Sunday, 21 March 2010

Bungling and Burglary

Some time in the wee small hours of Friday morning, March 19th we were robbed. I can’t even say our house was broken into because we have to admit that we carelessly, accidentally, left the back door unlocked. Of course you know when I say “we” I really mean Robbie (!) since he was the last one up the stairs that night but even he will hold his hands up and admit that “as the man of the house it’s my job to make sure the doors are locked before I go to bed at night” but I’m trying to be kind!

For those of you who don’t know my dear husband I’ve always described him as the “absent-minded professor” because he fits that description to a T! I think his brain usually has 9000 things going on at once and he tends to shift focus from one thing to another and then forgets what he was originally doing, etc. He also tends to stuff everything and anything in his pockets and walks along looking like Captain Kangaroo. My job has usually been to try and keep him focused, try to keep a semblance of organization and follow behind and tidy up after him—a job which I usually resent! Oh, did I say he was very messy? Most times with these three jobs I throw up my hands and just say, “I give up” and let him be untidy and cluttered, just as long as he keeps it on his side of the room. His method of organization is to stuff things in different plastic sacks and carry those around with him as needed. I think he’d make a great hobo except he doesn’t really like to travel! His favorite method of getting ready for bed is to drop his trousers (with everything still in the pockets) along with the rest of his clothes by his side of the bed and then get into his pajamas. Never mind that the clothes basket is no more than 10 steps away....

Now that you know all the relevant facts I’ll try to tell the story of our burglary the way it happened, as best I can:

I was awakened around 6:30 that morning by Robbie feeling around at my feet in the bed. When I asked him what he was doing he said, “You’re going to think I’m crazy but I can’t find my trousers” (actually it sounds more like, “Ye’re gonne think ah’m daft but ah canne find mah troosers” but I digress...). Grumbling, grumpily I got up (did I tell you I’m NOT a morning person?) and asked, “Where did you take them off?” “I don’t remember.” “Aren’t they over there on the floor?” “No, they’re not here and I have to find them because my wallet and my work badge is in them.” So I started to try to remember what we had done the night before while getting ready for bed. I couldn’t remember him getting undressed either. Between us we eventually looked all over the bedroom (even looking in the clothes basket in the off chance that that would be the last place he’d put them), all through the spare room because he sometimes gets dressed in there so as not to disturb me, and in the bathroom (I even looked in the tub behind the shower curtain—well, you never know). That took care of the upstairs and I started looking again while he went downstairs.

We looked all over the house eventually, even in unlikely places (Robbie looked in the fridge at one point) and his trousers were nowhere to be seen. He then informed me that the back door was open—not open but unlocked—and he must have forgotten to lock it the night before. By this time we were getting suspicious but didn’t want to actually believe that someone had stolen his trousers—or that he had taken them off downstairs!

Looking around again, Robbie pointed out to me, what he called a “biscuit tin” but what is really just a ceramic jar (like a small cookie jar) I’ve had forever that sits on the kitchen table for decoration. We never have put anything in it, we never touch it but it was there on the table with the top off. In front of it were two boxes, one of chocolates and one of cookies that we had gotten for Christmas. They were disturbed too because I had left them on top of each other. When I saw that, I knew that neither one of us had moved or touched them, therefore someone else had been in the house! Having that confirmation and shock we started looking around for other things that might be missing. The big, obvious things of value were still there: the TV, the DVD player, the DVDs, my plates, our silver quaichs etc. and the knives were still in the kitchen.

What was taken were Robbie’s trousers (old ones he was about to throw out) and what was in the pockets: his wallet (he had no cash in it, a lot of trash and receipts that should have been tossed, credit cards that has been stopped since last summer when he was out of work and his debit card which he immediately cancelled), his work badge (that only gives him access to the computer not the building), his driver’s license which he will have to replace at a cost of £20. The good thing about that, though, is that over here the license comes in two parts, a picture part which was in his wallet and a paper card that shows that you are entitled to drive which he still has so he can still drive legally. He also had an asthma inhaler he didn’t like and can always replace if he needed to, some spare change which he reckons didn’t equal much more than ₤1, and his car keys.

Now the loss of the car keys is the most worry because now he will either have to have the locks changed on the car or get one of those steering wheel lock things or something else. The car was still in the driveway when we went out and looked but this weekend he’s had to park it at night in various places (his auntie’s and his brother’s) rather than our driveway or around here. Also on his trousers was an Armani belt his brother brought him back from Thailand. As nice as it was, and as much as he appreciated the gift, it never fit him quite right and he never really liked it much but the police thought that this might be something they could use to possibly find the culprit(s) if an Armani belt ever turned up in Fauldhouse.
As for me, they came into the living room and went through my handbag that’s always next to the chair and found the £10 I had hidden in my organizer but didn’t take my credit card (which was also closed last summer) or the debit card from my shared account in Virginia or my Virginia driver’s license. I know they were in my purse because all my little cosmetic cases, one of which just has medical supplies and some Kleenex were unzipped but put back neatly in the purse. Now what woman would unzip a cosmetic bag and then put it back open? We all know that everything would fall out! Luckily, my passport is still in the hands of the Home Office Borders Agency in pursuit of my visa.

Other than those things they also took my mobile phone. Now just that day—or really the day before—Thursday, I had dropped it and broken it. It had been broken really for a couple of months when a little piece of the flip part had broken off and I had to be really careful when I opened it because if the little pin came out it was hard to find it and put it all back together again. But when I dropped it Thursday, not only did the pin fly out and end up somewhere behind the computer, I did something to the screen because it would come on but be blank. So the phone was no good to me or to anyone who got it. Robbie had torn it apart to see if he could fix it and took out the SIM card to see if he could insert it in his phone so I could see any messages or Tweets. When I went up to bed Thursday night it was still all torn apart on the counter. They didn’t take the SIM card however so I can insert my info, possibly, into another phone. One other thing we discovered they had taken was a small flashlight we keep by the back door for emergencies.

So, all in all, they didn’t take anything we’ll miss or can’t replace. Robbie was unhappy that he had to take a day off work. He didn’t want to call the police at first because he was embarrassed but I pointed out that even though we wouldn’t get any benefit out of calling them there might be something we could tell them or something similar with our experience to some other one that might help them in the just never know, some common denominator we don’t know about. Robert actually said he was glad it was a theft in a way and he’s not losing his mind not being able to find his trousers! We were good citizens but had to wait all day for them to come out. When Robbie first called they said there had been a major incident and they might be delayed. We knew we’d probably be at the bottom of the list for urgency anyway.

It was a little after 5:00, when we had almost given up, that PC Curtis and PC Gilmore finally arrived. They were very nice young men and we sat down in the living room but I ended up being the one to explain what had happened and do most of the talking! I think Robbie was still a little embarrassed and even though I can be known to go on, I think I can be more succinct than he is! Of course he says it’s because I’m more used to police procedure from all the mysteries I read! Not true! I was thinking all that day and this would be the first time in my whole life I’ve had (or anyone in my family that I know of has had) the police in my house. We showed them around, they looked over the back yard and PC Gilmore even jumped up on our stone wall in the back and climbed over the fence to see what was back there. They were very thorough and took us through the story, wrote down what was taken and took down our details. When they left, though, Robbie grumbled, “They probably think I’m a daft old duffer.” and I patted him on the back and said, “But you are, dear, you are!”  Always try to be a sympathetic wife....

You know you’re old when the policemen are the same age as your children! PC Curtis was interviewing Robbie, getting his statement straight and Robbie mentioned something about going up the stairs and forgetting what you went up for and PC Curtis said, “I do that and I’m only 25.” which is the same age as my Ben! Yikes! Anyway, the whole process was not painful at all and as I said, we were very blessed to not have anything taken we’d miss or couldn’t replace.

They did mention that they would have someone on the crime team come out Saturday and see if there might be a possibility of getting a fingerprint off the door or the “biscuit tin”. The man did come out Saturday morning but wasn’t here more than five minutes. He said since we’d already been in and out the door before and since so it probably wouldn’t be any good to dust the door handle. He dusted the jar but didn’t get anything off it. He speculated that they had just taken the lid off with their fingertips or, as I said, wore gloves. That’s the first time, and God willing, the last time I have to wash fingerprint powder off a possession of mine!

So, with a nod to Garrison Keillor, that’s the news from Fauldhouse...or at least something new to write about. I’m lobbying now for us to get a dog or an alarm system. I think the dog would be nicer! Robbie and I both are pretty heavy sleepers. I’m kind of nervous about the fact that we never heard them come in because our back door is so noisy when it opens or closes. We definitely could use another keener pair of ears. Robbie’s just concerned about the cost of another mouth to feed right now but we’ll see. He’ll love having a dog if/when we ever get one. Happy Spring and everyone keep safe!

Friday, 5 March 2010

Sunny Days, Freezing Nights

The world here is still snow covered a week later. The days have been bright and sunny in icy blue cloudless skies and the sun feels warm coming in the windows. Outside, though, it has barely gotten above freezing so the snow and ice remain. I see, through the updates from friends on Facebook, that most people are living with the same conditions. The TV and newspaper here announced at the end of last month that it was officially the coldest winter in 30 years! Isn’t it funny that you never hear the words “Global Warming” any more? Now it’s “Climate Change” ha! I’ve always thought it is the height of arrogance to think that humans can affect God’s Creation in a catastrophic way. And that’s all I’ll say on that...

Now I know what it means when they say “soaking up the sun”. We’ve had quite a few sunny days and it’s been wonderful. It really lifts the mood. In the morning I can open the blinds and the sun shines directly in the window while I’m sitting in the bed having my morning coffee. As I said, “soaking up the sun”. I feel like I want to absorb it, consume it while I can. That’s the thing; the sun here is so infrequent you have to take every advantage of it you can. It’s really been a long, grey, cold winter. There are still clouds out there and once, just earlier this week you got the “double sun” effect which was quite remarkable. I’m sure Robbie could explain it scientifically but it looks like there are two suns behind the clouds.

I guess, till I lived here, I always took the sun for granted. Even in Whidbey Island where it could be quite rainy, we got sunshine more often than here. And the rain was a softer, green, misty type. I’d love to go back and live around Seattle again or back on Whidbey Island.

It’s “Pie Week” here in the UK but of course, pie here doesn’t usually involve fruit and isn’t sweet. More like what we’d call a pot pie. Antony Worrell Thompson (you may have seen him on cooking programs over there) is making a steak pie on the Morning Show and I’d call it more beef stew with a biscuit on top. The Morning Show, by the way starts at 11:00! Now that’s more my idea of when the morning starts! Now there is a show earlier called “Good Morning”. Guess it’s not so “good” later??

Even though it has been sunny the temperature is still below freezing most every day and especially at night. The snow hasn’t melted a bit and is still deep in the back to the garage but I had to find a way to get out there and do some laundry because we were running out of clothes, especially underwear and pajamas.
Tuesday before the nurse came, I made a short foray outside to see how hard it would be to get to the garage.

When I went downstairs, I had a lot of tidying up and cleaning behind Robbie. to do. I just can’t understand someone who can walk out the door and leave things in such a mess. He was in a hurry to catch a bus because he had taken the car to the service station to get its annual MOT (inspection). So, I know he was in a hurry but how long does it take to brush toast crumbs off a counter, really? He had also left all the recyclables still sitting on the counter so I thought I’d take them out to the bin at the side of the house.

The steps and walk in front are clear as is where the car was so I got by there just fine. From there to the back door it was snow-covered and icy but I made it holding on to the rail every step. My hand got quite numb, though, as you can imagine, gripping frozen metal! Later, after the nurse had left, I lowered the laundry basket out the back door because the back steps were a little slippery. I wasn’t about to chance them so I then walked out the front and around. The challenge was after I got around to the back door, carrying the very heavy basket to the garage in the snow and ice.

I knew I couldn’t manage it by carrying the basket because I had to follow in some of Robbie’s icy steps to the door and I needed my cane to balance and keep me from falling. The snow was crusty and hard-surfaced so I hooked my cane to the handles of the basket and pulled it behind me like a little sled. Slowly and carefully we made it to the garage that way. May have looked funny but it worked for me! I did end up with quite a bit of snow in my shoes a couple of times but I was able to do a load of whites and pajamas done.

The nurse was not happy with the state of my leg at all. She said there was a lot more “sluff” (or is it spelled “slough”?) on it than when she had last seen it. I know from past (and long) experience that this isn’t good because it inhibits new skin from growing where it should. With two discouraging trips to the clinic the last two weeks, I wasn’t really optimistic this week to go on Thursday but it actually turned out positively. I’m sure it was all the prayers! I had put out an appeal on Facebook for people to pray again for me and I know that was what helped so much.

So this week, the nurse said that it looked better, not as red (and not as painful to me) and was “granulating” again (the start of new skin). What a relief! So we’re going to just continue with the treatment we’ve been doing all last week and see if it keeps improving. And I think I’m supposed to be putting it up more because the district nurse also asked me if I’d been “doing too much”. I did have a bit of a reaction Thursday night when we got home from the clinic. I described the feeling to Robbie as “fiery insects crawling all over my skin biting me”. It was pretty maddening and made me quite cranky. Luckily for him he went to sleep on the couch while we watched TV and escaped my bad mood!

One new thing has been occupying my time and efforts: Twitter. I have been Tweeting and getting Tweets from all kinds of people and groups. Sounds daft doesn’t it? I had set up a Twitter account almost a year ago but hadn’t really done much with it because I couldn’t quite figure it all out. Then I keep hearing about people Tweeting and how much they love it and so I revisited it all. Little by little I’ve been exploring it. I was able to set it up on my mobile phone which I hadn’t been able to before and I also can get updates from Facebook which I really like. I don’t feel tied to my computer to keep up with friends and families and news.

Now the mobile phone I have is about as ancient as you can get (well it seems like it anyway) and it’s even broken now (flip phone that only flips on one side) and it’s a pay-as-you-go which I hate but even I can get Twitter and Facebook on it. I still haven’t been able to figure out how to directly message people from it, maybe I can’t but I can receive messages and updates and Tweets. Ok, ok, I’m a techno-geek, I know it. I just don’t want to have the feeling that I’m in the horse and buggy while the rest of the world is whizzing by! I like to try new things…maybe it keeps me young!

One funny thing about that before I let you go: I heard a comedian on TV say he had joined a new social networking group that was a combination of YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. It was called “You Twit Face”. I thought that was worth a chuckle so hope it gave you a smile! Lots of Love and Warm Thoughts, Janet

Monday, 1 March 2010

How a Wee Trip to Glasgow Can Go Wrong

I know it’s been a while between entries. I don’t know why, I think it was a pretty uneventful period—I mean who would really want to hear what I made for dinner or how many loads of laundry I did...etc. So, I waited until I had something to talk about.

First, for all the people who have been asking, there’s really no change in my leg, which unfortunately, means no real improvement. I’m kind of in stasis for some reason. It’s gotten no worse, but really not gotten better yet. The skin that had become irritated around the original wound and around the bandage has improved and is a lot less sore, thankfully. The nurses are still coming out twice a week to dress it and we’re still going to the hospital clinic every Thursday.

I had gotten a letter from the UK Border Agency (Immigration) about my visa application the first of February. I was instructed to make an appointment online to report to their office (the nearest one to us was Glasgow) within 15 working days to get my biometrics. This turned out to be getting my “finger scan” (finger prints) and a photo taken. I thought at first it would also involve scanning my retinas but it didn’t.

I really don’t know how people who don’t have a computer were supposed to make these appointments because they gave no contact phone number either, I had a hard enough time myself and I’m no beginner. The web site address they gave in the letter wasn’t actually correct and I had to Google the right site and then still had to be savvy enough to find the actual site to book an appointment. As you’d expect on a government site it was more complicated than it needed to be.

After checking with Robbie’s schedule we decided he would take Friday the 19th off and we’d go in the morning. I’d heard that the part of Glasgow—Goven—that the offices were at is a rather bad end of town so we wanted to go there in the daytime so I made my appointment for 10:30. The letter and the later emails told me that I needed to be there a half an hour before the appointment time so we figured that to get into Glasgow at that time of the morning we should leave the house no earlier than 8:30.

Now those of you who know me and know that I am NOT a morning person will understand when I say that even after two cups of coffee I was not a happy camper but I was able to get ready and out the door by 8:30. It actually was a lovely sunny morning with mist lingering in the folds of the hills looking wispy and mysterious but it was also cold and frosty. It was nice to be going off for a drive in the car, though, but I couldn’t find my sunglasses—I know I left them in the car but it’s been SO long since I’ve needed to use them that I had no idea where I had left them.

We made really good time on the motorway into Glasgow and didn’t hit any rush hour traffic like Robbie was afraid of. We got off the right exit according to MapQuest and made the first two turns correctly but after that it all went wrong. He was in the wrong lane (even thought I told him to get over to turn ahead of time) and kept making random turns until we were hopelessly lost. Glasgow has a lot of one way streets and that confused the issue even more. We had a small print-out map but by the time we were off the map...and had no idea where we were.

To make matter worse, I had become desperate to go to the bathroom! We were in some sort of industrial area with empty factories and road construction making the traffic even worse and confusing. Finding public facilities over here is a hit and miss proposition in the best of times—there aren’t a lot of restaurants or McDonald’s around or anywhere you could really duck in and use the bathroom. Robbie said he had to go too and pulled into a subway (underground) station and assured me there would be a toilet there. When we got in, thought, the very nice ticket lady told us there weren’t any there in the station except down at the platform for passengers. She told him there was a little café across the street that we might try.

Now, this café was about a block along across the parking lot and on the other side of a very busy 4 lane road. I was sure I would never make it across the road considering my leg and my condition. I was almost at the point of having an accident and then calling the office and telling them we couldn’t make it in! Robbie grabbed my arm and said, “You will make it over there. You can do it.” So off we went with him holding my arm. Happily the café was open and they let us use their bathroom and relief was great! When we came out we wanted to buy a drink or something to take with us just to repay them for letting us use the facilities but the girl behind the counter was so sweet and said, “You don’t need to buy anything” even though we insisted.

Finally, after many twists and wrong turns we “happened” onto one of the main roads and Robbie thought he knew where we were. We finally found one of the streets mentioned on MapQuest and I was able to navigate from there. The office was in a sort of office/warehouse type of area with a security guard at the gate.

Robbie let me off there in front of the gate and the guard came out and questioned me as to why I was there, what I was going to be doing and who was that in the car. I thought, uh oh, this is not going to be nice but I answered all his questions with a smile. The guard then became very solicitous and told me that Robbie could pull in and take me up to the door if I wanted. I told him I thought I could manage to get to the door even though he pointed out it was all away along to the end of the series of buildings. I still assured him I could manage and waited while Robbie parked the car across the street and joined me.

Inside, we were met by more security guards and put through an airport-type of security scan—plus! One of them went through my purse—and I mean went through it, taking everything out. I was reminded of the time I went to the Capitol Building in Washington D.C. and the security guard there pulled out my tampons and pads. Embarrassing, to say the least. After all of our adventures getting there, Robbie and I were like two bumbling idiots I think, forgetting to turn off our mobiles even though the sign was right in front of our noses, setting off the metal detector (for me it was the snaps on my coat for Robbie it was his keys he had forgotten to take out of his pocket) and just acting clueless. I couldn’t help but laugh and joke with the men and they turned from stern to friendly to the point that when we got out to retrieve the things they had held for us we were chatting like old friends.

Inside, I had to sign in at one desk and be issued a number. It was very much like going to the DMV in Virginia in that you waited for your number to be called and told which number desk to report at. The only difference was that the cubicles you reported to were in another room separated by curtains behind a glass door. When I was called I reported to a really nice young woman who had me fill out and sign a form that said that all the information I had given was correct. I also had to fill in that I was also known and had applied by another name: McCord. For some reason, they had issued the letter and my papers to “Mrs. Ledger” which is still the name on my passport. I hadn’t had time after the wedding to change the name and I’m hoping that shouldn’t make a difference to the visa because the one that had expired was issued as Janet Ledger McCord. Surely these bureaucrats are used to name changes because of marriage.

The girl asked me then if I’d had my fingerprints taken before for my previous visa and I answered, “No, and not for any other reason either.” She laughed and said, “That’s good.” and had me put my right hand (not the thumbs) on a sort of scanner like in the grocery stores. She asked me eventually if I’d had trouble with dry skin and I definitely said yes. My hands have been so dry this winter no amount of hand cream has kept them from getting wrinkled and old-looking. She said that sometimes if your hands are dry and wrinkled the fingerprints don’t come out clearly so she gave me some hand cream and we tried again. I joked about having “old granny hands” and we tried both hands and the thumbs but apparently the computer didn’t like my “granny hands” because she was getting error results. She had to call her supervisor and he had to override the error.

After all that fun (ha!) she had me turn in my chair and she took my picture. Very reminiscent of DMV! I told her thank you very much but we wouldn’t be asking for copies for the family album. I was sent back out to the waiting room while they apparently checked my file and forwarded my results on to the Home Office to continue processing my visa application. That was that, I was done and they didn’t do a retina scan like I thought they would, thank goodness. The idea of that was giving me the willies!

As I said, when we went to collect our things outside the security guards were joking and chatting with us and one of them even came out of the office to join in. One of them asked where we were going next and I said if we didn’t get too lost we were going to go somewhere for lunch. I said I’d heard rumors that there was a Burger King somewhere in Glasgow and one of them said, “Oh no, he can do better than that,” but they agreed that I was fighting a losing battle getting a Scotsman to spend money. They really made the experience enjoyable for me (even though I don’t think that was part of their job description). I really have to say, I have run into some of the nicest people over here, either that or they’re just being nice to me because I’m a foreigner—but I don’t think so.

We really did go to lunch at a Burger King and I had a Whopper for the first time in almost 3 years. It tasted just like I expected it to which was wonderful. The Burger King was in a little shopping enclave that included a cinema, a Chinese restaurant, Chiquito’s (the only Mexican restaurant we’ve been able to find), Harvester (a sort of family-style restaurant alá Shoney’s) a casino and a bingo hall. Other than the last two things, it was a lot like a little shopping center or area back home. I hope we will be able to come back sometime. There IS life in Scotland!

We thought about trying to see a movie after lunch but the times weren’t in our favor—we had just missed the afternoon showings of some of the ones we wanted to see—so we just decided to head on home. I think we were both feeling tired and I certainly looked forward to getting home and putting my feet up. I actually had a hankering for a cup of tea! Am I going native after all?

So, after much time apart I have another adventure to report to you all and you can enjoy laughing at our bumbling! Luckily, it all turned out well. Going into March we are covered in snow again since last week. The sun is out but it’s cold so none of the snow is melting. At least the roads are clear today. Because of the clear skies and sunshine I guess you could say March came in like a lamb so guess we’ll have to brace ourselves for the lion at the end of the month! Hope everyone is keeping warm and cozy. As always, we’re sending love to all!