Saturday, 27 September 2008

The Grand Tour

Tomorrow I depart on a grand tour of Britain for work. I have to go to Inverness, Edinburgh, Lancaster and Devon in 7 days. So, not much driving then.

The Loyal Hound has already packed his case, I have done nothing about my packing.

Due to the fact that my IT department is useless (possibly becasue they don't actually exist) there will be no blogging possibilities whilst I travel the country waving at the people.

But don't despair - I'll be back...........

Friday, 26 September 2008

Things I will never do (well I don't think I will).

I was thinking about things I will never get to do because life hasn't turned out that way. This train of thought made me think of the things that I would never do because I was too shy, inept or British, or just because they are plain silly ideas. Here are some of the latter things.

1: Roll dramatically across a car hood and weave through traffic looking anxiously over my shoulder.
2: Learn to throw my voice so that I could make rude comments about people on public transport and then look shocked and horrified and innocent
3: Go to the bank and insist that they change my £10 note for £10 worth of gold (I know, the gold standard doen't apply anymore but if it did then I would be able to do this)
4: Order really complicated a la carte things in a restaurant. "I'd like an egg white omelette, cooked in yaks fat with grated butterfly wings on the side and a salad using only blue leaves please...." and then storm out when they can't accommodate me.
5: Set up a free cake stand outside the weight watchers meeting room
6: Hold a protest outside Jamie Oliver's house to save junk food.
7: Run, sobbing down Oxford Street wearing a wedding dress. I just want to see everybody's reaction
8: Go to my school reunion dressed as a tramp
9: Go to my school reunion dressed as a goddess with immaculate and very expensive taste, possibly arriving in an Aston Martin with my own retinue.
10: Refuse to renounce the devil at a christening, in fact insist that I am rather found of lucifer and had him round for supper only last week.
11: Walk around with a glass slipper, asking men to try it on and asking if they have the other one?
12: Put huge signs on Harrods windows in the dead of night saying '90% off tomorrow only" and watch the sales shoppers start queuing
13: Break the bank at a casino
14: Cook a cake with a file in it and take it to prison
15: Make hash brownies for the school fete cake stand (there seems to be a bit of a cake theme here...)
16: Peer into a pram to look at somebody's baby and then leap back and run away screaming.
17: Take a telephone call in a public place and pretend it is from the doctor and say in a loud voice "I can't have the plague - that's contagious for god's sake"
18: Go to a shoe shop and insist that as I have two left feet, I want two left shoes.
19: Burst into loud tears at a wedding and run out sobbing 'it should have been me'
20: Go out in my pyjamas and go to sleep in a bed shop

I know, it is a random list, but I feel random and you must bear the consequences.
Having said that, I have just read through the list again and am worried by the way my brain works. I think that I need help.

Let them Eat Burnt Cake

I am doing my social duty this morning and going to one of those Macmillan Coffee morning things. This is normally something that I avoid like the plague since they seem to be dominated by small children, and parents talking about small children, however one of the book club asked me to come 'cos she is selling her fabulous cards there and wants moral support. I still put her through the wringer to get me to agree.

Only after she had sobbed, rended her hair and begged a lot did I wearily agree to attend my idea of rural hell. She recovered from her emotional breakdown remarkably quickly (I suspect I might have been conned by the best) and then casually mentioned that I would just have to make a cake and bring some money along. AAarrgh. The trap was sprung. I wriggled, I squealed, I said ouch a lot but there was no freeing me. I was stuck.

So I had a long day yesterday with an 8 hour meeting and 4 hours of driving. I can't really say I was in the mood to be a domestic goddess when I got home - more like a domestic slob who watched Bones on television and fell asleep on the sofa. However, I set to. I threw flour around the kitchen and broke eggs. I softened, I whisked, I folded. I lobbed the tin of coffee cake mix into the oven and I forgot that my oven thermostat has gone on permanent holiday.

I have one of those oven thermometers in the hope of dealing with this. When I put the cake in the oven, the needle was loitering on 180 which was ok but despite not touching a dial, the oven temperature steadily climbed. I tried turning it down, I left the door open, I shouted at it, all to no avail. By the time the cake was ready to come out, the oven was ready to melt glass.

The cake looks good - but then so do ceramic models of cake and this is very nearly one of those. I put a sander on the drill and sanded off the outer crust so that a knife could actually penetrate the damn thing and then smothered the remaining volcanic crust in icing.

Now I just have to transport the thing over 30 miles of moorland round and mountain lanes without it rolling towards me and breaking my leg and then I can have my revenge on my duplicious friend. Let them eat cake.....

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

You have mail.

E mails are both a joy and a nightmare. This week I had a lunatic e mail from one of my sisters (not the one who makes Chutney and lives in the darkest west country, the other one who is mad as a box of frogs, thinks she is 27 and is nearly 40. She lives in London). Anyway, she sent me an e mail in what I read as a very shirty tone of voice about plans for the other sisters 40th. It's a whole other story but it did make me think about e mail and the joys and dangers of it.

Joyous Things about E mail:

* You can stay in almost instant touch with friends all over the world, often whilst looking as though you are working.
* You can send a brief message to someone without having to track them down on the phone and go through all the chit chat just to say 'yes, I can do Wednesday'
* People sometimes send you funny things that make you spit your tea all over your keyboard 'cos you are laughing so hard.
* It is a million times easier to organise things with a group of people with the whole group e mail / reply to all option. No more "I'll ring so and so and get back to you" hassle.
* I know what my godchildren who live abroad look like 'cos I get photos of them every now and then through the wonders of e mail attachments.
* You can have an ongoing argument with somebody (like my sister) without ever actually speaking to her and then tell her that she misread the tone when she calls you on it.

Nightmarish things about E mail:

* Spam, Spam, Spam, Lobster Thermidor and SPAM
* Now that we are so techno dependant I slide into panic and fear when my e mail doesn't work. I see visions of a dark future for myself where I will not know what is going on and won't be able to tell anyone that I don't know what is going on because my e mail is on the fritz. It's a trauma.
* Companies now think that they don't need to speak to anyone because they can make you e mail them with your complaint, query, request and they can then send you an automated reply and never read your rant.
* It is very easy to misinterpret the tone that an e mail is sent in. Sarcasm doesn't translate well, or irony and it can be tricky to divine whether the e mail you have just sent / received was meant as a joke or a termination of all friendship.
* People send you random pictures of their children wearing their pants as a hat, eating, breathing, looking like Damien from the Omen. I have no idea what to send back as a reply and just ignoring said photos feels rude. It's a modern manners dilemma.

I'm sure there are a load more things that I love / hate about e mail but these are the ones I wanted to share for now.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Remember to breathe - Tick.

I have worked like a whirling dervish today. 'In' piles bearing the dust of centuries, have become crisp 'out' piles of post. I love productive days like this. To kick start my whirling dervish activities, I put on a tall hat and a long coat and spun my way over to the barn where I composed a long list of things that I have to get done this week. The list has ruled my day and no deviation from it is allowed. I'm strict with myself on things like that. However, I do have some sneaky tactics that I use when making lists.

The thing with lists is to put EVERYTHING onto them in order to get a really good sense of achievement by being able to cross them off. Start with 'go to office'. Excellent - I have arrived in the office and already can tick something off. Hurrah. Carry on with list by adding on the the various tiresome work related things for clients, remembering to breathe, eating lunch, talking to the loyal hound, checking the blog, writing lists etc etc. All too soon, I have an overwhelmingly long list but a list that I can instantly put checks against.

Reviewing it now, I can confirm that I have eaten lunch, remembered to breathe, and what's more done enormous amounts of work. There is a huge pile of post next to me ready to go to the post office tomorrow. My books are balanced (Georgette Heyer on top of Peter Ho Davies since you asked) and my e mails and phone calls are replied to. I have placed orders and paid bills and given my parents coffee when they did a drive by with some bags of coal and an apple tree for me (what can I say, they go shopping in odd places).

All this gives me a glowing feel of satisfaction and the perfect justification to go and meet a friend at a nearby reservoir and take the loyal hound for a walk while I pick blackberries. I am going to make blackberry whisky tonight.

I think I'll put going for a walk and make blackberry whisky on my list, then I can tick them off tomorrow morning.......

Monday, 22 September 2008

Anyone seen my acorn?

You know how all of us have a list of things we wish were different about ourselves? A closer resemblance to Angelina Jolie rather than Angela Lansbury, the ability to speak all languagues with fluency and grace, to remember the punch lines of jokes, and always have great hair. The list goes on. Well, I'm not going to aim that high. I just want to change one thing today. That one thing? My terrible habit of writing vital phone messages down on ridiculous bits of paper that I can never find again.

I have two particuarly important phone messages that I wrote down last week on something handy that was lying around, a bit of cheese, a small acorn - a small acorn which I now cannot find. I expect the squirrel followed the cat into the house and filed it for the winter. But I am left feeling like a fool for not tattooing the message onto my arm and painting it on the wall so that I couldn't lose it.

It seems I am not to be trusted with verbal messages passed telephonically. I've tried to improve. I have a pad that I attempt to always write the message in, but sometimes I can't find the pad when I'm on the phone, and sometimes I write the message in there but not in full so that I don't recognise it as the vital information it is when I return to it. So instead of saying in the message - Roger the Bank Manager says don't spend any money or we will shoot you at dawn, my message might read - Roger Pistols at Dawn. Now, at the time I will think that I shall remember all the pertinent facts associated with such a gripping title. But actually two days later I can't remember what the bank managers minion was called and so the name Roger means nothing to me as I flick through the message book. I will wonder in passing if it is a book title that somebody recommended to me, or a duel challenge that I have forgotten about. You see the dilemma.

I am now faced with ringing people up and asking them to repeat their message. This makes me look like an idiot, which arguably I am, and wastes time. Typically, as they answer the telephone I will find said piece of cheese, acorn or cryptic message and then have to pretend that I rang for a different reason entirely. Even worse, sometimes I can't ring them up because the thing I am looking for is their telephone number. Anyone seen an acorn with a telephone number and a duel challenge on it?

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Rural Rant.

I have an issue with the councils in rural areas and their obsession with keeping things tidy. I get particularly revved up by hedgerows. I'm that kind of girl.

This is the time of year that the hedgerows lay on an "all you can eat" buffet. Haw berries, blackberries, rose hips, rowan berries - I won't go on. Nature provides a banquet for the birds and other hedge dwellers to see them through the winter. Everything from blackbirds, field fares, crows, hedgehogs, shrews, voles, partridge, thrushes, robins to small children looking for blackberries gets a look in. It is the ultimate free for all.

Now this kind of abundance isn't neat. It means big, rambling hedgerows that tumble all over the place showing their wares to any passing wildlife. The photo on the left is what these kind of hedges should look like around now.

Naturally, our revered councils can't abide such an uncontrolled glut and must stick their fingers into the pie. Their policy seems to be that they will wait until everything ripens before deciding that enough is enough and sending out the hedge cutters. They could wait just one more month for the berries to be eaten, but no, they want to make sure that nobody gets a look in at the feast. As you can see from the photo on the right, the hedge cutters decimate the entire harvest and leave nothing but bare twigs.

Then people wonder why there isn't as much wildlife as there used to be and councils get tough on planning, breathing and generally living in a rural area in case our presence impacts on the treasured wildlife, wildlife they have just robbed of their main means of survival through the winter.

Hedges used to be cut and laid in the winter, never in the autumn. Which office dwelling prat decided that September would be the better time to do the work and what did they base this decision on? Please tell me it wasn't neatness and making the countryside look well kempt for the tourists? Why oh why isn't somebody who understands the countryside put in charge of this kind of thing?

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Weird and pointless stuff.

My sister has just rung me to say that if the population of China were to walk past you one at a time, the line would NEVER END because the population is expanding so rapidly. This is a random fact. I'm not sure what I am supposed to do with it? Should I be happy to know this? horrified? Impressed that the chinese babies can apparently learn to walk so quickly?

Who works this stuff out though, and why? Seriously, could they not be doing better things with their time - like solving world poverty, working out how to make ladder proof tights or how to stop cats from succumbing to their inner thief?

So, having inflicted you with my sister's random factoid, here are some other odd things that I know and which are of no use to man or beast:

* The Spanish mined so much silver in Bolivia in the 19th century that they could have built a bridge of silver between South America and Spain and walked over it carrying more silver and probably wearing silver clothes.

* A chameleon's tongue is twice the length of its body.

* Carnivorous animals won't eat another animal that has been struck by lightning.

* The phrase 'rule of thumb' comes from an old english law that says you can't beat your wife with anything wider than your thumb.

* Chimpanzees can recognise themselves in a mirror, but monkeys can't.

* Women blink nearly twice as much as men.

* Oscar Wilde's last words were "Either the wallpaper goes, or I do"

* Cockroaches can live for NINE DAYS after their head has been cut off.

There, that should do for now.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Thief in the Night.

Because I dislike cooking for one, as a general rule when I am home at the weekend, then I will cook something to last me through the week. So, a chicken might be sacrificed or, this weekend, a succulent ham. I had bought this on Saturday and cooked it that night with a view to a week of ham sandwiches for lunch (mmmm, delicious).

I wasn't actually particularly hungry on Saturday night so rather than cooking said ham for my supper, it simmered away whilst I was watching a film and I left it out on the side to cool overnight when I went to bed.

The next morning I stumbled downstairs, bleary eyed and in need of caffeine. My eyes travelled across the kitchen counter in search of the coffee. Something registered as being 'off'. The brain cells were moving slowly (lack of caffeine remember?) so it took a couple of seconds to realise that my succulent ham, left in all its burnished glory on the side, was a shadow of it's former self. Where there had been ham for a week, there was now a small nugget of ham about the size of a scotch egg.

I blinked, blinked again. Did I sleep eat? I looked at the Loyal Hound. He gazed innocently back. He had an alibi - it was me. Plus, he couldn't reach it and in all fairness he wouldn't have left a scotch egg sized hunk of evidence on the side to condemn him. Bewildered, I looked closer. The ham was no longer on its plate so I ruled out mice, unless I have some uber strong 'Dangermouse' style rodents at home. The whole thing had been gnawed on all four sides, eroding it away to the small piece left before me. This took some evil genius with a big stomach and sharp teeth. Eeergh. Could I have rats? God, please no.

Fearing the worst, I took the loyal hound for his morning walk through the mist. My stomach was revolting at the thought of rats in the house. Surely they wouldn't venture into the territory of the fearsome loyal hound, and wouldn't there be other evidence? I had left the top window open in the kitchen, as I usually do so they could have got in through that but I have never ever seen a single rat here. Ferrets, stoats, owls, crows - endless other predators. But not rats.

On the way back to the house I saw a leisurely movement on one of the tumbledown walls next to the house. There, licking its lips and stretching luxuriously in the sun, was a vast and very full cat. I had been robbed by a genuine, bona fide cat burglar. It showed no shame. In fact it smirked. It would have run away faster when the loyal hound spotted it but it was too full to manage more than squeezing through the fence and mocking him from the other side before sauntering off the mile down to the village, no doubt to rob some other poor sucker.

I wonder what else it got up to while it was in my kitchen? Had a snooze on my sofa? curled up by the embers of the fire, flicked through my magazines? copied down my pin number and card details? Cats. They aren't to be trusted. And now I have no ham for my lunch today. I wonder what cat tastes like?

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Season of Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness

It appears that the poets do know what they are talking about. Here's the view that the Loyal Hound and I had on our morning walk......

Saturday, 13 September 2008

I'm a lumberjack and I don't care.....

Actually, I sort of do care. This is one of those days when I am very conscious that I am single and that it takes all day to survive. The weather, for once is glorious and it is a Saturday. One of the downsides of being single in the country is that the list of outdoor chores is horrendous and there is nobody else to help you with them. Here is my list for today:

* Stack 1 1/2 tons of logs for the winter. They are currently sitting in a damp heap in the middle of the yard and they need to be properly stacked if they are ever to dry out and be usable. If they aren't usable then there will be no fire in the office and I will be too cold to type! This is a horrible job. Filthy and slug ridden. I figure it will take me about two hours if I stick with it.

* Mow the lawn: I know, you could argue that this is not strictly necessary but I have worked hard on my garden and at the moment it looks a shambles and nags at me every time I look at it. The other upside is that hopefully I will only have to do this a couple more times this year.... This is going to take 45 minutes.

* Strimming: Again, it could be argued that this doesn't have to be done but if I don't want people to think that I live in a jungle of thistles, nettles and goosegrass then it has to be tackled. Also, if I don't do it now then next year the jungle will be so bad I may not actually be able to get home without a machete. Time it will take: 1 hour

* I have some winter salad that needs planting out if I am to actually have any greens in the winter. I should also harvest the onions and the last of the potatoes. Oh, and the remaining carrots. I haven't looked at the vegetable garden recently but expect that it needs weeding as will the flowerbeds. It'll be another 45 minutes gone before I know it.

* Paint the front of the house: I have been doing this on and off all summer. It's a hideous job that involves precarious ladder balancing and very tired arms. The first stint I tackled with great glee until I woke the next morning thinking I had broken my arm because it was so stiff. I have nearly finished the front and only have another 6 faces to the house to do (it's a weird shape). Improving the house is part of the rental deal I have - I do the maintenance and it keeps the rent low so this can't be avoided. Time to finish the front - 1 1/2 hours I hope.

I won't even mention the washing and the fact that the windows are filthy. They will have to wait though I should tackle the washing as the sun is out and it may actually dry on the line.

I'm tired just thinking about it and try not to consider how much quicker it would be if there was somebody else here - not that I want somebody just for their chore abilities but that has to be an upside!

Right, enough whinging. I'd better get my checked shirt and braces on - it's back to the logpile for me. My moan is officially over and I am going to go and polish up my lustre and enjoy the fact that the chores can be done in the sunshine. Have a good Saturday everyone.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Feeling a little blue today?

I had to to to my local town today to get boring things like paint and lightbulbs. Driving a 55 mile round trip and coming back with only hardware is not rewarding in itself and I will freely confess that I was feeling a little grumpy about the entire expedition. That is until I returned to my car in the Homebase carpark. There a revelation awaited me.

A couple walked past me. Elderly would be the way to describe them. I was initially distracted by the husband's fabulous pork pie hat. It perched on his head and added at least an extra foot to his height. In a dark green tweed, it looked very odd with his other clothes that were not remotely tweedish, but quite obviously he was the sort of man who would never venture outside without a hat that could store pork pies underneath it, and possibly a bag of apples and a thermos. As I stared in fascination at this appendage a bright light came out of the sky that I can only speculate was the sun (it's been so long since I saw this mysterious object that I wasn't certain). This ray of dazzling light beamed straight down, illuminating Mr Pork Pie and more importantly, his wife's head.

She had immaculately coiffed hair, the kind that you have to sit under a giant hairdryer bucket for an hour to achieve. That wasn't the mesmerising thing about it though, it was the colour that drew every eye for half a mile. This sweet little old lady (I assume she was sweet - she might be a vicious old bag of course) had the strongest blue rinse that I have ever seen. It wasn't grey tinged with soft blue, or so white that it was almost blue. It was a bright cerulean shade of blue. True blue hair that was so strong a colour that the pink of her scalp shone through in a disturbing contrast. It was so blue it would have scared the feathers off chicken licken as the ultimate proof that the sky really had fallen down and got caught in her coiff.

This bold fashion decision on the part of the vicious old bag / sweet little old lady kept my few active brain cells fully occupied for the entire journey home. Did she go into the hairdressers and demand that they dye her hair blue instead of using the poxy blue rinse? Has she led a blameless life up until this week when she finally let rip and thought she would dye her hair bright blue for the sheer heck of it, or to embarrass her grandchildren? Is she colourblind and doesn't know? Did the hairdresser expect a tip when she emerged from the hairdryer and he / she realised what they had done?

I've never understood the lavender / blue rinse thing anyway. Why not just have grey hair? Once it has gone grey / white it can't do anything worse to you so why is tinting your hair to colours usually reserved for rainbows considered the thing to do? Is this something that I will end up doing? Please god say no. I don't want a husband with a pork pie hat and I definitely don't want a blue rinse - ever. If you catch even the slightest tone of longing in my voice for even a hint of blue on my head just shave my head then and there and buy me a wig - in pink, with just a hint of lavender................

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Thank you SO much......

Why is it that I have such difficulty with thank you letters? It should be the easiest thing in the world. You go to a something, organised by somebody, and the next day you sit down with your crisp notepaper and inkpen and dash of a charming and sincere note to express your appreciation. Or so it goes in Georgette Heyer country, and in my optimistic pea like mind.

Unfortunately, in my real world it works rather differently. Before I go to a party / dinner / whatever, I start planning miraculous thank you letters. Letters that will be framed and oohed and aahed over by future generations for their wit and turn of phrase. Then I go to said event. Wake up next morning with hangover and good intentions to get said letter written that week. As at this stage I have plenty of time and will still appear efficient and well brought up if I get something in the post in the next five days or so, I linger over actually starting. I plan some opening phrases, I wonder if I need a new pen. I go off and do something else entirely........

Three weeks later, I realise to my horror that I have done nothing about it. Not one letter of the alphabet has made it onto my non existent note paper. I've even forgotten all the things I had planned before the party to say in my letter. This is a critical mass point. If I don't write this very second, then the letter really is going to have to be fantastic to make up for its revolting lateness. It is imperative that the moment I become aware of my failure to write I go out and shoot a goose if necessary in order to get myself a quill so that I can write the wretched letter. I go off and do something else entirely.......

Usually around SIX WEEKS after the actual event I wake up sweating in the middle of the night aware that people are talking about that horrible girl who never writes thank you letters. My name is being bandied across supermarket aisles as 'the one who can't be bothered to write'. I shall never be asked to anything again, never looked in the eye again, possibly never even spoken to again. I must write.

At this point, usually something happens. I will find writing paper, and inappropriately coloured pens. I'll start several letters but will feel all of them are inadequate to the task of making a letter that is six weeks late (seven or eight weeks by the time Royal Mail has lost it) look good. In the end I write a paltry letter which I backdate by a couple of weeks and then add a postscript saying that 'to my horror I just found it in a pile of paperwork and had obviously failed to send it blah blah blah'. I once famously wrote that I had been abducted by aliens hence my inability to write. I have officially become desperate.

It's ridiculous. It shouldn't be this hard to just sit down the very next day and write the letter, take it to the postbox and send it. In reality, it would be better to write a postcard than to fail to write a letter which, when it finally makes it in the post, is going to be so late that the host doesn't remember throwing the party, or having you to stay, or possibly who you are.

I know, lots of people don't write. They will think this post is insane and that possibly I am a fictional character living a strange life of thank you letters and 'at home' mornings. But everybody knows how nice it is to get a letter, that somebody has taken the trouble to tell you that they appreciated what you did for them. How nice is it when you deal the post out on the kitchen table and in amongst the junk and the bills, is a handwritten envelope. You always open that first.

I guess it would be even nicer if the event they were thanking you for actually happened this millenium. I must go; I have thank you letters to write.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Lacking lustre

I have been feeling a little 'bleeeaurgh' lately. You know what I mean. No enthusiasm for anything and very little sense of satisfaction when you get stuff done. It has been quietly driving me crackers with frustration. I'm normally pretty buoyant. I get stuff done, I see the bright side, I have a permanently half full glass..... What's made it more frustrating is that I couldnt' find a reason for this feeling of ennui (there's my tiny bit of french done!). That is, until last night when I had my Eureka moment. In the dead of night, driving back over the mountains from Book Club I finally named my nemesis. Lacklustre.

I'm Lacklustre. There is an astonishing lack of lustre in my life. The relief; I feel so much better for putting a name to this. All that worry and niggling frustration can be resolved - I just need more shine! I must dust off my life and buff it up with Pledge (other brands are available) and lavender scented bees wax. It's amazing the difference it makes working out what is wrong, finding a reason to explain why you feel vaguely dissatisfied and disinterested in life in general.

So after my flash of inspiration I made it home and fell into bed. Would the ennui have gone in the morning? I woke today with my usual urge to stay in bed and pretend the alarm wasn't going off in a strident manner and that John Humphries wasn't crooning sweet nothings into my reluctant ear, but then I remembered. I need lustre. This shining thought mobilised me and I leapt out of bed like a spring lamb and tripped on the shoes the loyal hound had left for me (he seems to think I should be wearing heels this morning. Interesting.)

Despite the fact that yet again the weather is grey and cloudy I have discarded all negative thoughts (ok, not all of them - that would just be weird, but most of them) and sat myself down in the office with the intention of getting on with my life. I shall deal with the stuff the accountants want, I'll send out the information my clients hope for. I may even brush my hair. Obviously I'll blog first.

Now, whenever I glimpse myself feeling dull I shall deal with it. I know what's wrong and I have watched enough of the deranged Anthea Turner to know what to do. Happiness is the white glove test, perfectly folded towels and origami napkins at the table (in the shape of Ray Mears of course - all those bewildered by this should see Happiness will be mine. No longer will I lurk faintly miserable, bewildered and dull in the corner.

Shine on, crazy welsh girl.......

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

It's all MeMe Me.....

So, Bevchen ( has tagged me with a meme which has given me another sleepless night as I plot my answers. The idea is simple in theory - take the alphabet and make it all about me! So here goes:

A is for: Apples - the loyal hound has started picking the apples off the trees and then running round at high speed with them. Highly amusing for me but less so for my parents whose apple crop he is decimating!

A is also for Alaska and the Aurora Borealis: I really want to go there and see the Northern Lights. Apparently, if you go to the middle of nowhere and have a radio microphone you can actually listen to the Northern Lights singing. How fantastic is that.

B is for: Books. It has to be. I love them and can't have enough. I go into a panic if I am in a house without any. I re-read them, heap them round me and wake up in the middle of the night with a sudden urge to dive into a remembered plot and remind myself of how it went. Every room in the house is littered with books to cater for sudden panic attacks where I need a book instantly. Even my car has books in it in case I have ten minutes spare before a meeting and could read something.....

B has to also be for Bedlinen; I really love a beautifully made up bed with an excess of down pillows, crisply ironed Egyptian cotton (or irish linen) sheets with a thread count so high it needs a route number. The best duvet ever and a blanket to pull up if you want to. I'm not sure there are many things better.

C is for: Chocolate and cake, or chocolate cake, or cake with chocolate on it. There seems to be a theme here. I will break most moral and ethical codes for the Lindt red truffles and have never worked out how to manage ladylike restraint when there is cake in the room.....

C is also for cloud. I quite literally spend some of my time living with my head in the clouds, today being a good example when I can't see my house from the office because the cloud has dropped so low.

C also is for Courtesy and Charm; I don't understand when they became something to be ashamed of? Whenever somebody is courteous or charming to me I blush like a schoolgirl and feel like a million pounds. Why therefore is it considered better to scowl / swear / spit at somebody rather than be charming, or courteous. Both are free.

D is for: Diets. I don't believe in them, unless they involve eating only cake. Diets make you miserable and I'd rather be fat and happy. So yah boo sucks to everyone torturing themselves with only a photo of a lettuce leaf for lunch; I'm having omelette with mushrooms and grated cheese and I don't care about my cholestrol!

D is also for Desert Island Discs: If I ever become famous I shall start panicking about what to put on my desert island discs list. There's so much music to choose from and I don't know that I can whittle it down enough. Then again, I'd quite like a year on a desert island to read all of shakespeares plays.

E is for: Women called Emma. I seem to have an awful lot of 'Emma's' in my life. I attract them like honey attracts bees. It's a thing.....

E is also for Eye Surgery which I had to correct my terrible eyesight. I love not wearing glasses but the whole thing was pretty traumatic and i wouldn't want to go through it again.

F is for: French. I'd really like to speak French but I can't. I get it mixed up with the token amount of Spanish and Italian that I know and end up speaking gibberish with an 'allo 'allo accent. Very disappointing.

G is for Good Films. I love a really good film. There's nothing better than getting swallowed up in a celluloid adventure and emerging slightly dazed at the other side. Then again there is nothing worse than a really bad film that you were looking forward to and then have to switch off after thirty minutes because it is so awful.

H is for: House. I really want one of my own and I can't find one. I've been looking for 3 1/2 years and haven't found one that I could afford and want to live in. I love the house I rent but can't escape the fact that I want one of my own. The only good thing about the credit crunch is that maybe houses will become more affordable.

I is for: I pod. I love it - it's one of the nicest technological advances in our lifetimes. How great to have every bit of music you have ever loved at your fingertips all the time.

J is for: Jam. Some of you may know I am obsessed with jam. I make it because I have a surplus of fruit and enter it in the local show every year where it is mocked, put in a corner and shunned by other jams. It's not fair - it's nice jam, it tastes good, it looks pretty and it's delicious on hot toast. Damn those jam judges who can't tell a good jam when it is right in front of them.

K is for Kissing: It's been an alarmingly long time since I kissed anyone. This is because every man I know is either married, a hundred year old hill farmer or a cyber man who lurks on the internet but never comes out to play. I'm not sure my lips would know what to do if they got some kissing action it's been so long.....

L is for Lollipops: I don't get them. Ice cream I can see the point of but Lollipops always have a weird flavour, are immeasurably sticky and unsatisfying. They are the food of the devil.

L is also for the Loyal Hound: There's nothing better than another being that firmy believes you are the beginning and end of all things and is also prepared to sleep on your feet to keep them warm. He'll also pick fruit! Now I just have to teach him to do the washing up and I'll be happy.

M is for Mothers: all my friends now seem to be mothers. It's intriguing seeing what kind of mothers they become; the wildest of them is the most paranoid and protective parent whilst the most anal one is by far the most relaxed of all the mothers I know. I also find motherhood a frustration. What I don't like is that all the mothers seem to stick together - they have this bond of lunacy / exhaustion / miracle of life thing that means you don't get a look in. It changes your friendships for ever.

M is also for Mountains: I don't like living somewhere with no mountains in view. I like to look up at them and wonder what is on the other side. My bedroom window as a child looked onto mountains and every night I would make up entire worlds that existed on just the other side of the peaks that watched over me.

N is for Nothing Days: you know, those days where you achieve nothing at all despite your best intentions and then you are cross and frustrated at the wasted time. Because you were supposed to be doing stuff all day you don't even get the satisfaction of refusing to get out of your pyjamas and reading books all day. You just move from one thing to another, somehow achieving absolutely NOTHING. I hate days like that. They make me miserable.

O is for the Olympics: I am torn about them. I like the idea of nations coming together without politics to compete but I don't like the idea of countries bankrupting themselves to hold the games. I am also worried that we will embarrass ourselves in London by not having anything finished. I spoke to a builder the other day who delivered some stuff to the olympic site. He said the foundations aren't even in yet.

P is for Physics: I am a secret physics nerd and love the way physics effects everything every day. It's amazing.

P is also for Pain au Chocolat from Gail's on Portobello Road. These are the best pain au chocolat in the world - seriously. They are crumbly and crisp, they are the kind of thing that make the world grind to a halt when you eat them because you have to savour every moment. If you ever are in london and near them go and buy one and you will see what I mean.

P is also for Poetry: I have a great weakness for poetry, particularly WH Auden and Dylan Thomas. They would be on my desert Island discs book list.

Q is for Quality Street: the most disappointing chocolates - too many weird flavours and not enough fudge and toffee and that's my final answer.

R is for Roses. I love full blown scented English Roses. A big bowl of them spilling petals has to be one of the great luxuries of life. When I finally have a house I shall have enough roses growing that I can pick them every day.

S is for Shakespeare: I love shakespeare. I read Antony and Cleopatra for A level and was mesmerised by the sheer genius of it. You could set the whole relationship today and it would ring true. Forget Freud and Neitsche - Shakespeare had the best understanding of people and how they tick. The man was a bona fide genius.

S is also for smoking: I know, I shouldn't but I do. I want to give up for all the reasons that you should give up smoking, but I still enjoy it. I wish I had never smoked that first cigarette then I wouldn't know what I was missing. I think the smoking ban is a good thing.

T is for Tea: I used to be a coffee drinker and then I moved to Scotland for a while. I don't know whether it is the water up there but the coffee was disgusting and I became and avid tea drinker. I'm a builders tea girl with the odd foray into Earl Grey or Peppermint but I think fruit teas are the drink of the devil. They taste of nothing and smell of too much.

U is for Urugauy. It is one of those countries that I can never quite place on the map - I mean I know it is South America but not quite where in South America. I should like to go to all those countries that I can't quite place.

V is for Stolen Vegetables. I have tried to get over the great carrot theft of 2008, but I may have to ring Victim Support to get closure!

V is also for Vegans: I don't understand vegans - I get vegetarians but veganism is a step too far for my pea like brain.

W is for Wales: Wales for me is home, it always has been. Wherever I go in the world, there is something in me that unwinds like a cat in front of the fire when I cross the border and am home again. I know it is wet, and hilly and has no shops but somehow it is still the place to which I belong.

X is for X factor: I'm not a big reality television person but when I do catch the end of this program I'm constantly amazed by two things. 1) how many people desperately long to be famous and to escape their own lives 2) how many people seem completely oblivious to their own astonishing lack of talent.

Y is for Youth: I don't know when it happened but I don't think I can say I am young anymore. I'm not old, and I don't feel middle aged but there is definitely more than one generation out there who are younger than me. Not feeling young anymore is depressing. I think the definition of youth is the belief that you can do anything you want to when you want to. The definition of losing your youth is knowing that you have already missed the opportunity for some of those things and that others you will never achieve. I have had to give up my dream of becoming a trapeze artist.....

Z is for Zen Gardens: I don't see the great calming beauty in a zen garden. Why are a bunch of pebbles, some clipped hedges and some raked sand the ultimate in mental calm? I'm getting quite stressed just thinking about them.

So, there you go - my meme. It's not earthshattering and it was harder than I thought in some bits. However it successfully enabled me to avoid work for a good hour so I count it as time well spent!

Monday, 8 September 2008

Does Tesco carpark hold the Mystery of Life?

I'm not sure it is possible to be more tired than I am right now. Last night it was imperative that I had an early night as I had to be up at half past four in the morning to take my parents to the airport. The urgent need for sleep naturally meant that I had a bought of insomnia that kept me awake until 1.00 o'clock in the morning. 3 1/2 hours sleep followed by a 160 mile round trip today has not left me in the best of states.

Having got them to Manchester airport at some filthy hour of the morning I then had two hours to kill before I could go to my first meeting. I ended up sitting in a Tesco carpark dozing intermittently whilst listening to the radio and desperately trying to finish reading one of my book club novels. I can now say that Tesco car parks have very little merit on any front at all, other than their proximity to a supermarket that is.....

I finally staggered home and made it to the computer to discover that the book club for tomorrow night has been cancelled. This is intensely vexing having gagged my way through The Little White Horse (due to the vast quantity of mothers in the book club we have a childrens book section as well as a grown up book section), and also waded my way through 'What a Carve Up' whilst half asleep in the aforementioned car park. As this was a book which I thought was extremely irritating, badly plotted and massively overlong this was no mean feat. All that for nothing. Darn it. It is quite definitely going to be one of those days.....

During my tossing and turning in the depth of the nights there was a programme on Radio 4 about living in the moment. According to the guest they were interviewing, we should all live in the moment rather than constantly looking forwards, as it would lead us to discover "the wonderful mystery of life". Really, truly that is what he said.

He then went on to illustrate this point; apparently he once set off to go for a walk. He drove to the start of said ramble but when he got to the car park, he decided to 'be in the moment' instead of looking forward to his stroll. He promptly got so distracted being 'in the moment' and by the deep, meaningful beauty of a tarmaced car park that he never actually went for a walk but instead stood about like a loon, being overcome by the 'mystery of the moment' before turning round and going home.

Is he deranged? Is the mystery of life really going to be solved or even glimpsed in a car park? I spent two hours in one this morning and didn't even get a glimpse of a tiny Nancy Drew style mystery, let alone a mystery that affected my view of 'life, the universe and everything'. Perhaps he has found a better quality of car park than I have?

It did lead me to think though. It is incredibly hard not to have all your thoughts dominated by what is happening next, rather than what is happening now. (At the moment I am wondering how soon I can go to bed and get some sleep). I suppose that he did have a point about appreciating the now, rather than constantly planning for the future. There is one flaw in his plan though (ok, more than one flaw); he was forgetting that sometimes it is only the prospect of the promised sleep / cake / caffeine injection in my imminent future that gets me through the now..... Without that prospect I could quite possibly give up entirely and never leave the Tesco carpark......

Saturday, 6 September 2008

The world has gone to goo.....

Recent news has suggested that the Large Hadron Collider at Cern will turn the whole world to goo when it is finally switched on next week. Aside from the amusing factor that Brian Cox called such doomsayers 'twats' in the national press, I would like to point out that the world is already a large pile of goo...... The never ceasing, ever increasing rain has turned my whole world to a sucky pile of mud that the Hadron Collider can hardly worsen. So roll on with throwing those particles at each other I say. They can't make it any worse.

(Well, unless the doomsayers are right about the possibility of creating a black hole that will swallow the world.... The other possibility is that a worm hole will open up and Dr Who will pop out, or some sort of time traveller anyway. Irritating if they come from the past though - if we get a time traveller I want one from the future who can tell me if we will all wear only lycra in the future and if hover cars will ever happen, oh - and what happens on Lost.)

In all seriousness, I hope that the Hadron collider does provide the breakthrough in knowledge that everyone is looking for (everyone apart from the Creationists that is). It's very existence is fairly miraculous; it has been built as a result of the collaboration of over eight thousand physicists from over eighty-five countries and that doesn't even begin to include the hundreds of universities and laboratories all over the world. The idea was first approved 28 years ago. I'm not sure that anyone other than scientists could manage such an epicly scaled project. The only thing I can think of to compare it to is the cathedral builders of the middle ages who managed to create buildings that dwarfed anything anyone had ever seen before and which took hundreds of years to complete. Faith of a sort, it could be argued, is the only thing that ensures the completion of such grand scale projects. Faith and a complete lack of government funding or involvement......

So, confession time - having read my previous paragraph I suspect I might be a bit of a physics geek. I have watched enough therapy on daytime television to feel comfortable saying this out loud without panicking. I mean how could you not be at least mildly interested in physics? It's not really a science, it's amazing. It's all about how everyday stuff actually works; what makes the world turn around, apples fall on your head, the tides come in and out and the lights work. It applies to everything we do and everything we see which I think is sort of cool.

Mind you, I don't particularly understand it and found it impossible at school, only just scraping a qualification at GCSE by the skin of my teeth. I still don't know where a bullet lands if you fire it straight up in the air out of a moving car (apparently this was vital information that we would all need; perhaps for when we became CSIs....)

Incidentally, heard the best idea for a practical joke at Cern on radio 4 - the suggestion was that everybody within a 10 mile radius of the Large Hadron Collider dress up and behave as a zombie the moment the particle collider is turned on - It would be worth it to see the faces of the journalists and scientists when they emerge into the daylight after their experiment -- the ultimate 'oh my bunsen burner, what have we done!" moment......

One last question - if we do all turn to goo, or get swallowed by a black hole - what will you wish you had done or said before you turned to goo?

Thursday, 4 September 2008

By Popular Demand....

By Popular Demand and with the consent of his agent and manager I present - The Loyal Hound in his youth and in a brief moment of trying to look regal......

No good samaritan badge for me.

Despite the daylight robbery at the show, I have decided that I won't move to the city in search of a crime free life, but will stay on my hillside and instead live a carrot free life. (In addition it is a neighbouring village show this weekend and I am going to go with my swag bag and see if there is anything as fine as my entries that I might purloin for myself......)

A strange thing happened while I was in London this week. I was driving a friend home to her house in Shepherds Bush on Sunday night. The sky was unnaturally dark as huge thunderheads had gathered above us. Every now and then lightning flickered around us and I was looking forward to getting back to said house for a large glass of wine and some catching up. We were travelling along behind a car which suddenly, with no warning and no recognisable reason turned hard right. Straight into a bollard and a set of pedestrian lights which imploded all over the street.

Now if I saw something like that happen here I would

a) be astonished that we suddenly had actual bollards and pedestrian lights
b) stop to see what I could do to help.

But this was London. As we sat with our mouths open in stunned amazement, the driver's door opened and the driver emerged. He grinned in a challenging way at the traffic building up behind him and seemed to think that totalling his car (which he assuredly had) was the best thing that had happened to him all day. Any thoughts I had had of leaping out of the car and practising my first aid fled. I put the car back into gear, manouvered round him and left the scene.

This decision is niggling at me. I left because the whole situation was bizarre, erratic and faintly threatening - the only reason to have swerved into a traffic light and then laugh about it struck me as being because he was drunk or high as a kite and I didn't want to get mixed up in it. I also rather cravenly felt that there were plenty of other people who could deal with the aftermath. I mean the driver wasn't carrying his limbs or acting remotely like somebody off Holby City but equally I didn't check how anyone else in the car was, or for that matter if there was anyone else in the car. I just fled.

Although it was probably a harmless decision in the overall scheme of things I know that I would have reacted totally differently if the accident happened on a country road. Here it would feel instinctive to help regardless, not just for me but for the majority of the locals. (There are a couple of curmudgeonly farmers who might cheer with joy at the scene of an accident but they put mantraps at the bottom of the chimney for father Christmas). That urge to stop and help probably explains why every minor incident ends with most of the village gathered around offering help, advice, prize winning jam and strong drink.

I lived in London for years and during all that time I never felt unsafe or particularly threatened, even when somebody broke through the front door with a knife (he was a bit of an idiot actually). But five years of living away from the seething mass of people that makes up London has made it all seem overwhelming and aggressive. I can't decide if the fact that I felt afraid was a sign of good sense, or a newly developed rural narrow mindedness.

It doesn't change the fact that I didn't choose to help but instead I quite literally crossed to the other side of the street and moved on. Hence, no good samaritan merit badge for me.

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