Sofa So Good

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So we made a table this week (also a new blog title box).

Not too shabby is it?

It’s really not a secret that we enjoy a nice bit of DIY here and there and have a lot of willingness, if not quite as much ability, but we’re pretty proud of this one. For less that £20 (the cost of a piece of dowel and a mitre block), we managed to wrangle together a nice little lamp table for down by the arm chair; bringing not only light but a touch of homemade class to the surrounding area. Or something like that anyway.

We have gone a bit interior design crazy recently; I’m blaming our binges of Queer Eye, Pinterest home improvement boards and a promoter on Instagram who has purchased the most beautiful Victorian house somewhere down south and is doing it up live via her story feed. Renting means we are somewhat constricted in regards to making any grand changes (new walls and new floors are a no-no, much to my chagrin), but we’ve been upgrading our furniture and rearranging everything with truly gay abandon.

Our new sofa was delivered last week, coinciding nicely with a few days that I had taken off to use up the remainder of my holiday allowance. Admittedly, I could have arranged it slightly better, and there was some serious couch Tetris required when it dawned on us that the new sofa was coming on Thursday but the old one wasn’t being picked up until Friday. Still, it went better than could be expected and my slight and irrational fear that the sofa delivery men were all going to be serial killers was pleasingly unfounded. Both sets of men were in and out in less time than it took to complete a Stevie Wonder song (though all made a point of complimenting my blues and soul playlist which was nice) and the guys who delivered the new one even had little shower cap like booties to protect our carpets from their shoes. By lunch time on Friday, everything was settled (Bucky was pleased – he’d been pacing the hallway in a most perturbed fashion for two days) and I was even able to put back a couple of the shelving units I’d been painting in between bonding with delivery men.

I am actually quite proud of myself for those few days off. I painted, I did as much laundry as humanly possible and folded all the dry clothes like a full on grown up. We did get rid of an appalling amount of clothes the other weekend in an attempt to downsize by a wardrobe; I don’t even understand how we ended up with so much. We were harsh though and said goodbye to about 5 millions big bags worth stuff that has now gone to charity, and TMM dismantled an old rickety Ikea wardrobe with glee. We do now have a lovely system (shirts, cardigans and dresses in the wardrobe, pants and socks in wardrobe boxes and t-shirts, trousers and jumpers in the chest of drawers. We have one drawer completely dedicated to knitwear and it’s possibly the most pleasing thing my 90 year old heart has ever seen.

This is me upon our MOUNTAIN of clothes

Admittedly, I did also spend a lot of time lay about watching White Collar (a great series, especially if one is contemplating a life of crime in the art world which I often am) and only cried once which I think is high point for my mental state. We even treated ourselves to a showing of Much Ado About Nothing at the local theatre (our excuse is that it is a present to each other for our upcoming anniversary) on Friday night, so I’m classing the whole period as a success.

We’re not doing too badly in the living room though, and I think we’re actually starting to get something we like (after 5 years of being there). TMM has created a new book nook in the corner and put together a new mantle display, in order to best present our new plant obsession. They were supposed to be spread around the house, but I feel like they’ve gotten attached to each other now, so we’re going to have to get new ones for the bathroom. What a shame. Nothing’s died yet though, and I’ve been following Monty Don’s clear guidelines of watering once a week and misting regularly. I even have a little watering can and old fashioned perfume bottle full of water and plant food.

Here we have ZeeZee (in book corner) and then Diefenbaker, Spikey McGee and Peacious Lilious enjoying a little misting on the mantle.

The urge to make the table took TMM somewhat by surprise I think though, and I was powerless to resist his eager charm. He’s been moving light sources around like a madman; every time I come in there’s a lamp in a new place and after deciding the little lamp he’d put together himself (god he’s clever) he told me resolutely that we needed a table to put it on. He rescued the rusting paella dish from the greenhouse where it was to be repurposed as a bird feeder (sorry birds) and after a quick trip to Homebase, he was raring to go. There was much pontificating about “measuring twice, cutting once” because we are well aware of our inability to be patient and plan things through properly, and we ended up 3 slightly wonky legs (we are hopeless). I was in charge of decoration (TMM does not have the steady hand required for a good paint job) and proceeded to do the very thing I shout at TMM for constantly – slap the paint on whilst still dressed in my civilian clothes. I managed to remain unsplattered though, and even did a fancy bit of striping work with some masking tape (Lawrence Llewelyn Bowen eat your heart out – and yes I know how dated that reference is). Admittedly it’s probably not quite up to Ikea standards, but it’s fit for purpose and kept us out of trouble for an evening so I’m taking it as a win.

Please enjoy this step by step photo montage of the table making process. It looks terribly professional, doesn’t it?

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Foot Loose and Baby Free

Tagline (to replace the title box which is just not behaving this week)

The Art of ProcreNOPEtion

This week has been a joyous week Readers. You will, I’m sure, be pleased to find out that a new baby has joined the TMM clan and I am once again an auntie-in-law (fourth times a charm). TMM’s sister Jenbob masterfully birthed a whopper of a tot (9lb 13!) who is healthy, happy and has possibly the best cheeks I have ever seen in my entire life.

We actually went to see her the day before at TMM’s parents house, whilst she was just there having the most casual attitude to having contractions ever and I was sort of abstractly terrified about being so close to someone who was literally about to pop. She is actually some kind of magical goddess and I won’t hear a word said otherwise; just watching her throw Thea (her firstborn) about as directed (Thea is very knowledgeable about what she wants) whilst going through what looked to be some pretty sore spasms was kind of mind blowing. Pregnant women in general are pretty awe inspiring to me (their bones actually move apart like they’re some kind of biological Transformers, WHAT EVEN IS THAT) and watching them just go about their daily lives being awesome and huge and glowy is immensely pleasing for me.

It’s strange though (and my description of them as some kind of zoo animal might make a tad more sense now), because I don’t plan on ever joining their ranks and having children of my own; I don’t think I ever have. I don’t remember being into dolls or the like when I was little – I very much preferred Lego, hot wheels cars and believed, much as I do now, that the plastic babies with bodily functions were just obscene. Indeed, the only baby name I ever considered was Helmclough and perhaps the my reasons for abstaining are becoming clearer, are they not?


Truthfully though, it was always just a kind of far off concern when I was younger, and I assumed that one grew into one’s urge for maternity. But the general feeling of Nopeness has never really gone away, despite the age limit getting closer and closer and the older I get, the more I realise that this seems to be a Hard Pass for me. People keep telling me that it will change and my urge to Mum Up will blossom from within, but to be honest I find it more likely that my insistence against them will last out far longer than any socially accepted conventions, if only because I secretly love to be contrary. Children have just never really appealed to me. There seem to be countless reasons to leave the whole notion to someone else, one of the biggies being because they are a lot of responsibility and I can’t be trusted to feed myself if left unattended for three days, never mind look after a helpless human being for 16 years+. There is a huge impetus to not Screw Them Up, and I don’t think I am able to keep myself in check, nevermind be one of the major players in creating a brand new, non-psychopathic, fully functioning person in their own right. That is a craft project that, being the lowkey perfectionist that I am, I don’t think there are enough YouTube tutorials to make me good at.

It’s a commitment though, to something that is so much bigger than you and bring with it just so many terrifying consequences. Babies are simultaneously horribly fragile and weirdly resilient. Like one awkwardly placed head squish and you’ve caused massive lasting mental trauma (thanks for that fun phobia, Grapes of Wrath) but you can chuck them in a swimming pool or dribble them like a basketball and they’re fine (disclaimer, I do not intentionally bounce babies, or leave them unattended in large bodies of water, but you get what I’m saying). They’re a contraction in terms, and it stresses me that they start off so helpless when giraffes can walk within minutes, yet end up being the top of the food chain (and giraffes are like, a third, of the way down). Their entire existence boils down to your ability to look after them, and that doesnt go away when they can dress themselves. I still rely on my parents for so much now, and I am a supposedly fully functioning grown up. That is just not the kind of long term promise I can give to someone, especially someone who just popped into existence at my insistence.

I am also super duuuuper lazy, and in no way have enough upper body strength to carry a small person either inside or outside my womb. Whilst visiting Jenbob and the clan, Thea demanded I watch the Wiggles with her and she not only pulled me round the room, she played me for a sucker and stole my glasses like some kind of back room card shark. Distressingly, not only did she con me well enough to steal them directly off my face (the toy phone was for me and as I leant down to answer it, her grabby hands were there) she also had a fierce little grasp and I couldn’t actually pry them off her and was seconds away from just giving up and accepting my new blurry outlook on life. Thankfully they were intercepted and returned to me, but if I can’t outwit or outweigh a not-quite two year old, I really don’t think I should be considering one of my own.

It did make me wonder though, in a way I don’t actually think I’ve really pondered before, if I’ll regret never being pregnant. It’s something my body is primed for but my brain is not. I just don’t appear have the internal ticking time bomb of missed motherhood opportunites that seems to be rife in 20+ year old women. I’m repeatedly told it will happen but at 27, I’m beginning to suspect I missed the memo. It does seem to be a shame because I have the pelvic floor muscles of an absolute beast and what I’m told by the smear nurse is an unusually narrow vagina, so I imagine the whole area would bounce back if nothing else, but what they hey. I think it’s just one of those distant regrets that will pepper my life, the overshadowing fear being stronger than any lingering curiosity. As someone pointed out to me, once it’s in there, it has to come out one way or another, and the actual act of giving birth makes my ribcage constrict. Just knock me unconscious and take it out through the sunroof.

I’ve never seen motherhood as the goal though, nor as something that will truly make me a women. There’s a huge social undercurrent, a shared subconscious psyche, that a woman is there to procreate, and on an evolutionary level I get it, but the world has changed and it’s not the same anymore. I am confident enough in my womanhood to not believe that my not having a baby is a waste and I’m happy to repeat that to anyone who says otherwise. I am lucky enough to be alive in a time where it is my choice, and I’m exercising my right.
Obviously though, it takes two to tango (or not tango as the case may be) and I am lucky enough to be in a relationship with someone who is happy with this. We’ve talked about it quite often; it routinely comes up whenever we’re faced with children, and TMM has said he’s happy with it just being the two of us for the foreseeable. I’m not 100% sure if this was a decision he would make for himself in another situation, and I do occasionally wonder if he will resent me for it eventually, but he has never been anything but supportive and agreeable with the whole shebang. It is a shame, if only because I am pretty convinced that if anyone could take mantle for world’s best dad, it would be him, but he’s doing well on the uncle-ing front and I think he’s getting his fill of chubby cheeks and tiny hands (he does so love the tiny grabby hands) from our various nieces and nephews.

It doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate them though (it possibly makes me love them all the more, knowing I can fill them full of sugar, shake them and give them back before returning to my quiet home, full of dangerously sharp and fragile nickknacks (Thea unerring finds all our pen knives, for we have many, and appears suddenly appears round corners like a tiny Wolverine). The idea of them pleases me greatly, and I am more than happy to be cool aunt who spoils them rotten and teaches them all the best swear words. Though quite how happy various parents will be after reading of my intentions is yet to be decided…

No Rest for the Wicked or Seasonally Challenged

Well hasn’t this just been a busy old month? Apparently the extra week in January has allowed me to cram as much stuff as I possibly can in without realising it, and I can firmly say having a delayed payday really drags the whole thing out. I don’t think we’re quite at the ‘eating beans for every meal’ stage just yet, but I am definitely ready for this month’s wage packet. Admittedly, we probably haven’t helped ourselves purchasing not only a new Dyson but also a new sofa (the most grown up things ever). However, although it is outgoings that we could have maybe done without, I am pretty positive about them because not only did we get everything on sale (and cheaper than we thought to boot) but I was hella grown up and asked pertinent and sensible adult questions because I am a Boss. Even TMM was impressed with my polite but no nonsense attitude. I’m not actually too sure how long that will last when I actually have to be home to let the delivery men bring the sofa in, but as Woo pointed out, I won’t actually be expected to do anything other than open the door and stay out of their way, so hopefully everything will be fine.

I have fallen pretty lucky though, and really shouldn’t be complaining about the apparent millieum length of January. Due to some jammy holiday accrual, I managed to wangle a week off right in the middle (Mother’s birthday – it’s now tradition that we go and stay with her for week) as well as a couple of spare days here and there that are still to look forward to over the coming months.

The holiday itself came hot off the tail of the works conference down in “that Lundun”, which I have to say was probably the best one yet. Working for a global company does mean that you get some perks – one of which is they basically pay for you to go and have a big party to celebrate how everything’s gone in the previous year. Despite working there for nearly 5 years, this is only actually my third conference as I deemed myself to be far too anxious and mental for the first two. The company have really upped their game this time round though and I’m glad I went. Approx 2000 people converged on Battersea Power Station (sans the flying pigs) in their best frocks and suits for a bang up meal and as much free wine/beer as they could handle. Our office travelled down on Thursday, split over the office supplied coach (which was free so my obvious first choice) and the personally supplied train (which you had to pay for so wasn’t even considered), and those of us travelling on style on the coach enjoyed some good old fashioned games of eye spy and a sing a long. We arrived at our hotel at about 3.30ish and bundled up to our room, believing we had plenty of time for prinks and prep. (Spoilers, we had slightly less time than anticipated and barely made it through by the skin of our teeth).

We scrubbed up pretty well though!

Still, we made it to the venue with plenty of time to spare and stocked up nicely on the free bellinis whilst gawping at the pretty awesome scenery. There isn’t really much more to tell from the night itself; we were all very well behaved. There was lots of dancing, a few selfies with Radio 1’s Greg James and everyone commented repeatedly on how much they liked the meal. We were even back at the hotel at a decent time, though we did order dominoes and didn’t actually go to bed until 2.30am (I shared a room with two of my team and we ended up tucked up in two pushed together single beds singing Three Little Bears). The journey back was a tad more subdued, but nobody threw up or cried which I’m taking as a win, and after finishing in the office I was able to go home, nap hard and pack for the week in Wales.

God we are cute

Sadly Mother’s house is still somewhat in disarray, and much to my chagrin she is proving resistant to my idea that we sign her up to DIY SOS. I am convinced that between the freezing internal temperatures (I don’t care what she says, 13 degrees inside is not balmy), exposed floors and lack of a functional shower in the house, we could have Nick Knowles knocking at the door in no time, but she remains unconvinced. We were going through various fancy home magazines and dog earring the corners of everything we like though, so it’s a definite step in the right direction.

However, we still had a splendid time (as we always do) and it might even be for the best that it’s so cold, because if her house was warm I really would have no reason to ever leave it again. We were very helpful whilst we were there though (or so I like to think), and got involved in all kinds of tasks. We blitzed the workshop like absolute demons and managed to not only arrange everything better, we got rid of about 3 bin bags of rubbish, a couple of charity bags, found some jumpers we’d all forgotten we had, and thankfully didn’t find any rodent corpses hidden behind any of the racks. I did however sneeze very dramatically all over the place and got terribly snotty, once again proving that I am deathly allergic to cleaning. We also made some great progress with Mother’s build up of Christmas decorations (considering she hasn’t been able to decorate for about 3 years, she’s got an excessive amount), and in style of Netflix’s very own Maria Kondo (“but does it spark joy?”) managed to downsize to only 4 small cases and 1 big one box.

Mother and I also spent the afternoon making a Christmas Bauble Wreath (read – Mother did and I just sat next to her making helpful suggestions and smashing bits of bauble up happily), and I am definitely classing this as my first craft installment because I have literally fallen at the first hurdle on that front and am already behind on my craft blog schedule. TMM managed to get through about 3 books so he was in his element and once again it was very clearly indicated to us that we are definitely made for the leisurely lifestyle of retirement in the country. We didn’t hold up quite as well on leaving this time as perhaps we have before; I cried whilst Mother was making us packed lunches, she cried when I hugged her, we all went to the shop to get some final bits and then bawled unashamedly in the car park for a while before setting off. I managed to pull myself together by Aberystwyth though and by the time we got home I’d only teared up twice more so that’s good.

There’s still plenty to do though and I’ve got lots to look forward too; I’ve had letters from both the dentist and opticians demanding my presence (oh joy, oh rapture), TMM’s sister is fit to burst with a new little one and we’ve got a holiday to Greece to meet up with some old friends to plan (don’t worry, there will definitely be a post on that later because I am actually the worst person in the world at planning a holiday and will have lots of hilarious anxiety ridden anecdotes to share). I even managed to finish a jigsaw that has been sat on our table for OVER A YEAR last night which I’m seeing as a very positive omen for the year ahead. We’ve made it through Blue Monday and it’s all downhill to summer now; things can only get better from here.

Out with the Old, In with the Craft

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Well that’s it folks. 2018 is now but a distant memory and 2019 lies ahead full of potential and suchlike. I hope you all had a glorious festive period and are full of vigour and vim for the new year. You’d probably imagine that, being in the prime of our lives, we’d have welcomed in the New Year with a bang and been out partying hard until the dawn broke. You could not, however, be more wrong. We did, in fact, start the New Year in very much the same style as we left it; TMM fell asleep on the floor halfway through Sherlock Gnomes whilst I snuggled with the cat. He woke up just in time for Jools Holland to hug everyone on the set of his Hootananny, gave me a kiss and we stumbled to bed and were both asleep by about 12.35am. It was delightful. You might think us boring, but spending the night huddled up together is pretty much all we need. So suck it.

It’s a hard life for some

I’m really not surprised that it ended up as it did though. TMM is constantly about 5 times sleepier than anybody else generally and after the epic Christmas feasts he prepared (note the plural) I definitely think he was deserving of some early nights. We (and by we I 100% mean TMM) hosted our first proper Christmas this year, like h’actual adults. Usually we spend our holidays travelling all over the country to visit various family groups and don’t really do much at home. This year however, we had Mother, my sister and her partner staying with us for a whole 3 days. TMM excelled himself in every way and everyone was fed, watered and amused with minimal stress. Admittedly, our sleeping arrangements left a little to be desired, for despite having plenty of rooms, they’re all tiny and you can’t fit beds in them. As such my sister and her partner had the main bed, Mother and I slept on air beds – I graciously gave her the good mattress and had the one that kept deflating rudely and poor TMM had the floor).

However, us being us, we obviously still did a little travelling because we are incapable of staying in one place for more than five minutes. We visited friends for cheese and wine (because we are nothing if fancy) and then went for a surprisingly wonderful breakfast in a vegan café called Wild & Wild. We spent some time with TMM’s clan, having curry on Christmas eve and then passing round presents and catching up with his grandparents on Christmas morning (TMM and his mum had a rather dramatic game of Othello and I think we may have started some kind of games tournament without realising). We also nipped down to the homeland for a day or so to see my various aunts, uncles, cousins and Neens. We had a go at the customary Christmas Treasure Hunt Tradition, though admittedly most of the childerbeasts had already completed it so I think that we had a head start. We still enjoyed ourselves immensely though and Santa Neens excelled herself once again. Sadly, we didn’t have time to play the yearly family game of Cards against Humanity (because there really is nothing funnier that watching your grandmother say “cheeky bum sex” with unmitigated glee in her eyes) but we’ll make sure to save it for next time.

We were lucky enough to spend some time actually at home though. On Christmas Eve we got to snuggle up adorably in our new slippers and with our Book Flood books – I already knew that mine was the next installment of the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch, but I was still dangerously excited about it. (For those of you who have never read any of the series, I demand that you do so immediately because it is excellent). We got back from TMM’s parent’s house in time to spend half an hour relaxing before my lot turned up, greeted at the door with a glass of fancy clementine and cranberry bucks fizz and some pate on toast (because we are hella fancy). Over the next few days, we mainly slobbed around eating like royalty (TMM had prepared a full Christmas dinner for one day, an orange glazed ham and homemade vegetable soup for another and people had brought/prepared puddings galore), interspersed with casual Christmas walks. We even got to enjoy some Christmas pudding and sherry with Molly, who was practically apoplectic with joy at having both my Mother and sister pay her a visit. We did have to take them twice (which I don’t think they were expecting), because we popped round on Boxing Day only to find her getting ready to be picked up for a late Christmas dinner; she was so enraged at the thought she wouldn’t get to spend much time with us that we promised to bring everyone round again the day after. She made us all eat our own bodyweight in cake, take photos with her and spent a good five minutes staring in disbelief at my sister (because she looks far younger that she should).

Perving in Keele Hall and imagining our lives as the British wing of Charlie’s Angels. Molly was mainly just excited to have a sherry with someone.

Overall though, it went swimmingly and TMM once again proved himself to be worth his weight in chocolate. Without him, I can categorically state that I would have starved, been lost in the woods or died through lack of attention. This holiday clearly cemented our status as a functioning human male and his pet cat in girlfriend form. He’s also given me my new purpose this year, for which I am immensely grateful. He sat with me the other weekend whilst I was trawling through my Pinterest account, lamenting the fact I’ve never gotten round to actually trying a majority of the things on there (not for lack of trying – I have numerous boards specifically dedicated to craft, each labelled helpfully with encouraging names like “Craft”, “Craft Projects Go”, “Things To Try” and “Etsy” and “Well that’s clever”). He suggested I maybe try something new with my blog, in an attempt to make it more topical, easier to keep up and possibly more interesting to read – actually completing craft projects from my to-do list. He pointed out that I could look to do one a month and write about it as I go; the materials used, why I’m interested in them, how easy or difficult they are and anything else that springs to mind. Some of the ones I’ve already pinned are nice simple ones that I could do in a night and some are big projects that might take the whole month in achieve, but it gives me something to dedicate myself to, widens my craft sphere and will hopefully draw the attention of either Cath Kidson or Kirsty Allsop (who will in fact be so amazed by my skills and ability they will hire me immediately).

What do you think Readers? Is this something you’d be interested in? Would you care to travel the wild and windy path of craft exploration with me?

Mele Kalikicraftmus

I mean, I know I said all that last week about not being big into Christmas and all, but I do have to admit to getting a bit carried away this weekend. Since we’re having Mother, Robin and her boyf over to ours for the festive period (possibly the first time we’ve actually properly hosted for more than 1 person and for more than 1 evening), we decided it might actually be the time to make some effort. Previous years have seen us either not really making much effort (we always aim to have a tiny Christmas sprout) or not bothering to decorate at all. I think when you’re out living as a real life grown up but without children, the sparkle can dull a little bit and it’s a lot easier to see only the trials and tribulations (and almighty costs) instead of the joy and excitement. When you’re inviting other people though, it could possibly be considered a tad rude to force them to not celebrate the season just because you can’t be arsed with the stress. To that end, TMM and I have decided we’re going to go for it. Now, we’re not going wild, though this is mainly because we already have so much stuff and I literally do not have the time, energy on inclination to move all of my normal tat to replace it with Xmas tat. Also because I know that if I Go For It (note the use of capitalisation) and it doesn’t look like something out of Country Living December Edition (which is obviously won’t) I will lose all hope and try and bin everything. Instead, we will just go at about 65%, which will still allow us to be 50% more festive than previous years but won’t end in a stroppy ceremonial Christmas bonfire.

We have obviously (as per last week’s post) already been adopting new seasonal traditions (book flood anyone?), but we’ve also been reverting to some god old fashioned ones, which leads me nicely into our first adventure of the weekend. No matter how non-Christmassy we’re feeling, we do always agree that if a tree is to be purchased, it must be real. Previous years have found us with teeny weeny little shrubs from local garden centres (or occasional Tesco) propped up on cabinets and weighed down awkwardly by our 5 oversized baubles. This year however, TMM decided that it was time for us to go big (not childhood big, where all Christmas trees appear to be about 30 ft. tall and as wide as Santa’s waistline) but of a grown up height. He rearranged the living room to make room and dug out the flyer offering £5 off from the local Christmas Tree Farm and everything was gung ho until we realised that whilst our house and dreams were big enough to accommodate a 6 ft. tree, the new car was not. I was fully prepared to give up and go back to the little league, but TMM was not to be deterred. “I’ll just carry it!” he says, with a hearty attitude and somewhat manic look in his eye.

And Reader? Carry it he did.

Decked in our new gear (Primark jumper and new expedition coat that turns me into a member of East 17, we set off on Sunday mid morning. Now the walk from our house to the next village along typically takes me about 40 minutes (though usually because I am trudging grumpily and muttering under my breath about stupid public transport), but I do have to admit that it wasn’t quite as bad as normal with TMM’s positive attitude. Making it to the farm in record time, we turned up the drive and were met by two high viz wearing youths who smiled at us with bemused smiles, obviously concerned that we hadn’t realised we’d forgotten our car. Undeterred, we skipped merrily into the fields and started manhandling tress with gay abandon. Not being too arsed by the general look of the thing, we made our selection within about 2 minutes and TMM dragged it over to the netting machines. Much to my chagrin (and despite my offer of a whole £5 if he threw himself through it head first, which alongside being in a carwash with the windows down is one of my all time big dreams), TMM refused to net himself and instead focused on getting the tree trussed up. I think he mightily impressed one of the workers who basically just stood aside and let him do his thing with a cheery “you should get a job here”, and he had it paid for (with discount) and over his shoulder in the blink of an eye. As we departed, one of the youths from the gate broke out into a cheery smile when he realised what we intended, wishing us a very Merry Christmas and 100% convinced that we weren’t going to make it. TMM is a true hero amongst men though, and in less than 2 hours after setting out we’d made it back to base camp with only one stop to delayer. I documented the whole thing hilariously on Instagram, partly to distract myself from my own burden of the coats (which were also very heavy thank you very much) but mostly to show the world what an absolute legend he is. Nearly every car that drove past heralded either a smile or a face of disbelief and I actually think we might be village famous now #lifegoals

Side note – I would also like to point out that I did try to help, but it was decided very quickly by all parties that I was more of a hindrance than not (I ended up looking a lot like Grandpa in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang; one finger on the tree and a big cheesy grin).

Once we were home (again, can I point out how it took us less than 2 hours to travel that far with baggage) it only took a few minutes of furious sawing and a quick vac (of both the pine needles on the floor and the ones that had coated TMM’s back) to get it settled. By the afternoon, it was most gloriously bedecked in all of our oversized baubles (I don’t know why we don’t buy normal sized ones), including the Oxford globe, the York bell jar and our little wooden cut outs from Prague. I am quite proud with the classic and understated approach we’ve taken to it, and TMM is happy we haven’t used tinsel (which he believes is the devil’s work). As of the time this was written, it is still upright (if leaning slightly to the left) and Bucky has remained mostly unarsed by it, except as somewhere to hide whilst he decapitates and devours the mouse population of the village (such lovely presents to find).

Whist we doing the tree however, it was pretty clear that we really don’t have enough decorations for anywhere else in the house. Our minimalist approach has left us with one box of random bits and bobs and a couple of stockings and that’s about it. Somewhat reluctant to go out and spend money on crappy plastic ones, TMM suggested we have a go at making our own. I’m all into my pom poms and origami at the moment, which gave us some ideas, and a quick google suggested salt dough could be the way forward. Now salt dough is a staple from my childhood and for anyone who’s never done IT, you’re really missing out. Super cheap and easy to make, non toxic (quite important considering how much I insisted on eating when younger), and very simple to decorate; it’s the perfect idea to keep kids and craft adults happy. All you need is 2 cups of plain flour, 1 cup of salt and enough water to bind it together and hey presto; you’ve got your dough. What more can you want? TMM suggested we make some nice little pendants using some stamps that we had, and after a slight hiccup (I couldn’t find the stamps and was fully prepared to cancel Christmas as a whole until TMM found them hiding under the couch), we were set to go. It was surprisingly easy and within the hour, we have enough bits for four garlands spelling Merry Christmas in various languages (points if you can identify them), a couple of festive animals and a big gay pendant with our initials because we are in love and also ADORABLE. 3 hours in the oven on a low heat and they were baked to perfection and we’ve been gradually tying them up as and when we’ve had time. I’ve also decided some pom pom bunting couldn’t hurt and I’m just waiting for a free evening to get a couple knocked out in seasonal colours, and I’m hoping to make some little paper trees and cranes this weekend whilst TMM finishes off the wrapping.

All in all, I don’t really think I can keep claiming the title of Grinch this year. With our early start on present shopping and decorative preparations, we’re pretty much fully immersed. All that’s left is a rendition of Santa Drives a Pickup Truck (my most fave xmas song) and a night in with White Christmas and Muppets Christmas Carol. Is this what being a functional and prepared adult in December feels like? Apparently it really is beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

12 Days of Tradition

12 Trads Blog

IT’S COMING PEOPLE! CHRISTMAS IS ON IT’S WAY! I don’t want to panic you or appear overly dramatic, but it cannot be denied. Halloween is over and done with, Bonfire Night is a distant memory and people are gearing up for the Big Ho Ho Ho. Shops are filling up with suspiciously smug customers who have already made a dent in their gift lists, fairy lights are popping up like festive moles all over the bloody place and I have already seen one child walking to school in a Santa hat. People are starting to get excited and there is a whiff of festivity in the air.

Honestly, I can’t say I’m enjoying to that much. I am one of those grouchy grinches who repeatedly insists that there are only 12 days of Christmas and not one of them is in November. I’ve already spent countless hours wordlessly screaming into the black void of Christmas music and I’ve had to haggle hard with some work colleagues to keep the festive radio station playing to a minimum (we’ve compromised on an hour a day until December 1st, though this has already been ignored and Tuesday was a whole day of Mariah Carey and Wizzard). I have also categorically refused to even touch the wrapping this year, but thankfully TMM has take my childish refusal with good grace and tackled the ever growing pile with a positive attitude and a healthy amount of recycled brown packaging paper. I have deigned to come from my lofty heights to make a couple of pompoms for decoration, but that’s it.

Look how cute these are. Though be aware, this is just a fraction. The whole left hand side of the living room is lost to the Present Pile now.

It is unavoidable though, and no matter how much I bury my head in the snow, the undeniable seasonal cheer is seeping in. Various Christmas adverts insist on thrusting themselves into my eye line despite the fact I never actually watch live TV anymore, and I’ve witnessed the Kevin the Carrot hysteria second hand. Apparently Aldi were forced to put a limit of no more than two carrot families per person (though god knows why anybody wants that many stuffed felt carrots, as they will undoubtedly end up in a cupboard or under the bed within two months before making their way forlornly to various charity shops/bins before this decade is out). I do have to admit to possibly encouraging the craze and agreeing to make a baby carrot toy for one of the girls at work, which in itself was a challenge. Never having crocheted before I feel maybe a carrot was a tad ambitious, but after 1 broken crochet hook, countless swear words and some near misses with tears of frustration, I was able to gift him as promised and apparently he is now much loved. To be honest I think he looks a little like he’s screaming, but as long as she’s happy with him, it’s all gravy.

It’s not a great photo, but I still can’t help but think he looks like a carrot version of The Scream. As long as someone loves him though.

It’s coming up to the time of festive traditions though, as people start to talk about their Christmas routines and everyone starts to fall into the same old patterns of preparing for the big day. We had the ultimate pleasure of taking Molly to the local Christmas Fair (one of my favourite events) and boy am I glad we don’t have to do that again for a few months. She tutted her way round the stalls complaining loudly about the lack of local people (despite the fact that it was the busiest I’d ever seen it), pushed in front of various other elderly people without any regard for social convention (though thankfully in her excitement she missed the Tombolo which really is more trouble than it’s worth) and spent a truly repulsive amount of money at the jam stall. She evilly eyed up the woman with the golden charity bucket, who despite being there every damn year is apparently a complete stranger (Molly insisted on repeatedly saying to her “I don’t know who you are”) and griped about the coffee being stone cold (but refused to let us get her a fresh cup). By the time we got her back to her house, both of the other couples that look after her had turned up (a fortuitous event that has never before happened). We all had to have photos and the she got completely overwhelmed and just shouted at everyone until we all went home. A truly festive afternoon.

I have heard of some rather more positive seasonal traditions though, which I think would be much nicer to adhere to (no offence to the local Christmas Fair, obvs). There are a lot of European and Scandinavian practices that have popped on my Facebook feed over the last few years that I would love to adopt. This year, a lot of people have been pointing me towards an Icelandic tradition that is part of a season called Jolabokflod (Jólabókaflóð) which roughly translates to “The Christmas Book Flood”. Iceland publishes more books per capita than any other country and sells most of its books between September and November in preparation for the upcoming holiday. This has led to people exchanging books as presents on Christmas Eve and spending the rest of the night snuggled up reading them and snacking on festive foods. Obviously this speaks to me on a rather emotional level and TMM has already made the executive decision to appropriate this idea this year (I can’t say I’m too upset).

I’ve also seen articles relating to a movement in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where people purchase new coats and leave them tied around lamp posts and packed safely on benches for homeless people with notes tied to them that say “I am not lost! If you are stuck out in the cold, please take me to keep warm”. Austrians also like to help, and apparently buy extra Christmas trees to leave outside their houses to ensure the local wildlife has a nice festively themed haven. If these don’t warm your heart, I don’t know what will.

Denmark and Norway have given us Hygge, a massively on trend movement that thrives well in the wintery season. All about comfort and relaxation, it’s there to help away fight away the winter blues and seasonal low moods. It’s all about the aesthetic; including lots of heart shapes decorations (which will please my mum no end) earthy colours and natural textures – bringing in some much needed greenery inside for the holidays. If you’re looking for a cosy little Christmas, you don’t need much more than a little bit of Jolabokflod and Hygge (which sounds like a great law firm).

The last one I’ve seen recently which I thought was cute is a Nordic folklore about the Nisse/Tomte, which in very rudimentary terms is basically a Christmas goblin. Originating in pre-Christian times, it is a spirit that looks like a little gnome or gonk and is often linked specifically to a family or clan, thought to be of the farmer who originally cleared the land to live on. Believed to possibly be derived from Norse niðsi which translates “dear little relative”, they live in the homestead and act as a guardian. They will look after the family and animals and protect from misfortune, but are short tempered and easily offended – they will steal stuff or kill life stock and basically they will eff shiz up if you don’t treat them properly. However, over time their legends have evolved and they are now widely linked to Christmas. Their purpose and appearance has been heavily influenced by the commercialised ideas of Father Christmas and they now visit houses to deliver gifts to worthy souls. I like the notion of a little house spirit keeping an eye on things and enjoying the festivities as much as the next romantic.

Not to be a lefty snowflake (though I suppose it is the season after all) but I would like as much European influence this Christmas as possible. It’s a time for celebration and coming together (I feel the urge to burst into song) and with everything that’s going on elsewhere, I think it’s important to share our histories and traditions before they’re lost. And let’s face it, anything that keeps me in the mood has got to be worth it.

Another Dead, Another Dollar

Death Blog

So I have been thinking a lot about my “dream job” recently. This happens on a semi-regular basis; the typical adult day dream of what you’d be doing if you could, but I’ve been thinking a lot about the future and what I’m supposed to be doing with my life (spoiler – I ain’t got a clue) and as such it’s been a little more at the forefront of my mind. It’s important to understand that being a grown up is pretty sucky overall, and considering you spend about 75% of your time working, it is really the best course of action to find a job/career that is actually good for you.

Now it’s all very well and good being rational and thinking about saving money and sensible career options, but I think there surely must be more to life that the daily 9-5 grind. I’ve heard horror stories of people who worked every god given day of their lives, saving up for a dream retirement and ended up dying a week after they finished. Can you think of anything more soul destroying? Working so hard for so long and then it all just being a waste? It doesn’t bear even thinking about. Still, I know it’s hard, and that talking about “living in the moment” and Carpe-Diem-ing all over the place is fine for some people, but there are those of us that can’t; because they don’t know how, because they’re scared, because they haven’t got the freedom. For the silently complaining majority, working is literally a means to an end and “living for the weekend” is more than a cheesy saying, it’s a way of life.

There’s a fine line that needs to be navigated for most of us; the perfect balance of submitting to the necessities of the world (earning enough money to live) and actually enjoying the way you do it. I’m pretty sure that there’s only a tiny fraction of people who actually love their jobs, but the rest of us need to at least find something that doesn’t make us cry every night and dread getting out of bed every morning.

My job teeters on this line, sometimes tipping further one way then the other. I really like the people I work with but the role itself can be either here nor there. I sort of accidentally fell into it and whilst it could obviously be worse and it succeeds in keeping the wolves from the door, it’s a long stretch from what I’d hoped for when I was little tot dreaming of my future. Before further education, I’d been lucky enough to never need a job. I’d tried (Somewhat lacksidasically) to find one, but I barely did anything and as such didn’t really need the funds. However, leaving University left me with an acute terror of needing to find a job immediately or face certain death and dishonour on my family. Working part time at a pub whilst studying was fine, but it wasn’t really feasible for a couple looking to set off on their own into the big wide world. TMM managed to find a job at the local mill (which makes us sound like right hillbillies) quite quickly and I was left to spend a few weeks milling about in our cramped little room above the pub feeling sorry for myself and eating left over cold pasta. Not one to be kept down though (read – having encouraging friends and family who guided me in the right direction), I contacted a couple of employment agencies and within a few days was signed up for a temp job working as a recruitment consultant for a healthcare company. Now, not to sugar coat it, but I hated that job quite passionately. I made some lovely friends and had some good times, but the job itself was gash and completely unsuited to me. Still, I spent a year there (what else was I going to do) and got what I could out of it. After that ended though, it was easier to fall into a similar role again and again and today still finds me working in recruitment (though thankfully in a role more back office based than customer facing). It’s not what I would have picked for myself when I was younger though, and I still don’t think it’s really where my passions lie.

To be honest though, the jobs I would class as right for myself are a tad…odd. I’ve been pretty set in my ways and since school, I have only ever really wanted to be one (or more) of three things.

  1. A librarian from the 1950s
  2. A famous author
  3. A mortuary assistant

Specific and somewhat niche, you can see why I have maybe struggled to find myself in these career options yet. The first choice, the librarian, is possibly the most accessible to me (though I have tried on numerous occasions to get a job in a library to little or no response) but I fear that my imagings of what working in a library is like would not be anything like what working in a library actually is, hence the caveat. I want towering wooden bookshelves; leather bound books nestled safely in amongst each other in a soothing smell of must; cabinets labelled in neat hand writing housing thousands of neatly arranged reference cards and women with sensible skirts, smart buns and piznez. Basically I want to work in the Bodleian or the Hogwarts Library. The trouble is, I think the libraries of today are a lot more multimedia based, computerised and sadly nowhere near as prevalent as they once were. That is not to say I would not jump at the chance to get myself in there (a library is a library no matter what, and if I have to bring my own reference cards I will), because no matter how the job evolves or what systems are used to manage it, it is and always will be “a gateway, to a better and happier and more useful life” and that is what I am all about.

For those of you who know nothing about Isaac Asimov, I strongly suggest you go out there and educate yourselves.

The second option is I think the aspirations of everyone with a note pad and a head full of imaginations, but the trouble is most of us either don’t have the staying power or the ability to cope well with criticism and rejection. Personally, I find myself with thousands of ideas but just not the ability to flesh them out fully. I become too bogged down in the minutia of finding the perfect simile or conversational exchange and lose interest before the first chapter is out. My notes are filled with countless unfinished stories that I return to now and again, but never at a rate that will end up with the intended J.K.Rowling levels of popularity. Considering this was my dad’s third chance at a fortune (the 1st being his great monetary success and the 2nd being my sister’s – neither of which have come to fruition yet) I think he might need to start buying a lottery ticket.

The final choice has been a firm favourite ever since I fell in love with the imagined funeral director who I used to pass every day on the way to school. (Side note – the man himself was not imaginary, he and his snazzy briefcase were very real. However I have no idea what his chosen profession actually was or if his briefcase housed the secrets of the dead – I imagine it more likely he was just a very smart accountant). I found him fascinating though, and the life I made up for him, dealing with those who were not so alive, was pretty awesome.

I remember telling one of my teachers that I’d be interested in working in a funeral home during one of our short lived “Career Options” meetings at high school and I still remember the look of horrified disbelief on her face. I was quite surprised at the fervent opposition, especially considering it is possibly one of the most viable and sustainable options (never going to run out of work, are you?) and kept my ideas to myself after that. The dream never really went away though.

We actually own two copies of this book due to an unfortunate selection of incidents last Christmas involving some cover staining and a gravy disaster. However, it does mean we can take a cool picture so it’s not all bad.

I’m currently reading “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory” by Caitlin Doughty, a lady who works in the industry though, and it has done absolutely nothing to dissuade me. It’s a viscerally real, deceptively funny and surprisingly affectionate view behind the curtain of cremation and has pushed me to think about it in ways I never have before.

People have a very odd relationship with death and reading this book has made me aware of how far society (especially Western civilisation) has come from its rituals and belief systems surrounding the dearly departed. Death is so far removed from us now, and so hidden; we don’t want anything to do with the vessel that housed the person we knew. Indeed there is a commercialisation surrounding it, in our attempts to make it more palatable, death has become just another business. Some of the descriptions in the book; the things that are done to the bodies to make them “acceptable” for family viewings is almost unbelievable. I’ve already told TMM that when I die, he is to either just look upon my remains for what they are or remember me as I was. I’ve spent enough time making myself acceptable for other people, like hell am I gonna do it in death.

But one of my favourite quotes – “Someone must take care of these corpses, who have become useless at caring for themselves” really stuck with me and felt quite timely in this, my time of annual frustrations over my need to care for others but inability to do so. I want desperately to support homeless people, but I still struggle making eye contact with people I know, never mind strangers living on the street. I want to help the legions of abandoned old folk who are living alone and share in their rich histories, but can’t seem to hold a serious conversation to save my life without coming across horribly patronisingly. The thought of children suffering horrifies and shames me, but the idea of working with them terrifies me beyond compare. The dead though, they don’t actually need that much in the grand scheme of things. Someone to prepare them, someone to take care of what remains, someone to stand by as they vanish into the ground or the crematorium. It’s strange because by that point, I’m sure they really don’t care what happens, but I like to think that when I’m gone, there will be someone there to look after me one last time. They won’t know me and they probably won’t remember me, but they’ll make sure I shuffle off this mortal coil with whatever dignity remains and I find that comforting.

It might be morbid but it’s necessary and honestly? I can’t think of a dream job more worthwhile.