Springtime for Ebears (and TMMs)

It’s just going to be a quick blog this week, dear readers, but try not to be disheartened. In my quest for topics over the past few days, I’ve been given/come up with a couple of rather good ideas for future posts, meaning that even though this one might be lacking, you’ve got lots of things to look forward to.

 (I’ve also been UNHEALTHILY OBSESSED with “Feel It Still” by Portugal and find myself typing the lyrics to that automatically when trying to write anything, so you might just get that at some point. #sorrynotsorry).

There does seem to be rather a lot going on at this time of year though, and there is a somewhat frantic air of preparation everywhere I go. Spring, although not quite sprung yet (gosh darnit) is on the horizon and the promise of lighter evening, fluffy lambs and not having to wear 2 pairs of thick sock all the time is a pleasant balm for my soul. I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, someone that could be defined as a “winter” person. I get very angry when cold (like hangry, only temperature related) and can often become enraged if not continually swaddled in numerous blankets. I remember one particular occasion when we went team camping in early May. It was pretty wet and windy for most of the day and we all retreated to bed rather early. After all getting rather hysterical and falling asleep like children, I woke up completely furious and almost spitting with rage when it turned out the air bed had gone down and the cold had seeped in. Despite wearing about 48 layers, being in a sleeping bag the size of a small space craft and surrounded by four other people I was absolutely freezing. It might not surprise you to know we gave up on that holiday rather earlier than anticipated (and perhaps not unexpectedly, one of the lads has never come camping with us again).

I just do not thrive in chilly climes and feel that everything would be better if it were warmer and lighter all the time. Admittedly, I don’t do too much better when hot (I get sweaty and lazy and flump about like a giant clammy caterpillar) – there really is only a small grouping of temperature where I’m truly happy. Still, I’m definitely ready to be too warm rather than too cold now, and could do with everything just hurrying itself along. Snow and frost is all very well and good for about two days. After that it loses its charm and unless I can view it safely from my comfy chair near the radiator, I am firmly “not about it”. 

We’re entering the dying months of winter now though, and with The Almanac guiding us gently through the turbulent ravages of these final moments, things are starting to look up. TMM has hoed the garden beds (somewhat frivolously as he gets bored with weeding rather quickly) and the seed potatoes are sprouting rather terrifyingly on the windowsill. There’s buckets full fruity promise (strawberries, chillies and tomatoes) and at this rate, we shouldn’t need to buy vegetables until autumn.

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“Oh, the barnyard is busy in a regular tizzy,
And the obvious reason is because of the season
Ma Nature’s lyrical, with her yearly miracle
Spring, Spring, Spring”

The bright sunshine and long afternoons still seem rather far away though, and poor TMM seems to have developed the winter death virus that’s going round with ardour. After spending most of last week valiantly trying to hack up a lung and going to bed at about 7pm complaining of weak limbs and aches, it all came to a head at the weekend. Not only did we have a super Lazy Saturday in an attempt to try and help him recover (TMM leaked noxious fluids out of every face orifice and knocked back Covonia like it was going out of fashion, we both napped through the rugby and I didn’t put trousers on all day) Action Sunday was cancelled after a trip to Asda proved to exhaust all of the poor boy’s energy resources. His adorably sulky little face as he sat on the couch, lamenting his inability to take any good photos of nature/breathe without sounding like Darth Vader, only perked up after I made him watch the Lone Ranger (Armie Hammer is a rather stunning chap) and two of the Pirates of the Caribbean films. He’s on the road to recovery now though, cheering his way happily through Bullseye (he’s actually 70) as I type.

It’s for the best really, because I don’t think I make the most supportive nurse. Our attitudes to sickness survival are diametrically opposed which can make sympathy a little difficult to share. I am of the mind-set that when poorly, one should always try to take time off for recovery and douse up to the eyeballs with all the medication available. TMM comes from a much more robust family (his attitude to sickness and pain is oddly reminiscent of the Blank Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail) and tried to muscle on through the phlegm, shivers and dizzy fits. I also am completely useless at caring for myself most of the time, and as such surely can’t be expected to sufficiently look after anyone else. How we didn’t starve is beyond me.

He’s mostly back on full form though this week, which means I don’t feel too bad about leaving him for the annual work’s conference this Friday. I am usually not one for enforced partying/work related fun/anything where people might want to talk to me, but I am actually feeling rather positive about this one. I’ve spent all week tanning and breaking in my new heels (how people where fancy heels on a daily basis astounds me) and only have packing to do now before we go. I haven’t actually settled on an outfit yet (and probably won’t until about 15 minutes before we go down for the meal and my room mate makes an executive decision on my behalf) and I’m still a little touchy about the awkward life choice I made regarding my hair cut (shaved side panels are all well and good when your hair is a little longer and you look a bit edgy. When it’s already short, you (meaning me) end up looking a bit like a horsey faced butch lesbian. Which is fine if that what’s you’re going for. It is not, however, what I was going for). Alas, there isn’t much that can be done at this stage except lots of screwing my eyes up whilst lying in bed and willing my hair to grow faster. Worse things do happen at sea though, and I’ve definitely had far worse looks (shout out to that time my mum cut my hair with a migraine and ended up making me look like a jellyfish). With enough lippy and a shot of tequila I won’t even remember the hair and will inevitably be found on the dance floor grooving embarrassingly to My Humps by Fergie. And if that’s not something for you to tune in and read about next week, I don’t know what is.

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To be honest, I might just go with this look. I think it works for me.

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The Write Can Never Be Wrong

So recently TMM has been rather taken by the idea of winning the weekly National Trust Instagram photo competition (because we are NT members and we do go regularly and we are secretly 70 year olds trapped in 20 something bodies, sue us). His photography is coming on phenomenally, if you ignore his humble and self-deprecating comments, and I think the structure of having something to aim for, such as the weekly theme, pushes him to try and find new ways of capturing sights that might have never occurred before. It’s rather delightful to watch and it warms my cockles no end to see him so passionate. There’s something rather engaging about seeing someone else so invested in a hobby and it makes me want to savour everything he does; to give each photo the attention it deserves. To this end, I’ve been trying to get him to set up his own photography blog to illustrate his progress. Somewhere he can virtually collate and keep all of his photos; group them into specific collections and something he can update regularly and share with others easily. I had lots of exciting ideas and a possibly unwarranted amount of enthusiasm when I discussed this with him at the weekend. I say “discussed” – mainly I rabbited on for half an hour whilst he just looked a little shell shocked and nodded timidly.

Afterwards though, it led me to think a bit introspectively about the whole process of blogging. (Oh joy, I hear you cry, yet another self-absorbed ramble about narcissistic hobbies that nobody cares about. What can I say, I’m a slave to my generational tropes.) The actual act of regularly blogging has forced me to think about writing more than normal and start to dissect what it is that draws me in. Writing in general has always been something I enjoyed; I suppose it goes hand in hand with loving reading as much as I do. I’m always full of relatively interesting ideas and often inspired by other people’s work (it’s not plagiarism, it’s homage, honest). Sometimes there is a turn of phrase or jumble of words that sparks a kind of chemical reaction in my brain and suddenly there’s a cascade of electric pathways darting off in all directions full of potential. I’ve got masses of notebooks absolute brimming with quotes I’ve taken from books, films, songs, adverts, conversations and even graffiti that have, quite literally, spoken to something in me and demanded that I remember them somehow. Every single one of them is a seed waiting to burst into bloom and there’s something both comforting and mildly terrifying to know that there’s a world of literature right there just waiting for me.

Just a few of the snapshots I’ve taken – including a guerrilla attack on the university system carelessly scrawled on the bathroom wall. If that doesn’t inspire a story in you, who knows what will.

Somehow blogging is a little different though. Writing truthfully is always harder I think, however counterintuitive that seems. Considering you have a wealth of things to discuss and extrapolate on, there is a vulnerability about putting something out there about yourself that is evidential. When you write fiction, you can hide behind a fake name, behind an idea, behind something so fantastical it can’t be measured on the normal scale of living. Writing about your every day life stripes away any of that and leaves you writing nakedly, hoping that what constitutes your everything is funny, interesting and worthy enough of others approval.

(I mean, if that last paragraph doesn’t encourage TMM to start a blog of his own, I don’t know what will…)

The process is a different too; working to a self imposed deadline puts a different kind of pressure on. Writing stories for fun is something that can be done whenever and can be left for hours, days, even years before being picked up again easily. Writing blogs means that you have to actually dedicate time specifically to a topic and commit to it, rather than flitting around like a literary hummingbird. I mean, my highly honed and carefully crafted process spends possibly a tad to much time focusing on the unnecessary and self inflicted faffing, but I’m definitely getting better at devoting myself.

My handy 15 step program to successfully blogging:
1. Day 1, Lunch Time – Hmm, what I shall I blog about this week? With a world so full of interesting, engaging and occasionally enraging topics, it really is a veritable fest of oysters for picking.
2. Day 2, 3pm – I could chose this subject or that one. Gosh, so many choices!
3. Day 2, Bed Time – Well maybe not that particular topic.
4. Day 3, Mid Morning – That one does seem a bit tricky/controversial/difficult to expand on
5. Day 3, Evening – I don’t really have any ideas for that certain subject, and the pictures would be a pig to try and get.
6. Day 4, Appox. 10am – Why is everything getting dark suddenly…
7. Day 4, Tea Time – Oh god what on earth can I blog on? Why is there a sudden dearth of approachable subject matter?
8. Day 5, Midday – Shitshitshitshit
9. Day 5, Bed Time – YOU NEED TO GET UP AND BLOG RIGHT NOW. PICK SOMETHING
10. D-Day – *screeching dinosaur noises and panicked scribbling*
11. D-Day, 6pm – That’s it, I’m done. I can’t take this. *posts*
12. D-Day, 7pm-9pm – Oh look, people are actually liking it. This is such a healthy and rewarding hobby.
13. Day 7 – *basks in smugness*
14. Day 7, Cont. – *relaxes*
15. Day 1, Lunch Time – Hmm, what shall I blog about this week….

As you can see, Step 10 (the only really important bit) is over with rather quickly. In all seriousness, once you strip away all of the unrequired and unnecessary, the act of blogging itself is surprisingly easy. Whilst the actual content of what you’re writing about can be frivolous or hard hitting, and the emotion and thought behind it trivial or full of importance, the writing itself doesn’t change. The words are the same, the sentences fit to certain guidelines and the muscle memory in your fingers doesn’t stumble.

More often that not, if I make time and sit myself down with some background music and a purpose, I can overcome any potential writer’s block and produce a reasonable amount of text with minimal crying (always a bonus). It’s not necessarily anything worthwhile, but it’s there. Sometimes, if I time it right, I can start writing and within half an hour or so, the whole of whatever I’m trying to write comes tumbling out. I get kind of overtaken by what I’ve poetically christened “The Literary Urge” and the writing just does itself, dragging me along with it. It used to happen quite regularly on car journeys home when it was dark and sleepy. I could just hunker down, open up the notes on my phone (or #oldfogey an actual notebook) and just write whatever came into my head, usually fully formed and just waiting for somewhere to be written. Mostly now though, I get blindsided when I least suspect it. I had an unprovoked attack last week and had to spend a flustered 25 minutes making desperate notes in the hope I could save it. Thankfully I managed to put it on ice until I got home where I then proceeded to ensconce myself in the arm chair with the blanket and laptop and refused to let TMM speak to me whilst I got it all out. This was despite his best efforts to distract me with documentaries on people living in Alaska which appear to have taken over our lives recently.

Simply put, I enjoy writing. Considering how much I chatter on, I enjoy it far more that I do talking. Talking doesn’t allow for any of the forethought or control. Talking is like an hysterical rolling tumble down a hill whereas writing is a leisurely and controlled stroll. Talking is an unfiltered look into my childish brain and a desperate way to fill awkward silences, whereas writing is a chance to make those same thoughts sound intelligent and interesting. You have time to actually think about what you want to say. You can reread, reword and rephrase things, you can spend time thinking of the perfect word for a particular point, you can work out exactly where you want your argument/story/discussion to go and how to make accessible. You can savour coming up with the perfect line and spend time rereading a sentence which just sparkles. There’s always a memory of it, tucked somewhere on a scrap of paper or an old word document, reminding you of that time, that feeling, that thought that so desperately needed to documented. It’s a selfish way of sharing and it’s something I will never stop enjoying.

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Long Live the Written Word

 

Welcome to 2018 – In with the old, in with the new and in with all the bits in between

What Ho Readers!

How are we all after the festive season? Stuffed full of good food and good cheer? Overjoyed at the gift haul? Back in work with pained grimace and gloomy face? I woke up this morning to a rather dramatic nose bleed (I think it was my brain rebelling at the pressure of having to be a real person again rather than a Christmas blob) and spent a good ten minutes wailing quietly into my pillow.

To be honest though, work itself hasn’t been that bad (not great, but it could have been worse I suppose), but having to wake up and leave my duvet nest before 10am has been absolutely hellish. It’s been absolutely and most unnecessarily pitch blank both in the morning and when I’ve left work and I am just Not About It. By the time I’ve actually built up any energy, it’s about 11am and when 5.30pm rolls around, I’ve lost it all again. Home time mainly results in me getting in, immediately changing into pyjamas and then sulkily doing a jigsaw until bed time. Any hope of doing anything vaguely constructive or helpful has been swiftly denied and if I’m honest you’re lucky your getting a blog post this week. (Gosh, what a little ray of sunshine I am). Anyway, to this end I have made the  business savvy and hopefully conducive decision to move my regular blog day to Thursday. This will hopefully give me more time to actually write and prepare each update and will give you all something to look forward to before the weekend. Bear with me though, and we’ll see how it goes…

In other and far less depressingly morose news, I am glad to let you all know that Christmas was a roaring success, even with a couple hiccups during the build up. The best (or possibly worst) issue we had was when, during the Great Wrap of 2017, gravy was accidentally spilt onto a beautiful hardback copy of a book we’d bought for my sister’s partner. After much hysteria, gravy dabbing and a narrowly avoided hissy fit (not me for once), we ordered a replacement. This would have been the end of it, but after a few days the new book turned up with a big sticky black mark on the front of it. Obviously I was not okay with this (cue my narrowly avoided hissy fit) and I wrote a sternly worded complaint email (inclusive of pictures because I am nothing if not thorough). There was a bit of back and forth – I didn’t get the vouchers I was angling for, and we finally agreed a new (un-besmirched) copy would be sent directly to the gift receiver. Imagine then my surprise when a day before Christmas a third copy unexpectedly turned up on my doorstep. Poor Jo from Blackwells Customer Service Department was as confused as I was and who knows if yet a forth copy is winding it’s way through the postal system even now. Still, we managed to get the clean copy to wear it needed to be on time and we do now have two spare/slightly sullied copies of the book for our own personal use. If anybody fancies a copy – do let me know.

Apart from that fun little interlude (and the one evening I spent in floods of tears, covered in cello tape and had to be sent to clean the bathroom in disgrace), everything went swimmingly and TMM and I ended up with an almost repulsive amount of presents. TMM even managed to keep nearly all of my presents a surprise (something he has previously been incapable of doing) and went far beyond the self imposed limit we’d given each other. Still, I’ll let him off because he also prepared a truly scrumptious Christmas dinner and has generally been rather fabulous for the whole period. (Admittedly, he was in bad books on Monday night after he burst in on me in the shower and sprayed a bottle of Cava everywhere like a nutter – I nearly died trying to get away without slipping all over the place, but I grudgingly forgave him before bedtime).

 Here’s just a little sample of our presents…Prepare for mention of the others in upcoming instalments

My Mother came up and spent a few days with us too over the holidays and was generally the best house guest we could have asked for. She came with us to visit TMM’s family on Christmas Eve (where she once again proved herself to be the best of all Baby Whisperers), took me on a road trip to see my dad/sister and respective partners, helped me clean the kitchen on the day after Boxing Day. She also spent a good twenty minutes helping me try and catch a vole that Bucky had thoughtfully brought in for us (cleverly named Malvoleio) which was fun for all. She was, in fact, so well behaved that we have deigned to grace her with our presence at her house next week as a reward. Hopefully a week without us will have given her time to recover and she’ll be willing to welcome us with open arms when we rock up at the weekend…

We also kept up the excellent tradition that we started last year of playing Cards Against Humanity with the family. There will still never be a greater pleasure in my life than seeing my Neens say “cheeky bum sex”. We involved my mother this time as well, which went much better than expected. She took to it like a duck to water and I don’t know whether this makes me proud or concerned. Either way, she’s started using it as a weapon against me; there was one particular card that caused much hysteria in the under 30’s but left everyone else looking at each other blankly, and she now likes to whisper it at inopportune moments, safe in the knowledge that she doesn’t know what it means but that it will inevitably cause me to spit out whatever I’m currently drinking. It definitely helped us clear out chests though and I don’t think I was the only one who woke up with rib ache from laughing too hard.

Pepe

Pepe the Cat sits disapprovingly in the pile of burnt cards. This was before he went and sat in the oven, which is a great new pastime of his.

Family once again went above and beyond on the present front and I am now the proud owner of a projector, a raccoon picture (the cutest of all things), a Slytherin sports bra, a microscopic camera (literally all of the close up pictures), a super snuggly blanket and a literal shit ton of other things (too numerous to list but all AMAZING). Two of the best presents we got were books (surprise surprise), including Dawn French’s DIY diary (which I have started with great enthusiasm) and The Almanac by Lia Leendertz; a gorgeous compendium of facts, ideas and seasonal suggestions for the coming year. This month we’re on the lookout for Redwings and TMM is going to get some seed potatoes to plant. It also suggested buying some blood oranges and making marmalade which we bastardised into making orange vodka (sue us) so we’re already feeling quite chipper about our progress.

However, do not take this as a sign that we have gone in for this “New Year, New Me” crap. Remember what we spoke about this time last year, class? January is not the time to be starting this resolation-ary bullsh*t. It’s dark, cold, depressing and I would much rather spend my time wallowing in my left over Christmas chocolate. Any resolutions I do choose to make will come into fruition some time around May when it’s sunnier and I’m able to take criticism and self judgement a little better. Still, I’m will not be too much of a Debbie Downer on any you who are foolhardy enough to start the New Year with serious life changes. If you are ready to start dieting after the Christmas Binge, have dreams of brand new shiny gym memberships or just fancy trying something a bit different, I wish you all the luck in the world from my sulky winter nest.

What IS it about those Crotchety Old Men?!

Happy Nearly Christmas my festive little Sprouts!

Once again I have to apologise (surprise surprise) for being a week behind on blogging (though it was touch and go whether or not I’d get this one posted). Fighting against Christmas colds, hangovers, present prep and the most ridiculous period of busyness at work (WTF? It’s Christmas? Go away!) has left me with very little time to call my own and even less to call blogging specific. Which is just rude really. Still, I am returned for now and will give you one last chapter before the festive season truly kicks in.

I did struggle a lot to think about what to blog this week. I think being so busy with everything else has just turned my brain to mush, rather than giving me inspiration on what to write about.  It’s been complete madness, but I hasten to add; an acceptable kind of madness. The kind that leaves you constantly achieving and with slight levels of hysteria, rather than the type that overwhelms you and makes you sit and stare at a wall for hours on end terrified of how much there is to do and how much you can’t do it.

Admittedly, I shouldn’t really make it sound so bad when it’s poor TMM who’s been in charge of the wrapping extravaganza that’s currently in progress in our living room. We now have practically every present (there are still one or two either in transit or waiting to be put together) and they are scattered in loose family piles all over the floor. I have mainly ensconced myself safely on the couch with a gold pen and the festive labels and left TMM to fight with the temperamental tape dispenser and countless rolls of seemingly sentient paper. He’s done very well over all (there’s only been one minor injury and two small huffs) but there’s still about 20% to go so who knows how the rest of this week could go down.

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The worrying thing is, this is 3 days in and it actually looks much better than it did…

You’ve got to find coping mechanisms from the Christmas Chaos how you can though, and I’ve mainly found respite by going on a reading bender these last couple of weeks. TMM set me onto Jo Nesbo, a Scandinavian crime/thriller writer who he’s been trying to convince me to read for a while (he’s regretting that now I can tell you). Very much in my typical fashion, I started reading with the intention of just finishing one book and seeing how I felt but ended up desperately bingeing the entire series and am now 9 books in and devastatingly obsessed.  Typically I shy away from particularly graphic scandi noir crime thrillers so I’m actually quite surprised how obsessed I’ve become with these. I nearly had palpitations watching Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and we’ve had to limit my viewing of The Tunnel to one episode every few days because I get so panicked about the high levels of peril. These books (based on the Harry Hole series – those of you who’ve been paying attention will have seen the recent film “The Snowman” with Michael Fassbender which is based on a book in the middle of the series) are really no different and have started to get particularly violent – The Leopard (the next one to the Snowman) is particularly gruesome and there’s interviews I’ve read with the author in which he’s stated that even he thinks he might have gone slightly too far. Still, I’ve found them so addictive I’ve been unable to stop. Poor TMM has had to put up with my ranting and mild stresses throughout the last few weeks and has done so graciously, even when I made him buy a second copy of one book so we could read them at the same time, overtook him on the series and spoilered him for character deaths.

This, in fact, is one particular bugbear I have with Mr Nesbo. Like JK Rowling and the writers of Spooks, he belongs to that school of writer who aims for “realism” in his books and thinks you can achieve this by killing of main characters. I would like to set the record straight once and for all – this is not on. Mainly, I choose to read because I am looking for a distraction from real life. I want something that takes me away from my own world and submerges me in another, full of adventure and excitement that I want but am too lazy and awkward to actually aim for. What I do not want is sadness and death of characters that I have become attached to. I especially do not want it to happen MORE THAN THREE TIMES! Seriously, it’s a good job Nesbo isn’t on Twitter otherwise he would have had as a severe and unapologetic diatribe as I could have sufficiently written in 218 characters. I’m not reading for the heartache of reality. I’m reading to escape all that, and if you could stop killing off all my favourite characters in cruel and unusual ways, I’d very much appreciate it!

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Just a little light reading

The main attraction for me though, as I once again am slightly embarrassed to admit, is my love of crotchety old men. I don’t know what is about them but every single time they become one of my favourite characters. Harry Hole is, admittedly, a little young for my typical type (at the fair age of only 48) but his sarcastic outlook, inability to not do the right thing (much to his chagrin) and heavy mental and physical scarring pretty much fit the bill. It’s like my inexplicable but uncontrollable love for Lewis (TV show) all over again. Give me an aged, wrinkly, bitter old copper over a youthful heroic type any day of the week. I’d rather Samuel Vimes than Batman, Robbie Lewis over Peter Parker and pretty much any of the old cast members from any of the Star Treks (in real life or as their characters) than the sexy new young’uns. It’s definitely starting to become a bit of a problem though, and it was only compounded last night when we went to see the new Star Wars (which was excellent) and I spent the whole time being shamelessly in love with grumpy old Luke Skywalker. I mean, Oscar Isaacs is beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but why would I fancy his reckless and flippant Poe Dameron when Luke is in the background growling about everything and letting his beard flow magnificently in the wind? It’s not that my fascination is gender specific either. There are some truly excellent female characters in this new addition to the franchise and whilst I love them all, how can I focus on them when you’ve got Leia stomping around slapping people all over the place like a cantankerous little ewok? Those Skywalker siblings are the definition of “great hair, don’t care” and I would happily watch a 3 hour film of them just doing their thing, minus all the dramatic and political plot arcs.

It’s not like it’s a general fancy either. I may be odd but I am particularly in my strangeness. It can’t be just any type of cranky crinkle and just nasty old meanies are no good – I want good intentioned but world weary grouches; grizzled with just a hint of sarcastic charm and preferably a bonus young sidekick they can continually gripe at. I’ve tried to reason it away and diagnose it but there’s just no hope. It might be peculiar but it’s just how I am and if nothing else it surely bodes well for TMM. I mean, if I love him now in the flush of youth, I am going to just adore him when he’s 70.

Less of a Do-er, More of a Don’t-er

Well hello there dearest readers.

I must apologies for being lax in posting recently, but as usual I went on holiday and promptly shirked all responsibilities like a big old butterfly bursting free from a cocoon. However, I am now back and will be updating as per the schedule, though I can’t say I am too happy about being back in the real world. I mostly spent Monday trying desperately to stop my head thumping on my desk and letting tiny screeches of devastation escape. I basically sounded like a deflating balloon and definitely didn’t look much better. I should have realised that the morning wasn’t really getting off to an auspicious start when The Man Muffin discovered a mutilated and bloody rib cage/spleen combo on the cream carpet of the bedroom at about 6.30am. We’re rapidly coming to the conclusion that Buckycat believes that when we go away for days at a time, it’s because we’re having to scavenge for food. In attempt to help us, he brings in various rodents in numerous stages of death/decay so that we may snack on them and he doesn’t have to worry about us abandoning him again. The gesture, whilst heart-warming in it’s conception, is getting a bit tiring in it’s physicality. Spending the Monday morning I am due back into work sat on the floor in my pants scrubbing at sizable blood splatter whilst raging at the fact my holiday is over is not really what I’m looking for in life.

In fact, I am rapidly come to the realisation that I am just not meant to be a worker. I just feel like nothing prepared me for this. School and University do not do justice to the amount of time you have to spend in an office when you’re a grown up and childhood does nothing to get you ready for the real world. For example, when you’re younger your parents encourage you to try things you don’t like in an attempt to see if they can wean you on to it – like cucumber. They give you a little bit with tea one night, prompt you to taste it and then promise if you don’t like it you don’t have to try it again for a while. Then a few weeks later they give it another go and this continues sporadically for about a year until it becomes apparent that either you have learned to love the cucumber or that is a relationship that will never flourish and should just be given up on.

Well I’ve tried work for 7 years now and I can categorically and without a shadow a doubt state that I do not like it. At all. Not even a smidge. I resent the early mornings and the having to talk to people all day and being forced to do things that are not craft or cake eating (and therefore unworthy of my time) for a majority of my day. My week off proved to me that I was so much better at life when work didn’t get in the way. I also realised that, surprisingly, I actually saved money whilst being on holiday. Admittedly, part of that is due to the fact TMM drives us everywhere and sorted most things, but I was still quite surprised. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been when practically the first thing I did when I got to work was go on Amazon and buy myself two books as a reward for actually making it to the office. To that end, I really do think it is time that I am allowed to give up. #firstworldproblems

To look back fondly on happier times (you know, that one week where I WASN’T at work) with one of those misty 1940’s screens, I’m already getting a bit emosh that they are over. We spent mornings having leisurely breakfasts in sunny gardens, visiting beaches (called Mwnt – pronounced Munt and making us Beach Munters, trolololol) and National Trust castles, as well as achieving childhood dreams (mine, not Ross’ even though it was technically his birthday holiday).

 This is St. Catherine’s – or Azkaban as I affectionately call it. After seeing it from the bay for years during every holiday to Tenby and never actually being able to get in it, Mother and I had to fight back tears of hysteria and joy when we realised it was now accessible. Starting off as a Napoleon era fortress, it’s transitioned through two world wars as well as being a family home during the 30s and a Zoo in the 70s. They’re hoping to be able to get more funding for it and do more with in the future, which is obviously a perk for us.

We also spent time visiting families (so happy), seeing kittens (SO CUTE), having a sneaky visit to Hay on Wye (so joyous) and collecting presents for TMM wherever we went. Admittedly, I lost major Fiancée points by only realising half way to Wales that I had forgotten my presents for him. This was then compounded when we got home and it became clear I hadn’t actually finished or wrapped them either. Still, after having to banish him to the kitchen for twenty minutes and furiously sorting everything out, I like to think he was happy with the outcome. Though if not, he’s left it a bit late to complain now… In true birthday fashion though, TMM has also treated himself (as should be done) and purchased a brand new super shiny camera (to go along with him super snazzy camera satchel and 400 other camera bits). We have watched all the Master of Photography, bought all of the magazines and I’ve already been told to pose dangerously on rotten logs so he can get his photo jam on. I have to say though, it’s nice to see him so invested in something, and he is a bit of a cutie with all his gear so I’m definitely not complaining.

And here we see a Man Muffin, in his natural habitat. See how he settles himself to take the perfect photo, oblivious to any threat of danger in his quest to take the perfect picture.

I’ve also spent this last week encouraging my book club (I say club, there’s literally just the three of us in a whatsapp group) to read Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch and believe they are now sufficiently hooked enough to read all 6 books (+ 3 graphic novels and 1 free audio book) so that we can gush about them together. Because gush we bloody well will. I thought I was doing very well with this series too; remaining sensibly detached and un-obsessed with it. Guess what? It didn’t last. I think I lulled myself into a false sense of security but the moment I got to the last book I knew it had all been a lie and I am now OB-FREAKIN-SESSED with them. Seriously, I’m trying to reason with myself that it’s not really sensible to just start the whole series again from the beginning, but I’m not sure if I’ll win that fight. I do have to say though, I can’t recommend them enough. One of the main reviews that’s pasted all over the front covers describes the series as “What would happen if Harry Potter grew up and joined the fuzz”. Now whilst this might be a good tag line to draw readers in, I think that barely scratches the surface of what makes these books so darn good. Our hero, Peter Grant, is drawn into a world of magic that (whilst not being out there for everyone to know about) is still pretty established and acts in such a way that makes you think “yep, that’s pretty much what I’d do”. His voice is written in a way that is so accessible and relatable (which has got to be a pretty nifty achievement since the lead character is a 30ish, mixed race male copper, and I am a slightly younger, white female wimp) and treats the subject matter (mostly magic and murder) in exactly the way I want it to be dealt with. His confusion and education aren’t glossed over in a cheesy montage in favour of action-based DRAMA, but instead dealt with in a surprisingly realistic (yet still enjoyable) way. They even  go to some geeky corners of studying the science behind the magic in a way that pleases my inner nerd immensely. It’s not just Peter though; each of the characters are fleshed out and dealt with in a way that proves they aren’t infallible, but just doing what they can. They make decisions that I think I would find myself making in similar situations and regardless of their magic or non-magical status, they are incredibly human in how the deal with things. I mean, it probably also doesn’t hurt that one of the character DCI Thomas Nightingale is a stone cold fox and appeals to me in the kind of way old men coppers always seem to (Hey Lewis).

The thing is thought, Aaronovitch has perfectly managed to make sure that he never once falls into cliché or trope. Every single time a situation seems to be going a certain way, he doesn’t just avoid it, he bloody well blows your expectations out of the water and goes somewhere else entirely. He easily spans various genres, incorporating urban fantasy, magical realism, crime, thriller and comedy in such a seamless way I would really struggle to know where to place in on the library shelf. Considering he manages to do this consistently through each book that I’ve read (plus the graphic novels), I really can’t see myself getting out of this rut anytime soon…Back to the bookshelf!

Rivers

 I mean, come on. Just look at them for Pete’s sake! How these have not been picked up for a TV show yet I will never know.

 

 

 

Easy Like Sunday Morning…

Happy July the 4th dear readers! Thankfully this Independence Day has gone without the need for Will Smith to punch any aliens in the face (though there is still time) so I’d class it as a success. I’ve been lured in by Aldi’s Americana/Happy Canada Day range and bought more maple syrup and mac&cheese than is strictly healthy, and I’m hoping my little American pals are enjoying fireworks, fluffy pancakes and cheap watery beer with a patriotic fervour this evening.

Not to be outdone, TMM and I have allowed positive motivation to flow through us and have royally kicked some butt this weekend. Admittedly, I think the credit should mostly lie with Ross, but I was happily along for the ride. TMM has set down a new “weekend routine for us” which aims to cater to both TMM’s uncontrollable urge to be doing things all the time and get up at god awful times in the morning as well as my desperate laziness. According to the new system, we are to have Action!Saturdays and Lazy!Sundays, which really do exactly what they say on the tin and hopefully mean we get the best of both worlds.

For our very first Action!Saturday, we went in with all guns blazing. Admittedly, the early get up was a slight struggle for me – TMM had to do his best puppy impression and kidnap the duvet before trying to wrangle me into a suitable outfit – but once I was out of bed we really went for it. After a quick nip to the shop for breakfast pancakes, we did a tour of some of the TMM clan; dropping off some money and a singular shoe at the parents (both related to the new catapult business TMM Senior has started rather excellently), and visiting his sister, her fella, their baby and the doggo. After suitable family bonding, we went on to Chirk Castle (YAY for the National Trust Membership) which was rather splendid and in full bloom.

As you can see, the gardens were looking pretty spectacular – and obviously we had to try all the period costumes (once the children had gone). We have now both decided that chainmail is a must for our summer wardrobe.  

After Chirk, we went to visit Molly (who is carrying on with a strength that only old ladies and mature cheeses possess) before returning home to have a chippie, bleach my hair and finally getting the bedroom gallery wall hung.

feature wall

There’s still a big gap in the middle – waiting for the perfect piece of tropical wallpaper, but at least everything else is up now, and I’m quite proud of those homemade hanging frames.

Lazy!Sunday started a little more my kind of speed – TMM went for boyish adventures around Rudyard Lake with his camera whilst I stayed in bed until midday and finished The Prince and the Zombie, Lumberjanes and two episodes of Due South. Which, whilst is not necessarily “active” is still very much “action”.

{Side bar! (to be shouted in the same way Gru shouts FREEZE RAY in the first Despicable Me) Both of those books are excellent.

  • The Prince and The Zombie – a fable interlacing Tibetian and Buddihist teachings. Not quite the eye-opening, world shattering magical book I thought it would be, but enjoyable none-the-less. I do have to say I was very much rooting for the zombie (which I think may have defeated the point) with his golden top half, silver bottom half and mane of turquoise. Boy could he spin a good yarn.
  • Lumberjanes (Volume 1). This one was literally as great as I hoped. Girl Scouts kicking butt, taking names and being SUPER SUPPORTIVE all the way through. I desperately want to go to a camp for Hardcore Lady Types and am going to be working towards my badges ASAP.

books

Look at those front covers? How could they be anything but excellent?

The rest of the day was lazily spent dying my hair and slobbing on the couch eating chocolate pillows, so a win all round I’d say. 

Blue to Blonde to Steel Amethyst (which is clearly my new My Little Pony name)

Bucky has also been doing his best to prove how action he is, bless his little furry bum. Last weekend he vanished for 3 days (cue much wailing and wallowing and resurgence of abandonment issues all over the place) but eventually turned up – swanning in and singing Catmaninov at the top of his tiny cat lungs. Anyway, owing to his desperation for fusses (be it by sitting on your back, watching you intently whilst you wee or just singing the songs of his people loudly whenever you move from his sightline) and his skinny little belly, we think he might have been stuck somewhere, rather than actively avoiding us. Either way, I think he felt our loss as deeply as his own and has since tried to buy his way back into the good books by bringing home and depositing two dead birds and a decapitated (and de-eared) rabbit in various positions around the house. Which, whilst the thought is appreciated, is something I could really do without. (I have forgone putting the pictures on here so as not to affect those of a gentle disposition).

We also spent a good half an hour last night trapped in the bedroom with a very scared and very much alive mouse, who’d obviously been brought in and then abandoned earlier in the day. Eventually we managed to capture it using a cereal bowl, the toilet brush holder and a piece of card before TMM unceremoniously flung it out of the front door.

Overall I have to say we haven’t done too badly. The sun still shines, the birds still sing and we’re getting one step closer to the ideal of travelling the world in a renovated van like little hipster hobos. One action based step at a time.

Book Review – The First of Many…

You know you’re in for a good couple of days when it’s not even Wednesday and you’re already 236% done with the week, don’t you?

The last few days have gone by in rather a blur; work being as horribly worky as it possibly can be, and the weekend being spent stripping the dressing room (say hello to another two boxes for charity and one more bin bag) and being unaccountably grumpy. There was a rather spectacular highlight in the viewing of the new Wonder Woman, which was far better than I hoped for and has meant that my crush on Gal Gadot has escalated to disturbing heights. I even got a bit emotional watching the Amazonian fight scenes at the beginning and spent the half an hour after the film finished trying to convince TMM that I had to take some martial arts classes immediately otherwise I would die (thankfully, I think that urge has slightly fallen by the wayside in favour of slobbing on the couch and eating my own body weight in birthday chocolate, but I can still dream).

 I mean, just look at her for Pete’s sake!

There was a slight concern I wouldn’t even manage to get a blog done this week (SHOCK HORROR), but TMM has been most persuasive and due to the fact he actually went out and bought props to use for my first book review, I couldn’t really let him down. To that end, I have done a review of Number 1 on my “Books to Read” list – “Nigel – My Family and Other Dogs” by Monty Don. It is my first review, so please be gentle with me!

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This Sunday I finished Nigel, slouching on the couch wrapped in a blanket with drooping eyelids. I realised quite early on that it’s a book that requires no urgency or effort and consequently it’s seen me through a stressful week at work, one half hour lunch break of soothing garden chatter at a time. 

As previously mentioned, I am not a huge reader of biographies, though I can be persuaded now and then if they’re told through the mask of a storyteller and liberally sprinkled with hilarious anecdotes (see works by David Niven and Gerald Durrell, which can surely only be classed as semi-biographical by the most lenient of reviewers). 

Whilst Monty Don writes in a way that is perhaps not as raffish or charming as those mentioned above, there is a strong, self assured voice that appeals non-the less. It is almost impossible to read it without hearing him speaking directly to you, and I definitely believe it would benefit massively from having an audio book version. There is still definitely a slight tongue in cheek tone to some of the things he writes though that can’t help but bring a smile to your face, and there is the line “my mother thought, with some reason, that I was immature, feckless and impoverished” which is basically everything I’m looking for in a person.

Nigel, (the star of the show) is spoken about regularly with a kind of cheerful exasperation; he is clearly the hero of the piece and very much his own dog. A terribly handsome Golden Retriever, he is quite confidently aware of his own worth and the relationship between Monty and him is more of a symbiotic bond rather than an owner and pet. Their breakfast routine, beautifully detailed, puts me in mind of a kind of Holmes and Watson scene – set against a quintessentially British backdrop. He does not anthropomorphise Nigel and treat him like a child as pet owners are often want to do, but rather allows the dog’s own character to shine through. He is easy living and embraces  all elements of the gardens he lives in and the TV crew that inhabit them during filming times; more than willing to be centre stage or re-film shots time and time again in true film star style. He manages, without seeming cliché, to embody some rather poignant life lessons that are described quite simply; dogs do not look back or forward, but live purely in the moment. If there is a ball to be chased, a fresh pea pod to be crunched or a puddle to be splashed in, he is as content as can be. Whilst he by no means the only dog that has been welcomed by the Don family, but he is definitely the man of the moment.

The rest of the content focuses on certain key events in the author’s life, as seen through the lens of the dogs that occupied those periods and the gardens they lived in. Somewhat atypically, the narrative doesn’t follow a chronological timeline, but instead weaves in and out; dropping onto certain episodes centred around a particular four legged friend. It does leave you feeling as though you’re flicking through a beloved and slightly worn photo album; stopping to look at random dog-eared snapshots with worn away scribbles on the back. There is a completeness to each story arc through, and though it may not be in the same chapter, you learn about the introduction and subsequent departure of every beloved pet. Monty Don has a very fixed view on not only how one should build a relationship with a dog, but also the huge affect it has on it’s owner’s life, and this includes the unhappy way in which they leave. The last few chapters of the book focus on the deaths of some the dogs, and whilst they are quite heart rending, there’s also an almost holistically and robustly healthy attitude to the way they are described. Very much as each section of his garden has a life cycle that blossoms and withers, so do the dogs.

The admiration and esteem he holds for each of the dogs is tangible, and whilst there are some sections that reflect the time periods they’re about (there was a comment about his father’s treatment of unwanted puppies that involved a sack and a bucket of water that did make me wince), you can tell the impact each separate one has had; be it Beaumont the Blackdog he got from Ranulph and Ginny Fiennes and his steadfast loyalty or Gretel, the twenty first birthday present that spent ten years accompanying him everywhere.

Very much like the Gerald Durrell book this takes its name from, there is an approach to the animals and the natural world that is imbibed with a warmth and heartfelt adoration. The relationship he has with his garden (which cannot be ignored considering his career) is that of a partner in crime rather than a proud creator. He talks about the management of it as an endless process; an on-going exercise that changes with the seasons, the requirement of the film crew and even his mental state. He describes the garden as though we all know it (which admittedly, if you avidly watch Gardener’s World you probably do), but rather than coming across as patronising or in a lecturing tone, it’s more of a shared consciousness. I know barely anything of plant names (Latin or otherwise) or how certain things should be done, but reading this I found  it’s pleasantly engaging

Overall, there is an integral warmth to this book this which must be experienced in kind to truly create the full effect; read outside on sunny days on a soft lawn, with eyes squinting against the sunlight. The nostalgia winds through the narrative but doesn’t overwhelm and it’s nicely complimented by Nigel, who gently trips through the whole book looking for tennis balls, colouring it golden and bringing forth visions of long lazy afternoons and abundantly green gardens.

Monty

Photo Credit – My very own Man Muffin. He’s getting so good at this now!

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Anyway, I’m one review down and it’s hump day tomorrow – things can only get better, right?