Sunday, 28 June 2015


How does this work again?  It has been SO long and I am very, very rusty.  I've been meaning to write for months, but words just wouldn't come.

I suppose I should go back and read the last entry.  I recall it detailed my jaunt to Harrogate with the swarthy UPVC baron.  A trip that did not end at all well. There was a declaration of love (from me) followed by an oppressive silence (from him). That fraught encounter on a Hotel du Vin chaise turned out to be the last contact with the tank-topped lothario for months.

I've had a difficult time of late.  I've struggled, to be honest.  I started 2015 vowing to make some positive changes.  In March I called in builders to put the house right.  I had remortgaged to raise funds for the work 6 months earlier - but kept procrastinating when it came to actually getting the work done. In the end, fate intervened when a kitchen ceiling and wall fell down following a flood. So, I made the call and work began.  The builders were with me for two months, working in every single room: knocking down walls, decorating, refitting bathrooms, tackling damp and subsidence.  They even put in a couple of UPVC windows - rousing a furious jealously in the rogue never before expressed.

Miss U:  Rochester, I'm going on a date on Friday night.

Rochester:  Are you pet?

Miss U:  Rochester, I've got some oafs fitting UPVC windows in the bedrooms on Friday night.


Anyway, the ramshackle state of the house had saddened me for several years.  It's a lovely, characterful 1930s house, with stained glass, cast iron fireplaces and lots of art deco features.  It's in a lovely quiet, tree-lined suburb.  The place was a ruin when I moved in and the energy and money required to update it was overwhelming to me - especially as I live alone and everything fell on my shoulders.

I can say now that 90% of the jobs are done - I still need some carpets replacing and some exterior woodwork painting.  I have even employed a gardener (a sprightly, malt-loaf eating sort, straight from Dad's Army) to get the outside space put straight. That is no easy task.  The garden resembles those bleak Sunday supplement pictures of Chernobyl, 30 years on. I hadn't touched it for years.   The chap is here today, bless him, hacking his way through the brambles and roof-high elder saplings.  It was stupid of me to buy a house with a large garden.  I conflated a love of sitting in a garden reading with a love of gardening.  I learnt that they are very, very different things.  Still - now I have Godfrey to keep me right.  I have no intention battling with my ridiculous privet again.  Ever.

The house renovations did result in one of the more traumatic events of the year. Four weeks into the project, I got a call at work to say the builders had lost one of my dogs.  Poor Hetty: never a fan of men at the best of times, loathed the workmen. One morning decided she'd had enough of their Black & Decker buffoonery.  She sneaked out the front door, firmly nipping a builder's arse for good measure as she passed, and then galloped at full greyhound pelt down the street.  Within 5 minutes she had reached our favourite park (looking for me, no doubt), and was seen by many regular dog walkers, who recognised her immediately and tried unsuccessfully to catch her.  Within 30 minutes she was running down the busy A19, heading South out of town.  Numerous people reported her to the police as she dodged cars on the dual carriageway . All in all, she was on the run for 8 desperate days, moving around East Durham mining villages, not letting anyone get near her.

I have to say, Hetty's escape demonstrated the hugely positive side of social media.  I was advised to set up a Facebook page to advertise her plight, which I did.  It was viewed and commented on hundreds of times.  Casual dog-walking acquaintances and even complete strangers spent hours searching for the poor girl.  Sightings were posted online and I eventually was able to track her down to a village just 2 miles away.  Amazingly, against all the odds, I got Hetty back and she was completely unscathed.  It was a joyous moment.  The old gal is now something of a local celebrity; getting cuddles and comments wherever she goes.  She loves every minute of it.

The first night of Hetty's disappearance, Rochester and I spoke on the phone until dawn.  It was possibly the most brutally honest conversation we ever had. The moment on the chaise was discussed at length.   I shan't write too much more about that, as it will probably be the subject of my next post.  But yes, Hetty's great escape also brought Rochester back into my life, albeit in a the usual blurry and unresolved way.  We've spoke this week of meeting up again this summer - another Harrogate.  I can't decide if it is a good idea.  Well, I know it isn't, but I do long to see him, all the same.

Other news?  I am off sick at the moment, and have been for the last 6 weeks.  Work has been hard.  That is all I shall say on that subject.  After months and months of unexplained dizziness, extreme fatigue, aching limbs, breathlessness, headaches, shakes and a lack of energy that meant I could only walk the dogs 200 metres at a time, I went to see my GP.  He diagnosed severe stress and depression (predominantly work related) and signed me off.  I was doubtful that all those physical symptoms could be caused by a mental illness.  However, after 4 weeks off work (and with the help of anti-depressants) every one of those symptoms has indeed vanished.   I feel much, much better now. I start counselling next week too, which I am positive about.

I plan on returning to work in September. I miss the children terribly.  However, I recognise that 'the toad' work had overtaken my life.  95% of my energy and time was devoted to it.  I am resolved to go back with a new attitude and a more balanced perspective.  There needs to be more to my life than teaching.  (I need to find out what that is.) In the last few weeks I have started reading again. (I couldn't concentrate on a book for months before).  I need to start blogging properly again.  I'd like to have a proper relationship with someone.  I am beginning to think maybe I could be happy.  Or happier.  Or maybe just not unhappy. I'd settle for that, I think. That would be a good start. It's a tiny hope, but it is an optimism I haven't felt in years.

So, I have 9 weeks ahead of me before I return to work.  I am spending my time quietly.  I get up.  I get dressed.  I put make-up on.  I brush my hair (sometimes).  I walk the dogs for miles.  I cook proper food.  I set myself one useful task per day (tidying up drawers, painting nails, little things).   I read.  I watch TV.  I go to the pictures.  I see people.  I look at pictures of sighthounds and Chanel lipsticks on the internet.  I bimble.  I potter.  I nap.  I recover.

And now, I'm committing  to starting blogging again. Properly.  Like, trying to be funny and shit. Well, I'll do my best.  Forthcoming posts for the next 3 weeks will include:

  • A rogue update
  • A tour around my renovated, elegant(ish) abode
  • A review of the Philip Larkin's Letters to Monica (the book that got me back into reading)
  • An introduction to new Chez Underscore resident, Fig, the bi-polar cat.
  • THE ITEM:  Rochester, for the first time in 6 years, acknowledges my birthday with a gift, a mystery item.  What could it be?


  1. So glad you're feeling better and very much looking forward to the next blog.

  2. Hurrah! So lovely to hear from you. And so sorry you've been through the mill.

  3. SO glad to have you back, miss Underscore. You've been much missed.

  4. Well done on your positive attitude towards coming out of what has been a very difficult time in your life. Not everyone could do that.

  5. I'm so pleased to have you back --- I've been having severe Miss Underscore withdrawl symptoms. And very glad you seem to have turned the corner. I am very interested to know how the "brutallly honest" meeting went, and everything else.

  6. "Or maybe just not unhappy" That's the ticket.
    I am glad to hear from you again. Enjoy your convalescence and write to us as often as you please.

  7. Glad to see you've bounced back! Your wit has been missed.

  8. Oh it is such a treat to click on your blog and find you have written something. I am sorry you have had a crap time but glad you are getting through and well done for sorting out the office. It's really hard when you live on your own to tackle these things.

  9. You're BACK! Hurrah! I'm sorry you've had such a rubbish time; glad that you are taking care of yourself; impressed that you've done your house AND garden up; hopeful that you will indeed be happy. You are much missed, when you are away.

  10. Delighted to see a post here. That must have been the longest eight days of your life - so glad you got Hetty back. Cannot wait to read more.

  11. I am delighted to see you back. Wonderful about the triumphant return of Hetty ...

    Soon you will be lolling about in the garden, fragrant blossoms everywhere, a glass of wine in your hand as well as an occasional glance at the refurbished house.
    Cdn Anne in England

  12. Delighted to read something by you again...but I do so wish you'd push a Catherine wheel down the rogue's trousers and then shove him out the door for good. I'm sure you'd feel better for it.

  13. Sorry, that would be "lighted Catherine wheel".

  14. So glad you are back! And best wishes for a continued recovery.

  15. We never did find out the gift from Rochester or about the conversation. Please come back. I hope you are well xxx