Friday, January 17

A birthday party dip

with an invitation/challenge to arrive and swim in disguise. Disguises mean hats, wigs and dark glasses, possibly beards. I rocked a pink wig and rock-star glasses for cool poolside cocktail chat with a Salty-Sea Captain and a Wizard-of-Oz lion

This is the UK,  sunny but still January. A bit of sun can make one forget how cold the water is at this time of year. Despite having been here many times before, the sheer freezing cold surprised me.  I swam while gasping with shock. I felt the water dragging the pink nylon wig from my head and  realised the sodden Muppet was making a break for the open ocean. I grabbed it, stuffed it down the front of my swimsuit and continued on my way.

Birthday cake and champagne were on hand for the after-swim-party which I attended with luminous pink chest and pubic hair peeping out around the edges of  my outfit

Friday, December 20

I have never cooked a turkey in my life

this year a roast turkey will be my contribution to the family Christmas table, I shall get up at 5am to get it cooked, then transfer the hot bird into an insulated, leak-proof box and drive it for two hours up the motorway where it can join a selection of roast potatoes and vegetables on the festive dinner table.

Bringing the bird means that I must also provide stuffing and gravy. It's the gravy that will be my undoing. At the beginning of the week I watched Jamie Oliver demonstrate 'Get Ahead Gravy' - the surefire way to guarantee the Christmas meal is a smash hit. Get Ahead Gravy involves chicken wings - it turns out that I wasn't the only one watching Jamie because every last wing in the country has already gone to Gravyland. I've returned from the shops with a few drumsticks and a pig's trotter, I will have to invent a Fingers-Crossed Gravy.

In other news 

Today is the winter solstice, this one marks twenty years since I said 'I do' to The Man, I've written more about this here. Twenty years is apparently a China anniversary and I'm not sure whether we should be buying plane tickets or a dinner service to mark the event, he is currently working in California trying to avoid being eaten by pumas. He is expected to squeak home just minutes before Christmas.

Saturday, December 14

This year I started working at a Funeral Parlour

my eight-year-old niece  has heard about this and is fascinated,  when I spoke to her on the phone this week, she asked me what I do in my job, I asked her what she thought I did

Cutting up bodies and mopping blood

she imagines my place of work to be a combination of hairdressing salon and a butchers

Sunday, December 8

Our household laundry products are almost odourless

which might account for my olfactory sensitivity to other people's perfumed washing powders and fabric conditioners. The Man is focused on the ecological aspects of using laundry products and recently came home with a bag of brown knobbles - 'soap nuts' which didn't look very inviting, I asked him how they smell, he open the packet and put his nose in.

old toenails


Friday, December 6

the outside lake is nearly at zero degrees warm

 I still go there for a swim when I can.

My neighbour Simon hears voices and loves Jesus, he  prints out 'Jesus is Great' leaflets and goes out campaigning vigorously for his man.

Lately Simon has taken to dancing in the street. Most mornings at 10, with headphones on, he marches down to busy a traffic intersection and dances among the traffic for all he's worth. He's happier than I've ever seen him, if he sees me, he comes over to put the headphones on me so I can hear what he's raving to.

Yesterday, I packed my bags for a swim in the lake and as I walked over to the car Simon was coming up the street in his dancing gear, I said, Have a nice dance Simon, I'm off to the lake for a swim. Simon passed me his headphones so I could listen to a bit of Bob Marley, then he called me a F***ing nutter and went on his way.

Sunday, November 17

Night out in London

* warning this post contains body parts and other horrors

I'm looking after a cat in Primrose Hill. I arrive, say hello to kitty, then head out for a lovely culture-filled evening.

My event is done by 9. I catch a bus, head to the top floor and take my favourite seat at the front. Two stops later the driver comes upstairs - someone has vomitted by the exit, he can't continue the journey, we all have to get off

the bus and it's sicky door remain at the bus stop, the smell was bad but the sight is somehow worse. I walk to the next stop to put some distance between me and it.

Next bus is crammed full, I get on and climb to the upper deck. My favourite front seat is taken so I head to the back. Two stops later a young man stands at the top of the stairwell sways, steadies himself as though preparing for a performance, he then barfs hugely and widely.

A collective groan then stunned silence as the man tips forward and somersaults/slides down the stairs on the sea of sick. Passengers yell at the driver to stop, he pulls up and opens the doors and the young man runs out into the night. The bus continues it's journey. We are engulfed in the worst smell that I have ever encountered but we all stay on because the horror that we must pass through to go down the steps and get out is somehow worse.

Saturday, November 16

My sense of smell has become more acute

since I stopped using scented washing powder, I notice the Persil perfume on people sitting next to me on the bus these days and other odours seem more intense too. The people in charge of the mixing desk in my brain must have turned the smell control knob up to eleven.

I've started an instagram account for my sketchy stuff   @eats.shoots.draws   do follow

Saturday, November 9

An intense odour filled the bedroom

in the early hours this morning - the sort of scent I associate with perfumed fabric conditioners. I lay still, concentrating and  trying to work out where this smell was coming from. I did an imaginative olfactory tour of the smelly items in the bathroom that might have exploded but none of our soaps, shampoos or shaving foams smell like this.

Something was preventing me from getting out of bed to have a look but I finally decided that the smell was coming from outside the house, the only rational explanation being that youths no longer disturb the peace by shouting and spraying grafitti, these boys have grown wings and are going round puffing perfume through people's windows.

Monday, October 28

how often does a thing have to happen before it becomes a Tradition?

I'm thinking at least twice.

This is my second year of getting involved with coffins around Halloween time. This time last year I was decorating some very modern bio-plastic 'Koffins' in Liverpool. This year  my 'coffin project' was to find/make a 'Bristol Coffin' for my neighbourhood funeral parlour*  - locally made from a sustainable wood source, one that will be no more expensive than the eco-nasty-cheapie MDF coffins sold by most funeral directors.

My investigation discovered a wood recycling yard near my swimming lake that is already making inexpensive coffins from reclaimed pallet planks, they will modify the design slightly to make them a little sleeker - I expect to display a photo here before too long.

Other things that have happened recently

1) The Man went to Utah to visit Bryce Canyon National Park, which is full of geological formations known as Hoodoos. He was hosted by a Mormon couple who sent him home loaded with gifts for me, these included:
a tiny white origami box filled with dried, sliced plums
a soap made from home-milked goats milk
a very beautiful oil painting of an evening landscape

2)  I bought some new everyday shoes to replace my very-old-and-collapsed everyday shoes, they are a bit hard though and the breaking-in process is making my feet bleed

3) *I have a part-time job as a Parlour Maid

Monday, October 14

The water in the lake is starting to get a little chilly

if I keep going this will be my second winter of open water swimming.

The swimming  aspect of winter swimming is the easy part,  it's a bit pinchy when you first get into the water but your body quickly goes numb ... then it thinks it's on fire and you have to guess when you might be cold at which point you get out and dressed and warm again as quickly as possible because body temperature continues to fall for 30 minutes after leaving cold water even when dressed.

There's no changing facility or any shelter at the place where I swim, my fellow swimmers all have their own tips, tricks, outfits and specialised kit to get them back into the warmzone.  

I have discovered that as soon as I buy specialised kit for any activity I cease to do that activity, the kit sits in a corner taking up space and making me feel guilty. For this reason I do not own any neoprene and nor do I possess a fancy fleecy wind-and-rain proof changing robe.

What I do have, is a lot of  over-sized ex-army thermal underwear and a wool kilt, snipping the buckles off the kilt and replacing them with velcro is a boon to numb-rubbery post-swim hands. When I've struggled into the thermals and kilt ensemble, I sit on a rock and put my bare feet in a large shopping bag containing a furry hot water bottle, I slip on a big jumper, crack open a thermos of hot tea and hope the rain doesn't start before I get back in the car.

Saturday, September 28

A visit to my mother-in-law

will involve eating delicious food, exchanging family news ... and bedding information. My husband's mother worries that we might not be warm enough ... or too warm. After explaining how the bedroom windows work (open/closed to varying degrees) she tells us that she has made up the bed with 'one of those aerosol blankets'.  

I imagine that we will spend the night in a giant nest of cuckoo spit.

Saturday, August 31

I've joined a social network for our local area

Mainly it's used to exchange news about cleaners, coffee mornings and car break-ins but sometimes people post sightings of a naked man running away from a police helicopter or a man walking around with a burning shed on his head and sometimes a great row breaks out. Yesterday, Bob posted about the guinea pigs that he keeps in his garden being eaten by foxes. This is the second batch of guinea pigs that Bob's lost to foxes, he claims that he sees 'tens of foxes regularly in the garden' a fact that he blames on the community leaving out food for them.

Here's an extract from his original post ... and the best response



We have just had our four beloved rescue guinea pigs killed by a fox ... there have been rumours of someone feeding the foxes ... if this is you or someone you know then please please stop... it’s just inconsiderate and evil. If you’re that desperate to feed an animal how about you get a bird feeder? They were our truly loved and cherished herd and I can’t believe that they are gone by such a selfish and uncaring action.    

Response from Edward

You have sort of left food out for the foxes though...

Saturday, August 24

The London Lady Garden

I'm staying in London, not far from Hampstead Heath and its famous ponds. The ponds were made centuries ago by damming up the river Fleet to provide drinking water for the area. Bathing is permitted in three of the ponds; one is for everyone, one is for women only and one is for men - guess which is the biggest? and guess by what factor female swimmers outnumber men?*

The women's pond is secreted within many layer of trees and hedges, these are necessary to protect the ladies from the constant surveillance they experience when out in the normal world. The men's pond is not so hedged around and is connected to great swathes of grassy areas where they can take as much space as they wish to lounge around in their budgie-smugglers. The women's pond and it's secluded lawns is the only outdoor place that I know of in London where women can sit around bare-chested without risk of harassment - of course it becomes extremely overcrowded.

I join the lady-throng on the after-swim lawns, find a space big enough for my body + picnic + book  and observe that simply leaving each other in peace and making space for newcomers, in this place, is just a normal human activity

* it's about a million to one

Monday, August 19

Inappropriately public conversations

often happen at the lake-by-the-ocean - my best swimspot. Maybe seeing the far horizon makes people feel so out in the wild that they become oblivious to all the other people around them.

Last week, two almost identical rows erupted at the edge of the lake, the first by little boys and the second by a middle-aged couple who were each telling the other, in very plain terms, that they didn't enjoy each other's company. These exchanges were by the entry steps queues formed as swimmers waited for the angry participants to either drown each other or go home.

Have the British lost their famous reserve? Have we become too European? Is this why we must Brexit?

Sunday, August 18

Do people imagine mobile phones make them invisible?

Or is it everyone else who becomes invisible? I was trailed at close quarters by a big girl weeping copiously as she detailed at volume the very many, very intimate reasons why she was upset, I was getting drenched, deafened and thoroughly depressed and she was practically on my heels so I stepped into a doorway to allow her to pass. She did spot me then and paused her wailing long enough to give me a squint-eyed What's- the-matter-with-you? look

Saturday, August 3

I was involved in a nightmare scenario

 in a supermarket.

I was already in an emergency-style hurry  to get to a kitchen where I would demonstrate cooking in front of an audience. I am not going to name the event for reasons that will become clear.

I was late for my turn in the kitchen because I was in the supermarket running around the aisles looking for a substitute for fresh dill (there isn't one!). An urgent message asked me to find a lot of 'firm, white fish - not frozen'. I ran to the fish counter and hopped from foot to foot while the lady in front of me tried to choose between the fish that I wanted and some other fish, I psyched her into buying the other fish, then I asked the Fish Wife if she had more like the one I wanted - loads more!

Fish Wife emptied her entire stock of the necessary fish into large bags, which I grabbed and dashed pell-mell to the checkout. The conveyor-belt tills were full of everybody and their weeekend shop. I went to the self-service till - the place you're supposed to go if you just have a bit of tea and a cake to pay for.

I plumped the first bag of fish onto the scanning bed where it flopped over and - to my horror - all the fish flowed out - rapidly onto the floor. I applied the three-second rule and tried to scoop them up quickly but they kept swimming away and spreading way beyond the till area. It took far longer than three seconds to round them up into my large shopper where they basked alongside my baguette and a bag of flour.

I hope nobody filmed this.

this episode was somehow reminscent of a dream that I recounted here a few years ago.  

Tuesday, July 23

Cornwall is made of sea and ice cream

I found the perfect beach with a perfect ice cream shoppe. I walked away with my 'strawberries-and-clotted-cream' artisan delight, vaguely hearing words coming from the ice cream seller's mouth

watch out ....

... my attempts to listen to him were interrupted by a seagull's foot landing on my ice cream.

Finding myself in a Hitchcock movie I hurried, hunched over, simultaneously trying to to shelter the cone with my hand and get as much ice cream as possible into my mouth. The bird made another pass under my hand slicing himself a small beakful in such an astonishing way that I dropped the guard hand allowing a third pass and now the gull got the entire double scoop and dropped to the beach, trying in his turn to scoff as much as possible while being mobbed by all the other thieving gulls.

I left them to it feeling foolish - not a single other person was buying ice cream

Friday, June 28

I started this blog as a sort of therapy

it didn't occur to me that anyone would ever find it. I didn't know about the comments box, 'following' sounded definitely creepy. I didn't know how supportive the bloggy community can be, and I certainly didn't expect to make actual, real life friends through this blog.

Today I read this post from someone who started commenting here 10 years ago,  ... this wonderful man always makes great comments on his community of blog chums posts,  often adding funny and interesting links.

A great traveller and incurably curious, I had the pleasure of meeting LX in Real Life in Bristol when he was on one of his Grand European Tours

He'll be missed by many

Wednesday, June 19

an angry man

was wheeling a huge suitcase through a crowded shopping street. A little dog jumped at the suitcase and barked at it, the dog's human was half-prone drunk in a doorway. The angry man kicked out at the dog making the dog even more barky. The man kicked more at the dog and shouted a lot of sweary words and it was getting ugly. My momentum and trajectory had walked me right in front of all this so I was the one who became the school mistress and told the angry man to stop. This made the dog go and sit on his human. The angry man glared at me all red and goggle-eyed

it was going to bite me
no it wasn't

The angry man took a wide-legged stance and pushed his face at me and jabbed his sausagey fingers at my face while searching to find the worst insult ...

you ... you ...  .... F***ING ... .... BLEEDING HEART ....  LIBERAL ... F***ING . ...  

Tuesday, June 18

reasons to be cheerful

One ... the colours of my thread garlands

Two ... it didn't rain until noon

Three ... at 11am I was swimming in the lake by the ocean

At 9am I went to change bed linen in the boys rooms, the young one uses the same unwashed plate for every meal, this doesn't bother me, but on my weekly visit to his room I can't help but pick up his old ketchuppy plate and take it down to the dishwasher thus forcing him to use a clean plate - just once a week.

In the older boys room there are sticky squash glasses. Toenail cuttings are lined up by the giant tv screen. I'm still not screaming. Then I discover something so screamy that I can't ever tell another living soul, I have to find someone with a melon-baller who can open up my skull and scrape out the place with that memory, meanwhile I've squashed it into the tiniest place possible and left the room.

... at 10am I got in the car and drove to the lake

Monday, June 17

bucket loads of rain

have soaked us beyond saturation

we are so wet we are virtually transparent 

It seems important for my mental health that I list reasons to be cheerful:

1. This weekend I made two divine apricot/almond/cherry, tarts, also an onion, fennel and olive tart and an asparagus and cheese tart - these were shared with several lovely friends and relatives

2. A big bag of old wooden cotton reels in a charity shop, all colours of proper old silk, plus several special tiny reels of buttonhole-twist and fat reels of linen thread - the whole lot became mine for a fiver. I have strung them into garlands and hung them in the window. They are beautiful

3. I spent this morning helping my octogenarian neighbour make a cascading silver cape, she will wear it to perform in the street with her friends

two boy guests remain in my home

the young one wears an all-black outfit and burns a pair of faux fillet de poulet au pain in a pan each evening. If I prepare vegetables while he's in the kitchen I watch him shrink with fear - tonight I will try him with a bible or some jesus-related jewellery to test my vampire theory.

A heavy box was delivered for the older boy, while we were all away. By the time he found and unpacked it, it had been by the back gate for a few days. Undaunted he filled all available fridge space with large plastic boxes of colourful rice-and-chicken-in-sauce meals, he said
I'm sure it's fine, it's still cold 

We looked at the labels which said  'use before June 2020' and I raised all my eyebrows

he read the instructions  - 'reheat from frozen'

the next hour was spent emptying all the smelly yellow-and-red meals into the food waste bin and filling  recycling boxes with plastic containers.

He has returned to KFC.

more reasons to be cheerful:

1. Last night I met up with friends that I love and don't see enough of

2. there's a slice of apricot tart on the kitchen table and I have cream in the fridge

3. the boys will leave next week

Sunday, June 9

Did parenting stop being a thing?

I am hosting two young men (one is nearly 30) neither has been taught basic life skills:

the younger one used the washing machine yesterday, I showed him the first time but forgot to demonstrate the exact amount of laundry liquid to be used for one machine load - he used one whole litre

the older one is tiring of KFC, he did use the kitchen once, placing a raw chicken in the oven - but then unsure what else was supposed to happen, he has now subscribed to a scheme that sends him meals by post

Friday, June 7

I was looking after a pet

in Cornwall. The owner tried to pass it off as a cat but it's clearly the lovechild of a fox and a ferret, her fur is beige with burnt edges and her face is actually more pointy than my drawing. Also she might appear delicate but this killer is adept at rabbit-hunting.

Wednesday, May 29

It's hammock-crazy around here

Community hammock at the bottom of our road. 

Hammock-for-human-beans at the bottom of our garden.  

My household currently contains two adolescent boys*, one is in his teens and the other is nearly 30, each of them consumes enough cans of pop to fill a bathtub daily.  Neither of these boys owns a coat and I am reminded of the Finnish boy who stayed a few years ago

In other news

I have embarked on 'The Great Floor Polishing' this involves much shifting of furniture and then sweeping, scrubbing and scraping before the oily polish can be laid down in thin thin coats. After the oiling, people must skate around on tea towels so it polishes up nice and shiny. Last time I did this I had spilt tea on my computer and lost the use of the letter 'i'

*the boy-in-a-hammock is not one of the resident pop-drinking boys, he is a visiting-boy

Tuesday, May 21

lunch with eleven women

in a sun-drenched-wisteria-ridden garden,  a laburnum tree burgeoning with yellow flowers took up most of the air above us, tiny bits of cobalt sky peeped through the blooms. We ate salmon in dill sauce with Jersey Royal potatoes then summer pudding with cream and raspberry cream roulade with extra cream. We were celebrating a scratch-card win.

Our host is an undertaker, four of the guests were either undertakers or 'in the business'. The host didn't want the lunch to become 'too-death-ey' and kept trying to introduce other topics of conversation but death and it's complications are too much fun; one guest had been asked to bury a large man in a wardrobe - there was a problem getting the body into the chapel, another guest was in the process of converting an ex-Carphone Warehouse into a mortuary ...

in other news

French Boy lodger has found his culinary groove - breakfast is fizzy pop and chocolate biscuits. For supper he has found a never-ending supply of reconstituted chicken-in-breadcrumbs, he fries as many nuggets as will fit on a big plate every single evening, I'm hoping he gets home to his mother before scurvy sets in.

Friday, May 17

We headed out to a Greek Island

it was out-of-season-closed-down so no-one else was there, the spring flowers ran riot in abundance and the weather was out-of-season mad, wild winds, then calm, mostly sun but some blustery black skies and a bit stormy sometimes.

We stayed in a white white cottage on the edge of a tiny bay where a grumpy old shepherd brought his flock of maggotty old sheep to nibble at the grass edges, the sheep liked to go in the water which made the shepherd furious, if I went down to the sea when the sheep were trying to swim to freedom they would come out of the water to see if they could come home with me - which made the shepherd doubly furious.

The local tavern had no inside, a bit of clear polythene was wrapped around one of the sides of the open air terrace - giving pale shelter from raging winds, we double-wrapped up for our daily fried-cheese-and-chips-with-Greek-beer visits.

The sea cottage was owned by someone in Athens who sent daily messages to remind me what is forbidden:






Around the house, drawings of massive mice with big crosses over them are pinned to the doors

A few scraggy cats came by but most had read the notices and didn't stay except for the gray-and-white one who took up residence on the outside mat.

We got home at the end of last week and now a very young French Boy is living with us, FB wears glasses, from the front he is brainy-looking, when he turns around we see the design carved into his almost-shaved hair, this might be the 21st century equivalent of a mullet.*

*business out front, party round the back!

Monday, April 8

I'm trying to get as much of lovely europe as possible

while we're still in it.

At the weekend I booked flights to go to a Greek island. This evening I booked the house we'll stay in. It's located in a 'village' with two other houses and two tavernas, all clustered at the end of a long peninsula.

the house owner has contacted me with directions and other relevant things to note:
Other informations....every day in the piazza of the village,at 10.30 comes a white van,and sells bread,beverages,biscotts....and every monday and Thursday at 9-10 another white van sells vegetables ,frutts...
Remember have bottle water with you,the water in the house you cannot drink it

Sunday, April 7

I'm packing for a few days in London

while I'm collecting up the bits I need for the trip the Man is on the phone to his father, they are both deaf so the conversation is being held at top volume, I can hear both sides clearly. The Man is talking about a programme he's working on called 'Amazing Earth' but the father can't quite grasp the title. The Man breaks it down, bellowing the words slowly

It's called AMAZING EARTH ... 'amazing' ... like really fantastic and ...'Earth' ... like where we all live

the dad reckons he's got it and bellows back appreciatively

'Fantastic House', Oh yes that's a great title, I hope it all goes well... bye

Thursday, April 4

My wounded hand is still sore

I'm doing finger-waggling exercises the way I think the physio instructed so I'm hoping it's pain-in-a-good-way rather than pain-because-I've-done-it-wrong-and-making-things-worse. 

The enforced loafing is becoming a bore.

Knowing that my hand operation would limit possibilities for exercise for a couple of months, I spent the weeks beforehand building up heft credits; tree-felling, taking rubbish to the dump ... God-forbid I even did a bit of housework. I also went to the gym because someone told me that ladies can end up marooned in a chair and never being able to get out again just because we spent too long drinking coffee one day and our muscles just evaporated and then someone has to break down the door and find us covered in flies, coffee cup still in hand... and that would be sad.

This inward focus is obviously necessary to distract from the disgraceful performances being played out in parliament

Sunday, March 31

at the beginning of March

my hand underwent surgery. The surgeon gave me a sketch of what he did and I've been showing it to all and sundry in the manner of a proud parent-to-be showing a baby scan.

It's still the recovery period (and for another month or so at least), doing lots of flexing and massage to build strength in my thumb joint, to bring the nerve endings back to life and reduce scar tissue - it's sore and I can't drive or put my bra on!

It's been a sad month - a dear friend and beloved member of our neighbourhood died at the end of February.

I am setting up an art project in Surrey, I'm still in the preparatory phase. As I'm not able to drive and I'm unfamiliar with the area I took up the offer to go and look after a long-haired cat near the estate where I'll be working. The hairy tomcat spent his days and nights out and about, getting up to mischief no doubt. He'd slink back to the house with evidence of these adventures on his prodigious coat - bits of hedge and moss stuck all over him, surprising odours hitching a ride too - one morning he came in smelling as though he'd been in the sewers.

Back home on Friday I decided to try swimming in the lake by the ocean with my injured hand, the temperature is still quite icy, as the cold seeped in my thumb joint complained and I had to return to dry land swimming single handedly, the poorly one held above my head as though I was calling for help.
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