Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Too Many Shades of Grey

Now before you all get too excited I am NOT going to be discussing a certain genre of 'naughty' fiction for women. Oh no - my Shades of Grey come from the new TV programme on BBC 2 - The Great Design Challenge. 

I have been watching, all agog, because 1) I like seeing how colours and fabrics and wallpapers and stuff go together (or not, as the case might be) and 2) I like seeing the crazy ideas that people come up with and 3) I think making a house a home is a top life priority and one can't have too many cushions, rugs or big floral wallpaper. 

And generally speaking I have found the 8 episodes so far to be most inspiring, so much so that I am pretty much certain that within the next 6 months Andy's and my bedroom will be on the receiving end of a design makeover only don't tell Andy because me and decorating fill him with a certain amount of fear and trepidation if only because I have to move furniture around and generally I end up trapped behind or beneath aforesaid furniture and a certain amount of cursing ensues. 

Now, what I want to know, vis a vis the Great Design Challenge, is WHY oh WHY are all the amateur designers, without exception, hell-bent on having grey as their main paint colour. Grey??? I mean, GREY????? (Although one woman this evening is giving it some with the beige and she has just mentioned the 'D' word which I shall come to later.) 

I'll say it again - grey????????

I am not wholly averse to grey. Grey donkeys are cute. As are grey squirrels. And I am, of course, a great fan of the Little Grey Rabbit stories. But grey...on walls? Great expanse of walls??? Grey suits concrete - cold, flat, dull and boring. And war time aircraft. And corrugated iron sheds. But in a house? On a wall???? That you are going to look at and live with? Day after day, after grey dull day? 

I can only assume that grey paint is de rigeur in the world of interior design en ce moment. But what I want to know is, what is wrong with a bit of colour, or vibrancy, or cheerfulness? I mean, I do like a bit of subtle as well -  and some of the designers have mentioned the word 'subtle' alongside the word 'grey' but I want to shout - 'NO! No grey!' There is no grey at MMM, and nor is there ever likely to be.

Now - the 'D' word. 

'Ooooh!' says Daisy. 'Can we guess?'
'If you like,' says I.
'Daisy!' says Daisy.
'No,' says I.
'Doughnuts?' says Primrose.
'Nope,' says I. 'Unless you are offering, of course.'
'Dribble?' says Daisy.
'Dollop?' says Primrose.
'Die Fleidermaus?' says Daisy.
'No, no and no,' says I. 'And as I am becoming bored with this game, I shall tell you. The 'D' word of which  I speak is...distressing!' 

Distressing, in case you don't know, is designer-speak for taking a perfectly good piece of furniture and roughing it up so it looks like it has been left out in the rain for three months then brought inside and scratched to death before being dipped in a vat of lumpy whitewash then given a half-hearted rinse and then dried off whilst still a bit dribbly. And then sandpapered. Very roughly.

No! If you are going to paint something, paint it properly. Proper even brush strokes using proper strength paint. No arty streaky bits, no bits hacked from the main body of your item to make it look like it was once dropped down a staircase by Jane Austen.  No pretend acid rainfall weathering and no faux woodworm/ dry rot/ rust patches. If I want a piece of 200 year old rustic homeware, that is what I shall buy. There is only one thing worse that could happen to a piece of 'distressed' furniture and that is to paint it grey. 

Grey??? Why????????

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Water To Do!

Say what you like about Britain, but when push comes to shove there are some grand people out there who pitch up when you most need them and sort you out with great efficiency, fairness and humour.

As today, for example, when our Plumber Chap, Matt, came out to check that our shower wasn't the culprit or the partial culprit in our Leaky Hall Saga. He fitted us in during a busy day and Andy had to virtually force payment on him in return for him checking over the various bits of pipes and seals (no, not bag or grey!) and declaring them fine and fit. 

And as Matt went on his way, our new and now Official Roofer Chap, Antony, arrived, having also fitted us in at short notice, and he very efficiently sourced the problems (yes, there was more than one) and did repairs there and then, whilst entertaining Andy enormously by looking like a butch version of ex-BBC weatherman Dan Corbett (one of our TV personality favourites) and being a chicken keeper, too! 

It is at this very moment chucking it down yay verily with gusto (who'd have thought - more rain) and I feel very happy that roof repairs are done, and Antony will come back if the problem isn't solved. My biggest fear today (which, in the grand scheme of the world is quite small on the Fear Factor Front) was that the roofer would come out, say, 'Yup, you definitely need your roof fixing - I'll come back some time next week/ fortnight/month,' and therein would lie more fretting about water running down the wall. But no! He, Antony, repaired and mended there and then! And for a very reasonable price, too. Marvellous! 

There have been other water work issues occurring at MMM which were also sorted out today. Tybalt, bless him, is becoming a cat of a certain age. He will be 10 years old in March and recently has taken to sometimes missing the litter tray when peeing. He will insist on backing up into the corner of the trays (we have 3 - one for each cat) and because he is a tall cat he does not give himself enough backwards gush space. Luckily, the trays are in the 'conservatory' which has washable flooring, but really I would prefer pee to be inside the tray, so today I purchased two of the most enormous and high sided litter trays I have ever seen in my entire cat-owning life. Tybalt would have to stand on a step ladder in order to pee outside of these bad boys! Indeed, when he took one of the trays on its inaugural pee flight, he looked like a Borrower in an Olympic long jump sandpit!  And, as I have said, he is a big, tall cat. Mission accomplished! 

Needless to say, the rain has turned the hens' part of the garden into a quagmire of inglorious mud,  and so I have released Primrose and Daisy back into full free-range garden mode for at least part of every day because I am conscious of their foot health. They are enjoying their perambulations enormously because there be bugs, and weeds, and woodpiles to explore. I made them promise not to ruck up Andy's new lawn, and not to kick earth from the borders into my herb garden. So far they have been mostly well-behaved. They have also discovered the joys of fat balls. (Stop giggling at the back, please - you know exactly what I mean. Of the kind you hang up for garden birdies to peck at.)

And finally, (and this is something I am very excited about) in a few weeks' time a fellow blogger and I are going to embark on a Spirit Work project together! More to follow when the time is right, but suffice to say a new light has been brought into my world and there is Light Work to be done. 

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Decision, Indecision

You know what it's like, don't you, being confronted with a blank page that needs filling, be it with writing or drawing or designing or listing? It sits there, that blank page, saying, 'Go on, I dare you. I dare you to make a mark on my pristine cleanness.' And the Power of the Paper is strong! And you sit there, pen/crayon/pencil/insert collage material of your choice hovering above and that paper is goading you, daring you and if you lack courage (as I do) because you are scared of making mistakes, the Power of the Paper provides too strong and you give up and go and do something you feel safe with, like the ironing, for instance, or making a cake or wrestling with a cat. 

But this is no longer an option for me for I have decided that I am going to study textiles and textile design. I have furnished myself with a couple of books and read one of them twice to familiarise myself with 'How To Make A Start,' and it has been an inspirational read x 2. The other book has been inspirational, too, but also scary, so I have slid it carefully to one side of my work station and there it will stay for the moment, being a bit scary. 

The first thing the non-scary book says to do is to make yourself a work space where you can shut yourself away to work. Well, as you know, I already have an arty-crafty writing room but I was standing in it yesterday surveying its layout and thinking, 'This is a room layout which errs towards writing, not textiles.' 

So I set about moving furniture, redesigning the layout if you like. Tybalt and FBM were incredibly unhelpful in this task, darting around my table and desk, tangling themselves in computer cables and kicking the shelves from my bookcase. How they did not become squished like bugs I do not know. I also took the opportunity to have a bit of a clear out and remove my vast (I kid you not) collection of drama teaching books up into the loft as I need the shelf space and am no longer a drama teacher. And now the bookcase and my desk are where the big table was, and the big table is in front of the window and the wall where the book case and desk were situated is now a clear, wide space all ready and waiting to become a 'Mood Board!' Well, there is a painting of Pandora Kitten still hanging on it, but I think I shall leave her there in order to oversee the creative process. 

The next thing I need to do, says the book, is to learn how to create a sketchbook, or notebook, or idea journal, or collage collection, or whatever else you decide to call it. Like Stanley, maybe. I think i shall call mine Stanley. And in order to do that, I need to choose a Theme. 

And here is where I have ground to a halt. I am angst-ridden. What shall be my Theme for this, my inaugural textile project? (And you will be unsurprised to hear that I immediately went off to participate in a displacement activity, but to be fair it was knitting, so still textile based!)

The book makes suggestions in case you get stuck. Like 'Architecture' or 'Nature' or 'Clothing.' Which seem a bit broad and all-encompassing, don't you think? Luckily, the book has picked up on potential broad-panic wavering and narrows the ideas down to specific titles, like 'Organic Formations' or 'Feasts and Festivals' or 'Folds and Creases.' It also suggests single words like 'Identity' or 'Layers' or 'Decay,' which, as you can imagine,cheered me no end given the week I've had. (Irony alert!) 

So, in the light of the book suggestions, and with much thinking and walking and pondering this weekend, I have come up with this list of possible 'Themes' :

1) Sonnet
2) Silhouettes
3) Fur and Feather
4) Overlap and Tesselate
5) Language of Fans (the Georgian lady flirty type, not the Justin Beiber One Direction type.)

I felt this list was a tad more sophisticated and less predictable than my original list which was:

1) Cats and Kittens
2) Hens and Eggs
3) Bees and Flowers
4) Cake and Its Greatness
5) Why I Hate Rain in Winter on My Leaky Roof

I need to settle on my chosen theme before I can move on to the next stage which is 'Gathering Source Material.' I also need to buy some new fine liner pens for my notebook because I took my last set to school and my students have turned them into wretches of their former selves with their heavy-handed scratchy ways of colouring and drawing. 

And now I am being called to test some of today's Bake Off training, which is focaccia. The Bake Off Trainee, aka Andy, is currently contemplating his first show-stopper. He thinks it will be some sort of strudel and has been causing simultaneously salivation and repulsion with his suggestions of fillings, because it can't be apple, it has to be show-stopper! 

And finally, thank you to all of you who have contacted me with words of support and humour after what has been a horrid week. You got me through - thank you, you amazing shiny-stars of people. Xxx

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Room 101

Well, the roof is now leaking and it is leaving a damp trail down the wall in the hallway and stairs. But I am not going to dwell on that because at least our ground floor isn't flooded out like some poor folks in this county, who still have no respite because this rain just won't go away. A roofer chap is coming to assess the situation on Tuesday and the hall and stairs will need redecorating but, well, there you go. The joys of home ownership. 'These things are sent to try us,' said Andy. 'Why?' said I. And we both thought about it for a while and neither of us could come up with a good enough answer so we ate cake instead.

And talking of Andy and cake and stuff, can I please direct you to visit his baking blog at as he has decided to train for the Great British Bake-Off 2015 and is recording his training efforts, some of which I ate today. I shall let him explain his aims in his own inimitable way. 

So, new series of Room 101 last night. I have to say I am not keen on the format since Frank Skinner took over, but last night was very entertaining and during the programme Mr Skinner did something that I, myself, would like consigned to Room 101. 'What was that?' I hear you ask. 'I'll tell you,' I say.

He removed Richard Osman's spectacles from Richard Osman's face and put them on his own face.

Now, I have been a wearer of the spectacles since I was 12 years old. 36 years man and, girl and woman. I have been wearing glasses since all this was fields. I regard them as much a part of my clothing as skirts and trousers, jumpers and dresses. They are my facewear. They are as personal to me as pants. And what REALLY annoys me is when people think they can help themselves to my specs and try them on 'just to see what it's like.'

'Let's try your glasses,' they say, and before I can say, 'No, back off,' my glasses are forcibly removed from my face (often catching on ears and nose in the process) and I am rendered fuzzy-sighted whilst someone pops them on and has a laugh at my expense. 

The usual joke is, 'Blimey, you must have good eyesight to be able to see through these,' and oh, how I laugh! Not. Or, 'How can you see through these? Everything's gone out of focus.'

Well, it would, wouldn't it, you moron? Because they have a prescription in them that is personal to me. They are my personal glasses to help me see the world more clearly. And how would you like it if I wrenched your shoes off to try them on then laughed about how they made me look like I had clown feet? Or I dragged your jumper over your head and popped it on because I liked the look of it but then discovered it made me look like I was having a wool-based anaphylactic shock? 

Would you, I want to say, push a wheel-chair user from their chair so you could 'have a go?' Would you remove the wig of an alopecia sufferer because you wanted to see what you looked like as a brunette? No, you would not. Or perhaps you would, given you seem quite happy to remove my specs and leave me unable to see very much, least of all what you look like wearing my glasses.  Which is probably like a wazzock.

So that is one thing I should like to see consigned to Room 101 - people thinking it is okay to remove your glasses and wear them themselves. 

Now, what would you send to Room 101? Feel free to be as curmudgeonly and humourless as you like in your response. Because I have! 

Today's blog was brought to you by - For All Your Grumpy Cow Needs.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Cloud? Silver lining?

Today I was almost run over by a funeral cort├Ęge. Really nearly run over. No comedy element at all. 

Today I was verbally abused by a gang of yobs in a car as I waited to cross a road.

Today I got stuck walking behind a smoker whom I couldn't overtake because the path was too narrow. 

Today my lungs seemed unable to breathe properly.

Today there seemed to be lots of people spitting in public, which makes me heave.

Today everything and everywhere seemed messy and loud. 

Today four people have taken advantage of my obliging nature, so much so that I feel like I ought not to be so obliging in the future.

Today has been a black cloud day. Looking for that silver lining... the shape of a delicious coffee cake made by Andy, sitting on the table when I got home... the shape of sharing fireside space with the cats... the shape of letting Primrose and Daisy have a whole garden ramble for a couple of hours, and enjoying watching them de-bug the herb garden... the shape of teasing myself with the idea of starting a degree course in Textiles.

Sometimes it is hard work looking for the silver lining in a bloody awful black cloud of a day. But you have to try, don't you, because success will salvage the grim hours. 

Just about.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Sunday Evening Round Up

Little things from this week...

...Kayleigh has started ballet lessons which I am thrilled about because it will make a change from her showing me her 'break-dancing-and-banging-her-head-on-the-kitchen-floor-at-the-same-time' dance routine.
...I made Leane start learning how to knit today. This caused her more stress than it caused me, and she had better be practising or all my efforts will be in vain. Besides, she is baby expecting and all expectant mummies should be gainfully employed with knitting. It is the law.
..Phoebe is progressing in her training to sit as close to the wood burner as she can without actually getting inside it. Some say she is brave. Some (me) say she is stupid. Especially when part of her training involves sitting on the poker. hours at work have been temporarily increased. I have extended my self-employed repertoire into the worlds of 'Outreach' and 'After School Classes.' This is good as it will give me the funds to make more wool purchases because...
...I am knitting like a crazy mad knitting lady at the mo. Yesterday I knitted so much my ring finger went numb.
...I have changed the direction of the situation of the kitchen table and I like it better now it is going acrossways as opposed to lengthways. It is more aesthetically pleasing. 
...I was so fed up with the rain yesterday that I went into the back garden and shouted at the sky to stop. It made not one iota of difference. However, on reading last year's diary in a desperate moment to discover 'when will proper daylight return?' I was encouraged to note that the entry for 12th February cited it 'being light at 6.30 a.m through to gone 5.30 p.m. Hurrah!' It was a slow news day that day.
...squeezing the reflexology point for ears in an attempt to lessen my pulsillitae tinnitus which is driving me crackers at the moment, I succeeded only in making my little and fourth toes REALLY hurt. So now I have a wheeshing ear AND bruised tootsies. 
...I ate too much apple crumble today and I think it has stuck to my rib cage. Attempts to shift it with biscuits have failed.
...we finally managed to watch the remainder of 'Les Miserables' last night. It has to be the grimmest, direst, most depressing film I have EVER seen and it will NOT be going on my list of 'Films To Iron To' which currently stands at 'Hairspray' and 'Tamara Drew' along with the boxed sets of 'Jam and Jerusalem' and 'The Darling Buds of May.'
...the rosemary has new sprigs of growth on it. Bluebells are emerging in the front borders. Snow, therefore, is no longer allowed. It is the law. 
...I am contemplating a new carpet in the bedroom. It is the same carpet from when we moved here over 9 years ago, so I think I am justified. And it has been irritating me of late, Lord knows why, so that doubles the justification. I am thinking 'mulberry', I am thinking 'damson', I am thinking 'aubergine.' I am thinking, why are so many carpet colours linked to food? Still, at least they are healthy food, and not things like 'banoffee pie' or 'gypsy tart' or 'Findus Crispy Pancake.'

And that, dear blogging pals, is about it from Much Malarkey Manor for this week. 

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

I love my cats!

Because I am a kind and benevolent cat person, who has given a home to three abandoned kitties, I treated them today to a lovely new and extremely comfy (not to mention fully washable) cat bed each.

These three cats have proved to be wholly ungrateful in the face of my beneficence and I should like to remind them ALL that if it wasn't for me and Andy they would all be living hand to mouse in the gutter.

Monday, 13 January 2014

I Wish...

Today, apparently, is 'Make Your Wish Come True Day,' and I wish it had been publicised a few days ago, rather than it being sprung on me all of a sudden like. By the time I heard it was 'Make Your Wish Come True Day' most of the day had gone and I was left thinking, 'Blimey, nothing like putting on the pressure, is there? I mean, it's going to take me the best part of a day to define exactly what wish I want to make come true.'

You have to be careful what you wish for, you see. I know this from past experience. I am not talking about my wishing for a dog every Christmas pudding stirring day, and finally getting one when it was a bit too late for me to enjoy being a dog owner because soon thereafter I left home. Oh no, I am talking about wishing for years I lived by the seaside, and where did that get me? Bl**dy Sheerness, that's where it got me. Oh yes, if I wanted to stand on rooftops I would have been able to see the sea, but stand on the pavement and there was a massive and very unattractive grey concrete sea wall in the way. And if you know Sheerness at all you will know that there are thousands of better places for seaside living.

 For I was thinking, 'Little cottage on a grassy cliff, overlooking vast sandy beaches fronded by deep blue waves with massive atmospheric skies,' and what I got was squashed in the middle of rows and rows of terraced houses, a shingle beach, a view of Southend on a clear day, and the distant threat of being blown sky high by the wreck of the 'Richard Montgomery' war relic sunk off the coast and still loaded with vast amounts of highly volatile explosives. 

You see? Be careful what you wish for. Or at least, be specific. Took myself years to extricate myself from THAT one. 


...I could wish that I wasn't so fat. But I have lost over a stone since my birthday, so that wish is being dealt with, slowly but surely.

...I could wish that I lived somewhere other than where I live now, but since the garden has been done and the woodburner is in, actually where we are is okay, and once I shut the door on the world, this house could be anywhere anyway. It is a good house. It is how we want it. 

...I could wish for a Figaro car, but actually, I could just go out and buy one, couldn't I? 

And at this moment, I cannot really define 'My Wish.' Space for more chickens would be good. And some quail. And maybe goats. And more space would also mean we could get our dog, already named Colonel Bunty. Or Bingo. When we were walking around the park at the weekend, I thought that it would be quite fun to have a dog called Bingo, and be able to march around the park on walks shouting, 'BINGO! BINGO!!!' 

And space for a big vegetable plot on the back doorstep, to save having to go to an allotment. And space just to go outside and run around shouting, 'Aaaaaaaaahhhhhh!!!!' as and when the fancy took me, without fear of disturbing the neighbours, because I am aware of making unnecessary noise and disturbing the peace and quiet of others, even if our current neighbours are not. (Noisy sods.) And maybe working for myself, which I kind of do already, being self-employed. 

I asked Andy what his wish would be. He said, 'Being able to spend more time outside under the sky.'

So I guess for the both of us, the wish is space and air.

Your turn now...what would YOU wish for?

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Interview Tension

The anticipation for the Big Interview increases. The Interview Outfit has been purchased, tried on and assessed with an appraising eye. The jacket (tweed) has a little faux silk kerchief in the breast pocket. Andy wasn't sure about it; I said it afforded an air of sartorial elegance and there was no way I was going to set about removing it with a pair of scissors.

'Should I wear my Doctor Who tie?' said Andy, whose repertoire of ties isn't huge because he isn't what you might call a 'tie man.' 

'I don't see why not,' said I. 'I think it would show a sense of individuality.'

However, the Doctor Who tie has been over-ruled by Himself in favour of a navy blue jobbie with a tiny silver stripe in it. I said that the jacket with mini kerchief suggested a cravat might be in order. Andy said he wasn't Terry-Thomas. 

Much reading and studying has been going on. Not by me. By Andy. My contribution to this process has been the gentle clacking of knitting needles, being quiet so as not to disturb Important Interview Learning with mindless prattle, and offering to accompany Andy to Shropshire, and NOT because he is staying in a nice hotel and there might be a side-order of biscuits with the tea and coffee making facilities. And I have to say that I think Andy should get the job purely on the merit of all the preparation he has done. 

The interview itself will be an all day marathon (and NOT the chocolate, peanutty, caramelly kind either) with various exams, group discussions, problem solving exercises and role plays. And then the actual interview itself. Cor blimey, what one has to do to get a job these days. 

I am planning a celebration at the weekend (but 'Sssshhhh,' don't tell Andy!) because it doesn't matter what happens after the interview, I am HUGELY proud of my Hubby for managing this very complicated and very stressful process. 

For he has been, and always will be, FAB!!!

Monday, 6 January 2014

Watch With Mother

Well, I am jolly pleased to see that Bagpuss and Ivor the Engine are being recognised for their children's TV brilliance on the Royal Mail's newest set of stamps. I went on the RM website to check out who else was being featured and was even more excited to see that The Magic Roundabout and Camberwick Green were also there, along with The Wombles, Mr Benn and Paddington. Not so excited to see the likes of Peppa Pig bringing up the rear, but I suppose the RM had acknowledge the whims of 'the youngsters' of today.

It got me thinking about other programmes I enjoyed as a child, aside from the ones already mentioned. Of course, along with Camberwick Green came Chigley and Trumpton. I loved all three! I was fascinated by Windy Miller's ability to get in and out of his windmill avoiding decapitation AND without missing a step, and Mrs Honeyman gliding along on her long frock dumping her baby on anyone who was passing by. And Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble and Grubb, the firemen. And Bracket the butler in Trumpton who, despite a very jerky walk, still managed to maintain brisk forward motion along a seemingly endless corridor.

Then there was Roobarb and Custard, and Noggin the Nog. Willo the Wisp narrated by Kenneth Williams who did all the character voices - Mavis Cruet, The Moog and Evil Edna. And Tales Of the River Bank! Who remembers that? Hammy Hamster driving along in his motorboat? I also enjoyed Pogles Wood, The Clangers and The Herbs....'Herbidacious!'...'I'm Dill the Dog! I'm a dog named Dill!'

There were also some programmes I wasn't keen on. The Woodentops, for instance, and Mary, Mungo and Midge. And Crystal Tips and Alistair. And Hector's House because I found Kiki the Frog extremely irritating, always popping up over the wall at the last minute and making Hector look a right numpty. I wasn't keen on Andy Pandy, either, although I liked his stripy blue outfit and matching hat. Most of all I hated Bod. But I think I might have been growing out of children's TV by then. I was moving onto more sophisticated stuff like Rent-a-Ghost and Why Don't You ( Just Switch Off Your Television Set and Go and Do Something Less Boring Instead?) and Blue Peter. And Jackanory. 

On Saturdays (after I had been to swimming lessons and survived yet another attempt at drowning by the instructor who made us do widths and widths of breast stroke legs only, and before I went to Girls' Brigade) there was The Banana Splits (tra-la-la, tra-la-la-la!), Multi-Coloured Swap Shop and...H.R Pufnstuf! And during the school holidays the delights of White Horses and The Singing Ringing Tree! 

I am sure I have forgotten some. At 3 o'clock in the morning I shall probably sit up and shout, 'Crackerjack!' and scare the bejeezus out of Andy, now that proper old fashioned children's TV is on my mind. So, what were your favourites?

...Basil Brush!


(See? I can't stop now!) 

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Waste Not, Les Miserables

Well, if one has a park on one's doorstep, a park full of trees that have been buffeted by the recent inclement weather to the extent where bits of their branches have dropped off, then is it wrong, dear frugal readers, to take a bag into the park and select bits of woody debris to use as kindling in one's woodburner? 

Andy is concerned that I shall get a name for myself e.g  'The Stick Lady', and I said I did not give a hoot, because free kindling is better than bags of kindling you pay for especially from one well known DIY store who wanted £4 for a bag that would last us less than a week! So this morning I collected a bag full of nicely sized twigs which will last us a while, and all I need to do is pop them somewhere to dry out. I mean, it's not like I am dragging great tree trunks home with me, is it? That would earn me some funny looks. 

Yesterday evening Andy decided to pop on the DVD of Les Miserables he got for Christmas (or Les Mis as it seems to be known by people who are very keen and knowledgeable about musicals in general.) Now, Andy knows a lot about musicals. He often sings songs from musicals which entertains me no end. I have never seen Les Miserables. Everyone I know who has seen it says what a fantastic show it is and I really MUST see it, darling. 

Since we've been together we have seen several musicals. We have seen:
1) Miss Saigon
2) Chicago
3) The Lion King
4) Shrek
5) Wicked
6) Guys and Dolls
7) The Producers
8) Blood Brothers
9) The Pajama Game
10) Spamalot
11) The Little Shop of Horrors
12) We Will Rock You
13) The Phantom of the Opera

 I have also seen Matilda. Which was very funny and very entertaining. Unlike Les Miserables. Which was not. Good grief, how depressing is that story? I heard a radio adaptation last year some time and that was bad enough, but add in the visual element and make the actors sing their misery at each other (and in Russell Crowe's case, very bad singing) and I was ready to start comfort-eating less than 20 minutes in. In the space of a verse and a chorus one of the characters, Fantine, had lost her job, all her hair, two teeth and was earning pitiful money as a prostitute. Well, by that time I'd picked up my knitting and was trying to sing happy songs in my head tra-la-la-la.

'I won't inflict any more of this on you,' said Andy switching off the DVD, and he went off into the kitchen to make some proper English muffins which he inflicted on me for breakfast this morning which, as you can imagine, was a bit of a hardship (!) And I watched a re-run of Dad's Army which was much more cheerful. And the tail-end of Casualty which I haven't seen for well over a year, and even THAT was more cheerful. And I got three more throw squares knitted. 

P'raps I'll give Les Mis another chance during the Summer. When it isn't quite so grim outside and I've tanked my brain up with some serotonin.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

What Else Can One Do?

Raining here again in Kent. Rain, rain, rain. On days like this I am glad I don't have to be an outdoors person, other than having to nip outside to tend to Primrose and Daisy, and maybe bring in some logs.

 Andy and I popped into town first thing, before the heavy rain set in, so Andy could have an interview haircut (at the Albanian barber shop, you know, the place that will try and set fire to his ears with a blow torch), and purchase a pair of interview trousers and an interview belt as his current belt doesn't work sufficiently well enough to ensure a comedy 'trousers falling down' moment will not happen mid-interview, and all his current trousers have encountered jolly adventures with the allotment, the back garden, paint and sharp corners despite my best efforts to buy him new pairs and deliver them with the words, 'These are to be your BEST trousers. You are NOT to wear them at the allotment, in the garden, whilst doing ANY sort of DIY whatsoever, or any other activities that involve flailing about.'

And we got a spot of grocery shopping (not much because we still have remarkably well-stocked cupboards left over from Christmas) and toiletry shopping (why do shampoo, toothpaste, shaving foam etc all run out at the same time?) before heading homewards and tucking in before the next bout of rain storm hit.

This afternoon I have been sitting and knitting and watching old films on the telly. It has been fab! I have decided that actually I would be quite happy to sit at home and knit for the foreseeable future. I like knitting. It is a good 'bad Winter weather occupation.' Especially when done by a proper fire. I also received a couple of Post Crossing cards - one from Taiwan and one from Russia. I am a little concerned about the Russian one. The writing on the back was rather random in its expression - there was a tone of desperation about it in the manner that if I was paranoid I might well think I have acquired a Russian stalker who will very soon start referring to me as his 'very good English friend' and asking when he can come over for a holiday in England. So I shall push all paranoid thoughts from my ears and assume his English just isn't very good and that really he loves his home country and has no intention of escaping, I mean, leaving it. 

And that is about it for today. A nice quiet day. Calm and peaceful. Companionable and creative. I feel blessed I live in a warm, dry house and that we want for nothing. Really, it's all good stuff. Xxx

Friday, 3 January 2014

Knitting and Mastermind and Home Spun

I have a couple of questions for you.

Question Number 1 - what would be your specialist subject if you were to go on Mastermind?

Question Number 2 - how do you genuinely (and be honest here) feel about home spun gifts?

I ask Question Number 2 because I have started knitting a throw...this is how far I am at the moment...

...and it suddenly occurred to me how nice it would be, for birthday gifts this year, to make up Much Malarkey Manor Hampers. You know, get baskets or boxes and fill with things like some variety of Andy-baked bread, a homemade cake or biscuits, a pot of jam, a lavender bag full of Malarkey lavender, a cushion or a knitted throw, and maybe a poem or a story tailored to the recipient, all topped off with a little knitted mouse or felt chicken...

'I'm not sure that is wholly ethical,' says Primrose sternly.

'I don't mean touchy feely felt,' I say. 'I mean a chicken decoration made from the non-fraying fabric called felt.'

'That's okay then,' says Primrose.

The four knitted heart squares are already big enough to form one side of a knitted cushion cover. Would that be a nice thing to have? Some people, I know, get a bit sniffy about homemade gifts. I wouldn't want to offend anyone by giving them something arty-crafty and home-produced when they would rather have a DVD box set of Inspector Morse.

And my first question is asked because I am knitting to Mastermind at the moment. It is a good programme to knit to because you don't have to watch it in order to join in shouting answers at the screen. Occasionally, when the contestants are being exceptionally feeble, I think, 'I could do better than that.' In fact, I have even got as far as exploring the application form. You have to have around 4 'specialist' subjects, because they record progressive rounds in a short space of time. This threw me somewhat because I had just reached the point when I thought I could maybe answer questions on 'The Life of Beatrix Potter' or 'Comedies of Shakespeare' without making a complete public fool of myself. But then I couldn't think of any other subjects. Perhaps 'Chickens' but that would be pushing it somewhat because most of my chicken knowledge is creative to say the least. Like, 'What is a chicken's favourite food?' - Answer - 'Chocolate hobnobs or Jaffa cakes' both of which responses might throw J.Humphries Esq into a bit of a tizzy. 

So, I just thought I would ask. You know. Just to spark a bit of BlogLand conversation on a dark, wet and windy January night.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Breathing Calmly Through

Reading a variety of blogs yesterday (because the weather was filthy and not conducive to being outside AT ALL) it seems, sadly, that there are too many people who have experienced a rough start to the New Year. Various passing ons of people and pets, accidents big and small, weather-related catastrophes, arguments and over-all misery stemming from it being a dark and dismal January and not the best time of year to cope with even the little hiccups of day to day living let alone Fate throwing an enormous spanner in the wheel of general tickety-booness.

The trouble is, we set ourselves up to expect so much from this 'The New Year' concept. Whatever happened the previous year, life WILL be so much better at the single tickover of a clock hand. Of course, Time has no concept of our expectations and plods on regardless. New Year's Eve and New Year's Day are all one and the same to Time - still sixty minutes making an hour and twenty four hours making a day. Day in, day out, just as it always has been since...well, ever. 

There is no magic fairy dust, no 'Make It Better' sorcery, no 'Anti-Aggravation' medicine to take to protect us from hurt or disappointment or frustrations. And so my meditation yesterday evening took the form of sending out general peace and calm waves, a sense of 'Just breathe through it, it'll be okay soon,' because I didn't really know what else to do. It made me feel a bit like when you're hanging upside down in the dentist chair, having a filling, and just concentrating on the next half hour, because it will only be half an hour...oh, look, just 29 minutes now...and now 28...and then it will be over and you will still be you and upright again and feeling a sense of relief, nay achievement that you didn't bite your dentist or pass out because you were holding your breath without realising it. Just breathe...

So today. Well, the sun is shining, so that helps. Clear blue skies and neighbours out mending the fences that suffered during the last week or so of storms. I have started a new knitting project. Got hold of some bargain Aran wool and am setting forth on creating a patchwork throw for the new armchair. The leftover Stilton in the fridge is just about to be transformed into broccoli and Stilton soup. Andy has got a job interview next Friday 10th so we are currently in training, practising something called 'Not Saying the Wrong Thing At the Interview.' I have a strong feeling that the course our life will take will depend a lot on the outcome of this interview. 

And that will do, for today. On the advice of a sage and wise friend, I have decided to manage one day at a time this year. Of course, I have longer 'plans' written down, because I can't help it, but they are loose plans, open and suggestible to change. 

Right, lunch, then an afternoon of knitting and maybe watching the DVD I got for Christmas and then a spot of reading. That'll do. 

I hope, wherever you are, you too are breathing calmly through your day. Xxx

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

The Legend of the Cutlery Goblin

One day, on Table Mountain (where else?), deep in the Woods of Starched Napkins (okay, I made that one up) there lived a community of Goblin Folk. Now, all Goblins have a porpoise, sorry, a purpose...

'Except the Porpoise Goblins,' says Daisy. 'Who collect porpoises.'

'Of course,' says I. 'I forgot about them. Happy New Year to you and Primrose by the way. Where is Primrose?'

'In the park,' says Daisy. 'At a Get Fit Boot Camp.'

'She doesn't need to get fit,' I say. 'She is a marvel of energy, fitness and figure.'

'She isn't participating as a blobby lardy bottom,' says Daisy. 'She's their new instructor!'

Back to the Goblins...

...every Goblin has a purpose. And that purpose is to collect. That is how Goblins earn their living. They collect stuff and then they sell that stuff for Goblin Gold, unless it is stuff like wood which they can burn to keep themselves warm, or to cook on, or build furniture which they ship out to Ikea. Or stuff like stone which they turn into houses or rockeries. Or stuff like Goblin Gold which is an efficient form of collecting as it cuts out the middle Goblin but often involves a specialised form of collecting known as 'theft,' which even in Goblin World is a bad thing and frowned upon in all the polite circles.

Inventive Goblins soon came to realise that the best way to make as much Goblin Gold as possible was to be selective about the kind of stuff they chose to collect. It was no good collecting ordinary stuff, like newspapers or turkeys or cats because the Goblin Gold exchange rate for this kind of item was generally poor. Especially for cats. Goblins hate cats, probably because cats look funkier in fur. Of course, some Goblins were happy to live frugally - they were known as the Stupid Goblins who went around saying things like 'Goblin Gold doesn't bring you happiness but Goblin Turkey does.' They were happy to participate in activities like darning socks and using vinegar as a cheap cleaning product instead of the purpose for which vinegar was designed which is to sprinkle liberally over those chunky twice cooked chips that over-priced gastro-pubs do so well.

Anyway, Stupid Goblins aside, your average Goblin was very acquisitive by nature and would collect the ladders in your tights if you left them unattended for more than a second. And now arrives the time to introduce you to the Hero of this story whose name I have been struggling to come up with since I started writing and am still drawing a blank so you might need to pop off and have a cup of tea and finish those petticoat tail shortbreads you've got leftover in the cupboard whilst I do a spot of creative pacing...

...and his name shall be...Scrimbleshanks!

'Excuse me,' said Scrimbleshanks, 'but I am NEVER going to answer to the name Scrimbleshanks.'

'But it's a traditional Goblin name,' I said.

'I don't care,' said Scrimbleshanks. 'It is old fashioned, charmless and I don't like it, so stop writing it.'

'Well,' said I, (who was already in a bit of a mood because the stupid people who rent next door set off loud and noisy fireworks at midnight last night in their front drive of all stupid places, about 15 feet from our front window and 5 feet from a major road, and I fretted for an hour that our roof was going to be set on fire by a stray rocket and Flora flipped out completely, rushed into the kitchen and kicked my favourite ever teapot off the work top smashing it into a thousand pieces - Happy New Year my a**e!) 'what name do you suggest, oh Goblin who does not have a writer's file full of rejection letters from agents and publishers?'

'Flaubert,' said Scrimbleshanks. 

'Flaubert?' said I, in my faux-cockney Kentish accent.

'To rhyme with 'flow and 'air' not 'flow' and 'shirt,' said the Goblin formerly known as Scrimbleshanks.

'Bit pretentious for a Goblin isn't it?' I said. 

'So?' said Flaubert to rhyme with air. 

I sighed. 'Okay, so the Hero of this story is called Flaubert. And one day his time came to put aside childish things like Lego, deliberately breaking wind (because it's HILARIOUS!) and Call of Duty 4, and decide which item he was going to collect in order to earn his living. He had spent a short time arguing with his mother about his potential as a celebrity who just needed to bide his time until opportunity knocked, and could he spend that time slobbing on the sofa playing DVDs and eating Dorritos, but she said no, he had to go out and start earning Goblin Gold immediately or he could go and live in the coal shed. He had sulked for a few hours, then mercifully pulled himself together which was a relief to all because sulky Goblins produce a lot of sulphur.

'I am going to collect marbles!' he announced. 

'And your reasoning?' said his mother.

'There must be a lot about,' said Flaubert. 'I am forever hearing Goblins saying they have lost their marbles. Especially you, and Aunt Daphne. And Mrs Pottleshot next door, and Granny Hoo-ha. I shall model my success on Lord Elgin. He found a lot of marbles. In Greece. So I am going to start there. In Greece.

'You just want a holiday, don't you?' said his mother suspiciously, and quite right, too. Flaubert had the decency to look a little embarrassed that what he thought was a marvellously cunning plan had been sprung quicker than a Slumberland mattress. 

'Well,' he said, in that defensive manner teenage Goblins display when they have been caught out doing something they didn't ought to be doing, 'I have definitely decided to become a Goblin Collector abroad. I think my prospects are better in foreign climes. My Goblin Gold fortune shall be gleaned from the exotic.'

Flaubert's mother was not going to argue. Her mind had already stripped the wallpaper in his bedroom, repainted the walls duck egg blue and installed a paying lodger. (Before she stopped work to have Goblin babies, lodgers is what Flaubert's mother used to collect. If you know what I mean.)

'All right, Scrimbleshanks...I mean, Flaubert,' said his mother. 'You do what you have to do. Shall I do you a packed lunch? I've a big pot of pickled red cabbage in the fridge leftover from Christmas.'

Flaubert declined the offer. 'I'll pick up a bite of something on the way,' said he.

'In that case, you'll be needing to take this Goblin Ointment with you,' said his mother, tucking a large tube of 'Crotchitch' in his pocket and shoving him out the door.

And so Flaubert set off to seek his fortune in Goblin Gold. He thought, I shall be led by my instinct. Some mystic force will guide my way and direct me to some rare and beautiful collectible, probably something long and shiny and made of stainless steel. And then I shall return to Table Top Mountain and sell my collection and become the richest Goblin ever to inhabit the Woods of Starched Napkins. Never more will I ever have to darn a sock...'

'You've never darned a sock in your life!' shouted his mother, opening the door to check he was well and truly on his way.

'Whatever!' shouted Flaubert. 

Part 1 of 'The Legend of the Cutlery Goblin' was brought to you containing several product placements - to recap: Ikea, Lego, Call of Duty 4, Dorritos, Slumberland and Greece (x2). In order for these products to remain associated with this best-selling story, the author is expecting to arrive by Friday one Hinkelschmerking sofa bed, Lego Battlestar Galactica, a gross box of Dorritos (plain or cheese, she isn't fussy), a king-size Slumberland mattress and a mini-break to somewhere non-touristy in Greece. No Call of Duty. You can keep that. It is disgraceful.