Wednesday, 31 March 2010

March Book Review

Oh the shame. The shame. I pitiful 2 books read this month. I should be slapped in the face repeatedly and told to get my act together.

Life in general took over this month and didn’t leave any room for reading. Plus I am at the moment trying to make my way through a behemoth of a book at home which means my only other reading is taking place on my lunch break at work.

Still it’ll make recommending something easy.

Amy Tan – The Kitchen God’s Wife.

I’ve read a few of Amy Tan’s books now and they are good but suffer from the Jodi Picoult syndrome I spoke about in last month’s review. They all start to merge in to one. In fact they merge so much that when I picked this one up I couldn’t really remember if I’d read it before. Not the greatest of signs.

Tan’s books have a formula – Chinese mother who has emigrated to America vs daughter who was born in America and the clash of cultures between the two.

The Kitchen God’s Wife felt a little confusing. At first you think it’s going to be the same old formula, daughter Pearl is keeping a secret from her mother Winnie and doesn’t want to tell her. But actually pretty much the whole book is Winnie’s story, the story of how she came to meet her husband and live in America. I had no problem with this because it was an engaging enough story but it felt a little strange.

Winnie tells Pearl the story to explain why her Auntie Helen is not Winnie’s daughter-in-law and that the secret can now be revealed because someone has died. So you start reading, waiting for the big reveal. Did Winner and Helen kill someone? Why the need to lie? So intriguing! And actually, it’s not really explained, unless it was and I completely missed it, and either way it’s not really relevant to the story.

So after finishing reading, I could feel the quizzical expression on my face as I asked myself “What the hell was that about?”


Not her best. If you would like to read one of Amy Tan’s books try The Bonesetter’s Daughter or the Joy Luck Club.

John Lanchester – Mr Phillips

This is an interesting one and I feel like I can’t really say a lot about it without giving it all away because this isn’t a racer of a book where there are multiple plot lines and characters which all collide at the end to be tied up with a neat little bow. This is more of a “nothing really happens” kind of book although that doesn’t really do it justice. In fact it doesn’t do it justice at all, pretend I didn’t say that.

We follow Mr Philips round on one day (it’s a pretty small book, won’t take you long to read at all) as he wanders through London and are treated to his inner thoughts and feelings about life in general.

I think that’s all I can say without spoiling things.

A word of warning to those of a sensitive and delicate nature – Mr Philips thinks about sex. A lot. You’ve been warned. I just wanted to spare your blushes.

The winner this month is clear – Mr Phillips. If only because he agrees with me about Tuesdays being the worst day of the week as this passage demonstrates...

“Monday, along with its awful back-to-workness, contains a tinge of relief, of the bracing moment after the plunge into the icy pool when we realize the worst of the shock is over. Tuesdays are his least favourite weekday, since they lack the get-on-with-it feeling of Mondays, and at the same time the next weekend is still an impossible way off...”

Here's hoping April is slightly more successful...

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Tree Project - March

Hey Mr Tree

So last month everything was looking promising - green shoots, blue skies, birds singing - it all looked so good.

And now what?

Spring appears to have halted, at least on this road, for a short while. As I type the rain is hammering against the windows and you are looking more than a little forlorn. And it's surprising because this morning I took this photo,
and things were looking pretty happy.

One question though.

Where are the leaves buddy?

You've halted at green shoots and I've got to tell you, please don't give up now, just try and keep going and produce a little bit more. For me. Ok?

Monday, 29 March 2010

I've got a feeling

I’m part of a fun little trio consisting of myself, my best friend (who I spoke about in the last post) and one other guy. We’ve never had a night out together that hasn’t been great. I’ve spent all day trying to think of one and I can’t.

For reasons unknown we haven’t been out together as a threesome in about a year and a half and this weekend we set about rectifying it with a trip to Preston.

Sometimes you can’t find the words to properly sum up how good a night was it would take too long and bore everyone and sometimes it’s because there actually aren’t the words to sum up, it’s more a feeling that you have so that when the night is long gone and you only have pictures left to look at, they bring back a feeling so strong it can knock you off your feet.

With these two people I am fully myself, I never feel like I’m trying to fit in to a role which has been provided to me (a pressure I accept I probably put myself under) and there’s no hidden agenda, I’m just with two of my most favourite people, forgetting about everything and everyone else for one night only.

At one point in the night I impressed upon them a very important point,

“Neither of you are allowed to get girlfriends you know”

(Could I please take a moment to point out that this was after the consumption of cocktails and good few gin and tonics.)

I did have a point behind my drunken statement.

Girls are rubbish. They complicate matters. They would most likely be distrustful of me, the person their boyfriends were going out and getting drunk with (“What the hell is she up to?”) and I can tell you now that I won’t like them because neither of those two boys are going to find a girlfriend that’s good enough for them and I’ll be the judge of who is good enough for them thank you very much. The girlfriends could come out with us but then the dynamic’s completely thrown off – it has to just be us three. And I don't know why it doesn't make a difference if I have a boyfriend, but it just doesn't (there's probably a more eloquent argument to make than that but at this point in time I can't wrap my brain around it).

So maybe that’s why these nights out are so good and why I look forward to them so much, because I dread, with a feeling that makes me feel completely sick to my stomach, the moment when one of them gets a girlfriend because I know that on some level it’ll spell the end of our trio as we know it.

Whether boys and girls can be friends will always be a bit of contentious topic and I guess that what we have is rare and maybe it only works because of a million different things happening at the same time, some kind of big bang theory for friendship, the situation has to be just right for it to work and just one thing has to go wrong for it all to be thrown off kilter.

So if it does all go wrong at some point in the future, and all I’m left with is that feeling of being with 2 people that I love and am completely happy with, then I’ll try and remain happy that I had a chance to have it at all...

...and then go back to constructing a mental list of why their girlfriend’s are stupid.

Friday, 26 March 2010

The foundations of a lasting friendship

After my first year at university I returned to Hull for the summer holidays. I had grand plans of lazing about for a couple of months, doing nothing but reading and watching the television.

My Mum had other plans.

Get out. Job search. Now. (was the basic gist of the conversation)

I spent an afternoon wandering around town, begging at bars and shops and littering Hull with as many CVs as I could. Tiring of my search in the late afternoon I stumbled across a coffee shop in the town centre and decided to have a cup of tea. As I sat drinking I thought to myself “Not a bad place to work this” and decided to ask if they had any jobs going.

An application form was thrust into my hands and I sat and filled it out while I drained the rest of my cup. I handed in and waited for the obligatory “We’ll give you a call if anything comes up” and instead was somewhat shocked to hear the words “Can you come in at 9 tomorrow morning?”

And that was how I got the job. (I’m still not sure if they even read the application form.)

My first day and I’m there feeling ultra nervous – did I mention that I’m probably the clumsiest person you’ll ever meet? Me + hot coffee = disaster in waiting.

The boss turned to me and said “First job of the day. We’ve got a situation in the ladies’ toilets, can you go with ____ and sort it out?” I turned around and came face to face with the prettiest looking boy I’d ever seen. He had a face that mother’s would love – clean shaven, smooth skin, nice straight teeth, lovely sensible hair. “Hello!” He said and off we made our way to the toilets.

The ‘situation’ was a rather enormous poo in one of the toilets which was refusing to leave the party.

This is an awkward situation to find yourself in. Very small cubicle. Very good looking boy you’ve only just met. Giant floater.

We did what we could. We valiantly fought against what we christened The Atomic Poo for about half an hour, going through a bottle of bleach and entirely ruining a toilet brush. By the end of it we were firm friends.

All summer we worked together and even though many were in love with him I just didn’t feel that way about him at all (plus for most of the summer I thought he was gay and by the time I realised he wasn’t we were well into the friendship zone), he was just my best mate.

Turned out that he was going to be starting at Salford University and would therefore be just down the road from me when I returned to Manchester in September. With promises to ring each other when we got there I left Hull and made my way back to uni. To be honest I didn’t really see it happening, I figured it was one of those things you say and you do mean it but you just never really get round to ringing them and then you’ve left it too long and before long they’re a dim and distant memory.

However on my first day back I got a call on my phone “Hi it’s ____ I’m in Salford now, did you fancy meeting up tomorrow?”

We met in the Printworks the next afternoon and decided we’d go mad and have a bottle of wine with our lunch. The service was so appalling that by the time our sandwiches appeared we had finished the bottle. So naturally we decided to get another. I had paid an extra £1 for chips with my sandwich and despite asking the waitress several times, they never appeared. I was most incensed by this injustice, which was fuelled by the second bottle of wine. I decided to go and ask for my £1 back (it was the principle you see) and was served by a very apologetic Manager who not only gave me my £1 back but also gave us a free bottle of wine.


I ended up buying a full length woollen cardigan from Muji for £60 (which I wore about twice in the space of a year until my Mum shoved it in the washing machine and promptly shrunk it to the point where it fit my 4 year old nephew), we went out on the razz with all his new flatmates and ended up dancing in the fountains in Piccadilly Gardens before sitting, sopping wet, on a bus back to mine.

After all that how could he not be my best friend?

And he is.

And nothing more.

No-one believes me when I say that not a single romantical thing has ever happened between us. Not so much as a snog. But it really really hasn’t and it just never will because I think of him now as my brother. He is the first person I’ve rung whenever I’ve split up with any boyfriend and, like a brother, he frustrates and annoys the hell out of me sometimes, but I can never stay angry with him for long.

Seven years later and we're still friends and I’m off to Manchester tomorrow for a night out with him and my other best friend (who is also a boy, but that’s a whole blog post of its own). These nights out always promise to be hilarious and messy in equal measure and this will be the first time we’ve been out together as the hilarious trio that we are in nearly 2 years (where did the time go?!). I couldn’t be more excited if I tried.

And it’s all thanks to The Atomic Poo and the missing plate of chips.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

The Dark Hours

There is a time of day that I have come to dread.

The hours between I arrive home at 5pm and when the boyfriend arrives home at 7.30pm.
No this is not some sap about how I can’t bear to be in the house without him (to be honest I’m gagging for a weekend on my own in the house, doesn’t he have any plans to go away somewhere?!) but is instead about my other love.


I get dinner on the go to be more or less ready when the boyfriend comes in from work. This is less a picture of the domesticated housewife having dinner on the table when her man comes home and more about me getting the green light to shovel.

7.30pm is a long way away from lunch time.

I’ve tried to put things in place. My daily yoghurt I now have about 3.30pm, instead of with the rest of my lunch, but the second I step through the door at 5pm my stomach starts whinging,

“You should feed me now.”

No stomach. We must wait for 2 and a half hours.

“But I’m huuuuuuuuuuungryyyyyyyyyyy”

And so this battle rages on through those long dark hours. Sometimes I win and I can stave him off until the boyfriend comes through the door and is greeted by me saying “Hello yes lovely you’re here, aren’t you great, now change because I need to eat.” And other times I fall victim to his wily ways. “I’ll just have a nibble of this” I’ll tell myself, before devouring a block of cheese/packet of crisps/bar of chocolate.

And the stomach is satisfied. So satisfied that he appears to have grown to twice his acceptable size.

So I have officially entered battle with my stomach. During the day I can keep him at bay. I have a routine, I stick to it and I eat pretty well, but every night I enter the danger zone, when the fighting is at its most severe.

I am trying to develop coping strategies as I feel it’s all just a case of keeping busy.

If I go to the gym after work that’s a good hour or so taken care of. I can come in and start the dinner and once that’s on the go the stomach quietens down in eager anticipation of the meal ahead.

But let’s face it, that ‘if’ at the beginning of the sentence is a really big ‘if’ and any excuse I can find not to go to the gym I will take. “Oh sorry the clouds are in the wrong formation today, I couldn’t possibly go and sweat in a room full of strangers.”

And the stomach knows that it has won that battle.

So new coping strategies are in order and I have turned to who I hope will be my General in this long and lonely war.

Barbara Currie.

She of the yoga fame. I have dusted her off and stuck her in the dvd player. This is officially the new plan. If I cannot drag myself out of the house and walk the 10 minutes down the road to the gym (yes I really am that lazy) then I will push back the sofas, throw a blanket on the floor and I will try and stretch and bend my body into terrifying shapes for an hour or so.

And so far General Currie and I are doing well. Yesterday, not a morsel touched my lips from lunchtime until dinner time and yes I know we shouldn’t starve ourselves and we should eat little and often but I’m afraid I was not born with the power of willpower. My brain does not understand the notion of ‘little and often’ when it comes to food, or anything in life. I’m an all or nothing girl which is why I fling myself head first into projects, becoming all consumed by them and forgetting everything that went before. Life would be great if I could have just one crisp, or half the bag, but it is not to be for me. The bag must remain unopened or all the contents will be poured into my stomach in record time.

So off I trudge into battle once more with a leotarded pensioner by my side. I put my trust in her and if she fails me I have a back up keeping busy strategy....


Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Mabel's story

Do you remember Pumpkin?

So. Pumpkin died and the RSPCA said we could come and pick a new cat when we felt ready.

We had to wait a while until kitten season was established (it’s a bit like deer season except there’s less blood and killing of animals. In fact it’s the opposite of deer season come to think of it) and we then went to make our pick.

Every weekend we were within a whisper of getting our new cat but we just kept missing them. The RSPCA has a somewhat bizarre system which means you are unable to ‘reserve’ a kitten to come and collect when it’s old enough to leave home. Instead you have to be quick off the draw on the day that they go up for adoption.

It was time to get serious.

We’d seen a litter of gorgeous kittens, all lovely little tabbies and Mum had her heart set. The following Saturday they were coming up for adoption.

That weekend I was away and when I switched my phone on in the morning I had one from my Mum to say that she was at the centre and was ready to do battle. This was at 6am.

And she wasn’t the first there.


At 7am someone came out and gave them numbered tickets and at 9am, when they officially opened, there was a queue of about 20 people and in no way enough kittens to go round. Aah well. You snooze you lose. Literally.

By the time I came home on Sunday our new kitten had been named Mabel (I’m not entirely sure who came up with that one).

(Why yes that is me hiding behind her, how nice of you to ask)

I think the best way to describe Mabel would be to say she had ‘character’. Another way would be to say she had ‘mental problems’.

She absolutely loved climbing. Mainly people. It was hilarious when she was a wee thing and she would scramble up your legs and body to get up to your shoulder. It became less hilarious when she got older and heavier and her claws got sharper.

She was also obsessed with water. She was my constant companion whenever I did the washing up and would howl outside the bathroom door until you let her in whereby she’d come and sit on the side of the bath, staring intently in (which was actually quite creepy).

But the one thing she loved more than climbing and water was being outside.

We could not keep her in. “Wait until she’s about 6 months and then let her out” the vet said. Yeah, right, ok then. She could sense when you were going to make a move towards the door and would hurtle towards it to try and get out. Eventually we bought one of those harnesses so she could come outside and wander about safely. Also it was summer and we were sick of having to keep all doors and windows closed.

One evening, a friend came round for a natter. She was telling me about a friend’s cat, Molly, that had just gone missing. Mabel was outside, doing her thing, she was old enough to go out alone now and she liked to just potter about the garden, checking out the birds. She appeared at the window to be let in and I brought her inside but she was adamant she wanted to go back out. It was late but she’d been out at that time before so I opened the window for her.
“Go on and find Molly” I said.

Talk about famous last words.
We never saw her again.
She just vanished into thin air. She’d never even gone outside the garden before, so to completely disappear was just bizarre.

We called and we searched and we called and we searched. We put up posters but nothing was ever seen or heard. She was micro-chipped so if she was picked up we’d have known about it. Same if there’d been an accident on the road, they check and inform you if they pick up any dead animals. She was just, not about anymore.

(So you can see why I freaked out when Fred went missing that time)
I sat in guilty silence for a long time. Mum still doesn’t know what my last words to her were. If only I’d kept her in she’d still be here.

But you know what? I think she’d have made her escape anyway, she was just one of those cats that would never really be tame.

Mum remains convinced that someone stole her because she was so pretty but I like to imagine her still out in the wilds of Hull, climbing things and chasing birds. Possibly with Molly, who never turned up either.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Facing the fear

One of my greatest fears in life is public nakedness.

I’ve told you all about this before, remember? (It was back when The Curious Cat was my only commenter, bless her heart for sticking with me for so long.)

This weekend in Center Parcs I came, literally, face to face with that fear.

One of the great things about the Sherwood Forest site is the Aqua Sana spa where, for £40 you can spend 3 hours in a state of almost catatonic relaxation as you wander in and out of Japanese sea salt rooms and saunas and Indian blossom steam rooms and aqua meditation rooms and get my drift?

It is marvellous (or acesome, if you wish to use my amazing new word) and well worth the money.

We were booked in at 3pm on Sunday afternoon and I’d spent the weekend looking forward to it. I told my boyfriend I’d see him on the other side and we disappeared into her respective changing rooms.

And that was when it happened.

Full frontal nudity right in front of my face before the door had even closed.

It did not put me into a state of relaxation.

It also didn’t help that the changing rooms were some kind of labyrinthine, wooden-lockered nightmare and every corner I turned brought me face to face with more naked flesh. Getting changed wasn’t an issue, I’d come prepared with swimming costume under my clothes so everything was whipped off and shoved into a locker and I bolted for the sanctity of the spa.

I tried not to let it prey on my mind as I concentrated on feeling like a lotus flower, gently floating on a summer’s breeze.

But I kept getting flashbacks to images of pubic hair.

Three hours later, I returned back to that room of hell. It was now busier. Great.

I looked up and saw that there was indeed a private changing room. I could use that! Except I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to admit to this room of naked strangers that I really had a problem being a naked stranger too. Maybe it’s because I know I shouldn’t be bothered by it, maybe it’s because I have an extreme narcissus complex and assume that everyone’s going to be noticing what it is I’m doing, who knows.

“Get a grip” I said to myself, “You’re almost 27. Time to stop being embarrassed.” Also I figured that because I wasn’t showering (no I’m not horrendously filthy, I’d just decided to shower back at the lodge) I didn’t have the complication of drying whilst trying not to reveal yourself.

Repeating the mantra “No-one’s looking. No-one’s looking.” to myself I got all my clothes out of my bag.

I lined them up neatly.

I checked my phone to see if there were any interesting messages I had received.

I made sure my socks were turned the right way out.

I went over to the mirror to see what my hair looked like. (crap, if you were interested)

I did everything I possibly could to avoid actually taking my clothes off.

Then I had a brainwave. Knickers were easy to do! The spa provides you with a lovely white towelling robe which I still had on. It would be easy peasy lemon squeezy to just whip off the bottoms of the tankini and replace them with pants. GO GO GO.

Mission accomplished. I had pants on. And then trousers. I was half way there.

There was nothing I could do to hide the boobagement though. It had to be done. Off with the towelling robe young lady.

I still wanted to dither though. I had another quick check of the bag to see if the answer to my prayers was somewhere in there.

As I dithered a young girl came in to the changing room to get ready for her spa session. In a manner of seconds she had whipped off her clothes and put on a bikini without seemingly displaying anything. I decided this was to be the new mantra, “Quick like a cat, quick like a cat.”

The tankini was undone, the bra was picked up, I was almost there!

Oh no! The catch wouldn’t catch! “Come on come on come on” I silently prayed as the hooks point blank refused to get into place. It was at this point that I realised I was holding my breath and would need to sort this situation out quickly before I became a passed out half naked stranger on the changing room floor.

Finally the clasp was done. I was officially covered.

When the boyfriend came out of the changing rooms I looked about and conspiratorially turned to him. “Guess what?” I whispered, “I’M WEARING UNDERWEAR” I announced to some probably rather freaked out passersby.

I don’t think I’ve ever been prouder of myself and this trip will be remembered as the time I was brave enough to show strangers my boobs (without the consumption of many glasses of alcohol and the promise of sex). The next stage is to try and get to the point where I don’t nearly give myself an aneurism doing it.

I’m still a long way off the ladies who were stood, completely naked, drying their hair and talking to their friends who were also stood completely naked. And do you know what? I’m quite happy to not reach that point for some time to come. If ever. No need ladies, no need.

Monday, 22 March 2010

A short break

So the boyfriend and I escaped this weekend and ran away to Sherwood Forest to pretend we were Robin Hood and Maid Marion.

We went to Center Parcs.

A couple of months ago I had some kind of brain seizure and decided we should book a weekend away at Center Parcs. I'm not entirely sure what came over me because god knows it's not the cheap option and I really don't have the money but ultimately I'm beyond glad that I did. It turns out it was perfect timing and really came at a time when we could do with just getting away and having some time to ourselves.

Now I am Miss City Girl, I've only ever lived in big cities and even then I've not lived on the suburbs of those cities, I've lived on main roads, slap bang in the middle of the action. This means that I have a tendendcy to get over-excited when it comes to nature. Whilst I can't imagine ever living in the country, the petrol fumes are too well ingrained in my body for that, I do enjoy a bit of countryside action in short bursts.

We arrived at our apartment on Friday afternoon to be greeted by 3 mallards hanging out on the patio. Now granted, I see mallards all the time when I walk past Queens Gardens on the way too and from work each day, but these babies were close. Real close. So, leaving the boyfriend to finish unpacking the car I ripped open the bread we'd brought with us and flinging open the door, started throwing bits of bread to the quackers, all the while doing an excited, impish, I-love-nature dance. (I like to picture it as 'impish' and not 'retarded')

Duck feeding over I closed the door and started unpacking, only to hear a tap tap tap on the window. I turned round and discovered one aspect of nature I do not enjoy.

I hate geese. They're mental and I've never got over the fact that one of them bit me when I was a wee thing on a visit to East Park to feed the ducks. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you.
Damn goose.

Luckily they never made a reappearance and soon I had the ducks eating out of my hand. Literally.
The weekend was in a word, acesome. Yes I have decided to create a new word. I needed something better than awesome, mainly because I'm convinced there are certain words that English people cannot pull off, awesome being one of them. Sometimes things just sound cooler in an American accent. So acesome I can pull off. You know, it's ace and awesome, all in one. Acesome.

(You see, this is what happens when I spend too long in that fresh country air, I need to come back and inhale some unleaded.)

We went down the rapids, we played in the waves at the swimming pool, we went out for a meal, we spent time in the spa, we laughed and danced and frolicked in the woods.

Ok maybe we didn't do the last one.

But we did do falconry which was possibly the acesomest (see how versatile it is?!) decision we ever made. I figured we'd see a few birds, maybe stroke a barn owl and that would be that. But there was more. Much more.

I held.....
A golden eagle.
Seriously. How cool am I? (And yes that is me in the photo, exciting times for the blog, the back of my head has been revealed!) I know I just went up in your estimation by about a thousand. I should be able to tell you lots of interesting facts about the golden eagle but unfortunately I wasn't listening hard enough to Darren the falcon man and spending more time looking at her enormous beak and claws and quite frankly terrifying wing span. I can tell you that golden eagle's are ridiculously heavy. Ok they're like 9lbs but when that's sitting on the end of your outstretched arm, you can't half feel it. So much so that Darren had to hold underneath your hand to keep it straight. (I also held a barn owl, a kestrel, a harris hawk, a buzzard and a vulture but I won't bore you with those)

But the thing I loved the most about the break?

I made friends with a squirrel.

He only had half a tail and at first I felt sorry for him but I didn't need to because he was more than capable of looking after himself. And he was a brave little chappy. So brave he decided that he'd be find coming up to me and letting me give him his peanuts. By this morning he was happy to come in and climb on to my knee and take them from me.

Yes I know he was probably diseased and riddled with fleas but I'm not listening la-la-la-la-la-la.

I was, in short, very sad to come home. Very sad. I didn't realise how much I was enjoying myself until it was time for it all to end.

So yeah it might have been more money than I could afford to spend but it was worth every single penny.
Don't make me go to work tomorrow.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

The day it all fell in to place.

Did you want to know how the crocheting was going?

Dare you ask?
The answer is a very big, excited, "It's going well!!"

The main problem is that I haven’t really had the time to spend doing it ‘properly’. In the evening, the cross stitch calls to me and I oblige it, what with trying to make cards for people’s birthdays and anniversaries and producing stuff for the Stitch and Bitch project (can't believe I still haven't told you about that), my time is pretty much eaten up.

I did go out and buy some lovely wool in an attempt to make myself sit down and wield my hook and produce a work of art. There was no way I was going to let the money go to waste!

But then people were all selfish and died and stuff so that meant that the wool was left abandonned, shoved under the bed in the spare bedroom, out of sight, out of mind.


Last weekend. When the boyfriend and I spent the night at my Dad's house doing a spot of dog-sitting. This is Jess.
(Who is irrelevant to this post but I thought you might enjoy a picture of a dog.)

And I proclaimed that day to be The Day I Would Crochet. The wool was brought out of hiding and the laptop was packed along with our pyjamas because the laptop held the secret weapon to Crochet Domination.

Little Tin Bird was to be my Master (or should that be Mistress) of all things wool and hooky and with her instructions of how to make a basic granny square I began...
...and I only bloody went and succeeded!
I didn't even have to pull it out and start again once (cue smugness), I just went round and round and round and round until I decided I had a square I liked the size off and stopped. And I managed to complete this one square by the end of Sunday evening which I thought was rather marvellous.

And since then I've done another square..

And started on the third.

And hopefully one day I will have enough to make into a blanket at which point I will turn to my Master in a very whiny voice and say "But how do I stitch them all togetherrrrrrrr?!"

(Sometimes I worry that my crochet stuff looks different to the other pictures I see but I just put this down to the fact that I'm special and left-handed. And whilst we're on that topic, I've discovered that I can't use my left-handedness as an excuse for not crocheting because if you reverse the directions it seems to work. For me anyway.)

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Saying goodbye.

Today we said goodbye.

The service was lovely (aren't they always? Have you ever heard someone come back from a funeral and say, "God that service was rubbish"?) and the boyfriend read a eulogy which officially makes him the bravest person I know.

And then one of his sisters read this lovely poem that I had never heard before.

Apparently I'm one of few because it was read at the Queen Mother's funeral.

Now I'm not really a poem person but I thought this was lovely. And I thought I would share it with you.

You can shed tears that she is gone
Or you can smile because she has lived,
You can close your eyes and pray that she will come back
Or you can open your eyes and see all that she has left,
Your heart can be empty because you can't see her
Or you can be full of the love that you shared,
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday,
You can remember her and only that she is gone
Or you can cherish her memory and let it live on,
You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back
Or you can do what she would want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on
David Harkins (1959 - )

Sunday, 14 March 2010

This time last year...

...after much huffing and puffing and lifting and shoving and wondering why we had decided to move somewhere without a lift, I officially moved in with a boy.

One whole year living with a real life boy.

I was pretty panicked before moving in with the boyfriend, I was worried about anything and everything.

If I knew then what I know now I would have told the panicked me to stop stressing. I'd tell her the following things I have learnt over the past year:

- You can solve arguments over quilt stealing by getting a king-size quilt for your double bed.

- 2 toilets should be mandatory in all houses.

- He is allergic to empting the bin and will just keep piling in rubbish until the lid doesn't close and you will want to kill him but...

- ...when you empty the bin he will take it all the way downstairs to put it in the wheelie bin.

- Don't worry about losing your independence. You'll keep it but be too embarassed to admit that sometimes you'd rather stay at home.

- You'll get bored of keeping your legs constantly shaved after about 3 weeks.

- Repeatedly asking "What's wrong with you?" is not the way to get him to tell you what's wrong with him.

- His standard response to "How does this look?" will be "You look beautiful." Very sweet but not entirely honest. Well. He may genuinely think you look beautiful in anything you wear - everyone else thinks you have a fat arse.

- Monday to Friday you will take care of the dinner. Saturday and Sunday it's his job. One of those evenings will almost always be a takeaway.

- You will gain about a bazillion stone in weight. And that's definitely something you need to work on in year 2 of living together.

- It's actually not that hard living with a boy.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

A letter to Flight of the Conchords

Dear Jermaine and Brett (or should that be Brett and Jermaine?)

Just wanted to drop you a note and say a massive THANK YOU for adding more UK dates to you tour.

You obviously saw my letter last week to Live Nation UK and understood how upset I was. Seriously you have no idea what a mood I was in last Friday, I was really not a very pleasant person to be around.

But you came to my rescue and announced you were playing another date in Manchester. YAY!

I was working from home on Friday and had the computer all ready and set up to begin the horrendous task of trying to buy tickets online.

I nearly had heart failure when I realised I'd slept in and the tickets had gone on sale 15 minutes previously.

But clearly you knew that I'd been feeling a bit down lately and that I was pure of heart because somehow, against all the odds, I managed to get my grubby little hands on a pair of tickets.

So shocked was I that I still don't think I really believe it. I've refused to let myself get too excited in case I've got it all wrong and haven't actually purchased tickets to see you and will instead find myself at a gig for something completely different.

But if everything is ok then I'll see you on Saturday 8th May. I'm quite far back but I'm pretty tall and the boyfriend's taller so you might just see us. I'll be the one waving and singing along to all the songs.

Thank you so much for making a crappy week a lot better.

Yours sincerely,

The Girl.

PS Please play this one ok? Thanks.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

How a little person sees death

The boyfriend’s sister was in a quandary about what to tell her daughter, who’s 4, about the death of her great-grandmother.

Little person was actually in the house when it happened, fast asleep in her bed (although there was a brief moment of panic when she woke up when the undertakers arrived to take the body away). The hubby is in the forces and when he goes away on shift, sister and little person decamp back to the family home for the week (no I don’t understand why either but that’s the way it is) so little person was well aware that Mutti wasn’t well and was in and out of the room all of the time.

His sister wasn’t sure what to do for the best; tell her when she woke up or just send her off to nursery in the morning like usual. She wasn’t sure how she would take it and how upset she would be.

It was decided that it was a play it by ear situation.

Little person woke up and went off to nursery, and it was decided that hubby (who was back that evening) and mummy would sit down and explain to her when she came home from nursery.

They picked her up, took her home and explained that Mutti had died and that she was now in heaven.

Little person’s response?

“Does that mean she’s not in bed anymore?”

And that. Was that.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

The longest day

So on Saturday night the boyfriend and I were out for a friend's birthday (see I do take him out sometimes!) and he gets a call from one of his sisters to say that his grandmother had taken a turn for the worse. We knew this was coming soon, she had been getting weaker and more frail since January, when terminal cancer was diagnosed.

We arrived at his parent's house for the most awkward of all social situations - a bedside vigil.

(Is a vigil a social situation? I'm classing it as one because there is a group of people there.)

Unfortunately we all know how I deal with difficult situations. Badly.

'Surreal' doesn't even cover it. There we all were, grandmother in bed, death rattle in full flow, the boyfriend's parents, his sisters, the dog, boyfriend and me. Oh and I was fantastically dressed up, having decided to wear a fancy new dress out for the birthday. It felt a little bizarre to say the least.

Luckily the boyfriend's family is as inappropriate as I am and at one point we were all sat around the bed, drinking pink fizz, laughing and joking and talking about all kinds of things under the sun. His grandmother wouldn't have minded, she'd have been joining in with us a month or so ago.

Eventually it became clear that Saturday night wasn't going to be the night so at 1am we all decided to go to bed, I borrowed something to wear from one of his sisters and we collapsed into the boyfriend's old bed for a very fitful night of sleep.

Sunday morning dawned along with the realisation that the only clothes I had to wear were either a fancy dress or men's pyjama bottoms complete with inappropriate flap. Cue quick trip home in what was possibly the most hilarious walk of shame outfit ever - Hooters t-shirt, men's pj bottoms, 4 inch pink heels and the boyfriend's coat, carrying dress and last night's tights in a bundle in my arms. Just call me classy.

We were soon back to begin one of the longest days ever.

It's actually quite boring waiting for someone to die you know.

I felt a little awkward because of my position, I was the only non-family member there so I tried to do useful things while the family took it turns to sit upstairs.

When it got to about 9pm we decided we would make tracks and head back to the flat. The boyfriend got his coat on and headed upstairs to say goodbye.

Next thing I knew we were all upstairs. The time had come. And we were all stood around the bed as she passed away. I've heard horror stories of people's last moments and I was pretty afraid but actually you'd never have known, if it wasn't for the fact that I could no longer hear the rattle, I wouldn't have been sure she'd gone.

We opened the windows and brought up all the flowers in the house and sat around the bed for a while longer. I began to get a bit itchy at this point, I was very conscious that we ere sat with a dead body in the room and I wasn't particularly enjoying it. Especially when the boyfriend's Dad leaned on the remote control for the bed and for a moment it looked like she was sitting up - my worst nightmare realised. It did dispel the tension a bit.

Like I say, I was unsure of whether I should be there or not, I didn't know if this was a moment just for family and if I'm honest I would rather not have been there, I don't enjoy seeing dead people, it makes it harder to remember them when they were alive and that's the image I would rather have, but I just wanted to stick beside the boyfriend and make sure he was ok.

And actually I was glad I was there. I didn't get the chance to say goodbye to my grandma and for the past year and a half I've had a replacement who I saw more of than my own. Maybe the tears were a delayed expression of emotion for my own flesh and blood.

Or maybe they were just for a wonderful lady who was so incredibly full of life. It sounds trite to say that and I always feel a little inward roll of the eyes when I hear it but I swear it really was true. Last summer she was with all of us in France and in November she had a super fancy party for her 90th birthday. She loved nothing more than a glass of sherry (why do old people like sherry?) and watching the cricket.

And this is what we say to make ourselves feel bettter. "Oh she had a good life.", "Oh she had a long life", "Oh at least she's not suffering anymore". But beneath all that we still feel it's unfair and still think she was taken too soon.

See you later Mutti.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Normal blogging services will resume shortly

I'll be away from blogger for the next few days.

The boyfriend's Grandma passed away last night so we're not ourselves at the moment and we're not in the flat that much.

I'll be back.

Friday, 5 March 2010

A letter to Live Nation UK

Dear Live Nation

I would like to extend my thanks to you for making my Friday rubbish. Fridays are supposed to be good days, happy days, filled with laughter and growing excitement about the weekend. Instead mine was spent cursing and clenching my fists and sighing very heavily.

I hope this letter contains some useful advice that will stop people feeling the way I did when I tried to purchase Flight of the Conchords tickets this morning.

I sat at my computer, fingers itching with anticipation, I’m a dab hand at this ordering tickets online business now. I know the tricks. I had multiple screens open. Different ticketing sites. I was ready.

And when the clock struck 9 I clicked. I clicked and clicked and clicked.

Disappointment rained down on me. Ticketmaster, my normally incredibly reliable booking office of choice, seemed to sell out in the first 5 seconds of going live, which I still haven’t figured out.

I decided to stick with you. Live Nation was the website that the fan page on Facebook was telling everyone to go to.

And I got them!! They were there. On my screen. All I apparently had to do was enter my Username and Password.

Excuse me?

What Username? You didn’t give me a username. Was I supposed to know this information? I went back to my e-mails all the while watching the timer gradually counting down to the moment when my reservation would be lost and my tickets would go to someone probably undeserving.

I couldn’t figure it out. I tried my e-mail address, I tried the nickname you asked me to create for some unknowable reason, I tried my real name. I capitalised, I hyphenated and then the inevitable happened.

You sold out.

I would like to applaud you for your prompt response to my enquiry as to how I was supposed to know what my Username was. You replied within minutes and I call that good customer service.

And it was then you told me that if I was booking tickets with you I needed to also register with Eventim UK, your ticketing partner.

Now call me a crazy person but wouldn’t it be a good idea to let people know this somewhere on your website? Perhaps in big bold letters. I would imagine it’d come in handy for the people that come to your website to, you know, BUY TICKETS. Or maybe when you send people an e-mail confirming that their account has been activated you could put a little notice in there.

It might be worth thinking about to avoid future customers having an equally crappy Friday.

Now I’ll never get to see Brett and Jermaine

Yours sincerely,

The Girl

PS I do realise that in your FAQ section there is an explanation that you are using Eventim UK as of 1st February 2010 and that you will need to register with them to buy tickets but I’m talking about BIG BOLD LETTERS somewhere. You know. Big. And Bold.

PPS I hope you don't find this letter troublesome but...I told you I was freaky.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Breaking the law

I have to tell you something.
I'm a law abider.

I know. Shocking isn't it?
I don't know what it is about me but I just have to follow the rules. Sometimes I don't even question the rules, I just blindly follow them without hesitation.

Who knows why this is. Some people were born to break rules, others were meant to followthem. There could be a whole nature/nurture debate. Do I follow rules because I was brought up to just do what I was told - by my Mum and the private school I attended? Did I follow the rules because I just like an easy life? The debate will rage on endlessly I'm sure.

I had one detention throughout my whole school career. And that was for being caught inside school premises at lunchtime when I should have been outside.

Rock and roll or what?
I was absolutely mortified however and to be honest I still am. Maybe this is why I don't break rules - the feeling of shame is such that it burdens my soul. If I am breaking a rule I spend that much time panicking and worrying about getting caught that it's really hardly ever worth breaking the rule in the first place. I'm just always certain that if there's a group of people doing something they shouldn't and one of them is going to get caught, that person will be me. I am just always that person. The person who fainted in the senior school production of Carmen? Me. The one child to come back with her leg in a brace after the school skiing trip? Me. (I know, productions of Carmen, skiing trips - yes I did go to a private school. Try not to hate me.)

Sometimes. Just sometimes though. The pain and agonising and worrying about getting caught are worth it.

Case in point 1
and Case in point 2.

Now technically Fred and Lily shouldn't come and stay with us. We have a 'no pet' clause in our contract although technically they're not our pets, which I guess is a loose interpretation of the law.

So yesterday when my phone rang and the person on the other end said she was from our letting company, I got a little worried feeling in my stomach...

"I just wanted to check something with you and it might be a misunderstanding but when we took you on as tenants there is a 'no pet' clause in the contract and we've reason to believe you've got 2 cats living in your flat."

After I had managed to stop myself from relieving my bladder all over my trousers and dealt with the wave of nausea and intense hot flush I was experiencing, I did what all people in my situation would do.

Tell the truth.

Now don't get me wrong. I can lie when it's required. There are many times when I have delivered an Oscar-worthy performance. But the first rule of getting caught out? Tell the truth. Lying will only make it worse. If there is one piece of wisdom I could impart to you, this would be it.

I explained that they were not our cats (true), that they were my Mum's cats (true), that they were being picked up at 5pm that day (true), that they had only been there for a few days (true) and that we had tehm because my Mum had been suddenly called away for an emergency and didn't have time to put them in the cattery (not true - but a small lie is ok as long as it is surrounded by truths. Says me.)

My immediate thought was "OH MY GOD WE'RE GETTING KICKED OUT!" which flashed like a beacon over and over and over in the my head as I apologised and apologised and apologised to the letting agent.

She actually seemed fine about it, just said if we needed to have them again could we call and let them know and that what had happened is that the landlord had come round to visit the property and had seen them staring out the window.

I had to suppress a laugh because the image that popped into my head was that of this photo I took that morning before I left for work...

I spent the rest of the day in a rather wobbly panic. I had visions of us never being able to rent a flat again because we'd be blacklisted. I had visions of the landlord waiting for us at the flat to evict us. I was, quite frankly, a bit of a state. And most of all, running through my head was the fact that there would be no more Fred and Lily visits.

And really it was unnecessary because, as the boyfriend pointed out, the landlord would be pretty foolish to evict us seeing as he's already got 2 empty flats in the building and, most importantly, she didn't say we couldn't ever have them again, she asked us to let them know next time.

So the panic gradually subsided, although I still do not like the feeling that I've done something wrong. Now that lady on the end of the phone knows I'm a RULE BREAKER. That's a feeling i don't like.

But watching these two look after each other is a feeling I do like.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

What happens at 5am...

*Tap, tap, tap.*

*Tap, tap, tap.*

Something's tapping my head. What the hell is it? I prise my eyes open...


Hey little one. What time is it?

Time for you to get up.

Erm. No. It's 5am. It's time for sleep.

But wait, I have to tell you something.

You really don't, just go back to sleep.

I do. I just want you to know how much I love you.


No I really do, I'll show you how much I love you by rubbing my nose all over your face.

Thanks. I love you too, see, I'm stroking you. Now go back to sleep.

I don't think you get how much I love you. I love you so much I want to lick your chin.

That's horrible, it feels disgusting. I don't want you to love me in that way. Now. Go to sleep. The boyfriend's alarm is going to go off in 45 minutes, that's not long, then he'll feed you.

Oh my god I completely forgot about him, he's in bed too, excuse me while I climb over your face to get to him.

*Tap, tap, tap.*

No don't tap the boyfriend. Don't wake him up. I just said didn't I that he's getting up in 45 minutes, this last hour of sleep is important to him.

But I love him. AND I LOVE YOU. I'll just walk across the boyfriend's head to get to you. HELLO. Have you missed me whilst I've been the other side of the bed?

Yep. Loads. Now. Let's go to sleep again.

But I love you. You know how much I love you? I love you so much I need to needle at you.

*Needle, needle, needle.*

Actually that's really painful, can't you just love me in a non-violent way? Maybe just needle the quilt instead.

No it has to be SKIN. Otherwise you won't get how much I love you.

I swear I do. And seriously, the alarm's going to go off soon so why don't we just accept that I love you and you love me and have a little sleep.

Maybe. Actually no, I think I'll just wake the boyfriend up now, he won't mind...hey get off me!

No I won't get off you. You will lie here quietly with me, the boyfriend wants to enjoy his last half hour of sleep.

Ok. Fine. I'll stay with you. But only if you let me....I don't know....sleep on your head.

That's fine.

Excellent, I can needle your scalp from here. It's nice. Is relaxing.


Monday, 1 March 2010

February book review

I'm already starting to feel the pressure of making sure I've read enough books to talk to you about each month. Why do I do it myself?!

Anyway. Introducing the books of February...

Plain Truth - Jodi Picoult
I've read a couple of Jodi Picoult's books. Only problem is that I can never remember which ones. And that's sort of the problem with these books; they seem to follow the same pattern - strong yet slightly messed up lead female, some kind of crime/mystery to solve, twist at the end.

Thing is, it's a parttern that works. Even if I can't remember which books I've read, I know that each one was absorbing, that I enjoyed reading them and that it was a good ol' story. (My Sister's Keeper! That's one of them I've read!)

Plain Truth is about an Amish girl who has a baby that dies and is accused of its murder. Enter strong yet slightly messed up lead female in the form of a lawyer who stays with the girl and her family whilst trying to solve the mystery of who killed the baby. You can see whodunit a mile off, but I can't deny I sped through the book, wanting to see just how everything got neartly tied up.

The Lady & The Unicorn - Tracy Chevalier
I haven't read the book that Chevalier is best known for, The Girl with the Pearl Earring, and I got this book from Read it Swap it. Couldn't see anything else I fancied on that person's list so thought I'd give it a go. (As an aside, that's why I like Read it Swap it, I always try to pick a book by an author I don't really know so that if I don't like it, I haven't wasted my money buying the book!)

This was one of the best beginnings to a book I've read in ages, I was taken in from page 1, thrust right in to the story. You don't often get that.

The story is about a wannabe French aristocrat, who commissions some tapestries for his house. The story is told from different perspectives - Nicola des Innocents the painter, the wife and daughter of the aristocrat and then various people in the family of weavers who turn Nicolas' paintings in to the final tapestries.

I guess if you had to really break it down it's a love story although if you read this don't expect the classic everybody-turns-out-happy-ending.

Revelation - CJ Sansom
This is book 4 in the Shardlake series and is a series of books I would most definitely recommend. Not my normal fare at all, I'm not usually one for historic fiction and crime at all, but I have loved these books.

Don't let the fact that there are 3 books preceding this one put you off, you can easily read it as a stand alone novel. To be honest, it's been that long since I read Sovereign, the 3rd book, that it might as well be a novel in its own right because I can't remember a thing that happened!

Matthew Shardlake is a hunckback lawyer who is joined by a sidekick of sorts, Jack Barack. They are trying to find a serial killer who is carrying out murders in the style of the Book of Revelation in the bible.

A word of warning - you need to do a bit of homework for this one. It's set towards the end of Henry VIII's reign and I haven't a clue about that period. The whole background of the story is to do with the reformists and preachers and religion and I quite frankly don't know anything about it and found the whole thing quite confusing. A quick trip to Google enlightened me but to be honest I'd rather read a book that doesn't involve me having to do my own research!

Overall, it was good if you're already a committed Shardlake reader, but this one's the weakest of the series so far.

One Day - David Nicholls
This one is about Emma and Dexter, who spend 1 night together on the night of their graduation from university. The book then follows them through their lives, reporting in on the same day, one year later which is a wonderful concept. It allows you to follow 2 people through twenty years without getting bogged down in minor details and the sutff you don't want to know about.

It's just brilliant. I don't really have the words to describe it. (Always useful when the task in hand is to talk about something.) It's just so completely and utterly compelling, I really did have trouble putting it down. There were a couple of nights where I would realise that it was nearly 1am and I needed to get to sleep but I still didn't want to put the book down. Definitely a good sign.

I couldn't get enough of it and I'm going to be on the look-out for Starter for Ten, his first novel.

So clearly the book of the month is the last one One Day and why it was included in the first blogaversary giveaway, I would definitely recommend you go out and buy this one.

Reading has now virtually slowed to a standstill while I get on with the Stich & Bitch project and make people birthday cards...fingers crossed there'll be some read this time next month!

Anyone else got some February book recommendations for me?