Birthday Bonanza

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Well that’s it folks, I have officially joined the 27 club. My birthday has come and gone and I am now firmly in the realm of “being responsible” and definitely no longer young enough to accidentally commit a crime but still avoid jail time (which is an irrational but very specific fear I have. My mother has promised that if, god forbid, I should end up embroiled in an accidental life of crime and sent to the Big House, she’ll come bail me out with a file baked in a cake and a Thelma and Louise style getaway – hopefully sans the cliff dive – but I’d rather just try and avoid the whole thing altogether if possible). As I pointed out to a colleague, if I were a rock star I could totally die now and join the hallowed halls of the Forever 27, though thankfully I’m boring as sin and highly unlikely to shuffle off this mortal coil through excessive drug use or car vs. tree related incidents. I’m pretty much planning on seeing this year out in the same style as the old one.

As always though, I’ve had an excellent birthday haul so kudos to all who we’re involved. You’ve all done very well and should give yourselves a nice pat on the back. Admittedly, I may or may have not started opening some presents on the previous Monday, but I did have to go to the dentist and gifts were coming through the letter box with tempting regularity, so I don’t really see how I can be blamed for getting carried away. Also, I’m a grown up now, and can open my presents whenever I please, so there. I would like to thank my dad and his lovely lady friend for their promptly posted and delightful gifts which made me smile after having to go and be super brave with hygiene specialists.

I also had to open some presents early when we went to see TMM’s clan (because I wouldn’t see them on the day and it would have been rude not to show my gratitude) and as per they excelled themselves present-wise (not to rub it in but I am 100% their favourite child, soz not soz). I got not only a yummy tea, but also a fancy box of Ferrero Rocher (TMM successfully demonstrated how he’s been unhealthily influenced by my family by not being able to help quoting “you’rr spoiling us ambassador” every time I offer him one), charming gin related paraphernalia, bath bombs, summer wreath kits, a puppy fuss (the last one now since all the puppies have gone to their new home and not one of those homes was mine, boo hiss) and a snotty kiss off beautiful baby Thea.

My work colleagues also did extremely well, but to be honest I didn’t give them much option as I had very handily provided a laminated and regularly updated daily countdown from around the 163 day mark. Whilst the Friday wasn’t the most enjoyable of days (stupid busy work), the gift giving was top notch and the presents were smashing. Some of you may have already seen Leroy the Llama mug, who is now my designated tea vessel of choice, though he provides much hilarity when he pokes my eye every time I get near to the bottom of my brew. I also got Sydney Sloth the phone holder who has helped with finger cramp, and a selection of others joys including but not limited to; a lovely framed print of a flamingo among pigeons, fancy neon coloured booze (my favourite kind) and some rather gorgeous lilies that proved themselves to be almost fatal to some old dear on the bus home. I also got two books from my boss (who requested a special shout out, so word to her) that give the definitions of lots of weird and wonderful words that have had us in fits of laughter when we probably should have been busier doing what we’re paid for. We have educated ourselves though, and have some excellent new words to add to our vocabularies, such as “Kinabra – the Greek word for the stank of a billy goat” (please note, the italics are a direct quotation) and “Kakopyge – someone who has ugly buttocks” (pg. 136 of The Penguin Dictionary of Curious and Interesting Words by George Stone Saussy the 3rd). Sadly none of us have managed to shoehorn them into a telephone call yet, but we’ll keep trying.

Look at my beautiful things. LOOK AT THEM.

TMM did his level best to spoil me rotten whilst adhering to the proviso he wasn’t to get me much. He not only made me pancakes in bed, he didn’t make me move until about 3 o’clock and then treated me to a new Lush face mask, some Primark jeans, a showing of Deadpool 2 (with Ben and Jerries’ ice-cream!) and a lovely Starbucks lunch. (This in itself was fun because I had hibiscus iced tea which is simultaneously the most hipsterish thing EVER and the tastiest drink I’ve had in a long time. The lovely Barista lady was a complete doll too, and did my a nice little happy birthday message and got my name right (though the more I look the more it looks like Eleanour, but still the first bit is right and that’s what usually throws people). I also got taken to the stage version of Thoroughly Modern Millie which was excellent (if questionably racist in sections) and have consequently spent the last two days fake tap dancing around the house, saying “oh terrif” with unnecessary amounts of enthusiasm and telling TMM how thoroughly modern I am. Admittedly, he’s been doing pretty much the same thing as he is definitely a modern woman, so its worked out well.

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It’s nearly Eleanor, so we’re definitely accepting it as a win.

*Speaking of, if anybody missed our Eurovision dress up last week on my Instagram last week, you really need to go and have a look. TMM went as Conchita (the winner a few years ago, with the amazing eye makeup and perfectly sculpted beard), and I have to say I have never been more proud of my make up abilities. TMM is a pretty hunky looking chap, it can’t be denied, but I literally don’t think I’ve ever seen a more attractive woman. His cheekbones take highlight like a champ and I found myself staring dreamily at his profile whilst the light glinted of them. It was like Xena Warrior Princess with chest hair. I couldn’t even bring myself to be annoyed at how pretty he looked, because I was too busy being deeply in love with his beautifully shadowed eyes and cow-like eyelashes.

Team were as good as they always are and newest edition Yoga Martin BBQ’d like a master (I’m pretty sure the BBQ was planned anyway, but I’m just going to assume it was in honour of my birthday and give him my birthday kudos blessing like the magnanimous delight I am). Turns out I am now all about barbequed fish like you would not believe and having it three times in two weeks is really as good as you could want it to be. There was much hilarity with axe throwing (which I definitely not good at), archery (which I watched from the side-lines shouting out helpful safety tips), air rifle shooting (which I enjoyed but hit absolutely nothing with) and I left with twice the amount I’d birthday cake I’d arrived with, a delightful doodle book/wonderfully pleasing coloured pencils and a date to walk with llamas in June (YASSSSSSS).

In true Indian wedding style (the perks of having a far flung family) the celebrations will continue throughout the week, and I know I’ve still got a My Hermes (family couriers of choice) parcel on its way from dearest Neens. We’ve also planned a trip to visit Mother and the rest of the Welsh Massive at the weekend too, though admittedly Hans the Devil Chariot is still beeping endlessly so we might be slightly frazzled (read – murderous) by the time we get there. It’s definitely worth it though, because I have siblings to squeeze, cousins to cuddle and a game of Cards Against Humanity or two to enjoy.

Now before I sign off, I thought I’d just leave you with some fun facts and notable events from my date of birth (other than the obvious *twirls*) that might help you in a pub quiz one day.

1) 1536 – The Execution of Anne Boleyn (cheery)

2) 1885 – 1st mass production of shoes by Jan Matzeliger in Lynn, Massachusetts (this fact pleases me immensely and I’m not sure why)

3) 1897 – Oscar Wilde released from Reading Gaol (Reading as in the place, not the act, which confused me more than it should have done for a minute)

4) 1928 – 51 frogs enter 1st annual “Frog Jumping Jubilee” in Angel’s Camp, California (I mean, why not)

5) 1939 – Birth of James Fox (phwoar)

6) 1948 – birth of Grace Jones (who terrifies me ever so slightly)

7) 1962 – Marilyn Monroe sings “Happy Birthday, Mr President” to John F Kennedy (My Mother did a great rendition of this down the phone to on my birthday)

8) 2018 – Meghan and Harry get married (you might have seen it mentioned briefly on the news)

9) 2161 – Syzygy: 8 of 9 planets aligned on same side of sun (something to look forward to)

I hope you all get at least one of those stuck in your head for next year in honour of me. TTFN.

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Wedding Bells and Techical Hells

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THE SUN IS SHINING, THE BIRDS ARE SINGING, and I’m rescuing confused wasps left, right and centre. (Unlike nearly everyone else I know, I have a lot of love for a wasp. I feel that they get a lot of bad press for just living their lives and I relate hard to their spikey nature and urge to sting anyone who looks at them funny). Whilst there have been a few near misses with the weather, we have had at least two days of mostly blue skies and warmish sunlight so far this week, and I’m starting to feel mildly hopeful that winter might soon be over. Obviously I’m not getting too excited; no doubt next weekend will herald blizzards and terrible conditions to punish us all for getting too hyped up with the sun we’ve had, but I’m embracing it whilst I can.

Admittedly, my positivity has taken a slight knock these last couple of days though. Once again, Hans von Manshaft has deemed it necessary to give up the ghost. Poor TMM left the house on Wednesday morning to go to work only to discover a glaring alarm light and large puddle of brake fluid on the pavement and very much not in the car where it was supposed to be. Considering I don’t even drive, cars are very much the bane of my life and I am resentful that after all the money and attention we’ve given to Hans, he still thinks it’s appropriate to break every couple of months. I can’t help but feel soon might be the time to heed Mr B’s advice (“should have got a Dacia”) and send Hans off down the river in a flaming Viking boat. Until then, I am once again a complete and total “Bus Wanker” (opposed to usually, when I’m only part time) and poor TMM has had to resort to begging lifts from kindly work colleagues by doing his best puppy dog eyes.

We’re also currently contending with a broken fridge, which was a bit of a kick in the teeth after we had just stocked it full with the weekly shop. TMM has manfully defrosted the whole thing (there’s cool boxes of miscellaneous freezer surprise tuppawears all over the place) and we’re desperately clinging on to the faint hope that it might have just been a blocked fan. To be fair, if it is in the final death throes, it is really not the end of the world. We live in rented accommodation which, whilst not being the best for everything, does mean that broken household appliances actually fall under someone else’s remit. The only problem is that we had to speak to our landlord not so long ago to get the washing machine replaced, and being the nervy little buggers we are, there’s the slight concern he’s going to think we’ve started trashing the place for lols. However, I would rather end up with a new fridge than not, so if it’s not fixed by tonight, I’ll be pulling up my big girl pants and giving him a call.

Though if I’m being honest, it might have to wait until the weekend because the house is currently a pigsty and I can’t have anyone coming round to replace anything when I can’t even remember the last time I vacuumed…

On a much more chipper note, we did have a very lovely weekend attending the wedding of TMM’s younger brother. We are now officially the only unmarried and childless pair of that family group. Coincidentally we are also the oldest, which possibly says a little about our mental ages, so the baton falls to us to start actually (and in all grown up seriousness) planning our own nuptials. Though we sharn’t be planning the children (we’re definitely sticking to cats). Whist I am not the best wedding guest you could ever want (Introverts and Social Anxiety R Us), there’s always something nice about attending the ceremony, and I teared up at least 3 times throughout the day – which is definitely a winning sign. Everybody looked beautiful and TMM’s sister once again excelled herself at the flower displays and buttonholes. (She’s already been volunteered to do ours, thought I’m not sure if she knows it yet). I also felt slightly smug when I got a little thank you in the speech for doing the place settings and somebody whispered “she handwrote all these?!” in amazement.

TMM, I and baby Thea looking our best

TMM and I also excelled ourselves on the dance floor, which I think was a surprise to all involved. Admittedly, I love a good boogie as much as the next person, but I was quite content to sit on the side-lines this time. However, TMM took part in (and lost) a few drinking competitions with his sister. A foolish endeavour as everyone involved soon realised. She is actually a demon when it comes to pints and has never entered a contest she didn’t smash. Consequently he was a lot more easily influenced by the lure of the banging tunes. By 9pm, I had being lassoed and wrangled in and I actually don’t think we stopped dancing until 1.30am. Sensibly though, I has transferred to flat shoes early on in the evening and woke up the following morning with feet as fresh as a daisy.

It did become abundantly clear though that the TMM family share one very specific trait (other than having the worst luck with cars) – trying to keep them in one place for more than 5 minutes is like trying to keep hold of a bag full of eels. They’re basically weasels in people suits; adorable, but as tricky as hell to keep track of. TMM kept dragging me into dance circles before vanishing through doorways and reappearing twenty minutes later on the opposite side of the building deep in conversation with someone. His sister seemed to have some kind of teleportation device and popped up for the beginning of every song only to disappear and leave people bewildered and dancing with the faint outline of where she’d just been. The groom, doing his best groomly duty, managed to be in every conversation group I saw whilst also successfully wrangling various tiny dots who were zooming around the dance floor with all the gay abandon of, well, a kid at a wedding. I shared many bemused and slightly hysterical glances with the respective partners of the TMM clan each time we lost one of them, though Nan Pat did reveal with much glee that she used to do the very same thing to her husband, so at least we know their keeping up family traditions.

Poor TMM was slightly worst for the wear the next morning (he’s not used to such hard-core partying) and spent most of Sunday napping whilst I did a bit of DIY and finally dyed my hair. I’d been keeping the pink until the wedding because I’d, completely incidentally, managed to get it to perfectly compliment my dress for the occasion, but after 3 months with one colour I was starting to push the limits of my comfortableness with commitment. However I am now feeling fresh and funky with my new lagoon/atlantic blue shades. Though I do have to be honest, the general shape of my hair is somewhat less than satisfactory. I’m currently in the horribly awkward stage where it’s not long enough to do anything with, but not short enough to be cute and punky and I’m left looking a little bit like Wendolene from Wallace and Gromit. I’m having to keep firmly reminding myself that I need to stick it out, because if I get it cut I’ll only end up in this situation again in a month or so. Better to push through now and come out of the other side a stronger and more stylish person, rather than shy away from an inevitable event. Hopefully it won’t take long to grow out and soon I’ll be able to model a fashionable and adorable bob in all the colours of the rainbow.

In honour of the happy couple though (and in continuing from last week’s hilarious post), I’ve done a little digging in the Royal Imperial Dream Book to find some topical snippets. (I’ve decided I want to really get my £5 worth from this book, so you might want to strap in for a lot of these little epilogues over the next few weeks). Please excuse the dodgy camera angles – I was in charge of my own photography and you can very much tell.

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Drunkenness. This one kind of makes sense. Everyone makes friends when drunk, and whilst TMM might not have felt so chipper about it the morning after, I think on the night it sounds about right.

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Wedding & Weeping. This one felt suitable for all aspects of my week, and I thought it was handy they were right next to each other. Somewhat unsurprisingly, to dream of nice things such as weddings results in sadness and despair, and to dream of crying is actually a positive omen. Either way, I’ve got a bit of good and a bit of bad to go off.

And so I fall in love just a little bit every day with someone new

Well it’s all been very exciting up this neck of the woods recently. With “The Beast From The East” making it’s way unrestrainedly through the country, there has been snow related chaos nationwide, so much so that I got to go home a whole half an hour early yesterday. I’m not complaining – I love a good snow day as much as the next person, but sometimes it does make you wonder how Great Britain was ever composed and disciplined enough to control an empire when we struggle to sufficiently grit major roads. Admittedly though, I think as a country we’ve been doing much better this time round than we have in previous years. I’ve barely witnessed any winter hysteria and the only person injured so far is TMM (and that was less of a physical concern and more of a personal slight – some young scrote threw a snowball at his testicles). To be honest, the best thing about the whole situation is the highly sarcastic and derisive nature we as a nation approach the snow calamatists with. *

* Sadly, I don’t think “calamatist” is a word, but it definitely should be, so I’m just going to go all Shakespeare on it and see if I can get it into the dictionary. Calamatist – noun – from Calamity – a person drawn to melodrama, overreaction and hyperbole.

It is communally known truth that we are unlikely to get any more than 2 inches of coverage, and that compared to the rest of the world, we get off incredibly lightly, and yet there still appear to be some poor souls who lose all sense or reason and flood to the nearest super market to clear the shelves. It seems not to concern them that most of the things they stock up on are perishable, or unlikely to be of any use in an emergency (I mean, who is stockpiling 0% fat yoghurt for this situation?!). I’ve found that these few idiots bring the rest of us together though, in a beautiful conglomeration of ridicule and mockery, as we all tut, shake our heads despairingly and share passive aggressive social media posts.

Things have seemed a littler perkier though, despite the unnecessary weather front, and I’ve decided to reflect such positivity in my blog this week. Over the last few posts, I feel like I’ve delved more deeply into wistful and morose introspection that I intended, and perhaps now is the time to try something a little more uplifting. Visiting my Mother last weekend has lifted my spirits and I think the Welsh country air has given me a boost. I’ve heard birds a’tweeting and seen daffodils spring into bloom and spent more time thinking about the things I love.

Love has indeed been in the air a lot recently. With all these designated celebrations and my numerous anniversaries (I don’t care what anyone says, I’m keeping them all. Why would I bunch them all into one specific date when I can spread the festivities? Since we’re not supposed to be doing presents, I think it’s perfectly acceptable to keep our first date, engagement and soon to be wedding anniversary separate). We’re apparently not the only lovebirds around the place either; Bucky keeps bringing his boyfriend home. It’s more surprising than not at the moment if we come home to find Mr Biggles (some big ass white cat from over the road who likes to help himself to our heating when we’re not in) not sitting at the top of the stairs, giving us his big eyes from behind the bannister. Considering how unhappy Bucky was when the other cat was with us (there was a lot of shade being thrown about and sad singing from under the bed) he seems rather taken with Biggles. For a while, we weren’t even sure Bucky was aware there was another cat in residence, but after we drooped him in front of Biggles and he did his sexy “let me rub myself all over the carpet in a sultry manner” in front of him, we’ve come to the conclusion they’re dating. They do make a rather pretty pair (I can’t stop myself singing “Ebony and Ivory”) and it bodes well for my dreams of becoming a crazy cat lady.

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Bucky, lying supine on my lap and dreaming fondly of his Biggles.

To this end, and in honour of such affirmative emotion, I’ve been thinking a lot about things I love. Specifically, those unexpected little things that you discover throughout your life and that weave themselves into your subconscious. Odd bits and bobs that somehow always seem linked to a happy memory and fill you with a sense of wellbeing without ever being obvious intruders. Little happiness burrs that latch on and have a delightful habit of making you smile without you realising. I’ve been making notes of mine for a while; just scribbling them down so that when I’m flicking through my notes later, they’ll pop up and remind me of something wonderful. A lot of mine focus around the senses and I’ve been a lot better at identifying them since using the sense technique to help with anxiety.

(It’s a cute little 5-4-3-2-1 coping mechanism for helping yourself to remain grounded. You pick a sense and name 5 things you can identify with it. Once you’ve done that, you pick another and name 4, and so on and so on. It’s easier to start with an obvious one, like 5 things you can see and work onto the harder ones. By the time you’re really focusing on the 1 thing you’re smelling, you’ve become a lot calmer.)

1 x Smell – Honeysuckle

The waft of a honeysuckle plant in someone’s garden always makes me pause for a moment and inhale deeply. It’s like an automatic trigger and it makes me stop whatever I’m doing, regardless of what it is, where I am or who I’m with, just in order to get a good lungful. I don’t even think it links to a specific memory or certain time, it just always makes me feel warmer when I spell it. I think it helps that it’s such a beautiful and evocative word, because we know how I feel about those.

2 x Taste – Hot Tea & First Mouthfuls

This one is a little weird, because it’s not actually the flavours but instead the actions involved. Making a cup of tea and taking a moment to just sit, warm cup in your hands, and take a few sips is possibly one of the most calming things I think anyone can ever do. I’m not sure if it’s a British thing (I still categorically believe you cannot call yourself British is tea isn’t your go-to beverage in times of stress), a family thing (if you’re with my Mother or my Neens and you’ve not got a brew on, something’s dreadfully wrong) or just a me thing, but the ritual involved around tea is one of the key pillars in my life.

First mouthfuls is similar in a way; it’s a tradition that was never specifically imposed but has somehow become crucial to me. If I’m eating with someone, I cannot start eating until everyone has food and is tucking in. It can be a family gathering, a cake with chums or even just eating tea with TMM, but I can’t start alone. There’s just something fundamentally social and authentic about enjoying the first bite together.

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I mean, look how perfect that is. what more can you want?

3 x Sound – Cat Purrs, Spanish Seas & Singing

There is not much better in this world that the sound of a cat purring on your lap. It signifies comfort, ease and the satisfaction of knowing that a cat not only chose you, but was happy enough to settle in for the long haul. Bucky has a purr like a motor engine and when he gets going can actually be so loud you can feel it through your skin. Ptolly-mo (my first cat, currently rooming with Mother) is an accidental purr slag – you can tell that he doesn’t really want you near, but once you stroke his head he can’t help but start purring away. Bobby (my Mother’s other cat) is a bit of a tough cookie to crack, but when he scrunches up his disgustingly beautiful eyes and trills away, I feel like I’ve basically won at life.

Music is an obvious contributor to nearly everyone’s happiness burrs I think, and the right song can flood your system with joy. I’ve currently been stuck on Toto’s “Spanish Sea” which has recently been released and it’s been in my head so much it’s actually been the soundtrack to a few dreams, which is a sign it’s a keeper.

My Mother’s singing is possibly one of the most evocative sparks though. It’s a bit ridiculous now because all she has to do is open her mouth in a choir and I’m crying. I mean, they’re good tears obviously, but it’s getting a bit embarrassing now.

4 x Touch – Soft Cotton, Supportive Arms, Knee Pits & Book Ache

Now I know this one is a family thing and I blame my sister and Mother for this. We spent countless hours in shops stroking smooth cotton items (we even had the “tummy test” where you had to rub it on your belly to see if it was soft enough – how we never got kicked out I will never know), but I find myself constantly running well worn blankets or silky sleeve cuffs across my lips. It sounds unaccountably weird when I write it now, but there’s something so comforting about brushing your lips gently with something smooth. I suggest you all try it and stop looking at me so accusingly…

Another weird one is something I specifically link to TMM, and I’m hoping he won’t judge me too much. He runs about 3000 degrees hotter than anyone I’ve ever met and is such a good soul, he always lets me put my cold feet on him in bed. He also provide truly excellent snugs, but there’s a bit when he pushes his hot knees (I mean, who even has noticeably hot knees?! My Man Muffin, that’s who) up into my knee pits and it’s possibly one of the most relaxing things ever. I don’t think I’ve ever had particularly cold knee pits before, but boy let me tell you, when they’re warm it really makes a difference.

Possibly less weird (though probably not) is actually a specific memory more than a continually achievable feeling. I’ve been remembering this one a lot due to the current climate and my completely irrational terror of falling over. It was whilst I was still living partly at Papa’s in Manchester and was coming home one super slippery snowy day. It was getting dark and I had a treacherous walk ahead of me. I was dithering near the exit to the tram stop, trying to find a way of walking as quickly as possible without slipping or looking like a complete tit, when this lovely gentleman walked past, gave me a searching look and offered me his arm. Now, I am horribly socially awkward and usually would have died at this, but I was just so grateful to have a supportive arm. We didn’t talk much (it was windy as shit) but he half carried, half dragged me all the way down the main road before making sure I was able to carry on across the crossing and home alone. I can’t remember what he looked like or if I ever saw him again, but I often remember his kindness whilst I’m slip sliding my way to work.

The last one is, unsurprisingly, a little odd too, but more in a kind of self-destructive kind of way. It’s the kind thing hard-core readers will relate to and wince at sympathetically. It’s the moment when you realise you’ve been holding your book so long that your fingers have gone numb. The moment when you have to make the harsh choice to stop your chapter, mid sentence, to put your book down and massage some life back into your blood drained hand. The moment the pins and needles you’ve be mind over mattering make themselves known rather dramatically and you regret, fleetingly, picking up the pretty hardback copy instead of the easy kindle version. It’s a pain, but it’s also a badge of honour.

5 x Sight – Bright Sunshine, Snow Wind, Wrist Bones, Cat Beans & Full Bookshelves

Now sight is probably the easiest one, and I had trouble narrowing down to just these five. You realise though, that there are just some things that stick with you, year in and year out and will pop up after an age and surprise you into smiling.

Snow wind is one of these for me. It’s that bit when you’re walking; bundled up to the eyeballs, hands shoved deep into pockets and pink nose buried in scarf, when there’s a gust of wind from behind you and the top layer of snow powder shifts and dances across the floor. It’s fleeting, hardly noticeable and completely magical.

Now I know I’ve already mentioned cats once, but they just make me really happy so suck it. I challenge anyone, when faced with a tiny toe bean on a cat paw doesn’t just scrunch up their face with love. I mean, I think some people (weirdos) prefer baby toes (TMM does get rather broody when faced with tiny baby hands) but there’s not much sweeter than a curled up cat cushion that lets you lie alongside them and play with their toe beans.

I also have a similar kind of fascination with wrist bones (though most people definitely DO NOT let you lie alongside them and touch theirs). I just find the intricate play of skin, muscle and bone so delicate and I’m constantly amazed by the strength that can be held in such a fragile form. I’ve always liked hands and fingers; I love watching people play instruments or knitting, just to see the clever way they can manipulate whatever they’re doing so easily.

Bookshelves is rather shelf explanatory (LOLOLOL, see what I did there?) really. I can’t trust someone who doesn’t have that many bookshelves, or who has one with empty spaces. There’s something decidedly natural about a cluttered book shelf, filled with a mishmash of books in various colours, shapes, sizes and positions. I love when you can tell someone has just picked up a book to flick through it and placed it back haphazardly, or when a trinket has been left behind, slightly obscuring the book behind it. The signs of regular and routine use of a what is basically a stationary object shows a lot about the person who owns it.

The very last thing on my list (and kudos if you’ve made it this far) is sunshine. It’s probably a bit obvious, but that moment when a flash of warm sunlight falls across my face, obscuring my vision and leaving little flashes of gold afterwards is one of my most favourite things. I get unaccountably grumpy at work when someone shuts the blind to protect them from the glare; I would happily squint at my computer screen all day if it meant I could keep the sunny strips of light that lie across my hands. I’ve been known to rearrange entire rooms throughout the day to keep my chair in patches of sunlight, or there was that one time at University I spent three hours scrunched up on the windowsill with the laptop balanced precariously on my knee just so I could get the warm splash of light for as long as possible. I remember waking up when I was little and watching the dust motes dancing around in the streams of light and just knowing that for that moment, everything was alright.

Side note – I am equally as fascinated by, but not quite as desperately drawn to, moonshine. The past few days, or should I say nights (a ha ha) have been beautifully silhouetted by the moon doing its best to shine directly through our bedroom sky light and cast everything in ethereal shadows. Note, we do have a sky light in practically every upstairs room (bathroom included) because our landlord is apparently some kind of backwards vampire who designed this house with the fact he couldn’t sleep without constant light firmly in mind. I’m not complaining because it suits my predilections rather well, but I do wish he’d continued the theme through the whole house rather than deciding windows were a wonderful feature of the modern age for upstairs but were basically unrequired for any downstairs rooms. The living room tragically survives with a tiny postcard of a window at the far end of the room – no sunlight to chase there, I can tell you.

So there we have it. I think I may have possibly gone slightly overboard this week, but I’m taking it as a good thing that the one post I’ve dedicated to purely happy things is almost double the size of those which aren’t. I hope some of my happiness burrs inspire you to think about some of your own and bring a little unexpected smile to your face.

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Just look at this beautiful sunny window. I even remember exactly when and were this was taken because I was to pleased with the perfect size and placement of it. Admittedly, I did go and ruin the whole thing by having a nose bleed so forceful and lengthy that my father actually became concerned enough to text his nurse GF for guidance to ensure I wasn’t dying. Still, it was a great window.

Wedding Bells and Wintery Hells

Considering Autumn doesn’t technically start until the end of September, I am feeling the strong urge to go into hibernation at the moment. It seems as though someone has flicked a switch and the long evenings I was so enjoying have been turned off. Now it’s dark before bedtime and every day is gloomy and grey. I’ve already had to break out some of the emergency blankets and I’m currently trying to pool the funds to buy a new pair of winter boots – the pumps just aren’t going to cut it in this rain. Somewhat petulantly (you may have noticed) I don’t do well in the cold. Very much like how people get “hangry” (hungry -> angry), my mood is affected by the weather; I’m “Cangry”. It’s like hangry only based on temperature.

All that being said, The Man Muffin has taken me out on a lovely walk this weekend which was only partly inspired by the bribe of fruit picking. Whilst I might complain about most things from September onwards, I am a big fan of blackberries and I can happily spend hours fighting of brambles and staining my fingers for a fruit bounty. This time round I managed to fill a tub (which previous held spicy lentils apparently) with some rather juicy blackberries and a few elderberries (bit of variety) and got just enough to make a smashing little crumble for Sunday night. TMM has his handy dandy camera bag too and we spent a good three hours adventuring through the undergrowth and having fights with cleavers (I excel at the “surprise cluster bomb cleaver attack”) before heading home and watching approximately 6 hours of Parks and Recreation whilst sewing, which in my opinion was a day well spent.

Winnie the pooh

Here I am doing my best Winnie the Pooh impression

The highlight of last week though was clearly TMM’s sister’s wedding. It was absolutely stunning and I cried at every possible opportunity (including but not limited to; the bride walking in, the vows, the couple walking out, the speeches and the dances). It did raise some minor concerns on how I’m ever actually going to make it through my own ceremony, but TMM promised he’d still take me ever if I was a snotty mess by the time I make it to the vicar, which is rather swell of him.

TMM was also given the rather daunting task of controlling the music during the ceremony, though it’s alright because he smashed it and even got a little round of applause. He makes me terribly proud sometimes. He was also on Chief Child Herder watch for a majority of the day and regardless of what he says, he’s actually pretty good at kiddie wrangling. Unlike me, he draws them in with his giggle causing abilities and comfortable arms. I mainly panic when faced with anyone under the age of 10, which both children and babies can sense, and then everybody gets a bit fraught and tearful. (Admittedly, I also panic with anyone over the age of 10 but we’re all a bit better at hiding our tears by that age.) That being said, they were all completely adorable, resplendent in their little dresses and tiny bow ties, and TMM definitely earner his “Best Uncle” badge.

The little ones were not the only well dressed party goers though – everyone pulled it out of the bag. I do always love a good dress up (note – not the shopping for the dressing up; that I passionately hate) and I felt rather fancy in my new dress and heels (with matching nail polish as carefully selected by TMM). Sadly I wasn’t able to find the giant Grace Kelly I desperately wanted (it is my dream to wear an obnoxiously large yet classy hat to a wedding) but TMM’s mum wore an excellent hat and carried that fancy headgear baton with pride. The day itself was absolutely beautiful as well, both in content and style. Jen had done most of the decorations herself and they were completely stunning (hopefully she’s kept most of them so we can steal them when it gets to our turn), and the food was fabulous – lots of tasty shredded meats in various shapes and an excellent crème brulee. Considering there was a drama with the venue (the initial venue called Jen on her birthday to reveal the great news that they were shutting down and wouldn’t be able to host the day) the new setting was absolutely gorgeous. We even managed to book a room for the pair of us (the shower was freaking amazing) which mean we could stay late into the night. Poor TMM developed a bit of a stinking headache (a combination of pre-hangover, new glasses and over-excitement) but he made it to midnight and I’m immensely proud of him.

Stupidly, at no point did we actually take a single photo of the pair of us (together or separately) throughout the whole day, so we’re waiting for TMM’s brother (who was photographer) to release the pictures to see if we actually looked presentable or not. Fingers crossed we scrubbed up well.

Baby Wrangler

Baby Wrangler Extraordinaire.

In honour of the day, I thought I’d do a bit of research and tried to find some of the weirdest wedding facts I could (as you do):

  • Seemingly, weddings are a bit of a breeding ground for evil spirits and a huge number of the traditions we know today stem from attempts to protect the bride from nefarious plots. For example, having bridesmaids in matching dresses dates back from the Roman tradition of “matching maids” where the bridesmaids were all required to dress identically to the bride to tray and confuse any demons attempting to curse the couple (no doubt confusing pretty much everyone else in the process). Similarly, carrying the bride over the threshold, wearing a veil and strewing the aisle with confetti and petals all originated as ways of combating any evil spirits with dastardly designs on the day.
  • The Danish took this one step further (like the daring bastards they are) and there is apparently a custom there of cross dressing during wedding – the bride and groom swap outfits. I’m assuming any naughty demon intent on causing havoc takes one look a groom in a meringue and decides things are already strange enough. I also think it makes a pretty great theme overall – if all your guests come dresses as each other, I cam imagine the drunken pictures are rather fabulous.
  • Positioning plays a crucial part in ritual as well – possibly one of my favourite facts is how the bride is always supposed to stand on the left of the groom. This means the groom’s right hand is free throughout the ceremony to fight off any other suitors who might be laying claim without impediment. I can’t help but imagine the scene in Muppet Treasure Island where Kermit is fighting Long John Silver. (I was hoping to find a clip of this, but apparently nobody on Youtube finds it as hilarious as me).
  • The term “best man” has a delightfully improper background as well. Supposedly, this term comes from a time when grooms were encouraged to kidnap their future brides and run off with them. Marauding bands of men would arrange and conduct these abductions and the friend of the groom who has particularly excelled at the snatching would be awarded the status of best man. It all sounds a bit Seven Brides for Seven Brothers to me – which whilst be a great musical is NOT a life lesson to be emulated. However, whilst I am glad this practice is no longer acceptable, I do have to admit to thoroughly enjoying a rousing chorus of “Sobbin’ Women”.
  • A much more romantic customer is to do with the positioning of the rings. It would appear that engagement and wedding rings are worn on the fourth finger of the left hand because it was once though that finger contained the “vena amori” or vein of love; a vein that lead directly to the heart. Awwwwww.

A final bonus point (just for TMM) is that Pachelbel’s “Canon in D” is the most requested piece of music to be played during the ceremony. He’ll be pleased with this because it’s one of his go-to tunes, but if this is what I’m going to be walking down the aisle to he’ll definitely have to stand by his word of marrying me no matter how much of a crying mess I am…

 

 

 

Food for Thought – 5 tasty little tidbits you might not know

Happy Summer folks. We are now officially past the longest day and apparently supposed to be enjoying one of the hottest summers on records….which I’m sure is just around the corner.

Anyway, I’ve decided to take a slight diversion for this week’s blog. We’ve recently spent a lot of time listening to the QI Elves – a group of the researchers for QI who have a weekly podcast entitled “No Such Thing as a Fish” where they present their four favourite (and usually bizarre) facts of the week. So inspired, I have put together a little listicle of my own favourite facts – though they’ve all ended up revolving around food (which says a lot) – to share and educate you all.

I would like to present these with the disclaimer that it’s all pretty much off TV, the internet or radio 4, so take what truthfulness you will. Without further ado – here goes:

1)      These are not the bananas you’re looking for…

I read the first one these facts in a tumblr post about Captain America I think (because I am a giant nerd). In it, there was a discussion thread about how confused Steve Rogers would be by the taste of bananas in the 21st Century *side note – for those not in the know, Steve Rogers is a young American during the second world war who is turned into a super solider and then accidentally frozen only to be awakened in the modern day*. Obviously this confused the heck out of me – what banana based mystery was this? Never one to be daunted by the dark recesses of what the internet holds, I delved in head first to find out what was going on. It turns out that the bananas we know and love today are not the bananas enjoyed by our predecessors during the 20th century – Say whaaaaat?

Originally, the bananas that were commonly cultivated and sold worldwide were a breed classified as a Gros Michal (literally translating as “Fat Michael” or “Big Mike” to his friends) – a squatter, much brighter and stronger tasting variety more similar to its plantain brethren. However due to the Great Banana Plague (or Panama disease) of the 1950’s, the Gros Michal breed was almost completely wiped out and no longer sustainable (oh no!). The continued high demand for bananas was not to be stopped though, and this led to the introduction of a new, more hardy and durable type of banana…the Cavendish! Now, most of the bananas we enjoy today are of this Cavendish variety, and indeed it is the most popular breed world wide. However I am sure you will have either thought (or heard someone say) how most banana flavoured things (think those foam sweets or banana milkshakes) don’t taste very banana-ry. This is because the extract used to flavour them is based of the original Gros Michal rather than the Cavendish; meaning when you’re eating or drinking these products, you’re actually closer to tasting the original bananas that you are if you eat an actual banana! Mind – BLOWN!


2)      Attack of the (Banana) Clones (who knew bananas and Star Wars linked so well?)

So you might actually be surprised to learn (or not, because I do love these facts) this isn’t the only banana fact I have. Those little buggers are chocked full of history.

My second fact goes back to the introduction of the Cavendish banana to the United Kingdom. One of the first shipments ever created were brought over to England actually cultivated in the greenhouses of Chatsworth House. Now, whilst Chatsworth doesn’t seem like a typical birthing point for a global banana industry – nearly every banana eaten in the western hemisphere is directly descended from one of the plants grown there (freaking science man!) 

The reason for this is that commercially cultivated bananas are propagated through “vegetative reproduction” rather than sexual reproduction (you can tell by their lack of seeds) – which means they are sterile and each new banana plant has to be taken as a cutting from a currently existing tree and planted manually. Basically, each of the Cavendish bananas are actually classed as clones and are genetically identical to the original source banana (that is some next level sh*t right there). This has been done to quite a few fruits and veg, but not on quite such a dramatic scale. Whilst this makes cultivating the plants easier, it does hold quite a high level of risk – if a fungus (such as the Panama disease which is slowly encroaching again) infects one plant, the banana have no chance of naturally evolving a defense and will be practically wiped out. BANANA-DRAMA!

3)      Jelly is basically a coma patient

I have never trusted jelly. A bold statement you might think, but I’ve always thought there’s something very unnatural about it. I will give most foods a chance, but texture can be a big no-no for me, and anything that wibbles in my mouth so aggressively is not going to stay there very long.

Well, it turns out that jelly moves in such a fashion it could actually be classed as alive (and so I feel validated in my intense distrust). Experiments have been done in which jelly’s have been hooked up to electroencephalographs (EEG machines) and have responded very much as a healthy human brain would. (I’m not too sure why these experiments have been done, but I like it none-the-less).

It turns out that the jelly picks up and responds to particular signals within the room (such as the vibrations of the machine it’s plugged into, people moving, even telephones ringing) and does so in such a strength that it exhibits alpha rhythms which mimic that of a human brain when a person is awake but has their eyes closed. In fact, based on EEG results alone, jelly qualifies as “alive”. (Cue mad scientists shouting “it’s allliiiivvvvveeeeee!” whilst jelly monsters lurch about awkwardly).

This has actually had quite a serious impact on the validity of EEGs being used as a sole measurement of response. (Huzzah for real life applications of silly science!) It is possible that, like jelly, the brains of certain coma patients might actually just be mirroring outside stimuli even though they are no longer technically classed as responsive. A positive response may not mean a patient is alive, and similarly a negative response does not necessarily mean they are dead.

Or it might just mean prove that jelly is an alien life force sent to freak me the hell out. I think we all know what the real fact is here.

4)      Mushrooms will not play the game

We’ve all been on long road trips or camping and played endless games of “Animal, Vegetable or Mineral”. Well, thanks to this fun fact, you can now annoy the hell out of everyone by picking something which fits into none of those categories! The humble mushroom is indeed humble no longer, but actually strutting out all on it’s own.

Typically labelled as a vegetable, the mushroom actually falls under the “fungi” category (insert awful joke here) which is actually much closer to animals than plants and technically is a separate kingdom altogether.

{Side note, there are actually 5 “kingdoms”; Bacteria (Monera), Eucaryotes (Prostista – a catch all for anything as yet not specified as any of the others), Fungus (Fungi), Plants (Plantae) and Animals (Animalia). Bonus fact ftw}.

Mushrooms do actually grow like plants, but contain no chlorophyll and don’t perform photosynthesis. Instead, they get their energy and nutrients from non-living organic matter – meaning they break down and “eat” dead or decaying organisms (limited to but not excluding, compost, dead animals and even human feet!) – basically like little zombies.

They follow a very similar evolutionary path to animals but grow from spores, rather than seeds, and a single mushroom can drop up to 16 billion in it’s life time.

They’ve also been proven to grow bigger than any plant or animal – often with individual heads growing out from one giant organism that is spread out underground. Indeed, most of the work goes on away from prying eyes; the living body is a web of tiny little filaments that grows under soil and can be as small as a single ant or cover acres (some can even expand up to half a mile a day). It’s from this that the “fruit” (the puffballs or caps that we see) grows from, leaving the main body hidden and unknown.

Mushrooms – actually magic and more than slightly terrifying…

 

#FungusAmongUs

 5)      Let’s Avo cuddle

The last but certainly not the least fact, is that I have discovered that Avocados are scientifically proven to be the most adorable of all the foods. Seen as the Aztec symbol of love and fertility – often seen as so sexually potent virgins were banned from eating them. This belief is though to have sprung from the appearance of the fruit (THEY LOOK LIKE TESTICLES!) and the fact they typically grow in pairs on the tree, like little berry buddies. They are also only able to partially self-pollinate due to the fact the female and male flowers open and close at different times, and most avocado trees require other avocados trees to be close by in order to grow (awww). Basically, they are the panda of the fruit world.

Excitingly, the avocado evolved alongside the Pleistocene Mega fauna (basically GIANT F*CK OFF ANIMALS) such as giant sloths and armadillos in order to facilitate seed dispersal through poops – which is why the seed is so big. However, once the mega fauna died out, it is only due to human intervention that the avocado escaped extinction. Bless their little green hearts. 

The most commonly consumed variety of avocado today; the “Hass” is quite nails though. Each fruit is directly descended from a single mother tree, which was cultivated by a Californian postie named Rudolph Hass. Unaware of what he was actually growing, he soon patented the tree (incidentally the first US patent placed on a tree) which outlived him by 50 years, finally dying of root rot in 2002 (the tree – not the postman). The avocado is now one of the most popular fruits worldwide and loved by health nuts and hipsters alike.

 

And there we have it. Just 5 little snippets of the things my brain finds fascinating. I hope you enjoyed and please let me know if you have any other food facts, because, let’s face it, I will totally be intrigued by them.