Love in Stranger Times

Stranger

Alternative Title: Stranger Binge: Dustin off 2 series in one upside down weekend (TMM is really wasted here. His pun game is strong).

Well, I was planning on writing this blog all about the preparations that are currently underway in readiness for the family trip to Prague next week. Mother has never been abroad via an aeroplane before and consequently there is much hysteria and full capslock messages flying back and forth about size of luggage and how many pairs of emergency knickers to pack (we’re a nervy bunch). However, my intentions have been completely overhauled and this week’s post has been waylaid by telly (for shame).

Now I know I am about 3 years behind the times, but I have finally joined the masses in becoming completely enthralled by Stanger Things (for those of you not in the know, it is a show set in the 80s around children and monsters from other realms – think Stephen King meets a juke box entirely stocked with spooky synth music).

Once again, as I always seem to do with on-trend TV, I’ve come a little late to the party. But worry not, because now I’m here I’m going to overstay my welcome, throw up on the carpet and be found hugging a lamp at 3 in the morning whimpering softly. I am 100% in love and to be honest slightly ashamed that I’ve waited this long to watch. In my defence, we really didn’t realise how much excellence we were missing out on. I do love NowTV and am happy with the service it has provided so far, but little did I know what wonders awaited on the other side. Now that we have jumped on the Netflix bandwagon, I am pretty sure I can say we won’t be getting off any time soon.

In fact, our overall introduction to Netflix has gone rather well and exactly in the way as I promised TMM it wouldn’t. Fully aware of my stalkerish tendencies, we were going to pick a couple of shows to watch and limit our viewing of them to 1 or 2 episodes a week, like the good old days of terrestrial. Guess how much that didn’t work? We’ve barely even scratched the surface and we’re already two full shows down and stayed up way past our bedtime on a number of occasions. Poor TMM is flagging dramatically, poor boy.

Stranger Things started very casually on a Friday night and by the time the weekend was out, we’d finished both seasons and I’d developed an overwhelming urge to perm everything in sight and avoid all suspicious looking cracks in the walls – there be toothy monsters. Seriously though, it has everything I could want in a nice little bundle of thrills. Teenage boys who can be a little dim but have great hair, good hearts and deal well in the face of otherworldly dangers and young children. Tall beardy men with unresolved issues who aren’t afraid to hug people aggressively at every opportunity (you cannot know how rewarding it is to yell at the TV about how someone needs a hug and then for it to actually happen). A whole plethora of lady characters with vast quantities of rage, stunning eyes and varying telekinetic/psionic abilities that may or may not being able to throw vans with their minds. You don’t even want to get me started on the truly excellent soundtrack.

I think TMM actually spent more of the first season watching me watching TV rather than watching it himself and getting increasingly giggly at my hysterical outbursts and constantly muttered commentary. It appears I am incapable (except at the cinema or theatre when NO talking is permitted) of not putting my oar in and telling each character (yes, I know they can’t hear me) exactly what I think of their questionable life choices. It forever enrages me that they don’t listen and still insist on touching things/going into dark rooms/being complete plonkers. Does the dramatic music not clue you in to the terrifying monsters/painful death that awaits?!

I spent a lot of the first few episodes gripping my blankets (yes I have multiple TV blankets – and what) and yelling things like WHY ARE YOU MAKING SUCH BAD LIFE CHOICES and DON’T DO THAT, IT WON’T END WELL (spoiler – it didn’t).

I really missed an opportunity to Tweet this as a live stream. I could be internet famous by now.

Now that it’s over though, my life does feel a little bereft. I’ve found myself obsessively watching cast interview videos and falling in love with adorable young actors. I’ve enjoyed such gems as life coaching techniques from 14 year olds, trust falls (harsh on some points because a 25yr old falling onto a 13yr old is always going to be a bit trickier than the other way round) and bro buddies staring into each other’s eyes for 4 minutes (which is ridiculous because I couldn’t even look into my own eyes for 4 minutes, never mind someone else’s).

I don’t know why I’m so surprised really, because it was always bound to end this way. I thought it might be a little different this time as the seasons were only short, but how wrong I was. Instead, they just compounded the awesomeness into about 16 hours of pure thrill that left me shell shocked and more than a little impatient for the new series (which apparently isn’t until sometime in 2019 – and don’t I feel betrayed by that). I had a sort of underlying belief that Season 3 was supposed to be starting sometime soon (the 02 shop on the way to work has promotional stickers for it in the window), but it seems that I was misinformed and instead I have to wait until next year (which is just criminal).

Still, I have no time to mope about my televisual misfortune with Prague looming on the horizon. There are tiny suitcases to cram full of books, emergency books and a pair of shorts (if it turns out we’ve missed the heat wave and I spent the last week of it sat sulking I the office, I will be miffed, I can tell you). There are liquids to carefully measure into tiny bottles, cats to ensure are fed and supported through this separation and Mother’s to get drunk on Bloody Mary’s before take off to keep her relaxed and calm as we bundle her through the barrier. Hopefully I’ll be able to update you all next week with our holiday adventures; expect pictures galore of nice bricks (TMM loves a good brick) and unsteadily filmed videos of Mother singing whilst I can be heard sobbing emotionally in the background. I can’t promise it will be quite as timely as normal, but I’ll do my best!

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Holiday Blues and Writing Cues

Hol Blog

I’m not going to lie to you Readers, it’s been bloody hard going trying to blog this week. Even now, I can’t promise that it’s going to be a particularly good one, or even if it’s going to make it past 500 words. It appears that whilst there is a way, there is definitely a distinct lack of will.

I do want to state right now though, that this dirge in writing is not for lack of content – indeed you’ll be glad to know we Whitby-ed hard. We ventured far and wide, and our disgustingly early start (for which we in the back of the car complained about HARD) paid off and meant that we had chance to visit the absolutely stunning abbey before most people were even up. We were able to take many hilarious photos of us carefully (read – idiotically) re-enacting scenes from Dracula (I made an excellent Lucy), and TMM (ever the true professional) had even brought his nice new copy with him for some lovely moody shots.

I mean, just look at the artistry! TMM is really wasted where he is.

We also enjoyed a truly hysterical affair in the £4 Dracula experience on the main street. I feel like we should have been made more aware of what to expect, but to be honest the rather shapeless Gary Oldman puppet in the window and the particularly un-arsed man with a scruffy band t-shirt and unkempt facial hair didn’t promise much. Within 5 minutes however, Wilson was practically underneath Jonbles t-shirt and all of us had let out the odd exclamation (except for perhaps TMM, who was tucked at the back of the queue (missing out on most of the story much to his chagrin) and rather at home in the horror strewn décor – Angry Boy (TM) at heart that he is). The animatronic powered curtain covered puppet that flew out, or the man dressed as a wolf (unsure tbh) who was clearly enjoying himself hiding round corners proved to be a little startling, especially for the young women and her daughter who kept running to hide behind us whist screeching unattractively. My favourite bit though, was when we were all crammed into the section depicting Dracula (or a melted looking plastic scarecrow mask with a awkward hair in a dressing gown) rising from the coffin and Wilson turned slightly and proceeded to let out a splitting cry only to follow it with “oh, it’s only TMM”. Apparently his looming figure loitering in the background pushed her over the edge and poor Jonbles arm probably still has little half moon nail marks in it. The sweet little ale pub we all crowded into after (with added taxidermy foxes and portraits of dogs in army regalia) for a swift one was definitely the balm we needed to calm our nerves.

By this point, we were all a bit hot and over-emotional so we retreated to the car to get our cases and take them to the cottage. TMM was the perfect gentleman and took all the wheelie cases (the cobbles were making me laugh to hard too actually do anything) and after a few back and forths, we eventually located our spot and were able to collapse on the couches for a breather and a glass of cider. Our first evening culminated in a visit to a couple of nice gin bars and a superb fish and chips (battered black pudding is definitely a new thing that I am All About).

The next day saw us adventure even further afield, after stopping to pick up TMM a new fisherman’s smock which was possibly the only thing that could have complimented his dungarees so perfectly. Indeed, there were parts when he paused to stare artfully out across the marina and we were all struck at how suited he was to his environment. I always knew I’d marry a sailor.

It’s a shame that none of us could open our eyes in that second photo, but at least we look happy enough. At that point anyway…

Once suited and booted, we walked to Robin Hood’s Bay along the coastal path. I think it is fair to say that there were massively varying levels of enthusiasm about this, though TMM once again showed his true gentlemanly nature by saving Wilson for certain death in a rocky stream and escorting her down some of the more tricky hills. (Woo pointed out here that she expected a while essay about how sh*t walking is so she is pleased by my polite reference to my dislike here. She thinks I secretly love it. I do not).

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Have you seen a cuter couple? They look like they’re off for an early afternoon constitutional.

In the Bay itself, we stopped for a  truly superb lunch (so much grilled cheese and white bread was imbibed) and a few cuppas. The journey back was slightly easier, especially for TMM, Wilson and I, who decided to get the bus back so we could veg on the couch with cups of tea and watch Monsters vs. Aliens. We (read TMM) made ourselves useful though in stopping at the local Coop to pick up the makings of a homemade fish pie and having tea ready to go whist Woo and Jonbles braved the return route on their own. It was best for all really, as it meant that Wilson and I were in far better spirits by the time we were beckoned to a close by bar to meet the returning heroes. We spent a little while enjoying watching the various Steampunk aficionados that were wandering about in full regalia and drinking happily before returning home to our pjs and TMM’s truly spectacular tea. Like true grannies on tour, we were all safely tucked up with blankets and wine by 9pm, and spent the rest of our evening being pulled and pummelled by Woo, who used her not inconsidarably strong pointy fingers to massage away any knots and draw forth some truly ridiculous noises. At one point, she basically played Wilson like a human piano. By the end of it though, we were all slightly more tender and aware of our faults (I apparently have a ridiculous hard knot in my lower back that has been affectionately christened “The Butt Marble” and TMM has an appointment to visit Ann – the official back lady – because we are mildly concerned his spine is all out of whack) and ready for our two tubs of super fancy ice cream.

Our final days bloomed with a rather unnecessary downpour and after a sturdy fry up and a stop for a couple of books (it’s not a holiday without them) and a lovely pair of jet earrings for yours truly, we all bustled back into Juan (Woo’s car) and started for home. Whilst it took a little longer than we could have hoped, and there was a mild fear of vomming from at least two members of the party, we made it back in one piece.

(Admittedly, I do also have to admit the snapchats sent from my particularly disgruntled work pals who were thoroughly not enjoying their day only served to make the whole experience that much better – #soznotsoz)

Well, at least I can say I made it past 500 words, though I can’t say if any of them are particularly thrilling. We enjoyed ourselves (please see below images for further reference) and I can only hope those reading this got some fraction of amusement too.

 

 

Warm up to the Weekend

whitby blog box

So it’s the warm up to the team trip to Whitby this week. In honour of TMM’s birthday on Tuesday, and what is now being referred to as Woo’s ‘Funeral for Youth’ (she’s not taking her retreat from the her 20’s in particularly good cheer), we’re taking a jaunt to the coast. We’ve been meaning to visit Whitby for ages but somehow have never managed to get round to it until now. The real world has cruelly taken over much of our free time and our adventures have a taken a bit of a hit, but we are nothing if not resilient and we made sure this weekend has been in the diary for weeks.

Woo has already demanded a repulsively early start (5am!)to ensure that we squeeze as much time out of the trip as possible, and as such I’ve already had to start giving myself pep talks. Once I am awake, I am happy and I can go from in bed to ready to go in 8 minutes, but that actually process of opening my eyes and admitting consciousness can be a challenging task. I’ve also had to allow a truce with Wilson and promise that I won’t take any photos of her napping in the car. Nobody deserves to have to get up that early and then try and avoid hilarious photos of their sleep face. (Also, it’s more than likely I’m going to be squished in the back because I am not the tallest and also one of the only members of our team that doesn’t get travel sick. I suspect the passenger seat will be in deep contention between TMM’s long legs and Wilson’s threats of vomit, so any attempts to take photos won’t work out as well as they have when I’ve been rocking the co-pilot’s seat).

Now considering we are only going for 3 days (Friday-Sunday), our itinerary is pretty packed (and thus I can accept the need for such a god-awful departure time). TMM has voted for a walk to Robin Hood’s Bay (Wilson and I have both already raised suspicious eyebrows about the amount hiking that is going to be involved, but we’ve been promised a pub lunch so we’re letting it slide for now) and Jonbles has arranged a trip out whale watching on the coast which I am rather looking forward to. Whitby used to have its own Whaling Company in the 1700s, and Whitby boasted one of the most successful whaling ships in the whole of the British fleet at one point. Thankfully we sharn’t be going out with harpoons and designs on blubber, but hopefully we’ll get to see whales going about their casual day to day business.

Since Whitby is also a ‘Gothic Hub ™’, we shall of course be involving ourselves in all kinds of gothicy doings. If I’m being honest I’m not 100% sure what being gothic involves per se, but I can say with certainty we shall throw ourselves into with gay abandon. If Woo’s Youth Funeral doesn’t show willing, I don’t know what does.
I for one, am very taken with Whitby Abbey and shall petitioning for a visit there at some point. The Visit Whitby confidentially declares it to be a real “must visit” and I am not one to argue against such a source. Apparently its gothic splendour and atmospheric backdrop was a key inspiration for Bram Stoker whilst writing Dracula, and my literary soul demands we pay tribute.

Speaking of, TMM and I have been mightily into the spirit of things (loving these puns). TMM decided he couldn’t go to Whitby without ever having even owned a copy of Dracula and therefore treated himself to a shiny new version a week ago.

TMM’s Instagram post was rather excellent, the little Nosferatu popped up and waved.

He received it, rather fatefully, just in time to start reading whilst waiting for his blood test the other morning. Because he is a fantastically innocent angel, he didn’t even question his choices until he was already there are receiving slightly concerned looks from the surrounding pensioners, who I imagine were all turning up their collars and thinking garlicky thoughts. It was only afterwards we realised that he’d made a grave (ha) error in not taking some false pointy teeth, or taking a phone call whilst in the queue loudly announcing that he was just getting breakfast.

We’ve been getting a bit obsessed with the general genre though and have watched a ridiculous amount of similarly themed things over the past two weeks. A friend gave us access to her Netflix account under the strict prevarso we watch The Alienist – a psychological thriller drama set in late 1800s New York based around a selection of gruesome murders and the ragtag team that come together to solve them. I am happy to report we did so with both vigour and gusto, and since have been unable to watch anything that’s not either been set in the turn of the century not steeped in mythically gruesome deaths. We snuggled up on the couch to watch Van Helsing with Hugh Jackman which was pretty but acutely lacking in plot or any acting ability (ass Woo pointed out, this does seem harsh on Hugh, who is very lovely, but it’s so true). I remember being much more impressed with it when I was younger (and obviously distinctly lacking in taste) but it did fleetingly rekindle my teenage crush on Richard Roxborough. It was clear though that as a film it should have come in a boxset with The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which succeeds in being stylistically wonderful and completely bereft of any worthwhile substance or storyline.

We followed this in pretty quick succession with Nosferatu (we provided our own hilarious commentary and then both fell asleep before Count Orlok had even revealed his true nature), Stonehurst Asylum (loosely based on an Edgar Allen Poe story and the second film we watched where Kate Beckinsale got to wear fancy outfits and look beautifully quivery whilst simultaneously punching someone), Lime House Golem (which inspired a somewhat bemused conversation about whether Bill Nighy has ever looked any different or if he’s been approximately 60 for as long as anyone can remember) and finally Sleep Hollow (which is pretty much worth it for everyone’s hair).

With this back catalogue safely under our belts, TMM and I are pretty much ready for anything Whitby can throw at us, be it death, devilry or delightful Gothic architecture. Let’s just hope the early start doesn’t do me in…

And We All Live Apacaly Ever After

Alpaca Blog

So as some of you may have seen on my Facebook or Instagram, I spent the weekend living my best life and enjoying my birthday present from Woo. Woo is what we would class as “good people”; she puts up with my consistent and often hysterical emails, endless hearty bants and works well within the dreaded birthday constraints of “no stuff” when dealing with potential presents. I am very troublesome when it comes to giving people suggestions of what I want for my birthday. When I was younger, I would prepare colour coded lists in triplicate that went to all family members to provide clear guidelines on what I wanted. These days, I merely shrug and ask specifically for “no stuff” because I am a hoarder and must be controlled. Woo understands that my life in a constant battle between wanting All of the Things (like a true millennial), whilst simultaneously wanting to live like a Buddhist monk and free myself from the fetters of the material world. Last Christmas, she got me a trip to the Manchester Cat Café (that came with a hand drawn card which still sits on the mantle piece) and a pot of hair dye because she gets me. For my birthday this year, she succeeded once again in pulling it out of the bag (along with matching card) and this Sunday found us in the Lake District walking Alpacas.

Now let me tell you straight that walking with Alpacas might be the closest thing on this earth to true happiness and anyone who thinks otherwise is clearly deranged.

There were 5 of us that went, crammed into the new little motor (still as yet unnamed) and chipper at the prospect of the fun that awaited – little did we know how much joy we would experience. The company itself – Alpacaly Ever After (and whoever came up with that name deserves a medal) is based in the grounds of the Lingholm Estate in Derwentwater, Keswick. It is a gorgeous setting; coincidentally the Summer home of Beatrix Potter during her formative years as well as the home of where the new Swallows and Amazons film. It is basically the dictionary definition of “idyllic” and 100% the kind of place Alpacas deserve to live.

We arrived and went straight to the café (because we know what we’re about and what we’re about is fancy café lunches) before wandering the kitchen gardens that inspired many of Beatrix Potter’s tales and all getting slightly emotional that we weren’t posh ladies from the turn of the century. Soon though, the time came and we stood, all shifty like, by the statue of a giant and slightly mental looking red squirrel whilst waiting for our contact. Turns out, arranging Alpaca dates is somewhat similar to spy meetings – who knew?

Anyway, Shelley, our very knowledge and super smiley guide, appeared in a timely fashion and led us to our delightfully cuddly charges. She carefully explained the stroking etiquette – due to their eye positioning, they have a blind spot (unsurprising with those fringes if I’m honest) and like most animals don’t like being stroked where they can’t see. This meant their heads and backs were out of bounds, and also that there should be no butt touchings, which is just good manners really. Mainly she advised we stick to their necks when petting, but considering the length of them, this wasn’t too much of a hardship.

Whilst she was talking, she corralled our various partners and harnessed them up and we dithered about with thinly veiled excitement. By the time the gates opened and the Alpacas were led out, we were a undoubtedly overcome.

Now Jonbles had no Alpaca because he is a boring old fart, but he came along for the ride anyway and admitted later (no matter how much he tries to deny it now) that he wished he’d had one too. The rest of us picked (or were picked by) the four Alpacas who were milling about giving us the side eye – and the whole process was somewhat reminiscent of the wands in Harry Potter; the Alpaca picks the walker, not the other way around.

Woo went first because she is by far the bravest, and was paired with Kato; a big bubble headed beastie who was pretty much the agreed leader and enjoyed having a good chatter the whole way round.

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I followed and was paired with Jasper, who had fabulous hair, a casual attitude and the ability to wee for about half an hour non-stop (we matched perfectly). Shelley explained that there are actually only 2 breeds of Alpaca; Suri and Huacaya. Huacaya are by far the most prevalent, making up approximately 90% of the Alpaca population, and whilst they were lucky enough to have Jasper, he is the Loneliest Suri. The only one in their herd, he stands out a little and after being unfortunately snipped in the trouser snake department, is destined to stay that way. Still, he was The Most Chill and we bonded beautifully (read I pawed him desperately and he snuffled me a little and posed wonderfully for selfies).

     

Wilson “The Honey Badger” was paired with Jake, a toothy gentleman who knew exactly what he was about and wasn’t prepared to be moved unless he was ready. He viewed the whole excursion as a sort of extended buffet selection.

    

Finally, an executive decision was made that TMM should be left with little Theo, who whilst looking like a baby and being 2 years old, was pretty much fully grown. They looked like a kind of comedy duo (think Shrek and Donkey but much prettier) but they bonded beautifully (possibly over their matching eye lashes) and I’m pretty sure might have actually been each other’s spirit animals.

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During the walk itself, in which we were lead around the grounds and, in turn, had much fun shepherding our companions around, our very lovely guide educated us about the Alpacas as well as the land the company resides on. Obviously I was in nerd heaven because we all know how much I enjoy fun learning – and learning with Alpacas in the most fun. For example, did you know Alpacas are bred specifically for their fibre, unlike Llamas who are working animals and can be used to carry up to 10 stone. Sadly this meant I couldn’t throw myself on Jaspers back and gallop off into the sunset as I had hoped, but a girl can dream.

We also learnt that they “hum” when talking to each other (Kato had a lot to say), only have one row of teeth (along the bottom) so no accidental dismemberment of which there was a slight fear, and only actually spit when distressed, but let’s face it – who doesn’t? They’re also incredibly graceful considering how silly the look, and surprised us all by taking the various sets if stairs we came across in their stride (ha ha).

Within the hour though, I can safely say that each if us had fallen head over heels with our charges and once we had taken them back and given them some snacks, were all heartbroken to have to walk away. I’m not ashamed to say I could have wept as Jasper non committedly bumped his head against my arm before scratching his belly with a back hoof and trotted off without a backwards glance. I know our love was a fleeting and possibly one sided affair, but I can’t help but hope that as I’m writing this, he still thinks of me now and then.

It was obviously a bit too much for some people…

The Ivy – The Commoners Guide to Eating Posh

Blog Ivy

Picture, if you will, two weary travellers. Wandering aimlessly under the baking sun; their skin is pink, their limbs are heavy and their nerves a slightly frayed due to encroaching hunger that is unstated by the raspberries they had for breakfast in the car. Lost, they have been wandering Cambridge for hours, buffeted by the inordinate amount of school groups (curious, on a Saturday) and tourists who are rampaging the streets. There is also the gradual realisation the perhaps visiting a city where each attraction is hidden by large, unerring wooden doors bearing unapologetic slogans like “No Visitors, Only Students” or “£13 per person for entry” was possibly not the best choice of destination when their pockets are a little tighter than normal.

Eventually, after trudging past cafes, restaurants and eateries packed to the gills; after pressing their noses sadly against the windows and eyeing piled high plates of food on their way to other people; after being so dehydrated that they had resorted to threatening to spit in each other’s mouths to provide any kind of moisture, a metaphorical light appears on the horizon. Coming to a stop outside an unassuming dark green shop front to gently berate each other for having let it get to this stage, one gestures to the darkened doorway with only a slight hint of exasperation and says “what about here then?”

Up a step, they are greeted by a smart young lady in a starched white shirt behind an imposing lectern housing a computer screen. She stands just to the right of a sizable wooden door with an artful stained glass window and to her left hangs a rather dramatic deep red velvet curtain. She smiles candidly at our heroes before asking softly “reservation?”

“Err, table for two?” Is the somewhat querulous response. She narrows her eyes just a fraction and looks down at her computer screen. From somewhere behind her appears another lady, this one with added blazer, who whispers something quietly in her ear. It is here, dear reader, that our weary wanderers began to get the sneaking suspicion they had stumbled on something a little beyond their usual fare. Indeed, the internal warning sirens were sounding and a couple of sharp glances were shared between them as another lady appears off the street, pushes her way through and flippantly remarks over her shoulder to the door woman and friend as she slips through the door that she was there to meet people. The sliver of restaurant viewable for the brief second it took her to get through afford a mere flash of finery and the impression of chandeliers.

Suddenly the burgundy curtain swishes aside and a third lady appears; this one wearing a smart red dress and fancy heels. She smiles and inclines her head, before slipping behind the lectern, palming some menus and shepherding our duo through the door.

On the other side, they are met with a sight to behold. What they had originally expected to be a single room with a couple of tables turns out to be the size of a banquet hall and positively dripping with opulence. Beautifully tiled floors in dark blues and mustard yellows sit below dark wooden tables and walls artistically crammed with photos and paintings. Waiters and waitresses in full regalia (waistcoats and ties) move quietly and swiftly round with huge trays balanced precariously, and burly men in suits circle silently, smiling beautifully at guests.

The pair huddle together and hurry to follow their guide, nearly tripping each other as they stare, open mouthed at the two bars that could have stolen from a 1935 gin joint, resplendent with crystal glasses, mirrored fittings and bottle displays that could have easily doubled as a potions store. After what seems like an inordinate amount of time, they are invited to take a seat at a sweetly tucked away corner table. They fall somewhat chaotically onto the plush couches and take the proffered menus with only slightly trembling hands.

“Any water?” Asks the hostess. Our wanderers share panicked looks at being asked a question so promptly without any chance of preparation and after a moment of hesitation nod frantically.

“Still or Sparkling?” Is the next query which results in yet more overwrought looks, before the safer option of still is plumped for. Finally left to their own devices for the first time, our champions take a moment to properly absorb their surroundings; the salt and pepper shakers that appear to be made from gold and the casually placed wine bucket at every available corner before bursting into stifled giggles and muttered suggestions that they are definitely not posh enough to be where they are. They both suddenly hush when their server returns with a glass bottle of water that she carefully pours into the prepared glasses. As she walks away, there’s a flurry of panicked whispering regarding potential costs of bottled water vs dehydration. Turning to the menus, they hold hands tightly under the table in preparation of expenses. The mains cause a conjoined wince, and the wine list is discarded immediately, but the sandwiches are perused with interest.

By the time a new waiter appears; a swarthy man with curly dark hair and an intense unblinking stare, our duo are prepared to order. A pair of peach and elderflower lemonades are first, followed by an order for eggs benedict and a truffled chicken sandwich.

Here, dear reader, we must take a side bar to discuss the hereforto unknown wonders of truffled chicken. Initially unsure, I (for yes, the heroes you’ve shared this journey with your friendly neighbourhood Ebear and TMM) chose it under supervision and boy, was I rewarded. Two rounds of fried bread, chunks of perfectly tender and ridiculously tasty chicken, salad dressed in some kind of delightful dressing and pre salted chunky chips. The food of the gods.

By the time the meals arrive, our wanderers have settled enough to enjoy their environment and appreciate how it is to live like one of the rich and famous. Surrounded by fancy people with laughs like braying horses and neck scarves galore, they tuck into their food with relish.

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Sadly, small but unapologetic signs declared “No Photography Allowed”, but worry not. It did not stop our intrepid heroes who gladly broke the rules to take a sneaky photo of this super fancy knife with a silver fly on the handle (though it’s clear a life of covert observation is not on the cards considering how blurry this is).

Due to high hunger levels and a small yet undeniable fear someone was going to realise that our couple were 100% not posh enough to be there and kick them out, the plates were clean within a rather small timeframe. Due to unfortunately unexpected circumstances and somewhat limited funds, there was no time for desserts (though the delightful looking Rum Baba with Chantilly Cream was noted and will be enjoyed again in the future). However, before dropping the cash and hightailing it out of there as fast as their £10 Primark pumps would carry them, both our explorers braved the crowds of Cambridgites to visit the facilities.

Typically, I have to admit, I barely visit toilets in the outside world, because I have the bladder of a camel and a definite fear of being kidnapped. This time though, it was definitely worth the risk, if only for the apparent million mile walk (I still have no idea how this place actually fitted behind such a demure shop front) lined with beautiful botanical drawings. The full size wall mural of a tropical bird was much appreciated too (I tried to take a photo of this too, but was scuppered when someone suddenly appeared at the top of the stairs to stare at me judgingly).

The obligatory toilet selfie – it smelt freaking amazing in there.

Soon though our heroes emerged, blinking and slightly shell shocked, into the bright sunshine. Bellies full, pockets significantly lighter and lives enriched, they strode hand in hand, off towards the horizon.

An Interlude from the Sunshine Library

So, in order to make up for my lack of post the other Thursday, TMM suggested I do another mini weekend bloglet. An exercise, he said, in allowing me to use up a little excess blog material that didn’t make it into last week’s offering as well as keeping up my word count. Not one to counter such a wise and logical argument, or deny him the chance to share super little teasers on his instagram story #socialmediapresence, I agreed, and what follows is just a peek into my personal library. It’s been a while since I’ve shared any reviews or book recommendations and I’d hate to leave you bereft.

The warm weather has actually been the perfect excuse to catch up on my reading. My refusal to sit inside for any length of time has limited my televisual intake and having lunch breaks out in the park have meant I’ve had time to just chow down on a couple of books that have been waiting patiently in my “to read” pile.

So far I’ve managed two books this week; “Early One Morning” by Virginia Baily (picked up from The Works for a couple of quid) and “The Hollow Tree” by James Brogden (from our last trip to Hay on Wye).

The first one I’ve been eyeing up for a while. It’s been on and off bookshelves, in and out of day bags and left on the bedside table for weeks, but I finally managed to make it past the cover on the trip to visit my Mother last weekend. It opened quite dramatically (WW2 Italy) with some Nazi involvement and the heart breaking rescue of a young jewish boy. The story itself was focused on the woman who rescued him, in flash forwards and flashbacks throughout her life, and a young girl in the 1970s who finds herself linked to the pair. Overall, I struggled a little with it, specifically the stylistic choice of flicking through time periods without identification as well as between characters, and I found myself becoming frustrated with the women themselves. However, I wonder if perhaps my disappoint was spurred more from the fact i went into it hoping for something different, rather than the fault of the author. Still, it kept me company for a lunch break and an evening of TMM watching tennis so I sharn’t be too put out.

On the other hand, “The Hollow Tree” was exactly what I thought it would be with some added supernatural elements and I am all about it. I went back and forth a few times before I picked this up in Richard Booth’s bookshop (or Heaven as it’s also known). We had intended to limit ourselves to one book per person at the time *spoiler* it didn’t last, and eventually I caved and bought it after lunch.

Inspired by a legend (which also led to an hour long wikipedia search) it follows a woman, herself involved in a tragic accident that results in amputation, who becomes embroiled in the horrifying tale of a woman trapped in an oak tree and left to die. It deals with death, danger and the discovery of a darker exsistence parallel to our own in a very engaging and provoking manner; and in such a way that I found myself desperate to get back to it each lunch break. There was also another book on the shelf by the same author which attracted me and by the time I’d gotten round to picking up the one I’d bought, I’d combined the blurbs a little and was a tad confused to find this one wasn’t the one with the mysterious children (“Helka’s Children” for those of you interested) as I’d originally thought. However, children not withstanding, it was just as thrilling as the recommendations on the front cover suggested (and I’ll definitely be investing in the other’s he’s written).

Now I was going to end this post by telling you all about a beautiful copy of “Rebecca” that i was going to start this morning, but in what might turn out to be the biggest betrayal of the century, it appears that instead of the book, I unknowingly bought a notebook made to look like a beautiful copy of “Rebecca” and I am wounded. Thankfully though, I’d ordered a spur of the moment purchase from Amazon, and as a salve for both my need to read and my pride, I’ve spent the afternoon reading “A Sky Painted Gold” by Laura Wood. Turns out , lazing around on the grass with a gin and tonic ice lolly, TMM looking delightfully sunkissed and dozey and a book set in the 1920s is apparantly just the cure I needed.

The Old Lady Chronicles Continue – Molly Vs. The Sun

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve posted about everyone’s favourite golden oldie and her faithful familiar, so I though it might be time to share another great episode of The Molly and Benji show.

Surprisingly, she’s been pretty quiet on the weather front recently (at least she hasn’t said too much to me. It may be another story for TMM who sees her more regularly than I do). In previous years, she’s lamented mightly at the heat, exlaiming tirelessly about how “it’s too warm to do anything”, “can barely breath in this weather” and “it’s not good to be this warm!” with a furious furrowing of her brow and a proper sulky lower lip. This time round however, we’ve barely heard a peep. True she’s been living her best life in a skimpy vest and fantastically flowery skirt, and she doesn’t expend any effort trying to mountineer up the stairs anymore, but I am rather admonished that she’s adapted to this heatwave so well.

Now regardless of the time of year, she is prone to throwing wide the front/back door (her house is strangely sideways so I’m not 100% what it’s classed as) when she gets up at about 2 in the afternoon and then not shutting it til it’s properly dark. In the winter this only really allows about 3 hours of fresh air to circulate, but with these long summer nights, she gets a good breeze and an influx of blue bottles wafting through and keeping her (and us) both cool and mildly irritated for a good long while. However, it was this practive that led to a somewhat problematic event a few weekends ago.

After spending most of the morning completing general grown up chores and slobbing about in the sun, we’d decided to nip to Go Outdoors and pick up a couple of cheap and cheerful deck chairs. Seeing as Molly’s was on the way out (and it was well past 12pm) we stopped by, only to find the door shut and resolutely locked. After peering through the window to check she was comfortably ensconced in her downstairs bed and that we could see her breathing (just to be on the safe side) we decided we’d try again after our shopping trip. It was only as we were leaving that I noticed the sad little pile of feathers and fluff curled up on the lawn. At the time, we only made a brief mental note to move the dead bird on our way back and thought nothing else of it. Oh, if only we’d read the signs…

An hour or so later, two deck chairs and a new bra better off, we returned to Molly’s with a skip in our step. Pulling the car in, we noted the door was now wide open and at the sound of the closing car doors, Benji (the deaf dog) bounded up the garden with unexplainable enthuasism for a dog his age and shepherded us towards the house. As we rounded the corner, picture, if you will, a scene of complete and utter chaos. The room was like a bomb scene, only it appeared the bomb was a pigeon. In the middle of all this catastrophic feather strewn mess stood Molly, a sheepish smile on her face.

“I think Benji’s been a naughty boy.”

TMM and I shared a look and a matching high pitched faux giggle tinged with hysteria.

“So it would seem.”

She, already mostly bent double, reached down to pick up a tuft of downy grey feathers and side eyed us.

“I honestly didn’t hear a thing last night. I came in this morning and saw it but couldn’t really face sorting it out quite yet…Do you think maybe-?”

Spurred into action by her querulous query and Benji’s frantic barrelling round the room (until walked, he’s basically the Tasmanian Devil), we lept into action. TMM liberated the dustpan and brush from where she was, completely iniffiently, trying to brush the detritus. Hilariously, she kept shovelling things up and then whirling round so quickly that everything she’d manged to pick up would lift on the gust she’d created and flutter back to the floor. He corralled her gently whilst picking up some of the bigger clumps of bird whilst I battled with her ancient vacuum cleaner (after having to dive to the floor behind the sofa and plug it in before she did herself a mischief trying to reach for the socket) to try and get as much of the remaining carnage off the carpet. Meanwhile, she and Benji succeeded in getting thoroughly in the way, gently careening off all available surfaces whilst murmuring helpful platitudes (Molly) and yelping excitedly (Benji).

One of my favourite highlights of the whole situation was her high pitched and fervent repeated insistance that “at least it’s not dirty” whilst blindly ignoring the splotches of guano splattered across everything. Thankfully we got most of it up, but I did have to turn away and giggle into my hand silently and somewhat overwroughtly every time she said it and TMM’s eyebrows got closer and closer to his hairline. I nearly lost it all together when she said, in a tone that brooked absolutely no argument “the bird will be okay though, won’t it? I imagine it will have made it out and flown off” and TMM slipped silently off to flip the aforementioned corpse over the fence before coming back and agreeing that it had probably survived just fine.

After about 15 minutes of damage control, the majority of the room was cleaned and she drew our attention the figurines on the window sill which she believed had been knocked over by the erstwhile birdie. In front of said window is a huge wooden chest on spindly little legs that Benji likes to lie prostrate on like a lion and watch the sheep in the field over. Shuffling towards it like Yoda on a mission, she started tugging on the thing and images of her squashed flat like a pensioner pancake flashed in front of our eyes. Before she managed to get a proper hold, TMM took charge and wrestled it out of her grasp. After much ferreting about and shoving of Benji, who is by this point almost apoplectic at having to have been forced to wait so long, the figurines were retrieved and inspected for damage (minor and fixable you’ll be pleased to know). Finally happy that everything was as good as it could be, TMM went out to the bin to disgard the final bundle of feathers and Molly hustled over to me. She wrapped her arms around what I think she thought was my waist, but was in fact my upper thighs, and headbutted me affectionately in the crotch, burbling happily about how grateful she was. I hugged her back as best I was able and by the time TMM had come back and wrangled Benji onto his lead, she’d decided she was done with her display of emotion and sent us on our way.

Since then, we’ve thankfully had a grand total of 0 bird related incidents, though the front/back door remains firmly open, and she’s forgotten about the possible fate of the poor pigeon. Benji remains as unconcerned about the whole thing as it’s possible for a dog to be and it must be said that, as much as they might be a menace of the highest order, they do sometimes warm my heart.