Wednesday, 29 September 2010


In my mind's eye, an holistic health therapist swans about her domain bare-foot and in loose floaty cotton trousers and a loose floaty cotton top, probably in a nice shade of purple, or azure blue. In my mind's eye I am thinking 'bohemian free spirit'.

In reality, if one wants to pass their reflexology qualification, an holistic health therapist has to swan about in a polyester therapy tunic 'n' trouser combo in a shade of, well, black. And if you have ever seen these outfits, they are designed for stick thin youngsters with pimples for bosoms and not middle-aged, curvy birds like moi. Still, needs must, and it'll give la famille a good laugh.

So, I type 'therapy tunics' into Google and am presented with a gazzillion different companies, all eager to sell their 'stylish professional work-wear.' And it's all in nylon. Or nylon with a dab of lurex, for extra stretch.

Extra stretch on someone like me is not a good look. Oh no. Think 'sausages hanging in a butcher's window' or 'semi-deflated balloons after the party.' In situations such as these, it is more flattering for the figure to order something a size or two larger than your usual, so that the fabric 'skims' the multitude of middle-age sin, rather than go for extra stretch when the fabric will merely enhance the extra lumps and bumps rather than deliver the suck 'em in and flatten 'em effect one is hoping for. Lurex, I find, is highly over-rated.

Also, there are many different styles of tunic to choose from. There are many different colours, too, but I am limited to 'black'. But styles - well, there are mandarin collars, no collars, round-neck collars, V-neck collars. There are ones with zips, ones with buttons up the middle, ones with buttons up the side, ones with buttons that go off at an asymmetrical slant. Ones with many buttons, ones with one button and velcro. There are long ones, short ones, sleeveless ones, ones as big as your head. There are ones with different colour pipings, ones with bows to tie at the back, ones that wrap over, ones that look alarmingly like strait-jackets.

Mercifully, trousers seem to come in one style only - bootleg.

So, I opt for a mandarin collar, button-down-the-front jobbie, with trousers, two sizes bigger than my usual, and await their arrival with a certain amount of trepidation because if they don't fit, I shall cry.

On a more exciting note, I have ordered some business cards! Not black. They were a freebie introductory offer from VistaPrint, but needless to say, once you've gone through the rigamarole of them trying to upgrade your selection and entice you into buying extras, your cards don't end up as the 'freebie' you anticipated. I held fast against the temptation of matching stationery/pens/websites/ rubber stamps/diaries/ etc etc blah blah blah and got 500 cards, a cardholder and 'special gift' of a block of post-it notes, all packaged and posted to arrive in the next 3 weeks for £4.93. Which wasn't too bad, I thought.

Of course, I am now being bombarded by their customer service department hell-bent on the hard-sell, but I have also set up a new e-mail business account, so once 'Cloud Nine' is up and running I shall shut the old account and they won't be able to find me ever again...mwahahahahahahaha!!!

My welcome pack for the Federation of Holistic Therapists has arrived. I am now in possession of a badge, a membership card, an insurance certificate, a very good, highly informative quarterly magazine and an equipment brochure containing many indispensible items including the dubiously named 'backnobber.' I showed Andy and he laughed like a drain. He is so immature sometimes.

I also joined the Complementary Therapists Association because it was free for students. But their badge is a lot smaller, and their magazine, although having nicer smelling ink, is not as informative, so I think I'll stick with the FHT when I renew next year.

Last night in class we covered 1.1, 1.1.1 and 1.1.2 of the syllabus along with the relaxation 'greet the feet' routine. And now I have homework to do. Fancy that. Homework!

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

The Much Malarkey Manor Guide to Quilting With Cats

Firstly, I should like to point out that the title does not imply that cats were used in the manufacture of a quilt; merely that they were present in the same room as the quilter i.e me when I was quilting.

1) Remove, with glee, from the packaging the fabric purchased with great excitement in an e-bay auction frenzy last week. Sigh with fond remembrance about how exciting e-bay auctions can be. Make note to have another go soon.
2) Sort through fabric - 10 different designs all sharing the same autumnal tones for easy matching and no dodgy colour clashes.
3) Sit on floor in living room surrounded by needlework accoutrements. Phoebe Cat immediately appears from nowhere and decides THE BEST place to have a sleep is right in the middle of the floor where you want to spread out your fabric. Atmosphere in room takes on the air of rigid dogma as neither cat nor human are willing to move elsewhere.
4) Faff about for a good half an hour deciding which fabric to match with which, and in which order to achieve most pleasing effect. Use the woman's perogative to change mind at least six times.
5) Decide on project outcome for patchwork. Options are a) table runner b) cushion cover c) a fancy doo-dah padded handrail cover for the bannister rail of newly decorated stairs. Decide on cushion cover as an easy-entry into the world of quilting as will probably get funny 'Why?' looks from hubbie and daughter if attach quilted hand-rail cover to bannister rail. Besides, the colours don't quite match the hall, it being eau-de-nil, them being autumnal. (Ooooooh, get her!)
6) Pandora Kitten appears at exactly the same second the sewing box is opened and attempts to remove all cotton reels from top tray. Firm application of the word 'NO!' is treated with disdain, as is attempted reprimanding waggle of the 'finger of doom.'
7) Attempts to arrange fabric squares in pattern are hindered by jumping Pandora Kitten and sleeping Phoebe Cat. Start to piece together fabric squares with Pandora Kitten attempting to chase end of cotton thread.
8) Finish a reel of cotton and use it in an cunning attempt to distract Pandora Kitten from further distruction by rolling it through hallway into kitchen. All cats like to play with cotton reels. Hubbie comments the novelty will soon wear off and she'll be back to loot sewing box for a new one. Poo-poo idea. Keep faith with the cat 'n' a cotton reel = hours of distracted fun theory.
9) Two minutes later, Pandora Kitten reappears to loot sewing box for new cotton reel. Remonstrate with Pandora Kitten for letting the side down. Make note never to trust Pandora Kitten ever, ever again.
10) Manage to sew together 12 of the 25 squares without incurring injury to either self or creature of feline persuasion. Find 'specs perched on end of nose' method works well. Makes one feel like a real granny.
11) Re-assemble remaining squares after pattern destroyed in unexpected hunting ambush by Pandora Kitten.
12) Go and cook dinner.
13) Return with new vigour and detemination to complete half a cushion cover by the time 'Gavin and Stacey Out Takes' comes on telly.
14) Phoebe Cat now awake. Without invitation, decides to test the completed section of cushion cover. Complains about lack of room and padding. Leaves in a huff, shedding fur all over the shop.
15) Pandora Kitten renews attack on remaining fabric. Decide it is well past Pandora Kitten's bedtime and consign her to kitchen.
16) Complete half a cushion cover in peace. Relative quiet punctuated only by one inadvertent stabbing of thumb with sewing needle resulting in mild blaspheme.
17) 'Gavin and Stacey Out Takes' very funny.

On reflection, sewing and cats do not mix. On reflection I do not care.

Monday, 27 September 2010

My Opinion really don't want to know

Since leaving teaching I have been receiving letters from a company called 'TalentDrain', who, it seems, are keen to know the reasons behind my leaving my post with Kent County Council. My reasons are 'valuable' and will apparently help them 'to better understand what's good and what could be improved in KCC school.' My input will remain 'entirely confidential' (in bold print) and if I give them 15 minutes of my time I can 'make a real and positive difference to the working lives of teachers in KCC schools.'

Well, for a start, 15 minutes isn't going to be nearly long enough for this fully paid up member of the Daily Mail Rantathon Society to say everything she wants to say. Also, as a fully paid up member of the 'Suspicious of Confidential Surveys Confederation' I am dubious that my views will actually remain confidential - after all, if they were, how come I keep getting letters asking me to fill in the survey? If it was confidential, they wouldn't know that I haven't bothered to do the survey already and have instead been consigning their letters to the shredder to recycle as chicken bedding, woudl they?

Also, I am a firm believer in telling it as it is, which means naming names, and although I know in my heart of hearts that naming names is an unpleasant thing to do, once I get a character assassination between my teeth, I really can't let go until it has been shredded to teeny tiny pieces, upon which I can sit like a self-satisfied naughty Jack Russell terrier puppy who has got hold of a particularly scrumptious cushion to wreck. This is why God had me born a Scorpio, an excellent confidante and keeper of secrets, but with a default setting which means once we start telling, we tell it all so don't blame us if you ask.

So, being older and wiser and having learned from previous mistakes, I have decided to ignore this offer to tell all, although I have played the format of my response over and over again in a highly satisfying internal monologue for my ears only. Let it be, I am now inclined to say. It matters not what happened in the past; the here and now is all that counts, and the here and now does not involve teaching. It does involve learning, however, and today has been pencilled in as 'STUDY DAY EXTRAORDINAIRE' as my course books have arrived and I am fair scared about the stuff I have to learn, retain and remember in order to qualify in reflexology.

And would you give your views to a company that calls itself 'TalentDrain?' God Lord, they could have come up with something better, something that doesn't have sewerage connotations. The 'Talent' bit is okay, because obviously they have to flatter people into completing their survey somehow, but 'Drain'? Did they not think? Did someone not mention the alternative meaning which connects plumbing to sewage? Did someone not suggest a more suitable alternative like 'Loss' or 'Exit' or 'The Good'un We Let Get Away?'

Ah well, bless them all. TalentDrain, KCC, surveys and the freedom to be 'honest and open' with our views. And the Director who signs these letters with a signature that makes him sound like he is called 'Bran Clolnideje.'

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Strange Noises

Now, don't laugh but I have the increasing feeling that there is a visitor at the Manor. An invisible visitor. A visitor intangible to the human eye. A (dare I say it?) ghost. Spirit. Spectre.

And I'm not surprised. When we moved here, there was a definite, if faint, presence in the house. I suspected that it was the vestige of the spirit of the mother of the previous owner, a Mrs Black, who had lived in this house since buying it from new in 1959, and had died in the previous two years but couldn't quite let go. And now her daughter had sold the family home to strangers and the strangers were doing things like replacing kitchen and bathrooms, re-decorating, shifting their furniture around and even doing wild things like playing a different station on the radio.

Mrs Black made her presence felt (by me at least because Andy, being a scientist, poo-poohs these ideas and blames odd noises on the bathroom door), by making random sounds. Well, actually, she made her presence felt on the day of the sale by causing the upstairs shower to leak through the ceiling into the hall. I also blame her for the misplacement of a very favourite posh pen of mine which I have turned the house upside down to find, and can't. And I NEVER lose anything I cherish. But after that, every time we made some kind of change to the house, there would be a rumbling of noises voicing the disapproval of what she considered was still her home.

And then, all went quiet. We weren't doing anything to the house. We were concentrating on the garden, which was Mr Black's domain. I know this because we still get gardening catalogues arriving for him through the post, and Lord knows how long he has been departed. But what have we had done recently? We've had the hall, stairs and landing redecorated. We've the audacity to install a dado rail. And the noises have started up again.

Yesterday, for about 20 minutes in the middle of the afternoon, there was a considerable amount of banging and stomping going on. Pretty impressive for an elderly lady, I thought. Pandora Kitten has never experienced the stompings of Mrs Black before. She looked with such intensity at the hall, crouching close to the floor like a tightly coiled spring, that I half expected the lady herself to walk in and enquire exactly what I was doing, lying sprawled on the floor surrounded by my reflexology study books. I had to take Pandora on a house tour in the end, to reassure her that there was no physical presence.

Mrs Black had another moment in the middle of the evening, during QI. But I suspect it was more to do with me having a clothes sort-out and leaving a pile on the stairs ready to go to the charity shop rather than the pink 'n' yellow shirt 'n' tie combo that Stephen Fry thought fit to assault our eyes with.

I don't mind Mrs Black being around. She's not the kind of person I would have taken to in life; she seems a very 'scratchy' sort, if you know what I mean. But maybe she has got the worst end of the deal, having to relinquish her domain to a bolshie cow with middle-class pretensions. Still, that's life, isn't it?

Friday, 24 September 2010

All in a Quango

'The Government are getting rid of Tango!' shrieks Mrs Slocombe. 'What am I going to drink when we go for our girls' night out?'
'And what about poor Tango Pete?' shrieks Mrs Pumphrey, in an equal flap, but egged on, I suspect, by poor mad Mrs Slocombe.
'I think you'll find the Government are getting rid of a few quangos,' I say. 'Not Tango.'
'What's a quango?' says Mrs Slocombe.
'They are groups of people, like a society or club, who receives funding and senior appointments from the Government,' I say. 'A bit like a semi-public watchdog, only with a huge dollop of government self-interest involved.'
'Like spying?' says Mrs Miggins.
'I think so,' I say, only I'm not 100% certain because anything remotely political/ senior management/ governing makes me nod off/switch off/ kick off.
'Does Quango taste like Tango?' says Mrs Slocombe. 'Because if it does, I'm willing to give it a try.'
'No-one is getting rid of Tango,' I say, 'although it wouldn't be a bad idea if someone did. It must play havoc with one's teeth, all that high sugar fizzy orange.'
Mrs Slocombe flashes me a smile. 'Mine are perfect, ' she says.
'There is something very rare about hens' teeth,' I admit.
'And what about Tango Pete?' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'Will his name be safe? He's just had a new batch of business cards and headed notepaper printed.'
'Tango Pete can be Tango Pete until his dying day,' I say.
'Good,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'Only there's a new series of Strictly Come Dancing coming up and he can't be changing his successful formula at this late stage.'
'No,' I agree. 'Heaven forefend that he should have to start this series known as 'Paso Doble Pete' or 'Cha-cha Pete' or 'Viennese Pete.'
'Sounds like a biscuit,' says Mrs Miggins. 'Pass me a Viennese Pete, would you? Ahahahahahaha!'

At this moment, a huge lorry pulls into the driveway.
'What's this?' I say, as the driver knocks on the door and I find myself signing a delivery note.
'3,000 two-litre bottles of Tango,' he says. 'Having a party are we?'
I look back into the kitchen. Mrs Slocombe is staring at the ceiling and whistling.
'Mrs Slocombe?' I say. 'Do you know anything about this?'
Mrs Slocombe hesitates for a moment. She is wondering if she can get to the back door and the safety of the garden before I can. Luckily, she remembers to use the height/stride ratio and, not wishing to be trampled in the rush, decides to own up.
'I had a bit of a panic buy on the interwebbly last night,' she says.
'And where do you plan to store 3,000 two-litre bottles of Tango?' I ask.
'In the greenhouse?' she says, hopefully.
'No way, Betty,' I say. 'Think again.

Mrs Slocombe goes into a huddle with Mrs Miggins and Mrs Pumphrey. They are in deep conference for almost five minutes, coming up for air only when the close proximity of so many feathers brings on Mrs Miggins' feather-phobia.

'Well?' I say. 'What's the plan?'
'We are going to set up a stall out in the park,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'We are going to soak the labels off the Tango and market it as 'Quango'.'
'You can't do that,' I say. 'You'll be got by Trading Standards.'
'Trading Standards do not apply to chickens,' says Mrs Miggins. 'And I dare you to read all the Trading Standards legislation and prove otherwise.'
'Besides,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'There will be such panic that the Government are getting rid of Tango, that people will snap it up before you know it. We'll be gone before you can say 'Bubbles up your nostrils.'
'Is the Government getting rid of Tango?' says Mrs Slocombe. 'Good grief, we must go out and buy up more stocks immediately.'

On a more sane note, 'Hurrah!' that Hugh F-W is back on the telly with a new series of River Cottage. Of course, it's all his fault we got chickens in the first place. But such is his exuberance about the type of life Andy and I aspire to live. that we'll forgive him.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Fat Quarters and Jelly Rolls

'Have you got any fat quarters?' says Mrs Miggins, appearing at the kitchen window. The kitchen window is open because it is bloomin' hot and in a rare act of stupidity (ahahahahaha!) I have decided to do some baking. The heat inside the kitchen is only marginally overcoming the heat outside.

'Well,' I say, 'as it happens I do. I keep doing the exercises and try to cut back on the amount of fat I consume, but they're still there, no matter what. However, they do mean I get to sit on rough ground without feeling too much discomfort. There's a lot to be said in favour of having a fat ar..'
'What are you talking about?' says Mrs Miggins. I notice she is wearing a floral dress a la Cath Kidston, and has plaited her feathers together into a long braid which she would be wearing over her shoulder if chickens had shoulders. She is also wearing sandals. I am thinking 'earth mother' here.
'My fat quarters,' I say, giving them a slap to underline my point.
'Not those fat quarters,' says Mrs Miggins. 'Fat quarters that are used in quilting.'

This time it is I who has no idea what she is talking about.
'Or jelly rolls,' says Mrs Miggins. 'If you haven't any fat quarters, I'll adapt the pattern and use jelly rolls instead.'

Now I know Mrs Miggins is nearly three years old, which is middle age for a chicken, but until now she's always seemed very on the ball in the noggin department.

'Or a layer cake?' she says hopefully.
'Ah,' I say. 'Now I can do a layer cake. I know where I am with a layer cake. What flavour would you like?'
'It's not cake,' says Mrs Miggins. 'It's not jelly and it's not fat. It's fabric.'
'Let's start again,' I say. 'What do you mean by all this drivel?'
'Mrs Pumphrey, Mrs Slocombe and I have started a quilting and patchwork club,' she says. 'We are keen to revive the quilting tradition in the hen-house.'
'Was there ever a quilting tradition in the hen-house?' I say.
'Well, we wouldn't want to revive it if there wasn't, would we?' says Mrs Miggins. 'That would be stupid.'
'And can I ask what brought about this idea for a quilting revival?' I ask, because usually when the hens discover they have extra time they wish to occupy, they go for something a bit more cutting edge, like paintballing, or croquet without flamingos.
'It's this,' says Mrs Miggins, and she hands me the latest copy of 'Net 10', which is a local mini-magazine for local people detailing all the weird and wonderful clubs and societies that are active in the local area. Don't ask me why it's called Net 10. I imagine next year it will be called Net 11, if it manages to stay in publication that is.

'Ah,' I say, looking at the advert she is stabbing at with some irritation, now that I am seemingly unable to assist with her demands for fat jelly quarter layer cake rolls. The advert says, 'Looking for a way to fill the long, dark and dreary winter evenings? Want to revive the old quilting tradition? Living in a hen-house? Then Q.A.P.S is for you! Join us on a Wednesday evening for creative fun and some bitchy gossip. Some skill needed.'

'Sounds fun,' I say, hoping this is the right response.
'That's what we thought,' said Mrs Miggins. 'But we need to get some skill under our belts. We can't show up next Wednesday as complete novices. We need to become au fait with quilting parlance at least.'
'Tell you what,' I say, because I have nothing better to do today (HA!), 'I'll take you into town, to C and H Fabrics, and you can peruse their patchwork and quilting section. Fiddle with the notions, pick up a couple of books, even.'
'And get some fat quarters?' says Mrs Miggins, hopefully.
'I expect so, I say. 'Especially if we pop up to the cafe on the top floor for a layer cake.'

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Holistic Therapist - the Journey Begins...

Today I start my reflexology course. Yesterday, I became a member of the Federation of Holistic Therapists. After much interwebbly consultation of their website, I phoned the Membership hotline and spoke to a very nice lady called Tina, who had a wild coughing fit halfway through her taking my details for the insurance which will cover me for my case studies.
'Are you all right?' I said.
'I think so,' she said. 'Must be the Autumn mist.'
I agreed. Autumn mist gets me like that sometimes, too.

So, I shall be expecting my 'Welcome Pack' in the next week or so. I wonder what it contains. Little sachets of tea and coffee, and a shower cap maybe?

I've been gathering together some of the bits and bobs I shall need for the course. I have been thinking I shall enquire about doing the ITEC diploma in Indian Head Massage at the same time. Sort of a 'head to toe' approach. Andy said, 'How about doing the aromatherapy, too.' I said, 'Do you want my head to explode?'

I've been dabbling in advertising. Business cards, headed notepaper, web-sites etc. I am ninety-nine percent certain I shall call my self-employed business 'Cloud Nine,' because it was a name that came to me so suddenly the other week that I couldn't possibly have thought of it myself. Andy and I have begun toying with the idea of turning my writing room into the living room and the living room into my therapy room, but it is a very embryonic idea at the moment especially as we are still smarting from the financial implications of having the decorators in.

I have a queue of case study volunteers as long as my orang-utan arms.

'Nearly King Jimbo' draft two is on the homeward run. I have permanent typing cramp in my right hand and permanent writer's cramp in my right foot where I tuck it between my left calf and the chair leg when I'm working. Andy is producing many delightful cartoon illustrations.

I finally felt brave enough to wear the push-you-together-and-hoik-you-up posh bra Heather got me for Christmas last year. It is a startling thing to find one's bosom so close to one's chin once more.

The sun is shining and at last the tomatoes are ripening. Although the green ones in the paper bag with the over-ripe banana are fairing slightly better. (I've always been dubious about the ripening powers of a banana giving off its gas, but I have tried it and it works!)

The sewing machine is coming out today. I have an urge to sew.

Andy has requested a birthday list from me. Although it is another six weeks until I hit 45 (which sounds very grown up), he wants me to make a list, and then forget everything I've put on it in order that he may initiate 'a surprise.' This happens every year. It never works!

This blog was brought to you today by 'Serious Intent Lapsing Into Random Stream of Consciousness for All Your Covering the Bases Blogging Needs.'

It just happens like that some days...

Sunday, 19 September 2010

New Babies

Well! Our new Queen Bee Philibert is certainly strutting her stuff in the Malarkey Hive. Yesterday's hive inspection revealed a whole mass of new baby bees born this last week- all furry and doing their house training before they go out a-flying. And we can tell they are new baby Philibert bees because they are a totally different colour to the old Australian Queen bees. The old bees are a caramel honey colour; these bees are black, like the original British bee which I am thrilled about. We have a multi-cultural hive!

There are masses more bees waiting to be born. There are eggs, there are larvae in various stages of development, and there, plain as the pointy nose on my Kentish maid face, was Queen Philibert herself, looking like she owned the place. Which, of course, she does. I think we've got the colony in the best position to weather the coming winter. Fingers crossed!

On another note, we've had another brief flirtation with moving abroad. Andy's colleague, Tim, has a house in Brittany. I say a house, it's a smallholding really, and every time it is mentioned it brings back the gripe that if we want to be able to afford a smallholding of our own the obvious way is to spend our money abroad, because you get more for your money, landwise, in foreign climes.

Any how, the conversation on Friday night, stimulated by another Daily Rant article on a certain segment of Brits scamming the social service system and preferring to live off benefits rather than fend for themselves, went thus:

'Tim says that in France you get benefits for a year, and then that's it,' said Andy. 'Once the year is up, you manage by yourself or end up on the streets.'
'How caring,' I said.
'Yes; and he says that once you've had a job out there for 6 months, you're pretty much guaranteed it for life because employers aren't allowed to sack anyone.'
'And that although the taxes are much higher, you get to retire when you want, because the retirement pot is really well funded...'
'What, like when you're twelve even?'
'Yeah, whenever you like...'
'So,' I said, 'if it's that good, why isn't Tim working here?'
'I asked him that,' said Andy. 'He didn't know.'
'Perhaps we should go out there,' I said. 'You and Tim could set up a practice together.'
'I might have trouble with the lingo,' said Andy.
'Nah,' I said. 'All you need to do, based on your current client experiences, is say, 'Le poo ou le wee-wee?' and do a Gallic shrug.'
'Do you think that'd work?' said Andy, trying a Gallic shrug for size.
'Of course,' I said. 'Or you could stick to treating les animaux du expat communitee. I bet il y a un call pour that.'
'C'est possible,' dit Andy.
'And all your dispenses could be prefaced by 'Voici la jollop pour ton chien/chat/ couchon/ vache,' dit moi.
'Alors,' dit Andy. 'Je pense que nous habitons dans Cloud Cuckoo terraine.'

I got a bit lost then. 'But we've just had the hall, stairs and landing decorated,' I said. 'P'raps we should stay put for a while. Enjoy the wallpaper.'

Saturday, 18 September 2010

The Husband, the Boredom and the Wardrobe

I am in my writing room/ potential therapy room/ might be a sitting room, rattling out another thrilling chapter of Nearly King Jimbo, when I become aware of a clattering. Not a rattle, not a clank but a definite clatter coming from upstairs. The replacement of the hall carpet with an oak floor has added a strange echoey feel to the Manor, like we are living in a real Manor and not a three bed semi with Manor pretensions.

Anyway, the clatter is sufficient enough that I am enticed away from my work (even though I am nearing the finishing post of re-write numero dos) to investigate what is occuring.

'What's occuring?' I say to Andy, as I mount the stairs.
'I'm sorting out my wardrobe,' comes the reply, and on entering the bedroom I discover this to be true.

It's an odd thing, seeing a man sort out his wardrobe. Especially a man like Andy who has very, very, very little interest in clothes other than that they keep him warm/ cool and allow him a flexible waistband. I watch for a while. There seem to be three piles. Pile 1 - clothes with holes in, Pile 2 - clothes without holes, Pile 3 - things that aren't clothes e.g CDs, DVDs, used Jiffy bags that 'may come in handy one day', cardboard boxes ditto Jiffy bags.

'Why,' I ask, because Andy sorting out his wardrobe is an extremely rare occurence on par with him deliberately missing a new episode of Doctor Who, 'are you sorting out your wardrobe?'
I am hoping the response might be something along the lines of he is no longer able to close the doors and had decided to clear out some of the accumulated 'may come in handy one day' tat, but no, back came the response, 'I'm bored.'

Oh, this is not good. Come on, hands up. Who, as a small child ever said to their mothers, 'I'm booooooooored,' and were met with the suggestion, 'go and tidy your room then'?

This is supposed to be training against ever uttering the words 'I'm bored' ever, ever, ever again. And in resorting to sorting out his wardrobe Andy has actually responded in completely the wrong way. He is being a 'good child' for heaven's sake, when what he should be doing is finding something that has nothing to do with sorting, tidying or cleaning whatsoever thereby consolidating his status as an adult male.

I am suitably concerned at this 'I'm bored' declaration that I am now racking my brains trying to think of things he can do. I am thinking I need to send off for the up-to-date prospectus for the Open University, that I need to go into the loft and find some long forgotten piece of equipment that will re-ignite interest in a long-forgotten hobby. Actually, I do need to go into the loft again for another sort out, only the whole Doctor Who collection is scaring me off at the moment.

But perhaps it is good to be bored sometimes. Perhaps we all need to sit and stare and do mind-numbing tasks occasionally, to rest the grey matter and just let ourselves be. Especially after a long and stressful week at work.

So I shall hope that is what this is. A post-traumatic temporary slump to rejuvenate the batteries. After all, there are multiple illustrations to be created for Nearly King Jimbo and we are about to do a hive inspection. Good grief, there are masses of things happening here at the Manor that can knock boredom into a cocked hat.

But that wardrobe did need a good sort out.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Courgette Soup Syndrome

I have been off-blog for a few days now because my netbook has been unwell. But now my netbook is better and I am back. 'Hurrah!' I hear you cry...oh, come on, do play the game...

Anyway, the netbook, which I was given as a birthday present last year by Andy, suddenly went all peculiar in the screen. One minute it was okay, the next it had taken on the colour of courgette soup when it develops a bit of a scum after its been left standing in the fridge for too long. It seemed to affect colours in the red end of the spectrum only (I say this with all the conviction of someone who knows exactly what she's talking about of course, aha!), and the machine was still usuable, but there was something clearly wrong with its innards, and one can only look at a green and mouldy courgette soup screen for so long before it start making one's eyes go squiffy.

So the receipts were duly retrieved, the guarantee confirmed as active for another six weeks, and several e-mails passed between Andy and some techno-centre chappie which included a list of suggestions of 'Things To Try', the last of which was 'Send It Back To Us and We Shall Repair It For Free Under the Terms of the Guarantee.' Andy tried all the suggested ideas which resulted in him swearing a bit and getting antsy. I inadvertently discovered that if I squeezed the netbook, the screen reverted to normal. However, squeezing a netbook renders both hands unable to do anything else useful, like typing or workng a floating mouse, so although I felt triumphant in that I, techno-phobe girl, had cured a netbook, the triumph was minor and the netbook was duly sent off for repair.

It came back today! How about that for service? Picked up by courier Monday, arrived for repair on Tuesday, repaired and re-posted on Wednesday, arrived home on Thursday. According to the repair sheet the LCD has been replaced. There was no mention of squeezing.

In the meantime, I have occupied myself with a huge dollop of writing. My desk top computer in my writing -soon-t0-be-therapy room does not have internet access, so I have no option other than to write when I am on it. Okay, and maybe play the odd game of Patience, or Majong, but there's no getting distracted by interwebbly malarkey, or making random purchases of highly important books from Amazon. As a result, I have written 8 thousand words of 'Nearly King Jimbo' over the last two days, plus another thousand words of 'Merrily Kissed By an Angel' and a ranting letter to myself about eating too many nuts and not doing enough exercise.

The loss of the second part of 'Nearly King Jimbo' on my old and now definitely deceased laptop turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Although I am keeping to the original plot in a very loose manner (luckily, the synopsis survived in the form of the good old paper copy), I'm having to re-write the second part anew. My spirit tells me the writing is fresher and snappier than it was before, and I've been able to get rid of the tenuous and oft contrived plot points that were bugging me from the original script but that, at the time, I was too lazy to do anything about. I've even been able to use the phrase, 'That's the badger!' and include my friend Sarah's cat, Bob, in a cameo role.

A copy of 'Ginnungagaps' arrived from Lulu. Actually, due to some technical error, it was only half a copy, but it has given us an idea of what we can expect from the self-publication of 'NKJ', and what we need to do in order to improve layout especially as Andy's collection of illustrations is gathering apace.

Other news...
...after harvesting some pink fir apple potatoes from the allotment, I can now report they are neither fur-like, appley and are only a little bit pink, and I am marginally disappointed they didn't end up looking like replicas of the pink Duracell bunny...
...I have harvested the first Malarkey Manor hops, and feel I have connected a family hopping tradition to the next generation, some of my family on my mum's side having been hop-farmers...
...Andy has made damson jam from damsons purloined from the edge of the park down the road in a surreptitious way at 6 o'clock the other morning...
...the hall, stairs and landing are complete in their redecoration, and the Manor looks tres posh et chic and I have done much swanning up and down the hall and stairs thinking, 'Isn't this rather lovely and civilised? Yes it is!'
...Mrs Slocombe has stopped moulting and is back in lay; Mrs Pumphrey has started moulting and is off lay. I love it - relay egg-laying!
...the bee-hive is a happy bee-hive.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Writer - Publish Thyself

'I've put together a copy of 'Ginnungagaps' on Lulu,' said Andy. 'It cost £7.04 and will be arriving in a few days.'

I am in mixed feeling about this. 'Ginnungagaps' was the first complete children's book I wrote, oh, a couple of years ago now. It has been sent to 20+ agents and publishers, and has come back 20+ times with a 'thanks but no thanks' attached. I had a couple of hand written comments from agents who felt it was worth more than the bog standard, impersonal rejection letter, with remarks like 'entertaining,' 'well-written', 'amusing' but all ending with 'but not quite what we are looking for at the moment.'

And now there will be a printed copy of the book sitting on our bookshelf in a few days. In a way it will be quite nice to see it 'in print' so to speak; in another way, I know I'll read it and think, 'Oh dear Lord, no wonder it didn't get anywhere.'

Andy's reasoning is that if we are going to self-publish 'Nearly King Jimbo' for Christmas presents, this copy of 'Ginnungagaps' will be a practice run for him whilst he gets to grips with the workings of Lulu. He'll be able to see where there are issues of layout, page numbering etc, and do a better job on 'NKJ' especially as he is going to do illustrations to go with it. I can see his point. And I am more happy about 'NKJ' going to print because I think it's a better book, especially now I've had to do quite a hefty edit and rewrite because half of it is stranded on my dead laptop.

And it's going to be Christmas presents for our long-suffering family and friends, who will receive it in the spirit it is given i.e Andy and Denise mucking about writing and illustrating a silly but entertaining story as a unique gift for the ones we love.

But it is still self-publishing. It jars with my conscience. I don't know why. I know it's irrational. Lots of people do it, I mean, it's the only way these days if you want to see your work in print other than that of your computer screen or on the internet, when publishers are willling only to take risks on established authors or celebrities, because they know they will get the sales they need to keep their businesses afloat in this recession-cramped world. The publishers and agents at the writing seminar I went to at Earl's Court admitted as much.

Despite it all though, being a writer is the hardest , yet most enjoyable and stimulating work I have ever done; I'll never give up, even if I flag every now and then and throw a notebook at the wall.

John Gardner, the American novelist, said, 'There is something I know about you that you may not even know yourself. You have within you more resources of energy than have ever been tapped, more talent than has ever been exploited, more strength than has ever been tested and more to give than you have ever given.'

I share this today, just in case you, like me, are struggling with the love of your life's work.

Thursday, 9 September 2010


I've been studying like a frantic thing this week. With barely twelve days to go until I start college, I'm trying to get a grip on the whole reflexology theory doo-dah malarkey by reading as many books as I can find, backed up by research on the good old interwebbly. I've been making notes. I've been trying to apply different techniques to my own feet which is quite tricksy as I am, in effect, working upsidedown, and to be honest, I can't cock my leg up quite as far as I want to. I've started making notes, have taken to wandering round the house chanting the names of bones in feet, muscle structures and the associated locations of specific reflex points. At the hairdressers today, I got chatting to one of the stylists whose mum has regular reflexology for her thyroid problem and I caught myself thinking ' plantar foot, base of big toe, walk ball of foot times 6,' but luckily I didn't say it out loud.

But what I liked about yesterday's study - '8 moves for pre-treatment relaxation' - was finding out they had such poetic names. You start with the Angel Touch, then move on to Apollo's Breath. Then Atlas's Orb, Poseidon's Pull, the Healing Tornado, followed by Toe Rotations, Hermes Stretch and the grand finale, Phoenix Rising. How fab is that?!

The four basic techniques used in the actual treatment sound less romantic - walking, circles, hooking and rocking - yet they still have an air of comfort about them.

I am really looking forward to starting this course. I just hope my brain won't let me down.

This week, I have also been dazzling Andy and Heather with a range of creative vegetarian recipes. You'd think vegetarian cooking would be a doddle, wouldn't you? Not if you don't want to die of jacket potato boredom it isn't. I am beginning to think it was much easier to slap a bit of meat down on a plate with some veg. But I've been veggie for 5 months now and have no inclination to go back to carniverous ways.

So this week, with various cookery books balanced against various kitchen surfaces that are becoming increasingly swamped with various herbs and spices, I have presented to the hungry masses 1) rice and lentil pilau (a hit both hot and cold) 2) red lentil and ricotta lasagne (mild enthusiasm, remains are still languishing in bottom of fridge 3) veggie shepherds pie (a hit with Andy who took the remains to work the next day for his lunch, not a hit with Heather whose plate was left languishing in the oven for over an hour as she was on a late finish at work and the cooker did a magnificent drying job on her food) 4) sweet potato streudel (a HUGE hit, can we have it again?) and 5) random leftovers risotto ( a hit, but leave the veggie parmesan off Andy's because it smells of cat sick. Apparently).

And because there was much tolerance of my vegetarian experiments this week, I bought Andy some proper meat sausages made from proper dead pig for tea tonight. Heather has gone to visit a friend and is probably gorging on animal flesh as we speak! I had veggie sausages, and very nice they were, too!

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

That's the Badger!

Have you ever heard of this phrase? No, me neither. Apparently, it's what you say when you suddenly get the answer to something you've been trying to remember for a while, like a name or a place or where you left your paper copy of Nearly King Jimbo because you were stupid enough not to keep a copy on a memory stick just in case your laptop dies.

So, for example, whilst waiting for a train t'other day, I bumped into an old student.
'Hello Miss!' he said.
',' I hazarded. 'How are you? What are you up to now?'
And as he didn't give me any funny looks, I thought, well I got his name right, that's a good start, and he stood and told me all about what he was up to now, and I stood and thought, blimey, isn't he tall???

But for the rest of the day my brian, or brain even, because Brian has nothing to do with this, went into frantic overload trying to remember this lad's surname. I could remember I taught him both English and Drama and that he was a very entertaining performer after the style of Kenneth Williams. I could remember teaching his older sister, Zoe, two years before him. I could even remember he'd got a 'C' for English and a 'B' for Drama. But could I remember his surname? Could I pumpkin pie.

I kept telling myself it didn't matter, but you know how it is. These little things are the kind of irrational irritations that bug you into lunacy. Like I need any encouragement. The kind of things that play on you mind until 3 in the morning, when you suddenly sit up and shout out the answer that has been dragged kicking and screaming from the dark, spidery corners of your memory cupboard and given a jolly good brush down with a stiff scrubber. Or in this case, 4 hours later when perched on a bar stool in the John Lewis restaurant at Bluewater whilst eating an egg mayonnaise baguette.

And at this point, according to Heather, I should have preceded my answer with the phrase, 'That's the badger!'

I'm never sure whether Heather is having me on with these ideas, but apparently 'tis common parlance amongst her generation.

'Why a badger?' I said, when this conversation arose over the dinner table the other evening. (Don't even begin to ask how we got onto the subject of badgers).
Heather shrugged. So did Andy, mostly because he'd never heard of it either.
'We always used to say 'Eureka!' ' he said, but then he did do Latin at school.

It doesn't really matter, of course, that it's a badger. It's a bit like Fate and Luck and the Mysteries of the Universe. Sometimes you don't have to understand them to accept them. There are some things that will never, ever be explained, no matter how hard Professor Stephen Hawking tries. If the phrase is badger based, and it works for people, then it's good enough for me.

I mean, what are the chances of me ever being able to put the words 'badger' and 'Stephen Hawking' together as labels for a blog post ever again?

Monday, 6 September 2010

What is this 'Tidy Up'?

Procrastination often wants to be my friend, so in order to 'get things done' I need to tell myself the previous day what I am DEFINITELY going to do tomorrow, then I find when I wake up I am ready to go and get on with it.

Yesterday, I said to Me, 'Tomorrow, you are going to clean out the greenhouse.'
'Oh I am?' Me said.
'You are,' I said. 'It looks a complete tip and you need to make space for the sweet peas and strawberry runners.'
'Can't I just kick everything to one side and balance the sweet peas and strawberry runners precariously on whatever ensuing surface looks like it might be able take the strain?' said Me.
'No,' I said. 'And you also need to clean out the chickens, and I mean with hot soap and water, and cut back the buddleia, and take down the runner beans.'

Me tutted a bit, but I felt I had the upper hand in this discussion, so went to sleep.

This morning, I was up and at 'em as soon as the decorators arrived just before 8.30. The weather promised rain in the afternoon so I was on a mission. But I did it; despite the humungous spiders in the greenhouse, I cleaned it all out and planted some sweetpeas, and the strawberry runners I brought back from the allotment yesterday. I also put in some chives, for good measure.

Then, I gave Cluckinghen Palace a jolly good clean although I did make the mistake of performing a full dismantle and then found I couldn't push the bottom bar back in place without disappearing head down between the fence and whatever shrub it is that has gained new life and new growth since the removal of the eucalyptus tree. So the top of the pod is currently in a state of 'balance' on the base and the bottom bar will be replaced firmly as soon as someone taller than me comes along i.e Andy.

I've trimmed back the buddleia. I've swept the patio. I have weeded and cleared various corners. I tried to mow the law but the mower wouldn't work so had to give up on that. I took down the runner beans and can now see out of the kitchen window again. The best bit was when I stood in the greenhouse with a cuppa for a while and watched the bees doing a sterling job of fending off a couple of persistent wasps. I thought fondly of all the baby bees waiting to be born in 12 days' time.

In between times I popped in and out of the house to make tea for the decorators (who say they will hopefully be done on Wednesday), reduce the pile of papers waiting to be shredded, do a spot of ironing and now, because the promised rain has arrived, I am going to make a cake and then do some writing.

Procrastination has not been my friend today. Me has done as she was told!

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Queen Philibert is at Home

We approached last week' s hive inspection with trepidation, it being a week after the regicide of Queen Stella and coronation of Queen Philibert. We didn't know what we would find; we knew what we wanted to find but as with many things in life, the two are not always mutually agreeable.

'Let's be positive,' said Andy, as we suited and booted and prepared to go in.
'I'm going for a state of calm resignation,' I said, having decided on this earlier. I think calm resignation is good for this kind of circumstance, because a) it puts you in the frame of mind to be able to cope with the worst, if the worst is what has happened and b) anything better than the worse is a bonus and it is better to go from a state of calm resignation to ecstatic joy rather than t'other way around.

So, last week Queen Philibert was nowhere to be seen. There were no eggs. There were a few larvae, but they could have been the last drone larvae from Queen Stella. There were three patches of capped brood about the size of the circle you can make by joining your forefinger up with your thumb.
'That's capped brood,' I said.
'Are you sure it's not more drone cells,' said Andy.

And because we've had a bit of an umpity bumpity introduction to our bee-keeping careers, and have accumulated a certain habit of self-doubt, we weren't sure. So we re-assembled the hive, and kept our fingers crossed that Queen Philibert was in there somewhere and those three patches were her initial attempts to lay some workers.

This week we found...(pause for grand trumpet fanfare, take it away Mrs Pumphrey)

...THREE, yes THREE frames of capped brood, beautiful smooth, even and golden capped brood...
....a few more patches of capped brood hither and thither, of the kind of laying pattern you'd expect to find of a Queen who has started laying in the middle of the hive and was now working her way outwards...
...masses of larvae in various stages of development pollen stock...
....absolutely NO sign of the building of more queen cells

AND (another trumpet fanfare if you please, Mrs Pumphrey)

....Queen Philibert herself, in all her resplendent egg-laying glory!!!

'Do you mind?' she said, as we shrieked with excitement and coo-ed over her. 'I'm trying to run a hive here.'

Andy and I did a little 'Hurrah for the Bees Dance.'

So, we have come through another bee crisis using our own instinct and decision making with a few wild and hairy-scarey moments along the way. We have 'successfully managed a bee predicament'. We have a colony that will go into the Winter intact, with a Queen whom the bees seem very happy with because they are not trying to oust her. She is laying well. The bees have lots of stores. I telephoned Assistant Emergency Bee-Keeper Mum with the good news.

'Oh, I am pleased,' she said. 'I've been worrying about how the new Queen has settled in. I've been telling everyone about how she arrived through the post in her little cage and how we put her in the hive. Thank goodness she's okay.'

You see, one go at bee-keeping and already she been infected with the bee-keeping bug!

I think that of all the things I have learned this year (and there have been many things), it's the bees that have been the most fascinating of all. Their habits, their nature, the way they make their world work. It's amazing! Andy has already mentioned getting another nucleus next year and splitting it for the top bar hive (which currently is home to one dead spider.)

And all we are saying, is give bees a chance!

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Cats on Heads

There is a picture on the front of the Guardian magazine today of Morrissey with a tabby cat perched on his head.

'Do you think that cat is really sitting on Morrissey's head, or has it been superimposed in some kind of digital camera trickery?' I say to Andy, studying the picture carefully.
Andy didn't know. I had a thought.
'I could start a new web-site called,' I say. 'Where people could send in pictures of themselves with cats on their heads. '
'Yes,' says Andy. 'It could be the new global phenomenon. You could write a book about it, too, called 'A Cat on My Head. A bit like when Tony Hawkes travelled around Europe with a fridge.'
'Don't expect me to sit on your head,' says Mrs Miggins. 'I don't know where you've been.'
'Talking of books,' I say, 'next Christmas, not this one because this year is Nearly King Jimbo year, we could do a book based on all the chicken blogs.'
'Yes,' says Andy.
'I'll pass you the name of our agent,' says Mrs Miggins. 'You can negotiate publication rights with him.'
'It's not Tango Pete, is it?' I say. 'Besides, I am your agent. And you chickens would be nothing without me and my writing talent.'
'HA!' says Miggins. 'Don't you believe it. If us chickens weren't around you'd be staring into the back garden writing about the rotary drier or that flipping buddleia you try to murder ever year which still keeps coming back.'
'I could write a story about a rotary drier,' I say.
'It wouldn't be very entertaining,' says Mrs Miggins.
'It might be if it had a cat or two pegged to it in a force ten gale,' says Mrs Slocombe, who, I have to say, got a little too much pleasure from that story a couple of weeks ago about the woman who put the cat in the bin.

I go back to studying the picture of Morrissey and the cat. It looks real. The shadow on the wall behind them looks very convincing. The cat looks a little like Pandora. I toy with the idea of putting Pandora on my head and getting Andy to take a picture. But she can be a little too useful with her claws during the dismount process, can Pandora, and I'm wearing a nice white blousy thing today.

Phoebe would stay put if balanced on my head, because she rarely moves these days unless the vacuum cleaner is after her. But I fear putting Phoebe on my head would be akin to balancing a heavy concrete ball, and it would put my neck out. Tybalt would probably stay put,too; petrified with fear and wondering what in the name of Beelzebub I was doing.

Balancing a bee on my head would just be asking for trouble.

And I don't want to be responsible for encouraging people to force cats to sit on their heads when the cats don't want to. Looking at Morrissey and his cat, they are clearly in tune with each other and the cat is used to perching and staying put . It looks a bit bandy legged; perhaps it is a particularly old cat that will sit anywhere and can't be bothered to move a la Phoebe but not so fat. Or perhaps it's a cat with vertigo and is clinging on to Morrissey's scalp for dear life and the look on Morrissey's face isn't one of concentrated benigness, it's one of 'This friggin' hurts but I can't scream because I don't want Guardian readers to think I'm a great big wuss, especially given my history of gladioli swinging.'

Ah well. Perhaps I'll try it later. After all, I am feeling slightly numb on paint fumes at the moment. Andy has added to the undercoat aroma by transferring three gallons of wine from the bucket where it's been fermenting all week into the demi-johns where it will continue to ferment, for despite the exploding wine episode of last Saturday, he is still determined to build up a sizeable wine cellar for Christmas and no doubt get totally rat-arsed whilst watching the Doctor Who Christmas Special.

Which is understandable. I think I'd have to be pretty drunk to watch any more of Matt 'Potato Head' Smith playing the Doctor. Bring back Tennant, that's what I say.

Now, where have all the cats gone?

So that's our Christmas shopping dilemma sorted out for the next two years.

Friday, 3 September 2010

EDF Faff

My on-going mini-niggle with utility companies continued yesterday with EDF getting on my nerves. EDF supply both our electricity and gas and have done so since we moved here; the only reason I haven't changed companies is sheer apathy and the belief that they are all as bad as each other.

Anyway, we used to pay our bills by direct debit until EDF kept upping the monthly payments and then, in a massive and obviously foolhardy moment, decided they would increase our gas payment from £35 a month to £55 a month in one fell swoop. As you can imagine, I wasn't having any of that, so I phoned to enquire what on earth they thought they were playing at.

'We're helping you build up credit in your account for the Winter,' they said.
'Well, that's no good, is it?' I said. 'If I want to save ahead, I'll do what I always do and put extra in our savings account and earn some interest on it until it's needed to pay the bill with. Or have you suddenly become a bank?'

Of course they hadn't. And being suspicious of their motives, I rather thought they were using our money to earn interest for themselves, whilst justifying their methods with the rather pathetic guise of pretending they were doing us a favour by helping us budget for the Winter.

Ha! I duly cancelled both direct debits. 'I think,' I said, 'that I would like quartely bills sent, and I will pay for what we've used after we've used it and not before.'

Ever since, EDF have phoned periodically to extol the virtues of paying by direct debit, hoping to get us back on board with their interest-free loan scam, but I remain stoical in my determination to stick to the age-old method of 'paying for what you've had, no less, no more.'

However, a couple of months ago, during another conversation with a very pleasant customer service lady who sounded weary of the whole direct debit malarkey, she said how would I feel about reading my own meters every quarter and entering the readings on-line for which I would receive many hundreds of Nectar points. 'Okay,' I said. 'I'll do that.'

I like collecting Nectar points - they pay for my food shopping at Christmas every year. Spending 5 minutes every 3 months reading my own meters seemed a good way to add to the Nectar coffers, plus it meant the readings would be correct all the year round rather than the one correct, one estimated pattern we've been used to.

So, a couple of weeks ago, I duly got a reminder through the post that I needed to read both meters and submit readings. Which I did. Clickety click tap tap tap, all done, easy peasy simple pimple. I received a confirmation e-mail, thanking me for taking part in the scheme and telling me how many Nectar points I had 'earned.'

Lovely! And three days later, 2 accurate bills arrived, which were duly paid.

Yesterday, there was a knock on the door.

'I've come to read your gas meter,' said the man from EDF.
'I've already read it, submitted readings, got the bills and paid the bills for this quarter,' I said.
'I still have to read your gas meter,' said EDF Man.
'Why?' I said. (I have learned this cunning questioning response before doing something I am asked from all the children I have taught.)
'Because we need to verify your reading,' said EDF Man.

It was on the tip of my tongue to say, 'So you're calling me a liar, are you? Accusing me of submitting false readings in order to scam EDF out of some money?'

But because the hall, stairs and landing are starting to look particularly lovely, and are making me mellow of nature just by looking at the shiny new paintwork, I said, 'So even though I've signed up to this 'Take Your Own Reading' scheme, you're still going to come and do them yourself, to make sure I've read them properly?'

EDF Man looked at. He didn't reply immediately, which suggested to me I'd hit the nail on the head.
'I just need to read your gas meter,' he said.
So he did.
'I don't want another bill,' I said. 'I've just paid one.'
'You won't get another bill,' he reassured me.
I bet I get another bill, I thought.

And I bet he turns up again today to read the electricity meter.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

September Song

There's something about the beginning of September that makes the spirit soar in a special way. I don't know exactly what it is - after all, September 1st signals the end of Summer and the onset of Autumn, and my didn't it feel autumnal this morning? Although the sun is now shining, at dawn there was a gasp of chill in the air. What my Gran used to call ' a proper hopping morning.'

As Heather said, 'It's one of those mornings where it's nice to wake up and feel cosily snug under the duvet rather than having to fling it off with a 'Phew, I'm too hot.' '

I have hops to harvest this year. I keep going into the garden and looking at the scrambled mass of them all over the fence, thinking, how do I go about untwining these? I had to arrange them in an artistic way along and around the fence because they ran out of upwards fence height back in June. But now I have to do some gentle untangling to keep the bines in lengths long enough to drape across the kitchen beam in order to achieve an 'authentic country kitchen experience.' Oh, I know by Christmas they will have dried out enough to start dropping on the floor and into any cooking I happen to be doing atop the stove thereby causing me to mutter, but I have a beam and by golly I am determined to swathe it with our own Malarkey hops.

I've already harvested masses of lavender which is hanging hither and thither in bunches to dry, and today I shall be taking the dried flowers from their stalks, looking at the ensuing bucket full of product and thinking, 'Blimey, there's a lot of lavender bags to be had from that lot.' But I have plans to use some of it to make scented reflexology powder.

What is it about the start of September? Is it memories of 'back to school' and being taken into town to buy shiny new shoes and shiny new stationery that you feel loathe to use because you don't want to spoil their perfectness? Is it the new season, the anticipation of the colours, the harvest, the easing off of sun lotion and bug repellent application? Is it the fact the first Christmas catalogue arrived in the post yesterday? (That got put in the recycle bin pretty darn quick, I can tell you!)

I think September offers the promise of new beginnings. A bit like New Year, but with more sunshine and lighter evenings and less post- Christmas excess and Winter gloom to deal with. Although Nature is slowing down in September, there is still that feeling of newness - children starting new schools, new classes, adults picking up new hobbies and training at Adult Education.
People going back to work after holidays, the familiar rhythm and pace of life picking up and moving on.

And so I celebrated the start of a new September beginning by giving my feet a jolly good buffing this morning. Well, I start my reflexology course in 3 weeks; I feel inclined to have my tootsies in tip-top order for then. I've tidied the account books and sorted out some new vegetarian recipes to try. The decorators are galloping on apace in the hall, stairs and landing. The smell of fresh paint lingers er...interestingly with the aroma of the rice and lentil pilau we had for dinner last night. Blimey, I've even made my own garam masala mix from scratch using the pestle and mortar and a lot of elbow grease.

And now I need to crack on with sorting out Nearly King Jimbo. I've had a tentative enquiry about the purchase of a few copies from someone who has an idea to give them as Christmas presents. The birth of Andy and Denise Publications Inc maybe?? Who knows...