Saturday, March 13

naked sunbathing


I'm loving all the gorgeous nude trees brandishing their limbs in the sunshine at this time of year. I'm particularly feeling kinship with all those feisty pollarded trees raising their knobbly fists in protest.

Today we are remembering Sarah Everard, a man kidnapped and killed her because she had the gall to go out walking by herself. In today's Guardian Marina Hyde wrote about a normal everyday walk to her son's school, a day that included the sort of encounter that has happened to me more often than I want to remember, Hyde describes how we usually deal with this kind of encounter

'... I genuinely forget about these things soon after they happen... Should have just tied a weight round it and sent it to sleep with the fishes, with all the other ones. The healthy option.'

Wednesday, March 3

Green shoots and shadows


I'm loving the impending sense of spring even more than usual and once again I'm making my annual attempt to get to grips with water colours,  the lesson I have to learn every time is that I go with far too many things,. My 'travelling' water colour set has a choice of tiny paint pots but my fidgetting keeps tipping the paints over and that makes me a bit sweary. 

I have finally realised that the future is monochrome. Last Sunday I went out painting with a solitary paint pot - my world became less blue and more green

Tuesday, January 26

Spider with Yumen Zed

Yesterday I passed a man telling a small boy that he was 'getting spider with yuman zed' -  my first thought was that this was must be a new and interesting foodstuff - maybe on the takeaway menu at Wagamama. Lockdown has made me obsess about food even more than usual so it was a bit disappointing to realise a few seconds later that the man was actually telling the boy that he would be getting 'a spider with a human head' and I think that sounds too big to eat. 

Maybe I'm just making up excuses,  I buy sheep and deer from the butcher, I hardly think a human-headed spider would be much bigger than these creatures, if they do arrive on the market, portion size is probably not going to be the main issue.


In other news

This morning I set fire to the vaccuum cleaner after hoovering up warm ashes - the smell was far worse than I could've imagined

I still swim in the sea but only for 5 minutes because it's reached the sort of cold that makes a person go completely crispy  - in the way of those lettuces that get stuck at the back of a fridge

A dog fox has been patrolling our neighbourhood every night for the last week making a noise that sounds like a queaky-toy







Monday, December 28

Food Foraging in the Time of Covid

is fraught with issues, I scope out shops with small queues. A bakery/coffee shop near my house sells sublime olivey-cheesy twists. Windows too fogged up to see inside,  I have to open the door to check the territory; two masked women clearly waiting their turn, to the side a man,  his queuing status unclear. My specs as fogged as the windows I ask him if he's queuing - no response,  the man is not wearing a mask but does have headphones, he stands,  swaying, mute and I realise that he must have teleported his mind to another planet.

Wednesday, November 4

Lost Ham

on the neighbourhood noticeboard a  heading  - 'Anyone Lost Their Ham?' 

 - a photo of two plastic packs of ham on a pavement and a location  

Responses to this included speculation that the items had dropped out of someone's 'hambag', a conspiracy theorist warned that the items might be bait for a 'hambush' and someone else reckoned that this notice should be considered 'spam' 

when the world is falling apart, we make jokes about pork and then we go swimming 

I drove to the coast as the sun rose this morning, past frosty fields and mist-filled valleys  

the sea surface was smoking when I arrived 

It was like swimming in fire 

Friday, October 30

Some things are best left alone ...


Early September, I noticed how shabby the bathroom had become and gave it a 'good' clean. Limescale build up was removed from pipework and when I next turned on the faucets all the leaky spots were exposed ...

The more I fixed the faster the catalogue of broken things escalated ... 


two months later the bathroom is back in use.

Monday, September 28

Last Monday I did my most daring swim yet

 it was still summer back then.   

confident that I could make the distance to the next bay and knowing other people who were swimming at the same time, I set off at a leisurely pace on a slack tide, my swimming style is best described as a mishmash and I was enjoying myself switching around some flat out lazy floating with a bit of backstroke, a spot of crawl  and some sideways breaststroke (I've been told this last one is 'old lady swimming', that's because it's fun and it's the best one for admiring the landscape and chatting to a fellow swimmer). 

The last short section involves swimming under a pier, then making a sharp left to land on the beach. The tide had turned and I had underestimated the speed that the current picks up at by the pier, just when I considred myself home and dry, the sea dragged me off in the wrong direction and I had to battle my way to the shore. I made land in an undignified fashion, thoroughly puffed out. There was a warm sun to bask in and I had sequestered a block of fruit cake in my inflated tow float, soon I was good as new. 

The next day it was autumn.

I am still working at the funeral parlour

Sometimes we are amused/bemused by the choice of music that accompanies a coffin as it is lowered to the crematorium furnace, last week someone chose Carmina Burana - other popular choices are My Way, Je ne Regrette Rien and Ring of Fire

At the parlour we amuse ourselves by nominating our own 'committal to the flames' music, sometimes it goes in the direction of Screamin' Jay Hawkins other times it's more Simon and Garfunkel

 After my epic last-of-the-summer swim I nominate this

Sunday, August 16

I visit my parents for the first time since lockdown

For the last twenty years my mother has made a daily walk around the village, equipped with gloves and plastic bags so she can pick up litter as she goes, her daily haul usually amounts to about one carrier bag full, I try to visualise twenty years of daily carriers bags full of rubbish. 

Mother's litter-picking has been discussed in the House of Commons which means that she is immortalised in Hansard. After her first ten years of picking, she was presented with a bouquet and a plaque by the local council and she made the front page of The Gazette

I ask my mother if she still collects litter on her walk

Yes but I wait until I've seen it lying there for a couple of days before I pick it up so that I know the Covid's worn off

On the radio a man tells a story of filming something with his cameraphone then failing to properly press the button to turn it off before putting the phone in his pocket and cycling on home. The phone continued recording - no picture but a soothing, creaking, rhythmic sound. The man is pleased with this new genre and has coined a name for it - 'Accidental Trouser Music'

Friday, July 17

Statue Wars

Last month, shortly after Edward Colston the Slaver was pulled off his plinth and dumped in Bristol's city dock the Mayor sent a dawn crew to dredge him out of the water and haul him off to a secure holding place. First thing the following day a fat concrete bloke, wedged in a wheelie bin was parked next to Ed's empty plinth. By dawn the next day the Binman had disappeared.

The weeks passed, no plinth action - until -  4am last Wednesday the famous sculptor Marc Quinn came down from London with a big crew and cranes and ropes and tv cameras to install a 3d printed effigy of Jen Reid, the woman who had climbed onto the plinth as soon as Edward Colston fell off it. The image of her punching the air had circulated around the world, Quinn and many others saw this as an iconic moment and this sculpture was christened 'A Surge of Power'.  All of Bristol was agog and flocked to see Jen and take pictures, to praise or complain and argue about whether or not this was actual history or just fake history.

By dawn the next day, the Mayor's crew had removed Jen, putting her alongside Ed and the Binman. Marc Quinn had not been invited to interfere with our plinth and Bristol should decide its fate democratically.

Good luck with that - but the bar has been set and I am looking forward to the next contender.

Sunday, June 14

New Homes for Troublesome Statues


After years of asking politely for his removal, the statue of Bristol slave-trader Edward Colston was finally taken down from his plinth and dumped in the city dock last week. This action prompted people to get more vocal about not wanting bronze and stone effegies of murderers, looters and racists to be glorified in our city centres.

Once you start looking we have so many statues of awful people that I predict there'll be a statue-mountain and there's nowhere near enough museum space to house them and we can't just melt them down because apparently then we'll forget our history.

My proposal is to display the bastards all together in clearly signposted outdoor parks  'Bastard Parks'  so no-one is in any doubt that there's any glorification going on.

You're Welcome!

here's some links related to troublesome monuments 

One from a few years back

Banksy's  idea for Colston  

David Olusoga on the Colston performance

Saturday, May 16

The Covid days have provoked

an explosion of creativity here in Bristol, local food suppliers trying to maintain their livliehood are outdoing themselves by redesignating themselves as caberet artistes/gourmet-food-deliveristes - I have ordered a wine delivery with added ukelele, there's a magic-trick vegetable person and ... my personal favourite - Disco Hummus, shiny bomber-jacketed folk in spangled flares, sound-tracked by Saturday Night Fever as they hip-wiggle their way up the street to deliver a vegetarian party

Sunday, April 26

Mrs Blackbird has recquisitioned

a small glass tank in the garden. The Man had filled it with tadpoles  and was about to film them but when his back was turned the blackbird flew down, jumped in and splashed around, then she noticed the tadpoles and scoffed them.*

The tank has stayed there and she comes every day for an afternoon bath, the tadpoles have not been replaced but the Man buys fancy blueberries which he cuts in half and leaves them in a saucer by the tank so she can snack and swim.

*Coronovirus Lockdown has meant that all travelling filming work has been  cancelled, all the kit has come to live in our house, where it sprawls  over kitchen, dining room and garden and threatens to take over upstairs

Saturday, April 25

lockdown end of week 4

News headlines look like this

turkey to release gowns for NHS

branson to mortgage caribbean island

will comic books survive coronovirus

top ten toasties of all time

this is beyond the great depression

watch the NHS drama

tiger country

copycats and crooners

sales of baking goods and alcohol rise while make up and plants fall

demand for crude has plummeted

the upside of lockdown

cobra, is it unusual for a pm to skip

piers morgan now the voice of a nation

will coronovirus change our attitudes to death

quite the opposite

(from Monday's online Guardian)

Tuesday, April 14

Shopping these days

Grocery shopping in the  Melt Lock Down era  has gone a bit 'underworld'. Neighbours tip each other off about ways to get supplies without standing in long queues outside shops.

an email from a friend says she lives next door to a fishmonger, he could make local deliveries, should she pass my details - I said YES!! 

Thursday afternoon
Pete-the-Fish calls
I can deliver tomorrow what do you want?  

I place an order

Saturday evening
I'm in pajamas, supper eaten, a glass or two drunk, think it might be time for bed.
Phone rings -  Pete-the-Fish

I'm coming down the road with your haddock, meet me outside your house and bring a tenner

Scrambled, I can't find shoes so walk outside barefoot. A man walking towards me is holding a net in front of himself, he throws a bag on the road and tells me to drop my tenner in the net.

I do all this as though it is a completely normal sort of transaction

Saturday, March 28

We can't buy flowers for funerals

The emergency regulations put in place due to Covid-19  means that we can no longer get flowers or a professional florist for our funerals. Yesterday we needed to create a funeral for a man who had died from cancer. The only attendees allowed in to this little service were his wife and young children.

We prepared the room, the coffin placed centrally and devoid of decoration was stark. We put a request on social media asking if anyone local had something in their gardens that they could spare. Our neighbours were truly wonderful and contributed whatever they could find,  some bringing just one or two blooms and some fronds of foliage. The effect of that kindness on the four bereft people was beyond what any amount of professionally orchestrated garlands could have achieved.

Tuesday, March 24

Coronovirus diary - 3 funerals

Life at a funeral parlour is never 'normal' but this is the month that Covid-19 arrived.

02/03/2020   Funeral 1:

A newly married man suddenly dead. Over the days prior to the funeral, his wife, his mother, his sister and some friends came to see him.  Many more friends and family flew in from his homeland to congregate on the day of the funeral, we held a long vigil in the parlour, everyone brought food and drink and hugged and sobbed, the chapel was crowded and so was the wake

12/03/2020   Funeral 2: 

A burial for a much-loved elderly lady, there were people of all ages at the funeral, but many of her dearest friends were frail and dared not take the risk.

The pastor normally asks the congregation to shake hands or embrace but this time he asked them to simply bow to each other.

22/03/2020   Funeral 3: 

A well respected journalist died peacefully at the the beginning of the month, a large, joyful celebration of his life was planned, throngs of friends, family and ex-colleagues would be there to pay tribute to this lion of a man.

And then it was cancelled.

the service was attended by his three adult children, each spaced out on separate pews

Friday, February 14

If I mention that I work in a funeral parlour

the responses tend to fall at one or other end of the shock/awe spectrum

with a sprinkling of light confusion in between

Friday, January 17

A birthday party dip

The invitation requested fancy-dress. For purposes of not-drowning, fancy-dressing is restricted to above the neck. Before jumping in we made cool poolside cocktail chat, me in my pink wig and rockstar-sunglasses, a Salty-Sea Captain, a cock, a bear and a Wizard-of-Oz lion.

This is the UK,  sunny but still January. Despite having been here many times before, the sheer freezing cold surprised me.  I swam while gasping with shock. The water dragged the pink nylon wig from my head and the sodden Muppet made a break for the open ocean. I grabbed it, stuffed it down the front of my swimsuit and continued effortfully 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
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