Friday, 30 September 2011

Striking out alone

I arrived in London, bright eyed and almost bushy tailed, just a little bit crumpled from my incredibly early start (5.30am anyone?) and 4.5 hour journey by bus and train down to London.

But I felt good. I had a plan. First stop? National Portrait Gallery.
Finally. Finally finally finally, an attraction in London that I love. Pictures! Photos! Paintings! Of actual people and not a blob on a canvas! I was really swept away.

I wandered amongst Kings and Queen, statesmen and scientists. I saw David Beckham sleeping and King Stephen looking a little bog-eyed. I saw the Olympic athletes of tomorrow and comedians from yesteryear.

Around every corner I spotted something that I have seen before on the tellybox or in a magazine. It’s easy to forget that those images that we see are real life portraits, living and breathing somewhere, begging to be looked at and admired. And so I did.

I saw pictures of a young Queen Victoria – I’m so used to seeing this jowelly old woman in black that I’d forgotten she was young once. I saw Marc Quinn’s self portrait, made out of his own blood. I saw paintings that I was convinced had to be photographs until I stood as close as possible and saw the individual brush strokes. And if I was ever going to feel homesick, this would have been quelled by the sight of a portrait of Amy Johnson.

I loved that place. Loved it so much that for the first time ever I actually willingly donated to a free attraction.

The great thing about being by myself was that I was free to wander as I pleased. If there were parts of the National Portrait Gallery I didn’t want to see I just breezed on through, and when I left and decided I was hungry I was free to go and get lunch wherever I pleased.

Normally I don’t go to chains when I go away because it’s a bit boring, you could go to them anywhere, but when you live in Hull, the prospect of eating at a chain is genuinely exciting because they are hardly ever in Hull. And so lunch came courtesy of Wagamamas –one of my very favourite places.

I quite happily sat and had lunch on my own – sending texts to people to let them know I was still alive, seeing what was next on my plans and generally noseying at the people sat around me.

Next was the Museum of Childhood, as recommended by The Curious Cat in Bethnal Green. Every toy you could ever imagine is enclosed in here, and I spent a happy hour or so wandering around looking at flicker books from the 1870s, playing with Zoetropes and Stereoscopes and generally pointing at the cases and saying in my head, “Oh my god I remember those!”

The gift shop in the Museum of Childhood is lovely, loads and loads and loads and loads of children’s books. Brilliant. I may, or may not, have bought one.

Around the corner from the Museum lies the Gallery Cafe, a vegan and vegetarian place that The Curious Cat had also told me about. It’s kind of a painfully cool place and I’m pretty sure that everyone in there knew I was a less cool northern imposter, even if I did try and look hip by sitting and scribbling in my notebook.

The menu looked delicious, but unfortunately I was so stuffed from Wagamamas that there was only room for a cup of tea and recharge – both of my batteries and my phone’s (seriously, Android phones? Batteries are rubbish, they need charging every night. Ridiculous.). The clientele was wide-ranging, from a Grandmother having a glass of wine and talking with her Grandchildren after they had finished school, to foreign students chatting, to people looking cool and hipstery on their Macs/netbooks taking advantage of the free wi-fi.

I was soon on my travels again and I made my merry way to Persephone Books which I had first heard about from Petit Filoux, many moons ago. I’ve been wanting to go ever since – I love the concept of a place that’s publishing women’s literature exclusively. And I had saved up enough pennies to splash out and buy three uber-stylishly bound books for £27.

When I was making my last minute plans for London, I’d looked up Persephone Books on Google Maps and, upon zooming in a bit further I discovered there was a cinema right round the corner. Perfectamundo or what? A quick look of the film showings and I had decided upon the 6pm showing of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and had even used Street View to work out how to walk from the shop to the cinema. I was very proud of myself.

It is beyond me why anyone in London goes to the cinema, given that it costs over £10 to do so. You peoples is crazy. But I was pleased with the cinema I picked. There are only 2 screens in this place and it is more of an arthouse kind of place. But the seats were gloriously comfortable and I settled myself down to watch what turned out to be an incredibly confusing film. I still don’t think I get what happened.

I think the whole reason that I had going to the cinema on my own down on my resolution list was to make myself be a little more independent. I am more than a little self sufficient but I sometimes really crave company and whilst some of that’s just my personality, I also think it can do you good sometimes to learn to be by yourself. To go places on your own and enjoy them on your own. To be in your own company.

Funnily enough I spent all this summer living alone so I was already pretty used to it and I think this trip as a whole served this purpose rather neatly – a couple of years ago I wouldn’t have come to London on my own at all. Silly as that might seem it would have been true. Not because I would have been scared of going to a big city, but I just wouldn’t have seen the point in not going and sharing it with someone.

Don’t get me wrong, it would have been nice to have had someone along with me at times – especially in the cinema – then I could have had someone to poke and go “What the hell is going on in this film?!” But overall, this was a good exercise for me in being a lonesome little bunny.
I ended up back at St Pancras, two hours before I was due to leave which was kind of a bum but my only other option would have been wandering the streets of London alone which I didn’t really fancy. But I sat in Costa and drank tea and had a nosey at people coming off the Eurostar.

The journey back was long. Very very very long. And although I’m good at falling asleep anywhere, any time there’s only so much sleeping on a coach you can do and by 2am, as we were leaving Scunthorpe I was begging and praying and itching for my very own bed.

But for £10.50 I’m not going to complain. I think I should make this a regular happening.

Hurray for me the brave little adventurer.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

The best laid plans

I was really looking forward to last Thursday. For well over a month I had had a trip to London arranged with a friend. We were going to do London in a day and it was going to be very exciting. I was going to catching the Megabus from Hull at 6.50am, getting into London at 11.20am, having the whole day and evening to see what there was to see and then clambering back on the train at 10.25pm, arriving back in Hull at 3am on the Friday morning.

I was really looking forward to it up until Wednesday afternoon when my friend decided to cancel on me.

I was left with a few options.

a) Cancel the trip altogether, the tickets had only cost me £10.50 so I wouldn’t be massively out of pocket, and cancel the two days I’d booked off work.
b) Cancel the trip but keep the two days off work.
c) Go to London.

I decided to be brave. I was geared up for a jolly holiday and damnit I was going to have one.

Going to London in itself didn’t bother me at all, it’s not like there’s nothing to do there after all, but my main worry was the evening/night portion of the day – I didn’t particularly want to be trekking round the streets in the dark until 10.25pm.

I know a few people in London but none who were good enough friends that I wanted to contact them and see if they wanted to meet up for the weekend – there was only one person that I did contact and she had selfishly gone to Bristol for a new job.

And then it hit me. What could I do in the evening in London that would not make me a target for tramps and thieves but would be interesting?

*Cue lightbulb above head moment*

I could go to the cinema.

Those of you who have been reading for a while will know where I’m going with this. Anyone who’s new to the show, let me enlighten you. I made a list of Not Really Resolutions at the beginning of this year, one of which was to go to the cinema on my own. In the last update I was despairing of getting this one completed, mainly because I couldn’t for the life of me work out why I’d put it on there. I don’t go to the cinema at all so the notion of going on my own was, quite frankly, bizarre.

And yet, here it was, like a shining little beacon – coming to save my day in London. This is how I would fill up my evening in London and cross off something on my list. Useful and efficient – that’s the kind of activity I like.

With my evening plan vaguely sorted there began the quickest planning of a day in London ever. I didn’t want to go without an idea of where I wanted to go because I did that on 1st January and it was bloody irritating and I ended up not seeing anything.

In a couple of hours, and thanks to the Curious Cat and Google Maps and Street View, I officially had an outline of my day in London and it was going to look a little something like this:

National Portrait Gallery (I have still never been here in all the times I’ve been to London)
Museum of Childhood
Gallery Cafe
Persephone Books
Renoir Cinema

And I will tell you tomorrow if all went according to plan...

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

The Person

Facebook has recently been full of status updates of people talking about it being 10 years since they went to uni. I wish I could remember the actual date but alas I wasn’t that organised (I know, unbelievable) so I just have to settle for knowing that about this time I was heading to Manchester to be a little student-head.

Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a post filled with nonsense about my first days of uni – I didn’t have an experience that was really that different to anyone else’s I’m sure. But the timing fits nicely because it neatly goes with something that I’ve been wanting to post about for a while.

For not only has it been 10 years since I went to uni. It’s been 10 years since I met The Person.

I know that some have been curious about who this person is, and some have even been detective enough to work out who he is.

For anyone who was wondering, yes you have heard of him before.

Now. Before I go on I should clear something up before the comments start. I didn’t break up with my ex for The Person, I broke up with my ex because I wasn’t happy with him and hadn’t been for some time.

Ten years ago I came to uni a little bright eyed and bushy tailed 18 year old ready to make friends. I lived in a tower block which was separated into boy’s and girl’s floors. I met another girl equally keen to make friends, and a couple of days in, we visited every floor in that tower block, introducing ourselves and suggesting that we all meet on our floor, in our kitchen, before heading out to that ubiquitous Fresher’s event, the Foam Party.

Out of that whole tower block, 5 boys turned up and from that day forward there was a nice little set up going on.

The Person and I have been in and out of contact for these long 10 years. 2nd and 3rd year passed without us really talking that much, once we were loose on the world there was the occasional e-mail, then we got closer, then we started seeing each other when I went back to do my MSc, then we broke up, but we were still in contact, still would see each other and now here we are.

Back then he was The Person that I wanted to make laugh because I wanted him to think I was cool. 10 years later, I still want to make him laugh because I want him to think I’m cool.

He is The Person that lives in all those clichés you read about love.

He is The Person that I want to be with. All the time. (Which means that it sucks kind of a lot that we only get to see each other every 3/4 weeks.)

He is The Person that I want to call whenever anything happens, big or small. (Even though he hates talking on the phone and panics for some reason that we’re not going to have anything to say each other.)

In the last post I wrote about him I referred to him as The One. I will carry on calling him The Person because I like it better but it doesn’t change the fact that at this moment, and for the past year and a bit, my heart has been very smug indeed.

Here ends the mush.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Cross Stitch gone wild

At last. I have been on my final hen do of the year. Some people have asked me why I haven’t been on a nice summer holiday this year. I wonder why and then start to add up all the money I’ve spent on hen dos and weddings this year and stop when my eyes start to water.

This hen do also involved fancy dress which whilst it initially made my blood run cold actually turned out ok. They chose a good theme, sailor girls, meaning your possibilities could be endless. For those who want to go kinky and go the SFD route there are plenty of options open to you. For those who are terrified of fancy dress, all you need is a stripy top and away you go.

I did some superb bargain shopping and managed to pick up a red and white stripy vest top for £3 in the Next sale and a navy blue pencil skirt for £7 from Primark. Both good because not only were they cheap, they were wearable again for work (although probably not together, unless we happen to have a sailor girl day at work, in which case...I’m set!).

But it didn’t feel like a special enough outfit.

Then, flicking through CrossStitcher magazine what should jump out at me but a pattern for an anchor. Perfect. Plus it would be doubly perfect to cross stitch this anchor seeing as it was a Stitchette's hen do. But how to get the anchor on to my skirt?

Soluble canvas.

Oh the wonders of modern technology.

I had heard talk of this magical stuff but had yet to experience it. A quick search online and I had some in my grubby little mitts.

Things to note about soluble canvas;
a) It is not cheap
b) You don’t get a lot of it

I worked out where I wanted my anchor to go, attached the canvas to the skirt with an embroidery hoop and just began stitching like it was normal aida. It is seriously that simple.

A word of advice though, don’t decide you’re going to stitch your design with a seam running through it because you’ll go through a phase of really hating your stitching because it’s hard to get the needle through the fabric. And it’s not really the piece of work’s fault that you’re a moron.

But all was well that ended well and I had a fancy little skirt that worked well with the hen do but I reckon I can also get away with wearing at work (as long as I lose a couple of ribs because that skirt was tight, meaning it was standing room only, sitting was an issue!).

Once you’re done stitching you just need to soak the fabric in a bowl of water for about 10 minutes or so, give it a little rub and voila you have officially cross stitched onto fabric. Boom.

I am now feeling an urge to cross stitch on to fabric so you might want to stay out of my way for a little while.

Please note that although it does look a little weird with the seam running through it, I promise that when it's on it doesn't look odd.

If you're interested, I used two different coloured reds, one for the outside and one for the inside and I did the rope using one strand each of two different tan/yellow colours, used together. I should really take note of what actual colours I used. Sorry.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Crazy Cat Lady Part 13 - Moonface McGraw

Only a few days left until I move. Goodness me it’s come round quickly. I am at that stage now where I am officially bored of packing and just want to get all the boxes, bags, bin liners, various receptacles moved and into my new place. The nesting instinct is growing stronger. Nest nest nest.

However there is a little sad feeling niggling at the back of my head. I will officially be moving to a catless environment. Panic stations.

I had a taster of life sans felines when I was living at my Dad’s this summer and let me tell you I did not enjoy it. I spent far too much time crouched down in the back garden trying to make friends with Harry from next door and Monty, a tabby cat from the other side who rebuffed every single one of my advances.

How on earth am I going to cope without my the ebb and flow of random cats coming strolling in to the back garden or winding their way around your legs as you walk down my street?

How will I deal with the fact that I will no longer be living with someone else who will fully understand the joy of the phrase “I totally met a new cat today!!”?

And so, in mourning of this passing I present to you the latest random cat...Moonface McGraw.

Upon seeing Moonface there is only one sentence which can come out of people’s mouths.

“Holy crap have you seen the size of that cat’s head?!”

Moonface was first spotted sitting on top of a garage, gazing dolefully into the back garden. He appeared to know Maud and she sat daintily up there with him, looking even tinier and cuter than normal next to the brute that was Moonface.

Moonie became a bit of a regular for a while and began to take it upon himself to come into the house and steal food but at heart he’s a wanderer and recently he is seen only from a distance and totally pretends not to know me.

There is no way that this guy has a home because, quite frankly, he is disgusting. I love all cats, but I’ve had to dig deep with this guy, because the thought of touching him is actually kind of gross. His fur is beyond matted, the only thing that could be done with it would be to shave him completely and he’s flea ridden which has meant Maggie and Maud have had to be dosed up to the eyeballs with Frontline as a result of hanging about near him.

He has also not been neutered. A fact which will become immediately obvious as soon as he turns his back to you.

He’s like a character in a children’s book or a film. He’s the bad guy who you think is really mean, but it turns out he has a heart of gold (what was the name of the mean fish in the tank in Finding Nemo – I’m thinking of him right now). He’s certainly begging for some kind of makeover.

But until he meets his stylists, Moonface McGraw will continue to roam the streets of Hull. Remember to give him the tip of your cap. Just don’t get too close yeah?

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Not Really Resolutions - Update 5

So here we are in September and I thought it was about time to update and see how I’m progressing with my Not Really Resolutions 2011 since I last updated in July.

1.       Run a 5km race. – Done and done! Woo! Read all about it here.

2.       Crochet a ripple blanket. – Not only done but I’ve done TWO of the freaking things. Get me get me get me get me get me get me. The Yarn Fairy blanket  and the Jungle Ripple blanket are now living in the real world instead of my head.

3.       Back up photos on to CD – Done and done. And I’m being a good girl and continuing to keep my system up to date.

4.       Paint my frog – Done and done.

5.       Go to the cinema on my own. – Yeah why did I include this one? It’s not so much that I haven’t done it as that I haven’t been to the cinema at all this year. At least I don’t think I have. I’m not a cinema-goer at all, why did I include this?!

6.       Project 365 – Continuing apace. Although it takes me ages to upload my photos because I don’t have internet access at the moment. I tend to save it all up and have a manic mammoth session in a local coffee shop, using their wireless internet. That way I can get everything done and only have to pay for one cup of tea. (If I take longer than an hour I feel like I need to get a 2nd drink).

7.       Make album/scrapbook of my France 2010 holiday – It has been started but that’s pretty much all I can say about it because it keeps getting moved to the bottom of the crafting pile. It’s now been included in my super geeky Gantt Chart so here’s hoping that motivates me to just get on with it. It wouldn’t take that long at all if I just got my head in gear.

8.       Travel to Belfast to see my family. It’s booked! I’m going over towards the end of October for a long weekend. Hurray!

9.       Read 12 classics. This is coming along nicely. I have read 9 by now so I’m on schedule. The trouble at the moment is that I’m finding it hard to find the time to read anything because I’m trying to make as much as possible for Christmas. But I’ll do it. Don’t you worry your pretty little heads.

10.   Cross stitch one Christmas Card per month. I won’t lie. You can tell which cards were cross stitched at the beginning of the year. They’re the really nice ones that are all elaborate and beautiful. The closer it gets to Christmas the more simple and plain they are becoming until eventually they’re just basically back stitch...However this one will definitely be completed seeing as I’m determined to cross stitch one card each fortnight until we get to Christmas. I can’t guarantee that everyone will get a cross-stitched Christmas card but the people I really like will get one.
So in conclusion? We’re all good! It looks like I might just be successful on this one. If only I hadn’t put that stupid cinema thing in there....

Monday, 19 September 2011

The Fruit Factor

A while ago I was chatting to a friend at work and the conversation turned (as it does when two people are united in a desire to do anything but the job they’re paid to do) to fruit. Specifically, the problems with eating certain fruits when you’re at work.
Some of them might be too fiddly or too juicy or take too long to eat. Some fruits you might feel more comfortable eating on your own than if you share an office (I’m looking at you bananas). There are many potential pitfalls so I decided that really what everyone needs is some sort of Fruit League Table – a document you can consult before choosing your fruit so you avoid any unnecessary mess/embarrassment.
Disclaimer: This is in no way meant to be an exhaustive list. I am well aware I will have missed some fruits out (for instance, I haven’t included pears because I think they are the most irrelevant fruit ever. Sorry pears. It’s not even that I don’t like the taste of you, you just bore with every inch of your pear being).
-          Pretty standard fruit, some might see you as a boring person if they are given to judging a person’s character by the fruit they eat. Much akin to people judging you by the shoes you wear.
-          The Noise Factor – crunchy they may be but if you’re sat opposite someone eating them you might want to punch them in the head by the time they’re finished.
-          The Brown Factor – apples turn brown very quickly. What happens if you start to eat your apple and then have to make a call or are pulled away from your desk? You come back to a horrible brown apple. That’s just not convenient.
Oranges (and others in the same field – clementines, satsumas etc)
-          The Ease of Access Factor . They can be fiddly to peel (although satsumas are easier to peel I will admit)
-          The Pip Factor – there you are, happily eating your orange when suddenly you have a pip in your mouth! Bleurgh! Trying to find a discreet way to spit it out might be difficult if you’re sharing an office and everyone knows you can’t swallow them because then an orange tree will grow in your stomach.
-          The Citrus Eye Factor. We’ve all been there, merrily peeling away until we’re temporarily blinded by a juice squirt. Unpleasant.
-          Segments – positive – easy to eat in an office in environment. You can have a little segment, do something, have another segment. Lovely.
-          The Phallic Factor. You know what I mean. Although can be combated by breaking pieces of banana off rather than looking like you’re trying to audition for Deep Throat.
-          Easy to peel.
-          The Brown Factor – if you can get into work without having a perfectly good banana turn to mush by the time you get it out of your bag then you are some kind of magician. Or you have a banana guard.
-          The Juice Factor. You could end up with juice all over the place and sticky hands and a keyboard that doesn’t quite work properly because you didn’t get enough toilet roll to try and catch dribbling. Not excellent if you’re sharing an office.
-          Messy Stone Factor. Eurgh. Horrid stone in the middle, need to dispose of it. Bleurgh.
-          String in Teeth Factor. You’ve eaten your plum. You’re happy. But you have to spend the rest of the day trying desperately to pick the strings of fruit out of your teeth that you know are there but seem incapable of grasping.
-          ­See Plums Points 1-3
-          But. Doughnut peaches seem to eliminate the juice factor. They are equally as delicious but without leaving you with juice all over your chin. Bonus.
-          Unwieldy.
-          Need extra implements to eat it.
-          The Juice Factor.
-          See Kiwis Points 1-3
-          Also Grapefruit Face. That awful face that grapefruits sometimes make you pull. No-one sharing your office needs to see that.
-          Good because they can be cut into chunks which can be enjoyed at your pleasure.
-          But require extra preparation at home so lose points
Grapes/Cherry tomatoes/blueberries
-          Pretty perfect because they are small and easy to pop in your mouth so you can eat and carry on working.
-          But there is the possibility that you will be unable to exercise restraint and will eat a whole punnet in one go which may mean this is an expensive fruit option.
-          See Grapes et al Point 1
-          Lose points for the pain of hulling.
So you can see that as a result of my extensive research I feel I can include that the most office friendly fruit/s is/are grapes or cherry tomatoes or anything in that kind of group. Mostly because of the ease of eating them.
Other fruits can be office friendly but just may require more consideration – maybe eat your bananas and plums when no-one else is in the office.
As I said before, this list is not meant to be exhaustive, please add any amendments or suggestions in the comments below!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Pack up your troubles

Those of you who are in the know (i.e. follow my Project365 photos on Flickr or are friends with me on Facebook) will know that I am going to be moving at the end of the month.

For those of you not in the know?

I’m moving at the end of the month.

I’m not going far, this is not some grand relocation, I am in fact moving approximately 0.5 miles away from where I currently live, so less than a 10 minute walk.

If I could afford it I’d be living on my own, but until my debts are paid off (which if they were would give me an extra £350 a month. I know. Ouchies.) I’m going to have to content myself with continuing to share a house.

I played it cool when I saw the room, I didn’t want to give away too much but my insides were doing backflips. “Hello massive room!” my insides were saying. “Hello awesome wooden floor. Hello cute little fireplace. Hello SPACE.” The space bit was very exciting for me. At the moment, unless I hang up my clothes as soon as I take them off, it’ll only take 2 days before I have no floor space left. If The Person comes to stay there has to be system in place for getting changed in the morning because there’s definitely not enough room for two people in there.

So it’s very exciting. I don’t know who the people are that I’m sharing with. Some might say that’s a gamble, but given that the landlady only takes on professionals and comes and checks the house once a month, I’m feeling pretty confident. And if not, hey it'll give me some fodder for the blog!

The grand move in date is 1st October which isn’t that close but appeared much closer when I realised that I don’t actually have any free weekends up until the day that I move. That’s not good. I’ve been lucky enough that I’ve got a ton of boxes to hand, thanks to the fact that there’s a community cafe at my work, so my belongings are currently being packed into boxes formerly containing bags of chips and cans of tuna.

My approach is simple. As soon as I come in from work I make a start and keep going until I get bored. This approach has actually meant that I’ve pretty much packed as much as I can already. It’s not too hard really, my main baggage consists of books and dvds. I’m going to have to spend quite a bit of money when I get to the new place accumulating stuff because when I moved out of the flat I shared with the Ex, I let him take pretty much everything, so I don’t own basic things like, you know, plates or cutlery.

But I have taken the packing as an opportunity to get rid of stuff. Add in the fact that Dorothy is also having a clear out of gargantuan proportions and the result is that the downstairs has enough stock in it to keep various charity shops in business for the next year or so.

I would love to make some money out of it all, Dorothy has plans for a car boot, but I just don’t have time to be faffing with it, literally don’t have the time given that my weekends are blocked up. Where I can I’ve tried to make a bit of money though. A loads of dvds that were destined for charity have been packed up and sent to Music Magpie – you don’t get much for a dvd, probably around 30p, bit more for box sets, but I’ve managed to make £22 out of 27 dvds that I would have given away for free so it’s better than a kick in the teeth. An old mobile is going to Envirofone for £14 (check Mazuma and Envirofone before you sell, Mazuma were only offering me £12 for my old phone). So that’s £36 in the plates and cutlery fund already!

I’ve also been brutal with my books. I’m pretty brutal anyway, I read them and get rid. There are very very few that make it to the permanent shelf. And if you saw how many books are on the “to read” bookcase you’d realise that I really don’t need to keep the books I’ve already read. What are the chances of me reading them again? Slim to none. Out they go!

But then I thought maybe some of you guys would like them?

So here’s a select pile for you to have a look at

The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruis Zafon /
Wedlock. How Georgian Britain’s Worst Husband Met His Match – Wendy Moore
The Sea – John Banville
People of the Book – Geraldine Brooks
The 19th Wife – David Ebershoff
Firmin – Sam Savage
The One From the Other – Philip Kerr
Fragrant Harbour – John Lanchester
(I have linked to each title so you can have a read of the synopsis and see if you fancy them.)

It’s simple. All you need to do is
- leave a comment,
- tell me which book you would like, and
- tell me anything hilarious that’s happened to you when you’ve moved/packed up to move

I’ll pick out THREE winners, let you know if you've been successful and send your books on out to you in the post. (I was going to give them all away, and then I realised that that would be my £36 that I’ve already made out the window and I’d be eating out of a shoe. You wouldn’t want that would you?)

You have until Friday 16th September to enter, whereupon I will close the contest, and pick winners out of the approximately 5 people who will enter.



Apologies for the crap blogging lately. Funnily enough I have freaking loads to tell you but have found myself a) without time and b) without decent internet access to upload photos and we all now that we like a good photo filled post.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Thank heavens for short names

Ever since I made the mobile/wall hanging for my niece back in May I’ve been wanting to give them another go. Although they still seem to instil fear in me, seeing the finished result gives you one of those warm glowy feelings.

And as luck would have it, someone did want me to make a wall hanging for them. All I had to do was wait for the baby to be born.

While I was waiting, a couple of things were running through my head.

1) I hope this baby is a girl – I’m late to join the fabric stash bandwagon and I only have girly fabric at the moment.
2) I hope they give the baby a nice short name – What happens if they text and tell me they’ve named her Perspehone, I’ll never find a twig big enough.

So I was very pleased when the news came that not only was the baby a little girl (hurray!) but she was called Elsa (hurray! And also note to self to store name in list of potential baby names if I ever do pro-create).

What did throw me however was that the news came a little earlier than anticipated. As in 4 weeks earlier. Finally, someone who is more impatient in this world than me. 37 weeks, 37 schmeeks, I’m going to enter this world when I flipping well want to (And at a teeny tiny 4lb 9oz which is ridiculously small to someone like me who is used to mahoosive 10lb nephews.)

You know what I hate? Surprises. Or just anything that messes with my well run plans of life. In reality, this really wasn’t a big deal at all, in my head however it caused a complete mental block. I kept telling myself to just get started but the fear returned and I sat there going “No, no, no, no, no”. (And how the hell her parents felt is beyond me, she cut short the preparation time by one month!)

So what did I do about it? I forced myself into activity by posting about it on the blog. I swear if it wasn’t for this thing I don’t think I’d get anything done. After writing that post I did indeed get it sorted and strung together and all ready to present to Elsa’s parents.

But then fate intervened. Well not so much fate, as that Dorothy went away on holiday on 3 weeks meaning that I couldn’t get it to them.

But now it has been presented and it is at home with Elsa (who is doing absolutely fine by the way. You know what goes hand in hand with impatience? Stubborness. Really they’re cousins if you think about it.) so I can blog about it to my heart’s content.

The finished article, in retrospect the L might be a little large, I was so scared of it being mistaken for an i I might have gone overboard.

I’ve also been asked to make one for another friend’s baby. The recipient of the Jungle Ripple blanket. This baby turned out to be a boy so this has meant the acquisition of more fabric. And his name is a little longer this time. Oh dear. The fear is returning...

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Amigurumi in the house

So I said last year that I wanted to be a bit more adventurous with my crochet activities and I think that really I haven’t tried hard enough. I’m still Queen of the Blankets, although I think I should get points for learning how to ripple.

I’ve done my ripple and I did a little granny stripe for my blankets for PreemiesUK, and I tried out a new border on one of those blankets too.
And actually I tried out some bunting at the beginning of the month that I didn’t blog about because
a) life was mental, and
b) all the post would have said is “I tried out some crochet bunting” and that’s just boring.

I do plan on doing the whole crochet bunting thing but I will need more yarn to do it. Considering that I’ve pretty much spent the whole year working with my scraps and from yarn donated by the Yarn Fairy the thought of actually having to spend money on yarn makes me a little breathless. Anyway, crochet bunting might appear at some point. And it does represent a little branching out.

But I knew that I wasn’t really trying hard enough. How about an animal? It would be brilliant but what about the potential of making something only to have someone go “Oh wow. What is it?” Crushing I tell you, crushing.

But then I saw this book which is basically just crocheted aliens. Which means that you can deftly avoid the awkward “What is it?” question by saying “Ha it’s just a cute alien thing! It’s supposed to look weird.” Success.

As with all these things, they’re really not that difficult, they just require you to sit still and be quiet and focus for a few minutes, all things which do not come easily to me. But I bought a book and settled myself down to have a go.

And what do you know? They’re not that hard at all. I started late on Sunday evening and by late Monday morning I had a stuffed and sewn together 3 headed alien. Marvellous.

Ok so his colours aren’t great but seeing as he was just for practice I’m not going to feel too bad about it.

Another reason that I’m enjoying these guys is that you need some pretty tight tension so make sure the stuffing doesn’t come through and I naturally seem to have that so for once it’s working in my favour. Also, because they're just made up of random shapes you can quite easily swap and change body parts and make up your own monster if you feel like it.

But then a fever took hold and before Monday night was out I had a snakey caterpillar thing to add to the amigurumi mix. See even I was brave enough to change him, he comes with a little hat in the book but I decided to make him some horns, following the pattern from another alien.

I have so far held myself off making more but it’s inevitable that more are going to happen. Mostly because I went out to Hobbycraft on the Tuesday and bought EYES. Eyes for my aliens. The only thing holding me back is the stupid sensible side of my brain that is saying, “What on earth are you doing? Why are you making these? What are you going to do with them?”

And I really don’t know, I don’t know who I could make them for because they’re not suitable for little ones given the detachable nature of the eyes. I don’t know what Hull has in the way of craft markets and stuff. Meh.

Anyone want one?

Snakey caterpillar thing?


Tuesday, 6 September 2011

The Land of the Little Tin Bird

This weekend I went on an adventure. I went on an adventure to the land of the Little Tin Bird. I know I'm on a meeting bloggers in real life kick this year, first The Curious Cat and now Heather. Don't be jealous of my travelling ways people.

The reasons for this trip were many;
1. I should have seen her in Hull a while back but I couldn't get the time off work
2. I desperately needed a trip to a yarn shop that sells Stylecraft and I knew she had one
3. I just wanted to meet her didn't I?!

This trip was exciting because it involved me going into the dreaded country - you know me, city girl and all that, the country scares me and once I had changed trains at Leeds I noticed two things;
1. The average age of the people on the train had increased by 30 years
2. Lots of sheep in fields

However I needn't have been panicky because my trusty guide soon took me under wing, marching me directly to the yarn shop. Yarn me up people. My need was so desperate because I did something foolish some time ago - I tried to buy wool blind off the internet. I've decided to make a blanket for my Dad and his wife for Christmas and I sat down and looked at some colours of Stylecraft on the internet and duly picked ones that I felt went together. Then I got my order and nearly had a heart attack - the lovely burnt orange that I thought I'd picked is actually luminous orange (god knows what the people were thinking as they packed my order, they must have thought I was totally colour blind).

So I needed to get new colours, or colours that at least went with the colours I'd already got. Normally this makes me go a little crazy but I knew that with secret weapon Heather at my side I would be successful because this lady knows how to pick colours. I was right and whether she realised it or not, I rather cleverly got her to pick my colours for me. I'm a sly fox like that. (Sorry, I forgot to take pictures. Apologies.)

The land of the Little Tin Bird also brought me face to face with my other nemesis.


One thing you need to know about Hull? No hills. Seriously. No. hills. We are flat flat flat. This is amazing in many ways but it means that as soon as I'm within a certain distance from the Humber and the land begins to slope, I become nearly totally incapable of walking.

The walk up to Heather's house in my opinion should only be undertaken with the use of an oxygen tank and crampons but she scampered up it like a little rabbit whilst I weezed away behind her. Seriously. It's virtually Snowdon.

I saw all the sights. All of them. There was the most amazing pizza for lunch. So amazing that I'm thinking of going back just to have some more of it.

I saw some rather famous hills from a distance.

I saw some of the Castle (you know I love a bit of castle action. Going in it is on my list of things to do next time I visit).

I saw some canal action. With some frantic duck action. Love a bit of duck action.

I saw a real life turning water mill. Amazing!

I saw a waterfall. Brilliant!

I went in the most gorgeous shop ever and bought a cat necklace. (And I forgot to take a picture of that as well. Sorry I'm not on form at the moment.)

And throughout all of this I kept having to remind myself that I don't actually know Heather. It's hard to explain, I don't mean that in the sense that I have made the mistake of reading someone's blog and believing that I know everything about them, but I actually had to keep reminding myself that I didn't know her. I had to keep reminding myself that this was a total stranger I was spending the day with - shouldn't it have felt a bit weirder than that?

Well whatever it was, the day passed far too quickly for my liking and before I knew it I was back on the train and heading for the Mothership. Much to the relief of my Mum who can't quite grasp the concept of meeting up with people you know from the internet and was pretty certain I was going to be coming back in a bodybag. (But whatever you do do not tell her that I actually went in Heather's house for a cup of tea because that was one thing she definitely told me not to do and I do try and do everything my Mum tells me.)

And do you know what? I might just have gotten over my fear of the countryside. Because the land of the Little Tin Bird might just have it all - lovely countryside and yet there was actually a Tesco in sight. Perfect.

(Also. I actually saw the real life Lucy and nearly had a laughing attack. But I played it cool don't worry. Although I did feel like I should curtsy.)

Monday, 5 September 2011

Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson

I’m pretty sure you don’t get more Classic than Treasure Island, I’m guessing that if we played some kind of Family Fortunes game where you asked 100 people to name as many Classics as they could in 1 minute, Treasure Island would come pretty high up the list.

And what better way to read this Classic than to do it on piece of modern technology?

Culture Friend let me know that there was a free Kindle App that you could download on to your Android phone and it comes with some Classics free of charge, Pride & Prejudice, Treasure Island and Aesop’s Fables. Done and done I say.*

So for anyone who, like me, didn’t really know what Treasure Island was about, here’s a brief synopsis that doesn’t give away the ending...

The story is narrated by Jim Hawkins, whose family own the inn to which ex-pirate Billy Bones rocks up one day. Turns out he’s in hiding from a load of other pirates because he has a map which shows the location of the treasure of Captain Flint, who is now dead.

Bones eventually dies and Jim gets hold of the map, taking it to Dr Livesey and Squire Trelawny who decide to organise a mission to go and find the treasure.

A crew is gathered together and the Hispaniola sets sail from Bristol to the Carribbean. One of the crew members is the cook Long John Silver – Jim overhears him planning to organise a mutiny which is going to take place when they arrive on the island.

From there on in we have to-ing and fro-ing and intrigue and changing loyalties as everyone races to find the treasure. But I won’t spoil the ending and tell you who, or even if they do, find the treasure.

This was kind of a tough one to read. It seemed to go through periods of being really exciting and I would avidly read through the pages like a mad woman, but then it would go through serious lulls where it felt stodgy and confusing and I didn’t really know what the hell was happening. It’s beyond me how this is a children’s book you know.

The language obviously doesn’t help things and at times I was left scratching my head, thinking “What the hell is he on about?!” And there are also a couple of plot details which require you to suspend your belief. For example, Billy Bones has warned Jim about a pirate with a wooden leg – upon meeting Long John Silver you’d think he’d put two and two together, but when he does meet him, despite having misgivings he decides that it couldn’t possibly be the same pirate. Yes because there are bound to have been more than one pirate with a wooden leg knocking about you moron.

And the ending is kind of weak. There is a serious case of let’s-tie-it-all-up-with-a-nice-bow going on here. But I think we should let him off that. Not entirely sure why but I’m going to.

This is a proper boy’s book though – if you could write a story that was just like this but updated a little, it would encourage boys to read in droves, I believe the word swashbuckling may be of use here.

I’m guessing there are important themes I should be picking up on here. Long John Silver is a tricksy little character with more faces than a dice – is he trustworthy? Is he likeable? There’s a whole discussion to be had about morality I think but you know me, I don’t have the brain power to do that here.

It’s not my favourite of the Classics that I’ve read but I’m glad I’ve done so.

Welcome to the ranks Jim Hawkins and Long John Silver.

*Just in case you were wondering it actually wasn’t that bad reading on my phone although there’s a glare issue that you wouldn’t get with a real life Kindle. But you can change the size of text, change the font, and change the background colour to find something that suits you. You can bookmark pages so you don’t lose your place and there’s a handy little bar at the bottom which lets you know exactly how far you are through the book. In short – I like it! But I’m very unlikely to purchase actual real-life books for it, there are far too many real life ones to be read!

Sunday, 4 September 2011

August Flickr favourites

Woah wait we’re already in September. Let’s rewind people and take a look back at my favourite photos from my Project365 in August.

5th – I like trains you know. I know that they’re expensive and that they are subject to random delays and stuffed with frustration but those are the things I don’t like about trains. Let’s not think about that. Let’s instead think about the lovely opportunity trains afford you to legitimately do nothing. No concentrating on the road. No feeling sick like you do on coach. Just sitting and being. Loves it.

Also I like reading. Trains + reading = happy girl. And on this day I was even happier because I was going to see The Person for his birthday. Winner all round.

6th I went to the races for the very first time. Yay me. And I won! Yay me.

9th – Sometimes photos just make you smile for no particular reason. Enter....Happy Tap. He lives in the bathroom at the building I was working in until earlier this month. I’ve been meaning to get a snap of him for ages but I kept forgetting and I also was wary of being caught taking my camera into the toilet.

13th – Sometimes photos just make you smile for no particular reason. in a bag. Fred’s a classic for doing this. See he did it on my birthday too. I guess he just loves a good bag. Lily does it too but I never manage to get a photo because she’s usually freaking out as she does it and I can’t get a good picture of her. Also she has a tendency to get in a bag and then get unceremoniously bullied out of it by Fred who doesn’t like her to have anything that he wants.

26th – Hi I went to Newcastle last weekend and I loved it, did you know? I like this photo of The Angel of the North because it shows off her sassy curves. We were debating whether she was a he or a she until we went round the back of her and decided that given the shapely bum she was most definitely a she.

29th – Look I’ve joined in the crochet amigurumi craze! I bought a book from the BALTIC gift shop when I was in Newcastle and the very next day that I came home I whizzed up this 3 headed monster. Ok, the colours are a little off but that’s because I was just practicing. I’m feeling an obsession coming on...will post later in the week about it.

Only 118 photos to go before the year is out. Eek!

Feel free to keep up with my Project365 photos by visiting my photostream here.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Newcastle in 24 hours

Oh yeah, I was going to talk to you about Newcastle wasn’t I?

You know I’ve got to do this in a list don’t you? Otherwise there’s just going to be too much text and I know you’ll switch off. Don’t deny it!

The Angel of the North
This was the only thing I really wanted to see when we went up there, but we were faced with our usual problem of how to go and see things when you don’t have a car. Answer? You use public transport baby! There are 2 buses that you can catch from Eldon Square bus station in Newcastle, the 21 and 22, appropriately named Angel Buses.

There are two stops you can get off at but keep your wits about you because blink and they’re gone. There is also a slight problem in that the bus stops on the opposite side of the road to the Angel meaning that you basically have to run across a dual carriageway which isn’t the safest option I’ve ever come across.

(I should point out that at this point it was raining. It was all kinds of miserable. And I left my umbrella on the Angel Bus. And yet I'm still smiling, that's how much I was liking Newcastle.)

So we walked up to her and our first thoughts?

Erm....she’s kind of not as big as I thought she would be.

I mean she’s big and damn hard to get in a photograph, meaning that you have to resort to arty type shots of just bits of her but she wasn’t the totally massive structure I was expecting. Sorry Angel. We hung about with some Spanish tourists, but really once you’ve seen her there isn’t a lot else to do so we caught the bus back into town.

As You Like It
I found this place on the tourist info website which has a list of places to eat. I figured we deserved a little treat so looked for somewhere nice and discovered this place. A quick check to work out if we could get there with minimum fuss (you can, it’s just on the opposite side of the road to a Metro stop) and one phone call later and we were booked in for a fancy pants meal.

The food was gorgeous, the portions were massive and the service was incredible. Two thumbs up (or four thumbs up if you include The Person in all of this). After scoffing we retired downstairs to the bar area to drink cocktails. As The Person went to the bar to order some drinks I started having a look about at the clientele.

My eyes came to rest on a bloke in a grey jumper and white shirt. “How funny. That man totally looks like Alan Shearer.” I said to myself. Then....”Wait a minute. That IS Alan Shearer!” How hilarious, come to Newcastle and see Alan Shearer, you couldn’t get more clichéd (unless we’d seen Ant and Dec or Cheryl Cole I guess).

The Gateshead Millennium Bridge doing its blinky thing

Saturday morning dawned and our hangovers were knocking at our temples. We decided to head to the Quayside in the hope that fresh air would cure us. It didn’t, but a cheapo Full English breakfast did a pretty good job. We looked at all the bridges and were there in time to see the Millennium Bridge do it’s blinky thing – for those not in the know about the blinky thing, they close it and the pathway rises up and then down. Exciting.

The view when standing on the Millennium Bridge - that big silver slug is The Sage

Once it was back down we hop skipped and jumped across it to....

The Baltic
Hello modern art! We are cultured let us come and look at you.

Things you should know about the BALTIC:

- There is an exhibition on there at the moment which is uber cool by a guy called Maurizio Anzeri – he’s taken old photographs and embroidered over them. There could not have been an exhibit which was more suited to me. It was very exciting.
- There’s a very “moderny” exhibition that’s on the 3rd and 4th floors. When I say “moderny” I mean “I don’t get it”. And there’s a film that was flickering so fast it made my eyes water and started to become convinced that I was being brainwashed.
- Don’t be a clever dick and take the stairs. Get the lift. I cannot stress this enough. The stairs are a killer.
- The Baltic has the best gift shop known to man. I mean like seriously. As in we possibly spent more time in there than looking at art. I know the shame. But I don’t care because I bought awesome things.

Castle Keep
We like castles. It’s a fact. What’s not to like, it’s all history and stuff innit? You can go in the Castle and basically get lost inside it wandering about and up and down stairs and round corners. It looks tiny on the inside but it’s like a maze inside. I have no idea how they used to find their way about in the times of yore. It’s a wonder they weren’t all lying about with broken necks given the long dresses they would have worn, the lack of lighting and the craziness of all the stairs.

The entrance to the Castle

It’s not jam packed with exhibits and yes, those that are there could do with an update but I kind of liked that it was left alone and you could do as you pleased about it. And when you get up to the top you get some cool views of Newcastle.

View from the top

And inside you can totally pretend to be a gargoyle. You can’t put a price on that kind of fun. (Actually you can, it’s £4, but that’s pretty cheap in my eyes.)

And we managed to do all this in 24 hours (arriving in Newcastle at 12pm on the Friday and being back in the hotel room to get ready for the wedding by 4pm on the Saturday). Pretty impressive. We didn’t even get to go to the beach and play Pirate-themed mini golf which was an option if the weather hadn’t been so crap.

So. When can I go back please? 

Thursday, 1 September 2011

A love letter

Don’t tell Manchester but I totally cheated on her this weekend.

I didn’t mean to and I would have sworn blind that my heart belonged to her but this past Bank Holiday weekend The Person and I fell in love with a new city.


Seriously don’t tell Manchester, she’ll be devastated. I really couldn’t say if this was just a fling or a full blown love affair and I would hate to call it all off because of two days of passion but I can’t lie. We had fun.

The reason for our little excursion was that of a wedding. Normally I wouldn’t travel all that way just for an evening do but The Person and I won’t get to do a holiday this year (or probably next year. Or the year after that) so we decided that Newcastle would be our holiday. I believe the cool kids are calling them city breaks.

The wedding do was on the Saturday and we had a good deal on a Premier Inn out near the airport so we decided to travel down on Friday morning, giving us a good couple of days to have an explore and a wander.

I didn’t really know that much about the city and was at a bit of a loss as to what to do and where to go. I’d been on the tourist info website (which is really good by the way) and knew that I wanted to go and pay a visit to the ol’ Angel of the North and I knew that The Person has an almost worrying enthusiasm for a bit of Castle action so we had a couple of things on the list but didn’t really know much else.


I remembered that she totally lives near there and might have some hints for me so I promptly e-mailed her. And then promptly remembered that she was on holiday. But as I was travelling up on the train I got probably the most comprehensive guided tour of Newcastle in e-mail form from a lady who had only just arrived back from her holiday.

Seriously. It was amazing. Anytime we weren’t sure of where we were going or what we wanted to do, out came my Smartphone and up came the e-mail and we would have an idea. The trip became littered with “Lucy says it’s this way.” “Lucy says we should try this place.” “Lucy says the bridge blinks at midday” etc etc. We would have been lost without her. In fact at some times quite literally lost, I don’t think either of us has the best sense of direction.

I was a little worried that we’d lose most of the day travelling back and forth from the hotel but we were saved thanks to the Metro system. Let’s hear it for the Metro! The Metro is like the Tube but friendlier and about 100 million times less scary. In fact I think that before anyone attempts the London Underground they should go on a recce to Newcastle to practice on the Metro – you can’t go wrong, there are only 2 platforms but it would get you used to the whole system.

However. Don’t bother buying a ticket. The Person and I spent a total of £11 each over 3 days on Metro tickets which were never ever ever checked. There are barriers. But they’re not in use. There were even men in jackets. But they just stood and watched you. On the last day on the way back to the station I declared that I was not going to buy a ticket because I was sick of it. But then I remembered that I’m totally incapable of breaking the rules so I went ahead and bought one and then stamped my feet when that wasn’t checked either.

Anyway, let’s not spoil our weekend with a lover’s tiff, we love you despite of your non-Metro-ticket-checking ways.

I was totally going to tell you about what we did there but I realise that this blog post is already too long and that really I should leave it as it is – a love letter to Newcastle. (And Lucy.)

Next time?