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

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
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