Monday, 20 December 2010

Malmesbury, the final frontier....

...thanks to my dear friend, S, and an urgent dental appointment for K & H, I cadged a lift to Malmesbury through the snow and the hail.  It was a pleasant trip - the countryside looks lovely at 10 miles an hour and there were hardly any cars on the road.

I spent more in Malmesbury in an hour today than I think I have in the last twelve months and my nearest and dearest have done very well.  I shall shop locally more often but perhaps give myself a couple of visits as my bags were laden and I hadn't worn the right shoes to cope with the slush-covered pavements.

All we need now is Tesco and the turkey to turn up and Christmas will happen.

Do you remember the episode of  'The Good Life' when Christmas didn't come in a van?  I can feel a Margot moment coming on....

Saturday, 18 December 2010

speaking too soon....discuss

Having rambled on yesterday about anxious food shopping, I now find myself looking out onto at least five inches of snow, no prospect of getting to Londinium as planned and several gaping holes in my Christmas shopping.

Is this bad karma or just weather?  When has it ever been like this just before Christmas?  It's normally damp and slightly warm.  It's never arctic and freezing.  It looks pretty though and if I ever get out of my pyjamas I might go for a toddle round and avoid being a snowball target.

Not to worry - good job I bought those frozen sprouts.  I think there might be some chicken thighs in the freezer too. 

Friday, 17 December 2010

snow what?

I have visited several supermarkets this week, exchanging various loyalty points for essential Christmas items such as amaretto, sherry and fine wines (there is a theme, I'm sure you can see it).  The supermarkets are packed.  I have checked opening times for said supermarkets.  Tesco for example closes at 7pm on Christmas Eve and opens again at 10am on Boxing Day, totalling 39 hours. 

There is a palpable aura of frenzy at the chipolata counter and a nervous twitching around the sprouts.  In fact, I'm so twitchy about sprouts, I bought some frozen ones JUST IN CASE.  I had to leave the shop shortly afterwards as JUST IN CASE can be used to rationalise any purchase.  Luckily I was in Sainsbury's, not Jigsaw or Toast.

Christmas Day is a week away.  Is everyone planning to hunker down and stay in the house for over a week?  This, I believe, will cause more trauma if we all pop out on the icy roads.  There are several possible scenarios:

- family A will have had a huge row and no-one will be speaking to each other by the time FC readies the reindeer
- family B will run out of a) wine b) sherry c) wrapping paper and feel inadequately prepared and furies of blame and shame will heap upon the family member who didn't buy enough
- family C will watch so much TV and eat so much quality street that the sofa will break, necessitating a trip to DFS

I know it's snowing heavily in lots of places and I know that everyone wants to have a lovely, lovely Christmas but isn't it time to get a grip - especially in the North of Wiltshire where the BBC's weather forecast says nothing but 'white cloud' for the next three days?

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

too much, a little too late....

I have learnt something since going back to college.  I take on too many things at the same time and it is time to stop. 

I won't bore you with the details and it's not as if I'm running a country or an international mega-brand but I have no space in my head or my hands for anything else.  I know that other people seem to manage to spin 1000s of plates and multi-task their way through life but I can't do that without feeling exhausted or grumpy or, worse still, inept as I try to do too many things and end up doing most of them quite badly.

I am determined to spend the next couple of weeks with my family, having a lovely festive time and then it's time to have a think. 

Tonight we're off for a family shopping trip.  I have a list and I'm going to tick it.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

a lovely time was had by all....

...until the red wine hit the cream sofa.

And it was me. 

It was a very slow-moving spillage but a spillage nonetheless.  Our divine hostess, the glorious Dr L, was about to sit to my left.  I moved to my right and before I knew it, my arm had shook/moved and the offending liquid was liberated on to the sofa and also on to my dear friend G's beautiful skirt.

Things moved quickly afterwards.  White wine was tipped, salt was scattered, stain remover found, the coverS (!) were stripped and soaked and the washing machine was on before anyone could say 'I'm glad I/my wife didn't do that'!

My friend and hostess were both very gracious and calm.  I was not.  I think I may have to give up red wine or parties or both.

I am also, as anyone would be, mortified but am pleased to report that I must have done some good in a previous life as the clean and wholesome covers were back on the sofa by 10.30am when I popped over to help with the washing up, apologise profusely and offer to sacrifice my cheque book.  The washing machine gods smiled upon me and all is well.

I imagine any New Years Eve party invitations will suddenly dry up or be addressed to The Worker.  It's going to be a cold and lonely end to 2010!  I think I'll stick to pinot grigio and sit very still in the living room.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

whoops, I did it again...

...I had a flurry of Christmas shopping in November just after a friend told me she'd done all hers, wrapped it, written the Christmas cards and put stamps on them.

Consequently, I now have an incomplete collection of Christmas presents, wrapping and paper and I now need to a) do something with the ones I have b) work out what I haven't done and go to the shops IN THE SNOW c) wrap them, write them and store them. 

I wish I didn't sound like such a Christmas grump because I actually love Christmas.  I love the part where everything is done and I get to sit about for several days reading books I've had my eye on for months.

I love the part that involves cooking and drinking sherry whilst cooking.  I love making things I don't make all year - especially cranberry sauce with real cranberries and port and orange and spicy spiky star anise.

What I don't really love is the organisation of it, the pre-empting of it, the sorting of it.  We have our flurry of birthdays in the autumn and I arrive at the end of November thinking that we've already had quite enough for one year and we should embrace the Condem's austerity measure and make do with a few satsumas and perhaps a handknit scarf.  Thinking about it, I wouldn't like that either.

I am fortunate that the Worker likes Christmas shopping.  Those of you that know him will find this laughable as he is shop-averse January through to November.  He loves doing the kids' presents and I have to say I let him.  He also offers to cook Christmas dinner every year around 22nd December.  I do not let him do that and I inform him, each year, that his offer is most welcome but, well, far too *(*&^^%%& late in the day to be taken seriously. 

The Worker's Christmas shopping, however, is a wonder to behold and one of my favourite parts of Christmas is our morning ritual.  FC has been and I'm always amazed how thoughtful and attentive he has been to three of our family.  Special little gifts emerge and three of us gasp with delight.  My stocking, is in fact a sack - I made the other three smaller on purpose - each year I point out that any member of the family is at liberty to make me a smaller stocking/sack for next year.  Ho ho ho!

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

a shocking discovery....

...there's another 'me'. 

I've started to make contact with companies and other organisations to boost my writing and teaching activities.  I thought I would check my online profile as I'm aware that those I've contacted may take a little time to check it out.  I chose to write this blog anonymously because initially I wanted to write more freely and I wasn't sure how long I would blog, what I would write about etc.  I think my real name is on a handful of websites such as School of Everything.

Anyway, I googled 'me' and up popped another 'me' on Facebook.  I don't do Facebook.  If I wanted to meet people, I'd go out or join a group or see my friends in the real world.  Nevertheless, I had to look.  The temptation was too much.

'Me' on Facebook is a perfectly nice woman with quite a few friends.  I have to say, however, that I'm a bit miffed that I can't now claim my own name on Facebookplanet.  I'll have to contrive a name with numbers or with my middle name.  She also seems to have more friends than me.  I quickly left her profile as it all felt a little peculiar.  My name, someone else's life.  I should never have looked!  Can I claim my name back?  I can't think anyone would want to participate in such a trade.  My online future, I fear, may be doomed.

Monday, 29 November 2010

more or less?

I've been thinking about aspiration and satisfaction, how some people are adept at accepting and embracing the present and existing, and others prefer to pursue the other, the bigger, the better, the more.

This thinking was brought about by a chat I had with the man who presses the apples from our apple trees every year.  We discussed all sorts of subjects but the topic that got me thinking was about how companies (and perhaps people) can almost get too big.  If everyone wants the biggest market share and competes aggressively to get it, at what point are they happy with that market share and if they never are, what happens if something goes wrong or if the market collapses?

Is this business practice just the same as trying to out-do your neighbours with your car or your lifestyle?  I'm no economist (you might have guessed), but presumably there's only so much market to grab and there's only so much money in customers' purses.  It doesn't matter if the shops are always open if we poor consumers only have so much cash.  Surely we then just spend the same over a longer period of time?

I do know, however, that I'm over wanting 'more'.  I think I've realised that unless the lottery god picks me out, I've neither the talent or the perseverance to strive for anything much more than I have.  Of course, I like the idea of Birkins and Mulberrys and Cartiers but, let's face it, they wouldn't go with my New Look jeans.

PS:  Who else is delighted that Wagner has been flung back to obscurity....could it be Ann's turn next?

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

"Kwills" - the wedding

Now, before you read this, please note that I wish any couple getting married the very best of luck and love.  I am happy that our most recent famous betrotheds have set a date.  I have no malicious thoughts towards them or their nearest and dearest.  However, my initial thoughts on the Royal Wedding are thus:


- we'll all get more time at home or on holiday next April

- we can think about K's dress (will she go for British design or cast the net/veil wider?)

- thinking about K's dress will distract us from balancing our domestic and, indeed, national budget deficits after Christmas and the VAT increase

- the dress will knock the ConDem's gradual destructive twiddling of our lives off every front page, thereby reducing the prospect of public protest and disruption to our town centres

- we get a day off

- we'll find out how much it's all going to cost and be able to compare it with the cost of an 'average couple's wedding'

- there will be fewer pictures of Katie Price on the cover of 'OK!' at the supermarket checkouts

- we get an extra day off

- reality TV shows will be replaced by programme after programme of idenitikit Hoorays talking about their friends the Kwills, what they were like at nursery, how they behaved at uni, how lovely they both are which will stop me watching so many hours of reality TV (note to self: must post about GK on IACGMOOH)

I really do wish the happy couple the very best of luck and I hope they have a lovely day with their family and friends.  I might even watch their arrival at Westminster Abbey on the telly but do we really need to have five months of vicarious wedding planning?

Monday, 22 November 2010

in praise of knees

...or, rather, Knees, Malmesbury's department store. 

Before I posted this, I googled Knees, expecting to get a list of bone and joint supplements.  I find, however that Knees has a very respectable website with, dare I say it, the option of online ordering.  You can find Knees here.

There is a Knees in sunny Trowbridge but our local Malmesbury branch is my subject today.  When living in London, there was nothing I liked better than a bit of Saturday afternoon department store browsing.  Department stores are a great thing.  Lots of different brands in one lovely shop with opportunities for refreshment.  I've always loved the fact that you know there will be cosmetics on the ground floor and haberdashery will be up in the sky somewhere.  I've loved them all: Selfridges, Harrods, Dickens & Jones and especially Liberty.  I have taken to visiting John Lewis at Cribbs Causeway when stressed as I find their kitchen department incomparably soothing.  All is right in the world when contemplating the plethora of egg cups when you know that they will never be knowingly undersold.

Knees is in a class of its own.  Its current window display contains a family of porcelain meerkat figurines.  Something that every home should have.  For a department store in a tiny town, it has a wide selection of ornaments and china.  I often wonder who buys them and where they put them.  It's one of those little mysteries I like to have a think about. 

Dubious porcelain apart, Knees is the best store ever.  I would estimate that Knees is 99% effective in the search for any domestically required item. Brewing your own beer?  Visit Knees.  Baking a cake and want a liner?  Pop to Knees.  Bird food?  Knees.  Seals for ancient Kilner jars - yes, you've guessed it.  I suspect that Knees has saved more women from culinary drama than you or I could possibly imagine and it has a wider variety of vacuum cleaner bags that I knew existed.

Now, if only it sold Dr Haucshka, Origins and Ren....and there was a cafe. 

Friday, 19 November 2010

double digits

That's it.  My baby is 10.  Today.  She appeared at our bedside this morning at 7am having got up at 10pm, 11pm, 11.30pm with an attack of the anticipations.  We've had two significant birthdays this year, both marking time that we'll never get back but both marking the start of new things and a new way of family life. 

Things I expect:
- fewer visits from the tooth fairy
- less TV freedom as they stay up later and later
- about the same amount of tantrums but over quite different matters
- poverty brought about by insatiable teenage appetites
- an extra dryer as the clothes get bigger
- afternoons of boredom waiting outside changing rooms in Bristol
- less plastic in the house, perhaps
- hormonal fluctuations (from at least 3 of us)

I don't think I can bring myself to anticipate anything else - as long as we're all healthy, calm and happy and there's food in the fridge, I'm happy.

Monday, 15 November 2010

let the festivities commence!

I admit it, I've started my Christmas shopping.  I have cards, wrapping, presents and food underway.  I know exactly what will happen.

- I will 'lose' the wrapping paper because I'll hide it somewhere and forget about it

- I will eat at least one Terry's Chocolate Orange

- I will forget that whilst loading the credit card with gifts I also added a few 'personal items' that will jolt me into financial panic in the New Year

- I will forget to send at least five of the Christmas cards I write

- I will give in to the mass Christmas card sending that occurs amongst E's friends at schools despite protesting every year that we should just donate a goat to a poor soul somewhere else (no-one needs any more unrecyclable cardboard in their house)

- I will forget to book my online delivery and end up sitting outside a supermarket at sparrow's fart one morning during the week before Christmas

- I will forget that shop-bought mince pies contain about 750 calories each before I eat a packet one drizzly day in December

- I will re-name a long-lost relative causing irreparable insult resulting in one less second class stamp next year

- I will be harrassed by my children for insisting that all Christmas lights should be clear or white and definitely not 'phased' or 'pulsing'

- I will wonder why turkeys are so much more expensive than chicken

- I will name my turkey Claudia or Alesha or Tess (feel free to vote)

- I will have a lovely time with the people I love and care about the most. 

Friday, 12 November 2010

blown about....

It's the 4th morning this week that I've stepped out of the house and found myself in a gale.  I can see though that the wind is settling and I hope today will be a calmer affair.

We watched Tom Ford's 'A Single Man' last night.  Not exactly the Worker's cup of tea but very moving and beautifully made.  Like 'Mad Men' it had an authentically nostalgic feel and (as you'd expect from TF) an incredible attention to detail on costume and set.  I'm never quite sure about Colin Firth (sorry) but he was quite brilliant.  I hope he makes more like this and less like 'Love Actually' (although I always cry at that bit when Emma Thompson finds out about nasty husband's infidelity and smooths down the sheets before she pulls herself together).

Anyway...I digress.  We had our 'group crit' yesterday.  It was a bit like being in a gale.  There's a lot of diversity in our small group in terms of work and approach.  One minute we were looking at beautifully textured landscape paintings, the next we were contemplating wire 'growing' from the installation room.  There was lots of talk and lots of discussion until the group came to my space.   I have two sets of work going on - random sketchbook 'experiments' and a more considered project, examining collections and how the ordinary can be made extraordinary.  There's not a lot of drawing going on.

The only people who spoke were one of the other students and the tutor.  I welcomed the howling wind subsiding but I'm not sure I wanted to hear such peace and quiet yesterday afternoon.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Lucas North is dead....

....just like the ending of 'Thelma and Louise', LN went over the edge last night and just as I still believe T&L survived, I believe that Lucas somehow got a Soviet chopper to sweep him up and take him to a safe house.  Poor Harry looked a bit sorry for himself.  I'm not sure I'm enamoured with the next batch of spies and operatives but I'm sure I'll get hooked again if the series returns.

We watched 3 hours of 'Spooks' last night, I insisted we caught up on the episodes we'd missed before watching the finale.  I was a little strung out by the end and realised that my airport paranoia can be directly tracked to Spooks Series 1 and beyond.  Last night's episode of hacking and surveillance had my stress levels flying about like a sparrow in windy weather.  I am not MI5 material. Spooks has finished but IACGMOOH (celebrity jungle japes) starts on Sunday with, I hear Mr Boy George and Jedward.  Can this be true?  Of course, I won't be watching, I'll be reading 'The Iliad' whilst listening to 'Wagner' (not Vargner, silly).

I'm having a very pleasant couple of days, enjoying peaceful hours during school time and enjoying the feeling of my feet being attached, in my slippers, quite firmly to the ground.  I did a little exercise yesterday but made sure, at all times, that at least one foot was planted firmly and squarely.  I did not put my feet above my head at any point.

I've done admin, and am keeping the house clean.  I've even bought some Christmas presents and started to think about Christmas cake.  It's just been really nice to be at home, pottering about.

There is, of course, the slight matter of wealth creation to attend to.  My teaching commitments are likely to be scuppered by the cuts in the near future so I need to revive that CV and create some opportunities.  I like that part of self-employment.  I put it down to the fact that I regularly trawled a variety of shops and businesses throughout my teens and early twenties to find work.  My greatest success was finding a job two hours after a particularly nasty row with an existing Saturday employer (a bit like Voldermort, his name can not be uttered) in a toy shop, for more money and better breaks.  There's nothing like a bit of self-determination to cheer a body up.

I beckons tomorrow and we have our first 'group crit' on Thursday.  There are two reasons this makes me slightly nervous.  Firstly, my work is, shall we say, a little minimal.  Secondly, we are a small group of students and although we are getting to know each other, a few misinterpreted comments about our first attempts could be problematic.  Our tutor is lovely and skilled in such matters, I'm sure but as anxious I am about what comments my own work will illicit, I'm not sure how to approach commenting on the work of others.   Deep breaths and a large flask of coffee will be required. now to clear away the ironing and get out the sketchbooks....

Saturday, 6 November 2010

extended leave....

We've been away.  We've been far away.  We visited Mickey and Harry and Homer in Orlando.  It was a big trip.  A big trip with big rides, big food, big walks, big domestic appliances, big cars.  It was a fortnight of visiting, queuing and flying about in the air.  It was fantastic to do something so different and so full-on.  Everything was bright and noisy and hot and shiny. 

I have to say I'm now pooped!  We're a week back and I'm relying on herbal something-or-others to stay asleep beyond 2am.  I'm told this will wear off by Monday.  We were 6 hours behind UK time and apparently it takes a day for every hour of time change to recover.  Who knows? 

I know that I'm enjoying many of the things I'd got fed up with before we went which, I suppose, is one of the purposes of a holiday.  I love my bed.  I had a great time going to the supermarket to finish re-stocking the cupboards.  I'm enjoying our country roads and the quiet rurality of our surroundings. 

The best thing about coming home for me was the fact that friends had house-sit for us whilst their house was being 'done up'.  I'd tried to tidy up before we left but dear C (the temporary lady of the house) did us proud.  Even the fridge was defrosted with a home-made lasagne and salad ready for us when we got back.  I know she and P appreciated our house while we were away but I would be very grateful if they could move in every time we went anywhere.  Their appreciation is matched if not surpassed by ours.'s been back to normality.  We got back on Monday evening with school, work and college beckoning by 9am on Tuesday.  Not to be recommended but there are still four of us and we're all talking to each other.  I'd expected a big comedown and a seismic meltdown on Thursday but so far so good. 

We're now on the countdown to E's birthday - the gift list changes daily and Christmas, of course.  I know from the last ten years that I need to get a little bit ahead.  Now.  This year especially as I have a college deadline and a possible trip to Paris to fit in before the end of term.  I can feel a list coming on.

Happy Fireworks!

Thursday, 7 October 2010

today I have mostly been having a cold....

E and I have been off school/college today with a heady, chesty, sicky kind of thing.  Every time I do something more strenuous than make a cup of tea or coffee I feel I've aged about 40 years.  I am considering the early purchase of a stroller/walker thing.  I might as well get one, VAT is going up in January.

Now is not the time to have the lurg.  I won't bore you with my interminable lists but they run from 'define myself as an artist' to 'remember the adapter plug for holiday'.  When my head isn't aching, it's spinning.

It's all my own doing of course and I'm having a great time and I shouldn't complain and all that but I'm poorly so I'm allowed.

I wonder if my poorliness might have been made worse by my new habit of shouting loudly at Tories on the Telly.  I find shouting at Tories who can't hear me very therapeutic on one level but I don't think it's helping my sore throat.  Every time I see one, I can't quite believe some of us were daft enough to vote for them or that other lot who've become Tories overnight whose name I can't bring myself to mention - and every night I tell them. Loudly.  In my pyjamas. 

And don't get me started on the child benefit fiasco - how could they?  Do we all think it's OK that they just sweep away a principle that has been standing for over several generations?  What next - will higher-rate taxpayers lose their right to free prescriptions for their children?  Will we have to pay for dental treatment for our children?  And how can it possibly be fair that a family with a total income of £45K per year won't get child benefit and a family of £87K will?  How is that a family friendly policy?  It's hard to argue for a benefit that some people don't strictly need but the fact that there is a way to still access that benefit when your income is double the cut-off point for an individual, single family is just unfathomable.  Either take it away completely or restrict the age range that it's claimed for.

And, while I'm at it - how can it be for 'the national interest'?  The principle of child benefit, I always thought, was to provide something for future generations.  To make sure that, if nothing else, the state knew that families were receiving an amount to support their children whether they saved it for their future or had to buy their school dinners with it.  By effectively means testing that payment, they've divided families across the country, just as their beloved Mrs T did in oh so many ways some years ago.  Aren't they marvellous?!


On another, more superficial matter, isn't telly great at the moment:  I've had a week of Spooks, Mad Men and The Apprentice so far with Strictly on Saturday.  I've reached my peak with X Factor. 

Have a healthy week


Thursday, 30 September 2010

a new exercise craze.... sweeping North Wiltshire....and beyond!

I've been going to Zumba with S and, more recently, K since before the summer holidays.  You can visit the website to find a class near you and for their distinctively branded T-shirts, hairbands, trackies and DVDs.

Despite their rampant marketing drive, I have to say Zumba is one of the best exercise classes I've ever been to:

- there are no floor-based, uncomfortable abdominal exercises

- it's 2.4 miles away from where we live

- S picks me up and delivers me to the door

- it's dance based so I can wiggle my ample behind

- I can do most of the steps

- our instructor, Becky, is unfailingly cheerful and enthusiastic

- it's the funniest exercise class I've ever been to.

I've always felt that exercising 'en masse' is a peculiar activity.  It reminds me of Korean State celebrations and dancing at home on carpets.  At Zumba we samba and grapevine and merengue our way through music from around the globe but the fact is we're in a slightly musty village hall in our random selection of sportswear, shaking our bosoms as if we were in carnival in Rio.  I just find it hilarious.  I know I shouldn't and I know I should take my fitness seriously and respect everybody's right to lycra but I just can't help wondering what the aliens will make of us if they land at about 8.45pm on a Wednesday night in North Wiltshire.  I imagine they'd think we were a slightly damp and quite co-ordinated species who liked loud noise.

This week the hall was divided into two distinct sections: by the door we had a gaggle of younger women all wearing copious amounts of eyeliner and barely breaking into a sweat.  The other half of the room was populated by we ladies d'un certain age.  Less makeup but clammier foreheads and, I have to say, better co-ordination and grander shimmies. 

Some of us dance the tunes confidently and almost in time, mimicking Becky's oomph and pzazz - others, well, don't.  What we all do, however, is have a fantastic time, whatever we take from it.  You don't often see that many glowing women, smiling all the way back to their 4x4s after a night out at the gym.  There must be something in it.  Now, if only Becky would run a class in our village hall....

Sunday, 26 September 2010

quango, mango, schwmango

I worked for a quango, the Health Education Authority, just before the last big government change.  I remember everyone being very excited about the prospect of funding for targeted health promotion work and evidence-based education around all aspects of health.  The Authority was also famous for the HIV/AIDS iceberg adverts and its wide range of leaflets.  I started work there just as email and the Internet were starting to make big in-roads into sharing information both public and otherwise.  I actually remember someone ordering flowers via the Tesco website for their mother and being very impressed.

I was shocked to see the HUGE list of quangos and organisations that will soon be disappearing from our lives and was struck by the notion of not missing them until they are gone.  Who else will monitor and evaluate some of the most important aspects of our lives?  Who will look after the waterways - surely there are an important environmental part of our lives if nothing else?  The things that those quangoes look after will not go away - someone, somewhere will have to pick up their work.  Will it be the local authorities facing a budget cut of 25%?  I'm not a politician, nor an economist but it seems to me that slicing swathes of both large and small will leave huge gaps that eventually will have to be re-established.

Perhaps that's the plan?  Take away the organisations that have sustained us and been developed for the last few years, wait until the pain has subsided and then somehow grow them again?  It's like emptying the house of food in the interests of a clear-out just to realise that everyone is still hungry and having to nip out to the shops again.

This little rant takes me to time travel - I do have a real sense of deja vu in all areas of life at the moment - for goodness sake, Supertramp are doing a huge tour this year and UB40 are out and about celebrating the 30th anniversary of their dole-queue-reggae.  I'm back at college and thinking about wearing leggings in public.  The unions are getting uppity and I think I saw a batwing mohair jumper in M&S last week.

We're on our way to the 80s.  It's inevitable.  Crack open the Liebraumilch and get the Black Forest Gateau out, Kajagoogoo have got a new single out.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

things I've been thinking about...

...and I promise to write about...

- quangos (the demise thereof)
- social networking (for and against)
- sketchbooks (decisions upon)
- autumn (merits and demerits)
- paper
- knitting
- time travel
- birthdays

Did anyone else see that amazing moooooooooooooooooon?!

Sunday, 19 September 2010

back to the future

That's it.  I'm a student again, twenty five years after my last attempt.  That number of years does nothing for my anti-ageing regime, I can tell you.  The fact that two of my fellow students have literally just left school and are younger than my youngest niece makes my head spin and my wrinkles deepen.

I'm having a great time though.  Three days in and I can't wait for the next three years.

I must explain that this adventure is taking part in Swindon.  Who knew you could have so much Swindon!  For those of you who don't know and may be interested, I've started a BA in Fine Art with Drawing Practice.  In some complicated college funding palaver, it's an Oxford Brookes degree but it's taught just up the road.  Apparently, this is one of the few art degrees that offers such a detailed analysis and pathway through drawing and its significance to all fine art practice.  Phew!  I know, sounds mightly grand to me too.

I did an Access to Art & Design course a couple of years ago after I'd finished a contract and was looking for something to do.  Little did I know that I would finally find something I wanted to do, really wanted to do.

I've been wanting to get a degree for years, just to prove I can, just to get that piece of paper and, especially, to wipe out that little pebble of irritation I've had with myself ever since I flunked out the first time.  I've spent years doing adult education courses, diplomas, every single work-based training course I could get my hands on.  I love to learn.  I love new things and there's nothing I like better than sitting about reading and thinking and pondering (except knitting).

The main aim for colleges running Access courses is to convert those students to BA students.  I signed up.  I was hooked.  Life decided to get in the way - big time - and I put that plan on the back burner, thinking that was it, I'd have to wait until the kids had done their stuff.

The thing is, it's now or never.  I've realised that I don't really need a degree, I've worked happily and successfully without one - I just want one. 

Meanwhile, as I'm swanning about in a fedora and smock, the garden is going mad.  Everywhere I look there are either vegetables to be eaten or hedges to be cut back or drooping plants, waiting to be chopped.  There's laundry to be done and dust to be removed.  It took G&J four hours to de-dust J's bedroom yesterday.  Looks lovely (especially as I didn't have to do it!).  It would appear that real-life must be managed throughout this process.  I'm looking forward to seeing how that works out. 

Well...I'm off to look at my sketchbook.  Happy Sunday!

Sunday, 5 September 2010

deep breaths...

Back to school, proper, tomorrow.  A full week, all clubs a-go-go, pick ups and timetables arranged and ready to be conformed to.  E's school is having a mini-clampdown on uniform.  Apparently, socks printed with russian dolls are no longer allowed.  Isn't there enough time in later life to conform.  There's not much of a space in a girl's life when she can wear socks printed with anything.  It seems such a shame.  Perhaps they are far too distracting for other children.  I think not.  We are often told that the attention span of our children is shrinking faster than Cheryl Cole.  If E's classmates noticed her socks, most likely they'd have noticed something else far more interesting thirty seconds later.  I know I should be toe-ing (ha ha!) the line but sometimes, I think, there are bigger things to think about. 

The Worker is very impressed with me today - not only have I completed our pre-visa waiver wotnot for our trip to the States, I now have a printed calendar on the fridge with all the clubs, pick ups (see above) listed.  I don't know whether he's more impressed that I've managed to print it out on THE WORST PRINTER I'VE EVER BOUGHT or that its typed or that its on the fridge.  I don't think it will help me be in any more organised but it makes me feel organised.  Perhaps that's the secret.

We had indoor barbecue for supper.  The sun was shining on Friday.  I have learnt this summer that sun on Friday prompts the 'why don't we do a barbecue' question at about 3 o'clock on a Saturday afternoon.  This week I took the opportunity to pre-empt the question and took a trip to Sainsbugs to ship in a few marinated bits and bobs.  Needless to say, it's rained all day.  Reader, I grilled them. 

As I write the rest of my family are watching 'Invictus'.  I can't bear it as Morgan Freeman gets on my nerves and I've never warmed to Matt Damon.  Their presence combined with rousing, inspiring music has made me leave the bosom of my Sunday night, washed and fed family to blog a bit, about very little. are ten things to look forward to this week:

- getting some exercise every day (walking to school gets me out and about first thing, then there's swimming and Zumba later in the week)

- our monthly knitting meeting at our village pub

- buying my new supplies for college

- picking some of those lovely looking apples in the garden

- getting back to my knitting workshops and seeing who turns up

- promoting some beginners craft classes

- a girls get-together, probably on Thursday

- a trip to Bath for my birthday boots

- the anticipation of being back at college next week and starting a new endeavour

- getting some inspiration from someone who's on that road already

Enjoy the first week of September - get those pencils sharpened!

Thursday, 2 September 2010

ten good things today....

1. a sunny autumn morning walk with my dear friend, S

2. both kids back at school with shoes that fit and lunchboxes packed

3. lovely pair of new autumn brown boots promised for birthday by The Worker

4. off to artshop to buy new pencils and sketchbooks for college

5. haircut at 10.30am

6. toad in the hole for tea (with cauliflower cheese?)

7. reading Rose Prince's 'English Table' from the library and sticking post-its in my favourite recipes, am intrigued already by homemade barley water

8. almost at the end of the first half of  Veronik Avery's transitional scarf (v. 2), am going to knit these for nieces for Christmas

9. the weatherman says summer is back at the weekend with highs of 24 degrees

10. 6 more sleeps until the new series of Madmen

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

can I get my boots on now?

This is what I like to see - I'm an autumn girl.  Give me a conker and a rusty-looking tree and I'm happy.  I love the dew on the grass in the mornings, the drooping, drying herbaceous borders, the slowly shrinking days.  I've booked the annual woodburner sweep and I'm already looking forward to lighting that fire and enjoying some winter time.  We have three birthdays in the house before the end of November, a trip to Florida coming up and then it will be Christmas.  I will most likely be on a real-life rollercoaster during the week that makes me spin - my birthday followed by the anniversary of losing my Dad is a bit of a knuckle-ride.  I know he'll be cheering us all on from the designated smoking area in the sky as we spin on the teacups and scream down Thundermountain. 

I digress - back to the summer-stressed toes are ready to hibernate.  I need my stripy foot-tan to fade and despite my FitFlop conversion and this year's progress on the pedicure front, there's nothing quite like a pair of winter boots.  I've seen the perfect pair and am currently justifying their purchase - brown, mid-heel, a little bit Karen Carpenter. 

J has just gone back to school and E is still in bed.  We're under a little pressure to have a lovely day as it's the last day of the holidays and she has a TD day.  Various outings have been suggested, most of which seem to involve shopping.  Neither of us are particularly well-off but my suggestions of bike rides and picnics are shrugged off as dull, barely worth a thought.  

It could go either way...

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

taking a view...

I've been thinking.  I'd like to think I've been finding perspective, rationalising my priorities, considering my options but what I've really been doing is sitting about, drinking tea (yes, I'm fully re-caffeinated), wittering about all sorts.  Would you like a list?  It looks something like this...

- my kids will both be in double figures by the end of November.  I can no longer pretend I have justifiable babyweight.

- one of them will be a teenager in a few weeks.  The air around him seems to fizzing with hormonal fluctuations and it's fascinating, if a little alarming, to observe.

- I am on the verge of going back to college, 25 whole years after my first attempt (please be prepared for incessant art student nonsense from September 15th)

- I ate some out-of-date taramasalata yesterday on the grounds that if my beloved ate it, I would too - this has not gone well and I wish I'd stuck to my guns - I blame that daft 'don't waste food because we're all going to die in an environmental desert if we throw out a few bananas' programme on BBC last week

- I like to grow things rather than eat them (except for tomatoes - I'm hooked on the bush variety, Totem).  Courgette boredom has reached its pinnacle, even the chickens have become disinterested

- I have reached my technological understanding of mobile phones - I upgraded to one that lets me go online and I've switched all the options off because it scares me that I can google from such a tiny device

- I need an eye test and a bra-fitting, there are issues in both areas which need to be addressed

Did you watch 'I am slave' on C4 last night?  Probably the best drama I've seen this year.  Amazing performances and an incredible, horrific story.  'Big Brother' followed and was at its most vacuous.  It struck me that the two programmes scheduled back to back highlighted what seems to be a new era of seriousness.  Perhaps this has been going on for some time and I've been oblivious but the demise of BB (although I loved it when I could squeeze into its demographic) might, if we're lucky, make for some interesting TV, programming that could make a difference beyond nail extensions and spray tan.

Perhaps the programmers have been having a bit of a think too.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

all change....

Like it?  It reminds me of Carnac, all turquoise and clear and summery.  I know I'm a little late and in a couple of weeks I'll be on my annual quest for the perfect leather coat and a pair of boots to swish about in but I needed to give dear old projectforty a bit of a clean sweep.

I've simply chosen the 'simple' template from Blogger - no frills, no changes, no tweaks - for now.  I'll also be looking at my links.  Projectforty will go back to being what it was in the first place, a random pick and mix blog about being forty (something).  I'm taking all my arty, crafty paraphernalia and links over to stitchingandknitting which, at some point, will get the new brush treatment too.

Hope you won't mind.  I've tried to be a bit more organised and have gone through a phase of trying to blog about specific topics on specific days but my mind doesn't work like that and it's time I accepted it because that's when I'm happiest, doing everything I want to do but piecing it all together rather than working my way through one step at a time.

Here's a rock, part of an island at the end of a spit near Carnac.  I do love a rock photo.  My little camera is somewhat caput - no view through the screen, no zoom.  I hadn't realised quite how caput it was until we went away.  I didn't take many pictures (surprise, surprise) but I was very pleased with the ones I took of the kids.  They look so happy and full of optimism.  I'm having a bit of a drama about them both having significant birthdays this year.  E will be 10 and J will be 13.  I no longer have babies.  I can't begin to write about how that makes me feel but if anyone else sighs and uses the words 'you wait', I think I'll scream.  Is it really true that all teenagers are hellish?  Who knows - it appears we're about to find out.

Here's the girl, staring out to sea.

Here's the boy, messing about on the beach...

Whilst they were staring and messing, I was reading.  I'd suggested Hilary Mantel's 'Wolf Hall' to book club ages ago.  Reader, I've finished it.  I knew it wasn't going to be what I'd usually choose but I wanted to read a Booker winner and I wanted to read something historical, packed with research.  Have you ever seen that film about Martin Luther King - that was long.  'Wolf Hall' was its literary cousin - long.  Very interesting, very worthy, fascinating but - lordy - very long.  I quite fancied Thomas Cromwell by the end.  He just sounded so capable and organised and clever but emotional in a very masculine way.  I think the BBC needs to commission a series and ask dear old R. Armitage Esq to play the title role.  That would be a very pleasing autumnal Sunday night bit of programming.

Once I'd finished wolfing down WH, I moved on to 'The Help' - Mississippi maids and the dysfunctional families they look after in the 1960s.  Great book and I now know what grits are which has made a big difference to my culinary understanding.

Then I picked up 'eat pray love' by Elizabeth Gilbert.  I'd put a plea out to book club members for a copy.  I wanted to read it so I could pick holes in what I thought was going to be a trippy, self-indulgent memoir of a year spent pootling about the planet.  I have to say it was those things but it was also more.  Six million copies tells you that this lady has hit the spot. She, as far as I can tell, has written honestly about love and loss and finding the peace and balance she craved in her own life. 

I am, though, struggling with the idea that the only way to find peace and happiness is to have some kind of self-imposed exile and remove ourselves from day to day life, family and friends.  I like to think that all that peace and happiness is there already, it just takes practice to see that instead of the dishes, the piles, the paperwork and the laundry.  I have been reminded this week that if I didn't have all those things to do, I'd be on my own.  On my own without my friends and family?  That's an island I don't want to visit.

Monday, 9 August 2010

let the laundry begin...

You may not have noticed my absence as blogging has taken a backseat over the last couple of months.  We've been on holiday.  We went to Carnac, Brittany for a week.  We are taking a bigger trip to the States later in the year and although I was happy to mooch about the house en famille, the worker in the family quite rightly decided that he didn't want to mooch or, indeed, go to Wales.  He wanted a proper holiday.  Abroad.

He booked leave from work and set about scouring the interweb for a suitable (and inexpensive) holiday.  Now, our marital interpretationsn of inexpensive are somewhat different.  I had to leave the matter in his capable hands as I had no patience for online holiday bargain hunting.  My mind becomes discombobulated with dates and I tire very easily of the forms that every single enquiry seems to generate.  I went to Port Eliot instead.

Well, the worker came up trumps.  He found a caravan in Carnac, a short walk from the beach, a quick stroll from town and five minutes from the local ice cream stall that sold 200 flavours of sugary sweetness including whiskey and ketchup (thankfully the offspring gave those delights a swerve).  I've eaten more moules than I've eaten in my entire life and dear E who doesn't like green beans tucked into snails, squid, sea scallops and moules with a piscatarian gusto you'd expect from a girl who spent 4 hours a day running up and down the steps to the slides at the swimming pool.

Our caravan was small and we were cheek by jowl with other happy caravaners but it was like playing dolly house with our 4 mugs, 4 plates and 2 saucepans.  We filled the fridge from the nearby markets and shops and sat and read and played games and read and slept and read and ate. 

We'd never been to Britanny before and found it quite enchanting.  Lots of towns and ports to visits, brocantes a-go-go and standing stones for the more druid amongst us.  I think we'll go back.  I loved being by the sea.  I love the air and the effect walking on beaches has on my hooves.  I like sand in my bag and picking up shells.  I like promenades and boardwalks and stalls full of clothes that no-one ever wears unless they're by the sea. we're back in Wiltshire and the laundry pile is as megalithic as some of those stones.  We have courgettes the size of small babies and plums ripening faster than I can type.  One of the chickens is moulting and I need to get the kids' passports renewed so that we can go on our next trip.  I'm looking online for fish delivery and I need to invest in a new cafetiere as I've rediscovered a love of proper coffee. I've got pickling plans and jars to fill.  I've got a start-date for college and a list of supplies.  I'm terrified.  I start four weeks on Wednesday.

Welcome home!

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

3 days, 12 hours sleep, several mojitos....

I learnt a lot from going to the festival at Port Eliot last year.

- leave the wheely suitcase at home
- take one book to read (I still didn't read any books but at least I didn't take three this time)
- take a waterproof-backed blanket (I didn't)
- remember foldy chairs (tick)
- invest in a blow-up bed (successfully remembered bed AND pump)
- take anti-bacterial hand gel (hand washing becomes more and more imperative as time passes)
- remember to get to the events you want to go to in good time otherwise you'll be looking at the back of other peoples' heads for the duration

Port Eliot is a funny place. This year was my third. I was initially attracted by the mixture of literature, fashion and music on my first visit. It still has all those things, with knobs on. It's very beautiful, very photogenic and is a concoction of fashion, music, creativity, intellectualism and a very particular English sensibility and self-consciousness. Everyone seems to be having a simply marvellous time, there's no litter, very few tattoos, hardly any people of a more statuesque nature, no muffin roles or bingo wings and definitely no cans of double-strength lager being waved about. Most of the picnics came from Waitrose or the fabulous farm shop just over the road.

I loved it. Being a northerner and of, shall we say, a more cynical nature, I think I might appreciate Port Eliot's USP more than most. I trip down there every year with no inkling to stop, partly because I get to go to a festival, partly because I get to go with my good friend K and have a very funny time and partly because it's like a safari of the English middle class.

Oh, look over there - a beautiful floppy haired public school boy and to his left, his grandpa in his panama and blazer. And to your right you will see boho-chic PR, West London girl with just-right blondness and smudged smoky eyes.  Every badge, every signifier is there from the Cath Kidston tents, to the Brora cashmere wraps. There's an occasional spot of an LV tote bag and people whose faces you might recognise if you pay too much attention to the Sunday supplements.

Everyone looked wealthy, healthy and optimistic.  There was no sign of a recession.  If anything the tents had got bigger and the bars were busier. 

Grayson Perry put it quite succinctly when he pointed out that this was probably the only festival that happened on a lawn and not a field.  How we tittered at that one!

Of course, this would be the opportunity to show you lots of pictures but having found myself with just the camera on my phone my efforts were somewhat patchy.  I have three whole photos that appear to be in focus.  Here they are for your perusal.

The flower show was a wonderfully, magical addition to this year's entertainments.

I was pleased to see this little knitted man.

A view of the caberet tent and its neighbours.

Will I go again?  As this year, it depends very much on the speakers and the bands and the entertainments.  It's a grand weekend out although my kids are never very pleased that it's on the first weekend of the holidays.  

There seems to be a growing trend of taking smaller people to festivals.  I'm not sure I'll be doing that, particularly if it involves camping and staying overnight.  A day ticket would be OK but I saw enough stressed parents trying to offload their youngsters to the other party so they could go and have a cheeky mojito instead of spending the afternoon in a tent with an overwrought toddler.  In addition, it would cost me a lot more.  I got by on a home made picnic lunch both days, a bacon roll for breakfast and some very tasty veggie curry.  I have a feeling my little treasurers might want ice cream and cake and juice at £2.50 a throw.  Best I go on my own then...

I had a fantastic girly time with my dear friend K and was welcomed by K's sister and her lovely family to showers in the morning and an emergency duvet for Saturday night when it poured.  We had lots of fun and enjoyed lots of dancing and (in my case) inappropriate shimmying.  There's an argument for a lot more dancing in life, even at my advanced years.

Friday, 23 July 2010

It's show time...

It's 22 days until the 115th Somerfords Show. Last year you may remember I came second in a class in which I was the singular entrant. I hope to do better this year. The Show is always a welcome addition to our summer plan of doing as little as possible. I worked last summer so am going to focus on enjoying the next few weeks as much as possible.

Before I embark on days of making and doing inhave the small matter of a festival to attend. The weather isn't looking great so am having wardrobe issues.

Next week I am planning to attend to my bloggerations. It's time for a szchuszz particularly as i've been blathering on here for three whole years.

So...I'll be back after a weekend of mojitos and wells.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

the last day of summer?

One of the many wonderful things about taking some time off work and having my mum nearby is sharing days in beautiful places such as Mary Keen's garden in Gloucestershire.  This meadow, grown from a mix collated by Sheffield University's brainiest was the highlight of yesterday's trip.

Having googled Mary Keen, I also find she is going to the literary festival at Port Eliot this year, my annual camping trip.  This year they are organising a flower show and I'm looking forward to hearing the speakers talk about flower arranging and gardening all with that distinctive PE angle.

We also saw these....

I do love a potting shed.  I am angling for a shed in the garden.  G has other plans.  I want to clear out the unused camp and tangled knot of trees at the bottom of the garden and install a large potting shed with enough room for the tools I am accused of leaving to rust in the flower beds and a chaise.  I will keep my camping stove down there, a biscuit tin and a few blankets and install solar panels to power a light to read by.  I often hide in the greenhouse, a shed with a chaise would make the hiding more comfortable, particularly in the summer as my cucumbers are now sprawling.

I'll leave you with this little beauty...


Sunday, 4 July 2010

independence day...

My children have not slept in their own beds all weekend.  In fact, I've barely seen them as we had an evening with friends in Abingdon on Friday and then they had a sleepover while we had another evening with different friends just up the road.  They packed their own bags, they found sleeping bags and pillows, they organised their various hand-held devices and they said hello, please, thank you and goodbye when required.  I'm beginning to feel a little superfluous.

I wonder, sometimes, about how and when they'll become entirely self-sufficient.  I don't think I ever have been despite leaving one home just after my 16th birthday and another just before my 18th.  No mobiles and no email meant long periods of daughterly silence which were inconvenient at best, worrisome at worst for my parents.  I have, though, always depended on their generosity and support when I needed to and I remember my Dad making me promise that I'd always ask for the fatherly safety net if I was in dire straits.  If it wasn't my parents and family, I've always been lucky enough to have friendships and a marriage that I gratefully rely on for so many things, large and small.

I wonder how my own children will cope when they find that things don't always work out as they expect, whether they'll turn to us or not.  I hope they'll be able to use the safety net button when they need to.  I wonder how they'll communicate us, whether they'll be in constant touch or whether they'll fly the nest and take their news and companionship with them?  This pondering has been prompted by the realisation that one of them will become a teenager this year, while the other one will reach double digits.  Things are definitely changing and I'm going to have change with them.

We were talking with friends who have kids of a similar age last night about mobiles and family texting and I started to think that I have a more male approach to such things.  I like the occasional episode of text bantering as much as the next woman but I don't like talking on mobiles, especially in public other than to exchange the minimum amount of information.

G was expressing the codgerly opinion that he wouldn't be texting anything once he could hand his mobile back to his employer.  I like to call it the 'slaveberry' and I loathe it's constant blinking presence on our dresser in the kitchen.  I channel dark and destructive thoughts in its direction despite its influence on our family income and security.  It's like a very demanding house guest who doesn't help with the washing up.

Others in the party were keen to be able to maintain contact with their kids via the medium of mobile phone signals.  Me?  I'm not sure I want my growing children to feel they need to tell me their every move, neither do I have the inclination to be at their beck and call.  I do not want to be texted on a Friday night to be told that I can pick them up at 2am instead of 1am.   I do not want to be summoned to school because J or E has forgotten their assessment/homework/hair gel.

Sometimes we can all be too available and I think we've been lulled into the notion that just because we pay twenty quid a month to cart a little shiny box around with us we're immune to dangers and flat tyres and dodgy dates.  Perhaps as our two get older and more independent, we'll all feel more comfortable knowing that we're linked when we need to be but do we really need four shiny boxes interrupting our family dinners and dvd watching?  As a species we managed to keep ourselves relatively safe and secure without letting each other know that we're on the way or that we're going to be late at the beginning of every social interaction.

J has my old mobile.  I find it in his bedroom when I check that he hasn't made his bed. E wants a mobile and is starting to contrive ever-more ingenious plans and strategies to get her sticky little mits on one.  She does not understand why, at nine, she is being deprived of such technology.  I suppose she wants to text me when she forgets her trainers, her lunch box or her hairband during morning break.

I'm not a technophobe.  I lust after ipads.  I love to blog and I like the fact that the bank can now text my woeful bank balance and my astronomical visa balance every Monday and Wednesday morning, respectively.  I think it might be good to have a more mindful approach to our reliance on being technologically online all day every day.

Monday, 28 June 2010

i thought it was over, but it still isn't....

You would have thought that a 4-1 defeat would have put the men in our house off watching football for at least a few days.  They might watch the final but you'd think they would lose interest.  No.  They haven't.  It's 8.45pm, I've re-arranged the greenhouse, fed the chickens, weeded my pots, strung up my cucumbers, washed up and they're watching Brazil play someone I don't even want to think about.  I've wanted to reduce my telly watching for years, well, the World Cup 2010 has done that for me.

As the kids get older, they have more opinions and they want to express them later and later in the evenings.  Time was I could get away with putting the clocks forward in the winter months and get them into bed by 6pm.  Admittedly, I was usually woken at 6am but I had the luxury of a long evening in front of me.

Now they're 9 and 12, I find I have to compromise my evening's entertainment to satisfy the demands of their televisual preferences.  I'm getting more gardening done now but I am wondering about the ever approaching autumn and winter months.  They just don't seem to go to bed and my quiet evenings are being eroded little by little, minute by minute.

Don't get me wrong, I like snuggling up under a family blanket in front of the woodburner as much as the next mother but not only do they have an opinion on 'Antiques Roadshow' versus a repeat of 'Top Gear', they're getting bigger and our living room is not.  If I end up on the sofa with J, I'm invariably used as a pillow replacement or, horrors, as a foot rest.  J has toes that are mud-magnetic.  They are something to behold.

If E is my sofa-companion, I am subjected to an evening of wriggling and fiddling.  If I'm not brushing her hair, she's asking me deep and meaningful questions about the pros and cons of various imaginary pets.

G & I appear to have got to a stage in our relationship where we rarely sit on the same sofa together.  I'm not sure when this development occured but it may be knitting related.

It's funny how family routines change slowly over time.  We're definitely in a period of transition as J is heading towards teenager-dom with his little sister snapping at his heels.  I've realised that we haven't taken any photos of them recently, probably since Christmas so I'm hoping to get the camera out and try to make sure we've update the photo album before they really start to grow up.

Now I think about it, J may only have one more World Cup at home.  Next time he'll be 16 and in 2018 he'll be at college or somewhere else that isn't here. That's scary.  Note to self:  take more notice and allow sprawling on sofa.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

staring into the abyss...

Two weeks in, and I have developed loafing into a fine art.  I have been busy but busy in a very leisurely way.  It's such a treat, I feel quite guilty.

Last week was lovely.  A knitting workshop on Monday; haircut (preceded by a little antiquing in Tetbury) on Tuesday; domestic pottering on Wednesday; London, the V&A and the Saatchi Gallery on Thursday; lunch with a friend on Friday; garden visiting on Saturday and a very civilised picnic and a bit of dancing at Blondie at Westonbirt on Sunday. 

Several questions have been raised:

- is middle age the only time that you can appreciate quilting and punk in the same week?

- why were all the artists in the Saatchi gallery based in London?

- is there any hope for a middle aged artist with a provincial degree?

- how has Deborah Harry managed to keep her voice and is she really 65?

- what is going to happen when we all want to listen to 'The Clash' in our nursing homes?

- could I wear my snakeskin wedges every day or just for dancing?

- will I ever live in a house with a view?  I think I would like to and it occurs to me that I never have.  Of course, there is a view from every house but I would like a vista, at some point, I don't mind what of.  Perhaps the sea, perhaps a city, perhaps rolling fields.  I have the urge to live on a hill.  M, my lunch friend, lives in a house that looks across a valley near Bath.  It was beautiful.  It made me quite envious despite the fact that I also live in a beautiful place and appreciate it very much.  My place, however, is flat - full of trees and greenery but, well, flat.  Maybe one day.

- will the football ever end and can we all start caring about something else?

This week?  I'm taking a trip to Frome with S&J on Thursday and it's Embroiderers' Guild this evening. I am placing my fingers firmly in my ears before George Osborne starts reading his list of nastiness and until the England football squad has finished it's match on Wednesday.  I am going to stay in my little rural bubble and sort out my sketchbooks and all the things I've collected in anticipation of my return to study. 

Enjoy the sunshine...

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

rain, rain, go away....

I bought two sun loungers from B&Q on Saturday.  A big decision as there are no more pay packets on the horizon.  I have always wanted my very own sunlounger.  My Aunty had a pair of floral ones that my sister and I fought over for most of the 1970s.  I've wanted one for sometime.  My new loungers are a little modern for my liking but they were the last ones in the shop and it was very hot when I bought them.  I needed them and I needed them right at that moment.

Anyway.... here is the weather forecast for Swindon for the next five days.  Rain, followed by more rain, followed by showers.  Yippee!  At least I'll get all my paperwork done.

Apart from the small matter of the impending fete on Friday, rain will not affect my plans.  I think I'll have another 'at home' day tomorrow, followed by a private view of this year's fine art graduates from Swindon College and then Thursday S & I are off to Stroud to have a look what's going on as part of Site10.  I hope to be inspired by some amazing drawing.  We're planning quite a few Thursdays out and about.  We can go anywhere as long as we can get there and back between 8.30am and 4.00pm.  We got as far as Compton Verney last year for an amazing textile exhibition.  It's amazing how far you can get along country roads if you really want to.

I had hoped to get started on bike rides and walking but the weather is putting me off.  In the absence of exercise I have been eliminating caffeine from my life - one coffee yesterday and one tea today.  I slept till J's alarm went off this morning.  Bliss.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

number crunching....

2 days into the half term...2 afternoon sleeps...I know!  I've definitely retired.  My excuse yesterday?  The rain and a whizz around in the morning.  My excuse today?  A sunny walk and then a read of my book.  Should I feel decadent or decrepit? 

I've now acquired 5 copies of 'Her Fearful Symmetry' by Audrey Nififnfnfiengigniengegger for book club from the library.  All free - how good is that?  Just have to write a 100 word-review and I think I've signed us up for all sorts of library-related activity but it's worth it to get free books, all at the same time.

4 of the 6 cherry bakewells have already been eaten after our 1st trip to Westonbirt this holiday.  We met Granny there and had a very pleasant walk punctuated with my constant and incessant reminders to my children:
- 4 'stop moaning about your ankle, there's nothing wrong with it's
- 3 'chew with your mouth closed's
- 7 'speak properly's
- 204 'leave each other alone's

All good fun.  Apparently I always say 'we can make that home' when asking the kids to choose cakes.   These are things I have learned to day.

This is my 404th post.  How did that happen?  I have no idea.

I know that from Monday there are 7 weeks until the end of term.  That's, potentially 35 days comprising 6.75 hours of time all to myself (TATM) between the hours of 8.30am and 3.15pm.  That, if I can find my calculator is 236.25 waking hours. 

I have 8 hours each week committed to knitting and several days out planned at exhibitions near and far but apart from that, I have time on my hands, literally, for the first time in ages.

My mind is rushing with all the possibilities.  I could maintain a tidy and hygienic household.  I could enhance the productivity on my allotment.  I could, in fact, doze for a at least an hour a day as I've proved I'm so capable of doing.

There's so much time available, I am feeling a little overwhelmed.  My initial list looks something like this....

- write something
- make something
- move something
- play something
- grow something

We'll see how that goes shall we...if I can stay awake long enough....

Sunday, 30 May 2010

can it be possible?

I am now a freelancing student to be.  I no longer have a day job.  I am free.  I am free to clean the surfaces I have neglected for the last eighteen months.  I am free to move the sofas and remove the slutwool from beneath them.  I am free to sort out the freezer, examine the contents of my kitchen cupboards and probably feed us for about three months without a trip to Tesco.

I am free to stop rushing about, waking too early, stressing, worrying, wittering.  I am free to concentrate on looking after the people who mean most to me, instead of thinking about the next thing to do, the next place to go, the next list to make.

It's half term for the next week and we're planning trips out, places to visit, stuff to make, pyjama days to enjoy.  I don't have the constant thoughts of work and its associated worries, they're slowly receding.  I don't need to think about them anymore, they're just rolling away.  It's a liberating feeling.

The only downside?  No more paychecks and the release of the ipad.  Not sure a freelance student-to-be should be thinking about investing in such a shiny piece of gadgetry...might have to go for a play one day next week.

Monday, 24 May 2010

nearly there.....

I know it's been a while...I've had a bit on...three more days and I'll be back, waffling's a taster of what's been happening....

6 hours at a boot sale for the princely sum of £35 but slightly larger gaps in my cupboards

two hours running a knitting workshop where I was taught 'how to do it properly'

145 cabbage plants eaten by pigeons and rabbits (yes, I exaggerate)

several loaves of bread made and eaten (thank you, Clive)

Zumba class attended - hilarious and fun apart from the exposure to a couple of Michael Buble tracks

family learning event organised with one attendee who was actually trying to return her library books

timely 'Fat Face' sale for G's birthday purchases

wondering whether Clegeron can make it all work haven't missed much..back soon...enjoy the sunshine!

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

bored already.....

Teresa May as Home and Women's secretary - now there's a thought.  Sarah by Gordon's side as he resigned, Sam a few yards away, standing and pregnant (although looking lovely) as David pitched up. Has anyone seen any other women involved in the last few days - at all?

I've been watching BBC live at work this morning and the whole troupe has been arranged and given their parts to play.  I'm sure they'll all be feeling very important and r.e.s.p.o.n.s.i.b.l.e. today and I hope they make some good decisions and take care of the good things that our country does do and have a sort out on those other issues like, well, the economy and other small matters.

I like to have a good rant at the telly - I think Michael Gove might be my prime target over the next couple of months but I find I'm too busy just getting on with looking after myself and my own family to be pondering the outcome of this new form of government.  I've just been listening to a very interesting debate on R4 about how, really, the last 13 years were a coalition between the Brown-ites and the Blair-ites which I suppose any government could be interpreted as.  There are always differences between party members that somehow have to come together and operate as a government whatever happens.   I feel I should be adopting a more involved stance but, frankly, I've got an allotment to plant and a lace scarf to finish and a whole lot of family bits and pieces to sort out.  I just want them all to play nicely and get on with it.

I'm quite enjoying the constant reporting and updating and am finding it quite addictive.  I remember in 1997, I was working for a health quango and there was much cheering and whooping when the new Labour cabinet ministers were announced.  Watching this morning, I felt quite sorry for them all - they all looked as if they knew what was coming: a lot of hard work, a great deal of arguing and not much thanks.

I was wondering what GB was up to today.  I hope he started the day with a big deep breath, a large mug of tea and some gentle pottering in his Scottish garden with Sarah and his boys.  I'm imagining him in some suitable cordrouys, perhaps chinos with a warm checked shirt and some slip on shoes, having a think, wondering what to do next and enjoying the peace and quiet. 

Monday, 10 May 2010

are the libdems libran?

What on earth is going to happen?  Are we going to be in limbo forever?  Will the boys who look like assistant bank managers persuade their party grandees that they can all be friends, work together and sort out broken Britain?

What is an 'open offer'?  Sounds like something that happens on Saturday nights all around 'broken Britain'.  What is a 'big society'?  Is it something to do with the obesity crisis?

I have taken my usual approach to this period of uncertainty.  I am digging quite a lot, knitting quite a lot and baking quite a lot of bread (you'll hear more about this).  I know it's not mature and I should have a proper, informed opinion but I only managed the ST Style section this weekend and have decided that if I can't have a proper opinion, I'm not going to have one at all.

I finally finished 'The Pregnant Widow' by Martin Amis.  It was an uphill literary struggle, I can tell you.  Mr Amis just makes me feel thick.  I love his language but I'm always so very conscious that there is some reference, some allusion, some great big literary joke that I'm just oblivious to.  I'm a simple girl.  I like my nuances to hit me on the head, especially the literary ones.

I can't decide whether to delive into next month's (yikes, this month's) book club read (North and South) or just take my own path - again.  I'm not doing very well with book club reads.  I buy them, read the first paragraph and decide I don't like them.  I can find time to knit and dig and bake amongst my other commitments but I can't quite find time to devote to a book that I can't work up interest in over the first couple of pages.  I'm at risk of being de-booked if I don't make more of an effort.  My alternative to 'North and South' is a Jasper Fforde, sort of science/fiction/future type thing, the title of which escapes me.  Aren't you pleased I don't blog about books? having an 'at home' day.  I don't usually work on Mondays and I am very tempted to log on to my work emails but I'm not going to.  This is the first day I've had at home for what seems like ages.  I'm just off to do my first bicycle ride of the year (I may not blog again), and then, guess what, bake another loaf of bread.

I've got three weeks of three days until I finish.  Mixed feelings?  Of course...mixed between elation and excitement.

Monday, 3 May 2010

what are bank holidays for?

staying in bed and making progress on the library book (Martin Amis - 'The Pregnant Widow')
cleaning the kids' rooms in my pyjamas
explaining to J why you should collect dust as you dust, not just flick it across the room
realising my daughter has inherited my magazine fixation
ranting about clothes not being left on the floor again - ever
conceding that E now has more storage space in her bedroom than I do
sighing over old kids' clothes - they've grown - when did that happen?
discovering that skirting boards can become curiously fluffy if left to their own devices for a while
realising that the sort out was long overdue having discovered pants labelled 4-5 in her drawer - she is 10
understanding where the UK supply of pink plastic has gone
finding 11 assorted pencil cases and purses - in one cupboard
wondering why bindeez were ever invented
not knitting (unfortunately)
putting washing in and taking it in again, avoiding what I swear was hail
observing the two wild rabbits in our garden decimating my vegetable seedlings
hopefully planting cabbage and sprout seedlings in the allotment - I fear the worse
contemplating a weekend away for the next bank holiday

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

am I the only one....

who can't help crying at that new John Lewis advert?

I don't know what it is but watching what seems to be one woman's whole life just gets me blubbing.  I don't know who directed it but I'm obviously at high risk of forming an unhealthy relatinship with JL.  

I do love their stores, especially as I am poddling through my forties.  They are reassuringly stable and I think that must be their USP for all of us in this topsy turvy, economic free-falling world.  Here I am, off to contemplate my navel and study fine art for three years but I'll always need JL for my sheets and my bin bags.  Like the advert so blatantly suggests, they'll always be there for me.  That's it, they've got me hooked.  I only hope it's a good sign that I know I've been hooked.
I am being denied the opportunity to watch 'The Edible Garden' which I have been enjoying immensely because the men in the house need to watch some italian and spanish people play football.  I'm having my own experiement with filling my garden with vegetables and herbs but I don't think I'll be able to do it as stylishly or as productively as Alys Fowler.  My children, when they watch it, find her trips to George, her allotment friend, a great big cheat.  'She just goes off on her bike and steals his rhubarb.  That's not fair.'  I have to say I agree.  I have found an old wine box which I got G to drill with holes in her honour.
Although not a great fan of the interminable election coverage, I enjoyed a section on Radio 4's Today programme this morning.  One of their very nice interviewers was speaking to a group of 18-23 year olds who were 'not in education, employment and training' or NEETs.  

I have a great deal of sympathy for young people who can't quite get their act together.  I was one of them, despite the advantages my education gave me.  The interview was all a bit pre-1997, everyone a bit disaffected, some saying they wanted to work but there were no jobs, some saying they didn't trust politicians, it was kind of predictable until, when asked if she felt guilty about not working, one of the young women said something like 'no, I pay taxes when I buy my cigarettes, I'm putting in and I'm getting back' .....

kids, eh, don't ya just love 'em?

Monday, 26 April 2010

focus, woman, focus

Too many cooks spoil the broth?  Too many broths turn the cook potty!

I know everyone is busy but I think my problem is internal prioritising.  Like all my friends and colleagues my to-do-list never gets any shorter.  I can cope with that.  What I can't cope is the flitting and hopping between too many disparate things at once.  Sometimes I can feel my mind thinking about two things whilst doing something else. 

If I'm cooking, I'm thinking about the laundry.  If I'm working on one project at work, I'm worrying about another.  Deep breaths, a sharpened pencil and a new pack of post-it notes is what is required.

I've only got a month of proper work yet - perhaps that will help...I hope so!

Friday, 23 April 2010

work, cook. sleep. knit.

I thought I had everything under control.  It would seem that I don't.  I have a pile of ever-growing paperwork that must be dealt with. Now.  Well, tomorrow.  Maybe Sunday.

I'm also planning to participate in the Knitting and Crochet blog week over at  I might indulge in an overnight blitz on my office.  I like to do that sometimes.   When I wake early, I prefer to get up and do something.  It feels like I've accomplished lots  whilst being half asleep.   It makes paperwork a lot less painful but can have a detrimental effect on sleep patterns.

I am off to Wonderwool tomorrow (not doing paperwork).  I went last year with E & N and tomorrow I'm gonig with S & N.  It's going to be hot and I've laid out the folding chairs and the picnic blanket in anticipation. It promises to be a good outing and there will be wool to be bought and looked at and admired.

Enjoy your sunny weekend.

Friday, 9 April 2010

projectforty - the review

I recently had a RAG review at work (Red - alert, attention required, Amber - OK - room for improvement, Green - marvellous and whizzy, continue).  I thought I'd give the original projectforty list the same treatment:

drink more water
tick - lots of water drunk every day, helps to pump out wrinkles
eat more good stuff
mmm - if this means, eat more chocolate and yummy cakes, then yes, if it means, eat more vegetables, salads and pulses, then no
does slumping on the sofa and falling asleep before 9pm count?
I've simplified my exercise routine by not doing any but other facets of my existence seem to be more complex than ever
get grooming
have realised that this requires persistence, I'm good at cleansing and moisturising, not so consistent around eyebrow management
watch less tv
tick - am watching more DVD box sets instead, the Wire and Madmen, sometimes on the same night
dance more
mmm - have been advised by the smaller people in the house that this is not a good look, in front of anybody
do new 'stuff'
tick - my attendance at unlikely random events is increasing
create more
tick - but not for public consumption
less caffeine/alcohol
more of the first, less of the latter (except for the last couple of weekends)
I think amber, don't you? OK with room for improvement. I feel confessed and cleansed by my own personal review but a little underwhelmed by my progress.

My main priority is, as usual, to get a little fitter and shrink a bit.  I think this might have to be my main extra-curricular focus for the next few weeks.  As I'm coming up to my 400th post, there's a definite need to revamp and rejig the original list.  Looking back, dear old projectforty has served me well.  Like all good regimes, it needs a shake-up.

Like the Russian dolls, I'll be trying to shrink - first deadline 30th April, the day before our next family reunion and 3 weeks away.  At 2lbs a week, that's 6lbs.  Better dispose of the Easter eggs then.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

nice but naughty

My beautiful satchel, bought as a Christmas present from the Cambridge Satchel Company.

I lusted after this bag on the interweb and G granted my wish for a retro, red satchel.  Little did I know that it would cause injury to my dear friend LBD.  I know it's an inanimate object but I shall be careful now on to keep it in the back seat whilst travelling accompanied.

Our kitchen cupboards are now stuffed with chocolate.  We have had a lovely family time over Easter, catching up with our nearest and dearest.  Everyone kindly fed us to the gills or left us with supplies of cakes and yummy treats.  Miraculously, no additional pounds have been accrued but my willpower is going to be tested over the next few weeks.  My brother-in-law has lost a good deal of weight and reduced his cholesterol by half during six weeks of careful living.  I'm not sure I can rise to such heights of abstemiousness (?) but I've got a term of working approximately 2 minutes walk away from our local gym at a school-staff reduced discount.  It's got to be done.

These daffodils are casting a beautiful spring-like glow over our kitchen table.  They are curly and pretty and incandescently yellow.  I know I'm not the only blogger to post a picture of a daffodil at the moment but I simply couldn't resist, particularly as I can't eat them.

I managed to get the children out of the house for a couple of hours. We popped to Chippenham and did a circuit via the library, the bank, the pet shop and Wilkinsons for some amazingly cheap seeds and seed trays.  I think I managed to get 6 packets of seeds for £3.  There is probably a horticultural wizard out there who will say those seeds are doomed from all sorts of ecological or environmental shortcomings but I've got a lot of border to fill up and not a lot of pennies to fill it up with.   My idea is to make the garden as well as the allotment as productive as possible, if not with food, with plants that the birds and bees will take a liking too.  I'm sure I'll be waist high in nettles and ground elder by May but my intentions are good so far.

My children don't like to leave the house during the holidays which is a strange, limiting phenomenon.  They like to stay in their pyjamas and become inert objects, clad in fleece and cotton jersey.  This is great from the point of view of getting work done.  I sent a survey out a couple of weeks ago and now have approximately 500 questionnaires to process.  I need to sit still for a while and tick boxes and learn how to use Excel.

On the other hand, two agoraphobic children means a lot of snacks and very little fresh air.  They are not quite of an age where they can be left alone together for longer than 20 minutes.  Small disagreements can flare unpredictably.  A short trip to the greenhouse in my wellies may have to be paid for by half an hour's refereeing and supernanny-type negotiations.