Less of a Do-er, More of a Don’t-er

Well hello there dearest readers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rivers

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

 

 

 

Well That’s Embarrassing 

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

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

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

5 Embarrassing Things Eleanor Has Done:

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Molly – “Ross’ dad?”

Me – “No Molly, DAN, a friend”

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

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

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

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

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

Wild Wild Wales – an affair of the heart…

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

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

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

Holiday Montage!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fully Booked – A weekend of being busy and bookish

Happy Tuesday to one and all! I hope you enjoyed the Bank Holiday and aren’t too upset to be returned to your original schedule. I have been repulsively productive this weekend (I think I might have had a mini breakdown) and completely blitzed the en-suite and the bedroom. I vacuumed ceilings with various attachments, I washed curtains, I found bank statements from 2007 (why?!) and threw out two bags of rubbish. Poor Ross was drafted into assist with the bedroom, but I did treat him to a Primark shop and take him to watch the new Guardians of the Galaxy in a cinema with reclining seats (say whaaaaaat), so he really can’t complain too much. I also spent yesterday making stencils with my new laminator (Lexy) and painting tropical patterns all over our bedroom cabinets, because who doesn’t want jungle chic in their bedroom?

Cupboard

Getting closer to becoming a Wild Thornberry one stencil at a time

We also had some good news in the arrival of nephew numero uno, Stanley Andrew Darby Pendlebury (weighing in at a tiny 6.02). There have been some adorable pictures and even though he was super early, everyone is doing fine. We’re going to visit him later this evening, so prepare for more photos. In the meantime, please enjoy this gem:

Babies

Sister Robyn looking adorably perplexed to see her new brother in situ.

I also spent a majority of yesterday listening to The Red Necklace as read by Tom Hiddleston, which I have to say is just delightful. I haven’t really done that many audiobooks (ignoring my fascination with PG Wodehouse tapes at bedtime) but I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the superbly talented accents of Mr Hiddlescake whilst doing my afternoon DIY.  I definitely think I might have to find some more to enjoy, especially whilst doing my craft projects. In the meantime though, I’ve got my HUGE list of new books to get through, and in honour of that I’ve decided to do a Pre Book Review for you all to enjoy (you’re welcome).

Ten books. Ten pre-reading opinions. Ten further posts seeing if they lived up to my expectations. Boom. Say hello to a million blog posts about my massive book lust. I mean, let’s face it, there’s another 21 books that I’ve not even mentioned that I’ll want to review as well…you might want to strap in.

PRE-BOOK REVIEW

5 books I am most looking forward to reading:

1)      Nigel – My family and other dogs by Monty DonI love Monty Don. Like love him. It’s my fascination with Kevin Whately (Detective Inspector Lewis) all over again. I don’t know what it is, but there’s just something about slightly saggy tired looking old English men that really works for me – it’s like some kind of soothing fascination. I will happily lose hours to Gardener’s World and watching Monty potter around with a complete lack of urgency and a following of adorable doggos. My adoration only really started last year, though I have been aware of him for a while, but it has blossomed rather fantastically. I think it partly helps that I have one memory that really sticks with me of watching RHS flower show one year with the family and hearing Robin ask what his last name was – because she though his first name was Montydon. It left us all in hysterics and still brings a smile to my face whenever I see him.  Now typically I am not too interested in biographies, but I’m willing to waver that for dear Monty. The fact that he’s played on a Gerald Durrell title only adds to the joy, as the Corfu Trilogy (starting with My Family and Other Animals) is one of my favourites and anything that plays homage to it can’t be bad. I’m expecting great things from this book, and I hope I shall be able to tell you it delivered.

2)      Rivers of London Series by Ben AaronovitchI read the first one these a few years ago and remember being completely engrossed by it. The basic premise is something I can always get behind – Urban Fantasy according to wikipedia, and this was so engagingly written I think I flew through it in about two days. The plot focused on a young police officer who (amongst plenty of other things) has to search for and stop some unknown entity who is turning people into twisted murderous versions of Punch and Judy. Now I despise Punch and Judy with an unequalled passion; there is literally nothing about the puppet show that works for me at all and I will go on a rant about them if required. Still I think that element added another level of grotesque fascination to my reading, so I’ll be interested to see if Mr Aaronovitch can maintain the attraction in the later books. The covers alone are pretty pleasing too, so I have high hopes.

3)      LumberJanes (a comic)I can’t actually remember what introduced me to this originally. It was probably a Buzzfeed article, but it made such an impression I ordered it directly afterwards. I still haven’t had chance to look at it though, and it’s been sat on my “To Read” shelf for about 3 months now. It is set around a summer camp for “Hardcore Lady Types” and five scouts of varying levels of awesome – it’s basically everything I’m looking for in life. It’s had excellent reviews and has been described as both accessible and girl friendly in a typically male dominated medium, so I am prepared for it to jump right to the top of my favourite comic list. I’m hoping to be able to pick this up pretty soon, and it won’t take me very long to read so I shall provide a post review asap.

4)      Catch 22 by Joseph HellerI remember really enjoying the film when I saw it a couple of years ago (I think I could totally forge passports in a bathtub) but I’d never really thought too much about the book. Whilst in Hay on Wye though, it was one of those books that seemed to pop up in every shop and after hearing Woo talk about wanting a copy, I felt slightly overwhelmed by the urge to give it a go. It’s a pleasingly weighty copy, so it’s one I’ll probably save for a holiday or a week off, but I’m looking forward to it and I’m hoping that it will please me as much as the film (even if I have committed the heinous sin of watching something before reading it’s primary source).

 5)      The Prince and the Zombie by Tenzin WangmoI found this one on a tucked away on a shelf in a corridor in another Hay bookshop. It was one of those ones that just caught my eye whilst I was reviewing something else and I almost didn’t look at it properly. It drew me back though and I’d turned to pick it up before I’d fully made it into the other room. The blurb speaks of a young prince sent to capture a zombie endowed with magical powers and the difficulties he faces in overcoming the zombie’s powers and completing his task. There was something about it that really appealed to me, but I still don’t really know exactly what. I think I’m secretly hoping this might be my magical book (because every good heroine starts her story with a magical book that leads her to adventures galore) so we shall have to see…

5 books with the most attractive covers – they always say you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover, but who really isn’t drawn to a book with an interesting cover?

1)      Memoirs of a Midget by Walter de la MareThis is one of those books that you look at, then double look at, then put back but keep in the back of your mind and proceed see in every shop you go in afterwards. I almost didn’t get a copy, but thankfully the choice was made for me and I was bought it as a birthday present. It’s a little startling in it’s title and it’s cover is pleasing in it’s simplicity – hopefully the story will follow through.

2)      Mister Memory by Marcus SedgewickTMM picked this one up and gave it to me with the tagline “this one looks pretty. Buy it if you like it”. So I did. The woman behind the till spoke about how beautiful the cover was too, so it really had to be on this list.

3)      The Virgin Cure by Ami McKayI’m always drawn to books with Victorian style fonts and this one was no different. I mean, this book looks like it’s going to have it all – sex, violence, kick ass Victorian ladies. What’s not to love?

4)      The Dark Secret of Josephine by Dennis Wheatley – We actually got this one from a pub in Warrington about three years ago. We were on a day out drinking with a friend and we’d gone into a pub that had shelves of books behind the seating area in true hipster fashion. Anyway, I can’t be presented with a bookshelf and not look at them, and this one stuck out with a elegant blood red leather covering and neat gold lettering. So I nudged and wheedled and prodded and did my best puppy dog eyes and eventually TMM went to the bar and after some smooth negotiating and a bit of a bemused bartender, we got two books for £7. Nice.

5)      Welcome to the Night Vale Joseph Fink & Jeffrey CranorI have been meaning to listen to the podcast for ages, but the cover of the book drew me in and I purchased it before I ever got round to the audio book. I’m a bit torn as to whether I should read it first or listen to the audio version, so I might just end up doing both at the same time and fully immersing myself on weekend.

So that’s my top ten , but I’ve got high hopes for all of them. I’m about half way through Monty’s now and going strong, so you should start to see my post reviews coming through soon. Until then, try not to miss me too much.

Book list

But first, let me take a #shelfie…

In Order: (top row L-R) The Prince and the Zombie by Tenzin Wangmo, The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith, Catch 22 by Joseph Heller, The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, Rivers of London Series by Ben Aaronovitch, The Dark Secret of Josephine by Dennis Wheatley; Nigel; My family and other dogs by Monty Don

(bottom row L-R) Welcome to the Night Vale by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor, Memoirs of a Midget by Walter de la Mare, Dead Interviews edited by Dan Crewe, The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay, The Mill Girls by Tracy Johnson, The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham, Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome, Mister Memory by Marcus Sedgewick, Mother, Mother by Koren Zailckas, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami, The Franchises Affair by Josephine Tey, Waiting for Robert Capa by Susana Fortes, LumberJanes by Stevenson/Ellis/Watters/Allen

(Not Pictured) The Eyre Affair Series by Jasper Fforde; The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins; The Empress of Ireland by Christopher Robbins

 

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

Bonjourno my little buttercups!

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

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

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

Shelfies

Books! Everywhere! Drowning in #shelfies

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

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

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

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

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

Teambonfire

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

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

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

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

 

Hello, My Name is Eleanor and I am an Addict

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

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

leaf blower.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

book hangover

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

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

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

…Right?

 

 

 

 

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