No available slots

My online supermarket of choice is Waitrose. That’s not because I’m terribly middle class, or is it? Only my friends and nearest and dearest can say if that’s true. I have been shopping online for many years and I’ve always got my Christmas delivery slots booked well in advance, I’m a real pro and I know my stuff. COVID-19 has thrown me a curve ball. I began to attempt to book slots around 2 weeks ago. I need to shop for my mother-in-law online and I booked in preparation for a famine. No, I’m not a panic buyer, I’ve always shopped like this – see my previous blogs, I like to shop.

Here’s how confused I’ve been just recently. I had a slot for mother-in-law on the 30th March and it’s still open. I had booked 11:00-12:00 today with Waitrose and I had also booked 10:00-11:00 tomorrow. There was another one on the 6th April and here’s where the confusion begins. I had 6th April for my mother-in-law to receive a delivery, however my sister-in-law managed to register with a lesser supermarket and Mum-in-law didn’t need the 6th April anymore, so I thought simple, you’d think, I’d change the delivery slot to me. Apparently not. Waitrose will allow me to change my billing address but delivery address is set in stone. My eldest daughter offered to have a go for me. So, on Mother’s Day I got her on the phone and asked her, using my leverage as mother on Mother’s day to help me. The conversation went,
Daughter, “What’s your email address?”
Me, “You know my email address”
Daughter, “Okay, what’s your password?”
Me, “I don’t know! It’s one of those Safari generated strong passwords”
Daughter, “Well I can’t do it without your password can I?”
Me, “Well what can I do then?”
Daughter, “I can’t help you, Mother”
Me, “Fine! I’ll cancel the slot”

Now some random shopper has got the slot that was mine.

I have been jumping between the slot that was the 24th and the one that is due tomorrow. Both are for considerable items and, as I have MS brain, I instantly forget the items on one as I amend the other. Help, I’m in a fiddle-faddle! I don’t want to cancel an available slot because I’m protective of them. I’m reluctant to make a decision where I might need food delivered to an already overfull kitchen. I have to make a choice, which one should go? It’s worse than choosing a boyfriend.

I have a delivery pass with Sainsbury’s. They’re not being helpful either. Back at the weekend they sent me an email telling me that they would prioritise disabled online shoppers. They gave me a telephone number, a dedicated line which I was told I could register with on Monday. Ha! This telephone number is either constantly engaged or completely dead. I have wasted hours waiting for them to register me despite the fact that I have shopped with them loyally for many years. I don’t know what to do.

Boris Johnson has instructed us to use online deliveries, where possible. I would really appreciate it if he could tell me where it is possible.

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I don’t think this is funny

My Reader might have thought I was making light of this virus in my last blog post. I would like to tell you that although this is a serious situation we find ourselves in, I need to laugh because if I don’t, I’ll cry. Let me explain why.

If Husband in a hurry falls victim to this virus, I may die. I am a 61 year old woman who is completely disabled, unable to get out of bed in the morning without help from my HIAH. I can’t stay in bed for 7 days because I will be riddled with bed sores, which opens another can of worms. If he has to self-isolate then I have to be there with him. As an MS Warrior, I have compromised immunology. Even though I don’t want to be, I am fearful of what this might do to me. My eldest daughter wants me to stay in for the duration of this virus and how long’s a piece of string?

I have never been afraid, terrorism, for instance, has never stopped me doing the things I want to do. In the 1970s the IRA were bombing pubs in Southampton but they didn’t prevent an occasional visit to the local hostelries. I’m not fearful of going to London. A terrorist won’t stop me from visiting Regent Street in case a machete-wielding maniac was to wreak havoc. However, COVID-19 has succeeded in making me very nervous. I hate feeling like this, afraid to visit my relatives, afraid to shop and unable to enjoy the sun now that it’s finally here. I know this has affected everyone’s lives, people have had to cancel holidays, weddings and concerts. I don’t want to be selfish, but I haven’t seen my parents since Christmas, or my eldest daughter’s family. Part of me wants to defy the pandemic, my heart says ‘stand up to it, don’t give in’ but my head has to overrule on this occasion. What if I passed on something without knowing to one of my loved ones? What if I picked up something and found myself leaving this world earlier than I’d planned?

We are all frightened of coughing anywhere, even in our own homes. That little tickle in our throat that would have been so easy to expel is now swallowed because it might be seen as the start of Corona. Women of a certain age are worried that the hot flush which is menopausal, could be a temperature increase.

I have an idea for our Prime Minister. All our workplaces, shops, concert halls, cinemas and theatres should have antibacterial hand gel dispensers, like those you see in the Doctor’s Surgery. We may be in a long battle against this virus and we need to rethink our whole way of life if we’re going to win.

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Shall we do Corona?

When I was a little girl, one of the excitements of the week was the Corona Lorry. How many of you out there can remember the innocence of begging Mum and Dad for a bottle of cherry flavoured Corona? It turned our tongues vivid red, the vibrant crimson of the drink and that amazing feeling of your teeth afterwards. I wasn’t often allowed cherry, it was mostly lemonade (boring). Do you remember the refund on the empty bottles? The trundle of the lorry as it travelled down our unmade lane and the cheeriness of the delivery driver. I remember rushing out of our garden when we heard him approaching, my sister and I so excited, the simple childish pleasures which were reminiscent of the late 1960’s.

Today’s children will have a very different understanding of the word Corona. I’m not sure if I’m being naive, but in my opinion I’m struggling to believe the global panic over this new virus which is sweeping across the world. I know it must be serious because the Premier League have cancelled matches. I don’t understand why we are taking this to the extremes that we are. So far, in this country, 10 people have died of Corona or COVD-19, in a population of 55.6 million I can’t work out that percentage but I think it’s very small. More people have died from seasonal ‘flu than have actually contracted Corona in this country. I know the dire warnings from our government, indeed, even today’s front page headline in the Times no less has Boris Johnson warning us that many families will lose loved ones. I am reminded of Neville Chamberlain and the forebodings of the Second World War. There is outrage that we haven’t closed our schools and colleges, not least from eldest daughter because she’s angling for some time off from the pressures of teaching. There is family worries about my vulnerability as an MS Warrior and youngest daughter’s much anticipated travel plans have been seriously impacted by the USA’s over-zealous protectionism.

Apparently, our government have moved from ‘Containment’ to ‘Delaying’. I am a bit confused about that, how can we delay this? And what was the containment phase? I don’t understand it. Why are we delaying, can anyone please explain this to me?

What is the fascination with toilet rolls? Why would anybody need to stockpile toilet roll? Is it because they want to blow their noses on it? I’m on the understanding that sickness and that other word that I can’t spell (diarrhoea) are not symptoms. Recently, a shopper was seen leaving Tesco with £30 worth of baked beans. Now, if that doesn’t cause a need for toilet roll, I don’t know what would! There’s a shortage of common sense and if anyone wants to know, I have 22 rolls of toilet paper, due to Husband in a hurry buying 4 today because everyone else was. There’s no antibacterial hand gels or hand washes to be bought. Tesco have been patrolling the aisles in order to ration shoppers panic buying cans of soup.

It’s absurd and the profiteering that appears to be happening is making misery out of other people’s fears, mostly generated by the Media.

Luckily, I have plenty of chocolate if anyone needs it.

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Women behaving badly?

I never knew much about Priti Patel until she came up in the news recently regarding the allegations of her bullying civil servants within the Cabinet offices. Some of the accusations sound, on paper, very unpleasant. Her staff seem to have had a rough time working for her. If I look at it from the other side, the side we don’t hear about because it’s not sensationalist enough, Ms Patel is a woman, an Indian woman, who has worked hard within a role that I certainly wouldn’t choose to do. She would have had to prove herself in a predominantly masculine world over and over again.

Women throughout history have had to take the harder road in order to show they are equal. Queen Elizabeth the First had to prove herself back in Tudor times, male succession to the Throne was the norm and a woman had to work twice as hard to confirm her existence and her right. She established Protestantism; defeated the Spanish Armada; maintained peace in a previously divided country and with her feminine side encouraged the Arts. All of this would have been against the male naysayers. The Pankhurst women fought for what they believe in, they felt that women should have a say in who ran the country, so they began a movement to win the vote for women. It seems ludicrous to us now that only men had that power. Moving on a few decades, Margaret Thatcher, love her or loathe her, as our first female Prime Minister, took on the unions; the junta led by General Galtieri, she was our longest serving Prime Minister of the 20th Century and she deregulated the banks.

These women would have been called ‘ball breakers’; ‘bullies’; ‘bossy’; ‘harridans’, mostly by men. There are no terms for men who are in powerful positions, which are as derisory. Men are called ‘ruthless’; ‘ambitious’; ‘dynamic’ and ‘visionary’. None of these words are put-downs, they just describe strong and dominant men. All of these women were dominant, but that’s always seen as a negative in the female sex.

We think we’ve come so far. We’ve got the vote, we get a say and we’re allowed to be MP’s if we choose. We can do any job we like, pretty much. There are female sports teams, cricket, football, rugby, you name it we can play and probably better than men, but have we really come as far as we think? The perception of men is still that of Jerry Hall’s infamous quote: ‘A woman must be a maid in the living room, a cook in the kitchen and a whore in the bedroom’.

So much for Sisterhood.

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Sue’s suite or sweet

I thought I might give an update on the progress of the new build. Since we talked regarding this conversion much has happened. I have chosen wall colours, tiles, floor coverings and shutters. These are the fripperies and the enjoyable bits of my (our) annexe. I like to consider that I have a small flare for design and it’s something that I enjoy. If I had a money tree at the bottom of my garden, I would change kitchens, bathrooms and decor endlessly, just because I like doing it.

I spent a couple of hours several weeks ago in my local Tops Tiles with a young man called Shaun. Well I think he was young, he was certainly younger than me! I was in the store a long time, trying to decide on which tiles i would like, but aware of the financial implications of my choices. For instance, I chose some particularly Hollywood Bling style tiles but was told they were £60 per square metre. So, Shaun and I eventually selected a compromise which accommodated both financial constraints with fabulousness.

My style could be described as spendthrift. I’m getting better, but I like ‘nice’ things and nice things cost money. There is a budget to this conversion and I’m trying to stay within it. Fortunately, Husband in a hurry likes nice things, too, which makes it easier.

I have chosen shutters over blinds or curtains. I always knew I wanted them, but I have to admit that I used my womanly wiles to get my own way. I had four quotes ranging from either end of the spectrum. I requested Hillary Blinds for one and I met a nice man by the name of Bill. When we met, he used his sales training techniques, which are easily identified by a woman of my age who’s been around the block. Within the first half an hour of our meeting, I knew his children’s names, where they went to school, where they were brought up, Bill’s favourite holiday haunts, all designed to win me over to his side. I went in hard, because I am a woman and I know my own mind. He clearly thought that this wasn’t the case and I was just the ‘little woman’. I explained at the outset that he wouldn’t receive an order today, but that I wanted him to give me his very best price after offers and discounts. I felt a bit patronised when he offered to show me the list price of these shutters, which I declined, explaining to him that my husband would expect a discount, which I had negotiated (all by my little self). I should explain that the shutters come in two ranges, well three but I discounted MDF. One was wooden louvres in an MDF frame and the other range was all wood. Bill kindly gave me prices for both and left after a full explanation of the benefits of Hillary’s. I gave HIAH both prices when he came home from work and he promptly telephoned Bill to discuss prices further. I can tell you, Hillary’s that I was disappointed when he negotiated a further markdown. Yes, I’m pleased that I can have the top of the range shutters for the price of the lower range but I do feel a little bit miffed that I wasn’t taken seriously enough to be given that price up front. I thought we had feminism (but that’s another blog).

The tiles are up in my wet room and they look amazing. I have been asked to choose the colour of my flooring and a little bit of mischief in me wants to choose claret red, however, I think that’s a little dark so we are going for grey.

So here we are, this is where I’m at so far. The building crew all seem to be getting on with their jobs really well with minimum bribery from me, ie tea, coffee and chocolate biscuits. However, Paul told me yesterday that one of the jobs he’d been at, the client supplied daily bacon sandwiches and baked goods, so I’m falling short; lift your game Sue!

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Shoe size not age

I’m going to be 62 this year. I don’t feel as if I should be this age, yet. I mean, 62, that’s quite old isn’t it? I still have a zest for life, for learning and I have pizazz. I know I shouldn’t have, on paper as a 61 year old woman with MS who is overweight and eats too much chocolate, should I be unhealthy, unhappy and generally a bit morose?

‘Education is wasted on the young’, might have been said by George Bernard Shaw. I think this is very true, I have a thirst for knowledge at my age and I am inquisitive about everything. I would love to learn to speak a new language even if there is no one to speak it back to me, I have a secret passion to learn Chess because others can play it around me. I could take up a new hobby but I can’t paint or be creative with paper, origami for instance. My years of MS have lost my co-ordination and I don’t have any dexterity left for doing these things. Apparently, I can write a bit, but actually I need someone who can help me scribe, today it’s Della.
When I was at school learning wasn’t really on my radar. I was having too much of a good time. That’s why George Bernard Shaw is right. I long to learn now but back when I was 16 I did the barest minimum in order to pass the necessary qualifications to be in employment.

In this age of awareness and learning to live longer and better, education is leaning towards our health. I’m being told that in order to be fit I should take up running, well tell me how to do that in a wheelchair. Walking has been proven to benefit mental health and wellbeing but as a presentation of my MS is trigeminal neuralgia I struggle to cope with wind, rain and general English weather. If anyone wants to send me off for a ramble in Queensland, Australia feel free!
I feel excluded somewhat by TV and media who all claim to say that I should be losing weight and walking or playing a sport of some kind. If Tom Kerridge or Dr Michael Mosley could kindly let me know how I could do this I would appreciate it. I’m not getting annoyed by this and I don’t want anyone to think that this is a rant about my situation, but I’m just telling this as it is. I’m stuck sitting down, but I’m exercising three times a week. It should be helping, however my exercise ‘bicycle’ measures the calories I burn and I must tell you – it’s not very many.

I know I’m cuddly and I often wish I could afford liposuction, however, chocolate is one of my loves in life and I’m a cheerful 61 year old who is still enjoying my time researching the history of the Tudor Dynasty.

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Storms and toilets

How did you fare with Storm Ciara? I coped quite well, but then I wasn’t the one who was coping with the wreckage, which She caused.

If you have ever had building work which has required the crew to have their own on-site facilities, you may have experienced something like the fun and games we had at the weekend. The said crew were asked to secure any loose planks, rubble and offcuts, which were dumped, placed in the skip. However, in general tradesmen are not accustomed to due care and attention when it comes to ensuring skip ‘housekeeping’. So, on Sunday when Ciara was at her angriest in the South of England, detritus went flying, all over the garden, into the road and spilling on to the pavement. It was thus that Husband in a hurry had to fasten all of the debris with an old groundsheet weighed down with some bags of fertiliser. That was an onerous task but it had to be done. Now the Portaloo is another challenge. The TARDIS itself had taken to traversing around the front lawn. It has always been placed in a convenient position for builders to use with discretion, however, it took on a mind of it’s own during the storm. It waltzed with Ciara until she, being fickle, moved on to her next victim, leaving Portaloo supine across the pavement. It’s contents swimming in blue disenfectant. Husband in a hurry was alerted to the positioning of the stricken lavatory by a neighbour who was walking her dog and had to manoeuvre around it. You have to remember here that the storm isn’t going to let up any time soon; wind howling, rain lashing and general maelstrom and the toilet needs rescuing. It is too heavy for one person to move and if there was a handy tow-bar I could have been attached to it and pulled said Portapotty into an erect position. Luckily there wasn’t and I was saved, safe and dry whilst Husband in a hurry battled the elements. He telephoned around, hoping to get assistance from a well placed son-in-law to no avail. However, within 15 minutes son-in-law was located and phoning me to offer any aid, but Husband in a hurry had by then left the scene in search of snack comforts. Sean, my son-in-law, said he would come to ground zero and right the Portaloo with the help of Husband in a hurry. It takes two people to move this cumbersome edifice and reposition it out of Storm Ciara’s path. The two of them managed without getting too blown away and on Monday morning, in the calm, the builders re-placed their Portaloo to its previous home.

There is forecast for a new storm to be hitting at the weekend. Fortunately, Husband in a hurry hopes to be off the premises and away from any carnage because he’s going to a football match. The threat is that Premier League matches are being cancelled as we speak and he may have to be in the firing line again.

Being that Storm Dennis is of the male persuasion, I am hoping He will not engage my poor Portaloo in any dance routines, but you never know…

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Decriminalisation of the Licence Fee

I like the BBC. Ninety percent of my TV viewing is on, what I call, Public Service Broadcasting. How much is the TV Licence Fee? I think it’s worth every penny.

A recent news item is bringing it into question, whether or not those who do not pay the annual licence should be imprisoned. Listening to pundits from both sides suggest that very few people actually serve jail time for the offence and mostly they are fined; it is the non payment of these fines which leads to their loss of freedom.

An awful lot of our licence fee seems to be directed in the wrong places. It was revealed last year that news presenters who wore trousers earned considerably more than those who wore skirts. They were not judged by their ability, rather by their gender. I can see an argument for abolishing the licence fee if it is channeled this way. More quality dramas, documentaries and less banal quiz shows (‘First And Last’ are Pointless!).

This is what I found on the BBC website and TV Licensing: The bulk of the BBC’s £5 billion funding comes from the licence fee. It also raises around £1.3 billion from selling it’s programmes for broadcast overseas. Over 90% of the licence fee is spent on BBC TV channels, radio stations, BBC iPlayer and online services.

I want to sell the BBC to you. I don’t consider myself old, but I’m not that young either. I don’t fall into the demographic that encompasses live streaming on to my phone or iPad. I need a proper TV screen, okay 60″ might be a little large but I am a bit short-sighted. I don’t wear glasses to view but I might have one in my hand sometimes with an alcoholic beverage. From time to time we need to remind ourselves just how good the content is, such as: ‘Call the Midwife’; ‘Silent Witness’; ‘Line of Duty’; ‘New Tricks’; ‘Waking the Dead’; ‘Miranda’; ‘Gavin & Stacey’; ‘Question Time’and’Newsnight’ I could go on, all these programmes evoke some emotion. We either want to throw our shoes at the TV or we laugh until we cry. Why would we not love that and want to pay for it?
We pay to go to the cinema and the theatre and that’s over in two and a half hours.
I will watch live TV when it’s the Beeb because I’m not bombarded by advertising throughout dramas, comedies and documentaries. I am marginally irritated by programme links but I know that I’m not going to be pestered into buying a family holiday in a Virgin Airways sale. I enjoy dramas, complete and uninterrupted. I don’t want to delay the suspense with toothpaste! How effective is commercial advertising? Do I remember the advertisement that interrupted the current ITV drama ‘White House Farm’? Will I remember it shopping for mouthwash, or will I look at the price of the product and the pennies in my purse?

In 1969 I may have been swayed by the promises of Persil versus Bold, but it’s just there, background noise; an excuse to make a cup of tea.

I personally do not feel that we get influenced by advertising on commercial TV stations. I think we need something new.

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Smart or not so Smart Motorways

Back in the late 50’s early 60’s motorways were constructed through Britain presumably in order to ease traffic. Cars were not as fast although today’s cars have safety specifications. It was not a legal requirement in the UK to wear a seatbelt until 1983. Modern vehicles are fitted with airbags, ABS and some gadget to get you home safely. However, they travel at speeds which are not legal in Britain and can be abused by some motorists.
When we first encountered motorways we did not have crash barriers or central reservations. At the time many people thought they would be unsafe and a dangerous way to travel, over a period of time we’ve come to accept motorways as a fact of life and possibly blasé about their existence, now we cannot avoid them.

My fears were underlined by a Panorama programme yesterday evening. This highlighted the lack of safety on Smart Motorways, people are dying needlessly due to the thoughtlessness of those who planned it because it’s not been given any kind of phased launch. Only a small section of the M42 was initially trialed. Watch it and see for yourselves.

We’ve worked so hard to make our motorways a safe option, why are we now going backwards?
Recently, I was trapped on the M23 for at least an hour with 4 lanes of traffic chock-a-block, freight lorries attempting to change lanes in order to get somewhere quicker, due to a broken down vehicle 3 miles ahead of us. No warnings or notifications, just solid traffic. We drove under motorway gantries and we snail-crept passed signs advising us to await assistance in the event of a breakdown. The risk of overheating was greater to us. Where was the assistance coming from? Only emergency vehicles can use ‘Blues and Twos’ to warn the traffic behind that they need to get through. The RAC, AA and Green Flag don’t have that and indignant drivers are very reluctant to give way unless they have to. So, that Assistance can’t get through, because there is no Hard Shoulder!

Smart Motorways are just not safe. A driver who’s vehicle breaks down is totally unclear as to the best move now the hard shoulder is no longer an option. Should he or she leave their vehicle? Or should they stay in the car and risk being hit by a freight pantechnicon? The hard shoulder is the intrinsic part of the motorway and the advice from the Government and Automobile organisations is unclear and very fuzzy. I’ve just Googled to get advice. If I can get my car to an Emergency Refuge Area (ERA) I should do so, but let’s assume I’ve just passed one and the next one is almost 1.5 miles away and I’ve broken down in the middle lane, lost all power including my lights. Hazards don’t work, what should I do now? If I get out of the car, (forgetting that I’m in a wheelchair and can’t stand) I run the risk of being swept into the line of traffic by a fast moving BMW or if I stay in the car I’m a sitting duck. According to the advice I’ve just read I need the telephone number for Highways England on speed dial!

What are your thoughts on Smart Motorways? If you’re reading this on Facebook, please share and if Twitter is your preferred social media, please retweet. I’ve put a link to a Change.Org petition which might save your life.

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Why, on Monday morning, am I seething?

The reason I am seething on Monday morning (a good word: seething) is that I sometimes feel as if my life is ebbing away waiting…

What am I waiting for, exactly? Is it George Clooney? That’s a possibility, he’s certainly on my Laminate List. Am I waiting for transport for an exciting new event? Well, that ship sailed many years ago! I might be waiting for a new thrilling venture such as a job offer or a publisher, although any publisher needs to have seen my work first and that requires me to mail something to said publisher and I’m just not ready yet, emotionally that is. I’m not good at taking knock-backs.

My life is passing in a series of minutes, which add up to hours, which will eventually equate days, which will turn into years waiting for someone to help me in this hateful disease called MS. I can’t get out of bed in the morning on my own, this is a situation which I struggle to accept and when I’m awake I expect to get out of bed like anyone else. However, as I need someone to assist me I am a little bit impatient in expecting them to ‘jump to it’ when I want to get up. Husband in a hurry gets out of the bedroom, takes himself downstairs to read the sports pages (which cover the football games he has watched live the day before) leisurely makes himself a cup of tea, while I stare at the ceiling upstairs. That wastes approximately 30 minutes of my day. When he is ready, I am lifted from my bed using a tracking hoist and plonked into a shower chair and wheeled into the bathroom. He then proceeds to shower himself while I wait, naked and shivering until it’s my turn, that adds another 10 minutes. When we return to the bedroom, I am placed back in my prone position on the bed to be dried and dressed from my lower half. I am then put onto my commode chair and wheeled in front of my dressing table, HIAH starts deodorising and anointing himself in cologne then dresses and brushes his teeth. At this point I wait for my PA to arrive for work, sometimes that’s 7 minutes or 27 minutes depending on what day of the week it is. My PA of the day finishes my toilette and I am ready and waiting for HIAH to transport me downstairs using the chair lift. Again, I might be waiting for up to 15 minutes until the times comes.

My day is now dependent on other people to a lesser degree. However, on Sunday I was a little miffed. I felt as if I was being overlooked and marginally belittled. I needed to get things done, I wanted to plan things even if I could not carry them out. It’s important that I am involved in my own life. My kitchen, fridge in particular, needed a ‘looking into’ my food cupboard required some reorganising and if I’m not there who else is going to do it? Well, to my standards. Husband in a hurry said I was in a bad mood and I responded with, “Well you should try it, see if you like it!”
He responded, “Maybe you could go out to work instead”
“You fell into that one, I would give anything to go out to work.”

The day did get a little better after that, but on Monday morning I was still simmering, seething even.

I like some words in this amazing thing we call language. The way I felt Monday reminded me how much I enjoy using certain words to describe my emotional state. Seething is a much neglected word, as is ‘dreary’ or ‘ghastly’ or ‘lackadaisical’.

I want to make it my mission to improve my vocabulary, so no more Mrs ‘Nice’ or ‘lovely’ banalities from now on.

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