Monday, 31 January 2011

January Book Review

So I’ve decided not to drop the book reviews altogether. I have decided to make them as short as possible though, and taking inspiration from Harry Hill’s TV Burp I have decided to do each month’s books “in a nutshell” but single out one of them for the accolade of Book of the Month and write a bit more about that one.


January's Books in a nutshell

Under the Dome – Stephen King
Good vs Evil. Massive cast list. Huge catastrophe. Standard King stuff (as he writes nowadays – honestly, things haven’t been like the old days of Christine and The Stand for quite some time). He has got to start writing less – this book was ridiculously large and I couldn’t carry it anywhere which meant that I didn’t get into it as much as I could have if it was actually portable.

The Dog Who Loved – Jon Katz
Hello? Is that the Marley and Me bandwagon? Yes I’d like to jump onboard please.” Disjointed and just generally poor. And bizarrely not really about the dog mentioned on the front cover.

Before I die – Jenny Downham
16 year old girl with leukaemia. Has a list of things she wants to do before she dies. I dare you to read the last 20 pages without crying.

The Tenth Circle – Jodi Picoult
14 year old girl gets raped. Or did she? Boy who commits the rape is killed by her. Or is he? Parents in rubbish marriage. Girl runs away to Alaska. Is found. Everything all solved in the end rather predictably. Not her best.

Book of the Month

The One from The Other - Philip Kerr

Surprise one this one. Out of all the books that I read, crime is a genre I don’t usually dabble in. I have no idea why, it just never appeals. This book came free with the Waterstones Quarterly magazine a while back though and I’m not one to turn my nose up at a free book.

This is one from a series of books about a man called Bernie Gunther, a man living during Second World War Germany. Normally I absolutely hate trying to read a book halfway through a series, I’m the kind of person that can’t watch a film if I’ve missed the first 10 minutes, but I found it didn’t matter in this case. I’m sure you would have a certain depth of feeling about Bernie as a character if you’d read the others but everything ‘made sense’ and I didn’t feel I was missing some key piece of information.

It’s 1949 and Bernie has set up his own Private Investigation firm and gets a request from a lady who wants to find out if her husband is dead – this sets off a trail of events that involves secret gangs and the murky depths of post-war Germany and Austria. It was absolutely riveting, I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed it.

The level of detail is astounding, but I don’t mean unnecessary oh-my-god-I-don’t-need-to-know-what-he-had-for-breakfast detail, I mean street names and the like. He must know Munich like the back of his hand, and even though I obviously don’t know Munich, knowing that he got off the tram at such-and-such a stop and walked up a certain street just made me feel that bit more absorbed in the world.

And somewhat coincidentally I was listening to the Open Book podcast from Radio 4 (I’m woefully behind, this was from September or something ridiculous like that) and Philip Kerr was on it, talking about the latest Bernie Gunther novel he has written, Field Grey. The One from the Other is book number 4 in a total of 7 (number 8 has a planned publication date in October of this year) and was written a rather stonking 15 years after the third novel was written.

I have no idea why I’m telling you this.

So yes. There you go. Well done Philip Kerr. Your Bernie Gunther novels are now officially on my list of Books I Want (which stretches for some thousand miles).


Ta-da! And that is the new look Monthly Book Review. Any thoughts?

(Such as that it doesn’t really seem different due to my inability to talk concisely?)

Friday, 28 January 2011

Crazy Cat Lady Part 7: Maggie and Maud update

Oh my goodness it’s been so long since I did a Maggie and Maud update. How is this possible? You must have been crying out, desperate to hear word of them and I have ignored your calls. You must forgive me.


I know I keep saying this but she does really love me. No she really really does. At Christmas, there were a few days where it was just me in the house and she became my best friend. She followed me about everywhere – by which I mean she would lie down and sleep near to where I was sitting and then get up and yell at me if I dared to move into the kitchen.

However she still persists in pretending she doesn’t like me when anyone else is around. It is getting better and if she’s feeling in the mood will get down from the settee where she’s been sleeping on her behind all day and shamble over to see me when I get in from work, yowling the whole way over so I appreciate the attention that she’s paying to me.

She had a rough old time of it over Christmas though. The snow and generally cold weather meant that Maud stayed in a lot more than she normally does and unfortunately seemed to get a slight case of cabin fever which she took out on Maggie by generally irritating her any way she could, including jumping on her out of the blue when Maggie was minding her own business. Maggie is a true “bark is worse than bite” type of cat – the noises and hissing she makes are absolutely dreadful but she has never once scratched me. Maud will jump on her and Maggie will make all the noises, but she just seems incapable of actually fighting back.

One of my favourite pictures of Christmas is this one that I took of them both on my bed one morning. Maggie appears to have erected a Maud barrier to get some peace and quiet.


Apart from spending large amounts of time irritating Maggie – her favourite game is to lie down and stretch out so that her paw is as close as it’s possible to get, without actually touching Maggie. It drives Maggie round the bend and Maud can sit there innocently and say “What?! I’m not even touching you!” – Maud has been her usual happy go lucky self.

She did not really enjoy the snow, she would ask to go out and then get upset with the white stuff and return indoors to bug Maggie some more. She did venture outside however when I went out to build Mr Creepy the snowman and once it began to melt and she wasn’t sinking in up to her stomach she went outdoors a bit more.

The biggest news however is that Maud appears to have a boyfriend.

On 3rd January Dorothy and I discovered a new visitor of the feline kind sat on the wall outside the kitchen peering in. Initially mistaken for Lady Celestine of Shedley it appears that this guy is in fact, well, a guy, and has been christened Baghera. He has been sighted a few times since but last Saturday I spotted some illicit nose-kissing going on between them.

I did point out to him that it’s kind of rude to go about snogging little girl cats when you haven’t even properly introduced yourself to the humans who live in her house but he didn’t say much, he’s kind of a cool customer. He doesn’t run away from you but he won’t really come near you either. I sat on the kitchen step for a ridiculous amount of time and he eventually deigned to sniff my hand, but rejected my attempt to actually stroke him. Rude.


Here ends the Maggie and Maud update.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

I'm not superstitious but...

Today I should be a very happy bunny because yesterday I should have reached my goal weight at Weightwatchers. Instead of losing the measly 0.5lb I had left to go, I ended up somehow putting 0.5lb on. I am unhappy about this situation. It's annoying for many reasons, mostly because it's just so arbitrary. It's only a freaking pound that's left, that pound is not going to make me change body shape or drop a dress size, it just happens to be the number that I need to lose to hit the magic figure that I made up when I joined Weightwatchers. I don't have to lose this pound. I could just leave Weightwatchers and that would be that and life would carry on, but I just can't do it. I have to succeed and that means losing one more pound. It's ridiculous but true.

Being so sure that I would hit my goal weight yesterday has meant that I've now become incredibly paranoid about why I didn't hit it and I've started to think that I jinxed myself by doing certain things like,
1) Writing out a blog post in preparation for me reaching goal
2) Not taking a photo all day for Project 365, so certain was I that the photo for yesterday would feature something about me reaching goal weight.
3) Planning to maybe, possibly take an after picture to go with a before picture that I found.

See? Tempting fate.


I could have put on 0.5lb because I just ate too much last week.

We'll never know.

But just in case there is such a thing as fate and just in case it has just bitchslapped me in the face for getting ideas above my station I'm going to post what I was planning to write when I'd reached goal, therefore cancelling out any bad vibes.

So what follows is some stuff that I've written down over the past 9 months - just some observations that I have made since I started losing weight. They're absolutely not dieting tips, different things work for different people and I wouldn't presume to tell you the "right" way to go about dieting, these are merely unexpected things that have happened to me along the way.

1. You go through stages where you suddenly appear a lot slimmer. You may lose a steady 1/2lbs each week but there is a sudden KABLAMMO moment where you look like you’ve lost a stone overnight. You’ll know when these stages are because these are the times that everyone notices you’re losing weight and gives you compliments. It’s also the time when your jeans go from fitting you to falling down with apparently no in-between stage.

2. You can lose weight from your fingers and your feet. Crazy but true. I can now fit into a size 7 in some shops when I never could before. Some shoes have had to be binned because they fall off, even with inserts put in them and the ring that my Mum bought me now fits, I’d been in denial that the reason it didn’t fit was because my fingers were too fat.

3. And speaking of don’t realise it but you’re in it. Once you lose weight you can look back at yourself and shake your head in disbelief and go “What were you thinking?” How could you possibly kid yourself that what you were eating is ok and not too fattening?! How could you look at photos of yourself and not see it? Or dismiss it as a bad photo of you? Simple answer is it’s easier to be in denial and I have seen just how easy it is to delude yourself – a trap I’m determined not to fall into again (unless I decide that the reason I've put weight on is not because I ate too much but because I tempted fate. See? Told you it was easy to fall into.)

4. You, as a person, become all about the weight. When you’re fat no-one mentions your body shape or size (making it easier to be in denial by the way), once you start losing weight it all becomes about that. You know that people are looking at your body and in a strange way you actually become a little more self-conscious than you ever were when you were overweight.

5. The expense. Holy moly is it expensive. New everything. New jeans, new trousers, new skirts, new tops, new belts, new bras, new knickers (yes really, some of mine were in danger of falling around my ankles). You might have an income to support shopping in Monsoon or you might be frequenting charity shops but either way, losing weight costs money. It’s been horrible not being able to afford nice things – you’ve lost all this weight and you want to look good, not be walking down the road with one hand holding your trousers up. I should have been like one woman in my WW meeting whose husband gave her £10 for every 1lb she lost. (I know. Where do they grow husbands like that?!)

6. I have a strange fear of bones. I don’t particularly like touching them, it makes me squirm somewhat. Tell me a story about you breaking your collarbone and you’ll see me start to squint and shy away. So the reappearance of my collar bones has had a strange impact on me. It’s great to see them and go “Hell yes I’ve lost weight” but at the same time the sight of them makes me feel a little queasy. Same with my pelvis, we do an exercise in Pump that means your hands touch your pelvic bone and it really makes me want to vomit. (Please note, this makes me sound like I’m a walking skeleton, I’m really not, they’re just noticeable to me because of my slight issue with them.) My knees freaked me out the other day when I accidentally rested my hand on them – where’s all the squishiness gone? Bleurgh.

7. I now have absolutely no idea of what suits me. My whole body shape has changed and I've been left feeling a little bit bewildered. It's difficult to know if you didn't get away with certain things because you were fat or because you just don't suit them. I have overcome my fear of leggings, that was definitely a fat thing, and I'm slowly overcoming my huge fear of dresses now that I've discovered that my legs are nowhere near as bad as I thought they were, they were just too big. But it's quite scary I have no idea what my 'style' is or what I should be wearing or how I should be wearing it, if ever there was a girl in need of Gok Wan it's me.

So stuff you fate! I've posted it. Ha! In. your. face.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Toady toad

I've been having trouble lately with my blogging, I just don't seem inspired to write about anything. I hate to blame January and the post-Christmas blues but I don't know what else could have sucked all the joy out of stuff at the moment. Is this something that anyone else is finding? My Google Reader suggests otherwise, as blog after blog after blog churns out posts whilst I stay relatively quiet.

I try and make it worth my while when it comes to blogging. I feel that I, and you as a reader, deserve a little more than a hastily put together post that's not really about anything. Apart from anything those kinds of posts make it difficult for people to comment on and comments are the bloggy-air that I breathe to keep me going.

However just lately I don't seem able to muster up the energy (and more importantly find the time) to sit down and properly think and compose a post. So instead, I'm afraid you're going to have to put up with another "Are you really blogging about this?!" post. You're just going to have to bear with me I'm afraid.

So this weekend saw me complete one of my Not Really Resolutions for this year as I wielded my paintbrush and acrylic paints and got Toady Toad finished. This was satisfying for many reasons;
1) Who doesn't like ticking things off lists?!
2) This has been hanging around for too long
3) It kept me busy on an otherwise quiet Sunday. I do not like being unproductive and days with nothing planned drive me a little mental.

Oh beautiful toad, don't be mad that the mosaic maker cut your nose off

I know that I really need to come up with a more inspiring name for him than Toady Toad, but I just can't think of one for the life of me. I like that he has an affectionate kind of nickname. To be honest I feel kind of affectionate towards him. When I was hunting toads down during the Larkin' with Toads project in Hull I felt overwhelming urges to throw myself on them and hug them. I have no idea why, I put a lot of energy into not answering that question.

I don't quite want to throw my arms around Toady Toad, he's too small and I'd most likely break him in some way. But I do quite like to pat him on the head and sigh and say "Oh Toady Toad I love you."

(I'm revealing too much aren't I?)
In the beginning...

I am pleased he's finished though, not only has he made me feel a little invigorated at the prospect of actually crossing something off my list, it's encouraged me to get on with the other things that are on there. I really am trying to complete these resolutions, not just fanny about and say I'm going to do it (although please please please don't hold me to that reading 12 classics in a year thing ok?!). Plus it seriously has kept the boredom at bay, I've found myself this January with a couple of weekends with nothing planned at all, whilst I know that I should rejoice in that and most people would relish the idea, for me it fills me with a little dread. One of my greatest fears in life is that I'm wasting time.

Without wishing to sound like a total twat, time on earth is limited and I would hate to get to the end of my days and be faced with an endless parade of time spent not doing anything, wasting my life away just sat in front of the tv or in bed. If I'm doing either of those things I'll be doing something productive as well, whether it's reading or cross-stitching or crocheting - they're not big things but I absolutely cannot be idle, it drives me round the bend.

You see this is what happens when I blog without purpose. They end up strange and rambly and appear to be about plastic toads but are actually about the meaning of life.


Thanks Mr Toad.

...And now all finished.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Alternative Therapy

So there I’ve been for the past couple of weeks, feeling sorry for myself and counting down the hours and minutes until payday, when I realised that really I needed to stop. I had food. I had a roof over my head. Enough with the misery.

And then I remembered that the last time I was feeling a little consumed with myself and my own problems I diverted my attention to a slightly more worthy cause than my own pity party.

And so I turned back to SIBOL and decided to do something useful with my time seeing as I wasn’t going to be spending any money having fun. There’s loads of yarn hanging about the place from all the blankets that have been made, even The Beast didn’t use all that up so this was going to be no cost and would make me feel happier with myself. 

If you weren’t in the know, SIBOL is run by the rather incredible Mrs Twins who decided that she would like to make some blankets to give to elderly people in care homes. People from all over the world have joined her and she has a steady stream of crocheted and knitted squares flowing through her letterbox which she then joins together to make the blankets.

Sometimes I wish I could be selfless like that instead of the whingey mess I’ve been lately. Bad girl.

Although she accepts any kind of square in any colours there are also challenges people can take part in which ask for specific squares to make into themed blankets.

A quick scan provided me with the perfect option. 2-tone granny squares in green. Whilst I would love to take part in some of the other challenges I am aware that my crochet skills are still firmly in the remedial section of the class, crocheting actual pictures or flowers or anything like that are not within my grasp just yet.

And so I spent a bangin’ Saturday night sat on the sofa, crocheting my little brain out. And then I thought that really I should stop saying I’m rubbish at crocheting and try something a little different so I whipped out the Jan Eaton book and had a go at one of her patterns. But then it turns out that actually that wouldn't work as part of the challenge, which was just your bog standard type of granny squares. Hey. At least I tried. Pat on the head for me.
Once pay day is upon us, I will scurry down to the Post Office (yes seriously, I can’t afford postage. Tragic.) and send my little offerings.

And so once again SIBOL and Mrs Twins have come to my rescue and allowed me to put my feelings of pathetic losership on hold for a while and actually contribute to something worthwhile. I’m hoping she’s not going to start charging for the therapy she’s providing me with.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

A public apology to The Beast

The Beast got a little bit upset with me the other day.

I asked him what was wrong and through his snuffles and snotting he said that he felt neglected.

He said that when I’d made crocheted blankets in the past I took lots of photos and wrote a post all about them, liberally sprinkled with pictures. But when he was finished all I did was take a rubbish photo of him bundled up on my desk at work.

A bit like this...

I pointed out to him that I did say that I loved him a lot and that he had helped me get over my fear of colour but there was no appeasing him.

“Would it help if we did a photoshoot?” I asked

The gleam in The Beast’s eye told me that would suffice.

So I would like to present, for The Beast’s pleasure, a collage of his best bits...

[cue montage music]

The Beast would also like me to tell you about the old lady who stopped me on the street before Christmas to ask me if I had knitted The Beast myself and then proceeded to tell me all about how she was learning to crochet and that her daughter knits and that it’s very relaxing isn’t it and what sort of things did I crochet and where did I get my wool and what else did I think I was going to make etc etc

The Beast. Loved by me and Random Old Ladies alike.

Anyone else talk about their crocheted/knitted articles as if they're real people? No? Just me?

Monday, 17 January 2011

Not Really Resolutions Update

So I thought that I would do an update every so often on the ol’ resolutions front, keep me on the straight and narrow and make sure that I’m sticking to them.
As you can imagine, not a great deal has been done so far as we’re only in January but I’m starting to make progress on a few, I am tracking my progress as I go - up there in the right hand corner there's a page, click on it. GO!

1. Run 5km race – I am now back at the gym and slowly getting back the fitness that I lost over the Christmas break, it’s ridiculous how quickly it disappears from you, I only missed 3 weeks for God’s sake. Two other friends have signed up to run this with me and I am signed up to the Race for Life website so I will know when the race in Hull is. One of these friends rather helpfully is seeing a guy who is a fitness instructor and he’s going to give us a little plan and take us out running once the weather (and our general fitness) improves.

2. Crochet a ripple blanket – Until funds improve I’m thinking this isn’t going to happen but I think I might ask for yarn for my birthday and get some stash in that way.

3. Back up photos on to CD – thank you to all of you who suggested an external hard drive but I’m sure you’ll realise that having explained my financial situation this isn’t really an option for me, I don’t have the spare £40 needed unfortunately. But I do have a stack of CDs and although it’s taking a while I’m slowly but surely making headway on this one.

4. Paint my frog – I've made a start! I spent Sunday late morning and afternoon with newspaper spread over the table, my acrylic paints beside me, and, paintbrush in hand, made a start on Project Toad. And here's how he's looking so far;

5. Go to the cinema on my own – Not yet!

6. Project 365 – I have stuck to this one so far but it’s every bit as hard as I was warned it would be, which is slightly worrying, considering that we haven’t reached the month’s end yet. But it is still fun for the most part. The problem is finding something new to photograph when you do the same thing for 5 days of the week! I’m begging for the seasons to change because then there’ll be a whole lot more action. My photostream, can be found here if you wanted to have a look (and just why wouldn't you?!)

7. Make album/scrapbook of France 2010 holiday – This is a funds issue as well – need to get the photos printed out, hopefully will have some spare cash in February/March to do this.

8. Travel to Belfast to see family – Have looked at prices for flights (that’s a whole blog post in itself, believe me). They’re not crazily expensive but it’s obviously something for much later in the year.

9. Read 12 Classics – Number 1 has been started, Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie. Talk about throwing yourself in at the deep end. I thought when I decided to do this that one a month was pretty doable but I think I’m going to need the names of some thin classics! 647 pages was a stupid thing to start with

10. Cross stitch one Christmas card each month - Done and done! Woo hoo! January’s card has been completed and I feel very proud of myself. It’s given me the chance to delve into my file of ripped out pages from Cross Stitch magazines and do some designs I haven’t done because they’re too time consuming. Very pleased. And the bonus? Finishing it meant that I could take a picture of it for Project 365 - I love it when you can kill two birds with one stone. Although not literally. That's just horrible. Anyway, you can see it here.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Why I never got to see the Mona Lisa smile

When I was 7 years old my Mum, Dad, brother and I went off to France for a week. We would be staying at the house of a friend of my Aunt’s, they were off on holiday to England and we would be house-sitters of a kind for them while they were away.

When I look back the holiday seems peppered with really random things that happened, like the crazy next door neighbours who took a shine to me and invited me round to watch the Disney version of Robin Hood. In French. And the time when my Dad fell down the entire flight of stairs, crashing in to the numerous boxes of toys at the bottom. And the time when Mum severely bruised her crotch and the inside of her legs by walking straight into a bollard because she was trying to nosy into a fancy hotel. (That was the first time I ever thought I was going to die laughing.)

And then there was the time we planned to go to the Louvre.

My brother is 11 years older than me and had begrudgingly come on the holiday with us. I adored him and hated him in equal measure because he used to frequently torment me, in full accordance with the Big Brother Handbook.

One of the great things about staying in this house was that the owners had children who had vast quantities of toys. One of these was a remote controlled car. One morning, my brother took it upon himself to chase me with this car because he knew I would freak out and it would be hilarious. And so he chased me through the living room and into the kitchen at which point I started flailing my arms about and smacked the back of my hand into the beautiful old oak door frame.

Cue extreme wailing.

Mum was less than impressed. I was notorious for,
a) injuring myself and,
 b) over-reacting to it
And so she dried my tears, told me to sort myself out and we set off for the day.

At lunchtime we were making our way over to the Louvre when Mum noticed something strange about me. I appeared to have a dead arm which I was just letting hang by my side and not using. She marched over to me saying “For goodness sake, stop whinging” and picked up my hand. At which point she realised it was about 3 times its normal size and a delightful shade of purple.

So instead of going to the Louvre, we went to hospital.

I had x-rays taken of my hand. Then the Doctor came in to discuss the results with us. I remember sitting on Mum’s knee as this woman in a white coat sat down behind this massive desk and started speaking French at me. At which point I began to wail again. I’m not entirely sure why, I think I thought I was going to get in to trouble for not understanding her, either way it was a Grade A freak out.

She was lovely and switched to English to inform us that I was going to have to go back and have my hand x-rayed again as I’d been shaking with fear so much the first time that it was all blurry and they couldn’t tell if it was broken or not.

In the end it wasn’t broken. Story of my life. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve sprained things. I’ve had more than my fair share of x-rays but I have been blessed with ridiculously strong bones (she says frantically looking around her for wood to touch).

So instead of seeing beautiful paintings by masters of the art world we came home with a sling, several compression bandages and my x-rays.

And the batteries were removed from the remote controlled car.

Friday, 14 January 2011


I’m not normally given to writing posts about how amazing it is that it’s Friday – we all know that Fridays are brilliant and should be worshipped like the Gods that they are. But today I’m making an exception because I could not be more pleased that Friday is finally here.

This week has been strange to say the least. It has been characterised by intense highs, followed by crashing lows. I don’t think I’ve been on an emotional binge like it in quite some time.

Work has been pretty horrible, I found out that I’m probably going to be made redundant in May, I’m generally not happy there and have just felt drained by it constantly at the moment.

My home life has been plagued this week also with a few things going wrong that have caused me extra expense, stress and anxiety.

But in stark contrast to this I’ve had some amazing things happen to me thanks to you lovely people. When I wrote that post a week ago I didn’t expect my inbox to get quite so many e-mails offering me help. I had offers of clothes, offers of food, offers of aida, even the Crown Prince of Nigeria got in touch to say he had some money to send my way if I could help him out with some wait. That might have been spam.

If I was poet I would say that they were like spangly bits of sunshine in an otherwise rainy, stormy day, or that they were like a spoonful of sugar in the bitter coffee of life. But then I’d realise that I was a really crap poet and I’d settle for saying that they were just really nice things that happened, that made me smile and made me remember that life wasn’t a complete slimeball of grease and nasty stuff.

Like Heather who has introduced me to the delights of and possibly sparked an obsession which could lead me into further financial ruin were I to succumb to the temptation of getting a weekly box delivered to work (instead I’m thinking maybe a once a month treat).

Or agirlinwinter who has made sure that my resolution to make a Christmas card each month is well and truly back on track for this year and probably in 2012 should I wish to go for it.

Or Her Royal Highness The Lady Mooncalf  who has ensured the arrival of (amongst other things) skinny jeans into my life, meaning I’m only several years too late joining a fashion trend.

My moods might have swung like Tarzan over the past week but I every low has made me appreciate every high a little bit more.

Having said that, my goodness am I glad this week is over. Hopefully that’s an end to the extremes, I’d rather just have a level playing field from now on please.

Plus. There’s only one week left to pay day. I might be limping there like the poor child who gets their feet taffled up together in the egg and spoon race and arrives at the red tape sniffling and snuffling and snotting all over the place, but I’ll get there nonetheless.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Parenting 101

The benefit of having a much older brother and sister is that you get the opportunity to observe them going through life and resolve to not make the same mistakes as them.

For instance: I watched my brother get married to his first love who happened to be a complete mentalist, only to end up divorced a few years later and never speaking to his father again – Note to self: Do not do that when grown up

For instance: I watched my sister climb the corporate ladder and get a very high powered job – Note to self: Do not do that when grown up (I’m not cut out for the hours that are required from that kind of position!)

But mostly I have picked up a litany of parenting tips. My first nephew was born when I was 13 so I’ve had a long time to slowly absorb things and file them away. I learned the best tactics for changing nappies, how to deal with temper tantrums, how to deal with whingey whiny snotbags and the importance of keeping up to date with your Maths skills to help with homework.

Last weekend I went over to my Mum’s to meet up with my brother, sister-in-law, youngest nephew and new niece. My niece is at a delightful age, 12 weeks, she’s no longer just a small baby-sized lump doing nothing but sleep and scream and is now smiling and interacting with the world around her. Everyone likes baby smiles.

My youngest nephew is two and a half and has now entered a phase where he actually likes me. There has been a long time where he would just bury his head and have nothing to do with me, mainly because I didn’t see him enough for him to know me, something which my poor little heart has struggled with. But now he knows me, knows my name and seems fairly happy to sit and play with his cars with me.

After a while my nephew went to lie down on the settee, exhausted by an afternoon of completing jigsaws and pushing cars about the floor and terrorising Fred and Lily. I was passed the baby and sat content in Auntie role, marvelling at how small her hands are and how long her eyelashes are and general baby-related nonsense.

My nephew suddenly sat up on Mum’s settee.

He looks very pale” remarked his mother.

He’s just tired” said my brother.

And with that, my nephew vomited all over the settee and himself.

There was a stunned moment of silence as all of us looked at him and then he did it again which galvanised everyone into action. My brother was instructed to take him upstairs, my sister-in-law started cleaning up and Mum started filling up the washing up bowl to start sponging down the settee.

There was a fraught 15 minutes or so as people took care of nephew and the cleaning operation (which had to be extended from the settee as my nephew had thrown up again as my brother was carrying him up the stairs, spraying walls and stair carpet).

Me? I was the rather smug member of the family who wasn’t obliged to do anything because I was fortunate enough to be holding the baby at the commencement of vomiting.

Note to self: Keep hold of the baby at all times when a toddler is also in the picture, they are bound to be less trouble.

(Extra note to self: When toddler is vomiting, don’t take him upstairs, remove him swiftly to the kitchen sink where there is at least laminate flooring.)


Monday, 10 January 2011


Overwhelmed: to overcome completely in mind or feeling. (source)

This is definitely how I’ve been over the past few days. I have tried several times to just think about what it is that I’ve wanted to say and have stumbled before I could even begin to make my fingers hit the keyboard. Then when I did begin to type it was a terrible incoherent mess (I'll tell you now, this final draft isn't much better. Apologies).

Sometimes there aren’t words, or maybe I just don’t have the words to properly convey the feelings generated by the responses to my last post.

Thank you doesn’t seem enough. Two little words. What a load of rubbish. We say them about a thousand times a day as it is, they don’t seem appropriate in this situation. If you were standing in front of me I’d yell them at you and hold my arms very wide and jump up and down while I said it but I think that might be borderline weird.

But thank you is all I have and I have really been bowled over by the kind words that people left me and the more than generous offers that came into my e-mail inbox. You must understand that that wasn’t my intention in writing that post to say “Oh please give me things.” The Inner Brat wasn’t even in work that day. That was just one of those posts that I (hopefully) don’t write too often where everything came out in one big sludge of crappiness.

Please don’t have visions of me fighting the pigeons in Hull City Centre for scraps of food (apart from anything I’d kick their arses, they’re all malformed in some way). I can feed myself for the next two weeks. I won’t be doing much else and let’s just say that these last few pounds that I want to lose will probably not have any problems in disappearing, but I won’t be lying on my bed, too weak to type, or getting arrested for stealing my shopping like certain Cheeky Girls.

I have a bit of a problem with my pride. This little independent streak of mine, that most of the time I would deny I have, comes into full force when my back’s against the wall. I very very very rarely ask for help and will only very rarely accept it when it’s offered. I struggle with feeling like accepting will mean admitting defeat whilst not accepting is kind of a rude thing to do. I don’t know where it’s come from, most likely my Mum, we want to do things ourselves, but that unfortunately does not stop us complaining about it in the meantime.

When people were offering me help on the blog my first reaction was to completely freak out. I felt like I was a fraud that had conned you all into offering me help and that if I told you it wasn’t that bad then everyone would hate me. I spent most of the weekend trying to work out how to issue a retraction.

But I realise that was mainly my pride talking (as if having the Inner Brat wasn’t enough to deal with) and that actually things are pretty shit at the moment and it’s ok to admit that and it’s ok to accept help where it’s offered. I’m pretty sure I’ve contacted everyone who did e-mail me and most of those e-mails were along the same garbled, embarrassed acceptance lines.

All I can say is thank you for all your words and advice and just general support. They were incredibly touching and I really haven’t known what to do with myself or how to deal with it (as has probably become clearly apparent in this ridiculous post).

To answer some of your questions/advice however:

JOBS: Believe me I know my wage is crap. And I am absolutely looking for new jobs and am desperate to relocate. I know I go on about how much I love Hull but that is purely because I have to love Hull, I’m here, I’m dealing with it. I haven’t wanted to be here since I was forced to move back from Manchester 4 years ago. Unfortunately social science research is not particularly well funded so jobs don’t come up often or at all. I would (reluctantly) abandon my career and do something else but have no idea what to do and get overwhelmed at the possibilities. I would be more than willing to do PA and admin jobs which often pay more than my current wage, but guess what? They don’t accept me because I’m over-qualified. But I am looking. Especially as it’s looking likely that I’ll be redundant in May (yeah I hadn’t even touched on that! A woo hoo!)

DEBT: My debt is not the traditional consolidate your debt kind of problem. My student loan was a Career Development Loan taken out to finance my MSc. Unfortunately you can’t defer these bad boys, part of the reason I ended up back in Hull when those £180 monthly repayments started. I was hoping to do a bit of balance transfer jiggery pokery with my credit card but unfortunately my crappy credit history has put paid to that. It’s just one of those things, if I don’t put anything more on it then hopefully in a year or so that will be gone.

LIVING SITUATION: I have thought long and hard about moving back in with Mum. To be honest it’s not an option, I couldn’t live there rent-free, she’s a pensioner so I’d end up paying her similar to the amount I currently pay (which is incredibly tiny by the way, I’m lucky to be in the situation I am in with Dorothy). Plus I would be further out from the centre meaning more transport costs and the termination of any small social life I do currently have – Stitch and Bitch would be right out of the window as I wouldn’t be able to get there.

E-BAY/CAR BOOT SALES: When I moved out of the flat with the ex, I took what I needed and that was it. Everything else was left behind. All my possessions are in the room I have in the house and that’s it. I understand that I could sell anything but there really isn’t anything to sell.

I will continue to look more at Moneysavingexpert – I might pick up something useful and at least be able to get some social activities going.

I will be fine. To be honest this post was going to be written last month when I really was almost screwed but I figured no-one wanted to hear about that kind of nonsense in the run up to Christmas. I knew that January was going to be tough, we were paid a week early in December (thank god) so I’ve gone an extra week without pay, plus the various costs of fun and merriment that went on over Christmas have to be taken into consideration. Things will slowly get better as I try and struggle to get control over my situation.

But thank you. Again. I know it’s not a lot but it’s literally all I have to give. When things get better I will make it all up to you. I promise. My pride won’t let me not. Let’s call it a Pride Promise.

Ok. Time to be quiet now.

Thank you.


I have no idea why the font has gone so weird all of a sudden. This is not a good Monday.

Friday, 7 January 2011

"I've got no money"

What does that phrase mean to you?

It should be straight forward really. It means that you have no money surely? You have no money to spend on anything.

And yet it’s surprising just how many meanings this simple phrase has. You hear it all the time and over the years I have discovered some of its varied meanings.

- There was the friend who always claimed he “had no money” but seemed able to go out drinking every Friday and Saturday night.

- There was the friend who claimed she “had no money” but still managed to go shopping at the weekend and buy a new wardrobe of clothes.

- There’s the person who claimed they “had no money” when what they actually meant was they weren’t adding to their already overflowing savings account.

- There’s the person who says they’ve “got no money” but then reveal that what they mean by that is that they’re approaching the point at which they will go overdrawn. Not reached their overdraft limit, but will go into the red. (This is my personal favourite by the way).

- There’s the person that says they’ve “got no money” but still manages to go for meals out and buy themselves an unbelievable amount of treats.

Those are the most common variations I have come across the past few years. It’s no wonder then that when I say “I’ve got no money” people tend not to take it seriously but just nod and go “Yeah I know what you mean.”

Do you? Do you really get what I’m saying?

Because when I say “I’ve got no money” I mean, I’ve got no money. I mean that I’m at my overdraft limit (I haven’t been in the black since my first year at uni). I mean that I’m worried about buying food. I mean that I can’t afford to get the bus this week. I mean that I feel constantly sick because I’m worried I won’t be able to pay my bills. I mean, I’ve got no money.

I wouldn’t mind if it was because I live a wonderful jam packed lifestyle with nights out every weekend and a wardrobe bursting with clothes and a cupboard stuffed full of yarn and cross-stitched goodness. But I don’t have any of those things. Nights out are few and far between, once a month, if that. My wardrobe is laughable, nothing fits me anymore (something I am aware I should be celebrating) I’m left with a pair of leggings which are now too big for me as well and I can’t do anything about it (and please please please don’t tell me to go to Tescos or Asda or Primark or charity shops, read my lips – I’ve got no money). I’m supposed to be cross-stitching one Christmas card a month to fulfil my new year resolutions but that won’t be happening for long because I’m about to run out of aida.

What does my money go on? Debt. Debt that I accrued getting degrees that haven’t helped me in the slightest. I’m not profligate by any stretch of the imagination, I just do not have a sufficient income to get by on. I earn £16k which I am aware is enough to live on, but people don’t realise that £350 of that goes out on a career development loan and a credit card debt I ran up getting my masters degree. Get rid of those and yes of course I’ll be a happier person.

The people who tend to not get it are more often than not the people in couples. The people who may not consciously think about it, but know deep down inside that they have someone else to lean on if things get a bit rough. Someone else to share the cost of living with. When I was living with my ex I was earning the same amount of money but I was quite the comfortable person, ok I wasn’t loaded but I was managing to save each month. I was aware that when I left, things would be more difficult, I would be paying more out on living costs than I did when we were together and there wasn’t a lot of wiggle room in my budget and I accepted that but had I honestly honestly known how tough things would be I cannot say hand on heart that I would have made the decision to leave.

Because I’m miserable. I’m more miserable now than I ever was with him. I wasn’t even miserable at all with him, that’s the hilarious punchline to this tragic joke.

Of course I know I made the right decision, I didn’t love him and it speaks volumes that the only reason I’m missing my relationship is because of my financial difficulties and the one thing I didn’t want to be was someone who was with somebody just because of the security they offered me.

But right now? At this moment in time?

It’s wearing me down.

(Wait. In this interests of honesty I feel I should tell you that I did deign to spend money on myself this Christmas, I bought two pairs of shoes from Primark for a grand total of £20 - one pair is still in the carrier bag with the receipt so I can take them back next week when things get too bad. Silly me for trying to buy myself something nice.)

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Bad planning

Train fares are ridiculous aren’t they? When scoping out the prices of trains from my beloved Hull down to my beloved’s Bognor I was bloody outraged a little dismayed to discover that it was going to cost me £104. Or rather it wouldn’t have cost me £104 at all, because I would have had to have stayed at home and cried into my pillow.

My saviour came in the blue and yellow form of Megabus who promised to take me all the way from Hull to London for just £9 one way. Then it was just a hop, skip and a £35 train fare to the seaside.

I came back with That Person (that can be his name for now I think) as far as London, at which point we parted ways, him to the wilds of Preston and me to the sanctity of the Humber Bridge. However I had rather a long wait in London until I was transported back home. As in 5 hours.

I decided this would be good. I would have some me time in London and be brave and go and do something. Except in the post-Christmas haze my brain just couldn’t think of anything it really wanted to go and see. I settled on a trip to the Tate Modern and after putting my luggage in storage (Well recommended if you don’t want to lug your suitcase round with you all day. £8 for 24 hours and they’re in most of the London stations I think. Although man are you guys getting ripped off again, I could have put my luggage in storage in Manchester Piccadilly for the same amount of time for £5. Ridiculous. Did you know your Boots Meal Deals are more expensive than up here too? SCANDALOUS.) I made my way there. I had already thoroughly planned and memorised my Tube route – I’m still a little scared of the Underground you know.

I got to the Tate and saw the latest exhibition in the Turbine Hall. My tiny little brain simply could not comprehend what I was seeing. This whole space is filled with sunflower seeds made from porcelain? Each one hand crafted in China? Really? Nope sorry, now I must explode. Kaboom.

Ai Weiwei's Sunflower Seeds - mind boggling

I started to walk around and then it hit me. I’m really not that big an art fan. I’m sorry I feel like a terrible person saying it out loud but it just does nothing for me. Particularly the ‘modern’ stuff. What the hell was I doing in there?! This was stupid, I would wander around, not appreciating it and then spend money I don’t have in the gift shop.

Plan aborted.

New plan: Go to St Paul’s. You can handle that, you can see it from where you’re standing for goodness’ sake! Trot across Millennium Bridge, get into St Paul’s, realise that yeah, it’s a big church and you can’t see the good stuff without paying money. Light a candle and hope that Jesus doesn’t hate me.

Plan aborted.
Get out of the way annoying tourists!

I stood on the steps for a while feeling a little bit lost. I still had a few hours to kill but had no idea what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go or how I would get there. This is quite a problem when you’re in London. I tried to just blindly walk into the City but got The Frights and scampered into the Underground at St Paul’s for safety. I did my best navigating-the-Tube-all-by-myself-on-the-cuff ever and got back to Victoria where I picked up my suitcase and went to St Pancras where I sought out the comfort of a seat with some tea and a sandwich and read my book for a couple of hours before heading Hull-ward.

Just call me Mistress of the Underground

On the whole? Not a great success. I could have done a lot better. But this Megabus revelation has opened up a whole world to me – I could totally go to London for the day for £18! I’d arrive at 11.30am and leave at 6.00pm but that still leaves 6.5 hours in London, which to be honest is probably all I could take. Now I just need a better plan with what to do with my time.

Anybody have any suggestions? Or does anyone wish to squire me about town for an afternoon and prove to me that London is amazing?!

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Wedding Dos and Don'ts

I’m not the biggest fan of New Year’s Eve normally. Whilst I’m always up for a big night out, don’t you find that the nights out that you hype up in your head tend to be the worst? New Year’s Eve is the biggest hyped night of the year, it’s no wonder the poor sod never quite lives up to my expectations.

2010’s NYE saw a first for me however, my first NYE Wedding. The Person That I Don’t Talk About On My Blog (I really need to think of a better nickname for him) lives in the deepest, darkest South of England and one of his childhood friend’s was tying the knot so I braved my way down there to join him for some belated Christmas celebrating.

I was pretty pleased about the wedding being on NYE – you can’t go wrong with a wedding can you? They’re always fun.


I have come up with a list of Wedding Dos and Don’ts for anyone who’s planning an upcoming wedding.

DO choose a beautiful setting and they don’t come more beautiful than Arundel Cathedral (even if it is at the top of the world’s steepest hill)

DO remember to warn people that Catholic weddings go on for approximately a million years. I had completely forgotten and wanted to eat my own arm off when it got past the 1 hour mark. I almost went up to get a blessing when they were taking Communion because I felt I deserved having sat through all of it.

DO have possibly the most awesome wedding car ever.

DO exercise the bride's prerogative to be late, but DON'T take the piss. 10 minutes is fine. Half an hour, not so much.

DON’T invite people to the wedding ceremony and reception but tell them there’s no room for them at the wedding breakfast. People will feel obliged to attend the wedding ceremony and will then be left with hours and hours of dead space to try and fill. And linked to this...

DON’T have your wedding on New Year’s Eve if you’re not going to feed them. Pubs stop serving food early on New Year’s Eve, meaning that the guests not eating with you will be forced into a tea room because it’s the only place open. (But thank god it was a tea room that served wine.)

DON’T have a jazz band with the combined age of 93 providing the only entertainment all night. Yes it may be classy but it gets incredibly samey after about half an hour, what’s wrong with just having a bit of cheesy disco?!

DO feed your guests in the evening. Small home-made pies does not a buffet make. Especially when your Lost Guests only managed to find a tea room serving food.

DO give all your guests Chinese Lanterns to set off after midnight. It was a nice touch, even if people did go slightly insane in the rush to the little bonfire to light them and nearly set themselves alight.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

The Not Really Resolutions

Every year, January 1st seems to sneak up on me, which is ridiculous for many reasons, not least the fact that it happens every year. (No. Wait. That is the only reason it’s ridiculous.)

Faced with people asking me on the spot I come up with something either entirely rubbish or generic or something which is never going to be achievable. I once swore that I would take my make-up off every single night and then woke up the next morning with the remains of New Year’s Eve smeared under my eyes.

This year I decided I would be prepared for 2011.

Also I didn’t want to do work in the weeks leading up to Christmas so spent an awful lot of time staring into space, contemplating what I wanted to achieve next year (perhaps finding a new job should be on the list?!).

I have come up with a number of resolutions. Or not so much resolutions as just things that I want to achieve. Some are big, some are ridiculously small but all of them I think are important in their own ways. I hesitated before posting about them because I knew that the second I hit publish I was making a commitment and I could readily be held to account for any potential failure.

But I’m going to do it. I’m going to put this list up here. I’m going to give it a little page all of its own and I’ll cross them off as I do them and you, if you want to, can keep track.

So with a deep breath, the following I hope to achieve by the end of 2011:

1. Run a 5km race – most likely the Race for Life (and I don’t mean run for 5 minutes and then walk the rest of the way, I would like to keep moving at pace for the whole thing)

2. Crochet a Ripple blanket

3. Back up all my photos on to CD (this sounds ridiculous I know but if my laptop were to break, my gut-wrenching screams would be heard the world over, I have got to do this. Putting it on the list is the best way I can think of to galvanise me into action.)

4. Paint my frog (remember him? I need to get on that!)

5. Go to the cinema on my own (time and time and time again there are films I want to see that I never end up seeing because I can’t find someone to go with me or find the time when our schedules meet up. I need to just suck it up and go on my own.)

6. Complete Project 365 (take a photo every day, upload it on to Flickr, I get the feeling that it’s going to be quite the pain in the backside, but I’d like to document my year photographically as well as on the blog.)

7. Make an album/scrapbook of my photos from 2010’s trip to France. (I have everything I need, I just need to print the photos out and wield some glue)

8. Go over to Belfast to visit my family because I haven’t seen them in a ridiculously long time and it’s only over the freakin’ sea.

9. Read 12 classics throughout the year (having been faced with everything that I've read over the past year I feel it was a little too light on the heavyweights so I am resolving to expand my reading, and hopefully my brain, a little further in 2011)

10. Cross stitch at least one Christmas card each month (that way I’ll have made at least 12 cards by the time Christmas 2011 comes along and won’t feel like a complete crafty failure like I did this Christmas!)

So, you know, wish me luck?!


As you may or may not have guessed, this is a scheduled post that I set up a while ago (because I'm an organised freak) I'm currently not in Hull, but away with that person that I've said I'm not going to talk about on this blog, spending New Year with him. I shall be returning up North on 2nd January and will hopefully be blogging again after that.

I just wanted to say thank you to everyone that reads and comments on this little ol' blog of mine - I love you in a very creepy and probably inappropriate way and look forward to continuing that creepy and inappropriate love in 2011.

Happy New Year!