Saturday, 31 May 2014

The Final Curtain...

...or perhaps NOT!! Hey, hey we are on our way! Finally, after much hoo-ha and huffing and puffing and 'shall we, shan't we?' lasting a good couple of years (because life is a dress rehearsal, isn't it, and we shall get that time back for good behaviour, shan't we?) Andy and I have moved to our own website!!

Called, surprisingly and originally, Much Malarkey Manor (!) it can be found by following this link to which you may have to type manually into your search engine of choice address bar because I am writing this on the Blogger app and cannot for the life of me find the linky thing that makes it work automatically. You can give it a try if you like, but don't hold your breath and/ or be surprised if the instant magic does not happen. Andy says he is going to tiddle with it later - I am assuming he means the link and nothing more rude or sinister. 

Anyhoo, why have we now gone all website? To be honest, we aren't 100% sure. It was something we discussed as we were playing around with website templates at the start of May. And these are the reasons we came up with. 

Firstly, it seemed a very grown-up thing to do. All the best people have websites, don't they? To let the rest of the world know what fab people they are and what they can do/ sell/ make etc. Secondly, it  was decided we needed a bigger and better forum for our writing, because we all know that bigger is better, don't we, especially when it comes to cake or potatoes or hot air balloons. And thirdly, as we both work part-time we needed something useful and worthwhile to occupy our spare hours with other than watching cookery programmes and playing endless games of Mah-Jong Titans. 

Well, it's a start anyway...and very much an early stage work in forgive the rough edges for a while as we become 'website savvy.'

To be honest, I wasn't expecting us to 'go live' today (this is a technical term, apparently). I was thinking it might be tomorrow, because tomorrow is the 1st June which has a neat and tidy air about it which appeals to my mild OCD tendencies - you know, doing something new on the first of the month. But then Andy took me by surprise. He also said, 'We are going live - TODAY! Write blogs! Tell people, in case they turn up at the old place and find the doors locked and all the furniture missing. We don't want them calling the police, do we?' So I did. I have.

And thus, as I approach the end of my sixth year a-blogging, we move into new and potentially exciting territory. No one can accuse us of being resistant to change, oh no! Just a bit slow off the mark, maybe. But we are determined to build this city on rock and roll...what? Did I mean that? You see - getting all celeb already! We are determined to build up the site, add new things (also a technical term) on a very regular basis, and hopefully keep you all as entertained as you have been in the past and more.

So this is the last post (par par paaaarp!) on this blogspot. Normal service is being continued on the new website. Forward we go, into strange new worlds, to seek out new cake, new civilisations, to boldly split infinitives where no decent teacher of English would have dared before...

See you, as Arthur Conan Doyle probably said, on the other side...! 


Thursday, 29 May 2014

Cobwebs Gone!

There is nothing like a short break in a cottage in the middle of nowhere surrounded by sheep in order to blow away the cobwebs. You know, those cobwebs that encroach by some stealthy and insidious process and clog up the workings of your mind to the point where you find want to trade in your boring current existence for something shiny, new and jolly well exciting. Damn those cobwebs! Damn them!

Anyway, Andy and I set off on Sunday for a much needed four day break in green and lovely Worcestershire/Herefordshire/Shropshire Shire. We found our cottage at the end of a long bumpy narrow track on top of a hill. Our neighbours were sheep. It was very quiet. Apart from the sheep. They were quite loud. But not as loud as rush hour cars, say, or neighbours having loud barbecues, or shouting matches, or, well, you get the gist. 

On Monday, we visited Malvern spa town, because they were having a food festival, which was excellent and far better than any excuse for a food festival I have ever attended in Kent. We purchased much lovely food and thus have lost no weight this week. We got a bit lost coming out of Malvern and ended up right at the top of the Malvern hills, almost in Heaven's clouds. It was a bit scary because a) the roads were very narrow and steep and full of locals who drove like lunatics because, presumably, they knew their roads well and were unafraid of heights and narrowness and brushing the bottoms of Heaven's clouds and b) we didn't know quite how and when we were ever going to find our way back to the cottage because we kept having déjà vu moments as we went round and round in circles. But eventually we did. Phew!

And the only not quite nice thing about the day was witnessing a cyclist whizzing down a steep hill, all togged up in Lycra and stupid goggles and pointy helmet pretending he was all that, and being most rude and shouty towards some pedestrians who weren't quite quick enough in getting out of his way because they were (how DARE they!) crossing the road at the time. This isn't the first time we have witnessed such bad behaviour from these togged up 'look at me - I'm a Bradley Wiggins wannabee' cyclists. Ordinary cyclists seem fine, but add Lycra and shorts and elbow pads and ta-dah! You get a moron who thinks he has the right to cycle down the centre of the road at high speeds, swearing at pedestrians and generally behaving like a lout. Well, it ain't clever, big or funny. It is wazzock behaviour. Get over yourself. Grow some road manners. And stop riding three abreast on roads with your mates like you are a car. Rant over.

We visited Malvern Abbey, too, and a National Trust property which shall remain nameless only because I do not wish to embarrass them by nominating them as having the worst set of tea room staff ever, who did a lot of faffing around in a very disorganised and faffy way and the words 'p*ss up' and 'brewery' kept springing to mind. And that a spot of watching how the efficient staff at Worcester Cathedral managed their tea room would probably be of some benefit. Just a thought.  

On Tuesday we went to Worcester. Lovely city. Lots of swans on the river. Magnificent cathedral. Interesting museum at the now sadly defunct Worcestershire Porcelain factory. They once had a factory cat called 'Pudding.' Great name for a cat, Pudding. No ego-cyclists. Marvellous cathedral tea shop. And no, I do not have a new job working for the Worcester Tourist Board! But their website did cause mild anger issues with Andy because of its general inadequacies. They might want to brush it up a bit. Oh, and on Tuesday we were almost hit by a small cow who jumped out of a ditch at us as we drove by, and we almost ran over an entire family of squirrels. But you will be pleased to know that no animals were damaged in the making of this short break. Phew! Oh, and Andy threw a bottle of wine all over a shop floor in quite magnificent fashion. But not as magnificent as the lady in the petrol station today who threw a whole crateful of Red Bull all over the floor.

Yesterday, we went to one of my favourite ever places - Ludlow. We didn't stay long because it was freezing cold and a bit rainy and mucho windio, and all I had with me was a flimsy cardie because I stupidly thought I wouldn't need my Winter coat in almost June, would I? Anyway, Ludlow was every bit as good as I remember it from our last visit. Did a spot of retail therapy in the form of a lovely floral jug (for flowers), a lovely shiny pink handbag (for lady writer accoutrements) and fluffy blue ballet slippers (for feet.) 

And today, we came home. Good journey. No hold ups. The cats were not cross with us for long for our blatant desertion of their constant animals needs and I don't think the hens were even aware we had been missing. The house was still standing, the postman had delivered nothing but junk mail and within two hours I had taken two cold calls - one from British Telecom who are well getting on my nerves at the moment, and another from a website I had visited about taking a Tefl qualification and whose website box I DEFINITELY remember ticking in order to prevent receiving cold calls...sigh...

But it is good to be home! I feel refreshed and dynamic, and my rant reserve is fully topped up. Andy felt so refreshed he immediately went out and bought a new law mower and mowed both front AND back lawns. 

And now I shall go and rustle up some dinner from holiday leftovers, which could be interesting...

Saturday, 24 May 2014

For English Teachers Everywhere

Found this during an Interwebbly perambulation. Cheered me up no end. Being an English teacher and all...

Great English Teachers Are...

...passionate about many things
...people to be reckoned with
...people with opinions
...people you can't ignore
...reading mad - they couldn't live if they didn't read! too hard
...don't pretend to know all the answers individualism
...balance spontaneity with structure
...have high expectations and ideals the process of teaching for its creative opportunities
...are undervalued
...have a powerful emotional impact
...get nervous on exam results day
...more important than they realise.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Grannie Blows Her Trumpet

Good evening,all!

I am briefly hijacking the blog from Primrose and Daisy (and I had to wait until this evening, Mondays being their 'Samova and Samosa' night out) to tell you quickly about what I did this afternoon.

This afternoon I attended a Celebration Tea at Kayleigh's school, to see her being awarded with a certificate, citation and book prize in recognition of her 100% effort in everything she does, her excellent academic achievement and her being an all-round fab little girl who is kind, and cheerful and caring and well behaved! 

Fair brought a tear to my eye it did! What a brilliant recognition of her first year in formal education! 

Well done, Kayleigh! Grandpa and I are very proud of you! And well done, Chris and Leane, for doing such a good parenting job that allowed Kayleigh to make this grand achievement. 

I am blowing my trumpet and I don't care who hears!

Right, back to the renovations of Much Malarkey Manor.

Daisy and Primrose will be back forthwith...I just hope they haven't over-indulged the samosas. Curried chick pea wrapped in fried filo, plus a chicken's digestive system is never a good combination. 

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Up, Up and Away!

Daisy is looking very pleased with herself. She has the kind of look on her face which suggests she has just made a discovery. A discovery like finding a lone biscuit in the tin which you thought was empty. Or that you are related to someone famous like James Pimm who invented Pimms. Or you can fly...

'How did you get over there?' demands Primrose. Primrose is standing on one side (also known as 'the correct side') of the chicken run fence, and Daisy is standing on the other side (also known as 'the green-and-lush-and-chicken-poop-free side') of the chicken run fence.The four feet high barrier betwixt the two is still standing, and the gate in the fence is shut fast.

'I flew!' says Daisy. 

'You what?' says Primrose.

'Flew!' says Daisy. 'You should have a go. Flying achieves instant access to the whole garden without having to want until Denise and/or Andy decide we can have an hour or two of wanton lawn destruction time and let us through the gate.'

At that moment Denise appears. 'You are a naughty hen,' she says, and, sprinkling a trail of sunflower seeds up the lavender walk, leads Daisy back to the gate in the fence and secures her on 'the right side.'

Daisy hoovers up the sunflower seeds and waits until Denise has retired to the Manor to continue supervising the builders who are continuing the transformation of the blog. This sequence of flying events has already happened three times this morning. Daisy is getting fed up of sunflower seeds and is wishing Denise would tempt her back to barracks with some other tasty tidbit, like, oh, brioche or smoked salmon or a few peeled grapes. 

'Now,' says Daisy. 'Watch this...'

And she paces up and down the fence a few times, and then stands back as though she is judging the height of the fence, and then she steps back a few paces as though she is assessing a bit of a run-up, and then, from pretty much a standing start, she leaps into the air, flaps her wings and lands...PLOP!... In the middle of the lawn some eight feet away. 

'Freedom!!!' she yells, as she flies through the air. 

From an upstairs open window a voice of resigned tone shouts, 'She's done it again!' and this time Andy appears, captures Daisy and dumps her back in the chicken run.

'It's a bit of a lark, isn't it!' says Daisy, who is very excited by the whole shenanigans. 'I only wish I had discovered this flying business ages ago. It is most liberating, both in the physical sense and the 'chickens shall not be slaves to the egg market' sense.'

'Perhaps I should give it a go,' says Primrose, although she is a little more reticent because she is considerably shorter in the leg and body than Daisy. 

'You could try,' says Daisy. 'Although you are a bit of a short-arse. Perhaps if you climbed on top of the new dust bath Andy so kindly provided for us the other week, you might achieve the extra height you need.'

'You mean like the extra height it gave you to destroy all the leaves on the bottom branches of the damson tree?' says Primrose.

'Exactamundo!' says Daisy. 'And most delicious they were, too.'

'I'm not sure,' says Primrose. 'I mean, I'm not great with heights. I'm getting a bit dizzy in these espadrilles,' and she waggled her feet at Daisy. Daisy ignores her, because it is her belief that espadrilles are a ridiculous item of footwear, especially when there are flip-flops to be had for half the price.

'And something else I have discovered,' says Daisy, by means of temptation,'is that I rather like lemon balm. See those holes?' and she points to the lemon balm which is looking a bit raggedy round the edges. 'That wasn't slugs, you know. It was me!'

'Really?' says Primrose. 'But Denise was very careful in her herb garden planning. She deliberately chose plants that caused repulsion in hens. Like lemon balm.'

'Well I say never be repulsed by anything unless you've given it a try,' says Daisy.

'Perhaps I'll try later,' says Primrose. 'When I've finished decoupaging this stationery box. Oh, by the way, we have a new guest at Much Malarkey Manor.'

'How exciting!' says Daisy.

'Her name is Joanne,' says Primrose. 'And I think we should mention other guests who have recently arrived, too, like Catherine and Sarah and Allan.'

'Where are we going to put them?' says Daisy. 'I mean, once the builders have finished with the renovations there will be plenty of space, but what with Olly taking up pretty much the whole of the West Wing with her knitting we are getting tight for space.'

'It's okay,' says Primrose, 'Tango Pete is arriving this afternoon to erect his Yurt.'

'Oh really?' says Daisy. 'I don't see how that is going to help...'

'A yurt,' interrupts Primrose, before the tone of the conversations starts plummeting into the gutter, 'is an enormous Mongolian tent. It has a proper floor and woodburning stove and everything. It is essential glamping equipment. A glampers is someone who needs their hair straighteners EVERY day, before you ask.'

'Riiiiight...' says Daisy, who is only half-listening because she is contemplating another flying excursion but can see Denise watching her from her arty-crafty writing room window with her best 'don't you dare' teacher look on her face. 

'So I think we are all right for accommodation,' says Primrose. 'And I am also glad, as temporary writers in residence, that we have attracted another guest with our witty banter. It means we can't be doing that bad a job.'

'Of course we aren't!' says Daisy. 'We are fab, we are.' 

And she disappears over the fence...

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Hollywood or Bust!

'So where did Lord and Lady Malarkey get to last night?' says Daisy. She and Primrose are having a rest from their recent literary exertions and are lolling on the verandah with tequilas and a half packet of Hobnobs sequestered during a raid on the Manor kitchens the previous evening. The sun is blazing down, there is a lot of sky and very little cloud, and all in all it is way too hot to be doing anything. 

'They were out gallivanting,' says Primrose. 'Which is why it was so easy to sequester these here Hobnobs.'

'That's a good word, isn't it?' says Daisy.

'What, Hobnobs?' says Primrose.

'No,' says Daisy. 'Sequestered. In fact, I shall add it to my writing note book.' For she has read that ALL good writers ALWAYS carry a notebook with them wherever they go, in case the muse should strike. Daisy's notebook is especially hefty, so she can give this muse a good wallop back in case it strikes her.

'Apparently,' says Primrose, 'they went to Margate, which is an odd thing for a Lord and Lady to do because by all accounts it is a bit rough these days. Certainly not the cheerful centre of innocent family fun it used to be in the Fifties, anyway.'

'Nowhere in Kent is like it was in the Fifties,' sighs Daisy. 'It's all concrete business jungles and housing estates and massive traffic jams. Apparently, the air pollution in our town is one of the highest in the county.'

'Hack, hack....cough!' says Primrose, to prove a point.

'So why did they go to Margate?' says Daisy, wiping a blob of cough spit from her tankini. 

'To see Paul Hollywood in his baking show,' says Primrose. 

'Paul who?' says Daisy.

'That is what I said,' said Primrose. 'He is also known as 'The Silver Fox.'

'Ooooh, we don't like foxes,' says Daisy, doing a bit of a shudder. 

'No, we don't,' says Primrose. 'But he isn't a real fox. Just has a bushy tail and the habit of emptying dustbins all over the road in the middle of the night.'

'Well,' says Daisy, 'I can't see that travelling all the way to Margate in the middle of the week to see someone emptying dustbins all over the road is a very entertaining proposition.'

'They went to see him bake stuff,' says Primrose, patiently, and thinking if it wasn't so hot she might have the energy to get off her sun lounger and bat Daisy round the noggin with cocktail umbrella. But as it was, she didn't, and peace was sustained.

'They went to see someone bake stuff?' says Daisy. 'They could stay at home and do that for free.'

'That is what they are planning on doing,' says Primrose. 'The next time Heather has a baking evening, they are going to station themselves in the kitchen with a bag of popcorn and STARE! And probably make helpful comments. And demand an interval with icecream.'

'Aaah,' says Daisy. 'That'd be Extreme Danger Baking then?'

'Anyway,'says Primrose, 'this Paul Hollywood chap is a bit of a TV celeb. So part of going to see him last night was to exorcise a ghost for Andy, because Andy is just as good at baking but has neither a TV show nor great wodges of cash nor a massive house in the countryside. And Andy must not become a bitter baker because he has other talents as well, including drawing. I bet Paul Hollywood is pants at drawing.'

'But Andy could become a better baker if he used a bitter butter,' says Daisy, and promptly enters the alliteration in her writer's notebook.

'Bitter butter?' says Primrose. 'What ARE you waffling about? You don't want butter to be bitter, you Muppet.'

'When I say 'bitter,' says Daisy, carefully, 'what I really mean is a cunning play on words, or pun, on the phrase 'bit of.'

'Well saved,' says Primrose.

'Thank you,' says Daisy. 'So was it worth their trip, do you think?'

'I think so,' says Primrose. 'He was quite entertaining - kept making double entendres about nuts apparently, and holding up his floppy dough so it made comedy shapes of an 'oo-er, Missus' variety. But they were late back and are thusly tired and crabby today because they are both working PLUS Denise has lost her voice which she thinks is a chakra thing and Andy thinks is a germ thing picked up from school.'

'Best stay out of their way, then,' says Daisy, looking wistfully at the now empty packet of Hobnobs and wishing they could do another raid on the Manor kitchens this evening for some Jaffa cakes, maybe,or even a spot of toast and marmalade.

But then we can't always have what we want, can we? 

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

A Novel Experience

Following her triumphant debut yesterday as temporary Writer In Residence at Much Malarkey Manor, Primrose has spent today sitting lightly on her laurels looking as smug as a mug without an 's'. She has decided she is well into poetry now, and psychoanalysis, and is flicking through the pages of an Open University prospectus because she quite likes the thought of doing a spot of study and becoming a Doctor of Literary Prowess. Daisy, meanwhile, has poo-pooed poetry. She is aiming for the dizzy heights of novel writing...

'I am going to write a novel,' Daisy announces, emerging from the pod in a sprigged muslin frock and velvet bolero jacket. She is also wearing a short, lightly curled wig topped with a perky bonnet.

'You remind me of someone,' says Primrose, shifting on her laurels because laurels are quite spiky on the chicken tush despite their lush and smooth appearance. (The laurel leaves, not the chicekn's tush.)

'Really?' says Daisy. 'Whom, pray tell?'

Primrose squints. 'Well...' she begins.

'Would it be someone like the celebrated, highly regarded and some would say finest lady romantic novelist England ever produced?' interrupts Daisy.

'What? Barbara Cartland?' says Primrose, looking slightly startled. 'She wasn't who immediately sprung to mind, no, but now you mention her...'

'Oh, tish and pho!' says Daisy, and taps Primrose lightly on the wing with a closed fan. Only it isn't  that light a tap and Primrose ends up in a heap in the lemon balm which is going great guns this year and is threatening to reach an overall mass equivalent to a small elephant.

'Ouch!!!' says Primrose. 'Was that entirely necessary? Who are you talking about?'

'Why,' simpers Daisy, 'Jane Austen, of course.'

'Humph,' says Primrose. 'In that case, I think you should dispense with the simpering. I don't think Jane Austen was a simperer. I think she was a feisty gal with a good left hook.' She rubs her wing. 'You got that bit right, I suppose.'

'Okay,' says Daisy. 'I shall cut the simpering. To be honest, I can't do with simpering. But I can cope with being a feisty gal, and I have been reading about novel writing in the 21st century, and feisty gal is what you have to be if you are going to get even a sniff at being published.'

'Quite right,' says Primrose. 'Feistiness, good characters, seamless plot and knowing someone in the publishing business are all integral ingredients in being a published author these days. Do you know anyone in the publishing business?'

'Sadly, no,' says Daisy. 

'Then you are doomed to fail,' says Primrose.

'But I have drawn up a list of some excellent names for characters,' says Daisy. 'Of which I shall share with you now. Are you ready?'

'As I shall ever be,' says Primrose. 'Regale away.'

Daisy clears her throat. She has clearly given a lot of thought to the naming of these characters.

'Trilby Lukewarmer,' she begins, 'Smatterly Bumfluff, Nancy Pants and Stoately Harris. Partly Nantwich, Weasley Binton, Lobelia Tonguegroove and Tuppy Broadweed...'

'I had a cousin called Tuppy Broadweed,' says Primrose. 'He was in MI5. Of course, he didn't use his real name when he was incognito because he didn't want to draw attention to himself.'

'Most wise,' says Daisy. 'What was his incognito name?'

'Monty Aardvark-Vidayo,' says Primrose.

'Ah, yes,' says Daisy. 'Far more discreet.'

'So,' says Primrose, 'have you a plot to go with these characters? Of course, all good plots are character driven, so personally I think it is best to be flexible with your storyline and see where the characters take it.'

'What?' says Daisy. She hides the folder marked, 'Detailed and Intricate Plot Notes' beneath her Regency muff. 

'Oh yes,' says Primrose. 'Personally, I would give one of your characters a simple situation, a line of introductory dialogue and let them get on with it.'

'You would?' says Daisy.

'Yes,' says Primrose. 

'For example?' says Daisy, who is suddenly realising that perhaps dashing off a best selling novel by the weekend is probably unlikely to happen. 

'Well, for example,' says Primrose, 'you could put Trilby Lukewarmer in, say, a street in London, called, oh, I don't know, Bakers Street, and he could step suddenly from a foggy corner into the path of a small coach and horses and confront the evil Smatterly Bumfluff with the words, 'I knew you wouldn't stay away for long, Bumfluff. How was your aunt in Weston-Super-Mare?'

There is a moment of stillness. It is as if a nugget of genius has been released like a rare butterfly into the air, and Daisy is looking like someone who has a net and is frantic to catch it before it is ripped to shreds by the beak of a passing pigeon, because pigeons are ruthless like that. 

'Right!' says Daisy. 'I see what you mean. Right! Good! I have to go. Now. to make.' And off she scuttles to the pod. 

Primrose counts slowly to ten. The sound of crazy typewriter clacking soon fills the air.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Poetic Henalysis

Primrose and Daisy have been up since dawn flexing their writing muscles. The writing muscle is located just off-centre of the point directly between the eyes which accounts for why writers often find themselves pulling odd faces, like they have a bumblebee resting on the end of their nose and they don't want to startle it because we must be kind to bumblebees as they are kind to us. 

'Are we ready for our first blog?' says Daisy. She has dressed for the part, deciding upon Regency style with a hint of Steam Punk to make her appear 'edgy.' (If you are unaware of steam punk style, have a Google and be surprised.Or not, if steam punk is already your a la mode fashion of choice.) Primrose, conversely, is still in her jim-jams because it is a well known fact that 1) writers never bother to dress 2) eat meals at socially acceptable times or 3) accept rejection with a light-hearted 'Fa-la-laaaaa! Never mind! There is always tomorrow!'

'I think so,' says Primrose. 'I have done some research and...'

'Research?' says Daisy. 'I thought we were going to wing it? You'll be telling me you've been doing planning next.'

This wild and crazy idea elicits a look from Primrose which suggests that is EXACTLY what she has been doing. She is taking this writing malarkey SERIOUSLY. She has already planned a shopping trip to Paperchase in order to purchase suitable and relevant notebooks 'n' pens 'n' stickers 'n' stuff. She is even wondering if she can get away with conducting her shopping trip dans jim-jams. 

Daisy sighs. 'You know we are only temporary writers in residence, don't you?' she says. 'Because once Denise has had the builders in and the Manor has been revamped, she will take back the reigns of creative direction until...well, until she has another writerly crisis. And then it will be the cats' turn to step unto the breach, dear friend.'

'But we don't know how long that will be,' says Primrose. 'And as such I intend on doing this properly. And I thought, in order to mark us with some intellectual gravitas we could start with a bit of poetry analysis. And I have found a poem. About chickens. It is by Jack Prelutsky...'

'Never heard of him,' says Daisy.

'Me neither,' says Primrose. 'But it is the best poem about chickens that I could find, so shut up and listen...ahem....

Last night I dreamed of chickens,
there were chickens everywhere,
they were standing on my stomach,
they were nesting in my hair,
they were pecking at my pillow,
they were hopping on my head,
they were ruffling up their feathers
as they raced about my bed.

They were on the chairs and tables,
they were on the chandeliers,
they were roosting in the corners,
they were clucking in my ears,
there were chickens, chickens, chickens
for as far as I could see...
when I woke today, I noticed
there were eggs on top of me.

And Primrose finished with a dramatic pause and meaningful stare.

'Okay,' says Daisy, adjusting her miniature top hat, the one with the lace veil and blue pheasant feather, 'what does it mean? In poetic terms?'

'Well,' says Primrose, whipping out an important looking notebook marked 'Writerly Thoughts and Analysis.' 'I think it is a reflection of the poet's inner psyche. The excess of chickens represent the troubled thoughts that crowd his mind during the daytime hours, and when he goes to sleep at night, these thoughts are released from the confines of rational thought and are allowed to manifest themselves in terms of chaos, noise, hyper-activity and er...chandeliers. The poet has tried to repress his angst, i.e 'the chickens' and in order to achieve peace of mind he must learn to release them from the 'coop' of restraint during the day, or his nights will ever and thus be haunted.'

'Have you been reading Tango Pete's copy of 'Freud Chicken' again?' says Daisy. 

'No, I have not,' says Primrose. 'Although I did find his thoughts on the 'Egg' most enlightening.'

'The Ego,' says Daisy. 'Really, you must get your eyes tested.'

'Ego, schmeego, whatever,' says Primrose, all casual-like. 'Regardless, that is what I think the poem is about. What are your thoughts, oh fellow guardian of the blog.'

'I have only two thoughts,' says Daisy. 'One is that the poet forgot to shut his chickens away properly at night and they went on a midnight rampage, and the second is that he ate too much cheese before bed.'

'You're not going to take this analysis wholly seriously, are you?' says Primrose.

'Probably not,' says Daisy. 'But tomorrow it will be my turn to present the subject of the blog.'

'Any ideas yet?' says Primrose.

'No,' says Daisy. 'But at least it is going to be funny.'

Sunday, 11 May 2014

The Last Post

'Par...paaaaaarppp!' comes the sound from the back garden of Much Malarkey Manor.
',' it continues in rising crescendo or some might say 'a bloody racket.'

'What ARE you doing?' shouts Primrose at Daisy, who is the cause of this unholy hoo-ha first thing this Sunday morning.

'I am playing my trumpet!' shouts back Daisy. And this, dear reader, is no mean feat for a hen, for it is well known that combinations involving beaks and brass instrument mouthpieces are tricky things. 

'Why?' shouts Primrose.

'Well,' says Daisy, resting the trumpet end on her hip. 'I am marking the end of an era.'

'And what era would that be?' says Primrose. 'Unless you count the era which is an anagram of 'ear' of which both of mine are suffering through your unnecessarily loud trumpet playing.'

'The end of Much Malarkey Manor,' said Daisy.

There is a moment of silence as Primrose takes in what Daisy has said, and also removes a piece of nutty muesli from her back teeth. 

'The what???' says she. 'For one moment I thought you said 'the end?'

'I did,' says Daisy. 'Well, maybe 'the end' is being slightly dramatic. More like 'closing until further notice.'

'But why?' says Primrose. 'Is everyone all right? Phoebe...?'

'Still sleeping, eating and maintaining the shape of a cat who's swallowed a basketball,' says Daisy.

'And Tybalt?' 

'Still suave, sophisticated, talking in voce falsetto and the best natured cat ever to live on planet Earth,' says Daisy.

'And Flora Bijou Mybug?' says Primrose.

'Continues apace with being a right royal kitten pain in the backside with a stupidly bouffant tail,' says Daisy.

'Well,' says Primrose,'we two are okay, too, so it can't be us. What about them up at the Manor? Him and her indoors?'

'It's Andy's birthday today,' says Daisy. 'He is happy because he has a new computer to play with which I understand is the ultimate accessory of joy and wonderment for a man in his early forties. And he is also being taken out for a posh lunch, too. He is okay.'

'What about her, then?' says Primrose. 'She can be a bit peculiar sometimes.'

Daisy sighs. 'I know. I blame her eggs running out.'

'We could lend her some,' says Primrose. 

'We could,' says Daisy. 'But I am not sure it would help. She has decided a Much Malarkey Manor renovation is long overdue. She has got the builders coming in.'

'That'll cause a lot of dust and disruption,' says Primrose, who remembers only too well the chaos caused when the oubliette and grotto were constructed back in the Great Winds of '87.

'Quite,' says Daisy. 

'What's she having done?' says Primrose.

'Oh, this and that,' says Daisy. 'This and that. The point is that the Much Malarkey Manor as we know it is closing down. And this is the Last Post.'

'Hence the trumpet?' says Primrose.

'Indeed,' says Daisy. 

Another silence descends.

'But we can't have that,' says Primrose, if only to stop Daisy restarting her trumpet playing. 'We have to keep Much Malarkey Manor going some how.'

'I've tried to persuade her,' says Daisy. 'I even made her an Eton Mess on toast with butter and marmalade but it made no difference. She is all written out, she says. And some other drivel about fizzle and pens and inspiration which I didn't understand at all, but then I was ear deep in meringue at the time.'

'Then WE must take over the blog!' says Primrose. 'We must pick up the baton of the pen and regale the guests with our many tales of...of...'

'Feathers?' suggests Daisy. 

'Yes!' shouts Primrose. 'No! Yes! Oh, you know what I mean. We can do it! We can be amusing and entertaining.'

'How are you with a keyboard?' says Daisy. 'Only my typing is about 6 words per hour. It could be a slow process...'

'No matter!' cried Primrose, who is already half way back to the pod to dig out her 'My Little Printer Printing Press' which she is sure is in the cellar somewhere behind the barrel of cherry brandy. 

Daisy lays her trumpet carefully on a passing pigeon, which makes it swear a bit because pigeons are like that. She coughs.

'Well,' she says, addressing an MMM guest (namely Olly, who will know why) who is sitting beneath the apple tree knitting a pair of socks. 'It seems that Much Malarkey Manor is being taken under the capable wings of me and Primrose...'

'No-one said anything about being capable!' shouts Primrose who, it appears, has remarkable hearing.

'Well that takes the pressure off!' says Daisy. 'See you all tomorrow!' 

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Snoozy Sunday

Elizabeth Jane - four days old!

Thursday, 1 May 2014


This week the following discoveries have been made:

1) that new babies are actually 20% baby and 80% poo

2) that you can't climb Mount Everest in a single morning and come back down by train. This discovery was made by a student who wrote about it in a mock exam paper, handed it in and then realised, too late, that he was in fact thinking of Mount Snowdon. Still, made me laugh.

3) new big sisters who insist on helping with nappy changes suddenly change their minds when they see what is actually involved (I refer you to point 1, m'lud.)

4) some of Pan's People in the 1970s had fairly sizeable a*ses. Most comforting.

5) some people are confused by the meanings of the words 'geezer' (bloke) and Giza (pyramids) resulting in more entertaining reading for the mock exam marker aka moi.

6) some people (like, well, my son Christopher) find out that the lady cat he sent to the vet's for spaying today turned out to be a boy cat in need of castrating. Cheaper though. Luckily, the cat is called Darcy so is probably the least confused of everyone.

7) you have to fill out a Customs form to send a lavender bag to Texas. You have to describe it AND declare its weight. I am expecting arrest by the FBI any moment now. Especially as I included a flower fairy mouse, too. 

8) allow a couple of bluebells to stay in your garden and a few years down the line you will have a veritable bluebell forest! 

9) chickens really aren't that keen on swings.

10) kittens called Flora Bijou Mybug who cover their faces in lily pollen will not necessarily become poisoned but they will throw their vet owner into a frenzy resulting in a trip to the surgery for emergency blood test. And they will walk around with an orange-stained nose until their face has been thoroughly scrubbed. The kitten, not the vet.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

We are a Gran Again!

At 4.37 this morning, 30th April, weighing 6lbs 9oz... Elizabeth, safe into the World!

Mum and Dad very happy.

Kayleigh ridiculously excited and LOUD!!

Gran and Grandpa thrilled. And tired. And glad they don't have a 4 year old for a sleepover every night!

Monday, 21 April 2014

Any Day Soon

For a small person who hasn't even entered the World yet, the new baby granddaughter is very much making her presence felt in the manner of causing several false alarms. She has been threatening to arrive for, oooh, a good couple of weeks now, even though she isn't due until 1st May. 

I have been having words. I've said, 'You are to wait until at least 21st April, until you are a Taurean baby. A Taurean baby will balance your little family very well indeed.' So at least she has sat tight until today, bless her! 

As a consequence of her little 'shall I, shan't I?' shenanigans, I have been on full Granny Alert ready to collect Kayleigh for when it all kicks off for real. This means having my mobile switched on all the time and by my side in easy reach which is a novelty for me as I am not a mobile phone type of person, and how these youngsters tote theirs around in a claw-like clutch all the time I neither know nor understand. Kayleigh has been preparing for big sisterhood by toting a doll around, mostly very carefully in 'carry a baby properly' mode, but sometimes in a more worrying, 'dangling upside-down by the neck/ leg/ arm' fashion. Grandpa Andy says. 'You aren't going to carry your new sister like that, are you?' and Kayleigh sighs, gives him a bit of a look and says, as wearily as a 4 year old can, 'Of course not, Grandpa.'

Kayleigh has fully discovered the joy of chickens. When she was a toddler, she liked the hens enormously, and would squat down amongst them, chatting away and trying to force cabbage leaves upon them. Then she went through a phase of liking chickens but only from a distance because she was convinced they were trying to rip the skin from her fingers and draw as much blood as possible a la vampire hen. They never did, of course,because (aside from Mrs Poo) our hens have always been a very gentle and peaceable bunch.

But now? Well, when Kayleigh visits it's, 'Do the chickens need feeding? I think they might be hungry. Shall we feed the chickens? Are there any eggs? Let's check for eggs. I think there might be eggs,' until we relent and troop up to the hens' end of the garden where Kayleigh marches about dispensing sunflower seeds and greens, collecting eggs and generally trying to organise Primrose and Daisy into what she regards as proper hen-like activities. She happily allows them to peck seeds from her bare hands, and is, I think, beginning to grasp that one hen = one egg per day and if Gran has already collected the eggs that day then there will not be any more to collect, despite her small child insistence there MAY have been some kind of egg miracle. 

So, new baby will be a Taurean, may possibly arrive very soon, or may not, because babies arrive when they want to. I continue to forget to remember to have my phone with me all the time, and thusly spend a lot of time thinking, 'Where did I leave my phone?' because until recently I have ALWAYS known where it has been which is switched off in the bottom of my bag. I have been officially identified as 'Person Safe To Collect Kayleigh From Nursery School.' Chris is looking forward to the baby arriving because he says he might then get a decent night of sleep (???) and Leane is looking forward to the baby arriving so she doesn't have to keep suffering all these uncomfortable false alarms. 

And Grandpa Andy? Well, aside from proving to be the BEST grandpa a child could ever wish for, he is calmly oblivious to all current baby-events and taking it all in his stride.

But then he is a Taurean, too. And that is what they (generally) are like. 

Thursday, 17 April 2014

An Innocent Export

I have been doing a spot of foreign property surfing on the interwebbly this week, mostly because every now and then Andy and I get fed up with living in the middle of a town when we really want to live in the middle of a massive field.  And because a house in a massive field in Britain costs a ridiculous amount of money which we don't have, we tease ourselves by looking at massive houses in France surrounded by lush hills and woodland...

...and, I might add, without a person in sight, too, which is very important,especially to me as I have tolerated almost two weeks of the Shouty Tenants Next Door, to the point where they were having a massive barny on their patio yesterday afternoon, and I happened to be in our back garden cleaning out the hen pod, and I flipped every so slightly and said, in a not very quiet voice, 'Oh for goodness' sake, STOP flipping SHOUTING all the time!' only I didn't use the word 'flipping', I said something that begins with 'b' and rhymes with 'muddy.' Suddenly, it went quiet, a door opened and closed, and the barny continued in a more muffled tone from indoors. I sighed, Primrose and Daisy looked sympathetic, and then said please could I hurry up and re-establish their nest as there was an egg most imminent...

Anyway, having selected several houses en France, including one I keep going back to and would buy TODAY if a) I had a guaranteed income out there so we wouldn't starve to death or be clapped in irons for non-payment of taxes and bills and b) was brave enough,  I had the urge to move onto Germany, around the Rhine Valley.

 Cor, that was an eye opener! I went on to read several blogs about living in Germany, I even went on the Government website to see about practicalities and it all seemed jolly well organised, clean and tidy, and you know how I approve of these qualities enormously. So now I get to house hunt in Germany, too! I have toyed with Italy, because I am a bit of a romantic and I love what Italians do with their gardens and their food, but I am yet to be enchanted by their houses. Australia is too hot and full of spiders hiding under the loo seat waiting to nip you on the unmentionables, Spain is too hot full stop. Anywhere North of Lancashire is too cold and dark and wet. I can't bring myself to consider America, although I know it is full of really lovely people. 

Which brings me to the purpose of my post today, which wasn't to bore you with my 'Search For A Field' plan but...

...I have a friend in America, and she has been through a bit of a tough time of late. And I want to send her a little 'Cheer You Up' gift. Now, I don't want to send any old thing that you can buy any old where in the world, and was probably mass produced in China. I want to send something specifically of England. Like a Much Malarkey Manor hand crafted by moi lavender bag. Just as an example. 

Well, in the back of my mind, because I have been distracting myself from the reality of my life with dreams of foreign climes, I remembered reading somewhere that you have to be careful what you can send in post to the USA. So I researched sending dried lavender flower heads encased in cotton fabric and up popped horror stories of lavender bags being sniffed out by beagles in airports and RIPPED to tiny shreds, or INCINERATED, and I do not want that to happen to the parcel I am sending to my friend. I have even gone as far as emailing APHIS USA which is the oracle of what you can and cannot bring into and send out of America. They haven't got back to me so far. The whole malarkey is beginning to make me feel like a potential criminal! 

So I popped into town today, to a 'Local Craft made by Local People' arty gallery-type place and found something I think I am pretty safe to send without fear of it becoming part of a beagle's breakfast or nuked with a flame thrower. But even then I am feeling marginally anxious. No, Denise, it'll be okay! No probs. absolutely fine! Really it will...

And when I think of things I have chucked in a box a sent to France...

I leave you with a picture of Flora Bijou Mybug, who is clearly not as excited by the novel 'Regency Buck' as I have been. Olly, I need some Georgette Heyer recommendations, please!!

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Flora Helps

What with one thing and another, the last two weeks have proved rather trying, and as a consequence I have been feeling testy, irritated and marginally annoyed with life.

And I have learned that when I am feeling like this it is best to avoid blogging, because my pen IS my sword and it could have erred towards sharpness which would not have been good for the spirit or my karmic piggy bank.

However, after much propping up from an excellent hubbie and a marvellous long-time friend, I feel once more clear-headed and focused, and tickety-booness reigneth large, and lessons learned have been noted for future reference.

And so this morning I have been carpet wrestling. Someone (can't think who) thought it would be an excellent idea that as we were redecorating our bedroom, then why not redecorate Andy's study AS WELL, including paint and carpet, the whole hog as it were? Marvellous! Get it all done at once! Surely we could fit two rooms' worth of 'stuff' into my arty-crafty writing room, couldn't we? Yeah! It'll go, no probs!!

Well, there was some overspill into the living room. There was a lot of squishing and squashing going on at 6.30 this morning. And then Andy left for work, and it was up to me to remove two lots of carpet and underlay from the two respective rooms before the carpet fitter chap arrived with the new carpet.

It was okay though! I had a helper...

Monday, 31 March 2014

Home Alone and Safe

Well, here is a quick video of Primrose and Daisy's new secure run. We are planning to plant climbers around it so it becomes like a romantic arbour-type edifice, but for now, here it is in all its naked glory! Les femmes poulets, as you can see, are very impressed! Or probably not.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Give It Some

Heather has been scooting out of the house at 6.30 a.m every day to attend the gym, returning an hour later and eating copious fruit for breakfast. I have been very impressed with this dedication to her health and told her so.

'It's because I am participating in Give It 100,' said she. And when I looked confused, she said, 'It's a website thing. You sign up and do something new for the duration of 100 days. Every day you record a one minute video of your progress and share it on either Facebook or Twitter.'

So I had a look. People are signing up to challenges like losing weight, learning a language, creating art, getting fit, and one video I found was of a fairly youngish looking man attempting to work towards touching his toes!

All you have to do is persevere for 100 days. I suppose it is like a training programme to get into a new life-long habit. I gave a brief thought to what I could do if I took part in the 'Give It 100' challenge and I came up with 1) learn the piano 2) learn Italian 3) try a new veggie recipe every day 4) write another novel. I resisted the urge to think of 5) eat a doughnut every day 6) increase my TV viewing 7) smuggle more hens into the back garden. 

Number 4 - write another novel - is actually 'rewrite a novel' because when I was sorting through some notebooks and folders the week I discovered the first novel I wrote back in 2002 called 'Duck When The Boom Swings' and whilst parts of it are ridiculous, parts of it are highly amusing and I think it might be worth a rewrite, if only for my own entertainment. The first version was rejected by several agents and publishers and, I seem to remember, sent me into a spiral of miserable dejection, but having just tried to read a Zadie Smith and thought, 'How in the name of Roobarb and Custard did THIS get published, let alone win prizes?' I have decided to get back in the writing saddle proper and persevere. I haven't done much 'proper writing' recently having been caught up in other stuff, but with lighter mornings now upon us, more writing time has been presented and I should take advantage thereof. 

I hope you Mums out there have enjoyed your Mothering Sunday. I got a lovely bouquet of flowers - stocks, roses and, most unusual, rosemary which I shall eat over the next few days because I do like a nibble on a spike or two of rosemary but you have to be careful not to overdo it as it can have repercussions on blood pressure. I was taken to see the Muppets Most Wanted film (including bag of Maltesers) and then to Dobbies for lunch. All very lovely. And entertaining, as just before we went into the cinema Heather turned to me and said, 'Do you need to go to the toilet?' And I said, 'Twenty years ago I was saying that to you!' and she said, 'I'm just getting into practise for when you start dribbling like a loon and can no longer walk properly.' first mortality warning...!

And the hens have their new run. In an attempt to add 'enrichment' to their new daytime space Andy also built them a swing. I came downstairs this morning to find Andy in the back garden in his slippers and dressing gown attempting to put Primrose and Daisy on the swing. He had the look of a man determined that hens should enjoy having a swing and should learn to use it immediately. Primrose clung on, turned herself around, stared at him as if to say, 'WHY have you put me up HERE?'  and then, 'Remove me - IMMEDIATELY!' because she was clinging on and did not seem brave enough to jump off herself. So he built them a rigid perch too, which they have also studiously ignored. But at least now they are safe from foxes.  Unless foxes start carrying heavy duty wire cutters. In which case we could be in trouble again.

And yesterday, the Plasterer Chap came and sorted out all the dodgy plaster in our bedroom so we now have a lovely new smooth wall. At one point, when he was filling up his buckets with water from the kitchen tap, he eyed up the veggies I had just roasted and asked what they were for.

'I am going to mix them with couscous,' said I. 'I'm vegetarian.'
'I've got a mate whose a vegetarian,' said the Plasterer Chap. 'He only eats fish.'

Now you will be pleased to hear I stayed very calm. 'In that case,' I said, 'he isn't a vegetarian, is he? Vegetarians,' I continued, 'DO NOT eat fish.'
'Really?' said Plasterer Man. 'But it's not like fish are animals, is it? They don't feel pain, do they?'
'Yes they are and yes they do,' said I. 'Which is why vegetarians doesn't eat them. Your friend is a pescetarian. Or a hypocrite. Ahahahahahahahaha!'

Ooooh, that drives me mad! Vegetarians who say they eat fish! Grrrrr!! 

And here we are, clocks jumped forward an hour. It is almost 8 p.m and just about growing dark. I love this time of year! And I shall leave you with a landmark - my granddaughter Kayleigh, in her first school photograph! Have a lovely week everyone! 

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Chicken a la Rocket!

Sometimes a chicken can be a gardener's friend. And sometimes not...

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Plastered, Caged and Pooped

No, not a firm of dodgy Victorian lawyers, well, not as far as I know, but a three word summary of today.

On Sunday evening, a very nice lady from The Happy Chicks Company telephoned to inform us when the new and large fox-proof hen run for Daisy and Primrose would be delivered.

'It will arrive at 6 o'clock on Tuesday,' she said.
'Good,' said Andy. '6 o'clock.'
'In the morning,' said the nice lady. 'You will be the first delivery of the day.'

6 a.m? Six in the morning???

And true to their word, at 6 this morning a very cheerful gent arrived in a very cheerful bright yellow van, and delivered unto us a large chicken run.

I had already been awake for around three hours prior to chicken run delivery because a) I am in crazy hot flush mode at the mo and they usually start somewhere between 2.30 and 3 in the morning, and b) my hot flush mode has unfortunately been co-inciding with Andy's recent snoring mode. Whether I am flushing because I am waking to snoring, or I am hearing snoring because I am waking to hot flushing I do not know but it's not a good combination either way. 

And I might be triggering Andy's snoring by my constant flinging off and flipping back on of the duvet, or The Hot Flush/ Freeze Down Menopause Duvet Dance as I call it. Either way, Macbeth (as they say, because it's nice to squeeze in a literary reference every now and then just to remind myself I'm a qualified English teacher) was properly murdering sleep last night, what with the flushing and the snoring and the half- listening for the alarm so we would be up in time to take delivery of a hen run. 

I don't like alarms. They scare the bejeezus out of me and I can't help but think that starting a day with your heart racing nineteen to the dozen cannot be a good thing. And I am a pretty consistent 6.15 a.m wakee anyway, so unless I need an early start, which is rare, I do without any alarm setting. 

So, I was all crumpeted and cuppa tea upped by 6.20, not to mentioned showered and ready to go. So I did some marching on the spot in front of early morning TV (something else I never do - watch TV in the morning) and by the time I went to work I had almost completed my regulation 10,000 steps a day. 

Fast forward to 4 p.m. I arrived home from work fully intending to have a 'zzzzzzzz' but got distracted into other things and before I knew it, Andy was home and going straight into the garden to erect the hen run. So, down with the Eglu run, down with the current fencing, out with the power tools and 'Grrrr! Let's be manly and build stuff!' I was inside cooking dinner, plus a jam sponge pudding because something was telling me we would both be in need of a jam sponge pud before the day was done. 

And of course, the run building did not go according to plan, it was growing dark and cold, and the hens got confused at their bedtime because their pod had been moved and they were standing where it should have been saying, 'Where's the pod?  We want to go to bed,' and I was going, 'You and me both, but an adult woman going to beddy-byes at 6.10 p.m is ridiculous and besides, I don't want to miss Sewing Bee,' and Andy was going, 'Your pod is down on the patio, you stupid hens,' because he was getting a bit narky because the cordless drill was running out of oomph and cord, and well, we decided to call it a day, so Andy reconstructed the pod and little run and I went inside to dish up dinner because, quite frankly, I was being a useless carpenter's mate.  

And then Andy went back outside to scoop up Primrose who was still pod confused and had squished herself up against the garden fence in an outward-bound-without-a-tent-camping kind of way, and I said, 'Go into the pod, you idiot. We have just spent a lot of money on a new run for you because we don't want you to be noshed by a fox which is exactly what will happen if you sleep al fresco.'

And now it is 8 p.m and I am already for Sewing Bee but Sewing Bee has been pushed back an hour in favour of Lambing Live, which is okayish because it is a nice thing to watch and far better to be pushed back by a lamb than, say, being pushed back in favour of stupid football or motor racing or golf. But I don't know if I am going maintain consciousness until 9 p.m for Sewing Bee because in the last 24 hours I've had three and a half hours of sleep and I am POOPED! 

'But what about the 'plastered' bit of your blog title?' I hear you cry. 'Surely you haven't taken to imbibing of the fermented grape to get you through the day? And you a committed tee-totaller, too.'

No, I say. Plastered refers to yesterday. When the plasterer came out and replastered the chimney breast. For one third of the price we were quoted by that builder I told you about last blogpost. 

And jolly nice it looks, too. 

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Economy Run

I have become disillusioned with Sainsbury's supermarket. Now, this may seem a small disgruntlement in the whole scheme of The Plan Of The World. In the grander scheme of things there are many issues bigger than my irritation that Sainsbury's seem to be employing some dodgy stealth price hikes and refusing to answer their insurance customer service telephone machines because some of us have sustained water damage and want to redecorate our hall and stairs.

And before you ask, no, we STILL have not managed to get someone to fix our roof. Roofer Number 7 arrived last Sunday, stared at the roof, said encouraging things like, 'Yeah, small job, shouldn't be a problem, will ring you tomorrow and let you know what's happening,' and here we are, 6 days later and still NOTHING, and quite frankly I have reached the point of NO LONGER CARING and DESPAIRING of the roofing trade in Britain.

However, we do have a plasterer coming to do our chimney breast on Monday and he is also going to replaster a wall in our bedroom because Andy set to upon some very old shelving last week, and in his setting to (which involved hefty hammers and iron bar levers and bashing and crashing and one damaged hand) the wall now looks wrecked but the scruffy old shelves are gone and have opened up a lovely new space ready for me to charge in wearing my interior designer hat and say, 'Eau de nil Regency birds and apple blossom on that wall, I think, with Mimosa Lemon eggshell for balance on the opposite,' or some such malarkey. But definitely NO grey, Jessica.

And here is another point of irritation which had me swearing and hopefully will lead me back to my point re: Sainsbury's - the builder who originally came to quote for the roof repair and for the plastering work appears to have taken us for mugs in that his quotations and the work he said needed doing proved to be about 93,000,000% higher and more extensive than what actually needs doing and what it actually will cost. Hence me trying to contact Sainsbury's insurance to cancel the claim we put in. And hence us not having to live on beans on toast for the next 10 years. And hence me treating myself to some Super Chunky Wool and size 12mm knitting needles in order to knit a massive cardigan pour moi! (I have felt like a Borrower knitting with broom handles and rope - it has been enormous fun!) I have written to Sainsbury's asking them to cancel the claim. I have also voiced my displeasure at their inability to man their customer services properly. I can only think they are using the profits from keeping people on hold for half an hour plus to subsidise the claims they are having to pay out. 

I am livid with this builder. Well, I am not livid now because I managed to get the sweary ranty stuff over and done with in the space of two hours one evening last week. Andy was highly amused, because I don't do sweary and ranty very well. Anyway, I am mightily relieved we are now talking of spending hundreds, rather than thousands of pounds to repair all damage. I am embarrassed I trusted this original builder person BUT have made note for future reference along the lines - 'You cannot always trust people you know and make sure you get a second opinion from a man called Tommy.'

Back to Sainsbury's. About a month ago, we decided to investigate Aldi supermarket. And what an eye opener that proved to be. Okay, they don't have the range that Sainbury's offer, well, not at the tiddly store near to us, and you have to be Ninja quick when it comes to going through the checkout because their checkout people are highly efficient at locating bar codes, but for fruit and veg and all other basics, they beat the bigger supermarkets hands down. I reckon we've saved about a tenner a week by doing most of our shopping at Aldi.

And the experience is quicker, too. No dilly-dallying, no 'experience the ambience'. It's just in and out in super quick time and marvelling at how far £40 will go. I like that. After nearly 30 years of running my own home I know what I want from a weekly shop and being confused by twelve different types of granola is not one of my wants.

So I shall continue to use Aldi for our main shop with the occasional nip into Sainsbury's to get things that I like that only Sainsbury's do like their Fine Milled Oatcakes and Basics Berry Mix Frozen Fruit.

And I shall do mostly knitting this weekend because knitting with enormous needles and enormous wool is enormous fun, and GrandChild Number Two is due in 6 weeks time and I have started 3 things for her and completed not a single one of them.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Local Radio for Local People

I love local radio, don't you? Radio Kent is my listening choice in the morning, mostly because I can't bear Jon Humphries being a loud, grumpy curmudgeon on Radio 4 as no-one should be that shouty as dawn rises. Actually, Radio Kent has its own loud, shouty and rude presenter in the form of Julia George, but don't get me started on her or I'll never stop. She is self-opinionated, she interrupts her guests, she is aggressive, she...

'I thought you weren't going to get started on her?' says Daisy who has popped by for a borrow of some butter and to let me know she is off to Tai Chi later but Primrose says she will sit in for the post man as I am expecting a delivery of Super Chunky wool. 

'I wasn't,' says I. 'But it just happened, because I stupidly mentioned her name and now I can't stop thinking how much I dislike her and she should be locked in a cupboard until she promises to be calm down and be nice to people.'

'That can be arranged,' says Daisy, who has dodgy relations in the Maidstone underworld who are a bit handy with a three day old baguette.

Anyway, for the last two days, Radio Kent has been obsessed with two stories - one being the news that 20,000 new houses are due to be shoe-horned into Maidstone in the next few years because of 'increasing demand' and the other being the closure of Manston airport. (Oh, and there seems to be a lot of talk about a budgie this morning but I am glazing over on that one.)

Now, I am outraged that Manston airport is closing. Because I have found out that it was purchased last year for one pound, yes ONE POUND and if I had known it could be acquired for so little money then I would have bought it and filled it with chickens. In fact, I would have gone even further and offered a fiver just to secure ownership. A pound for an airport? Ridiculous. And obviously something dodgy going on, too, which not doubt will emerge in the wash at some point.

And as for building 20,000 houses in Maidstone, well if ever there was an incentive for us to move then this is it. I have two questions - who are these 20,000 families who actually want to come and live in Maidstone in the first place (as Heather once pointed out when she was a student living in Norwich, you don't realise how s*it Maidstone is until you live somewhere else)? Because if they are THAT desperate then they can buy ours. And secondly, why don't the council just NOT build these houses because if they aren't they, then there won't be a demand and what little breathing space there is left might just be saved.

Of course, I have combined the two stories and solved both problems. Build houses on Manston. 


But what I really wanted to comment on this morning was the Radio Kent presenters' recent and irritating habit of using what I call 'inspirational business speak' when interviewing people. This morning, Claire was interviewing someone about Manston and she asked a question and the guest answered it and tried to move on to another point and Claire stopped him by saying...

'Let's just kick this one into longer grass.'

What? I am assuming she meant, 'Let's discuss this point further.' But hey, why use plain and easy to understand English when a ridiculous phrase of inspirational business speak will do.

'Kick this into longer grass???'

So, today I have decided that I may 'Boil that egg a little longer,' or 'Chew the taste out of THAT bit of gum.' Or maybe 'Decorate that option with some hundreds and thousands.' 

Don't ask what any of those mean - I have no idea. I am merely going with the flow of inspirational Radio Kent!

Monday, 17 March 2014

Au revoir, Allotment

Today, Andy and I trooped down to the allotment, harvested the remaining broccoli, swede, beetroot and parsnips, gathered out tools and camping stove from the shed, piled it all into our wheelbarrow and locked the gate for the last time.

We only managed a year with this allotment. Our previous allotment we tenanted for almost 6 years, but as we emerged from our soggy winter, the thought of getting down to this second allotment for another year of gardening filled me with an irrational dread and anxiety.  Visions of forests of mare's tail haunted my dreams, as did fretting about what to do with that substantial patch of ground that succumbed to shade by mid-Spring because it was overhung with the shadows of massive trees and things we planted there last year failed to grow properly. 

Then there was the allotment camaraderie to cope with. I am fast coming to the realisation that I am a solitary gardener. Our plot, being right on the main path way, was often a stopping off point for fellow allotmenteers to pause for a chat. Which is okay - they were all lovely, helpful people - but when you want to get on and be with your own thoughts, that's just what you want to do, and not feel obliged to discuss the best way to deal with mare's tail, which was 90% of the topic of conversation. 

And so, trying to ignore the sense of failure I felt that, not for the first time in my life, I have started a project with massive enthusiasm only to fail to see it through, I e-mailed the allotment management committee secretary saying we were handing our half plot back for the benefit of someone else, and that I'd drop the key back through the site manager's letterbox once we had collected our bits and bobs. And she e-mailed back to say she was sorry to see us go and as soon as the key was returned she would refund our £20 deposit. And I thought, that'll pay for a roll of wallpaper to repair the damage in the hallway caused by the roof leak which Roofer Number 7 came to look at yesterday but I think we might get somewhere with him because it turned out he is the guy who came to fit our woodburner and who also works with his brother-in-law who owns the roofing company, and isn't it a small world??

So Andy and I returned from the allotment and immediately set to in the front and back gardens for a first tidy up of the year. The new chicken run is due to arrive sometime next week. The clematis are making good growth and we need to put up trellis for them. We are planning to extend the lavender walk across the front of the hens' part of the garden if only in an attempt to stop the wood chippings they insist on kicking everywhere from landing up all over the new lawn. The greenhouse is starting to fill with various herb and flower seedlings, and we really ought to get the tomatoes, cucumbers and beans started...

...yes, we have plenty to keep us gardening happy I think, here at home. I am more than relieved we are no longer allotmenteers.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Fox Off!

Well, last Sunday I was standing at the kitchen window doing some washing up and watching Primrose and Daisy pottering around the garden doing their entertaining chickeny things, when my attention was drawn to the fence, stage left, whereupon there was walking an enormous cat.

'Good Lord!' I thought. 'That is an enormous cat strolling along the top of the fence.'

And then, to use my cliche of the day, the penny dropped. It was not an enormous cat. It was a fox! A flippin' fox! Bold as you like, in broad daylight (okay, second cliche of the day) marching along the fence beside where Primrose and Daisy were only a four feet drop away, doing their entertaining chickeny things. 

Well! I was immediately thrown into chicken-protection frenzy, and I rushed out into the garden suitably  armed for fox combat with rubber gloves and a tea-towel and my best 'Fox Off!' voice. Luckily, the fox did not stop to admire the chicken delights that lay a small pounce away, and Primrose and Daisy seemed oblivious to the potential danger. 

'We have to get a fox- proof roof for the chicken run!' I shrieked at Andy, who was upstairs in his man- den, reclining in his man-chair and enjoying the sunshine. 'We have to cover over the ENTIRE area with heavy duty wire mesh! Now! We have to do it NOW!!'

Well, being a Sunday this was an impractical demand to make of a man in his man-den who was sunbathing in his man-chair, and to be honest, once I had calmed down I was more able to listen to reason and realise also that the hen run is an impractical and large space to cover over in heavy duty mesh because it is triangular in size and there is a ten foot willow arch and a damson tree to consider. 

We have been keeping chickens for nearly 6 years now. And never once been bothered by the prospect of fox attack. Well, why would we? Our garden is well fenced. We live in a built up area surrounded by houses and people noise and car noise and bustling (oh Lord, the noise - the incessant noise...but that is a different issue and I know how to solve it - move to a house in a field in the middle of nowhere), and have only seen the occasional fox once in a blue moon out on the road in the middle of the night when the hens are safely locked up in their fox-proof pod. 

But now I have seen one within salivating distance as it were, I am convinced there are hundreds of foxes scoping out the da joint in preparation of mounting a day-time raid and committing murder most horrid on the hens of Much Malarkey Manor. And I won't have it.

'You'll have to pee along the top of the fence,' I said to Andy. 'And we'll have to leave the radio playing in the garden all day whilst we aren't here.' Because everyone knows these are 100% dead cert fox deterrent methods. Don't they? 

Well, Andy pointed out that both these activities are likely to annoy, if not startle, the neighbours. I said I didn't care about the neighbours, especially the ones who rent next door, with their fag flicking habits, and their kicking the ball over the fence habits, and their screaming at each other habits, and that the only thing I cared about was making sure our hens' heads remained firmly attached to their bodies because a) hens without heads are rubbish at laying eggs and b) they will be unable to continue entertaining me with their chickeny ways and c) I love hens more than I love foxes. 

(At this point I need to say that I disagree wholly with fox hunting and generally wish them no harm. But foxes need to be in their natural habitat, and that habitat is NOT our back garden.)

So, having calmed down and put on my practical problem solving head, we have spent this week shutting the hens in their smaller fox-proof run during the day whilst we are out and trying to find the biggest walk-in run we can purchase so they can have as much space as possible when we aren't around for fox-patrol. We have decided that the willow arch will have to go in order to accommodate the new run, but given last year's hideous willow aphid attack, that might be no bad thing, and we can always plant another elsewhere in the garden if we suffer willow arch loss issues. 

We thought we found the perfect large walk-in hen house but on further enquiry the manufacturer has gone out of business and the model is no longer available. So the search continues. And whilst there has been no further sign of the fox I know it is out there somewhere.

 And it's NOT having my chickens.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Hair Today...Gone, Well Today Also!

Me at 1.20 p.m...

...and me (again) an hour and a half later after a visit from Kate, the lovely mobile hairdresser...

This'll spook 'em out at school tomorrow! 

Friday, 7 March 2014


It has all been a bit silly here this evening. I can put it down to one of two things : a) that the weather has been gorgeous today and this has brought forward a spot of Mad March Hareness or b) that we have had such a crazy, hectic week that we have descended into a maniacal hysteria that neither of us can stop.

Either way, Andy and I have spent our evening thus far emailing each other. We are sitting a mere 5 feet apart but that hasn't stopped us developing an interweb communication about the fiscal value of doughnuts against the telephone bill and what Tybalt thinks about it all, given he is such a financial wizard about these things. 

And Flora has been playing fetch, which always causes much hilarity. 

And we (and by 'we' I really mean 'me') have been plotting our revenge on the people next door because (and this will shock you because it has OUTRAGED me), they have taken to flicking cigarette butts into our garden. 

Oh yes. For the last few days I have found between 3 and 5 butts a day in our garden either by the back door or by the path of the lavender walk which is a couple of steps beyond the patio. I am VERY CROSS about this. Words cannot express the crossness I feel, well not words that are suitable for publication on this genteel blog anyway. I suspect, because the neighbours are tenants and they are not allowed to smoke in their rented house and they are all chain smokers, that what they are doing is smoking out of the bedroom window in the middle of the night and just flicking the ends willy-nilly into the night sky. 

Well, yesterday when I found three more of these obnoxious articles, I picked them all up, swore a bit and FLUNG them back over the fence. And now, mid revenge plot, I am thinking I could perhaps save them up in an envelope and then go into the letting agency and deposit them on the letting agent's desk OR send them via the post to the letting agency without a stamp so not only will they have to pay postage it will be postage on an envelope of soggy fag ends. 

Or I could keep flinging them back over the fence, accompanied by a variety of loud sweary words, or I could go next door, knock and say, 'I believe you may have misplaced these,' or I could send like for like back across the fence in the form of cat poo, which I know isn't really like for like but might as well be given my utter revulsion of cigarettes but then cat poo smells nicer so is probably an unfair exchange. 

Of course I shan't do these things for real. Other than keep flinging the offending articles back from whence they came. I am happy to report that I found no butts in the garden this evening, so maybe
my rant yesterday did the trick. I am fast coming to the conclusion that I am not very good at being a neighbour and really am better suited living as far away from other people as possible. Actually, that's not true because our other neighbours are nice and we often chat and we also replaced their fence because they are pensioners and haven't got the money and it was a mutual and neighbourly beneficial thing to do. 

Anyway, enough of this. I shall leave you with a silly and a bit of a wild video of Flora Bijou Mybug
playing fetch and me failing to multi-task effectively. 

Have a fab weekend!

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Hair Angst

I am having hair angst.

Hair angst is when I suddenly notice my hair after months of ignoring it and decide that something really must be done because it looks a right old state.

Now, although my hair started to go grey in my twenties, and is now, I would say 90% grey (or white, to be exact) it is generally good hair. It is blessed with thickness and it grows well. It is strong hair. I could probably use it to pull a sheep from a bog (what???) but I haven't tried this test of hair strength, mostly because of lack of sheep in the vicinity. And bog. And a combination of the two thereof.

At the moment, it is long hair. It reaches to a point midway between my shoulder blades and provides an admirably swingy ponytail. It hasn't seen a pair of scissors for probably more than 2 years, except for when the fringe-bit starts to dangle in my eyes and I set about it with the kitchen scissors in a manner that can only be described as 'hacking.'  I have to have a fringe because I have a high forehead and when my forehead is out is dazzles folk in the sun. And also, because now I am middle-aged, a fringe also serves to hide the lines that are appearing there, thereby saving a fortune in Botox treatments. 

Over my life time my hair has been short-long-short-long-short-long ad infinitum. When it is long I think it is better short and when it is short I think it is better long. Basically, I have never been happy with my hair long or short or all the variant lengths in between.

Since the onset of grey it has been coloured various shades through dark brown to reddish brown to light brown/blonde. And I have never really been happy with these efforts either. Not even the time when I was feeling especially daring and had some red 'slices' added. But now, it seems, I am not happy with it being its au natural grey/ white either. For this I blame imminent second Grannyhood, because no matter how you say it, being a grandparent is the most ageing thought a woman in her forties can have.

Actually, it is the whole faff of hair 'doing' that irritates me. Some women like going to the hairdressers. They see it as pamper time, 'me' time, time to have a chat about holidays, a gossip about life, but here speaks a woman who remembers hiding in a greenhouse when she was 7 years old to avoid the mobile hairdresser who visited to administer the 1970s 'pudding basin' style which made me look like a boy. 

You go into a salon, sit in uncomfortable chairs, have your neck virtually broken during the washing process, get wet soapy dribbles down the back of your shirt and in your ears, suffer the discomfort of wondering if that feeling on your scalp once the dye has been applied is just 'tingling' or actual 'burning,' endure panic when there seems to be rather more hair being 'trimmed' than the carefully negotiated 'one inch', be abandoned by your stylist when she realises she is running half an hour late and her next customer has arrived and she has to flit between your and them, before finally paying an exorbitant amount of money for the honour of two hours of what is basically torture then going outside knowing this is the last three minutes your hair will look 'salon perfect' because it is bloody well raining. Again. 

And then there is also the tactful negotiation one has to manage in order to avoid being talked into buying ridiculously expensive 'products' - shampoo, conditioner, styling gel/mousse/wax, heat resistant blow dry serum, deep moisturising treatments etc etc which, you are warned, if you DO NOT buy to maintain your new 'do' will result in aforesaid 'do' reverting to haystack status within 24 hours. 

It is all too, too stressful. And thus I have not been to a hair salon for over two years, and until yesterday, when Hair Angst 2014 arrived from nowhere, (actually it might have had something to do with an ill-timed photograph in which I appeared presented as a mad old crazy cat lady who lived some place in the back of beyond that civilisation had failed to touch and where the weather was inclemently windy) I was very happy with this arrangement in my personal grooming schedule. Or rather lack of arrangement.

And so it is with a sense of impending doom that I am reaching the conclusion that something (and something likely to be very expensive) must be done. Some process must be administered to the locks. Something that will make me look less like a crazy grey-haired Granny and more, well, I don't know what, but, well, something else. 

There will be tears before hair straighteners, you mark my words. 

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Emergency Store

Andy follows a blog called My Foray into Food Storage. It is written by a lady who lives in a part of America that is prone to earthquakes and in preparation for being cut off for a few days in the eventuality of aforesaid earthquake, she, well, stores food. Lots of food. I mean, lots. No really - lots. Tins and packets and jars and boxes. She has one seriously impressive emergency food supply. Or one serious OCD problem. 

So I got to thinking about what I would put in an emergency food storage cupboard given that a) I don't really have a lot of kitchen space available for emergency food storage b) our cupboards are generally well stocked so that if we couldn't get supplies for a week or so we wouldn't starve anyway and c) previously, at say the mention of a bit of snow being on the way, my idea of emergency storage is to make sure we have enough flour for breadmaking, milk for the freezer, tea bags,  tins of beans and toilet rolls. I believe these to be the essential items to tide one through a few days trapped inside one's house. 

Andy said that years ago his Dad had an emergency items storage box put aside especially for the arrival of nuclear war. He stored it in their loft. Probably not the most sensible place to store emergency goods, really, given that in a nuclear explosion the first thing that is likely to go sky high is the roof of your house, with that tin of corner beef so carefully put aside ending up two miles away up a tree or some such nonsense. Cellars is what you need for these occasions. The first house I ever lived in had a cellar. Scared the pants off me, the whole 'underground' thing. I planned to hide under the table, put my fingers in my ears and hum really loudly. 

Most years, as we enter Winter, I think, 'Shall I store away a few tins and packets, just in case? Just for a bit of variety? Just so the troops don't say, on Day 5 of the Great Snow Chaos of 2022, 'Not beans on toast...AGAIN?' Then I could whip out some noodle and tinned pea concoction and say, 'No! Tonight it is 'Pea-Noodle Beans on Toast!' And wouldn't THAT be a surprise?!

'We have an emergency food storage cupboard,' says Daisy, who has dropped by to ask advice on her ISA investment for the tax year 2013-14. 

'Really?' I say. 'What do you keep for emergencies?'

'Well, we don't bother with bulky items like loo roll for a start,' says Daisy. 'We have other methods of keeping the poo tube clean and tidy...'

'...which we shan't go into here,' I say. 'Folks might be eating.'

'Are you sure?' says Daisy. 'I didn't think people were still squeamish about bidets in this continentally enlightened day and age.'

'It is a well known fact,' I say, 'that the majority of Brits who own a bidet use them for washing their feet and keeping aspidistras in.'

'Oh,' says Daisy. 'Odd...'

'So what do you keep in your emergency cupboard?' I say.

'Hobnobs, obviously,' says Daisy.

'Of course,' says I.

'And shoe polish, jelly, custard powder, a Wainwright's Guide to Fell Walking, Marmite, brioche and onion chutney,' says Daisy.

'Interesting choices,' I say.

'...and dried seaweed, coconut in a shell - none of this desiccated stuff - and Sugar Puffs, pan scourers, Lucozade Original, toothpaste, Scrabble, cheesy oatcakes, those tiny pasta shapes you put in minestrone soup, artichoke hearts in a can, pickled cabbage and meringue nests.'

I wait. There seems to be a lack of staple items along the pasta, pulses, rice and tinned tomato front.

'Is that is?' I say.

'Yup!' says Daisy. 'What else would one need in an emergency?' And off she goes to book an appointment with her financial advisor because it turns out I am rubbish at knowing stuff about ISAs. 

So here is my Question of the Day ( in the absence of anything more exciting to talk about) - What Would YOU - yes, YOU - put in a cupboard as essential emergency storage supplies? 

Sunday, 23 February 2014

A New Venture

Sometimes, the Universe seems to work with you. Like when it connects you with a special person for a specific reason (which is the subject of this post but I need to have a ramble first before I settle to the business of the day) or lets you win the lottery (no, I haven't won the lottery - you have to be 'in it to win it' as they say and I am not 'in it' and have thusly saved myself hundreds of pounds over the years), or reduces THAT dress you have yearned for by 70% in the sales.

And sometimes the Universe seems to work against you, like sending leaky roofs, wobbly fences and Vodafone your way in one fell swoop, or making your cat kick your favourite teapot off the kitchen work top or causing your hair to turn grey at an unseasonably young age. 

But isn't that what the Universe is all about? Ups and downs, backs and forths, ins and outs, good and bads, highs and lows...

'Okay,' says Daisy. 'We get the drift.'
'Yes,' says Primrose. 'Just shut up and get on with it, will you? We have a Regency back chair to decoupage, and then Elton is expecting us for tiffin.'

(Oh, how a spot of Chicken Cam fame can turn the head of a once sensible hen...sigh...)

So, back to my first point. The thing about blogging is that you never know with whom you are going to connect. I have been extremely lucky. My connections may have been small (how DO people get hundreds of followers???) but they have been extremely high on quality and low on loony faction. Really lovely people, which is why I allow them to stay in the guests suites here at Much Malarkey Manor providing they remember to take off their wellies if they are entering by the front door to save the cherry parquet from scuffing. (Wellies are allowed through the back entrance but please continue to observe the weekly mopping rota - thank you!)

Anyway, a few months ago, the Universe chose to make a connection between me and CT over at And we discovered we had a link that connects a special aspect of our lives - and that is being healing channels.

I'm not going to ramble on about that aspect here because it is not the be-all and end-all of who we, as people, are but I would like to introduce you to the new blog CT and I have set up between us, heralding (toots a small trumpet) the start of a new venture for us. The blog is called (toot trumpet again) and please have a visit if you feel so inclined. I have added a link at the top of the bar to your right, for ease of access, and to show off that I am techno-savvy in this kind of stuff! (Actually it was more trial that error - but I did it, nonetheless!) 

We are calling it our 'venture' and goodness knows where it will go or what it will do, but it was something we both felt a very strong urge to do. Like when you know there is half a bar of chocolate in the fridge and even though Colin Firth is on the telly, the pull of the chocolate is greater. (I know, weird concept, but there you go!) 

So, that's all for today. Apart from this very cute picture of Tybalt sharing his chaise with Flora Bijou Mybug!