Friday, 26 April 2013

You Decide...

Okay, here are two crackers of speech that I heard today, one on the radio and one on the telly, and I can't decide which is the I am leaving it to you to decide.

Offering Number 1: 'She's not impressed when I get it out because she can't walk to the kitchen.'

Offering Number 2 : 'There are so many different cakes to point the finger at.'

(If you need some back ground information to help you make your decision, Number 1 was a man being interviewed about a huge tapestry he had sewn of the Battle of Hastings and he was describing how much space it took up when it was fully unrolled, and his wife's response to the ensuing length, and Number 2 was a football manager being asked about his tactics for a forth-coming game, and clearly doesn't understand that you don't point a finger at cake, you eat it!)

Thursday, 25 April 2013

These Animals

Pandora is unwell again. More bouts of projectile vomiting, another loss of weight, she goes off with Andy to work today to be prodded and poked, x-rayed and scanned, blood-let and whatever else these vets get up to when they are dealing with a patient who can't tell them how they are feeling.

I leave my phone on at work, so Andy can call me with the best of things or the worst of things as and when they happen. I spend a few hours fretting and trying to teach - my two Afghani students who are having extra language lessons, Darren with the latest update on his crazy sex 'n' drug 'n' rock 'n' roll lifestyle, Bob who is lovely but possesses academically challenged brain cells, Al who thinks he is hilarious but really shouldn't give up the day job for the life of a standup comic and Sally who regularly asks advice about her boyfriend to wit I reply that she should tell him to sling his hook because, at the ripe old age of 47 I can tell he is a waste of space, but then I can also see through her love-struck 15 year old eyes that a) she is too scared to be on her own and b) she thinks she can change him. You can't change 'em, sweetheart - you just have to learn to live with them.

And I teach a whole class of Year 10 who I thought would be resistant to having a temporary teacher this late in the school year but are in fact, catching on to what we need to do and have been nothing but hardworking and agreeable.

And I fret because Pandora is my little cat, my follower, my pal. She sings to me. She dances with me. We have conversations, speaking in different languages but understanding each other nonetheless. Is it right to get so emotional about an animal? They are only animals after all...I hate it when people say that....'only animals'...

The phone call comes. Pandora is waking from her anaesthetic. Her major organs are all fine. But there is something 'not quite right' with her bowels. She will need more tests, and an operation.

I get home from work to find her with patchy shaved fur here and there and demanding food very loudly. She sits outside the bathroom whilst I nip to the loo, and shouts, 'Give me food! Now!' She is perky. Tail aloft. Schmoozing.

In the garden, Primrose and Daisy are dustbathing and sunbathing and doing their best to denude the willow arch and dig their way under next-door's fence. Tybalt is curled up on a cushion, the very picture of a contented cat, lapping up the afternoon sun. Phoebe, too, is sun-catching, as she does her yoga routine. Seventeen years old and still able to cock a leg behind her ear.

These animals...they do make me smile.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Battle Garden

Since we moved to our house eight and a half years ago, we have had a bit of a battle with our back garden. It was all bushy shrubs, grass and a dodgy shed when we arrived and has been through many a change since. I almost typed 'transformation' there, but transformation suggests something Cinderella-ish, something caterpillar-to-butterfly, something drudgy-to-diamanté, and by those criteria, transformation it has been not.

The thing is I have always been a bit frightened of back gardens. Now I know that sounds a bit weird (I can hear you all shouting 'weirdo' right now) but I have been giving this fright-of-back-garden some serious thought and here is my (weirdo) theory...

...I think it is that whatever house I have lived in as an adult (there have been 6 including this one) I have never felt it has belonged to me. And this means that I haven't actually yet found the home (and hence the house heading its way back to the market any moment now, but that is a different story) where I am meant to be.

House number one was a rental property and didn't have a garden. It had a shared space which belonged to the landlord. House number two was my grandparent's place, where I lived briefly whilst work was being done on the first mortgaged house I lived in. So that was Gran's garden. I didn't touch that because it was so 'right' already. House number three had a short, thin garden which was half concrete, half scruffy lawn and a rickety fence overlooking a dodgy alley. The house was surrounded by hundreds of other houses. I didn't feel safe in that garden.

House number 4 was a semi-detached. It had a pretty garden, but the garden had a pond and the pond was my ex-husband's domain. Wasn't allowed to take any ownership of THAT garden because if might upset the FISH - go figure that one if you can, because I never could. Bloody fish.

House number five was a post-divorce move back home to Mum's place. I tried gardening there a bit, but it wasn't my garden really. And then Andy and I got married and bought this place.

And the garden still feels like it belongs to the previous owner. Despite the fact I deforested it because I don't like overwhelming shrubbery. And a succession of hens have done their best to excavate their way to Australia via the game of 'Dig Like Your Little Feathery Life Depended On It.' And we've planted two trees, removed an enormous eucalyptus, added a greenhouse, moved a fence and built a herb garden.

Yesterday, I marched into the back garden.

'Now look here,' said I, legs akimbo and digging fork in hand. 'You belong to us, do you hear? You are to do as you are told. You are to stop behaving like a stroppy teen who doesn't want to grow up. You, garden-me-lad, need to sort yourself out!'

And that is why I am finding out about getting the patio re-laid. The patio - that's what has been bugging me all these years! It is made of mismatched slabs. Its lines are wonky. It grows weeds where it shouldn't grow weeds. And then it is a bugger to de-weed. Bits of it wobble. There are odd colours. It is a stupid shape. The whole aestheticness of it offends mine eye and it is driving me nuts!

And after that, the lawn. Okay, I feel slightly sorry for the lawn because it has been ransacked by a series of hens over the last 5 years, and the grass has struggled to stay alive, but it is the North Sea of a Lawn in a Force 10 gale. It needs seeing to also.

And now I am heading front gardenwards, to plant up some violas and osteospernums I bought on the way home from work. I can deal with the front garden. The front garden is much better behaved.

Thursday, 18 April 2013


How does the Man in the Moon cut his hair?

'E clips it!

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Signs of...

...Spring - pink buds appearing on the magnolia tree, cowslips appearing in the borders, green leaves on the willow arch ('Primrose! Daisy! Stop eating the signs of Spring on the willow arch. They might be delicious, but they are signs of Spring so stop it!)...

...exasperation - Darren: Guess why I didn't come to that coursework catch-up session you arranged especially for me in the Easter holidays, Miss.
Me: Why, Darren?
Darren: I had a hangover - I was well sick with it.
Me: Will you ever learn?
Darren: Nah....did the same the following week...
Me: You useless Muppet.

...booky excitement - e-mail from World Book Night organisers saying my books to give away are ready for collection NOW!...

... appreciation - from an A level student I abandoned when I left my last school at Christmas and who sent me his coursework essay to cast a professional eye over at the weekend - 'Thanks, ma'am! You really got me out of a hole. I'd never have got this level of help at school.' That's okay, Laurence - just remember me when you are rich and famous.

...weariness - at a Year 10 girl who appeared in a class I am teaching temporarily, screeching like a banshee and swearing like a navvy. She spent the entire hour trying to elicit a reaction from me with a series of increasingly appalling behaviours. I ignored her and taught the others in the class instead. What I wanted to say was, 'Look, sweetheart - I've heard it all and seen it all a million times before. When you can do something truly original that I haven't seen or heard in a classroom before, like appearing dressed a carrot and playing a trumpet using the cheeks that aren't on your face, then you might get the reaction you crave. And even then it will rely on me not feeling like a tired and crotchety old witch.' But I didn't. Because like I said, I ignored her.

...steamy excitement! No, not THAT kind of steamy excitement. The kind of steamy excitement that comes with the delivery of a new steam cleaner! Oooh, it does everything with its mops and crevice tools and brushes and steam. I especially liked the bit when I was doing the kitchen floor and I disappeared under a cloud of steam like someone appearing in 'Stars in Their Eyes.' Tonight, Matthew, I am going to be...ALL OF ABBA!

...writing - I read on a writing website yesterday that if you are a proper writer, you will write and not make excuses like, 'I can't write tonight because I am watching telly/ going out with my mates/ cleaning the fridge condenser/ making custard/ polishing my moolies.' This man said that if you are using such excuses, then you are not a writer. Which leaves me a dilemma - it's The Great British Sewing Bee on telly tonight, and I like watching it. But I shouldn't because I should be writing. But hey, I am writing NOW!! And have been for well over an hour and a half. And an enormous bumblebee just flew past the window, so maybe that is a sign that I can stop writing for just an hour and watch a programme about a sewing bee! Tenuous, but it could just work...

...that Pandora's special new diet is working - she hasn't yakked up for over a month now and is starting to put on a teeny bit of weight. And she bit me when I got home from work, which is always a good sign that she is feeling chipper...

...signing off - me saying 'BYEEEEE!!!' Right now!

Saturday, 13 April 2013


I had better warn you that I am in a foul mood. If you hear any stomping, and see any scowling, that'll be me.

'We have foul moods,' says Daisy.
'No,' I say, 'you have fowl moods, and that is because you are chickens.'
'I am glad we got that joke out the way sooner rather than later, aren't you?' says Primrose.
'Yes,' says I, 'especially as it isn't that funny.'

I tried to talk myself out of it, with one of those 'count your blessings' talks, but that made me feel even more foul, so I decided, instead, to indulge in my Great Mood Of Filthiness and have donned a T shirt emblazoned 'Stand Well Back - Crabby Old Bat Coming Through' on the front and 'I Told You to Stand Well Back,' on the back.

Why, you might be asking, am I feeling foul?
I shall tell you....
1) I have a mild stomach bug so slept very badly last night
2) I am having a bout of grey hair angst
3) I am fed up with insensitive 'look at me I'm so clever' Lefty morons having continuous pops at the late and great Mrs Thatcher before she is even laid to rest
4) I am fed up with the weather - the cold, the rain, the wind
5) I am fed up with my inability to motivate myself into doing something useful, like repaint the kitchen, tidy the garden and write a best selling novel
6) I am fed up with working
7) I am fed up with being surprised that eating too much makes me put on weight
8) I am fed up with being used as a sounding post and being expected to make decisions for other people
9) I am fed up with the BBC
10) I am fed up with hearing traffic and people and my ear whooshing
11) I am fed up of clutter and consumerism and stupid 'celebrities'
12) I am fed up of not being allowed to finish sentences...

Last night there was a brief news item about a man who lives in a mobile home van thing on the shores of Loch Ness. He parked it there over twenty years ago when he had the realisation that it was his purpose in life to prove the existence of the Loch Ness Monster. And that is his job. He sits and watches. He makes models of Nessie to sell to tourists. He doesn't have electricity or running water (although he has a massive watery Loch on his doorstep.) He does pay council tax - Band A apparently, so I hope he gets regular rubbish removals, unlike us who get them once a fortnight, which is something else I am fed up of especially when we have three indoor cats who use a lot of litter.

He has given up living a conventional life in order to pursue his purpose. He lives in a little cosy space, by himself, watching the water of the Loch. He seemed very happy.

Not foul at all.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

English Weather and a Wish for Birthday Sunshine

A poet whose work I rather enjoy is Wendy Cope.

She wrote a poem called 'English Weather'.

And as I stare out onto a rain-sodden Kent this morning, scuppered in my plan to go allotmenteering and instead determined that today I shall mostly be a writer, here is that very poem...

'January's grey and slushy,
February's chill and drear,
March is wild and wet and windy,
April seldom brings much cheer.
In May, a day or two of sunshine,
Three or four in June, perhaps.
July is usually filthy,
August skies are open taps.
In September things start dying,
Then comes cold October mist.
November we make plans to spend
The best part of December pissed.'

And even though it is raining and cold and dreary, I hope that the sun is shining somewhere, and that the 'somewhere' is South West France and the sun is following my friend Vera, who has a birthday today and really, really needs to get the rest of her mountainous pile of seed potatoes in the ground, and that Lester is in their kitchen making her a jolly scrummy birthday cake and not following in her potato-planting wake and covering her carefully tilled trenches with great, sodden clumps of mud!

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

At last

So, last week, before he went to BSAVA and because he is very dynamic, Andy sowed some seeds in the propagator - tomatoes, cucumbers and aubergines.

And by the time he returned 5 days later, they had all germinated. The cucumbers were most impressive, managing a good four inches in growth and threatening to push the top off the propagator. It seems that even if Spring doesn't know it is Spring, vegetable seeds do!

We got to the allotment this morning, and took a load of rubbish to the tip. We dug over two of the veg beds, tidied the ground under the recently cut back raspberries, and discovered two rhubarb crowns and a lavender plant in the undergrowth. We saw the woodpecker that resides in the tree behind our shed. A neighbouring allotment holder had left three red currant bushes just inside our gate for us. It was so very, very good to be back allotmenteering!

Brought home the abandoned leeks and some abandoned potatoes. These are currently sitting on the stove turning into leek and potato soup for dinner. I made some lemon curd last week and am wondering if I should push out the boat and make a lemon tart for pudding. Should one have pudding in the middle of the week? Is it a decadence to be avoided? Or do we deserve a splurge for all our hard work a-digging and a-doing this morning?

Actually, the best thing about today was finding those two rhubarb crowns! I don't know why, but there was something very heart-lifting about seeing those pink knobbly bobbles emerging from the earth. I am looking forward to all rhubarb related happenings later in the year. Especially ones involving crumble.

All systems go, then! Gotta get those shallots in, and the potatoes.

And we went for another lunch in the name of research (ahem) for our vegetarian eatery. We have yet to discover a place that will be quite as good as ours! Aha!

Actually, I am thinking about cooking my way through Rose Elliot's Vegetarian Cook Book a la Julia Childs cooking her way through le grand livre de cuisine Francais (bit o'French there, did you see??). Andy and I have already thought we ought to start having regular taster dinner parties where we test out potential recipes on our victims... I mean family and friends.

Right, off to attend to the soup. And to phone our friend Jane who has just dismembered her garden decking and has some planks of wood that might just be the ticket for edging some allotment beds with...

Saturday, 6 April 2013 for the Hills!!!!

What is THAT?? That big ball of FIRE in the SKY??? BACK! Get inside...quick,

Oh, the heat...the unbearable heat....

And the light...don't stare at it....I said DON'T stare at it....

Nooooooo.....arghhhhhh....I'm mellllllllllting......

Today's blog was brought to you by 'A Hint of Spring Sarcasm' - the new fragrance for 2013. Wear it if you dare.

And now, a word from our sponsors....

'There was joy, there was fun,
There were chickens in the sun,
Will the joy dare to last
Or will Summer pass too fast?'

Friday, 5 April 2013

Press Call

So today I got an email from the Press Office at World Book Night.

'Are they offering to do your ironing?' says Primrose, who is trying to block my way as I attempt to collect les deux oeufs de la jour.
'No,' says I, 'not that kind of press. The newspaper media kind of press. Please hand over your egg. There is no baby in that egg.'
'I'd quite like babies,' says Primrose.
'She is feeling very broody,' confirms Daisy, who doesn't give two hoots about keeping her eggs and gives off an air of complete surprise every day when one appears.
'I had noticed,' I say.
'She tried hatching an apple core the other day,' says Daisy.
'I was practising,' says Primrose.
'You are not having babies,' I say, very firmly, because secretly I would love to have a go at hatching an egg or two. Not personally, of course. I think there could be a potential weight issue for a start, plus my hormones have almost run out and I just don't have the patience for all that sitting unless I've got a really good book to keep me occupied. Anyway, I digress. Back to the Press Office.

'What did they want?' says Daisy.
'Well,' says I, 'apparently they really liked my application this year.'
'What did you write?' says Primrose.
'Blowed if I can remember,' I confess, as it was all a bit rushed and last minute. 'But whatever I wrote, they liked it and they want to know if I would be willing to a) have it quoted in a press release and b) be interviewed on the radio or TV to promote World Book Night.'
'Wow!' say the hens in unison.
'I know,' I say. 'How exciting is that?'
'Of course, you will get your hair done if you go on the telly, won't you?' says Daisy.
'Why?' says I. 'What's wrong with my hair?'
'Well,' says Daisy , 'it could look a bit, er, browner? Maybe?'
'I am not going to start dying my hair again,' I say, stoutly.
'Right,' says Daisy.
'However,' I say, 'I am planning on stapling a copy of Nearly King Jimbo to my forehead. Publicity opportunity, don't you know.'
'And it is a book,' says Primrose.
'Exactly!' says I.
'What about a new frock?' says Daisy. 'And possibly a large, floppy hat.'
'I am not going to change the way I look,' I say. 'It's my wit, charm and personality they are after, not my image.'
'Are you sure about that?' says Daisy.
'Quite sure,' I say.

'So did you agree to the request?' says Primrose.
'Of course,' I say. 'And I am awaiting a call from their PR people.'
'Can we join in, too?' says Daisy.
'If you like,' I say.
'I'll dig out my best chiffon and diamanté then,' says Daisy.
'I'd rather you didn't,' says I.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Home Alone

I am home alone. Andy left yesterday lunchtime to travel to Telford (again. I am beginning to think there is some incredibly exciting sci-fi book shop in Telford that is drawing him in) to attend a one day course on assertiveness. He was feeling slightly fractious in the days before he left because the company running the course had failed to send him any paperwork about it.
'Perhaps,' he said, 'the first test of my assertiveness is to phone them and demand the missing paperwork.'
'Maybe,' I said. 'But I think it is more likely to be incompetence. Theirs, not yours.'

I am feeling slightly peeved that Andy is being sent on this course because I don't think it is an essential life skill to be assertive and if one is naturally non-assertive and it has never been a bother to one's life, one should be left alone to sit happily on the passive sideline of conflict. The only benefit I can conceive of Andy going on this course is that the next time he is told to attend such a pointless thing he can turn around and say, 'No!'

So off Andy went yesterday, and this morning I received a text saying, 'Off to be assertive!' He sounded very chirpy, like a man who had just availed himself in the biggest possible way of a full English breakfast with Continental top up.

And after he has been assertively trained, he is off to Birmingham to attend the BSAVA annual conference, where he gets to fall asleep in warm lecture halls, collect biros/soft toys/ cat food samples from eager sales reps, meet up with old colleagues whose names he can't quite remember and spend food vouchers on what I suspect will be mostly junk food and ne'er a vegetable in sight.

Which means I am home alone.

Which means I get to practise my French very loudly without fear of being giggled at for my appalling accent which is fast turning a beautiful language into something I am already calling 'Manglais,' as I mangle my vowels and fail to roll any 'rrrrrrrs.' So whilst I am getting pretty good at reading and writing French, I still sound like some cockney barrow boy.

And I can watch the kind of rubbish reality TV shows that make Andy cringe in a similar way to how Doctor Who makes me cringe.

I went to work this morning - Easter Holiday GCSE revision sessions - and when I got home there was a book waiting for me in the post. Entitled 'Start and Run a Sandwich and Coffee Shop' I hope to have read it thoroughly by the time Andy returns on Sunday. And when he asks me things like, 'So what are the financial advantages/ disadvantages of leasing against purchasing,' I shall be able to say,'Read this book, dearest - it is ALL in there. Voila!'

And I have been exploring the possibility of taking a qualification in TEFL. TEFL is Teaching English as a Foreign Language. I am a teacher. I teach English. And, to be honest, sometimes it feels like I am teaching it as a foreign language to native English children innit bruv? However, I have been engaged as a tutor for two youngsters from Afghanistan, and whilst they are not wholly without English, they know very little. Having said that, I was very impressed when, during a miming 'n' drawing session where I sketch cartoons very badly and flail about in a dramatic way a la charades, my impression of 'the wind' was translated by one of my tutees as 'the tsunami.' And he spelled it correctly!

One can take internationally recognised TEFL courses on line for a very reasonable fee. One can get a certificate. One is thinking this might be a good idea. One doesn't quite know why yet, but one has the urge. (One is not pretending to the Queen.)

So there we go. I am reading lots, writing a bit (because the muse has temporarily faded). I am shivering in the cold wind. I have an irritating pimple on my tongue. I am sewing a bit (did you see the new BBC sewing programme last night - brilliant!). Je parle un peu de Francais mauvais.

I am home alone.