The insanity of the car insurance industry

The conversation went like this…

Me: I’ve received my renewal notice but I need to let you know that I’ve started work
Insurance company (Ins):  What are you doing?
Me: Shop assistant. Part time
Ins: That will add £60
Me: Why?
Ins: Because you’ll be driving more
Me: No I won’t
Ins: You will because you’ll be driving to work
Me: I won’t be driving to work.
Ins: But you could
Me: I won’t be. If I did it would cost me £10 to park so I most definitely won’t be.  And, in fact, I’ll be driving FEWER miles because I won’t have as much free time. (I actually drove only 5000 miles in the last 12 months and that included driving around Shropshire, the Lake District and Devon for a week each).
Ins: It makes no difference.
Me: So, the additional charge is actually nothing to do with driving extra miles. It’s because I’m a shop assistant.
Ins: That’s the way it is.

That was last year. Annoyed though I was, I paid the extra because the current company still worked out as the cheapest quote. When I went back into a HR role, I informed the company and have just received my renewal quote at almost £50 less  than last year. But I am the same person whether I work in a shop or in an office! The insanity doesn’t end here. If I insure with my existing company via Compare the then the same cover is a further £84 less than insuring direct with the company. Crazy!  I wonder if car insurance might just be the next target  of the Financial Services Authority

It’s been an expensive few days in car terms:
Repair £70
MOT £30
Interim service: £96
Road tax: £20
Insurance: £224 (via Compare the of course)

I think the “shall we go down to one car” conversation is about to happen again 🙁


Weekend bits and pieces


2010 – Do you remember when we had icicles like these hanging from our windows? For once, the Midlands which is usually protected from the very worst weather, suffered badly for several weeks. On the weekend before Christmas it took us an hour and a half to travel just nine miles. We’d not have bothered but we had two small children in the car who were desperately clutching their tickets for breakfast with Santa at Webbs Garden Centre in Wychbold, Droitwich. Santa, clearly having struggled himself, kindly waited for all the latecomers.

So why, on this beautifully sunny autumn day am I writing about that awful winter?  Whilst the past two nights have been nowhere near bad enough to result in any icicle formation, they have been exceedingly cold for October.  On both nights I awoke at about 2am and my arms were so cold that they hurt when I moved them under the covers. The reason I leave them outside the covers is because the hot water bottle makes me too hot but I can’t get rid of it. I’d really like not to need it but the direct heat is the only thing that prevents the awful night cramps in my legs. Most often occurring in my shins or across the instep of my feet, I even occasionally get the pain in my thighs.  It’s not every night but happens too often. Most of the time I’m aware during the evening of the muscles tightening and get warning as to whether or not there’s going to be a problem but the warmth of the hwb is playing havoc with how the rest of my body feels. The top half of me gets too warm, hence the arms out of the bed, and  my head gets so hot that I’m constantly flipping the pillow in order to find a cool spot.

Some time ago I bought a special pad that when filled with cold water was said to cool the head. The idea was to place it under the regular pillow. It made no difference whatsoever so I tried putting it on top of the pillow but the heat from my head heated up the water in it and then it leaked all over the bed! I’ve recently seen advertised a ‘cool-gel-filled’ pad and am tempted to try again. Has anyone tried one of these, and most importantly, does it work?

The weekend has flown by (I do seem to be concentrating lately on this subject) even though we benefited from an extra hour when the clocks went back last night. I spent the entire day yesterday working on my novel. I am now up to 83% of target but it is getting progressively harder as I struggle with quite how to tie up loose ends in part three. I also need to expand part two by around 4,000 words. But if I feel down, I re-read the feedback I received when four extracts (c10,000 words) were critiqued by Stephanie Hale, Director of the Oxford Literary Consultancy: “It has moments of poignancy that are beautifully written [and] it’s a brilliant storyline.”  It is this that encourages me to soldier on.

Today we have been to visit son’s new home. It took us a little over an hour to get there (less time than expected) but I didn’t like the journey which has several complicated road junctions. For someone who, until six years ago, drove 25,000 business miles a year, it is disappointing to admit that I now feel lacking in the confidence to deal with these. I am currently investigating other possible routes which are longer but may be less stressful. Failing that, I shall get the train (though this is a considerably more expensive option at 3x the cost of driving there. No wonder people are not taking notice of the Government’s urging that we all make greater use of public transport).

Journey aside, it was lovely to see the family and get lots of grandsons’ hugs and cuddles. We had brunch in the form of a traditional English breakfast and since this is something I never cook, it was a real treat!

Just another day

Raise your eyebrows or even shake you head in disbelief, but do not underestimate the sheer pleasure derived from opening organised, tidy kitchen cupboards. Some might think ‘how sad’ but truly, the cathartic benefit of yesterday’s labours has lightened my heart. OK, maybe a little exaggeration there but it really was a good feeling, when opening the first cupboard this morning, to see how neat it looked. Mind you, it was the wrong cupboard…but hey, these things take time to get used to.

Today was a little more relaxed: off to the gym this morning where I paid for my ticket to the Christmas lunch. We’re off to the same pub that did us proud on Grand National day.  December is filling up – four Christmas lunches booked already. For one reason or another I haven’t seen a couple of my gym friends for a month or so, so it was good to catch up with a post exercise coffee room. It’s been a day for catching up as, after a quick change and make up touch-up at home, I met up with my friend J this afternoon. We have known each other since infant school but became friends when our eldest children were babies. We’ve shared high days and holidays, tears of happiness and painful despair, and have been there for each other through every milestone in the past thirty eight years. No wonder two and a quarter hours of conversation flew by.

In between these engagements I did a little shopping. I always mentally tot up the rough cost of purchases and it’s a good job I do. In Boots I handed over £40 and was expecting around £9 change. I was handed £1.04 because the till hadn’t been programmed to account for a 3 for 2 offer. In Dunelm I put two items on the counter. The cashier rang them through and asked for £42. I laughed out loud and told her that it was closer to £22. It turned out that she had rung one item through twice. Now, the discrepancies in both cases was obvious but it does make me wonder how often overcharging happens. If you have half a dozen items and are overcharged by perhaps £5, would you necessarily notice?

I picked up my car which I’d dropped off for a wash and wax earlier an went  home to make a start on dinner. A defrosted one-I-made-earlier lasagne for husband and a healthy option for me…a salad of various beans and peas, bulgar wheat, red pepper, onion and warm goat’s cheese.

Needing to use up various bits of fruit we finished the meal with a warm fruit salad (i.e. a thirty second blast in the microwave) I also made another banana cake, this time remembering to add the flour!


Finally, a bit of television: Have I got news for you. 

Yet another day when the hours just flew by.


How the hours fly by!

Spring cleaning has come a little late to the thisissixty household.

The day began with a text – youngest granddaughter wanted to stay at home. We had no firm plans  as to what we were doing but she was being dropped off at 9.30am and we would probably go to town or to the garden centre. It was agreed then that I would instead go and look after at 1pm for a couple of hours as her mum had a hair appointment (i.e. she is the stylist).  A free morning beckoned.

At 9.30 I wandered downstairs to make porridge but got waylaid.  The new soup maker was still sitting on the worktop waiting for me to find it a home. The cupboards needed a bit of tidying in order to accommodate it. Why I started on the job at that moment, I’ve no idea but during the next two and a half hours every cupboard was emptied, cleaned and reorganised. Husband complained that he wouldn’t be able to find anything. The task was long overdue. I filled two bags with various kitchen bits ready for the charity shop. They joined the bag of toys in the boot of the car which I put there yesterday.

I also did three loads of washing (i.e. loaded the machine three times). By 12 o’clock I was feeling peckish but it was a choice between making lunch or putting on my face, doing my hair and getting changed. Pride won and I arrived at grandaughters’ house looking presentable if a little hungry! “Help yourself,” said Daughter-in-law. I did – to a packet of crisps. Granddaughter gave me a bite of her Chomp (like a Curly Wurly but without the holes).  Then I did her ironing.

When D.I.L got home she washed and blow dried my hair. We have a mutually agreeable barter system in process – she does my hair twice a week; I pay her for one and do her ironing in exchange for the other. Since we both feel that we are getting the best end of the bargain, this works very well.

By then it was around 3.30pm. I went to Tesco and did the main monthly shop – just the thing to fill all those spaces I’d made in the cupboards! I also bought a new microwave. I don’t use a microwave that often but it’s very useful when its useful, if you know what I mean. The old one looked to be still in good condition but the dial had stopped moving which meant that everything had to be watched very carefully since the only setting was 95 minutes! (Quite what would survive being microwaved for 95 minutes I have no idea). I was also looking for new table mats but wasn’t taken with the limited range on offer. I shall take a trip to Dunelm tomorrow.

When I got home I cooked six portions of chicken (four for the freezer):

  • 2 with potatoes,roasted parsnips, carrots and peas ready for dinner tonight
  • 2 sweet & sour with peppers, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots and pineapple
  • 2 with apple, parsnip & onion in a peppercorn sauce

And that was it – a whole day gone. Tomorrow’s itinerary includes the gym (with the obligatory coffee and chat with gym friends), the trip to Dunelm, then to town to buy a few necessary bits & pieces and where I am meeting up with a friend for (more) coffee. And that will be another day gone  – how the hours fly by. Saturday will be a writing day and on Sunday we are off to visit eldest son and family who moved house recently. I need some baby grandson hugs!

Incidentally, todays was a more successful cooking exercise than yesterdays when I made a banana cake…except that it wasn’t. I couldn’t understand why, when I removed it from the oven, it was flat, slightly soggy and omelette-y looking. I’ve made banana cakes before without any problem. I have to say that it tasted pretty good topped with yogurt –  like a sweet toffee/banana pudding. Nevertheless, I pondered most of the evening on what could have gone wrong. I went back to the kitchen and looked at the recipe……Bananas, flora, sugar, eggs, flour…….eeek, I forgot the flour.  Yes, I forgot the flour!!



The soup maker

The flight home was delayed by half an hour. Not long but more time for me to feel nervous. Fortunately ‘Brian’ had died down (or blown away) so the expected turbulence didn’t materialise. Phew!  Husband was there at Birmingham Airport to pick me up. I miss Ireland whenever I leave and always wish I could stay a little longer, but it’s always good to get home too.

My soup maker had arrived so, of course, I had to try it out.

imageI chopped a few potatoes, added leeks from the garden,  a vegetable stock cube, water and seasoning.


There are settings for smooth or chunky soups. If, when the soups is cooked, it’s a little too chunky, there is a ‘blend’ option which pulses if for just a moment. The soup maker can also be used as a juicer and to make smoothies.


Can you believe it, I forgot to take a photo of the finished product! The soup was fine  though I would have preferred it a little thicker. I had added liquid up to the minimum quantity line. Lesson learned – I needed to use more potato. So, what’s the verdict.  The taste of the soup was just as good but is this a piece of kit worth having?  The jury’s out at the moment. I need to experiment more.

Storm Brian ~ wet and wild

Rain stops play as Storm Brian sweeps across Ireland. At least it’s stopped me enjoying the fresh sea air to the degree that I may otherwise have done. To be fair, Dun Laoghaire isn’t getting anything like the worst of it but it’s quite bad enough. An umbrella is useless in this wind so we’ve mostly stayed in today but we were picked up and taken out for lunch to Cinnamon, a lively bistro-style restaurant in nearby Monkstown.


I’m annoyed with myself for forgetting to photograph lunch – a truly delicious warm goats cheese, walnut and apple salad with sweet potato fries. It was sooooo good! Over the years I’ve been to a fair few eateries in this area but this is probably my favourite. My kind of place!

The weather is a good excuse to chill out in front of the TV in the afternoon – something  I never get to do on a Saturday afternoon. I’m not complaining,; it’s been a nice excuse to do nothing.  Food and property programmes are the main offering so, curled up on the sofas, we watched a few in between dozing off!

It can be very tiring doing not much at all. An early night beckons!



My Emerald Heart … continued

My father was brought up in Dún Laoghaire (pronounced Dunleary), a seaside town a few miles south of Dublin. Dún Laoghaire  means ‘the fort of Laoghaire’ who was the 5th King of Ireland. Once a busy port, nowadays the town is home to several sailing clubs including the Irish National Sailing Club & School, and various other other water-based activities. The marina is the largest in Ireland.

I love this place and visit when I can. Dad was the eldest of five and sadly only his youngest sister M survives. Rather wonderfully she is only a little older than me and in the absence of a sister,  she is the nearest I have, and we two are very close.

It’s a difficult thing to explain but I love the sense of belonging that I experience when M and I walk the length of Dún Laoghaire pier.


Then we stroll slowly along the seafront out to Sandycove, where the James Joyce museum is housed in one of the few remaining Martello towers (a small defence fort built across Britain and Ireland in the 19th century. The opening scene in Joyce’s famous novel, Ulysses is set in the tower.


Also mentioned by Joyce is the Forty Foot which is probably Ireland’s most famous swimming place, and for generations it has been the place for Dun Laoghaire’s male swimmers, though for the past twenty years its clear, clean waters have become popular with women and children too. Even at low tide the sea here remains deep and at any time of the year (including Christmas day when hundreds congregate), no matter the temperature,  you can watch people diving from the rocks. 

The Forty Foot

Forty foot

Close by is this amazing Avant-Garde house (below) designed by, and lived in, by Michael Scott (not to be confused with the Irish writer of the same name), a high profile Irish architect and winner of the Ireland Triennial Gold Medal for Architecture.

Scotts house

Here too in Sandycove is the house that was the family home and when I visited as a child I marvelled at the sheer luck of of my father as a boy living so close to the seaside! At Sandycove we leave the seafront and continue our circuitous route through Glasthule. Full of pretty gift shops, classy cafe bars and almost every kind of service you would expect in a sizeable town, this delightful village is a thriving little jewell.  In common with most places houses vary in style and size and if you have €1.5 million to spend, you’ll have no problem doing so here.

The road from Glashule leads straight into Dunlaoghaire town but just before we reach the main thoroughfare we usually stop for the obligatory coffee (and quite possibly lunch)  at Poppies. I love Poppies!  Entering this delightful little coffee shop is rather like going into someone’s cottage home. Here is what we DIDN’T have today.


Sadly, at the moment, M is not very well and not up to the lengthy walk, so after a shorter walk this morning, I went off by myself this afternoon whilst she rested. Our intention was to go out for something to eat later (there is an abundance of restaurants within a short walking distance of the house) but by the time we’d have gone the the sunny,  crisp autumn day had changed to a wet, windy squall. We looked at each other, looked out of the window and both shook out heads. Crackers, cheeses, cooked chicken, hummus, grapes and apple made for a satisfactory substitute.  The weather’s not looking too good tomorrow either but M’s daughter is coming to pick us up for lunch in Monkstown.