Tuesday, 30 July 2013

My Name Is Denise And Caterpillars Ate My Pak Choi

'Welcome to Live At the Hen House with me, Primrose Glade Indawood...' says Primrose.
'...and me, Daisy Chain Lovemelovemenot...' says Daisy.
'...and on today's show we have a very special guest, especially in the light of the exciting news of the last week regarding a certain baby...' says Primrose.
'What's that, then?' says Daisy. 'What baby? Cousin Tess hasn't been at it again, has she? How many  chicks is it now? 245? 246? Is she still with Dave? Is it Dave? I lose track, really I do...'

There is a slight scuffle and the camera man (actually Tango Pete, who is currently in training for the new series of Strictly Come Dancing and needs the extra cash for new spangly hotpants) winces as Primrose's microphone connects sharply with Daisy's ear.

'As my silly friend knows only too well, ahahahahahaha, I am referring to the new Royal baby, Wee George...'
'They've called him Wee?' says Daisy. 'We're going to have a King Wee?'
Primrose, the consummate TV professional, shoves Daisy off-camera with a subtle slight of wing, and continues stoically.
'And to continue the Royal theme, I'd like to welcome our guest today...Lady Malarkey!'

'I'm not Royalty,' I say, 'and what are you doing? Where did you get that enormous camera?'
'The enormous camera shop,' says Primrose. 'And the microphone, before you ask, came from Daisy's My Little Simon Cowell Pop Star Kit. Now, can you, for the purpose of the exercise, at least pretend to be Royal? We, that is the idiot white one and me, are trying to launch a new cutting edge chat show.'
'Well,' I say, 'I am visiting Buckingham Palace tomorrow.'
'That'll do!' says Primrose. 'Now, I need you to tell us about a scandal. Something awful that has happened to you, that has damaged you mentally but not physically, because we still want to be fed every day and because of our lack of prehensile thumbs we may have a problem getting the lid off the food bucket.'
'What?' I say. I have to say at this point I am being distracted somewhat from potential television stardom because I have another 6lbs of blackcurrants staring at me awaiting Something Useful To Be Done to them, but really, how many jars of jam does a pantry need?

'A scandal. We need a scandal. It'll pull up the audience figures,' says Primrose.
'And what is the current figure for your audience?' say I.
'Sightly round,' chips in Daisy, who is either wearing an enormous pair of earphones or doing a pretty ropey impersonation of Minnie Mouse. 'Too many doughnuts.'
Primrose persists. 'Scandal!' she snaps. 'Now!'

Primrose is a very demanding hen.

'I'm sorry,' I say. 'I can't think that I have done anything scandalous, per se. I am a fairly conservative and generally well-behaved person.'
'Okay,' says Primrose. 'What has happened so far today?'
I pause and think. 
'This isn't making great TV,' shouts Daisy, who is now stationed behind the camera with Tango Pete and probably causing a scandal of her own if the unnecessary giggling is anything to go by.
'Well, I got up, fed you and the cats, went and bought a newspaper, had breakfast, put in a load of washing, did the ironing from yesterday, did half an hour weeding in the front garden...' I begin.
'BORING!' shouts Primrose.
'...found three cucumbers in the greenhouse,' I continue. 'Oh, and some bloomin' caterpillars have eaten my pak choi.That was quite distressing.'
'Ah!' says Primrose. 'That sounds more promising. Is Tango Pete getting it, Daisy?'
'I should say so!' giggles Daisy.
'Oh good grief,' says I. A microphone dabs impatiently at my chin.
'So what is this 'pak choi'?' says Primrose. 'An exotic and rare orchid? A cherished plant passed down through generations of your Royal family and now gone forever leaving a scar on your heart?'
'It's cabbage. Basically.'
'Cabbage. Chinese cabbage. Good in stir fries.'

Primrose sighs. 'You're going to have to put a more exciting spin on this. No-one is interested in cabbage.'
'I am!' shouts Daisy. 'I love cabbage, me! Savoy, January King, Hispi, Wispi, Boilerhead and Dollop...'
'You made up those last three, didn't you?' I say.
'Yup!' says Daisy.
'Can we concentrate?' says Primrose, through gritted teeth. 'Please? Tell me more about this pak choi.'
'Okay,' I say. 'I found a packet of pak choi seeds which must have been a couple of years old. I thought, what the heck, never grown them before, like a stir fry, nothing to lose, pop 'em in the compost and see what happens.'

Primrose adopts a look of motherly concern.

'And what did happen?' she says. 'Once you had planted those withered seed tenderly in the finest compost money could buy? Did you nurture them day and night? Feed them, weed them, water them and sing to them?'
'No,' I say.
'That's marvellous,' sighs Primrose. 'And to no avail. All that input and not a green leaf in sight.'
'I ignored them,' I said. 'And four plants emerged. I was quite excited. A first for the Much Malarkey Manor greenhouse.'
'And then what happened?' said Primrose, her brain still scrambling for an unusual angle, like obtuse or reflex.
'They grew and grew and last week actually looked like the ones you buy in Sainsbugs for quite a lot of money for what is, essentially, a cabbage with an odd name,' I say. 'I thought, I must harvest thosepak  choi. They are ready for consumption.'

A light goes on in a little chicken brain...

'But you didn't, did you?' accuses Primrose. 'You left those precious pak choi to grow on. And what happened? Go on, tell the audience!'
'The butterflies came...' I say.
'Yes!' says Primrose. 'The butterflies came, ladies and gentlemen. The butterflies came and they laid their eggs and the eggs turned into caterpillars and then what, Lady Malarkey? What? What?'
'THE CATERPILLARS ATE MY PAK CHOI!' I sob, because this is what reality TV does to a sane person. It turns them into a snivelling, drivelling wreck with pak choi issues.

'Yes, ladies and gentlemen!' crows Primrose (well, didn't really crow, because that would be unnatural behaviour in a lady hen). 'Because of this lady's blatant horticultural neglect, CATERPILLARS ATE HER PAK CHOI!'

'All right,' I say, wiping my nose on a passing cat, probably Tybalt, but he and Phoebe are both black and white and furry so it is sometimes difficult to tell. 'You enjoyed them, though. Didn't you?'
'What?' says Primrose.
'Your elevenses,' I say, sensing an imminent table turning TV victory. 'Pak choi with caterpillar croutons.'
'We ate the caterpillar wrecked pak choi?' says Primrose.
'Yup,' I say. 'Only don't tell the Caterpillar Mummy at Countryside Tales. Or she'll come and getcha! Now kindly remove yourself and your scandal. I have a hippo to finish knitting.'

Monday, 29 July 2013

Today I...

...picked blackcurrants in the pouring rain...
...bought a birthday present for a friend...
...discovered that you can buy a bra lined with memory foam (???!!)...
...sent a Post Crossing card to Poland...
...counted 60 plus bumblebees on the lavender...
...hoovered up the last bits of wood shreddings where Pandora used to strop the legs of my sewing desk and my bookcase to pieces instead of using the perfectly good and not inexpensive scratching post...
...had a bit of a cry over Pandora...
...cleaned up MORE leaves from the laurel which, no matter how many it sheds, still manages to look ridiculous lush and verdant and twenty feet tall...
...ate some soup for lunch that was well out of date, yet lived to tell the tale (me, not the soup)...
...met a friend from the school I left at Christmas, and had a chat about why would anyone want to be a teacher these day...
...shouted 'Stop shouting at your dog!' across the back garden at someone who was shouting at their dog...
...ruffled up Tybalt, because he likes being ruffled...
...Twittered a bit...
...bought some drawing pencils, a pair of pink polka dot shoes (66% off in sale) and a white floaty blouse (not in sale)...
...harvested shallots to be strung up and dried...
...harvested two courgettes in an attempt to get ahead in the Let's Try and Eat Courgettes Faster Than They Can Grow Game...
...unblocked the shower plug hole, because it is a skill only a wife and mother has...
...oversniffed some lavender and felt ever-so-slightly queasy...
...had several hot flushes...
...found three cunningly hidden cucumbers in the greenhouse that are almost ready to harvest...
...stared a bit...
...read a bit...
...ruffled up Tybalt AGAIN because he is very demanding...
...ate a spoonful of peanut butter straight from the jar. Hey, I'm a vegetarian...it was protein...
...muttered at idiots on the radio...
...talked to myself probably a little too much...
...lost a dongle...
...found a dongle...
...hemmed some trousers that have been waiting to be hemmed for, oh, about 6 months...
...invited a friend to dinner on Thursday...started thinking about what delicacies I was going to cook...
...wondered if I ought to order more copies of Nearly King Jimbo and place them surreptitiously on the bookshelves in Waterstones in a shameless act of self-promotion...
...chucked some jacket potatoes in oven for dinner as it is too hot to cook properly...

...and that's all. Knitting this evening.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Rain and Jam and Buckingham Palace

The rain arrived yesterday evening, and then some. We were visiting a friend for dinner and parked our car literally three steps from her front door, and when we said our goodbyes, we drowned travelling those three steps back to the car. Still, it was good to see and the garden looks all the better for the drowning this morning.

And it cleared the air which had become more and more stifling during the day to the point of gasping-for-breath suffocatingness. And what does one do when the air is thick with heat? One makes jam and bakes bread, of course!

'I should make pumpernickel,' Andy announced. Random, thought I. 
'Why pumpernickel?' I said. 
'Well,' said Andy, 'I feel I ought to extend my repertoire before I go on bakery work experience.'

Quite what made Andy think that pumpernickel would be the perfect extension to his bread-baking repertoire I do not know, because as far as I am concerned as long as he keeps supplying brioche and  focaccia I am a happy bunny. He is currently trying to perfect a) the making of the ultimate whole meal seeded loaf and b) throwing dough into the oven from the proving basket onto the baking stone without it ending in a dollopy mess on the oven floor. Both entail a certain amount of swearing, puffing and bakerly angst. And whilst I can understand the quest for perfection of the whole meal seeded loaf, flinging dough from a basket onto a baking stone mystifies me, especially when we have a not insubstantial range of loaf tins. But then I am not an artisan baker in the making. I am the cake lady.

And the jam lady, too. We picked 7lbs of blackcurrants from the allotment on Thursday, and on Friday they occupied a considerable amount of my life being destrigged (stragged? Strugged?) so the impending jam would be free from extraneous foliage and woody stems. And then yesterday morning I stood over a hot stove for 2 hours overseeing the alchemy that happens between fruit 'n' sugar when they combine to become a bloomin' marvellous jam, if I do say so myself, thank you very much. It is times like this, I thought as I twanged the last rubber band onto the cellophane seal, that I wished I belonged to the W.I because THAT jam would win prizes! 

Seventeen jars altogether. Jam job jobbed.

And on Wednesday, Andy and I are off to Buckingham Palace to view how the other half live and also because I am VERY keen to see the Coronation Robe Exhibition. I was discussing this with my friend last night. We are both grand appreciators of a goodly piece of textile art. She had recently been to Sandringham and was very enthusiastic about the embroidery on the Royal tablecloths, enthusiasm which her companions did not share, dismissing these objects d'art as mere 'tablecloths.' Heathens! It is like saying the Coronation Robe itself is just some frock the Queen happened to fling on that morning because her slacks and Crimplene blouse were in the wash. 

Of course, my enthusiasm to view this exhibition can be measured by the fact I am willing to travel to London. I hate London. I hate going on the train, and all the pushing and shoving and the graffiti and the traffic and the noise. But if a delicate satin stitch and some seed pearls are waiting me at the other end, my suffering shall be worthwhile. Might squeeze in a visit to the National Gallery, too. 

Friday, 26 July 2013

Bumble Hum

Good morning, all! I was going to clean my car this morning, if only in an attempt to make it rain, but when I went outside to assess the car cleaning option, I counted many, many bumblebees going about their bumblebee thing on the lavender right next door to where my car is parked. Of course, I couldn't disturb the bumbles with my sloshing around of sudsy water, could I, AND moving the car further up the driveway away from the lavender would be the sheerest lunacy of an idea. So I took a video instead.

Apologies for the traffic noise. For even though in my mind I live in an oh-so-quiet leafy country backwater, my ears betray my idyll every morning by picking up the sound of every flipping car that passes up and down the main road upon which, in reality, we are situated.

Still, we have got bees and we have got lavender. Enjoy!

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Bread and Postcards and a Really Bad Pun

Out of the blue, Andy decided to contact an artisan bakery deep in the heart of the Kent countryside, and ask if they would be willing to take on a work experience boy, that boy being him, aged 42 and a quarter.

And do you know what? They said 'Yes!' 

So, next month, after 18 years of being a vet, Andy is going to do work experience! This will entail him rising (like a well-proved bloomer, or maybe sweet brioche) at 2 a.m, YES 2 IN THE MORNING, to make the journey across county in order to be on site and ready to bake at 3 a.m.

Well! Who'd have thought it, eh? Who knows where this might lead? Mostly it is an experiment in 'Will Andy melt when faced with industrial-size ovens?'  as he does a fair impression of a soggy puddle when dealing with our small-by-comparison domestic double oven here at MMM. And also, will he set fire to any tea towels? Or any parts of himself? Will his lack of spatial awareness be a hindrance, or will the extra space of a massive bakery accommodate his creative flailing shenanigans? 

I am trying not to think too much about the whole hot things/ sharp pointy things/ dollopy doughness of it all. He is a determined and talented baker of bread. I think it will be a Good Experience All Round.

Meanwhile, flimsy old me has been writing postcards as part of my new Post Crossing Hobby. Today, I penned postcardy staff to people in Russia, Belarus, Germany and the Ukraine. Along with the card I sent to San Francisco a few days, this makes my five maximum 'out there' communications, which means I now have to wait until I receive my first card before I can send another out.

And we continue to wait for rain here in our little corner of Kent. The local news keeps forecasting it, but I reckon we've had about 5 drops altogether, and certainly nowhere near the half-a-lakeful promised. I am beginning to think that weather forecasters are no better than fortune telling charlatans who base their predictions on how splayed their fir cone is and whether the sea-weed is damp or so dry it is starting to smell of an old kipper.

Finally, and this is a totally random thought ( but then it has been a bit of a random week, one way or another) I think that if I ever opened a beefburger bar ( which I won't because I am vegetarian) then I would call it Mood Food. ( Think about it....!)

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

For Countryside Tales

This is a post dedicated to Countryside Tales who is a moth weirdo, sorry, fanatic...sorry, expert. It is a cartoon that was in the paper at the weekend; I tried to take a photo but the words were a tad blurry, so I have transcribed the text of the cartoon in the hope it might convey the same sense of silliness and fun.

Here's to you, Countryside Tales!

'In Conversation with Rupert Delacroix, First Moth on the Moon'

Rupert: ...and all of a sudden I was on the moon.
Interviewer: Are you sure about that?
Rupert: Of course! I was flying towards the moon, the moon got bigger, then I landed on it. I mean, I was as surprised as you are.
Interviewer: But what do to say to accusations that your moon landing was a fake?
Rupert: Nonsense.
Interviewer: And that it wasn't the moon you landed on at all, but some guy's bedside lamp.
Rupert: Listen...why would I want to land on a lamp? I'm telling you I was on the moon, OK? And it wasn't just 'some guy' I saw...it was GOD.
Interviewer: God?
Rupert: God. I reckon that's why we've had so many wars and suffering and so forth on Earth: God's been hiding behind the moon all along. Reading Auto Trader.
Interviewer: Auto Trader.
Rupert: That's right. He came at me with it.
Interviewer: God attacked you?
Rupert: I'm afraid so. He rolled up Auto Trader and tried to whack me off the moon.
Interviewer: God tried to kill you with a copy of Auto Trader?
Rupert: That is correct.
(There is an extended pause between Rupert and the Interviewer.)
Rupert: To be honest I found the whole thing intensely stressful.

(Copyright Stephen Collins COLILLO.com 20th July 2013)

Sunday, 21 July 2013

New Hobby

I am not a natural traveller. My experience of the globe is limited to Great Britain, a bit of France and a bit of the Channel Islands. I don't know what it is; I just do not have a natural wanderlust. It bothers me not that I have no desire to travel. Sometimes I think it bothers other people more than it bothers me. Some have even gone as far as to suggest that I might be limiting my life experiences by being a non-traveller. I say, what's it got to do with anyone but me? I do not feel the need to experience the rest of the world, first foot as it were, to be happy.

Anyway, these days the world is here, at my fingertips, at the other end of this blog. It connects me with lovely folks in New Zealand and America, Canada, Oman and France. I know I have regular visitors from Germany and Russia. And of course, all sorts of fab 'n' crazy people in this fab 'n' crazy country called England! And I would have met none of you if I had travelled to your doorsteps because I am notoriously insular when I do go on holiday. Well, I mix with people during my working life, surrounded by youngsters all the time. I want to be away from people when I'm not working. I am a very capable island of my own if I choose.

So anyway, before I become boringly philosophical and up my own backside about the pros and cons of travelling, I came across an organisation which runs a global postcard swapping community. Basically, you register yourself and your address, and then you get an address in return to which you send a postcard. And then you get a postcard from ANYWHERE in the World! You come home one day and voila! There on your doormat will be a card from someone you have never met before from a totally random part of the world!

Well, sounds like a good hobby to get involved with, methinks. I like writing. I like postcards. Our volume of post these days is very poor, save for the flurry of takeaway menus that appear every week and are immediately consigned to the recycling bin. So I have registered. And I have just written my first postcard to someone called Jeanne who lives in San Francisco. I shall post it tomorrow.

And I'll let you know when I get my first postcard!

Friday, 19 July 2013

Doing It Different

So, all the gardening books say you can't transplant swede seedlings. You sow the seed in situ, and as the seedlings come up, you thin them out to let the remaining ones have more space. You CANNOT, say the books, replant the thinnings. DO NOT even have a go. Your plan will FAIL!

Well, a few weeks ago, as we were weeding our new allotment and getting behind with any seed sowing because of it, a fellow allotmenteer wandered across to our plot and said, 'Here are some swede seedlings. Pop 'em in and see what happens.'

So I popped 'em into a patch of weed free ground, and on inspection the next day they all appeared shrivelled, dried up,dead. (Much like my feet after over-exposure to the sun after several months besocked). But I watered them anyway (the swede thinnings, not my feet), being the eternal optimist. And they perked up. And the leaves grew and prospered. And this morning, I noted there are swedes the size of a grapefruit pushing their way through the surface of the earth! Ha! In your face, gardening experts!

Which just goes to show that sometimes it is best to ignore the experts and just do what you fancy to do regardless.

And it is just as well we have adopted this philosophy at the allotment this year because we have also chosen to ignore the whole crop rotation malarkey. Everything is having to rub along with its neighbour according to the New Gardening Rules of Andy and Denise, which is basically 'There's a space - in you go, young aubergine me lad,' and 'Shall we put the tomatoes next to the carrots and fill the gaps with parsnips and courgettes? Yes, let's!' We are such renegades!

Also, I ignored the Laws of Economy this morning, and the fact the bank balance is a little on the thin side, and marched into a shop and picked up a variety of note books, sketch pads, pastels, charcoals and watercolours, because I am going to fiddle about with a spot of art. Pure whim! I am not a painter unless it is walls and ceilings, and I am not a drawer... a drawer? That doesn't look right. Is that what you call someone who draws? Or is it merely a receptacle for pants 'n' socks? I digress...

...what I mean is that although I knit and sew and bake and doodle pictures of clouds, rainbows and spiders when I am on the phone on hold to some interminable utility company listening to plinky plonky  musak, I have not wielded a paintbrush nor pastel since I was a teenager. But Andy and I received a generous monetary gift a week ago, with the instruction to treat ourselves. So we have! To arty stuff! And thank you, generous bequester...you know who you are! (Well, I hope you do because if you don't it could well mean another marble has hit the carpet and rolled behind the sofa! x)

Of course, Andy is the real artist. He is in the garden at this very moment, easel up, brush out, and a likeness of Primrose Hen appearing on his sheet of paper. I would lean out of the upstairs window next to where I am sat and take a photo of The Artist At Work, but we all know what happened last time I 
leant from a window.

And so, dear Malarkey Guest, I am going to delve into my bag of painterly stuff and have an afternoon of arty tiddling about.

And I hope, wherever you are, you are doing your own thing in your own way, and having a jolly good tiddle too!

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Home Truth

There is nothing like going on holiday to make you realise just how much you've got at home.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Two Go On Holiday With Lashings of Ginger Beer

Well, here we are. Deep in the North-East Norfolk country, on Day 4 of our holiday. Heather et pals are chez nous, house/cat/hen/plant sitting (that was for the benefit of any burglars reading, and our insurance company). And this is what we have done so far...

1) visited two National Trust houses - Blickling Hall (excellent second had book shop, and a textile exhibition that as inspired me to have a go at doing something textiley) and Fellbrigg Hall which has THE most amazing walled garden I have ever seen. Plus all the associated Jacobean history of intrigue, plotting and extravagant ceilings, tapestries and bed-hangings.

2) driven along the coast from Cromer to Cley, in a sad attempt to locate what appears to be the only vegetarian eatery in the whole of North Norfolk. We failed. We have also failed to find a decent-sized supermarket despite being sure we spotted a single Sainsbugs lorry about three days ago. So we have been dancing from one teeny food shop to another buying odds and sods here and there and eating some very strange food combinations on picnics and in the evening.

3) racked up an amazing list of 'Animals We Have Spotted' including: hares, hens, hundreds of teeny-tiny froglets making their hazardous way from a wood to a lake, a hedgehog that turned out to be a pheasant, a bat (unfortunately deceased), sheep, horses and goats, and many, many cows which could explain why North Norfolk doesn't entertain weirdo vegetarians, because it has an awful lot of beef to get through. Also, gazillions of butterflies, dragonflies and birds. And a very cute scruffy sort-of -terrier called Elka who is, like us, also on holiday with the people who look after the cottage in which we are staying.

4) visited some odd little towns full of odd little shops (no supermarkets or branches of chain stores), locals who care nothing about how traffic works and who appear to have an average age of 87, and teeny, twisty, narrow streets where you wouldn't want to be three different bus drivers driving three different buses meeting a lorry and a big van coming the other way, like they did yesterday in Aylsham. Better than any TV programme, I can tell you. And no beeping horns or lost tempers. They must be used to it...

5) lots of walking, which is good as it is, in some small way, counteracting some of the effect of the vast amounts of National Trust cake we are consuming.

I have also got a little sunburned, but only in a mildly pink way and not in a raw, blistering way, and Andy has cracked his head a few times on the various low and wonky ceilings in our 300 year old cottage. Actually, it is part of a manor house. It has beams and uppy-downy floors, twisty narrow staircases and an odd collection of furniture in what I believe interior designers call the 'distressed' style which means I want to get out the sandpaper and a paintbrush and give it a jolly good tidy up. But it is a lovely cottage, nonetheless, and so very, very, very quiet. Rush hour consists of two cars and a bunch of house martins nesting under the eaves. And we have our own, private walled garden. Noisy bees, though. 

And today we are off to the Norfolk Lavender Farm. It's about an hour's drive away, but the countryside is so lovely in these parts that there is always something to look at, like cows for example, and surprising dog-leg bends in the road to keep one alert. 

Lavender Day it is then! By this evening I shall be in an even more docile haze than I am now!

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Grant Me The Patience...

...to not tut when mothers and their off-spring charge out of their front gates because they are late for school, without a glance left or right and with scant regard for others who might be using the pavement and have to stop suddenly and/or swerve into the road to avoid a pedestrian collision aka me...

...to not commit violence on office equipment when the photocopier jams halfway through printing a fairly substantial document...

...to not shriek with derision at a hypochondriac child who is faffing about with an ice pack because he is convinced he is suffering friction burns on his back as a result of his school skirt rubbing violently against his skin...

...to not sigh with despair at having to fill in umpty-million risk assessment visit forms/ budget forms/ permission forms/ insurance forms with the same information umpty-million times in order for a summer school to happen...

...to not blush and let my jaw drop loudly and heavily onto the desk as a Year 10 girl lets rip a feisty diatribe of expletives because 'it ain't fair!' (Whatever 'it' might be)...

...to not huff loudly when experiencing close encounters with at least three cyclists using pavements which are meant for people and pedestrians because they all begin with 'p' and not 'b' for bicycle because that would be a 'bavement' which is a made up word for something that does not exist...

...to hold onto my stomach when arriving home to cat sick and cat poo because poor Pandora is suffering again...

...to laugh lightly at naughty Daisy-hens who somehow manage to escape their run and disappear into the herb bed where they decimate what is left of the strawberries because if anything non-human is going to eat the strawberries I would rather it be a chicken than a ********* slug...

...to not throw my mobile phone against wall in a fit of pique because I can't work out how to find out what my own mobile number is despite having had it for, what, three years now? But that's okay because it just proves I am not a slave to the God of Text and RingTone and can manage quite well without a mobile, thank you, and won't end up with a hand like a claw because I walk around clutching it all day...(btw, hens have hands like claws because they ARE claws and NOT hands. Hens are not slaves to the mobile either! Btw...'btw' stands for 'by the way' which is text-talk. But I still am not a slave to the God of Text and RingTone)...

And all this because it is best to laugh in the face of adversity than punch its lights out! 

Monday, 8 July 2013


'So,' I say to Primrose and Daisy as I take them some odds and sods of bread crusts that only the beak of a hen can crack, 'did you see the Wimbledon final yesterday afternoon?'

Daisy takes a peck at the bread crust. She breaks it as though it was melt-in-the-mouth-fresh-from -the-oven shortbread. 'Mmmffffl.....mmnufffff....smifffffle....' she says, because that is what a hen sounds like with a beak full of food.

'She says,' interrupts Primrose, 'that no, we didn't watch it because tennis isn't like it used to be in the old days.'

Now, given the hens are just about a year old, I wonder exactly what they mean by 'the old days.' So I ask.

'Oh, you know,' says Primrose. 'When the likes of Tim Henman was in his prime. And Boris Pecker, and Martina Hengist and Cluck Eggbold...'

'Cluck Eggbold?' I say, because whilst I can just about let the first three dubious puns escape the pun-net (strawberries or not, ahahahahahaha!) the name 'Cluck Eggbold' requires an immediate Hawkeye challenge.

'Yes,' says Daisy. She has finished eating her bread and is wiping her beak with a napkin embroidered with a hen eating some bread. 'When we were girls (????) the Cluckster, as we called her, was our tennis heroine.'

'I've never heard of her,' I say, and earn myself withering stares from both hens.

'Oh course you haven't heard of her,' says Primrose. 'Because you are a person and she is a chicken and ne'er the twain shall meet.'

Now I am convinced Primrose and Daisy have been standing out in the sun too long.

'What do you mean?' I say. 'I meet chickens every day.'
'When?' demands Daisy, thereby ticking the quota box for one use of alliteration per day and possible one misunderstanding, too.
'Are you serious?' I say. 'When I come out and see you two. I am a human and you two are chickens, and thusly our twain do meet, and sometimes over sunflower seeds, grapes and bits of rock hard bread.'
The hens look at each other. There is a moment of silence and then they collapse into raucous laughter that goes on for so long I have time to nip back indoors, finish the washing up, complete a Sudoku (medium skill) and set up a deckchair for the sitting in of later this evening.

'I don't suppose,' I say, when the cackling has abated, 'that you'd like to tell me exactly what is so funny?'

Daisy wipes tears from her beak. 'You,' she says. 'Thinking we are chickens!'
'Hilarious!' agrees Primrose.
This time it is my turn to stare. 'Are you joking?' I say. 'Of course you are chickens. You peck, you scratch, you lay eggs, you cluck, you squawk and you fling yourselves around in the dust bath. What else would you be?'

The girls seem a little startled. They take themselves into a judgely huddle, and whisper away, occasionally looking over the space where their shoulders would be if hens had shoulders.

'And,' I say, in case they need any further evidence of their chickenness, 'by your own admission, if ne'er the twain of human and hen shall meet, then you wouldn't have heard of Cluck Eggbold either.' I restrain from adding, 'HA! In your face,' as a codicil, as that would be very immature.

After a short while, Primrose and Daisy emerge from their judgely huddle and deliver their verdict.

'We used to be hens,' says Primrose, carefully. 'And that is why we know about Cluck Eggbold. BUT...'she continues, before I can interrupt, 'since we have been living here, we have become, what is it, Daisy...'
'Anthropomorphised,' says Daisy, who is good at big words, and, completely unrelated, crochet work.
'...that's the badger,' says Primrose, 'ergo, we now think of ourselves as human.'

I allow their reasoning to sink in. Overhead, the sun is blazing and in my head, my ear is whistling. The hens have looks of grim determination fixed firmly on their hen faces. I decide that discretion is the better part of valour, and thus tick the quota box for one cliche a day.

'All right,' I say. 'I suppose it is my fault for giving you human blog adventures and voices, and Andy's fault for drawing cartoons of you dressed in clothes, wearing spectacles and riding unicycles and all that jazz.'

'Yes it is,' the hens say in unison. I give them a nod of concession, and retire to my deckchair to continue reading the epic that is 'Wolf Hall.'

Daisy turns to Primrose. 'Flippin' humans,' she says.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

New Header Picture

You may have noticed the new header picture, sketched this afternoon by Much Malarkey Manor's artist in residence, Andy. And it is a very fair approximation of the view in our garden today, with me in a deck chair under the laurel tree reading 'Wolf Hall', the lavender walk in front of the honeysuckle, and then the willow arch 'neath which Primrose is reclining in her deckchair, wearing a rather fetching pair of sunglasses and sipping at her Pimms. Not sure where Daisy is - she might be in the pod reapplying sunblock, given she is a pale chicken who catches the sun easily.

It has been a jolly good weekend. The weeding at the allotment is about as under control as weeding can be. All the cooking has been done outside on the gas barbecue. Andy Murray won Wimbledon in a very exciting match. And we've had convivial family malarkey goings-ons. We even managed to cut the hedge, weed the flower beds and mown the grass a home. Everything looks very spick and span and I am happy because I believe that ordered surroundings = an ordered mind and that, however sad it may seem to some, is a very important living factor to me.

And I've done loads of reading. And I helped a starling baby this morning, who flew full tilt into the kitchen window, smacking its head pretty comprehensively. It sat on my lap, being stunned, for around twenty minutes, and then it stretched out its wings, fluffed itself up and flew onto the fence, where it sat for another couple of minutes before launching itself into the air to find its brothers and sisters. 

I hope you've had a good weekend, too.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Of the Week

Oddest question of the week: 'Miss, do you think zombies will ever cross-breed with vampires?'

Biggest disappointment of the week: discovering that certain parts of the gardens at Cliveden are AstroTurfed. AstroTurf!!!???

Best film of the week : Despicable Me 2! Go and see it NOW! 

Best recipe of the week: a draw between Andy's rosemary focaccia and my own invention of spicy roast vegetable couscous.

Most shouty moment of the week: when Andy Murray won his semi-final yesterday.

Best power walk of the week: up the hill towards school on Thursday - feel the burn!

Itch of the week: last week's sunburn starting to peel

Nibble of the week: encounter with vampire mozzie at allotment this morning

Prayer of the week: for two friends who have recently been diagnosed with cancer. God bless you both.

Herb of the week: lavender, of course!

New underwear of the week: bright pink bra - ooh la la!

Happy moment of the week: sitting on the grass this afternoon making paintings of butterflies and sunflowers with Kayleigh

Freaky moment of the week: discovering that if I push my face upwards, my ear whistles

Surreal moment of the week: making a model of the inner ear with plasticine (floppy semi-circular canals)

Egg of the week: Daisy, for an enormous 90 gram effort this morning

Irritation of the week : the continued and incorrect use of the word 'legendary' by the BBC

Wish of the week: that all is well in your world!


Friday, 5 July 2013

Extravaganza Barbecue Day!

When someone mentions the words 'heat wave' and 'July' on the radio, one's natural reaction is, of course, to rush out and purchase a new barbecue. One is determined to spend as much time as possible cooking and eating outside because the weather has been rubbish for two years now and one has develop an opportunistic nature because of this. And one shall now stop talking like her Maj the Queen.

Anyway, we have bought a new barbecue. The old barbecue is, well, old. It hasn't been well-looked after. It is suffering rust. And as Heather said the other day when we were examining the rust bucket in the light of the back garden revamp, 'I'm not going to eat anything that's been cooked on THAT!'

Quite right too. New barbecue time it was.

We bought a gas one. No faffing about with charcoal or firelighters. Instant heat is what we wanted. Instant and efficient heat. Andy is relieved at the no more firelighter bit, mostly because I quite like the smell of them and can oversniff at barbecue time and come over a bit lightheaded.

And a gas barbecue requires a gas bottle and of course the gas bottle we have for the camping cooker is completely wrong for the new gas barbecue so we had to buy another gas bottle, and all in all this new barbecue business has become rather expensive. But it is okay because we are going to offset the cost by cooking outside every day between now and the middle of next February, regardless of wind, rain, sleet and hail and whether a 5kg goose will fit on it at Christmastime.

We also bought some fake charcoal rock things. I forget what they are called but they are supposed to retain heat emitted by the gas burners thereby enhancing barbecue efficiency AND give off an authentic charcoal smell. I am not bothered by authentic barbecue smells. I am going to be chucking rosemary on them so I get an authentic rosemary smell. 

The barbecue has a substantial cooking area plus (and I am especially excited by this) - a gas ring on the side! Which means tomorrow morning I am going to boiling the traditional egg and soldiers Saturday morning breakfast OUTSIDE on the barbecue! We are also going to attempt barbecue toast. I see no reason why this would not work - apply bread to flame et voila! Toast! In my mind, it is a plan that cannot fail.

And after barbecue breakfast, the relatives are descending for barbecue lunch! Sausages and burgers, both veggie (yum) and dead animal (bleuch!) and various pasta and couscous salads and things on sticks (although no candy floss which will be marginally sad) and Andy is making a rosemary focaccia, and I am making Eton Mess and there will be loads of fizzy orange and ice cubes and it will be like proper summer! 

And then we shall spend the afternoon drinking tea and eating homemade biscuits, and playing ukeleles and telling amusing stories about geese and badminton...

('Is she all right?' says Daisy.
'I'm not sure,' says Primrose. 'I think she might be suffering some sort of nostalgia complex.'
'Shall I give her a good peck?' says Daisy. 'Jolt her out of her reverie before she puts her hair in pigtails and gets out the skipping rope?'
'That would be just hideous,' says Primrose.
'Quite,' says Daisy.)

...and windmills and bubbles and lashings of ginger beer!

Well, you get the picture!

So, dear MMM guests, if you happen to be passing by, do drop in and join us for a sunny barbecue extravaganza day!

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

The Natural Order

This is the natural order of things:

1) It rains
2) The rain brings out the snails
3) The snails make a snail-line towards the almost ripe strawberries hiding amongst the herbs in the herb bed
4) I make a Denise-line towards the snails
5) I grab the snails that are heading towards the almost ripe strawberries 
6) I fling them towards the chicken run where Primrose and Daisy are awaiting, snail-agog and ready to do their chicken duty
7) Primrose and Daisy grab the snails with their efficient beaks and smack the heads of the aforesaid snails hard - thwack, thwack, THWACK - on whatever hard surface is immediately available e.g a rock or next-door but one's ginger cat
8) Primrose and Daisy eat snails - nom, nom, nom!
9) I pick almost ripe strawberries because there is more rain forecast for tomorrow and there is NO WAY I am coming home from work to find the snails have been having a strawberry feast in my absence
10) I take strawberries indoors, give them a jolly good wash and Andy and I eat them - nom, nom, nom!

In the distance the sound of snailhead thwacking on stone can be heard, as comforting as the sound of willow on leather which I understand is a cricketing term and not a euphemism for some dodgy behind-the-net-curtain activity.

I am sorry if this all sounds too bloodthirsty and goulish for words, but 'tis the natural order of things.

And it wouldn't have to be the natural order of things at all if the sodding snails would leave my strawberries alone.