Variations on a Theme

Theme

Well as promised, I can confirm that we Themed Hard (please notice the capitalisation) at the weekend in honour of the Halloween Holidays. The Scooby Doo idea was an undeniable success and I think you’ll all be pleased with our faithfulness to the original course material. We can proudly say that it’s not just the costumes that make it, but the overall effort and vigour with which we throw ourselves into the whole debacle. Most of you will have seen the images and videos on various social media platforms, however I’ve done a tiny montage below for those of you who haven’t (and because I do love a good montage).


I was quite chuffed to have only spent about £8 on my outfit overall (it’s handy when Velma actually is life and most of her wardrobe is items you already own), though I have to admit to being a tad concerned at how happy I was with the brown wig (I think I was basically just recreating my mum from the 80s). To be honest though, I think we all looked rather special in it. It was an excellent night overall; Wilson’s house was decorated beautifully (so much delightful Halloween bunting) and they plied us with homemade chicken tikka wraps, vegetable lasagne and gins of various flavours.

Considering how much I hate drama and the thought of being up on stage in front of people though, I bloody love dressing up. There’s something so childishly gleeful about wearing something you normally wouldn’t, or trying make up techniques you’ve seen on YouTube and fancy a bash at. I had a couple of memories come up on Facebook over the week detailing my previous struggles with make up and albums full of hilarious decorated drunken selfies, so it’s good to know that nothing’s changed.


I feel like my attempts have been slightly more successful this time round though, however it’s more than possible that’s due to the fact I haven’t actually got to pick one for a party.

This isn’t our first rodeo though. As a team, we have themed hard over the past few years. I like to think it runs in the family (early memories from my childhood include seeing my parents dressed up for the Rocky Horror Picture Show – my dad looks fantastic in a basque and heels you’ll be glad to know), and I’ve cultivated this ability in my friends.

Alice in Wonderland was possibly one of first themes that we really made the effort for. Granted we’d done similar gatherings prior to that (Mexican night was our first official foray into the world of fancy dress parties – mainly everyone had a paper print out poncho and culturally insensitive moustaches) but this was when we really started to pull our collective finger out. Woo let us all pile into her tiny flat dressed as the main cast (we had an Alice, the Red Queen, the Cheshire Cat, the March Hare, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum and then Jonbles stuck a piece of paper to his hoodie that said “Eat Me” because tragically it took him a year or so to really get into the swing of things) and ply each other with dangerously strong cocktails (read – vodka and fruit juice) poured out of teapots. The whole night could really be summed up by the tag line “great costumes and bad ideas”; a couple of teapots down we were trying to cram two of us into a single pair of skiing salopets, which as I am sure you can summarise, ended terribly. Woo and I crashed to the floor in dramatic slow motion and although I didn’t come off too badly, I am pretty sure Woo’s knees were never the same again. TMM made a fabulous March Hare though he did insist on taking his shirt off and just wearing his waistcoat about ten minutes in.


*Side note – this is a recurring feature of both our fancy dress parties and indeed general life. TMM is reminiscent of a little boy; he often gets too hot too quickly and resorts to immediate stripping. At parties he usually limits himself to just his top, but at home it’s fair game and the other day I was in complete fits of hysteria when he stood, completely stripped to his boxers and then fell asleep upside down on the couch within a ten minute time frame.*


The joy of TMM’s chosen activity though is that it reveals his magical chest dimp (a curious little cream egg sized dip in his rib cage) and we all have to do shots from it – because why would you not. To be honest, we have tamed down a little in our old age and the chest shots have taken a slight downturn in regularity, but I think it’s more due to the fact we all struggle to kneel down as easily now. #rockandroll

We had a 1920’s poker night that similarly could be described as a party full of fabulous looking people who made some very suspicious life choices. There were sumptuous dresses, sparkly headbands and splendid suits (with tiny pencil moustaches) galore. TMM obviously took his shirt off as soon as humanly possibly (he said it was because he’d spilt something on it but I don’t know how much I believe this) and spent the rest of the night in just his braces. I started well but then mainly proceeded to make an absolute shambles of myself. After drinking far too much far too quickly, I threw up atrociously and had to be stripped (I made an impassioned plea to all present that if I was to throw up, my strapless emerald velvet dress had to be saved – they rallied round superbly and within seconds of threatening to hurl I was down to my tights). I ended up knelt on the kitchen floor hunched over a sick bowl wearing the Drunken Dressing Gown of Shame. (There are similar pictures of various other team members in pretty much exactly the same position in various kitchens wearing the very same gown). The evening ended with me burritoed up against the living room radiator between George and the dog (who kept trying to eat out of the sick bowl).

We enjoyed other nights of drunken dressed up revelry, including Under the Sea which provided a lot of variety (we had a mermaid, a scuba diver and Jonbles, who told us he was a jelly fish but basically stuck a plastic shopping bag to his head and looked like a washed up condom. That night somehow ended up with everyone absolutely covered in sparkly blue make up that took most of the next day to scrub off. There was also Rocky Horror (a classic that TMM fully committed to – he looks equally as good as my dad in the basque), Eurovision (please pursue previous posts for photographic evidence of TMM being the prettiest lady you have ever actually seen), If We Were Super Heroes (I was Marsh Lady – using my clammy palms to save the world and TMM was General Kitchener and had a bandolier made of utensils – Woo still has our ladle) and If We Were Each Other. That was a truly hilarious night which involved a couple of quick changes for the photo opportunities, fake beards, boys in skirts and poor George coming out in hives when we made him dress up in my fur coat to be the dog.


The highlight of our whole career was, undoubtedly, the Addams Family. Jonbles went from reluctant participant to the most immersed (he let us shave him complete bald for Uncle Fester) and I really feel every one of us looked our absolute best. As is usually the way with these things, minimal effort was really required (except the shaving of Wild Yeti Man Jonbles) for maximum effect.

As is the way with most of these events though, the days after took a bit of recovering. This year was, I misguidedly thought, going to be different. With a good stodgy meal in me and only a couple of gins, I expected to be bright eyed and bushy tailed on the Saturday morning. Instead, I woke up with what seemed to a railroad spike straight through my temples and had to make a couple of unplanned trips to the bathroom to throw up unattractively. I am still convinced Wilson spiked me, because it’s either that or my ability to deal with alcohol has apparently completely vanished (is this what growing up feels like?). I was forced to spend the whole day on the couch buried under the duvet pathetically and binge watch the new Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (the Teenage Woke as TMM has taken to calling her) and lamenting that my house was not as witchy and my hair not as wavy.

I did eventually recover though, and I’ve now only got a week and a bit now until it’s time for the work do. As previously mentioned, having it so late is causing mild confusion for everyone concerned, but it does give me more time to practice putting on false eyelashes (which is 100% the work of the Devil, I don’t care what anyone says). It will most likely be the last theme of the year (so sad! I hear you cry) but I have high hopes for next year (Wizard of Oz anyone?) and I’ve still got a few late nights of make up trials in me yet.

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A Month in the Life of a HalloKween

It’s just a mini blog this week chaps, a blogette if you will, because TMM and I have managed to snag a few days off work and consequently have been cramming in as much adventure as possible, leaving little time for hardcore blogging. I’ve been writing snippets here and there during car journeys and tea breaks, but overall I can’t promise too much content.
Mainly though, I just wanted to make you all aware that Halloween is coming. HALLLLLOOOWEEEEEENNNNNN BIZNITCHES.
I’m sure you may have noticed in your own time and probably couldn’t give a tiny ghost rat’s ass, but I think it’s important to just make you all fully aware that My Time is here. Considering I am highly anxious and do not enjoy gore or horror at all (this week’s post is brought to you by the words squeamish and wimp), you’d think this somewhat counterintuitive, but this commercialised, wildly varying and completely subjective attitude we have as a society to this particular holiday is right up my street.
We have previously discussed my joy of pumpkins but it’s getting serious now; it’s the annual TMM family pumpkin carving party this weekend and I’m slightly panicked because I haven’t researched at all sufficiently and this is very much a “go big or go home” kind of event. Last year set the precedent and I’ve already had to shout at TMM for discussing ideas with his mum (or fraternizing with the enemy as I’ve taken to calling it).


TMM has already a little practice session though.

We’ve not had anymore time to make any more tasty pumpkin delights though, much to my chagrin, and seemingly all local super markets have stopped stocking canned pumpkin puree the moment I showed an interest in it. I’ve got a recipe from a friend for Pumpkin Spiced Cookies though, which I am absolutely bloody desperate to try, so there’s going to be a pumpkin puree hunt at some point.

Let’s be honest here though, the main reason I’m excited is because I freaking love dressing up like some kind of trashy 80s drama kid and there is no other festive holiday that is so accepting of that. I’ve already had a go at three make up options for no other purpose other than because I wanted to, and I’m hoping to have a go at a couple more before the month is out. I’m theming it up at work with two other ladies (our actual office Halloween celebration isn’t until Nov 9th which has which has thoroughly confused my system; but the costume is already ready) and I’ve already got nearly everything sorted for our team Scooby Doo soiree tomorrow. Fred just needs his ascot and there’s a couple of sets of dog ears that need tending to, but I can already tell we’re going to look excellent. The trouble is though, neither of those themes involve much overdramatic make up or lashings of fake blood, so I’ve had to amuse myself just a little to get the standard Halloween fix.

Just some casual Halloween looks.

It’s not just me though, the Halloween spirit has overtaken us all – TMM is smashing through his horror reading list like an absolute demon. (I think he’s found his reading niche). We bought a copy of The Haunting of Hill House to finish his month on a bang after binge watching the telly show over about 3 nights – which was fine up until the point TMM fell asleep half way through and then suddenly woke up and tried to throw his arm at me, yelling incoherently. Turns out he’d been lying on his front and had trapped his arm which had, understandably, gone numb and twitched slightly, but I am not above admitting I momentarily thought he was possessed and was fully prepared to smother him with a pillow. We’ve been very much in the zone though (minor possession fears aside). We’ve already watched Beetlejuice and decided most definitely that we are Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin (who’s butt was so much better than I ever remember it being) and have got Hocus Pocus to watch tonight. TMM has also introduced me to various new morbidly fascinating podcasts centring round the Salem Witch Trials (Unobscured by Aaron Mahnke), various horrifying folk tales and urban legends (Lore, also by Aaron Mahnke) and mysterious deaths in Norway (Death in Ice Valley by BBC World Service and NRK). Just a little light October bedtime listening.

Overall though, I think we’ve Halloweened pretty well, and that’s not too shabby considering there’s still a week to go…

Spring Forward, Falling Back

Blog Autumn

Well, that’s it guys. Summer is over. The most joyous warm weather has departed, leaving us with unnecessary amounts of rain and gradually darkening evenings. No more late nights in the garden with a good book and a beer. No more lying on the floor in patches of golden sunlight like a giant cat. No more light summer dresses, Primark sunglasses and suncream sticky skin. Cue much sighing. Now as I’m sure you’re aware, I am a tad bitter, it can’t be denied. To be quite frank, I’m generally furious with the whole damn situation, but I’m trying to be a grown-up about it (honest). Summer finishes every year and I really am going to have to get over it. It’s not like it’s a surprise.

As such, it appears that I have decided to embrace Autumn. Hard. I’ve weirdly gone into full Kirsty Alsop mode “welcoming autumn into my home” with kitschy style, but combined with my own special branch of sarcasm and swearing.

I think TMM managed to distract me from my post-summer slump early on by colluding with me on a most successful Primark haul. Primark, like Ikea, inhabits two opposing states. It either has everything you could ever possibly want (when you went in with nothing particular in mind and no money in your pockets), or it’s completely bereft of anything decent at all (especially when you go purposely looking to binge). I suggested a visit purely to stock up on some more false nails, because Primark false nails are the actual shiz, and for a £1 its stupid to not embrace them. (Seriously, they are bright, long lasting and the glue could be used to hold NASA’s rockets together – everything a girl who wants nice hands but doesn’t want to commit to full-time real lady nails could need). Anyway, I promised I would just pick up a couple of packets, and maybe a new bra, and we’d be in and out in no time. It’s important to note that TMM really is the perfect shopping companion (which is mostly wasted on me because unless it’s Primark, Ikea or a bookshop, I don’t want to be there) and he simply nodded at my bold statement, offered no argument and fired up the chariot.

It’s at this juncture that I should point out that by the time we actually made to the false nail section, we’d already had to go back for a basket and I’d picked up two jumpers, one skirt, some pumps and a fabulous pair of rust coloured cord trousers. I was wild and untamed and each floor only brought forth new delights for to get my grubby little mitts on. You’ll be glad to know I also treated TMM to a new shirt, but it really paled into insignificance by the time we finally made it to the till. You might be questioning my logic by this point (you weren’t the only one by the time it came to total up the cost) but you have to think of the bigger picture. New jumpers require colder weather, cute skirts can be beautifully paired with thick tights and some little boots and fabulous rust coloured cord trousers really are the style of the autumn season.

Please enjoy this shot of my fabulous nails (which although a little hard to see here, were a glorious combination of metallic red and orange) paired with one of my perfectly coordinating with one of the aforementioned Primark jumpers.

Side note – it is important to note that fabulous though they may be (also completely perfect for a Shaggy from Scooby Doo fancy dress outfit – just saying) cord trousers should probably not be worn in a torrential downpour. On a team outing to see the Weeping Window Poppies at Middleport, I did have to hike them up like a posh lady to make it over puddles without soaking everything up like a sponge.

My outfit choice hasn’t been the only thing I’ve been pimping up in time for the autumn season though. As you may remember from blog posts long past, I have been deeply taken with the idea of year-round wreaths as a constant decoration for ones front door. TMMs sister treated me to my own wreath base for my birthday and its been sitting quietly, patiently waiting for its turn ever since. Well, after a particularly eventful trip to Wilkos (i swear, it’s like I think I’m a Rockefeller or something) which resulted in a new kitchen mop (with fancy inbuilt sprayer) and a surprising amount of cleaning products considering who I am, I thought it time to update my flower collection. Gone is the time for pale pinks and creams, here come the russet reds, butter yellows and …orangey oranges. I brought in the summer wreath, which had done its job rather splendidly and is waiting to be stored away carefully for next year, and settled down in the cwtch with my flowers, some wire cutters and a whole lot of willing. Whilst it became abundantly clear halfway through that I still have some kind of blindness when it comes to flower arranging, I gave it a good go and both TMM and Bucky passed on their approval.

I do think I might add some purple flowers and maybe a little skull or two closer to Halloween, but it looks just as pretty as a peach at the moment.

I’ve been generally crafting all over the place, as one can tell by viewing the complete devastation that is currently our dining table. I’ve been working on a little commission for a school friend for the longest time (apologies to her for my truly awful time management) but there is always vaguely reminiscent feeling of Christmas when the table looks like this. Bucky finds great pleasure in sitting right in the middle on top of the most uncomfortable pile of paints, pencils and or pads he can find whilst trying to drink dirty paint water, so at least he’s embracing it all too.

TMM once again managing to make my chaos look artistic. He’s got a talent.

Finally, I’ve brought autumn quite soundly into our diets as well, soundly rounding out the whole emersiom therapy vibe I’ve got going on. Sourdough has made a welcome return into our lives, as it is the tastiest and most comforting of all the breads. Hearty soups full of goodness and flavour have been mightily enjoyed in very Instagram worthy ways. Cups of tea have been imbibed in a possibly alarming amount whilst cuddled under blankets with books. Most excitingly though, I have been researching pumpkins.

I mean, come on. That could be in a magazine.

No matter what anyone says, pumpkins are one of the mightiest gourds around, and over here in good old Blighty I definitely don’t think we use them to the extent that they deserve. They provide a pleather of possibility and I’ll be damned if I don’t try every bloody one of them. Now most of you will have, at some point, been involved the joys of pumpkin carving – a sport so messy it really should only be attempted by people in crime scene suits, but hardly anyone I talk to ever thinks of doing anything else with them. For shame, I say to those people. The taste sensations that await them if only they were to try strikes me as a sad waste of potential.

Now its true that I might be slightly over-egging this whole mini autumn harvest festival – there aren’t actually even pumpkins in the shops yet, but I’ve decided I’ve either got to go big or go home, and guess what? I’m already at home, so big is the only option left. If the pumpkins won’t come to Mohammed, Mohammed will just have to go to the world food aisle of Sainsbury’s and stack up on suspiciously battered tins of “Pumpkin Puree” shipped from Canada. I’ve been meaning to try this stuff for ages (one of my biggest regrets was not trying pumpkin pie when I went over to America – though boy was the peach pie tasty) and what better time is there than now? After spending a good 7 minutes watching a Buzzfeed Food video on all the possible ways I could make pumpkin based pastries for myself, I decided to give it a go. So this weekend, armed with hormonal rage, wild hair and a hankering for some tasty treats, I went at it. I have to say as well, it went pretty damn well. The recipe was surprisingly simple and easy to make (though I do think the measurements might possibly have been off, as we’ve now made 14 mini pies and I still have about the same amount of mixture again sat chilling in the freezer). A tin of puree, a can of evaporated milk (god I could drink that stuff), 2 eggs, a spoonful of ginger, a pinch or cinnamon, a sprinkling of salt and a 1/4 teaspoon of TMM’s finest ground cloves (not a euphemism, just cloves he pestle and mortared by hand) and bobs your uncle, you got your pie mixture. Eating it raw was pretty great (only a little bit though, I’m not a mad salmonella tempting bastard) and the smell was divine. We were mildly concerned about the texture it must be said, but the video promised us we were looking alright. Some banging, rolling and swearing later (TMM wisely left me alone for this section) I had some little doughy bases and I poured in my mixture with all the love and attention of a new mother. 30 minutes later (gas mark 5 for those of you who are interested) and our little pumpkin babies were ready. And let me tell you, those treats are tasty. I don’t really know quite what I was expecting if I’m honest, but I was happily impressed by the results, and can see why they’re such a smash over in the States. I plan to try at least two more of the pumpkin based suggestions before the season is out, and I expect you all to at least attempt the same. You don’t even know what world of culinary wonders awaits you.

Not to toot my own trumpet, but hat is how you make a petite pumpkin pie

And so, with great aplomb, I bring this glorious celebration of autumn to a close. I’m not ready for the rain, or the dark nights or the fast approaching build up to Christmas, but I’m accepting my fate and doing my best to welcome the fall with open arms. Come at me, bro.

Czech Us Out

Czech us out.PNG

Alternative Title – Bombs Away!

So before we start, I think it’s very important you know that this week’s post was brought to you by my homemade early 80s rock playlist (inspired by Steve Harrington from Stranger Things – my new life guru), which consists of possibly more Toto and Journey than is ever strictly necessary. However, it’s helped me through some real hard times (mainly the overwhelming holiday blues and god awful early mornings on the bus to work) so I won’t hear a word against it.

The rest of the blog is brought to you by MY HOLIDAY which was most excellent and will now be gifted to you in great detail. You’re welcome.

For those of you that don’t know the background, TMM and I basically invited ourselves along on a trip to Prague that was predominantly for a gathering of various singers from all over the place (a sort of super group of the choir world) that Mother was going on. There was minor dillydallying from both sides, but it was eventually agreed that we would go along to provide Mother moral support (seeing as she’d never been on a plane before) and get a well deserved break at the same time.

Now, as I’m sure is quite clear if you are an avid follower of my work, both myself and TMM are what could be loosely described as “anxious” and it’s not a stretch to say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. On the build up to the trip, I received increasingly hysterical messages from Mother in various stages of capslocked panic regarding packing, passport and other preparation. I obviously responded to these in a very soothing and calming fashion, before proceeding to have very similar panics at TMM and Woo. Still, the day of reckoning rolled around swiftly and it found us suitably suit-cased and ready for our adventures.

We managed to successfully navigate a taxi, two trains and airport security (both TMM and I had to be patted down because we obviously just looked massively suspicious – TMM’s dungarees have been retrospectively voted as the worst flying outfit choice) before we even met up with any other members of our party, but before long we were safely ensconced on the plane.

Side note – it is important here to point out that Mother, a fan of the Film4 channel, has recently been finding particular joy in the Action Month advert. It apparently consists of clips from various adrenalin fuelled men shouting “bomb” set to the Ride of the Valkyries. Now, I wonder if you can see where this might be going…if you thought it might be somewhere along the lines of both her and TMM, whilst simultaneously being the nerviest of beans, finding every opportunity to mumble “bomb de bomb bomb, bomb de bomb bomb, boMB ON THIS (insert any of the countless modes of public transport we experienced here)” hysterically, you would be dead right.

Unfortunately we were all spread about on the flight itself (I was a bit gutted to miss Mother’s first ever trip in a plane but it probably limited her excuse to sing the bomb song which can only be a good thing), but I had a pretty good journey. I was sat just in front of a very cute little girl who had a great attitude to flying and her parents but the arse of the devil and apparently uncontrollable gastric upset. I was nearly forced to kill her when I realised I had no money for snacks either and she proceeded to happily munch on her Pringles with infuriating enjoyment. (Guess what, I did not learn my lesson on the way home and was nearly resorted to sucking olive juice out of my jacket to sate my hunger after there was an incident with the guy next to me and the air hostess both reaching for the packet at the same time and proceeding on getting that stuff everywhere). I do really enjoy flying though, especially at night, and it was rather stunning to be able to watch the sunset and the lights of Prague start to twinkle on our arrival. I always find looking over a scene like puts me in mind of a flickering map of golden neural pathways; a living city.

We lucked out pretty well whilst exiting the plane as well; due to a bit of faff with our carry ons, we ended up being the last passengers and Mother stopped to say thank you to the cabin crew. After they found out that it was her first ever flight, there was much kerfuffle and we got invited into the cock pit for a photo.

Let me tell you, I have never had to fight the urge to touch buttons like that before; the urge to try my hand at plane theft was pretty strong (it was like the hot air balloon festival all over again).

cockpit

Apparently my innate desire is to be some kind of aero-pirate; like Fast and Furious but with hot air balloons and airplanes. (Woo rightly pointed out here that I have the best ideas but am so entirely unequipped to carry them out)

Once it became clear that I wasn’t allowed to hijack the plane (TMM gave me some serious “don’t touch it” eyebrows), we regrouped with our party and were shepherded onto the coach and to the hotel by our lovely (and longsuffering) guide Helena.

The first morning found us all up bright and early (half 7 – good god) for breakfast before the choir disappeared off for their first rehearsal as a group. TMM and I took the opportunity to have a little nap (because we might be young but by god we’re not energetic) before braving out to tackle the public transport system – which I have to say is excellent. We could definitely learn a thing or two, just sayin’. We made it on and off the underground with minimal stress (the hardest thing was 100% the escalators, which all appeared to move at warp speed) and then bumbled around the centre for a while. We inexplicably managed to entirely miss Old Town though, and spent most of the morning skirting round the New Town section looking for Charles Bridge – spoiler: it’s freaking massive and should really not have been that hard to find.

Giving it up as a lost cause for the moment, we returned to the hotel to merge with the rest of the party and spent a good hour or so watching with thinly veiled hilarity at the ensuing stress caused by the underground ticket machines. I’m not sure if it’s a cultural thing, generational thing or just the fact a lot of people really have no idea how to navigate ticket machines after having had their own car for so long, but TMM and I have never felt so accomplished at being able to just hustle my mum to the front of the queue and be ready to go within a few minutes. After eventually making it into town, we split into smaller groups for lunch. We were treated to the wonderful scene of Mother accidentally chatting up one of the waiters – she insisted she was just trying to ask how large the plates of food where, but mainly she got as far as saying “how big” and gesturing somewhat crudely in front of his crotch. Either way, we all had a great laugh and I’m pretty sure we made his day. The afternoon was frittered away with casual wanderings and we finally made it to Charles Bridge (only to have to survive a completely unexpected deluge) before we met up with a couple more of the group for a guided coach tour and a absolutely bloody lovely river cruise.  Between eating a buffet tea and chattering, we were treated to views of beautiful apartments with chocolate box facades and open windows that spoke of romantically struggling artists with jazz soundtracks and cigarette addictions.

Prague 2

It’s been decided that we are very much about night time river cruises

Day two started in very much a similar kind of vein, and once we’d picked up Mother we took a little trip up to the Castle. Let me tell you, that place is stunning (also super hot). We enjoyed lunch (I had goulash in a giant bread bowl and literally don’t think I will ever use crockery again) in a cute little village café (no waiter mishaps this time, but I do think he found us somewhat bizarre) and then wandered round in amazed bliss, staring at towering spires and sparkling stained glass windows. Heading back to the city centre, we treated ourselves to some of the famous tunnel cakes (so so good), but we did manage to make a complete mess of ourselves. Mother had pistachio filling which succeeded in making her look like she was covered in baby sick, and my strawberries and cream seemed to attract a swarm of wasps that kept trying to dive bomb straight into our mouths. Still, we enjoyed them immensely and they kept us going all the way back to the hotel for Mother to get changed into her concert gear.

The concert itself was in a lovely little church (very different from the Palace) and I was proud of myself for only tearing up three times. I’m pretty sure I have some kind of switch that just flicks and turns me into a blubbering mess whenever Mother sings, but I managed to not embarrass myself too much, and take some nice photos/recordings for everyone. After they finished, we went back to the hotel for a late night picnic and all stumbled into bed.

Day three was yet another early start (we holidayed hard) before the entire group were shepherded into the centre for a team photo in front of the bridge (school trips never change). After finally managing to get a couple of fairly decent shots, we slid off to wander and visited the Mucha Museum. Now I’ve always loved Mucha’s art, ever since being a little girl and being obsessed with a Mucha mirror my Neens had in her hall, but seeing some of his work up close just really drove it home how amazingly talented he truly was. The level of detail and forethought that must have gone into every piece is mind-boggling and we might have all gone a little mad in the gift shop. Finally managing to drag ourselves away, we took a break (we must have walked approx. seven thousand miles over the whole holiday. No exaggeration.) and spent a good 45 minutes absolutely wetting ourselves at a couple of folks trying their hand at a bit of zorbing. We thoroughly appreciated the efforts of a dad who was obviously trying to be very serious and active about it whilst his little girl just threw herself about in the background, and a gorgeous girl who’s hijab kept getting tangled and nearly garrotting her and her boyfriend whilst they proceeded to make it about 2 foot away from the starting point. It was unanimously agreed that we all need to have a go next time.

After lunch, we did another quick change round at the hotel and left Mother at the new concert hall (the Czech Museum of Music) for the final rehearsal and went for a quick drink and an apple strudel (when in Czech…). The second concert was just as good as the first, and once again the venue was stunning.

Prague 1.jpgTMM ponders the classics

After they’d finished, we snuck off (we did a lot of that) for a pizza and a late night wander across the Charles Bridge and a peak into some of the tourist shops – Mother was very taken with the little wooden dollies and Christmas decorations (before you ask, yes we do all have nice new Christmas decorations. And what).

The last day was a tad more reserved, and after a leisurely breakfast/lunch, we said goodbye to our slightly harried guide (she was definitely happy to see the back of our party I think) and were dropped off at the airport. Once again we somehow managed to lose everyone but we made it through with minimal fuss (there were a couple of sneaky older folks who were trying to sneak over the limit liquids back through – v troublesome) and before long were back in the home country. Off the plane, we made a quick departure and made our way back to Manchester (whilst traipsing somewhat sluggishly through a Mancunian train station that was crawling with men with unnecessarily large guns, TMM and Mother both took up another chorus of the bomb song and I had to fight the overwhelming urge just to give them up as terrorists and strike out homeward alone). After various train journeys (only got on the wrong one once), taxi rides and snack stops we made it home in mostly one piece.

Overall though I think it can be classed as a success and I’m terribly proud of Mother. We’ve already started to surreptitiously mention other holidays, but I’m laying down the law on the musical accompaniment….bomb de bomb bomb, bomb in this blog!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love in Stranger Times

Stranger

Alternative Title: Stranger Binge: Dustin off 2 series in one upside down weekend (TMM is really wasted here. His pun game is strong).

Well, I was planning on writing this blog all about the preparations that are currently underway in readiness for the family trip to Prague next week. Mother has never been abroad via an aeroplane before and consequently there is much hysteria and full capslock messages flying back and forth about size of luggage and how many pairs of emergency knickers to pack (we’re a nervy bunch). However, my intentions have been completely overhauled and this week’s post has been waylaid by telly (for shame).

Now I know I am about 3 years behind the times, but I have finally joined the masses in becoming completely enthralled by Stanger Things (for those of you not in the know, it is a show set in the 80s around children and monsters from other realms – think Stephen King meets a juke box entirely stocked with spooky synth music).

Once again, as I always seem to do with on-trend TV, I’ve come a little late to the party. But worry not, because now I’m here I’m going to overstay my welcome, throw up on the carpet and be found hugging a lamp at 3 in the morning whimpering softly. I am 100% in love and to be honest slightly ashamed that I’ve waited this long to watch. In my defence, we really didn’t realise how much excellence we were missing out on. I do love NowTV and am happy with the service it has provided so far, but little did I know what wonders awaited on the other side. Now that we have jumped on the Netflix bandwagon, I am pretty sure I can say we won’t be getting off any time soon.

In fact, our overall introduction to Netflix has gone rather well and exactly in the way as I promised TMM it wouldn’t. Fully aware of my stalkerish tendencies, we were going to pick a couple of shows to watch and limit our viewing of them to 1 or 2 episodes a week, like the good old days of terrestrial. Guess how much that didn’t work? We’ve barely even scratched the surface and we’re already two full shows down and stayed up way past our bedtime on a number of occasions. Poor TMM is flagging dramatically, poor boy.

Stranger Things started very casually on a Friday night and by the time the weekend was out, we’d finished both seasons and I’d developed an overwhelming urge to perm everything in sight and avoid all suspicious looking cracks in the walls – there be toothy monsters. Seriously though, it has everything I could want in a nice little bundle of thrills. Teenage boys who can be a little dim but have great hair, good hearts and deal well in the face of otherworldly dangers and young children. Tall beardy men with unresolved issues who aren’t afraid to hug people aggressively at every opportunity (you cannot know how rewarding it is to yell at the TV about how someone needs a hug and then for it to actually happen). A whole plethora of lady characters with vast quantities of rage, stunning eyes and varying telekinetic/psionic abilities that may or may not being able to throw vans with their minds. You don’t even want to get me started on the truly excellent soundtrack.

I think TMM actually spent more of the first season watching me watching TV rather than watching it himself and getting increasingly giggly at my hysterical outbursts and constantly muttered commentary. It appears I am incapable (except at the cinema or theatre when NO talking is permitted) of not putting my oar in and telling each character (yes, I know they can’t hear me) exactly what I think of their questionable life choices. It forever enrages me that they don’t listen and still insist on touching things/going into dark rooms/being complete plonkers. Does the dramatic music not clue you in to the terrifying monsters/painful death that awaits?!

I spent a lot of the first few episodes gripping my blankets (yes I have multiple TV blankets – and what) and yelling things like WHY ARE YOU MAKING SUCH BAD LIFE CHOICES and DON’T DO THAT, IT WON’T END WELL (spoiler – it didn’t).

I really missed an opportunity to Tweet this as a live stream. I could be internet famous by now.

Now that it’s over though, my life does feel a little bereft. I’ve found myself obsessively watching cast interview videos and falling in love with adorable young actors. I’ve enjoyed such gems as life coaching techniques from 14 year olds, trust falls (harsh on some points because a 25yr old falling onto a 13yr old is always going to be a bit trickier than the other way round) and bro buddies staring into each other’s eyes for 4 minutes (which is ridiculous because I couldn’t even look into my own eyes for 4 minutes, never mind someone else’s).

I don’t know why I’m so surprised really, because it was always bound to end this way. I thought it might be a little different this time as the seasons were only short, but how wrong I was. Instead, they just compounded the awesomeness into about 16 hours of pure thrill that left me shell shocked and more than a little impatient for the new series (which apparently isn’t until sometime in 2019 – and don’t I feel betrayed by that). I had a sort of underlying belief that Season 3 was supposed to be starting sometime soon (the 02 shop on the way to work has promotional stickers for it in the window), but it seems that I was misinformed and instead I have to wait until next year (which is just criminal).

Still, I have no time to mope about my televisual misfortune with Prague looming on the horizon. There are tiny suitcases to cram full of books, emergency books and a pair of shorts (if it turns out we’ve missed the heat wave and I spent the last week of it sat sulking I the office, I will be miffed, I can tell you). There are liquids to carefully measure into tiny bottles, cats to ensure are fed and supported through this separation and Mother’s to get drunk on Bloody Mary’s before take off to keep her relaxed and calm as we bundle her through the barrier. Hopefully I’ll be able to update you all next week with our holiday adventures; expect pictures galore of nice bricks (TMM loves a good brick) and unsteadily filmed videos of Mother singing whilst I can be heard sobbing emotionally in the background. I can’t promise it will be quite as timely as normal, but I’ll do my best!

Holiday Blues and Writing Cues

Hol Blog

I’m not going to lie to you Readers, it’s been bloody hard going trying to blog this week. Even now, I can’t promise that it’s going to be a particularly good one, or even if it’s going to make it past 500 words. It appears that whilst there is a way, there is definitely a distinct lack of will.

I do want to state right now though, that this dirge in writing is not for lack of content – indeed you’ll be glad to know we Whitby-ed hard. We ventured far and wide, and our disgustingly early start (for which we in the back of the car complained about HARD) paid off and meant that we had chance to visit the absolutely stunning abbey before most people were even up. We were able to take many hilarious photos of us carefully (read – idiotically) re-enacting scenes from Dracula (I made an excellent Lucy), and TMM (ever the true professional) had even brought his nice new copy with him for some lovely moody shots.

I mean, just look at the artistry! TMM is really wasted where he is.

We also enjoyed a truly hysterical affair in the £4 Dracula experience on the main street. I feel like we should have been made more aware of what to expect, but to be honest the rather shapeless Gary Oldman puppet in the window and the particularly un-arsed man with a scruffy band t-shirt and unkempt facial hair didn’t promise much. Within 5 minutes however, Wilson was practically underneath Jonbles t-shirt and all of us had let out the odd exclamation (except for perhaps TMM, who was tucked at the back of the queue (missing out on most of the story much to his chagrin) and rather at home in the horror strewn décor – Angry Boy (TM) at heart that he is). The animatronic powered curtain covered puppet that flew out, or the man dressed as a wolf (unsure tbh) who was clearly enjoying himself hiding round corners proved to be a little startling, especially for the young women and her daughter who kept running to hide behind us whist screeching unattractively. My favourite bit though, was when we were all crammed into the section depicting Dracula (or a melted looking plastic scarecrow mask with a awkward hair in a dressing gown) rising from the coffin and Wilson turned slightly and proceeded to let out a splitting cry only to follow it with “oh, it’s only TMM”. Apparently his looming figure loitering in the background pushed her over the edge and poor Jonbles arm probably still has little half moon nail marks in it. The sweet little ale pub we all crowded into after (with added taxidermy foxes and portraits of dogs in army regalia) for a swift one was definitely the balm we needed to calm our nerves.

By this point, we were all a bit hot and over-emotional so we retreated to the car to get our cases and take them to the cottage. TMM was the perfect gentleman and took all the wheelie cases (the cobbles were making me laugh to hard too actually do anything) and after a few back and forths, we eventually located our spot and were able to collapse on the couches for a breather and a glass of cider. Our first evening culminated in a visit to a couple of nice gin bars and a superb fish and chips (battered black pudding is definitely a new thing that I am All About).

The next day saw us adventure even further afield, after stopping to pick up TMM a new fisherman’s smock which was possibly the only thing that could have complimented his dungarees so perfectly. Indeed, there were parts when he paused to stare artfully out across the marina and we were all struck at how suited he was to his environment. I always knew I’d marry a sailor.

It’s a shame that none of us could open our eyes in that second photo, but at least we look happy enough. At that point anyway…

Once suited and booted, we walked to Robin Hood’s Bay along the coastal path. I think it is fair to say that there were massively varying levels of enthusiasm about this, though TMM once again showed his true gentlemanly nature by saving Wilson for certain death in a rocky stream and escorting her down some of the more tricky hills. (Woo pointed out here that she expected a while essay about how sh*t walking is so she is pleased by my polite reference to my dislike here. She thinks I secretly love it. I do not).

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Have you seen a cuter couple? They look like they’re off for an early afternoon constitutional.

In the Bay itself, we stopped for a  truly superb lunch (so much grilled cheese and white bread was imbibed) and a few cuppas. The journey back was slightly easier, especially for TMM, Wilson and I, who decided to get the bus back so we could veg on the couch with cups of tea and watch Monsters vs. Aliens. We (read TMM) made ourselves useful though in stopping at the local Coop to pick up the makings of a homemade fish pie and having tea ready to go whist Woo and Jonbles braved the return route on their own. It was best for all really, as it meant that Wilson and I were in far better spirits by the time we were beckoned to a close by bar to meet the returning heroes. We spent a little while enjoying watching the various Steampunk aficionados that were wandering about in full regalia and drinking happily before returning home to our pjs and TMM’s truly spectacular tea. Like true grannies on tour, we were all safely tucked up with blankets and wine by 9pm, and spent the rest of our evening being pulled and pummelled by Woo, who used her not inconsidarably strong pointy fingers to massage away any knots and draw forth some truly ridiculous noises. At one point, she basically played Wilson like a human piano. By the end of it though, we were all slightly more tender and aware of our faults (I apparently have a ridiculous hard knot in my lower back that has been affectionately christened “The Butt Marble” and TMM has an appointment to visit Ann – the official back lady – because we are mildly concerned his spine is all out of whack) and ready for our two tubs of super fancy ice cream.

Our final days bloomed with a rather unnecessary downpour and after a sturdy fry up and a stop for a couple of books (it’s not a holiday without them) and a lovely pair of jet earrings for yours truly, we all bustled back into Juan (Woo’s car) and started for home. Whilst it took a little longer than we could have hoped, and there was a mild fear of vomming from at least two members of the party, we made it back in one piece.

(Admittedly, I do also have to admit the snapchats sent from my particularly disgruntled work pals who were thoroughly not enjoying their day only served to make the whole experience that much better – #soznotsoz)

Well, at least I can say I made it past 500 words, though I can’t say if any of them are particularly thrilling. We enjoyed ourselves (please see below images for further reference) and I can only hope those reading this got some fraction of amusement too.

 

 

Warm up to the Weekend

whitby blog box

So it’s the warm up to the team trip to Whitby this week. In honour of TMM’s birthday on Tuesday, and what is now being referred to as Woo’s ‘Funeral for Youth’ (she’s not taking her retreat from the her 20’s in particularly good cheer), we’re taking a jaunt to the coast. We’ve been meaning to visit Whitby for ages but somehow have never managed to get round to it until now. The real world has cruelly taken over much of our free time and our adventures have a taken a bit of a hit, but we are nothing if not resilient and we made sure this weekend has been in the diary for weeks.

Woo has already demanded a repulsively early start (5am!)to ensure that we squeeze as much time out of the trip as possible, and as such I’ve already had to start giving myself pep talks. Once I am awake, I am happy and I can go from in bed to ready to go in 8 minutes, but that actually process of opening my eyes and admitting consciousness can be a challenging task. I’ve also had to allow a truce with Wilson and promise that I won’t take any photos of her napping in the car. Nobody deserves to have to get up that early and then try and avoid hilarious photos of their sleep face. (Also, it’s more than likely I’m going to be squished in the back because I am not the tallest and also one of the only members of our team that doesn’t get travel sick. I suspect the passenger seat will be in deep contention between TMM’s long legs and Wilson’s threats of vomit, so any attempts to take photos won’t work out as well as they have when I’ve been rocking the co-pilot’s seat).

Now considering we are only going for 3 days (Friday-Sunday), our itinerary is pretty packed (and thus I can accept the need for such a god-awful departure time). TMM has voted for a walk to Robin Hood’s Bay (Wilson and I have both already raised suspicious eyebrows about the amount hiking that is going to be involved, but we’ve been promised a pub lunch so we’re letting it slide for now) and Jonbles has arranged a trip out whale watching on the coast which I am rather looking forward to. Whitby used to have its own Whaling Company in the 1700s, and Whitby boasted one of the most successful whaling ships in the whole of the British fleet at one point. Thankfully we sharn’t be going out with harpoons and designs on blubber, but hopefully we’ll get to see whales going about their casual day to day business.

Since Whitby is also a ‘Gothic Hub ™’, we shall of course be involving ourselves in all kinds of gothicy doings. If I’m being honest I’m not 100% sure what being gothic involves per se, but I can say with certainty we shall throw ourselves into with gay abandon. If Woo’s Youth Funeral doesn’t show willing, I don’t know what does.
I for one, am very taken with Whitby Abbey and shall petitioning for a visit there at some point. The Visit Whitby confidentially declares it to be a real “must visit” and I am not one to argue against such a source. Apparently its gothic splendour and atmospheric backdrop was a key inspiration for Bram Stoker whilst writing Dracula, and my literary soul demands we pay tribute.

Speaking of, TMM and I have been mightily into the spirit of things (loving these puns). TMM decided he couldn’t go to Whitby without ever having even owned a copy of Dracula and therefore treated himself to a shiny new version a week ago.

TMM’s Instagram post was rather excellent, the little Nosferatu popped up and waved.

He received it, rather fatefully, just in time to start reading whilst waiting for his blood test the other morning. Because he is a fantastically innocent angel, he didn’t even question his choices until he was already there are receiving slightly concerned looks from the surrounding pensioners, who I imagine were all turning up their collars and thinking garlicky thoughts. It was only afterwards we realised that he’d made a grave (ha) error in not taking some false pointy teeth, or taking a phone call whilst in the queue loudly announcing that he was just getting breakfast.

We’ve been getting a bit obsessed with the general genre though and have watched a ridiculous amount of similarly themed things over the past two weeks. A friend gave us access to her Netflix account under the strict prevarso we watch The Alienist – a psychological thriller drama set in late 1800s New York based around a selection of gruesome murders and the ragtag team that come together to solve them. I am happy to report we did so with both vigour and gusto, and since have been unable to watch anything that’s not either been set in the turn of the century not steeped in mythically gruesome deaths. We snuggled up on the couch to watch Van Helsing with Hugh Jackman which was pretty but acutely lacking in plot or any acting ability (ass Woo pointed out, this does seem harsh on Hugh, who is very lovely, but it’s so true). I remember being much more impressed with it when I was younger (and obviously distinctly lacking in taste) but it did fleetingly rekindle my teenage crush on Richard Roxborough. It was clear though that as a film it should have come in a boxset with The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which succeeds in being stylistically wonderful and completely bereft of any worthwhile substance or storyline.

We followed this in pretty quick succession with Nosferatu (we provided our own hilarious commentary and then both fell asleep before Count Orlok had even revealed his true nature), Stonehurst Asylum (loosely based on an Edgar Allen Poe story and the second film we watched where Kate Beckinsale got to wear fancy outfits and look beautifully quivery whilst simultaneously punching someone), Lime House Golem (which inspired a somewhat bemused conversation about whether Bill Nighy has ever looked any different or if he’s been approximately 60 for as long as anyone can remember) and finally Sleep Hollow (which is pretty much worth it for everyone’s hair).

With this back catalogue safely under our belts, TMM and I are pretty much ready for anything Whitby can throw at us, be it death, devilry or delightful Gothic architecture. Let’s just hope the early start doesn’t do me in…