Saturday, 31 March 2012

I Pad

Today , my blog post is coming to you from my new I-pad! Yes, Andy made me buy one. He will
deny it of course, and say that he has seen the lustful glint in my eye ever since I started playing with his I-pad and knew it would only be a matter of time before I decided to get one as well.

Today was the day. I did responsible things with my hard earned cash to start with, like buying cat food and cat litter and doing a weekly shop at Sainsbugs. And paying another wedge off the mortgage so we are a step closer to moving to a little house with a big garden in the countryside.

And then, because cat accoutrements and food and washing up liquid and motgages are generally boring in the grand scheme of funness, I thought "get the i-pad and join the next step up on the technology ladder!"

So I did, and here I am typing away and making mistakes like somehow managing to change the font colour without knowing it, and knowing even less how to change it back, so it will have to stay, because the last thing one wants to do with one's new toy is throw it at the wall in a fit of pique.

One of the things that I immediately like about this little machine is that the keyboard, if you can call it that, makes little tic-ticketty noises like an old-fashioned type-writer. And the text is automatically checked for spelling so you don't have to correct spelling errors unless it does something like thinking your made up work of 'funness' is, in fact, Furness, as in 'Barrow-in'.

And I like the fact that it is instant in its switch-on-ness unlike my desk top which can take a while to crank itself up. However, I can see a couple of downsides. Like my back is already aching with staring down at the screen, so I shall have to find one of those groovy prop up case doo-dahs (probably in a funky flower design), and I have already incurred a butter smudge where I tried to carry the I-pad, a cup of tea and a buttered hot cross bun all at the same time. So multi-tasking could be a no-no.

Actually, this could be a new slimming aid, because I suspect that the consumption of any food stuff, including cream crackers, is likely to leave smudgy fingerprints everywhere. So no eating when I-padding!

There is also a camera thing where you can picture yourself in various guises like 'wind tunnel' and 'kaleidoscope' and 'hall of mirrors'. There are 9 options and at least seven of them are an improvement on the original, but that is only because I am in a state of raddledness following a stint of Kayleigh baby sitting duty last night which involved lots of playing of wild toddler games, a late night and an early morning because the plumber was coming to sort out the bendy shower tray. And I had to get up to clean the bathroom before he arrived so he didn't think he'd just installed a nice new shiny bathroom in the house of a slattern.

So there we go. My Easter holiday is off to a flying start on the techno-front. The weather is looking a bit rubbish after a week of sunshine, and snow was mentioned on the radio this morning. People have just about stopped panic buying petrol, and I am not bothered about the whole Budget pasty VAT debacle because pretty much all the pasties I know contain bits of dead animal and the last veggie pasty I ate gave me food poisoning.

I have books waiting to be read. I am going into school on Monday and Tuesday morning to do Easter revision sessions for which I am being paid extra and that extra will almost cover the cost of the I-pad. And on Tuesday afternoon, Kayleigh and I are having a girly outing which will no doubt involve more wild toddler games.

And yesterday I was presented with much chocolate at work. And the exciting piece of dietary news this week is this people who eat a lot of chocolate don't put on weight because 'chocolate calories are different.'

I shall be testing this theory. I shall let you know how I progress!

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Farewell, Allotment...

And so yesterday Andy returned the allotment key to Plot 87 to the allotment committee secretary and we became ex-allotmenteers.
I felt a bit traitorous. Like I'd let down our vision of living the good life. Like I'd failed to manage other areas of my life in an efficient way in order to make 'time-room' to keep the allotment going. But really, after six years we've done the right thing. We both work full time, in stressful jobs. We both have other hobbies that take up our weekends. We have a house and garden to take care of, and three bee hives too, which are already showing signs of going crazy again this year. And we've learned a lot about growing our own.
What could I have sacrificed for the allotment? Writing? No way - writing makes me happy. Writing is what I do, first and foremost (Darn...if only I could make it pay!!). Reading? Nope. I love reading. I'd be a rubbish English teacher if I didn't read. Arty-crafty stuff? Well, that's sporadic as it is, and I want to do more of it.
No. The allotment grew too time consuming....
However.... our garden at home we have rhubarb growing and the transplanted gooseberry bushes are full of leaf. The raspberry canes are looking okay. The jury is out on the grape vines but we live in expectation. The hops and the herbs are putting on fresh growth. The apple and the damson and the nut trees are in leaf and blossom and baby catkin. And there are seeds planted up in the greenhouse - flowers and tomatoes. And Andy has made a new veg bed next to the herb garden. He has planted beetroot and spinach, broccoli and cabbage and something else, he can't remember what. The veg bed is netted and fenced against Les Mademoiselles Poulets who in turn are looking quite keen to un-net and fence it.
This weekend bean seeds will go in, and courgettes and lettuce. As they grow they will live in pots around the front of the house, turing the concrete oasis of our driveway into a lush forest of green and heaven help any of the local yobs who try and tamper with our runners.
And so we are carrying on! Not as allotmenteers, but as cottage gardeners. Which, quite frankly, I prefer the sound of. It suggests the need to wear a large floppy hat, and Victorian-style bloomers, and wander around snipping at things with lady-like scissors and depositing them in a nice little willow basket carried casually across my arm. It suggests gentle pottering rather than hefty slogging, genteel faffing rather than sweaty huffing.
I like that we have everything on site so we can keep an eye on it. If something is looking droopy, we can nip out and water it there and then. We can catch weeds as they happen rather than giving them a week's growth from Monday to Friday. And if we want to spend a day gardening, we have loo and tea and biscuits on hand rather than two miles across the other side of a busy town.
No more clearing up takeway debris that foxes have stolen from bins and spread across our plot on a Saturday night. No more fretting that we can't get to the allotment to water everything when we have a dry spell. No more listening to the comments of allotment neighbours (all retired and time-rich) who say things like, 'Haven't seen you here for a while.' No more missing perfect picking moments of the soft fruit and salad stuff.
It's not all bad.
One day we'll have a bigger garden. But for now, our little garden will do.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Fairies and Stories and Lions made from Wool

I am afraid I am still having little giggles of a very immature, not to say childish manner, over some bits and bobs I read in the papers yesterday. I think these silly things have been specially put into the papers to cheer up us Scorpios who are still recovering from the chaos, nay trauma, of the Grand Trine House Party Experience of last week.

The best giggle goes to the name of a mistress of a Duke of Britain, the story of whom is causing a minor scandal in the red-top rags at the moment. His name was something ordinary and dukey, like Edward, or James or something. But her name? Jeannie McWheeny! I kid you not. I'm sorry, but reading that caused me to snort into my cup of tea. And then it caused me to think of writing a children's story based on a little tiny fairy-type creature called Jeannie McWheeny-Tweeny who lives in the sporran of a wee Scottish lassie called Joanie McWoany, who, because she lives in Scotland where there is a dearth of light, warmth and sunshine, is in a constant state of depression. And that her depression lifts when fairy Jeannie McWheeny-Tweeny emerges from the sporran releasing a huge shiny ray of sunshine and warmth. A bit like having your own portable light-box.

Well, it got me thinking about focusing on writing again, which has been let slip over the last few weeks mainly due to the exhaustion of teaching all day, getting involved in after-school drama activities and being fatefully caught up in a Grand Trine. So I went to Waterstones yesterday and bought a book of writing activities to get me back in the saddle so to speak. (I also bought the follow up book to 'The Morville Hours' which is called 'The Morville Year' which is a stonking good read and makes me want to move to Hereford/ Shropshire even more.)

'What about the article on the regional celebrations of the 'Lympic Games?' says Mrs Pumphrey.

Mrs Pumphrey has come into the Manor kitchen to assist in the extracting of the honey from the supers we brought home yesterday. Her method involves sitting beneath the colander with some bread and butter, catching the honey as it drips on the aforesaid bread and butter and then eating the bread and butter in the manner of a chicken who hasn't been fed for a fortnight.

'I was coming to that,' I say.
'Tell them about the three enormous crocheted lions,' says Mrs P.
'Well, you've just spoiled the story,' I say, crossly.
'Shall I carry on whilst you de-cross yourself?' says Mrs Pumphrey.
'Yes,' I say.

'Well,' says Mrs Pumphrey, 'Britain has been divided into twelve regions and each region has developed an arts project to celebrate the 'Lympic Games in July. And one region, I forget which, has decided its art project will be the crocheting of three enormous lions.'

'The story appears to have lost its sense of surprise and appeal,' I say, wearily.
'But you haven't heard what Mrs S and I are planning as our cultural arts event for the 'Lympics,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'I think I'm going to stop eating honey now. I feel a bit sick.'
'Very wise,' I say. 'So what is the Much Malarkey Manor project going to be? Not that I care that much as I hate sport but I'll support you in your endeavours as my chickens and my friends.'
'Thank you kindly,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'We are going to...' (and she does a tinny drum roll on the side of the honey dripping colander) '...batik a thousand bats!'
'Not literally, I hope,' I say, thinking of the inevitable knock on the door and hefty fine from the British Wildlife Conservation Trust for Bats and Other Leathery Winged Creatures Like Pterydactyls Called Norbert.

'Of course not,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'And if you are going to add asides, could you make them shorter, please, only they are interrupting the flow of my prose.'
'Do continue,' I say.
'The bees are going to provide the wax, and we're going to use natural dyes from the flowers in the garden,' continues Mrs P. 'And Tango Pete is donating the ball of rubber bands he's been collecting since 1983, in order for us to er...rubber band-up the fabric prior to dipping it in the dye.'
'And where is the fabric coming from?' I say.
'Ah,' says Mrs P. 'That's the cunning part. You know it's Spring?'
'Yes,' I say.
'What do cats do in Spring?'
'I daren't say,' I say.
Mrs Pumphrey gives me a stern look. 'They moult,' she says. 'And you have three cats which equals a lot of fur.'
'You're telling me,' I say, as I am in constant hoovering mode at the moment, and often leave the house with furry trousers.
'Well, Mrs Slocombe is collecting the fur...'
'Not from the hoover?'
'Might be...'
'And she has today begun weaving it into a luxurious fabric ready for the batiking thereof!' says Mrs Pumphrey.

I sit a few moments, in silence, pondering the wonder of it all.

'You see!!' shrieks Mrs Pumphrey. 'Everyone is contributing to the project! And by the end of July, one thousand bats will have batik jumpers made from cat fur fabric and bees wax, er...wax!'

'Do bats need jumpers in July?' I say. 'Furry jumpers?'
'They're getting them whether they like them or not,' says Mrs P. 'And I defy any of them to refuse.'

Indeed, I think. It will take a very brave bat to refuse a jumper from a chicken on a mission.

Today's blog was brought to you by Surreal - for all your Escape From the Real World needs.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Home-made Honey Extracting Kit

You will need:
1) a preserving pan
2) a colander
3) four rubber bands
4) a knife
5) a hair dryer
6) the patience of a saint
Today, we went to check our out-apiary for the first time since the hives were put to bed last Autumn. Andy had made a couple of fleeting visits to put feed on the teeny tiny colony, the colony we were worried about surviving through Winter but other than that the hives have been undisturbed.
But it seems we needn't have worried, because when we arrived at 11.30, with the sun making it feel more like June than March, the bees were diving in and out of the teeny colony hive like crazy things, the Queen was all present and correct and there were both larvae and capped brood in evidence, so she had been a busy laying girl already.
Same for Queen Philibert's colony - slightly bigger, equally busy on the larvae and capped brood front. Many bees wearing enormous trousers of bright yellow and orange. Hurrah!!
But the large hive, supered-up by two, was quiet. Ominously quiet. No bees. No activity. No nothing.
And inside, a little balled huddle of bees, deceased and crumbling.
Sad. Very sad. There was no obvious sign of disease as we looked over the frames and dismantled the hive piece by piece. What had happened? Last August, the hive had been crammed to bursting.
'Of course,' I said, 'we never did see the Queen in this colony. Perhaps there never was a Queen. P'raps it died out because of that.'
We think that might be the case. We don't know for sure. But what we did find ourselves with were two supers of honey stores, so we took them home and they stayed in the car (on the hottest day of the year so far - not a clever thing) whilst we decided what to do with them given our lack of electrical extraction kittage.
Firstly we discarded the upcapped stores - there's enough tummy gurgling going on in this house without adding live yeast to the equation. And then Andy made the Home-made Honey Extracting Kit as outlined above using bits from the kitchen. Like a Boy Scout on a mission he was.
Quite quickly, the elastic bands that attached the colander to the preserving pan were abandoned; I don't know why because at this point I had retreated to the living room to read for a while because I wasn't sure I could cope with the whole sticky mess of the process.
The comb was thrown, wax 'n' all, into the colander and then mooshed about a bit to break it up. 'Mooshing' is a technical term for 'mushing and squishing with a wooden spoon'. Monks used to do it before electricity was invented. Trust me, they did.
The result 'moosh' was left to drip at its own pace. Several trips were made to the kitchen to assess the speed of drippage and when it wasn't deemed fast enough, I suggested the application of a hairdryer - honey + heat = drip, drippety, dribble x fast.
This, along with more gentle mooshing, seemed to do the trick.
'Only six more frames to go,' said Andy cheerfully.
So we might be done by, well, next Wednesday I suppose. And there will be another 8 or 10 jars of honey. And we've still got three hives which are making progress as expected. Because the top bar hive of Queen Olga is busy also. We don't know what is going on inside the top bar because we aren't quite brave enough to take off the lid and find out. Free form comb and all. Could be a jungle in there.
And we've got a spare hive for swarming emergencies, too. Providing Andy doesn't go too wild with the blow-torch during the scourging process.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

The Grand Trine

So all this week, the astrologer in the Daily Rant has been saying 'Oooh, it's all happening for Scorpios this week, because they are experiencing a Grand Trine in their house.'

And all I can say is that I hope I get good warning of the next time the Universe plans to hold a Grand Trine party in my house, and invites Pluto and Mars, because I shall be skipping the country toute de suite and hiding in a cave in a mountain in the Back of Beyond with a cat for company, some good books to read and a packet of Jaffa cakes for sustenance until it's all over.

On the good side of the Grand Trine thing (what ever that is - I asked Mrs Pumphrey and she assured me it was something to do with the time of year that Neptune polishes his spears; I am not convinced) I had a call from the A level student I tutored at the beginning of the year, with the news that following her re-sit exam in January she raised her grade from a 'C' to an 'A'. This means my 'getting private student grade A's record' remains at 100% and is proof that pretty much all students who are motivated and taught one-to-one will achieve top grades, ergo schools that refuse to permanently exclude yobs and layabouts and cram as many children into a class as possible might need to re-examine their methods for rising up the league tables.

Secondly, I was observed for a Performance Management lesson (aka 'Are you still worth the money we are paying you?') with my mad bottom set Year 10 class, and I was graded as 'OUTSTANDING' by the new Ofsted criteria which basically means I am a brilliant teacher and I'll take a pay rise now, thank you very muchly. (I'm not holding my breath for the pay rise.)

I was surprised, and exhibited as such when I got my feedback.
'What did you think you got, then?' I was asked by the deputy head.
'Satisfactory with hints of chaos,' I replied.

But if that's what Ofsted wants now, if that's what they think raises progress, then that's what I shall supply. And as soon as the mortgage is cleared, I shall be out of teaching because creating deliberate chaos in a class is very exhausting for women of a certain age. Especially ones that like order and control and peace and quiet. Like me.

Well, the upshot is I am highly feted amongst Senior Management at the moment, which I shall make the most of, as the Rule Of School means, having peaked, I am now on the downward swing towards being hailed as rubbish again.

I'm not sure I can bring myself to report on the downside of the Grand Trine house party. The results though have been very little sleep all week, a bout of gastro-enteritis, the sad death of a friend, a to-do with the police and a hospital and a missing person, a full set of mock exam papers that need marking NOW, and this morning (because every cake need a cherry), no water because of a burst water main along the road. Luckily, because of the massive downpour we had last night (are the two events connected??) we have a full water butt and can at least flush the loos.

And hey! The sun is a-shining! There are buds a-budding on the apple tree, the willow and the roses. There's blossom a-blossoming on the damson tree and the magnolia! The bees they are a- flying! There's violets and bluebells and lupins and cowslips and rhubarb (don't ask!) shooting up in the front garden. The lavender is putting on new growth. And there are little tips of hops appearing on bines that promise to be the size of oak trees this year.

I survived the Grand Trine of Scorpio 2012. I didn't enjoy it, but I survived it. But can I just say, if the Universe is listening, that I'd like a spot of peace 'n' quiet for a few weeks now. And maybe some water so I can have a cup of tea. And a boiled egg and toast for lunch.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Never Quite the Same

When things are never quite the same...

1) lavender bags after you've accidentally put them through a cycle in the washing machine

2) books when you read them on a Kindle

3) teen pop idols when you see them live in concert 30 years later

4) bosoms after you've had children

5) ditto bladders

6) ditto sleep

7) home-made cakes when you use margarine instead of butter

8) newspapers when they 'newly improve' them and hike the price by 5p a cover

9) Evenings and weekends when you are now on Day 70 of 'No TV For Me.'

That's ten weeks! Cor! Occasionally I glance at the TV guide to see if I am missing anything, but I've not experienced a sinking heart as yet. A friend asked the other day if I had tried the new chocolate Philadelphia cheese spread.
'They're making chocolate Philadelphia cheese spread?' I said.
'Yes,' she replied, 'haven't you seen the adverts?'

Well, of course, I hadn't. They wouldn't have worked anyway because I don't even like the original Philadelphia cheese spread. There's something icky-sicky about it which should never happen with cheese.

Went shopping today to get Kayleigh's birthday present. She's going to be 2 on Wednesday. I can't believe how quickly the time has flown since she was born. Spent the rest of the day trying to think of an original business opportunity, because I am feeling like being my own boss.

Mrs Slocombe is no help. So far she has suggested:

a) Camel Hiking with Tea - One Hump or Two

b) The Knitted Shrew and Gannet Company - unusual soft toys for unusual children

c) Pig Cheeses

d) Wash 'n' Go Lavender Bags

e) The Honey Trap - she was quite excited about this until I pointed out that a honey trap was actually a frame on which bees built honeycomb so she suggested...

f) Honey Combs - for bees to keep their hair tidy

At this point I told her to go away as she was being unhelpful, to wit she said I'd regret rejecting her ideas especially the pig cheese one as no-one had cornered the market for home produced pig cheese and I said there was probably a very good reason for that.

Anyway, more thinking this evening, maybe even some proper planning with pencil and paper. I suspect the planning will amount to little more than a page full of my usual random 'doodles-whilst-I'm-thinking' i.e rainbows, sunshines with faces, triangles, umbrellas, bees, flowers, bubbles, balloons and spiders dangling off webs.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Drama Queen

As if I didn't have enough to do at school as it is, in a crazy moment of comradely bonhommie I thought 'I know! I'll go and offer my assistance with this term's production of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream.'

So off I trotted to the drama studio, where Paul, the drama teacher fell upon my offer with the gratefulness of a starving wolf. And having been a Head of Drama myself I know how he felt because most teachers will give drama a wide berth because they think it is a subject that only gives the wilder student element an opportunity to be even wilder. And it makes you smell of dodgy make-up.

And after last night's rehearsal I think they may have a point.

Because when I made my offer I foolishly disregarded the other things that happen on Thursdays at our school which would require my attention, like Parent Evenings and Open Evenings and other Evenings dedicated to raising the profile of the school so that we get enough bums on seats in September to ensure our employment for another year.

Thus I found myself yesterday teaching all day until 3.05, then dashing to the studio for a two hour rehearsal, then dashing to the Hall for the 6th form parent evening, my heart pounding like a loon because I also thought it would be a good idea to join in with the drama games and spent a goodly hour hurtling around the studio with a bunch of 14 to 17 year olds and Paul who is 30 if he's a day and as thin as a rake and therefore fleet of foot and fit as a butcher's dog.

As I collapsed in my chair in the Hall, trying to look not too pink and flustered as the first parents arrived to grill me on their child's progress, I thought, 'You are a 46 year old granny and 20lbs overweight. You are an IDIOT!'

But it was fun!

And then I found myself standing in Sainsbugs at 6.45. I thought, 'What am I doing here?' So I phoned Andy.
'Have you got anything on the go for dinner?' said I.
'Well,' said Andy, 'I've just started to make a lasagne thingy. Why?'
'I'm in Sainsbugs,' I said.
'If you'd rather have something else, I can have this deconstructed lasagne thingy for my lunch tomorrow,' said he.
'Okay,' I said. And hung up.

And I stood in the chilled food aisle for a few minutes, staring (as you do) and then I wondered what on earth I was doing there. So I called Andy again.

'So what did we actually decide about dinner?' I said.
'I'm not sure,' said he. 'Were you going to buy something as you are standing in Sainsbugs?'
'I can't remember,' I said. 'That's why I phoned you back.'
'I've already been to Sainsbugs,' said Andy. 'On my way home from work.'
'Me, too,' said I. 'I'm here now.'
'I know,' said Andy.
'Shall I get something for dinner,' said I.
'If you like,' said Andy. 'I've already bought eclairs. I thought you might need them.'

You see, he is a very wise and sensitive man, my Andy.

Well, eclairs are very nice, but they don't constitute a balanced diet, especially for us re-invigorated drama queens who are thinking maybe we have taken on more than we can manage and better start working on our fitness levels. So I bought some tomato and mozzarella filled pasta (veggies, carbs and protein), and a chunky veggie sauce (more veggies) and a garlic butter baguette (carbs and blood-thinning, heart guarding, breath enhancing) and tub of coleslaw (more veggies, fat) to go with the eclairs (fat, fat and fat) and it balanced out very nicely indeed!

And today I knew it was time to come home when I reached a point marking some Year 11 work on Romeo and Juliet and found myself reading about 'fry a lorance.'

'A what?' I said out loud. 'A lorance? What the heck is a lorance?'
'Oh, you wouldn't like it, you being a vegetarian and all,' came a voice from 'cross the ether, for yeah, 'twas Mrs Pumphrey with whom I have developed a scary telepathic bond.
'Well?' I said, hoping no-one would walk into my classroom and discover me talking to myself. 'What is a lorance?'
'It's a small lizard,' said Mrs Pumphrey (telepathically). 'It's sort of the mammalian equivalent to a sprat. You fry 'em whole because once you've faffed about getting the skin off and the bones out there's not much left and you might as well....'
'STOP!!' I shouted. 'This is too much information.' And I said this as someone who felt the urge to purchase a frying pan last weekend specifically for her own vegetarian use because there seems to be a renewed effort by some members of the Manor to reek the house out by cooking bacon and mince and other bits of dead animal carcass and it offendeth mine nostrils.

'You asked,' said Mrs Pumphrey. 'Of course, fry a lorance might also be the character from Romeo and Juliet who marries the tragic couple in the misguided hope it will bring together the warring families of Capulet and Monty Goose...I mean Montagues.'

Dear reader, I have re-read this post and I am concerned about my state of mind. I'm glad it's the weekend. And I'm glad that the sun does not set until gone 6 p.m and that we are promised a warm and sunny couple of days.

Bit of serotonin, that's what I need. That'll sort the old brain out.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Reading and Writing

Four o'clock this morning and I was suddenly awake. I'd like to say it was because I had received divine inspiration from my Guardian Angel of Writing giving me a prod and urging me to get up and begin my Best Selling Novel. I imagine my Guardian Angel of Writing doing such a thing because I think Angels have no concept of time and have the freedom of spirit to leap into creative action regardless of the time we humans have imposed on our lives.

And if it had been she (or he, I'm not Angelist), I'd have leapt forth and nipped across the landing to my arty-crafty writing room and sat at my computer and written and written until the job was done, because that is how I imagine such Angel-inspired events should be played. And then it would be MY turn to be interviewed by some left-wing glossy magazine and come over all smug...

'Ah yes, of course, I started writing at 4 a.m, couldn't stop - the urge was so great. Darling hubbie brought me lightly scrambled ambrosia sprinkled with nectar at 8.30, and by mid-day the script was finished and in the post to Penguin/ Harper/ Corgi/ Virago. First thing Monday morning my agent calls to tell me I've started a bidding war and by Friday I was able to buy a mansion in the country and a pony called Callista.'

HA! I was, in fact, woken by 6 assorted socially inadequate, intellectually challenged yobbos and yobbettes effing and blinding at each other in a drunken fracas (something about shoes - I know, don't ask), right on the corner of our road. And what I really wanted to do creep out incognito, follow them to their houses, wait until about 9am and then start yellin' and fussin' (no swearing - I know better words than that) outside their windows and see how they liked it. Unfortunately a) I'm basically too much a coward to deal with the ensuing and inevitable revenge attacks and b) I suddenly had a really good idea for an A level coursework question, so I wrote that down instead because no matter how many times I repeated it to myself I knew that if I went back to sleep, it would be gone by the time I woke up again.

And whilst I was up I had a little chat to the Guardian Angel of Moving People to Quiet Places in the Country Preferably Herefordshire, just in case he/ she was listening.

I did actually have a momentous moment of writing inspiration last weekend. On Saturday I thought, 'Just sit down and write you lazy dollop', so I did, and I struggled to cough up 1,000 words. And then I woke up Sunday morning and a moment of clarity settled on my brain, and I deleted the 1,000 words from the previous day and replaced them with 3,467 words on exactly the same focus but from a different viewpoint and in a different style. 'Much better', I thought, because writing cheers me up enormously.

As does reading. And I am pleased to say that, having been selected to be a Giver for the first World Book Night last year, I have been successful in my application this year, too, which means I shall have a bunch of books to give away for freebies on World Book Night 2! The format for World Book Night has changed slightly this year. Last year Givers could apply for one title only, and were handed 48 copies of the book to distribute at their will. I got 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time.' This year, you could apply for 3 different titles, and the number of books you'd get if successful was 24 which I think is a much more manageable number, especially as you have to collect them from your local bookshop or library.

So, on World Book Night 2012 I shall have 24 copies of my third choice - 'The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic' a chick-lit masterpiece - to give away.

I'll have to re-read it. Can't for the life of me remember what it was about. But I know I enjoyed it at the time!

And lastly, before Andy and I go out for a National Trust lunch fix, welcome to new MMM guest, Sandi! Mrs Pumphrey has laid an egg in your honour!