Birthday Bonanza

Blog Birthday.PNG

Well that’s it folks, I have officially joined the 27 club. My birthday has come and gone and I am now firmly in the realm of “being responsible” and definitely no longer young enough to accidentally commit a crime but still avoid jail time (which is an irrational but very specific fear I have. My mother has promised that if, god forbid, I should end up embroiled in an accidental life of crime and sent to the Big House, she’ll come bail me out with a file baked in a cake and a Thelma and Louise style getaway – hopefully sans the cliff dive – but I’d rather just try and avoid the whole thing altogether if possible). As I pointed out to a colleague, if I were a rock star I could totally die now and join the hallowed halls of the Forever 27, though thankfully I’m boring as sin and highly unlikely to shuffle off this mortal coil through excessive drug use or car vs. tree related incidents. I’m pretty much planning on seeing this year out in the same style as the old one.

As always though, I’ve had an excellent birthday haul so kudos to all who we’re involved. You’ve all done very well and should give yourselves a nice pat on the back. Admittedly, I may or may have not started opening some presents on the previous Monday, but I did have to go to the dentist and gifts were coming through the letter box with tempting regularity, so I don’t really see how I can be blamed for getting carried away. Also, I’m a grown up now, and can open my presents whenever I please, so there. I would like to thank my dad and his lovely lady friend for their promptly posted and delightful gifts which made me smile after having to go and be super brave with hygiene specialists.

I also had to open some presents early when we went to see TMM’s clan (because I wouldn’t see them on the day and it would have been rude not to show my gratitude) and as per they excelled themselves present-wise (not to rub it in but I am 100% their favourite child, soz not soz). I got not only a yummy tea, but also a fancy box of Ferrero Rocher (TMM successfully demonstrated how he’s been unhealthily influenced by my family by not being able to help quoting “you’rr spoiling us ambassador” every time I offer him one), charming gin related paraphernalia, bath bombs, summer wreath kits, a puppy fuss (the last one now since all the puppies have gone to their new home and not one of those homes was mine, boo hiss) and a snotty kiss off beautiful baby Thea.

My work colleagues also did extremely well, but to be honest I didn’t give them much option as I had very handily provided a laminated and regularly updated daily countdown from around the 163 day mark. Whilst the Friday wasn’t the most enjoyable of days (stupid busy work), the gift giving was top notch and the presents were smashing. Some of you may have already seen Leroy the Llama mug, who is now my designated tea vessel of choice, though he provides much hilarity when he pokes my eye every time I get near to the bottom of my brew. I also got Sydney Sloth the phone holder who has helped with finger cramp, and a selection of others joys including but not limited to; a lovely framed print of a flamingo among pigeons, fancy neon coloured booze (my favourite kind) and some rather gorgeous lilies that proved themselves to be almost fatal to some old dear on the bus home. I also got two books from my boss (who requested a special shout out, so word to her) that give the definitions of lots of weird and wonderful words that have had us in fits of laughter when we probably should have been busier doing what we’re paid for. We have educated ourselves though, and have some excellent new words to add to our vocabularies, such as “Kinabra – the Greek word for the stank of a billy goat” (please note, the italics are a direct quotation) and “Kakopyge – someone who has ugly buttocks” (pg. 136 of The Penguin Dictionary of Curious and Interesting Words by George Stone Saussy the 3rd). Sadly none of us have managed to shoehorn them into a telephone call yet, but we’ll keep trying.

Look at my beautiful things. LOOK AT THEM.

TMM did his level best to spoil me rotten whilst adhering to the proviso he wasn’t to get me much. He not only made me pancakes in bed, he didn’t make me move until about 3 o’clock and then treated me to a new Lush face mask, some Primark jeans, a showing of Deadpool 2 (with Ben and Jerries’ ice-cream!) and a lovely Starbucks lunch. (This in itself was fun because I had hibiscus iced tea which is simultaneously the most hipsterish thing EVER and the tastiest drink I’ve had in a long time. The lovely Barista lady was a complete doll too, and did my a nice little happy birthday message and got my name right (though the more I look the more it looks like Eleanour, but still the first bit is right and that’s what usually throws people). I also got taken to the stage version of Thoroughly Modern Millie which was excellent (if questionably racist in sections) and have consequently spent the last two days fake tap dancing around the house, saying “oh terrif” with unnecessary amounts of enthusiasm and telling TMM how thoroughly modern I am. Admittedly, he’s been doing pretty much the same thing as he is definitely a modern woman, so its worked out well.

img_20180519_164451_7011445203371.jpg

It’s nearly Eleanor, so we’re definitely accepting it as a win.

*Speaking of, if anybody missed our Eurovision dress up last week on my Instagram last week, you really need to go and have a look. TMM went as Conchita (the winner a few years ago, with the amazing eye makeup and perfectly sculpted beard), and I have to say I have never been more proud of my make up abilities. TMM is a pretty hunky looking chap, it can’t be denied, but I literally don’t think I’ve ever seen a more attractive woman. His cheekbones take highlight like a champ and I found myself staring dreamily at his profile whilst the light glinted of them. It was like Xena Warrior Princess with chest hair. I couldn’t even bring myself to be annoyed at how pretty he looked, because I was too busy being deeply in love with his beautifully shadowed eyes and cow-like eyelashes.

Team were as good as they always are and newest edition Yoga Martin BBQ’d like a master (I’m pretty sure the BBQ was planned anyway, but I’m just going to assume it was in honour of my birthday and give him my birthday kudos blessing like the magnanimous delight I am). Turns out I am now all about barbequed fish like you would not believe and having it three times in two weeks is really as good as you could want it to be. There was much hilarity with axe throwing (which I definitely not good at), archery (which I watched from the side-lines shouting out helpful safety tips), air rifle shooting (which I enjoyed but hit absolutely nothing with) and I left with twice the amount I’d birthday cake I’d arrived with, a delightful doodle book/wonderfully pleasing coloured pencils and a date to walk with llamas in June (YASSSSSSS).

In true Indian wedding style (the perks of having a far flung family) the celebrations will continue throughout the week, and I know I’ve still got a My Hermes (family couriers of choice) parcel on its way from dearest Neens. We’ve also planned a trip to visit Mother and the rest of the Welsh Massive at the weekend too, though admittedly Hans the Devil Chariot is still beeping endlessly so we might be slightly frazzled (read – murderous) by the time we get there. It’s definitely worth it though, because I have siblings to squeeze, cousins to cuddle and a game of Cards Against Humanity or two to enjoy.

Now before I sign off, I thought I’d just leave you with some fun facts and notable events from my date of birth (other than the obvious *twirls*) that might help you in a pub quiz one day.

1) 1536 – The Execution of Anne Boleyn (cheery)

2) 1885 – 1st mass production of shoes by Jan Matzeliger in Lynn, Massachusetts (this fact pleases me immensely and I’m not sure why)

3) 1897 – Oscar Wilde released from Reading Gaol (Reading as in the place, not the act, which confused me more than it should have done for a minute)

4) 1928 – 51 frogs enter 1st annual “Frog Jumping Jubilee” in Angel’s Camp, California (I mean, why not)

5) 1939 – Birth of James Fox (phwoar)

6) 1948 – birth of Grace Jones (who terrifies me ever so slightly)

7) 1962 – Marilyn Monroe sings “Happy Birthday, Mr President” to John F Kennedy (My Mother did a great rendition of this down the phone to on my birthday)

8) 2018 – Meghan and Harry get married (you might have seen it mentioned briefly on the news)

9) 2161 – Syzygy: 8 of 9 planets aligned on same side of sun (something to look forward to)

I hope you all get at least one of those stuck in your head for next year in honour of me. TTFN.

Advertisements

Bank Holiday Bants

Well hello all – how are we this fine April’s Day? I hope we all enjoyed our bank holiday weekend?

I wonder, if like me, there was some slight gnashing of teeth and beating of bosoms on Monday night at the prospect of having to return to work? Was their perhaps some overdramatic sulking and wailing at having to set alarms and knowing that they actually had to be heeded rather than gleefully ignored? Anyone else weeping into their new orthopaedic neck cushions (Aldi’s finest) because they were unwilling to give up on the life of casual freedom and unstructured frivolity they’d carefully cultivated?

Just me?

(Side note – whilst you may smirk at my old lady neck support cushion, which admittedly is a hideous shade of off cream and does smell a little odd, you might want to bear in mind that my headaches have dissipated radically and I’m pretty sure I’ve slept so deeply the past few nights I might have actually been dead. Nurdees to you).

To be honest, we shouldn’t really be surprised at my possibly overdramatic reaction and the return to scheduled living. Whilst I don’t exactly hate my job, be warned that if you show me the tiniest bit of freedom, I’m chomping at the bit for a life of unemployed luxury. I am definitely a lady of leisure at heart. Still, despite the slight cloud on the horizon, my days weren’t spent entirely full of moping.

Admittedly, Friday didn’t go quite as energetically as initially hoped. I did have plans (such plans) as TMM was unfortunately not allowed the Friday off and I wanted to achieve lots in his absence. I didn’t. Instead, I painted a couple of storage boxes and watched Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (still an excellently trashy film) Mulan for the very first time (I got VERY BEHIND getting down to business to defeat Huns) and binged the entire first season of Marvels: Agent Carter (because Peggy Carter is life and I need to start preparing for the new Avengers film). TMM came home to find me very much as he’d left me, though I had at least made it downstairs onto the couch which is something to be proud of and definitely more than achieved on previous bank holidays spent on my own. (There was that one time he came home from work to find me in bed, in my pants, eating cold pasta out of a take out tub with my fingers. There has definitely been some personal growth since then).

Thankfully, TMM hadn’t expected too much from me and was happy enough that I’d put clothes on and managed to feed myself. He took me for a leisurely jaunt round the village to get me my daily requisite of fresh air and we finished the day by successfully making a fantastic chocolate Easter nest for my Padre.

20180330_2056331817346858.jpg

Look at this! It’s so fancy!

Saturday was a little more adventurous and we made it all the way to Manchester to visit dearest papa. He was dashing and dapper as always and we treated him to a light hipster lunch in a local café and a good natter. I came home with an excellent Easter haul, including chocolate eggs, pants (Harding Family Tradition – Easter Knickers. Everyone laughs but I swear to god Easter Kecks are one of the best annual customs) and a fantastic A4 framed portrait which now sits in pride of place on the new shelves. (TMM has decided in his wisdom that he wants to start a family gallery, so if you have any handy dandy painted portraits of yourselves, send them our way).

Family visiting continued on Sunday and we went for a rather spectacular Sunday Dinner at TMM’s sister. It’s a trait of the TMM family to prepare plates of food the size of the Himalayan mountain range and then demolish them like snakes unhinging their jaws whilst still maintaining excellent conversations and wrangling children/dogs with casual ease. (There’s still some contention amongst our friends as to whether anyone has ever actually seen TMM eat. We’re all pretty sure that we’ve seen the plate of food in front of him, and then an empty plate about 5 minutes later, but nobody knows what happens in the middle). It’s fascinating for me, one of nature’s slowest eaters (I’m basically a cow, I like to be constantly but leisurely chewing all the time) though it does inevitably mean I finish last and there’s usually something left on my plate because my stomach can’t cope with the amount of glorious chow that’s been presented to it. It’s the curses of being a weedy, lazy child in amongst a healthy and dangerously sporty crowd, but I don’t think they hold it against me. I held my own quite well this time though, and any lingering dismay at my failure to finish was quickly hidden under the chocolate cornflake cake the size of an oven tray absolutely drowning in mini eggs and maltster bunnies I made for pudding.

It also can’t be said I squandered the long weekend in my typically couch potato-y way. TMM was not to be dissuaded by the drizzling weather and over two days managed to make sure I got more day light than my poor pale, winter shrivelled body was prepared for. He’s got some ordinance survey maps of our local area on his phone and dragged me out to enjoy the beauty of nature with him. We walked for HOURS; literally a million steps (read: about 20,000) and to be brutally honest I’m surprised I survived. To be quite honest though (and don’t tell him this) I rather enjoyed myself and it was nice to get a bit of fresh air and do some exploring. I may have done a little whining and huffing, but it was only to be expected, and I think it would have confused us both if I’d gone for it whole heartedly.

We also tired our hand at a spot of geocaching (verb- to ferret around in hedge rows and fields looking for hidden treasures following maps and coordinate, or ‘treasure hunts for grown ups’) which was rather exciting, if a little damp, and spawned a new, slightly risqué game called “Geocache or Poo Bag?!” We had a 60% success rate, which considering it was our first and the fact most of them had been originally placed in 2014 is rather good I think. Admittedly, there weren’t quite as many super exciting treasures as I had hoped for (mainly there were pieces of paper with notes and such like from previous hunters), but we did rather enjoy ourselves. It’s also got TMM’s groove going and he’s already started following numerous different geochache instagram accounts (a lot of them look a tad more exciting than ours). Expect further updates as his passion develops…

img-20180402-wa0002206861041.jpg

The secondary discovery of the walk; I promise I’m excited under all those layers.

Honestly though, I do have to admit that a lot of this really pales into insignificance because I got to play with puppies this weekend.

20180401_1833462110813430.jpg

PUPPY PILE

Oh. My. Lord. I mean, I love a puppy as much as the next girl, but good god were they cute. I have never actually been in the vicinity of such tiny pups before and it’s probably good because I was completely useless and unable to do really anything except fuss them and take a ridiculous amount of photos on my phone. I’ve been trying to convince TMM to let me have one (I was not above trying to hide one under my jumper on the way home) but he’s annoyingly sensible and keeps banding about weak excuses like “we have full time jobs and wouldn’t be home to look after it enough” and “we live in rented accommodation and aren’t allowed”. I’ve happily said I’ll give up work and hide the dog whenever the landlord turns up, but so far it’s not going in my favour.

Still, I am not to be dissuaded and I’ve decided that if I am not destined to be a proud puppy parent, I can at least pressure my mother into it. I basically managed to force a cat on her when I was 18 through a carefully constructed campaign of blanket social media cat coverage (emails that said “CAN I HAVE A KITTEN” 7 millions times on the hour, every hour), repetitive bullying and really annoying whining, so I’m pretty sure that I can recreate the conditions now.

To support my puppy petition, I’ve even made this handy and completely impartial pros and cons list to help her decide:

Pros
Great company – dogs have endless and undying love to give
Exercise – the dog can take her for walks along the local beaches and make sure she’s staying healthy and fit
Soft – they are so cuddly
Safety – the dog would protect her from any dangerous marauders who might have devious designs on her or her property
Socialising – everybody wants to pet a dog, so it’s a great way to make friends (and influence people)
Comfort – especially whilst her house is still in such disarray from the recent floods, the dog can provide a warm body and give her plenty of hugs and furry dog kissed.
Adorable – I mean, it’s a dog. Come on.

Cons
None. There are literally no cons. Puppies are great.

I mean, I can’t she how she can argue against this logically, rational and well thought out argument. Puppy anyone?

Remembering to Forget or Forgetting to Remember?

So I found a new word the other day. I stumbled across it accidentally whilst trawling the internet for something else entirely, and was completely bewitched by it. I have a magpie like affinity for words and I like to hoard them like old stamps – collected and carefully pinned out for future reference. I love the fact that there is always a suitable word; no matter what the topic, object or situation. If you can’t think of one, it’s because you haven’t found it yet, not because it doesn’t exist. They are not always easy to find or remember, and sometimes they are in a completely different language; but they’re always there.

The English language is pretty handy for it though; it’s basically the thug of the language world. It waits on street corners and then takes other languages down back alley and rifles through their pockets for loose words. Our back catalogue is such a higgle-di-piggedly amalgamation of words we’ve begged, borrowed, or just plain bastardised, and you’ll struggle to find something who’s etymological root doesn’t start somewhere else in the world. We’re doing it even now – absorbing words like “hygge” (cosy and happy) and “lagom” (just the right amount) and slotting them seamlessly into our conversations as if we’ve always had them.

This particular word seemed to come just at the right time though and it’s lodged itself rather firmly in my psyche. It’s a welsh word, so perhaps I already feel a gentle affinity for it, and it perfectly crystallises a frame of mind that seems to be quite prevalent at the moment.

“Hiraeth – a longing for a home you can’t return to or never had”

Isn’t that just glorious? It’s so small and yet it evokes such vivid daydreams of lives you’ve never lived but wanted to, places you’ve never visited but imagined, times you’ve never experienced but feel like they might be where you truly belong. Especially at this time of year when things are just starting to bloom; delicate daffodils and sweet snowdrops are pushing their way up though dark dead earth, there seems to be a promise of something. For me, it’s the whisper of summer. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned, but winter is really the bane of my life. From an objective standpoint, I do understand the necessity (do you like the casual and patronising way I talk about it, as if I actually have any kind of say in the matter) and it’s true that without the opportunity for things to die back and rest, there can be no chance for new growth. I just really think it doesn’t need to be quite so looooonng. One, maybe two months tops should be sufficient, six is just taking the piss.

It does mean though that, in some twisted and definitely unhealthy strive to survive, I develop these long and complicated fantasies, full of desperate longing for summers that I’ve never actually experienced. It’s not as if previous summers I’ve had have ever been bad, but the ones I imagine are so much more involved – seeped in a kind of childish romanticism. You want an example? (TBH you’re getting one anyway, so tough if you answered no). I watched a film the other morning whilst wallowing in the bath called Call Me By Your Name. Whilst I can’t recommend it enough for its story (the blossoming of a relationship between 17 year old Elio and his father’s graduate student Oliver), acting (Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer are actually ridiculous) and cinematographic excellence, it was the timeless shots of Italian countryside that got me right in the feels. Artlessly crumbling villas drenched in sunlight and shadow, winding roads leading nowhere and bracketed by fields of gently wavering golden crops, effortlessly beautifully chaotically stacked tables in the garden laden with fresh fruit and coffee at dusk. I felt practically sick I was do jealous. I’ve only been to Italy on a school trip, but watching that, it was as if there was an ache behind my ribcage for something that I knew should be mine. I’m not meant to be sitting in a terrace house in the middle of England working in recruitment. I’m supposed to be living in a secluded chalet tending to my home grown peach orchard.

CallMePoster

I’m not joking – I cannot recommend this film enough. 

Admittedly, I’m rather easily swept up with this kind of daydreaming. Whilst it’s not like I’ll get bored of wanting the above, it can evolve rapidly into needing instead to live in the Greek countryside following in the footsteps of Gerald Durrell (who’s Corfu Trilogy is something that everyone should read at least once in their lives, if not annually like I do) or run away to Canada and become a Mountie like in Due South. What I love about reading or watching good show; the opportunity to become completely absorbed in some other world, is possibly also the biggest problem.

That’s the trouble with imagination I think – it’s so easy to become disillusioned with what you’ve got and obsessed with what you want. There is nothing wrong with wanting more, but it’s important to not do it at the expense of those things you already have. Being able to settle yourself and understand how lucky you are is a skill I think many should have but few ever manage to properly cultivate. With it being so easy nowadays to see how great other people have it, or how easily you can be tricked into believing someone’s supposed paradise by a well filtered photo, it can be difficult to appreciate the luxuries and joys you have.

I often think memory offers the same kind of temptation as social media and fiction, or at least it does for me. Things always seem very cut and dry in my rose tinted memories. Sure there are some rather upsetting or embarrassing events that I’m pretty sure I blow out of proportion, but the ability to warp definitely goes both ways. I’ve got memories of things I’ve done that practically glow with ethereal light hum with angelic choirs. My time at Glastonbury is a pretty solid example of this. Now, I know that I spent those five days stuck in a paradox of hysteria and almost debilitating anxiety (you can practically see the terror in my eyes – I don’t do well with new things), but all I can ever remember is how great it was. The sunburn, the terror of having to interact with so many strangers, the lack of showers, food, sleep or anything other than red bull and vodka fades away every time I think about it and all I can do is gush about how fabulous it was. And it was, but not in the all encompassing way I glamorise.  I would go again in a heartbeat, but would I be sensible enough this time round to realise that most of the things that were bad the first time will be just as bad the second time? I mean, dancing in the rain at 3 in the morning to the Proclaimers might sound like a great thing (which it definitely was) but nobody remembers the almost soul destroying 4 hour drive home in a car full of annoyingly pretty and definitely judgemental strangers whilst wearing clothes so wet that my knickers had to be tumble-dried twice.

I’m actually reading a book at the moment (I am just too topical) where the titular character has a perfect memory. As in perfect. He remembers every single thing; every sight, sound, feeling and conversation he’s every had in stark clarity, and it’s startlingly heart-breaking. There’s a unavoidable philosophical thread that runs throughout the book, questioning if such a talent is a curse or a gift. Is it better to be able to remember something perfectly, without sugar-coating or warping it, or is it better to have imperfect recollections and the freedom to remember something differently each time? Perhaps it’s safer to be able to forget something terrible and not have to relive it in painful detail, but does it outweigh the ability to truthfully remember the best moments of your life?

It’s an obviously hypothetical debate, as I’m about 97% that such a memory doesn’t exist, but it has led me to ponder a lot on the bus in the mornings on the way to work. Would I prefer to remember my previous summers accurately and reveal in the reality of them, or to continue to get lost in my fantastical imaginings and try to combat the heartache of knowing they’re impossibly untrue?

“Nostalgia is a dirty liar that insists things were better than they seemed”

Michelle K., I Can’t Stop Questioning It.

Booksss

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

What Ho Readers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pepe

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

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

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

What IS it about those Crotchety Old Men?!

Happy Nearly Christmas my festive little Sprouts!

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

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

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

IMG_3082

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

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

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

IMG_3083

Just a little light reading

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

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

Pine Needles and Christmas Feels

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

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

 

Fraser and Chrimble Sproot in all their festive glory.

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

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

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

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

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

b.jpg

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

The Chronicles of Molly, Volume 3. The Return to Village Fair

Today’s post comes to you, rather differently than normal, from the front seat of the car after an aborted jaunt to Lyme Park. We’ve treated ourselves to a long weekend and as a last hurrah of freedom, we thought we’d go for a nice walk in nature. As it turns out, it probably would have been best if we just hadn’t bothered. After realising one of my wellies had a hole in it, yet another flashing check engine light alert, and a fit of hysteria based on the cold/the fact I’m not a Lady from the early 1900s with a huge house, masses of money and a line of attractive RAF officers in my wake, we decided it was probably best to start for home. I am in fact writing this section with my socks off, blowers on full blast and in aghast at a man who’s just run past in short shorts.

Sock.JPG

Here lies Eleanor’s sock. May it be forever fondly remembered and dry before she has to get out of the car and try and hop anywhere.

We’ve actually had a rather early start (in my opinion) because it was becoming increasingly clear that we couldn’t actually do anything in good conscious without giving the house a good cleaning. We’ve gotten rather lax these last few days and the kitchen was starting to resemble a bombsite. TMM was terribly rude and completely disregarded my suggested plan (which focused around me staying in bed and napping whilst he fixed everything. He would then return to me where upon I would say in my most surprised tone “oh gosh, you tidied everything without me? What a shock, you should have woken me!” and then we would laugh like some 1950’s advert) and so I was ceremonially turfed out of bed before 10am. Shock horror. We have had a terribly good weekend though, including the best nerd!gig ever, a large selection of tasty cocktails and a nice wander round around the Manchester Christmas Markets.

Let’s be honest though, the reason you’re all hear is to find out how Village Fair-ageddon went with Molly. Honestly I can say things turned out better than expected, but that’s not really saying much considering how cringe worthy the last one was. It was thankfully over within two hours, but I still had to have a sizable drink and a nap in a darkened room to recover.

The event itself was 2pm-4pm and we’d planned to leave ours just before 2 and run the dog out before we went. Turns out though that Molly wasn’t down with that and she rang TMM at 1.49pm to remind us that the fair was starting in ten minutes and in order to make sure we didn’t miss a single second she would be waiting by the front gate for us. Bear in mind, her front gate is actually quite a distance from her door and involves at least three steps and a lot of slippery pavement, so this was quite a threat. Usually she doesn’t even make it to the first step by herself, but for the Fair she was willing to throw herself outside of her comfort zone with gay abandon.

By the time we got there (within five minutes), she’d struggled down that path under her own steam and was hanging onto the gate for dear life, bent double and weighted down by three huge leather handbags and a rather fetching cloche hat. Thankfully she was wrapped up in a bright red woollen coat (avoiding any concern of pneumonia) and looking for all the world like a little crunched up garden gnome. Now, due to her inability to walk any distances, we actually have to drive her the length of three detached houses from her gate to the village hall at the end of the lane. TMM typically drops us off and goes to park the car back outside her house (as the carpark at the hall itself fits four small cars at a push) and I chaperone her initial entrance. This time though, we’d barley made it past the first house before we had to turn back because she had gotten herself in a tizzy and was convinced she’d left her blue handbag in the house. Rather than let her escape the car and try and tackle the hunt for it, I went back to the house and bravely fought off Benji who was hysterically hyperactive and basically tried to climb me like a tree. I searched high and low for the missing bag, forced to shove Benji off the couch, my leg, the chair and anywhere I was actually trying to look on numerous occasions. I managed to find one handbag (the brown one she typically takes shopping) but the blue one was nowhere to be found. I rang TMM to query this and heard her chunnering away in the background whilst TMM tried to explain my dilemma. Taking the bag I’d found back to the car to double check it wasn’t the one she wanted, it turned out that she already had the blue handbag, safely tucked inside one of the other ones as it had been all along.

Gate

The seemingly endless walk from the gate to Molly’s front door. I imagine it was a little like a scene from “Everest” for her trying to make it up here.

We all pile back in to the car and thankfully make it the 100 feet to the village hall without any other distractions. TMM deposits us by the front door and executes a picture perfect turn to get back out whilst I gently shepherd Molly up the ramp and into the hall itself. She shuffles through the little coat room ante chamber and takes a good minute to stand smack back in the middle of the doorway. I’m still unsure if this was to allow her to properly evaluate the layout and formulate her plan of attack, or in order to give everyone already there a chance to bask in her arrival – local celebrity that she is. Before we even make it to the first table (cakes) she’s been hugged by three people who’ve all loudly introduced themselves and who, I’m pretty sure, she remembered none of. By the time we make it to the stall itself TMM has thankfully returned and we manage to divest her of all the bags so she can at least lift herself up enough to look over the table edge. It’s something we’ve got down to a fine art by this point – trying to wrangle all the bags, pay the correct amount (with no change because all she ever seems to have is notes) and keep an eye on the wily old girl before she brandishes her stick threateningly at someone and falls over. Considering she can barely walk normally, she can get a right turn of pace on when she sees someone she wants to shout at.

Before we’ve even finished getting ourselves past the first table, she’s got us cramming the biggest of the leather bags with a whole plate of flapjacks, a bag of chocolate fridge cake and a bundle of mince pies for us (she asks us what we want at every single table, and gets quite offended if we don’t manage to distract her quickly enough). Canned goods is next and Wendy, bless her heart, tries to shepherd Molly along and encourage her to not spend all of her money on tins of salmon. Alas, it is to no avail and we leave this one with tuna, peas and two chocolate oranges.

The next hurdle is the jam table which I really do think might be the bane of my life. I get rather peeved about this particular section as the two who staff it see Molly and her purse coming a mile off and can’t help but rub their hands together. Unlike Wendy who is loathed to take money from her, these two are more than happy to encourage Molly to take seven (7) jars of jam and chutney, knowing full well she’s still got cupboards full of the stuff at home. One man pauses just behind me and asks in a low whisper if she plans on leaving any jars for anyone else and I tell him that he really is best getting in there quickly before she her second round. We load down the bags with jars and TMM pays whilst I try and stop Molly barging her way through to the Tombola table. I am still surprised there wasn’t a throw down here the way she kept shoving at the old gent in front of us. I’m unsure if she doesn’t understand the etiquette of waiting your turn or if she’s just decided she’s too old to be arsed waiting around for others. I manage to distract her long enough for the man to get his prize and move on and then we all have to have a go at taking a ticket and trying our luck. Thankfully we won (she gets incredibly fractious if we leave a table without something) though the prize of a multipack of cereal boxes did leave her rather baffled.

Eventually we make it out of there and guide her past the book/calendar section without too much fuss. (She loves, LOVES, a calendar. There are at least four on the go every time we go round and rarely do any of them show the right date). We take a brief respite with the man who sells cards (hand drawn scenes from Keele – very lovely) though there is a slightly bit of confusion when Molly tries to buy some for herself and some for us at the same time we’re trying to buy some for ourselves and there’s cash flying all over the place. Molly gets bored of this and moves onwards swiftly to the decorations table and I sacrifice TMM to settling up and hunker down to discuss the merits of Christmas Crackers with her. Annoyingly I cant help but talk to her like she’s a child sometimes which must come across as horribly patronising, but I can’t seem stop myself. Either she doesn’t care or just thinks I’m a complete dick, but regardless we get along all right. We barter for a while over the crackers and end up purchasing a box of six small ones (rather than the 12 she was initially dazzled by). I’m pretty sure the crackers from last year are still under the stairs, but what the hell.

Haul

The sum total of our haul from this year. Thank God.

The next table is that one that every good village hall fair has – the random shite table. This keeps her entertained for a good 10 minutes and I only make it away without a cuddly toy, glittery butterfly candles or fake crystal flower vases by the skin of my teeth. We also bump into Gladys (cheery neighbour form across the street) and have a quick chat whilst Molly picks up every item on the table and tries to work out if it would do Benji for a Christmas present. Spoiler – Benji is a dog and is not interested in wooden puzzles or bath soap, so that debate ended with limited results.

Finally we encourage Molly to give it up as a lost cause and take a seat at one of the tiny cramped tables and have a warm drink. TMM ushers her down whilst Gladys and I sort out tea and cakes and eventually we’re all seated and able to take a breather. It doesn’t take long though and before I know it Molly’s got her grumpy face. This happens every year without fail, because it works her up terribly that doesn’t recognise half the people who’ve turned out and this starts her on the standard rant. She thinks it’s shameful how the local Keele people don’t take the time to come and patronise these things, and they should all be given a kick up the backside with a pair of winklepickers (her punishment of choice). She’s seemingly unaware that the reason she doesn’t recognise anyone is that most of the locals she’s thinking about are dead, but we haven’t the heart to tell her that, so we all just nod along and Gladys and I share a pointed look over a tea cake.

Before long though, various old ladies in aprons come by to fuss over her and my face starts to ache from smiling at each one of them whilst Molly introduces us all like we haven’t met before (we have). There’s a complete flurry of excitement when Jean from down the lane appears (her husband recently passed away and poor TMM had to have an excruciating phone call with her because Molly wanted to know how he’d died approx. 2 days after it had happened). Jean has brought along her two sisters though (Hilary and Valerie) which brightens everything up no end and they all chatter on happily as old ladies do. Eventually things start to wind down and the sisters leave whilst TMM goes to fetch the chariot. I gently lever Molly out of her chair and we make three or four pit stops on our way to the door (which, I would like to point out, is less that 5 feet away from our starting position) in which time Gladys has done a runner and TMM has come looking for us because we weren’t where we were supposed to be. There is a slight highlight though – as we’re leaving TMM overhears an old doctor gentleman (who I think I might have been hopelessly in love with in his youth) tell his wife that he nearly complimented me on my nice green hat before he realised it was hair and how embarrassing would that of been. I kind of wish he had to be honest.

We finally manage to get her to the door and there is one heart stopping moment where she stops and does one final sweep of the room and I am terrified she’s spotted the vicar who’s sat at the other end. Molly has what I can only describe as “serious beef” with him and I don’t think I’m strong enough to try and stall any thinly veiled insults about his weight at this point. Previous meetings between the two of them have included such classics as “do you think he’s might be pregnant? It looks like twins” and “if I popped him with a pin I bet he’d go off like a balloon”. Apparently he’s promised to go round and see her and still hasn’t made an appearance (I wonder why) and the vendetta is brewing. Thankfully though, her eyes gloss over him and I whisk her out of the door and into the car before she can do anything. We make it back to the house just in time for a heavy hail storm and it’s like a scene from Noah’s Ark trying to get her back into the house with all of her bags whilst trying to keep Benji from killing either of them in his excitement. Eventually though, we drop her off into her arm chair, help her go through all her purchases and make our escape before it gets too dark.

Overall, we’ve definitely had worse, but I am immensely grateful that we don’t have to do it again until next year.