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.

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 

Hello, My Name is Eleanor and I am an Addict

Well, the bank holiday may be over, but some of the Easter joy remains. I’ve still got chocolate eggs coming out of my ears (never something to be sniffed at) and I had a lovely few days off, though I am waiting on my Easter pants (I’m looking at you, daddy dearest). It’s a Harding tradition that every year the Easter bunny brings my sister and I a chocolate egg or two and new Primark knickers. Some people find it weird, but they just don’t understand – I wait with thinly veiled excitement every time. I am now of the age where I have to buy myself boring and work-appropriate underwear (yay for black and seamless) but there’s a part of me that still longs for boy pants with pugs on or a fetching flamingo print.

Overall though, I’ve had a delightful few days. Admittedly I spent Friday slobbing about reading in bed and then feeling guilty for not tidying (though I did to 2 laundry loads!), but then we travelled down to deepest not so dark Wales to see my madre. Upon arrival, we were greeted by a tasty tea and about 3 inches of ankle (Mother has taken to wearing Mr B’s jeans, regardless of the fact they don’t fit her, but it did give us all a giggle). There was much chatting and eating of chocolate and fudge hot cross buns (the best breakfast product ever invented – I dare you to try them and say otherwise). I also put us to work in the garden (I don’t think poor Ross was expecting it and my mum did try to convince us we didn’t need to do it) and we did some odd jobs. Ross built a lovely little border wall whilst Mother chopped wood with gay abandon, but I think I got the best deal – I got to use the leaf blower to clean out the green house. I spent far too long making my own sound effects and blowing things about in a whirlwind so I could pretend I was in the Crystal Maze. I also got to use an oscillating drill whilst making some potato planters (thank you for the idea Facebook) which caused much hysteria too. Everything got sorted eventually though and then we all had a thoroughly deserved rest. We spent the evening enjoying another Hello Fresh meal (I mean, I might take a lot of unnecessary stuff when I visit my mum, but I do also take tea so I’m not all bad) and watching Night at the Museum 2. We had all of the lolz (well, Mother and I did, TMM fell asleep) and spent the rest of the weekend quoting it at each other and bursting into snorts of laughter.

leaf blower.jpg

Pic – me doing my best Ghostbusters impression “Don’t cross the streams!”

After returning home (I only got a bit teary in the car on the way home, I’m definitely growing up) our last day of freedom was a tale of two halves.  The first half of Monday was spent leisurely traipsing around Keele Woods wandering through the lovely blue bell field. Slight side note here – this does make me laugh because the blue bells are all over the university prospectus and website (big selling point), but the patch itself is quite hidden and out of the way so I’d be surprised if 10% of students ever make it there. I can’t say I mind too much though, it’s a lovely space to be without other people cluttering up the place.

In the afternoon I made Ross take me to watch the new Fast and Furious film using one of our free tickets. I mean, I think he enjoyed it nearly as much as I did, but it was definitely my choice. I’m not sure if you’d have noticed, but I am pretty much ALL OVER F&F at the moment. Considering I hadn’t watched any of them before this month, I’ve now seen them all at least twice and am convinced it is my life’s true purpose to be a street racer (ignoring my lack of ability and the fact that Hans von Manschaft the Passat can barely make it past 40mph at the moment, never mind drift) but I think it’s worth dreaming about. It harks fondly back to my younger days when I had high hopes about being an ice road trucker in Canada and various bedroom walls plastered in printed out pictures of tractor cab fronted American trucks.

Now, you may have started to cotton on that I seem to have a rather obsessive personality. In the last few blog posts, there have been little clues leading towards the fact that I find myself becoming attached to things like a small child to a favourite teddy bear. This has been happening ever since I can remember. My sister will testify to having to listen to PG Wodehouse tapes on repeat for weeks at a time (much to her dismay) and it’s definitely not something that has improved with age. This year alone, I’ve had emotionally fraught turmoil over Due South, The Watch Maker on Filigree Street and now Fast and Furious. Last year can be split into the saga of my Captain America love, and what is now known as the “Lewis Era”. I mean, technically that isn’t even officially over, if only because I have refused to watch the last episode (that way I don’t have to admit that it’s finished for good, because I can’t bear to think there will never be a new one). I couldn’t even say where it comes from; one minute I’m just going along all casually and then BAM – I’ve got a love for a character/plot point/theme tune that cannot be denied and I will spend the next 3-4 weeks being a complete loser over it.

It’s exactly the same with songs and books too. You just try telling me “they’re not real” when I have to time reading books down to the minute so I know I can be in bed and go straight to sleep after finishing one, rather than being in the middle of work and having a mini breakdown about the fact I will never get to experience that particular story with fresh eyes again. (Let’s not even talk about if a character dies, it’s not worth the tears).

book hangover

 Pic – that little man is me. My hair even does that. (Image Credit does not go to me – I’m not actually sure who it belongs to, but whoever they are, they get me)

It does cause some slight ructions between me and TMM, but only on a small scale. Typically he is very supportive of my weirdness, but we do have a bit of a conflict of interests when it comes to a series. With TV, I like to binge dramatically, whereas Ross gets upset when there’s too much plot (because he is a wrong’un). I also get very catty over how he reads, because he apparently thinks it’s appropriate to stop reading a book half way through and start another one, or just stop a series and go onto something else (this is because he is a dirty book slag). I on the other hand, have never put a book down without finishing it and if I’m reading a series, I must read them all. In order. From the beginning. Every time. There are some series that have 10 or 11 books in that I will read from the start every time a new one is released. It’s gotten to the point now when I won’t start certain things because I know I won’t be able to cope with finishing them. In fact, I think I embody the exact opposite of the phrase “tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all”. At this stage, I think my only hope for curing each obsession is just to continually get another one.

Overall though, it’s (mostly) harmless and does just mean I know a ridiculous amount about a random selection of topics that are of no use except in pub quizzes. I’ve heard it said though that obsession is just another term for dedication, and surely there are worse things to be stuck on?

…Right?

 

 

 

 

You come to me on this, the week after the weekend of my engagement…

So perhaps somewhat ironically after last week’s blog lambasting the Valentine tradition, this post comes to you straight from the fingers of a now officially betrothed lady! It is quite likely that you haven’t actually seen anything about this turn of events because we definitely haven’t plastered it all over Facebook like the social media slags that we are. We have been terribly coy and understated about the whole affair really.

I have to say though, the response to our announcement has been delightful and a little overwhelming. It’s rather heart-warming to know that so many people are invested and encouraging of our relationship, and the amount of champagne gifts we have received is awesome (even if Ross says they are too posh to make French Onion Soup out of and has moved them onto the bookshelf out of my reach).

As to the engagement itself – it was superb. Considering I typically shy away from most situations involving public displays of affection and show most of my love for Ross through creative insults, I have to say it went rather swimmingly. Admittedly, it was perhaps not quite the magical mystery proposal that Man Muffin might have been hoping for (sadly there is a chap that will never be able to join the secret services. I don’t even need to ask him anything and he’s spilling all his secrets like a bag of rice with a hole in the bottom), but I honestly think that might have been a bit better for us. I was already riding on the crest of the hysteria wave, and if I hadn’t known what was waiting at the end, I probably wouldn’t have made it. As it was I’d already endured the rushed panic of “oh god what if I say the wrong thing” and had to be threatened with a good slapping by the Woo-ster before I could calm down.

hagrid

Ross, or Hagrid as he is now affectionately known.

Preparation-wise though, I do have to hand it to the big softie; he pulled out all the stops. He always promised me a treasure hunt, and boy did he deliver spectacularly. There was nearly a slight mix up with the timings (my hair cut finished earlier than expected and my handlers had to cancel some breakfast dates to get me on time) but by 12pm I was delivered safely to the car park outside my old Uni digs; a cello-taped envelope clutched in my sweaty hand bearing the strictest instructions to remain unopened until otherwise instructed. When I was finally given the nod, the contents were revealed to be a selection of smaller numbered envelopes each containing a photo of the pair of us (looking pretty fly throughout our 7 year relationship, I can tell you), and beautifully handwritten clues guiding me to various locations around campus.

Now I do have to say that whilst the clues were each expertly crafted, I was about as useful as a chocolate teapot and had to be nudged in the right direction a few times by my trusty support team (big gay shout out to Sarah and Jon) who were equally as hysterical as I was, but thoroughly enjoying their responsibilities. There was a lot of time spent shouting “ON THIS, THE DAY OF MY ENGAGEMENT” at unsuspecting passers by in the style of the Godfather, but we did actually keep to the plan. We visited the bar where Ross and I first met, old accommodations, the library, the observatory and had a lovely little walk around the woods (because even though I knew where the clue led, I have all the directional sense of a jelly and was never actually going to get us all the way there without incident) before coming to the end outside of Keele Hall. After a serious nudging in the right direction and a hurried semaphore conversation as Jon directed Ross to hide behind a bush, I rounded the corner to be presented with a huge bouquet of flowers and a rather pink faced Man Muffin.

We proceeded to stand about half a mile apart dithering whilst he awkwardly shrugged and said “so, do you maybe wanna…” and I thrust my hand at him with a shrill squeaking sound. Cue much snogging, opening of bucks fizz and hilarious photos.

MONTAGE!!!!!!

Now I do have to say before I sign off for the week that I really don’t think I’m any different. People keep asking how it feels to be engaged, and if I’m perfectly frank it feels very much like not being engaged, only now I have to remember to put my ring back on after a shower. Though honestly, I really don’t think there’s much Ross and I could do to change our relationship – we might both be useless at life, but we’re pretty much just right for each other.

Love in the Time of Commercialism

Hello my lovely little cabbages. I must apologise because I’ve been a bit remiss in posting recently – I’ve been distressingly busy and spent all my free time either napping or lying face down on the floor groaning. Ross had to threaten to return my boots (which were a gift to myself for starting and maintain a blog) to spur me into action. And let’s be honest, I can’t really let this date go past with some kind of personal commentary now, can I?

Now, as you may or may not be aware (though if you’re not you must have managed to avoid going into any shop anywhere for the last two weeks – bloody hearts everywhere!) today is Valentine’s Day. On the whole, I’ve always been a bit of a misog at heart and have never really enjoyed this particular international revel. When you’re single, I like to think the more appropriate title is “Single Awareness Day” which I remember celebrating a few years ago by visiting a Starbucks in Manchester with some friends and having a cup of hot chocolate over a romantic tea light, and when you’re in a relationship, it mainly just induces panic buying and an influx of unnecessary expenses.

xkcd

This is an Xkcd comic (for which I take no credit) that I find hilariously relevant each year. If I actually had to be serious and do presents and giant romantic gestures, I would definitely end up with my hand stapled to my face.

Thankfully the Man Muffin isn’t too fussed about Valentine’s Day (or at least that’s what he tells me…) and we let the occasion slide by without a hoohar. There was the year he brought me a giant card and a cuddly puppy toy holding a heart with the express purpose of making me cringe (and possibly testing the boundaries of my conviction to avoidance) but we try not to talk about that because it gives me the heebie-jeebies. I think he probably wouldn’t mind celebrating if I were that type of girl, but I’ve told him to count his blessings that I don’t expect him to go through the seemingly typical rigmarole of standing in line at Pandora being eyed up by the bouncer in order to buy me an overpriced and tasteless charm for a bracelet I’ll never wear…Gosh you can just feel my distaste through the screen, can’t you?!

Now, I really wanted to be snotty and annoying (which I often do) I could give you a brief history of the day. I could talk about how Valentine was actually a Christian who was arrested and shipped of to Emperor Claudius II in Rome for aggressively bigging up Christianity, and although originally liked by the emperor, he was eventually condemned to death by being beaten with clubs and finally beheaded. I mean, what says “I love you” like celebrating the day a man was brutally killed for expressing his religious beliefs by pandering to money making schemes wrapped in a gaudy red bow?

But I shan’t do that. Because that would be petty and I am a mature and responsible lady now. Honest.

However, what I will do is admit that I am one of those annoying people who belongs to the judgey hipster crowds that thinks if you’re in a relationship when you like each other enough to buy gifts, you might as well do it whenever the hell you feel like it rather than waiting for a specific day. Ross buys me flowers just because he seems them in the shop and thinks they look pretty, which I think is bloody lovely. There’s no commitment to a date or panicked responsibilities, there’s just a lovely little bouquet on the front seat of the car and a sheepish smile on his face when he picks me up from work on a random Wednesday night.

So after those last two paragraphs it might not sound like it, but I am actually happy for other people to do Valentine’s Day however they want. If you want a certain day full of rose petals and heart shaped chocolates and helium balloons with tiny naked Cupid butts on them, you just go right ahead. I’m going to just sit in the side lines and wait for all the shiny banners and stupidly oversized cards to make way for the truly vomit-inducing amount of Easter Eggs that I know are hiding in the stockrooms.

Perhaps somewhat hypocritically though, I am completely and irrevocably in love with the notion of Galentine’s Day. Originating from Parks and Rec (still one of the best programs ever, don’t even doubt it) it’s a day when you get to joyously celebrate your gal pals (please be aware I equally encourage boys to celebrate their lady friends in a non-romantic way, and also girls and boys to celebrate their male chums in a Palentine’s celebration, or maybe a Guyentine?). Mainly I think I’ve been drawn in by the “code” – Hoes before Bros. Ovaries before Broveries. Uteruses before Duderuses and the excuse to get my mum some truly tasteless gifts (just you wait Mother, I’ve got a great one for you this weekend).

parksvalentine1galentines-day

These pictures are brought to you by the show Parks and Rec and the goddess that is Leslie Knope. #KnopeforPresident

Though I suppose in the end it doesn’t matter either way whether or not I like Valentine’s more or less than Galentine’s, or indeed if anybody else does. It’s just about being generally lovely and delightful to each other and spending a little time whenever you can to make sure your nearest and dearest know you love them, especially in a world that’s getting scarier by the minute.

Viva la Resolution!

So this month has by in a bit of a whir really. Spending time down in Wales with my mother has been (whilst under the worst circumstances) really lovely and reminded me how much like the Gilmore Girls we are – if slightly less social and slightly more interested in watching Midsummer Murders. Having to leave her and come back to work has been a wrench and one that, although obviously necessary, something I think I would happily give up if it meant I got to live the Good Life by the coast.

beach

Mother and I doing our best intrepid explorer impressions along the beach

Getting back into the swing of things has been quite strange really. It’s always a bit odd when you first return to normal after the holidays, but this time it feels different. Coming back and finding everything to be pretty much exactly how I left it has been somewhat startling. Logically I knew that the world wasn’t about to stop just because I had done and whilst losing Mr B is a huge factor is my life, it barely matters to the big wide world in general. Things tick along as they have always done and people bimble about absorbed within their own spheres and it’s time for me to slot back in. I think realising this; that nothing has change no matter how much I have, has spurred me on to make some alterations.

Now on one hand, I despise the idea of “resolutions”, especially at this time of year. Sure there are a number of things I’d like to improve about myself in the preferably not to distant future – for example I’d like to be fitter (or at least able to walk up a flight of stairs without dying), braver (though this is perhaps more of a work in progress) and have some notion about what I actually want to do with my life other than watch TV, do granny crafts and eat my own body weight in cake. The trouble is, I think people always look to make these grand sweeping life changes in the new year, which I see as a bit of a folly. Attempting to start (or stop) something in either January and February – the most depressing and cold of all the months – is perhaps not setting yourself up to succeed. If these kind of resolutions were encouraged in July when it’s sunnier and brighter, people would be a little more inclined to set themselves reasonable and achievable goals, or at least not feel quite as depressed when it all goes pear-shaped. As it is, the only sensible thing to do at this time of year is wrap yourself up in a cocoon of blankets, munch on leftovers and pray for summer.

Instead, I think it’s better not to try and set such stern objectives, but instead gently suggest things to your subconscious. I find myself tricking my brain into things, hoping it won’t notice when I go behind our back and confuse myself into doing something. Rather that setting a goal that I know I won’t enjoy the journey too, unsurprisingly not achieving it and then wallowing in a pit of failure and despair, I’ve been attempting to come at takes from previously untried angles.

One of the main things I’ve realised in an effort to make myself healthier and more self-sufficient is that it would actually be rather beneficial if I learnt to cook, rather than just relying on the boyfriend to constantly feed me (Seymour). For the most part I remain completely ambivalent towards the kitchen. I go from not hungry to starving to not hungry again in the space of half an hour, and much like a panda’s sex drive – if I am not sated immediately the opportunity is lost for days. This usually means I wander round the kitchen, morosely opening cupboard doors and staring forlornly into their depths whilst lamenting my inability to combine the contents before settling for another afternoon on the couch with my hand in the chocolate pillows cereal box.

No more though! After cooking 3 WHOLE MEALS for my mother (from scratch might I add) and neither of us dying or secretly feeding it to the cats, I’ve proved to myself that I am actually able to survive in the kitchen and can nearly almost not quite but come close to enjoying myself. My lack of enthusiasm stems not from lack of ability (or childhood training), but a complete and overwhelming lack of motivation (no surprises there). However, rather than just taking a bullish mind set and enduring resentment directed towards myself, the kitchen and Jamie Oliver, I’ve come up with a cunning plan. We have recently signed up to HelloFresh – a company that sends weekly parcels full of fresh food and recipe sheets that can be combined into delightful pre-selected meals. Now this might seem frivolous or constrictive to some, but it’s the perfect choice for me. It means I don’t have to face the continual and weirdly panic-inducing choice anxiety over trying to pick something for tea every night, or endure the stress of going to the super market and trying to corral myself (and Ross) from buying every shiny thing that crossed our path. We spend a little less than we would on a weekly shop and get 3 full meals (plus enough leftovers for lunches) and I actually find myself getting excited about food preparation in a way I haven’t since I last watched Chocolat and tried to create my own magical hot chocolate powder (and succeeded only in making myself nauseous).

Please enjoy these very professional photos taken by the Man Muffin whilst I fart about trying to prepare a meal

Last night was the first package we received and I do have to admit it was a little bit sad how over excited we were about unwrapping bags of food, especially considering we’re 25 year olds living in a first world country. Everything was delightfully packed though (in 100% biodegradable materials, including sheep’s wool which I will be using for craft purposes) and the ingredients were perfectly measured, completely fresh and organic and absolutely scrummy. I prepared a “Refreshing Pasta Salad with mange tout, pine nuts and mint” and had, quite literally, all of the fun. Things were chopped and decanted into tiny ramekins, pots were utilised with gay abandon and Ross took 5 millions photos for prosperity.

I have to say though (and I am aware that this is only the first week) things are looking quite positive for this #NotAResolution lark I’ve started, and I have high (though not unrealistically unattainable) hopes for the future.