Sunday, 29 June 2008

Skipping

Lest any of you gorgeous bloggers out there suspect my life of being too full of bliss, let me share what happened last month....it's taken that long to sort it all out!

I feel I can share my shame after reading Suburban Correspondants blog....mmm, the blogosphere - are we just all members of one huge AA group? - Pardon the pun!
(the AA in the UK is a car breakdown and rescue organisation)
Firstly, I will try to persuade you that there were mitigating circumstances to my error of judgement!
I made lunch for someone I hadn't seen in ages...she spilled out her relationship woes....I listened, mopped tears....did tea and sympathy.

Then immediately afterwards I had to jump in the car to collect the children from school....I drove carefully enough (although my mind was racing about what she had been through)...the problems started when I went to park.

As I was running a smidgy bit late, the road was really crowded .
Aha - bliss - I spotted a really good sized space a little further along the road, just the other side of a skip (dumpster)



It was one of those moments you shout a little "hurrah" - someone kind is looking down on you!
As I drove towards the said skip, another car wizzed towards me from the opposite direction - thinking she was going to 'ding' my car, I shimmied into the space, and out of her way....

Well, that's what was supposed to happen - except I ended up scrunching up my own bodywork.

Did you know skips have really sharp corners?

I caught the back passenger door on the corner of the skip - I knew this, because there was a gut wrenching sound of metal ripping metal!

Now, being stuck hanging inelegantly off the corner of a bright yellow skip isn't a very comfortable position to be in....especially when you are outside school - and all the Yummy Mummies happen to be watching your skipping antics from their Pork Cayennes.

I tried to think quickly how best to unhook myself -
Should I drive forward?
Should I drive backwards?

Girls, I have to tell you - I did BOTH....
Both resulted in even more metallic crunching noises, and wincing from the Yummy Mummies - they almost registered horror (far too much Botox to actually register real horror).

My girls surveyed the damage - there was much eyeball rolling, and muttering about what 'Daddy' would say.

Once safely home, I rang my insurance company....after answering a zillion questions the best one they came up with was -
"And did the skip suffer any damage?"

I bit my lip hard - what I wanted to say was - "It was a naffing great big metal skip - it's fine - it's my car that's scarred".....but I had already spotted the deliberate mistake -
it was a huge great naffing yellow skip - so how the hell did I manage to hit it

Senior moment or school girl error - neither a good option!

The Insurance company sorted everything out, except that because it was my fault they wouldn't loan me a nice little German car while my nice little German car was in the garage......
Perhaps because I am the stupid woman who parked in a skip, and can't be trusted!
No, instead I get to borrow the dreaded garage loan car.....dah, dah, dahhhhh - yes, you've guessed it - a tin can on wheels.

The chirpy chappy from the garage said - "Ahh, we have a loan car for you - it's a Renault Clio Campus"....I will translate - a car for poor students - fabulous - I remain unconvinced that there actually was an engine beneath the bonnet, and pulling out at junctions was like playing chicken, since you were never quite sure if it would make it across the road.
I know I should have been grateful...and I was...it's just...

As if having the Yummy Mummies watch my antics wasn't punishment enough!

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Four Rooms And A View.

Mrs G wanted to see our favourite spaces - happy to oblige Mrs G, here are mine -
Until 18 months ago, we lived in a beautiful little Georgian house - it didn't have much garden, but the house was really pretty - mainly as a result of us working on it for 12 years....but I loved every room.






I have to show you those - where we live now is a dump - work in progress...and will be for a while - I just hope not 12 years, like last time....so I'll stay outside - the view is better!

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Bad Karma?

I had never actually killed anything....well apart from the odd spider...oh, and an awful lot of wasps (can't stand wasps) 
(obviously this doesn't include W.A.S.P.s - certainly never swatted any of them!).

I suppose living in the country it was inevitable, that at some point something would have to be despatched.

We've had an ongoing problem with squirrels (not the adorable, rare red variety, but grotty grey squirrels) and as friends of ours had their house totally flambe'd by squirrels, munching through electric cables in their roof, we are more than a little anxious about the damage these pests can do.

The Husband often does a little target practice on these beasts, but they are wiley creatures and avoid his best efforts (possibly his aim is a little off - but the opportunities inevitably arise when he has just got out of the shower, and he isn't exactly prepared for a hunting expedition.) Taking aim from the bedroom window whilst clinging to your bath towel probably isn't ideal. 
I certainly never imagined I would have to take on that mantle.

This afternoon I took some scraps to our hens, I took some time out to fuss one of our Easter babies - now a full sized rooster! 
While I sat on the grass tickling the rooster's tummy (he likes it) I spotted a squirrel on the other side of the electric fence. I growled at it and when it didn't move, I chased it away. I didn't imagine for a minute that it would reappear two minutes later giving me a squirrel version of the 'v' sign.
Other than throwing eggs at it (what a waste) I wasn't prepared for dealing with squirrels - so I shouted for the Hound.

The Hound's quarry is usually limited to tennis balls (she has a fetish for them), initially she was a bit slow to react. Thankfully she soon caught on to the concept of a new target and went for the 'tree rat'. 
What then followed was a surprise - The dog went for the squirrel, withdrew,  then the squirrel went for the dog, then played dead...only to launch another attack on the dog...then once again play dead. 
This battle was vile - with me feeling increasingly desperate, hating every horrible second - if the husband had been at home he would have dealt with the situation. 
My top concern was that the squirrel should be cleanly dispatched, and as the Hound was making a rather of a saga of it, someone else was going to have to do the deed....worst of all.... 
.....I suspected this person was me
Not wanting to be the pathetic 'girlie wuss' I tried to think what he would do, so I ran and got his gun....ahh - problem - I didn't actually know what to DO with it! 

Ugh, ghastly this was definitely not on my list of pleasurable summer afternoon activities. What to do? But call the Husband at work....
....of course his work colleagues thought it completely hysterical that his (obviously) loopy wife was calling him at the office to get operating instructions on firearms....especially funny that the aforementioned wife couldn't even work  out if said gun was actually loaded 
(WELL, I've never picked one up before).

Thankfully my first attempt was clean, quick - and the squirrel was no more.
Girlie wuss I might not be, but this hunting lark really isn't going to catch on with me - goodness only knows how much bad karma you get from polishing off a squirrel on behalf of a Hound who can only cope with chasing tennis balls?

Eating for England

Five days of clearing up vomit...and I'm the only one that hasn't actually thrown up! I have felt pretty awful, but did the starvation thing to kill of any bugs lurking in my stomach. So without the up chuck, but with all the other symptoms I have taken it easy the last few days.
My way of coping has been to don a big cashmere sweater, drink lots of water and read something light....reading when you are ill is a big thing for me - I actually have a little selection of books which are my 'ill' books - ones I turn to when I need cheering up!

This time I tried a new book - Nigel Slater's "Eating For England".



Wrapped up, with the book balanced on a pillow, I read his descriptions of 'English' food - it brought back so many memories - what is it about food which does that?

It got me thinking...what food memories I had from my childhood...

I grew up with a mother who despised cooking, she majored in reheating things - mostly from Marks and Spencer, with additions from Birds Eye - fish fingers with their luminous breadcrumbs, or beef burgers, which my mother thought were good quality because it said 100 % beef (oh, dear god - what parts of the cow?).

Pudding was equally awful, again things out of packets dished up without any love or care - Arctic Roll being one of the most disappointing - so dry it stuck to your tooth enamel. The other pud she bought was packets of Butterscotch Angel Delight - which I would make, I loved this - it tasted strongly of chemicals, but there was something soothing about the texture - comfort food!


Food was seen as a chore in our house, eating it bore no enjoyment, the biggest fuss being who cleared up afterwards - there wasn't a dishwasher in the early days.

The only light in this foodie hell, was the weekly visit from my Aunt, this saviour loved cooking - not, I suspect because she particularly loved cooking itself - but I realised from a very young age that she cooked as an act of love. Every week she would cook Shepherds pie, every week she would cook the potato and before topping off the pie, she would make a saucer of buttery mash for me to eat while the rest of the pie cooked.
This mash is one of my abiding memories of childhood and of her!

When I left home, I had no culinary skills (other than making Angel Delight or toast), I worked really long hours, came home tired....and repeated what I knew - microwaving more vile packets of ready prepped 'food'. It was only when we moved out of London and had children I began to question our eating habits, and gradually began to learn how to cook!

The microwave was lost a good ten years ago - it's only purpose for it's last few years was making poppadoms!

In Nigel's book he trys to describe different cooks - I fall between two - the 'grow your own cook' and the 'cool modern shopper cook' - perhaps because after 13 years I'm still 'in training'!

I'm an Aga (I would never have anything else now) cook, who has a penchant for buying cookery books - they sit on the kitchen window sill - good job it's a wide window, as there are now 72 of them! I follow recipes, and don't have the confidence to make things up. I swear by certain books, but can't bear Delia!

I shop at the local farm shop - and get a nervous twitch if I forget my canvas bags - plastic is a no-no!
I like heavy cookware, catering quality equipment, I get a perverse pleasure from saving leftovers and turning them into something else, I get a kick out of putting homemade things in the freezer!
I love 'wild' food - Elderflowers from the garden transform into ice cream and cordial, blackberries turn into Bramble jelly -then the summer pleasure of home grown veg from the garden. OK, so it's not rocket science, but sometimes it is the simple stuff that makes people happy!

Now my cooking is about LOVE, it is about the ingredients, what is in season. Not to pick the most expensive 'in thing', but to pick things that will comfort and please.

Nigel Slater's Aparagus and Lemon Risotto.

The Italians have it right - they cook with love and care - it is an expression of affection for their family and friends - I might have missed this when I was little, but I'm making up for it now.

So Mr Slater if you were to pigeon hole me - I'd like to be referred to as the "Trainee Italian Mama", and certainly not a "Cookery Hen"! ....Thank you for cheering me up!

If you would like a trip down the memory lane of pear drops, tapioca and crumpets buy "Eating for England".

Other rather good books by Nigel Slater on my window sill -
Real Food
Real Cooking
The Kitchen Diaries

also read - Toast (his biography)

Friday, 20 June 2008

Micro Blog

After 48 hours of No 2 being sick, and me scraping vomit off bedclothes at 3am....we are back in the world of the well.
I normally post a photo....perhaps not this time.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Ringing alarm bells

Yesterday on the breakfast news there was a report from Aldeburgh in Suffolk - to give you some background - Aldeburgh used to be a sleepy town of artists and fishermen.


In recent years it has become a rather 'popular' place to move to.

Aldeburgh is rightly proud of it's heritage, including the 500 year old church, and the rather wonderful bells.



Church bells may be silenced after residents have complained about the noise!

The Aldeburgh Festival, in Aldeburgh, Suffolk, was launched 60 years ago by Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears and features the peal of the church bells, but 20 residents have complained that they disturb Sunday peace and amount to a statutory nuisance under environmental laws.

The Rev Nigel Hartley, the Vicar of St Peter and St Paul's Church, Aldeburgh, said: 'Our tower has stood here since the 14th century and its bells have been rung for at least 500 years. They have called the faithful to worship and reminded the less faithful of their heritage.'



Rev Hartley said that one of the petitioners had bought a house next to the church. 'What would happen,' he asked, 'if someone bought a house close to Ipswich Town football stadium? Would they, on the same grounds of finding it a nuisance, be able to silence the crowds at every home game?'

A council spokesman confirmed that there had been a complaint, although said that a formal petition had not yet been received.



It's interesting that the local council say that they have not received a petition - so it appears that this is only one individual - who obviously doesn't understand how to live in the country - or what a part of our heritage she is trying to lose.

Until 2007, we lived for 13 years in a village with an 800 year old church - complete with bells - every wednesday night the bell ringers practiced hard.....all evening.
It's a shame they weren't terribly good at it - but even so, the sound of the bells ringing was a pleasure - and an important part of our community.

I have to say it really irritates me, when people move next to a school, then complain about mothers parking and dropping off, or buy a property on a busy road, and then complain about traffic noise...
...buy a house next to a church, and hello! what on earth did you expect to hear from a church tower? heavy rock music, yodelling, elephants trumpeting?

If you really can't bear the natural noises which are part of everyday life in the country - then be a hermit, go live in a cave up a mountain - just be careful you don't get annoyed by bird song or the sound of wind blowing trees in a breeze - 
I suspect the Revd Hartley is far too nice to say this!

Keep Ringing! 
Ring loud and ring proud - we are too quick in this green and pleasant land to throw away our culture and heritage.


images courtesy of Google

Drunk

What is it about us Brits? 
With the Scottish parliament discussing banning shop sales of booze to anyone under 21 on a Friday or Saturday night, UK towns are full of drunken louts starting fights and clogging up our already overstretched hospitals, I suspect we don't have a healthy relationship with booze.

No other language has so many different words or phrases for being drunk - 141 to be precise!

drunk,• adj, euphemisms include:

Ankled (Bristol)

Badgered, Banjaxed, Battered, Befuggered, Bernard Langered, Bladdered, Blasted, Blathered, Bleezin, Blitzed, Blootered, Blottoed, Bluttered, Boogaloo, Brahms & Liszt, Buckled, Burlin

Cabbaged, Chevy Chased, Clobbered

Decimated, Dot Cottoned, Druck-steaming, Drunk as a Lord, Drunk as a skunk

Etched

Fecked, Fleemered (Germany), Four to the floor

Gatted, Goosed, Got my beer goggles on, Guttered (Inverness)

Had a couple of shickers, Hammer-blowed, Hammered, Hanging, Having the whirlygigs, Howling

Inebriated, Intoxicated

Jahalered, Jaiked up (West of Scotland), Jan'd - abbrev for Jan Hammered, Jaxied, Jeremied, Jolly

Kaned

Lagged up, Lamped, Langered (Ireland) [also langers, langerated], Laroped, or alt. larrupt, Lashed, Leathered, Legless, Liquored up (South Carolina), Locked, Locked out of your mind (Ireland), Loo la

Mad wey it, Mandoo-ed, Mangled, Manky, Mashed, Meff'd, Merl Haggard, Merry, Minced, Ming-ho, Minging, Moired, Monged, Monkey-full, Mottled, Mullered

Newcastled, Nicely irrigated with horizontal lubricant

Off me pickle, Off me trolley, On a campaign, Out of it, Out yer tree

Paggered, Palintoshed, Paraletic, Peelywally, Peevied, Pickled, Pie-eyed, Pished, Plastered, Poleaxed, Pollatic

Rat-legged (Stockport), Ratted, Ravaged, Razzled, Reek-ho, Rendered, Rosy glow, Rubbered, Ruined

Saying hello to Mr Armitage, Scattered, Schindlers, Screwed, Scuttered (Dublin), Shedded [as in " My shed has collapsed taking most of the fence with it"], Slaughtered, Sloshed, Smashed, Snatered (Ireland), Snobbled (Wales), Sozzled, Spangled, Spannered, Spiffed, Spongelled, Squiffy, Steamin, Steampigged, Stocious, Stonkin

Tanked, Tashered, Tipsy, Trashed, Trollied, Troubled, Trousered, Twisted

Warped, Wasted, Wellied, With the fairies, Wrecked

Zombied

So how is the binge drinking situation avoided? 
I was brought up drinking small amounts of wine at supper, in fact long before I was allowed to drink black coffee, I was given wine! 
I think I've got a healthy attitude to drink - I enjoy it, but don't overdo it - is that nature or nurture? 
I'm repeating the same attitude with our children - one hates wine, one loves it (worryingly) - and where will that take them - will they be drink aware? 
How are you guiding yours?

141 versions of drunk - from the bbc

Monday, 16 June 2008

Long service medal

This month, 'my Husband and I' have been married for 15 years - I am relieved to report the years have whizzed by - and it doesn't feel like that long at all!

So as the anniversary neared, I dreamt up a suitable present - (it's the crystal anniversary, about time for it to be something decent, after years of foil, string or wood).

Glasses - mmm, no, we're not keen on cut glass, and the beautiful plain crystal glasses we had as a wedding present have all been smashed by dinner guests too smashed themselves to realise they had dropped expensive little numbers from Germany...
...We ended replacing those with cheap £1.99 copies from Habitat to avoid having to make the 'no problem' faces, when we actually wanted to sob....  So that option was out!

Most other glassy ideas were too girlie - I concluded that cufflinks were a good option for the boy who has everything...I found some gorgeous Babette Wasserman Amethyst cufflinks - perfect for my purple loving, 1960's,  husband!

The day dawned....his card greeted me as I opened my sleepy eyes to my morning cuppa...
...no rocks - damn, damn, damn
But inside his card lurked a lovely present - a Extravagant Mr B's Spa Treatment!

For those of you who don't live near Bath - Apologies - our award winning bookstore will out trump most things....on this occasion, it even out trumped rocks!



A Mr B's Swag Bag.

This morning I tripped off to be indulged in book heaven!
Nic welcomed me into the cosy armchair with a cup of tea and a very gooey brownie...my literary likes and dislikes were discussed, and probably appalled him - (as I discussed over at the virtual bookclub last week   please read it - not for my thoughts, but for a peek at the swooneyness of Mr Docx).

Like an attentive and intelligent assistant in a chic shoe store, Nic brought his selections of books and laid them at my feet (my hands full of brownie).
Just as one would feel spoilt for choice surrounded by boxes of Jimmy Choo's, I struggled to make my 'directors cut' of those books that would make it home with me.
Another cup of tea, and a little input from Juliette, and I made my choices...hope you all approve - I'd especially love to know what you think of these - if you have read them!














How do you rate this as a long service medal? It's an eclectic selection - best not analysed too deeply - I'm not sure what it might say about me!
I'm off now to drink my Mr B's hot chocolate and  read....mmm, which one first?

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

History - it's in your Genes

This could have been a rant about how tricky it is to find Jeans that fit....I could write reams on that!

Instead this is a post about the cloth from which we're cut!

Thirteen years ago I was given a holiday diary written by my Husband's Granny in the 1960's, it may have been an odd thing to have been called a 'gift'....but what an interesting present it turned out to be!

I always hated History at school, it was dry and bored me so utterly senseless, that my friend Joanna and I spent our History lessons reading Shirley Conran's 'Lace'!
We used to put our massive school bags on the desk in front of us, and hid behind them, reading the salacious parts of that literary masterpiece whilst sucking salt and vinegar crisps (we had to suck them, so that no crunching noises were detected). 
What happened to the Goldfish almost made us squeak so loudly, that we gave the game away....so we stuffed our mouths in a very unladylike fashion with more crisps.
It won't surprise you to hear that I failed History - what I learnt could have easily fitted on the back of a postage stamp....
You can imagine my lack of excitement...being given Granny's diary years later!

I thought I would speed read (out of politeness) a little before shoving it on the bookshelf and forgetting it was there....that was 13 years ago, and a lot has changed since then - including me!

On her first trip to Canada, Granny described seeing a supermarket for the first time....she sees the things we now take for granted as if she was an alien landing on earth...it amused me, the way she described a shopping trolley - as a wire cage with wheels and a plastic rod for a handle - she'd never come across one of those before either! 
Amongst these gems she wrote about her conversations with the Canadian relatives, talking of the old days, before they emigrated, talking about the family they had left behind. 
In the diary she recorded these snippets, and I began to wonder what these people (only described by their dates of birth and death) were really like.

I didn't see it at 'History' at first, I do now - a rich, antique tapestry of our family, lots of tiny stitches, lots of detail - you stand back and feel rather emotional!
Discovering tiny details, like how a couple met (in 1720), how someone got a promotion (in 1860) what they did for a living (how they were robbed - but the robber caught).

13 years - it's a long time to spend trying to find people, but I have! I have learnt the necessary detective skills to track people down amongst piles of dusty files...but that's where the dustiness ends - these notes are no longer names and dates, they are real people, real lives, happiness, success, tragedy and loss - and this is what History should be - fleshed out, made interesting. I now wonder if Miss Bainbridge had described Hitler or The Peasants Revolt in such terms I might have paid more attention....

So if your child thinks History is as dull as the proverbial ditch water - get them online, get them finding their own History....and you might be pleasantly surprised, and you are sure to be transported back in your mind's very own time machine.


Friday, 6 June 2008

Floral Friday










Tuesday, 3 June 2008

BIG BANG!

Our dining room looks over the beautiful valley which stretches out for miles in front of us, it's a fabulous view, we love the rolling fields and the trees, the animals and birds. Living here we quickly saw at first hand how cruel nature can be, but I didn't quite expect what happened this week!

We have a resident Sparrowhawk - he is rather handsome, and we have watched him a couple of times take garden birds 'out to lunch'... but this has always been from a distance.... until now!

The other day, after breakfast, the girls regaled me with an improbable tale about birds chasing each other into the dining room window, I have to admit it did sound like a bit of a shaggy dog story.
Later, while bimbling around in the Kitchen I heard -

BANG!

It was a noise equal to a bomb going off, and I have to admit it rattled me. I nervously ran into the dining room (from wence the noise had come) fully expecting to see windows blown out or some kind of terrible wreckage. My mind raced, rationally I knew there should be no frightening explanation for the noise, but the sound had been SO HUGE!
As I ran into the room, I spotted an exploding ball of white feathers in my line of sight just the other side of the glass. In slow motion the feathers fluttered to the ground below. With a huge sense of relief I thought -phew, just a bird flying into the window again, my shoulders untensed and relaxed!
Curiosity took me to the window where I saw this -





Well, you could have knocked me down with a feather!
There he was - staring back at me... with attitude! WOW - what a photo opportunity.... I ran off to find the camera... skidding across the parquet floor, losing balance and polishing the floor with my bottom! 
I grabbed the camera and skidded back into the dining room....still there, I couldn't believe my luck...
...I turned on the camera, and up popped a little message 'change battery pack'....
....cursing loudly, I slipped back across the parquet and grabbed my phone...ran back to the window fully expecting the bird to have gone.
But no, there he sat, with an arrogant expression on his feathery face! Triumphant I held up the phone to take a picture, and with another expression (a 'naff off' one) he flew off with the pigeon in his talons!

Left as the only evidence of this explosion was a white imprint of the pigeon on the window - like a comedy outline from a cartoon....except the last laugh was from hawk!

Photo courtesy of google images.