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