Variations on a Theme

Theme

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


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

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


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

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

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


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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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Another Dead, Another Dollar

Death Blog

So I have been thinking a lot about my “dream job” recently. This happens on a semi-regular basis; the typical adult day dream of what you’d be doing if you could, but I’ve been thinking a lot about the future and what I’m supposed to be doing with my life (spoiler – I ain’t got a clue) and as such it’s been a little more at the forefront of my mind. It’s important to understand that being a grown up is pretty sucky overall, and considering you spend about 75% of your time working, it is really the best course of action to find a job/career that is actually good for you.

Now it’s all very well and good being rational and thinking about saving money and sensible career options, but I think there surely must be more to life that the daily 9-5 grind. I’ve heard horror stories of people who worked every god given day of their lives, saving up for a dream retirement and ended up dying a week after they finished. Can you think of anything more soul destroying? Working so hard for so long and then it all just being a waste? It doesn’t bear even thinking about. Still, I know it’s hard, and that talking about “living in the moment” and Carpe-Diem-ing all over the place is fine for some people, but there are those of us that can’t; because they don’t know how, because they’re scared, because they haven’t got the freedom. For the silently complaining majority, working is literally a means to an end and “living for the weekend” is more than a cheesy saying, it’s a way of life.

There’s a fine line that needs to be navigated for most of us; the perfect balance of submitting to the necessities of the world (earning enough money to live) and actually enjoying the way you do it. I’m pretty sure that there’s only a tiny fraction of people who actually love their jobs, but the rest of us need to at least find something that doesn’t make us cry every night and dread getting out of bed every morning.

My job teeters on this line, sometimes tipping further one way then the other. I really like the people I work with but the role itself can be either here nor there. I sort of accidentally fell into it and whilst it could obviously be worse and it succeeds in keeping the wolves from the door, it’s a long stretch from what I’d hoped for when I was little tot dreaming of my future. Before further education, I’d been lucky enough to never need a job. I’d tried (Somewhat lacksidasically) to find one, but I barely did anything and as such didn’t really need the funds. However, leaving University left me with an acute terror of needing to find a job immediately or face certain death and dishonour on my family. Working part time at a pub whilst studying was fine, but it wasn’t really feasible for a couple looking to set off on their own into the big wide world. TMM managed to find a job at the local mill (which makes us sound like right hillbillies) quite quickly and I was left to spend a few weeks milling about in our cramped little room above the pub feeling sorry for myself and eating left over cold pasta. Not one to be kept down though (read – having encouraging friends and family who guided me in the right direction), I contacted a couple of employment agencies and within a few days was signed up for a temp job working as a recruitment consultant for a healthcare company. Now, not to sugar coat it, but I hated that job quite passionately. I made some lovely friends and had some good times, but the job itself was gash and completely unsuited to me. Still, I spent a year there (what else was I going to do) and got what I could out of it. After that ended though, it was easier to fall into a similar role again and again and today still finds me working in recruitment (though thankfully in a role more back office based than customer facing). It’s not what I would have picked for myself when I was younger though, and I still don’t think it’s really where my passions lie.

To be honest though, the jobs I would class as right for myself are a tad…odd. I’ve been pretty set in my ways and since school, I have only ever really wanted to be one (or more) of three things.

  1. A librarian from the 1950s
  2. A famous author
  3. A mortuary assistant

Specific and somewhat niche, you can see why I have maybe struggled to find myself in these career options yet. The first choice, the librarian, is possibly the most accessible to me (though I have tried on numerous occasions to get a job in a library to little or no response) but I fear that my imagings of what working in a library is like would not be anything like what working in a library actually is, hence the caveat. I want towering wooden bookshelves; leather bound books nestled safely in amongst each other in a soothing smell of must; cabinets labelled in neat hand writing housing thousands of neatly arranged reference cards and women with sensible skirts, smart buns and piznez. Basically I want to work in the Bodleian or the Hogwarts Library. The trouble is, I think the libraries of today are a lot more multimedia based, computerised and sadly nowhere near as prevalent as they once were. That is not to say I would not jump at the chance to get myself in there (a library is a library no matter what, and if I have to bring my own reference cards I will), because no matter how the job evolves or what systems are used to manage it, it is and always will be “a gateway, to a better and happier and more useful life” and that is what I am all about.

For those of you who know nothing about Isaac Asimov, I strongly suggest you go out there and educate yourselves.

The second option is I think the aspirations of everyone with a note pad and a head full of imaginations, but the trouble is most of us either don’t have the staying power or the ability to cope well with criticism and rejection. Personally, I find myself with thousands of ideas but just not the ability to flesh them out fully. I become too bogged down in the minutia of finding the perfect simile or conversational exchange and lose interest before the first chapter is out. My notes are filled with countless unfinished stories that I return to now and again, but never at a rate that will end up with the intended J.K.Rowling levels of popularity. Considering this was my dad’s third chance at a fortune (the 1st being his great monetary success and the 2nd being my sister’s – neither of which have come to fruition yet) I think he might need to start buying a lottery ticket.

The final choice has been a firm favourite ever since I fell in love with the imagined funeral director who I used to pass every day on the way to school. (Side note – the man himself was not imaginary, he and his snazzy briefcase were very real. However I have no idea what his chosen profession actually was or if his briefcase housed the secrets of the dead – I imagine it more likely he was just a very smart accountant). I found him fascinating though, and the life I made up for him, dealing with those who were not so alive, was pretty awesome.

I remember telling one of my teachers that I’d be interested in working in a funeral home during one of our short lived “Career Options” meetings at high school and I still remember the look of horrified disbelief on her face. I was quite surprised at the fervent opposition, especially considering it is possibly one of the most viable and sustainable options (never going to run out of work, are you?) and kept my ideas to myself after that. The dream never really went away though.

We actually own two copies of this book due to an unfortunate selection of incidents last Christmas involving some cover staining and a gravy disaster. However, it does mean we can take a cool picture so it’s not all bad.

I’m currently reading “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory” by Caitlin Doughty, a lady who works in the industry though, and it has done absolutely nothing to dissuade me. It’s a viscerally real, deceptively funny and surprisingly affectionate view behind the curtain of cremation and has pushed me to think about it in ways I never have before.

People have a very odd relationship with death and reading this book has made me aware of how far society (especially Western civilisation) has come from its rituals and belief systems surrounding the dearly departed. Death is so far removed from us now, and so hidden; we don’t want anything to do with the vessel that housed the person we knew. Indeed there is a commercialisation surrounding it, in our attempts to make it more palatable, death has become just another business. Some of the descriptions in the book; the things that are done to the bodies to make them “acceptable” for family viewings is almost unbelievable. I’ve already told TMM that when I die, he is to either just look upon my remains for what they are or remember me as I was. I’ve spent enough time making myself acceptable for other people, like hell am I gonna do it in death.

But one of my favourite quotes – “Someone must take care of these corpses, who have become useless at caring for themselves” really stuck with me and felt quite timely in this, my time of annual frustrations over my need to care for others but inability to do so. I want desperately to support homeless people, but I still struggle making eye contact with people I know, never mind strangers living on the street. I want to help the legions of abandoned old folk who are living alone and share in their rich histories, but can’t seem to hold a serious conversation to save my life without coming across horribly patronisingly. The thought of children suffering horrifies and shames me, but the idea of working with them terrifies me beyond compare. The dead though, they don’t actually need that much in the grand scheme of things. Someone to prepare them, someone to take care of what remains, someone to stand by as they vanish into the ground or the crematorium. It’s strange because by that point, I’m sure they really don’t care what happens, but I like to think that when I’m gone, there will be someone there to look after me one last time. They won’t know me and they probably won’t remember me, but they’ll make sure I shuffle off this mortal coil with whatever dignity remains and I find that comforting.

It might be morbid but it’s necessary and honestly? I can’t think of a dream job more worthwhile.

Love in Stranger Times

Stranger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holiday Blues and Writing Cues

Hol Blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

20180728_1314171249581451.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Warm up to the Weekend

whitby blog box

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And We All Live Apacaly Ever After

Alpaca Blog

So as some of you may have seen on my Facebook or Instagram, I spent the weekend living my best life and enjoying my birthday present from Woo. Woo is what we would class as “good people”; she puts up with my consistent and often hysterical emails, endless hearty bants and works well within the dreaded birthday constraints of “no stuff” when dealing with potential presents. I am very troublesome when it comes to giving people suggestions of what I want for my birthday. When I was younger, I would prepare colour coded lists in triplicate that went to all family members to provide clear guidelines on what I wanted. These days, I merely shrug and ask specifically for “no stuff” because I am a hoarder and must be controlled. Woo understands that my life in a constant battle between wanting All of the Things (like a true millennial), whilst simultaneously wanting to live like a Buddhist monk and free myself from the fetters of the material world. Last Christmas, she got me a trip to the Manchester Cat Café (that came with a hand drawn card which still sits on the mantle piece) and a pot of hair dye because she gets me. For my birthday this year, she succeeded once again in pulling it out of the bag (along with matching card) and this Sunday found us in the Lake District walking Alpacas.

Now let me tell you straight that walking with Alpacas might be the closest thing on this earth to true happiness and anyone who thinks otherwise is clearly deranged.

There were 5 of us that went, crammed into the new little motor (still as yet unnamed) and chipper at the prospect of the fun that awaited – little did we know how much joy we would experience. The company itself – Alpacaly Ever After (and whoever came up with that name deserves a medal) is based in the grounds of the Lingholm Estate in Derwentwater, Keswick. It is a gorgeous setting; coincidentally the Summer home of Beatrix Potter during her formative years as well as the home of where the new Swallows and Amazons film. It is basically the dictionary definition of “idyllic” and 100% the kind of place Alpacas deserve to live.

We arrived and went straight to the café (because we know what we’re about and what we’re about is fancy café lunches) before wandering the kitchen gardens that inspired many of Beatrix Potter’s tales and all getting slightly emotional that we weren’t posh ladies from the turn of the century. Soon though, the time came and we stood, all shifty like, by the statue of a giant and slightly mental looking red squirrel whilst waiting for our contact. Turns out, arranging Alpaca dates is somewhat similar to spy meetings – who knew?

Anyway, Shelley, our very knowledge and super smiley guide, appeared in a timely fashion and led us to our delightfully cuddly charges. She carefully explained the stroking etiquette – due to their eye positioning, they have a blind spot (unsurprising with those fringes if I’m honest) and like most animals don’t like being stroked where they can’t see. This meant their heads and backs were out of bounds, and also that there should be no butt touchings, which is just good manners really. Mainly she advised we stick to their necks when petting, but considering the length of them, this wasn’t too much of a hardship.

Whilst she was talking, she corralled our various partners and harnessed them up and we dithered about with thinly veiled excitement. By the time the gates opened and the Alpacas were led out, we were a undoubtedly overcome.

Now Jonbles had no Alpaca because he is a boring old fart, but he came along for the ride anyway and admitted later (no matter how much he tries to deny it now) that he wished he’d had one too. The rest of us picked (or were picked by) the four Alpacas who were milling about giving us the side eye – and the whole process was somewhat reminiscent of the wands in Harry Potter; the Alpaca picks the walker, not the other way around.

Woo went first because she is by far the bravest, and was paired with Kato; a big bubble headed beastie who was pretty much the agreed leader and enjoyed having a good chatter the whole way round.

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I followed and was paired with Jasper, who had fabulous hair, a casual attitude and the ability to wee for about half an hour non-stop (we matched perfectly). Shelley explained that there are actually only 2 breeds of Alpaca; Suri and Huacaya. Huacaya are by far the most prevalent, making up approximately 90% of the Alpaca population, and whilst they were lucky enough to have Jasper, he is the Loneliest Suri. The only one in their herd, he stands out a little and after being unfortunately snipped in the trouser snake department, is destined to stay that way. Still, he was The Most Chill and we bonded beautifully (read I pawed him desperately and he snuffled me a little and posed wonderfully for selfies).

     

Wilson “The Honey Badger” was paired with Jake, a toothy gentleman who knew exactly what he was about and wasn’t prepared to be moved unless he was ready. He viewed the whole excursion as a sort of extended buffet selection.

    

Finally, an executive decision was made that TMM should be left with little Theo, who whilst looking like a baby and being 2 years old, was pretty much fully grown. They looked like a kind of comedy duo (think Shrek and Donkey but much prettier) but they bonded beautifully (possibly over their matching eye lashes) and I’m pretty sure might have actually been each other’s spirit animals.

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During the walk itself, in which we were lead around the grounds and, in turn, had much fun shepherding our companions around, our very lovely guide educated us about the Alpacas as well as the land the company resides on. Obviously I was in nerd heaven because we all know how much I enjoy fun learning – and learning with Alpacas in the most fun. For example, did you know Alpacas are bred specifically for their fibre, unlike Llamas who are working animals and can be used to carry up to 10 stone. Sadly this meant I couldn’t throw myself on Jaspers back and gallop off into the sunset as I had hoped, but a girl can dream.

We also learnt that they “hum” when talking to each other (Kato had a lot to say), only have one row of teeth (along the bottom) so no accidental dismemberment of which there was a slight fear, and only actually spit when distressed, but let’s face it – who doesn’t? They’re also incredibly graceful considering how silly the look, and surprised us all by taking the various sets if stairs we came across in their stride (ha ha).

Within the hour though, I can safely say that each if us had fallen head over heels with our charges and once we had taken them back and given them some snacks, were all heartbroken to have to walk away. I’m not ashamed to say I could have wept as Jasper non committedly bumped his head against my arm before scratching his belly with a back hoof and trotted off without a backwards glance. I know our love was a fleeting and possibly one sided affair, but I can’t help but hope that as I’m writing this, he still thinks of me now and then.

It was obviously a bit too much for some people…

An Interlude from the Sunshine Library

So, in order to make up for my lack of post the other Thursday, TMM suggested I do another mini weekend bloglet. An exercise, he said, in allowing me to use up a little excess blog material that didn’t make it into last week’s offering as well as keeping up my word count. Not one to counter such a wise and logical argument, or deny him the chance to share super little teasers on his instagram story #socialmediapresence, I agreed, and what follows is just a peek into my personal library. It’s been a while since I’ve shared any reviews or book recommendations and I’d hate to leave you bereft.

The warm weather has actually been the perfect excuse to catch up on my reading. My refusal to sit inside for any length of time has limited my televisual intake and having lunch breaks out in the park have meant I’ve had time to just chow down on a couple of books that have been waiting patiently in my “to read” pile.

So far I’ve managed two books this week; “Early One Morning” by Virginia Baily (picked up from The Works for a couple of quid) and “The Hollow Tree” by James Brogden (from our last trip to Hay on Wye).

The first one I’ve been eyeing up for a while. It’s been on and off bookshelves, in and out of day bags and left on the bedside table for weeks, but I finally managed to make it past the cover on the trip to visit my Mother last weekend. It opened quite dramatically (WW2 Italy) with some Nazi involvement and the heart breaking rescue of a young jewish boy. The story itself was focused on the woman who rescued him, in flash forwards and flashbacks throughout her life, and a young girl in the 1970s who finds herself linked to the pair. Overall, I struggled a little with it, specifically the stylistic choice of flicking through time periods without identification as well as between characters, and I found myself becoming frustrated with the women themselves. However, I wonder if perhaps my disappoint was spurred more from the fact i went into it hoping for something different, rather than the fault of the author. Still, it kept me company for a lunch break and an evening of TMM watching tennis so I sharn’t be too put out.

On the other hand, “The Hollow Tree” was exactly what I thought it would be with some added supernatural elements and I am all about it. I went back and forth a few times before I picked this up in Richard Booth’s bookshop (or Heaven as it’s also known). We had intended to limit ourselves to one book per person at the time *spoiler* it didn’t last, and eventually I caved and bought it after lunch.

Inspired by a legend (which also led to an hour long wikipedia search) it follows a woman, herself involved in a tragic accident that results in amputation, who becomes embroiled in the horrifying tale of a woman trapped in an oak tree and left to die. It deals with death, danger and the discovery of a darker exsistence parallel to our own in a very engaging and provoking manner; and in such a way that I found myself desperate to get back to it each lunch break. There was also another book on the shelf by the same author which attracted me and by the time I’d gotten round to picking up the one I’d bought, I’d combined the blurbs a little and was a tad confused to find this one wasn’t the one with the mysterious children (“Helka’s Children” for those of you interested) as I’d originally thought. However, children not withstanding, it was just as thrilling as the recommendations on the front cover suggested (and I’ll definitely be investing in the other’s he’s written).

Now I was going to end this post by telling you all about a beautiful copy of “Rebecca” that i was going to start this morning, but in what might turn out to be the biggest betrayal of the century, it appears that instead of the book, I unknowingly bought a notebook made to look like a beautiful copy of “Rebecca” and I am wounded. Thankfully though, I’d ordered a spur of the moment purchase from Amazon, and as a salve for both my need to read and my pride, I’ve spent the afternoon reading “A Sky Painted Gold” by Laura Wood. Turns out , lazing around on the grass with a gin and tonic ice lolly, TMM looking delightfully sunkissed and dozey and a book set in the 1920s is apparantly just the cure I needed.