Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Your Daily Health

I love reading the Daily Mail on a Tuesday. Tuesday is the 'Good Health' day, and I like nothing better than to freak myself out reading about diseases I never knew I might have. Last week was particularly squeamy as there was an article about some bloke who didn't clean his contact lenses properly and now has teeny, tiny micro-scopic miniscule bugs chomping away at his corneas. The treatment involved words like 'injection', 'scraping', 'acid' and other such stomach cringing yukkiness.

'Phew,' I thought, 'thank heavens my left eye-ball is too quick for me to get a contact lens in.'

This week has a light-hearted article about 'well, would you believe it?' type things you can do to ease minor complaints. Like using duct tape to remove a verruca, which was a revelation because I always thought it was called 'duck tape'. And eating coconut to relieve diarrhoea. Well, it would, wouldn't it? Oh, hang on...it says you have to take it from the shell first.

Wearing socks in bed eases insomnia. If you have a stitch, give a grunt and it'll go. Swallow sugar to stop hiccups. Stick your fingers in your ears to ease the pain of a sore throat. Who does that, then? The sufferer or the sufferer's partner, who has to listen to them moaning about their throat? I won't go into where they suggest you put a banana skin because you might be eating a banana and it'll put you off.

I did flinch a bit at the idea that you should cough when you're having an injection to beat the pain. Apparently, the act of coughing causes a 'sudden, temporary rise in pressure in the chest, inhibiting the pain-conducting work of the spinal cord.' I thought, how do you relieve yourself of the additional pain in your arm/leg/derriere when a violent cough causes the needle to snap off mid-plunge? To be fair, the article goes on to warn that you shouldn't cough heavily, in case excessive movement causes the doctor or nurse to 'make a mistake.' I think I'll just stick to my usual injection distraction method which is TALKING REALLY LOUDLY ABOUT THE WEATHER AND SAYING OUCH!

Another article details a new way of listening to knee noises in the diagnosis of osteoarthritis. Well, given that there is a preponderance of creaky knees in this family (I can hear Heather going up and down the stairs from the kitchen with the radio on) we're all doomed. But wait, it's not the noises that you CAN hear that are the issue; it's the noises that you CAN'T hear that are the key. Well, that's really helpful isn't it?

'Doctor, I can't hear any noises in my knee. Do I have osteoarthritis?'
'Probably not. Tell me, do you often listen to noises you can't hear?'
'Only when the pixies tell me too...'

There's an article entitled 'Is You Medicine Making You Fat?' which is no good to me as an excuse as I don't take any medication. So it's just eating too much and moving too little that's causing my fat dollop of a doughnut body image issues then. Sigh...

I don't get migraines, so the item on 'How cutting out your frown muscles stops migraines and wrinkles,' is irrelevant. I admit I have got a couple of faint frown lines because I tend to scowl when I am writing (it's concentration really, but pretending I'm scowling makes people think I am cross so they stay well away and let me get on in peace) but I'm not having anyone come at me with a pair of surgical secateurs to do a bit of age-related pruning. I shall continue instead to a) wear a fringe and b) push everything facial back upwards when I slap on the moisturiser twice a day.

I am pleased that as a twice a day brusher 'n' flosser I have decreased my chances of bacteria getting into my arteries from my gums and causing heart disease by 70%. I don't have to worry about beating jet-lag. Or ice-cream headaches. Or mouth ulcers. Or my teenage voice breaking. The recipe for 'Food to Lower Blood Pressure' looks nice - Spanish Roasted Tomato Salad - but it's Andy that has high blood pressure, not me, and he thinks tomatoes, like nuts, are poisonous.

The article on bowel movements was marginally interesting and I'm flirting with the idea of irritable bowel and /or coeliac disease, but both are unlikely because even though I haven't been completely right since taking that course of antibiotics for my ear infection back in February, with the help of pro-biotic yogurt and wholemeal everything, the matter is slowly improving. I'm sorry, was that too much information? Would you like to hear where to put the banana skin now??

There is a picture of a cute goat on page 48 and a not so cute prawn on page 44 and questions about blurry vision and sperm in the 'Ask the Doctor' section. Two separate, unrelated questions, I hasten to add, although I wonder if the Good Health editor is exercising their sense of humour in an ever-so-subtle way today.

So there we go. A relatively mild week on the health panic front. And nothing about bugs eating eyeballs, which is blessing especially as I'm still heaving after what I found in the bottom of the fridge on Sunday. But if I ever have need of a hip replacement, I want the £99 screw which will be sterile, and NOT the 20p equivalent one can buy from B & Q which, if previous nail purchasing experiences from DIY chains are anything to go by, will be covered in dust.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Pandora and Bob

There is a school of thought that says one should do something different every day to keep the brain and body on their toes. So to that end, with it being a Bank Holiday and all, we had breakfast in bed and watched CBeebies, which we would never normally do for obvious reasons.
(Crumbs and infantilism).

We had toast and marmalade, strawberries and yogurt. We watched Bob the Builder, Jollywobbles, Buzz and Tell and Timmy Time. I am familiar with Bob the Builder, it being around at the tale end of my own children's childhood. In fact, I seem to remember Heather having a Kipper the Cat amongst her toys. Jollywobbles and Buzz and Tell were merciful in their brevity. And because Jollywobbles was mime and music and amusing sounds, Andy was of the opinion it had been made to fulfil the foreign market, too, and was slightly disgusted with the BBC for this reason. Buzz and Tell was like a game show with watered down sarcasm, and a know-it-all bunny which, quite frankly, needed taking down a peg or two. But there was also a chicken so the programme did redeem itself slightly.

And Timmy Time I am familiar with because it is a spin-off of Shaun the Sheep, who in turn is a spin-off from Wallace and Gromit. All these spin offs - must be something to do with the wool. And I am familiar with Shaun the Sheep because my 70 year old Mum is a big fan of his programme. (You see, life is cyclical and we all return to our childhood eventually!). Timmy Time is also delivered without comprehensible language a la Bill and Ben but you'll be pleased to know that today Timmy won the boat race with the help of his sneezing badger friend and the moral of the story seemed to be that it is good to share and even better to avoid whalloping your sneezing badger friend with irritation because he can't help having a cold and something positive came of it eventually, didn't it?

And all the while we were eating breakfast in bed and watching CBeebies, Pandora Kitten was perched on my feet, enthralled by Bob the Builder. I kid you not. Normally, if there is toast in the vicinity, you'd be trying to eat it with one hand and fending her off with the other as she is very fond of toast. But not this morning. Oh no! So enraptured was she with the shenanagins of Bob and his mates, that she was completely oblivious to any toast-related activities.

And she was quite interested in Jollywobbles, too, and didn't really realise she was missing out on breakfast until Timmy Time came on, by which time it was too late because we'd finished.

So Pandora has a new love.
'Do you think it's because she's got the mind of a three year old?' I said.
'I expect so,' said Andy.
'That's good, then,' I said. 'Because she's barely one and a half. She must be a highly intelligent, ahead of her time creature.'

The second thing I did today that I don't normally do is get some daffodil bulbs organised ready to plant for next Spring. This is good for me, because every year I think, it'll be good to have a few daffodils about, but I don't think this until I actually see the daffodils coming up, which is too late to plant them. But thanks to my two gardening magazines and Chris saying to me yesterday, 'The Spring bulbs are in, Mum,' I am ahead of the game this year, or rather on time with the game.

I've plumped for February Gold, Minnow and Hawera which, in theory, should give us a goodly show from February through to May. But daffodils, like bees, probably don't read the magazines, so they'll arrive and stay as and when and for as long as they darn well please I guess. And with the weather being completely weird (I had to put on a CARDIGAN this morning - I mean, I ask you. A cardigan in August??) who can tell???

And this evening's unusual activity will be the creation of a mood board. It was an activity suggested in the paper this morning as one that is motivational, creative and works with the Law of Attraction principle. Well, I don't know about that, but it sounded fun, and as my designated TV programme choice of the day isn't on until 10 p.m when I shall be too tired to stay awake and watch it anyway, I've got some time to get creative and motivational in. Which reminds me, I need to crack on with the kitchen cushions I started and get those finished, too.

Tomorrow is D-Day. Yes, Decorating Day is almost upon us. Do I need to hoover the skirting boards do you think? Now there is an activity to take my brain by surprise!

Sunday, 29 August 2010

This Was The Week That Was

Things I have not enjoyed this week -

1) Having to share a train carriage with a coughing man when I went to visit a friend on Wednesday. A coughing man who had no idea about the niceties of putting one's hands over one's mouth and keeping one's germs to oneself.

2) Finding something that looked like a mouldy eyeball blocking the drain plug of the fridge. There aren't many things in life that make me heave, but that did. Still, it would explain the odds noises the fridge has been making recently.

3) Having to clean the kitchen the day following the day I cleaned it previously following the Incident of the Exploding Wine Bottle.

4) Wrestling with the pull-out larder cupboards in the kitchen in an attempt to re-adjust the shelves by re-locating the support pegs. Cupboard depth too deep, my arms too short - yes, even my orang-utan arms.

5) Some tense moments in various DIY stores choosing wood flooring and paint in preparation for decorators arriving on Tuesday. Andy has already requested I leave him completely out of the carpet selection process.

Things I have enjoyed this week -

1) Visiting friend Sarah's new web-site and feeling very inspired by it.

2) Meeting up with friend Janet on Wednesday for shopping trip/ gossip /lunch.

3) Going to dinner with friend Jane yesterday for chat and laughs and a very nice key lime pie.

4) Having lunch today (home-made veg 'n' cheese soup aka 'Grannie's Special Brew' because of the use of unidentified veg we dug up at the allotment, accompanied by home made soda bread and baked potatoes) with Chris, Leane, Kayleigh, Heather and Andy.

5) Getting through another week of not buying veg because the allotment is keeping us well supplied.

6) Re-reading some of Nearly King Jimbo and finding it quite funny actually.

7) Practising massage and reflexology on Andy and getting to grips with the theory side of things.

8) De-cluttering some cupboards and making lots more space.

9) Stroking various wood floorings in various DIY stores in a surreptitious way and not getting arrested.

10) Getting pleasingly small gas and electricity quarterly bills.

11) Wreaking revenge on one of those stupid automated telephone cold-calls by entering a few correct details via the telephone key pad and then entering lots of random and made up details, forcing the automated call into confusion and hanging up.

12) Finding a deliciously shiny purple one-compartment-only handbag well within my budget which followed me home and makes me smile every time I look at it in a shallow,consumeristic type manner.

13) Crying just a little bit at the latest episode of 'Roger and Val Have Just Got In' on BBC2 10 p.m Friday, starring Dawn French and Alfred Molina, and thinking 'Why can't there be more high quality writing and performing like this on TV?'

14) This photo of Kayleigh from lunch today enjoying rusk dipped in Grannie's Special Brew Soup!

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Tea Time

It has been brought to my attention recently (via various forms of communications and conversations) that I may have, inadvertently, been poisoning my friends by giving them your common-or-garden English Breakfast Tea when they visit. I have discovered, in fact, that at least two of them prefer Earl Grey and Lady Grey Tea. And Heather,having experienced last week her FIRST EVER CUP OF TEA at the ripe old age of 22, prefers hot fruit drinks if she is going to be co-erced into future hot drink consumption.

I've tried Earl Grey tea. I think it tastes of the ashes one cleans from the bottom of a fire place. I've never tried Lady Grey tea. I will happily drink peppermint tea, and lemon and ginger tea. Most other herb and fruit teas taste like they are capable of taking the enamel off one's teeth; except camomile which tastes like musty old hay.

But in my recent kitchen cupboard cleaning frenzy and because I like to make family and friends welcome in my home, I threw out various packets of beverages that were out of date (which, I suppose, could explain their peculiar taste) and now have a dedicated hot drinks cupboard for the delight of Malarkey Manor guests-of-the-future. The range on offer now consists of: Assam Tea, Earl Grey Tea, Ceylon Tea, Lady Grey Tea, Peppermint Tea, Lemon and Grapefruit Tea ,Orange Tea, Blackcurrant Tea, Lemon and Ginger Tea and Cranberry, Strawberry and Raspberry Tea. Hot chocolate. Coffee (instant), coffee (posh) and, because it really is the best, English Breakfast Tea.

And if all else fails, well, there is always the cake.

Champagne for Breakfast

So there we were this morning, eating breakfast (scrambled eggs on toast), reading the papers, Andy trying yet again to convince me of the value of the ramblings of 'Dr' Ben Goldacre from the Guardian's Bad Science column, when there was an ENORMOUS bang and then a general feeling of wetness, like our indoor sprinkler system had gone off.

(We don't have an indoor sprinkler system, I hasten to add - we did when we moved in, but it was soon cured by replacing the the old upstairs shower which was leaking through the ceiling).

My immediate thought was that Andy had taken a 4 pint bottle of milk from the freezer to defrost and it had burst, which would be a spectacular thing for frozen milk to do; Andy's immediate thought was the that the toaster had exploded. The odd thing was that it happened in a kind of slow motion moment.

But once the initial shock had settled, and we sniffed the air (this took about 0.74 of a second) we realised that one of Andy's recently bottled bottles of wine, resting horizontally in the wine rack on the kitchen wall about 3 feet from our heads, had shot its cork (which was resting against the wall) and propelled itself from the rack onto the floor, landing ON ITS BASE and without BREAKING, and spraying half its contents across the floor, table, papers, ceiling and me and Andy.

We had one of those stunned silence moments like you'd have if you heard the Queen swear.

'Good Lord,' we said. (Sort of).

And then we had to set about the task of a kitchen clean up involving mucho mopping and wiping, and the relocation of all the bottles of wine back into the brewing bucket to stand inside the bath in case any more of them decided to explode.

It was like Elderflower Champagne 2009 all over again.

'You know why it happened, don't you?' I said, wielding my mop.
'No,' said Andy, standing on a chair to wipe the ceiling.
'It happened because I spent all day yesterday cleaning the entire kitchen,' I said.

I don't think Andy was convinced by my clean kitchen = exploding wine theory.

But I think it is a good theory. Yesterday, I spent over 7 hours emptying all the cupboards, cleaning them out, de-cluttering (which was very satisfying) and then re-locating cupboard contents into different cupboards (which will probably prove a tad dissatisfying until we get the hang of where everything is now living.) In my mind, however, I have streamlined and organised and down-sized and freed up a whole cupboard in which Andy can store all his wine making and brewing caboodle.

Although I think he's feeling a bit nervous about brewing now, following this morning's explosion. But, of the twelve bottles of wine he filled, only one has gone kaboom so far, so perhaps it was just a frisky little rogue number having a bit of a laugh.

And then, in a bizarre act of masochism, Andy said, 'I'm just going to check my blood pressure.' I was thinking, the worst time to check one's blood pressure, surely, is after experiencing wine bottle explosion three feet from one's head, but he went to check it any way and it was a bit high.

So, not being one to pass an opportunity I thought, right, we'll go and get the paint for the hall, stairs and landing whilst his blood pressure is up because then I can't possibly do any further damage by making my hubby come on a paint shopping trip with me. So we got the paint (Box Green from the Heritage Colours range - that's what happens when you are a regular reader of Country Living magazine) - and a shelf for the bathroom.

So, the sun is shining, it is hot (but that could also be my hot flushes) and there is a stain on the kitchen ceiling where some wine landed and a teeny tiny crack in one of the floor tiles where the bottle landed. But it could have been worse. Neither of us had heart failure, and the cats didn't go mad with the kerfuffle.

And tonight we are having dinner with a friend.

Happy weekend!

Thursday, 26 August 2010

All Systems Go!

Today, and this will thrill Andy on his day off, we are going to trawl the DIY establishments for wood flooring for the hallway. Yes! Despite a few non-starters, I have finally secured professional decorators to come in and redecorate the hall, stairs and landing! Words cannot express how excited I am, nor unimpressed Andy is.

'Hurrah!!!!' I say.
'Hmmmmm...' says Andy.

So the last few days have been littered with words like 'dado rail' and 'satin wood' and 'interlocking floorboards' and 'eau-de-nil.' And Andy going, 'Hmmmm....'

I went on the interwebbly to research wood flooring and got thoroughly confused by the HUGENESS of variety/style/colour/thickness/underlays etc etc. And the forums were awash with people commenting upon and rating the various types of flooring which was even more confusing because they were saying wildly different things about the same brand of flooring from 'It was brilliant' to 'it was rubbish.'

So I phoned the chap who is doing the job. He said,'Well, it's all a matter of personal choice, really. All I can say is the thicker the better.'

So a bit like butter on toast then.

And with that metaphor firmly ingrained on my arteries I plan to go into Homebase/Wickes and B 'n' Barbecue with my Tarot cards and read for advice from the spirit guides.

'Hmmmm...' says Andy.

I've got the wallpaper. It's got flowers on it. Of course. Because as you know, I adore flowers.

We've also got to get paint to go 'neath the dado rail that is being installed. Cor, fancy us with a dado rail!! All other materials are being provided by the decorator, so will cause minimal distress to people who find chosing paint stressful.

And finally, a joke...

'A chicken goes into a library. 'Bok,' it says to the librarian, so the librarian gives the chicken a book and away it goes.
The next day the chicken returns. 'Bok, bok, bok,' it says to the librarian, so the librarian gives the chicken three books and away the chicken goes.
On the third day, the chicken returns. 'Bok, bok, bok, bok, bok,' says the chicken. The Librarian hands over five books and the chicken leaves. The librarian thinks, 'This chicken is getting through a lot of books. I shall follow it and find out what it's doing with them.'
So the librarian follows the chicken to the home of a frog. The frog is lying in bed, a thermometer hanging from its mouth, clearly feeling unwell and confined to bed. The librarian watches as the chicken hands the books one by one to the frog. And as the chicken hands over each book, the frog looks at it and goes, 'Readit, readit, readit.'

I apologise if you realise what was going to happen half-way through the joke, but once I got typing I found I couldn't stop.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Eye See

'Your short-sightedness has improved a bit,' says the optician. 'In fact, it says on your record that it improved two years ago but we kept your prescription the same. I'm keeping it the same now. I think your eyes would reject a new prescription.'

I am sitting in the optician's consulting room, my eyes alternating between dry and watering, and seeing flashing lights and images of my retinas every time I blink having run the gamut of eye tests one is subject to these days when you go for a check-up.

I've gone for a check-up because a) it's almost two years since my last test b) I've been fretting about diabetes again especially now my younger brother has to go to the opthalmic hospital every six months to keep a check on the retinopathy that was found at the sight test that led to his diabetes diagnosis and c)I'm having trouble focusing on reading first thing in the morning and last thing at night.

The optician confirms I have now reached 'that age'. That age being the age of reading glasses. But because I am short-sighted, I can actually get away without a reading prescription for the moment, merely by peering beneath or over the top of my current specs. I am rather thrilled I get to do that kooky thing of wearing my specs atop my head, or perched in a marmish way on the tip of my nose. Sometimes I take them off altogether and dangle them coquettishly from the end of my finger, but then Pandora gets all flighty and tries to steal them and run off for a game of 'Hide the Spectacles.'

'But you might find this a bit irritating after a while,' says the optician, I think in a half-hearted attempt to sell me some vari-focals. But we have known each other for more than ten years now, my optician and I, and she knows that I know (having worked for two years as an optical assistant) what the mark-up is on frames and lenses, and that I'll need a pretty huge prescription change to make me part with my cash.

'And my eyes are healthy?' I ask.
'Yes,' she says. 'Periferal vision, pressures, retinas all fine.'

Phew, I think. But it's this business of my eyes not accepting a change in prescription that fascinates me. I don't ask, because I don't want it confirmed that I am, in essence, an awkward cuss, but I think it means that although the physical evidence of a full eye exam suggests my prescription has changed (albeit only a little), my brain won't accept what my eyes are telling it and any changes will be greeted with complaints of fuzziness and nausea.

I've experienced this once before. I was persuaded to try ultra thin lenses because my left eye goes a smidge over -3 dioptres which puts it in the 'slightly thick lens' brigade. I agreed, the lenses were fitted and I spent two days walking about feeling like I was on a ship in a high storm. Ooh, it was very discombobulating. I think the word 'sensitive' was used when I went back and asked for my old lense type to be re-installed. I suspect 'sensitive' was a euphemism for 'bloody minded' or 'awkward' or 'resistant to change.'

Anyway, I'll carry on with the specs I have at the moment and wait until I get annoyed by the up and down spec-bobbing and/or arm-stretching I have to employ to get reading in focus sometimes.

On a different note, this morning I went out to do chicken duties and there wasn't a bee to be seen. Usually there's a little gang of them loitering around the hive entrance, limbering up for the day's efforts, but today, nothing.
'Oh flip,' I thought, immediately believing they'd all cleared off in protest at the installment of Queen Philibert. But then I thought, it is cold this morning. So I went and pressed my ear against the side of the hive (Andy would have had a pink fit as I was sans bee suit, don't tell him), and I could hear a gentle hum coming from within. The kind of hum that suggests waking up in a good mood, padding around the kitchen in fluffy bunny slippers and dressing gown, making a pot of tea, a few rounds of toast and butter, and then going back to bed with a breakfast tray to have a read of the papers and listen to the radio for half an hour.

Or that they are happy with their new Queen and she's busy ordering them about and laying eggs.

Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Sitting Still

As I signed in to check my e-mail this morning, an advert on the web site caught my eye. It said, 'If you die unexpectedly, how much cover do you need?' and then it went on with a list of figures ranging from £150,000 to 1 million squillion, and a button to press if you were foolish enough to want more information, thus opening yourself up to insurance spam for the next year at least (unexpected death aside).

'Hmmm...' I thought. 'How much cover do I need if I unexpectedly die? Well, I'll be dead, so that'll be none, then.'

I've always been given to believe that post-death one's financial requirements are pretty much zilch. I rather thought B & B in Heaven would be gratis, having gone through the purgatory of paying the mortgage in the earthly realm.

Or were they talking about a different kind of cover? I've already given instructions to my nearest and dearest that I wish to be wrapped in my Celtic pattern wool shawl and buried with a tree on top. If they can afford a coffin, all well and good. But cover of a few depthly feet would probably be good for health 'n' safety reasons and avoid me being dug up by a curious badger.

So that's sorted then. Of course, if the badly written catch line of the advertisement really meant, 'How much cover will your FAMILY need if you die unexpectedly?' then the answer is still none. They'll have to fend for themselves. I've had to.

I also take exception to the use of the word 'unexpectedly.' This is the last word to use in conjunction with the notion of death. Death is the one thing in life that we know is going to happen and is therefore 100% expected at some point. The surprise is 'when?' So they should have used the word 'suddenly'instead, or just left it out altogether.

Pedant rant over.

I've just finished reading a very thought-provoking book. It's called, 'Teach Us To Sit Still - A Sceptics Search for Health and Healing,' by the novelist Tim Parks. It's not the sort of book I'd normally pick up and read, and to be honest I found the author to be highly irritating, but the story of his journey to overcome crippling ill-health is thoroughly fascinating not to mention fully in keeping with the kind of thinking I am doing as I set forth into my life as an holistic therapist. Which must be the reason why a little voice in my head told me to pick it up and buy it last week.

The basic premise is that people in the 21st century are too busy to keep in touch with the link between mind and body, that we separate them off instead of encouraging them to work in unison, and as such we lose our sense of self - of living in the moment. We plan too far into the future, make our bodies do things our minds are telling us not to, so should we be surprised that ill health follows? We tend to think that illness comes from external forces (and I suppose if you get hit by a bus, then you have a case) whereas we should be thinking more that ill health comes from within. And if we can accept that responsibility, then we can be more able to maintain our health ourselves, without scooting off to the doctors for a bottle of jollop when we're not well.

It's a difficult concept to deal with in this quick-fix, throwaway society we live in. It requires hard work and challenges of a different kind, leading untimately to the benefit of regular meditation. Meditation makes you live in the now, be aware of what is happening now. Now you are well. Now you are ill. Now you can do this. Now you can deal with that. Don't fret about what might happen in the future. The future never happens. It is variable, unsettled, open to too many external influences. When you think you've got there, you find you are still in the now.

Anyway, it is a good book. It's inspired me. It's given me a lot to think about regarding what sort of holistic therapist I am.

And before I go, I'd like to share a little discovery I've made this week. I have discovered that storing brazil nuts in an old tea-caddy makes them taste like fish.

So I won't be doing that again.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Is it Christmas yet?

Of course it isn't, and I shouldn't even be mentioning the 'c' word yet, because, despite the lashing rain, the swirling wind and the dark satanic clouds plus the fact I am now sleeping 'neath the duvet after weeks of sleeping on top, there is yet another week of August to go, and I'm full of hope for an Indian summer.

But the reason I mention Christmas is that Andy said at the weekend (in between bottling his vast quantities of wine and baking some rather delicious digestive biscuits) that he thought it would be a good idea to self-publish 'Nearly King Jimbo' and give copies to our family and friends as Christmas gifts. As if they haven't suffered enough.

Anyway, I said that I thought that would be a good idea, too, having come to the conclusion a while ago that it is unlikely I am going to be published through the conventional manner of being taken on by an agent, who then engages two or more publishers in a wild bidding war thereby elevating me to the higher eschelons of the writing world where I get to be driven around in the back of a Lexus and win all the best new-comer awards for the year 2011-2012.

Yes, the only way I'm going to see my work in print is to DIY it. So Andy is going to explore the various self-publishing outlets and then spend many evenings faffing about with the manuscript until something resembling a book emerges.

And this brings me to a teeny tiny problemette.

'I'll have to re-edit the script,' I said.
'Do you have a copy?' said Andy.
'Oh yes,' I said, blithely, for although my old lap top, which contains the full script is now dead and therefore has trapped the aforesaid full script FOREVER inside its flippy floppy hardly discy drive thing, I was pretty bloomin' certain I had printed off a full copy when I was touting the book around agents a couple of years ago. And I said as much to Andy.
'Did you save a copy on a memory stick?' said Andy.
'Errmmmmm....well, possibly....not....' I said, because I am notoriously bad at performing such technical tasks. Besides, I didn't expect my 5 year old laptop to go clunk and give up the ghost when it did.

Andy gave me his rebuking look. I went in search of the full paper script I was certain existed somewhere.

I found half a paper script. Up to the bit where Nearly King Jimbo is being a farmer and the pigs are discussing how nice it had been to have potato wedges with their pizza the night before. (Nearly King Jimbo wasn't terribly au fait with how to feed farm animals at this point.) I also found the synopsis.

'Pants,' I thought. I handed all my memory sticks to Andy to explore; he also searched his own computer in case by some miracle he'd downloaded the whole script when he'd put it on Authonomy for me.

It appears not. It appears that I shall have to re-write the second half of the book again. 'Pants,' I thought, especially as the second half involves a character called Mrs Bobbinflaxenfluff (awkward spelling) and a scenario involving the annual Titbury Weaving and Creative Knitting Association competition (complex plot twist involving an angora goat), and Nearly King Jimbo helping Alice choose a dress (not pink) for the prize winning exhibition evening (Alice is a very difficult person to buy non-pink dresses for).

Andy didn't exactly say, 'That'll learn ya to save things on memory sticks,' but I knew he was thinking it.

Anyway, Andy is going to illustrate the book so it becomes a joint effort. He is, as you know, a very talented cartoonist, and has already done a drawing of one of the characters, a Mr Jobble, who rides a tricycle. The drawing looks exactly how I imagined Mr Jobble to be - a cross between Captain Mainwairing and Su Pollard.

So I need to crack on with the writing which I shall call editing to make it sound like I haven't really lost half the script. But still there is a niggle that I HAVE got a full copy somewhere. If only I could remember where...

'I say,' says Mrs Miggins, flicking through a hefty sheaf of neatly typed papers. 'This is quite entertaining in a simple and absurd way.'
'It's even got chickens in it,' said Mrs Pumphrey. 'And I like the bit where Alice teaches Nearly King Jimbo how to deal with a goose attack.'
'Yes,' agrees Mrs Miggins, 'and in theory it should work. I wonder if he'll get a chance to try it out?'
'Well, let's read on,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'Digestive biscuit with your dandelion wine?'
'Don't mind if I do,' says Mrs Miggins. 'Pass me the next page and I'll read on.'

Mrs Slocombe sticks her head around the library door. 'I'm cleaning out the nest box,' she says. 'And I've run out of shredded paper for the bedding.'
Mrs Pumphrey looks around. 'Will this do?' she says, finding a sheaf of neatly typed paper in her lap.
'Lovely,' says Mrs Slocombe.

Five minutes later, the paper shredder Andy inadvertently got as a Christmas present three years ago, grinds itself into action...

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Macbeeeeeth (Get it?)

And this is how I know I am a true vegetarian...

When I woke Friday, I wasn't in a good mood. I had a task to accomplish. And that task? The regicide of Queen Stella. I felt like Macbeth going after King Duncan. No Lady Macbeth gall filled my veins, I can tell you.

'Can't I just put her in a matchbox, run away into the woods with her, then release her like the huntsman did with Snow White?' was one of the irrational thoughts that flicked through my mind.
'Oh, shut up, you big girl's blouse,' said my other mind. 'Just get on with it. You've been killing wasps all week and never given it a second thought.'
'That's not the point,' my first mind rejoindered (that's a good word for a Sunday morning, isn't it?). 'The point is that we want bees. They, unlike aggressive and carnivorous wasps, are gentle vegetarians who work very hard. Bees are intelligent creatures, and Queen Stella can't help being a shy, can't-go-out-in-the-rain-to-mate girl. That it seems a bit cruel, that's all. A bit 'interfering with nature.'
'Just squish her,' said my second mind.

The post man knocked shortly after mid-day.
'Couple of big envelopes for you,' he said, handing them over. 'Er, this one says 'Live Bees,' all over it.'
'Yes,' I said. 'Because it's got live bees in it.'
The post man didn't move. He gave me a quizzical look, which meant he wanted further explanation, but without having to ask the obviously stupid question, 'Why are you having live bees sent through the post to you?'

'I'm having to put a new queen in my hive,' I said, thinking, how can I keep this simple so I don't go into the whole history of bee keeping. 'Because the current queen is producing boy bees only and if I don't change her to a queen that produces girls as well, the whole colony will die out.' I wanted to add, 'But no-one said all this would happen in our first season....aaarghhhhhhh!!!!!!! but I didn't because the post man was already edging away.

'So there's a queen bee in that envelope?' he said.
'In a cage, yes. With half a dozen extra bees to look after her.'
'Right. Well....er...fascinating,' said the post man, and went on his way.

I opened the envelope, which was a bog standard envelope with holes punched in it for air. If ever I come to the point where I have to post a bee, I thought (which will probably be never), I shall use a little box, not an envelope. Anyway, inside the envelope were about 8 angry bees in a cage, flailing to get out. Oh dear. I didn't like this. This was like battery bee farming.

'Shut up,' said my second mind. 'Get on with it.'

I thought, I'll phone the suppplier. I need some reassurance about what to do next, because, having read 6 books about re-queening, they offered six different ideas about how to do it.

So I phoned. I spoke to a bonkers old geezer. I told him how I was planning to do it. 'I wouldn't do it like that,' he said, and then proceeded to tell me exactly how he would do it, finishing with the words, 'but don't phone me back later complaining that she's dead.'

Well, that instilled mucho confidence in me, didn't it? Still, livestock is livestock, and as Olly says, they don't read the books.

My next problem was that I needed another pair of hands. I phoned my Mum.
'How do you fancy helping me with a spot of emergency bee-keeping?' I said.
'Oooh, yes!' she said. 'What else are Mums for?'

Actually, I could think of many things mums are probably for that would come higher on the list of priorities than emergency bee-keeping, but that's my Mum for you - she'll have a go at most things.

Meanwhile, I put the new queen on the throne - the loo cistern in the downstairs bathroom, because as a room it is cool and quiet and away from the noise of the house which was, by this time, being added to greatly by the presence of grand-daughter Kayleigh who was in a noisy, high-pitched 'let's sing to the cats' mode.

Mum arrived. I togged her up in my bee-suit; she is smaller than me, my bee suit is much bigger than me ergo Mum looked like some alien baby in a too-big skin. She wrapped the eighteen inches of extra leg length under the bottom of her feet, negating the need to wear wellies. I put on Andy's suit - ditto the same problem, but at least we were safe from stings.

'Two things before we get started,' I said. 'One, don't make any sudden movements and two, don't take off your bee suit until I say you are bee free.'
'Right,' said Mum, who was clearly very excited about the whole experience of being an honorary bee keeping assistant.

My second biggest fear was that I wouldn't be able to find Queen Stella.
'They're out to get you, my lady,' said the bees. 'Hide, quickly, behind this arrass.'

But there she was, in her usual place on frame 5. I thrust the frame at Mum. 'Hold this,' I said, 'whilst I catch her.'
'If you don't want to kill her, I'll do it,' offered Mum, having sighed heavily at my killing angst. 'You know what a hard-hearted cow I am.'
'Ah, so that's where I get it from,' I said.

As it was, Queen Stella obligingly and heart-breakingly walked onto my hand, as though she was accepting her fate with regal grace. I shut my eyes, said a prayer, and squeezed...

Two Malarkey bees were already trying to chew the new Queen out of her cage. I tried not to cry as one Malarkey bee sat by the body of Queen Stella and tried to nudge her back to life. It was all systems go. Mum was offering helpful comments like, 'Why don't you put that frame there, the cage there, that one there, move this over there and shall I put this one back yet or what?' And all this from someone who's never done a spot of beekeeping in her life! Must be some inherent instinct she'd got.

I had a panic moment when I thought I ought to check the rest of the frames for queen cells, and then my second mind said, 'Durr, idiot, she's been laying sterile drone eggs, there won't be a fertile queen cell which is why we're having to go through this malarkey and if there is one, it will hatch a drone queen which is a whole different kettle of transsexual fish,' so I stopped panicking, carefully balanced the queen cage between frames 5 and 6, and reassembled the hive. The queen cage promptly dropped into the middle of the hive, but I thought, well, that's it, I can't muck them about any more, I'll leave them to it.

And then I carried Queen Stella's body into the kitchen and put it into a cupboard so the cats wouldn't eat her before I had a chance to show her to Andy and check that I had actually got the right bee. I knew I had; I'm getting pretty good at spotting queens, but you know, reassurance etc etc blah blah blah.

The new Queen is called Queen Philibert. Because Friday was Saint Philibert's Day, who gave his name to the filbert, or Kent cob-nut, and nuts seemed somehow appropriate. I hope to God she does her job properly/ doesn't die/ clear off like that Australian bird did back in June. I don't think I could go through all that again.

Friday, 20 August 2010


So Queen Stella turns out to be a drone laying queen. This is no good. I mean, all the boys do is lounge about the hive all day eating and faffing and probably playing Nintendo. We don't need any more drones. We need workers. We need girls. The ones who go out and do all the collecting and cleaning and feeding. It's amazing how some roles cross the species divide, isn't it? Anyway, after a couple of weeks of hoping to spot some eggs, and finding nowt but drone cells and drone larvae, we reluctantly decided yesterday that Queen Stella's days are numbered. There is no room for a prude queen in the hive; queens who lay only drones are unmated queens. We need a girl who's been out and strutted her stuff in the rumpy-pumpy airways and has gathered herself some good fertilising qualities.

It's difficult to find a mated queen in late August. We've got about 6 weeks to make sure the colony doesn't lose numbers too drastically and have a snowball's hope of surviving the winter. We need a gal who'll get in there and lay eggs, for heaven's sake and not wander around the place pandering to the whims of 'her boys.'

So yesterday, I did a frantic phone around to various bee suppliers, trying to sound like I knew what I was talking about. There was common agreement that the weather this year hasn't helped at all. Cold, hot, cold, hot is not good for keeping your bees steady. But then, in response to my question, 'Do you have any mated queens available for re-queening now?' at last came the reply, 'we do actually,' and so the transaction was made, and I'm sitting in waiting for the postman to deliver a package marked 'Handle With Care - Live Bees in Transit'.

And then I've got to re-queen the hive. On my own, because Andy is at work. I rather like the advice in one book which suggests the method of a)removing old queen (this is bee-speak for 'squish the old queen to death' which I am not looking forward to), then b)heavily smoking the hive and c)'in the ensuing confusion, sneak her onto the middle frame.'

I can see it now. 'Go, queenie, go! Now, quick, whilst the rest of the gang are coughing their lungs up and gorging on honey.'

I am not going to adopt this method. It sounds a bit dodgy to me, and I suspect will result in two dead queens instead of one, thirty five quid up the spout and a bee-keeper sobbing into her gloves and banging her hive tool against the wall. I am going for the method of 'removing' old queen, leaving hive for a few hours so the rest of the bees realise they are queenless and therefore should welcome any new queen who happens by, then introduce new queen (who will be in her travel cage) to the middle frames, then cross my fingers and send up a prayer to the patron saint of bee-keeping that by the time the bees chew the queen out of her cage, they will quite like the smell of her pheremone and she'll be bursting to get laying and we'll have a whole new gang of baby bees in three weeks' time.

Before he left for work this morning, Andy said,' If you decide to do the requeening yourself, please be careful. Try not to get stung and have an anaphylactic shock. I know you've avoided being stung this year, but be careful nonetheless.'

'I'll be fine,' I said, although I am still trying to imagine the logistics of holding a frame with one gloved hand and trying to nip off the old queen with the other without dropping the whole caboodle and making everyone present VERY angry. I could dangle the frame in the nuc box, but the working space will be very tight, especially when as one will be togged up in bee-keeping garb. And I am very anxious about having to despatch the old queen, even though I know that if I don't then the whole colony will die out. She has tried, bless her, and I suppose it's not her fault that when she was supposed to be going on mating flights, the weather was rubbish and she didn't fancy going out on a date.

I don't know what's going to happen next. I mean, I didn't anticipate this dodgy start to our bee-keeping career, mostly because everyone in bee-keeping we've met this year has said, 'Oh, you won't have any trouble in your first year.'


Still, like a lot of my learning in life, being chucked in at the deep-end makes me get on with the job in hand, and shows me that when faced with a crisis, I can cope and not run around flailing my arms and screaming in wild panic!

But if you hear any screaming coming from the Kent area later today, that'll probably be me.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

And it's goodnight from him...

Heather texted in high excitement last night, from some bar at the Edinburgh Festival where she is currently ensconsed doing some sound and lighting malarkey in exchange for free bed and board.

'I'm in a bar,' she said, 'standing next to Ronnie Corbett! Ha!!'

Not sure what the 'ha!!' was in aid of, but I suspect it was some kind of genetic celebratory chant , because I am known to emit the occasional 'ha!!' in moments of triumph, too.

I don't know why, but my immediate concern was that she would try and pat him on the head. I sent her a text saying 'Hurrah! Do not pat him,' and Andy suggested she ask him for a job.

The evening continued to be punctuated with celebrity-spotting texts, including Mike McShane (who's lost a lot of weight and now sports a 'cute little pointy white beard'(????)), and some actor from 'The Wire,' who I've never heard of, because I don't watch aforesaid programme. Number One Daughter, it seems, is having a whale of a time north of the border.

I've always liked Ronnie Corbett. He always seems to be very polite, very gentlemanly, very well turned out. Unlike me, who has been hedge wrestling all morning and look like, well, I've been hedge wrestling all morning. I'm covered in smudges of green and there is a whiff of chlorophyll about me. But the front hedge looks much neater now, and hopefully that will be the last good cut it will need before winter. Where first thing this morning the hedge looked like Bob Geldof, it now resembles Ronnie Corbett.

Part of the hedge wrestling involved tackling some fairly hefty wodges of bind weed. I don't know where it's all come from this year, but we've been plagued by the flipping stuff. This wouldn't be a bad thing if, for example, bind weed was favoured by the chickens as a light side salad. But it isn't. They have studiously ignored the stuff that has wound its way up the honeysuckle I planted on the boundary of Cluckinghen Palace.

'We can't eat bind weed,' said Miggins, when I asked her about it. 'It's way too common for our palette. Now pass me that slug.'

In fact, the only garden weeds the chickens will deign to eat are dandelions, and at a push, groundsel.
'But birds are supposed to love grounsel,' I said.
'Birds are supposed to do many things,' said Mrs Slocombe, who is off lay at mo because she is moulting,'but we are trend buckers, as well you know.'

And now, because hedge-wrestling and bind weed ju-jitsu have rendered my arms all achey and wobbly, and I have absolutely no idea where this blog is going because when I emerged from 'neath the part of the hedge that is by the front window I banged my head on the window sill and it bloomin' hurt and made me feel sick and stupid for about 10 minutes, I am going to have a slump and a read.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Old Bags

Do you think a hand bag snatcher would be more likely to go for a brightly coloured bag in that it would be easier to spot in a crowd and take a good run and grab at, or a more sober coloured one in that it would blend anonymously into the crowd once grabbed? Only I've been thinking about getting buying a new bag, because, as with shoes, I tend to buy one and use it until it falls to pieces. My current one, a snazzy burgundy number, I've had for 5 years, and it's looking decidely tatty. I am reluctant to give it up as it's been with me, man and boy, through a lot of adventures. Luckily, it has never been snatched, mostly I think because any potential snatcher senses they would get a bloomin' good whallop with it if they tried.

But things like pens and loose change are starting to slide through gaps in the seams. Also, the purse I use with it, which is more than 4 years old, also needs replacing because it, too, is falling apart. But I shan't buy a new purse, oh no! I have decided to employ my bright pink Filofax (8 years old) in its full capacity as 'personal organiser' rather than mere 'diary', and the Filofax has a compartment for cards 'n' cash 'n' other pursely accoutrements like stamps, photos, driving licence etc etc.

But the Filofax is half the size again of my adored ex-purse. It makes the seams of my adored tatty bag strain even more. I mean, I'm not a person who crams their bag full of tat, so I don't need one of those hold-all efforts so adored by the celebrity, but I do need something slightly bigger than the 7 X 11 inch space I have at the moment. And it must have only ONE compartment. None of this multi-zipped, multi-pocketed malarkey for me. I know what will happen otherwise. I'll start separating handbag contents into departments in an OCD kind of way. You know, electronic stuff in one part (i.e my phone and camera), being a writer stuff in another (notebook, pen, pencil, novel), beautifying malarkey in another (hairbrush, tissues, lip balm, tissues)...

You see, it could go on forever, and I don't carry half of this stuff around with me now. But if I get a bag with compartments, I will feel obliged to fill them up with stuff like spare specs, spare tights, a sewing kit, a packet of plasters, insect repellent, stray hamsters etc and then I'll develop some hunch-back type shoulder disfigurement from carting unnecessary stuff around with me.

And then I'll forget which compartment contains what because I am so used to chucking stuff into one compartment, and I'll end up with everything crammed into one part and all the other parts empty and then everything will look cock-eyed and I'll get narky because I've got too much stuff in a very small space to root through whilst trying to find my keys. Or something.

You see, it's going wrong already and I haven't even bought a new bag.

Of course, if I was true to my recycling roots, my make-do-and-mend nature, I would be trying to get both bag and purse repaired. Wouldn't I? But can one repair thinned and cracked leather?

I go through this angst every time I am forced to buy new shoes. I have to REALLY like a bag or a pair of shoes before I will commit cash to them. I don't know why. I find it weird when women go on about how many hundreds of pairs of shoes and matching bags they've got. And when little jokes are made about them having to smuggle yet another pair of slingbacks by their hubbies, who then raise their eyes to heaven in an indulgent way as if to say something like 'Her and her shoes and handbags! Bless!'

So, what to do, what to do? I'll probably be indecisive for a long time. Andy will tolerate a couple of shopping trips, during which I will say, 'I quite like that one,' and he'll say, 'How much do you like it? Enough to buy it?' and I'll say, 'I'm not sure; I'll have to think about it for a while,' and then I'll run from the shop like I'm being chased by an angry bear. And after a calming tea and bun, Andy will ask, tentatively, 'So, shall we go back and get that bag?' and I'll say, 'No, I don't think I like it that much after all.' And then, eventually, I'll be forced into a panic purchase and spend the next five years resenting the thing that's hanging from my shoulder, irritating me with its many compartments and stupid additional strap that seems excess to my requirements but I can't get rid of it because it's been welded into a seam with superglue.

Am I bag-phobic, do you think? I mean, I'm not aware of having been trapped in one as a child. I don't think I've ever been involved in any unpleasant bag-related incidents.

I should ask my mum. She'd know.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Cabbages and Kings

Two anniversaries today worthy of mention...or possibly not. One, today is St Roch's Day, Saint Roch being the patron saint of plague sufferers. So, if you've risen this morning feeling a tad choleric, or typhodic (is that a real word, or is she making them up again?) or you generally feel a bit under the weather in a 'could I be dead by tea-time' kind of way, then Saint Roch is your man. Apparently, he went around curing people in the 14th century, although he suffered from the plague himself. Hmmmm...plague sufferer cures people of plague; was he wandering amongst the population drumming up trade I wonder, a bit like that detective guy played by John Nettles who is always on hand to solve the HUGE number of murders that happen in Midsomer? Do you see where I'm coming from with this? Seems a bit too 'convenient' to me. Still, I expect he meant well.

Secondly, it was two years ago today that I started this blog. Two years! And STILL not a publisher in sight. (Sigh). Ah well, it's been fun. Good Lord...two years...I must be MAD.

Anyway, cabbages and kings, eh? What's she going on about there, then, I hear you wonder. I shall tell you. Yesterday, I was watching the European swimming championships on the telly. It was a purely co-incidental moment; I was practising my massage routine on Andy and needed some stimulus in the background other than the plinky plonky relaxation music I would normally play. You see, I'm trying to get the whole body routine back in my head, and I need some kind of visual/ auditory signposts to get things fixed in my brain. You know, association type stuff. Like the smell of fresh paint always reminds me of Christmas because when I was 14 my Dad decided we were going to move house three days before Christmas, much to my Mum's annoyance because she was ready for Christmas at our old house, so not only did we have to shift all the furniture, we had to dissemble the decorations and then reassemble them at the new house, only without the aid of drawing pins because Dad didn't want pin marks in his freshly painted coving. It caused a bit of hoo-ha, I can tell you.

So, back to my point. I now remember the 'palmor kneading to waist x 3, ironing to lumbar region and re-inforced digital kneading C4 to base of sacrum' part of the routine, because that was when Rebecca Adlington was winning her gold medal. And peppered throughout the coverage were medal ceremonies. And it was during a medal ceremony that I realised what the next new Olympic sport is going to be. Cabbages and Kings!

You remember the game, of course. On Crackerjack (CRACKERJAAAAAAAAAAAAACK!), the end game involved putting children on podiums and asking them general knowledge questions. If they got the answer correct, they were given a prize, if they got it wrong they were given a cabbage. And the game carried on until everyone had dropped their prizes and cabbages, and the last child standing got to keep all the prizes.It's a great game; Andy sometimes plays a version with Phoebe. He waits until she is asleep and then sees how many things he can balance on her before she wakes up.

So, back to the medal ceremony. In the old days, if you won a medal, you stood on the podium and were given your medal. Then, a few years ago, someone thought it would be a nice idea to give bouquets of flowers along with the medal. Something to take home to mum, I suppose. And then yesterday, they were handing out not only medals and bouquets of flowers, but soft toy shaggy dogs, too. Or possible sheep, I couldn't really tell. So these poor medal winners are balancing on their podiums, receiving their medals and juggling bouquets and soft toys.

'I know what it'll be next,' I said to Andy, giving his trapezius a good wringing. 'Baskets of fruit. A medal, a bouquet, a soft toy and a basket of fruit. Then a commemorative board game. Then an umbrella with the games logo printed on it. And then a novelty hat. And then, in 2012, the 'Cabbages and Kings For Olympic Recognition' Committee will put forward their proposal which the Olympic committee will reject as being a stupid idea and the C and K Committee will say 'AHA! But we've been playing the game on the podiums for YEARS now! You can't say no! We win!! Mwhahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!!!!!!'

Or something like that.

And because Andy had dozed off at this point, I hacked his deltoids to wake him up.
'Don't you agree?' I said.
'Uhuh,' said sleepy Andy.

But when you're prone on a massage couch draped only in a towel, you'll agree with pretty much anything your wife says, I suppose.

Anyway, I'm going now. My laptop wants to 'Shut down and restart' for some reason, and although I keep saying 'NO', I suspect it's going to do its own thing regardless, and since this is a lengthy blog, I shall be really annoyed if I lose the whole thing because I've been outsmarted by a stroppy bit of technology.

Happy St Roch's Day! May all your plagues be little ones.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Feet First

I have finally booked myself onto a course that will qualify me to be a reflexologist. I say 'finally' because I've been umming and aaaahing about the decision for a while. I mean, you have to be careful when having anything to do with feet. Feet, I have discovered, are not everyone's cup of tea.

Like when we first got chickens, for example. Many people commented on the chickeness of the chickens - like how their feathers felt more like fur, and how entertaining they were to watch with their crazy chicken antics. But there were many uncomplimentary remarks made about their feet. Along the lines of 'eeurgh, how scaly/ pointy/ scratchy/ dinosaury' they were. Chicken feet are not, apparently, their most attractive feature. I beg to differ of course, having carted chickens around for various reasons for the last two and a half years. I find it rather endearing that a chicken tucked 'neath one's arm will hook their toes around your hand to get a reassuring grip. And although their feet look scaly, they are surprisingly smooth. Like snake skin, I think.

And cat feet are lovely. Well, our cats feet are because they are indoor cats, so their pads are still soft and pink and their fur still fluffy and soft. Cat feet are very cute. Cat feet are like rabbit feet only not so lucky. Mainly because of the claws.

Anyway, I think people have the same reaction to feet as they have to Marmite. You either love'em or hate 'em. I like feet. At least I like my feet. I had a good mum who made me wear properly fitting shoes as a child and then, as an adult, I decided I didn't really like shoes so tend to go shoeless as much as possible which means my feet are in pretty good nick. And I like Baby Kayleigh's feet, too, which are very flexy and grippy and soft as a baby's feet should be. And I like Marmite. In fact, I had Marmite on toast for my lunch today, but that's by the by.

So, come September I am starting a year long course in reflexology which requires much study, many case books, and an exam at the end resulting, hopefully, in a diploma. And because I get antsy about anything that has an exam at the end, I have started studying already to give myself a bit of a head start. Or should I say 'kick start.' But if one wants to be recognised professionally in the holistic therapy world, one has to gain professional qualifications, simple as.

I've decided to follow the reflexology course with one in aromatherapy. And because aromatherapy involves a lot of chemical doo-dah malarkey, I've got a couple of books about that, too, for a bit of pre-course reading to familiarise myself with some of the concepts. So that's my life mapped out for the next two years.

And I've bought a reflexology chair! Having trawled the interwebbly for suitable equipment, and sharply sucked in my breath at the potential cost of it all, the course administrator revealed an interesting tip. 'What we recommend for students to buy,' she said, 'is a steel framed reclining garden chair.' And she named a particular brand, French, which I had already seen on the interwebbly for £110. Apparently, these chairs recline at exactly the right angle, are relatively portable and render the client's feet at the right height for treatment. 'But if you go into Wilkos,' said the course administrator, 'you'll find the exact same chair for £40.'

Well, I was off like a shot. And even better, once my porter, aka Andy, got the chair to the check-out, it was 25% off making it £30!!

The cats have tested it out already. They are not as impressed with it as they are with the sofa, or a basket of fresh laundry. And Pandora was especially not impressed when it fell on top of her and almost squished her like a bug. And much as I love the chickens and their funny little feet, reflexology is not on the menu for them. Although maybe that could be a new angle to get me ahead of the zeitgeist. Reflexology for poultry? Hmmm...

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

A Comedy Of Eateries

'Shall we hie us forth to the glorious town that is Stratford upon the Avon this fine Sabbath Day of Our Lord twenty thousand and ten?' said Mistress Denise.
'Yea, we shalt,' quoth Master Andy, 'but don't be over-doing the olde Englishe, eh?'
'I know not of what you speaketh,' sniffed Mistress Denise, 'but I do know I could partake of a cup of tea pretty soon.'
'Then let us hie to Stratford! At the pull of the power of sixteen hundred horses, we shall be there in the blink of a street hawker's eye,' cried Master Andy.

Our merrie travellers arrived in the town forth-herewith-in.

'Which olde worlde tea shoppe shall we patronise?' said Master Andy. 'Is there a favourite amongst the many that strew the streets?'
'I suggest we hie to Hathaway's Tea Roome,' said Mistress Denise. 'For we have partaken of tea and muffin there once before and you know how I dislike change, and also, although the floors were verily wobbly, there are indoor lavatory facilities available, and not only do I need some tea, mine bladder is verily as full as a swine's after it hath supped a gallon and a quart of ale, foresooth 'tis.'
'Too much information,' quoth Master Andy. 'But to Hathaways! For I can purchase a copy of the Daily News whilst passing on our travail, and we can spend merrily an hour readin' 'n' suppin', me fine beauty.'
'Steady on,' said Mistress Denise, 'th'art slipping into George III forward slash Blackadder speke.'

And so the companions purchased a copy of 'Th'Observer', it having the best available colour supplement compared to the other media offerings of the day. And into Hathaway's Tea Roome they entered, whereupon they were greeted by one sullen maiden who barely could raise an eye from an i-pod (Cor, that was good!), afore muttering 'Upstairs for tea.' A quick glance across her wares showed her eclairs were likely of yesterday's leftovers and not worth a groat nor a French guinea.

'I am liking to visit the indoor facilities firstly,' said Mistress Denise, 'for once I am sat, I may never rise no more.'
'Okay dokey, Mistress Mine,' said Master Andy. 'I shall loiter in the vestibule and toy with my dagger a while.'

Mistress Denise found the indoor facilities lacking in anything soft, strong and absorbent - luckily, for the stars were kind to her that morning, she had a Kleenex in her hand bag.

Once relieved, she returned to the vestibule, where Master Andy toyed with a faraway look in his eye.
'Stop thy toying now, Master Saucy,' said Mistress Denise. 'Let us secure a table in a corner and read a while, and take some tea and maybe a bun.'

For ten minutes and more they sat, on chairs that were verily meant for smaller tushes than the ones they presented, but no matter, for the diet begins tomorrow. Many young serving wenches schlepped around the place, looking for all the world like they wished to be home in the arms of Orpheus. Or is it Morpheus? Or Duveus? It matters not. Onward with the tale! More and more people brought their custom to the tea roome; and then...

'Ere,' said Mistress Denise, 'those people arrived post us, yet are being dealt with kindly by yonder schlepping wench before us.'
'Yea,' said Master Andy. 'And see the party in yonder corner. They have been dealt with also, yet they pitched up a goodly five minutes after our arrival.'
'That's hardly on, is it?' said Mistress Denise, who liked it not to be ignored when in situ as a customer with many groats to spend. 'Is't because we are perched, tight-buttocked, in a corner hiding behind the broadness of 'Th'Observer' dost thou thinkest?'
'Tis possible,' said Master Andy. 'But I am growing verily pi....'
'Yea, verily, me too,' interrupted Mistress Denise, because our heroes were of high-breeding and not ususally given to blaspheming in public, especially on our Lord's Day. 'How long shall we loiter in hope of being delivered of tea 'n' muffin think you?'
'Five minutes?' said Master Andy, for generosity abounded in his veins.

And so they waited five more minutes, rustling their papers, and coughing, and trying to catch the eye of one of the schlepping wenches, but verily, 'twas a waste of precious life, for 'twas as though they were rendered invisible by some dubious plot device like in 'The Tempest' or 'Cymbeline,' or Polonius behind his arrass. And not wishing to be inadvertently stabbed by a Hamlet wannabe, Mistress Denise and Master Andy left, nay SWEPT, from Hathaway's Tea Roome, vowing never to return there again.

'Never shall we darken thy door again,' said Mistress Denise, shaking an angry fist at the facade as they entered into the street.
'Come away hither,' said Master Andy, not wanting his lovely companion to start a scene as she is wont to do when scorned and in need of tea and muffin. 'Let us instead partake of luncheon at the Baguette Barge that floateth 'pon the lovely Avon. They shall not ignore us.'
'Only because they're stuck on a boat,' said Mistress Denise, gumbling like a cat with wind from eating too many mice. (What??????)

But yea verily, Master Andy was right and two baguettes of excellent filling were purchased and consumed whilst sitting on the grass watching some rather entertaining street theatre. Followed by an icecream.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Back From Culture

Within an hour of returning from our annual cultural visit to Stratford-upon-Avon, all three cats presented me with a poo.
'They've been saving them for you,' said Andy. 'Aaaaahhh, sweet...'
'No,not 'aaaahhh, sweet,' I said, scooping the pooping into a bag for disposal. 'But it is nice to know they're still all regular and our absence hasn't induced a stress-related constipation. Gillian McKeith would be proud of those samples.'

Luckily, the dangling cherry tomato plants occupying the hanging basket occupied last year by some dangling strawberries presented me with half a dozen samples of a more agreeable kind, which I had all to myself because Andy thinks raw tomatoes are the food of Beelzebub. Demonic influence or not, they were very tasty.

Usually, when we visit Stratford, we stay at 'The Swan's Nest' which is right next to the Avon and within comedy spitting distance of the theatre. But since they added a swanky new restaurant a couple of years ago, their prices have shot up to ridiculous proportions, so this year we decided to stay a few miles outside the town in an Olde Worlde Tudore Farme House...e. Our room was HUGE!! For a start, you could actually run around inside the bathroom. Properly run around, like in a circuit. Not that we did, well, not after the initial experiment, because the olde worlde floore was very creaky and, over the years, had taken on a bit of tilt.

And the grounds were beautiful. I mean, they had a gardener for heaven's sake. And when you listened for noise, you couldn't hear any, because there was no noise. Except for the minor family contretemps we heard last night through the olde worlde tiltey floore when basically the parents were telling their teenage son that he was a lazy little so and so and no, he couldn't have a day off from his holiday job because he wanted to.

There were two dogs at the B and B. Motto and Gertrude. Motto was a black labrador, who was very polite and very friendly and refrained from climbing onto the breakfast table to get a piece of breakfast toast, unlike some cats I could mention. And Gertrude was a black setter-type, also very polite, a bit more keen to play ball in the garden and determined to re-write the rules of playing tennis, which included ignoring line calls and running off with the ball. She disappeared periodically, and then would return sopping wet, so I assumed there was a pond or stream or river somewhere on the property that we didn't discover.

Andy and I made many speculations about our hosts because that is the kind of juvenile game we play on homeward bound journeys. Were they landed gentry fallen on hard times so had to take in guests? Was the olde worlde farme from his side of the family, or her side, or were they nouveau riche types who made a killing on the stock market and purchased the pile during the last recession for a song, did it up and were now rolling in it, using the B and B takings to fund shonky business dealings in Guatamala? Did their son look spaced out because he had partaken too much off the wacky-baccy, or because he was a teenage boy and they all look like that these days?

Well, we stopped playing the game after a while because we were distracted by an idiot in an Audi (I won't go into Andy's Audi-driver theory here, because it is very complex and not very complimentary.)

And then we arrived home. There will be more of our Stratfordian exploits later in the week, because there is much to tell. Like 'The Hathaway Tea-Roome Nightmare,' 'The Comedy of The Encore Eatery Error', 'The Tale of The As You Like It Big Head' and 'The Jolly Outdoor Theatre Frolic.'

I am bracing myself to write them a la Shakespeare style, but it IS going to take quite a bit of bracing, and I don't quite have the energy to start now, because, having avoided cooking for the last three days, there are people waiting for dinner to be presented before them which means I suppose I'd better get back into the swing of the domestic routine.

Luckily, cat poo duties are over with. For today, at least.

Friday, 6 August 2010


The problem with planting up insect-friendly flowers in one's garden is that one encounters a lot of insects when one goes outside. Take this morning, for instance. Andy was attacked (his words, not mine) by a wasp, a hoverfly and a butterfly. I am not sure whether the words 'attack' and 'butterfly' can be used in the same sentence, especially if the butterfly is the perpetrator of the crime, but that's what Andy said, and I ALWAYS believe EVERYTHING Andy says (!!!!).

And the day before yesterday, when I was making a trip to the compost bin, I was dinged in the forehead by a bumble bee. I don't know who was most stunned, but we both recovered and went about our respective businesses.

For the last few weeks there has been a veritable swarm of bumblebees on the Malarkey lavender. I've counted up to 23 at one time. But this means I've not been able to weed the lavender border, because I don't want to disturb the bees in their activities. I tried to get a hand in on the bindweed the other day, but neither me nor the bumbles were totally happy with the attempt, so I left them, bees and bindweed, to it.

The population of butterflies has increased also. Until a fortnight ago, it was cabbage white, cabbage white, cabbage white. But of late they have been joined by Red Admirals, Blue thingyummy whotsits and tiny little brown and cream frilly things which I can't get close enough to to take a decent photo of for identification purposes. And the hoverflies are very much in evidence, too.

And the ants seem to be having a bumper year, too, both at home and at the allotment.

Oddly, this is the first year for many years that I haven't been bitten by any insects. Touchwood. Usually I've been got at by something at the allotment at least, and various bits of me have swollen up in an 'I'm-allergic-to-insect-bites-pass-the-steroids' kind of way. But this year, for whatever reason, I've been left alone. Perhaps I'm going off in my middle age!! Either that, or the huge amount of Marmite I've been eating is having an effect. Or perhaps I am a la mode in the insect world now I am an official bee-keeper.

On a less than pleasant insect note, Phoebe and Pandora both have ear mites which has necessitated all three Malarkey cats being de-insected for everything from mites to fleas to whatever else insecty-like that enjoys the feel of cat fur between their insect toes. The discovery of ear mites was made on Wednesday when Phoebe had a trip to work with Andy for a blood test. She's been losing weight and drinking more than usual. Her blood sugar levels were fine; we are waiting for the rest of the test results to come back.

Anyway, part of her overall MOT revealed the ear mite problem. Phoebe blamed Pandora for the infestation, being the latest cat to arrive at the Manor; Pandora immediately counter-accused Phoebe because she is the only cat who gets outside into the back garden occasionally.

Tybalt said he didn't know anything, he wasn't there, no-one saw him, you can't accuse me of nuffin' mate.

So, I hearby declare the planting of the bee garden last year as a success. The foxgloves, poppies, morning glory and penstemon have all self-seeded and I shall leave them to do so again this year. The lavender and hollyhocks have established and been nothing short of MAGNIFICENT this year. And the hops? I almost forgot the hops. Last year, very little progress - no flowers, no hops. This year? Yards and yards of growth, masses of flowers and, on closer inspection yesterday morning, tiny hops developing!! I am very much looking forward to harvesting the bines in a few weeks and draping them around the kitchen.

And talking of kitchens, this morning I have foregone my writing time for baking time, because I have a fridge full of allotment produce that needs attention before we go away for the weekend. So, this morning I have made apple and blackberry pie, gooseberry pie, cheese and vegetable flan and soda bread. That should keep Heather the Housesitter happy for the weekend.

I leave you with two thoughts; take your pick, or have both if you fancy.

'If you want to be happy for a year, plant a garden; if you want to be happy for life, plant a tree.'
And, in keeping with the insect theme -

'Happiness is a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may light upon you.'

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Mrs Overall and the Missing Tuna

I had a sudden thought about how much I miss prawns since becoming vegetarian. This is because when Andy and I have a lunch out at our favourite lunch-time snackery, I usually have a jacket potato with prawns or a baguette with prawns. Andy doesn't like prawns; he maintains they are disgusting creatures who hang around sewage outlets far too much to make them safe and decent foodstuff. It never bothered me, having suffered no obvious ill-effects after eating prawns.

And what brought this thought was that on the way home from the Harry Edwards Healing Sanctuary, we stopped off in this little village at a tea-shop which was attached to what appeared to be the post office/ general stores/ purveyor of shrimping nets. And we ordered jacket potatoes. Our order was taken by someone who, both in looks and manner, reminded me of Mrs Overall from Acorn Antiques. I ordered jacket potato with cheese and coleslaw, Andy ordered his potato with cheese and tuna mayonnaise. As Mrs Overall's doppelganger exited with our order, we both instintively knew we were in for a bit of a wait, but that was okay because we both had books with us.

Anyway, our lunches duly arrived. My cheese and coleslaw, and Andy's cheese and tuna mayo...only without the tuna. And with what looked like half a jumbo jar of mayo plonked on top.
'Didn't you want tuna?' I said.
'I did,' said Andy, probing the heap of mayo in case the tuna was hiding somewhere beneath.
Neither of us had the energy to recall Mrs Overall and go through the rigamarole of enquiring after the missing tuna.
'I expect in the kitchen there is a little pot of tuna sitting forlornly, waiting for its mayo, and when Mrs Overall clears up at closing time, she'll find it and wonder what on earth it's doing there,' I said.
'Perhaps she misheard what I wanted,' said Andy. 'Cheese 'n'tuna mayo,' he experimented.
'Well, 'cheese' and 'tuna' have similar sounds,' I said. 'Especially with your accent, you northern weirdo.'
'Eastenders cockney bird,' said Andy.

And we partook of a bit of North/South divide witty banter. My how we laughed! We are so entertaining!

So when I went shopping yesterday, I bought some tuna so Andy can have a proper jacket potato with cheese'n'tuna mayo at home. I draw the line at dressing up like Mrs Overall though.

Right, I've got to go and do some writing now. I am being nagged. 'Stop faffing with the blog,' I am being told. 'Get on with your proper writing.'
'But I like writing my blog,' I say.
'But it's utter drivel,' I am hearing.
'That might well be, but it's my drivel and I like it,' I say.'Besides, Martine McCutcheon wrote a load of drivel and SHE got published.'
'Will you let go of the Martine McCutcheon thing?' they say. 'And you know full well she only got published because she is famous.'

I sigh. They're right of course. For us ordinary writing mortals, who slave away at honing the tiny glimmer of talent we believe we have inside us (in that bizarre delusional way us writing types have), we just have to get on with it without the leg-up of fame, or wealth, or being the friend of a sister-in-law's uncle who knows someone in the publishing trade.

Oh happy co-incidence, where art thou? Oh come to me, the grief-stricken servant of the elusive muse, and change my fortunes, why don't you????

'I'm over here behind the tuna,' says the Happy Co-incidence.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Shuffling Onwards

Three days of weirdness have prevailed. But I now have, by means of various signposts and psychic nudges, taken another step forward along the path to 'I'm Not Quite Sure Where Yet (But It'll Be Okay...Won't It...(???)...Yeah, Bound To Be.)'

One, I have been rejected by Waterstones for a part-time job, 23 hours a week (inc weekends)x minimum wage = £133.40 per week before tax. How did I feel about this? Well, I like the idea of working in a bookshop, because of the books. But the hours were a bit tricky, given I have much else to cram in, so I wasn't unduly upset. I wreak my revenge by purchasing all my bookly requirements from Amazon...mwahahahahahahahaha!!!!!

Two, my old head of department e-mailed. Would I be interested in delivering one-to-one tuition? 6 hours a day x £25 an hour = £125 a day before tax. Definitely one day a week, possibly 2. So less than half the Waterstones hours but nearly double the pay. Well, even I could do the Maths on that one. Plus I get to choose my days.

Three, the visit to the Harry Edwards Healing Sanctuary Open Day has resulted in my application to follow their Level 2 Practitioner Course Certificate in Spiritual Healing. It's a two year course, part-taught, part self-study. It'll involve a bit of trekking but feels both good and right. So the dilemma between Reiki and Spiritual Healing has been resolved by the spur-of-the-moment visit plus an article in a magazine I was given whilst I was there entitled 'What's the difference between Reiki and Spiritual Healing?'

Four, I wrote down how I was feeling yesterday morning, because for some bizarre reason I got up miserable as sin. I felt disjointed, flat and mean. Then I pulled three Tarot cards for myself. The first was 'Schizophrenia,' the second was 'The Miser.' Okay, I said, I know this - I've just written it down - look. What do I do about it? And I pulled a third card which was 'Playfulness.' At lunchtime, my grand-daughter arrived for a visit and I spent the afternoon playing silly baby games. By the evening I was out and about, visiting a friend who has a birthday today, and chanelling some healing for her ancient labrador, who fell so fast asleep on my feet that I thought he'd died. Oops, I thought. Not an auspicious start to the holistic therapy malarkey. 'Only joking!' said the labrador, lifting his head, wagging his tail and giving me a wide-mouthed labrador smile.

Five, I've found a house that makes my heart leap. It's more than we can afford, well, not too much more. It is, as they say, do-able, although I'm not sure Andy agrees. So saving is in order. And if it's our house, then the money will be found. And if it takes a couple of years or so, then the house will either be sold, then put up for sale again, however many times it takes until we can catch up with it, or it will wait for us.

Six, I've started a distance healing list because I was told to. Last night. Lit a candle. Meditated. Ignored all cats who suddenly found me to be the most interesting thing in the Universe. Didn't set fire to house. This was good.

And on Sunday we went for a ride in a Rolls Royce Silver Cloud to a Rolls Royce rally 'n' picnic do. Which was also good. And made me want to buy a Volkswagen Camper van. No idea why, but that's life at the moment!