Sunday, 29 April 2012

And the Final Scores...

...white loaves - 4
...pasties - 8
...hand crafted lavender bags - 1
...student university personal statements rewritten - 1
...documents created to help 6th form prepare for A level exams in two weeks' time - 4
...copies of documents printed at my own expense because a new printing budget has been imposed at school - 28
...burnt tea towels - 1
...poos done outside litter tray because a cat was facing the wrong way - 1
...rain showers today - 3 gazzillion
...desks purchased - 1
...chocolate dollopy biscuits - lord knows; they all merged into one
...Cornish fairings - 6 (these deserve an award - they were YUM!)
...calories consumed - who's counting?
...polenta fridge disasters - 1 and never to be repeated
...cats sitting on the sofa - 2... Therefore...
...humans sitting on the floor - 2 (how does THAT work???)
...exhausted Master Bakers who have just requested an extra day to be added to the weekend - 1

And that concludes the scores for a VERY busy Sunday here at Much Malarkey Manor.

The Master Baker

I am upstairs hiding in my arty crafty writing room, firstly, because I have work to do for school and secondly, because the Master Baker aka Andy is downstairs making much a-banging and a-crashing in the kitchen. And I made the mistake of going downstairs to investigate the banging and the crashing only to discover doughy, chocolatey carnage taking place. So I scurried back upstairs again.

'I thought everything was looking quite tidy for me,' shouted Andy from the baking war zone at my retreating back. He had a big blob of flour on his nose. I was thinking, 'His career as Master Baker will never take off unless he gets his image sorted out. You'd never catch Gordon Ramsay with a big blob of flour on his nose.' Mind you, you'd never catch Andy indulging in unnecesary effing and blinding a la Ramsay-style and Andy's face never looks like it needs a good ironing either, so I know which one I'd prefer to cook my dinner for me.

Today, the Master Baker is trying to perfect his large white bloomer. He is attempting to reach the 'elastic window'. The elastic window is that magic moment when the dough has been kneaded to a state of such silky flexibility that you can stretch it so thinly you can hold it up to the light and almost see though it. Something to do with gluten.

After 25 minutes of kneading (I think it's called 'Baking Gym'), the Master Baker achieved a state of 'elastic window that needs its nets washing.' He wasn't wholly happy. I blame the cold weather. If I was gluten I'd be refusing to make an appearance, too.  We're nearly in May and it's freezing. And wet. No, not wet - saturating. And the wind - good grief, who'd have thought the sky had so much wind in it. Hasn't stopped for two days. Where does it all come from, this wind? And, more importantly, where does it all go? A brief gap in the rain, and the popping out of the sun, has resulted in a mass exodus from the top bar hive; bees are bombing in and out in what can only be described as a state of personal desperation aka need to go on a poo break.

Back to the Master Baker. The Master Baker is also experimenting with biscuits. And little beef and chilli pasties. In otherwords, he is multi-tasking. Even though we have a double oven, there seems to have been some confusion between using one oven only in combination with a timer that was accidentally reset during the baking of chocolate chip cookies. This, along with the fact the Master Baker used large chunks of chocolate from a bar rather than your actually chocolate chips, meant that the biscuits lost their form, so to speak, and emerged er...chocolatey, floppy dollopy.They taste good, but texture-wise they aren't the kind of biscuit that could hold their own whilst being dipped in a cup of tea, for example.

There is also something going on which is being referred to as the 'Polenta Flour Disaster.' It's in the fridge at the moment. I daren't look. It's something to do with the chilli beef pasties so I won't be eating them being a veggie and all, but it's causing Andy a lot of angst. Wrong type of polenta apparently. As far as I am concerned, any type of polenta is the wrong type of polenta. When I go to Italy, I shall be steering clear of polenta, you mark my words.

And now, dear reader, he has set fire to a tea-towel! Our oven, you see, has a hot plate. And even when the hotplate isn't switched on, it still gets hot at the back where the gas flames generate heat from the right hand oven. And I soon discovered that if you rested anything clothey or papery on the hot plate whilst the right hand oven was on then the clothey/ papery thing was likely to a) get very hot or b) get singed.

I warned Andy. I did. I showed him the singed tea-towel. 'Be careful,' I said.

'Can I smell something burning?' I said five minutes ago, when Andy appeared to ask if I wanted a cup of tea.
'Yes,' said Andy. 'A tea-towel.'
'Did you leave it on the hot plate?' I said.
'Yes,' said Andy, 'and I know you warned me about leaving tea towels on the hot plate...'
'I warned you about leaving tea-towels on the plate,' I said.
'I know!' said Andy. 'It's because I am trying to multi-task.'
'I've already written about the dangers of that,' I said.
'You're not writing a blog about me baking are you?' said Andy.
'Of course I am,' I said. 'It's the most entertaining that's happened all week.'

He's just been up to borrow a ruler. He's holding a ball of pastry. Something requires 'precise measuring.'

No, dear reader. I didn't ask.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

As those of you who are cat owners (or rather, who share their homes with cats, because as we well know, cats will not be owned by anyone)are aware, they are creatures who take their time about getting things done unless those things involve a) food b) chasing random light spots or c) food, in which case they develop the speed of a gazelle with a lion up its end.

So it has taken nearly a week since MMM resident (Texas Suite) Deanna, suggested (now we are chickenless)that I focus my anthropomorphic tendencies on the cats, and me suggesting it to the cats, and for them to decide whether they agree to being thrust into the media spotlight and having every inch of their fascinating nine lives scrutinised by a global audience. I have to say I wasn't going to say anything to them about Deanna's idea because I wasn't sure I could cope with the ensuing ego-expansion, but I've been so miserable this week being unable to talk to and through the animals, and the bees aren't being very helpful, hiding as they are from the torrential rain we've been treated to for the last three weeks or so, that I thought, 'What the heck' and mentioned it to Phoebe, Tybalt and Pandora,and they disappeared into a judgely huddle to consider terms and conditions.

Tybalt appeared at lunchtime, dressed in an expensive-looking suit and toting an even more expensive-looking briefcase. He dumped it on the kitchen table. He looked a bit cross.

'Are you okay?' I said. 'You look a bit cross.'
'This isn't my cross face,' said Tybalt. 'This is my pants are too tight face.'
'Why are you wearing pants that are too tight?'said I. I had slight sympathy with him because earlier in the week I put on a pair of 80 denier tights under my trousers because it was so cold and they've turned the heating off a school, and somehow during the day the tights did a 45 degree swivel and almost cut off the circulation to my knees.

'I don't know,' said Tybalt. 'I got a set of five pairs for Christmas and all of a sudden they feel bit tight. I think they may have shrunk in the wash. I can't think I've done something silly like put on weight.'
'Well,' I said, 'I didn't like to say anything, but you are looking a bit chubby...'
'How very DARE you!!' said Tybalt. 'And may I say you are a fine one to talk.'
'All right,' I said, because the last thing I wanted to do was get in a fat slinging episode with a cat in too tight pants. 'Take the weight off your Y-fronts and tell me what's in the briefcase.'

Tybalt opened the aforesaid case. He hefted a massive folder from it onto the table. Unfortunately he also hefted it onto the soda bread that Andy had made earlier, and turned it into a soda pancake.
'Terms and conditions,' said Tybalt. 'Before me and the girls will allow you to write about us in your log.'

I didn't like to tell him I'd already started.

'Let's hear them then,' I said. Tybalt reached into his waistcoat pocket and perched a pair of pince-nez on the end of his nose.
'I didn't know you wore glasses,' I said.
'They're purely for gravitas,' said Tybalt. 'Are you going to make many interruptions only I've go an appointment with my chiropractor in half an hour?'
'I shall stay schtum,' I said, 'but only because I am writing this on my I-pad and I'm still having trouble getting to grips with the punctuation settings.'
'Writing what??' said Tybalt, suspiciously.
'Nothing,' I said.

Tyablt began.

'Firstly, Phoebe wishes to be known by her full title which is the Grand Duchess Tsarina of Phoebely Phoebum Phoebovitch in recognition of her majestic Russian heritage. Why are you sniggering?'
'You said 'bum' ' I said. Tybalt glared at me over the top of his pince-nez. It's a very effective look. I think I ought to get some to wear at school.

'Secondly, Pandora wants a sparkly pink ballerina costume, some sparkly pink fairy wings, a sparkly pink pair of ballet slippers and a pond.'
'A pond?'
Tybalt frowned.'Sorry,' he said,'can't read my own writing. A wand.'
'Sparkly pink?' I said.
'Black,' said Tybalt. 'She wants it to double up as a map pointer for when she does the weather reports for Catavision Today.'
'And what do you want?' I said.
'All I want is a room somewhere,' said Tybalt.
Oh-oh, I thought.
'Somewhere far from the cold night air...'
'Tybalt...' I warned.
'With one enormous chaise...'
'You always do this!' I said. 'Absolutely NO songs from the musicals. I don't think I could stand the pace.'
'That'd be luvverly,' sang Tybalt.

And on a very high note, he pirouetted from the kitchen, his tight pants creaking, off to a probably much needed appointment with his chiropractor.

I suppose I should be grateful I got off so lightly. I was expecting them to demand much more. But they are fickle creatures and now, at this very minute, Pandora is sitting almost nose to nose with me looking a bit bug-eyed.

'Where is my pink sparkly tu-tu?' she says.

And so it all begins...

Thursday, 26 April 2012

All Pink...except for the Grey

I am still here. Quiet, but still here. Covered in paint splats, breathing in fumes from a new carpet and with a preserving pan full of wallpaper paste because it was raining and I couldn't be bothered to venture into the garden to find a bucket, and I over-estimated the amount of wallpaper paste I'd need, and now Andy thinks I should use up the remainder and make a paper mâché head, but I am still here.

In my arty-crafty room. Which has turned out a bit...well, pink. A rose pink carpet. Pink wallpaper with teeny pink roses upon it. Pale pink paint called 'Pashmina' on the walls. White curtain pole and white voile curtains with white flowers on them. So not entirely pink.

I've been sitting here in the middle of the floor, looking around and enjoying the pinkness, and I suddenly thought, 'This is the kind of bedroom I'd have like when I was a little girl.' Only when I was a little girl I had to share with a room with two siblings, and I didn't get my own room until I was 14, and then, because my Dad saw no reason for decorating anything in a colour other than magnolia, I was surrounded by magnolia.

Ooooh, and I've just ordered a mini chaise-longue! That was really exciting. Always wanted a chaise. Found a lovely grey and silver one that's made in Britain. Tybalt, my fabulously camp boy cat, is curled up on a cushion beside me where the chaise will go when it arrives. I think he knows a chaise is on the way. I think he thinks he will look rather fetching reclining on a chaise. I think he is staking his claim. I think he'd better think again.

The chaise is my cheer-me-up pressie for the unholy week that has been this week. Too much rain...lord, it hasn't stopped. A quiet garden. Except for the infernal rain. Redundancies at work. I am assured my job is safe, and that as soon as a permanent position arises it shall be mine, but the promise of a permanent contract suddenly cannot be made, so I continue to cover other maternity posts (they are a fecund bunch in my department)until Christmas at least. Some horrid year 10 boy calling me a 'bitch' today. My nice year 11 boys threatening to beat him up for me. I said thanks for the offer, but being a 'bitch' I think I could handle my own fisticuff battles if I felt so inclined. And I don't like what Google have a done to Blogger. Why do they have to change it just as as I am getting to grips with it? This is the third time. They need to stop it or I shall take mine bloggette elsewhere. Oh, and I suffered my first insect bite of the season, too.

Desk hunting at the weekend. Andy says that I should have a nice desk to write on, rather than the wobbly, fall apart any minute jobbies I've had up until now. The old desk which has also seen service as a potting shed table, a coffee absorber (when Andy was using it), and a storage facility for all sorts of random tat, was used as a pasting table and has been dismembered and gone to the tip.

So until my arty crafty writing room starts to refill with furniture I shall lie here in the middle of the space making carpet angels and staring up at the ceiling.

Enjoying the pinkness.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Rainbow's End

Today was the first day in 5 years that we weren't up with the sun to let chickens from the pod. Last night was the first time in 5 years when neither of us said to the other, 'Are the chickens in bed?' Sadly, sadly, whatever caused the demise of Mrs Slocombe nearly two weeks ago, got the better of Mrs Pumphrey, too. On Friday she was fine. Yesterday morning she wasn't quite herself. At lunchtime, she went to take on her new job, not as a Lady Adventurer as she had planned but as an Angel Chicken. Today I am finally getting around to decorating my arty crafty writing room. Every now and then I stop, paint brush in hand, and glance out onto the garden. It is strangely quiet, save for the bees. Thank goodness for the bees. But no flashes of white in and out the fruit trees, no flapping and stretching amongst the willow. No deranged clucking at the sighting of a neighbourhood cat. I've had a tear or two. Of all our hens, Mrs Pumphrey was the best. When Mrs Slocombe died, there was a rainbow. There was a rainbow yesterday, too. A double rainbow. Andy said, 'If I believed in God, I'd say it was him saying everything is going to be all right.' I do believe in God. Everything is going to be all right.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Is This a Publishing Contract I See Before Me?

No, of course it isn't but, because I am creative writer and am always on the look out for ideas I can schmoosh together into a half decent blog, I can't waste the opportunity that has arisen in the last 24 hours to do just that.
Here we go...

Ingredients For Today's Blog:

1) a blog resident of MMM called, let's say, Pookie (not his real name, but he's in for a severe ticking off from moi so may wish to remain anonymous) who is a vet pal of ours and was best man at our wedding and is, co-incidentally (or not) a specialist in bunny rabbits and author of a veterinary book on how to look after bunny rabbits

2) the writing of a scheme of work on Macbeth by me (well, Shakespeare originally, and I suspect if he knew the trouble I was having trying to get my backside in gear with the task, he'd have put a codicil on his script, namely, 'This Playe of Greate Standing Shall Ne'er Be Put to the Childe of the 21st Centurie For Feare 'Twill Cause Much Rejection and Troble for Their School Ma'am. Government - Note Ye Welle.')

3) the being of a writer, published and unpublished, and the boiling of the rage and the sitting at the top of the stairs ranting into the telephone

So, I am supposed to be writing this scheme of work on Macbeth, and I am about halfway through but it isn't the most enjoyable piece of writing to write because I have to consider the National Curriculum strands, the exam board requirements, the use of high order questioning, KAGAN active learning, extended writing, Philosophy for Children, the differentiation, the time constraints, the fact 95% of all teens are Shakespeare resistant . Basically, I should be finishing it today, but I can't be arsed (and the phrase is 'Can't be ARSED' oh young people who Twitter and Facebook and social network in other ways, NOT 'Can't be ASKED' which is what they seem to think it is. C'mon teen-people, here's a chance to use a mild naughty word and you're missing out on the fun by using completely the wrong slang! I never expected to have to point that one out...)

And so I am finding many displacement activities like arranging the home and contents insurance (another soft toy meerkat on the way!!), and arranging Andy's birthday present, entertaining Mrs Pumphrey, cleaning the bathroom, reading the paper and looking forward to a lunch date with my friend Janet.

Andy, who is away in Birmingham attending scintillating lectures at BSAVA, phoned last night and said he'd had lunch with Pookie who is doing some rabbitty related lecturing type stuff, because his emminence in the World of Rabbits is clearly on the rise and his bunny know-how is beyond compare. And Andy said that at one point Pookie spoke on the telephone machine to his publisher. And Andy said, 'Denise is an entertaining writer; she needs a publisher. Can't you put in a good word for her with your publisher?'

And Pookie sighed and said, 'Oh, they're Swedish. And they want me to write two more books on rabbitty stuff; I'm really not that keen to be honest.'

WHAT??? Can't be ARSED???

'I could write a book about Swedish bunnies,' I said to Andy.
'I daresay you could,' said Andy. 'But probably not the kind of book the publisher is after.'
'Book..SSSSSSSSS....' I said. 'Plural. Pookie is turning down a two-book publishing deal. He is clearly madder than I thought.'
'Still....' said Andy.
'I mean,' I continued, in the manner of a piqued-frustrated-author, 'what is there to know about rabbits? Clip their nails, give them something hard to chew to keep their teeth tidy, groom them if they are long-haired so they don't get poo-balls, and don't feed them lettuce because it conforms to the rabbit-diet-myth-stereotype and actually isn't that good for them. My bunny books would be a lot more interesting than THAT!'

'Calm down, dear,' said Andy. Actually, he didn't say that, but I know he was thinking it.

So, Pookie (and you know who you are!), I am going to write a rabbitty book. TWO rabbitty books.The main characters are called Binky and Boenky, they live in Sweden and they have MANY fun rabbitty adventures together which include a nerve-wracking fight with a herring, a tea party for the Rabbit Queen of the World and coming to the rescue of two nest-building challenged wood pigeons who are still having trouble getting it right. (Much security light activity today and the addition of eight more pieces of straw. Nest still looks pathetic, though.)

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Would Wood Pigeons?

Attached to the back wall of Much Malarkey Manor is a security light. You know, one of those jobbies that detects movement in your garden and automatically lights up the whole area like Wembley Arena when Take That are in town.

Only mostly it is switched off because it startles us, and is used only in rare emergencies like finding lost chickens and midnight gardening. ('Isn't that a book?' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'Not quite,' I say. 'Stupid title,' says Mrs P. 'Yes,' I say. 'Not as good as 'Travels in My Pants,' says Mrs P. 'Absolutely,' I say.)

So the security light, which was attached to the house when we arrived, is largely redundant. We have our own form of security to deal with unwanted garden visitors. Mainly lumps of bricks and bowls of old washing up water. A redundant light, therefore, until a couple of weeks ago. Because a couple of weeks ago, the security light was taken over by a pair of wood pigeons.

I am assuming the wood pigeons are a pair consisting of lady wood pigeon and man wood pigeon because there is a lot of billing and cooing going on and Andy says he has seen evidence that one is definitely a man wood pigeon though he wouldn't go into exact detail, but I trust him because he is a vet and should know about these things.

And one is slightly smaller than the other and as I write they have both flown down from the security light and are sitting on the fence 'twixt us and next door. Oh no, one has just flown back up to the security light. (Blogging in action! How cutting edge is THAT??)

Now, I don't mind having a pair of wood pigeons take up residence here at MMM; they seem friendly enough and they potter around the garden sometimes and look very decorative. But what does concern me is that they have attempted to build a nest ON the security light and it is all looking very precarious.

When I say 'nest' what I really mean is five pieces of straw and a twig artistically arranged in the style of a nest. I don't want you to be getting visions of glorious fluffiness, sturdiness and all-round 'here is a safe and secure place to lay eggs and raise baby wood pigeons -ness.' From this scant effort I can only assume that the wood pigeons are a young couple and this is their first nest building experience and what with the economy being as it is at the mo, they couldn't get a bigger mortgage to splash out on something more, well, nesty.

The 'nest' is sheltered in that the light upon which it rests is tucked up under the guttering. It's on a south-east facing wall so probably gets quite warm and certainly gets lots of light for most of the day. And it provides a good vista for the surveillance of any approaching cats, kestrels and eagles. But it is still five pieces of straw and a twig.

I don't know. Maybe wood pigeons are master egg balancers, like puffins who nest on cliff faces. Maybe they are planning to add more bits of straw and twiggage this weekend, because last weekend was quite foul on the weather front and certainly not good nest- building weather. Maybe they are going to build hammocks and hang them from the security light in an attempt at wood pigeon retro-chic. Maybe I should hang a hammock up there in an attempt to catch any eggs that might make a suddenly downward rush for the ground...

'...maybe you should just hush up and help me plan the route for my Grand Lady Adventure?' says Mrs Pumphrey.
'Still going ahead with it then?' I say.
'Absolutely,' says Mrs P. 'Lady Clementine was very helpful with her advice. No go with the loan of a camel though.'
'Oh,' I say. 'What are you going to do for transport?'
'I have a friend called Mr Jobble,' says Mrs P.
'Like you do,' I say.
'And he is going to lend me his tricycle,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'It's got a pannier on the front.'
'Perfect,' I say.
'You'll get far more excitement tracking me on my travels than watching a pair of stupid pigeons,' says Mrs Pumphrey.
'Yes,' I say, 'for I don't expect wood pigeons would know how to ride a tricycle, would they?'
''Oh, they would know how to ride a tricycle all right,' says Mrs P. 'It's just that wood pigeons wouldn't.'

Today's blog was brought to you by, 'How Would a Wood Pigeon Know about Wood (and tricycles).com - for all your/ you're homophone needs/kneads.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

The Lady Adventurer

'That was a bit quick, wasn't it?' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'Mrs Slocombe popping off like that.'
'Yes,' I say, 'it was. Although I had my suspicions she wasn't long for this world yesterday morning when she started mooching about looking miserable as sin.'
'It's jolly inconvenient of her,' says Mrs Pumphrey.
'How so?' says I.
'She's left all her smalls drip-drying over the roll-top claw leg bath in the Louis XIV suite,' says Mrs P. 'Which means I'll have to go and wring them out before my guest arrives.'
'You have a guest coming?' I say.
'You almost typed 'gusset' then, didn't you?' says Mrs P.
'I did,' I say. 'It's all the talk about smalls that did it.'

Mrs Pumphrey gives me a look that says, 'you are very easily distracted, aren't you?'

'Anyway, back to my guest,' she says.
'Indeed,' says I. 'Who's visiting that is too important to tangle with Mrs Slocombe's freshly washed knick-knacks?'
'Ah,' says Mrs Pumphrey, and the air around her becomes clouded with mystery. It makes us both cough abit, but luckily we have an industrial fan to hand so it isn't long before the mystery is dispersed.
Mrs Pumphrey continues. 'My visitor is none other than Lady Clementine Flatulette Digby-Dogby-Dugby, the great-great-grand-daughter of that famous Lady Adventurer Lady Jane Digby.'
'You mean, her who has been called one of the most remarkable women of the nineteenth century?' I say.
'You're reading that from your biography of her, aren't you?' says Mrs P.
'The Lady Jane Digby who married a Lord, then left him for an Austrian Prince before becoming mistress of King Ludwig of Bavaria, and then eloping with a young Greek Count?' I say.
'Still reading?' says Mrs P.
'And then left her Greek husband to travel in the Orient where she became mistress of an Albanian general and lived in a cave before meeting the love of her life in Syria, who was twenty years younger than her?' I say, although I am running out of breath now and really out to shut up.
'I'd be more impressed if you were spouting that stuff from the top of your head,' sighs Mrs Pumphrey, 'but yes, that is the Lady Jane Digby to whom my guest is related.'
'Wait a minute,' I say. 'You're telling me that Lady Jane Digby was a chicken?'
'Hardly,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'By all accounts she was very brave, doing all that she did in the time she did it.'
'That's not what I mean,' I say. 'If you are telling me that Lady Jane Digby was a hen, then I think that's a fairly big fact to have been missed out of her biography, don't you?'
Mrs Pumphrey shrugs. 'It happens. Not a lot of people know, for example, that Jane Austen was a guinea fowl.'
'Hmmmm...' I say.

'Anyway, Lady Clementine Flatulette Digby-Dogby-Dugby is arriving this evening in time for sherry, Twiglets and backgammon,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'So I'd better get on and do some tidying.'
'May I ask why she is visiting?' I say.
'You may,' says Mrs Pumphrey, 'and because I am feeling benevolent I shall tell you. Because I have been rendered a chicken on my own by the sudden demise of Mrs Slocombe, I have decided to use my new-found status as a reason to go travel-adventuring. Lady Clementine is going to give me some tips and advice before I set off. A possibly lend me a camel. We haven't negotiated terms yet.'
'Oh,' I say. 'Well, that's an idea, I suppose.'
'Not for long, you understand,' says Mrs P. 'I'll be back. But I want to write a book about my adventures. I need to earn a living now, being a lady of limited means.'
'Like Jane Austen the Guinea Fowl?' I say.
'Yes,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'Exactly like her. Only more raunchy.'
'That's a good idea,' I say. 'Everyone should write a book. It's a most fulfilling occupation.'
'Better than teaching?' says Mrs Pumphrey.
'I'll say,' I say.
'I've come up with a title already,' says Mrs P.
'Which is?'
'Well, two titles actually,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'I want to call it 'Travel In My Pants.'
'Very wise,' I say. 'Always travel in pants. Saves a lot of embarrassment, especially if you should fall over on a railway station in the rush hour.'
'But now I'm thinking that I should call it 'Travel WITH My Pants. Or more precisely, with Mrs Slocombe's pants. I could take some of her smalls with me, recognition of her friendship and company these last four years.'
'A lovely gesture,' I say. 'But I think 'Travel In My Pants' sounds better, because the context of the ownership of the pants is important and after all it is going to be YOUR adventure.'
Mrs Pumphrey sighs. 'Yes,' she says. 'I suppose Mrs Slocombe's adventure is over, isn't it?'

I nod, and we pause for a moment to remember that mad old chicken with a funny glint in her eye, a wobbly comb and a penchant for human kneecap flesh.

'Dedicate your book to her,' I say. 'She'd like that.'
'She would, wouldn't she?' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'Well, I'm off to prepare for the arrival of Lady Clementine. See you tomorrow.'
'Take care,' I say. 'Take the salad spinner, too. It'll dry Mrs S's smalls a treat.'

This blog is dedicated to the memory of Mrs Betty Slocombe with the promise that, just for her, the madness will continue.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

And then there was one...

Poor Mrs Slocombe has gone to chicken heaven. And poor Mrs Pumphrey is now all alone. All in all, it has been rather a sad day and we really don't know what to do.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Spring Clean

Well now, what do you think? Yesterday morning I commissioned a highly talented artist (aka my hubbie Andy) to create a new Welcome to Much Malarkey Manor picture for the blog, and by lunchtime it was done! It's a work of fiction in that the image is something we are aspiring to at our 'forever house' if we find it, when we find it.

There's Andy digging the enormous vegetable plot, and the cat in the foreground is none other than Pandora Kitten. And the figure in the background amongst the flowers is moi, wrestling a chicken because chickens need wrestling, especially when after nearly a year, they suddenly discover how to get over the fence into the herb garden, facilitating the need to raise the height of the aforesaid fence by 6 feet in order to prevent them from doing it again. (Knew the old fruit cage would come in handy!)

'To be honest,' says Mrs Slocombe, 'I didn't make the conscious decision to get into the herb garden. I was balanced on top of the fence and I fell in, and whilst I was there I thought I'd use the opportunity to have a bit of a dig around.'
'Whilst I,' says Mrs Pumphrey, 'jumped in on purpose because I could see some nice fresh greenery that needed pruning.'

The bees are buzzing under the apple tree (the rest of the orchard is out of sight of the picture, but rest assured it is there.) And the front of the cottage is covered in wisteria because every cottage should be.

Isn't it a fab picture?!

And not only did Andy create this marvellous work of art, he also created marvellous bread, too. Like this focaccia....

...and these rolls....

...and not to be left out, I made a chocolate gateau for Easter day lunch. Haven't made one of these for YEARS, and am not likely to again for a while 'cause I feel a bit sick just thinking about it now. (We had quite a feast yesterday, so today has been designated 'Be Kind to your Digestive System Day.')

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Chicken Surprise

'I had the shock of my life this morning,' says Mrs Pumphrey. Mrs Pumphrey has come to help me sort out some school paperwork and is being a darn sight more helpful than Pandora Kitten whose idea of helping is to sit on a pile of sorted paper and rip it to shreds, starting at the outside and working her way gradually inwards with all the skill of a cat who has done this sort of thing a million times before.

'What were we talking about?' I say, filing odds and sods of 'Macbeth' in a file labelled 'SKS3/4' for Shakespeare Key Stages 3/ 4.
'Oh, you and your excessively long, explanatory sentences,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'Call yourself a writer?'
'Yes, I do,' I say. 'It's just a pity the people who dish out the book deals don't.'
'We were talking about the shock I sustained this morning,' says Mrs P. 'Where would you like me to put 'Writing to Inform?'
'In the Writing Triplets File KS4,' I say. 'There....under The Great Gatsby KS5 and Dickens KS3.'
'And Tips for SLD?' says Mrs P.
'AEN file. Next to 'How to Manage ODD and EBDS.'
'It's all initials in teaching, isn't it?' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'Why's that then?'
'We don't have time to say things in full,' I say. 'So what was this shock you had this morning?'

'Ooooh, my heart is still fair thumping at the thought of it,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'You see, I was making my breakfast. The usual.'
'And what is the usual?' I say, because Mrs Pumphrey can be very fickle and changes her usual on a regular basis.
'Chopped grapes, cold pasta, a sprinkle of garlic powder and some cornmeal if the weather looks chilly,' says Mrs Pumphrey.
'Nice,' I say.
'I know,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'And I thought, I know I'll add some frozen slug. I like a sprinkle of frozen slug. Adds a good crunch.'
'I can imagine,' I say.
'They've been a Godsend really,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'They've cut down on my biscuit consumption a lot. Been a great help in maintaining my trim figure.'
'Are frozen slugs particularly low in calories?' I say.
'No,' says Mrs P, 'but they're more difficult to eat than biscuits. On account of them being so small.'

'So what was the shock?' says I. 'Mrs Slocombe finished the bag off, did she?'
'Oh no,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'She won't touch anything that's been frozen. Says you never know what undesirable 'things' might have got in during the freezing process.'
'A wise bird,' I say.
'As it turns out, yes she is,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'For there I was, sprinkling some frozen slug on my breakfast and something odd plopped out of the bag.'
'Really?' I say.
'Yes,' says Mrs P. 'At first I thought it was a pink rhinestone from Tango Pete's professional dance cod-piece, then I thought, what would a pink rhinestone from Tango Pete's professional dance cod-piece be doing in my bag of frozen slug?'
'The mind boggles,' I say.
'So I looked at this 'thing',' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'It seemed very familiar. And then my mind went back to Spring last year when I went on that 'Detoxify With Assorted Berries' health farm weekend. Remember?'
'I do,' I say. 'When you came home you self-seeded an entire bed of redcurrants by yourself.'
'Yes,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'And then I realised what had plopped out with the frozen slugs.'
'Go on,' I say.

'It was a frozen....' began Mrs Pumphrey, and here she gave an almighty shudder. '....raspberry! YUKKK! How disgusting is THAT?'

'I can imagine,' I say.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Un Lamaca della Lampones

I'm not sure the above sentence is grammatically correct but the two nouns are and this morning I found one in a bag of the other and practising my Italian on it makes the experience seem less yukky.

I love frozen raspberries. I get through many frozen raspberries in a week. Frozen raspberries are my subsitute biscuits. And I'm just waiting for the Daily Rant to publish a story warning of the many dangers and deadly diseases that can be had through excess consumption of frozen raspberries. But even if that story does appear it won't stop me eating them. I love them too much.

Anyway, that love almost came to an abrupt halt this morning when I was putting together my breakfast. One kiwi fruit, sliced, one dollop of rhubarb yogurt, one teaspoon of ground cinnamon and then, la piece de resistance, a handful (maybe slightly more, maybe a handful the size of King Kong) of frozen raspberries. And as I tipped the raspberries from the packet something un-raspberrish tipped out with them.

At first I thought it was a cat toe nail. We get a lot of those around the house, having three cats who do a lot of furniture stropping between them. Then I thought, 'How would a cat toe nail get into a bag of frozen raspberries?'

I picked the 'thing' from the bowl, and examined it closely. It was quite small, about half an inch long. Tapered at either end, a bit fatter in the middle. It looked strangely familiar. 'I'm sure I've seen one of these before,' I thought. 'But where? Why is this shape and colour so familiar?'

And then I realised. A flashback to the middle of Spring last year, to the allotment, to a morning spent weeding around the edge of the polytunnel, where the ground was moist, the air was warm, the conditions were perfect for the development of baby...


OH YUKK! Yes, on very close inspection, the 'thing' that had plopped onto my bowl of breakfast fruit was a frozen solid baby slug whose last memory had probably been, 'Oooh, I love a wander in the undergrowth of a field of raspberry canes, when the fruit is at its most lush and delicious. What's that noise? Sounds like a harvester with a freezer unit attac....'

You know that sometimes you have those moments when your body tells you to do one thing and your brain tells you to do another? And usually the brain and the body are at odds with the correct cause of action. Well, that is exactly what happened next.

'Eat the breakfast,' said the body. 'You were brought up not to waste food. '
'But there was a slug on it,' said the brain. 'A slimey, yukky, ikky sluggy slug.'
'It was frozen,' said the body. 'No slime involved.'
'It might have had a massive slime-fest in its death throw,' said the brain. 'That whole bag of raspberries could have been smothered in slug slime.'
'Well, she's been eating them all week. They haven't done any damage...' said the body.
'....yet,' finished the brain.
'Just eat the food. Don't think about it,' said the body.
'Hardly a vegetarian course of action,' said the brain.
'I didn't say 'Pop the slug back on as an exotic garnish', did I?' said the body.

And whilst this was going on, I popped the frozen slug in the food recycle bin.

And then, because it usually does, the body won the argument and I ate my breakfast, and it's only now, thinking about it, that it's making me feel slightly nauseous.

I did toy with the idea of taking a photo of the offending slug then storming Sainsbugs and claiming a refund on my contaminated bag of raspberries.

But they probably would have said, 'We're called 'Sainsbugs' aren't we? What else do you expect?? Watch out for the woodlouse in your peas.'

So I didn't.

I like kiwi fruit and yogurt and cinnamon and raspberries. I don't like slugs. The slug had been, albeit briefly, balanced on my breakfast.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012


So I have begun my mission to learn Italian. This has been helped by being able to download various fun and furious apps onto my I-pad enabling me to indulge in various fun and furious games which are basically making me learn the language through sheer panic. So far I am fluent in various words to do with cars - una decappottabile, un cofano, benzina and una serratura for example - and words to do with animals e.g un ape, una gallina, un gatto, un cane etc, so I shall be okay if I break down in a car near a farm.

I have tried to get to grips with counting which involves playing a game about stopping fish drowning but this proved traumatic and noisy and today the only numbers I can remember are uno, tre, sei, sette,otto and nove. Anything in the teens was too complicated - I murdered many fish trying to learn those.

I know the games are being successful because I woke this morning and the first things that came into my head was Italian vocabulary!

Exploring the apps one can get for the I-pad has been an eye opening experience. There are educational ones, like learning languages, various types of diary, many free and quite awful books, ones for tracking stars and, bizarrely, one for recording one's bowel habits. I passed on that one (!) So far I have downloaded a diary, a novel writing one, two learn Italian ones and one for English teachers. And I have invented two of my own, but Andy is doubtful they will catch on. One is called 'Peticure' in which you can enter your pet's illness symptoms and do your own diagnosis, thereby cutting out the middle man, and the second is called 'Gwhat-a-mole' for recording and tracking your moles. The beauty of this one is that it is dual purpose i.e you can record the moles on your body AND the moles in your garden!

Be warned - now I am in an inventing mood, there may be more on the way...