Second Rule of Cwtch Club – No Shoes in the Cwtch. Or dirty paws. (Looking at you here Bucky)

Well, we’re still massively in the swing of repurposing the spare room and I have to say our winter project is coming along rather swimmingly. The daybed is in situ now; pride of place with its to size mattress cushions, soft cream jersey bedding (because I am now so bourgeois that I will only accept jersey bed sheets to touch my skin) and adorable tartan blanket. All we’re waiting on is a scatter cushion or two (which TMM is against because he says he’ll just throw them off anyway, but I feel it would just complete the look). I’ve still got some GIANT wool waiting to be used, so I might try and whip up a sneaky little cushion cover one night this week whilst he’s not looking. We also managed to finish the TV cabinet which was slightly trickier that anticipated. We had to buy new brown paint to cover the water damage from last weekend, then new cream paint to do the inside sections because I felt brown all over was a bit too heavy, and then we had to move the whole painting operation into the kitchen because it kept threatening to rain. This obviously  meant that trying to do ANYTHING became immediately a million times harder to do, as our kitchen is somewhat reminiscent of ship’s galley – NARROW. Indeed, whilst we do seem to have an excess of rooms in our little house, every last one of them (except the uneasily cold/dark living room) is tiny. Making sweet and sour for lunch was a very delicate operation and somewhat suggestive of a circus gymnastic act. Bucky found the whole thing hilarious and pretended to rub again the wet corners of the cabinet repeatedly just to watch us freak out. Still, by Sunday evening, it was dry enough to move upstairs and is now happily in place. We’ve stocked it adorably with a couple of our favourite books and some thematic knickknacks and the lap top is sitting comfortable on top with the speakers. I’m still a little unsure of the overall colour (because why be content with a project when you can always be slightly unsure of your choices) but I’m think a little rug/a couple of doilies/an artful placing of frames will help distract and it will blend pleasingly into the rest of the room.

Don’t worry, I have plans to hide the wires and TMM has designs on an old camera to fill the gap next to his Le Carre.

TMM also spent Saturday spontaneously making a bench, which I have to say was rather splendid of him. He looks manly and yet adorable in his specifically work related overalls and I find it very pleasing to see a man wearing the correct outfit for the job at hand (rather than wearing his nice clothes and then looking at me sheepishly when there’s paint splatters and holes everywhere).  There was a slight injury involving a nail and a couple of moments of deep breathing and hammer clenching when some bits didn’t quite match up, but all in all it looks very swell – especially considering he had no plan and proceed to mainly freehand everything like an absolute maverick. The really good thing is that it’s handy enough that it can be either extra seating for when we have guests (because for some reasons we seem to think we’re overwhelmed with visitors even though we both hate people), a little coffee table for down the side of the couch, a handy new cat sear (because Bucky cannot let new furniture go un-sat on, god forbid) and got rid of the spare pallet in a functional yet stylish way. We’re getting rather good at this up-cycling malarkey, and it’s only a matter of time before we try something really adventurous like a 7 foot bookshelf or a garden swing.

        

Such grace, such magnificence. Such simplistic rustic beauty. The bench is alright too 😉

Now that those bits are sorted, the majority of the work is done. (I’ve been forced to admit that my original plan was perhaps a little ambitious and trying to shoehorn a coffee table in there as well might be slightly impossible. Instead, I’m thinking a couple of little upturned baskets on either side will do for drinks holders and not take away from the already limited leg space). All that’s left now is the all important trinket placement and minor decoration. We’ve got lamps in nearly every corner (and a clever mirror placement) to make sure the room is cosy yet still visible and we treated ourselves to some little fairy light purely because we could. (Idea for Fairy Light Place Linda – perhaps round the curtain pole rather than the shelf?) There’s a couple of casual Buddhas scattered around the place (because we do seem to have a multitude of Buddhas) and Hamish the Stag Head is safely stuck on the wall keeping a watchful eye on things.

We’ve also got a couple of small fake succulents because I am ALL OVER that particular band wagon. They’ve gone in the adorable mini Ikea greenhouse on the window sill that until very recently held a large number of fake toy lizards (unsure as to why if I’m honest) along with a tiny stone owl and couple of tea cups because why not? I am hoping to get some more of varying sizes (again, all fake because I can’t take the commitment to keeping a plant alive and the inevitable heartbreak that follows when it dies horrifically) and I’ve got BIG plans from some fake trailing ivy I’ve ordered off Amazon.

It looks a little like a kind of stylish Swedish nativity scene but there we go.

My main concern however is the inbuilt shelf. Initially, this held great potential for me and I was overwhelmed with the ideas of what I could do with it. However, now it’s come time for something to actually be done, I am really struggling. To actually do anything that looks good. Annoyingly, it’s just a little too deep to hold the frames I’d put aside to go on it, but I feel awkward bringing them to the front and leaving all that space behind them. I have spent far too much time researching ideas, but things that work well in Pinterest don’t seem to transfer over will into my actual life. It becomes clearer every day that whilst I am very creative, I actually have very little originality. Give me something that needs redoing or all the pieces of a pattern and you’ll get excellence. Ask me to do something of my own merit and I will struggle – plagued with self doubt and critical thoughts. Now this doesn’t bode particularly well for the Cwtch shelf or further interior designing endeavours, but if you need criminal forgery, I could definitely be your girl. Still, all is not lost and there I am hopeful we’ll figure out the right amount of shelf to tat ratio. As a final touch, we’ve also got a selection of vintage travel postcards that we’re hoping to stick up in clusters around the room (because we honestly can’t stick to one theme if our lives depended on it) which will hopefully “bring it all together” or whatever it is the say on Grand Designs.

Overall, it’s been a success and whilst we’ve spent slightly more than initially planned (what we didn’t spend on furniture we’re definitely going to waste on all the little bits and bobs) I am terribly proud of what we achieved. Especially with the dark nights and the Christmas stress, it’s the perfect little space to hide away and do nothing but watch scandi-noir thrillers and drink Baileys (which is basically all we do now). I am beginning to panic slightly about the number of social events on the horizon (one thing I definitely am not about) but at least I’ve got somewhere to retire too when it all gets too much.

Anyhoo, I must now be off to enjoy said Cwtch, but stay tuned for next week as I’m hoping to have another hilarious blog post for you. It’s the Christmas Village Faye or “Marche de Noel” this weekend and Molly’s got a hankering to go (even though she doesn’t understand the name and thinks it’s strange, foreign and unnecessary). No doubt there will be politically incorrect insults abound; the vicar will get called fat at least twice and we’ll all go home with 78 jars of home jam. Oh joy oh rapture.

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All You Need is Love (and banter) …do be do be doo

Alternative Title for this week – “Heart Shaped Confessions of an Unromantic Weirdo”

So I actually found this week’s post surprisingly hard to write (though picking the photos was most definitely not). TMM features in most of my blogs in some form or another (to be honest, it would be hard for him not too seeing that’s he’s basically the main character in my life), but I’ve never really focused on him specifically. It’s weird, especially considering I find it (possibly too) easy to share things about myself that others might deem a bit too much information, but in writing this I felt like I was revealing something really private. I’m not sure if it was perhaps that I didn’t know if I would be able to do justice to him, or because selfishly, I didn’t want to share all the things I felt with anyone else.

Partly, I think it was probably because I am not the world’s biggest romantic – notions of overtly public displays of affection or dramatic declarations of desire are about as far from my ballpark as it is possible to get. As much as I enjoy kittens and make up and crying at Love Actually, I’ve never been fond of being a girly girl – hearts and love songs and small stuffed teddy bears have only ever made me feel a bit bilious. I’ve only ever really wanted a steady and reliably solid type of relationship; the kind where you can shave your legs in the shower whilst your partner brushes their teeth and you talk about what you want for tea. Desperately passionate flings full of desire and drama just seem a bit like fireworks – bright for a minute, but over depressingly quickly.  I want happy contentment and low level constant banter and with TMM, I’m pretty sure I’ve got it.

Contentment

I mean, if this isn’t a prime example of perfectly suited contentment, then I don’t know what is.

I mean, I don’t think we’re perfect (though we’re pretty close, come on now). We’ve argued over IKEA flat-pack furniture just like everyone else.  He’s thrown a tub of butter in my general direction in a fit of pique, I’ve binned a pair of his chinos without telling him (because they were hideous) and we’ve spent far too long panicking we’re not good enough for each other. It can’t be denied either that sometimes he drives me completely insane. His inability to put things back where he found them (JUST PUT IN BACK IN THE CUPBOARD DUDE) and his incessantly British need to apologise (which he wouldn’t need to do it he just PUT STUFF BACK IN THE CUPBOARDS) makes me want to spit like an angry cat sometimes.  His crippling bouts of self doubt sting me like they were my own and his limpet like sleep grip sometimes makes me want to smother him.

sleep.jpg

This is him pretending he’s an adorable princess when he sleeps. Do not believe the lies. He is a deadly sleep octopus. Also – #bonusbucky

But on the other hand, I don’t think I have ever met anyone who’s heart is so big. I know people say this all the time about plenty of people, but I solemnly believe my claim to be true. I mean, he won a Heart of Gold award at University, so it’s obviously just not me who thinks it, but I’m the lucky one who gets to see it every day. He is generous to a fault, an excellent creator of Dad Puns, has wonderfully broad shoulders, a most pleasing jaw line, and without a shadow of a doubt is one of the most truly decent human beings I have ever had the privilege to know.

I remember the morning of his graduation (his, mind you, not mine) when he drove all the way to town to pick up some more pink hair dye for me because I’d had a paddy that my hair wasn’t the right shade and locked myself in the bathroom in tears. He didn’t complain or shout, he just went out, bought the hair dye, shoved it in my hands and hugged me until I’d calmed down. It might have helped that my hair looked fabulous in all the photos, but over the years he’s spent far too much time dealing with my hair related dramas and has never once made me feel bad about it.

We’re both pretty crazy in ways that don’t necessarily compliment each other, and sometimes we get stuck in these vicious spirals of passive aggressive pity that feed off each of our insecurities. At least once a week we can be found huddling together and gently patting each other in an attempt to reason away our anxieties, but at least we do it together. He’s attended my counselling session with me without ever once complaining though it is clear to see he’d rather crawl up his own arse most of the time. He’s listened to me rant and rave and he’s let me try and talk him down when he’s been stressed and he’s made it so much easier to be mental and proud than I thought I ever could be.

He’s also gone above and beyond more times than I can count. At New Year, he dropped everything to drive me down to be with my mum and step dad during the last few days of his illness. He sat in the waiting room with me every day and offered support without a shadow of protest; speaking to family members he didn’t know, making brews and holding hands whenever he could. The best thing was though, he did it not out of loyalty or the goodness of his heart, but because he saw Mr B as family. He’s taken my clan into his heart, let them pull and push him as I do, and been grateful for the opportunity. It can be hard to make your way into a new family, but we’ve managed to find two set of people who match and it’s a honour to be part of it.

On a slightly lighter note (though maybe not for him) he’s also cleaned up my vomit after I’ve made a  bit of a drunken tit of myself, and unlike me, has hardly ever held it over my head. Even though I spent most of the night sobbing uselessly and chundering like a champ, he emptied the buckets (that’s right, buckets plural) without complaint and slept on the couch when I sprawled unhelpfully across the bed, even though he needed to be up early for a rugby match the next day.

hero

Thankfully, I haven’t got a picture of him emptying my sick buckets. Instead, he is he proving himself once again to be a hero among men – sewing sleeves onto my Halloween costume circa 2015. Also – check that jawline.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, I think he’s such a genuinely swell guy it’s time I let the world know. There’s no roses or cupids, no gushing barbershop quartet and no dedicated poems, but the intent is still there. We make a pretty good team, and although I still panic that one day we’ll run out of things to talk about, or something grown up will rear it’s ugly head, if we’ve made it this far without killing each other, I’m pretty hopeful for the future.

 

 

 

Words in E –Minor proudly presents….An Interview With Me

I have a confession to make. I’ve cheated.

Being the busy social butterly I am, I haven’t actually had chance to write a full and detailed blog post like I know you have come to expect (the shame). It is a cruel and busy world out there, but worry not, I will not let you down. Like any good 90s child, I have taken the teachings of Blue Peter to heart so here’s one I prepared earlier. Oosh.

Before getting into it I have a few points of interest from the weekend that I’m going to just drop in for you – I like to keep you all abreast of my life.

– We went down to visit my mother for a few days and I am glad to report she is holding out admirably against the elements determined to rain all over her parade (rather literally). Perhaps not quite as dramatically as some parts of the world, she’s has nevertheless had to deal with a natural disaster and was woken up one night last week to find water gushing in through the back door and sweeping poor BobCat off his paws. Rather dishearteningly, she’s going to have to have entirely new flooring and is currently living with enough industrial fans to re-enact a late 80s soft core rock video, but she is maintaining a strong and (mostly) postive attiude (read – heavy sarcasm) and the cats are gradually recovering. We did spend the majority of the time there with the three of us tucked up on her bed like the grandparents in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (being as there was no power and limited furniture downstairs), but we left her with a smile on her face and the promise of further assistance whenever required, so things were looking up

– The weekend took a dramatic turn of events when TMM tried to kill me by dropping an apple the size of a watermelon on my face. We were gathering some of the bounitful harvest that Mother’s garden had provided (like the adorable little hobbits we are) when I was brutally attacked and nearly blinded when an apple catapulted from the branch TMM was fettling with. He says it was an accident but I remain dubious. Annoyingly I don’t have anything apart from a tiny red mark to show for it, but I can promise it was very dramatic.

Apples

An innocent scene, before everything took a dark and violent turn

–  You’ll all be glad to know that Operation Prepare for Christmas is well under way. It’s excellent – there’s wool everywhere. Bucky is being very well behaved considering and I’ve only had to bat him away once or twice. He does have to sit very close to me though so he can keep an eye on things and make sure I don’t need saving from a savage wool beast. My hero.

–  Speaking of the Buckmiester General, the furry little bugger has some how injured himself and I reacted, as any good parent should, with complete hysteria. It isn’t much more that a semi-deep scratch on his paw (and it can’t even be that sore because he let me prod and poke it for ages without so much as a wince), but I was VERY concerned and made TMM research pet antiseptic creams just to be on the safeside. #seriouscatparent

With those announcements out of the way, I’ll get on to the main event. I’ve got a couple of little nuggets like this saved up for such eventualities from when I researched best blogging protocol. Apparently, readers are very interested in lists, personal details and small comedic interludes, so I’ve combined all 3 into a Listicle – 10 things you might not know about me (unless you’re TMM because he basically knows more about me than I do these days). I’m unsure how well it’ll go down, but at least it gives you all something to read on an Tuesday evening (and please feel free to share your own personal facts, or judge me heavily).

10 Things You Might Not Know About Me

First Kiss

So it turns out I can’t actually remember my first kiss. How awful is that? According to TV and young adult books, the first kiss is the realisation of sexuality and the pinnacle of your youth. Your whole life blossoms from that point and  you look back fondly with misty screen and singing cherubs. Proving once again that I like to buck the social trend, when I tried to think back on this monumental and life changing event, I came up completely blank.

It’s not that I think it was particularly scarring and therefore have scrubbed it from my memory, nor is it that I actively tried to disregard anything relating to it. And it’s not as though I can’t remember other such key life events – I vividly remember my first kiss with TMM, though that might have been because he came at me with a knife.

*Side Note* it wasn’t as threatening as it sounds. It was St Patricks Day and as any good Uni student should, our not so little gang had all covered ourselves with as much green as we possibly could. I was in charge of drawing all the cheek shamrocks with my green eyeliner pencil (I say mine, it was definitely my sister’s – sorry) but being somewhat tipsy, mostly I was just smudging great green blobs on people and rather horrifically blunting the pencil. Ross proclaimed to be able to sharpen it for me, dragged me into the kitchen where he proceeded to produce the most inappropriately sized knife for the job and then promptly forgot all about sharpening it in favour of snogging my face off.)

I can equally remember the first time meeting each of my besties, graduating and my mother’s wedding. The first kiss though? Nada. I can only hope whoever it was with doesn’t remember it either….

Paddys

He might not have been my first kiss, but he’s certainly my favourite.

Joints

I apparently have weird elbows (and possibly knees). After countless years of being awful at PE and failing most physical activities, my bestest Woo pointed out to me during a yoga class that my elbows hyper extend (like a big weirdo). I can also pop out one of my thumb knuckles. Great for party tricks, useless for anything else.

Mental

I see a counsellor and have done for nearly 3 years now. To be honest, I’ll be surprised if this is actually news to anyone. I tell literally everyone. All the time. Whilst I am pretty quiet about most things, mental health is something that should never be ignored and I do my part to make sure my part in it is visible.

Thumb Sucking

I still suck my thumb when anxious or depressed. It’s something I used to do when I was little and just never really stopped. I never had a dummy, but my trusty thumb has been there through thick and thin. It has messed up my teeth up something rotten (the roof of my mouth is so arched and narrow that I can’t even fit a chubba chubba lolly between my top teeth) and the thumb in question is slightly longer than the other one but it’s something done so unconsciously I don’t even register it anymore. I kind of think that maybe I should be embarrassed by it sometimes, and that being 26 I should maybe look for different coping mechanisms, but to be honest I’ve got bigger fish to fry, and if anyone’s got a problem with it, I dare you to tell me to my adorable, thumb sucking face.

Body Art

I am tattoo free but do not always intend to remain so. People are always a little surprised that I am un-inked (I obviously give off that kind of vibe), but I have big dreams people. Low pain threshold but big dreams.

Twinkle Toes

I have sleep musical toes. I only learnt this recently, but we have the radio on in the morning and according to TMM, my toes will join in with most songs, regardless of whether I’m actually awake or not.

*Big Families*

I have lived more of my life with my parents separated than with them together. Now in today’s society it’s not actually that unusual anymore, but I think the bit that people are always surprised about is how pleasant and friendly they still are with each other. It’s been nearly 17 years now, but they buried the hatchet long ago. There have been parties where my mum and her ex husband’s girlfriend have laughed together and hugged, holidays where my dad and his girlfriend have stayed with his ex mother in law, and whilst I don’t think either of them regret the time they spent together, they have found love in other places. Divorce has not torn my family apart. It has only made it bigger.

Family

 Just a couple of the motley crew

Personal Grooming

This ones a bit risqué, but I feel it says a lot about me as a person (for good or bad…) I once dyed my “lady hair” to match my head hair – a lovely vivid pink. Shout out to Uni friends for this – (a lot of the strangest events in my life occurred at University). I can’t remember how it originally started, but it ended with a 3 hour group research quest on some of the strangest websites out there. During the second year, we spent far too much time googling strange and unusual things and learnt far more about the dark corners of the world than any decent person should. One such sojourn took us to the land of “lower region” maintenance and let me tell you, people are willing to do some weird shit to their undercarriages. Obviously this spurned much curiosity about what could be done and resulted in a bet that I wouldn’t match all my body hair. Worry not Reader, I did. It was hilarious, and excellent if only because it meant that when someone crudely shouted out (as they were wont to do) ““Oi love, do the collars and cuffs match?” I could say yes and watch them stumble over themselves in shock.

Love

I’ve kissed more girls then I have boys. I mean, to be honest it’s not like I’ve kissed huge amounts of either, but my girl count outweighs the boys by nearly 2:1. Mainly I blame University, but to be honest I just think it’s the fact that girls are just much more friendly.

Childhood Companions

I once tried to keep a mouldy cake as a pet. There really isn’t much more to this story, but it always makes me people laugh. I was DESEPRATE for a pet when I was little (as are most small children I think) and did all I could to convince my parents that our lives would be very much enriched by the presence of a small furry beastie. They did not agree and I, of course, was devastated beyond all belief. Instead, I found and secreted a carrot cake in a tin that I found in the cupboard under my bed and cultivated it until it had grown a lovely mossy green coat and proceeded to generally stink out the house. Unsurprisingly, I could not keep the cake hidden for long and my father rooted it out and summarily disposed of it in the outside bin. I still think back fondly on it sometimes.

So there we have it. You now all know a little bit more about me than you did before and hopefully I haven’t disturbed you too much, or ruined anyone’s opinions on me. It’s surprisingly cathartic to tell the internet a bunch of things about yourself, I definitely recommend it as a starter blog post for all you budding writers out there. Who knows, you might learn something new about yourself in the process…

(God, what a cheesy ending).

Confessions of a Serial Storyteller…

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

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

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

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

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

The Moon and Her Night Sky

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

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

They travel together, moving forward endlessly.

Aren’t they just sublime?

~

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

I Can’t Go For That

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

“Well?”

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

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

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

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

He licks his dry lips nervously and shakes his head.

“No. Not this time. Not this.”

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

“You said you’d do anything.”

“Almost anything”.

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

“So this is where you draw the line?”

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

“Well, there’s still time”

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

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

hall and oate

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

~

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

Book Review – The First of Many…

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

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

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

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

~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monty

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

~

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

To Hip or Not to Hip? Is that the Question?

So I’ve started this week with freshly dyed hair again. The blue was starting to fade rather dramatically and my roots were coming through at a drastically unnecessary rate. I wouldn’t mind so much if I had a decent natural colour or even a nice big white mallen streak (which I am still holding out hope for) but unfortunately it’s a no go. I’ve got that bog standard mousey brown which is pretty much identical to when you mix all the paints together in the hope of creating a rainbow and instead get a sad muddy sludge. (Apologies if anyone actually happens to a) have that hair colour or b) like it. You probably look glorious with it. I just look like a drab Victorian peasant).

I have rebelled against the status quo as always though, and this time I’ve gone for a delightful mishmash of green shades; a summery selection of daffodil yellow, spring, apple and UV blue. TMM was excellent as always, frolicking about in his pants with the bleach brush and helpfully shaving the pattern on my under cut (before napping HARD). I was hoping for a kitty cat design, but he said he’s starting small and stuck to simple chevrons, and after the last incident (when I was left as bald as the proverbial) I suppose I can’t blame his caution.

Whilst doing my hair though and staring gormlessly into my own dye splattered reflection, I was led to pondering upon a deep philosophical dilemma – a generational query that has plagued millennials for a while now…

Is it hipster to have been hipster before hipster was cool?

Now I am firmly of the belief that as much as I laugh at the hipster culture, I am unapologetically ensconced within it. I may scoff, but I like an underground subway tiled, steam punk inspired cocktail bar as much as the next person, and I already own two Edison light bulbs. It’s definitely an undeniable fact as well that there are quite a few new additions to my lifestyle that could be laid at the feet of the hipster gods – having fruit and yoghurt for breakfast every morning in branded Kilner jars (because apparently we’re jar snobs) and spending our weekend making furniture from pallets that I like to describe by using vulgar terms like “bespoke” and “neo-vintage”.

I mean, we own all of those things. Not even pretentiously.

The thing is though, I was doing a lot of these long before it was cool. Big framed Jarvis Cocker glasses and rainbow hair have been part of my life since the early 2000s, and even though my blog is a relatively new addition, my need to offer DIY self help advice through rousing motivational speeches and/or Facebook messages is a lifelong past time. Whilst there are many of aspects of this particular fad that I love, I love them because I want to, not because pinterest encouraged me to. Men with beards have been a fascination of mine ever since I was a tiny tot (seriously I had such crushes on Wolf from Gladiators and Worf from Star Trek because of the amount of fantastic hair on show) and I will happily stare lovingly at anyone in trouser braces, regardless of age, gender or how creepy it makes me look.

I think the trouble stems from the fact I’ve always been a bit of an oddball. I am unaccountably shy, but desperate to be noticed and I will wear what I like and damn the consequences. I remember having a pixie cut in high school, knowing full well it would lead to bullying (and that REALLY awkward moment when the prefect in the girl’s toilets thought I was a boy and shouted at me) but it was still worth it. (Super healthy hair, no time spent faffing about in the morning and I totally looked like an adorable fairy – just ask my mum). Dying it was something I was DESPERATE to do, and after a few years of sensible (read boring) school appropriate hair, I got my mum and sister to dye it the most vivid pink we could find. I could never go back to normal hair now, and I laugh in the face of anyone who tells me I have to. When I started this hair based vanity project, only weird punks in inner city Manchester or arty kinds on TV had rainbow locks. Now, it’s all the hipster rage to have a flash on colour or an ombred pastel do. I’m not sure how many people see it as such an integral part of who they are, but I for sure know that I do it not because of the impact it has on other people (though that is pretty awesome), but because of the impact it has on me. It does help that both my sister and dad have had bright hair in the past, and my Neens has purple hair right now (a more hip and happening septuagenarian there has never been) and I WILL tell people that the bright coloured hair runs in our family DNA just to watch the confusion blossom on their faces.

Whilst my “style” (or possibly lack thereof) lends itself to this hipster curve, I hate to say it wasn’t really that intentional. The way I look, just like my annoyingly nerdy personality, are elements of me that have been around long before hipsters were. I’ve always been a complete sci-fi/fantasy nerd and been involved in more than one argument with someone who thought that just because I was a girl I wouldn’t have any clue about Farscape or the characterisation of Jean Grey. The good thing about this social movement is that it’s much more acceptable now to be weird and I really can’t say that’s a bad thing. We might laugh at the notion of the “hipster”, but what’s wrong with making these things something to be proud of? I like that there’s pop-up organic cafes popping up all over the place, and that playing the accordion whilst wearing herringbone trousers is the “done” thing. It’s not hurting anyone and it’s definitely one of my preferred movements (surely it’s better than the tight pony tails, shell suits and choreographed dance routines of the 90s?)

Who knew though, that I would eventually fit into the “IT” crowd? I still remember looking in a mirror a few years ago and being shocked by the fact I looked just how I wanted myself to look when I was a little girl dreaming of growing up. I mean, I would have maybe liked more tattoos and less mental issues, but I always knew how I wanted to end up, and it’s quite rewarding to know that there’s a huge chunk of my generation who thought it was a pretty cool place to end up too.

Of course there’s still a kind of soft cultural mockery directed towards hipsters, just like there is with every generational fad, and it’s completely understandable. It is pretty hilarious that moustache waxing and banjo playing are encouraged, and it’s a little bit weird how much of my instagram feed is filled with artfully displayed avocado based meals and hilariously depressing cat memes. Whilst I poke fun though, it would hypocritical of me to fight against the label. I’ve spent today wearing non-ironic dungarees and writing a ridiculously verbose post-modernistic hipster-ception commentary blog post. I am just as much to blame as anyone else, but I can’t say I really mind. Fads will come and go, and even though I might be cool now, I can bet you a dollar I won’t be in a few years. The real question though is, does it  matter? Will I care that in the future my colourful hair, my love of space and my inordinately large stack of country CDs will be laughed at rather than lorded?

Will I boot.

dungarees

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.