Pine Needles and Christmas Feels

Well, the Christmas season has now well and truly arrived in the Pendle-ing Household. The presents are piled up in the dressing room in respective family bundles, waiting patiently to be wrapped by TMM, who will be doing the wrapping in it’s entirety this year. After the Great Wrapping Disaster of 2016, there is no damn way I’m going to struggle through some of those weirdly shaped parcels when TMM can wrap a hexagonal box perfectly. We had the team around on Sunday night and spent the evening doing beautiful four part harmonies along to Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (possibly one of my all time favourite musicals whilst simultaneously being one of the most horrific stories – do not kidnaps your girlfriends kids!) and White Christmas (only a few tears this year – definite personal growth). There’s been mulled beverages and festive nibbles all over the place and we’ve not even started preparing for the main meal yet. This year we’re having Mother come up and spend a few days with us and it feels a little like some kind of rite of passage. This will be the first time we’ve ever hosted Christmas and whilst it is only my mum (and I’m pretty sure she’s not expecting top dollar) it’s still quite exciting.

We purchased and set the trees up on Sunday as well (I say trees as we’ve treated ourselves to two this year). There are absolutely no other decorations anywhere else in the house so I’m safe in the knowledge that double tree-age can’t be classed as overkill. I am a firm advocate of the inherent soullessness of the fake Christmas tree. I understand that they don’t make as much mess/are easier to work with/cost effective, but nothing beats the scent of tree sap and the stab of pine needles in your feet on Christmas morning. Fraser the Norwegian fir is standing proudly in the living room, bedecked with delightfully tasteful and artfully vintage baubles from all over the place (mainly Paperchase and the Bodleian shop in Oxford). Annoyingly the living room is one of the most sneakily frustrating shapes ever, and no matter what we did we couldn’t find a way to fit everything efficiently. So rather than having the tree as a nice corner piece, it’s sitting smack bang right in the middle of the room, blocking the view to the TV from most vantage points and making getting to any of the plug sockets, tables or doors a chore. Still, it looks pretty fabulous and I’m willing to struggle for a few weeks for the festive spirit. Stumpy the Chrimble Sproot is last years offering who’s been weathering out 2017 in the garden. TMM dug him up (root ball and all as he kept telling me) and ensconced in a lovely little cement pot in the Cwtch (or Winter Garden as we’ve taken to calling it). He is the wonkiest and most adorably misshapen little twig but he makes us feel like we’re Tom and Barbara from the Good Life in our ability to recycle and it means that we can have a tree in both our main living spaces at no extra cost.

 

Fraser and Chrimble Sproot in all their festive glory.

Buck continues to remain mostly un-arsed about the whole situation. I’m not sure if it’s because he’s lazy, used to our confusing human ways or just a bit odd. Whatever it is though, it means we don’t have to worry about coming home to a tree massacre (though let’s hope I’ve not just tempted fate there).

This feels like the first time we’ve properly “decked the proverbial halls” in forever. Typically we travel a lot over the festive period so I don’t hesitate to pooh-pooh the decorative side of things. It’s never really been a massive event for us either – previous years have included the time that we bought a real tree, went away for about two weeks and let it horrifically die and then shed it’s needles everywhere in some kind of Whomping Willow-esque dirty protest. Or there was that joyful time I mainly spent the whole holiday crying and refusing to do anything except be hateful and grumpy. Considering how hysterical I used to be when I was younger in regards to getting the decorations up, I appear to have now gone to the complete opposite end of the scale. The perks of growing up I suppose.

Still, I do have to say that this year is the first in a long time that I don’t feel awful about the whole prospect of Christmas. I’ve felt interested and engaged in things and actually enjoyed doing them, rather than trying to put everything off and just spend time staring at a blank wall instead. I’ve been writing and reading so much more again, and my Pinterest is full of craft projects that I feel like I’ll actually be able to try. It’s weird, because sometimes I don’t think anything has changed, and then I remember two years ago when I couldn’t even find the energy to do except than cry and it’s a bit of a shock to the system. Things that would have knocked me back for days now only cause glancing blows and stupid things that pushed me over the edge then are just minor irritations now – the repeated playing of Christmas songs 5 days into the month just make me smile wryly rather than go into a complete meltdown. This whole year has in fact felt a little more like living rather than just surviving and it’s such a surprisingly warming feeling.

Somewhat heartbreakingly, I think I can actually pinpoint one of the factors of change. When Mr B passed away in January, I went down to stay with my mother for a few weeks. It was a strange time; hard for painfully obvious reasons and yet it was a bit like a light switch for my personality. Now I hasten to add that my mother did not need looking after or caring for by any means, but she became my focus and all of a sudden it was so easy to forget about myself and my issues. Simply living day by day; cooking, vacuuming, completing paper work and just sitting and having a cup of tea in silent companionship became everything I needed to worry about. The big overarching fears and panics that constantly loomed moved away for a while. They were still there, but they weren’t the only things on my mind.

Now, I look back and I can’t help but feel a little angry at myself that it took something so huge to help me overcome some of my problems. It’s selfish and narcissistic without complaint, but it is what it is and I hope that Mr B would be happy in knowledge that he still helps me now as much as he did when he was here.

b.jpg

The more I think on it, the more it seems that perhaps I am one of those people who, very much like Mr B, is suited to being robustly busy more than not (which seems to go against all my natural inclinations). I know I’ve always enjoyed those annoying repetitive tasks that bore others endlessly, but it looks like the constant gentle beavering away at something is what is needed to keep my brain quiet and my mentalness at bay. I mean, there are still plenty of points of personal contention. I continue to have a foul temper and a ridiculously short fuse (but I think that’s a more of a personality fault than anything else). I rely far too heavily on others and I still can’t drive/exercise/understand taxes, but at least I’m self aware. I feel like I’m getting closer to the idea that I’m co-existing with my issues rather than allowing them to over-rule me, and if that’s not a Christmas miracle, I don’t know what is.

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Words in E –Minor proudly presents….An Interview With Me

I have a confession to make. I’ve cheated.

Being the busy social butterly I am, I haven’t actually had chance to write a full and detailed blog post like I know you have come to expect (the shame). It is a cruel and busy world out there, but worry not, I will not let you down. Like any good 90s child, I have taken the teachings of Blue Peter to heart so here’s one I prepared earlier. Oosh.

Before getting into it I have a few points of interest from the weekend that I’m going to just drop in for you – I like to keep you all abreast of my life.

– We went down to visit my mother for a few days and I am glad to report she is holding out admirably against the elements determined to rain all over her parade (rather literally). Perhaps not quite as dramatically as some parts of the world, she’s has nevertheless had to deal with a natural disaster and was woken up one night last week to find water gushing in through the back door and sweeping poor BobCat off his paws. Rather dishearteningly, she’s going to have to have entirely new flooring and is currently living with enough industrial fans to re-enact a late 80s soft core rock video, but she is maintaining a strong and (mostly) postive attiude (read – heavy sarcasm) and the cats are gradually recovering. We did spend the majority of the time there with the three of us tucked up on her bed like the grandparents in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (being as there was no power and limited furniture downstairs), but we left her with a smile on her face and the promise of further assistance whenever required, so things were looking up

– The weekend took a dramatic turn of events when TMM tried to kill me by dropping an apple the size of a watermelon on my face. We were gathering some of the bounitful harvest that Mother’s garden had provided (like the adorable little hobbits we are) when I was brutally attacked and nearly blinded when an apple catapulted from the branch TMM was fettling with. He says it was an accident but I remain dubious. Annoyingly I don’t have anything apart from a tiny red mark to show for it, but I can promise it was very dramatic.

Apples

An innocent scene, before everything took a dark and violent turn

–  You’ll all be glad to know that Operation Prepare for Christmas is well under way. It’s excellent – there’s wool everywhere. Bucky is being very well behaved considering and I’ve only had to bat him away once or twice. He does have to sit very close to me though so he can keep an eye on things and make sure I don’t need saving from a savage wool beast. My hero.

–  Speaking of the Buckmiester General, the furry little bugger has some how injured himself and I reacted, as any good parent should, with complete hysteria. It isn’t much more that a semi-deep scratch on his paw (and it can’t even be that sore because he let me prod and poke it for ages without so much as a wince), but I was VERY concerned and made TMM research pet antiseptic creams just to be on the safeside. #seriouscatparent

With those announcements out of the way, I’ll get on to the main event. I’ve got a couple of little nuggets like this saved up for such eventualities from when I researched best blogging protocol. Apparently, readers are very interested in lists, personal details and small comedic interludes, so I’ve combined all 3 into a Listicle – 10 things you might not know about me (unless you’re TMM because he basically knows more about me than I do these days). I’m unsure how well it’ll go down, but at least it gives you all something to read on an Tuesday evening (and please feel free to share your own personal facts, or judge me heavily).

10 Things You Might Not Know About Me

First Kiss

So it turns out I can’t actually remember my first kiss. How awful is that? According to TV and young adult books, the first kiss is the realisation of sexuality and the pinnacle of your youth. Your whole life blossoms from that point and  you look back fondly with misty screen and singing cherubs. Proving once again that I like to buck the social trend, when I tried to think back on this monumental and life changing event, I came up completely blank.

It’s not that I think it was particularly scarring and therefore have scrubbed it from my memory, nor is it that I actively tried to disregard anything relating to it. And it’s not as though I can’t remember other such key life events – I vividly remember my first kiss with TMM, though that might have been because he came at me with a knife.

*Side Note* it wasn’t as threatening as it sounds. It was St Patricks Day and as any good Uni student should, our not so little gang had all covered ourselves with as much green as we possibly could. I was in charge of drawing all the cheek shamrocks with my green eyeliner pencil (I say mine, it was definitely my sister’s – sorry) but being somewhat tipsy, mostly I was just smudging great green blobs on people and rather horrifically blunting the pencil. Ross proclaimed to be able to sharpen it for me, dragged me into the kitchen where he proceeded to produce the most inappropriately sized knife for the job and then promptly forgot all about sharpening it in favour of snogging my face off.)

I can equally remember the first time meeting each of my besties, graduating and my mother’s wedding. The first kiss though? Nada. I can only hope whoever it was with doesn’t remember it either….

Paddys

He might not have been my first kiss, but he’s certainly my favourite.

Joints

I apparently have weird elbows (and possibly knees). After countless years of being awful at PE and failing most physical activities, my bestest Woo pointed out to me during a yoga class that my elbows hyper extend (like a big weirdo). I can also pop out one of my thumb knuckles. Great for party tricks, useless for anything else.

Mental

I see a counsellor and have done for nearly 3 years now. To be honest, I’ll be surprised if this is actually news to anyone. I tell literally everyone. All the time. Whilst I am pretty quiet about most things, mental health is something that should never be ignored and I do my part to make sure my part in it is visible.

Thumb Sucking

I still suck my thumb when anxious or depressed. It’s something I used to do when I was little and just never really stopped. I never had a dummy, but my trusty thumb has been there through thick and thin. It has messed up my teeth up something rotten (the roof of my mouth is so arched and narrow that I can’t even fit a chubba chubba lolly between my top teeth) and the thumb in question is slightly longer than the other one but it’s something done so unconsciously I don’t even register it anymore. I kind of think that maybe I should be embarrassed by it sometimes, and that being 26 I should maybe look for different coping mechanisms, but to be honest I’ve got bigger fish to fry, and if anyone’s got a problem with it, I dare you to tell me to my adorable, thumb sucking face.

Body Art

I am tattoo free but do not always intend to remain so. People are always a little surprised that I am un-inked (I obviously give off that kind of vibe), but I have big dreams people. Low pain threshold but big dreams.

Twinkle Toes

I have sleep musical toes. I only learnt this recently, but we have the radio on in the morning and according to TMM, my toes will join in with most songs, regardless of whether I’m actually awake or not.

*Big Families*

I have lived more of my life with my parents separated than with them together. Now in today’s society it’s not actually that unusual anymore, but I think the bit that people are always surprised about is how pleasant and friendly they still are with each other. It’s been nearly 17 years now, but they buried the hatchet long ago. There have been parties where my mum and her ex husband’s girlfriend have laughed together and hugged, holidays where my dad and his girlfriend have stayed with his ex mother in law, and whilst I don’t think either of them regret the time they spent together, they have found love in other places. Divorce has not torn my family apart. It has only made it bigger.

Family

 Just a couple of the motley crew

Personal Grooming

This ones a bit risqué, but I feel it says a lot about me as a person (for good or bad…) I once dyed my “lady hair” to match my head hair – a lovely vivid pink. Shout out to Uni friends for this – (a lot of the strangest events in my life occurred at University). I can’t remember how it originally started, but it ended with a 3 hour group research quest on some of the strangest websites out there. During the second year, we spent far too much time googling strange and unusual things and learnt far more about the dark corners of the world than any decent person should. One such sojourn took us to the land of “lower region” maintenance and let me tell you, people are willing to do some weird shit to their undercarriages. Obviously this spurned much curiosity about what could be done and resulted in a bet that I wouldn’t match all my body hair. Worry not Reader, I did. It was hilarious, and excellent if only because it meant that when someone crudely shouted out (as they were wont to do) ““Oi love, do the collars and cuffs match?” I could say yes and watch them stumble over themselves in shock.

Love

I’ve kissed more girls then I have boys. I mean, to be honest it’s not like I’ve kissed huge amounts of either, but my girl count outweighs the boys by nearly 2:1. Mainly I blame University, but to be honest I just think it’s the fact that girls are just much more friendly.

Childhood Companions

I once tried to keep a mouldy cake as a pet. There really isn’t much more to this story, but it always makes me people laugh. I was DESEPRATE for a pet when I was little (as are most small children I think) and did all I could to convince my parents that our lives would be very much enriched by the presence of a small furry beastie. They did not agree and I, of course, was devastated beyond all belief. Instead, I found and secreted a carrot cake in a tin that I found in the cupboard under my bed and cultivated it until it had grown a lovely mossy green coat and proceeded to generally stink out the house. Unsurprisingly, I could not keep the cake hidden for long and my father rooted it out and summarily disposed of it in the outside bin. I still think back fondly on it sometimes.

So there we have it. You now all know a little bit more about me than you did before and hopefully I haven’t disturbed you too much, or ruined anyone’s opinions on me. It’s surprisingly cathartic to tell the internet a bunch of things about yourself, I definitely recommend it as a starter blog post for all you budding writers out there. Who knows, you might learn something new about yourself in the process…

(God, what a cheesy ending).

One Small Step for a Craft Potato…

Avid readers of my blog (and indeed pretty much anyone who actually knows me) will be very much aware of what a big fan I am of “chillaxing’”. In fact, this very weekend I chilled to the max and it was excellent. TMM was out for most of the day on Saturday, getting Hans von Manshaft MOT’ed (he passed, hurray!) and meeting up with old friends and left me to my own devices. I did intend to do a lot of cleaning and real person stuff, like laundry and taxes. In reality I read LOTS and ate my own body weight in pancakes, which possibly did not quite achieve all that I had hoped. This really isn’t to be unexpected though. Partly this is because I love to take a casual relaxation day, and my god am I lazy. My life is made up of 50% slobbing and 50% complaining about not being able to slob. (This isn’t to say I am not plagued by anxiety fuelled guilt trips worrying about all the things I should be doing, but I’ve come to realise that if the book is good, the bed is comfy and the chocolate snacks are plentiful, you can really block out those negative thoughts for a while).

The other reason is that whilst TMM isn’t around, I have the sneaking suspicion that I forgot how to human. I’m mildly concerned that I’m not actually a person at all, but instead am a soft squishy marshmallow in disguise and I’ve gotten lost in the real world with TMM as my carer/guide. I really feel this should concern me, but mainly it means that when left unsupervised, I just dance manically around the house in my pjs to early 00s soft rock like I’m Cameron Diaz in basically every film she’s in.

Ultimately though, it meant not much was actually done on Saturday but I was in a rather cheery mood when TMM returned.

Buck equally understands the necessity of doing nothing. We were very calm together.

It’s at this juncture that an issues arises though. Although I revel in my laziness (I really am just too good at doing nothing), it does mean I spend a lot of time lying on the floor looking at the ceiling and being conflicted about my complete lack of motivation to do anything. A rather disproportionate chunk of my life is spent being disappointed at the fact that I am not the Xena: Warrior Princess I want to be and nowhere near enough time is actually spent doing something to change it. I like to blame most of this on my anxiety but it’s a cop out really. I want to learn kickboxing SO BADLY, but nobody can actually help me do anything about it until I make the effort and sulking about how difficult I find it isn’t going to win me any shiny big kickboxing trophies.  (Though, if there is some gentle yet serious martial arts guru wants to take me under their muscly wing and teach me mad self-protection skills whilst ignoring my horribly awkward attempts at conversation and not making me interact with any other person, that would be grand. Basically I want Vin Diesel to adopt me.) It harks back to my un-resolution idea though – small yet positive steps. I spend a so much time rehashing the same thing over again, but little actions towards a bigger goal are better than no actions at all. It’s a bit pathetic in some respects, but in others it actually means I can aim to achieve something without stressing out or having to give up my fantastical lazing abilities.

To that end,  I made TMM spend £40 in Lesbian Craft on Sunday in preparation for Christmas (though admittedly the decoupage festive stag head was a luxury we didn’t necessarily need, but by god we wanted it). *Side note – Lesbian Craft is the affectionate nickname we gave to Hobby Craft a few years a go. There was a period where we went there quite regularly, and it was always filled with happy looking lesbian couples in their mid 40s looking for projects. TMM and I fit right in).

Let me explain my thought process for you here. Christmas is 20% magic and 406% preparation. Now, the festive season doesn’t hold quite as much magic for me as it used to (what with family being spread far and wide and me being enough of a grown up to actually try and get people useful presents rather than adorable yet completely awful craft projects). This means that in order to fully squeeze all the joy I can from the season, I have to avoid all the pitfalls and stress inducing panics by making sure that I am ready when it comes around.

It started when someone at work mentioned how she had already started preparing her kids presents (using my Amazon Prime I might add) and although I initially mocked her, the more I thought about her levels of preparation, the more I realised this could assist me. Small steps now lead to more boxes full of wrapped presents before the decorations are even out in the shops and less hours spent traipsing round the Boots 3 for 2 sale in the first week of December with baskets full of gifts nobody wants.

To that end, I’ve start the annual Charismas Present Spread Sheet for 2017, listing every person who needs a present and what ideas I have for them. There’s a colour scheme (white for nothing or a possible idea, yellow for half done (e.g. ordered/partly made), green for complete, and blue for wrapped) though I’ve taken off the costing column this time around, because that upsets me and means I spend far too much time scrabbling through receipts and calculating things instead of enjoying the nature of just giving.

My hope is that, if I can aim to have half the presents finished by November, there won’t be the annual panic induced crying fest and hysterical over buying of tat. Instead, there will be a sedate pacing of spending and wrapping (which will all be done by TMM, because I’m sure we all remember last year’s wrapping fiasco), and by the time it actually comes around to December, it will just be the finishing touches that need to be sorted. I also want to try and make a lot of presents this year (ignoring the bit before where I mentioned about how I’m trying to be helpful and not just provide people with useless craft tat), because I A) enjoy craft and get a bit upset sometimes when it’s not for a purpose, B) want to try and get rid of some of the craft stock piles I’ve built up over the years (again, let’s ignore the bit where I made TMM spend £40 in Hobby Craft) and C) am desperately trying to save money because if I want to be a real boy with a house and a husband of my very own, I’m going to need to tone down the reckless spending a bit and aim to save my wages instead.

Once again, I seem to have waffled upon the theme of self-improvement – you’d think I’d stop talking about it and actually do something, wouldn’t you…

 

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.

It’s my Birthday and I’ll buy Books if I want to

Bonjourno my little buttercups!

This week’s blog post comes to you straight from the elegant fingers of a recently matured, infinitely wiser and superbly organised 26 year old. Well, in all actuality it comes to you from the fingers of a 26 year old who is pretty much exactly the same as she was before, but I’m hoping the rest will follow on. I am now firmly ensconced in the bracket of 26-34 year olds, and I’m trying to remain steadfastly positive about this turn of events. Admittedly, I am now a bit upset that I am definitely too old to escape prison under the excuse of not having a clue what I’m doing – for some reason, I have a completely irrationally fear of ending up in jail. Up until now I was always able to hope that maybe I could just get my mum to come and explain the situation and bail me out. Now I’m going to have to rely totally on my ability to not be a massive criminal, or the ability of my mum to bake a file into a cake. Still, I am healthy and have the mental age of an over excitable 10 year old, so I reckon it could definitely be worse.

Anyhoo, I must apologise that I was unable to write a post last week extoling the virtues of leaving behind my 25th year, but mainly it was because I was too busy having fun. Sorry (not sorry). Instead, I will regale you with my adventures in a post-biographical fashion and allow you to live a vicarious birthday through my writings (because I am selfless like that). I must start this time round by saying that my people really pulled it out of the bag this year, and I received a heart warming 80+ messages wishing me well, which is always an encouraging start to a new life chapter. It’s always good to know that people will spend a minute out of their day to send you a little message and does wonders for self-esteem.

As for my birthday haul itself, I have to say it’s pretty spectacular and there shall be no need for me to go all Dudley Dursley on anyone’s behind. I am now the proud owner of 26 new books, curtsey of my dearest papa (who sent me the entire Rivers of London series which has been on my list for months) and Hay on Wye (who’s countless bookshops did fantastically well this time round). TMM and I have spent far too long arranging them in aesthetically pleasing tableaus in order to take hipster instagram photos and stroking them lovingly (and a little weirdly). I must admit, I am slightly sweaty at the thought of having so many things to read, but I am willing to suck it up and dive in head first #readordie.

Shelfies

Books! Everywhere! Drowning in #shelfies

I was also gifted some super fancy chocolates and lush soaps (because I am a super fancy lady now), a new laminator called Lexy (the girlfriend of my work laminator Larry), unicorn make up brushes (which are as magical as they sound), a personalised engraver (which will probably end up with a post all of it’s own) AND a delightful fur gilet which will now allow me to be a bear all year round (because one really can’t wear the full fur coat in the depths of August without passing out).

The week itself (because I did have a whole week off and I will fight anyone that tells me a week celebration is too long) was excellently spent. Admittedly, it did start out a bit rocky when I got out the shower on Saturday morning and thought I’d lost my engagement ring (cue an hour of sobbing brokenly whilst lying prostrate on the bed in a bath towel) but Ross did his best Hufflepuff impression and saved the day by finding it on the dressing room floor, and everything improved mightily from there. We spent the rest of the weekend visiting Mother and providing a bit of moral support and then rushed home to watch Eurovision on catch up (because I am apparently the world’s biggest fan and got a bit invested after watching both semi finals ). Tuesday was spent in Manchester, basically circling a 1 block radius in the Northern Quarter and offering patronage to all of the hipster cocktail/café bars before going to watch Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone with a live orchestra at the MEN arena. It was pretty spectacular, and I particularly enjoyed the work of the drummer who had approximately two 5 minute sprees of action before spending the rest of the time twiddling his thumbs and nosing at everyone else. We cheered heartily, TMM spent a good ten minutes trying to explain the conductor’s obsession with the off-beat, and we’ve already researched to go again for the next one, so I think it was a definite success.

Wednesday was a very sensible day (boo hiss) that involved vacuuming and doing literally all of the laundry, but I also got to make scones in my Stitch onesie so it wasn’t too adulty, thank god. After that we went back down to Wales to visit further family members and I got to have a tasty lunch as well as play with some lovely little kittens, some lovely (if slightly more terrifying) chicks and one very adorable cousin. We will actually have to try and go down for more than a flying visit soon, rather than just turning up on Neen’s doorstep, inviting everyone without forewarning her and drinking her out of house and home. Still, she takes it like a trooper and a good time was had by all.

A little birthday montage including: some cocktail shots, a Harry Potter screen (unfortunately it was too dark to see the actual orchestra, doh!) and some lovely flowers from Mother’s garden.

The birthday itself (and the weekend following) found me being whisked away by the team to a beautiful Yurt just outside of Hay on Wye full of delightful fairy lights and comfy beds (though no plug sockets which did cause a little consternation). We spent most of the first day buying as many books as we humanly could (interspersed with breaks for tea and welsh rarebit) before I was surprised with a trip to the GORGEOUS little cinema in Richard Booth’s Bookstore to watch The Finest (which made me cry horribly, but in a good way). The next day heralded another delightful little surprise in the form of a canal boat tour of the Brecon water ways (because we are 90 and we literally don’t care) before there was much napping and copious drinking. It was, I suppose, not the way your typical mid 20-ite would choose to celebrate their birthday, but I have to say it did me rather well! Overall, I was spoilt excellently and have absolutely nothing to be sniffy about. Admittedly, we probably can’t afford to do much for the next couple of weekends, but we do have more than enough books and chocolate to keep us entertained until the next birthday outing.

Teambonfire

Team Bonfire in the rain. We do look slightly like we’re a cannibalistic hobo commune living in the wild, but we’re harmless really. Honest.

The final, and completely unexpected denouement of the weekend was the return of the wily wander, Mikhail (our original cat)! As some of you may know, we picked Mikhail up from a cat rescue charity in the January of 2015 after YEARS of me moping around due to the lack of cat in my life. He was a scared little boy (coming from a house where his previous owner had sadly committed suicide) and within two weeks he had made for the hills through an absently left open window. We made posters and wandered the streets of our village for a month, but saw neither sight nor sound of him and eventually gave him up for lost. Fast forward a year and we get Bucky (who was much happier to just slob about and spent the first few weeks he was allowed out creeping back in after a couple of minutes and meowing for our love). Anyway, on the way home from the visiting my mother and just before visiting Molly, who is still in hospital but causing hilarity for all, Ross got a call from the local PDSA to say he’d been picked up. Turns out he’s been living by the local community centre since he made a run for it and flirting with the local bingo ladies, and was picked up by a concerned citizen who thought he was a girl and called him Friday (she also gave him a delightfully bedazzled pink collar which we have left on because he looks fabulous in it). He’s in quarantine at the moment in the back bedroom because unfortunately he’s got butt worms, but he’s been singing the songs of his people through the bedroom door with gay abandon and happily padding about making nests in the bedding. Bucky still hasn’t been introduced to him yet (though we’ve been furiously rubbing them with each other’s scent for hope of encouraging an easy introduction), but hopefully after his vet visit this week, we’ll be able to let him out. Mainly now, we just call him The Russian (or Sugar Fluff Butt when he’s giving me kisses), and we’re hoping he might be a little happier with us this time around.

The Russian, being tremendous in his collar, and bonus!bucky, being a slob.

Overall, I feel incredibly lucky to have had such a wonderful birthday week, especially when I know there are people who start to give up on birthdays the older the get. I am desperate to embrace the celebrations for as long and as loudly as I can, and it’s pretty handy I’ve got people who will do it with me.

 

Dedicated Follower of the Fast, the Furious and the Fashionable

 

Now I would love to be able to start this post by telling you how I plough my own furrow and am unfettered by convention. I’d smugly say that I’m remain completely unaffected by the social perspective of beauty and am not driven by being particularly fashion conscious, but let’s face it; that would be a blatant lie. I am just as obsessed with how I look as the next person and spend far too long watching videos on how to get smoky eyes or the perfect hair curl (managed the hair maybe twice, still haven’t mastered the eye. Less sultry sex goddess, more hung-over panda). This weekend though I was taken over by the need for change – possibly brought on by my cheery desk daffodils and the one day of summer we had last week. Bearing in mind I’m not really in a position to dye my hair again (having only actually been blue for two weeks) I decided I might as well just go for a new style instead. Depressingly skint and embarrassed about going back to the hair dressers (I only went last month but don’t tell anyone), I figured I might as well just do it myself. 23 YouTube tutorials later and I’m standing in the bathroom in my pants, Henry Hoover on standby and shiny new hair cutting scissors in my hand.

I do have to say though, it went surprisingly well. It’s not the first time I’ve cut my own hair (and certainly won’t be the last) but I think it’s the first time I’ve gone at it with an actual “plan” and an idea of how I wanted it to look. Now, it wasn’t like I was cutting masses off, but there’s certainly something very liberating about slicing through nice big chunks of hair and feeling the weight lessen with each snip. I’m really in love with blunt bobs at the moment, but being as I’ve got curly cornflake hair, I wasn’t too concerned about making it razor sharp – mainly I went for a simple bob. I’ve taken it to just below chin level because I’m desperate to grow my layers out. I’m one of those people who goes to the hairdressers with plans, pictures and diagrams and then ends up saying (in a rather high pitched tone) “oh just a trim and yes I would love for you to cut my layers back in” and then just stare sadly at my own reflection cursing my social awkwardness. When you’re the one in charge though, it’s a little bit easier to be honest. Whilst I’ve not quite achieved a uniform level all the way round (I swear there are layers on top that just grow to about four inches completely horizontally and then laugh at me) but it’s definitely better now. Before I was rocking the sort of weird mushroom cloud look; where the smooth bottom layers lie flat again your neck and the top frizzy layers arrange themselves in some sort of unnecessary balloon affair, but now I’ve got more of a dandelion clock going on. Hopefully I can keep on top of this and trim it myself every few weeks – keeping the layers under control and the costs down. Boo yah!

Anyhoo, seeing as I had a free Friday evening in which to cut my hair, I thought I might as well go full out and sort everything out.

shave

Look at this arty hipster Barber’s kit – I totally trust me

 After spending twenty minutes looking at my new hair in every possible angle in the mirror and snipping individual hairs like some kind of poncy horticulturalist, there was a quick whip round with the hoover (much to the cat’s disgruntlement. He sat on the top stair and glared at me a bit before presenting his butt hole and vanishing off to find Ross – *more on the adventures of Bucky boy later), and I went for a shower. I am not ashamed to admit my showers are well known for their lengthiness – I am a firm believer of spending 5 minutes just slouching under the spray, at least 10 minutes trying to soap my hair up into a Mohawk and then another good 5 practising my Adele impression before I even start actually doing anything constructive. This one was no different, and by the time I actually got round to doing anything useful, I was already slightly pruney. I went in for a full body exfoliation though this time (admittedly with only one glove because I think TMM has adopted one as his own and who knows where that’s gone), and a complete hair conditioning treatment (curtsey of Redken – I’m pretty sure this stuff is made from unicorn tears and mermaid wee, because boy does it do some delightful things to my locks). I even shaved my legs, because summer is coming and I thought it time to get rid of the winter coat. This is not to say I haven’t shaved at all over the last few months, but man – who can be bothered keeping on top of that kind of job when nobody even sees them (except Ross, who is enough of a feminist not to give a damn). I treated myself to the “real man” shaving cream block as well, which I literally cannot recommend enough. Seriously, I have no idea why anybody bother’s using shaving foam in a can anymore. This stuff is the most long lasting, smoothest, great smelling stuff ever, and you get to apply it with a badger brush which has the added bonus of making me feel like a Victorian gentleman. I mean sure, it’s not actually mine, but TMM has the beard of a twelve year old (sorry love!) and has also stolen one of my exfoliating gloves – so tit for tat I say.

I then did nail painting and face masking and I even decided to start fake tanning again, because it really is time to get some colour back in the old girl. I’m not a massive follower of the generational habit of caking up with as much Mahogany Magic as possible, but I was getting slightly concerned that I was becoming translucent. Just a little coat (including my feet which for some reason made my dad hysterical when I told him – but you can’t have odd feet!) and I would now say I am the colour of a bowl of milk after you’ve eaten all the cornflakes, so that’s definitely a start.

Eventually I made it downstairs before TMM sent a rescue party and I spent the rest of the night slobbing about in my PJs watching the new Ghostbusters. {Side note: this is an excellent film and I will not hear a word said against it! I enjoyed it thoroughly and would recommend it to anyone.}

I have to say though that whilst I could never actually be arsed to do all the faffing about on a regular basis (I will shower and then I will moan about having to dry my hair and that will be it), it was nice to do everything all in one go and actually end the day looking like a real lady (even if I didn’t start it looking like one).

 hair 4

Pic 2 – HAIR MONTAGE

 ~

 *As mentioned above, Bucky has been on form this weekend. Friday presented us with some kind of fluff massacre outside the bathroom door. Fur like a rabbit, shaped like a squirrel tail and lacking in any blood or gore whatsoever (though there was a little stripe of skin) we prodded and poked it for a few minutes before deciding whatever it was – it was no longer and binned the whole lot. On Saturday though, Bucky really upped his game and brought it his first live catch. Swanning in through the cat flap, he dropped a tiny little mouse in the hall, proudly made his presence known and then proceeded to be heartbroken when I grabbed him and Ross bundled up our little visitor and threw him outside through the cat flap. Sir Buckalot miaowed his way around the hall and kitchen looking for his new friend, sniffed a lot of things and then yowled sadly when he realised he had been deserted. Quarter of an hour or so later, he disappeared back out in a huff and we settled down to enjoy more Fast and Furious (WHICH I AM IN LOVE WITH. LIKE, LITERALLY. IN LOVE. I don’t feel I can clearly convey quite how much). Five minutes later however, he returned with Mr Mousey (we’re assuming the same one, but who knows)  and lay down in the hall, rubbing his face all over his little rodent friend (who was scrabbling about like the proverbial). The more we think about it, the more we’re starting to think Buck is perhaps more of a Lenny from Mice of Men rather than Hannibal Lector. All of the previous prizes he’s brought in have been dead, but not mauled or damaged in any way except the fatal puncture. We’re now pretty convinced he just wants to invite them in to sit with him and discuss the merits of wet vs. dry food and whether his tail looks fat when he wears his collar.

Anyway, Bucky continued to nuzzle his companion in a loving and slightly forceful way, completely ignoring Ross’ war cries of “finish it!” and in the confusion of trying to rescue the mouse from being hugged to death and Bucky’s plaintive cries intermingled with Vin Diesel’s gravelly undertones, we managed to lose the bloody rodent under the fridge. We did set out a “humane trap” (a wine bottle full of feta) to no avail and TMM spent most of the evening pulling out kickboards and staring into the dark depths under the cupboards. Nothing has been found yet, so we must hope the Great Mousedini has escaped to safer pastures.

Obviously Buck is refusing to be kept down though, as when we got home yesterday, it was to find a rather annoyed looking starling sitting by the sink chattering furiously. He was quickly directed to the window and released to the outside, unscathed and seemingly fine, but who know what surprises will await us tonight…

Please enjoy these photos for our deadly panther. On the left we can see him relaxing after a hard evening of lying on the bed by moving to lie on the couch, and on the right he’s wearing what we have affectionately named “the Mane of Shame”