Sunday, 31 October 2010

Table Manners

So, Friday night I went with Andy to a work's do. Being chronically anti-social when off my home territory, I don't particularly enjoy work's dos but as I haven't been to one for ages, I said I'd tag along.

It didn't bode well from the start, not for the vegetarian of us at least, as it was at one of these American-style burger/ steak diners. And it didn't bode well for the sensitive of hearing amongst us, either, it being a big busy place at 8 p.m on a Friday night. So that set me on edge. Twice. Before we'd even got started. But I told myself to be calm, and sociable and not to even THINK about having a panic attack.

We arrived ten minutes ahead of 8, in good time because it is polite, I feel, to be at these places before the time the table has been booked. There were going to be 24 of us altogether, which meant we were piled onto a massive long table, so you could socialise only with people in your immediate environs. By twenty past eight, we were still waiting for some people to arrive.

I was quite hungry at this point, because I am used to eating at 6ish and, in anticipation of a starter and a big sod-off pudding, I'd been frugal with my lunch.

Just after half past eight, the waitress came to take orders. It was at this point the smokers in the party decided it would be a good idea to go outside for a ciggie and one of them said as much to the waitress and could she come back in ten minutes?

WHAT????? NO! I am hungry here, I thought. But I didn't say anything because I was a guest. I merely smiled and set about shuffling cutlery into different arrangements and eating the ice-cubes from my drink.

Needless to say, the waitress didn't return until nearly nine. By which time the smokers were back, no doubt feeling calm and relaxed. I thought, perhaps I should take up smoking? The waitress made her way around the table taking orders for main courses as our end of the table had already established with the far end of the table via the middle section of the table that no-one was having starters, presumably saving up for a pudding (as a vegetarian, I had a massive choice of pudding and by now I was thinking I was going to be in need of one. Or three).

And then, as the waitress made her way around, it became clear that some people hadn't even looked at the menu, let alone decided what they were having. Okay, so as a veggie in a steakhouse my choice was narrowed to three - plain pasta, plain nachos and a veggie burger (surprise!), so the decision for me had been very quick, but even so, we had been sitting there for three quarters of an hour - what on earth had they been doing????

At this point I had a little chew on Andy's jumper. And started folding my napkin into amusing food-shapes. And listened to someone else talk about a cookery book they were writing. Which didn't help.

So, twenty minutes later, waitresses arrived with trays of food. Starters. For the other end of the table. Who had clearly either changed their minds about having starters OR lied about having starters in the first place. Or maybe the 'no starters' rule had been lost in translation a la Chinese whispers by the middle section of the table.

NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! We said NO starters! We are HUNGRY at this end of the table. SOME PEOPLE were not playing FAIR.

I considered feigning a hypoglycaemic attack - well, I was on the end of the table, there was plenty of floor space to my right, I'm an ex-drama teacher...

So, finally, the main courses arrived. At ten to ten. TWO HOURS, yes TWO HOURS after we arrived. Ye Gods, I looked at my plate of uninspiring burger, the inadequate pile of 'French Fries', the insipid blob of coleslaw and the very suspicious looking 'could-be-a-gherkin-could-be- a-slug' on the side, and I thought, 'Can I be bothered? Have I gone beyond the point of hunger?'

And to make matters worse, there was no barbeque sauce when it distinctly said on the (sticky - yuk!) menu that my veggie burger would come with barbeque sauce because it was vegetarian sauce so that was all right. And I was REALLY looking forward to the barbecue sauce.

Well, I ate the food, because I was feeling light-headed by now, and to be honest I probably would have gnawed on the leg of a wildebeest had it passed by the table.

AND THEN, after we'd decided down our end of the table that we didn't want puddings now because we had given up the will to live, the other end of the table started ordering puddings. Andy made a very well timed exit decision at this point, probably because he was picking up on my 'tired-and-hacked-off-and-now-I'm- going-to-be-awake-with-indigestion-all night' vibes.

And we smiled and waved and left. And I happened to mention to Andy that if he ever hosts a works do we shall hold it at a proper restaurant, and ban anyone from going out for a cigarette until they have ordered their food and anyone arriving late will be told to go home. And he agreed and patted me on the head and called me a grumpy old bat in a highly affectionate way.

And when we got home we made a nice cup of tea and ate it with some nice chocolate chip shortbread biscuits that I had made earlier in the day.

And now I remember why I don't like going to work's dos.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Pumpkin Chickens, a Stag and an Octopus

I felt I caused Andy undue stress last night when I demanded that this year's Hallowe'en pumpkin be carved in the form of a chicken. Or a bee. He plumped for the chicken and set about the largest of our allotment pumpkins with his Dremmel tool after making a couple of preliminary design sketches for my approval. I rejected the first sketch entitled 'Evil Chicken' in favour of one that looked like a more cheerful version of the Kellogg's chicken, which in hindsight was probably more complex a beast to carve.

Anyway, Andy sat at the kitchen table carving and I was at the stove making mincemeat. Which involved a tad of ground cloves. And what with Andy's Dremmel sounding like a dentist drill, we soon created the ambience of the local dentist surgery.

The final effect was, indeed, a chicken. Andy said, 'But I'm still going to carve a traditional face on the other side,' and I felt that he would have preferred to go with the traditional face in the first place and not faff about with chickens. I have, therefore, made a note in my diary to keep out of the pumpkin carving for 2011 and I apologise unreservedly to my very accommodating hubbie for causing him undue angst.

Now, there has been a story in the newspaper this week about the demise of the Emperor of Exmoor, the biggest stag in Britain who apparently was shot for his head and antlers by some git of a human. I say 'apparently' because no evidence of the stag's death has been forthcoming. As the week has progressed it seems that reports of the Emperor's death could have been exaggerated as someone has reported they've seen him in someone's garden. And now it seems there are rumours that the Beast of Exmoor (a large, black wild cat of the puma/ cougar/ leopard type persuasion) has got the stag.

Well! This all seems very suspicious, especially when you are me and you start factoring in the suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of Paul the Psychic Octopus. You remember Paul? He successfully foretold the stages that Germany would take through the World Cup this Summer by using the art of Mussel-mancy. And then, this week, his death was announced. But was it he who was dead? Because a writer from China, who has written a book about a psychic octopus (I ask you - what was she thinking?? That kind of drivel will NEVER get published), has claimed that the original Paul died BEFORE the World Cup Final, and because the Germans didn't want to lose face in the dawn before victory, they substituted him (see how I got a bit of football- related vocab in there?) with another octopus because ALL OCTOPUSES LOOK THE SAME!! So this writer is saying that the octopus that has just died was not Paul at all, but some psychic imposter.

Now, I think these two stories are related. I think that Paul may indeed have been substituted for another look-alikey Paul, but not until AFTER Germany won the World Cup. Fearful of a life of celebrity, especially as some suspicious looking writer had been hanging around plying him with sushi and crispy seaweed, the original Paul decided to go into a life of hiding in Spain, where he could mingle freely and unnoticed with other octopuses (although he would have to be careful of not ending up in a paella). And on his way to the ferry port on the South coast (I don't know which one, Portsmouth, Southampton, whichever one goes to Spain or thereabouts, you'll have to do the research yourself if you really want to know), he met up with Emperor the Stag.

And Paul had a premonition that Emperor would be hunted to death during October.
'Get away from Exmoor!' he said to Emperor. 'Get away now, for I see you are doomed to end up on the wall of some over-stuffed wazzock who will pay many thousands of pounds for your antlers.'
''E don't 'ave' to pay for 'em,' said Emperor. 'I shed's 'em every year. I can put 'is name down for this year's pair now if 'e likes.'
'He wants them attached to your head!' sooth Paul. 'Oh, flee and be gone, Great Stag of the Moor. You are doomed. Dooooooooooooomed!!!!!'

And so it was that Paul the Psychic Octopus persuaded Emperor the Stag of Exmoor to flee with him to Spain. And there they went into the mountains, to a secret location known only to the likes of Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean and JFK. And possibly a few others like a local taxi driver and Sainsburittos Home Delivery Service.

That's what I think anyway.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

A Goose, A Collage and a Twitter

Christmas has started, despite my best efforts to fend it off, by the ordering of the Christmas Goose. Well, you have to do these things quickly, or the butcher gets all goosed out, and the next thing you know is that you end up having nut roast for Christmas Dinner because the Head Cheffette is a vegetarian.

I am not having nut roast for Christmas Dinner, I hasten to add. I intend to scour the VegSoc website/ Vegetarian Magazine/ etc etc and find something a lot more interesting than that.

Anyway, caught up with the excitement of securing the goose, and the re-appearance of Dan Corbett Weatherman Extraordinaire on the lunchtime news (hurrah!) after a way-too-long absence, I went and finished my Christmas shopping, too. Which means that I can now ignore the whole festive malarkey until, oh, 20th December at least.

But what, I thought, shall I do for Christmas this year that is special? After all, I have a new Grand-daughter. It will be her first Christmas. And as I thought this, I was staring at the wall in the living room, the wall which has borne several wallpaper samples of late to be assessed in various lights as to the best selection for the ambience of the room, and as soon as everyone comes around to the choice I want them to make, I shall get wallpapering. So far, my choice has received 'nil points' which although disappointing, is not surprising, and what I should really do, because a) I am the chief decorator and b) I am at home staring at walls all day is just go ahead and put up regardless.

Anyway, this wall is currently blank save for a couple of pictures, one of a beach scene, a legacy from my sister who was a talented artist, the other a legacy from a holiday in Yorkshire a few years ago, of some sheep. They have a lot of sheep in Yorkshire, and they don't mind whose car they fling themselves in front of, either.

And then I thought, 'I know! I'll do a Christmas collage! An ENORMOUS 3-D collage, of a snow scene, with fat, smiley tissue paper snowmen, and cheerful woolly robins, with an edging of padded felt holly leaves.' Oh yes, I can see it in my mind already. But then I see a lot of things in my mind, and I wouldn't want to turn them all into collage art to attached to the living room wall.

I thought of the pros - it would satisfy my creative bent, it would cover up the huge expanse of bare wall, and any wallpaper I decided to put up post-Christmas would be a welcome relief from the inane grins of snowmen and beady-eyed of robins.

I thought of the cons - 'Pandora, leave the collage alone', 'Pandora, leave the collage alone,' and 'Pandora, leave the effing collage alone you effing nuisance of an interfering cat.'

Well, that was settled then. Bring out the paper and start designing, put Pandora in a cupboard until January 6th. Or January 1st, because that's when I always take down the decorations because I don't like 'em hanging around the place into the New Year. New Year HAS to have a tidy start. End of.

And then, and please don't ask me why because I can't think what possessed me - I decided to hook up with Twitter. God Lord, what a palaver that was. I thought it would be a simple process, quickly executed whilst I was waiting for the potatoes to boil for the mash for the top of the spicy kidney bean 'n' vegetable non-shepherd's pie (my own invention!). But no. It involved me making a series of choices which will no doubt result in my identity being stolen and some Albanian Princess emptying my bank account. Actually, I had already considered this possibility, and lied about a few things vis a vis my identity. But other choices, which involved finding other people I know who Twitter, led to a dead end because AOL were being rubbish. But I did manage a tweet before I got pipped off with the whole doo-dah.

And when I went back to have a tweet just now, I signed in and was told 'Twitter is currently on overload - please come back later.'

What?????????? Overload????? What's that supposed to mean? That's never going to work for me - overload. If I want to tweet, I want to tweet NOW. Not later. I need to do this stuff in the window of time I set aside for collecting e-mail, blogging, random interwebbly research/ shopping and stuff like that. Once I'm gone for the day, I'm gone. I have obligations to other windows of time to fulfil. I can't be doing with hopping on and off the interwebbly as the whim takes me in order to catch Twitter at a point of underload. Or whatever. I'm not a mobile internetter, you know.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

You Know It's Getter Cold When... find yourself surrounded by cats, covered in cats, cats blocking the heat emanating from the fire in the living room and cats appearing from behind sofas with their heads boiling because they've been squashed up against radiators.

'I've never had a cat sit on me,' says Mrs Miggins. 'And if I did, I'd get it with my beak pronto.'
'I'm sure you would,' I say.
'I'd like to see you try,' says Pandora Kitten.
'Don't tempt me,' says Miggins.
'Girls, girls,' I say, because I am ploughing on earnestly with my 'JUST DO IT!' list and, having completed my homework and finished the final, final, FINAL draft of NKJ, am now trying to push on with the preparation of a cunning chart that will show the sequence of a reflexology treatment in the right order in such a way that I shall remember it and not get my elbow mixed up with my a*se. We're up to 'shoulders and axillary lymphatics' at the moment. I have the loudest shoulder reflexes in the class - they sound like a heffalump tromping over gravel when my foot buddy squeezes them, and I'm not surprised given how much time I've spent writing these last few weeks. We're only up to part 13; there's another 27 parts to go. I need a chart. I need peace and quiet in which to contruct said chart.

'So, did you see Jupiter last night?' says Mrs Miggins.
'I didn't,' I say, 'but Andy assures me it was most lovely. Very close to Earth at the moment, so I believe.'
'Indeed,' says Miggins. 'And you can see Uranus to the left if you look closely.'

This is true, and not, as some might believe an attempt at a silly school-boy joke. Last night was very cold, which was good because it meant the sky was extremely clear which meant that Andy went to the loft to bring out his telescope for a spot of star-gazing.

You also know it's getting cold when the bees stop flying. I've discovered that if the temperature outside is less than about 10 degrees celsius, then it's unlikely the bees will come out to play. They came out a couple of times at the weekend, but only when the sun was full on the top of the hive. Occasionally I squat down next to the hive and press my ear to the wood just so I can re-assure myself I can hear gentle humming coming from within. It's a good sound to hear, especially after all the aggravation we've had this year vis a vis bee-keeping. And the plan this weekend is that, provided the forecast is for dry and warmish, we'll nip into the hive for a final visit, attach the mouseguard, pop on a feed and leave them to it for the Winter.

And you know it's getting cold when you buy some lovely soft fluffy wool with which to knit a bunny for your grand-daughter, you knit the bunny parts and then, you don't know why, you slide your toes into the empty bunny shell and think 'Hmmmm...this would make good socks.' And you suddenly become very keen on having a go at making proper socks - not the practical, outdoorsy type, but the ones you'd save for wearing indoors on a cold, chilly day when your frozen toes deserve nothing less than to sink into something really warm and soft...

'Like chicken feathers,' says Pandora Kitten.
'Or cat fur,' says Mrs Miggins.

But one of the best things about it getting cold is having toasted sandwiches for lunch! Over the warmer months, you tend to forget about toasted sandwiches. But then a time happens in October when you make yourself a sandwich and you look at it, and the Toasted Sandwich Fairy (who has been in hibernation since April) whispers in your ear, 'Pop it into the sandwich press,' and you say, 'That's a jolly good idea,' and you do and you're glad you can hear the voices of the Fairies in your poor, frozen little head.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Alcohol, Pears and JUST DO IT!

A friend, who shall remain nameless because I don't want them to get into potential trouble with Customs and Excise, returned from their abode en France last week avec an enormous sac de pears from their jardine. And it is an ENORMOUS sack. Beaucoup de pears. I reckon I could get inside it and hide quite easily if a) I felt so inclined and b) it wasn't full already with pears.

The idea the friend had, knowing Andy's penchant for the home brew, was that Andy could turn them into gallons of pear cider and they could have many a roister-doister manly evening drinking cider and playing skittles and comparing tattoes and possibly smoking pipes. Well, this was a fine idea 'cept Andy does not have a cider press, or fruit crusher and having just researched them on the interwebbly as a potential Christmas pressie, he isn't likely to own them in the near future either as they are blooming expensive and bulky items, and that's without all the additional malarkey you need to go with them.

Phoebe has tried to crush the pears herself by sleeping on the sack, but they are doing what pears do, which is remain resolutely rock hard until the nano-second before they turn to mush.

Andy has occasional mentioned building his own press, which is the kind of loose talk I think initiated the pear smuggling in the first place. But needless to say, the pears are going to disintegrate long before any DIY press building occurs, so the race is now on to do something with the pears other than cider them.

Last weekend, Andy spent a vast quantity of time doing some brewing. He completed step 87 of his summer fruits wine project, shook the demi-john of sloe gin which won't be ready for bottling for another two months, and not ready to drink until this time next year at least, and then he set about making pear wine.

But despite his best pear-wine making ministrations, the sack of pears remains obstinately full. So I hoiked out the recipe books and found a recipe for apple, pear and ginger mincemeat.

Andy and Heather immediately pulled faces because, I suspect, of the ginger. But I love ginger, so I'm mincemeat making today. My mum also loves ginger so I'll palm some jars off onto her. I am also cooking down some of the pears to put in the freezer for pear crumbles and purees. I could bottle some, I suppose, but I'm not keen because it involves either alcohol or syrup and fruit stored in syrup makes me squirm as it brings back memories of a nasty incident with a tin of condensed milk when I was a child.

I don't know if Andy is planning any more pear wine, because I caught him looking at how to make harissa paste this morning to use up the remains of the red chillies in the greenhouse. I suspect his interest in the pears is waning.

So, lots to do this week. So much so that I have started a note-book entitled 'JUST DO IT!' in an effort to stop me procrastinating and finding displacement activities like reading magazines. The plan is that I enter the date and job to do, then cross it off when it's done. And when I catch myself being vague, I read the title of the book 'JUST DO IT! and, well, just do it. It's a 'life momentum' thing.

So far, my booklet includes such things as finish reflexology homework, make pear mincemeat and paint the kitchen ceiling.


Friday, 22 October 2010

The Jury Is Out...So is The Chicken

Our local newspaper is very excited about a court case that is currently running in the town's Crown Court. So much so that it devotes many pages each week to the progress of the case, and I am following with goggled amazement as the tale unfolds because it involves a murder that happened about a mile away from MMM, and it's like The Jeremy Kyle Show only without the moving pictures.

It involves a family, whom I shall call Smith, and a crime committed two days after Christmas last year. I know Christmas can be a stressy and tricky time for families, but this one takes the biscuit. Apparently, allegedly, a man was murdered a la being run over by a Land Rover, driven by one of his two younger brothers, possibly an older brother. There are about 6 brothers involved altogether, plus 3 sisters, and their assorted wives, husbands and children. To make matters more confusing, they are all called 'Smith' and share various forms of a central name or two, for example William, Bill, Billy. Billy-Boy, Johnny, Jack, Jackie, Jack Junior and Gary etc. etc, you get my drift. The newspaper, to simplify matters, periodically prints a fact-file style family tree thing so we can keep up.

There was definitely a Land Rover involved. And a Ford Mondeo. Possibly a gun of the rifle variety. Some of the family have committed gun-related criminal offences already - they all deny the gun, if it existed, was theirs.

There was much shouting on the day in question. Various witness disagree about the name being shouted as the various accused bore down on the victim with their various vehicles and possible gun. Other things were shouted like 'Get 'im!' 'Get 'er!' 'You've got it comin' you 'ave!' 'Sort it aht, bruv!' 'You're next, you are!' etc. Apparently, allegedly, it was all about one of the brothers inheriting the mother's farm after she died and other members of the family were mad with jealousy and didn't think it was right, him being younger etc etc.

There was a pub involved, too. That's where it all started in a 'he said that she said that he said his dad/brother/ nephew/ son said that the brother-in-law/ sister said the mother said that Billy and Jack should 'get it sortid,' before she died, God rest 'er soul.' Various texts were sent between various mobiles about Billy looking for Bill, who was after Jack because Verity said they should get it 'sortid', but William answered Billy's phone and got the wrong message and thought Jack was after Billy and he told Billy who said, 'Wotsit gotta do wiv me, bruv?' and he went after Jack Junior, who's a kid and should have stayed out of it, but 'e didn't and now the barrister is saying he is lying and he ain't.

This is where it starts turning into an episode of Eastenders.

Today's best evidence goes to witness Alice, one of the sister. She told her brother, in the pub, to 'Sort it aht, and he said, 'I am not sorting it out, because it's two cartridges for big boy, two cartridges for Jack and the same for Johnny.' '

Big boy? Who the heck is big boy?? The family Staffie?? And now it seems there WAS gun, because the only other things I can think you need a cartridge for are ink pens and printers. Unless the bruvs were going to 'get it sortid' with a mass photocopy session, of course. Or exercise their copperplate technique across each other's foreheads. I can't wait to see if that's brought up in the defence case later on. 'I was just practising me italic form, m'lud, and I needed two cartridges in case one run out.'

Meanwhile, Jack Junior was on Facebook, updating his status - 'Effing barrister accused me of lying. Swear down I was tellin' the truth.'

It's all very sad, tragic, and stupid. Some Christmas that family is going to have.

On a lighter note, Mrs Pumphrey is awarded the 'Cunning Chicken 2010' award, for her magic Houdini performance yesterday. I happened to be at the kitchen window washing up and from my vantage point I could see Misses Miggins and Slocombe racing up and down the inner fence of Cluckinghen Palace like chickens demented. I thought, what's up with them? and scanned the garden for cats/ foxes/ flocks of pigeons/ Tango Pete in his Tom Jones posing pouch.

Then all of a sudden, Mrs Pumphrey hove into view, strutting with purpose across the lawn towards the asparagus bed.
'Look at me!' she called. 'I'm strutting!'

Well, she'd somehow managed to escape the run, and given that she is one big chicken and the escape hole, when located, was teeny tiny, we counted ourselves lucky we didn't have a lacerated and strangulated chicken on our hands.

Carpenter Andy set about making the run safe. He also made them a winter bivouac, which they are regarding with suspicion at the moment, but I'm sure they'll appreciate come the next rainstorm. Mrs Pumphrey continued to climb in and out of the escape hole going 'Look at me! Look at me!'

But by the end of the day, they were all safely ensconsed in Cluckinghen Palace aka 'Henditz.'

And now I must go to complete the final, final, FINAL edit of Nearly King Jimbo, my mission to flush out the tiny errors that keep slipping past mine eagle eye. In two weeks, Andy has a week of holiday and we are going into NKJ production mode. Andy the Pen is churning out magnificent illustration after magnificent illustration, I am gearing myself up to write some entertaining blurb and author/ illustrator profiles to go inside the cover.

'Shall we include a picture of us strangling each other?' I said, for 't has been a project of high stress and occasional artistic difference.
'If you like,' said Andy. 'Now, have you seen my box of cartridges?'

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Cards and Poems and a Christmas Goose

My friend Sarah has, for the last umpty gazzillion years, made her own Christmas cards. Inside each card is an epic poem based on Santa coping with that year's major news story.

I phoned Sarah the other day, on a matter unrelated, and during the conversation we got around to talking about Christmas cards, because once again Andy and I are doing a home-made effort, this time with a bee theme. We have two choices so far - 'Ding Dong Merrily on Hive' and ''Twas the Night, Bee, For Christmas' which, when Andy suggested it I had trouble grasping the concept thereof because I kept trying to put too many 'bees' into the equation and was totally misplacing my commas.

'That's a good idea,' I said. 'Like the Night Beefore Christmas?'
'No,' said Andy. 'Like you are telling the bee a story...'
'About the night before Christmas,' I said.
'No, about the night FOR Christmas, because you have already accounted for the mention of the bee as separate entity and what you are trying to do now is included the bee into the fore, which isn't what I had in mind,' said Andy.
'Ah,' I said. 'So not 'The Night Bee Before Christmas, then?'
'No,' said Andy, and I think we both understood what was going on somehow, someway.

So anyway, Sarah said she was having trouble thinking of a major news item to write her Santa Slanda (as her poems are called) about this year.
'Nothing seems to have happened,' she said. She was immediately discounting the General Election, and I don't blame her because it was a bit of a non-event really.

'What about the Icelandic volcanic eruption?' I suggested.
'Was that this year?' said Sarah.
'Yes it was,' I said. 'And I know this because we were coming back from North Devon in April when it happened and because all the airports were shut down, we whizzed through the M25 because there was hardly any traffic around Gatwick and/or Heathrow which ever one it is, I can never remember. It was GREAT!'
'Are you SURE it was this year?' said Sarah again. She sounded awfully suspicious, although why she thought I might be trying to pull some pseudo-volcano eruption scam on her I don't know.
'Yes,' I said, because I was. 'And a volcanic eruption would definitely affect Santa on his travels, wouldn't it? Or not, as the case may be.'
'Indeed,' said Sarah. 'I was convinced it was last year, though.'
'Nope,' I said. 'This year. Definitely.'

So I think we got that settled. We blamed the forgetfulness on our impending 45th birthdays and the rattle of many a loose marble. Actually, Sarah tried to blame drugs but I wouldn't have it.

So I am now thinking I can write a poem to put in our Christmas card this year, based on 'The Night Before Christmas.' It might not happen of course, because the older I have become, the more Christmas tends to creep up on me. I think it's because the shops start the whole festive malarkey way too soon, so I block it from my mind, then forget to reactivate my interest and before I know it, it's ten days to go and all I've managed to do is order the goose.

'Are we having goose this year?' asked Andy and Heather the other day, when the subject of goose arose.
'Yes,'I said. 'Of course. What else would one have at the Manor at Yuletide?'
'Will you be eating it?' they asked.
'No,' I said. 'For I am vegetarian and as far as my poor meat-deprived brain can remember, a goose has a face.'
'What will you have, then?' they said.
'Something mushroomy/vegetably wrapped in pastry and covered in cheese I expect,' I said, as this seems to be the common festive fare for vegetarians, both in restaurants and December issues of foody magazines.

So that was all sorted, too.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

The Dog Poo Fairy

Yesterday, we received a newsletter from our local council - the one we contribute £148 a month to with seemingly little return - with an update on council issues raised by local residents. I was glad to see that one of the 'issues' was lorries and vans parking on pavements, except everyone in the family now think is it me who complained to the Council. Well, I did, AGES ago and the Council didn't want to know then, but now it seems more people are getting shirty about the issue and it is comforting to know that it's not just me getting stressy about it.

Another issue was entitled 'What has happened to Poop and Scoop?' Poop and Scoop are not, as Andy thought, the comedy cat and dog who are part of the Council's cartoon advertising campaign. Poop and scoop is the idea that when you take your dog out in a public place and it poops, as they invariably do, then you, as the owner, are obliged to scoop up the poop, and pop it in a bag to be placed in a suitable bin.

Not any more. On no. Poop and Scoop has apparently been replaced by a new campaign called 'There Is No Such Thing As The Dog Poo Fairy.'

What kind of a catchy campaign title is that?????

I mean, you know where you are with Poop and Scoop. I expect if you are a park warden and you see a dog doing its doo and the owner not clearing up behind it, then it's a lot easier to shout 'POOP AND SCOOP' at them, rather than 'THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS THE DOG POO FAIRY YOU KNOW!' which, because of its verbosity, could easily get caught in a crosswind if you know what I mean.

And, get this, Heather reported that when she was walking back through the park the other day, there were lots of little flags dotted around the grass, each one marking a pile of poop! Well, there's proof if you need it that the dog poo fairy DOES exist, because I can't think that any human being in their right mind would go around sticking little flags into piles of poop. Surely?

It's all getting a bit mental if you ask me.

No, I firmly believe that the dog poo fairy exists. She lives in the same fairy village as the Fairy who replaces empty loo rolls, the Fairy who empties the kitchen bin, the Fairy who can find things in drawers and the Fairy who knows where the clean socks are. And the Fairy who puts things away even though she didn't get them out. And the Fairy who washes clothes, irons them and puts them away in wardrobes.

In fact, there are many fairies of this ilk. If they didn't exist, the world as we know it would have ground to a halt years ago.

I just hope the dog poo fairy makes herself known to the Council as soon as possible and puts them straight on the matter.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Nanowrimo 2010

It's almost time for Nanowrimo again, and I've been getting the occasional e-mail from the organisers revving me up to participate in this year's marathon writathon.

Shall I? Shan't I? I enjoyed it last year, especially when I achieved the goal and got to print out a shiny self-congratulatory certificate.

But shall I do it this year? I am a writer, after all, and this is the kind of thing that writers do. Writers also come out of hiding from behind their laptop and send their work off to publishers which I am just psyching myself for again. I'm figuring that if I send stuff off now, then by the time it comes back attached to a rejection letter, it'll be almost Christmas and I can cheer myself up by slobbing on the sofa with a jumbo size tin of Roses chocolates and watch all the Christmas specials on TV.

And talking of novel publication, I noticed on a trip to Waterstones today, that Tara Palmer-Tomkinson has a new novel out. I wonder how she managed to get that published then??

But I digress. I have been thinking about the Nanowrimo project for a couple of weeks or so now, and twice I have woken in the wee small hours with a starting sentence in my head. One was 'But you have to go to school, you're the Headteacher,' which is the punchline of a very old and poor joke. The premise for the story would be a wry look at the education system as a struggling comprehensive gets sucked into the whole Academy process. It has the potential to be quite funny, it has the potential to be quite bitter. A bit like a clown falling into a bucket of brussel sprout puree.

The other starting sentence I can't for the life of me remember, which goes to show that proper writer's should always keep a notebook and pen by their beds in order to jot down sparks of genius when they happen. To be fair, I do keep a notebook and pen under the bed, but sometimes, when I am woken by a moment of genius, I lie there thinking, 'I should write that down. But that means I have to scrabble about trying to find the pen and notebook, and try and write without putting on the light so it doesn't wake Andy, can I be bothered?' And then I try and convince myself it'll be okay because I'll remember the moment of genius, which I invariably don't, and then I think I could have coupled the waking moment with a trip to the loo and put the light on in there instead and the whole waking moment would have been worthwhile.

Do you see how complicated it can be?

I think I shall participate this year. It's getting dark in the evenings, and cold, and the activity will be a good way to stave off the S.A.D which usually arrives mid-November.

And maybe I should put a torch under the bed.

Today's blog was brought to you by 'Lacking Inspiration? for all your writing kick-start needs.'

Friday, 15 October 2010

Little Friday Snippets

Number of squirrels seen today - 3
Number of bees rescued from spiders' webs - 1
Number of children seen mooching around town that were clearly skiving from school - 17

Ironic comment of the day - 'Well, 'e could 'ave text ya, couldn't 'e? That's just f**kin' rude, that is.'

Number of complete strangers who initiated random conversations with me this morning - 2
Number of people directed by me to Post Office - 1
Number of bags of clothes taken to charity shop - 3

Random physical irks - twitchy left knee; feeling phlegmy

Number of items arriving in post - 6
Number of muscles and bones in the lower leg and feet I have to learn - too many
Number of brains trying to cope with all the reflexology learning - a half

Hooligan of the day - small child about 3 years old wrecking window display in Mothercare.

Number of weeks until Christmas - 10
Number of salesladies in Boots yelling about it every five minutes using her mini- microphone head set - 1
Number of weeks until I even begin to start thinking about Christmas shopping - 6

Number of minutes spent standing in queue for Andy's prescription - 22
Number of people in queue when I joined it - 8
Number of people who jumped ahead of queue - 5

Would you argue with this face? This is Mrs Slocombe. I caught her in what remains of the summer lettuce patch. If ever a chicken could produce a guilty but ever-so-slightly defensive looking expression, then this is it.

But she is back in full lay now, so I forgive her. She is looking a bit on the porky side, too, but I think that's probably down to her new complement of featherage.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Sinks and Spiders and Inspiration

I had to do a lot of pacing today, and play a not inconsiderable number of games of Mahjong Titans in a bid to jolt the creative process into action. And all this to aid the completion of Nearly King Jimbo Mark Two. Ye Gods, it was like giving birth all over again. Until now, I'd been fair whizzing through the draft but as the end appeared on the horizon, the writing process slowed until today I had to crawl through to the end on my hands and knees.

But I did it! And now the script is in the hands of my illustrator, Andy the Pen, to continue creating his lovely little cartoon illustrations for our joint project to be ready in time for Christmas.

And whilst I was writing and pacing, Andy was being Andy the Plumber because our kitchen sink had developed a bit of a leak. Nothing major, but enough to warrant something being done about it. As Andy pointed out, he isn't a plumber. So the leak was approached with some trepidation. There was a lot of staring at the underneath of the sink with a torch whilst water was poured down the plug hole and more staring was done as water dribbled through the u-bend where it shouldn't.

And then there was the cleaning out of the pipe work, which honked considerably and caused a minor amount of retching. Then there was a considerable amount of interwebbly search on 'How To Be A Plumber In Three Easy Stages,' and then a visit to the DIY emporium to purchase stuff like putty and glue and a plug system doo-dah and other manly bumpf which is way too technical for a girly like me to understand.

Once the whole process got under way, there was no stopping Andy the Plumber. I hid in my writing room maintaining a discreet distance. At one point the effort of my labour was eclipsed by the labour of Andy the Plumber; at least, he was doing more swearing. And then the cats decided to get involved in the general chaos by going on a spider hunt. It was a big spider, one that had been living undetected 'neath the sink for ages, I expect. Pandora limited her efforts in the spider hunt to the occasional pat in order to send the spider scuttling around the kitchen. Tybalt was far more energetic. He likes a good spider hunt and throws himself into them with great gusto, plumbing chaos or not.

In our various endeavours, I created a new character called Mrs Peddlestool-Smythe, Andy the Plumber created a whole new way to waterproof a sink, and Tybalt and Pandora created a whole new way of putting the wind up me by sending the spider off in the most unexpected directions.

But all was well in the end. I made veggie spag bol whilst dancing around the kitchen to Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames, and Jools Holland. We all agreed it was getting chilly in the evenings now. I gave a cursory glance to the three Christmas catalogues that arrived, uninvited, in the post today, then consigned them to the recycle bin. The cats lay, spide-hunt exhausted on the pouffe.

And the sink is now leak-free.

I'm not sure about the spider...

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Give Her Credit

I wouldn't normally encourage my off-spring to take out a credit card, but on the day Heather's laptop decided to expire in a multi-virused ridden, slow-with-old-age kind of way, she got an offer from her bank for a card with 0% interest for a year. What I would regard as a 'happy co-incidence'. And after a quick foray into Curry's, who wanted her to take out a loan for two years at something ridiculous like 317%, I suggested she should apply for the card and make the most of the interest-free loan.

I was a responsible parent; I sat her down and explained how credit cards work (I was under the misapprehension that all schools did this kind of thing these days, but clearly not), and that if, like me, she used it as cash and paid off the balance every month, then it could be a 'very useful thing indeed.' For example, if we ever go away, I don't worry that I might forget to take something with me like dental floss or a decent book to read because as long as I have my credit card I can make purchases. And I get Tezzco points as well, which is good as I no longer shop there so anything I get free from them (like magazine subscriptions) I feel is a blow back for the small person against the evil global conglomerate.

So the card was duly applied for. The letter came informing Heather of her successful application and to return a form agreeing to sign her soul away to the Devil. Then the PIN arrived and eventually the card, which was thusly activated, and so yesterday off went Heather on a laptop buying expedition.

There was a little interwebbly research prior to the expedition to ascertain which would be a good buy amongst the gazillion models there are out there in techno-world. In the end, I think the words 'smooth and shiny' headed the list of 'important features.' Andy's input was 'get as big a memory as you can afford,' the implication being that Heather downloads a load of rubbish and stores a load of photos etc and the laptop would need all the help it could get.

I received a text informing me of the successful selection of a laptop and assorted accoutrements. Half an hour later, a further text arrived informing of how stupid Curry's and her bank were, that the whole transaction was going 'T*ts up,' and as soon as she got home, she was going to cut the stupid credit card into tiny pieces. But she wouldn't be home until she had ensured herself of a successful outcome to the debacle (whatever forn that debacle was taking; I would be filled in later when her blood pressure had returned to normal) i.e she wasn't leaving Curry's until they'd handed over her laptop.

That's my girl, I thought. You sort 'em out!

A highly-strung and irked Heather arrived home a good hour later, carrying a large bag. Apparently, the sales assistant in Curry's was an idiot who didn't know how to operate the till. And when the transaction didn't go through immediately, in a split second, instead of waiting a moment, he tried to cancel the transaction to start again, and whilst her bank had sent the money, the sales assistant had effectively told them Curry's didn't want it, and it was floating in the ether in some third-party transaction bay. An authorisation code was needed to complete the purchase, but in the meantime the sales assistant had swiped the card twice more and the ensuing transactions were being rejected because the bank was saying Heather was going over her credit limit.

Are you keeping up?

So Heather spent an hour and a half running between Curry's and her bank trying to sort things out. Firstly, the 'direct line phone' in the bank which she used to contact the credit card section didn't have a 'zero' on its keypad, so when the automated voice asked her to enter her card number, she couldn't because it contained a few 'zero's'.
'What did you do?' I said.
'I kept bashing the '10' button until I was put through to a real person,' said Heather. 'I mean, what kind of idiot company has a '10' on their telephone key-pad?'

Anyway, the bank man confirmed the initial payment had gone, that all was well their end. Curry's refused to allow Heather to take the laptop because, as far as they were concerned, they hadn't received payment. Heather was reaching screeching pitch and saying things like 'So where does that leave me, eh? No laptop and several hundred pounds of my money lost in your stupid system somewhere.' The bank gave Heather an authorisation code for the sales person at Curry's to use. The sales person at Curry's looked at her blankly because he didn't know what to do with the authorisation code, so he scuttled off to consult the manager, who appeared briefly to apologise for the cock-up, but he was sure it would be sorted soon because 'Adrian' was dealing with it.

'Well, clearly it won't,' said Heather, 'because Adrian doesn't know what to do with the authorisation code and if Adrian hadn't been so trigger happy with the till in the first place, this wouldn't have happened.'

Eventually, Heather commandeered the phone behind the counter in Curry's and forced Curry's and her bank to talk to each other whilst she sighed and rolled her eyes at the ceiling.

And so it was sorted. Amen.

The laptop is very nice. Heather is happy because she can now resume her hectic on-line social life, and I am happy that I have a daughter who will not be beaten the face of adversity and can keep her head when bankers and vendors are losing theirs.

And if there is anyone in Theatre Land reading this, who wants a well-trained theatre graduate with enormous experience in stage management, sound and lighting tech-ing and production, then Heather's your girl because if you want something doing, and doing well, she will do it. And then some.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Millinery For Kayleigh 'Hat One'

And what is wrong with this hat? Nothing! I like it, Kayleigh likes it. It is a happenin' hat!

Does this look like a child who is traumatised by having to wear a 'Knitted by my Gran' hat? No, I didn't think so either.
Ha! But I guess only time will tell if there there is any psychological trauma...

Woolly Minded

This week is National Wool Week. I celebrated the start of it by completing the first creation in my 'Millinery for Kayleigh' hat collection. It is purple. It has a ribbon. It is funky. However, not everyone in the room appreciated the cutting edge fashion statement it was making. Phoebe was trying to sit on it.

'Should it look like that?' said Heather.
Andy, wisely, kept his lips pressed closed.
'Like what?' I said.
'Like that,' said Heather. 'With that big bit sticking from the top. Shouldn't you sew it up rather than leaving it open like a giant egg cosy?'
'It looks exactly like the picture in the pattern,' I said, showing her the pattern. Good grief, I thought, it is half past eight in the evening and I've just cooked this person dinner. If I were her, I'd back down now.

But she is her mother's daughter and she persisted.

'And you're going to make Kayleigh wear it, are you?' she said.
'I'm not going to make her wear it,' I said. 'But I shall expect her to try it on at least once, if only so I can take an amusing photo to put on the blog.'
'I suppose it's not the weirdest hat she's got,' said Heather.
Andy chips in at this point.
'She could keep things in the top,' he said. 'Like a potato, maybe.'
'More like a melon,' said Heather. 'It's HUGE! She won't be able to see where she's going.'
'I'm not liking the turn this conversation is taking,' I said.
'I expect she'll love it,' said Andy. 'And in years to come she'll remember it fondly as 'the best hat Gran ever knitted for me.'

You have to understand that all this disrespectful chit-chat between two people who AREN'T KNITTERS was punctuated by much laughing and hilarity. I was doing my best to ignore them and was rooting through my wool bag, selecting wool for 'Millinery for Kayleigh' Hat Two. I chose a pale blue and mid-pink. I was thinking 'stripes 'n' tassles.'

'I might knit another like this,' I said, holding my purple and ribboned egg cosy confection up and inspecting it. 'To fit me. And when we next go shopping together, daughter dear, I shall wear it. In public.'
'You could knit one for Andy,' said Heather.
'She could knit one for you,' said Andy.
'Yes,' said Heather. 'Then we could go out looking like a bunch of weirdos together.'

Anyway, National Wool Week. My Country Living magazine for November has much to say about National Wool Week and in the middle is a pull-out poster of sheep. I am thrilled with this poster and it is now stuck to the wall in the kitchen. There are twelve sheep featured. My favourites are the Greyface Dartmoor, the Southdown and the Herdwick, because they are round and fuzzy and have cute faces. This, I appreciate, is the response of a vegetarian, but I make no apologies. The Manx Loghtan looks scary with its mass of horns, the Lincoln Longwool looks like it would be forever walking into walls and the Welsh Mountain Badger Face is bizarre because it has the appearance of a badger's head attached to a sheep which looks vaguely wrong and rather deceitful.

Andy inspected the poster.
I said,' When we get our smallholding, we could keep sheep for wool.'
'Yes,' he said. 'I'm quite happy to manage sheep. I have delivered lambs through the proper channel and by caesarean. I have trimmed feet. I have dipped. I can even turn one over.'
'Can you shear?' I said.
'No,' said Andy. 'But we can learn. But let's not get Wensleydales. They look like too much aggravation.'

I agreed. Wensleydales look like a cross between a small pony and Dougal from the Magic Roundabout. I was already having nightmares about the mud and poo that would cling to them in the Winter.

'You do know that even if we keep sheep for wool only, they would have to go to the abattoir eventually, don't you?' said Andy.
'I thought we could let them die of old age,' I said, in my role as the hopeful vegetarian.
And then Andy spoke great sense about the quality of fleece deteriorating with age, problems with teeth, the fiscal realities of feeding an animal for little return etc etc and I felt my heart sink a little, because I knew what he said to be true.

'Can't you just euthanase them?' I said.
'No,' said Andy. 'Not even in your little vegetarian world is that going to be realistic.'

Ah well, I'm sure it will all turn out okay in the end. I mean, I squished Queen Stella for the good of the hive (although the rose-coloured spectacle wearing romantic in me wishes I'd put her in a matchbox, travelled miles away from home and released her into the forest a la the Huntsman and Snow White). I am keen to learn spinning and weaving sometime in the future. I am keen to make a wool rug, nay let's go crazy and make it a whole carpet, for the cosy country living room I am determined we are going to live in eventually.

But for now I shall stick to developing my knitting skills. I might have a go at socks. Come to think of it, most of my scarves started out as socks, only I was never quite sure how to start turning the heel.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Lucky Day

Firstly, a big Malarkey welcome to new a new visitor to the Manor - Staci! Thank you for hopping on board and I hope you enjoy the atmosphere.

Secondly, I've just had a book clear out (only a minor amount of sobbing on the stairs, clutching precious tomes to my chest before consigning them to the box-to-take-to-the-charity-shop), thus a message for Cousin Richard - the whole range of Philippa Gregory(one careful lady owner) if you want them. Let me know. Perhaps Auntie P can pick them up in her (dented!!!!!!) car on Wednesday????

Thirdly, Mrs Miggins has ONE tail feather left. She looks like an idiot.

'I do not!' says Mrs Miggins. 'I look like Minnie-Haha. I look like a coquettish squaw with a cute feather in her head-band, standing on the banks of the Shenandoah River waiting for Hiawatha to come along in his bear-skin.'
'Who's coming along with a bare skin?' says Mrs Slocombe (who laid an egg yesterday after a good 2 months lay-off). 'Not Tango Pete, I hope. I've only just had my porridge.'
'A b-e-a-r skin,' says Mrs Miggins. 'From a b-e-a-r.'
'Are you sure it's M-i-n-n-i-e, and not m-i-n-i as in car?' says Mrs Pumphrey. Mrs Pumphrey has heard of my plans to construct a chicken winter gazebo from Wilkos plain shower curtains. She is not, as Malarkey follower Di predicted, happy with the 'plain' aspect. She wants either a) giant pink gerberas b) giant yellow daisies or c) Rennie Macintosh roses.
'If it was m-i-n-i,' says Mrs Slocombe, 'she would be Mini-car-car!!'

And Misses Pumphrey and Slocombe fall about laughing at the expense of poor, semi-naked Miggins.
'Come into the kitchen, Mrs M,' I say. 'And I'll measure you up for a long cardi.'
'Could I possibly have a liberty bodice, too?' says Miggins. 'Only as I get older, things seem to be heading south a bit too readily. As you know from your own experiences, of course.'

I am not offended. Us birds of a certain age with dubious egg production must stick together.

And fourthly, today is the 10th of the 10th of the 10th. Which is supposed to be very lucky.

Here are the lucky things that have happened so far today.
1) The chickens got to have free-range of the garden, now all edible produce has been harvested.
2) Andy climbed a ladder and changed three light bulbs without falling off.
3) There isn't a 3.

That's it. I suppose it's only Archer's Omnibus time, so plenty of the day left for more lucky happenings. But it got me wondering. Does luck just happen or, as many people believe, do you have to make it happen? I know that sitting in a chair staring at TV makes nothing happen except eye strain, brain muffling and constipation. But does going out and doing stuff, or taking risks actually perpetuate 'luck.'

Some people don't believe in luck. I do.

'So do I,' says Mrs Miggins. 'Listen...luck, luck, luck, kcluckluckluck..cluck, cluck,cluck...ouch!'
'Well, stand still then,' I say. 'I can't possibly measure you for a liberty bodice if you keep fidgeting like that. You know what they - many a slip twixt pin and chick.'
'Do they say that?' says Miggins.
'Well, I say that,' I say.

It is also Old Michaelmas Day. Yesterday, the Michaelmas daisies in the garden bloomed. How's that for timing? Or was it just luck? It is also St Paulinus of York's Day. Apparently, St Paulinus was riding his ass (like you do) across Lincolnshire, when he realised his ass was hungry. He spotted a farmer with a full sack of grain.
'Mayst I have a handful of lovely grain from your very full grain sack for my hungry ass?' asked St Paulinus of the Farmer. (I'm paraphrasing here.)
'Sack?' said the Farmer. 'This isn't a sack. It's a stone.'

This was because the Farmer was a) a meany and b) a smug git who was much too happy with his ample grain store c) possibly mad for thinking he could mess with a saint.

'A stone?' said St Paulinus. 'Then a stone it shall be!'

And he turned the grain sack into a stone, because saints can perform pointless miracles like that.

Unlucky for the farmer. Or was it stupidity. Or meanness?

Unlucky for the ass because he was still hungry.

'Why does no-one ever think of the ass?' says Miggins. 'That's what I want to know.'

Anyway, the Sack Stone still stands in the middle of a field in Lincolnshire. Attempts to move it have resulted in either death for the movee, or global disaster, like the onset of World War One.

You see? You try and generate a bit of luck for your ass, and this happens.

But ever the optimist, I wish you your own spot of luck on this, a lucky day.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Little Things

End of the week little things...

...this morning, the handle all but snaps off the fridge. I know why this is. This is due to the excess suction caused by the yucky blobby thing that got stuck in the drain hole at the back, that I extricated a few weeks ago that almost made me yack up. But until that point, the extra suction on the door meant that there was MUCH yanking of the handle every time the fridge door was opened which, here at the Manor, is a regular occurrence.

Clearly, this was all too much for the handle. It now has a tenuous crack in it. It is threatening to come off in someone's hand or possibly trap someone's skin in the crack in a nasty ouchy pinchy way, and that someone will probably be me. So I have wrapped much parcel tape around it a) to hold it together and b) to remind people to be careful and avoid yanking upon opening.

On the interwebbly, I found the appropriate replacement handle which varied in price from £10 to £16. I went for the cheapest option, of course, and thought, 'Isn't the interwebbly a marvellous place to shop around upon?'

...for the last four weeks, there have been two spiders living on the hedge in the front garden. They have strung their webs, one behind the other, twixt the top of the hedge and the front windowsill. And every morning, when I open the curtains, these two spiders are making repairs to their webs dependant upon the weather conditions the previous day. Occasionally I see them catching various bugs, wrapping them up in balls and either leaving them in storage for later, or consuming them immediately. I have called these spiders Hercules and Sisyphus, on account of their tenacious natures. of the pots outside the front door appears to be growing its own pansies. (???????) business cards have arrived. I have put some in a little card holder and have taken to whipping it out and saying 'Business card?' to people.

...there are almost as many ginger feathers inside the egg-lu as there are still attached to Mrs Miggins.

...being vegetarian is doing Andy's cholesterol level the world of good. Now, if I can just get him to embrace the wonders of nuts and seeds...

...the paying-in machine at my bank wasn't working AGAIN today (it has been out of operation for 6 weeks now), so I had to stand in a queue to pay in a cheque, there was only one cashier working, and all other members of staff were in the back office having a right laugh about something. I know because not only could I hear them, I could see them. When one eventually appeared to open another window, she said, 'Sorry to keep you waiting,' and I responded with a tight-lipped smile and a cold-eyed look. My bank has got steadily worse since it was taken over by another bank during the summer - I think 'tis time to move on.

...I bagged a bargain portable therapy stool on e-bay. No more hunching over feet for me! From now on, I'll be able to look 'em straight in the toes.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Hens, Bees and Moles

I could talk about Mrs Miggins having her seasonal moult but it would be all feathers, mud and feathers. I am anticipating her being completely bald by the middle of next week though, so may have to suspend hat knitting in favour of chicken long-john knitting.

I could talk about the fact the sun is actually shining, it is 22 degrees here at the Manor and the Malarkey bees are going for it like Spring is on the way. Which I suppose it is, in the Grand Cyclical Nature, Nature, but we've got to get through the rest of Autumn and Winter first.

I could show you some pictures of the Malarkey Bees that I took yesterday. Look at their fat yellow trousers! They are finding a good source of pollen from somewhere. They are clearly very resourceful.

But I'm going to talk about magazines, because as you know they are one of my favourite things. I have subscribed to a new magazine called 'Natural Health - Complementary Therapies for Your Mind, Body and Soul.' It's an interesting publication (hence my decision to subscribe), a mix of the common sense, the fascinating and the downright mad, crazy bonkers. It has a selection of odd adverts in the back, one of which makes me laugh because it is for something called 'Wart and Mole Vanish'.

Now, I know moles and warts are no laughing matter for those who have them. I have more than my fair share of moles, being a bit of a fair-skinned freckle face type, and occasionally I say to Andy, ' Does this mole on my arm look bigger to you?' and he says 'No,' and that's okay. I don't have any moles on my face though, and the 'Wart and Mole Vanish' seems to focus on facial moles. There is a 'before and after' picture of the top left hand quarter of a lady's face. In the 'before' picture, she has a HUGE mole about an inch above her eyebrow. It looks like one of those false rubber witchy moles you can buy in joke shops, which makes me immediately suspicious of the genuineness of the product. In the 'after' picture, the mole has vanished! The lady's face is now free of mole. But what makes me laugh is that the advertiser saw fit to indicate the now vanished mole using an arrow. Which makes it look like she has an arrow stuck to her face.

Under the 'before and after' pictures is a caption. 'Thank you so much for such a wonderful product!! I am just amazed, it is a miracle in a box!! It has done wonders for my self-esteem.'

And I want to add the extra, 'Now I just need a product to rid me of this troublesome arrow!!'

And then I got to thinking about what miracle I would like in a box. I did a survey of the Malarkey residents...
...Mrs Miggins would like a potion to make her feathers grow back overnight
...Mrs Pumphrey would like something to sort out her turkey neck
...Mrs Slocombe would like five loaves and two fishes
...Tybalt would like a magic vanishing cloak so he can creep past Pandora without her jumping on his head
...Phoebe would like a cat food that ingests itself into her stomach without her having to regain consciousness and go through the trouble of walking to the kitchen to the food bowl
...Pandora said, 'What's a miracle? Can I eat it? Can I play with it?'
...Andy is taking his time to select his miracle carefully and will get back to me but it may involve zero calorie cheese.

And my miracle? Well, it'll be that happy co-incidence in a little place in the country, won't it?

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Holistic Sparks

Yesterday, an ominous looking parcel arrived for me. I knew what it was.
'What is it?' said Andy.
'My therapist uniform,' I said. 'The all-black-polyester-two-sizes-bigger-than-I-normally-take-and-I'll-cry-if-it-doesn't-fit doo-dah.'
'Try it on, try it on!' said Andy, displaying an up-to-now unrevealed interest in women in uniform.

Well, I did. And it fitted in a stream-lined kind of way. And it crackled. It highlighted my natural inclination to produce static. I feared for my potential clients. Especially the ones with pace makers.

In the packaging was a folder containing money-off offers 'for your next order.'
'What on earth makes them think I will be placing a further order?' I said to Andy. 'I've only got this because I have to wear it for the course practical. I can't be spending the rest of my life walking about sounding like frying bacon and sending sparks hither and thither. God knows what's going to happen when I get in the car to go to Reflexology 3 this evening.'

The car makes me produce static, too. I have to close the door using my hand on the glass of the door window; if I touch the metal, it really hurts and makes me jump which may be hilarious to witness but sets my teeth on edge.

Anyway, I crackled my way to my class, picking up the tutor on the way because she lives close by and her usual lift had forgotten her.
'You look very smart,' she said.
'I feel like a polyester salami,' I crackled.

In class, we learned the routine for diaphragm, solar plexus, head, brain and face. At one point, my foot buddy, Gina, let out a little burpette as I went about my caterpillar walk across her diaphragm zone.
'I think you may have drifted into the digestive system,' said the tutor.

Anyway, two and half hours later, I was feeling like a boil-in-the-bag salami, because of a) polyester's complete inability as a fabric to breathe and b) my body's complete inability to regulate its temperature at the moment. But at least the crackling had eased off. I even risked a trip to the loo, traversing a nylon carpet with no ill consequence, but I think my shoes must have some kind of rubber sole to them, thank the Lord and Clarke's.

I also discovered that using talc when performing reflexology is not a good idea when dressed in black polyester tunic-n-trousers. I think the examining board probably haven't thought this one through very well, not if they expect students to maintain a professional appearance at all times.

My uniform is hanging in the wardrobe waiting for next week. I have attached my membership badges for the FTH and CthA, although I am now worrying that maybe fixing metal to polyester mightn't be a good idea. I could earth myself with some Marigolds and wellies, I suppose. Or, when the course is over, chop up the uniform and use it as a pattern to make myself a nice combination in purple, crackle-proof cotton.

Talking of which, you know the poem 'When I Am Old, I Shall Wear Purple?' Well, I'm beginning to wonder if this poem is wrongly titled. Because I bought a new coat at the weekend, having decided my old winter coat of the past four winters is unlikely to survive another. And this new coat is...purple. And it goes beautifully with my purple hand-bag. And the purple shoes I bought at the beginning of the year.

Oooh-er. P'raps this purple thing is hormone related.P'raps it happens to all women of a certain age. P'raps it should be a case of 'When You Are Old, You WILL Wear Purple - Even Though It Makes You Look Like a Giant Aubergine.'

Monday, 4 October 2010

Hats Off!

Here is Kayleigh in her latest hat.
She is beginning to amass an interesting collection of head gear for one so young and with limited buying power. And because my attempts to provide her with assorted hand-crafted knitwear have been met by the family with either woeful apathy or wild hilarity at the patterns I have suggested, I have decided to limit my efforts to hats. I have decided as a knitting granny one can get away with all sorts of creative malarkey when it comes to hats. Some may even double up as tea cosies.

Therefore, I begin my 'Millinery For Kayleigh' project with a purple number for winter which shall be adorned with various ribbons and flowers, possibly a butterfly or two. And a massive chin strap in case she decides she wants to remove it. I can't think that she would want to; I mean, it's not going to be in any way, shape or form embarrassing.

And in years to come, I can imagine Kayleigh's delight when I present her with yet another little carefully wrapped parcel, and she'll look at me with excitement glowing in her eyes and say,'Is this another of your lovely hand-crafted hats, Gran?' and I'll say, 'Yes!' and she'll be so thrilled. In fact, I might pre-plan hats for each of her birthdays, from age one through to eighteen. But I suppose I ought to wait, take into account the changing fashions. I mean, I can't even begin to guess what will be a la mode when she is 14 for example.

I shall photo and publish the results when they come in, and you, the hat jury, can give your verdict as you see fit. Which I am hoping is exactly what the hat will do.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Small Person Conversing

This weekend, I had cause to engage in conversation with two small people. By small people I mean children. One was seven years old; the other will be five on Wednesday.

The conversation with the seven year old centred mostly around a heated game of Star Wars Top Trumps yesterday lunch time. He insisted I shuffled the cards with my eyes closed, in case I cheated. This was rich coming from a child who, within ten minutes of the game starting and when he saw I was winning, began some unashamed cheating himself.
'I'm not playing with you if you are going to cheat,' I said, laying my hand down on the table and crossing my arms across my chest.
The child fixed me with an uncertain stare.
'I mean it,' I said. 'If you want the game to continue, you have to play fair.'

The game resumed. I continued to win cards from the child. The child tried to confuse me with his dazzling knowledge of all things Star Wars. My Star Wars knowledge, on the other hand, is limited to being able to identify C3PO, R2D2, Chewbacca, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Yoda and that's only because when you squash Phoebe's ears flat across her head, that's who she looks like. Apparently.

I felt I was at an unfair disadvantage vis a vis Star Wars knowledge, especially as I have never made it more than 20 minutes into any of the films following the 1977 original, and think the whole prequel before the sequel, running 'em all in reverse order and changing the goody to the baddie and back again is all one giant marketing hype that preys on the weaknesses of people like, well, this seven year old child I was beating pretty comprehensively in a card game.

Still, I battled on. And then I started feeling a bit guilty that maybe I was being too ruthless in my attempt to win the game. So I decided to cut the child some slack, and tried to 'lose' a couple of cards, figuring that I would still win because I had in my possession most of the best cards anyway.

But even then, in a deliberate attempt to lose a few cards, I STILL carried on winning. Well, I thought, this win is meant to be. The child resorted to cheating again. Even that didn't help his cause. This is a salient point of 'cheaters never win', I thought. My ethical fair play is being rewarded by the cosmos. The child elicited two more adults to assist in his heinous cheating ways. Still it did not work.

Anyway, I couldn't quite bring myself to unload the child of all his cards so declared my victory when he still had five cards spread on the table in a cheating spread way.

And do you know what he said? He said, 'I WIN!'
'No you bloomin' well didn't,' I said. 'My pile of cards is considerably bigger than yours AND I didn't cheat. Besides, it is good to lose sometimes. Losing gives a person a sense of realistic perpective on the world.'

And I know this because my Dad always played fair when I played him at draughts as a child (I was the child, not him). He never let me win because I was only a child. And when I did beat him, victory was great and genuine, not hollow and placatory.

The child looked at me.
'Okay,' I said. 'Don't you think it is a good thing to be happy when someone else wins? Don't you think it is nice to be able to accept defeat with a smile and congratulate the person who beat you for a game well played?'
'No,' said the child. 'I want to win all the time.'

My second conversation took place in a hotel in Stafford. Andy and I had arrived for a party. We went to our room and as soon as we opened the door, it was obvious someone had been smoking in there. It was a top floor room, so I imagine that when hotels allowed smoking, this was one of the designated smoking rooms and the stench has never quite cleared from the furnishings. And as you are aware, dear reader, one of my biggest (if not THE biggest) bugbears, is smoking. I cannot abide it, especially the smell, which makes me gag. We opened the windows, and got ready for the party, showering with the bathroom door open so the aroma de hot water 'n' steam 'n' shower gel 'n' perfume would waft throughout the entire space.

A knock on the door annnounced the arrival of some friends of ours, who were also going to the party. They had with them their small daughter whose favourite hobby is to ask as many questions in a row as possible in an attempt to make the adult lose their rag as soon as possible.

'Does it smell of cigarette smoke in here?' I asked the friends.
'Yes,' they said.
'Then I'm going to tell Reception,' I said. 'Because I don't want us getting caught by this,' and I picked up a small card that was on top of the TV which stated the no smoking policy of the hotel and that if anyone smoked in a room, they would be charged £100 for extra cleaning.

In Reception I spoke to a nice young lady who assured us there would be no extra charge. She said,' Have you used the room? Because if you haven't, I can probably move you.'
Of course, we had used the room, so a move was deemed not possible. But that was okay. It's surprising what an open window, a stiff breeze and a good squirt of Chanel 19 can do to lift cigarettey stinks from a space.

The small daughter of our friends had listened to this conversation whilst making precise adjustments to her fringe and party tiara.
'Why can't you have another room?' she said.
'Because we've already used the room we've got,' I said.
''Why have you used the room?' she said.
'Because we were getting ready for the party,' I said.
'Why can't you have a new room?' she said.
'Because we have used the bathroom,' I said.
''Why did you use the bathroom?' she said.
'Because we wanted to have showers after our long journey,' I said.
'Why did you want to change rooms?' she said.
'Because the one we've got smells of cigarette smoke,' I said.
'Why are you in the attic?' she said.
'Because we are naughty and that's where the hotel people put the troublemakers,' I said.
'Why can't you change rooms?' she said.

At this point Andy the diplomat stepped in and ushered us all to the car park.

Earlier, the small child had engaged me in a conversation about why people think Mrs Thatcher was a bad person.

I soon put her straight on that one.