young people on the island with great job opportunities - as the staff were always telling us. They wanted to learn English so they could work in hotels all over the world and travel and see lots of places, so we felt less guilty.

We spent the week lying on sun lounger, drinking cocktails, eating, gazing at the view and paddling in the sea. We went out on a boat one day to see the dolphins and the local fishman who took us out thought we were odd when we wouldn't get in the water and swim with them. Mr Jones and I don't swim - especially in dark choppy waters filled with wild animals - no matter how friendly.


I indulged in some spa treatments offered by a woman who became known at the Thai tortress for her punishing massages. I was walked on (yes with feet and her entired body weight), poked and scrubbed within an inch of my life - but despite the torture I was very relaxed.

The knots in my shoulders returned on the hellish journey home which involved another lengthy stretch in Nairobi airport. I very nearly kissed the air steward when we got on the BA flight to London and we were definitely pleased to be home.

Come Dine With Me - Episode Three - Dinner with Mr Swift

Another saturday - another dinner party. This time it was the turn of Mr Swift. It was a drunken night (a whole lot of gin topped off with some champagne and a lot of toaster one-up-manship)in May when Mr Swift and I got a bit competitive about cooking and planned this whole come dine with me thing. Mr Swift's menu did not disappoint. I went for homestyle stodge to earn points for comfort eating satisfaction. Mr Swift went for restaurant style glamour and got all Gary Rhodes and Marcus Waring with the presentation - most impressive.

We started with tea smoked beetroot with marscapone cheese and walnut crackers (I had to forgo the crackers just in case the walnuts caused a Mick Jagger revival). Next came a pig feast - pressed belly pork (oooh the crackling) and a tender loin of pork with roasted apples and lovely savoy cabbage (I kept down greens - hurrah). Mr Swift got a touch stressed about his slightly undercooked Boulangere Potatoes - but we didn't mind. The grand finale was a concoction of cream, white chocolate, shortbread and raspberries - which was so tempting that I decided to risk extending the life of the rash and eat the raspberries. Well worth it - it was delicious and so far no more rash.

The boys again washed it all down with copious amounts of wine and beer - but thankfully Mr Jones didn't get ill like last time. The final three dinner parties take place in the New Year - they have a lot to live up to.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Not so pretty

Thankfully I am not too vain. The Mick Jagger look is still going strong and has been accessorised this morning with a very hot and unsightly rash all over my face.

The doctor says "it's some kind of allergy" - Really? How terribly clever of you! And I have antihistamines to take to try and alleviate it. I am now not allowed to eat red fruits or nuts - which could be the possible cause. Apologies to anyone I terrified in Stamford this morning - it really isn't a pretty sight.

The very, very good news is that in the presence of the facial horrors the sickness appears to be abating. And shocking as it may seem I would actually choose the red pizza face over the vomitting any day - so therein lies the silver lining.

Early this morning I asked Baby Jones if these kind of afflictions are going to continue throughout the whole nine months. A voice from the other side of the bed said: "No mummy - I'm going to be a pain in your ass for the next 20 years!"

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Introducing....


...Baby Jones!

You may have noticed that I've been a bit quiet of late - that's because when you have a HUGE secret it's a struggle to write about anything else. But now - as you can see - the secret's out and Mr Jones and I are having a baby. We are rather excited.

My silence has also been thanks to the fact that I have spent most of the past five weeks kneeling on the floor of various lavatories and struggling to keep down anything other than baked beans, fish fingers and (I can hardly stand to type this) - Smash! Baby Jones, it seems, is not a fan of anything healthy and is clearly from the turkey twizzler school of eating. Water, fruit, vegetables have all been rejected for a staple of beans and junk.

There have been anti-sickness tablets and much talk of drips and hospitals (thankfully avoided). Mr Jones has had a baptism of fire into married life and has had to become cook, cleaner, nurse and chief hair-holder-backer. Bless him.

As a person not always blessed with emotional stability I am pleased to report that so far I haven't had any mental meltdowns. Although I did burst into tears in the centre of Stamford because a Gospel Choir were singing and it sounded lovely - hmm!

Yesterday my lips decided to swell to enormous proportions - a reaction to the anti-sickness drugs - so I now resemble Mick Jagger - nice - and the tablets have had to stop. So do leave a clear path between me and the nearest loo.

But other than that all is well. Baby Jones is 4.5cm long and very wriggly, from certain angles he/she looks like a frog - bless.

Normal blogging service will now return. I promise to try not to bore you to tears.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Come dine with me - episode two - Dinner with Mr Medd

Mr Medd is into sports - it's kind of an addiction. So on Saturday we all had to arrive dressed in our favourite sporting attire. I cheated and wore my gym kit having decided that the sight of me in my jodphurs and the pervading smell of horse from my boots might put people off eating. Plus if you wander the streets of Stamford (yes even Stamford) on a Saturday night carrying a riding crop people look at you suggestively. Mr Jones wore his football kit, Mr Medd was a hockey player, Mr Swift a golfer and Mrs Swift a yogini. Mrs Medd joined me as a gym bunny.

I had to skip the starter - which was butternut squash soup. My most dedicated readers will remember that twas butternut squash soup that was the source of the norovirus that had me hurling for days in February. I still can't touch the stuff. But I can report that the croutons were lovely.

Our main course was Mr Oliver's Broccoli and Cauliflower Cannelloni and salad - all very lovely and veggie. But the piece de resistance was the pudding. A homemade key lime pie - quite the triumph - I do love anything with a digestive biscuit base - yum.

Post meal we settled in the sitting room which had been decorated with old sports memoribillia. Points for effort. The girls then quickly demonstrated their superior sporting knowledge by beating the boys in a game of "guess that sports person". Although it could be argued that we had an unfair advantage given that we hadn't been tempted by Mr Medd's poisonous mixture of lucozade and vodka. Mr Jones was so tempted that he spent the next morning hunched over the toilet.

A good time was had by all - and we'd like to thank Mr Medd for his hospitality.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Abandoned


After just over two months of marriage Mr Jones has abandoned me for the wilds of Kent. He's been gone for what seems like weeks but is actually only 24 hours, leaving his forlorn wife and two cats to fend for themselves. It is a true tragedy - made worse by the fact that he is incapable of having a telephone conversation.

It is a truth universally acknowledged between members of the fairer sex that gentlemen these days are to be found lacking in the conversational arts - especially over the telephone.

Face to face you can hardly shut them up - especially if their vocal cords have been recently lubricated with something alcoholic. But wave a phone in front of their face and their talent for idle chit chat miraculously disappears into the ether. The same thing happens if you try to engage them in a tete a tete while Top Gear, The Grand Prix or Deadliest Catch are on the television. (Put Neighbours on however and they don't shut up - clearly unaware that it is vital that you establish just what Lynn thinks she's doing try to bribe Paul yet again!)

He promises to be home at some point tomorrow evening to give me his undivided attention (until he heads out to play football - lucky me!) - until then I shall have to make do with a brief and distracted telephone call. Clearly Kent holds many distraction - or perhaps they watch a lot of Top Gear.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Advice for a bride to be....

My friend Miss S is getting married - whoo hoo - very exciting. So at the risk of sounding patronising I thought I'd pass on a few bits of post wedding wisdom. The stuff that most people in their rose tinted post nuptial state won't tell you.....

1 Have a real think about what YOU want - and be prepared for the fact that other people think they have the right to have an opinion. Clearly they have no such right, but that won't stop them. If you don't want kids at your wedding don't have them, if you want a non religious ceremony have one, if you want to wear orange go for it. It YOUR day and everyone else should just be happy about the fact that you're getting married.

2 There is no such thing as "The Dress" - it is a myth that some brides like to believe in, but following extensive questioning of everyone I've ever know who has wandered up he aisle very few people have that "oh my god this is the one moment". I agonised over the fact that I never had that moment, but I loved my dress anyway.

3 Give a really short RSVP dates. When people get a wedding invitation this is what happens. "Ahhh lovely - so and so and so and so are getting married in August, oh we can make that, great, I'll just pin this to the notice board/stick it on the mantel piece/put it in the "stuff" draw in the kitchen so I remember to RSVP." Then they get so used to seeing it on their noticeboard/mantel piece that they forget to RSVP until you - in a fraught "Oh my god no one is coming to my wedding" state - call/text/email/facebook stalk them until they finally get around to replying. I say give them a three weeks max to reply.

4 If your vendors are men give them the most detailed instructions you could possibly imagine giving anyone. If you say cutlery they don't necessarily think knife, fork, spoon - so you end up with just knives and forks. If you say standard wine glass they will order something that looks like it belongs in a 1985 episode of the Golden Girls. If possible give them written itemised lists and pictures of exactly what you want - to save last minute cutlery and glassware meltdowns.

5 Prepare yourself for bad behaviour. There's always someone who ends up crying because they're not the bride, or making a scene because they've had one (or six) too many. If you have a friend/family member who is incapable of behaving when drunk, don't for one minute think they'll manage it on your wedding day. Prepare yourself for their rudeness and ignore them - you don't have to deal with them on your day. If you can get away with not inviting them then do it.

6 Get a wedding video - we didn't have one and that's my biggest regret. I don't remember much of our ceremony because I was so overwhelmed that so many people had turned up to see us get married and because I was finally there outside in the sunshine saying "I do". I'd love to watch it back just once. So I think it would have been worth the extra expense.

7 Never, ever, ever, ever agree to share anything with a bride who is having her wedding the next day. It will only cause you great anxiety and much stress - and it won't save you anywhere near enough money to justify the grief. In fact - she'll more than likely be better off than you in the end without all the stress.

8 Apologise to everyone in your wedding party in advance - you will get cross and shout and possibly even cry. Weddings are stressful and a lot of work - especially if you're doing it all yourself. I told everyone involved to expect a meltdown, so when it happened no one was suprised.

9 Don't expect everyone to be as into it as you - getting married was for me one of the most important things I will ever do, but other people don't think the same way. They don't understand why it's so crucial for it to be perfect, or that you'll be hurt if they don't seem to take an interest when you'd expect them to. It took me ages to realise that being married isn't the be all and end all for some people as it is for me - but once I accepted that it was easy to deal with the fact that they didn't want to help.

10 Talk it through - sit down with both of your families in the beginning and discuss how involved everyone wants to be. We didn't do this and I think that it would have saved me a lot of heartache if we had.

11 Be prepared for theivery - wedding guests can be rather light fingered (shocking I know) - I am still missing a cream and pink checked rug and a cream cushion with pink spots. (If they're in your house - shame on you!)

12 Order more double the booze for your welcome drinks - pictures take ages and guests get ansty if they're without a drink for more than two seconds. So have your bar in an accessible place straight away or double the booze to keep people happy.

13 Get the best music - you might want to have a rave - but are people really going to enjoy dancing to that noise all night? We had cheese and everyone loved it - with one notable exception - but I don't care what she thinks!

14 Try and take it all in and spend time with your new husband - it really is an amazing experiences and one most of us only plan on doing once, so make the most of it. If things go wrong just ignore it and laugh it off, I didn't care about anything but having a good time - and no one noticed that some of the candles weren't lit.

Good luck and happy planning.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Honeymoon - Safari day 2 & 3 - we saw lions!



Despite the threat of being crawled on by Marvin and his mates (we quickly discovered that Marvin the mouse had several friends - Melvin and Marjorie to name but two), I managed to get some sleep before our 6am wake-up call.

In Madikwe in September at 6am it's still dark and it's very, very cold. Mr Jones hadn't really prepared me for the arctic conditions so I ended up wearing about 12 layers of clothes topped off with a very un-safari like navy and bright pink striped hoody. The safari buffs on our truck, dressed in their khakis and proper hats with their binoculars and bird watching books, gave me the once over with barely hidden disgust. But the kindly ranger assured me that once in the truck the animals wouldn't notice me.


My inappropiate outfit

Within minutes I was wrapped head to toe in a khaki blanket to prevent imminent frostbite anyway and my inappropriate clothes were soon forgotten. I got thoroughly excited at my first wildebeest sighting, and gasped with delight at the zebra and springbok. In the distance we saw a lone elephant and we sat beside a lion and a lioness in the grass for a while - but they were too busy sleeping to pose for a photograph.



I soon learnt that the warming cup of herbal tea before leaving the lodge was a bad idea. Four hours bouncing around in a safari truck if you have a bladder the size of a mouse is not much fun. Luckily by the end of our trip I'd become pretty good at bush loos. I can now spot an appropriate bush and pee in seconds without being savaged by hyena or bitten by a snake - or exposing my nethers to the rest of the safari party.



In the evening safari I saw my first giraffe, and a brown hyena - which apparently are very rare (I was so desperate for the loo at this point that I really didn't care to watch is gnawing on it's bit of giraffe - but everyone else seemed to be enthralled). We also saw a white rhino - I say we - but what I mean is everyone else saw a rhino - my eyes being as they are - I saw a grey blob stood by a tree and it was only when I looked at the pictures with my specs on that I could actually claim to have seen a rhino - Mr Jones found this quite hilarious.

By our final safari I was getting a bit sick of the sight of zebra and various types of venison. I wanted some elephants or some lions or even a leopard. We drove across the amazing bush and the buffs got excited about various boring birds and Mr Jones and I started to get impatient, with just two hours to go.



Then there they were - a lioness and her daughter and five cubs. They were so close to us that you could have literally have reached out and touched them - if you'd wanted your arm severed. I got a bit snap happy with the camera and if you flick through the pics you can actually see the lions walking along - hmm.

We could have done with another day on Safari. It's awfully relaxing. You get back from your game drive, stuff yourself with breakfast, hop into the outside shower, wrap up in a fluffly robe and then laze around until high tea. Then you shovel down some cake and head on out for the evening safari before coming back to eat some more - on our last night we had a romantic dinner for two on our verandah (watched by lots of little eyes) and spied on by marvin and his mates, who were clearly eyeing up the left overs. All this is washed down with a good old G&T - what's not to love?

My current favourite picture


Love, love, love it (especially because my arms look skinny - something that rarely happens!)

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Come Dine With Me - Episode One - Dinner with Mrs Jones

Saturday night saw the beginning of the marathon run of winter dinner parties for the Stamford version of Come Dine With Me. I spent the entire of Saturday wrapped in my pinny and slaving over the cooker (well actually that's a lie - I managed to squeeze in a bacon sandwich at Beans first - the best bacon sandwiches in Stamford - heartily recommended by myself and Mr Jones, go on try one).

Despite preparation earlier in the week it still took longer than I thought. Had I been watching myself on television I would be smuggly cursing me from the comfort of my sofa for being a "stupid cow" and not planning things properly and laughing as I stabbed myself in the eye with a mascara wand five minutes before my guests arrived. Anyhoo - I was not watching myself and it was not amusing.

My guests arrived on time (points for you Medds) and were served Lemon Drop Martinis. I had planned to photograph each course but I never quite got round to it. So I have the next best thing - pics of the recipe books. Mine of course looked much, much better!

We started with caramelised balsamic onion and goat's cheese crostini with a rocket salad (sorry no pic - I made this recipe up). Thanks to the super grill the crostini ended up a little bit crisp. I whisked the slightly blackened one onto my plate and served the least charred to everyone else!



Next came Spicy Pork and Chilli Pepper Goulash with rice, soured cream and fresh crusty bread a la Mr Oliver. This was met with slight consternation by Mrs Swift who has opted to cook the same main course in episode six (of all the cookery books in all of the world - we had to use the same one). Much discussion was entered into as to whether she should be allowed to change her menu. I am certainly more than willing to eat it again - it was lovely.



And the pièce de résistance - homemade sticky toffee pudding with homemade vanilla ice cream. Which was so popular with Mr Swift that he ate his and half of mine and some of Mrs Swifts too. The ice cream (due to its very nature) was my one piece of advance prepartion - and it was worth it. I still have half a tub should you wish to try it - it won't last long though.

A pot of fresh mint tea and some homemade biscotti filled us to the brim - although the boys still managed to squeeze in a couple of large gins on top of the three bottles of wine and cocktails. The video taped scores should be amusing - Mr Jones was struggling to speak and Mr Swift and Mr Medd were struggling to stand.

At the risk of seeming ungracious I began handing out coats at half past midnight when Mr Jones fell onto the sitting room floor and said he was going to bed, and Mr Swift began looking like he was taking root on the sofa. I packed them off with biscotti for the road and hoped they'd all had a good night.

Monday, 5 October 2009

The Honeymoon - Safari Day 1

It's jolly chilly today - and smells of bonfires outside - I love it. Penny's bandage has been removed, but she now has a cone on her head to stop her licking her foot which apparently has a sore from the banages. She is not amused. I have lots of work to do - but procrastination seems to be the name of the game.

I had been put off from telling honeymoon tales - following the reaction on my Cape Town opinions - but there have been demands for more. So, I thought I'd continue (hopefully without offending anyone!). We left Cape Town after being congratulated on our choice of weeks to visit - apparently we'd been very lucky with the weather and everyone hoped we'd appreciated it. We assured them that we had.

We jumped on a plane to Johannesburg - Mr Jones spending the flight wedged between me and a little girl who was slowly eating a quickly melting chocolate bar that she kept waving at him menacingly.

Our driver picked us up and we started our loooooong drive from Johannesburg to Madikwe. The travel agent had insisted that the drive took just over three hours - by hour four, with another hour to go my backside begged to differ. Mr Jones had done the drive before, but helpfully couldn't remember how long it took, probably because he dropped of at the beginning and woke up at the end. (No such luxury this time husband - if I'm awake with a numb bum, you can be too).

We stopped for a loo break in Zeerust - an industrial looking town that is literally 100 miles from pretty much anywhere and surrounded by bush on all sides. It was Friday night and the streets were full of people. The noise hit us instantly. In an English town you might get a few people chatting, a couple of hooligans shouting and garnering themselves a few tuts, and the odd person singing - but in Zeerust you couldn't hear for the noise of people. They were singing in groups to music, chatting, laughing, calling and shouting. The whole town seemed to be on the street (or in Nandos). It was amazing, but slightly overwhelming. I scuttled to the loo at the petrol station while our driver had a cigarette (yes - on the forecourt of the petrol station, right beside the pump - apparently petrol isn't flammable in Africa).

My agony was relieve an hour later when we pulled into the Madikwe game reserve and made our way to Impodimo Game Lodge. We'd missed the evening drive so a ranger with a big gun took us to our mini lodge. Impodimo is the only lodge in Madikwe that isn't fenced so the animals can come right up to the rooms, which means after dark you have to go everywhere with a ranger and a gun! The elephants drink from the swimming pool and bison stalk about right next to your veranda. Most unnerving but very exciting.

Our room is beautiful with a free standing bath, outside shower, four poster bed and comfy sofas. We can see straight out into the bush. We cannot believe the luxury this far from civilisation.

We eat dinner outside surrounded by fire pits (and rangers with guns), wrapped up in jumpers and rugs - the food is amazing, but I keep my feet off the floor for fear of anything lizard like crawling up my trouser leg.

We get back to our room to find the bathroom full of candles, a steaming bubble bath and a bottle of champagne on ice. Bless them.

We fall into bed after our long journey - very ready for sleep. However a rustling munching noise keeps us awake. Mr Jones assures me it's just a bird in the thatched roof of our lodge. I beg to differ. We grab the torch and shine it round the room. Peeking out of my trainer is mouse with big eyes and even bigger ears. He is chewing his way into a bag of roast veg crisps that we'd stuff in my shoe for the journey. He steals one and runs under the bed where he proceeds to scraunch and scrunch the crisp for the next 10 minutes. We call him Marvin and accept the fact that we'll be sharng the room and the crisps. I tell myself that mice can't climb (yes I know they can!) so that I can get to sleep before our 6am safari drive.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Proposals

I've just been commissioned to write a feature about amazing proposal stories - so if you have any do let me know.

I'm always incredibly impressed by men who come up with amazing and creative ways to ask their girlfriends to marry them. Not that I'd change my proposal in any way - it was perfect and very Mr Jones (there was no plan - he just did it).

But I do love to hear of sky writers, fire work displays, dogs carrying engagement rings, romantic meals for two in unusual places, postcards sent from far off places....

If you have a perfect down on one knee moment do tell - and lets see the pics if you have them too.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Come Dine With Me

With no wedding to plan we have a winter of blissfully free weekends ahead of us. So what are we going to do - aside from redecorating the sitting room and bathroom, a spot of gardening and numerous afternoon teas at the George - £3.95 for two very large scones with jam and clotted cream - bargain!?

A while back, during a competitive cooking conversation between myself and Mr Swift(there are many - but I always trump him because I have a four slice Dualit) the idea of a Come Dine With Me style competition was floated - less the ferreting about in other people's undies draws and the thousand pound prize of course. Everyone jumped on board and the first dinner party - to be hosted by me - has been penciled in for two weeks time.

I fear Mr Swift and Mr Jones are getting slightly carried away by the whole thing. Yesterday talk of videoing everyone's verdicts quickly turned to "candid shots of the host/hostess preparing food and little snaps of the party in full swing" - until Mrs Swift and I pointed out that we hadn't actually been commissioned by channel four to make the next series. (Hear much muttering about girls always ruining the fun).

So the menus and shopping lists are being planned - and we're all pondering whether being excited about this make us sound really rather old and tragic?

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Is this married life?

Today I returned home after a rather long day. Mr Jones had made himself pasta for tea (carb loading for football don't you know). Just as he was about to rush out of the door to kick balls about with other boys, I asked him if he was planning to leave me to clear up the mess he'd left in the kitchen. He chuckled and said pointedly: "Yeah - sorry about that - wife"!

Monday, 21 September 2009

Hmmm

I've just had an email to say that my comments about the townships in Cape Town were misinformed and offensive. I welcome all feedback to my blog and respect everyone's opinions.

The point I was trying to make was a cultural one - but perhaps, reading back what I've written, it wasn't coming across quite right. I don't dispute at all that there are some people in Africa who live in the most horrendous poverty, or that they need and deserve outside help.

What I was trying to say is that many of the people in the townships in Cape Town (specifically) have jobs and still choose to stay there - amongst people who share their culture, views and life experiences. Given the opportunity to move to so called "better areas" populated mainly by white people they often say no - because in their mind it's not "better". Why move amongst strangers and pay taxes for the privilege?

It might be hard for us to understand that some people really don't care about having a lovely house and lots of 'things', because in our culture that is something we're taught to value and the thing that most of us spend our lives trying to achieve (you only have to look at the credit crunch to understand our obsession for wanting more) . From what I understand - and of course this is just my opinion based on what I've seen and heard - many of the people from the Black and Coloured townships (and I use that word because that is what the people call themselves) choose their society, friends and culture over a nice house, taxes and legal Sky!

So perhaps it's actually us who are missing a trick - as we sit, isolated in our lovely houses, in our "nice" areas, paying taxes and Sky bills, hardly talking to our neighbours. Perhaps if we had a bigger sense of culture and community we'd need fewer of the trappings and trimmings.

What I wanted to get across was that I felt that my feeling guilty about what I have in comparison to what these people have is pointless because perhaps we actually want different things.

Thank you to my anonymous critic for forcing me to examine and clarify my views further - perhaps you will still think I'm wrong, and perhaps when I return to South Africa I'll think I was wrong this time too. I honestly do apologise if my thoughts caused offense and I hope you accept my apologies. If you ever read this - do let me know your thoughts.

One month in



Today I have been Mrs Jones for one whole month - it's going well!

So today I thought I'd share our ceremony with those of you who missed it.

Picture the scene: A bright, but blustery day, at Lyveden New Bield, with big dramatic clouds and patches of perfect blue sky. Rows of chairs sit on the grass facing an Elizabethan mound and sparkling water. The back drop is an unfinished Elizabethan shooting lodge. The seats are filled with smiling guests and a nervous Mr Jones stands at the top of the aisle next to Ingrid the humanist minister.



Two bridesmaids dressed in mocha and pink from Coast walk towards the ceremony site. Behind them, it's horn tooting, comes a cream convertible Morris Minor driven by the Father of the Bride and carrying a very anxious Mrs Jones to be.


Over the breeze you can here the opening bars of The Blowers Daughter by Damien Rice. Chosen because we both loved the film Closer.

I start my walk up the aisle, clamping my hand to my veil to stop it escaping into the wind (I fail when I reach Mr Jones and want to hold his hand - so the maid of honour holds it instead).



Ingrid begins:

In different cultures throughout the world, many traditions are associated with weddings, and one of these is for the bride’s father to give his blessing to the union by accompanying his daughter down the aisle and giving her hand in marriage to her husband. Rebecca’s father, Mr. Peter Speechley is proud to be here today, not only to support his daughter, but to also to publicly declare his affirmation of her choice to spend her life with Tim. And so, before all the family and friends gathered here, I ask…

Peter, are you happy for Rebecca to be married to Tim and are you content to wish them well on their journey through life?

Response: I am

You will no doubt have realised that this will not be a traditional ceremony or one that you may be familiar with. Having committed to spend the rest of their lives together as husband and wife, Tim and Beck decided to have a Humanist ceremony as this best reflects the way in which they have chosen to live their lives and it also gives them the opportunity to select music, readings and aspirations which have special significance to them.

Humanists believe that, in order to live together harmoniously, each society needs a moral code, but that this morality comes from within ourselves and is not dependent on the teachings of a religion. We see it as our responsibility to lead good and productive lives, whilst showing tolerance, respect and compassion to our fellow citizens and a concern for our planet. But whatever your beliefs and outlook on life, it is important to Tim and Beck that you feel happy in sharing this special occasion with them.

Tim and Beck know that they are fortunate to have each found the right person with whom to share all of life’s inevitable highs and lows and they are thrilled that you are all able to be here to witness their public declaration of commitment to each other. They have chosen to invite you, the people who play different, but very important roles in their lives because they feel your presence adds significance to the occasion, and consequently, to their union. Later in the ceremony, I will ask you all to endorse this, by making your own promise to support them in their relationship.

To open the ceremony, we will hear from Beck’s best friend Sharon, who has chosen to read a passage from Beck’s favourite novel and the first book she ever leant to Tim –Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

Captain Corelli's Mandolin
Louis de Bernieres
Love is a temporary madness,
it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides.
And when it subsides you have to make a decision.
You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together
that it is inconceivable that you should ever part.
Because this is what love is.
Love is not breathlessness,
it is not excitement,
it is not the promulgation of eternal passion.
That is just being "in love" which any fool can do.
Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away,
and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.
Those that truly love, have roots that grow towards each other underground,
and when all the pretty blossom have fallen from their branches,
they find that they are one tree and not two.


So, what do we know of the journey that led us here to witness the marriage of these two people?

Tim grew up in Islington with parents Alison and Tony and his two sisters Nicole and Lauren, who is one of Beck’s bridesmaids today. He describes his younger self as ‘a bit of a pain’ and acknowledges that, had they met when he was still at school, he and Beck would almost certainly have not got along. At the age of eleven Tim and his family moved to Peterborough, after which he spent three very enjoyable years at boarding school before returning home to attend Bourne Grammar. By his own admission, he didn’t work particularly hard, but was fortunately bright enough to still do well and at the age of 18 he succeeded in gaining a place at Hull University to study computer science, equipping him for his job in IT.

Beck, on the other hand, was a very conscientious and well behaved child. Brought up by parents Peter and Susan near Cambridge with younger sister, Rachel – her other bridesmaid – she enjoyed an idyllic country childhood of tree climbing, horse riding and all the other delights of an outdoor life. She loved school and spent much of her spare time with her nose in a book, often in a world of her own. Following her success in her ‘A’ levels, she too chose to continue her education by taking English and American studies at university in Hull, before doing a post graduate course in journalism.

And Hull, of course, is where their story begins.
The whole university experience proved to be a happy and worthwhile one for both Tim and Beck. They each gained the necessary qualifications to pursue their respective chosen careers …and they each met their future partner for life. They were introduced to each other by friends during their first term and were soon regularly mixing in the same social circle. During the following academic year, they were part of a group who chose to share a house, but although the chemistry was apparently obvious to all around them, to the frustration of their friends, their relationship remained platonic. It was only in their third year when, no longer living under the same roof, but still in regular contact, they finally realised what everyone else had known all along.

That was early in 2001 and in the intervening eight and a half years, the love and respect they each feel for the other has blossomed and evolved into a true partnership. They became a couple instead of two individuals – two pieces of a perfectly fitting jigsaw and were both warmly welcomed into the other’s family. Sometimes together and sometimes apart, they continued to enjoy a variety of hobbies and interests, being mature enough to understand that you do not have to share everything in order to share a common goal.

When Tim and Paul, who is his best man today, shared a house in Bourne, Beck was a frequent and welcome weekend visitor, and their relationship went from strength to strength. Tim told me that his dad, Tony, who sadly died two years ago, knew without any doubt that in Beck, his son had found a soul mate and did everything he could to encourage Timothy to propose. And it seems he was not alone.

Tim had long ago realised that the love he and Beck felt for each other would last forever, but decided that he would not propose while others were telling him he should. Eventually it seems, friends tired of their repeated questions and Tim knew the time was right. Having booked a meal and a room at the Olive Branch restaurant, a venue favoured by the couple for special occasions, he proposed to a stunned, but delighted Beck and I need not tell you her answer!

Having received the good wishes of the staff, Beck then had another shock when she called her family to tell them the news and discovered that, apart from her mum, everyone else was in on the secret!

And so Tim and Beck are now here, before friends and family to take their relationship to the next level; to formalise their union and to make a public declaration of their love. In committing to be lifelong partners, they are also forming a new family and, inspired by their own childhood experiences, they hope to create a loving and nurturing environment in which they, and any children they may have together can grow and prosper.

An unknown poet wrote,
‘Our family is a circle of love and strength
With every birth and every union the circle grows
Every joy shared adds more love
Every obstacle faced together makes the circle stronger.’


In the sixteenth century, the Dutch humanist Erasmus, wrote a passage about marriage which is just as true today. He said,

‘What is more sweet than to live with one with whom you are united in body and mind, who talks with you in secret affection, to whom you have committed all your faith and fortune? What in all nature is lovelier? You are bound to friends in affection. How much more to a husband or wife in the highest love, with union of the body, the bond of mutual vows and the sharing of your goods! …Nothing is more safe, tranquil, pleasant and lovable than marriage.’

And that feeling of safety and security is what we all wish for you.

Now before we move on to the more formal part of the proceedings, Catherine, a close friend of Tim and Beck’s from their early days together at University will share with you a reading which she has selected for this occasion.

The Promise
Eileen Rafter

The sun danced on the snow with a sparkling smile,
As two lovers sat quietly, alone for a while.
Then he turned and said, with a casual air
(Though he blushed from his chin to the tips of his hair),
"I think I might like to get married to you"

"Well then, she said, "Well there's a thought,
But what if we can't promise to be all that we ought,
If I'm late yet again, when we plan to go out.
For I know I can't promise, I'll learn to ignore
Dirty socks and damp towels strewn all over the floor.

So if we can't vow to be all that we should
I'm not sure what to do, though the idea's quite good".
But he gently smiled and tilted his head
Till his lips met her ear and softly he said

"I promise, to weave my dreams into your own,
That wherever you breathe will be my hearts home.
I promise, that whether with rags or with gold I am blessed
Your smile is the jewel I will treasure the best.

Do you think then, my love, we should marry - do you?"
"Yes" she said smiling "I do".


Thank you.

Timothy and Rebecca will shortly be making solemn promises to each other. Before then, as I mentioned earlier, I will ask you, their guests, to also make a commitment. If you agree with what I am about to say, please reply together, ‘We do’.

‘We have come here today to witness the lifelong commitment that Timothy Jones and Rebecca Speechley are about to make to each other. Do you, their family and friends, pledge to offer them your time, help and wisdom throughout their married life and to support their relationship and respect the promises they will make?’

Response: We do.
Thank you.

Tim and Beck, we have now come to the part of the ceremony where, in the presence of your chosen guests you will make the promises and express the sentiments which you have decided encapsulate your feelings for each other. You have chosen to take turns in speaking these promises, each one being different, but of equal importance.

Tim:
Beck I ask you to marry me, to say I love you does not seem enough. I cannot imagine my life without you - you complete me.

When the burdens of the world are upon me, I just need to be beside you. When the world is against you, I will protect you.

I love you more with each passing day, so I give you my hand, my heart and my love.


Beck:
Tim, thank you so much for finally asking me to marry you. I can't imagine my live without you in it - without you hugs that feel like home and your supremely reassuring logic.

I promise to always try and make you happy, to be by your side and hold your hand no matter what life throws at us. I promise never to let anyone come between us, to always respect you and be faithful to you.

Your love and support are the reason I am who I am today, so with all that I am, I promise to love you forever, be with you always and never let you go.


Timothy, do you promise before these witnesses gathered here to share your life with Rebecca, loving and looking after her, respecting and caring for her and bringing her a lifetime of happiness, tenderness and affection?
Response: I do

Rebecca, do you promise before these witnesses gathered here to share your life with Timothy, loving and looking after him, respecting and caring for him and bringing him a lifetime of happiness, tenderness and affection?
Response: I do

Tim and Beck have made a verbal exchange of promises. They will now exchange rings as a visual and permanent symbol of their union.

Could Claudia please bring the rings? Thank you.

Tim, please place this ring on Beck’s finger and repeat after me,
“I give you this ring”………………..
“as an outward and lasting symbol”……………………
“of my love and our marriage”……………………………….

Beck, please place this ring on Tim’s finger and repeat after me
“I give you this ring”……………………………
“as an outward and lasting symbol”………………………..
“of my love and our marriage”…………………………………..

It is now my privilege and pleasure to pronounce you Husband and Wife.

You may kiss the bride….

Tim and Beck, the wedding is almost over, but your marriage has just begun. On behalf of everyone present, I thank you for allowing us to share in this wonderful occasion and wish you a lifetime of love, adventure, happiness and fulfillment.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you, your bride and groom, Mr. and Mrs. Jones…

We walk back up the aisle to the sound of Me and Mrs Jones - sung by the marvellous Mr Buble.

Thank you for indulging me with my memories. We'd love to hear your favourite memories of our day so feel free to leave comments on the blog. And even if you weren't there we'd love to know what you think. xx

PS you can make the pictures bigger by clicking on them.

Friday, 18 September 2009

An update on Miss Penny

I'm afraid Miss Penny is refusing to be photographed avec bandage - she is far too vain. But if you could imagine a small fluffy black cat with a bright pink bandaged leg and what amounts to a club foot you'd be pretty close.

She has asked me to tell all her well-wishers that she is doing well and to thank you all for your concern. This was expressed while generally scowling in my direction because I refuse to let her out into the garden and because we have taken to calling her "clubfoot" and giggling when she tries to run - this does not amuse her.

A few more little details


My bouquet was a beautiful mix of hydrangea (my favourite) and vintage roses - none of which I know the name of - but ask Miss Pickering she'll be able to tell you. The bridesmaids carried big pink hydrangea heads.



The aisle of our outside ceremony was lined with Bonne Maman jars filled with flowers and herbs. A big thanks to freecycle, the ladies of Rutland, Miss Simkins and anyone else who forced themselves to eat Bonne Maman for the cause. We'd planned for them to be tied to the chairs with pink ribbon - a la the photograph - but unfortunately the gale force winds meant that they sat elegantly on the grass instead, looking equally as beautiful.



The tea and cake stall was covered in vintage tea cups sourced by the Mother of the Bride from the local charity shop. There is now a similar picture adorning the walls of the shop and the ladies who run it are beside themselves with excitement. Everyone seems to have their favourite tea set and the Mother of the Bride is willing to barter. The cakes were all homemade by the Mother of the Bride, the maid of honour, myself, Miss Jones and Mrs Medd. People are still talking about the brownies and the carrot cake.



I arrived in style in a Morris Minor convertible - driven by my Daddy because we both get awfully car sick and couldn't bear the thought of being driven by anyone else. It's a good job really because I was so nervous that I was very nearly sick twice on the way there anyway. We drove over the field right up the the ceremony site.....

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

The details

I will resume with the honeymoon tales at some point - once I've had time to sift through the pics of lions, giraffes and Kudu. But I thought I might share a few wedding details with those of you who sadly couldn't make it. These pictures are courtesy of the lovely Miss P - we are still awaiting for the proper professional ones - but I have to say that I think these are rather fabulous.

I wanted our wedding to be very personal, not just a generic "wedding" the same as everyone else's. It was a lot of work, but it was completely worth it. I couldn't have done it without the help of my family and the patience and indulgence of Mr Jones - who was happy to let me run with my dreams - so thank you all.


The theme was country village fete - the bunting was hand made by the mother of the bride and the maid of honour.


The table cloths were made by me. The sweetie jar table centres were Mr Jones'idea.


The gallery of pictures was the work of me and Mr Jones.


The scones were baked on the morning of the wedding and served with jam I made myself - there were fresh strawberries too.





There were fete games to keep our guests entertained - some made by Mr Jones (I was very impressed by the pink ladder he made for the bean bag toss - not pictured. I made the bean bags - all different weights which apparently made it extra tricky - ooops). The signs were handmade by me and the very skilled maid of honour (based on her design for my hen do sash) - you should see her with an iron and some wonderweb!





It was all topped off with flowers by Miss Pickering.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Interrupted by daily life

Our reminiscences of the warm hazy days of the honeymoon have been rudely interrupted by the reality of everyday life. You see Miss Penny has broken two of her toes.

It is quite her own fault - apt as she is to nosiness, she was sat on the front doormat watching Mr Jones tinker about with his new Prius. Please note - it's a company car - I know we shop in Waitrose and live in Stamford, have a Dualit toaster (four slices Mr Swift), a Kitchenaid Mixer, buy organic veg and have a weakness for all things Boden - but even we aren't soooooo "wanky" that we'd actually buy a prius for ourselves - especially in white.

Anyway - she was watching Mr Jones trying to workout how to actually drive the thing, when a gust of wing caught the front door and slammed it shut on her paw. She disappeared for about 30 minutes and then came hobbling home.

Had it been Mr Jeremy's paw in the door there would have been scenes of dramatic proportions, an ambulance would have had to be called and the attention of the neighbours alerted by a cacophony of pained yowling. Miss Penny (being a girl) was dignified in her pain and said she'd rather "see how it was in the morning" rather than put anyone out.

On Friday, after a general anaesthetic, an xray and some pain killers she was returned to me with a pink bandaged leg and strict instructions that she should be caged for six whole weeks. Neither of us are amused.

By Saturday morning she was out of the cage but under room arrest. She'd learnt far too quickly to smack her pink club foot on the bars to make her demands for freedom all the more pressing. She sleeps a lot but in her waking hours likes to vocally and visually remind us that it really isn't on to shut her in one room - evil eyes, manacing scowls and piercing, screeching yowls.

Today we've been back to the vets. The bandage on her leg is now blue and room arrest has been approved. So far the bill stands at £203 - we do not have pet insurance and we have to take her back every three days for a bandage change. The boiler is also having issues and a plumber needs to be called. The honeymoon is most definitely over.

Friday, 11 September 2009

The Honeymoon - Day 4 - Bye Bye Cape Town



We spend the day wondering the streets of Cape Town. There have been a lot of warnings about walking about,and perhaps we're naive, but we feel pretty safe and don't feel at all threatened on the main streets. The people are really friendly - telling Mr Jones he should take pictures of me instead of trees and advising us to visit various museums (which we don't do out of sheer laziness).



We walk through the city gardens and visit the castle. Mr Jones tells me off for constantly paparazzi-ing everything - including him. We annoy market stall holders by looking and not buying and then have lunch.



As it's our honeymoon we decide that it's perfectly permissible to take an afternoon nap and read books until dinner time - so we do. Dinner (always my favourite part of the day) is at Beismillah a Cape Malay restaurant that specialises in Malay curries.

It's in all the guidebooks so when we arrive we're slightly surprised at the decor. This is not your usual touristy restaurant. The carpet on the floor looks like it came from someones lounge in 1968 and the ceiling is clad in some kind of shiny corrugated metal-look plastic. The seats are covered in the fabric you find on coaches and there are plastic mats on the tables. It smells good though and there are a few tables reassuringly full of locals.

Trevor - again our driver (today he is buying a new flat from which to run a new business and house his grandchildren) had recommended the Chicken Curry - so I have that and Mr Jones has a mutton version (I thought it smelt like wet dog - but he said it was tasty). The menu invited us to eat with our hands and I was all for it, but much to the delight of Mr Jones they gave us knives and forks - clearly thinking we'd make too much mess. So we stuffed down our curries and knocked back a mango lassi each. We ordered pudding - some kind of cakey thing with custard which was lovely, until I reached the tapioca at the bottom and the frog spawn texture put me off.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

The Honeymoon - Day 3 - Wine Tour



When on holiday in general (and honeymoon in particular)I try my very hardest not to speak to other holiday makers. I live in constant fear of being hunted down by "that" couple who find their own company so dull that they need to seek out yours at every possible opportunity. As a very strict rule I like to avoid any situation in which I might bump into these types - so we opt for a private wine tour. Instead of being herded into a bus load of tourists at 8am we're picked up by our guide Nicolette at a very civilised 10 o'clock and driven to Stellenbosch.



We spend the day sipping white wines and feeling guilty about not really liking any of them. We have a delicious lunch at Le Petite Ferme a vineyard in Franschhoek (a Malay curry for Mr Jones and a local Blue Cheese Risotto for me - washed down with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc). We spend the meal mocking the pathetic American couple who look like a dark haired version of Barbie and Ken, but whinge about it being cold and order Spag Bol off the kids menu and glass of coke (why fly to Africa if you're going to eat Spag Bol?????)



On our way to and from Cape Town we drive past the Townships. Where the majority of the black and coloured people of Cape Town live. You can go on organised trips to see these towns, but personally I don't think much of poverty tourism. If you want to see that sort of place I think you should see it while volunteering to help rather than gorping through a mini bus window as if you're at the zoo.

I ask Nicolette if unemployment is high in these areas and what the government is doing to help. She explains that actually the majority of the people in the townships have jobs and many earn decent money. A lot of them could afford to move out of the shanty towns and into a nicer area, but they choose not to.

They prefer to live in their shacks which (unlike in other areas of Africa) have electricity supplies and fresh water. They hook their flat screen tvs up to pirate sky, have the latest mobile phones and drive fancy cars. They see little point in moving to a so called "nicer area" because then they'd have to pay taxes and leave all their friends behind.

I'd been wrestling with my conscience about the townships. Trying to decide whether to feel guilty or not. I decide not. I have yet to see a miserable looking black or coloured person. I'm sure there are many exceptions to the rule - but the majority of the people we meet have jobs and seem to enjoy their life. They don't seem to care about fancy houses in nice areas surrounded by white folk - they want to be in their communities and to not pay their taxes. Fair enough (or not fair - if you're paying for their electicity supply!)

The Honeymoon - Day 2 - The Best Day



You'll remember that I mentioned that I had a hankering for horse riding on the beach. Well the maid of honour kindly donated a romantic beach ride to us as a wedding present - much to my delight and Mr Jones' consternation.

We chose to ride in Noordhoek - a rural(ish) area of Cape Town just down the coast. On the map it looked a short ride along a coast road and up a twisty bit in the mountains. But unfortunately the "twisty" bit has been open for just six months in the last 10 years because the local government is worried about being sued for falling rocks. So it took us an hour to drive round the base of Table Mountain instead.

Our taxi driver for the day was Trevor. He was Cape Malay and practically incomprehensible unless you concentrated really hard. He was chatty though and as well as being a taxi driver has in past lives been a wine delivery man, an undertaker, a wedding photographer (self taught and very scathing of our digital camera), grandfather and future entreprenuer.

Mr Jones asked him if being a taxi driver kept him busy. Not bad he replied. Especially last week when one of his colleagues was off sick and the other one got hijacked.

Mr Jones and I share a swift wide eyed glance and I ask if hijacking is common in Cape Town. Every now and again - but I've never been - is the answer. I lock my door and add "never been hijacked" to his list of accomplishments.

We arrive at Imhoff Farm at 11am - our ride is at 4pm but the hotel have assured us that there his plenty to do. The majority of the plenty is a Reptile Park - which clearly didn't go down well with me. After looking round the deli, craft shops and sussing out the stables it's 11.50am.

We decide to have lunch and settle ourselves down on the veranda of the restaurant - where we stay gazing at the view and chatting for the next four hours. We decide that we want to live right here forever in one of the massive houses with moutains in the back yard and a beach out the front.



Wrapped up in jumpers (It's winter in Cape Town) we head for the stables and Mr Jones tells me off when I sign the insurance form with "Speechley". I realise that I don't have a "Jones" signature. We saddle up and head out - just us and the two stable girls.



I immediately ask if we can go faster. Mr Jones says he's up for it so once we hit the beach we trot. Mr Jones bounces around a lot with a weird wincing expression on his face. We stop and the girls assure him that if he feels brave enough to canter it'll be far more comfortable. I nod in agreement and we set off. I turn back to see Mr Jones' eyes bulging out of the sockets and he begs to stop - citing a possible cessation of the Jones family tree if he's forced to continue.



Kindly he tells me to go for it - so I do - for two glorious kilometres of white sandy shoreline. All thoughts of psycho thoroughbreds and nasty falls clear from my mind as I canter along in the sunset, a huge grin plastered across my face.



I trot back to Mr Jones who points out a whale swimming just off the coast. "You don't get that in Skeggy," he says.

That evening - after another informative ride with our friend Trevor and a close call with a baboon on the road (apparently not an unusual sight and not normally met with squeals of delight from passengers - me!), we head out for dinner at The Codfather in Camps Bay for sushi, the freshest caught-today fish and the hugest prawns either of us have ever seen. A perfect end to a perfect day.

Monday, 7 September 2009

The Honeymoon - Day 1 - Cape Town



BA have gone all technical so unless you have the power to hack into their computer systems getting an upgrade to first class because it's your honeymoon is nigh on impossible. Mr Jones assures me that his computer skills don't including hacking so I make do with economy.

However we clearly look like we're on honeymoon (perhaps it's my haggard 'I've been planning a wedding and haven't slept for a week' look - or the fact that Mr Jones keeps calling me 'wife'.), because the air hostess asks us if we're going on holiday (why else would we be on the plane?) and when we grin inanely at her and say we're on our honeymoon she reappears about five minutes later with two glasses of champagne. I chase this down with a G&T and two sleeping pills and the next thing I know we're landing in Cape Town - marvellous.

We're picked up by Kurt - who is Cape Dutch - he looks just like you'd imagine someone called Kurt to look. His South African accent has a very Dutch twang and I feel almost put out by the fact that he isn't wearing clogs.

Now, I will confess to a pretty hefty preoccupation with the weather, but I have nothing, absolutely nothing, on the Capetonians. Kurt immediately insists that today is the day we should go up Table Mountain because it's cool, clear and sunny with very few clouds.

When we reach the lovely Cape Cagoden Hotel the receptionist tells us that we should go up Table Mountain because it's cool, clear and sunny with very few clouds and because yesterday it was misty. We warm ourselves by the open fire (it's winter in South Africa at the moment) and then check into our room (all very nice).

We decide that we will indeed go up the mountain and we call a cab. When we tell the cabby where we're going he tells us that it's a brilliant idea because the weather is cool, clear and sunny with very few clouds, that it was misty yesterday and they had to close the cable car and because he hears there is a 60 per cent chance that it may rain tomorrow.



I'm all for walking up the mountain but Mr Jones (who doesn't believe in Gin with sleeping pill chasers) says he's too tired and flatly refuses. I feel we're missing out on part of the experience - until half way up in the cable car I see two tiny, weeny looking people, staggering up what looks like a giant staircase - I realise that actually the mountain is probably bigger than it looks.



At the top we indulge ourselves in a burger with wedges each - the wedding is over let the eating begin. Mr Jones then spends the next 30 minutes naval gazing and asking me if he looks fat. I begin to worry that the pre-wedding diet might have gone too far and point out that if we'd have walked up he could have had two burgers without gaining an ounce! We stare at the views, tut at people letting their children get too close to the edge and get a bit snap happy with the camera.



I'm on snake watch thanks to a helpful "Beware of Snakes" sign and my over active imagination and pathological reptile phobia combine into immense paranoia. Every twig, root, leaf suddenly develops scales and a forked tongue and Mr Jones gives me withering looks everytime I leap behind him on the path. I see two real lizards, no real snakes and about 25 imaginary ones.



We head back down and get a cab to the V&A Waterfront. It's pretty, but we're unimpressed - just a few boats, beggars and big shopping mall. We could take pirate ship out for a spin in the harbour but decide against it. We eat Tapas for dinner and drink a few too many cocktails.
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