Tag Archives: humour/humor

The Paradox of Puppy Possession

Lyle is now fourteen weeks old. Much of the time he, like the little girl with the curl, is very, very good.

He walks off his lead.

oh hey, bluebells (mrscarmichael)
oh hey, bluebells (mrscarmichael)

He comes back to me if I offer roast chicken. He knows his name and appears to know the command ‘sit’ especially if I have a handful of roast chicken. He grows apace.

dis bed ain't big enough for da both of us (mrscarmichael)
dis bed ain’t big enough for da both of us (mrscarmichael)

He loves visitors and all other dogs. Even if they don’t love him quite as much. His, imported at vast expense, collar sets his golden hue off to perfection.

 orange and pink one ordered (mrscarmichael)
orange and pink one ordered (mrscarmichael)

He aced his first obedience training this morning (with the help of some roast chicken) and made friends with Buddy, another Cockapoo who makes Lyle look like a steroid taking body builder. Perhaps it’s true what the say about big paws.

bucolic puppy class (mrscarmichael)
bucolic puppy class (mrscarmichael)

He loves his food.

vanilla ice cream's almost as yummy as roast chicken (mrscarmichael)
vanilla ice cream’s almost as yummy as roast chicken (mrscarmichael)

He sleeps through the night and has been accident free in his bedroom for simply weeks.

What a good boy you are, Lyle.

Why then does my delicious green pashmina have holes in it? Why are all my rugs ‘hidden’ in the living room?

ahh, that's where she put them (mrscarmichael)
ahh, that’s where she put them (mrscarmichael)

Why are the curtains draped over the sofa?

Elle Decoration eat your heart out (mrscarmichael)
Elle Decoration eat your heart out (mrscarmichael)

And why does my kitchen look like the set of Les Miserables?

man the barricades (mrscarmichael)
man the barricades (mrscarmichael)

To your right, my first attempt at preventing puppy Lyle from weeing on the kitchen floor.

The jungle gym nature of my efforts added not only a game-like quality but a frisson of fun to peeing indoors.

Barricade Series Deux has proved to be somewhat more successful. So far.

So what if in these balmy Spring days the Shires are enjoying, Mr Carmichael and I cannot access our deck or indeed a third of the kitchen.

drastic acts/drastic measures (mrscarmichael)
drastic acts/drastic measures (mrscarmichael)

So what if I have to lock (literally) doors behind me.

never noticed we had these handy devices until we got Lyle (mrscarmichael)
never noticed we had these handy devices until we got Lyle (mrscarmichael)

It’s all in a day, pleasing puppy. Well, that’s what I tell myself as I sit here in muddy track pants and remember trips to London town perusing galleries and shopping emporiums for simply hours.

Don’t get me wrong. I am loving (almost) every minute of it and you know what’s even better? I think he is too.

backseat driver (mrscarmichael's daughter)
road trip anyone? (mrscarmichael’s daughter)

 

A (Not So Amusing) Wynn Amuse Bouche

Before we leave Vegas and head south, it behoves me to tell you about a slightly seedier side of the fertile land that is the Strip in general and the Wynn experience in particular.

Now, as you know, this was an important trip for the Carmichaels. A marriage milestone. And I for one had bought, categorically and without compunction, into this concept of craven celebration.

We chose the Wynn after much deliberation and further investigation proved the Tower at the Wynn an even better way to dash some anniversary cash. But at least here, at the special and rarified entrance, we were entitled to breakfast as part of the sleep over package.

Up-sold successfully at reception we headed straight to our room suite.

Oh yes! The images that follow may not be my choice of interior design but the lavish aspect, girth and give aways are hard to dislike for too long.

And it is true to say that we contemplated buying another suitcase to carry the glorious shampoos; conditioners; moisturisers; silver plated toothbrushes, loofas, back brushes; shaving creams; silver plated razors; hairsprays…..I could go on. Ooh and the dressing gowns too. Mmmmm.

Of course we didn’t. The Carmichaels are not freeloaders. No Sir, no Siree.

At least our breakfast was included and that was enough freeness for this mom and pop visiting the U.S of A.

Brian Gullbrants, Executive Vice President AND General Manager had even taken time out of his busy day to write to us. Wow!

Here’s some of his lovely letter:

Welcome to the Tower Suites at Wynn Las Vegas. We are delighted that you have chosen to stay with us.

Brian, we’re delighted too and thrilled you’re thrilled by our presence.

As part of your Tower Suites experience, we are pleased to invite you to visit Tableau located in the lobby for complimentary daily breakfast for two people from our special chef selected menu

Again, so pleased you’re pleased and we’re really pleased because we forgot to eat last night so busy were we drinking.

Oh and Brian, we’re not planning to invite others to the complimentary breakfast but point taken. It’ll just be the stipulated two of us each morning.

Simply charge the breakfast to your room and we will take care of the rest, noting that any gratuities are at your discretion.

Fair enough. It’s America and the Carmichaels are always happy to tip good service.

I have to tell you the breakfasts were fantastic. Eggs Benedict traditional, Eggs Benedict with salmon and chive hollandaise, an omelette with ‘foraged’ mushrooms and spinach – delicious. Mr C stuck to what we, back in Blighty, would call a Full English that just happened to come with copious quantities of toast and pastries galore.

Obviously we had orange juice, coffee and English Breakfast tea to wash down the feast provided on the daily menu handed to us by the greeter and seater.

even the condiments were scrumcious (mrscarmichael)
even the condiments were scrumcious (mrscarmichael)

We revelled in the food, the excellent service and the al fresco dining.

view from our Tableau table (mrscarmichael)
view from our Tableau table (mrscarmichael)

“This was really worth doing,” I purred to my husband of twenty five years as I stuffed my face on the last morning.

“Particularly since you can’t get out of a restaurant here for under $200.00,” he replied, cheeks bulging with egg sunny side up, wheat toast and lashings of whipped butter. “I’ll get the bill from reception and see you in the room.”

He arrived back on the 39th floor and suggested I consider repacking to include more bathroom bits and pieces.

After seeing the itemised bill I did and I did. But not the dressing gowns.

Once Mr C was put onto the duty manager his side of the phone conversation went something like this:

“So, I just need to understand what the Tableau bill of $100 plus is made up of. Right, but the breakfast is complimentary, no? Ok, I understand the gratuity element but the variation in daily charges does not reflect this. And this morning’s breakfast isn’t even listed yet. HOW MUCH? Can I read you the letter your receptionist gave us on check in, please?”

Mr C reads from the above with particular emphasis on complimentary, simply and we will take care of the rest.

” $35,” he exclaims. “Nowhere, does it mention a $35 maximum for two people. That’s $17.50 each. I don’t think there’s anything on the menu for less than $17.50. Yes, we were given one menu. The same menu every day. This cannot be the first phone call you’ve had about this.

“I am not a complainer in general (jury’s out on that one) but this is leaving a bad taste in my mouth (clever) and I need something to be done to reflect my level of concern about false advertising at the Wynn. Thank you, Scott, I appreciate your help.”

The charge was deducted from the total and that was only right. I am so pleased that I kept Brian’s welcome note. Too easy to bin extraneous fripperies when travelling.

Possibly the letter has been changed by now to reflect the unpalatable truth or perhaps high rollers don’t even notice or indeed care that they have been told porkies on booking. Untruths that are reinforced on arrival. It’s probable that Mr Wynn and his employ assume such detail is beneath us all to quibble over.

But quibble we must. Don’t you agree?

Wynning’s fun even if it’s not on a Craps table.

'just one more go, Honey> it'll pay fro the free breakfast' (mrscarmichael)
‘Just one more go, Honey. It’ll pay for the free breakfast’ (mrscarmichael)

If you enjoyed our travel machinations so far please read this: What Goes Around Comes Around or Vegas Encore. If you do I will love you so much more than I do right now.

Lost and Found

Now we all remember the central role my husband’s head wear played in the Carmichael’s Costa Brava mini break back July time. A PS with the appropriate links can be found at the foot of this, my final Mallorcan chapter.

Suffice it to note that although we started out one cap down (lost to Luton Airport) we have returned to Casa Carmichael with the blue still evident among the dirty washing and waiting impatiently for its next outing.

Not all was plain sailing however. Although the immortal, “Why did you let me leave it in the taxi?” was uttered only in jest as he banged on the cab driver’s door in Pollenca old town to retrieve said cap from the back seat, there were other moments during the week that Yours Truly feared it was a goner.

the Porto Cristo bill might have been low but losing this would have blighted an otherwise fab luncheon (mrscarmichael)
the Porto Cristo bill might have been low but losing this would have blighted an otherwise fab luncheon (mrscarmichael)

In a circuitously wonderful twist of fate Mr C leaving his cap in limbo at the canal-side restaurant meant I did not have to sit in the Panda or indeed even watch him navigate the indelicately insufficient turning circle ‘twixt water and ditch. No, I went back for the hat gladly and without a backward glance. I will admit to listening out for a splash but……….none came and we headed back to our apartment, for some late afternoon sun bathing and a jolly good read, fully clothed and acessoried.

Before walking down to the port for some mussels and mojitos we decided to take advantage of the hotel sauna (that by careful reading of the small print we knew was available to non-hotel guests – i.e. us over the road in the apartments – sshhh).

Mr Carmichael had been once already and believed that there must be a better, quicker and more private route home than through the cocktail bar and reception area that he had, puce and sweaty, been forced to traverse on his previous outing.

I’d had enough extreme heat way before him and went to shower.

“There’s a door to your left, left, ” he shouted through the Norwegian wood. “It probably goes up the the far side of Reception. You should give it a go.”

Normally I would ignore him. I usually do but we’d had a nice day’s outing (apart from the accordion of course) and I really didn’t want to have the G and T swillers snicker at me still steaming from the sauna so somewhat amazingly I turned left, left, went through one door, up some stairs and found myself in an ante-room with three doors leading off it. One, I could see immediately led to the hotel dining room. The second was small and somewhat grubby and the third had gravitas.

Feeling a little like Alice in Wonderland I chose the biggest hoping I wasn’t about to burst into the Presidential Suite or fall down a rabbit hole and arrived outside directly opposite our lovely gates.

These were the doors I exited:

well, well your prescience does surprise me, Mr C (mrscarmichael)
well, well your prescience does surprise me, Mr C (mrscarmichael)

It took hubby a while longer to get back to our room not least because we’d forgotten that he had no way of getting in the lovely gates or front door without a pass key. The pass key that I had in my dressing gown pocket. And for once he was phone-less (do not get me started on Mr Carmichael and his errant phone or should that be the errant Mr Carmichael and his phone?) Anyway, that soon became the least of his concerns.

“Did you go through a lot of offices?” he asked me when he finally got back, dressed and we headed out for supper.

“No.”

I stopped to collect (and photograph) his cap still hanging over the back of a sun lounger.

for pity's sake (mrscarmichael)
for pity’s sake (mrscarmichael)

“How on earth could you have got lost? There’s the door I came out.” I pointed with vigour at my grand and perfectly placed porta.

“I think I might have gone through the kitchens, ” he mused. “I didn’t see anybody to ask.”

I guess that was probably a very good thing given the fact that he was so obviously trespassing. I took a moment to photograph his route from the sauna for your delectation.

ooops (mrscarmichael)
ooops (mrscarmichael)

And in case your eyes are anything like mine, here is the sign he missed, clearly visible to everyone except my husband.

poor quality owing to both laughter and the fact that I had to creep inside to snap the wording (mrscarmichael)
poor quality owing to both laughter and the fact that I had to creep inside to snap the wording (mrscarmichael)

So lost and found to this point:

  • Mr Carmichael’s cap
  • Mr Carmichael’s cap
  • Mr Carmichael’s pass key
  • Mr Carmichael’s way

Many, many year ago when we were first together before marriage was even mooted my potential husband-to-be took me to Albefuiera, Portugal. Once we’d moved to a hotel of my choice on the second day we had a super week and enjoyed a lot of s’s that included, sun, sand, sangria, seafood. I’ll leave it there.

As we were landing back in Blighty he said, in hindsight with a strained casualness I am now more than used to, “Do you have the flat keys?”

Of course I did. His relief collapse was a vision. It turns out he’d been agonising all week about having to get Banhams the locksmiths out at gone midnight but didn’t want to worry me. Bless.

“You don’t happen to have a door key do you?” he asked last week as we lined up to board out flight to Luton.

“I told you I put it in the safe when we got to the apartment,” I replied. “You did get it out of the safe when you got the passports, didn’t you?” But I already knew the answer.

With all daughters flung to the wild winds I realised this was going to be break in numero dos for me. Ladder, brick, smashed glass, alarm blaring and an inelegant clamber over window sill, washing machine and shards of glass.

And then we remembered the Mini. “Ah ha,” you say. “We know, the one with the broken radiator.”

Bingo! In the garage, round the corner being spruced for our return and with a front door key dangling from its fob.

So, an updated lost and found:

  • Mr Carmichael’s cap
  • Mr Carmichael’s cap
  • Mr Carmichael’s pass key
  • Mr Carmichael’s way
  • Casa Carmichael’s front door key (Mr Carmichael’s fault)

And thus this list brings me to the only thing that remains forever lost. My heart to a wonderful island, Pollenca and its port in particular.

we shall return (mrscarmichael)
we shall return (mrscarmichael)

The postscript I promised:

In Which Mrs Carmichael Experiences the Reality of Ryan Air, Saves a Traveller in Distress, Embarrasses Herself and Makes it to the Costa Brava (Mr Carmichael’s cap)

The Carmichael Costa Brava Mini Break (Chapter Dos) (Mr Carmichael’s cap)

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (Mrs Carmichael Reflects on Her Sunday…So Far) (the Mini mishap)

Travel Theme (Multicoloured)

These sugar-sweet Disney coloured pedalos are resting for the night on the Puerto Pollenca beachfront content in the knowledge that more suckers will be along to rent them tomorrow.

Multicoloured, attractive and childlike they look but innocent they are not.

colour me evil (mrscarmichael)
colour me evil (mrscarmichael)

On our first holiday in this corner of paradise many moons ago the Carmichael clan hired one of these beasts and pedaled, full of bliss, out onto the high seas. Well, a few nautical miles into the bay anyway.

Daughters various slid, swam and climbed off and on our transport of choice.

They were having so much fun I decided to join in.

Mistake.

The slide down was easy, the entry to the water elegant and the playful splashing just what the doctor ordered.

However, getting back on board proved to be another story entirely. So entirely it would be fair to say that I could not drag myself out of the h2o at all.

The girls found it funny. Mr C had to pedal twice as hard and me? Well, Yours Truly hung on for dear life as I was dragged kicking and screaming (literally) back to the shallows.

Remind me to tell you about my rescue from the Go Ape safety nets one day soonish.

Other multicoloured entries can be accessed here Where’s my backpack? And my favourite this week is – drumroll….. http://wp.me/pKVAM-kO because I’m now looking up flights to go to Maine because of these shots and also upping my resolve to buy a caravan!!!!!! Thanks Tish, all I need is a bigger bucket list, not.

 

There’s a Muntjac in My Garden.

He’s eating the leaves and weeds that currently grow unfettered. The unfetteredness is because 1) Mr C, although recovering mightily well from his knee op, is not yet up to hard labour and hard labour is what is needed in the Carmichael compound and 2) the weather has been so utterly inclement to date that I have not seen the need or urgency of hiring a hard core labourer, yet. The first sunny day……… now that’s a whole different game of gardeners.

hello cutie (mrscarmichael)
hello cutie (mrscarmichael)

The muntjac is getting close to the open bifold doors. He eschews the Rhodo flowers, preferring the two tone white and green leaves of the bush next door. He is cute, looks healthy and is prepared to let me take photographs as he eats.

It wouldn’t have always been this way.

in an Carmichael country garden (mrscarmichael)
in a Carmichael country garden (mrscarmichael)

Thirteen or so years ago when summers were still summers in England’s fair isle I had a fluffy haired toddler in the pool with me down the end of the garden. The day was beautiful, the dogs relaxing nearby and most of the rest of the Carmichael clan glued to the television watching sport (Mr Carmichael) and Disney movies (daughters various).

patch of shade (mrscarmichael)
patch of shade (mrscarmichael)

I got Bertie (left) when Mr C was on a business trip to Chicago. Sometimes it’s best to follow your gut instinct in these things and carpe diem. My husband would probably have said, “No!” and then where would we have been?

He’d been returned to the breeder (Bertie that is) because of an overdose of miscreant proclivities that lasted him a long and crime filled lifetime. His first owners couldn’t cope and that was our luck. Making ‘Naughty Dog’ a Life’s Work puts flesh on the bones of his story.

Anyway.

I paid £400.00 for the puppy and £2000.00 for the fencing to keep him in. It’s one of Mr C’s favourite dinner table stories…….now.

And I promise that the relevance of this sidebar will soon reveal itself.

So, there I was in the pool bouncing a baby when my eye was caught by actions off. My dogs were running, nay hurtling with purpose from one side of the garden to another and back again. Silently, save for the pounding paw falls. All three of them.

But I didn’t have three dogs.

Baby chortled as they veered towards us but this was not a chortling matter because my boys were hunting and appeared in grave danger of catching their prey, a terrified muntjac, ably assisted by the dog proofed fencing.

Terrified myself I screamed. The daughter stopped chortling and joined the scream as we exited the water and ran, dripping, up the grass, sidestepping the canine posse.

“Close the doors,” I shouted imagining the carnage if the three of them gained ingress to Casa Carmichael. “Shut the doors!” I can still see my family’s startled faces. Mr C, tearing his eyes from the, whatever, grand prix began to argue but then noticed the silent movie occurring outside.

I threw baby at an older daughter and Carmichael mere and pere took on the beasts.

“We have to get the gates open and drive it towards them,” I screamed. “Shit, shit, shit, shit!”

what's occurring? (Mrscarmichael)
what’s occurring? (mrscarmichael)

The muntjac was tiring. Bertie was not. Flynn, bless him, probably hadn’t even noticed the deer and just thought his brother was being kind and including him in a game for once.

I got to the gate. Mr Carmichael did a fine job herding. Too fine in fact because the critters arrived before I managed to unbolt the rusty lock.

It was all very scary.

Have you ever felt the Devil? I believe I I did that day.

This bit of fence was six foot, the dwarf deer two at most but it had no time to either work the math or stand and wait for me to wrench open the gate. The force of its cloven hooves on my back pushed me into the wood panels as it flew over fence and off, I hope, to safety.

The dogs panted and lapped water, the peanut gallery applauded, Michael Schumacher won the race and, for quite some weeks, I sported a hoof shaped bruise.

Today there’s a muntjac in my garden but this one can take his time to forage. My boys are hunting elsewhere now.

In Which The Author Attempts to Pen a Cross – Carmichael – Category Post (Because That’s What She Usually Does Anyway)

Honestly, I thought I was so clever creating my categories. Obviously I now see that they break all the dictates for WordPress success vis-à-vis clarity and concision of purpose in post and blog. Without a John Malkovich portal (ah, now you get the blog title) how on earth do I drag you, Dear Reader, along with me and my clan? I don’t want to dump you or have you jumping out on the hard shoulder on a New Jersey turnpike. Oh no, no, no. That’s not, and never was, my intention.

In direct contradiction to Freshly-Pressable rules I tend to circle a topic like a dog sniffing out the perfect spot to pee. Mind map forgotten and synapses firing fit to burst, my cortex cannot seem to focus on one subject long enough to scribe even a thousand words without detours, speed bumps, distractions and a Thomas the Tank Engine sized set of buffers back at Big Station.

I can never get to the point, it appears. Mrs Carmichael is a personification of ‘the road less travelled by’. Ah me. Alas. Alack.

This afternoon I was about to write a Reading Repository book review (Carmichael style) but have become sidetracked before placing nail to keyboard. And now I see it’s almost 5.00 pm so thoughts are turning to my larder and, newly cleaned, fridge and I am already distracted.

I have six categories to cover. I must begin.

1) mrscarmichael’s reading repository

I have just finished Michael Frayn’s latest novel, Skios. Set on an imaginary Greek island the story takes place over a few days of bouganvilla clad summer and features an airport, a villa and a conference hotel as the backdrop.

Mistaken identity is the premise of this 200 odd paged book. A suitcase mixup at arrivals sets the story off and Dr Norman Wilfred, the guest speaker, and Oliver Fox, lothario at large, have their week’s plans derailed, one more willingly than the other.

Skios is fast paced in a farce-like way and reminds me more of Frayn’s Noises Off than other novels of his that I have read.  Spies, his Whitbread winner and in my top ten of all time, so utterly different to this offering.

That is not to say I didn’t enjoy the book. I did but Peter Kemp of the Sunday Times promised me the following: ‘This book risks being unreadable…….tears of laughter make the print swim in front of your eyes.’

Peter, are you given to hyperbole in other areas of your life or only when paid to write a promo? I did laugh but tears did not drip onto page. Nor was I rendered incapable of action. My sides did not split.

I know what that’s like you see.

2) meet the Carmichaels

When I first moved to London mumble years ago, I lived in a North London high street above a magazine shop and a curry house. It was all terribly exciting and in those days a second floor (UK), third floor (US) walk up was no problem for young knees and buoyant souls. The constant smell of chicken Korma, prawn balti and sag aloo another story all together.

The fact that our Lilliputian sized flat had no washing machine did not bother us either. We took turns of a Saturday/Sunday morning to visit the laundrette two doors up (now a Snappy Snaps) on the corner and return home with wonderful baguettes and croissants from the local deli five doors down (still there).

On my clothe cleaning weeks I enjoyed a hour’s read in the laundrette. The patrons, seated on central benches between the banks of washing machines and industrial dryers, chatted (rarely), read newspapers, watched their tumbling  garments or like me, read a book.

I think it was a David Lodge and without ordering his whole back catalogue (which I admit I’m tempted to do) I don’t remember the title. I’d got it from Hampstead Library and saved it for this moment. Opening the cover I began to read.

I started to smile and relax. I began to laugh. I was getting noisy and getting stares. I kept reading. And laughing. I wasn’t off page one. I think I hiccuped. I know I snorted. Everyone was looking at me now, papers lowered, washing forgotten. I apologised, tears rolling down my cheeks and began reading anew. I was still on page one. Guffawer is the only word that does what I was doing justice. I had to stop reading.

I had to stop reading a book because I was in public and I was making a scene. I have never forgotten the moment. If I wrote that as a book promo no one would believe it. Perhaps Peter Kemp’s tears really did make the words swim. I don’t think so though.

3) mrscarmichael is away from her desk

Now the sleuths amongst you may be asking how Mrs C knows the laundrette is no more as she lives on the edge of the Chilterns?

And the answer is simple. As I mentioned in, Art Meets Architecture (A Cultural Diversion) I am, because of sudden, sad and somewhat unexpected arrival of free time, broadening my horizons and travelling those other roads in the hope that I might use Robert Frost’s wonderful poem to justify my new peripatetic ambitions, ‘and that has made all the difference’. I am on the hunt for different things to do.

Currently I’m pretending that I live in places I used to and spending inordinate amounts of time there, taking photos and remembering incidents of uncontrolled giggling in laundrettes. Call me barmy, I don’t mind.

4) through mrscarmichael’s contact lens

my old front door (mrscarmichael)
ahh, my old front door (mrscarmichael)

5) mrscarmichael’s creative twin

At the time I lived on Rosslyn Hill I banged into quite a number of famous residents of the ‘burb; Michael Foot (the then Labour Party Leader), John Cleese (actor/comedian), Dame Judi Dench (actor extraordinaire) and last but by no means least Slim Jim Phantom, the Stray Cats drummer who lived, albeit briefly, upstairs.

I met him when I went up to complain about the drumming. It was 3.00 am and I had a job to go to. Not recognising him I possibly came across as rather angry. I don’t think Britt was on the scene just yet because I surely would have recognised her.

my flat and a Stray Cat's (mrscarmichael)
my flat and a Stray Cat’s (mrscarmichael)

And that’s enough famous/clever/talented people envy for one publication.

6) mrscarmichael’s catchall

Obviously this is where I shall allocate this post. There is no carmichael category more deserving. Thank you and goodnight.

My New Zealand Trip, Auckland, Apex Cars and Adoration.

I have spent the last thirty odd years in the UK responding to this question,

“Are you Australian?”

And then it goes like this,

“No, I’m a New Zealander.”

“OMG, I am so sorry. I know you hate being mixed up but it’s so hard to tell your accents apart. When I was in Australia blah, blah, blah.”

“Don’t worry about it. I love Australia.”

And I do. Likewise Auckland although it wasn’t always thus.

Auckland v Wellington (google maps.com)
Auckland v Wellington (google maps.com)

When I grew up it was almost expected of a good Wellingtonian to have an burning antipathy for our northern sister. This didn’t stop us moving there in droves however. The weather was better, the city larger, the jobs abundant and the sailing calmer.

I always enjoyed my time in Auckland’s nice bits, always hated Queen Street and its environs (no centre, no heart) and was almost always pleased to come South and home.

But something is happening to me. My enmity is evaporating with the years and, yes, I am going to say it here first.

I love Auckland.

Since, or because of, the rugby world cup, hosted by New Zealand in 2011, Auckland has had major heart surgery and the waterfront is now a mecca for residents and tourists to wander, enjoy the sun, the boats and yummy food and yummy wine at one of the many cafés that dot the harbour.

Auckland waterfront, sept 2011 (mrscarmichael)
Auckland waterfront, sept 2011 (mrscarmichael)

This trip, as I may have already mentioned, the weather was amazing. It has been, and still is, the best summer anyone can remember. My skies were blue, my heart was not. The sunshine and warmth a real tonic after our, ongoing, winter up here. It’s snowing now, as if to prove a point.

Inside, outside living is something New Zealand does well and this St Heliers’ café does it better than most. I felt as if I were sitting on the beach, sea breezes wafting past me as I sipped my long black.

café, coffee heaven (mrscarmichael)
café, coffee heaven (mrscarmichael)

New Zealand has taken coffee culture to its bosom, big time and once you get used to the terminology – long black = americano; flat white = latté etc – sit back and enjoy. The caffeine content will knock your block off.

Another thing I’m always bored rigid by is,

“I haven’t been to New Zealand but I hear it’s like going back ten years in time.”

Wake up and smell the long black, Guys and if there some things are done in a sweeter, slower, kinder way, isn’t that a good thing?

Here’s an example of just what I mean.

As you know, I chose to do a mini road trip from Auckland to Wellington rather than taking advantage of the very cheap internal airfares on offer.

Hire cars in my birth country have never been the cheapest of commodities but the driving is easy, the scenery spectacular and the photo opportunities considerable.

I rang Avis to see just how much I could be charged for a three day hire, returning the car to another city. $593.00 NZ as it transpires which included a relocation fee of $27.00 but no insurance. This was for a smallish automatic so I demurred.

I then called my trusty stalwart, Apex, an Australasian hire car company that might use slightly more loved vehicles but whose attitude and prices I adore.

“I’m just picking myself up off the floor having spoken with Avis,” I opened. “Now, can you tell me what it really costs to hire a car here, return it to Wellington and have it for three days, please?”

“Could you do it in two?” Dave asked.

I was hanging onto to the car for an extra day in Wellington for freedom’s sake alone but staying downtown in the bustling bohemian quarter I really didn’t need four wheels.

“Yes, I can. Why?”

“I think you’re going to like this, ” Dave said. “A relocation hire will be $1.00 per day.”

Even with my poor maths, I reckoned I was already $25.00 ahead of Avis.

“Brilliant. How much is the daily rate?”

I could hear Dave smiling through the ether. “A dollar a day,” he repeated. “But you’ll have to pay for your own petrol.”

Hello, cut my arm off for this deal. “I’ll take it, I chirruped.”

empty roadside photo opportunity (mrscarmichael)
empty roadside photo opportunity (mrscarmichael)

I took the almost brand new automatic Toyota Camry from 11.30am on a Monday until 1.30pm on the Wednesday which allowed for my two planned overnight stops. I bought a tank of petrol from Apex for 80% of the retail price and I drove south in comfort, air con blasting, radio blaring.

I paid $2.00 NZ for the rental and when I returned the car I was asked if I needed dropping anywhere. Ten years behind or just jolly great service. You decide.

“I’ve always wanted to go to New Zealand,” is yet another statement with a high boredom quotient for Your Truly.

Well go, then. Don’t think about it or witter on about it. Just do it. You will not be disappointed. Cross my heart.

Do You Want Peas With This?

a serving of spam (
a serving of spam (fotosearch.com)

“Undeniably believe that which you said. Your favorite
justification appeared to be on the web the simplest thing to be aware of.
I say to you, I definitely get irked while people think about worries that they plainly do not know about.

You managed to hit the nail upon the top as well as defined out the whole
thing without having side-effects , people could take a signal.”

Although not quite in the same A* class as (SPAM………….Don’t You Just Love It?), a must read for budding spammers, I am just so pleased that I have hit the nail on the top, a thing I have strived all my life to do. And with no side effects either. It just gets better and better.

I’m lighting the fire as I write. You’ll see the smoke signals momentarily.

postscript

a spam comment attached to this post “Hello every one, here every person is sharing such experience, so it’s fastidious to read this blog, and I used to visit this blog everyday”  came bouncing in this morning.

Barcelona, Three girls Came, Saw, Conquered and Made It Home As Well

It was one of those trips where everything went to plan. Indeed, whoever made the plan, kudos. You did a very good job.

It didn’t start that well however. Snow and London are, as all residents know, uncomfortable bedfellows. Bed really is the only place to be on snow days in this metropolis. We just aren’t geared up to cope with snow and travel is the worst thing to be planning to do when the snow comes in.

We were planning to fly to Barcelona. Two from Luton (north of London) and one from Gatwick (south). This plan was rational, sensible and extremely cost efficient given the locale of our homes but didn’t take into consideration the snow. The snow exposed a number of cracks and crevices in the plan.

K……., our solo traveller, spend three worrisome days wondering if she would be doing a Macaulay Culkin in the Catalonian capital because her flight went first and all predictions forecast heavy, travel stopping snow on the morning of our departure. She became expert on snow sites various –  BBC weather watch, EasyJet alerts and when she couldn’t face the horror of the approaching blizzard, the Barcelona seven day forecast to ensure appropriate clothing for four days in her own company.

T…… and I agreed to go to the spa at Champneys if we were unable to fly.

Friday morning my phone jammed with incoming texts from K…… ‘Wat’s yr progress?’; ‘At airport yet?’; ‘Any news?’; ‘update pls’; ‘update PLS’, The final desperate query sent from the foot of her plane’s steps.

We made it out with ten minutes to spare. Seriously. Ten minutes. Then the snow came but we didn’t care. We were on our way to Barca for three and a half days of tapas, mojitos, wine and culture.

If that was success against all odds #1 our second result was getting into out apartment three hours before check in time. A leisurely lunch can be hampered by suitcases (even if they are the minuscule EasyJet permitted carry-on size). And in one of the pickpocketing capitals of the world depositing our bags pre alcohol was a good thing.

Success #3 was a more personal one for me. I won the best bedroom. No fighting or flattest heels involved (Take Three Girls: Barcelona), I even let them draw the straws.

room with a view (mrscarmichael)
room with a view (mrscarmichael)

My master bedroom, dressing room and personal bathroom were fantastic but fair to say the whole apartment surpassed expectations. Central, clean, well decorated with a good view (from my dormitorio anyway) it was a pleasant surprise to rent somewhere that is fairly represented in it’s promotional pics. Yes, T……. and I have been burnt before and fallen prey to a very wide, wide angle lens.

loving my mirror (mrscarmichael)
loving my mirror (mrscarmichael)

Have you noticed the colour of the sky in the first photo? Remember it’s snowing back home so blue is a very good thing and needs recording at every opportunity. Cerulean skies count as success #4.

singing the blues (mrscarmichael)
singing the blues (mrscarmichael)

And one more for luck.

sun over Frank's fish (mrscarmichael)
sun over Frank’s fish, Gehry that is at the Hotel Arts (mrscarmichael)

I think Heaven just might be blue sky, 19 degree temperature in January, a vast and golden sand beach beside our restaurant table and a bottle, or two, of chilled vino blanco to accompany our sea bass. We were purring.

Later that night we had mojitos. They were yummy = success #5.

that'll do nicely (mrscarmichael)
that’ll do nicely (mrscarmichael)

And in between we visited Santa Maria Del Mar an awe inspiring gothic cathedral that rises out of the tiny streets and alleyways surrounding it and defies anyone to walk past without a visit.

light and shade (mrscarmichael)
light and shade of Santa Maria del Mar (mrscarmichael)
perfect bloom (mrscarmichael)
perfect bloom (mrscarmichael)

Now firmly in the centre of El Born Santa Maria del Mar was on the coast when built in the 14th century and must have been a welcome sight for fishermen returning with their catch each day. The rose window is stunning and the red candles lit throughout the church make it’s calm darkness vibrant.

Back in our Pla de Palau apartment we prepared ourselves for bed with a night-cap, drunk discussing the successes of the day. T…… headed for her mummy bear room, K…… her baby bear womb room with its child sized mattress (shortest straw) and yours truly to my master suite.

My God, do the Spanish ever sleep? That is a rhetorical question. I think there was pause between 4.19am and 5.20 but I can’t be certain. I rose exhausted.

“I’ve had the best sleep,” said K……. “It’s so quiet down this end. How about you?”

Looking at my un-sleep-refreshed phizog she began to laugh and went to check on T…….’s night’s success in the sleep department.

We couldn’t rouse her so comfortable was the Tempur mattress that only her bed had been fitted with. Hmmm. Neither would swap rooms with me so I bought ear plugs. Needs must.

Through the weekend we visited a number of memorable buildings including Gaudí’s, Casa Batlló in the Passeig de Gracia.

not a straight line in this casa (mrscarmichael)
not a straight line in Casa Batlló (mrscarmichael)
cerulean blue sky/sea theme (mrscarmichael)
cerulean blue sky/sea theme, Casa Batlló (mrscarmichael)
up on the roof (mrscarmichael)
up on the roof, Casa Batlló (mrscarmichael)
highly polished (mrscarmichael)
highly polished (mrscarmichael

Apparently Signora Batlló hated the house that Gaudí built for her but I would move in, in a heartbeat if I could have a door bell like this (left), doors like this (below right),

all curves (mrscarmichael)
all curves (mrscarmichael)

and an attic like this (bottom left).

angelic attic (mrscarmichael)
angelic attic, Casa Batlló (mrscarmichael)

It was on to the Fundació Joan Miró in Montjuïc.

The building itself is pretty stunning, was designed by Josep Sert and opened in 1975. The museum and the view it has over the city below are reason enough to go but the collection of Miró’s on display is fabulous and shouldn’t be missed.

a greeter (mrscarmichael)
a greeter, Miró Museum (mrscarmichael)

Outdoor sculptures only. No photography allowed inside, I’m sorry.

a colourful imagination (mrscarmichael)
a colourful imagination, Miró Museum (mrscarmichael)

I think I need to know more about this artist. His paintings certainly got us thinking, his recurring theme very anatomically rooted. I shall say no more until I know more.

The museum is about 100 metres from the 1992 olympic stadium so we popped our heads in there I guess to say we’d done it.

“We’ve done it,” we said.

It’s showing its age in a way It would not be if Gaudí had built it. Or Mies van der Rohe who’s pavilion we went to next.

me encanta (mrscarmichael)
me encanta, Mies van der Rohe Pavilion (mrscarmichael)

Built originally in 1929 for the International Exposition it was reconstructed thirty years later to the original spec and now has a permanent place in Barcelona’s modernist history. The iconic Barcelona chair was created by van der Rohe to be displayed here.

woman in green (mrscarmichael)
caught my likeness, Mies van der Rohe Pavilion (mrscarmichael)

Gaudí, Miró and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe count as successes #s 6, 7 and 8 not only because they were brilliant but because we missed the queues so well our ‘plan’ was working. Walk in, no queue. Exit and the line of expectant visitors stretches around the block. Oh yes. That was the cream on our double espressos.

Success #9 came in the guise of Mr Carmichael’s erstwhile school friend E……, who lives in Barcelona and got roped in offered to show three girls a good time. Brave or foolhardy I know not but we had a great Saturday night tapas crawl around El Born and finally, after lager, wine, mojitos, cider and a very strong honey flavoured Catalonian shot, we, with E……’s input found the limits to T…….’s ability to protest sobriety. Success #10.

we didn't drink it all, m'lud (mrscarmichael)
we didn’t drink it all, m’lud (mrscarmichael)

The bar owner may look innocent but his cough mixture style parting gift was most certainly not.

shots, foreground; t...... fancying bar keep, background (mrscarmichael)
shots, foreground; T….’s fancying bar keep, background (mrscarmichael)

Although, as I mentioned in my entry for the WordPress weekly photo challenge (Weekly Photo Challenge (Beyond)), Spain is enduring very hard times at present one thing the Spanish do not compromise on is their fresh food and the two markets we spent hours in were exceptional.

a rainbow of fruits (mrscarmichael)
a rainbow of fruits (mrscarmichael)
hamming it up  (mrscarmichael)
hamming it up (mrscarmichael)

And for those with a sweet tooth and/or a childish disposition.

E number fresh (mrscarmichael)
E number fresh (mrscarmichael)

Success #11 – not buying any of the above. More, so many more temptations here Weekly Photo Challenge (Beyond).

On this mini break I discovered my sense of direction is not what I thought it was (“But it just doesn’t matter”), T……. realised that not all tapas was revolting but some of it was (“I don’t like bouncy food”) and K…… found out that not everyone wees as much as she (“where’s the loo?”) became our mid-January, fin de semana personal catch phrases.

We had an utterly brilliant time in an utterly brilliant city and even though our plane was delayed on the way home the pilot flew so fast she made up all but five minutes. And that counts as success #12.

I love it when a plan comes together.

So How Was Christmas For You?

This morning I came downstairs to a diarrhoea covered dog’s bed and can say with both guilt and remorse that I now regret feeding the one remaining canine our left over Christmas dinner. Cauliflower cheese, peas and carrots not to mention stuffing and turkey gravy are not recommended by any vet I know as sustenance for elderly Golden Retrievers, especially those prone to dicky tummies.

Mea culpa. At least I got to clean it/him up. His rear end now smells of lynx and his bed of washing machine water. No, the repair man still hasn’t been and we are dressed in rags.

It’s three days post Christmas and I’m evaluating from my, mrscarmichael’s POV, the success of the holiday season so far. Do read on. This starts slowly but builds, I swear, to a mortifying conclusion.

Present-wise, I did not receive the Eileen Cooper print (Dear Santa) I requested and am beginning to wonder if Father Christmas is as real as the Tooth Fairy or the Blackpool fortune teller’s promise that I am due a ‘windfall’ in 2012.

#runningoutoftime Mystic Martha.

But, for the defence, neither was I given anything I didn’t want. The Carmichaels know that it is always a good thing to check with mother/present wife the desirability quotient of potential gifts. I have a policy of instant rejection of the unrequested and undesired. I think immediate honesty, although harsh, is better in the long run than drawn out disappointment for both the giftor and giftee.

And thus, although the surprise factor was minimal I am pleased to display my bounty.

marrikemoto goblet (mrscarmichael)
iittala mariskooli goblet (mrscarmichael)

I have hankered after a red one of these for many a Christmas. I love it.

tom dixon metal bowls (mrscarmichael)
tom dixon metal bowls (mrscarmichael)

I happened upon these jewels in the home section of Selfridges on an ill thought out and somewhat desperate trip to London on Christmas Eve eve. As predicted Mr Carmichael was most happy with the suggestion that I purchase the five golden platters for myself from him because, as predicted (Dear Santa), he was awaiting Christmas Eve for inspiration to strike.

Unsurprisingly I love them.

shanghaitang phone case (mrscarmichael)
shanghaitang phone case (mrscarmichael)

The cherry blossom pattern and colour-way are as requested. As a rule I prefer cases to be the same tone as the phone itself but after a year of missing more, way more, than half my calls because I am unable to find my black phone in my black handbag I have accepted with grace not only my failings but a egg shell blue case with black highlights.

Oh and the London brick vase in the background was an almost surprise.

“Would you like a white vase?”

“Mmm, tell me a little more.”

Love both.

A plethora of inoffensive publications, some of which I even want to read and a tea for one complete my haul.

nifty invention (mrscarmichael)
nifty invention (mrscarmichael)

I love the simple ingenuity and the fact I am restricted to making tea only for myself.

There were, however, elements of the Carmichael Christmas that did not go quite as well. For me in particular.

what a cracker (mrscarmichael)
what a cracker (mrscarmichael)

I took this just before I tripped and fell over both F……. and D……., a vet nurse trainee who were in my way. I will be sticking to that story, M’lud for as long as necessary. And before my friend, T……., the vet nurse trainee’s mother asks why I haven’t included the pic of me lying on the floor post trip I swear it is on Daughter #2’s camera. Not mine. Mine was on the floor with me and my surprisingly still full wine glass.

Daughter #2 is yet to return from her boyfriend’s house which is the only reason I can think of why my crash and burn moment is not plastered all over Facebook……yet. Still, I do look thinner in that photo than in any other taken on the day so if it does go up I’ll accept it as a glass half full moment (both metaphorically and indeed literally).

Many years ago I was flatting in Surrey Hills, Sydney with a few miscreants and a French boyfriend, C………. Our Christmas dinner was frugal to non existent. The I Ching had told us December 25th was not to be an auspicious day. But to the rescue came one young flatmate’s parents who gathered us up and whisked us off to somewhere suburban on the North Shore for ‘a proper meal’ on the day after Boxing Day.

They provided beds the night before and made us feel most welcome. C………’s and my air mattress was blown up in the dining room which was divided by glass from the kitchen.

I was woken by noises off. Homely cooking clattering that I had become somewhat distanced from that particular summer. I turned over and can still remember with high definition clarity the sight that greeted me. J……., the flatmate’s parents were preparing our two day late Christmas dinner totally utterly stark bollock naked.

I woke C……… and shaking with mirth we pretended to sleep until they went to dress.

The dinner and the hospitality were magnificent. Replete we were returned to our hovel. We never told J…….what we had seen but I have never forgotten it.

Fast forward mumble, mumble years and Daughter #2’s relatively new boyfriend has been staying chez casa Carmichael quite a lot this uni break. He shares the same name as Daughter #1. This is very confusing for everyone and I always felt in my waters it was not a good thing. I was right.

Because we do not run a bordello and because of the brevity of their relationship, A……. is relegated to the TV room, sleeping-wise. This is a downstairs room. Last Saturday, the TV was still blaring up the stairwell and all young things (apart from daughter #4) were watching Made in Chelsea on Sky Plus below me. Thus, at gone midnight, I felt utterly comfortable coming out of my bedroom (upstairs) to shout at Daughter #1 for not turning her up, up, upstairs light off. I shouted her name multiple times. I didn’t give it a second thought.

And yes, I was naked.

birthday suit boo boo (mrscarmichael)
birthday suit boo boo (mrscarmichael)

Getting no response I stomped up the third floor stairs to do the job myself. Light off, I was about to come back down when I heard the floorboards creak below me. And there was the boyfriend, creeping out of #2’s bedroom with his overnight bag.

Thank God he didn’t see me, I thought as I rapidly, but silently, stepped into the shadows. Then my veins chilled, my blood turned to ice.

If your potential mother in law was repeatedly shouting your name wouldn’t you rush to respond? I know I would. He’d seen me not only naked but yelling like a banshee whilst naked. Nothing can dissuade me from this conclusion. I am to be to him what J…….’s parents are to me. A humorous story told regularly over mumble years when I want to make people laugh.

What could I do? Well, what I couldn’t do was sleep. I thrashed around all night listening to Mr Carmichael snoring the sleep of the clothed and wondering if I could bare to wear nighties.

“Get over yourself, Mum,” was the kindest thing anyone said to me the next day. But I was mortified, am mortified and will continue to be mortified for as long as there is breath in my birthday suited body.

So, how was Christmas for you?