Less of a Do-er, More of a Don’t-er

Well hello there dearest readers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rivers

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

 

 

 

Well That’s Embarrassing 

I have to say, I’m quite enjoying the “listicle” form of writing at the moment – I find it lends itself to blogging very well.  I enjoyed my Five Facts post (so much so I will look to do another one in the future. Facts are the best), and I’ve got plenty of other things I can list.

For this particular post, I was inspired by something I saw something the other day (though I can’t remember for the life of me what it was) and it served the dual purpose of making me laugh and also cringe epically whilst writing.

Everyone has certain memories of those horribly embarrassing situations that you can look back on with painful clarity, and hopefully the below 4 will encourage you to laugh (and die a little) about your own.

5 Embarrassing Things Eleanor Has Done:

1 – Let’s face it, in our 7 years together The Man Muffin has seen me at my best, my worst and every other which way he possibly could, so it’s only right I start this list off with one of the many times he’s seen me make a complete tit of myself. Let me set the scene for you. We’d been going out for a few months, still in the first flushes of love and I was obviously doing my best to be the most alluring and ladylike I could be (which was a struggle, I can tell you). So obviously it’s at this stage that I had to completely ruin it. I ‘d been staying over in Ross’ block for a few days and in need of a shower, I had snuck across the hallway like a ninja (as it was an all boys block and no matter how well you know them, a group of boys will always shout “WAHEY” at a lady obviously leaving a fellow boy’s room). The bathroom itself was reminiscent of a swimming pool’s changing room, with a line of shower cubicles set next to three toilets and all pretty much open to the elements. I’d already stripped into the towel ready to just fling myself into the shower at a moment’s notice, and was already sliding across the stupidly slippery tile floor as Ross followed behind. Just as I had gone to get into the shower like some kind of delicate water nymph my foot skidded and unable to find purchase I went down like the proverbial sack of spuds. Being as each shower was a tiny singular cubicle with a ceramic lip to prevent water escaping, I managed not only to fall gracelessly (pulling everything down with me) but also proceeded to smack every pointy joint and hip bone on the way down; ending up in crumpled heap of utterly mortified nudiness. Thankfully I managed to manfully hold off the tears (though I did have some MEGA bruises afterwards so would have been totally justified in crying) and Ross bundled into a towel and made some encouragingly soothing noises. Somehow he managed not to laugh himself sick and still thinks I’m pretty now, so there’s a silver lining somewhere. Depressingly though, it was not the last time I slipped in front of TMM, and not even the only time I fell in those bloody showers.

 

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This is not the card you’re looking for..

2 – This one is a relatively recent one and leans slightly to the creepy side. It all started on the week leading up to Father’s Day. This year, I was terribly proud of myself for being a complete grown up and super prepared. I got a great card and made a fancy laminated voucher (offering 1 super rad dad gift when I was not horribly poor and had ANY IDEA what my dearest papa wanted) and posted it with time to spare. Anyway, a few weeks later, I’m having a three way whatsapp convo with my dad and sister and he mentions how he is still waiting for one of our father’s day cards. I obviously assume that it is my sister who has failed in fulfilling her daughterly duties and prepare to be all smug only for it to be revealed that, shock horror, my card has not arrived! Outraged I demand an explanation, only to realise that I put the wrong address on the card (regardless of the fact I lived there for 5 years). Now my dad being the dedicated believer in getting his love tokens that he is, goes round to the address I had erroneously sent my card to. There, it turns out that not only had I put the wrong address on, I had also not put his name on meaning the lady who lived at the other address had opened it. This is where it gets really weird – I had written, as I am wont to do “To dearest daddy, happy father’s day, love El”. Pretty standard you might think. Well it turned out that the lady who lived there had a son who had passed away called Elliot (El for short). Basically, I sent a lady a card from her dead son. I mean that karmic cringe alone was awful, and I’m still debating whether or not I should write her an apology letter!

3 – I blame Mr B for this one more than myself, but I feel like this might actually be a right of way for any young heroine going to University (as something similar happened to my sister). I was living in the upstairs room of a two storey flat and had more belongings than any one person should ever need (it took two cars to get me down there for gods sake), so obviously moving out was a military style operation. In an attempt to save time and energy, we (being my step dad) decided that it would be advantageous to create a zipline between my window and the boot of the car upon which things could be flung down with the greatest of ease. This worked surprisingly well for the first few attempts, but it should have been clear that using a nylon rope and plastic bags was a combination eventually bound to fail. Which, of course, it did when the bag full of my underwear was hurtling down towards the car. About half way, in slow motion, the strap broke and to my mortification my knickers and bras cascaded across the front lawn and the car park, just in time for two of my room mates to come back and proceed to corpse about the place. Thankfully everything was bundled up and shoved into the car, but there’s an image of my entire underoo collection scatted wide and far that will forever be indelibly printed on my mind.

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I call this one “The Shame of the Millennial Woman”. Mainly I think TMM just enjoyed throwing pants on me.

4 – This situation is actually a joint venture of shame shared between myself and my bestie uni pal Hannah. Being of such similar temperaments, we managed to live together for all three years and wangle it that we had nearly every class together (which involved a lot of timetable studying and the occasional desperately begging email to the HR team to get swapped into the same time slots.) Being both English bods, we shared all of our seminars and subsequently managed to share most of our books (and homework). We had one class with a wonderfully grumpy old lecturer who we proceeded to adore like a kind of angry old homeless cat. He taught us American Literature and was surprisingly tolerant of our constant levels of hysteria. Being 3rd year students, we were expected to read approximately 4 books a week and be able to discuss them in detail. We probably were not as committed to this as perhaps we should have been. I really think we should have learnt from the time in second year when we did “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens and thought that watching the Muppet’s version was enough – which would have been fine until someone mentioned something about Tiny Tim and there was a horrifying moment we didn’t know if he really died or not. Still, we did not learn and our faith in each other was proved once again mis-founded. We bought all our books, read them with varying levels of interest and got to the café for a quick cake before one particular class when it became painfully clear that we had read the wrong book. Instead of reading “The Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison, a tale detailing the struggle of African-Americans in the early 20th century; we’d both read “The invisible Man” by H.G.Wells, a British science fiction novella about an actual invisible man. Unable to think of what to do, we had to reveal to our lecturer what we’d done, only to be gently smacked round the heads, called “dozy tarts” and then completely (and justifiably) mocked for the remainder of the class. As Hannah said, we should have realised what we’d done the moment we both said how much we liked what we’d read…

5 – This one I think is not actually my fault, but still makes me snort whenever I think back on it. As we all know, Molly is a firm feature of our lives and provides countless anecdotes of hysteria. One particular story originates from the fact Molly firmly believe she has met TMM’s dad. Guess what, she has not. Let me set the scene for you – TMM had gone to see his family and I was left in charge of dog walking. I had a chum who asked if he could tag along and I graciously said yes. Now, this friend is a very tall, broad, beardy man with glasses and has an excellent penchant for hitting people (mostly when they deserve it). It is important to know at this juncture that he looks nothing like Ross, his dad or indeed any relative. He is also not old enough to have a 20+ year old son. Anyway, off we go to Molly’s and below is a brief summary of what occurred:

Me – “Hey Molly, this is Dan. He’s mine and Ross’ friend”

Molly – “Ross’ dad?”

Me – “No Molly, DAN, a friend”

Molly (grabbing Dan’s hand and furiously shaking it) – “Lovely to me you Mr P*!”

Dan (aside to me) – “What the hell? What do I do?”

Me (to Dan) – “Just go with it. It’s too late now.”

So we go in for a drink and by the end of an eventful half an hour, Molly has told me just how much Ross looks like his (not) dad and asked Dan various questions about his wife, kids, job and how proud he is of TMM for going to University. By this point, Dan was fully and vigorously encouraging Molly in her fantasy whilst I was left silently cringing in the corner. We finally manage to escape, mildly hysterical, but the whole thing was made so much better when, the day after, TMM and I go to Molly’s and she proceeds to tell him how lovely his dad is. The end result is, Molly still believe she’s met Daddy Man Muffin and will staunchly refuse to forget that (even though she can barely remember our names).
Honourable mentions of other cringe-worthy situations include: the time when I left a voicemail message for my driving instructor and said “Hi Eleanor, it’s Alan” only to hear Ross nearly wetting himself in the corridor, and the joyous occasion my pencil skirt ripped all the way up the seam and I flashed my pants to a row of old men on the bus.

So there we have it. Just five (and a bit) insights into some of the hilarious situations I get myself into, which, if they do nothing else, will make a great chapter in my autobiography…

Confessions of a Serial Storyteller…

Bonjourno dear readers, I hope we are all well and contented on this fine Tuesday?

Not to be overdramatic but I’m definitely dying. I’ve somehow managed to damage my shoulder and after three days of wincing and sulking and wearing a heat pack like a security blanket, it’s obviously getting close to the end. I’m going to have another bath tonight (which will make two in two days – unheard of as I am not a big fan of a bath AT ALL) and watch an episode of Due South like a big water slug in the hope it will loosen up the knot and allow my to actually mobilise again.

In other news, I have struggled a bit with inspiration for a post this week – I am loathed to post a the same kind of thing week in and week out. Most blog “How To Guides” state categorically that you have to find a ‘niche’ in the market and stick to it – apparently people don’t like it when their bloggers try and go for a bit of variety. I, however, think that sounds a bit like B*S*. Whilst my life is obviously an endless rave and the most exciting thing ever, I can’t help but feel like most people aren’t going to care that much about what I do on a daily basis. Instead, I’d like to flit between topics, like a delightful little hummingbird amongst the flowers. Why limit myself to the same old thing when I can do posts on my favourite books, intriguing facts and hilarious life anecdotes?  To that end, my blog has resembled a drunk gently lurching from subject to subject over the past few months, but who am I to fight the creative urge? Admittedly, if anybody is particularly offended (or indeed has any suggestions on topics/mediums they’d like me to cover) I am all internet based ears.

This week, it was suggested by a pal that I look to do a short story. Now, as I may have previously mentioned (I definitely have) I am often drowning in stories, one liners, hilarious character descriptions and the like. Most of them never really go anywhere, but I suppose it’s time to share a couple of them with the big wide world. Neither of these two are particularly long (handy I suppose, seeing as they’re short stories) and both are prompt based. A lot of what I write springs from someone else’s idea (yay for “homage”!) and gives me a springboard to bounce my thoughts off. I’m not sure if it counts as original work when the spark comes from someone else, but where they end up is usually somewhere all of my own creation so I’m not too fussed.

The first story is a little snippet based on an artist called Chiara Bautista and her gorgeous work. I don’t even know where I first saw her stuff (probably Pinterest) but I’ve now followed a couple of her social media sites and the art she produces is amazing. It’s hard not to be inspired by them really…

The Moon and Her Night Sky

She is made of pure white. Her skin, her hair, her eyes, her blood – they are all the same brilliant sheen. She sits cross legged against the darkness and glows, marred only by the shadow that flows across her body as the month moves on. A thin crescent of grey curves around her hips and grows to a full cloak shrouding her for days at a time, but soon it slips away and leaves her radiant against the darkness again.

He is made up of dark swirling colours and a midnight pelt. Sometimes he is small enough that he can walk by her side, her hand resting gently on his head and her pale fingers slipping into the rough fur on his crown. Sometimes he is big enough that she can ride upon his back, hunched low down over his neck with her face buried into the gap between his ears as they speed across the Earth. Mostly though, he stands next to her on two legs, his hinged knees pushing him forward, his hunched back allowing him to tilt his head close to hers so he can hear her whispers.

They travel together, moving forward endlessly.

Aren’t they just sublime?

~

Story the second comes from two sources – a Hall and Oates song (I mean why not) and a silhouette of a woman smoking that I can remember vividly but can’t find for the life of me. It must be about 7 years old now and has moved through 3 phones, two memory sticks and one scrap piece of paper glued into a notebook.

I Can’t Go For That

She stares at him, her heavy lidded eyes slatted and a thin tendril of smoke rising lazily from her pursed lips. He swallows as she crosses her legs, a flash of pale skin drawing his eye.

“Well?”

He blinks, trying to gather his scattered thoughts. Running a finger between his neck and his increasingly constricting collar, he tries to remember why it was he’d decided to say no in the first place.

“I-I can’t,” he stutters, hating the weak tremor he can hear in his own voice.

She raises a carefully shaped eyebrow and rests the unlit cigarette on the glass ashtray set on the table next to her. She leans forward and it takes all of his rapidly declining self control not to let his eyes flick down.

“It’s not that difficult. It’s practically a joyride compared to some of the other things”.

He licks his dry lips nervously and shakes his head.

“No. Not this time. Not this.”

Her head tilts to one side and her tongue darts out from between her perfectly white teeth and devastatingly red lips..

“You said you’d do anything.”

“Almost anything”.

She laughs and leans back, another cloudy wisp of smoke curling past her lips.

“So this is where you draw the line?”

He nods, a sharp jerk of the head. She smirks and it terrifies him.

“Well, there’s still time”

He shivers as he feels the tell-tale whisper against the back of his neck.

“There’s only so much a man can attach to his soul.”

hall and oate

I mean – how can you not be inspired by these fine figures of masculinity? Look at the HAIR!

~

So there you have it. Some tiny little snapshots into my Notes function on my phone. Two down – only another 57 to go…

Wild Wild Wales – an affair of the heart…

Happy hottest Tuesday of the year! I hope we’re all adhering to sun safety laws and slathering ourselves in as much sun cream is humanly possible.

It’s been utterly glorious this weekend and in true British fashion, I’ve had my pasty white legs out quicker than you could say “cor look at the blue sky”. Admittedly, I’m not a beautiful bronze goddess, but I’m also far from the classic “lobster” look a lot of people are rocking at the moment so I’m allowing myself to be slightly smug. There isn’t a more typical expression of our national identity than walking down the street on the Monday after a sunny weekend and just being surrounded by masses of wincing, shiny, glowing people walking very gingerly and followed by the unmistakeable miasma of aloe vera after sun. This heat wave (HOTTER THAN THE BAHAMAS as the radio keeps announcing gleefully to me) is supposed to last for the next few days as well, so I’m only expecting it to get worse. As long as I get to read in the garden for a few nights though, I am definitely not complaining. I might be completely useless when it comes to hot weather (I instead look to perfect my sea lion impression of slobbing about shamelessly and making the occasional wuffing noise to signal my readiness for an ice lolly), but I MUCH prefer it to the dark and dismal winter months.  

This weekend we went down to visit dearest Mama and it was absolutely splendid. We spent a lovely morning (ready around lunch time – everything is more sedate there) exploring a little nature hideaway that looked like something out of Rivendell – overgrown lush canopies echoing with chirruping bird calls parting to reveal a stunning  waterfall that cascaded rather dramatically over a few layers of dark rock. We spent a good long while trying to take photos of some gorgeously vibrant blue dragonflies that were in the midst of trying to mate rather furiously with a delicate little lady dragonfly who seemed particularly unbothered. There was also some rather ungraceful clambering about in wellies to get as close to the waterfall as we could, though it was most definitely worth it.

Holiday Montage!

After that, we decided it was time for a beach trip (because, let’s face it, when is it NOT time for a beach trip?) and I was treated to a lovely lunch at the “Plwmp Tart” before we wandered leisurely down the beach and settled down onto the wonderfully warm sand. We enjoyed an hour or so quietly mocking everyone there safe in the knwoedge that we were in no way superior but completely out of hearing range. We did also plan to steal a small speed boat that was left unattended, bobbing about merrily a small distance from the shore, but sadly we were too warm and full of lunch to actually carry out a daring robbery so had to sacrifice our life of crime before it even started.

The evening ended around the fire pit toasting heart shaped marshmallows on fondue forks and watching Ptolly-mo (the most regal and giant of all the cats) complete his sedentary patrol the perimeter. It was agreed by all in attendance that we had done very well and after the all clear from His Royal Furriness, we tripped off to bed for a well deserved sleep.

Whilst visiting, I also finally managed to extract the trials and tribulations of the heart that my poor Mother has been enduring recently. She’s been dropping hints for days now, but refused to tell me anything over Facebook, though I have to say I think I’m glad because watching her tell them (with actions) had me in hysterics for hours.

It appears to be a truth universally acknowledged that a woman recently bereft of male companionship is desperate for a good rogering. Mother has been fighting off advancements from all sides; extracting herself from hand holding, surprise dates and some long lingering looks from various “gentleman” suitors in a very Jane Austen-esque turn of events. She’s be warned against the “dick pic” phenomenon which she’s thankfully safe from due to the fact she has a Nokia 3310 and any pictures would have to come through in binary format, and on how to safely turn down propositions from any lusty farmhands. I’ve told her to keep her ankles covered from prying eyes and keep her acme thunderer attack whistle at hand at all times. (The whistle was a gift from her concerned bezzie neighbout who’s prepared to drop everything he’s doing and run to defend her should her beating them off with a shovel not suffice). I’ve also suggested she try lesbianism which seems like a less threatening option, or offered to invest in a chastity belt to protect her modesty and hide her apparent red bottomoisty.

If nothing else, it’s kept us in giggles and I know Mr B will be enjoying the farcical Carry On nature of the whole situation.

Sadly, we were only there for two days and whilst I’m sure one day I’ll be able to drive away without tearing up, I am definitely not there yet. However, I’m already pencilling in the next visit and I’ve got Zoopla sending me alerts for houses in the area to keep me going in the meantime. I feel like Wales is a bit like the Holy Land for me – some distant kind of paradise that is just outside my price range at the moment, but it’s not going anywhere and at least I’ve got something to aim for.

Unfortunately, that’s all I’ve got time for this week, the busiest little bee that I am, but I will return soon and regale you with more adventure in the life of an Ebear.

Book Review – The First of Many…

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

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

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

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

~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monty

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

~

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

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

Bonjourno my little buttercups!

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

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

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

Shelfies

Books! Everywhere! Drowning in #shelfies

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

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

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

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

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

Teambonfire

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

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

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

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

 

May your May be as Marvellous as Mine

Isn’t May just the greatest? The sun is (occasionally) shining, the bank holidays are rife and my birthday is soon!!! Not that I’ve been given everyone daily updates on just how close it is (10 days)…Considering I’m 26, I think I may possibly be far too excited about birthdays. I was reading some blog inspiration posts and one of them suggested I do a wish list for my birthday. I’m not sure if I’m quite up for that this time around, but I promise I won’t let you forget it’s coming!

May Tulips

 “March winds and April showers bring forth May Flowers”

 In other news though, Hans von Manschaft has finally made it back from the doctors to drive once again after having his tubes cleaned and his looms replaced and who knows what else. There was a slight fear he may not recover, and I told TMM in no uncertain terms that if this is the case, he is not allowed to pick the next car. We will be buying either a tank, a smart car or a motorbike with a side car and he will be forbidden to put his cursed fingers over any of it. However, after much lamenting and poor Martin the Mechanic spending most of his evenings and free time on it, Hans was returned to us and we can now glide down the motorway at the recommended speed and not have to worry about any slight inclines hindering our progression.

Now that a new car is off the table (touch ALL OF THE WOOD), it appears my desperation to save has slightly taken a back seat. Last weekend I was convinced we were going to have to spend all our savings and we were going to be put even further behind our schedule of getting a house, a wedding and more pets (meaning we then went and bought a £30 Chinese because we were sad). However we were saved from having to dig deep into the gold hoard, which of course meant I then went and had a hair cut, new glasses and a new(ish) phone. Clearly I do not understand the concept of being frugal at all. However I do look fabulous so there is that.

Going along with my stylish new lady haircut, I’ve been trying to continue in the vein of being a bit more grown up. I’ve still been exercising (though somewhat more sporadically). I even researched and did my own personalised circuit routine (and laminated it!) though Jesus Christ does it make my thighs hurt like an absolute b*tch! I better end up with legs like Wonder Woman by summer. I also cleaned the kitchen to within an inch of it’s life last weekend. I mean, there were different sponges, various vacuum attachments and every spray bottle of cleaning fluid I could find. I do feel a little sorry for the neighbours who had to put up with my flinging open the windows and singing along to some early 2000s classics like Sum 41 at the top of my voice whilst scrubbing various sides down, but by the time I was finished it was almost sparkling. Admittedly, it probably took a little longer than it should have done, because I really do DESPISE cleaning and had to take regular five minute breaks to lie on the floor and wail a bit. Depressingly, the oven is already splattered with food again (seriously, wtf man? It’s a vicious cycle of never ending mess. How do people cope?!) but I’m trying to view it in a Budd-istic fashion as a metaphor for the circle of life. Or something like that anyway. It’s either that or cry.

We’ve also had a little bit more free time recently as poor Molly has had to go in to hospital. She’s had another fall (as old people do. Notice, once you’re over 60, you don’t fall over, you “have a fall”) which is her second in two months and when Ross went round last Monday, he found her mostly non-responsive and a little delirious. The ambulance was called she was pronounced severely dehydrated and suffering from an infection and she must have been feeling awful because she didn’t even flirt with the paramedics. Usually she’s all over medial professionals like a rash – she once slapped a nurse’s arse and asked us if we thought she could become a lesbian, and she’s tried to kidnap more than a couple of visiting doctors. It’s such a shame because she’d been feeling a lot better recently and was so happy – partly due to her snazzy new hair cut I think. Anyway she went straight into the hospital and since then we’ve had sporadic updates on her progress (apparently she was due to have a liver scan – though if they can even find it they’ll be lucky. I’m pretty sure it’s just a pickled little whiskey-soaked prune by now) so we’re going to go and do a drive by this evening to see if she’s back in. Hopefully she’ll have been released for terrorising the staff and be back to her arm chair and Benji dog before she knows it.

However, this does mean that we’ve had no time limit on our activities this weekend for the first time in a few years, so we decided to go for a nice long drive down to Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire. This way, TMM got to hammer the car (we actually got over 70 miles an hour. It was like being in a rocket), and we got to utilise our National Trust cards a little further afield. The Abbey itself was absolutely glorious, even if Ross was a bit miffed because we somehow managed to miss the one day of summer in Stoke and hit all of the drizzle). We’ve been binge watching Vikings recently too (an awesome program full of superbly attractive people, excellent hair styles and gratuitous use of axes), so we were already in a suitably historically mind-set – Ross had to stop me from pillaging the National Trust shop in true barbarian fashion and annoyingly said I wasn’t allowed to shave a tonsure on his head (such a spoilsport).  

We discovered that Fountains Abbey was set up by 13 monks who’d been expelled after some disputes in the early 10th century and were basically adopted by the Archbishop of York and allowed to set up a new Abbey. They seemed like a pretty rough and ready lot and were excellently self sufficient – and I mean who doesn’t love a rebellious monk? The Abbey sits alongside Fountains Hall (which we didn’t actually get chance to go and see) and it sprawls fantastically alongside the River. I’ve got a bit of a thing about old buildings – I always feel slightly overwhelmed by them and though I’m not a believer in auras and things like that, I can’t help but try to imagine the stories of the lives of the people there. I got a little bit melancholic this time too, looking at the great halls. I anthropomorphise everything, and I felt a little bit heartbroken at the prospect of such a magnificent building having lost it’s true purpose; from having once been filled to the rafters with Gregorian chants and religious fervour to being a tourist attraction. That being said, there was still a quiet splendour about it and we enjoyed poking around every nook and cranny and trying to imagine what it must have been like in its prime.

 Fountain Abbey

 Me doing my best monk impression. Demure and understated as always.

We also had a turn around the Studley Royal Water Gardens which were created by John Aislabie (a disbanded Politician who moved next door to the Abbey and thought he might as well set himself up some fancy buildings and gardens from which to view the Fountains land). It’s got ornamental lakes, mini temples, follies and a selection of hidden little lookouts and that whilst beautiful in it’s own right, I found it oddly narcissistic and almost gratuitous sitting next to the hulling ruins of the Abbey. Still, we enjoyed sauntering round and watching a rather large swan display his dominance by fluttering his HUGE wings at various screaming small children. There were also a couple of rather posh statues, one of which was a naked man apparently taunting a tortoise with a sausage. We were all a little bemused by that, but that’s seemingly what those old politicians liked. Overall though it was an excellent day and I would definitely recommend it for anyone.

Tortiose.jpg

 But what’s the message?

I think we’re becoming quite regular on the National Trust scene now, and we might have a couple of other little day trips out planned next week, because it’s my BIRTHDAY WEEK (HURRAY) in case you’d forgotten. People keep trying to tell me that having a whole week of celebration is overkill, but they’re idiots and I don’t need their negativity in my life. I think a week is the prefect amount of time and means I can do my visitations and treat the whole thing like an Indian wedding. I categorically refuse to work on the day of my birth as it is and haven’t since I was old enough to skive (I only had to do that once, thank god because I’m such a nervous rebel), and I’m not about to start now. I’m excited because this means that not only can I have some proper lie-ins (TMM and I have wildly differing opinions of what constitutes a lie-in. He thinks 10am is late enough whereas I know that it doesn’t count unless you’re still in bed by lunch time), I get to do a little camping in the homeland, see various family folk, go and see the first Harry Potter film with a live orchestra AND get a weekend trip to Hay on Wye with the team. We were hoping to go abroad because I am desperate for sun, but we’re all skint and some of us (JON) haven’t sorted our passports. Still, I sharn’t be at work so I’m definitely not complaining. I am looking forward terribly to welcoming in my 26th year with a restrained and classy bang.

Photo Credit – @r_h_pendebury