Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Somerset's Best Kept Secret

"When we're arranging for you to come and see us in November we'll try and time it for when there's a Carnival on."

I'll be honest, Dad says a lot of stuff that I don't really take in, but this was one of the few times that I actually stopped and listened. He didn't really seem able to explain it - kept talking about tractors and floats and lightbulbs and saying that I should look it up on You Tube.

I politely declined and put it to the back of my mind.

So when I arrived in Crewkerne on 7th November I was greeted with the news that the next day we would be going to the North Petherton Carnival.

I was still in the dark.

It wasn't until I discovered Louisa via that day's Photo an Hour hashtag on Twitter that things became a lot clearer.

I'll let you read her post about the origins but you basically need to know a couple of things:

- There are tractors pulling floats
- The floats are decorated up the wazoo in lightbulbs
- Some floats have insane hydraulics systems built into them
- It's bloody freezing
- It's absolutely amazing


First thing you need to know? You have to get there early. The roads in and out of North Petherton close by 5.30pm to prepare for the Carnival so if you want to go to the Carnival you have to go to the Carnival. You have to commit, which for us meant queueing on the M5 with the hazard lights on as the tailback went all the way down the sliproad and into the inside lane.


So you're in North Petherton. You're parked. It's 5.30pm. The Carnival isn't due to start until 7.00pm. What are you supposed to do?

The answer is go into the bowling club and drink some goddamn cider and shove a hot dog in your face. Obviously.

We were eager little beavers and made our way to stand on the side of the street at 6.45pm for the beginning of the Carnival. Kind of a mistake. This is where the insider info comes in useful and the next time I go to a Carnival I'll be well prepared. You need to bring with you:

Folding chairs
Thermos
Lots o' food
Blanket

For the Carnival did not reach us until 8.30pm. Trust me, standing on a dark street in the freezing cold,  in the dark, staring at a hedgerow for almost two hours does not happy campers make. I can make the best out of most situations, but I was starting to lose the will to live after a while. If I'd been sat on my bum under a blanket reading a book I'd have been grand though.


There is honestly, nothing that can prepare you for a Carnival. I'd looked at Louisa's photos and I had been forced to watch a couple of You Tube videos before we left but I still didn't get the huge scale of the floats that we're talking about.

I cannot even conceive how long it takes to put all of this together, I can only imagine the Carnival Clubs have started planning their themes for 2015 already. The carpentry alone but when I say hydraulics I mean hydraulics. These are big giant floats being pulled by tractors, with moving parts on them.

Dad had first heard about the Somerset Carnivals when talking to a local who told him a story about a Health & Safety officer being poached from one Carnival Club by another. I can now see why - this is a Health & Safety Officer's wet dream. Electricity? Massive floats? People on the sides of the streets? People singing and dancing flailing around on the floats? Did I mention the hydraulics?

Spot the tractor driver. Hint: It's not the guy in the top hat

I cannot even understand how I have never heard of this Carnival stuff before. There they are, banging on about cider all the time when Somerset should be banging on about this. Tek your Rio and shove it - this is Carnival British Style aka in the cold and dark. But with chippy vans so, you know, swings and roundabouts.


Carnival is so far up my street it's untrue. 

Bright lights? Check

Loud music to dance to? Check

Strangers acting and singing and dancing (and even more unbelievably, standing stock still in the Tableau Class - I don't even understand how they could do that.)? Check

Strangers standing on the street that you can talk to? Erm, check.


The whole thing lasted about an hour and a half or so and I was stood there with a gaping mouth like a complete moron for about 75% of it. The remaining 25% I was dancing and singing.

At the end of it all it was back to the car park and a surprisingly quick get away. I had visions of us being stuck there for hours but the road is opened in one direction only and we were on our way back home in no time at all. (With the heating in the car turned up as high as it would go.)


There isn't any more I can say, other than to urge you to maybe think about taking a little weekend trip down to Somerset in October/November 2015 to see it for yourself.

Trust me, you don't want to miss out on Somerset's best kept secret.

(Did I mention the hydraulics?)

Monday, 10 November 2014

Photo an Hour l 8th November

I am loving these Photo an Hour posts you know. It means I have a guaranteed topic to post about once a month - anything to save me from the horror of working out what I'm supposed to write about.

I was initially quite excited about the choice of the 8th November as I knew I was going to be away visiting my Dad in Somerset - a change of scenery is usually a good omen from some more interesting photos than when you're just twatting about at home - but unfortunately the heavens poured down upon us most of the day so you can expect a fairly crochet-laden post coming up.

Pop over to Is That You Darling to see others' posts and to find out the date of the next Photo an Hour day which will be in December. And remember you can also join in on Twitter and Instagram using #photoanhour

This was Saturday 8th November...


10am - A late start to the day with a little read in bed. Mrs Dalloway is November's Classic as part of my Not Really Resolutions - I purposely picked quite a thin one as I have been running a bit behind schedule lately!

11am - Ablutions time. Anyone else remember a day when just getting ready was a case of splashing your face with some water and being good to go? I'm not even a girly girl and I'm astonished at the amount of paraphernalia I seem to cart about with me, although that's mostly due to the fact that I don't empty anything out and just add more to the pile...

12.10pm - Rubbish weather? Can only mean one thing - time for crochet. But what on earth could it be that I'm making?

1.10pm - Lunchtime and a continuation of the absolutely god-awful weather



2.10pm - What am I making? A Father Christmas of course! Since swearing that I was going to make a job lot of them and sell them at Christmas I made three and then promptly made no more. It is time to get my bum in gear because these guys really don't take that long to work up. In fact this would have been completed much earlier if it wasn't for the fact that I had a complete brain malfunction and forgot to change back to red wool and merrily crocheted along for 6 rows of 42-odd stitches. Yaaaaaay.

3.15pm - Finished! I had no idea these guys worked up this quickly. Thank goodness for Photo an Hour, I would never have known that it takes roughly an hour to work up the bobble for Father Christmas' hat, his hat trim, his face, beard and moustache, attach all the above and sew on a little face. Good to know these things.

4.30pm - This is how I know I'm in the country. You go somewhere to buy dog food and outside they have what can only be described as a fuckton of carrots. It's an official measurement. For a second I thought that people in Somerset really liked their rabbits, before twigging that they're probably for horses.



5.25pm - You see this is why Photo an Hour is brilliant. There I was idly browsing through #photoanhour tweets when I came across Louisa who was talking about editing some Carnival photos. I couldn't believe it as I was on my way to the North Petherton Carnival, something I had never ever heard about until Dad piped up that it would be where we would be spending our evening. How very cool is that?! (Check out Louisa's post from last year which explains what exactly it is I'm talking about). Anyway. 5.25pm we were stuck in some immense carnival traffic trying to get off the M5 and into North Petherton before the road closed for the Carnival.

6.20pm - Officially trapped in North Petherton with time to kill before the Carnival started at 7pm there was nothing for it but to hunker down in the bowling club house with a hot dog and pint of cider.

7.35pm - One of my least favourite things is standing still in the cold. Be warned that going to a Carnival involves a lot of standing still in the cold. I was just thankful it wasn't wet as well. To keep warm I jumped about like an idiot in to the road to see if I could see the start of it. We had a long wait on our hands...

8.30pm - The first float! Hurrah. After an hour and a half of standing in the cold staring at a hedge this was a welcome sight. Little did I know what I was about to witness. It was absolutely mind boggling.


9.25pm - Honestly. When someone says you're going to see an illuminated float parade you don't really know what's in store for you. This was insane and will clearly have a post of its own once I've gone through the 4,000 pictures that I took and begun to compose my thoughts about it.

10.30pm - Back in the car and on the way home down the back roads

11.30pm - Back home feeling cold to our very bones and glad to be in the warmth. Max was also happy to see us but mostly sad that he had been abandoned for the evening.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Single gerbil parenting

I came incredibly close to not owning gerbils not long after the break up. I feel terrible about it now but I honestly could not even look at them in the days after he left. They were just a horrible reminder of how foolish I'd been, sat there like an idiot thinking I was in a happy little relationship with someone with our pets. I didn't get them out to play with them, I didn't really talk to them, all I could do was make sure they had food and were watered.

I live very close to a Pets at Home shop and went in and asked them about their adoption scheme - they have a little adoption corner in their shops where they have unwanted pets for sale - that's how close I came to not having them in my life anymore.

Ser Jorah Mormont

What an idiot.

One day, after another bout of crying I looked over and they were both stood on the top level of their cage looking at me. Obviously not out of any concern, I don't know that gerbils do empathy, they were probably hoping my presence meant a pumpkin seed was coming their way, but they just looked so darn cute and gerbilly and I realised that I couldn't take it out on them. It's not their fault that they were associated with that fucktard, how could I be mad at their little gerbil faces?

Tyrion Lannister

And so I threw myself into single gerbil parenting with gusto. I went to Pets at Home and instead of giving them up for adoption, I spent a small gerbil sized fortune buying them new and exciting things for their cage. And then I set up their gerbil playpen and left them playing in it whilst I went and cleaned out their cage.

I walked back into the living room to find Tyrion Lannister looking at me from the middle of the floor, most definitely not in his playpen. With admirable calm and grace I stuck down a huge tube on the floor (poster tubes have become my new saviour and the gerbil's favourite playpen toy) and he immediately ran into it. I deposited him back in his cage and went back out to collect the clean tank.

I came back in to find him running under the armchair.

I couldn't really fathom it as they had never escaped from the playpen before. They'd made it look as if they would think about it but never actually taken the plunge. I decided to sit down and keep an eye on him.

And when I see keep an eye, I mean keep an eye.

Over the next two weeks, whenever I took my eye off the playpen for a single second - maybe to pick up a cup of tea or reply to a text - this is what I would see upon turning back to the playpen...

Freedom!

He was on a mission.

It turns out that single gerbil parenting is no joke. I let them play on the sofa one day like I always have done. They jump about, they have a good time but they never ever ever get off the sofa. I left them there and went to pick up the mug of tea that I had left in the kitchen. I came back to find Ser Jorah Mormont staring at me from the floor. I still have absolutely no idea how he got down there.

I actually lost count of the number of times I had escaped gerbils on my hands in the 2 weeks after the break up. The good news is that I cared about so little at that point that I didn't get stressed about it at all. But it was clear that I needed help at some points so I now have a gerbil babysitter every couple of weeks for when I need to clean the tank. Someone from work comes and sits and watches them in the playpen, knocking them back in whenever an escape is on the cards whilst I can get on and properly clean their cage.

Scaling the heights of Mount Sofa

Obviously now I don't know what I would do without them. I talk to them every morning when they get up with me and have a bit of toast (yes I am being serious) and they're there to greet me whenever I come home from work. They've even helped me choose some of my interiors...

Lounge pants - Tesco / Gerbil - Model's Own

In short they have been my little saviours, the guys I wouldn't ever want to be without and quite frankly, who needs a man when you have a little face like this looking at you?


Zactly.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Birmingham

The beautiful thing about living in the middle of the country (literally the middle if you believe Tiny Town's claim, although it is one of many) is that nothing is very far away any more. Having spent so much time up North I'm constantly inwardly groaning any time anyone mentions anything further south than Doncaster - not realising that actually the South is kind of on my doorstep now.

In the immediate aftermath of the break up some work friends stepped up to the plate in an unheard of way and rallied around to keep me busy and occupied. One plan was to take a trip to Birmingham, a formerly undiscovered city which, although not really that far from me, remained out of reach due to the fact that I was reliant on public transport to get anywhere.

One of my friends lives nearby so took it upon herself to be official Birmingham Tour Guide and got everything all planned out for us. First, we would get our cultural hats on and go and visit the Library of Birmingham, we would then get our food hats on and get some food at The Mailbox and finally get our shopping hats on and visit The Bullring.

I have been desperate to visit the library since it opened a year ago. Not normally a fan of big fancy modern new buildings I was quite surprised when I saw it and absolutely loved it. No doubt it is not many people's cup of tea but I think it is beautiful.


And let me tell you, it is a blogger's perfect building because it offers up approximately 1,000 ways to take a photo of the same thing.

It is delicious. Like a chocolate box. Only instead of there being chocolates inside of it, there are BOOKS.


What I didn't realise about the Library of Birmingham is that those tiered layers of gorgeousness that you see in the photo above hide secret gardens and you can go up and be on them and look out at the city. You can work at benches looking out at the views. I very nearly packed up and moved there on the spot.




You get in an almost too tiny lift, all very Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator style, and shoot up into the sky before walking out up and above the city.

The smell of the plants is gorgeous and the sounds of the traffic are far away and Summer 2015 is going to see me installed up here one day, I am determined of it.

Unfortunately we only got about 5 minutes viewing time as our visit coincided with the setting up of the Annual Conservative Conference and they were closing the terrace as it overlooked the marquee.

Just another reason to hate the Tories really isn't it?


There are books on books on books inside. Obviously. It's a library after all. But these books are special. Mostly because I could not for the life of me work out how you got to them. There must be some kind of secret entrance and a password and a marauder's map of some kind.

Also, check out the super travelator to get up and down. Way cooler than a stupid boring escalator.


Cultured out of our eyeballs we made our way along the canal, saying hello to lots of extremely friendly people. I'm not sure if we were there on an especially friendly day or if the people of Birmingham are just in a permanent state of giddying happiness but people were smiley in that city. Like really smiley. It was unnerving and I'm Northern so I feel I can take a certain amount of random stranger smiling.


Our destination was The Mailbox which was a little overwhelming for me as I haven't seen this many chain restaurants since I moved to Tiny Town. We have two chains here - a Wetherspoons and an Ask - and it was almost too much to take in.

Best part about the Mailbox was the gigantic red desk lamp which we saw when we exited.

I have no idea why it exists but it is fabulous and I love it. I love that it has an actual plug on the wall and that the lightbulb is actually lit up.

Too much my friends, too. much.


If I thought The Mailbox was overwhelming, The Bullring nearly did me a mischief. Too long have I been held captive by the very small New Look in Tiny Town - there were too. many. shops.

Fatigued by our cultural morning and overwhelmed by the choice of shops I actually did pretty poorly in the shopping stakes and have vowed to return again this month, renewed and ready to take on the challenge.

Miss Pond has already given me a new place to seek out next time I'm there after her post about a place that sells gin in a watering can. A watering can I tell you. Any other recommendations please feel free to send my way.


Sunday, 2 November 2014

Life lately

Time marches on regardless of whether you want it to or not and for the most part Tuesdays are now just Tuesdays (for the most part anyway).

I took everyone's advice and tried to keep busy and it's been great, although part of me wonders whether the keeping busy is just a way of keeping your thoughts at bay. This weekend was the first one in a few where there was nothing planned and as soon as Friday morning hit I started to feel a little sad at the thought of an endless weekend stretched out ahead of me with no-one to have fun with.

I have entertained myself over the past few weeks as much as possible though and the time feels ripe for a life lately mega photo round up kind of post.

So life lately has consisted of:


1. Gerbils

These guys need a post all of their own really and they will get one in time. In the meantime however enjoy a small round up of recent photos due to me celebrating one whole year of gerbil ownership. I called it my Gerbilversary,

(Form an orderly queue gentleman)


2. Rabbit

I live very close to someone from work and have become the official go-to person for rabbit-sitting duties when the family all goes on holiday. I don't mind as a) it's only across the road b) the rabbit is actually pretty cute, (and that's coming from someone who is a little bit afraid of rabbits. Yes really.) and c) I get wine for doing it. I like anything that involves me getting wine.


3. Dogs

No explanation for this one really. Just....dogs. My sister has been ensuring that I occasionally get a decent meal in me - I still haven't quite got to grips with cooking for one, not in that I can't do it, I just cannot be arsed to do it. Anyway good meal also equals Rowan and Rosie, always the antidote to any sad feelings


4. Crochet

Obviously. When in doubt, turn to your hook. Above is the output over September/October. I'm particularly proud of the tractor (pleeeeeease tell me you knew it was a tractor) as that is officially the first thing that I've made where I've worked out the pattern myself. I looked around for various patterns but they were all either not what I was after or were too small so I took the picture of one and just set to work. You can't really get the sense of scale here but he was about 30cm tall so fairly big.

The penguin has winged his way to Hull to live, maybe he'll get to see the Gentoo Penguins at The Deep, who knows.

Anyway, you get the picture. I'm also currently working on a wreath inspired by the Attic24 wreaths that Lucy has created. Mine will be a little less CROCHET IN YOUR FACE as the ones that Lucy has produced and it is very very very exciting.


5. Spending

Now that my flat is just that, mine, I've been keen to make it a proper little home for me. That includes acccessorizing it up the wazoo with interiors. After blogging back in May about my desire to have a flat that looks a little less like a student flat and a little more like a grown-up flat I have been trying to put my grey and yellow theme into action and I finally feel a little bit as if it's coming together.

I couldn't resist this cushion from John Lewis Home and although he's more than I would ever normally pay for a cushion I had a £25 gift voucher and a hangover which gave me good enough reason to get my wallet out.


6. Pumpkin

I just wanted an excuse to show you a picture of the pumpkin I carved. This isn't really something that's been helping me over my break up, but it did keep me occupied for about 40 minutes and I was very pleased with it as I didn't go for a fancy stencil *cough cheat cough* and I only had use of a kitchen knife to hack away at him.


But the biggest news of all is.....

*Drumroll*


7. Car!!!!*

That's right. I finally finally finally own a car at the ripe old age of 31. A Ka to be more specific. This is so major I cannot even put into words how brilliant it is. But I hope to try because, although it might sound daft to you, it is a really significant life event for me.

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So. That's me. What have I missed?




*Unfortunately car does not really have a moustache

Friday, 17 October 2014

A little bit of internet love: Part IV

I am slowly starting to return to 'normal'. or rather creating a new normal for me. It involves all sorts of strange things, mostly working too late too often, taking a lot of baths and bringing the gerbilarium into the bedroom with me so the guys can keep me company.

One thing I have been woefully behind on is catching up with blogs and finding out what's going on in my internet world. People don't realise how intensive it is, this blog reading malarkey, you've got to invest some time if you're going to keep up with everything.

After having a good read the other day and starting to make a dent in my to be read list I figured it was probably time for a little round up of the posts I have enjoyed lately.


Rachael wrote a very interesting post covering some misconceptions about expat life. I guess it's easy to forget that when people move abroad, they're not just going for an extended holiday, they're going to live life and all that that means in a different place.


Miss Pond went on a Birmingham AdventureBirmingham isn't a million miles away from me and I'm heading there in November with some friends, I've already requested we go to the place that sells gin in a watering can. What can I say? I'm a sucker for a gimmick.


So the calendar flipped to October and the weather flicked a switch and became Autumn over night. Prattle & Froth's 15 Reasons to Love Autumn made me feel happy inside.


Vivtramp's How to be a good friend to someone with an illness is definitely one to keep bookmarked just in case. It's always a minefield when something life-changing happens to someone and far too often people get so freaked out about doing the wrong thing that they don't do anything.


I caught 19 times Carrie Bradshaw was an impossibly awful human doing the rounds on Facebook and Twitter a while ago and it absolutely made me howl. I feel as if I've been the only person talking about this sometimes. She was awful!


It couldn't be internet love without a cat video. You. Are. Welcome.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Photo an Hour l 11th October 2014

It feels as if this month's Photo an Hour post has come around incredibly quickly, but I think that's just a result of the past month being kind of mental for me and that I've only just got around to posting September's Photo an Hour post.

Pop over to Is That You Darling to see others' posts and to find out the date of the next Photo an Hour day which will be in November and you can join in on Twitter and Instagram using #photoanhour

This was Saturday 11th October 2014...



9am - Woke up with raging hangover from a fairly decent session on the Friday night. Lily didn't mind my probably outrageous breath and sat beside me hoping for toast.

10am - Went to my brother & sister-in-law's house for the morning and played with some brilliant sticky mosaic tiles that were supposedly something my 4 year old niece was supposed to be doing. It was so massively therapeutic I can't even tell you.

11am - One finished creation!

12pm - This is Lucinda, my brother's cat. She has the loudest miaow and purr ever. She comes storming in, yelling her head off and isn't fussed at all about who gives her attention. She's so loving and I want to just pick her up and smoosh her forever.


1pm - My niece was going out in the afternoon for a party so put her party frock on. I need shoes like this. I also need to start wearing hot pink tights with silver sparkly shoes. It's a winner.

2pm - All of us played a very confusing game of Kerplunk! in which the kids seemed to think that when the marbles dropped that meant you won. It actually worked quite well because it meant that I was happy that I didn't have to do badly on purpose to let them win (my most hated part of playing with kids because I'm such a sore loser) and they had a brilliant time every time they did it wrong.

3pm - Back in Hull and a quick trip into town with Mumsie

4pm - The Grand Return of the Missing Bag. The previous day I had gone to Waterstones and bought some lovely things. Mum was looking after the bag and left it on the bus. She was absolutely devastated so I had to play things down but there was a fairly large part of me that wanted to throw myself on the ground and scream. On the way back from town on Saturday we stopped in at lost property to check and it had been handed in. Hurrah!

Kind of. Turned out my "Good Samaritan" had taken some stuff out of the bag and left the books in there. Ah well. Can't get too mad about it...


5pm - Got back home for a cup of tea and a muffin. It was needed. With a hangover like mine on this day it's a wonder I even got this far through the day without collapsing.

6pm - Lily gets down to the important business of foot washing and nail biting.

7pm - Starting to sit down for dinner. Salad + garlic bread + steak + onion rings - the way to make me a very happy person.

8pm - Mum and I were still sat round the table talking when I glanced over and spotted this super creepy Lily sitting and waiting to see if we were finished so she could try and attack our plates.


9pm - Sat down with super cool lounge pants and thick socks and cider and promptly fell asleep in front of Midsomer Murders. Form an orderly queue gentleman...

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I feel terrible that Fred didn't even get a look in on these photos so here's a bonus Fred picture...