The Last Sunday Musings For January

The first month of 2022 is almost behind us, and February beckons. It is not a leap year, so just the 28 days to come.

We bought a new vacuum cleaner this week. I think all the cleaning after decluttering finished off the cordless one, even though it wasn’t that old. The replacement has a bigger dust collection bin, so won’t need as many trips to empty it during cleaning.


Ollie has a few more days of tablets to complete his course. His fur is visibly growing back now, and has less patches. But it has some way to go yet before he looks ‘normal’.


With daytime temperatures varying between 1C and 15C in the same week, the strange winter weather continues. Some parts of Britain have experienced 80 mph winds, but they haven’t got as far south as Beetley just yet.


It took until Thursday the 27th for everyday life to return after Christmas and new year. By everyday life I of course mean bin collections, which are now back to their normal days. I no longer have to look at an online waste collection calendar to work out which day the dustmen are coming.


That same day, Thursday, all Covid-19 restrictions finished officially in England. No more compulsory masks, except for medical premises and on London Transport. It is too early to say yet if millions are abandoning mask-wearing, and flocking to crowded events. And quiet Beetley is no benchmark for that research of course. As for us, we will be continuing to wear masks in closed public spaces like shops, and on any public transport. After all, people are still dying every day from the virus.

Just on Friday alone, 277 people in England died from it.


Have a wonderful Sunday everyone, and stay safe.


The Fat Lady Has Sung

As the old saying goes, “It’s not all over until the fat lady sings”.

Well, it’s the 28th of December, and I can hear her. It is finally all over for another year, despite today being a public holiday in England.

Yesterday was a very long day. Up early to get everything ready, then five adults and three children arrived for a buffet meal that lasted from two in the afternoon until nine at night. Piles of presents handed out, and some fun games played. Noise levels that could drown out an F-15 jet fighter from nearby Lakenheath Air Base, and just enough places for everyone to take a turn in sitting down.

Ollie was so stressed out by all the comings and goings, he got grumpy and started growling at people. That was a first for him. He must be becoming a party-pooper in his old age, despite receiving a gift of a stuffed snowman almost as big as him.

At the end of it all, it looked as if the house had been burgled. We were too tired to do anything except flop on the sofa in the sudden quiet, and then have an early night. That means that we have to face a mountain of washing up this morning, followed by storing away folding chairs, closing up the extended dining table into a more manageable size, then have a good look under all the furniture to find what was dropped during the evening.

There is enough leftover food to provide dinners for today and tomorrow. On Thursday, we have our last Christmas present arriving. The delivery of a traditional English High Tea, ordered by one of my step-daughters. The uneaten snacks, crips, nuts, and chocolate should see us through until March.

At least I don’t have to go out today, except to walk Ollie later. It has been raining heavily for over twelve hours now, and everything is damp and dismal.

Next up is New Year’s Eve. Just the two of us, and hopefully still awake at midnight.

The Old Codger’s Club

Quite a lot of the time, I am still quite lively. I manage to continue to walk at least five miles a day, more in better weather, and these days I am outpacing Ollie.

But there are many days when I am reminded that I am on the cusp of becoming a bona-fide old codger, and a member of the old codger’s club. Try to read anything without wearing my glasses, even fairly large print, and that will be one reminder. Spend an hour or so doing something mildly strenuous, like hacking down invasive brambles, and I am reminded once again when I feel as stiff as a board by bedtime.

This morning, I got a more serious reminder.

With Christmas approaching, Julie has taken a week off. We are having the carpets cleaned on Thursday, so she was determined to give the house a thorough clean before the carpet men come tomorrow afternoon. Keen to do my part, I decided to clean the bathroom. It gets a cursory clean most days, but was in need of one of those ‘extra cleans’, when I resolve to tackle the limescale caused by the hard water.

Despite having a water softener installed a few years ago, that is only able to cope with around 60% of the limescale in the water. This area is known to have this problem, causing us to have to regularly replace kettles and taps.

Our bathroom is small, and rather old fashioned. We still have the cream corner bath unit installed by the previous owner, together with a cream coloured sink and toilet, and cream and claret tiles that all scream “1989!”

Until we can get around to saving up to replace everything in the currently favoured pure white, at the same time converting to a shower-only ‘wet room’ style, we are happy to tolerate it. There is a separate power shower above the bath which we replaced, and it works very well. But I prefer a bath to a shower.

Always have.

One of the drawbacks of the wide corner bath is that I am not able to reach the tiles on the far wall without actually getting into the bath to do so. And because the build up of limescale is mainly felt to the touch, rather than visible, it involves me creeping about feeling the ceramic bath and tiles like a complete weirdo!

None of the cleaning products that claim to to vanish away limescale have ever worked in this house. Long ago, I discovered the best thing was to use a conventional spray cleaner, and one of the ‘kinder’ type of scouring pads designed for non-stick pans. The flat green ones, sold in multipacks in any supermarket. They work just fine, and do not damage the fittings, or the tiles. So I set to it today, and after almost two hours, I was happy with my thorough job in that small room.

Then I noticed a bit I had missed, right at the far corner, where the bath meets the tiled wall. I shook my head wondering why life always delivers a bit you have missed, whatever job you are doing I stepped back into the bath, turned to start scrubbing, and bang!

My bare feet slipped away from me on the now smooth and shiny bottom of the bath. My elbow connected hard with the rim of the bath, both legs flew into the air, and the third toe on my right foot disappeared inside the hot tap. Then I got the ‘rebound injury’, as the back of my head rocked back against the thick side of the bath with an audible ‘clump’. It was noisy enough to bring Julie running into the room, worrying what had happened.

I had to be helped out of the small bath like a resident of an old people’s home.

My toe was very painful, and bleeding from a cut across the nail bed. The elbow was painful to touch, and my head felt ‘strange’. When I had my wits about me, Julie washed the small injury on my toe with salty water, and I sat quietly for a moment before going back into the bathroom to actually have a bath and shave before taking Ollie for his walk.

Feel free to laugh. I suppose it was quite funny if you had seen it happen.

Thinking Aloud On a Different Day


I have been getting on with some housework this week, so it wasn’t a huge surprise when I woke up with that on my mind this morning.

Most people just do housework without thinking about it. Others know it should be done, but don’t bother with any, until they can’t stand the sight of their own surroundings. It’s a mundane subject for a blog post, I know. But bear with me, as it had a huge impact on my life, resulting indirectly in the failure of two marriages, and the loss of a huge amount of money too.

I was brought up in a very different time to what we have grown used to in the 21st century. From my earliest memories and life experience, I soon became aware that only women did housework. And they did a lot of it. Washing by hand, boiling the clothes in a huge pot on the stove, then scrubbing at them using a serrated metal board. Taking the wet washing across to a mangle, and turning the handle constantly, to wring all the water out before pegging up the items on an outside line. They scrubbed or polished front steps of houses, and struggled with ancient, ineffective vacuum cleaners to remove bits from the floor. Carpets were taken outside to have the dust beaten from them, using specially-shaped devices made just for that purpose.

They swept using stiff brooms, then swept again using soft brooms. When the washing was dry, they ironed it, using feeble irons plugged into light fittings, laying the clothes flat on any handy table. There were no proprietary branded spray cleaners, polish came from a tin, and it was hard like soap. Baths and toilets were scrubbed with scourers until they gleamed, and windows washed with a combination of water and vinegar, then polished later using newspaper. It seemed that almost every woman I ever saw, of any age, was wearing either an apron or a housecoat, and doing some chore or other. And when all that was over, all they had to look forward to in the evening was getting a meal on the table, and washing up afterwards.

Men and housework were two things never mentioned in the same sentence. Men just didn’t do it, full stop. Furthermore, they were not expected to, and many women would send them out of the house, to get them out from under their feet as they carried on cleaning. Sons living at home were not expected to do much more than to occasionally help carry in some heavy shopping bags. Husbands were expected to do ‘Man jobs’. This involved anything to do with ladders, general repairs, clearing drains, changing light bulbs, and fixing electrical items. If anyone was lucky enough to have a garden, the man would be expected to mow the lawn, and grow any vegetable there was room for.

So I got to get married at the age of 25 without ever having had to do so much as iron a shirt, turn on a washing machine, or run a hoover around the carpet. I didn’t see anything bad about that. After all, I was a product of my environment and upbringing, and I genuinely knew no better. I didn’t even consider it. It never once entered my head. And I am not talking about ‘the old days’ here, oh no. This was the late 1970s. Eight years later, when I was 33 years old, my first wife approached me and told me she wanted us to separate. I was naturally shocked and upset, especially when she told me that one of the reasons was because I had never done any housework. I had to admit to that charge, even though I found it unusual that any woman would even want me to clean the house, or iron my own shirts.

With the benefit of hindsight, I confess to being very stupid. But I suppose you ‘had to be there’, to understand where I had come from. Society and married life were changing, and I was failing to keep up.

I learned my hard lesson though. By the time I got married for the second time, in 1989, I was a housework demon. If I used a cup to drink some coffee, I went straight into the kitchen to wash it, dry it, and put it away. The same with my meals. Knife and fork down, food eaten, washing up done immediately. If I noticed a mark on the coffee table, I would get the spray polish, and give it the once-over. I was so clean and tidy, you could have eaten your dinner off the floor of my small house, with no need for a plate. Mirrors shone, furniture oozed the smell of polish, and carpets were spotless. And how I could iron. In one session, I would happily iron all thirty uniform shirts required for a month at work, as well as anything else on the ironing pile. Everything had its place, and it was all put in it.

Bringing someone into that world, in this case a new wife, was possibly always going to end in disaster, I should have seen that. My regime was set in stone, and carried out with military precision. She did her best to adapt, taking over the chore of ironing, thereby saving me a lot of time. But other obsessive aspects of my housework routine were less attractive to her after a long day at work, or during the precious two days off at the weekend. I carried on though, refusing to slip back to my former ways. And as I did so, I grew to resent her lack of involvement in the process. Eventually, I decided to split up with her, and one of the reasons I gave was that she didn’t do enough to help around the house. My life had turned full circle.

Many years later, I am 66 years old, and living in the countryside. I am no longer physically capable of keeping up such a manic routine of housework, and less bothered about what is considered to be acceptably tidy. I still get down on my hands and knees to clean the stone tiles on the kitchen floor, but it’s more of a struggle, and takes me a lot longer than I would like. Once it’s done, I have little enthusiasm for more, at least until tomorrow. I don’t wear many clothes that need ironing these days, and I don’t polish a surface every time I see a mark. Ollie makes small messes with his biscuits or stuffed toys, and I am content to leave them until the next time I have the vacuum cleaner out.

I went from nothing to everything, then back to something else in between.

More thoughts on Retirement

It has just occurred to me, that I have been retired for eight months now. Christmas is approaching, and it only seems like last week that I was still working, and living in London. The time has gone frighteningly fast, far quicker than it seemed to pass when I had to work every day. The weekends arrive with a rush, that it makes me feel that the five week-days did not even happen. I have taken stock of my time so far, and I am not proud of the results.

Decorating completed, none. Outside jobs tackled, a few. Books read- none finished. DVD films watched- only a couple. Places of interest visited, maybe three.

So, what have I done, with eight work-free months? The short answer, is ‘not a lot’. Dog walking and Vet visits have taken up a fair bit of time, though not enough to count as an excuse. I have watched a fair bit of TV, still not enough to worry about as time wasted. I do spend a substantial amount of time on this Blog, but in truth, much of that is late at night, and does not eat into time that could be used to better purpose. I feel that I have mislaid time, like a watch, or a spare pair of spectacles. It was there, and now it isn’t, and I really cannot put my finger on it, just at the moment.

This should concern me, and it does. I am haunted by my late Mother’s words, that time slips away as you get older, and days escape you, slithering away like mercury. I am now considering options. Do I get up earlier, to make more of the day? Maybe I should start to go to bed earlier, though I can’t think why. Is it the weather? Darker days, longer nights, seem to drag, if anything, so it isn’t that either. Perhaps a planned routine will make sense; what does everyone else do, I wonder? I am beginning to believe, that the very fact of having time available, makes it seem to disappear faster. During a busy working life, there never seems to be sufficient time to get anything done. Yet, with the whole week stretching ahead of you, unencumbered by necessary tasks, there seems to be less time than ever before.

It is a bit like the space-time continuum. Easy to explain in theory, impossible to achieve in practice.


This may seem a strange subject for a blog post. Especially from the blog of a 60 year old man with no connection to the Electrical Industry, or to retailers of electrical products. However, I felt an overwhelming need to share a top tip that may well change your life. (At least the ironing part of your life, anyway).
Like most men born in the 1950’s, I really didn’t know what an iron was for, other than it was a thing that women used to make your clothes look smarter, it got hot, and had to be used on a board. At first my Mum, and later my wife, would spend some time somewhere with this appliance, and smartly pressed shirts would appear in my wardrobe, as if by magic.

This all changed for me, sometime in 1985. My wife and I were splitting up. It suddenly dawned on me that at the age of 33, I did not know how to use an iron, or how to iron a shirt. I had to ask my departing wife to show me all the basics of ironing. I would probably have just taken all the stuff that needed ironing to my Mum, but she lived too far away. By that time, we had a steam iron. It was reminiscent of a cruise ship in miniature, and had a small reservoir at the front, that had to be filled with distilled water. Once the necessary heat level had been achieved, steam could be deployed, to assist with the removal of creases. The thing was heavy, unwieldy, and the steam seemed to run out after two items had been pressed. Still, it was state-of-the-art at the time, so I bought something similar, for use in my new bachelor home.

Fifteen years later, I had learned to hate ironing. The replacement for that first steam iron looked and felt exactly the same. I kept forgetting to buy distilled water, and the tap water was so hard that the limescale kept clogging up the vents. I had to set aside one day each month for the great chore of ironing, as I hated it so much, I could not bear to do a little every day. I would get the water, put on some music, prepare the hangers, and crack on with at least 30 shirts, and all the other stuff needed for that month. This would take about 6 hours, constantly re-filling the pathetic reservoir, and making sure that the iron did not get so hot that it scorched the garments.

In 1998, I saw an advertisement for something called a ‘Steam Generator Iron’, manufactured by Tefal. This seemed to be a tiny iron, resting on a large plastic base, connected by a hose that looked like it meant business. It stated that it held enough water for a full load of ironing, used ordinary tap water, and could iron both sides of something at once. It seemed too good to be true. Also, it cost almost £100, a lot of money for an iron, when you consider that the best conventional equivalent was well under £30 at the time. I decided to try it anyway. As an ironing-hater of the first degree, I would probably have paid twice that, if the claims could be guaranteed.

I bought one the next day. It was indeed resting on its large water tank. This meant that I eventually had to purchase a longer, sturdier ironing board too. Once fired up, I hesitatingly began to iron a shirt. Revelation! The super-lightweight iron felt like it weighed a tenth of its predecessor. The constant blast of steam glided over the material, all creases banished in seconds. I turned the sleeve over, only to find it was already done. It had ironed both sides at once, as claimed. I next tried screwed up denim jeans. It was as if the iron laughed at the challenge, again dealing with both sides adequately. Soon, I was racing through half a dozen shirts in 15 minutes. Even after a full couple of hours of ironing, there was still water in the tank, so steam available. I had finally done it. I had run out of things to iron before my iron ran out of steam. I was a born-again ironer, an ironing evangelist, a convert to the way of the Steam Generator. I would almost, though not quite, iron for pleasure.

I started telling everyone I could about steam generator irons. Though my own was a Tefal, all the companies were jumping on the bandwagon. I made a handful of happy converts, even though they balked at the price.

When that original purchase finally expired, (It still worked but the steam cord became frayed and dangerous to use.) I did not hesitate to go straight out and get the latest generation. Now costing a shade under £200. It is angular, has a coloured plastic water reservoir, ans a new gizmo that unscrewed from the side and removed the limescale. It looks the business, though in truth, is no better than my trusty original machine. The main improvement is in the actual iron handset. New technology coating on the iron plate, lighter build, better steam control, all means that it is faster and better than ever. Alright, it does cost a lot of money. I have seen washing machines and other large white goods for a lot less. Look at it this way. Let’s say it lasts for 10 years. That is a yearly cost of just under £20, a weekly cost of 38p. That small amount of money will literally improve your life, so isn’t that worth it?

If you are asking yourself why someone like me, with nothing to gain, would be sitting in a room, in rain-swept Norfolk, on a miserable Sunday in August, writing about something as mundane as ironing, then get a steam generator iron (Any make, doesn’t have to be a Tefal but get a good one, pay as much as you can afford) and you will realise what all the fuss is about. You will also have nice neat clothes.