Following an extended weekend of punishing physical exertion, I seem to be struck down by a severe case of Can’t Be Arsed-itis. Therefore, I shall be blogging in fragments.

K was working from home for most of yesterday, which afforded me a brief glimpse into the maelstrom of his professional life.

Firstly: his phone goes off ALL THE TIME. It’s a minor miracle if he even makes it as far as the loo. More often than not, he’ll be halfway up the stairs before being twanged back into the room, as if attached to an invisible elastic leash.

Secondly: he habitually ends phone conversations with his colleagues in the style of a husky Southern Belle. (“Baa-ah!“) Given that he’s not a particularly camp man, I find myself somewhat startled by this periodic transformation into Jerry Hall. Where did it come from? Are they all doing it too?

Mulching. Such a nice, cosy, middle-class, Friday-night-on-BBC2, Monty-Don-in-The-Observer kind of word. When actually, it’s muck spreading. And I f**king hate it. I was not put on this earth to fling filth at Spring Growth. All the Crabtree & Evelyn Gardeners Hand Scrub in the world ain’t gonna fix these grime-encrusted pinkies.

Since stumbling across it in Bob‘s Shaggy Dog Stories piece, I have developed a growing obsession with the word “kicky“. Particularly when used in conjunction with the word “outfit”.

Thus, while pruning the roses yesterday morning, and in place of the usual random selections from my well-stocked mental jukebox, the phrase “kicky little outfit” kept running through my head, like some sort of nelly mantra. I became really quite tormented. As if the pruning wasn’t bad enough.

(I was tackling my old nemesis: the sprawling, vicious rambler on the wattle hurdles, which doesn’t yield without a struggle. You could hear the Yaroohs and the Yowch You Little F**kers all the way up the lane.)

Following the debacle of the collapsed ceiling, the cottage has been equipped with an array of great big f**k-off de-humidifiers, which have to be left running for at least eight hours a day. My dears, the hum is simply deafening. I tried to cover it with the forthcoming Maria McKee album (sent to me by her PR people in advance of a “phoner”, as we professionals call it), but K’s yelps of objection effectively drowned out all of them. She’s a bit histrionic for his tastes.

(Good album, though. I’m quite pleasantly surprised.)

And then the dishwasher sprang a leak. All through the cupboard under the Belfast sink, and out over the York Stone floor. A couple of minutes later, and the hand-woven “Boujad” carpet that we brought back from Marrakech would have been a total write-off. As it is, a soggy-bottomed box of Ariel has left ink stains on the elm worktop. Sanding is our only option.

(Note the transparently insincere use of the word “our”. I can hear K’s snorts from here.)

To think we once graced the cover of Period Living! How that photo-shoot comes back to mock us! Oh, the hubris!

On arriving at The Cottage Beautiful on Friday evening, I was fully expecting to find one hundred envelopes waiting for me on the doormat, containing one hundred signed sticky labels from the one hundred contributors to Shaggy Dog Stories. Frankly, it would have been a comfort during this trying time, and the prospect of spending an agreeable evening attaching each sticker to its relevant entry filled me with warm anticipation.

Do you want to know how many envelopes had actually arrived? Can you even hazard a guess?


This is where I am forced to wag a school-marmish finger at the Internet. Success doesn’t come without responsibilities, you know. I’ll bet that the two hundred unfortunate souls who didn’t make the book would have had their stickers in the post straight away. So think on.

As for the sixty-three of you who “haven’t quite got around to it yet”, I have a good mind to stick you all under a “hilarious” Gunge Tank, in front of a video montage of weeping children, set to a soundtrack of something “poignant” by Keane. That’ll learn you.

And finally, a Troubled Diva Product Placement, totally gratis and uncalled for, because – like Joanna Lumley in the old soap adverts – I simply believe in the product. Indeed, you’ll find me quite passionate about it.


Free samples would be nice, though. Contact details are at the top of the page, on the right hand side. Or would rival chocolatiers care to try and convince me otherwise? My loyalties are easily bought.

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