Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Don't Panic!

OK, maybe I'm over simplifying here, but how is a 'panic button' helpful when dealing with the subtle, long-term grooming of young people by paedophiles? Surely the whole reason that predators are able to achieve the results they desire is because the intended victims don't actually realise they are being targetted.

Fine, so now they have an easy way of alerting the authorities if someone creeps them out, but I've been a teenager and now I volunteer with them: don't tell me that some of them aren't going to find it hilariously amusing to report their friends and family just for the hell of it?

It sounds like a simplistic answer to a complex problem, but kudos to facebook for getting some good publicity out of it. It sure beats the privacy issues they've been in the news for recently. Time will tell if it's anything more than a bit of makeup on an ugly scar.

Friday, 4 June 2010

The play's the thing!

I think I've commented before on how life goes in circles for me, with my passion bouncing around and lighting on one thing for a while, and then on another, then another, and eventually back to my original love. Well, it's been a long time since the theatre held my fancy, ten years, near as dammit, because it's not since school that I've been involved with it.

More recently it's been photography, or writing, or knitting, or sewing, or cooking, but ten years ago it was the thrill of setting up a play, planning the costumes, makeup, hair, helping the stage crew and lighting guys by passing them tools and fetching things - I adored the teamwork, camaraderie, adrenaline rush of putting something together for the public to see, without the stomach churning hell of having to go on-stage.

Right now I'm watching 'When Romeo Met Juliet'. To quote the BBC website:-

One city, eight weeks and two contrasting schools come together to put on a professional production of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. In a unique experiment, each school is cast as one of the two feuding families at the heart of the world's favourite love story.

Romeo and his Montague clan come from a Coventry city centre comprehensive while Juliet and the Capulets are from a Catholic school in the city's northern suburbs. Trying to get the show on the road is artistic director of the National Youth Theatre, Paul Roseby. Also on hand as mentors - one for each school - are Hustle actor and RADA-trained Shakespeare fan Adrian Lester and his wife, actress Lolita Chakrabarti. Can they help the teenage cast overcome their preconceptions about Shakespeare, and work with each other, to create a Romeo and Juliet for a new generation, iambic pentameter and all?

For a start I just love the fact that these are two schools that I'm familiar with through my voluntary work with young people in Coventry - I keep looking out for kids that I know (haven't spotted one yet mind). It's made me realise how much I've adopted Coventry as my home town now - I'm getting so excited to see it on the TV, feeling so proud that they're doing this here. I've really settled in now and it's going to hurt if we ever have to move...

Secondly - it's reminding me of the rush I used to feel helping get productions off the ground. I miss it. I've applied for a job that might let me experience something of that thrill again and I really *really* want it. Watching this has just prodded me into realising how badly. Dangerous position to be in - bad enough to be rejected for a job that one only wants mentally, but to be rejected for a job that one has become emotionally attached to? I wonder if I ought to start stockpiling chocolate and tissues now, just in case...?

I know that a job is just a way of making money so one can live, but I would so love a job that could be part of my *living*. One that I can engage with and feel truly passionate about. Too much to ask? I'll let you know :-)

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Tweets for my Tweeps

I now have a shiny new Twitter account - go add me now!

Follow campreece on Twitter

Or let me know if there's a fascinating Tweep I should be following - arts, crafts, marketing & PR, Coventry & Warwickshire - whatever. If it's a well put together stream then I'll add them to my list!

Thursday, 20 May 2010

The shape of thoughts

Isn't it funny that sometimes another person can give you an expression of yourself better than anything you can manage? You can listen to a song or hear a poem and think - That's me! That's what I feel and think.

It has a kind of hurting quality, to hear your insides expressed by somebody else, to feel suddenly that you're not alone in feeling that, but also that you're not unique; that perhaps nothing you can do will ever be as entirely new and special and 'you' as it feels in your heart when you do it.

I'm lucky that I have a husband and friends who know me so completely. People with whom I can be entirely honest in a way I don't think I suspected was possible and yet I sometimes still find myself keeping things back. Not the big things, things like decisions or news, but the tiny little fragments of thoughts like how beautiful it looks when the sun shines through a jar of jam and the way the whole thing glows as if it holds some magic. Or when you see a child learning something and you get a sudden glimpse of all their possibilities and it takes your breath away.

Occasionally I tell Adam one of these thoughts and he never turns away from them, but sometimes I feel as if he's looking at life from the bottom of a box - surrounded by high walls that block out the view in every direction. I feel so sorry for him. I love when we share a moment like looking at a sunset together and, briefly, it seems as though I've created a window in one of his walls.

I was ten minutes later leaving for work yesterday because I was fussing Bramble and he was enjoying it so much he left trails of dribble on his blanket. I couldn't bear to leave when he was in such an ecstasy of squirming and I loved the way his thick, soft fur scrunched under my fingers and the intense heat of his skin where he had been shaved for his operations. Most of all I loved the way he looked at me like he was focusing all of his attention on me and there was nobody else in the world. Somehow it seemed even more special because it was from a cat and so I sat on the landing and fussed him until I really really *had* to go.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Review: Web of Wool yarn shop

OK, so this isn't totally Coventry based, since the shop in question is based in Leamington, but Leamington Spa is easily reached from Coventry so I feel it falls within my remit. Besides which I have already blogged about a Leamington based shop when I reviewed The Cotton Nappy Company, so there's precedent.

Anyway, I popped into Web of Wool last week just on a whim. Bad idea. One should never combine the words 'popped' 'whim' and 'yarn shop', not unless one is prepared to spend money... Which is what happened!

The shop is lovely and Olde Worlde in style - wonky wooden floorboards, gorgeous wooden cubular shelves, a deep set bay window with a white painted windowsill and little paned windows. A gamut of different yarns filled the shelves - rich, deep colours, soft pastels, earthy tones, vibrant rainbow shades - and the textures were just as varied, soft, fuzzy, silky, nubbly. You'd think this was fairly standard for a yarn shop, but I tell you it is not so - I know of more than one yarn shop (and I'm naming no names here) that seem to be stuck about forty years in the past - jumbled shelves, ancient yellowing patterns, even more ancient shop staff (who are mightily unhelpful come to that), nasty acrylic yarns and a strange musty smell that seems to permeate everything.

Web of Wool is more... tasteful, modern, appealing, appetising even, with well ordered products and a young, helpful person behind the counter (who I suspect may even be the shopowner). Be warned - they have traps for the unwary by the counter just like at the supermarket, only it's cute little buttons and other notions rather than sweeties.

There are some downsides though. Firstly the opening hours seem a little erratic. This is the third time I've gone past the shop, but the first time it's ever been open - in actual fact I posted to my Facebook status that I'd found it open and promptly had a number of replies from my Knit Wit compatriots declaiming me as a liar and fraudster for suggesting such a thing! Secondly - the shop was bizarrely chilly. Maybe it was just a ploy to entice shoppers to purchase more snuggly yarns, even when the weather was warm, but it did make things a bit uncomfortable since I was without a cardigan that day (this was during that bizarrely warm spell we had the weekend *before* the bank holiday weekend).

Thirdly, and I'm not sure if this should be included in a review of a shop, but let's face it, without a web presence these days you may as well not bother, their website is, well, shocking. I suspect it may be under reconstruction, though nothing to that effect has been written on the site, but all the links are broken and there's just one, very simple front page with an address on it where there used to be a whole host of links and jumbled information. I'll hold off on any further critique until I've ascertained whether it is, in fact, being reworked or not, but even as it is, it doesn't really do them any favours since it's more of a place holding operation than anything else.

I came out with a heavy weight sock yarn in lovely grey-blue self-striping tones and a set of little ceramic cat buttons to sew on the navy blue bamboo baby cardigan I just finished (photos some time next year when I get some free time!). The woman behind the counter was friendly, unobtrusive, helpful and not pushy at all. I think the shop is *almost* there, but is lacking a little something - a bit more light, a bit more warmth, maybe some quiet music playing. A few halogen spots would make a big difference, as would a radiator of some kind. Even so, I would definiteky consider going back - always providing they're open that is!

Monday, 3 May 2010

The *Goood* Cookies

Over the past few years I have been conducting interested research into cookies. My quest has been to find the ideal recipe for a homemade cookie - something that will produce the delicious crispy round the edges, chewy in the middle American style platter-sized cookie that I've only ever been able to buy.

Well, for a long time this research turned up tasty, yet *wrong* cookies. Finally, about a year ago, I came across a recipe on the BBC food page which, once tested, was promptly saved and renamed as "The *Goood* Cookies". Large, pale gold, lumpy with chocolate chunks, crispy round the edges and chewy soft in the centre they are exactly what I was hoping to create.

The stress earlier this week sent me to my cupboards in my automatic stress-reaction of baking followed by eating and I turned up this recipe again. Perfect. I only had dark chocolate, but i chopped it up and made a batch of acceptable, but slightly solid cookies. Yesterday I tried again. I made sure to measure out the flour exactly (I deliberately used too much last time, a mistake I now realise) and doubled my quantities so I could make two flavours. I cooked them up and have a classic and a new delicious favourite:- milk choc chip cookies and white chocolate and macadamia nut cookies. OMG - yum! Not sure whether my work colleagues will get to share *these* batches, though it'd probably be better for my waistline if they do. Perhaps I'll make some small ones ;-)

The recipe below is written from memory and includes my own little adjustments. Apologies for the changes between imperial and metric measurement - that's just how they stick in my mind!

3 1/2 oz granulated sugar
2 1/2 oz soft light brown sugar
125g unsalted butter
150g plain flour
150g goodies to add in (chocolate, nuts, raisins, a mixture thereof - whatever you fancy, but I recommend the white choc and macadamia nut mixture. Dried cranberries are nice too...)
1 egg
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to Gas mark 4/180 degrees. Melt the butter slowly in a small, heavy pan. When melted pour into the sugars and beat well. Add in the egg and then the dry ingredients. When you have a nice homogenous cookie dough mix in your goodies and leave the bowl in a cool place until it firms up a little - do not add more flour like I did, it's not a good idea.

Place heaped tea spoonfuls of the mixture far apart on a sheet on baking parchment on a baking sheet. Put in the oven and cook for between 8 and 15 minutes depending on a number of things like the size of your cookies and the efficacy of your oven. My oven is so poor it takes about 20 minutes to cook them, but my mum's amazing Neff oven cooks them in 8 - so be aware!

When they're done the cookies will be about 3 times the diameter that they were, very flat, golden brown round the edges and with a shiny crackled glaze across the surface. Remove from oven, leave to cool a little, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling. Whilst they're very hot they'll be all floppy so don't try to take them off the tray immediately.

Eat with a tall glass of cold milk and revel in the American-ness ;-)

Cooked cookies will keep in an airtight tin for a few days (though not in my house, cos they get eaten within a day). Or you can divide them into balls and freeze them, wrapped in baking paper and foil (or in a long sausage affair which you chop slices off) then you can drop a few on a tray and whack them in a hot oven - hey presto! Instant fresh homemade cookies. How to fool people into thinking you're a Domestic Goddess!

Harking Back

OK, so if you read my post from yesterday you'll be aware that I currently have a very poorly cat at home for a bit. Because he has tubes coming out of his belly he's not allowed to roam around in a cat-like way and is currently kept for most of the day in a large crate we borrowed from his Cats Protection foster mum. This crate, for a number of reasons, mostly due to its size and weight, is sitting in the middle of our sitting/dining room. A sitting/dining room that was in *serious* of a hoover, not least because the cone-headed cat has been (to use a word my husband coined) 'cone-a-pulting' the litter from his tray across the room, with a range of about 5'.

Well, what to do? The hoover would give said cat a coronary arrest on top of his bladder issues and it's not like I'd be able to move him out of the room easily so I could do the hoovering without frightening the bejeesus out of him. Then a lightbulb popped up over my head in the manner of a cartoon strip. When we'd moved in I remembered seeing a manky old carpet sweeper in the under-the-stairs-cupboard, a remnant of the elderly lady's previous incumbency. OK, so it wasn't as effective as my funky little purple Dyson, but it was a heck of a lot quieter, didn't frighten the cat and was way easier than my only alternative: down on my hands and knees with a dustpan and brush.

Just goes to show - sometimes dated technology can still be useful. I wouldn't swap it for my Dyson on a permanent basis though!

Sunday, 2 May 2010

May Day Round Up

So I feel like something of a fraud. There I was promising all sorts of crafts, reviews, family stories, cat related hilarity, randomness and the odd kitchen disaster thrown in for good measure and now, here I am, full time job, parading as some kind of yuppie. Hrm, from hippie to yuppie in one easy step...

I'd like to think we'd have more money from this little experiment, I'd *like* to, but it wouldn't be the case. One, because hubby and I had a brief little plunge into consumerism in an 'ahh, fuck it' way and two - because of the vet. It is also because of the vet that I find myself with so little time even after the job, cooking, shopping, washing, ironing and general miscellanea that fills my once carefree and loosely planned days.

As far as the consumerism goes, well, that's over. Hubby handed over the financial reins to me and I have put us on a strict economic diet. We get our pocket money each month which we can spend as we choose. Anything over that and there'd better be a *damn* good reason why. I sanctioned the bicycle helmet for Hubby who cycles to work, for example, especially with the nutso Coventarian drivers - in the event of a collision I would quite like his brain area protected, at the very least.

As far as the vets, well, that's still ongoing. Bramble decided to get a blocked bladder, cue one post-work trip to the vets, followed by a late night trip to the emergency vets, followed by a return to the regular vets, followed by a holiday home, followed by a Sunday afternoon trip to the vets, followed by an early morning transfer back to normal vets on Monday, followed by emergency transfer to specialist animal hospital in Birmingham on the Tuesday, right in the middle of the day. All in all several disrupted days, many hours of work lost (more of a problem for me than them since I'm on a pay-per-hour casual contract) and many hours of stress. Most especially when, Wednesday morning, Barley presented with the same symptoms: cue hysterical Milla. My mum, Gods bless her, drove straight up and stayed till Saturday, for which I was most grateful, even though Barley turned out to only have a short term virus and not the major drama of an illness Bramble is suffering from.

So far Barley has cost us about £260 and Bramble roughly £5011. Thank everything that exists that we had insurance. Especially thank Karen, the boys' Cats Protection Foster Mother, that we have higher level insurance so he's covered to £7,500 over his lifetime for each condition. What a pity that he's managed to burn through nearly his entire lifetime's cover in one week. At the moment we're still debating whether to go ahead with a potentially preventative operation to remove his penis. It's the 'potentially' that bothers me. We'd spend the rest of his insurance and some of our own money (it could cost as much as £3,500) if we knew that it would definitely help his chances, but that's not guaranteed by any means, so we're waiting until we talk to the vet on Tues.

Right now I am taking the piss out of the cat on a regular basis, and yes, I mean that literally. Every two to three hours I have to use a syringe to draw the urine out of his bladder through a tube sewn into his little pink shaved tummy. He's a very good boy about it, rolling onto his back for me and purring. Such a sweetie. It's weird the things you can get used to. His gentle nature and sweet temperament just reminds me how close we came to losing him and why we're willing to do these things for him. I just hope we can resolve this happily.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly - a two week round-up

Oh dear oh dear - it has been a long while since I last updated, hasn't it? I do apologise if, for some reason, you'd been sitting around chewing your fingernails and wondering where I'd gone.

The good news is that I got a job. Yes! At long long last my job hunt has been successful and I've landed myself a part-time 'internship' of 9 weeks with a large UK charity. It's the break I've needed, because even if I fail to get the full-time position (which I've applied for and want want want) it is, at the very least, a rung up the job ladder, because it's recently, relevant experience working in the area which I want to enter. It's a big deal for me.

The bad news is that poor old hubby has had the 'flu since my birthday, possibly swine 'flu, but no oinking, so I can't be certain. He woke me up in the middle of the night shaking and sweating so badly I had to strip the bed and put fresh linen on. Therein followed all the many symptoms associated with the 'flu - aching, temperature, snotty, coughing, sicky etc... he's been in a very bad way.

The Ugly is that, on the same day that he came down with the hideous lurgy and I turned another year older, I had my first job interview for over a year and was fighting off a disgusting lurgy of my own. Nothing quite as bad as 'flu, but I'm sure you'll agree that a bad cough and cold can be quite debilitating enough to make life uncomfortable. Well, as I said before, I got the job and they asked me to start that Wednesday! So there I was, feeling rather rotten, new job to start, all the household chores falling on my shoulders plus all the extra work of looking after a 'fluey patient. I'm still amazed I stayed on my feet and kept working, to be honest.

I'm sorry I have nothing more exciting to report, but as you can see it's been a little one-track round here and that track was all about just keeping going. This weekend is the first opportunity I've had to just sit down and do nothing. Oh, but it's bliss. I have been so tired and ill and it is such a luxury to just slob around in my pyjamas and do nothing! Hubby is finally back on his feet enough that he is self-sufficient, so I only have to run around after myself and not him, also. I've been trying so hard not to let it be apparent at work that I've felt rubbish and, even though I have, I've still enjoyed the work and the office ever so much. I can't wait to go back and have another stab at it when I'm feeling 100% - I'll kick arse. Totally. Thank heavens for this long Easter weekend which is giving me the chance to recuperate.

Remedies to Ease Suffering From 'Flu
So these are the things I've been treating hubby and myself with - in his case to speed recovery, in mine to try and prevent catching it. What do you use?

- Spiced elderberry cordial - anti-viral and very soothing as a hot drink
- Lemon, ginger and honey drink - hot and soothing and full of immune boosting... stuff
- Vitamin C and zinc supplements - immune boosting again
- Paracetemol and ibuprofen in 2 hour alternating cycles for pain and temperature lowering
- Echinacea tincture - again for the immune boosting
- Watered down juices to stay hydrated
- Fatty foods to support the immune system and tempt the appetite
- Hot water bottles for warmth, cold flannels to cool
- Two cuddly cats - essential for morale.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Review: The Belgrade Theatre

So last night was my birthday treat from Hubby to go and see 'Joseph and the amazing technicolor dreamcoat' at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry. I felt a little sorry for the lad playing Joseph, as he was one of the rejects from the BBC's 'Any Dream Will Do' and it must be a little galling to know that the winner is dazzling London audiences and married to the glamorous Denis Van Outen whilst you're stuck touring regional theatres and hoping not to sink into utter obscurity.

Anyway, I was going to blog about my fun treat, but then I thought that it was the ideal opportunity to tell you about the theatre as well as part of my 'This is Coventry' campaign. Well, let me paint you a picture...

Despite the recent mild, warm weather, last night was wet and windy, the steady drizzle drenching the streets of Coventry and driving the chavs indoors. In some ways this was, obviously, an improvement, but as Coventry is mainly composed of concrete it doesn't really look its best in the rain and dark. Then we stepped out onto the plaza where the theatre was located. The new and fancy water feature out at the front shimmered a reflection of the brightly lit theatre front and I felt the unexpected shiver of anticipation that I used to get when my parents would take me to the London theatres as a child. In the gloom the Belgrade's lights and warmth seemed most welcoming and both Hubby and I were pleasantly surprised when we stepped inside.
When I'd seen it in the daylight I had thought it shabby and sad, but actually it was clean, modern, attractive and well organised. There were two decent bars, plently of seating in the foyer, wide staircases and adequate disabled access. Staff were friendly and polite - lots of smiles which is something I rarely see in London theatres - and the atmosphere in general was buzzy and excited with a heady hum of chatter.

The auditorium itself was dinky and cute, with very steeply tiered seats. We were seated one row from the back, but our view was unimpeded and clear and the sound system was excellent. Seats were comfortable, although might be a little narrow if one is struggling with one's weight (just a word to the wise) and there was good leg room for the average person.

Now to the production - well. 'Joseph' is one of those productions which resonate strongly with Hubby and I from our childhoods. Both of us had the soundtrack, both of us had seen it as kids (I saw Philip Schofield playing Joseph, no less!) and both of us were ridiculously excited to see it again considering we're in our late twenties! We sat and looked around, squirmed as we heard the subterranean orchestra start to warm up and clutched each others' hand as the lights dimmed.

The whole show was a delight, it really was. The music was as catchy as I remember it, the cast was (on the whole) lively and personable, working hard to make their own stamp on the well known score. Special credit should go to the narrator whose voice was absolutely incredible. Even hubby (Mr Pitch Perfect and picky music critic supreme) was impressed, crediting her with something of Julie Andrew's tonal quality and noting only one bum note apparently. I also really enjoyed watching Claire Edwards, the woman signing the whole musical for the benefit of the hearing impaired. If ever the action on stage got slow I would watch her instead and she was great fun, especially in the catchy numbers where the signing would seem like dancing as she bopped along! I even learnt how to sign 'Joseph' from watching her!

There were one or two awkward and amusing moments, mostly concerning the inflatable sheep which failed to inflate; requiring a swift punch from a couple of the 'brothers' to activate their auto-inflate properly. Well, I would just like to reassure any children that no sheep were harmed in the making of Joseph, the punches were for their own good!

The female dancers, also, were a bit of a let down. Their dancing was not in sync, their steps were sloppy and they just seemed lethargic and uninvolved for the most part. This was a real pity as the rest of the cast threw themselves into the production wholeheartedly and gave it a real flavour of their own, both in the singing and dancing. I especially liked the interplay between the brothers and the way they seemed to feed off each others' energy and performances to raise their own game - it brought a real energy and sparkle to the stage.

Craig Chalmers, as Joseph, was funny and enthusiastic, bringing some lovely lighthearted moments to the production. I also enjoyed the lovely view he made, shirtless and in a loin cloth (not many women wouldn't, to be honest). I do have to say, though, that his voice was not the most consistent; his performance on the 'big numbers' was spectacular, but on the slower, softer songs he seemed to struggle a bit, often falling flat even to my almost tone death ears. On the whole, however, he made a charming and sweet Joseph and I really enjoyed watching him. He can wiggle his bum in my direction any time - no - seriously.

Can I also just give a big thumbs up for the number of encores the cast performed? Hubby and I really felt we had got our money's worth by the time we staggered out, humming a few of our favourite tunes.

The Belgrade cleared quickly and efficiently, with adequate routes of egress to prevent any bottle neck stoppages. The only negative that I could find to make about the theatre itself would be that the heat was rather overwhelming in the auditorium and they should perhaps look at introducing some air conditioning - especially when everyone was dressed for the cooler March weather outside. A word to the wise: if you go there to watch a play, wear layers!

I had a brilliant evening, lots of fun. It reminded me why I enjoy going to the theatre and I'm already making plans to go back to the Belgrade in March, when the Scottish Dance Company are performing. I love contemporary dance and I'm sure it would be displayed to good advantage in the intimate space of the Belgrade.

Visit the Belgrade's Website

Friday, 19 March 2010


As regular viewers may realise, my blog has had a bit of a revamp - new layout, new colours, new header image and, most exciting of all, new pages! I admit, they don't say much at the moment, but now I know I have the capacity to create pages I'll be working on filling them up with all sorts of juicy excitements, believe me!

Please comment and let me know what you think of the new look and layout - I love it, but I'm curious to hear your thoughts also. Plus you can give me a little guidance on good things to include in my stand-alone pages - any ideas?

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Wrist Warmers - the photos!

So the job hunt, whilst not reaching fruition just yet, turned up some very promising leads, about which I hope to write very soon! As a sort of celebration, and because I hadn't got round to it sooner, I am posting the long-promised photographs of my super-speedy two-day wrist warmer project. I loved making them so much I am now doing a second pair for my friend's girlfriend, but so they don't have matching 'hers and hers' warmers, I am making these new ones in navy blue with a contrasting trim. I'll try and post pics of those, too, when they're finished. In the meantime... the strawberry ice cream striped ones!

New Start

So, today I take the plunge and re-start the great job search. My CV is polished and shiny (albeit somewhat sparse), my rather casual wardrobe has been raided for something a little bit smart and I have a list of places to see, people to talk to.

Now all I need to do is gather my courage in both hands and leave the house. I don't know why I'm so apprehensive. When it comes to my voluntary work or personal projects I am accomplished and confident - I can only assume that this is scary because it's new. Change is always a little frightening at first, but it's how you deal with it that shows your mettle and I am not short of determination. I coped with being disabled for so long, I can cope with being able. It'll just take me a little while to become accustomed to thinking of myself that way. It's a good thing though, a far more positive adjustment to make and I'm looking forward to bits of it - perhaps I should focus on those... sounds like incentive for another list!

- Meeting new people
- Seeing people on a regular basis
- New things to learn
- Confidence to be gained through new achievements
- Money!
- Opportunities
- Being able to enjoy my leisure hours more when they're rarer.

I think those seven things are worth being a little scared for, don't you?

Wish me luck!

Friday, 5 March 2010


Tonight I heard about the death of someone very dear to me, my Great Uncle Ian. He was my great uncle by marriage, but he had the role of a grandparent. He has been there for every birthday, every Christmas, my graduation, my marriage. He taught me how to make Creme Caramels and encouraged my interests in cooking, knitting and crochet. He always let me know how much he loved me and regarded me as his granddaughter, my sister and I were blessed to have had him in our lives for so long.

He has been sick for a long time, so long that it seemed like he would creak on forever, but today he died and all I can think about is how I should have visited him, or how I should have sent him a card, like I was thinking of doing but hadn't got round to. I hope he knew how much he meant to me and how much I loved him, how he will always be in my thoughts.
Goodbye Ian

Quickest Project Ever!

OK, I am seriously impressed with myself and with Attic24's tutorial. Easy peasy, lots of room for manoeuvre and making your own mark on it and speedy as anything! Started the wrist warmers yesterday and finished them today - no problems. Haven't done anything fancy, I like the simple strawberry ice-cream effect of the pink and cream stripes. I'll do some photos tomorrow - I think they'll look better in natural light.

I give them to my friend tomorrow - I hope she likes them...

See photos

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Being A Grown Up

In my previous post I may have mentioned how I was being put upon slightly this weekend, having been asked to host an extra guest by a old friend of mine. Well, I got upset, then I got angry, but now I've made a decision to have him here I am going to be gracious about it. It's not always easy being a grown up, sometimes it means doing things you'd really rather not and since one of these things is being gracious even though my friend has made me really quite angry, I had to find a way to forgive her.

Well, I don't know what part of my brain this came from, but it seemed that I would feel more kindly towards her if I did something kind for her. Well, she's a writer and I know she feels the cold, so I thought perhaps some kind of fingerless glove would be an appropriate present. A while back I came across this wonderful, colourful tutorial by Attic24 for stripey wristwarmers - perfect!

I picked out a lovely blush pink yarn and a cream yarn and am about an inch in and already it's weaving a magic spell on me. As I sit in the sunshine from the window, smarmy cat squirming on my lap and crochet growing in my hands I feel a sense of peace and happiness stealing through me. Someone once said "It's not how far you fall, but how high you bounce." Well, I fell pretty far the last few days, I'm still a bit astounded at how angry and hurt I was, but now, with the help of three wonderful people (darling Mummy, incredible husband, and a new friend who has become very dear to me in a very short amount of time) and a bit of straight talking from myself I have come to a place where I can feel proud of myself again... and lucky to have some good people around me.

Here is how the crochet looks so far... I'll post some new pics when they're done!

See completed project

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Guess Who's Coming To Dinner...

I have some guests expected this weekend. They're staying from Saturday lunch through to just after Sunday lunch, and we've agreed to go out on Saturday evening (to the famed and illustrious Noodle Bar of old Cov town) so I have three meals and a half meals to plan: lunch, afternoon tea, breakfast, Sunday lunch.

Now normally this wouldn't be much of an issue, but there are some factors to take into consideration.
1- they've stayed several times before, so I don't want to make re-runs
2- I don't want to be running around like a headless chicken, so they have to be 'prepare in advance'.
3- I am on a diet and sticking to it so far, so they have to be healthy options (and it's always harder to make tasty pre-prepared guest food when you can't just throw cheese and cream at it!)
4- We're still on a budget, so have to keep it cheap

Below are my thoughts so far:-

- Fresh bread and spicy sweet potato soup on the Saturday.
- Banana bread for the afternoon tea, because at least it has some nutrients in rather than just straight sugar
- Toast, jams, cereals for breakfast. I can't be bothered to cook anything.
- Chicken, leek and mushroom pie for lunch, with mashed potatoes and carrots. Homemade shortcrust pastry. Chocolate mousse for pudding.

So the shopping list is as follows:
- seeds for bread
- sweet potatoes
- chicken for the pie, I have the vegetables
- check there's enough potatoes.

Good. That's not looking too expensive so far. Especially since an extra guest has been foisted upon me at the last minute, but the less said about that, the better.

Friday, 26 February 2010

A Site To Be Seen

Well today it was brought home to me how single minded I really can be when I get involved in something. I've been working on a website for the youth organisation I volunteer with, which we're right in the middle of launching. Whilst the backbone of the site was put together by a young woman in our Squadron, I have done the majority of content writing and tweaking - from the Boss' introduction, to the FAQ and the list of activities we offer. In addition to all this I have been taking, processing and editing photos to use for general publicity and on the site in particular, then uploading them and trying to get the dimensions right.

Today was spent setting up a Twitter feed, tweaking the widget so it fits on the page, notifying people that we have a Twitter stream (and a facebook, a blog and a site) and asking for co-operation from other Squadrons to do a link exchange. I was so absorbed in all this that I forgot to get dressed, forgot to drink anything and, most shocking of all to those who know me, forgot to eat lunch. I know - almost inconceivable, right? It was only when Hubby rang me at the end of his working day to let me know he was off to give blood that I realised what the time was.

All in all I feel it was time well spent. The Squadron now has a shiny new website that's both pretty and useful which will hopefully win them brownie points with the head honchos and attract new youngsters into the fold - something that's essential for the survival of the unit. On a more personal note, and something I only realised when a friend pointed it out to me, it makes an excellent addition to my CV. To have taken a unit with no media presence whatsoever and developed it within two months, albeit with the assistance of colleagues to some extent, so that it has full representation across the gamut of new media, some connection with the local press and to have supplied all the content myself - well, that can't hurt when I'm going for Media Communications jobs, can it?

If you're curious you can check the website here, do let me know what you think...

Oh, and if you have any connection with someone looking for a Media Comms assistant please pass my name along - I'll work for dry bread and water at the moment! lol

In other news I've dropped over half a stone now and am finally back in the trousers I was wearing when I met Hubby 5 and a half years ago. Only a stone and a half to go and I'm back at my ideal weight... we'll see :-)

Thursday, 25 February 2010

20/20 hindsight

So yeah, with hindsight it was not, perhaps, my wisest ever move to choose to listen to an album that reminds me so strongly of ten years ago when I'm tired and trying to sleep. An album that was practically a soundtrack for me during a short period that, looking back, I can point to and describe as my first and last few moments of untainted youth and freedom.

I was away from home for a week at a youth festival. I didn't eat enough or sleep enough and spent hours talking to random people I'd never see again. I remember one night where I sat on the beach (and this is Yorkshire in April, before you get too romantic a notion) with a young man two years older than me and we talked until 2 or 3 in the morning. I think I was in the throes of a pretty sturdy crush which must have been the main reason I agreed to buy the album he and his best friend had made. It cost me a fiver and I listened to it all week and for many weeks after. It's naive and foolish in places, but I can;t listen to it unbiased now - it holds too many emotions and memories entwined in its music. I've googled the man in question, but no luck so far. Hah - just decided to do it again and lookie lookie - they're on Wikipedia. Well I never... wonder if that demo album is worth something?

Anyway, to get back to my story - it wasn't long after that week away that I started getting sick... It took a year to really get hold and then it took another eight years to go away. I've been recovering for just about a year now and most of the time I'm fine, but occasionally it hits me with a surprising strength that I lost eight years of my life, my youth. Years just frittered away with waiting and making do. It hurts so much to think of the experiences I could have been having, the things I could have achieved. I doubt I'd be the same person I am now, but would I be better or worse or just different?

I'm certainly different to the hopeful, wide eyed teenager sitting on a cold English beach in the middle of the night making moon eyes at some future rock star. I haven't got all those possibilities in front of me any more, just ten more years of regrets and wistful memories. It makes me want to do something that I haven't done since I was so ill - cry and scream and hit out at something and yell about how unfair it all is. Because it was, it really was. Where did those years go? I had plans and dreams and now I'm just some sad housewife with a busy husband, two cats and a sideline hobby in writing that's blatantly not going to go anywhere. How did this happen? I was destined for something more, as we all are in our heads. I thought I was over this, but I've just sat around and wasted yet another year of my life and it's too precious. I can't believe the pain of wasted time and opportunities, it's like a hard knot in my stomach that won't go away and can't be expressed.

So Chris Russell, of The Lightyears, I doubt if you remember me, or if you'll ever read this blog, but I have your album, 'Bittersweetcalm', and I still listen to it and it still means something to me. I wish you every success. You were a hopeful nineteen year old with Leo di Caprio hair and dreams of making it in the music business - it makes me unbelievably happy to see you've achieved something. It would have saddened me so much to think of you differently to how I remembered you.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time

So I got in from my knitting social at 9.45pm and, for some bizarre reason, it seemed like a good idea to clean the hob. Now I partly blame this on the up-tempo music on my iPod which frequently cons me into doing more up-tempo activity than my natural inclination would lead me to contemplate and partly I blame the fact the hob is black and I therefore couldn't see exactly how disgustingly filthy it was.

In retrospect it's good that I cleaned it, it being so filthy and all, but perhaps not late at night when I'm tired and hubby is already in bed... not that I'd get a lot of sense out of him necessarily if I was up there anyway.

I dunno why I did it - cleaning sprees like this normally only hit me when I have PMT...

Go figure.

Sweet dreams all.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Marriage in the modern world

I've just seen an interview with the queen of the Aga saga, Joanna Trollope. Well, I am now well and truly riled and here's why. She was proselytizing about how committed couples who had been co-habiting for years and had children and a life together didn;t share any of the same rights as married couples. Now I warn you, what I am about to say may be controversial in today's modern, touchy-feely, PC world, but why the hell should they? If you're prepared to make the commitment to live with someone and have babies with someone then you should be prepared to marry them or forgo the legal rights that you would receive in a marriage. Marriage is a big risk, emotionally and financially, but if you're not prepared to take that step then you can't expect any of the protection afforded by the legal institution of being married.

I fully support peoples' right to co-habit and have children together. I'm not so bloody outdated that I'm morally against that, but when a couple decides to do that, they need to be prepared for the fact that it does mean they're choosing to forgo some of the rights, protections and reliefs afforded to people who do choose to make that commitment. I'm a realist. I know marriages don't always work and that they're a massive risk, but no more so than having a child with someone and surely it's better, if you're going to be in a long-term committed relationship, to know that if something should happen to you, then your loved one is entitled to the inheritance tax breaks afforded by marriage, or if your other half clears off one day then you have some recourse to the law to claim alimony or support if they've left you high and dry. You don't have to do the big white wedding, nor do you have to change your name to theirs, but if you want the legal rights then you have to change your legal status. That's just fair, surely.

Just a thought, but if co-habiting for any length of time makes one subject to the law then perhaps it'll be that much harder to make the step from dating to living together. All of the couples I know who are married or engaged only got engaged after living together for a short time, even though in some cases the couple had been dating for years. Equally it gives people a chance to figure out if they *can* live together without the commitment to stay together forever before they make any permanent decisions. I think marriage is still a worthy institution, but if it's to retain that worth then it needs to be respected. If you want what marriage offers then get married or quit whining - you can't have it both ways, it doesn't work like that.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Happy Scratching!

Hubby and I finally found what we were looking for today - a scratching post for our boys! The one we bought before we got them is far too small: kitten sized and wobbly and they pull it over on top of themselves. Poor kitties. Now we have a glorious black and sisal three tier cat scratching post which we got for a song and]'# <>M:? (sorry, Bramble wanted a cuddle and didn't care that the laptop was already on my lap) is nice and sturdy.

The pet store sold it to us with £10 off because all the screws were missing, which hubby thought he could fix at home, turns out, when we got it home, that all the screws were screwed into place and only one was missing: evidently someone had bought it previously, tried to assemble it and failed. Oh well, bargain for us. The three tier post is currently a two-tier post while we wait for F-i-L to find us an appropriate bolt for the top-tier! Until then the kittens already adore their new toy and are fighting over who gets to go on the uppermost level so they can bat their brother on the ground floor level! They also immediately started scratching the scratching portions of the post - hurrah! Long live our wallpaper (and bed, and sofa and carpet...) - they've finally found an alternative to sharpen their toenails on!

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Films I would Like To See

OK, there is stuff I really ought to be doing right now, so it's list time again. The following list is by no means definitive and consists entirely of the films that occur to me off the top of my head as I'm writing this, so it's missing out the many many that it fleetingly occurs to me to watch over the many hours of my days.

- Love Story
- The Ugly Truth
- Stranger Than Fiction
- Brief Encounter
- 9 1/2 Weeks

Hrm, that was shorter than expected, though more will undoubtedly come to me as soon as I publish this post!

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Digital Days

Every morning I get up and plug myself into my iPod. Loud music so I can drown out my own thoughts, any nagging doubts and grass-is-greener alternatives. The television covers up the silence of being alone, my mobile sends me bleets of encouragement that someone else is thinking about me, even if only briefly, the computer is my solace - a journal, friend, confessional, social world of people that I don't see.

Each of us struggles, reconciling dreams with realities, expectations with truth. I try not to think about it too deeply most days. I have pop and disco, some soft rock and indie alt, country and dance and I sing along, put other people first, do my duty as I see it, be a good wife, friend, daughter, sister and occasionally get blindsided by a stray thought that wonders what would happen if I just did as I wanted and world be damned. Would that simply mean baking and eating an entire tray of brownies, would I run off to join the circus, take all the money out of the bank that I could get my hands on and go on the longest, most luxurious holiday I could, or something even more selfish?

The long and short of it is that, until I get a job I have very few options anyway. I stay here or I go to my parents'. I may not be ill any more, but I'm still dependent and I hadn't really noticed - how did that happen?

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Happy Thoughts

Found £5o of John Lewis vouchers from the wedding and today I finally bought something with them - a delightful tea set that I adore and cannot wait to use! I must take photos, but it has flowers and funny little birds in all these sherbet colours and it is just adorable.

Visiting my friend and her baby and seeing how she's lost her mind and can do nothing but gaze at her son. Cute, hilarious and very unlike her usual, practical self.

Realising how much I love my knitting group and how I look forward to it each week because it's sociable and female and *mine*, just mine.

Cementing a new friendship with a massive long chat on the phone until you feel like BFF, to quote that horror, Paris Hilton.

A *seriously* cold walk in snow flurries when the sun peeks out from behind a cloud and makes everything bright and shiny, then that rosy-cheeked rush of warmth when you come back inside and sink, in a fuzzy haze, into a comfy chair with a hot cup of tea.

Friday, 5 February 2010

It was on a Tuesday morning that the Gas man came to call... and a Friday...

Yup. I have been visited by not one, but two gas/electricity men this week "come to read the meter, Love." Marvellous. As if it isn't bad enough answering the door to a strange man and haviong to invite him into your house when you're alone today I got caught on the hop just as I'd got out of the shower. Luckily my dressing gown is a real passion killer - thick, heavy pale-blue towelling that covers *everything* from neck to ankle barely even hinting at a waist, despite the cord around the middle, but all the same it was very unnerving to be standing there knowing I was naked underneath and knowing that the gas man probably knew too, since I had blatantly just got out of the shower and was streaming water onto the floor.

I fully realise that there is some kind of national stereotype of the bored housewife eagerly welcoming various labourers into her bored embrace, but 1) I am rarely bored and 2) ewww - have you seen the state of most of them? I don't do Grandads ;-) Especially not grubby ones in fraying t-shirts.

Right, that's my exciting update for the day, now I have to go see a man about a job... hopefully < crosses fingers >

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Going Native

So yesterday I had the opportunity to act as tour guide to Coventry for a friend of mine who came to stay. For a variety of reason this is a rare occurence, but I realised, whilst I was doing it, that despite Coventry's many downsides and limitations, I had become fond of the place and was proud to point out its good points, even whilst laughingly acknowledging its downside and many uglinesses.

Time was when Coventry was a beautiful and well-liked Medieval city, similar in many ways to Oxford or 'The Shambles' in York. Crooked tudor buildings, white-painted and criss-crossed with black beams, lumpy cobbled alleys that undulate under one's feet, even older buildings in the native red sandstone common to the Midlands with rooves even more undulating than the streets as they dip and sag under the weight of centuries. Now there are only pitiful remnants of this quaint and historic town, hedged in with concrete tower blocks, ugly bricked shopping centres and greying, decaying shopping precincts and malls. The saddest thing is that I've seen the plans made for the re-building of Coventry, post-war. They show shining pale concrete buildings, clean, safe streets, happy families smilingly strolling along continental-style vistas - little did they know that the concrete (a revolutionary building material at one point) would age in such an ugly fashion, become grey and dreary until the bright blue and yellow frontage of IKEA was the most appealing visual landmark in some places... and yet...

There are redeeming features of 'new' Coventry. The Cathedral, for example, a red stone building dating from 1300 AD that was partially destroyed in the Blitz was cleverly recreated in the 1950s so that the original remains of the cathedral stand, roofless and haunting, as a memorial of the wartime bombings and, next to it, a new, functional cathedral with glowing stained glass windows and eerie etched glass frontage connect with the old building and (quite literally) reflect it. Just outside the cathedral is a large piazza housing one part of Coventry university and the Herbert Art Gallery. The space is airy and European in feel, all it needs is a little cafe with outdoor tables and some warm weather and you could easily be abroad, especially with the sculptures and fountain to break up the large expanse of paving.

The other side of the town, near the self-same IKEA I already mentioned, the roads themselves have been re-designed to some extent. Wide, with wider pavements and piazzas there is, again, that sense of the continent that can carry off more modern buildings with a modicum of style. New restaurants have opened here and, it is a pocket of attractive cityscape in a town that is still mostly grey concrete.

The final piece of aesthetic relief for the urban explorer is the little bit of piazza fronting the Motor Museum at the back of Pool Meadow Bus Station. Sweeping curves set it apart from the angular monstrosities of the concrete Fail that was the post-war redevelopment, with large glassy sculptures swooping overhead as a testament to Frank Whittle, local man and inventor of the jet engine. Here a small glass-fronted cafe belonging to the motor museum achieves just that sense of indoor-outdoor space that is needed in the piazza by the Cathedral and I look forward to seeing it in summer when it's a little softend by warmth and, hopefully, some foliage.

For someone brought up in London, one of the greenest cities on Earth, that is what I find most lacking in theseindustrial Midland towns: greenery, foliage, flowers. Where are all the trees? I have no doubt that if Coventry continues the way it's going then it will shortly become a far brighter, cheerier place to be and I am excited about its prospects, but I do wish that someone would see fit to plant a few more trees and instigate a few more grassy areas - I miss the accents that nature provides within a city and think Coventry would benefit greatly from it.

When I get my computer up and running (I am currently communicating via the internet channel on our Nintendo Wii!) I will process some of the photos I took and show you Coventry's hidden charms. Until then you'll just have to take my word for it, or come and visit. I may do a visitors guide to the area soon, with a list of eateries and other attractions, but for now - this is it :-)

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Changes they are a here!

Wow, so I think I'd better keep some kind of CPR unit to hand, because the way this week is going I'm going to need resuscitating if I get any more startling news.

On Wednesday was the news that my cousin was dead. I've told you about my current feelings on that front, but my initial one was of surprise, big surprise. Today I found out, via the wonders of Facebook, that my friend has had her first baby: a little boy called Casimir. I am utterly dumbfounded. This week I have lost a life from my world and gained one very unexpectedly - Casimir wasn't due until March!

Congratulations Pia & Garron, welcome to the world Casimir. I can't wait to meet you :-)

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Happy vs. Sad

This Thursday coming I have a funeral to go to. My cousin, N, has died and he was only a couple of years older than me, not even in his thirties yet. He has a young son, two older sisters and a mum who will grieve him, perhaps even more because their relationships with him were not always the easiest.

I remember him from my childhood, when he held the glamour of being a little bit older than me, but I haven't had any contact with him since his sister's wedding in 2001. To all intents and purposes he was a stranger to me, just a name I would hear mentioned every so often and yet I am deeply saddened by his death. I come from a close family, we all talk to each other and about each other and last night I was talking to another of my cousins, O, about the funeral. Talking to him I was able to finally express what it was that was upsetting me. No matter how little I knew him, he was one of 'us': one of my family, my people, my clan and the first one of my generation to be lost. There are only five of us now.

It's also made me worry anew about O. We spent much of our childhood together and during our teens we talked a lot on the internet. I view him almost as a brother, but he's had problems that have made our relationship difficult, many of the same problems N had. He is getting help and I hope that it's enough, that he can learn to be settled and content and I can have him back in my life. I don't want to be attending his funeral in a few years' time. He is funny and bright and caring and I wish he could see that in himself and feel that it is enough. I don't want to lose any more of our clan just yet - not for another fifty years at least.

I am trying not to dwell on the sadness. I have a slight tendency for morbidity, for focusing on an emotion until it overwhelms me and I don't want to do that. It's not helpful and it's not healthy. I want to focus on happiness where I can, embrace it and bring it into my life, because sadness and grief will force their way in when they must. Until that time I am working on my happy list.

- The ritual of Sundays spent with my husband
- Talking to my mum on the phone
- Making the same joke at the same time and both falling about laughing
- Regressing to childhood for a moment and hugging a soft toy
- When you have a good hair day
- Real wool woolly socks - so snuggly!
- Wrapping up warm when it's cold outside and the way a hat makes you feel stylish because you don't generally get to wear one
- The first day of the year you can go outside with just a sweater on
- Inspiration - for anything!
- Baking. It's like alchemy.
- Fairy Lights. Magical, twinkly and a little bit of Christmas magic year-round
- Family, because even when you hate them, you love them and you know that they'd be there if you really needed them, because they're your people.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Seventh and eighth...

Hubby found another sausage on the lawn today, and then another when he went back out again.
Where. Are. They. Coming. From?!

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Little Things That Make Me Happy

I've mentioned before about my affection for lists. Well, here is one that makes a massive difference to my everyday life, because it is the fragments of the life I lead that give me pleasure, satisfaction and keep me moving forwards. And these are just the things that occur to me today as I sit here. What makes you happy?
- Picking up my affectionate, sausage-stealing cat and burying my face in his fur
- Hugging my husband, laying my cheek against his chest and hearing his heart beating
- Hanging washing out on the line and smelling that fresh-washed smell
- Coming into the house when I've been cooking bread, brownies, a fluffy sponge cake or a rich, tasty stew and smelling the delicious smell permeating through the entire house and knowing that it was my work that made it. Appreciating the smell and anticipating the taste and others' pleasure in the food.
- When the cats do that chittering thing when they've seen a bird through the window
- Getting into a bed made up with clean sheets, everything crisp and fresh, clean pyjamas, clean hair and snuggling into the covers.
- A hot water bottle for my feet on a cold night
- The soft, pink, fuzzy cover of my hot water bottle on my feet
- Post for me that's not a bill, circular or other boring item
- Watching my cats play-fight each other
- A little guilty treat, like that unexpected chocolate in your handbag or the last cupcake
- Rediscovering a pair of shoes or a top I haven't worn for ages
- Making a meal and finding it even tastier than I expected
- When Bramble, my independent cat, lets me stroke his tummy and I can scrunch my fingers through his soft white fluffy fur as he squirms in pleasure.
- Leaning against a radiator when it's cold
- Looking outside first thing in the morning and seeing it's sunny
- Finding buds on my bushes and sprouting seedlings in my pots
- Knitting something with very little comprehension of how the complex instructions equal a cardigan and that moment when you realise how it will fit together!
- My husband kissing me goodbye whilst I'm still half asleep and hearing him tell me he loves me so quietly I almost think I've imagined it.
- Smiling at someone I don't know and having them smile back
- Conversation - with almost anyone.
- The ritual and pleasure of making a cup of tea, then holding the warm mug between the palms of your hands and breathing in the steam just before you take a sip.

I may have to do a part two when I think of more things :-)

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Not the only sausage incident in the world...

No indeedy - a friend of mine directed me to the following link: a news article about a Radio DJ breaking into the New Zealand Prime Minister's house where a BBQ was being held for HRH, Prince William, carrying a sausage and a loaf of bread (the DJ was, not the PM's house... or Prince William for that matter). I guess Barley isn't the only sausage bandit in the world!

Article here

Monday, 18 January 2010

The Sixth Sausage

I can only assume the sausages from yesterday were left in somebody's rubbish, as today -certain that I was free of Sunday's sausage horrors - I found yet another sausage on the lawn. Smack dab in the centre just as before. Only rather more chewed.

I am in some kind of horrific, bizarre sausage-related time loop.

Photo: Caught in the act!

Sunday, 17 January 2010

A Perfect Sunday and the Strange Incident of the Sausage in the Garden

So today was a beautiful day. We woke up at 8 and lay in bed dozing and cuddling for half an hour. Compared to most days when Hubby is out of the house by 7am and cuddling is definitely off the menu this alone was bliss, but add to it the stunning sunny morning that was revealed when the curtains were drawn and I was a happy happy woman.

Next stop was our Sunday treat breakfast - a full English, but done the healthy way (I just can;t square all the grease of a 'proper' fry up with my dietary conscience!) - poached eggs, homemade wholemeal bread toasted until just warm, grilled sausage and bacon, hash brown hot from the oven, fresh tomatoes and real coffee. I'm drooling just thinking about it now.

Anyway, so I was standing at the sink filling the kettle for the coffee when I spot the cats outside gnawing on something pale and sausage shaped. Uh oh. I raced outside with my trainers shoved on over my bedsocks (yes, I was still in my PJs) and confiscated what turned out to be an actual sausage. How strange. Hubby and I inspected it, but luckily it was only slightly chewed, so it's unlikely they'd get too sicky from the salt content. I chucked it in the bin and assumed a fox had dropped it after fishing it out of someone's bin.

We sat down to enjoy our breakfast, then got dressed and went to pick up a newspaper from the local shop. Next stop was the garden centre for some potting compost, then a local country park (Coombe Abbey Park, review coming soon) for a long walk in the chilly, crisp sunshine. At 11am only a few families were out and about - just enough to make the place seem alive, without being so busy that we couldn't walk along without getting our feet run over by kids on bikes. It was stunningly beautiful weather, chill but not freezing and so sunny. I took macro photos of tree bark, moss, shrivelled leaves and pine cones, held hands with my husband, enjoyed the fresh air and his undistracted time and attention. All topped off with fresh, hot cinnamon doughnuts.

Gardening when we got back - the cats were so happy to have us outside with them again after the long cold spell. On the way back from the garden shed I spotted a familiar pale shape in the centre of the lawn - another sausage: what the hell?

Over the course of the afternoon a third sausage materialised right smack bang in the middle of the lawn - very peculiar. By now hubby and I were suspicious of our neighbours, a friendly family with a pet bunny they allowed to roam free on sunny days. Were they trying to entice our boys back into their own garden with sausage-shaped bait? Or, even more sinister, perhaps there was poison in it (what can I say, hubby can get a little paranoid and cynical). By now we were on full sausage alert - keeping an eagle eye on the fence that bordered our garden. Typically, in the watched pot never boils fashion, the fourth sausage arrived when we were otherwise engaged with drilling drainage holes in a window box. Now this really was bizarre.

I inspected the sausage carefully, it was utterly lacking in chomp marks, then was just one single puncture wound, as would be made by something like a skewer pushed into the sausage. They definitely weren't being dropped there by a fox, it must be the neighbours flinging them. Well, by now I had utterly abandoned any hope of getting something useful done. I stayed staring at the fence, waiting for one of the cats to go over it in the hopes that it would antagonise the culprits into another sausage-slinging attempt. After twenty minutes or so Barley took the plunge and cramponed his way up the fence that bordered the neighbours'. For several long minutes he teetered at the top, sharpening his claws, licking his foot thoughtfully, one eye apparently on the view the whole time. Eventually he tipped forward and leapt down into next door. I watched through the kitchen window, waiting for the next move.

Hubby wandered into the kitchen as I stood there, washing up in hand but perfectly motionless. I turned my head to talk to him and then some instinct (probably intense curiosity) instructed me to turn back to the garden. There, sneaking over the fence with a mouthful of sausage was our slinky black Barley cat. He trotted over to the middle of the lawn, dropped the sausage in the exact same spot as the previous four and disappeared down the back of the garden. Hubby and I went racing outside and examined the sausage - blemish free except for one, round puncture wound, most likely inflicted by one of the black devil's little white fangs.

Well hubby and I stared aghast at each other for a few moments.
"Have next door left their back door open?"
Hubby, whos almost a foot taller than me stood up on tiptoes.
"Nope, but the one beyond them have."

That settled it. Both our boys are inveterate food thieves at the best of times, but this took the biscuit (or sausage...). Barley could only have been waiting for an opportunity to arise when the kitchen of next-door-but-one's house to be free so he could nip in and grab yet another sausage. It conjured up a mental image of these poor people leaving a pack of sausages out to defrost and returning each time to find them steadily diminishing until they were left with just one lonely little sausage (unless it had been a pack of eight, but still, three lonely little sausages ain't much of a meal either!).

Hubby and I met each others gaze and then, as one, fell about laughing in a guilty, slightly hysterical manner. We would never be able to explain to our neighbours what had happened, or make recompense because from then onwards Barley (and us) would be blamed for everything that went missing from their house. Nope, we would have to shut Barley in, pretend ignorance and hope against hope that he'd actually been stealing them out of the rubbish.

Personally I blame Barley's predilection for any pencil shaped object. Pens, batteries, knitting needles, cotton reels, small torches and, apparently, sausages. He doesn;t even like eating sausage because I've offered him some in the past! Right now, for example, his favourite toy is a tampon he stole out of a drawer. I don't use them any more (Mooncup) so I didn;t mind too much, but was slightly concerned when I discovered the shredded wrapper that he'd materialise with it clenched between his teeth when my in-laws were round for tea. Luckily that didn;t happen, but hes been having a whale of a time carting the damn thing round the house with him and defending it from all comers, especially his brother. Hubby thinks its the tail, but I can't shake the idea that he's got some phallic fixation. After all, the reason we got his balls chopped off was because he kept raping his brother...

The day ended with cheesy oven chips, biscuits, a hot shower and a snuggle on the sofa in front of Sex and the City DVDs - on hubby's request. What can I say? He's quite a guy, and very secure in his masculinity it would seem :-)

A perfect Sunday, what a rare thing.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Things That Wind Me Up

- Drivers who don't indicate at a roundabout - where are you going? I'm not psychic!
- Thin people who whinge about how fat they are. Do you want a smack?
- Adverts with crappy jingles that nevertheless stick in your head and play for days.
- Buying something at full price and then finding it significantly cheaper when it's too late to change.
- Snow. <-- that's a fairly new one that only applies when it lasts more than 1 day, stops people coming to visit and doesn't even get your husband a snow day.
- Cats who won't snuggle when you want them to, but climb all over you when you're trying to type, knit or write.
- Being let down at the last minute
- Passive aggressive behaviour - if you have a problem, just tell me.
- Parents who don't bother to control their children - take control, take responsibility.
- People who expect me to make a quick decision. I'm a ditherer, deal with it!
- Gossip mags - why would I give a rat's arse about people I've never met and have no connection with?
- People who don't understand chocolate addiction - that's not normal.
- Anyone who pushes in front of me in a queue.
- Babies with pierced ears.
- Small girls in adult style clothing - put them in a frilly dress and ankle socks!
- Twins or siblings who've been dressed in the same clothes - way to incubate an identity crisis in later life.
- People who expect you to find something easy just because they do.

Monday, 11 January 2010

New Year, Old Me

So, on a brief sojourn to the old country (Surrey) to visit my parents and have a dentist's appointment (must find one in Coventry - thank God I got the all clear though) I decided to have a rootle through some of my treasures (junk) carefully stored (stuffed) into the wardrobe in 'my' (the Spare) room. [Are you bored of the subtitles yet?]

I was hunting for an old party dress that needs a seam stitching up so I can fix it and wear it out dancing and also a heap of old notebooks that I was certain were lurking somewhere about, because I have cunning plans for turning them into little hand-written illustrated guides and recipe books, but more on that plan another time.

I quickly located the notebooks in question and was amused (or should that be horrified) to find some *really* old diaries lumped in with them. Not quite the oldest I possess, although I don;t think I'd mind too much if I never re-discovered the desperate journal from 1996 when, aged 13, I kept a diary that read more like a stalker's record of a boy I fancied, probably because he was the only boy I knew. All girls' schools are, I maintain, most unhealthy. Entries for that one, if I recall correctly run something along the lines of "Saw ***** today. he was wearing a red LaCoste t-shirt and jeans with adidas trainers and he looked really nice. I got close to him and he smelled amazing."

Anyhow, I did recover one from 1999, the year I turned 16 and everything went wrong for me in the way only teenagers can manage it, I think. Ex boyfriends, ex friends, splintered friendship groups, shattered self-esteem, burgeoning sexuality with no outlet and emotional faculties lagging somewhat behind the physical - well. The diaries read like a text book of angst, despair, self-loathing, explosive rage and tearful piteousness. It seems utterly bizarre to link those outpourings to who I am now and, re-reading them, I mostly just want to advise and protect the confused, f*cked up teenager who has set off a whole gamut of emotions in herself and all the teenagers around her and simply doesn't have the firefighting capabilities required to deal with the result.

There's a couple of close friends lost to that inferno of hormone fuelled emotion that I wish I could still call friends, but I'm not sure how I could rekindle the connection without looking like some nostalgic weirdo trying to recover the past... and to be honest I'm not sure one of them would give me the time of day anyway. I just feel a bit sad that I've lost contact with so many of the people who I shared my teen years with. Only one of my current close friends shares that kind of history with me, all the rest are from Uni or later. I suppose I just need to be stoic, though I'm not sure that's the correct word really, and accept that mistakes lead to personal development. I wonder what kind of hideous beast I'd be now if I hadn't arsed up when I was younger.

Sorry about the the slightly reflective end to this post, it started out so well with the mildly comic subtitles. Perhaps I can end on a lighter note, let me see...

Oh yes, I also found a school project from my first year at 'big' school, so it must date from about 1987. "We had pet day at shcool. I saw a god. It waged its tale" Nice to know they're still walking amongst us, huh?

Friday, 8 January 2010

An Ode to Snowy England

Snow has fallen,
Like the song.
Three days already
Feels too long.

The cats both love it,
It seems so sweet,
'Til they use your lap
To warm their feet.

The roads are iced,
The car won't start,
You're stuck at home,
Like some old fart.

The whole thing's rubbish
When the novelty's gone.
It's nearly a month
Since the bins were done.

I'm bored already -
Who'd have thunk?
Without my computer
I'd be sunk.

If it wasn't for shopping
On the internet,
I'd go back to bed
And hibernate.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010


So in these days of dreary chill there is one small upside, for me at least - I'm able to increase my storage space. Ok, I know that sounds weird, but wait and see...

At the front of the house we have what I call an 'airlock' - a small enclosed porch, so you have to pass through two front doors to gain access to the house. Not only does this provide added security and offer a very helpful access point when you have two small kittens you're trying to keep inside the house, but it also doubles up as a greenhouse and larder/'fridge. You see, as I said yesterday I had to bring all my pots in from the garden and I haven't that many places to keep them. The airlock provides an ideal spot, because it is bright and not as cold as it is outside, since it is brick and double-glazing.

Despite the brick and double glazing, it is un-heated, which means that it is far chillier in the airlock than in my lovely warm front hall (also helps keep the cold out of the house when you're going in or out). Therefore the temperatures in there are very much in line with what you might expect to find in a refridgerator, which is why, when you come in through the first front door, you are confronted not only with hubby's smelly running trainers (better there than inside the house, believe me!) but also with two large potted plants, a container of chilli con carne, a 4 pint bottle of milk, a large bag of carrots and a block of cheddar cheese. It's also a very handy place for cooling things down before refridgerating them - much like an old fashioned larder - without just sticking them in the 'fridge, which costs money as the 'fridge struggles to cool itself down again.

I have also, just this minute, stuck my large Le Creuset casserole onto a cork mat outside the back door. I've been boiling up a chicken carcass for stock and soup and, since I want to make soup out of it later, needed to cool it down quickly. What better place than outside in the settling snow?! Brilliant!

When I grow up I want a house with a real larder so I have these options in the summer, too!

Monday, 4 January 2010

Engagement Envy

OK, so I've been noticing something strange lately. I was one of the first of my friends and contemporaries to get married and now they're all starting to get engaged I'm finding myself envious of it all. Envious of the excitement, the newness of calling them your 'fiance' instead of boyfriend, the hysterical squealing with girlfriends and the mental designing of the dress, not to mention the trips to dress shops to try them on.

I'm not sure how much of this is related to my engagement, in which I was disappointed for several reasons. I just didn't feel like it was greeted with that much excitement or pleasure by many of my friends and family. My best friend was great - she came straight over and made a big fuss of me, but most everyone else just seemed... blase. It still upsets me now when I think about it. None of our parents or extended family, most of our friends, why weren't any of them more thrilled for us?

I'm jealous, too, that these newly affianced couples have that magical wedding day still to come: the best day of my life. Magical is the only word to describe it - I felt like a princess, like I could do no wrong and everyone was happy for us and with us. I wish I could live it over and over again. I hate that two such massive events are past me already and wonder what, after having my first baby, will be left for me to experience that will be such a massive landmark in my life. It's making me fear ageing at only 26 - not because I'm scared of getting old in itself, but because I'm scared of no more big events with me at the centre of them. Does that make me selfish or narcissistic? I don't know. I just know that there aren't that many moments in my life where I feel truly special and important and I cherish those few that do occur. The rest of the time I'm just the supporting act in someone else's life.

Too Early?

I know that in real terms winter hasn't even reached the beginning of the middle yet, but there's something about the post-Christmas period, especially when combined with this very unseasonable bright January sunshine, that promises you Spring, just around the corner.

As a kicker I had to bring all my pots inside, since the temperature has been a very seasonable -6 degrees most nights. The unexpected temperate warmth of the kitchen has tickled my bulbs into waking up and beautiful pea-green shoots have been poking their cheerful little spikes out of the dark brown compost. Every time I go into the kitchen and see them, an exciting little thrill runs through me. It's like having a crush and running into him unexpectedly - that same little blip and the shiver of something powerful and out of control about to happen.

Soon we'll be planting seeds and coaxing them into glorious life as well. In my imagination the garden is already bursting forth with green shoots, flowers and gorgeous, glamorous colour and life.

Spring may not be here just yet, but its potential is welling up inside me and the promise of a new year carries with it a promise of new life in all shapes.

Happy New Year - and here's to a luscious Spring!

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Shop Review: The Cotton Nappy Company

The Cotton Nappy Company

One of my close friends, Pia, is expecting her first baby at the beginning of March. For me, his birth is a first also, as none of my other friends or close relations has any children. My sister-in-law has a son, but I wasn't close enough to her to really be involved in the pregnancy, birth or raising of him in any meaningful way, so Pia's son is a really big deal to me.

Yesterday I undertook a little commission from her to buy some nappies for him. She had found a company called The Cotton Nappy Company that trades online, but is based in Leamington Spa, just 20 minutes away from me. TCNC specialises in eco-friendly nappies (diapers) and accessories for the green parent. I was going into Leamington anyway, so it was easy enough for me to trot along there with Pia's (very detailed) list!

The shop is a cute little place tucked away in a back street. It is housed in an old Victorian building and has a square footage of less than 30, I swear. Wonky wooden floors are set off by simple white painted walls and gorgeous chalky pastels on every shelf - pale mint, rose, duck egg and primrose in all shades sit piled up on shelves in the form of soft little nappies, with a small range of toys, clothes and nappy buckets (in pastel - so much prettier than primaries). A curved desk sits right in front of the door, fronted with shelves and containers holding accessories like cloth wipes and nappy liners.

Behind the desk is a door marked 'Changing Room' in pastel-painted wooden letters, with a small room next to it laid out with comfortable chairs, small tables and shelves around the top holding fabric boxes with extra stock in. It is obvious from its lay-out that a lot of thought has gone into this little shop and its purpose and it is a very welcoming, peaceful space. There wasn't even any music playing, which made a pleasant change from the incessant noise of every other shop I had endured that morning!

After I entered the shop and fished out my list the lady behind the counter, who turned out to be the shop's owner, Anna, stepped in to help me out. Perhaps it was the slightly desperate expression on my face as I surveyed the impressive range of brands and tried to figure out where to start, but she took the list off me and asked me a couple of pertinent questions. Finding me completely inequipped to answer them sensibly she asked for Pia's number so she could discuss it with the horse's mouth, as it were.

I was more than happy to hand over responsibility and Anna soon lined up the products on the counter. Three different nappies in pale greens, with a roll of bio-degradable, flushable liners. Her help and enthusiasm were boundless, enjoining me to make sure Pia knew she could call with any questions. Apparently the shop itself has only been open 5 months, though the company has been trading online for 4 and a half years. As well as running the shop Anna is a full-time midwife with two small daughters - she must be insanely busy!

I was immensely impressed with the shop and, if I were to grade my reviews out of ten (I need a milla-scale, wonder what that could be? 1 dog through to 9 cats?) I would have to give it a 9, the only reason for it not getting a 10 being that a) according to my mum, only God is perfect and b)I need to leave myself somewhere to go in case I come across an even better shop. But trust me, it was a pretty great shop, especially if you can visit it in person.

- Friendly and helpful
- Available nationwide through its online store
- Offers a wide range of nappies and advice to accompany them
- Bonus services = 'Nappuccino' mornings where you can socialise and find out more
- Discounts available
- Attractive premises with good parking nearby
- Baby-friendly premises

- Small step up into the shop and a narrow doorway, which might offer some access problems
- Only one branch