Sunday, 7 October 2012

Iron Woman

I have been busy today, helping to forge brass, feeding pigs and spinning wool.  I have been, in short, Iron Age Woman.

It is a very pleasant way to spend a late summer day, sitting outside a round house chatting, tasting Iron Age food (delicious vegetable soup with yoghurt), teasing wool into yarn and then operating the bellows in a forge.  In between all this, I tried out sling shots - a leather pocket on a long thong (not something in a glass).  I am not so good with the shot as I am with an atl atl, but maybe that was just beginner's luck.

The forge was amazing.  A basic timber building with an earth floor and a hole in the ground for the furnace which was edged with a few loose bricks around the top.  Two large foot operated bellows charged the flames with oxygen as the crucible was lowered, on long tongs, into the pit.  Sparks belched several feet into the air with each compression of the bellows, and wild flames escaped sideways between gaps in the bricks.  Things became more frantic as the copper started to boil and equipment was assembled to pour the molten metal into the moulds.  It suddenly became a bit too exciting when the glowing crucible fell out of its support and red hot globules scattered over the floor.

More relaxing was sampling the unleavened bread with tasty chutney, and the soup was wonderful.  Some people were busy in the same round house painting wood with paint made from elderberries and other fruit. Others were dying wool in beautiful, natural colours and could be seen unwinding long skeins between round houses at various intervals throughout the day.

The clothes are very comfy and warm too, woollen tunic dresses and blanket shawls.  It all seemed rather a wonderful way to live, gentle and sociable, but of course we were sampling it in warm weather, with no fear of failed crops or diseased animals.

The ones who managed that really were the Iron Women.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Oooh! Get me!

Another lovely day on the river yesterday.  I won my third trophy - my second for punting.  This might indicate a talent for punting.  Sadly, I have to correct this foolish notion.  I still can't steer without grinding to a halt, and it generally comes down to luck who wins, ultimately whoever doesn't get caught up in the foliage.  Getting caught up is more of a problem on the bank side of the course.  The lane nearest the centre of the river is safer from the point of view of avoiding hedges and overhanging trees, but can leave you gently spiralling out of control, and out of depth for your pole.  This can be embarrassing.

I haven't really decided  which is worse, trying to reverse out of a shrub without falling in, or trying to look like you know what you are doing as you find your punt perpendicular to the bank and the top of your pole disappearing below the surface.

I shall give this weighty matter further consideration and let you know when I have finished ruminating.

I also took part in a skiff race.  It was a 600m course - not too bad I hear you think.  Sadly, to get to the start line, I had to row against the flow, weaving in and out of pleasure boats.  By the time I was at the start, I was exhausted.  Then I had to row back with great enthusiasm.  I was about two thirds of my way down the course, when I heard the finish bell ring for my competitor, which is fairly depressing, and those final strokes felt a bit dismal.

At the end of the race the pain is not yet over as you have to 'park'.  It is quite off putting manoeuvring a skiff while being scrutinised from the clubhouse by happy, alcohol imbibed visitors.  As I tried to look adept at easing my skiff into a small gap on the bank, I decided it would be easier to simply turn my blades round and row facing forwards.

A more experienced rower tried to help by indicating that I should row facing backwards while mooring, as is customary.  That would have required a rather complicated 360 spin by that point, so I pretended not to have heard.

I have now realised that you row facing away from the direction of travel so you don't get downhearted as your competitor puts more and more water between you.  It suddenly seems so sensible!

I'm off to polish my trophies now.  Carefully placed on my front windowsill so the neighbours can see them and who might be fooled into thinking I am an adept sportswoman.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Messing about on the River

Oh, I'm having a lovely summer messing about in boats.  I used to walk along river banks feeling jealous of people in boats, thinking you either had to be massively rich or sporty to take part. Since discovering the Skiff Club, I have realised that just about anyone can take part.  The good news is you don't have to wear lycra either.  The only mandatory article of clothing for regattas is a rather Victorian looking hooped (stripy to you and me) top.  That's obviously not the only article of clothing you would wear for a regatta, but you can wear any shorts or trousery things.

So, having gone from being the least sporty person in the universe, I am now winning (yes, winning) races in both punting and skiffing.  This is mainly due to the clever points system, which means that beginners only race other beginners, so there is a vague chance of winning a race once in a while.  

There is really nothing more fun than being on the river in the summer.  I am sometimes in punts, with fish jumping ahead and eels wriggling beneath, or in skiffs.  What is particularly nice is that as you potter along, people on the bank start chatting (luckily I am slow enough in both modes of travel to enable lengthy conversations that the likes of Sir Steve or Cath Copeland would generally miss out on).  I also tend to keep going up and down the same 100m stretch of river, so you can pass the same people and continue the thread.

One worry is that the punting takes place opposite a pub, where locals sit out on the river terrace to enjoy the view.  As I wobble across the Thames on my punt, I am acutely aware that the additional sport for these drinkers is the possibility of watching one of us fall in.  It is a very effective incentive to stay upright and also not to leave your pole behind.  It was very interesting in a regatta yesterday to see that the punt poles, left in the water by hurrying crews fighting for first place, looked all akimbo.  Rather like sewing needles that had fallen and become caught in fabric at an odd angle.  Someone in a motor boat has to go along after the race and pull them all out.  Crews carry spares in the punt for this eventuality.

My race was fun, my competitor couldn't steer too well either, and nudged me ever closer to the bank.  As if in slow motion, an overhanging bush came towards me and I had a flash vision of being hung over a branch like washing on a line. Luckily I ground to a halt, mid-root.  After a bit of punt position juggling, we lined up and set off again, and rather surprisingly I won.  Winning has the effect of making you believe you are close to joining the ranks of elite athletes, and making your enthusiasm for your sport start to take over your life.  This is how I find myself spending more and more time getting acquainted with the Thames. This morning I rowed nine miles.   If I did nine miles on a rowing machine I would be bored out of my mind, but being on the river was wonderful.  You have to keep alert and weave in and out of the path of other river craft.  In a single skiff, you are also much more aware of the water, and what it is doing around and under you.  You have to take constant references to your direction.  It all adds many more dimensions to the sterile experience in the gym.

Messing about in boats.  Why wouldn't you?

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Epiphany Envy

So I went on my annual trek to my favourite Hebridean Isle, where every year I have an epiphany.  I've got to the point where I almost stand waiting for it to happen as soon as I get off the ferry.  Calmac could add it to the ticket package and charge more.

This year I felt quite grumpy, because everyone else I was with had one. One person even had two.


I didn't have one at all.  That just wasn't fair!

When the first person had an epiphany in a certain place on the island, I resisted the temptation to hurry along, sit and wait for it to happen.  It was agreed that this was cheating, and that you can't piggy back on someone else's epiphany - however much you might want to.

So it was my first epiphanyless week there.  Maybe was the weight of expectation that fanned it away.  Had it hovered over me and I missed it?  Are we all walking around missing the most important moments of personal revelation because we aren't looking, or conversely, looking too hard?

What is the ideal frame of mind to catch the wafting, ephemeral moment I wonder?

Oh well.  I'm getting all metaphysical again.  It's a habit I keep slipping into lately.  Like finishing off all the biscuits, only more interesting.  Anyway, I hadn't really thought of epiphanies being like buses.  You either have none, or two coming along at once.

Back to the holiday. I just had to make do with the experience I had one day on a sailing boat trip to the Trennish Isles.  A school of dolphins played about the bows of the boat, leaping and twisting at the sheer delight of being in the water.  They were exuberant and joyful, and were so close you were almost soaked when they exhaled through their blow holes.  They drifted away after about half an hour, but then we saw a basking shark, its fin slicing the water.  All the while, puffins landed on the sparkling water around the boat.


Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Inspiring my Generation

Everyone keeps talking about how we are going to be so inspired by these Olympics we will all be fitter but I think we are all getting considerably lazier.  All this lying on the settee with a glass of wine and bag of crisps marvelling at the achievements of the athletes.  The only exercise most of us get these days is reaching for the tissues when our eyes involuntarily start watering to the national anthem and the sight of an athlete kissing a gold medal.

What I would also like to know is how someone like me who hates flags and national things, has been reduced to crying at the sight of the Union Jack?  AND  how is it that the national anthem is the only moment I feel like doing a bit of exercise, and carefully have to resist the urge to stand to attention, saluting the TV.

What about those horsey types too!  What are they made of?

Mostly platinum by all accounts.

Break your back, neck, rupture your spleen, pin it all back together, get back on a horse and win a gold medal.

They are so brave, jumping over terrifyingly high fences, designed to lull you into a false sense of security by looking like Toy Town.  I tried riding - once there were some logs lying on the ground.

I was scared as my horse trotted over them.

The gymnasts!  Spinning, whirling, bouncing, looking for all the world like they are made of rubber, as well as being superhumanly strong and bendy, and brave.

Really brave.

Then you have those cyclists, looking like aliens from another world.  Strangely half cartoon, half insect as they pick out an orbit in the velodrome.

I am in awe.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Traffic Jam

I spent some time motionless in my car today.  Pick a multiple, any multiple, and that's how much longer it felt it took to travel that particular two miles than it should have done.

As is the way with these things, the sun decided to come out for the first time in forever.  I was baking, motionless and with no alternative to hand, other than to relinquish my car to the verge and walk.  I didn't want to do this, having just paid a substantial part of my wages on a service.

So I decided to sit and think in a meditative mood, and try to imagine I was lying on a sunbed, under a thatched shade, on a Spanish beach.  It worked.  I started having relaxing, random thoughts.

One was about the why queues of motionless cars should be called 'traffic jam'.  This sounds like it should be something fun, tasty even.  Maybe the 'conserve' aspect of the title refers to the opportunity we are afforded to conserve our energy.  Hopefully no one feels 'fruity' while sitting, frustrated in their driving seats......

'Traffic marmalade' has a sunnier feel to it, with reassuring Paddington Bear connotations.  Everyone could get out of their cars and share a sandwich, 'elevensies' style. 

I don't think relating such situations to condiments would work.  Mustard should be English, French or wholegrain, not 'traffic mustard'.

Pickle, now that would be good, as in, 'we've all got ourselves in a pickle on this section of the M25'.  Traffic reports would be loads more fun to listen to, with 'serious pickles', 'chunky pickles' (where there are lorries involved), 'piccalilli' (if double yellow lines and those annoying yellow criss cross boxes were being ignored).

Eventually I reached the conclusion that 'traffic glue' was the most suitable term.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

How to get to sleep

I heard that this was the most searched for phrase online, so thought I would put it to the test and welcome all insomniacs to my blog.  

So, hello to you all.  I expect some might be reading this in the middle of the night, in your nightie or jim jams, maybe with a soothing hot drink, listening to owls hooting outside.  You will need soothing, because not being able to sleep is horrid, so you have my sympathy.

I have some nuggets of advice, which you can either take, or disregard and go back to staring at the ceiling in the dark, with occasional panic stricken looks at the alarm clock.

Firstly it doesn't actually matter if you can't get to sleep.  You will still function tomorrow.  You know this is true because there have been lots of other nights you haven't slept, and you are still you.

Secondly, you might actually be asleep some of the time you think you are awake.  I know it is maddening when people say this, but it is true.  I used to think I was staring at the patterns on the wallpaper, joining up bouquets of flowers into geometric designs, and yet would be snoring away.

How seriously disappointing is that?  My dreams are just like being awake. I still feel depressed when I think about it.  (I once had a dream about blocked toilets, that wasn't so good either).  I know people who have flying dreams.  Unfair, but life is like that sometimes.  Maybe I should also stop buying wallpaper that you can line things up on.  I do it with the bathroom tiles too - lie in the water and make zigzags that bounce off the corners of the room.  I'd better stop this, I'm sounding like a seriously sad person.....where was I? Oh yes.....

Thirdly, remember you are not alone, although it certainly feels like it in the depths of darkness.  There are thousands of people not sleeping at that moment as well.  People being kept awake by screaming babies, pain, noisy neighbours, snoring partners - lots of things.  There are also lots of people awake because it is daytime where they are, so think of them shopping in hot, sunny, exotic markets, buying strangely shaped fruit and vegetables (this is one thing I have particularly noticed on my travels, real fruit and veg comes in knobbly shapes, not uniform and vacuum wrapped).  Having radio 4 on very quietly helps, especially if there is a programme about politics or economics.  Keep the radio close by so it takes the minimum of movement to turn it off when you can't take comments on the Eurozone any more.  Have it about where your hand lands when you drop your arm over the side of the bed.  Don't worry about disturbing your partner, the Eurozone is so dull, it will help them sleep too.

You could always give up even trying to sleep and use the time productively, being artistic and expressive (quietly so as not to annoy everyone else in the household).  It takes a certain amount of courage to actively give up even trying to sleep, to turn the light on and do something else, because you will be panicking about counting hours of slumber.  I daringly suggest that it won't hurt to try - that if one pattern of behaviour isn't working, trying something different might be sensible.

Another really silly thing is about closing your eyes.  I know that sounds just the stupidest thing ever, but when you get anxious, I bet you are lying there with your eyes wide open.  So, let them droop closed and think about somewhere lovely you once visited, and walk around that place.  I have a walk I go on, on a Hebridean island.  I think about each step and the view, the breeze, the sea, the shapes the clouds make. Even if it doesn't send me to sleep, it makes me feel nice.

Try to lower your expectations.  Stop expecting to sleep, and aim to just relax instead.

So, to summarise; remember you are not alone even though it feels like it; it really doesn't matter if you are awake all night - that your panic about lack of sleep is almost certainly worse than the reality; and once in bed, make sure those eyes are closed.  

A Pilgrimage

I went on a pilgrimage at the weekend.

It wasn't a stone circle to dance naked.

It wasn't a shrine with half man, half beast sculptures.

It was better than all that.

It was to..............................

............................Eeyore's gloomy place!

It wasn't sad and boggy.

It was sunny and breezy and rather lovely.

I was keen to go to the Pooh Sticks Bridge as well, but was advised against it by a friend.  Apparently this is now a modern, square cement structure, and a visit could potentially make me....

very gloomy.

An Ode (don't worry, it's not anything to do with electricity)

I've been to a gloomy place
that wasn't sad and boggy
I didn't take my orb or mace
and it wasn't even foggy

I've been to a gloomy place
that had trees and ferns and stream
I wasn't wearing leather or lace
But did stop later for an ice cream

I've been to a gloomy place
A place where morris men dance
Fields and tracks and moss on gates
And lots of green plants

I've been to a gloomy place
and now I'm running out of rhyme
so I will stop and go and face
the music for this crime!

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Sunny Spain!

I've just spent a week in sunny Spain - and very wonderful it was too.  I can't remember when I have spent so much time relaxing.

While relaxing, I found it was easy to invent things that might one day make me very rich......

Firstly, there is the large, rotating platform you desperately need at the bottom of those thatched sunshades on the beach.  It would have to have a wide enough diameter to take two sunbeds, and have a winding handle on the supporting pole.  You could have a little crank every so often to make sure you are optimising the sun or shade, as appropriate, without the bother of having to attain a vertical attitude which obviously should be reserved only for another icecream or cocktail.

After a while of staring at the underside of the thatch, I found myself thinking about how I needed to paint my ceiling, and how this would be annoying as the drips would land on my furniture.  So I invented the inverted paint brush umbrella.  A mini upside down umbrella attached to the handle of the brush, so that any drips are caught in the fabric as you paint your ceiling.  No more worrying about whether your suite is going to look like it came off the set of '101 Dalmations'.

Having spent a disappointingly long time in a queue at the airport on the way home, I found myself wondering why EasyJet don't produce their own in flight bag, to the exact dimensions of their testing cage arrangements (I was a bit anxious that my holiday shopping had been rather ambitious for hand luggage).

After a lot longer in the hot queue to get on the plane, I decided the bag could come with a pocket, ready filled with stamped, addressed cards to the Chief Executive of EasyJet, and a pen tied to the zip fastener, so you can easily write your complaints and have them ready to post on return to your home country.

After even longer in the queue, I thought the bag could have an inflatable armchair attached, then maybe even a bed, with a pull out blanket on an inertia roll like seatbelts in cars.

When the queue eventually started to move, painfully slowly, I invented the travelator extension, that moved every passenger to their seat, ejected them into the sitting position, while a metallic arm punches out from the ground and bounces the above mentioned bag into the overhead locker.  This would be a fully automated system, so that everyone would be seated in the minimum time, and offer no opportunity to dither over 'aisle or window', 'over the wing or at the front' etc etc yawn yawn can't you get a move on some of us are hot and bothered here.

Getting off was just as tedious, it was hard to understand why the mobile corridor operative had only just realised we had taxied into a parking space half an hour after arrival, when air traffic control must have known we were coming for the past three hours.

I haven't invented a cure for that one yet, but I am working on it.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Blind drunk.....

Came home from work yesterday, smell of stale alcohol, and yes, shards of green glass all over the kitchen and sparkling wine dripping from every surface.


What is going on?

I've put the other bottles in the fridge, it's not worth getting blinded by Prosecco.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Fizz - Bang

 I woke up in the middle of the night last night, to the sound of a small explosion.

I did what any sensible person would do in that situation.

Rolled over and went back to sleep.

This morning, when I went into the kitchen, bleary eyed and aiming for the kettle, I noticed water on the kitchen  surfaces.  Looking up, I saw water drips on the ceiling.  Remembering the explosion, I started to wonder whether my water tank on the floor above had burst.

After a bit of modest detective work (it was a bit early for that sort of thing really, but I did my best), I discovered that a bottle of bubbly, left over from the house warming party that had been stored on top of the wall unit, had burst.  It was actually champagne dripping off the ceiling.  

This is the second alcoholic explosion I have suffered in recent months.  The other one was a very alarming bang, when the small can of tonic I had left in the deep freeze to chill, then forgot about, burst. In so doing, it blasted open the freezer and flew across the floor.  My friend and I thought someone had broken in, and had to hold hands to summon up the courage to investigate.

Quite nice to know you can still do that as an adult, hold hands for moral support.

The Ice-cream man comes again

After a particularly long day at work, I was nearly home and saw the aforementioned ice-cream van driving down my road, blaring 'Oh, oh Antonio' again.

There was something reassuring about the worn, gaudy pink livery, until I read it.

'One lick and you'll come again'.

I'm going to laugh every time I hear those chimes now.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Manna on Wheels

Ah.....  Here I am at last.  Sitting in my (new) back garden, in the early evening sunshine.

I was listening to the birds singing earlier, when their call was rudely interrupted by an ice-cream van blaring out, 'Oh, oh Antonio, he sells ice-cream' on ultra-amplified chimes.  It reminded me of a very elderly lady I nursed a few decades ago (am I really old enough to say that sort of thing?  Help).  She was very frail and lay in her hospital bed staring at the ceiling, all the while singing, 'Oh, oh Antonio'.  During one particularly dull shift she taught me all the words.

Anyway, I felt a bit annoyed with the van, and was relieved when it went away.  After a few more minutes, I could here the dulcet tones of 'Antonio' a few streets away to the right, then after a little longer, more muted and further round to the left.

I remembered where I grew up was on a main road, so we never had the benefit of an ice-cream van, and I was jealous of my friends who lived in side-streets where this vehicle of dreams would appear randomly,  dispensing treats.

As I fell into a slightly depressed moment of nostalgia, I noticed some ants worrying around the patio.  They zig-zagged around, looking for something more interesting than the next bit of paving stone.

To one side of the garden, a bee landed on a flower a little too weak to support it, and the stem sagged, forming a rather pleasing parabola (the maths degree evidently wasn't a complete waste of time). The bee bungied along with it, and hung on in there.

I realised we were all looking for manna.

Monday, 7 May 2012

At last!

It happened.

 It really happened.

I had a list of jobs to do, but realised NONE OF THEM WERE URGENT, and LAY ON THE SETTEE STARING AT THE CEILING to enjoy the moment. 

Monday, 30 April 2012

Burning Money

I've moved and I'm in!  Hooray!

I'm having stuff done, like you do when you move. 

Today I had to go to the bank to get a large dollop of cash to pay for it.  Having queued for ages at two different desks, I finally got to the teller (regular readers will remember that I am not keen on queuing in banks).  He had processed my account, and was just reaching for the notes, when the fire alarm went off.  We exchanged a look.  Mine was of acute panic,  his was of supreme empathy.  He tried, he really did.  His hands were on the notes, but a manager was ushering me out of the doors.  I looked round, arms straining for the desk, akin to a male passenger on the Titanic reaching out for a lifeboat.  I was unceremoniously left on the pavement as they locked the doors. 

Not knowing how long the fire was going to burn (although there was an absence of both smoke and fire engines),  I went to another bank to do other stuff I needed to do, then to another one for yet more stuff (I have power of attorney for an aging relative - I do not have money in this many banks).  At the third bank, they asked for identification.  I reached into my handbag for my passport.

It wasn't there.

It had been there earlier.

Now it wasn't.

'Is this really how my day is panning out?', I thought in despair.

Eventually I remembered the man in Barclays had probably left it on the photocopier, so I hurried back.  It was there, thank goodness.  I was also now back in the right place to regain entry to the bank that had my money on the counter.  The same teller was there, as I queued up again.  We exchanged another look, of smiling relief.

So apart from all that, rain running through into my newly decorated living room, the small matter of a live wire in the upstairs ceiling (how much had I paid for that electrical survey?), and British Gas making it as difficult as possible (unbelievably difficult actually) to register with a new meter reading, life is pretty good.

In fact, I have had a sudden, unexpected attack of happiness.  Probably due to getting my sound system up and running with an ancient party compilation CD.  Time for a dance around, swirling my arms in the air.

Lucky no one can see me.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

On Being Stubborn

I've been showing the 'sinister' weed letter around at work today.  I think I got off lightly.  One person knew someone who had had abuse graffitied over the whole of the front of their house.

When I got home, the contrary and stubborn parts of me (these friends make an appearance every so often) went to the garden shed, got out the fork and started WEEDING THE BACK GARDEN!

Take that you 'RESIDENTS'!

Monday, 23 April 2012

On Being Weedy

Yesterday evening, getting home from an eleven hour day, I picked up the letter lying on the doormat. It was addressed to, 'The Occupier', with my address, and had a franked stamp, having been sent through the post. Nothing unusual there, although somehow my antennae were wiggling. The lettering looked a bit angry. On opening, a sheet of A4 paper that had been roughly cut across the top came out, with' the following: 'Dear Neighbour' then, 'PLEASE COULD YOU DO SOMETHING ABOUT THE UNSIGHTLY WEEDS AT THE FRONT OF YOUR PROPERTY. Many thanks from the Residents.' I was aware that I am temporarily living in a road where parking in one of the (public use) bays outside anyone else's house is considered a crime deserving of public execution, and you get asked to 'move on' by rather sad, bored people, who all have garages anyway. I hadn't realised there was also a type of 'Weed Watch' going on as well. It was of some concern that the 'residents' must have walked past my house to get to the postbox, presumably too scared to walk up my front path in case they were identified, although they might have been alarmed that the triffids would turn on them. What is particularly galling about this is that, apart from the fact it is essentially an anonymous letter, in the last few months the front of the house has been considerably improved. I have had a huge ivy plant removed, sagging soffit boards replaced and have done a spot of painting. I've also planted pots with the exciting promise of 'growing my own bouquet'. In fact, I had admired the green shoots on my way in last night. I hadn't noticed the weeds at all. These weeds, I should point out, grow in a very small border, along the pavement side, and aren't really very tall either. I was a) perplexed that anyone should be disturbed by their presence and b) that they send a slightly intimidating anonymous letter about them. Being a bit stubborn, it made me absolutely determined not to pull them out. In fact I am going to get a sign made, to stick in the border next to them saying something along the lines of, 'I am weedy, and proud'. Fortunately I move out on Friday, not a day too soon.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Fitting for a Glove

I have been exploring the concept of gardening lately. This involves pulling up a lot of nettles. I was bold about this, wearing what looked like a robust pair of gardening gloves, in reassuring, sensible grey. I was somewhat annoyed to be stung quite aggressively by a nettle, and my fingers were throbbing inside the so called protective outer wear. The stings hurt like I had forgotten they could (been about thirty years since the last sting), then my fingers swelled up and went all itchy.

I was reminded of my oven gloves, hand crafted by an ancient relation who died about twenty years ago. The gloves were, and still are, too thin. Every time I get something out of the oven, I risk taking a layer of skin off my hands. Twenty years of this seems a bit daft. I have finally decided to treat myself to new oven gloves, packed full of some new lining that could fend off the sort of heat Red Adaire faces daily. I will also buy some gardening gloves that could roar with laughter at those cactii you see in the distance in Road Runner cartoons. The ones that keep repeating when he runs anywhere...... that was so disappointing in cartoons. I felt cheated.

Just like I feel cheated by my oven and gardening gloves.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Dangling by my dongle

I've got a brand spanking new laptop.

If only I had a broadband connection to go with it.....

I've been wrestling with a dongle.

Life was better before I discovered this device.

I don't claim to be clever with computers - oh no. But when I paid £10 of my hard earned cash, I had misread the advertising blurb that appeared to promise that my £10would give me internet access for a month.

'Bit pricey' I thought, but worth it to be able to fully connect to the world and so I made my first premium rate phone call on my mobile.

How naive am I?

I watched a TV programme about Sandhurst (fascinating why anyone would want to be shouted at and treated like dirt for nine months and then risk having their limbs blown off, and incredible to hear a General bemoaning the problems caused by trainees when their conscience about possibly having to kill people got in the way).

When I got up the next morning and tried to connect, my dongle wasn't playing. Another expensive premium rate phone call later, I was made to feel very dim indeed when it was explained I had bought a giga something, and that I had to use it up within a month.

I protested it had only lasted a day, and it was again explained that I had paid
for this giga thing, not a month's usage, but the employees's English wasn't great and my hearing isn't great, so it took a while to get to that point. A while on a premium rate phone call from a mobile remember (no landline either, life has been a bit frustrating lately).

It was quite a good TV programme, but not £10's worth. I grudgingly had to pay another £15 to be connected again, and this time will make sure to only use it for e-mail and blogging.

The strange thing is, that having got the computer going, it thinks we are in Austin, Texas, that it is six hours ago, and that we are basking in a balmy 76 degrees, rather than wet, cold April in England.

The dongle thing is way too complicated, but if I am indeed in 76 degrees in America that would be worth £10.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Meeting myself coming the other way........

I am now settled into my temporary home, while I wait to move again, this happens to be in the town I grew up in. It makes things a bit weird. Around every corner there seems to be a memory waiting to re-ignite; the road where I rode on the back of my mate's bicycle, legs sticking out sideways, while she peddalled hard to get us both to wherever we were going; the site of the old chip shop where another friend worked and had to wear a headscarf so she didn't smell of chip fat when she got home; the house I grew up in, looking as austere and unwelcoming as ever it did; the Indian restaurant, where as a five year old, I would order chips, Cocoa Cola and ice cream to avoid eating that funny food that made my mouth hurt.

Paradoxically things that have changed stand out, as do the things that have stayed the same.

Through all this I can feel my brain trying to rewire the hard wiring of old memories.

At times it is like I'm meeting myself coming the other way.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

I am Rock Chick

Yeah baby!

My house is nearly empty.

I am rattling around.

Less people, less furniture, less stuff.

A lot less stuff.

It feels good.

Apart from my bed and piano, the only functioning equipment left set up is the stereo. By some fluke of subliminal organisation, my CDs are also still visible.

And one of the best things about this house is the very thick basement walls. They are really thick, thick like a castle.

This means you can turn the volume and bass up to deliriously high levels.

So while I was feeling a bit grim, finding out just what had fallen behind the washing machine over the last decade, I remembered that I could be doing it all to music.

Then I saw it.

Led Zeppelin.

Hadn't listened to it for years.

Yes, it was loud.

Yes it was brilliant.

It was more brilliant than I remembered it being, probably because everything since has been feeble dross in comparison.

I could fling cobweb covered wall tiles and pots of paint over my shoulder, as if they were television sets out of hotel windows.

It was harder to be so dramatic with the odd socks, but I tried anyway.

When it was all over, there was the cup of tea, and a sing along to 'Stairway to Heaven' between sips.

Proper music. Does what it says on the tin.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Mouse Traps - The Bad News

I went to my mother's house today to pick up the post and (as I convinced myself) to check the empty mousetraps.

They were meant to be empty, they really were.

It was VERY spooky to go into an empty house, and peer round the kitchen door, to see the bedraggled corpse of an adult mouse, pinned by its neck, next to the washing machine. The second trap was empty.

I'm not usually squeamish, having seen rats and other enchanting wildlife in India, but something about this poor rodent sent shivers all through me. I stood in the hall, wondering whether to drive all the way home again to fetch a son or two to help, but decided that would be daft.

I stood for a bit longer, thinking I could leave it and hope the carpet fitters coming a few days later would deal with it, but would that be fair?

Probably not.

I stood for a bit longer in the hall, feeling all creepy.

And slightly foolish.

I stood with that sensation for many minutes. Then decided I had to take charge of the situation. I was an adult, I could do this sort of thing.

Then I waited some more.

Finally, I put on my Marigolds and hesitantly took a bin liner out of my bag. I planned to cover the corpse with the bin liner, then scoop up the offending creature so the bag turned inside out round it, then I would run for the front door (left open for speed) and head for the wheelie bin.

The tactic worked, but with little electric shock sensations running up my spine, as I felt the limpness of the body through the gloves. I ran through the house with a silent scream (although I have to confess, it might not have been totally silent)and made it to the wheelie bin.

I couldn't get out of the house fast enough after that, which is sad as I am supposed to be moving in on Friday - and we all know that there is never, ever, only one mouse in a house.


Friday, 3 February 2012

Shopping - not as much fun as it used to be

Life's been rather stressful lately. I'm expecting to move house, to a very small place. This means I've been sifting through 16 years of family bits and pieces and trying to get rid of quite a lot of furniture. It's been interesting - I realised that I need to handle every single item in the house, and make a decision about each one. I've been doing well, there have been numerous trips to the dump, two local charity shops stocked almost entirely with our things, and Freecycle devotees have been coming round regularly to dismantle wardrobes and shelves. As well as all this, my mother's house, which I let on her behalf, has (for complicated reasons I won't go into here) required complete refurbishment. So I have been project managing that and doing runs to the dump and so on for her house as well. This has coincided with the busiest time of year at work. No peace for the wicked, as they say.

This decluttering of my life has been liberating. I was very surprised to find the only thing I felt slightly traumatised about getting rid of was the family collection of about a cubic metre of Lego. I started to sift through it, meaning to take only a small box of the more interesting bricks and little people to keep, but as I started to put to one side spacecraft engine parts and gears, I realised I couldn't let it go. Weird. It's not like I'm going to sit and build a spaceship or pirate island any time soon (although that might be quite soothing, thinking about it).

All this sorting and removing and clearing and decision making has meant there is no point in my buying more material possessions. Instead, yesterday on a shopping trip, I ended up in an ironmonger buying flea powder and mouse traps. Not for myself I hasten to add, but for my mother's house (the last tenants weren't the sort of people you would have back in a hurry - astonishingly, one was a student health visitor). It's not the same as the sort of shopping trip where you can do a 'show and tell' when you get home.

The bad news is that now I have to go to my mother's house and set the mousetraps and squirt the flea powder everywhere. I feel very sorry for the mice (who I am rather fond of) but as friend pointed out, I can't use a humane trap, as between visits the poor little creatures would starve slowly, which we decided would be worse. I was tempted by the sonic repelling machine, but as the house has new windows, there is no where for them to escape, so they would end up being driven mad. Life is full of difficult choices at the moment, the mode for murdering mice, and whether to keep a Lego shark and octopus.

I wonder whether the shark would like a trip into outer space?

I hope the sale goes through now, otherwise I am going to be rattling around in a large, and mainly empty, house.

Freecycle is brilliant by the way, and the people who have been coming round seem to be really good types, who I have enjoyed meeting.

Saturday, 14 January 2012