Rage Against the…Everything

I have been very rage filled this week – perhaps even disturbingly so. Every little thing has spent me spiralling into complete fits of fury and I’ve had to restrain myself from headbutting people all over the place. I’ve basically been She-Hulk only with less green and fewer law degrees and more lying on the floor and having tantrums like a child.

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I think she might be my spirit animal. I also respect someone that chooses to rock a pair of cerise flares so there’s that too. (Art by John Busceme from issue #1 of Savage She-Hulk – stolen from wikipedia)

Honestly, I’m not actually sure where this seemingly untapped reservoir of anger has come from, but now it’s here, it’s apparently making itself comfortable in my psyche and woe betide those who cross me. (This is actually a very weak threat – because of the kind of person I am, the worst you can expect is some loud muttering with a lot of curse words and I might snub you for a few days. But still, I shall use some of my very best insults on you and you can bet your bottom dollar that they will be cutting).

I am trying to be a little bit better as the week drags on though. Monday I was truly vile and should probably apologise to all the people who were forced to be around me. I woke up in a rather stinking mood (yay for Mondays!) and proceeded to just really sink into it rather than trying to cheer up and by home time, I was practically vibrating with untapped indignation. Admittedly, there were quite a few things that popped up throughout the day in my job which did absolutely nothing to appease me and I did find myself having to walk away from a couple of people who clearly had no sense of the danger they were in.

There are occasions when I truly do wonder how I have ended up in the career I am in and if it really is the best fit (spoiler – it’s not), though usually I am able to reason away any problems. This week, every little thorny problem has just blown up though and I have been forced to vent my emotions to my poor desk buddy, who bless her heart has just taken it with a smile.

Monday night though, I was vile and poor TMM bore the brunt of my strop very maturely. He didn’t even judge me when, full of such pent up emotion, I burst into tears at the new David Attenborough documentary (Our Planet). Well, to be honest I imagine he probably did judge me, but only internally which I appreciate. By the time the episode was finished, I had broken my heart over a tiny flamingo chick that definitely died on a salt plain, hyenas vs. wildebeest calves (who am I supposed to want to win that fight?!) and what I thought was a sparkly bee about to be eaten by an orchid (thankfully it wasn’t, but by that point I was already awash with salty tears). By the time the whole rollar coaster was over, I had to take myself to bed to soothe my puffy eyes.

By the time Tuesday rolled around, I was hoping to have pulled myself out of the emotional quagmire, but instead found myself even more entrenched than I was before. I spent the whole car journey in the morning slagging everything off (my poor car buddy must have thought I was being a right loser) and I spent most of the day just angrily typing emails to people that, whilst on the surface were mostly polite, were underlined with thick currents of rage and f*ck you-edness. If it wasn’t for the fact I would 100% be fired for it, I would definitely have been writing some choice insults in white font at the bottom of all my emails.

By Tuesday night though, I think I had calmed significantly. The rage was still there, but it was seething gently in the background rather than boiling over the edges. TMM made me an absolutely smashing tea (grilled Caribbean spied chicken with avocado mush on stone baked olive ciabatta – no wonder we can’t afford a house with such extravagant millennial meals) and we watched Only Connect and got quite a few answers right like the absolute swots we are. Admittedly the anger resurfaced when I remembered at bedtime I had to put the laundry on the rack, but by that point I had nobody to blame but myself.

I have actually been quite surprised at the depth of my vengeful feelings this week though. Seemingly coming from nowhere, I have managed to hold out and cultivate the mood like a champion. I think knowing that has made me more annoyed with myself – instead of trying to be the bigger person and find a way of combating my tension, I have instead wallowed in it, like an angry pig in a puddle of fury-filled muck. There are plenty of habits I have developed over the years to in order to help me overcome such sulks but everyone of them involves me actually engaging with them in a positive manner and I think I may have been holding back a little. I have tried to benefit from them this week, honestly I have. I did my kickboxing cardio routine on Monday after work – it’s a great 25 minute video that makes me feel like an actual Olympian (I can 100% confirm I Do Not look like one) in which I envisioned punching many people, but even though it tired me out and made me very sweaty, it didn’t actually help my mood. (Endorphins and exercise highs are the things of myths and legends and anybody who says otherwise is lying). I can imagine running and the like does work for some people (though I do always find runner suspicious – what are they running from?) but unless it’s something that engages me mentally as well as physically, I just find myself getting hot and frustrated.

I have also been listening to my “Aggressive Cheeriness” playlist with intent – I am a firm believer in the healing power of music. It’s a cliche for a reason. Songs can have a massive impact on emotional well-being and I find my mood can often be completely changed by what I’m listening to. I know, for example, that if I need a good cry, there will be an REM song that will set me off. If I’m getting ready to go out, Sigala will 100% have my back, and when particularly angry, there are some excellent Velvet Revolver tunes that will support my rage. As such, I have made playlists on my phone which are based purely round the feelings they inspire or the thoughts associated with them, rather than the genre or artist. Whilst they haven’t succeeded in completely dragging me from my pique, I definitely think they’ve helped and I have enjoyed blasting away some “banging choons” at dangerous volume levels whilst furiously vacuuming or waiting for the bus.

Just a little snippet of some of my aptly named playlists. A possibly concerning number are named after TV characters or shows (sometimes despite not even appearing in said show – I work in mysterious ways)

At least now though, with the week nearly over, I can tentatively say I am calming down somewhat. We have a completely free weekend ahead of us where I plan to do nothing other than vegetate, and I’m hoping that by the time next Monday rolls around I shall be somewhat more myself again…It is double Payroll though and my team buddy is off, so maybe we should just hold our breath on that front.

 

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Surviving A Writing Drought

I am very tired at the moment, Readers. Considering that my life currently consists of getting up, sulking, going to work, sulking, going home, specifically sulking whilst cuddling the cat and then going to bed, I’m not 100% sure of the cause of it, but I can tell you for free that it is very annoying. There is so much to be done in and around the house (read – all of the tidying and wedding flower making), as well as in life in general (I got a lot of people and places to visit) and yet all I can do is lie about apathetically making pathetic whiny sounds at TMM. I’m even starting to annoy myself, so I can’t begin to imagine how fed up he is.

I’m struggling to blog again as well, which is terribly frustrating. The world is full of goings on, though admittedly most of it is depressing as hell, that I could weigh in on, so I really have no valid reason for struggling. Woo even suggested I do an anti-Brexit post, in which I find as many relentlessly cheery and positive news stories and write about those, which is a good idea and something I shall definitely do in the future, but right now? I just can’t be arsed.

So, you see, I can’t even properly excuse myself or provide a good reason for such a blog-based drought. It just seems that the creative flow has stalled, and the fountain of blogging has all but dried up this week. Motivation has carelessly passed me by with no regard for my self-imposed deadline, and all literary potential has been leached from me. I remain nothing but a withered husk of a writer (though I’m sure you’ll be pleased to know my unnecessary verbosity is still in full force). I’ve spent 3 days staring blankly at an aggressively blinking cursor and demanding ideas and prompts from other people in an attempt to find inspiration, but sadly it has all been to no avail.

I’ve even tried to find stimulus in new environments (read – typing on the go). I wandered through the town on the way home from work trying to type whilst attempting to avoid the marauding hordes of youths who find delight in shadily loitering around empty market stalls. This seems to be the “done” thing these days, but I definitely don’t remember doing this when I was younger. What is the attraction of hanging round outside the poundshop when you could be sat on someone’s couch watching telly or any number of indoor friendly activities that don’t involve giving the evil eye to passing pedestrians just trying to make their way home after a long day in the office? I am obviously out of time as well as out of ideas.

I’ve done a little research though, to see what I can do to try and pull through this fugue of unwillingness and to see what great authors of the age have done in when faced with similar difficulties. So far, the main thing I’ve discovered is that you need accommodating friends and/or a little nest egg of funds, a good sized patch of land available for building on and a fat ton of free time. It does seem as though the actual place in which you write is one of the most crucial things for creating literary masterpieces. Perhaps I need to find somewhere other than the breakroom at work on my lunchbreak or curled up in the arm chair in the living room with my headphones in to get my writing groove on…

It’s clear though that are some rather excellent spots that writers have haunted in the midst of their creative outputs, and I really need to get on that bandwagon. Locations range from a little nooks and crannies in and around the house to altogether separate buildings in the garden. Agatha Christie wrote in her bath tub and even had a special ledge dedicated to holding paper, pencils and snacks (which I have a lot of respect for) whilst Roald Dahl had a writing hut in his garden (built for him by an old friend who was actually the inspiration behind the character of the BFG). Some writers took it a little bit further; Mark Twain had a specific summer house shaped like a Victorian gazebo built by his sister that allowed him to be away from the distractions of everyday life and focus on his work, and Wallace Stevens liked to compose his poetry on little scraps of paper whilst out and about and then got his friends to type them up whilst he went on his merry way.

Mark Twain’s “hut”. Looks alright doesn’t it? Credit to the Trip Adviser website for this image.

A couple really went above and beyond to ensure they were in the right frame of mind – one of my favourite locales belonged to George Bernard Shaw. He had a shed on his grounds which had an inbuilt rotating platform that would swivel to face the sun throughout the day and a little bunk for napping in. Absolute lad that he was, he also called it London, so when he had unwanted visitors, his staff could say “Sorry, Mr Shaw is in London at the moment” which I think is just inspired and could be classed as some early “bants”. Charles Dickens was also living the dream – he was sent a Swiss Chalet in 58 flat pack pieces by a friend in a perfect example of Ikea before Ikea was even Ikea. He reassembled it on his grounds and spent most of his time in it, even converting the top floor into a dedicated office space.

An article published about G.B.Shaw’s writing house in 1929. I particularly enjoy the section about how it is for his health and not a “wanton eccentricity”. Though considering he pushes it himself, I think I can attest to that. Image credit to a blog by ModernMechanix.

It’s clear to see that each of these writers really knew what they were about and exactly what needed to be done to make sure they were generating their work in the best possible way. There are also a few commonalities between them, and I think that what we can conclude from this mini-study is that I need friends who are willing to build me nice little outhouses to work in and then do the hard bit of typing up all my inane scribbling whilst I gallivant about getting more inspiration.

I wonder if any of them will be willing…

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Capture

So hey, here’s one of those craft posts I promised you all 3 months ago. Good job on keeping up that Ebear! It was even supposed to be posted last week, but I had a few days off in preparation for my mother coming and got far too distracted. I did however enjoy some stellar family bonding time (Mother got to meet the new Muffin baby and we all had a good hour with Molly) so it’s not all bad.

However, I did manage to intersperse my busy schedule with some craft (because I am a craft guru) and *unrelated tangent – many brews made with milk delivered by an actual milkman (because I am living the goddamn dream). I have gotten down to business all over the place. I am basically defeating The Huns all over the place here (classic Disney reference for you there). This did give me plenty of ammo for today’s post, and you best all just prepare yourselves for the amount of pictures that are about to be all up in here.

So, today’s Blue Peter style craft project is an oldie but definitely a goodie. I first came across it a couple of years ago and went through a period of just smashing out completed projects wildly and without rhyme or reason. Let’s just say, nearly everyone got one for Christmas, regardless of whether or not they wanted it. I still have a whole box full that need to be given homes, and Tupperwares of component parts popping up all over the place.

But what is this wondrous craft I hear you cry – Kusudama Flowers.

Direct translation – Kusuri (medicine) and Tama (ball)

Japanese in origin (hardly surprising I feel) they were typically used to house incense or potpourri and be hung in the rooms of the sick or infirm. These days though, they have a slightly healthier appeal and are used as decorations. They are a form of modular origami and rife with controversy; to complete a full flower or bouquet, you actually need to use glue which can cause a bit of strife for a true at art origami-ist. Origami-er. Origami artist. These flowers are basically the black sheep of the the family and involve a little patience, a little time and very clean and nimble finger tips.

I actually have a reason to be crafting them this time (a novelty I know) other than my restless hands and need to create. A friend from work has commissioned me to help with the flowers and decorations for her wedding. She wants something that will last, as well as being able to incorporate little touches that have some nice meanings for her and her bethrothed. (Personally, I think she is a lovable fool with unfounded faith in my abilities for asking me to be involved with what could arguably be the most important day of her life, but that’s beside the point). After much faffing about though, I’ve finally gotten down to brass tacks and started compiling all the pieces I’ve promised her. The wedding isn’t until September but time flies around these parts and I want to have these done and back in her gentle care before it’s too late.

To the matter at hand then. Simply put, you just need a heck of a lot of paper, some glue and the ability to fold straight lines. I have used card, fancy decorative paper and just bog standard printer paper and each offers their own pros and cons. Card gives you longer lasting and more durable finished pieces, but can cause sore fingers and be difficult to fold neatly. Paper has the opposite problem – though I’m looking into extending the shelf life with some spray glue options. Either way, whatever you use – it’s difficult to make these look bad. They are pretty easy to make (a lot easier than they look, I promise), and worth the time.

Step 1 – Start with your square of paper. If you only have standard A4 – you just need to fold one corner down to make a square and trim away any excess. If you are making multiple sizes of petals, you can actually use some of the discarded strip, which pleases my adverse to waste sensibilities. All you need to do is make a sharp fold from one corner to the opposite so you end up with a neat little triangle. *disclaimer* If you do decide to have a go at making these for yourself I beg of you that you start big. Whilst the tiny ones are beautiful, they can be tricky as hell and there’s nothing more discouraging than trying a new project that ends up with you surround by thousands of balls of screwed up paper and a tear-strewn face #beenthere. Your ideal size is a starting square approx 2.5 inch but always have a few practices a couple of sizes up to get your eye in.

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Step 2 – Once you’ve got your triangle, You need to fold the furthermost outer corners into the top – basically creating a little paper diamond. You need to try and make sure that both wings of folded paper are done as evenly and as sharply as possible. At this point, I think it looks a little like the square is reaching out for a hug. Super cute.

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Step 3 – You need to take your little wings and basically fold them back on themselves. – you want to end up with the shape below.

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Step 4 – Here I have made a grave error in judgement in seemingly not taking a photo (of possibly the trickiest move to make in the whole process) so good luck to you if you are trying this at home. At least we’ll see if the money my parents spent on that English Degree was worth it… Once you’ve got the above shape, you want to open up the wings. To do this, you need to open the last fold you’ve just made slightly. I then find it easiest to slip my nail carefully into the gap between the two sides of paper and wiggle it gently to open the hole a little. You can then push down on the front of the now open wing and flatten it along the previous folds. And if you managed to follow those instructions correctly, you definitely deserve to take a little break for a brew and a biscuit. Ultimately, you want to end up with the image below (which you then need to do on the other side).

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Step 5 – Back to the easy and evidenced path now. Fold down the top point of each flattened wing so you are one again left with a triangle of paper.

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Step 6 – Fold the wings along the fold in the middle of each and press down so nice and flat.

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This image is blurry as hell but my nails look fab so what the hey

Step 7 – This is where your glue comes into play (sorry origami purists). It’s a simple case of carefully gluing (I like to use a pva glue with a fine point nozzle for easy application when working on the smaller flowers, and a little plastic spatula like you used in primary school when working on the bigger ones) the outermost plains of the folded wings and drawing them together. Hold it carefully for a few minutes until dry, being carefully not to let the two sides shift and get their wonk on. This will leave you with your first petal and a well deserved pat on the back required.

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Step 8

Rinse and repeat. Depending on the size of your flowers depends on how many petals you need to make. Smaller flowers only require 5, bigger ones could do with 6 or 7 to keep them tight and well rounded.

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Step 9

Homeward stretch now, my little craftineers! Being careful not to stick your fingers together, yow want to place a fine line of glue along one edge of each petal and stick them together. For just five petals, I find it best to stick one petal at a time, but for even numbers like 6, it’s best to stick three together first, then the remaining three and then glue both halves together (this allows you to make sure it’s even).

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BOOM. YOU HAVE MADE A FLOWER.

Now, you can just stick with one and stick it on a cocktail stick (I have a lovely little bouquet of teeny tiny flowers on bamboo skewers in a glass vase by my bed), or you can create a complete ball by gluing a couple of blooms together. For my friend’s buttonholes, I’ve just clustered 3 of differentiating sizes together (see first image) and decorated with some froof.

They are a really satisfying project though, and for anyone interested in paper crafts or just something to keep your hands busy whilst binge watching Netflix, I recommend giving them a go. I hope no matter what though, I have at least inspired someone to try something crafty this weekend.

Viva la Pluto!

So…does anybody else get panicked by the amount of stuff they don’t know? Is there anyone else who gets that sense of panicked dread at the thought of never being able to fully grasp all there is to the universe and life as we know it? Is everyone secretly and constantly living in fear of the huge black hole of unknowingness that sits in the centre of our beings?

Just me?

It turns out that, much to nobody’s surprise, I am a massive nerd and love learning things. Now don’t get me wrong, I hated school as much as the next person, and I am in no way interested in useful or sensible information
like the mathematical principles behind algebra or politics. Instead my fancy lies in the completely irrelevant and useless. If it’s something that will help you get a point in an obscure pub quiz, I want it; if it’s something important like how to do my job, my brain is mostly unarsed.

Basically what I’m saying is that I like to hoard impractical and often pointless facts like a squirrel hoarding winter nuts. I tuck them away smugly and then bring them out in conversation to wow people with my seemingly endless general knowledge. It’s odd though, because I can’t say I active control what is retained and what’s discarded. For example, I can never ever remember what cilantro is (coriander for those of you who don’t know – I had to google) even though I really want to, but I can consistently regale the banana fact without hesitation (you all know the one #GrosMichalvsCavendish). Who knows what the stringent selection trials these poor facts have to endure to be adopted by my brain, or the apparently frivolous categorisation process that means they get to stay in there.

It seems though that the thoughts I have are reminiscent of Wikipedia tunnelling. You know when you look for something innocent like how hot air balloons were invented on a passing whim and then 5 hours later find yourself sat in the dark reading about some horrible serial murderer from America in the 1970s? Without even realising, Wikipedia has taken you on an endless rabbit hole adventure of weird knowledge that you didn’t even think you were interested in (this happens every single time). I feel my brain is very much tuned the same way; it will suggest something innocuous and then before you know it, I’m deep in an existential crisis about how much information I’ll never know and desperately googling some inane fact about elbows..

Tuesday night was a prime and perfect crystallisation of this. Unsuspectingly, we’d gone o bed, happily looking forward to a nice early night. Tucked up in our warm marshmallowy duvet, I’d turned to TMM and asked casually “do you know what ducks eat?” It was a question that had popped up in the last half an hour at work and obviously been rattling round in my brain pan, just waiting for an opportunity to present itself.

TMM hummed and hawed for a moment, and then shuffled up to have a quick look on his phone. After a moment of furious researching, he
knowledgeably informed me that it depends on the duck categorisation (diving or dabbling) and it typically varies between grass, insects or small fishies. This seemed acceptable and he put his phone down to snuggle in just as I piped up “did you know hippopotamus translates as sea pony?” He side eyed me curiously. “Or something like that. I know it’s not sea pig which is what it should be.” There was a moment of silence and then TMM shuffled up again to grab his phone. “River horse” he declared triumphantly and I nodded sagely. “I knew it was something like that”.

From there, we spent an engaging couple of minutes having the standard Greek vs Latin debate regard the pluralisation of animals (always solved when someone shouts out Octopodes proudly), before delving deep into a favourite topic of mine – Megafauna. “Do you think that hippos were giant during the Pleistocene era like sloths?”

I am lowkey obsessed with giant sloths and fascinated with the thought of ginormous animals just living their best lives. Look at this veritable super group of massive animals – image stolen from http://www.lifegate.com

TMM sallied forth with a valid point that maybe hippos were in fact smaller, and then dropped a scientific bombshell which I really think should have come with more warning.

“Isn’t it the case though if things evolve to be bigger, it takes 100s of years, where as if you evolve downwards it can happen almost within a few generations?”

(My eyes went wide here people. Admittedly, since then we can find no evidence to either verify or deny this claim, but I had a great time googling and have decided to make it my mission to find out the truth once and for all. It did however allow me to discover the fact that no other animal has a chin, which is just fantastic. And yes, I can sense everyone else’s whelms being very much under.)

“Do you reckon there are pygmy whales then? Like, the size of a cat or something?”

Spoiler, there is such a thing as a Pygmy Right Whale, but it’s still pretty massive. The world’s smallest whale is a dwarf sperm whale which still reaches up to 9 feet, which dashed my dream of having a tiny pet whale in a tank in the living room.

This though, of course, lead onto the etymology and definition of pygmy, especially compared to dwarfism (because where else would it lead?). Turns out that, very very basically, a dwarf animal is likely to be an isolated case of a-typical sizing, where as a pygmy is part of a specific category of small animal (such as pygmy goats).

By this point we were both practically asleep and TMM proceeded to gently smother me when I sleepily tried to engage him in conversation regarding the stupidities of the English language- “like why do we gave so many words for so many random and odd things but read and read are the same? And why is it boot and foot? It should be foot and but!” (Admittedly, this section doesn’t transfer over to the written side of things so well, but you get the idea).

This whole exchange is but a glimpse into the convoluted and wild ride that I like to mentally travel (often dragging a mildly confused but game TMM). I mean, who has time to try and learn how taxes work when there’s things like this to be thought about? I think people are stating to realise though, and last night I was given the task of looking into planet density by my colleague, which then devolved into a heated picture spam battle over the planetary status of Pluto.

Tumblr knows the struggle

Now, I know this has been a bit of a bijoux offering this week, but I really have been very busy, very tired and under strict instructions not to talk about Christmas. Poor Woo is of a similarly un-festive mindset as myself and although willing to speak about it in person, she resents being forced to edit blog posts on it, which I can understand. (We did have our annual Christmas craft day on Sunday, which was a lot more successful that the great craft and cheese debacle of Christmas 2016 where we ate our own body weight in dairy and cried over origami, It was really the final straw though and now we’re going to ignore it until the last minute.)

As such, this may be the last time you hear from me until after the big Ho Ho Ho (I will more than likely be far too busy stuffing my face with festive foods and doing some serious family bonding over board games to blog) so I will leave you all with seasonal good tidings and a promise to see you on the other side.

Mele Kalikicraftmus

I mean, I know I said all that last week about not being big into Christmas and all, but I do have to admit to getting a bit carried away this weekend. Since we’re having Mother, Robin and her boyf over to ours for the festive period (possibly the first time we’ve actually properly hosted for more than 1 person and for more than 1 evening), we decided it might actually be the time to make some effort. Previous years have seen us either not really making much effort (we always aim to have a tiny Christmas sprout) or not bothering to decorate at all. I think when you’re out living as a real life grown up but without children, the sparkle can dull a little bit and it’s a lot easier to see only the trials and tribulations (and almighty costs) instead of the joy and excitement. When you’re inviting other people though, it could possibly be considered a tad rude to force them to not celebrate the season just because you can’t be arsed with the stress. To that end, TMM and I have decided we’re going to go for it. Now, we’re not going wild, though this is mainly because we already have so much stuff and I literally do not have the time, energy on inclination to move all of my normal tat to replace it with Xmas tat. Also because I know that if I Go For It (note the use of capitalisation) and it doesn’t look like something out of Country Living December Edition (which is obviously won’t) I will lose all hope and try and bin everything. Instead, we will just go at about 65%, which will still allow us to be 50% more festive than previous years but won’t end in a stroppy ceremonial Christmas bonfire.

We have obviously (as per last week’s post) already been adopting new seasonal traditions (book flood anyone?), but we’ve also been reverting to some god old fashioned ones, which leads me nicely into our first adventure of the weekend. No matter how non-Christmassy we’re feeling, we do always agree that if a tree is to be purchased, it must be real. Previous years have found us with teeny weeny little shrubs from local garden centres (or occasional Tesco) propped up on cabinets and weighed down awkwardly by our 5 oversized baubles. This year however, TMM decided that it was time for us to go big (not childhood big, where all Christmas trees appear to be about 30 ft. tall and as wide as Santa’s waistline) but of a grown up height. He rearranged the living room to make room and dug out the flyer offering £5 off from the local Christmas Tree Farm and everything was gung ho until we realised that whilst our house and dreams were big enough to accommodate a 6 ft. tree, the new car was not. I was fully prepared to give up and go back to the little league, but TMM was not to be deterred. “I’ll just carry it!” he says, with a hearty attitude and somewhat manic look in his eye.

And Reader? Carry it he did.

Decked in our new gear (Primark jumper and new expedition coat that turns me into a member of East 17, we set off on Sunday mid morning. Now the walk from our house to the next village along typically takes me about 40 minutes (though usually because I am trudging grumpily and muttering under my breath about stupid public transport), but I do have to admit that it wasn’t quite as bad as normal with TMM’s positive attitude. Making it to the farm in record time, we turned up the drive and were met by two high viz wearing youths who smiled at us with bemused smiles, obviously concerned that we hadn’t realised we’d forgotten our car. Undeterred, we skipped merrily into the fields and started manhandling tress with gay abandon. Not being too arsed by the general look of the thing, we made our selection within about 2 minutes and TMM dragged it over to the netting machines. Much to my chagrin (and despite my offer of a whole £5 if he threw himself through it head first, which alongside being in a carwash with the windows down is one of my all time big dreams), TMM refused to net himself and instead focused on getting the tree trussed up. I think he mightily impressed one of the workers who basically just stood aside and let him do his thing with a cheery “you should get a job here”, and he had it paid for (with discount) and over his shoulder in the blink of an eye. As we departed, one of the youths from the gate broke out into a cheery smile when he realised what we intended, wishing us a very Merry Christmas and 100% convinced that we weren’t going to make it. TMM is a true hero amongst men though, and in less than 2 hours after setting out we’d made it back to base camp with only one stop to delayer. I documented the whole thing hilariously on Instagram, partly to distract myself from my own burden of the coats (which were also very heavy thank you very much) but mostly to show the world what an absolute legend he is. Nearly every car that drove past heralded either a smile or a face of disbelief and I actually think we might be village famous now #lifegoals

Side note – I would also like to point out that I did try to help, but it was decided very quickly by all parties that I was more of a hindrance than not (I ended up looking a lot like Grandpa in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang; one finger on the tree and a big cheesy grin).

Once we were home (again, can I point out how it took us less than 2 hours to travel that far with baggage) it only took a few minutes of furious sawing and a quick vac (of both the pine needles on the floor and the ones that had coated TMM’s back) to get it settled. By the afternoon, it was most gloriously bedecked in all of our oversized baubles (I don’t know why we don’t buy normal sized ones), including the Oxford globe, the York bell jar and our little wooden cut outs from Prague. I am quite proud with the classic and understated approach we’ve taken to it, and TMM is happy we haven’t used tinsel (which he believes is the devil’s work). As of the time this was written, it is still upright (if leaning slightly to the left) and Bucky has remained mostly unarsed by it, except as somewhere to hide whilst he decapitates and devours the mouse population of the village (such lovely presents to find).

Whist we doing the tree however, it was pretty clear that we really don’t have enough decorations for anywhere else in the house. Our minimalist approach has left us with one box of random bits and bobs and a couple of stockings and that’s about it. Somewhat reluctant to go out and spend money on crappy plastic ones, TMM suggested we have a go at making our own. I’m all into my pom poms and origami at the moment, which gave us some ideas, and a quick google suggested salt dough could be the way forward. Now salt dough is a staple from my childhood and for anyone who’s never done IT, you’re really missing out. Super cheap and easy to make, non toxic (quite important considering how much I insisted on eating when younger), and very simple to decorate; it’s the perfect idea to keep kids and craft adults happy. All you need is 2 cups of plain flour, 1 cup of salt and enough water to bind it together and hey presto; you’ve got your dough. What more can you want? TMM suggested we make some nice little pendants using some stamps that we had, and after a slight hiccup (I couldn’t find the stamps and was fully prepared to cancel Christmas as a whole until TMM found them hiding under the couch), we were set to go. It was surprisingly easy and within the hour, we have enough bits for four garlands spelling Merry Christmas in various languages (points if you can identify them), a couple of festive animals and a big gay pendant with our initials because we are in love and also ADORABLE. 3 hours in the oven on a low heat and they were baked to perfection and we’ve been gradually tying them up as and when we’ve had time. I’ve also decided some pom pom bunting couldn’t hurt and I’m just waiting for a free evening to get a couple knocked out in seasonal colours, and I’m hoping to make some little paper trees and cranes this weekend whilst TMM finishes off the wrapping.

All in all, I don’t really think I can keep claiming the title of Grinch this year. With our early start on present shopping and decorative preparations, we’re pretty much fully immersed. All that’s left is a rendition of Santa Drives a Pickup Truck (my most fave xmas song) and a night in with White Christmas and Muppets Christmas Carol. Is this what being a functional and prepared adult in December feels like? Apparently it really is beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

Variations on a Theme

Theme

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


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

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


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

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

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


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


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

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

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


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

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

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

A Month in the Life of a HalloKween

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


TMM has already a little practice session though.

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

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

Just some casual Halloween looks.

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

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