I Have Walked 500 Miles

Title Box

*A little note before we start – Today’s post is sponsored by Levels by Avicii which I have been listening to on repeat since Monday and BuckMiester, the world’s most passive aggressive cat. He is currently sitting unashamedly brimming with rage by the foot of the armchair I had to kick him out of in order to be able to plug in my laptop, giving me shifty side eyes and throwing “hella shade” whilst simultaneously refusing to move out of stroking distance. Just because he’s miffed doesn’t mean he’s going to do himself out of a good fussing.*

The Time Line of out current relationship. Disgusted bat pose > accusing eyes > grudgingly allowance of neck tickles.

In general though, I’m pleased to say things are looking up. Regarding my weekly weather update that I have appear to have been unthinkingly giving you all, (and which I’m sure you’re all terribly invested in) I’m happy to say we had a whole three (3) days of summer over the weekend. Saturday was, in fact, so warm that I sat on our front wall for most of the morning chatting to TMM’s mum whilst he and his dad tinkered with Hans. I then proceeded to go through a further two (2) outfit changes to ensure I was baring as much skin to the sun as was safe and socially acceptable to do so. Whilst this pleasant weather unfortunately didn’t last (I am writing this post interspersed with sad, sepia moments of me staring forlornly out of a rain soaked window) I have been promised by various news sites to expect some more nice weather as soon as May, so that’s something at least.

Speaking of Hans (the devil’s chariot as I have unkindly christened him), you’ll be glad to know he is now up and running again, though he is still very much for the rope. I have made the executive decision that, whilst I don’t drive, I deserve to be driven in comfort and it’s time for a new car. Poor TMM has been swept along without consent and whilst I think perhaps he would have been fine to keep Hans or look at another second hand car, he’s coming to terms with the security and sensibleness of getting something that, if not brand new, at least comes with a warrantee. We’ve been looking into the various routes on how to do so without bankrupting ourselves, feeling very grown up all the while, and even have what could loosely be termed as a “plan of action” regarding the whole shebang. Thankfully we’ve got a rather good network of supportive parents, mechanically minded friends and neighbours with an obsession for cars and hopefully between the lot of us, we’ll manage to go into summer in a car likely to make it across country for our various road trips, rather than leaving us stranded in the middle of a busy road (which has happened to us on more that one occasion. Let me tell you, you haven’t known awkward British embarrassment until you’ve broken down at a set of traffic lights or on a steep hill off a roundabout and had to be pushed out of the way of angry honking motorists).

Our lack of car has meant our weekend has been rather sedate though, for want of a better word. It’s weird to think that there was a point in my life when I didn’t have ready access to a car and yet managed to fill my weekends with ease. Now, there has been a slight and irrational undercurrent of confinement and I think both TMM and I have felt at a bit of a loose end. We tidied, we lazed and we watched most of the London Marathon with twin expressions of amazement and slight panic – I can’t even comprehend how people can do something like that. It simultaneously seemed to be one of the longest weekends of doing nothing whilst being over in the blink of the proverbial. The biggest thing we achieved (just behind fixing Hans and just ahead finishing my most recent upcycling project) was walking to visit our Pet Old Lady Molly and take Benji, the World’s Most Ridiculous Dog out for his daily jaunt.
You might have thought after watching a literal f*ckton of people push themselves to the limit of physical endurance on one of the hottest days of the year would have motivated and encouraged me to take to such an endeavour with vigour. If that is the case, I think perhaps you don’t know me quite as well as you thought. In the car, the whole event takes roughly 40 minutes from start to finish (and 30 minutes of that is spent helping shake Molly into her trousers and discussing the sad lack of corporal punishment in today’s society – her opinion, not mine). Without the car, it takes 700 hours apparently. It’s strange because when I was younger, I used to love going hiking with my family. We had official walking boots, matching cagoules (literally the coolest) and every walk typically ended with me threatening to cry if I had to give up the stick I had inevitably adopted along the way to be my designated hiking staff. These days, I have the boots, an actual hiking stick with a handy camera on the end and a partner who is desperate to explore and yet the love for walking has gone. Admittedly (and if I am being honest with myself) it wasn’t quite as awful as I’m making out, and it was nice to get a bit of fresh air and smash my step target three days in a row for the first time ever, but I definitely don’t think I’m going to be signing up for any marathons any time soon.

(I would like to reiterate this statement pointedly to my best Woo. Not only is she generally insistent that I join her in all kinds of hideously active hobbies, she is now threatening to fake her own death after I stupidly shared my absent-minded musings that if she died I would have to run a marathon in her honour as it’s on her bucket list.)

Through all of our trekking cross country and confused carless wanderings though, the highlight of my weekend was going to see My Dad Wrote a Porno live on Friday night. For those of you not in the know, this title might seem a little alarming (as well it should) but I definitely recommend it to ALL. It’s a free podcast feature Alice Levine (of Radio 1 fame) and her friends, Jamie and James (cute but slightly confusing) and does exactly what it says on the tin. Jamie is “fortunate” (note my use of sarcastic quotations here) enough to have a father who decided, somewhat rashly I think, to give writing erotic literature a go, and did so with what can only be described as relish. As any good millennial would do, Jamie told all of his friends and decided to do a weekly podcast in which he reads it out loud, in all of its graphic detail, and then proceeds to completely tear it apart for #bants. It’s pleasing on so many levels; including but not limited to the way that poor Jamie is constantly reminded of his personal shame, the vigour in which he approaches the various accents (and boy are there many) and the very relatable way that both Alice and James absolutely corpse about the place with laughter after practically every sentence. It’s unknown if Rocky Flintstone (the nom-de-plume given to Jamie’s dad/the author of this fabulous fiasco) is particularly satirical in his choices or just completely unknowing about how a women’s genitalia works, but either way it’s great for a giggle.


Pre Porno stage – you can just about see the top of the heads of the absolute granny legends who took up half a row

The live show consisted of a reading of the “lost chapter” of one of the Belinda Blinks novels (of which there are, somewhat alarmingly, many) and included various references to hilarious in-jokes, a short yet extremely comedic lecture on the positioning of a women’s cervix (it makes sense as to why this is very much needed when you listen to the podcast, I swear) and some truly terrifying audience participation (which may or may not be exactly what you’re thinking).

However, in an unseen and rather heart-breaking turn of events, poor TMM, who had been looking forward to the show for months, was too poorly to go (cue much sulking on all of our parts). In his honour I refused to enjoy myself too much and when I got home we binged a couple of episodes of the podcast (interspersed with my retelling of the best bits from the show) to cheer him up. He is mostly recovered now thankfully, and we’ve been girding our loins with glee for the new series of the podcast, which is due out in a couple of weeks. Just enough time for all of you Porno virgins to catch up…

This weekend brings the promise of car shopping (hooray), hopefully a new fridge (we did call the landlord like typical grownups and he did the typical landlord thing of fiddling with it, humming and saying he’d get back to us) and at least one (read – 76) cinema trips to watch the new Avengers film – which I am dangerously excited about. I am so excited I almost don’t want to go and see it because I don’t know if my gentle geek heart can take what it’s going to dish out, but TMM has promised to stand by me and not walk away in embarrassment even if I ugly cry (this will undoubtedly happen). The good news is that Mother is continuing to allow me to oversee her education of the Marvel universe (how grudgingly I can’t tell over WhatsApp, but she is providing thoughtful commentary so I’m feeling confident) and this means that even if (when) TMM gets bored of me wanting to see Avenger – Infinity Wars for the millionth time, I will at least get one more viewing with her (soz not soz MotherBear).

I will leave you here to ponder on your interest (or lack thereof) in dramatic superhero adventures/patriarchally written pornos and report back next week with further insight into my week and an updated weather report. Stay Classy San Diego.

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Shelf Life – Give a girl a book, she’ll read for a day. Give a girl a library and she’ll read forever

Rejoice Readers, for I have good tidings – Spring has finally Sprung! It is upon us in all it’s majesty and I for one am immensely grateful. The clocks have changed, the days are longer and if I hear one more person threaten me with another terribly named weather front, I will pitch an absolute fit. I have tasted sunshine and felt the soft summer zephyr on my face and I will be damned if I’m going to let the promise of another snowy weekend dampen my cheer.

To fully welcome the season (and bite my thumb at any lingering wintery atmospheric conditions) I’ve commissioned a lovely spring wreath to festoon my front door curtsey of the almost not quite but soon to be sister in law. TMM and I regularly drive past an adorable little house that really pulls all the stops out for year round seasonal displays and I’ve been completely bewitched by their practice of having a beautifully topical wreath always viewable. Last October, they had the most spectacular tea tray sized one made up of stunning coloured miniature pumpkins that must have weighed and absolute ton. At Christmas they had a lovely simplistic arrangement of driftwood and currently they’ve got one made up of beautifully painted pastel eggs. In my infinite wisdom, I’ve decided we’re going to up our game and give them a run for their money. TMM’s sister has been attending a flower arranging course over the past few months, and paired with her fashion design University degree, it’s done me very well. I’m expecting great things from her for the rest of the year. My house is going to look freakin’ fabulous.

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Look how pretty!

We’re not doing too badly on the inside of the house either. TMM hasn’t quite fully got into his fitness groove but now that things are a bit tidier, he’s back onto his daily yoga routine (Bucky is incredibly interested in this and likes to help in his own, incredibly unhelpful, way). I have done absolutely nothing to improve my fitness (because I am forever destined to be a potato wedge and will definitely be one of the first to go when the zombie apocalypse finally happens upon us) but project wise it’s all going quite smashingly. Over the weekend I managed to get a bit of a stomp on with the wedding place settings I’ve been tasked with for TMM’s brother’s wedding. Admittedly I have had them for a few weeks, but I’m finally on the home stretch now and am hoping to have them finished by Saturday, with 3 weeks to spare. After that, I’ve got a couple of personal requests from my best Woo for her yoga studio-cum-delightfully decorated bedroom and then I should be completely up-to-date with my commissions. I’ve still got plans for our living room (TMM shudders) but once the craft corner is re-vamped and everything is stocked in delightfully decorated and sensibly labelled boxes (FINALLY, says Woo, who has been far more involved in our house that she ever thought she would be), it’s going to be a dream.

A huge chunk of the work is done now that the bookshelves are finally finished (TMM breathes a huge sigh of relief) and as promised, please find a picture of them in situ. I’m pretty chuffed with how they’ve turned out and the amount of space they’ve given us is actually a little ridiculous. I think we’ve both been a little panicked at how much room on there is (bookshelf number 5 in the corner has two completely empty shelves!) and TMM has demanded an immediate trip to the nearest bookshop and is chomping at the bit to start stocking up. I don’t think he actually has any idea of what books he wants to buy, but that’s never stopped him before. It’s more the prospect of having them there, ready and waiting, that he needs. I think he’s quite taken with the ides of an “anti-library” (a term I learnt from an article my dad pointed me to – please see the link below**) and the notion of being surrounded by so many unread books; the constant and steady reminder that there is an infinite amount of knowledge and experience available and the never-ending strive for personal improvement through learning (Or, I dunno, he just looks the look of it). I, on the other hand, am slightly panicked to know that I will probably never be able to read all of the books we will own in our lifetime and more often than not find comfort in picking up a well thumbed old favourite in favour of something new, because I aim for contentment rather than excitement. Still there’s a safety in unread books in that there is always something there to interest, engage and teach me, so whatever our reasoning, our library can continue to flourish.

These new bookshelves have also meant that we’ve been able to slightly categorise the books we already have (because we’re geeks with mental health issues and we can’t help try and identify patterns) and helped me flesh out a blog idea that TMM suggested a few weeks ago. He sent me a snapshot of a couple of questions that someone had asked regarding their favourite books, and whilst we were restacking, I couldn’t help but start to answer them for myself…

(I do warn you now, the answers get a tad incestuous because 1) I cannot ever just pick one answer to a question and 2) a lot of the things I love about one book overlap with the rest, which is why I love them in the first place, but I promise I’ll try not to repeat myself too much).

So, because it’s best to go big or go home, I’ve started with the hardest question. Favourite book of all time. And just to be annoying, I’m not going to answer it, because this is a stupid question. Seriously, who can pick a favourite book? It’s impossible. Anybody who can categorically chose one book to hold esteemed above all others is clearly an alien or an android and shouldn’t be trusted.

Ironically perhaps, considering my anger at the previous question, I have actually pinpointed a Favourite Series, though it is a bit of an extraneous question really, because all of the books mentioned (with the notable exception) are favourites of mine. Still, I can’t let a book post go by and not mention Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch. I have gushed about these so much I have managed to make at least 4 other people read them (3 bought their own versions, the other was bought them as a Christmas present along with the threat of death if he didn’t read them). A series that comes with 6 novels (so far), a novella, a couple of short online stories, an audio book, additional comics and the one fantastic rap by Doc Brown is something that deserves commendation. The fact the actual stories are pretty fab doesn’t hurt either.

The next question is slightly easier, though not much because I literally cry at everything. A book that made you cry – let’s be honest. It would probably be easier to find one I haven’t teared up at. I mean, I’ve cried at lots of books. Sometimes I just cry because I love them that much, but I think the one that stands out for making me actually ugly cry is The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman. The whole Northern Lights trilogy is stunningly moving and evocative, but I’m pretty sure I started crying about two chapters in and didn’t stop until about three days after I’d finished. Between losing favourite characters, having to endure biblical wars and ending on bittersweet endings to relationships you were convinced would survive, it’s a bit of heartbreaker.

The next choice made me cry too, but I hardly think it’s surprising. Naming a book that changed your life is possibly an obviously answer for anyone that knows me (and probably even for people that don’t). If anyone ever has to do a Mastermind episode on my life (it could happen!), Harry Potter will definitely come up. That series has had an actually ridiculous impact on my life. I cried, I laughed, I went to midnight opening sales and I bonded with my sister more than you’d ever think over those seven books. That story affected a generation of people world wide and I’m pretty sure it would be the answer to this question for more than just myself

To be honest, Harry Potter could probably answer nearly every one of these questions, including this next one. A book you always return to. Being who I am, I spend a lot of time retuning to books, because I fully adhere to the philosophy of “if it ain’t broke, don’t try and fix it”. Still, there are a couple of choices that I could easily pick from a line up to fit every eventuality in my life. One in particular is Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. Originally my sister’s (let’s be honest, most of these are), the copy of this that I have on my shelf is discoloured, crumpled, ripped in places and absolutely adored. It’s like a security blanket, a best friend and a diary rolled into one. It’s so embroiled in my life that each chapter reminds me of another time I read it; of a mood or memory or specific moment, and yet every time I pick it up, it’s a completely new experience.

The next question provides a bit of a U-turn and I’m almost ashamed to admit my answer. Worst book you’ve ever read. I am a tad sickened by this, but happy to give this title to Fifty Shades of Grey. Good god, could there ever be anything to beat that pile of badly researched, awfully written corrosive a-grade shite? No. No there could not. Unless Donald Trump rolled around on an ink pad and pressed himself against a piece of paper and published it. I can remember being sat in the bath reading a bootlegged copy of the second one on kindle (because like hell was I going to give any money to that cause) and absolutely raging, so much so that TMM threatened to confiscate it. Annoyingly, I had to read the whole series because I needed to know how truly awful it was, and let me tell you, that is a period of my life I will never be able to get back.

Conversely, my next answer brings nothing but sunshine and smiles to my life. Favourite childhood book. I naughtily have two answers here, but I read a lot as a child so you can excuse me. The first, Danny Fox by David Thomson, is a smaller yet perfectly formed trilogy that holds a place very dear to my heart. My wonderful Neens graciously allowed me to take possession of the family copies (dog eared, torn and adored) and they have prime place on the new shelf. Baby’s first crush (the Sailor), first feminist role model (the Princess) and first requested Christmas present (a Fox), they shaped my personality more than I think anyone could have expected. The second is The Land of Green Ginger by Noel Langley and is possibly one of the most quoted works in my family (except maybe Blazing Saddles). A beautiful, funny, charming and perfectly imagined story, it’s something I would recommend that every parent read with their child.

Which leads on very nicely to the next question – A book you would recommend. Once again, I’ve slightly cheated here because I have two. They’re both books that I’ve shouted from the rooftops about though, and as my poor book club WhatsApp group will attest to, I have shouted about them a lot. The first you may recognise from previous blog posts – My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell. Seriously, I cannot say enough about this book to make you understand how much you have to read it. It is summer joy wrapped up in one beautifully envisioned bundle and it’s as enjoyable to read now as it was when my Neens used to read it to us of an evening time when we were little. The second is the first of a trilogy (read all three. Do it) – The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters by Gordon Dahlquist. A decadently rich, wildly careening adventure full of erotic alchemy and gothic horror, it could not be more different to my previous recommendation but is by no means any less worthy of a look.

Now, as you may have guessed, nearly all of my answers for these are affected in some way by my family. I have been surrounded from birth by people who emboldened me to read everything I could find; who taught my to embrace my ability to devour the written word and who shared their own preferences and paramours that allowed me to find my own. The final question; Favourite Author, is a bit of a toughie, but I think there could really only ever be one answer. I can remember being absolutely fascinated by the artwork on the front covers the filled my father’s bookshelves as a tiny dot, and then being equally enthralled by the stories within as I got older and was encouraged to read them for myself. And I remember being so heartbroken that I cried like a baby when I learnt that he’d died. Terry Pratchett was a true artist who created a world so bold and bright that it will stand the test of time. His characters, his mythologies, even his turns of phrase are each as individual and irreplaceable as something can be and I am more than happy to lay down my fealty at the foot of his swivel chair.

So we come to the end of this week’s lesson. I hope you’ve all enjoyed this little peek into my library (and do please share any of your own answers because I do have some shelves that need filling).

Before I go though, I’d like to leave you with this final thought – A good book makes you want to discover more, to immerse yourself in that world and find out everything you can. It should leave you hungry, frustrated and immeasurably improved.

** https://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/why-you-should-stop-feeling-bad-about-all-those-books-you-buy-dont-read.html_

No Money, Limited Space and Knee Deep in Promises and Projects. The Perfect Time to Start Something New…right?

Hello my little sprouts!
I hope all is well in your little corners of the world? I trust you’re all as pleased as I am at the blooming of daffodils and crocuses that are springing up all along the pavements, and that you’re starting to tentatively put away those big winter jumpers and look hopefully at short sleeved t-shirts. Admittedly, the sudden spells of snow and somewhat biting winds that have been battering at the flowers are making it a tad difficult to commit to that summer wardrobe, but I’m maintaining a firm air of positivity. I have also been the busiest of all the bees the past few days and this post comes to you from a much needed and wonderfully relaxing bath. Fernando the somewhat poorly balanced rubber flamingo has been providing some excellent moral support (as has TMM who is currently prostrate on the bathroom floor using the toilet roll as a pillow and reading).

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I’ve balanced him artfully on my knee for this pic, because left to his own devices, he just floats around sideways with his beak underwater.

Now what could possibly have kept you so hectic this weekend you ask, slightly dreading the answer. Well let me tell you, I reply, my somewhat manic grin making your concern completely founded.
As you probably already are aware, I have a penchant for getting these grand ideas, fixating wildly on them and then starting production at the most inopportune times. This month’s somewhat poorly timed venture was a casual re-haul of the living room. It started somewhat innocuously, as these things often do, with a casual remark made by an unassuming work colleague in regards to a lovely little hexagon shelf on the Primark Instagram. Such a small, harmless gesture you might think. Just one friend showing another some nice yet completely banal household items. Nothing that could cause any issues there surely? Well let me tell you, that is most certainly not the case. Within two hours, I’d mentally changed the entire layout of our living room (and the number of bookshelves, because why have just 3 bookshelves when you could have 6??), all to accommodate one simple £6 shelf.
Of course, it then transpired that these shelves could not be found locally for love nor money (or even slightly further afield when I made my dad go hunting around Manchester too) but by that point it was too late. The damage was done, the Ikea website was loaded in three different internet tabs on my phone and my dreams were rapidly expanding far quicker than my purse was able to keep up with.
Poor TMM, who has learnt to take this sort of situation in his stride, allows my flights of fancy and has proven nothing but supportable (even through my customary and somewhat non surprising mini breakdown at the weekend). He promised to take me to Ikea, look at countless Pinterest boards and nod where appropriate whilst I rabbited on about colour schemes, layouts and paint prices. Admittedly, there was a slight hitch or two (broken car exhausts) that threatened to derail me, but my creativity is made of sterner stuff. After being encouraged to purchase the slightly cheaper and somewhat more suitable bookshelves instead of the glorious corner curving, dangerously expensive set I originally had my eye on, I ordered three (2 big, one skinny) shelves of finest Billy MDF and a couple of storage boxes directly from the Ikea website. Now, I do still feel slightly cheated that I didn’t get meatballs or the chance to ride round on the trolley, which is literally a highlight of my life next to going to the car wash. Last time we went, small children were left gobsmacked as I rode astride a rolled up mattress and pushed round the warehouse at high speed. However, whilst my Ikea fix was to remain unsated, it did mean that my early Friday finish could be spent buying the correct painting equipment. It also gave me the opportunity to have a complete spur of the moment switcharoo regarding the paint scheme and we could pick up a sweet little build it yourself green house for TMM’s growing bucket garden. It meant as well that we had the sensible option of removing all the books, bits and bobs and fill up the cwtch in preparation for the delivery on Saturday morning.

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Before the carnage but after the first haul – it is not always this messy, I promise you.

And deliver on Saturday morning they did, I can tell you! Not having many large scale items delivered, we’ve rarely had to deal with the dreaded delivery slot drama, where they give you a helpful 7 hour window and then proceed to turn up three days later. Our slot was narrowed between 7am and 11am, and no points for guessing what time they appeared. They even called at 6.30am to confirm delivery, though it didn’t really do any good because I immediately and unthinkingly declined, believing it to be a completely unnecessary alarm. However, that put TMM on red alert and he was dressed and ready to receive by 6.50am. Within 20 minutes, two adorable looking chaps (Bobble Hat and Beardie) in high viz and the worlds biggest lorry (or at least that’s what it looked like compared to our tiny dead end of a road) were outside, unloading boxes galore and watching with rather bemused yet thankful expressions as TMM carried them all easily into the house. I saw this all from my vantage point under the duvet, peering out of the bedroom window like some kind of hermit crab. I am completely useless with strangers, early mornings or heavy objects and it was decided to be best for all if I just stayed safely out of the way. Beardie was apparently most concerned to make sure we had a good building playlist and Bobble Hat nearly spotted me owlishly peeping out through the window, and by 7.45 everything was in and ready for construction, which was a rather novel experience. Usually our Ikea trips happen late afternoon and we’re building dining room tables at 11pm at night. To have half the battle already won before breakfast time is pretty encouraging.
I eventually deigned to move downstairs at about 9am and we had a chill morning eating oatcakes with TMM’s parents who’d come to help fix Hans von Manschaft (the car) and take TMM out for a walk and some good photo opportunities. I, in the meantime, managed to mostly successfully construct a greenhouse in gale force winds and snow flurries (much to the amusement of the chap from next door who was moving stuff round and was only noticed by myself after I’d said the C word several times and pretended to use the cover as a parachute). I then constructed a half width bookshelf for the bedroom and primed half of one of the big ones before TMM made it home. Definitely one of my more industrious days.
Sunday was spent in a haze of priming, painting in plum and carefully positioning.IT became abundantly clear that I am in desperate need of a workshop (or a tad more self control when it comes to DIY) when I got to the point of having completely taken over the green house and the living room with deconstructed slabs of furniture all over the place. There was also a rather heart-stopping moment halfway through the first coat of the colour paint (after two coats of primer because I will make this shit look good) when we (read I) started to regret all of my choices. The beautifully red wine colour I had been envisioning seemed to be more of a lurid shade of fuchsia and I was furiously calculating if I could nip out and get a time of the dark green I’d originally planned. TMM was terribly sensible though and suggested that multiple coats would improve the look of the thing and then took me out to town to take my mind of it. After returning from a soothing cinema trip to see the new Tomb Raider (enjoyable, but room for improvement in upcoming chapters, 3 stars) he was proven right and the whole situation seemed much better.

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I had been hoping to show you some pictures of the garishly pink shelves and Buck’s adorable yet badly placed paw print, but I accidentally deleted the photos. So instead, here’s Bucky just helpfully sat right in the way giving me a disapproving stare.

Except, that is, for poor Bucky. Due to the toxic nature of the paint (and the fact he’d managed to sneak in and leave a incriminating paw print on one shelf) he was banned from the living room and spent the night with his nose pressed against the living room door, pathetically singing us the sad songs of his people.
Monday (and my final day of holiday allowance) was for final coats and explorative walks – TMM was going slightly stir crazy and was, I think, concerned at my lack of vitamin D and exposure to daylight. We racked up an impressive 10000+ steps on my third day of being awake and out of bed before 9.30am. It was around 7.30pm (who knew how long the days could be?!) before I had my customary strop when there was the inevitable hiccup during construction (I shouted, got hugged, sulked, got shouted at, nearly cried, got passively aggressively encouraged and finally came to my senses) and we got the frames up with minimal injury. I think I may have partly been upset about having to go back to work and give up my free and carefree lifestyle so carefully cultivated in that long weekend, but who knows. I also, rather annoyingly, did have to give up on my design plans for the backboards in favour of sensibility and peace of mind, but I’ve still got a couple of ideas up my sleeve for embellishment (WILL YOU NEVER LEARN, I hear the Greek chorus cry from the side-lines).
Tuesday morning saw me up even earlier than normal to get the final coat on everything and after a mildly harrowing day at work, we got the backboards hammered into place, the shelves on and the touch ups touched up. The colours look rather splendid and after a complimentary coat of wax I think they’re going to be a bit of alright. Unfortunately I haven’t had time too refill them in a carelessly yet totally artful fashion, but rest assured you’ll have photos next week to show the outcome. Overall I reckon its going to be an improvement and is going to allow us at least two more justifiable trips to Waterstones so I’m taking the whole endeavour as a victory.
Now, about those other 3 bookshelves that need painting….
(And in answer to your question, I still haven’t got that bloody Primark shelf.)

Second Rule of Cwtch Club – No Shoes in the Cwtch. Or dirty paws. (Looking at you here Bucky)

Well, we’re still massively in the swing of repurposing the spare room and I have to say our winter project is coming along rather swimmingly. The daybed is in situ now; pride of place with its to size mattress cushions, soft cream jersey bedding (because I am now so bourgeois that I will only accept jersey bed sheets to touch my skin) and adorable tartan blanket. All we’re waiting on is a scatter cushion or two (which TMM is against because he says he’ll just throw them off anyway, but I feel it would just complete the look). I’ve still got some GIANT wool waiting to be used, so I might try and whip up a sneaky little cushion cover one night this week whilst he’s not looking. We also managed to finish the TV cabinet which was slightly trickier that anticipated. We had to buy new brown paint to cover the water damage from last weekend, then new cream paint to do the inside sections because I felt brown all over was a bit too heavy, and then we had to move the whole painting operation into the kitchen because it kept threatening to rain. This obviously  meant that trying to do ANYTHING became immediately a million times harder to do, as our kitchen is somewhat reminiscent of ship’s galley – NARROW. Indeed, whilst we do seem to have an excess of rooms in our little house, every last one of them (except the uneasily cold/dark living room) is tiny. Making sweet and sour for lunch was a very delicate operation and somewhat suggestive of a circus gymnastic act. Bucky found the whole thing hilarious and pretended to rub again the wet corners of the cabinet repeatedly just to watch us freak out. Still, by Sunday evening, it was dry enough to move upstairs and is now happily in place. We’ve stocked it adorably with a couple of our favourite books and some thematic knickknacks and the lap top is sitting comfortable on top with the speakers. I’m still a little unsure of the overall colour (because why be content with a project when you can always be slightly unsure of your choices) but I’m think a little rug/a couple of doilies/an artful placing of frames will help distract and it will blend pleasingly into the rest of the room.

Don’t worry, I have plans to hide the wires and TMM has designs on an old camera to fill the gap next to his Le Carre.

TMM also spent Saturday spontaneously making a bench, which I have to say was rather splendid of him. He looks manly and yet adorable in his specifically work related overalls and I find it very pleasing to see a man wearing the correct outfit for the job at hand (rather than wearing his nice clothes and then looking at me sheepishly when there’s paint splatters and holes everywhere).  There was a slight injury involving a nail and a couple of moments of deep breathing and hammer clenching when some bits didn’t quite match up, but all in all it looks very swell – especially considering he had no plan and proceed to mainly freehand everything like an absolute maverick. The really good thing is that it’s handy enough that it can be either extra seating for when we have guests (because for some reasons we seem to think we’re overwhelmed with visitors even though we both hate people), a little coffee table for down the side of the couch, a handy new cat sear (because Bucky cannot let new furniture go un-sat on, god forbid) and got rid of the spare pallet in a functional yet stylish way. We’re getting rather good at this up-cycling malarkey, and it’s only a matter of time before we try something really adventurous like a 7 foot bookshelf or a garden swing.

        

Such grace, such magnificence. Such simplistic rustic beauty. The bench is alright too 😉

Now that those bits are sorted, the majority of the work is done. (I’ve been forced to admit that my original plan was perhaps a little ambitious and trying to shoehorn a coffee table in there as well might be slightly impossible. Instead, I’m thinking a couple of little upturned baskets on either side will do for drinks holders and not take away from the already limited leg space). All that’s left now is the all important trinket placement and minor decoration. We’ve got lamps in nearly every corner (and a clever mirror placement) to make sure the room is cosy yet still visible and we treated ourselves to some little fairy light purely because we could. (Idea for Fairy Light Place Linda – perhaps round the curtain pole rather than the shelf?) There’s a couple of casual Buddhas scattered around the place (because we do seem to have a multitude of Buddhas) and Hamish the Stag Head is safely stuck on the wall keeping a watchful eye on things.

We’ve also got a couple of small fake succulents because I am ALL OVER that particular band wagon. They’ve gone in the adorable mini Ikea greenhouse on the window sill that until very recently held a large number of fake toy lizards (unsure as to why if I’m honest) along with a tiny stone owl and couple of tea cups because why not? I am hoping to get some more of varying sizes (again, all fake because I can’t take the commitment to keeping a plant alive and the inevitable heartbreak that follows when it dies horrifically) and I’ve got BIG plans from some fake trailing ivy I’ve ordered off Amazon.

It looks a little like a kind of stylish Swedish nativity scene but there we go.

My main concern however is the inbuilt shelf. Initially, this held great potential for me and I was overwhelmed with the ideas of what I could do with it. However, now it’s come time for something to actually be done, I am really struggling. To actually do anything that looks good. Annoyingly, it’s just a little too deep to hold the frames I’d put aside to go on it, but I feel awkward bringing them to the front and leaving all that space behind them. I have spent far too much time researching ideas, but things that work well in Pinterest don’t seem to transfer over will into my actual life. It becomes clearer every day that whilst I am very creative, I actually have very little originality. Give me something that needs redoing or all the pieces of a pattern and you’ll get excellence. Ask me to do something of my own merit and I will struggle – plagued with self doubt and critical thoughts. Now this doesn’t bode particularly well for the Cwtch shelf or further interior designing endeavours, but if you need criminal forgery, I could definitely be your girl. Still, all is not lost and there I am hopeful we’ll figure out the right amount of shelf to tat ratio. As a final touch, we’ve also got a selection of vintage travel postcards that we’re hoping to stick up in clusters around the room (because we honestly can’t stick to one theme if our lives depended on it) which will hopefully “bring it all together” or whatever it is the say on Grand Designs.

Overall, it’s been a success and whilst we’ve spent slightly more than initially planned (what we didn’t spend on furniture we’re definitely going to waste on all the little bits and bobs) I am terribly proud of what we achieved. Especially with the dark nights and the Christmas stress, it’s the perfect little space to hide away and do nothing but watch scandi-noir thrillers and drink Baileys (which is basically all we do now). I am beginning to panic slightly about the number of social events on the horizon (one thing I definitely am not about) but at least I’ve got somewhere to retire too when it all gets too much.

Anyhoo, I must now be off to enjoy said Cwtch, but stay tuned for next week as I’m hoping to have another hilarious blog post for you. It’s the Christmas Village Faye or “Marche de Noel” this weekend and Molly’s got a hankering to go (even though she doesn’t understand the name and thinks it’s strange, foreign and unnecessary). No doubt there will be politically incorrect insults abound; the vicar will get called fat at least twice and we’ll all go home with 78 jars of home jam. Oh joy oh rapture.

First Rule of Cwtch Club – Nobody enter Cwtch Club (except me. And maybe TMM)

I feel I’ve made a bit of a faux par this month – celebrating my ability to keep a blog going for a whole year and then not actually writing a post the very next week. Annoyingly, I seemed to be lacking in inspiration and motivation, though that really isn’t a valid excuse for a writer. The joy of writing is that if you write enough chaff, you will eventually find some wheat and then it’s just a matter of culling the crap. But alas, I had no go last Tuesday and consequently the world remained blogless. Still, I am returned now with plenty of content so we’ll just chalk up last week’s failings to experience and carry on regardless.

This week (or should I say last week), TMM and I started a new project – partly due to necessity and partly because I really think with do life better when we’ve got something to focus on. We’re very lucky to have a spare room at home, though before people start thinking it’s because we live in a mansion, I’d like to point out that it’s because we actually live in a normal house with a multitude of tiny rooms. We have a “dressing room” purely because we can’t fit anything other than a bed in the main bedroom, and the spare room is less of an extra bedroom (which I can attest to quite strongly after having to cram everything we owned in it for the first 8 months of living in the house) and more of a store room with a window.  However, I do not mean to sound ungrateful and the variety of odd sized living spaces does mean I get to spread my craft around liberally rather than having to try and bulk it all in one specific place.

Anyway, for most of this year, the spare room has housed a ratty old mattress covered in cat fur , a rather upsetting amount of cobwebs and a couple of sewing machines. Mainly we have just pulled the door to and tried to ignore it, because why fix a problem when you can hide it? But no more, I cry! After minimal debate and maximum enthusiasm, we’ve decided we’re going to repurpose it into the “Hygge Cwtch” (basic translation – cosy cubbyhole) – because why jump on just one multicultural décor based bandwagon when you could jump on two? As winter is coming in and consequently our heating bill is about to rocket dramatically (I don’t do well in the cold), we’ve come to the conclusion that moving our evenings to a smaller, cosier, warmer and easier-to-light room is really the only (and most eco firnedly) option. We’re going to use the spare room as a mini living room and the downstairs as somewhere to eat and entertain – at least that’s what we’re aiming for…

Before doing anything sensible though, like drawing up a list of costings, proper requirements or measurements, I obviously created a new Pinterest board and pinned crucial items such as fake plants and pleasing colour schemes (cream/pale grey/latte for anyone who’s interested). I also spent FAR too long drawing up plans of how I wanted the room to look – all of which are completely null and void because how big I think to room is and how big the room actually is differ wildly. Still I had a lot of fun pretending to be Alan Titchmarsh from GroundForce.

plan

Please enjoy my professional and highly accurate diagram

Now, as we have stupidly decided we’re going to take on this new, not insignificantly sized project a month before Christmas when we have no money, time or daylight, we’re working to quite a restricted timeline. Our outside activities (including but not limited to furious sanding and painting) which would have happily been done after work in the summer now can only be completed in a 4 hour window on the weekend between bouts of rain and darkness. Regardless of that though, I feel we’ve achieved quite a lot this weekend and am terribly proud of us. Considering we only decided what we were planning to do at the beginning of the month, the day bed (which was the biggest concern) is already practically finished. TMM deftly managed to liberate three full sized pallets from his place of work, and I spent Saturday happily wrapped in every jumper I own, sanding away to my heart’s content. I was forced to take a Wilko’s break to pick up some new paint, purely because TMM says that sanding for two hours straight is detrimental to my health (spoil sport), but before the daylight faded we had two smooth and painted pallets drying up against the wall.

TMM hard at work priming like a pro and me doing my best bank robber impression – protect eyes, nose and mouth. Remember Kids – Health and safety is paramount when doing DIY!

We have also repurposed one of the hideous mini MDF bookshelves from downstairs to be the new TV stand (with bonus room for adorable trinkets) though that wasn’t dealt with quite as successfully. We sanded, primed and tried to paint one coat, but due to unnecessary rainfall and unfortunate placement of protective tarpaulin, most of the paint was removed and some slight water damage was suffered. Still, nothing was irrevocably harmed and the item in question is currently chilling by the backdoor, recovering from the experience and providing endless amusement to the cat. In the meantime, TMM has masses of fun hacking the old mattress into usable chunks with a breadknife and we’ve now got spare clumps of foam all over the place waiting to go to the tip. Hopefully, weather permitting on Saturday, I’ll be able to repaint and finish the new TV stand whilst TMM gets rid of all the excess crap and then on Sunday we’ll be able to start putting things in place and focusing on the little bits (which is clearly my favourite part). I’ve already added two fake trailing ivy plants and a couple of succulents to my amazon basket, and TMM has a lovely paper mache stag head in cream in bronze that he’s itching to hang in pride of place above the telly. (It allows him to live out his taxidermy dreams without me actually having to have stuffed animals all over the place – ignoring the Squirrel Guardians of Doom that sit on the mantelpiece downstairs giving me evils). I’m quite proud of us too, because the two main pieces of furniture have cost us a grand total of £27.97 (wood stain, paint and bedding), which means I can spend at least another £20 on accoutrements from IKEA and not feel too bad about it. I’ve already got my eye on a SUPER soft blanket and a fox shaped light in a bell jar which will go perfectly.

cwtch

Here we can see a mostly completed day bed – minus super soft cotton sheets, a dismembered mattress and an artfully placed stag head. Not bad for a day’s work!

Overall, by December, the Cwtch should be fully stocked, operational and ready to enjoy during the final stress fuelled push towards Christmas. Which is good, because I feel like I need an encouraging boost at this stage. The Christmas Present Tracker isn’t filling up with successful green boxes as quickly as I’d hoped and I’m having to fight off the rising tide of panic that’s approaching. Though, we’ve got two days off in November (well TMM has 3 but whatever) and as I said to TMM, Christmas is going to get DONE son. I want to go into December with only wrapping, labels and little sweet bundles left on the to-do list – Positive Mental Attitude people! At least I’m coping better than I was two weeks ago, when I was all for cancelling the whole season and spending the festive weekend in bed sulking massively. The older I get (and the more people move around) that harder I find Christmas. I mostly blame work (if I didn’t have to work at all, I could happily spend weeks travelling around leisurely and bestowing gifts happily), but mainly I think I’m just slowly transforming into the Grinch. Still, if I can achieve a new room under budget and within two weeks, I can definitely beat Christmas. 

Creepin’ It Real for One Whole Year

I’m a little late in posting today, but I’m sure you’ll let me off. Halloween is a busy time of year for everyone (read: nutters who love to dress up) and the tidying up and facial cleaning can take a while.
Before we get into the dark and twisted details of my All Hallows’ Eve (get ready for some blow by blow accounts and a really unhealthy amount of pictures) I’d like to take a minute to wish you all Happy 1 Year Blogiversary! As of last Wednesday, my blog is officially one year old and I would like to be the first to congratulate you all for sticking with me. It’s been a semi regular and somewhat bumpy ride, but we’ve done it together and that’s what counts. If I were one of those excitable and committed types, I’d be offering the first 5 people who comment some kind of reward as a little bonus, but as it’s me you’re mainly going to get what you get every week – a like on your comment and a little internal squee.

On to the main event now though – Welcome to Halloween Time!

Sadly, we don’t have any team plans this year (I’ve been assured it’s because we’re all poor and in the middle of moving/decorating or other such life tasks, and NOT because we’re all too grown up and sensible for themed fancy dress parties) so I’m a little put out in that regard, but I’ve not let it hold me back too much.

This weekend TMM’s sister invited us to the newly created yearly tradition of The Pendlebury Pumpkin Party, which went down a storm. We got to traverse a maize maze to pick our own pumpkins (I got two because I couldn’t help myself), carve our competition entries and then enjoy a home made stew and dumplings. Baby Thea looked spectacular in her pumpkin outfit and inveigled her way into the pumpkin parade very sneakily. I think Jenbob was slightly miffed that Papa Pendlebury won with his Brain Sick pumpkin (though it turned out that he’d already been practicing in the week prior – never let it be said they’re not a competitive family), but he wore his homemade Pumpkin Garland of Champions with pride which did have us in hysterics. I’d give the whole day a solid 5 stars and am going to start researching ideas for next year now.

The Pumpkin Parade

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Trick Or Treat Yo’Self


Pendleburys’ on the prowl

Tonight, in true anti social and British fashion, we’ve retreated upstairs and turned the light off so as not to attract any unwanted trick or treaters. It’s not that I’m against the practice necessarily, more that I resent giving away my hard earned sweets to unknown “youths”.

Instead, I’ve overcompensated on my lack of party plans and seasonal spirit by going a bit hysterical at work.

Thankfully, I work in an office that, whilst not being my dream career, are willing to have a bit of a laugh and let me dress up occasionally. Admittedly however, I do think we may have gone slightly overboard this time round. Initially nobody really seemed to be very motivated by the idea of dressing desks and I was prepared to let the holiday pass by. However, after some pointed comments by the higher ups, there started the low mumbling of ideas and teams started to huddle sneakily in corners discussing themes. By the end of the week, complete Halloween chaos reigned and things were getting competitive. We spent 3 days cutting out hundred of bats to paper the walls with and buried everything in mountains of cobwebs. I gave myself numerous paper cuts making a full size terrifying tree and haunted house silhouette for the window and we even printed out hilariously witty and personalised grave stones to go on our laptops. Admittedly, when it was revealed that we LOST the best dressed desk competition, I very nearly flipped my chair in an uncontrollable rage and had to be calmed with a kinder bueno and the whispered promise that our desk was loved by all. My delicate and easily bruised artistic temperament cannot take such affronts, but I’m coming to terms with it now. As someone said, ours was so good it was beyond any trivial award, so I’m letting this one slide.

LOOK! Just look at the craftsmanship that’s gone into that

As well as desk decoration, I have once again been maddeningly enthralled by the opportunity to dress up myself. As per EVERY time I have a fancy dress engagement, I have to spend at least a week prior furiously pinteresting ideas and watching how to videos on YouTube. This is then typically followed by a week of panicking because I can’t find/make the exact item/prop I want that would complete my idea and then at least 2 nights in front of the mirror trialling out various options and inevitably having at least two breakdowns. Considering that I only usually end up wearing the costume for 6 hours at the most, it could be considered slight overkill. This time has been no different. I started with 4 ideas (cracked doll, sugar skull, Cheshire Cat, pop art), narrowed it down to 2 (doll and pop art) decided I’d go for a completely different one altogether (fish hooked mermaid) bought all the stuff for that and then had a complete meltdown at the length of my hair and ended up being a bleeding mime instead. Whatcha’ gonna do?


TMM dealt with the whole event very calmly as he does, and only had to talk me through one weeping fit (personal growth!) which is good. He is probably very secretly pleased that it’s all over now and he doesn’t have to listen to me stomping about in the bathroom muttering furiously to myself and avoiding fake blood scabs stuck on every surface. I however, am a little sad that I’ve got to put away the face paint and FX make up for another year. It might have been challenging getting there, but the outcome wasn’t so bad.
And so, we turn the page on Halloween for another year and prepare to batten down the hatches and hunker through the complete Christmas chaos that is about to be unleashed. When one festive season finishes, another prepares to panic you blind…

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…