Wednesday, 31 December 2008

new year, new leaf?

Despite the fact that 2008 will be a year remembered with sadness and loss, there were some good things that need to be appreciated:
* writing (more)

* knitting (too much?)

* sewing (a little)

* friends (making new ones and enjoying the ones we already have)

* family (lots of changes and more to come)

* learning (one course finishes, another one likely to start)

* decorating (I love living with a man who cares what goes on the walls and then, actually, gets it put on there)

* holidaying (lots of good times in strange places)

* visiting (seeing great places, exhibits and shows)

What will happen in 2009? Who knows? More credit crunching I expect and a need to sit tight and take things slowly. I'm hoping:

* to tackle more of my projectforty list, including the things that I need to do rather than the things that I actually like doing (that wasn't really the idea)

* to create more

* to run more workshops

* to write enough that I get published this year

* to spend more time in my room working than I spend tidying it up

* to enjoy my family

* to take up all the opportunities that are offered

* to say yes more and no less (to most questions!)

* to get back on track with the things I've neglected in 2008

I'm exhausted already!

On a more immediate front, we have 5 families arriving in just over 4 hours to celebrate the arrival of 2009. I have nothing to wear and I need to do something with my hair. I can feel a lovely Ren Rose Otto bath coming on but that precludes the possibility of hair revival as it feels so nice as it's oily. What to do?

Am also going to dig out our rather ancient copy of Pictionary and possibly Junior Triv. It could be a long night! Last time we had a party we played 'who am I?'. It took rather a long time as two of our friends are celebrity-culturally challenged. Who cannot know who Ken Livingstone is? I ask you!

Monday, 29 December 2008

a lull in proceedings

The week between Christmas and New Year is a great excuse for a long weekend in my book.
There are games to play, toys to try, piles to sort and the excitement of a brand new year.
2009 isn't looking great on a number of levels although a new year is just what I need right now.
Some of 2008 was just plain painful. I need to start over.
I'm putting plans together, having a good old look at what's working and what isn't and I'm hopeful and optimistic despite the crunchy nut creditflakes and the prospect of eking out a significant jar of lentils bought on a health whim last March. I am unable to contemplate any more mince-tastic meals. We'll just have to go vegetarian or, maybe, airetarian if things get really bad!
It seems that what we all need is a little bit of projectforty!
- ditch the wine, drink more water
- cancel the gym membership, walk up hills nearby
- make lists of all the things you love, not all the things you need/want to do (you probably won't
be able to afford them anyway)
- dance (around the kitchen, preferably with friends)
- eat less (save money!)
- appreciate, appreciate, appreciate (your soul and your bank balance will soar!)

Friday, 26 December 2008

he came, he saw, he drank sherry

This is what we started with.

This is what was in them....

This is some of what Santa brought me....what a lucky girl: a knitted mug, a Yarn Forward, 3 vintage knitting patterns, wine, choccies, elbow, terry's orange, a thrifty book AND some stripy socks. What more could a girl want? Nothing. Santa has been very thoughtful and very resourceful this year despite the credit crunch.

Ho ho ho.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

'twas the night before christmas

I love Christmas Eve.
I love stuffing the cupboards unitl the doors won't shut.
I love hearing the fridge shelves groan each time the door is opened.
I love the anticipation that fizzes from the kids (even now, aged 8 and 11).
I love the fact that G, each year, does not realise he needs wrapping paper until 23rd December.
I love going shopping on Christmas Eve for the three items I've forgotten.
I love doing the last minute wrapping and the hiding of presents.
We've always tried to have Christmas morning, at least, at home, just the four of us. It's been quite a selfish thing to do but it's the way we like it. I've always wanted the children to have their stockings and their presents at home, without being transported around the country. I suppose, as well, I want them to associate Christmas with being at home, with us. Will I be devastated when they say they want to spend Christmas in their homes? Probably.
This Christmas won't be the same in many ways but it will in others. We'll have our stockings by the fire, we'll do 'absent friends' at 11, we'll have a late lunch and I'll fall asleep during Dr. Who.
I'll be trying to think of the future as well as looking back at times with Dad. Maybe that sadness will help me appreciate the good things too.

Monday, 22 December 2008


I took these photos in the summer (yes, the summer) on a walk in Lancashire. The weather was wild and the sheep were numerous.

They make me think of what it's like to be at the end of one year and nearing the beginning of the next. I feel I've 'got through' this year somehow. It's been difficult and shocking and it's taking me time to feel able to look forward to the next one.

I happened to look at this piece of field and sky. First there was nothing and then, as you can see, sheep. They were doing their thing. Having a little look around, eating a bit, getting to the top of the hill and going down the other side.
Sometimes, I think, it is good to do what you have to do and just get on with being what you are. A little time spent doing just what is necessary and vital can be sustaining and there can be quiet pleasure in the pursuit of ordinary tasks.
Christmas (I know, I'm getting obsessed) is helping me come to the end of the year with our little family's rituals. I know I must soak a ham and buy the eggs for our Christmas Eve ham, egg and chips feast. I was pleased to find the chocolate oranges for the stocking and am looking forward to making the bread sauce. All the things we usually do will happen anyway and will be comforting and calming. Just what's needed.

Friday, 19 December 2008

let the festivities begin....

Christmas, for me, starts with these little blighters (my favourite Christmas decorations) and really gets going when the kids break up from school. As an added bonus, today is non-uniform day at both schools. E is transforming herself into a modern-day Elf and J has found a Christmas hat which, entertainingly, lights up having also found some batteries. I can hear sleigh bells already.

We've had a few years of the kids finishing just a couple of days before the main event but this year, with Christmas next Thursday, there's almost a whole week to potter about en famille with as little aggravation as possible. In our house aggravation is most easily avoided by stocking the cupboard with biscuits and insisting on wearing pyjamas until at least midday. We're very low maintenance.
We will have to go shopping having been unable to face the torrential rain last Saturday but I've convinced myself that everyone will have gone into a bargain-hunting frenzy at the weekend and we will be able to saunter around any emporium we choose.
We're also entertaining Granny at the moment, or rather she is entertaining us. It's a sad Christmas for us all this year but it's good to be together feeling sad. I feel as if Christmas and New Year are almost forcing me to look forward and despite losing Dad and all the awful feelings that surface on a regular basis, the rituals of Christmas make me feel that everything will continue and also that he would want them to. So....I managed to get Santa's chocolate oranges (half price, thank you WHSmiths) and the red cabbage is ready to go in the freezer (not thatDad would eat the red cabbage, thank you very much).
It's also the traditional Strictly final tomorrow night. G & N are visiting with W and will take J to their place for the Christmas week. I'm feeling Rachel is on a bit of a winning streak although she's had a pasting in the press for being a bit stroppy this week, maybe the plucky Lisa will pull through. Who knows? Do we really care? I just like the frocks and Len Goodman.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

All I want for Christmas

Every year, my Christmas intentions are many and varied.....

- make mince pies and freeze them (thank you, Nigella, for reminding me last night, although I missed the bit about why 3 lumps of pastry in clingfilm?)

- write Christmas cards in a joyous, sherry-fuelled, Andy Williams type moment with a fountain pen instead of hastily scribbling them with biro whilst watching more credit-crunch news on Newsnight

- wrap all presents in matching wrapping paper

- make my own Christmas pudding

- remove all the dust from the festive spirits that languish in the kitchen cupboard for the rest of the year and test them before anyone actually requests a snifter

- write and post Christmas cards to neighbours and friends before 24th December

- fill the house with the scent of frankincense (instead of unwashed, muddy football kit)

- use holly and found foliage to decorate the bannister (ha!)

- get my haircut, eyebrows waxed and eyelashes dyed before I actually remember to try to make an appointment, usually on 20th December

- have satsumas with leaves on in the fruit bowl

- actually go to the Carol services at our local church

- understand exactly how to make a Christingle and what it is for

- not cry at the school's nativity, even though my children are now too old to be shepherds and Mary

- buy tasteful and, crucially, wanted gifts for everyone from teachers to beloved family, friends and relatives

I'm particularly amazed that Christmas happens every year on the same day each year and each year I manage to not quite get the hang of it but it all happens anyway.

There's sherry in the cupboard and Tesco's are delivering tonight. We're almost there - but not quite.

Monday, 15 December 2008

let the festivities commence!

J has discovered how to make mince pies and they're much, much better than mine.


Thank you Mrs Leach. You've done our household a great service. I now have another person in the house who can make pastry.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

best laid plans

By the time the boys woke up on Saturday (E was on a sleepover) the rain had convinced us that shopping in Bath was a VERY BAD IDEA.

Instead, we turned the house into a festive grotto of loveliness whilst waiting for Strictly to start.

We did rather well despite a couple of tense stand-offs - something to do with the last hobnob and a debate about whether repeatedly hitting the same snare drum is, in fact 'practising a musical instrument'.

All's well that ends well though and we spent the day tittivating and tidying. The guest room is all organised, bar the scented drawer liners and I've even managed to descale the shower without destroying the plating.

More of the same today, with a fleeting nostalgic trip to 'Mickey Ms' in Bedford upwards of 20 years ago. E went to a rollerblading party in a local leisure centre. I really, really, really wanted to have a go but I think, instead, that I'll book it just for me when I'm feeling flush - just to make sure I can do it.

'Mickey Ms' as I remember it was on a corner, somewhere near the train station in Bedford, next door to the amusement arcade. I was deposited there with my friend K almost every Sunday afternoon for at least 3 hours of sweaty roller-disco in the dark, listening to Dollar and Duran Duran. Happy days!

Saturday, 13 December 2008

a disaster waiting to happen

We are going to Bath to do some Christmas shopping 'en famille' today. We are not the best shoppers individually, as a foursome, I am concerned that our conflicting approaches will result in a strained Saturday evening.

J dislikes shopping unless it's for trainers, football kit, books about football, computer games (preferably discounted) or football boots.

E likes anything sparkly, anything with a logo on it that she recognises and pens (can't think where she gets the latter from).

G doesn't shop. Well, he doesn't shop like we all used to shop in the 20th Century. He ebays and amazons with parcels arriving almost every other day at the moment but he doesn't like shopping because he can't find what he's looking for.

I view shopping as what you do either side of having coffee and, hopefully, lunch somewhere nice. I like to shop alone, with a list, with the knowledge of disposable income and preferably not in Argos. I loaaaaaaaaathe Argos. Michael McIntyre has a great line about Argos being theatre for poor people. I think its owners must just enjoy watching their customers survive the intolerable process involved in buying anything. It's the most joyless shopping experience on the high street. No touching, no looking at the actual real things, at least two episodes of queuing to withstand. Nasty carrier bags. Horrid. So, I'm not going there then.

It's also pouring. It's only 5.50am but my expert ears can detect peristent rain and this definitely sounds persistent. Great. Shopping in the rain. What larks.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

if at first you don't succeed...

Give up! No? Try again! I had some positive feedback from a real live agent to my writing in the summer holidays so, not to appear too keen, have managed to let 4 months lapse before sending her my revised outline this morning. There have been horrid extenuating circumstances but, really, for a woman who has always wanted to write and be published, I appear to be trying to miss the boat.

Having re-submitted though, I have to say, my Projectforty proposal is much improved and I think may be just the thing to read round about now.

We all know that the economic climate is sending shivers and waves through all of us and now is definitely the time for some stability and comfort and ordinariness. I turned the news off weeks ago, now I'm starting to worry for friends (and us!) with meetings of doom and gloom happening in every second office across the UK.

My renewed submission attempts are, quite plainly, a not so subconscious attempt at actually cushioning our family finances. I know it's a longshot, the odds aren't great but, well, if you don't try, you don't know.

I have a distant family connection with a very famous writer and I discovered an article about him written in the 70s where he outlined his approach to writing. It went something like this.

'We wanted to buy a house so I sat down and worked out what occupation would give the most return for the minimum effort - the conclusion, an illustrated children's book, fewer words, someone else to do the drawing.'

He was right, he followed his hunch and became a writer. He moved on to write for adults and the rest, as we say, is history.

Saturday, 6 December 2008


I emailed a former colleague a couple of days ago. She wrote that she was pleased I'd 're-surfaced'. It made me think of roads and rivers and oceans.

I left my paid job just over 2 years ago, went to college and have been writing and crafting and arting ever since. I've had the good fortune to be able to spend my days doing pretty much what I want to do and I've just started to make my interests pay (a little).

My former colleague doesn't see this (and why should she) but the notion that by leaving a rural county council, I'd somehow drowned or sunk beneath the earth is an interesting one.

It made me think of friendships I've had over the years where either myself or my friends have simply disappeared over time. Neither of us would resign or move on to other friends but circumstances or places would change and we've slowly disappeared from each other's lives. Sometimes, I have to say, that's been a blessing but there are other people I've met who I miss and now I have no way of finding them unless I try stalking them on Facebook or Myspace of wherever people expose themselves.

I think that would be a little weird and it would require a degree of confidence that I don't possess. Let's face it - if I was that fascinating and important, those friendships would continue.

On another matter....

I have a confession. I've been watching 'I'm a celebrity etc......' for the last 3 weeks. I've watched grown men have temper tantrums and observed the Mallet species whooping and howling to annoy his fellow campers. I think my favourite was George, the 72 year old former star of Star Trek. He was serene, good humoured, fit as a flea and very funny. The opposite of David Van Day (Dollar? Remember? Mirror, mirror?). Yuck.

On another matter....

Am taking the beloved's mother to Get Knitted this morning. E is coming too. She's taking her PSP and has stated several times 'I am not knitting'.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

better out than in....

It's Tuesday. It's sunny. I'm still coughing.

I've been coughing since Thursday. I coughed in Stroud, I coughed in Chippenham, I coughed on the way to Bristol Airport and I've coughed in most of the quietest restaurants and shops in southwest France over the weekend.

I went to France to see J and to make sure she was OK. I didn't need to check on her really, I knew she would be strong and resilient despite the circumstances. What I really went for was to make myself feel better by checking on her and G and N. The result? I do feel better - thanks for asking.

I also feel that, now, it's time to stop wittering, get on with grieving and celebrate the living that there is all around me. I can see how people can be drawn into a kind of comfort with grief. It's tempting to spend a lot of time thinking about it, experiencing it and feeling the sense of loss that comes with it. Losing someone is terrible, there's no doubt and there aren't that many times during life that we really experience such strong feelings.

There's falling in love, there's falling out of love, there's giving birth, there's near death experiences - I can't really think of any other life events that can really shake a person that much. Of course, there's all the short-attention-span stuff - the successes, the failures, a job well done but there's nothing quite like the death of someone you love to, as J said at the weekend, 'pull you up' and make you sit and take notice.

The strong feelings and emotions death stirs can take over. Those feelings and emotions dominate the hours. They can strike at any time. If ordinary life and tasks want to take over they're quickly dismissed by a second's acknowledgement of the recent loss.

At the same time it's almost energising to feel such strong emotions. I can feel myself reacting more strongly to all sorts of things - colours are more vibrant, I'm terrified of oncoming traffic, I see accidents everywhere, I'm sensitive to noise, I don't sleep - I have 12 hour comas.

I have to remember though, that it's only me that's having these uber-feelings. I also have to remember that I do, actually, need to get on with the rest of my life that isn't bound up with loss and grief and sorrow. What I need to do is look after myself and my family and make sure that they are OK. I need to look outwards again.

So....this is my last post on the subject of me and my feelings.

I've decided that from this blog forth, I shall be writing about other stuff, stuff that interests me, stuff of note, stuff of life.

Normal service will resume.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

random acts of cake making

I now feel I can confidently explain what an emotional rollercoaster is. I've been on one. It lasted four days. I suspect I'm still on it but I'm in the flat, slightly more comfortable bit rather than the terrifyingly perillous, upside down bit.

Monday was awful, Tuesday was terrifying, Wednesday was numb and today was, well, quite nice really. I've bored my nearest and dearest friends whilst rambling quite ramblingly about all sorts of subjects. I'm either monosyllabic or chattering like a cockney barrow boy. It's all a bit exhausting.

J and I made two Christmas cakes last night. It was enormously comforting. I felt I had taught him that making Christmas cakes was a VERY IMPORTANT THING and that now there is a slight possibility that he might do so when he's living by himself in some awful flat somewhere with a storage heater and an impossibly thin and gorgeous creature. I don't remember helping to make Christmas cake as a child but I remember it being made and I remember the smell, the treacleyness and the spice.

I soaked the fruit in vast quantities of non-age-specific brandy between the hours of 6am and 6pm. E went to Brownies for an hour or so and we set to. I did the eggs and the lining and the measuring, J did the mixing. We made a 7" round cake for S and the B family and we made an enormous 10" square cake for us. I think it might last until next July.

The only drawback? I had to set the alarm at 2am to get them out of the oven. I'd forgotten how long they take to cook in a conventional oven and, of course, we have Ray the Burn. I do love Ray but despite his youth, he is not the most predictable oven and it's taken me 6 years to get used to his little ways. I settled on a plan of very long, slow cooking and based on today's observations, it worked perfectly.

Next week: spiced red cabbage.

So, apart from the cake, I've made some carrot soup, been to Stroud, knitted a hat and drank half a bottle of white wine. I've applied for a job, written another knitting proposal and started to design a leaflet for knitting classes. There's nothing like a credit crunch to get you going.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

some weeks are better than others

Not, it would seem, this one.

I am anxious and stressed and upset. I am spiralling, twittering and worrying.

I went to see the doctor and she gave me a leaflet from the world-wide-webby and told me to come and see her in a fortnight. She suggested I could phone some of the numbers on there.

During my visit we completed a questionnaire together and I had to answer whether I'd felt a particular emotion or thought a particular thought during the last two weeks:
a) not at all
b) a couple of days
c) more than a couple of days
d) all of the time.

She looked a little concerned when she asked me whether other people had noticed if I'd been slower or clumsier than usual and I answered that I hadn't noticed whether anyone had and I didn't care if they had. This lack of interest in others seems to be a symptom.

After answering ten questions enquiring about my eating, sleeping and suicidal thoughts (don't worry - haven't had any), the computer did not say 'no'. It said I'm moderately, severely depressed. I've been invited back and have been referred to see the doctor who will assess whether my mental health merits further discussion. I wondered what people who experience severe, long-term depression have to do to get an appointment with an actual, real-life counsellor? Do they have to become more depressed to get an appointment? Perhaps if we could all have the odd hour with someone who could simply listen while we sort out our jumbled head-cupboards, some of the severe cases could be avoided. Who knows?

I left with my leaflet and cried in the car. I felt a little better. In fact, I felt sorry for the doctor. I'd been her third patient. That's not a good day in the office by any standards. Who wants ladies of a certain age turning up before coffee break, crying and being stressed?

I hope her next patient was suffering from a verruca.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

post 200

It's a numbers game.....

200 posts in less than 18 months. Goodness knows how many words.

Sometimes this blogging things seems superfluous, nonsensical, pointless. Sometimes it seems useful, making me write, even if I'm writing about nothing.

I read an article today about useless Christmas presents that included: novelty mugs, exercise bikes, personalised director's chairs and hand-crafted vases. It was written by a man. I'm not sure that made a difference. I agreed with every category.

E's birthday is now finally, officially over thanks to 6 sleepover-party-friends and a lot of pizza dough. We can now look forward to Christmas. I have found this year's advent calendars (kindly provided by Granny) and bought the Celebrations (kindly provided by Grandma) for the re-usable advent calendar which requires 2 chocolates in each pocket, preferably eaten before every December breakfast.

I thought I might write a list of useless Christmas presents of my own but I thought it would be a bit miserable. I would hope that anyone able and willing to give me a Christmas present would be able to discern what I would like to receive.

I'm not sure I'm a particularly proficient present giver myself. I try to work out what the recipient of my generosity would enjoy, use and gain infinite delight from however I'm not often able to run to diamonds, bugattis and cashmere. I would love to lavish luxury on my nearest and dearest, not faux luxury but true, elegant, authentic luxury. It must be a real treat to be able to do that.

If I venture out to the high street in the run up to Christmas, I just get depressed. I think there are few things more dismal than boxed gifts of silk-effect pyjamas and fake designer goods. For every beautiful item of gorgeousness, there appears to be a raft of pale imitators, trying to cash on the look without the feel.

This year is supposed to be the year of the handmade Christmas. Mmm. I think that suits the writers of the articles who are being paid to promote such a novel and intriguing notion.

I love making stuff. I don't need to remind anyone of that. I have tried to give my handmade creations to friends and family. To ensure that the gift-giving is a success, there is one golden rule. Always make sure that you're making something they would like to use, not something they are able to be polite about.

So - 200 posts. Perhaps blogging is the same as gift-giving. You have to turn up with something the giftee (the reader) appreciates.

Will I get to 300? We'll see.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

for the birthday girl

My dear E is 8 today. We know she is 8 because she has been telling us since my birthday that she is going to 8. My birthday was celebrated as being exactly a month before her birthday. You can see where this is going.

We had a lovely breakfast when she opened her parcels and cooed and ahhed like the grateful, polite child she is. She even gave her brother a hug which, I have to say, was also received gratefully(ish).

I managed not to cry as hers is the first family birthday without my Dad. He won't be speaking to her on the phone tonight and he won't have written on her card with his tiny left-slanted writing. Granny did her proud though with a delicious, matching t-shirt and cardi and some pencils to keep her going on the colouring front. Madame E also received a very smart watch (already being displayed at school), a cd, some pollypocket (will it ever end), an indiana jones lego set and some rather smart Russian Doll hair bobbles - and the day hasn't really started yet.

I try to get my offspring to appreciate being 8 and 11. I think sometimes children always want to be older, to have freedom, to be always looking ahead. I don't know if that's our fault or whether it's a symptom of feeling young and not being able to choose that much about what happens around them. Who knows?

I know that I wish I could remember more about being 8 and 11. I have picture postcard memories, snapshots of individual and unrepresentative events up until I went to college.
I read once that you only remember your childhood if you had a bad one, so I suppose that's a good thing.

On an entirely different matter we (G&I) went out last night with S&D to see Simon Day on his first stand-up tour. He was a member of the Fast Show lot. It was a strange evening. First, the venue was at the Arts Centre in Swindon. Secondly, it wasn't full. The Arts Centre is not a big venue - say 100 maximum capacity. Mmmm. However, it was a cold Tuesday in the run up to Christmas. I'm not sure what he was expecting.

He was funny and surreal and entertaining. His warm-up was not. He hadn't washed his jeans and he moaned about Simon Day quite a lot which I thought was a little churlish.

Simon Day though was value for money. He rambled through various subjects and started off with a description of his Nan knitting, all the time, for ever which I found very interesting. He talked about growing up and dressing up as Mr T and he had everyone laughing out loud. He went off though at the interval and came back on a bit of a downer. We discovered he had a 4 week old baby girl - why would anyone want to be on tour at such a time? I don't think he does, really. He also had a bit of a wobble, remembering where he'd got to and then read a poem which although funny in parts, wasn't funny at the end. Maybe it was us. Maybe it was Swindon.

I thought I might try to email him to encourage him and apologise for the low audience figures. I discovered why he might be struggling to sell tickets. The man has no web presence at all! He's got about as many listings as I have. There's no listing of his tour, nothing. So, sorry Simon, I did try. You were great - try to keep your poetry private.

Monday, 17 November 2008

to the dark side

I wonder if it could actually be any darker - it is precisely 10 minutes to 3pm and I am off to collect E from school. I am considering taking a torch. I am at my pc (obviously!) but the lights are off. I'm in the gloooooooooooommmmmmm.

The beloved and I have different opinions on lighting - I'm a task lighting kind of gal. I like nice bright lights when I need them and a gentle, flattering glow when I don't. He seems quite able to live in gloom. I suspect he was a mole in a previous incarnation. He laughs at me when I channel the spirit of Peter Kay (and my Nan) by shouting at the kids to 'put the big light on' when they are straining to read the 894th book in some fantasy book series. He insists he has 20/20 vision. I informed him, based on a highly reliable source (i.e. some woman in the local village shop) that, apparently 20/20 vision suggests that you'll need stronger glasses faster.

I used to have glasses. I wore brown, NHS, plastic, wire-eared glasses from the age of about 7 until we moved 'down south' when they mysteriously got lost. I had them again when I did my A levels, can't remember wearing them at college and had another pair when we went travelling in the early 90s. My beloved 20/20 vision possessing then-boyfriend sat on them. On our return nearly 15 years ago, I went for an eye test. The optician said I could have glasses 'if I liked'. Do they say that about cataract operations? Do they say that about hip replacements? I haven't had my eyes tested since.

I do like a nice pair of specs though. I think I'm of an age now to wear a pair round my neck and peer at people over the top of them. The lady in the post office has a pair she bought from Matalan for about £2.50. I might get a pair and see how I get on.

Anyway - am just popping on the high-vis jacket to do the school run. Can't put the lights on yet - there's a recession you know.

Sunday, 16 November 2008


We were invited for 'strictly' and pie last night - a very enjoyable combination indeed!

I'm afraid I am not at my best-guest best at the moment but my hosts were very kind and allowed me to glug the red wine and knit my wonky sock whilst partaking in the conversation which ranged, interestingly, from stress incontinence to The Pogues!

I am a bit 'strictly' fan. I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before. Even when it is at its most repetitive, the sparkles and the fleckles and the twizzling about get me every time. Some of the women are amazing - enhanced by their audacious outfits. Some of the men just look like ninnies in theirs. Who ever decided that rhinestones on a male dancer's shirt is just the thing to have?

We had a brief outing to Swindon on Saturday afternoon having dropped E off at a paint-a-pasta-pot party in one of our local (and very empty) garden centres. She and 10 other 7-9 year old girls had a marvellous time unleashing their creativity on a bowl for the afternoon. I got to buy some much-needed trainers. They're much-needed as I'm on a bit of an exercise role and much-needed as my existing trainers are covered in something unmentionable and are falling apart from the inside. A new experience for me.

So - there's no excuse now. I can take my new trainers and nip to the gym whenever I fancy in between college and teaching and generally trying to be creative. I've exercised every day this week apart from today and I must say it's making me feel a little better each time I get off my backside and do it. Let's hope it lasts.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

starting again

Thanks for your patience, if you're still coming back.

If you know me well, you'll know why I haven't been blogging.

I really don't want to blog about what's happened.

Anyway, we're all home, safe and ready to start back into the routine of work and school and pretending to be a writer/artist/whatever. I'm looking forward to tomorrow.

I'm undergoing a bit of a blog sort-out. If you're of a crafty nature you might want to look at my other blog, I'm trying to be more systematic about how I blog about all the different interests I have and I need to separate them out a little.

Projectforty will be more about me and what I think about all sorts of random nonsense.
Craftdelight will be about, well, craft and creativity - knitting, sewing, embroidery, art and, possibly, macrame if I get really obsessive.

I'm also considering a blog about thrifty/green/resourcefulness.

How do I have the time? I probably don't but just pick the bits you're interested in and let me know what you think.

I do need some help though. I need some feedback and, not just lovely feedback. If you're looking here you'll be looking at other blogs too. If you see something you think might be of interest of a way of doing stuff better, let me know. I'm not proud and I'm a magpie. I'll take any ideas I can get.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

a short break

there won't be a posting for a while. bad news. will be back.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Domestic hiss

I have finally come to terms with the fact that I am unable to create an oasis of domestic calm for longer than five minutes.

I have friends whose houses are immaculate. They are beautifully decorated and have an air of tranquility about them. I love to visit but I just can't replicate it.

I am lucky enough to have a 'room'. This is room is mockingly labelled 'studio' by my beloved G. It is also the place where the kids use the computer and seek out random items of craft/sellotape/scissors and fling themselves back and forth across the room on my rolly chair. Great fun - ha ha!

On my desk at the moment I have 2 lamps, 2 speakers, a printer, a pc, 6 balls of wool, some moisturiser, leaflets, felt, 3 craft books, plastic bags, a camera, 2 pots of pens, 1 pot of scissors, a pile of undone paperwork, a half empty glass of water, a toy punto, 3 old cds, some unfinished embroidery, a bracelet, some receipsts, a plastic pot containing two pencil sharpeners and a plastic spoon. I imagine that Cath Kidston's desk looks a lot like it - not.

I tidy this desk every other day. I clear it, I put everything away, I label places that haven't yet been labelled. Within 24 hours, there are piles and lumps of unrelated and highly inappropriate objects on it. I check the desk regularly to see if it's magnetic. It is not. It is just the visual representation of my chaotic mind.

The beloved 'G' (yes, back to him) suggested that when I gave up work the first time to entertain our offspring and iron his shirts I should have a regular weekly routine. I have tried this approach approximately 4 times, each for about half an hour. It never works. Sometimes, though, I suspect it does work for other people but it's quite a difficult theory to test out.

Should I ask friends and acquaintances how they organise their daily life? Would they be truthful if I did? I suspect there's quite a lot of swanning about going on - the outward appearance of calm and grace with an awful lot of invisible running about underneath. I would be interested to really find out how we all (well, some of us) do it.

Monday, 20 October 2008

41, day 1

It's raining.

I went to my textiles course.

It's dark.

I hope tennis isn't happening.

It's time to put the fire on.

And cook.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

toe dipped, not sure

I 'did' a craft fair today. I made some stuff. I borrowed a mannequin to display my vast collection of funky-felt brooches and had a lovely morning.

I watched the lady with the wooden bowls get more and more frustrated as people dared to walk past her dibbers. I taught a friend how to turn the heel on her sock. I enjoyed the endless (50p per go) cups of tea supplied by our school's friendly army of mums. I enjoyed making the stuff I didn't sell (look out potential Christmas present recipients of my acquaintance) and I was interested to see what sold.

Things I thought would fly off the table sat amongst their forlorn counterparts. I realised that what I like is not, necessarily, quite what others like!

But that's OK. I can hold my head up high but I couldn't do it as a day job. It's far too much like hard work. It's back to the writing for me, methinks, writing and a bit of workshopping and a bit of art. It doesn't really sound like a business plan.

On an entirely different matter - it's my birthday tomorrow. I'll be 41. I'm not forty now, I'm fortysomething. I think I prefer it. 41 definitely feels better than 39. Ask me again, though, when I'm 46. That might be a little trickier.


Thursday, 16 October 2008

i wish my blog....

- would look like all the lovely, gorgeous, crafty, knitty blogs I watch with envy

- become a 'blog of note'

- have photos

- wasn't green

- had labels, it would have been so better to label my posts

- wasn't so random

As it's over a year since I started to ramble on in a forty-something way, I think it's time to refocus, refocus, refocus and re-jig this so-called-blog.

In the meantime, I'm enjoying the autumnal sunshine and collecting up the lovely cards that seem to be arriving through my door each morning.

The boy child is back from his trip away tonight. I'm not sure the washing machine will cope.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

crunchy nut credit

I am not the most financially astute person. I like money in the same way I like my car - as a means to an end. I couldn't care less what car I drive as long as I can get to my destination. I couldn't care less how much money in the bank there is as long as there is enough to fulfil my immediate needs.

I am struggling to understand the credit crunch. I have, however, adopted certain money saving strategies.

1. I don't leave the village. Every time I leave the village and enter a town, city or shopping centre, I cannot spend less than £50. Therefore I have adopted the policy of staying within 100 yards of our local corner shop. This is proving to be much more economical. There are only so many individually packed pan scourers a woman can buy.

2. I have started to buy non-branded cereal. I am excusing this behaviour by telling myself and my family that I am conducting a taste test experiment, not, in fact saving 50% each time I buy a box of random pieces of oaty-wheat-bran-muesli.

3. I am virtual shopping. By creating long lists of items in baskets on internet shopping sites and then deleting them, similar endorphins to those released in the brain during real-time shopping expeditions are released.

4. I am playing central heating challenge with my husband. Before the credit crunch (BCC) we would argue about when the heating would be switched on for the winter with yours truly being the one to complain that 2nd September was too late to turn it on. Now we have a woodburner, I am determined not to switch it on before my birthday and preferably not before halloween!

5. I am using my gym membership. This results in value for money and reduced domestic utility bills as well as giving the impression of a smaller backside.

Monday, 13 October 2008

knitting heaven

I went to the Knitting and Stitching show on Saturday at Alexander Palace. It was the ultimate woolly pilgrimage. There were three vast rooms of knitting, embroidery and all things yarny. There were also three vast rooms of women, walking slowly, poring over buttons and beads and obscure peruvian knitting notions.

What's not to like?!

I have lots of news/follow-ups etc but no time to write them today.

Will blog soon.

Thursday, 9 October 2008


I have mixed feelings about David Bowie. I say this as I know he won't care a jot. As a star/ musician/artist, his ability to transform his style and identity has meant he's remained a conundrum, an enigma, a figure of interest.

In any case, whenever something changes around me, I often sing 'Changes' to myself, in my head. Is that a bad thing?

I'll stop now as some of those closest to me may be concerned for my mental health - what with the internal singing and the random inclusion of DB in this blog posting.

I hope all my many readers are well and surviving the credit crunch. Here in the UK this transformed a week last Wednesday into the Financial Crisis. If I see that picture of St Paul's with the jaggedy, red, downward travelling mountain range overlaid on it once more, I will throw my knitting needles at it. I have taken to switching on the news at ten at about ten past ten in the hope that I won't be subjected to the sleep-reducing effects of money-worrying.

I'm beginning to feel that as well as a major global wotnot, the relentless discussion, analysis and repetition of all things financial is reducing our capacity to see/hear/explore any other issues or news at all. What, indeed, has happened to the global energy crisis in all this? Are we still worried about knife crime? This one-issue media reporting could be making it easier for our politicians to stop discussing all the other stuff that needs sorting. And, while I think it might be a positive thing, in the long tem for us all to take a step back from over-consumption and shopping, isn't it also making us all more obsessive about money and the making of it?

I worry for Gordon and Alistair. I also worry that some of these decisions are taken at allnight meetings which implies that most participants are sleep deprived. Now, we've all seen those statistics about air traffic controllers when they don't get enough sleep. Lack of sleep results in accidents, disorientation and bad decision making. Do we want all those strung out money makers, high on caffeine, making global financial decisions in the wee small hours? I think not.

Whilst not worrying about the Financial Crisis. I am knitting. Knitting in the hope of averting my own Financial Crisis by exhibiting my wares at our local craft fair. Mmmmm. Knitting is grea for lots of things - stress, worry, pain relief, memory but I'm not sure it's going to live up to my optimistic hopes of global financial improvement.

In the meantime I'm off to body balance today (much more fun than pilates) and am going to lunch with some ladies. This will be followed by the pta agm at 8pm. Hopefully we'll all be fully rested and be able to make considered and rational decisions about who's cooking the sausages a week on Saturday.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

pinch, punch, first of the month

I haven't been back to pilates, as promised, am going to try body balance again tomorrow. I know, you're fascinated.

We've had a busy week. I made books in the pub on Friday and Saturday, went to Bath for some speed shopping on Saturday afternoon and did a boot sale on Sunday. I needed a jolly good sit about on Monday morning but had to take myself off to my textiles course instead.

Weaving. We did weaving. I felt guilty after all the years I've scoffed at weavers and spinners. I wanted to find it irritating and boring but it was actually really, really very relaxing and amazingly enjoyable. I suspect that I need to concentrate on other things otherwise weaving may fill the void left by normal, useful activities.

Got to go, got to find out how much table looms cost.....

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

I went, I saw, I bent over

Pilates. Short. Slow. Not bothering again.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

no clutter, no cry

I'm finally making progress. I have filled my g-plan (yes, I said plan) with buttons and ribbons and yarns, oh my. I have a clear floor in my room/office/studio (yuck)/den/space. I am not the tidiest woman on the planet but I do love a good sort out. In fact, I can spend a great deal of my time sorting out rather than actually doing stuff.

I am now the proud creator of 3 gadget socks - woolly bags for phones/ipods/psps/ds's. I am planning to sell these at our local school fair. I have also created 4 crochet scarves, a pair of HUGE baby socks and some crocheted corsage flowers. I have been telling myself that I need a plan for my first foray into retail but, guess what, I don't have one. I have been flicking through my comprehensive collection of knittng magazines (that sentence in itself is a worry) and then trying to match patterns with my comprehensive collection of yarn. Needless to say this results in some quite unusual experiments. Nothing I make is the size the pattern says it is going to be.

I should make tension squares. Every knitting pattern in the world includes instructions to make a tension square. I would like to conduct a survey to discover how many knitters EVER knit a tension square. I don't do it mainly because I don't like the phrase tension square - it makes me think I should worry about knitting and, let's face it, knitting is simply wrapping wool around needles and making rows of knots. That shouldn't be worrying, at all.

I started a new course yesterday - I have enrolled on 'textiles and multimedia' at Cirencester College which is located in a castle. I've never been in a castle unless it was on an outing and it was amazing to sit in a room with proper castle-like windows. We had to sketch and make and generally get going quickly as the sessions are only two hours long. Having been used to long leisurely days of the art course at Swindon it was all a bit of a blur. We did have to spend a significant amount of time, however, thinking about hazards and health and safety. There wasn't a body among us who was under thirty. Methinks the world has gone mad.

I'm just off to Swindon to return the lovely library books I've had the good fortune to have over the summer. I shall miss that library - fantastic magazines and periodicals.

The rest of the day shall be spent writing, writing, writing.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

matters in my own hands

The last week has involved sitting, knitting, sniffing and watching my dear E breathe. She suffers from random, quite infrequent asthma attacks but when she gets one, does she get one. It's quite sobering watching your children breathe. It may sound a little hysterical but there are occasions when they don't sound as if they're going to, particularly in the middle of the night.

I am lucky to have a very patient and very caring neighbour, H, who used to be a nurse and who kindly came to watch E breathe one evening at about 11pm. It can be difficult to know when to panic. Fortunately I didn't need to.

I didn't leave the village between Sunday night and Thursday morning apart from a visit to the local health centre. I bought a G Plan sideboard for my wool on Thursday and two winter coats on Friday. There seems to be a direct correlation between feelings of claustrophobia and inappropriate spending. I must watch out for that. I did need coats though - I am still wearing my parka and, now I'm nearly 41 I get more funny looks a) it's not from Boden b) it's not a Barbour c) I look like a teenage boy with wrinkles in it d) it has an orange lining.

My new coats are a) very red and very seventies b) navy, quilted and a bit seventies. I'm sure I'll still get funny looks.

I went out today to try to convert non-knitters to the yarnside. Sometimes I marvel at my nerve. Whilst trying to nab bargains for their pre-schoolers and bumps, several NCT members were approached by me and asked about knitting. As random as this sounds, most of them were interested. Admittedly a couple of them looked at me as if I'd offered them a dram of malt whiskey at 11am on a Saturday morning but, some, even some men, said they might give it a go.

Yippeee!!!! My evil yarn plan is working.

Must go, we have our second round of visitors arriving this afternoon. This week - spiced chicken thighs with roasted veg and a warm spinach salad followed by apple crumble (again). The whole thing has to be arranged around Strictly. Strictly is sacred in our house. I'm not sure whether the visitors will agree but they are going to be lured into the living room with snacks and then subjected to Brucie and Tess and Gary Rhodes who has my vote for 'most likely to be a dancing demon'.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

unemployable, moi?

I've applied for two jobs in the last two months and haven't been shortlisted for either. As the Libran that I am, I feel two conflicting emotions about this.

Emotion #1. I am useless, unemployable, unwanted and unable to write a CV or an application letter.

Emotion #2. The universe is telling me that I must focus on what I love - the knitting, the writing, the crafting, the nattering and the obsessive compulsion to make sure every sock in our house knows where its other sock friend is.

My unemployability was countered with a letter outlining all the lovely things I need to take to my textile course which starts next Monday - more shopping opportunities at art shops. I know that this isn't the response Tracey Emin experienced when studying for her BA, but hey, I'm starting late and any validation of the time I like to spend cruising the sketchbook section at my local art shop is fine by me. Luckily, the course is in Cirencester, home to one of the best shops I know, the name of which escapes me.

I have chosen my course for several reasons:
- I will have to leave the house on Mondays, thereby immediately reducing the risk of Monday Morning Inertia (MMI) which can transpose itself to a week long moan and groan
- I get to go to Cirencester which means I can combine intellectual and artistic pursuits with a Tesco shop should I need to
- I get to go to Cirencester which also means I can visit the Brewery Arts Centre regularly too

We had a dental crisis yesterday. E was complaining about her toothache immediately after consuming her 3 weetabix. As it's the first week of term, I assumed that this was simply a 7 year old attempt to waft about at home watching cbeebies and reading the argos catalogue. After several minutes of wailing I decided to call her bluff.

'I'll take you to the dentist and he'll say it's an ulcer and then you can go back to school.'

Hmmm. Then came my comeuppance. Poor E has a huge infection where her proper tooth is pushing at her baby tooth. It was revolting, particularly on the state of the art camera which our dentist has invested in. If there was such a thing I would nominate our dentist for 'gadget dentist of the year'. Whilst investigating E's mouth with a dental camera he was wearing some kind of headgear resembling the kid from 'Meet the Robinsons'. I am married to a man who calls his blackberry a blueberry. I find men who love gadgets interesting in the way David Attenborough finds rare spiders interesting. Anyway, now I know to listen to my daughter. She was right.

I am at the library at the moment with J who is beavering away on his 'what is art' project. He's sat next to me having a good old browsing moment.

The family that googles together stays together?

Thursday, 11 September 2008

things to make and do

I am having an appreciative moment (as, you may note, originally planned in projectforty). Here are ten things I'm appreciating:

- not having a proper job

- being delusional enough to think my mad ideas are worth something

- not having a husband who insists on a tidy house and/or ironed shirts

- having children who will, on occasion, delight in having breakfast for tea when I'm feeling so hurried by my non-existent job (!)

- having the wherewithal to buy wool (or rather the beloved's wherewithal) almost at will

- being in possession of a room that might be called my own

- it's not raining today (yet)

- not having a sore back

- being the cultivator of a wildlife garden (unmowed, unpruned, unmanicured)

- having a breadmaker (50p per credit crunch loaf instead of £1.10 in the supermarket and therefore more wool money)

I know they're random, but they're mine. All mine. Sometimes I just need a little bit of random nonsense. Don't we all?

I'm at Wootton Bassett Library waiting to try out WB Leisure Centre. The last time I went to WB Leisure Centre I developed an ear infection. I have a forgiving nature. I'm giving it another whirl three years later. I had a little wander after doing a favour for a friend (you know who you are) and the library is the busiest place in town!

There's me, a man three seats up who is making a funny grumping sound every few seconds and a lady to my right who is typing away like a wild, e-fuelled secretary. She's great. I'm trying to type as fast just to make her go faster!

Perhaps I do need to get a proper job.

A final question: what happened to the 9pm watershed for Channel 4's 'Sex Education Show'? It's all very well telling us all that the nation's teenagers are watching revolting stuff on youtube but do we need to hear about it when we're tucking into Tuesday night's supper?

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

back to school

Well, the first day was last Thursday but this week is really the beginning of term and the first whole week.

I finally got the smell of goat out of my favourite suitcase - I'd foolishly used it as the dirty laundry container at the glampsite. My room (or studio as G, rather irritatingly has christened it) is now painted. J has had his first day at secondary school and has survived. I'm sure his voice has lowered and he's being very, very grown-up. He literally ran out of the house on Thursday morning, desparate to escape his fussing parents. I don't know who was more bereft myself or the lovely G.

I had a lovely day on Friday with my dear friend, S. We went to Compton Verney ( which I'd heard described (rather unfairly as it turned out) as the most pompous gallery in the United Kingdom. My only complaint? The longish walk from the car park in the rain up to the main house. I'm sure it's beautiful in summer sun but not in relentless Warwickshire drizzle. We saw an exhibition called the Fabric of Myth, exploring the myths of Arachne and all sorts of other gorgeous goddesses and how the cutting, unravelling, attaching and spinning of thread and yarn is carried through in many artists' work.

You probably had to be there to enjoy it but there was a great section on textiles being used to explore and break down feelings of or actual incarceration and another of how found textiles are used to express loss and memory.

On the third floor was a great exhibition of folk art which I'd never really seen as a body of work before. Loads and loads of ideas popped into my head. Unfortunately we had to go to Tesco on the way home though so my ideas were dissolved by thoughts of butter and milk and whether we should have chicken or beef for lunch on Sunday. Hey, ho!

I've also been to my first knitting event. Oooh it was marvellous. I took the 8.55am train to Londinium and arrived back at my nearest market town at 8.55pm after spending the whole day thinking, breathing and, of course, buying wool, yarn, books about knitting, more wool.

I went to the second Iknit event at the Horticultural Halls ( Those guys have really got it sewn up. They got together some great stalls, some fantastic speakers, the Yarn Harlot amongst them and kept all those knitters happy for eight hours long.

I loved it. I want to go again.

This week, so far, I've been to the gym and for a swim and I've watched the rain. I'm contemplating a quick trip to Get Knitted right now just to cheer myself up but I have a horror of driving on motorways in the rain.

Monday, 1 September 2008

pinch and a punch

It's the first meteorological day of winter today. How do I know this? It's just like yesterday. It's raining and it's dark and it's sooooo cold.....

Since I last blogged we've been to Liverpool - loved the Klimt at the Tate. The kids thought he was smutty - they don't do nudity yet. I spent the rest of the morning in the equally good 20th Century exhibition answering the question 'Why's that art then, mum?', posed by my nearly 11-year-old. I'm still trying to sort that one out for myself.

After the city delights of the Albert Dock, we mosied on up to our glampsite in the Forest of Bowland. Thank the heavens for satnav. We would still be looking for it. We visited a Featherdown Farm ( and it was fantastic despite the fog and the drizzle and the inability of anyone to bring us a meal in under 30 minutes.

We had a lovely few days boiling an enormous kettle, lighting candles, setting fire to tea towels and pretending to be able to watercolour. I, rather incongruously had brought a book called 'The Other Hand' by Simon (Andrew?) Cleave which I loved but its refugee/fleeing/terror theme didn't really sit well with the more Bronte-esque surroundings in which we'd found ourselves.

We took ourselves off for a walk, accompanied by the supposedly expert walking book written by Lancashire's ramblers. We got lost. We were doing beautifully until a bemused farmer told us about a short cut. We should have known. It was wonderful in a slightly scary way. There was a moment when I thought we might not be able to see our way to the end of another bleak field without tripping over an angry bullock. We managed though and tomato soup has never tasted so delicious.

We're home now and I've rediscovered electricity in a big way.

Knitting at the pub tomorrow and back to school on Thursday. Yippee!

Thursday, 21 August 2008

alone at last

The decorators left today. The scaffolders came to take the scaffolding away. We are, it seems, alone at last. I say alone. We are alone amongst the dust. Dust that has not been accumulated from skin or human hair, this is proper dust, plaster dust, dust that permeates every page in every paperback on every shelf.

Our neighbour has a cleaner. She popped round to quote to clean the house from top to bottom. She costs more per day than the painters. I could buy a very nice pair of shoes as a reward for doing it myself. The temptation to buy her in, though, is strong, stronger than builders' tea.

I have a meeting tomorrow. A meeting about knitting. Those that know me that this is a dream come true. I won't be just ranting and raving about yarn to those that tolerate my funny little hobby. I will be discussing knitting with someone who might, just might, pay me to help others knit. I'm a little excited. I will be more excited if I can find something to wear that hasn't gone a funny dust colour.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

questions of great importance

1. The Olympics - why?

2. The Olympics - have all sporty men lost their body hair in some freak Beijing depilation accident?

3. The Olympics - how many times can we hear the same news about the same medals?

4. The Olympics - am I missing a sport appreciation gene? How did this happen? Should I seek a cure?

5. The Olympics - are we going to have to be relentlessly sportified for the next four years? I will have to emigrate.

6. The weather - why do we have summer at Easter and winter in the summer?

7. The weather - will I ever get my washing dry?

8. The summer holidays - why have my children become agoraphobic? Should I be pleased it's saving the tread on my tyres and revel in this activity? Should I be concerned at their complete lack of interest in days out? Are they understimulated? Will they look back and bemoan their summer slothfulness?

9. The summer holidays - why do packed lunches take twice as long to make in the morning as the night before?

10. The summer holidays - why does five weeks seem like a prehistoric era at the beginning and a gnat's life by the end?

Friday, 15 August 2008

so near....

Can it only be a week since I was sitting looking out across un vallee francais and slowly sleeping off my years of sleep deprivation? Yes, I think it can.

My house still appears to be the epicentre of masculinity although 5 days on I'm slightly more used to it and feel comfortable in the presence of our lovely builders.

We went to the pub last night and had all manner of meals - with chips. Everyone had chips. J had a plate the size of a dartboard and still had sticky toffee pudding for afterwards. If he ever stops playing sport he'll be the size of a sofa.

I've escaped for a few minutes as the beloved appears to be getting stressed on the phone and as him getting stressed makes me more stressed I decided to decamp to my neighbour's house for a wee bit of blogging and some piece and quiet. I suspect he's wondering where I am.

We've decided to get some decorating done next week which is impacting on my usual summer holiday lie-ins. I've worked out that I'm likely to be able to squeeze in four. This may be reduced to three if I can't get school shoes by the end of next week.

I took the small people to Clark's yesterday. I used to love Clark's but I'm not sure what has happened. They make trainers that don't look like trainers and school shoes that look very impractical. It's a mystery. Anyway, J's feet were measured, two pairs of shoes were proffered that weren't actually his size, an insole was offered but only one that I would have to cut down to fit. Now, am I being picky to expect that a shop offering shoe fitting would actually send you out of the shop with shoes that fit or, make them fit? It was also suggested that I could phone head office and order the right sized shoes but would have to pay p&p. I could then make another trip to the shop to make sure they fitted and if they didn't I could return them but not get my p&p refunded. It was like being in a podiatrically parallel universe.

Right, I can't hide any longer. I must return. However, I am armed with some good news - for me anyway.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

time for tea

The optimum gap between two cups of tea is, quite coincidentally, two hours. I have learned this and many other truths from our builders. I was a little shocked by their sheer numbers yesterday but today there are only eight in the house so I feel a little more relaxed.

The beloved and I spent the evening on the sofa watching Dragon's Den. It reminded me of when we first moved in together when we would buy singular pieces of furniture as and when we could afford them. Our house had the required minimalist camping look last night, complete with dust sheets and bare wires.

Progress is being made - we now have a totally tiled shower room and the rain has stopped long enough for our external decs to be decced. Gales are forecast this evening though so I expect to spend the evening worrying about the scaffolding.

The small people are being quite amenable. As long as the day is punctuated by playing supermariokart on the wii, they appear to be able to rub along nicely. It is lunchtime, however, so I need to get them fed before the sugar levels drop.

Monday, 11 August 2008

home sweet home

We've got the builders in. We had the builders in while I was away. I am now back at home. It's been 4 hours since the promptest of electricians arrived and already I have despatched the kids to my friend's house and I have decamped to my neighbour who is currently admiring giraffes and other non-British wildlife.

I wish I'd stayed in France another week. I was almost starting to feel human again after 6 full days of TLC and general lazing about. It was hot, I swam every morning and I didn't have to cook - what's not to like? Nothing, that's what. I don't have to cook here but that's because the Rayburn doesn't appear to be connected to its workings for some reason. It isn't, however, quite the same.

I have become a chronic worrier. I'm worried about the noise, the vans parked outside at jaunty angles, the random crashes and whining saws. I can feel myself fizzing with anxiety. I feel better now I'm in front of a keyboard. I think I need to do a little restorative surfing to steel myself for a return to the kitchen.

Our builders, however, are lovely and charming. Yes, I said charming. They are unfailingly funny and polite. We are blessed with the builders but, from my point of view, decidedly cursed with the building and the decorating and the fixing and the banging. It makes me shudder. I do not know how we did it twice before.

I was unable to enter this year's show despite having 4 photos, a scarf and a pair of socks to show off. We were stuck in traffic around Bristol and I missed the deadline. I was disappointed, especially as there weren't too many entries and I might have got another certificate. The same lady who won the cup last year won it this year. Maybe next year I could give her run for her money.

Since travelling from France we also took a family trip to Londinium. The beloved and the offspring went to Wembley, I went to Tate Modern to see the Cy Twombly exhibition. Now, there's a painter if ever I saw one. I also discovered a discount art shop on my long walk to Leicester Square and managed to get my random, yet good value purchases back up to Queensbury on the Jubilee Line.

I felt like an art bulimic. By the time I'd been around the Tate, had a shop browse, looked at some other stuff at the South Bank and bought supplies, I never wanted to see a paint brush again.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

tickets, passport, money

On Friday I am taking the kids to France. I am unpacked with only 48 hours to go. I think I've become too laid back (or, as my Dad might say, lazy). The trip will be wonderful. We're staying at my parents' house with my sister and her family for a week. It's going to be good, so good I haven't got the space to list every item of marvellousness of it. Here are some items of loveliness I can share:

- my parents live in a beautiful part of France
- in a beautiful house
- with a beautiful view
- from the beautiful pool
- they love us all dearly and they show us when they visit
- they love entertaining their grandchildren
- they look after us all

I am taking books and craft and sunblock. It was 40+ degrees earlier this week. My optimum temperature is around 23 degrees. I'm not a great heatseeker. If I was a plant I would be a hosta, or possibly an astrantia if I had to have flowers. I would not be a sunloving lavender. I like shade, air, I don't mind rain.

But, hey, what's to complain about. I'm enjoying the lack of packed lunches in my life this week, I'm really going to enjoy barbecues and sipping cold drinks by the pool. What's not to like about that.

Friday, 25 July 2008

the final countdown

I've just taken J to school for the last time. Despite the risk of looking like over-protective parents, the beloved and I accompanied him on this momentous occasion. The next time he goes to school it will be on a coach with his mates, not me. I'm not even sure I'll be allowed to wave from the window in a remotely maternal way.

I'm squeezing in a couple of hours of watercolour tuition and a haircut before the end of term assembly at 1.30pm. I'm expecting tears, especially from my beloved and, quite probably, from me

There are, however, compensations. No packed lunches for six whole weeks, lie-ins every day and the perfect excuse not to clean the house until September. I lurrrrve the summer holidays.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

the week that was

I forget every year that the last week before the end of the summer term is not a good time to GET THINGS DONE. It is punctuated, more than other weeks, by random but very pleasant activities related to all things schooly. My week has also been restricted by the arrival of building materials.

I am considering becoming a cardboard artist. We will have so much packaging material in our house that it seems churlish not to turn it into a work of great and mammoth proportions.

Today I went to Coffee Pots. I'm not sure whether other villages have such a thing but it's a marvellous gathering, made even more marvellous that I am one of the youngest ladies to attend and therefore feel spritely and even younger after I've been. Coffee Pots is a gathering of wonderful women - there are gardeners, embroiderers, artists, teachers, nurses, doctors - all of them quite lovely. Today was Coffee Pots 40th Anniversary celebrated by lunch in one of those gardens that looks effortlessly lush and has been lovingly cultivated. I think it was the best Wednesday lunch I've had - ever!

I am housebound tomorrow waiting for more cardboard. The bathroom awaits.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

take a good look

I had some time this morning to reflect on my progress (mostly lack thereof) with my personal projectforty. This has been inspired by my recent attempt to turn this raggedy old blog into some kind of publication. This attempt was, in turn, inspired by the fact that every other 40-something in the country with a blog is getting gazillions of pounds from publishers and other clever folk to publish their (admittedly) more widely consumed webbified musings.

My attempt to turn projectforty into some kind of self help book has made me feel bossy. Who am I to say every thirtyniner should be drinking their 2 litres of water and consuming their 5 a day? There's merit in a quick reminder but does the world really need another nag? Even Gordon's having a go at the nation about wasting food and being queasy over sell by dates.

To cut a long story short I have been emailing a very nice woman who just happens to be an agent. She has patiently been dealing with my amateur attempts at synopsis writing. I last heard from her just before I sent my sample chapter and after a brief email exchange about hits on my blog and my total ignorace of such a phenomenon. Is anyone reading this? Does anyone care?

To write the sample chapter I had to look at my list and if I was sitting a SATS paper in being forty I would be Level 2 (a). I must try harder, particularly as I shall be sitting by a pool in a couple of weeks. If I don't get a move on my feet will look like hooves, I'll have tiger stripe roots and my tummy will perhaps be able to go for a dip independently from the rest of my body.

On a more positive note though - I am working and writing, writing and working. The stuporous misery seems to have passed. I blame my slump, partly, on reading 'A spot of bother' by Mark Haddon. I don't blame the author himself but despite being very funny, beautifully observed and a great read, I think it was one of the most depressing books I've ever read. Middle aged man suspects he has cancer, starts going potty, sees his lovely wife bonking arch enemy from work, goes slightly madder, has several episodes and then kind of just gets over it.

Let that be a lesson to you, my girl, I thought, every night for a fortnight. Better get those socks pulled up.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

turn around, upside down

I'm better again. Being better for me involves being grumpy but with a sense of humour. I find that as long as I can see the funny side, no matter how drily funny that side is, all will be well. The worst thing about my woeful times are that I haven't even got the energy to gripe about all the little things that annoy me.

I do have one disappointment, however. I'd organised a bookmaking workshop for we ladies of the village and it has had to be cancelled. By bookmaking I mean the making of books, not the other sort that involves little pieces of paper and organising betting syndicates.

I now find myself with even more free time which I am trying to be grateful for. The problem is that all this free time waits like a void waiting to be filled with less than positive thoughts.

BUT, I will not be tempted to slip back to the dreariness. I will go out and look for inspiration, at least on Friday. I feel a trip to Frome is in order. I love the name Frome, does it rhyme with room or roam ? Who knows? I went a few months ago and it has the best little selection of independent vintage/mini-label/fashion shops I've seen in any small town in the Western hemisphere.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

woe is me....

Sometimes things can get a little tricky and it appears that this week is one of them. My perpetual positivity has waned a little over the last few days and I find myself at home surrounded by things I should be doing and, indeed, want to do but with no energy to get off my widening backside and do them.

I've come into college to return some books and to get some inspiration from the magazines. I'm hoping that by meeting up with one of my old tutors I'll get going again. I also need to go to the supermarket as the contents of our family fridge run to a punnet of moulding strawberries, a lettuce dated 23rd June, a packet of feta cheese I dare not disturb and three quarters of a big thingy of milk. There is no escaping it, I am going to have to brave the credit crunch and go to Tesco or Asda or, dare I say it, Lidl.

I had resolved not to listen to the news to avoid external depressors and, as mentioned, have switched to Radio 2 but I'd forgotten about Sarah Kennedy and her innate ability as a broadcaster to be generally irritating but in a really annoyingly nice way. She is now providing the first of my daily rants at the radio/tv/newspapers when she does her daily news report, randomly selecting articles written by all the journalistic doomsayers. This morning was all about wasting food and the G8 18 course dinner last night. Smacks of Versailles if you ask me but then, as Sir Bob G pointed out they are stuck up a mountain in the fog, I think we can forgive them a little troughing.

If I hear the words 'soaring oil and food prices' again I'm getting myself to the nearest Waitrose for some organic lobster and a bottle or two of dom perignon. I just don't understand why we have to be told every hour that, basically, things aren't going to get better for a long while and we just need to get on with it. I'm sure previous recessions were just suffered quietly - God, even the recessions were better in my day! Ha!!!!

PS: This week have written, re-written and written again, collaged, made bracelets and finished MM's knitted dress. I think she still needs a little work.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

art attack

This morning I have mostly been doing art.

I have gessoed and painted and collaged, oh my.

I have revisited my projectforty list of things I'm meant to be doing: the water, the alcohol, the exercise and have realised that the more I do the other things on the list: the writing, the appreciating, the enjoying, the less I worry about what I look like. I find that the happier I make myself feel doing the things I love, the less junk I eat, the less wine I consume and I become less worried about doing all the shoulds and oughts and musts.

I have, however, been knitting Marilyn Monroe this week. I was given a copy of 'Knitted Icons' by Caroline Meldrum. It's hilarious, with one simple knitted doll we can recreate Gandhi, Che Guevara and Marilyn in all their knitted glory. I'm already planning an Amy Winehouse and a Kate Moss. There's a winter craft fair planned at school for October - I'm sure they'd go down a treat.

It's heaving it down with Wiltshire rain at the moment. I chose the right time to stay in and get arty.

Tomorrow I am going to the Fashion Museum in Bath for my second outing this year. My first was with E who managed, quite spectacularly, to fleece me via a substantial shopping trip beforehand and then lure me into a false sense of enjoyment in the museum before demanding less than an hour later to leave. I am looking forward to a more prolonged excursion tomorrow.
They have a beautiful collection of gloves. I want to stare at them for more than a minute.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

hot stuff

It is, according to Radio 2, the hottest day of the year today. I've bounced back to Sarah Kennedy and Terry Wogan as they only mention the credit crunch once an hour. John Humphries feels the need to remind us of it every 30 seconds on Radio 4 and as the light relief is usually rape, insurgence or murdered soldiers I've decided to stick my head in the sand of easy listening and tog jokes. As someone who would be bipolar if I could only decide which way to go, it's better for me and all around me if I don't listen to the gloooooooooom.

Last week was full of excitement. My favourite aunties and uncle (unfortunately other favourite uncle was poorly) arrived at 9pm on Monday evening for 48 hours of catch up and jollity. We were up till 3am on Tuesday which was unplanned but great fun. We spent the next couple of days chatting and knitting and shopping and trying to spot Charles and Camilla in the surrounding vicinity. We had great success with 75% of these activities.

Their departure left me with a bit of slump but, no matter, my dear friend S took me to a spa in Bristol on Thursday so I perked up quite nicely thank you! There were 3 of us with my other dear friend H and each of us managed a wee snooze. My only complaint was the lack of eating opportunities and by 1.30pm we were all ravenous after a few hours of lying about, sleeping and reading our books. We went to Fresh & Wild in Bristol which almost tempted me to apply to Bristol Uni to do my degree just so that I could eat there every day. Yum, yum, yum, yum.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

quick dash

What excitements - aunties and time now to explain.

Monday, 23 June 2008

what a week that was....

Only 12 days since my last post and thank you to the faithful duo who left encouraging comments when I last raised my fingers to keyboard.

Ms Cameron, by the way, is Julia Cameron (nothing to with David). She's American and a writer/artist who has written several books such as The Artists Way and other such volumes persuading reluctant/lazy/tired/weary creative folk to actually get something, anything creative done. She offers lots of exercises and ideas for regular forays into the arty-fartiness that I've discovered I liked so much.

My book proposal was swiftly turned down. No worries. I expected the same and I was pleased really to actually get one printed, in an envelope and off to the ladies wot know should be published.

G & I went to Ascot last week which was lovely and a lot of fun. I was more interested in the fashion than the fetlocks but, no matter, I got the sense that everyone there in possession of a womb was in much the same frame of mind! I won. Winning meant that we lost less than we were planning to. A grand day.

We only had one child last week too with the eldest being away at a residential camp, generally running and jumping off high objects and, I hear, singing in the bath. There were no unexpected nasties in his suitcase but a very pungent plastic bag in his rucksack containing the remains of his supposedly disposable lunch from the previous Monday. Tasty!

We've had the weekend to readjust - you know what that means and a very intense 48 hours of finishing off his bedroom and moving piles of West Ham and Harry Potter memorabilia about the house.

Its Sports Day today - what joys. Sports Day for me means missing the important races while I make tea and coffee for the assembled gathering. I don't mind at all - it also means I don't have to mortify myself in the mum's race.

Changes are afoot for projectforty and my general blogging activity. If I ever get back on technological track, I'll let you know what's going to be next!

Have a good week

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

calming down

It's been a while since I last wrote, almost two weeks in fact. Is this proof that the more I have to do the more I get done? I think so. College finished on 24th May and I've been drifting about ever since. I've been doing the projectforty things - the water, the vegetables, even the exercise but I'm missing college and all its funny ways.

I've done a wee bit of crafting - embroidery (flowers, owls and cats), knitting (squares for a blanket) and crochet (crochet club - let's not go there). I've done some writing too, actually with a pen, three pages a day as Ms J Cameron tells us aspiring writers to do. I've organised a book-making course for the reading book/writing groups and I've submitted a book proposal.

When I look at that paragraph I feel suitably chuffed but my days, I must say, are a little lacklustre. I could, of course, put this lack of energy down to the gargantuan efforts made by myself and others in the run up to the fete. I love the fete. I love the meetings about the fete, I love the coffee and home-made cake that keep the meetings going on for several hours. I don't feel I'm quite responsible enough to be embroiled in the fete but I'm oblivious enough not to get embroiled in the complications of the fete.

I am enjoying my new status as lady of leisure though. I've got more energy with the kids and I'm not quite so grouchy as I struggle to fit 36 hours of stuff into the 14 I'm awake for but early days are showing that I need something more concrete than weeding and washing up to get my teeth into.

On that note I'm off to sew something. I feel a little experimentation coming on.

Friday, 30 May 2008

health warning

My pc problems persist. I am at the library, yes, I've become a community IT user (the shame!). Anyway, the library PC allows me to add a post but it doesn't let me read the flaming thing. If you read this and the post below, please forgive any spelling, grammatical or other errors.

Q: How do cats find their way from John O'Groats to Lands End? A: Cat nav!

it's been a while

What a difference a week makes. I become a certificated artist and guess what happens?

- my children become agoraphobic. Repeated attempts at leaving the house are sabotaged by either or both of them during the May holidays

- I discover a talent for Guitar Hero (played with adapted guitar) and on an Xbox rigged to the biggest home cinema I've ever seen thanks to dear friends R&R

- I start making books, books out of envelopes, out of cardboard, in fact anything that can be made into some kind of horizontal surface for writing on

- I am invited to Ascot (by husband, so am not sure it counts) but I've never been before and it is a fine excuse to buy a frock

- I go to the cinema by myself (after having spent 72 hours in the company of agoraphobic offspring) to see 'Sex and the City' and am transported back to the evenings I spent with SJP and her friends during the 1990s.

I saw SATC at Chippenham cinema which is like going back in time only slightly grubbier. I was expecting queues of glamorous gangs of girly friends, giggling about rabbits and brazilians but, well, no. There was a man called Fred with his carer, both of whom got in free, two ladies who filled me in on the plot of 'Desperate Housewives' and were obviously big fans too and then lots of young people who must have been watching SATC when they shouldn't have been.

It was good, not brilliant, but fairly great and I laughed out loud and had a great cry at the end. SJP looked fabulous if you could get past her charming mole and her extra smoky eyeshadow. She does look different on a big screen. The clothes and the shoes and the manaccessories were as fabulous as ever and Samantha got the funniest lines.

If you ever get trapped in the house with your offspring, I suggest a solitary visit to the cinema. It did me no end of good as my Nan, Flo, would have said.

Friday, 23 May 2008

I did it!

Who'd've thought it a year ago - I've passed my access course and got a merit - very pleasing!

Now, what next. Well a PC/laptop would be nice and then I can work out whether I can actually start the degree in September 08 or 09.

More knitting is on the way and lots of ideas are waiting to take shape.

Am looking forward to the bank holiday weekend and lots of sitting about.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

a list of non-woe

Things have improved:

- the lady at the garage told me not to worry about the noise, my car will not blow up (this still needs to be checked though)
- I have put up my show at college (no-one has laughed, yet)
- I have found a solution to my PC issues (leased laptop and mobile broadband - whey-hey!)
- I have finished a sock
- the new curtains have arrived which meant I slept past 4.45am this morning (a true gift)
- my hayfever has subsided
- I've arranged entertainments for the next school holidays
- the sun is still out
- am back on the gym run
- I've eaten most of the biscuits that I'd mistakenly put in the biscuit tin (great enjoyment, larger bottom)

Monday, 12 May 2008

the list of woe....

Things were going so well with projecforty. I was doing most of the things I tell myself I should be doing. I was going to the gym. I was getting fit and then....

- my PC died
- my car is dying
- my hayfever (I hope) struck
- I've lost the ability to sleep past 5.30am (thank you, blackbirds)
- I need to find some work

On the brightside...

- we had a lovely weekend
- I found my summer skirts this morning
- my friend has kindly lent me his car
- the sun is shining

I am writing this at college, waiting for my tutor to help me with my UCAS application. I have been here for half an hour and am feeling guilty because I think I'm supposed to be upstairs painting boards for the show. I can't wait down here any longer and must go and do my bit.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

silence is golden

My PC has officially died. There were mutterings about the motherboard, whatever that is, and blue screens, apparently a very bad sign. Needless to say this is not good timing and my only PC access is now at college. College finishes in 3 weeks time. Mmmmm....another item on the shopping list.

We had a crafty session last night at the pub. I've almost finished my first sock of a new pair. Two new members came along all the way from SB. They were very nice and I'm sure I recognise one of them at least. It's like that in the country you know.

I haven't had a huge amount of time to get inspired as I'm too busy sorting out my final show, organising the house for our guests (you know who you are) and doing the usual running around thing. The kids have got haircuts tonight and we will be visiting a house that contains 9 very cute labrador puppies. I am going to put my best steely heart on/in?

Came to college to see my tutor. Tutor forgot. Am going home now.

Don't hold your breath till the next post. It may be some time.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

on or off

My pc is playing up. Again. And I've started to write. Again. My backup disk doesn't seem to want to play and my desk is a mess. Again. This so-called modern life can be tiresome with its interconnected whatnots and online social gaming, whatever that is. What I need is a whizzy red laptop with wireless connection and long thin legs to sit it on while I'm listening to some fancy music in my loft. Oh dear, dreaming again.

Friday, 2 May 2008

cousin 'it'

This is cousin 'it' in his/her final throes. S/he was supposed to represent an individual's response to showing and revealing their true identity (she was stuffed with some netting for a while). You will be relieved to know that I have moved on from this frankly woolly visual epresentation of my thoughts. I include the photo to remind me never to embark on such an obscure path of artistic experimentation again.
I have decided at long last to accept my place at college BA Fine Art (Drawing practice) but to defer it until September 2009. This allows me to delude myself that I will earn enough from writing and being generally crafty to pay my fees in advance rather than having to go through the rigmarole of begging Wiltshire County Council to give me a loan. Part of my decision is fuelled by fear that I won't be able to last 3 years in an academic institution and part of it is that what I've always really wanted to do is write and there's another part of me that's simply filling my time with something that although valuable and interesting and enjoyable is not, actually, writing.
So, that's it. With my blogging experience and my unflagging self disbelief I am going to spend June 2008 - September 2009 writing and trying to get published somewhere. If in that time I am totally unsuccessful (criteria to be determined at a later date), I will finally give up my pretension of such a career and devote myself to tending my herbaceous borders. Probably.
I'm going back to my barmaid routes tonight, helping out at a fundraiser. I need a job as I shall be toute seule. G needs to take J to football and E has opted for a sleepover. If I don't have a job to do I shall lurk, feeling uncomfortable so I'm very grateful for the opportunity to contribute.
Bank Holiday weekend is looming and the garden beckons. I've done a little bit more weeding this week but, I suspect, nowhere near enough. My three day nausea fest continues unabated and everytime I move I feel hot and slightly dizzy. Another reason to go on the bar and not jiggle around dancing all night.
One side of my garden is full of nettles and the other is full of ground elder. I am awaiting the bindweed. What joy!

Thursday, 1 May 2008

don't put off what you can do in 20 years time

That's my motto! I've been wanting to write for twenty years and to prove I could have got that sodding degree if things had been different for twenty years. That's a sobering thought. It terrifies me that I can remember things that happened twenty years ago. I think I should just get this midlife crisis over with and be done with it.
So, dear reader (s?), I could do both. I've been given the chance to go to college and I've started writing, properly this time. I have fictional and non fictional chapters on my PC that are longer than lists and more structured than spaghetti hoops.
I'm getting there but it's taking an age.
We (or rather my beloved) are still decorating. he is almost finished with Phase I, upstairs. Phase II downstairs will include my room. I am dreaming of white walls (again) and a central work table with a fancy laptop and startlingly gorgeous pictures on the wall. I think if I show willing and reduce my pile of fabrics and assorted nonsense, I might get it.

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

decision time

I had my interview yesterday at college and managed to bag myself a place. I had a very interesting discussion with one of the BA tutors who appreciated my earlier experiments much more than my more recent dishcloth period. He said I was 'interesting' which I got the impression could have meant 'special' or 'unique' in that particular tone that educators use. He also asked whether I was consciously drawing in such an ironic way - what does that mean? He liked my wit (yes, I wrote wit). I felt a little like an unformed being and that he'd be quite interested to see what I turned out like. One of the headteachers I worked with a couple of years ago said a similar thing. He said he was 'intrigued to see how I would evolve'. A few months later one of his colleagues likened me to a 'professional dung beetle'.

In the words of my dear, estranged mother "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all!"

No pictures today. It's too rainygloom outside. Have done a short walk in the fresh air. Can't face sweating my 3 glasses of wine out at the gym. I'm contemplating another short walk later and perhaps some gentle stretching. It was book club last night. We'd read (or some of us had) 'An Equal Music' by Vikram Seth. It was all a bit self conscious for me and I don't have a word of musical terminology in my brain so it flew over my head. It's my choice next month, always a nerve wracking time. Will they like it? Will they not care? Will they think its boring? Do I have to read it again to remind myself what its like?