Sunday, 30 December 2012

queue Annie Lennox... comes the rain again.

I have been watching the weather from my standard inert position - the sofa in our kitchen - for the last couple of days.  The sun is trying to do its job today but the rain still comes. 

We had a sociable Christmas - lots of family, lots of food, lots of games (sober and, hic, otherwise).  It was all very festive and jolly.  The turkey was delicious and the ham made the best carbonara as well as doing its duty on Christmas Eve.

We have, I suspect, though become the laziest family in Wiltshire, if not the South West.

E & I managed to take ourselves to Swindon's Orbital yesterday - a mammoth shopping centre where you could live quite happily if you happened to be there when Armageddon struck - there is a gargantuan Asda, a massive New Look, a serviceable M&S, a Boots, a Next and a Homebase. 

M&S looked as if retail locusts had ransacked the joint.  Nothing to buy but some sad looking prints and some scary gold Christmas cards.  I think I managed to persuade E that sales are just full of stuff that nobody wants anymore.   I had some items to return but will wait for a while to use my gift receipts.

The Worker took J out for their traditional Christmas football outing.  I think they had a good day but the football wasn't up to scratch.

We all seem to be much happier loafing about in our various elasticated waisted clothing.

I am just about getting to the point where my own personal inertia is starting to grate and I can feel lists and recycling and shredding coming on.

I've got some good stuff to look forward to right at the beginning of 2013 - a trip oop North in the next week or so and a college study trip to Krakow at the end of the month.  There's also the small matter of a tax return and a group exhibition to prepare for. 

It's time to get off the sofa.

Monday, 17 December 2012

my other home.... a studio space at Swindon College. 

I had an assignment deadline today.  Studio Practice 3.  This counts.  For those of you who don't know I dropped out of college the first time around for reasons I don't want to revisit.  I was a fairly useless young adult.  I started off OK and then when it came to A levels and leaving home I really didn't make very good decisions.

I've written here before about my recurring college nightmare of going back and failing / leaving again.  I've stopped having those dreams thank goodness.  My final year is proving to be a challenge.  I'm working part-time, family life seems to be getting busier, the Worker seems to be having to work ever harder.  It's not an easy run.  Sometimes I wish I'd just stuck at my course the first time around but then I wouldn't be having this opportunity now.  How many other ladies of a fortyish age get to spend at least part of their week contemplating their artistic practice? 

I do feel lucky to be able to do this and I hope my Dad would have been impressed that I finally got to go back and (with the wind behind me) get a degree. 

Already people are asking what I'm going to do with it?  One of our modules at college is 'professional practice'.  The answer is, I don't know.  I think if I were younger without a family, I'd be heading off like every other aspiring artist to London or Paris or New York.  I'm not.  In fact, I almost don't want to know what I'm going to do.  What I think I will have gained from these three years is the confidence to do things I would never have done before.  So far I've completed a residency and exhibited in brand new venue.  I know that if I want to pursue a career as a practising artist, it's really up to me.

I think it will be interesting as an older artist, and one based outside London.  I do feel that I can do anything.  I don't feel constrained by trends or the 'nowness' of things as much as if I would, perhaps, if I was younger. 

So, today I finished the first of the assignments of my final year.

Tonight - the annual Zumba Christmas party...a little different but just as enjoyable!

Friday, 14 December 2012


The Christmas culinary countdown has begun.  I have spent a happy hour this evening enjoying the delights of Ms Lawson and Mr Slater. 

As predicted Nigella was on her best innuendo-laden, luscious housewife form with oodles of this and swirlings of that and a set bedecked in hues of vermillion and gold.

Nigel, on the other hand, was in his minimalist abode (I still think his kitchen looks like it's in a greenhouse), making nut roast and choosing a tree for Trafalgar Square - how did the Beeb get that to happen?

He did make a delicious looking lamb casserole with prunes which looked suitably rich and stew-ey.  I think there were biscuits too.

I was particularly taken with Nigella's spicy popcorn too.  Something to try perhaps.

J  & E groaned with despair at the prospect of a couple of cookery programmes but I hope to re-ignite an interest in cooking, particularly for J who has endured two years of incessant pies and various forms of bechamel sauce as part of his home economics GCSE.  I have great admiration for him as the main thrust of the course seems to have been 'evaluating' rather than enjoying anything to do with flavour, preparation or taste.  When I've met his teacher, I've been impressed - I assume it must be the course itself that seems to want to reduce any interest in cooking to a set of bullet points.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Christmas List II

I made the mistake of sofa slumping in front of the delicious Lorraine Pascale on BBC2 last night.  Apparently I need to add hibiscus flowers in syrup to my list of Christmas must-haves.

These are delicious, so LP says, as an alternative to cassis in sparkling wine before Christmas lunch.  I had to google them and such things retail for £9.99 a jar!  I think I'll stump up for proper fizz instead.

They did look pretty though...

I did wonder about her strategy for making sure the turkey didn't dry out.  This involved placing 2 bags of frozen peas on top of the breast whilst the rest of it was coming to room temperature.  Does anyone have room in their freezer for two massive bags of superfluous frozen peas at this time of year?  I think not.  A doomed strategy if I ever I heard one.  What happened to a bit of foil? 

She did, however, reignite my desire for one of those fat separator things that has a spout and divides all the turkey loveliness from the turkey fattiness.  I loathe that part of cooking where you have to do complicated things with the roasting tray.  I had one a couple of years ago but it didn't like the dishwasher and the spout made everyone cross at washing up time.  Lakeland have them on sale for £4.99.  I do know how to treat myself!

The Beeb cunningly dropped in adverts for Nigella's festive innuendo hour and a master bake-off with telly's culinary odd couple Berry (she even has a festive name) and steely-eyed Paul.  That's my Christmas wrapping time sorted then.  Yum.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Christmas list

Well, I gather from the lack of response to my CB rant that my political commentary doesn't go down that well.  Perhaps it's a Christmas thing.

I'm so over GO and his autumn statement and my New Year's resolution is to spend the time I usually spend shouting at Bruce/Gompertz/Peston et al on something more enjoyable instead.  Half an hour in bed, reading more than a word before I fall asleep is how I'm envisaging January evenings.

I am in the midst of assessment 'doings'.  My studies have been somewhat fragmented and dislocated since we started back at the end of September.  I have, however, had an exhibition to which lots of people came and of which lots of nice things were said.  Unfortunately, my artistic practice underwent something of a schism and I now find myself with a variety of 'work', none of which seems to hang together in what my tutors call 'a body of work'.

Besides my studies, there is the small matter of Christmas to be getting on with.  Based on the snatched conversations I have had with those I know of a female persuasion and the faces I've seen in my recent supermarket visits, I don't get the sense that Christmas 2012 is really being entered into with a sense of joy and excitement.

Perhaps it is because I'm getting older and, therefore, so is my peer group.  There are those of us who did everything in February although don't admit it and sigh and eye-roll with the rest of us when we realise that we have several things to do:
- write the cards (sometimes make the cards)
- arrange a 0% credit card to pay for the stamps
- clean the house
- arrange for an obscene amount of food and beverages to arrive at the right time, hopefully avoiding any trip to the shops after 21st December
- buy charming and thoughtful presents that don't look as if they came from a 3 for 2 offer or were bought with Nectar points
- decorate the house with delightful gewgaws that have the right balance of quirky tackiness and vintage/retro/chic/scandinavian charm
- adopt the demeanour of a person who delights in all such matters
- start drinking sherry and/or amaretto
- eat, drink and be merry whilst having a temporary bout of bulimia so as not to put on three stone

What a palaver.  Christmas, it seems to me, is a time for just hanging about with people you like, doing the things you all want to do that you don't really have time for during the rest of the year because every day is busy.  At least at Christmas, it's busy with fairy lights.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Kwills, babies and child benefit (rant alert)

Well, I hear that Kwills are pregnant.  Congrats.  Yet another one of my predictions has come true. 

I make such predictions all the time.  Predictions that are, in fact, statistically quite likely.  It makes me feel a little bit more clever than I am.   My most recent prediction (apart from their royal preggerness) was that Charlie would win IACGMOOH on Saturday.

I didn't watch - I went to bed in a fug of Saturday night reality/competitive/celebrity overload.  I felt particularly clever on Sunday  morning when my prediction had been proven without the necessity of watching her eat wallaby genitalia.  See, I'm a lucky girl.  I have a lot to be thankful for.

On to the subject of this post...

We had our Child Benefit letter recently - the one that tells you that if the father of your offspring has worked hard enough for however long to make sure he provides enough cash for your family then you won't get a benefit that has been the backbone of our welfare system since 1946.

It has been paid to everyone, however much their father/mother earned or where they live or what they do, since 1946 - that's 66 years.   Since the war.  Since the war that inspired various politicians to endeavour to make our society a better, more equal place.

Now, if you/I/we are earning more than the threshold amount then there is a big part of me that says that's fine.  If you don't need it or you use it to pay for your highlights or your La Perla lingerie, you don't need it and in these straightened times we must all take the hit, suck it up, reduce our circumstances, tighten our belts blah di blah di blah.

However, for me the principle here is the equality of the benefit.  The fact that every child, no matter into what circumstances they were born were automatically entitled to receive that benefit until, I read, 7th January 2013. There was nothing to stop the wealthy from refusing their Child Benefit or not claiming it in the first place.  It would be intriguing to find out how many did not.

Child Benefit, or as it used to be called, Family Allowance was one of those principles - like the NHS,  like free school dinners, like tuition fees - one of those things that the politicians in 1946 put into place to give everyone, if they needed it, that little extra bit of help. 

I know it's a different world.  I know things have gone pear-shaped financially but does everything have to be so mean-spirited all the time?  Are 'benefit scroungers' and 'disability cheats' screwing as much out of the system as the corporations and high-net-worth individuals with particularly special tax advisors managing to screw?  Would it really make that much difference to the national coffers to protect something of our welfare state?  Would it be so hard to make sure that babies and children went through their school life with that little financial buffer for their parents?  I think not.

So...on the day that Kate & William celebrate the birth of their baby, hundreds of other babies will be born and their parents will be wondering where on earth they are going to find the £20 or so a week they would have received for 18 years (after tax).  If my maths is right, about £1000 per year, so £18,000.   Saved, that's a good start for university.  Spent, it might make the difference between a square meal a day or not.

Happy Christmas Mr Osborne.  I won't be forking out 50p to send you a Christmas card, 2nd class.