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?