Thursday, 31 March 2011

March Book Review

Whilst my reading of the Classics is skipping along merrily, my reading of anything else seems to have ground to almost a complete halt.

I couldn’t even tell you why this is – I guess there’s been quite a lot of stitchery going on at the moment, maybe that’s kept me busy, who knows?

Anyhoo March’s line-up looks something like this:

1. The Moonstone - Wilkie Collins
2. Divas Don’t Knit - Gil McNeil
3. The Help - Kathryn Stockett
4. The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde
Divas Don’t Knit was sent to me by the marvellous Clare and came at a more than brilliant time. I needed a break from Classic-ing out all over the place and nothing says “Break” more than “chick-lit about wool”.

In a nutshell?

Woman’s husband dies, her and her children move to the seaside and she takes over the running of a wool shop. As you do. Everything all turns out well. The end.

I’m not being disparaging here – just relating the basic facts of the story, and in fact, as these sorts of books go, this was pretty good. Engaging, funny, it ticked all the right boxes for me at that point in time. And I even have the second book to move on to when I need another break from the heavier stuff I’ve been reading.

The Help has been on my bookshelf for a criminally long time and I have been meaning to read it, especially as reviews seemed to pour in from everywhere with people raving about it.

Sometimes, with a book it’s hard to pin down exactly what it is that grabs you and draws you in – is it the characters? The storyline? The background? Or an amalgamation of everything? The story itself was interesting and the characters were...ok...but for me it was more the subject Kathryn Stockett had decided to tackle – namely the issue of racism in 1960s Mississippi.

The Help is told by 3 people – Aibileen and Minny – both servants working for high society ladies, and Miss Skeeter – part of the group of high society ladies, but one with a conscience.

Miss Skeeter sets out to write down the stories as told by The Help around her small town – Aibileen and Minny are two of the contributors and persuade others to take part. The story revolves around this basic plotline, whilst providing an insight into the lives of these three women.

I am struggling to say more about it, I did really enjoy it and thoroughly concur with all the other people who have said that they liked it but I am finding it incredibly difficult to pin down and tell you the things I really liked. What I did find myself doing was putting the book down every so often and just reminding myself that this wasn’t that long ago. We’re not talking about a hundred years ago, we’re talking a couple of generations. I can’t even begin to understand how people could think and behave in such abhorrent ways.

What I like is that Stockett doesn’t over-simplify a situation which it would have been all too easy to do so. She, if you will excuse a poor taste pun, doesn’t put things in black and white – there are shades of grey in between and no character is one dimensional – it would have been easy to slot people into caricatures and deal with the subject that way instead.

I did feel the ending was a little disappointing. I don’t always need things tied up with a pretty little bow and this certainly isn’t one of those, but nor do I love endings which just stop abruptly, as I feel this did. It was as if she had imposed a word limit and, upon approaching it, just stopped writing.

Well worth picking up.

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Book of the month? Well I did love The Help but I’m afraid The Moonstone holds a special place in my heart.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Photo Scavenger Hunt - March

I’m a great big failure this month I’m afraid. I did not scavenge hard enough. I did mean to, I swear I did, but the month just got away from me. Are you sure we’ve definitely gone through all of March? No days were missed out or anything? Did I lapse into a coma and miss a week?

I didn’t get 3 out of the 12 up for grabs – I can’t beat myself up too badly though, that means I got 75% of the photos altogether and that’s surely a pass by anyone’s measure isn’t it?

I wasn’t sure about the ‘rules’ of the photo scavenger hunt. Should I even be posting seeing as I didn’t get them all? Am I disqualified? But then I thought about the photos that I did get and felt that would be mean to not give them their chance to shine.


A rainbow – This piece of public artwork is currently residing in Whitefriargate in Hull city centre, I felt that I was allowed to include this because it’s called Rainbow-friargate. Read more about it here.

Something green - I like my nail varnish bright. The brighter the better. I can’t bring myself to wear more traditional colours. I love this green (Barry M if you must know) and wear it all the time but I’ve got to get around to buying a base coat, I wear it without one and then it stains my nails an iffy nicotine-yellow colour which is more than a little unfortunate looking. Good job I always keep my nails painted.

An empty chair – My desk at work. Please note the emergency cardigan which is always there in case I get cold (it rotates, it’s not always that green one) and the super cool Union Jack flag which will be coming home with me when it’s the day of a certain Royal Wedding.


Something sentimental – My Grandma’s clock. I was love with this when I was a little girl, so much so that I would sneak into her bedroom just to look at it. She knew how much I loved it and put in her will that it was to go to me when she died and as an extra precaution, she wrote my name on the bottom of it. It doesn’t work, I haven’t even been to see if it can be fixed, but it’s never worked as long as I’ve known it. I actually did a post about back on the old blog which you can see here.

Peeling paint – This chair resides in the back garden. You’ll be seeing a lot of it because I seem to have put most of the other subjects for my photographs on top of it. I blame it on being excited at finally having natural light.

A collection – Did I mention that I have a thing about nail varnish? Like almost a problem? Here are my Barry M nail varnishes, lined up in a pretty row for you. Please don’t be fooled into thinking they’re my only nail varnishes, I tried to get all of them in a photo but there were kind of too many. Shush.


Something as old as you – God bless my Mum for putting together little boxes for each of us that contain things from our childhood. Mine has my first shoes in it, cards that were sent on my Christening, a print out of Mum’s heartbeat and my heartbeat that she stole when she was in hospital, report cards, and various other knick knacks, including this little bear that was bought to hang from my pram. I have no idea where his nose went. Poor bear.

A ring – The knuckleduster. My sister got me this Venetian glass ring a while ago but I’ve been unable to wear it because it would only fit my little finger, now that I’ve lost weight it fits on my ring finger and I am beyond thrilled about it because I love it. (Yes I seriously lost weight from my fingers, I didn’t even have fat hands to start with!)

A lion – I kept my eyes peeled for lions around Hull but they must be still in hibernation. Instead a flash of inspiration came to me when I was rooting around for change and realised that there’s a lion on the back of a 10p piece. And better than that, there’s a bit of a lion on the 5p and the 20p because it’s part of the Royal Standard. I tried and tried to get a good photo but my focus was, quite frankly, a bit shit. And I gave up.

So I am missing a shadow (I missed my chance when the sun briefly appeared this month), a lamb and a fancy gate. I did get excited when we drove through Bishop Burton on Sunday and saw that it was lambing day but apparently going to your nephew’s 3rd birthday party is more important than a photo scavenger hunt on the internet. Fancy gate? I guess you’d need a fancy house first and there aint many of those round my way I’m afraid.

Please don’t beat me with sticks for failing.

Check out the group on Flickr for more photos.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

The Blogging Game

The lurgy is trying to tighten its grip on me but I’m not having it. I will fight you on the fields of the sofa, I will fight you from behind my desk at work, you will not succeed in drowning me in a snot and phlegm.


But enough about body fluids.

A girl in winter recently nominated me for a Liebster Blog Award which is for those blogs with less than 300 followers.


It actually couldn’t come at a better time for me because I’ve been thinking about this kind of thing for time and have had a few conversations with people about it.

I’m talking about the nature of blogging – why people blog and how blogs are determined to be a ‘success’.

I could sit here and tell you that “I blog for me” and “I would still be doing this even if there was nobody commenting” and maybe now that would be true but I am happy to be more honest than that. My soul craves attention and wants to belong somewhere, it likes it when people out there respond to something it’s written and say “Yes I agree” or heck even “No, I disagree” because at least you’re still paying it attention.

The real truth is that I don’t think I would blog if nobody was reading. Readers are my blog’s life-force. Without them it would most likely wither and die – it would certainly become a whole lot more pathetic (I know what you’re thinking, “Can she really get more pathetic?!” The answer is unfortunately affirmative.).

It is easy to get caught up in the Followers game. Especially if you’re a competitive soul like me. You start to get followers and suddenly you want more, you find yourself reading other blogs and going “Really?! They have more followers than me?!” and it sets off an unpleasant jealous streak which I spend large amount of my time trying to dampen down.

I don’t get caught up so much in how many people are following me now (although I would like to take this opportunity to wave goodbye to the two I lost over the weekend? Oh no, I can’t wave, they stopped following, they can’t see it. *sob*) and instead find myself focusing instead on the number of comments I get. Comments have become the new Life-force and I thrive on these instead. I get a lot of comments, my blogging soul feels restored.

But again, this can be a dangerous game. I have a tendency to think to myself that the only people who comment on a post are the only people who have read it and I know that’s not true. There are tons of posts that I read and don’t comment on – I follow a policy of “If-I-Don’t-Have-Anything-Constructive-To-Say-Then-Don’t-Say-It” – just because I haven’t commented, doesn’t mean I haven’t read it or not enjoyed your post, it just means that I didn’t feel I had anything really worthwhile to say.

So if I don’t get many comments I tell myself that it’s probably my fault – I haven’t written something which invites people to add comments and that’s just fine. Plus I know that there are people out there who read my blog and are not followers and never comment (I’m thinking of one in particular, you know who you are, I’m waving to you right now, Hello! Did you have fun on Sunday? How creepy is this?!) I try and comfort my soul with this knowledge – “It might not look like a lot of people are reading, but let’s just pretend they are instead.”

I feel I have gone somewhat off track.

So thank you to a girl in winter for giving me this award, I don’t normally “do” the blog awards thing but I felt this was timely and I would also like to pass it on to others who don’t have hordes of followers and who you might not have come across before.

The award dictates I pass it on to 5 people and my chosen blogs are:

The Curious Cat
Tete en l’air
Pink Cat, Custard and Cake
Odd Socks and Pretty Frocks
Nic’s Notebook
Now I’m going to go and berate myself for losing 2 followers – what did I do? Was there not enough crafting? Is it that I love cats so much it borders on disturbing? Are there not enough photos of flowers?

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And, as is the way with blogging awards, Pink Cat, Custard and Cake also nominated me for a Kreativ Blogger award at the same time. I’m supposed to tell you 10 facts about myself and then pass it on to 10 other blogs. But the thought of all that linking is weighing me down and I honestly can’t think of 10 things I haven’t told you all before. Certainly not 10 interesting facts. Can I tell you 10 random things instead?


1. Every other day I take all my change, apart from the £1 coins, out of my purse and put them in a little piggy bank, it racks up pretty quickly and then when times get dire I can raid it to buy nice little things for myself – like teabags from Sainsburys yesterday.

2. I wish I was named after someone important but instead I’m named after a random person my Mum was at college with – her, my Dad and my brother and sister couldn’t all agree on a name so Mum started listing people she was at college with and my name was the only name they didn’t all hate. Lovely.

3. My nails are currently bright blue. Because that’s how I roll.

4. My nickname at school was Teen Wolf because I was so hairy. Please pause here to offer me sympathy.

5. I am left handed. I know I’ve told you this before but I’m absurdly proud of it and wanted to remind you all again.

6. I can’t splay the toes in my left foot after a drunken incident where I fell down a flight of stairs when I was at university and sprained my foot. I try and practice but there’s nothing happening, what the hell did I do to myself?!

7. The little finger on my right hand is double jointed, I can gross people out with it.

8. If I won the lottery I would jack in my job immediately. Same if I get a rich husband.

9. I am just over 5’9” although no-one will believe me when I say that. They always say I must be taller than that but I swear I’m not.

10. I’m out. Can’t think of anymore. Erm....I’m going to have Sweet Potato and Chilli soup for my lunch. How’s that for a fact?!

I can't pass it on to 10 people, the thought of doing it is going to finish me off before the phlegm does. Plus there are a lot of creative blogs that I read out there, how could I only choose ten?!

Why yes, yes that is the sound of me shirking my responsibility.


Monday, 28 March 2011

The Person, Birthdays and Cake

I do believe they call it the law of sod. I get to see The Person for the first time in a month, book some holidays off work to use up my holiday allocation before April and I get sick.

Stupid stupid mega cold. I hate you.

I didn't let it spoil things too much, no amount of snot and mucus was going to get in the way of my weekend.

The good thing about hardly ever seeing each other is that we get kind of over-excited to see each other again and just hang out and do stuff. We don't have to do anything spectacularly exciting, just being together is cool. We call it being a real-life couple.

Although I felt like staying in bed and making groaning noises, I took The Person to see yet more fun things in Hull. I'm on a one woman mission to prove that Hull is brilliant to everyone that has the misfortune to cross my path it would seem. Next on the list was the Streetlife Museum which I like because you can climb on transporty things like trams and carriages. Who doesn't love that?

There are also grocery and pharmacy stores which have been preserved from the days of yore. Who doesn't love old stuff?

Then we went to enjoy the vaguely Spring-like weather by sitting in Queen's Gardens and laughing at some of the sights in Hull, like this guy, who was completely sparked out and yet had managed to make sure his super-strength beer can stayed upright.

Other highlights of the weekend included baking (with The Person valiantly trying to help but kind of not really) and a meal out in a lovely bistro down the road - we again marvelled at our real-life coupley-ness.

On Sunday the cold was doing it's best to try and strike me down in the prime of life but there was no way I was allowing it to take hold because Sunday was the Day of Birthday Parties. The Person was packed off home whilst I went to York for my nephew's 3rd birthday and then it was back home for Dorothy's tea party for her birthday. It was more than a little marvellous - there were muffins with cream cheese frosting, lemon drizzle cake, banana and honey teabread, Dundee cake, scones, lemon meringue pie, rose flavoured cupcakes, cucumber sandwiches...in short, just too much goodness for words.

I get over-excited about birthdays, I love the build-up to them, I love the cards, I love the opening of presents. And this is just anyone's birthday - when I arrived home on Saturday to find some cards on the mat for Dorothy I did an excited birthday jig. Imagine how unbearable I'm going to be this time next week when it's my birthday.


I am so thankful that I booked today off, I would need a day to recover at the best of times, never mind when I'm fighting off the lurgy at the same time.

And now I will go because my nose actually literally just dripped. Gross.

(But do you know what's awesome? I don't have to wait another month to see The Person - he'll be coming next Saturday for a visit for my birthday - see?! Like a real-life couple!)

Thursday, 24 March 2011

The Weekend I Spent Mostly with Strangers

I seriously don’t know where to begin to tell you about last weekend. I keep sitting down to write this post and then my brain goes “Nooooooo, too much information to sift through....must...shut.......down.”

In these circumstances there is nothing for it to make a list of all the things that I want to tell you about.

1. Like how I met up with The Curious Cat. In real life, not just over the internet. Like person to person. I touched her! (Not inappropriately.) I really did feel like I was going on a blind date – I know this person but I don’t know this person, very odd feeling. Thankfully she’s not a freak and we had a lovely lunch surrounded by lots of people, but it was all cool, not everyone knew each other so actually in some ways it made things easier for me. There was lots of chat about blogging which was very interesting, talk of possible redundancy/job losses and the best way to keep partying until 4am.

2. I really should have taken a photo to prove that I met her. Damnit.

3. I totally met Mr Woo as well.

4. I went to Putney (and got temporarily lost but totally found my own way again – high five!) to meet another stranger – this time one of the hen’s bridesmaids who was putting me up for the night. By now I was well versed in talking to strangers so I wasn’t too scared.

5. Karaoke is possibly the most hilarious thing you can do on a hen night. 15 over-excited women in their late 20s/early 30s singing Wannabe? It was kind of special.

6. Floridita is nice. But. I would only go again after taking many salsa lessons. There is a teeny tiny dance floor and you can go on it if you can but you can’t really dance to salsa music in a big group, it doesn’t work. And you stand a real risk of getting whipped in the face by hair as someone gets twirled passed. Also quite a few lechy people on the sidelines wanting to start dancing with you. And all the time you’re on the dancefloor, you’re just getting stared at by the people sat around tables eating. Not sure how I felt about that.

7. The cocktails are good. But super pricey. Have the Eureka. Hello sloe gin!


8. I'm going to create a league table of all the hen dos I'm attending this year. One of the criteria upon which I will mark them is how organised the night/weekend was. This one is going to be virtually impossible to beat, those girls had taken care of everything.

9. The traffic in London at 1am is still bumper to bumper. How is this possible?

10. If you have been cocktailing all night some people would be dreading getting up at 8am to get ready to go to the Stitch and Craft show at the Olympia but I am not one of those people.

11. Only joking. By the time I got there I was ready for falling flat on my face and dying.

12. It really was a weekend of hanging out with strangers, I was there, along with the other Stitchettes at the request of Mr X Stitch who asked us if we’d come and hang out and volunteer for him, helping people to cross stitch.

13. Look that’s me with Mr X Stitch – he’s a very nice man. That’s me doing my excited face.


14. I helped a 70 year old man to cross stitch. He was called John and I loved him so much I almost kidnapped him and brought him home with me. I felt pretty proud when he stitched a ‘J’ all by himself.

15. I bought a load of DMC threads because they were only 60p and that excited me because I can only ever find them for 75p or more. And now my thread box is full and I’m kicking myself that I didn’t buy myself another while I was there.

16. I met Emily Peacock. Yep that Emily Peacock. Just call me awesome. She came to talk to us Stitchettes after she'd done a demonstration at the Crosstitcher Magazine stand. It was brilliant although I missed out on some of it because I was helping someone else learn to cross stitch - what can I say? I'm a good teacher!

17. When leaving any destination, it is always sensible to check that you’re on the right train, otherwise you’ll realise you’re on the wrong one and look like a complete twerp as you hurry to get yourself together and rush across to the other platform to get on the right train. And I’d like to point out that it was not my fault that we were on the wrong train.

18. Megabus is a brilliantly cheap option and I did get from Hull to London and back again for less than £20 but I really need to register the fact that the coach doesn't get back to Hull until 10.30pm and after all the goings on of the weekend, it might be a good idea to take Monday off work so you don't want to peel your face off the next morning.


And now I'm going to go AWOL until next week because The Person is coming to see me tonight and I haven't seen him for a month and quite frankly I've bloody missed him. No time to blog!

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde

Don’t worry I am still alive. The Curious Cat did not cut me up into small pieces and throw me into the Thames. I’m still trying to get my head around all the exciting things that happened over the weekend and as yet haven’t managed to formulate events into words so you’ll have to bear with me (I think there’s going to be nothing for it but to write a list you know).


In the meantime allow me to blind you with my smugness.

I have finished my 4th Classic.

BOOM not-really resolutions. In your face! It’s not even the end of March.

(I’m doing a celebration dance right now, it’s kind of amazing, don’t be jealous.)

So. The Picture of Dorian Gray. Come on down and be judged by me.

If you haven’t read this book and really want to and don’t know anything about the plot of the book then it might be wise to give this post a little skip, it’s really hard to talk about the novel without giving anything away.

So Dorian Gray is a young, pretty naive guy, who is sitting for a portrait by the artist Basil Hallward. Basil has a friend called Lord Henry Wotton, and he tells him that he’s all in love with this Dorian Gray fellow and that Lord Henry shouldn’t go anywhere near him because he’ll corrupt him and stuff.

Guess what Lord Henry does?

The book is full of soliloquies from Lord Henry about life, the universe and everything. If you could sum him up in a few words you could say that he’s one of those guys who walks the walk but doesn’t talk the talk. He’s full of ideas of how people should be behaving and what they should be thinking but you get the distinct impression that he’s not that bothered in taking his own advice. He acts as some kind of puppet master – setting Dorian on a path of destruction almost purely for his own amusement – to be honest he gets off lightly I think, turning into a secondary character from midway through the book.

It does have to be said though that he gets all the best lines, including some crackers like,

"To be popular one must be a mediocrity"

and

"One should never do anything that one cannot talk about after dinner."

Upon meeting Dorian for the first time Lord Henry launches in to one of these tirades about the fleeting beauty of youth and that beauty is something that you should cling to with both hands. Dorian takes his words to heart and becomes enraged upon seeing the portrait of himself finished. He hates that the portrait will never age whilst he will continue to grow old and makes some bold statement that he wishes it was reversed and that he would never grow old but the portrait would.

And, by magic, that’s what happens.

Dorian goes off the rails when the young girl he falls in love with, an actress called Sybil Vane (a play on words here? The book is all about beauty – vain/Vane? Am I looking too deeply here?!), ends up killing herself because Dorian breaks off their engagement. He notices that the portrait has changed slightly, and freaking out, hides it upstairs.

He then goes totally off the rails and in the turn of a page we are years later and Dorian has been living a wild and hedonistic lifestyle, but without ageing at all, whilst his portrait shows the hideous man he should be. People are asking questions and Basil comes to confront him and ask him to change his ways. Dorian shows him the picture and then kills him. As you do.

As I was reading this book the same sentence kept going over in my head “Why doesn’t he just destroy the portrait?” This question was eventually answered for me at the end of the book when Dorian freaks out, tries to destroy the picture and in doing so kills himself.

It’s an ok story I guess, I’m not entirely sure what I’m supposed to be thinking all the way through it. Is it about the nature of beauty – in a way I thought it was interesting to read this over 100 years later in a society that’s obsessed with image and, more poignantly, with looking younger. What would Oscar Wilde make of us all? Here we are desperately trying to turn back the clock and looking for quick fix solutions to make us look youthful again when what we really need to do is accept that we are slowly decaying from the day that we are born and no matter how much we strive to halt the clocks, somewhere, our body will belie our true age. (You ladies with your facelifts, it’s your neck that gives away your true age by the way. That and the back of your hands.)

It’s only a wee slip of a book, if you wanted to read it it won’t take you long and then you can maybe shed some light on Chapter 11 for me. As in, what is this ‘book’ that Lord Henry gives Dorian that makes him set off on this path of hedonism? I have to say I got a little lost at that point, and I was reading an edition that came with handy footnotes and a lengthy introduction that I read once I’d finished the book.

Overall. Not bad. Not knocking The Moonstone off the top slot at the moment though.

And now I am officially taking a little break from Classics to regroup and reform and read some stuff that I feel like reading. I don’t want this not-really resolution to start becoming a bind and something I don’t enjoy.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Inside my head...

...is a very odd place to be at the moment. My blogging has gone from frenetic to almost non-existent which is always an indicator that my head is too full of nonsense. I am hopeless at compartmentalising sometimes and although I will try, the contents of one compartment will gradually creep and spill into another without me really noticing, like some kind of fungus or rat infestation.
I also go from being almost insanely, creepily, good-god-shut-her-up happy to being ridiculously, crazily, good-god-give-her-a-slap sad. Or not even sad, just moody and withdrawn.

I’m still waiting to hear whether or not my job is secure. I’ve done all I can. I’ve pleaded my case. I’ve said what I think I can bring and now it’s just a waiting game whilst the puppet-masters look at budgets and decide my fate.

I am not well known for my patience. At all. I may, or may not, have complained to my sister-in-law that she was taking ages to have her baby when she was pregnant with my niece. What was I supposed to do just sit there and wait for her to be born? 9 months is a long time, imagine what I was like if I was an elephant, I couldn’t wait 2 years for a baby.

Stop imaging me like an elephant.

This lack of patience does not sit well with my near obsessive need to be organised and have a plan and know what I’m doing. I can’t make a plan if I don’t know what’s going to happen. So instead my mind takes off at a million miles an hour and comes up with different scenarios of how my life is going to go.

I’m now up to about 1205 different scenarios that range from “I get to keep my job” down to “I lose my job and then my leg falls off.” My favourite scenarios are the ones where I get a huge wad of money for doing relatively little i.e. winning the lottery (even though I don’t play it), random old relative I’ve never heard of dies, mystery benefactor a la Great Expectations. I also quite like the violent scenarios where I take out my frustrations on those responsible for my demise, telling people exactly what I think of them.

So as you can see, my brain is full at the moment. Those 1205 scenarios take up a hell of a lot of room and I’m adding to them all the time.

But there are exciting things to look forward to and occupy my mind whilst I practice the art of patience.

For instance.

This weekend I’m going to London town for hen do number 1 of 5 this year. This is for an old friend from uni whose wedding I won’t be attending in May because it’s going to be in Israel (she’s recently converted to Judaism which might make that choice of destination seem a little more normal). She doesn’t know any of the plans but we are going to a karaoke bar and then to Floridita, which sounds rather exciting.

But there’s so so so much more.

On the Saturday I will be meeting a real life blogger in person. I know. Terrifying. My choice of victim? The Curious Cat. So if you never hear from me again she’s probably the first suspect you should look at (kidding, kidding, but seriously, I haven’t told my mother what I’m doing, she wouldn't understand and her head will fall off in worry).

And as if a hen do and a blogger meet-up weren’t exciting enough, on the Sunday I, and my fellow Stitchettes, will be going to the Stitch and Craft show in the Olympia. But it gets even better. We’re not just going for a jolly old visit, we’re going to help out the Mr X Stitch I mentioned in my last post and we will be there all day, encouraging random strangers to get their stitch on, you can read a little more about it here. So if you’re planning on going then come and says hello to us!

I’ll be back next week when my brain has calmed down.

Ooh now wait, scenario number 1206 – I lose my job, then, engrossed in what I’m going to do with the rest of my life I get knocked over by a bus...

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Stitchery Pokery

Seeing as I’ve officially run out of ideas for my wool scraps I have turned to my beloved cross stitch to keep me sane and I’ve got a couple of things on the go at the moment.

When my niece was born I knocked up a simple little sampler to give to my brother and sister-in-law as one of Daisy’s Christmas presents. It was only basic, just had her name, date of birth and her birth weight on it and some little birds around it but my brother and sister-in-law loved it (one of the benefits of being pretty much the only crafty person in the family, everyone is in awe of everything you do) and asked if I would do one for my nephew as well. They offered to pay me but even I’m not that mercenary so said I would do it for his birthday at the end of March.

(Yes it's a weird middle name, it's a family thing from my Mum's side, all the men have it as their middle names.)

And seeing as I already had the graph paper out I made a start on my Christmas card for this month – I’ve turned away from my file of patterns and decided to knock something up myself. I’m trying to find a suitably grumpy person to give this to this year. And it’s quite a nice antidote to the nice, traditional, and dare I say it, twee, cards that I have produced already.


Finally I’m working on something that makes me grin from ear to ear whenever I look at it. Have you heard of Mr X Stitch? No? You. Are. mental. He’s amazeballs. He has a blog which features all things stitchy-related from a variety of contributors and he has a podcast called Stitching n Junk that he does with Beefranck. He’s very funny. And more than a teensy bit talented.

Anyway. He teamed up with Julie Jackson who is the lady behind Subversive Cross Stitch (also hilarious I might add) and they produced a free chart related to the upcoming Royal Wedding, and I think you all already know how excited I am about that.


You may notice one or two major differences.
Number 1: It’s being stitched on white aida, not blue. I know, I know, I’m terrible but I have no money to spend on new aida or dye to change the colour of the aida I’ve already got. But what I do have is lots of normal aida that some people out there in the blogosphere sent me so I’m using what I’ve got and stitching the lettering in the royal-est blue I could find in my thread box.
Number 2: It’s about 49 times bigger than it’s supposed to be because it’s supposed to stitched on 22-count aida but, like I said I’m using what I’ve got. So what should be a fairly modest sized piece is going to be freakin’ massive. I have no idea where I’m going to get a frame from.

But it causes great gushes of excitement (not in a gross way) every time I look at it. Plus I’m doing something for me and I’m always happiest when I’m at my most selfish.

And that is this month's stitchery round up. One word? Busy.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Crazy Cat Lady Part 8: My Fred

It’s hard to explain quite why I love Fred so much.


No. Wait. It isn’t.

I love Fred so much because he is a great big softhead. (My Mum calls him a Dopehead by which she means the same thing but I don’t have the energy to go into why it’s not appropriate to call him that.)

Fred is scared of new people and doesn’t give his affection away easily (unlike his sister, who can only be described as a hussy and a floozy). He shies away at first but will eventually come and see you to give you the obligatory sniff, especially if he thinks he’s going to get food off you.

But if he does love you, my goodness do you know about it. He will come and sit on your knee and demand your undivided attention. If you don’t give it to him, he will sit up, facing you and stretch out his paw and place it ever so gently on your chin. If, after several goes of this your response is unacceptable he will start to wail pitifully at you.

His favourite thing in the world is his little pink brush. He’s obsessed with being brushed, he loves it so much that he will come and stare at me when I’m brushing my own hair, wanting to have his turn.

You see what I mean? Softhead.

I always think that he’s a pretty small cat. But I think that might have been because the very first cat I knew was a giant black and white slug called Smudge. I guess that really he’s just average-sized. The other week when I was round at my Mum’s, Fred took up residence on knee, except there isn’t really room for him on my lap anymore so I put my legs up on the sofa and he got himself comfy. When I got up to go to the kitchen he just expanded to fit the space, so he looked a little something like this...

Can you spy with your little eye a certain blanket that I made at Christmas?

I then took approximately 50 gazillion photos of him because he’s a softhead and will let me. Lily would never let me do this, she’d have lunged at the camera after the first couple of goes or she would move too much and the pictures would come out all blurry. But Fred, because he’s a softhead, just lies there.

In fact I would even swear sometimes that he’s posing for me.


(Don’t think I don’t love Lily. I do. She’ll get her own post in time.)

Friday, 11 March 2011

Filling in the blanks...

When I spotted this on Nic's Notebook I immediately thought to myself, "I'm totally stealing that." But luckily for me I didn't have to as she tagged me in it anyway. And that meant I was duty-bound to re-post.

I am...almost 28 and for someone who has never felt freaked out about getting older I am working very hard to cool the panic that threatens to issue forth whenever I think about how old I am and where my life is at the moment.


The bravest thing I have ever done...hell you all know this. I think I was brave to stand up and say that things weren’t working between me and the ex, even if it has led to near breakdown and my financial ruin. I also think I was pretty brave the time that I confronted the person who punched my friend in the face...even though it meant getting punched myself.

I feel prettiest when...I’m not really trying. The more make-up I put on and the more I do my hair and the more I try to look good the more likely I am to find fault and go “Bleurgh. You are gross my friend.” Whereas if I make no effort and wear no make-up I’m more likely to go “Hey you’re not looking bad for someone who makes no effort and is wearing no make-up”

Something that keeps me up at night...Cross stitch. Seriously. Luckily for me I’m not the type to stay up all night worrying, if I’m tired I will sleep. Immediately. I could win awards for how quickly I can fall asleep. But if I’m cross-stitching in bed I will be taken over by an unspeakable force that won’t let me put....it....down. “I’ll just finish this bit” I tell myself and before I know it, it’s 3am and I’m putting the finishing touches to the outline.

My favourite meal is...anything involving pasta. Bloody love that stuff. If I was pushed I’d say spaghetti Bolognese, but it has to be how I make it a.k.a. how my Mum makes it. If you give me garlic bread with it I’ll love you for life.

The way to my heart is...to show me that you care. I’m not fussed about presents, they’re nice but they’re easy. I need to know that you care in a way that isn’t expressed by expenditure. Just for me to feel like I matter is all I ask for.

I would like to be...not afraid of sewing machines. Seriously, what’s wrong with me?

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I won't tag anyone in this but if you find yourself twiddling your thumbs, looking for something to post about then this might just fulfil your requirements. Go forth and fill in...

Thursday, 10 March 2011

The Not Really Resolutions: Update 2

1. Run 5km race – I am officially signed up to run the Race for Life in Hull on Sunday 17th July. Along with 2 friends from work I have formed a little team and we will be running together. We even have our own little fundraising page (please note my hair is not that red anymore). Now that I’ve established that I can actually run for 5km without dropping to the floor and dying I have been concentrating on improving my fitness levels generally. A new pair of trainers is most definitely in order and my Dad and Step-Mum are going to give me money for my birthday towards getting a new pair.

The next step is to try running altogether which we plan on doing once the evenings get a little bit lighter. I have a feeling that’s going to be the hardest part of the training.

2. Crochet a ripple blanket – The only thing stopping this one is funds. I can’t manage to save a bean at the moment which is incredibly frustrating and it will be really annoying if I don’t managed to complete this resolution purely because I have a crap wage but it might just be the case. I'm hoping the yarn fairy will get me some nice wool for my birthday.

However there has been one major development in this resolution which is that I may well have just figured out how to ripple! I tried rippling a while ago, using the Attic 24 pattern and just wasn’t getting anywhere at all. After that I developed a complete phobia of rippling and would break out in a sweat at the mere thought of it. However I sat myself back down with the pattern and some scraps of wool and just lookee here, I do believe we have a ripple going on.


Cue celebrations. Although make them muted because I think I'm still having a problem. I'm counting and counting and I never seem to have enough stitches to complete the row properly, although the yellow looks lovely and ripply, the blue appears to be flattening off the more I do. This does concern me slightly and I get the feeling many many many many more practice sessions are going to have to be completed before I think I've got the hang of it.

I cannot tell you how irritated I am that I can't do this ripple when everyone around me just picks it up straight away.

3. Back up photos on to CD – after an initial flurry at the beginning of January when I was enthused about my not-really resolutions this has dropped off to...well...nothing. So I’m going to have to set myself some targets to get this one sorted out. Next time I do an update I would like to have this crossed off my list.

4. Paint my frog – cue manic laughter. I’ve totally done this one! I win the game, I’ve managed to cross one off. Yessssssssssssssssssssss.

5. Go to the cinema on my own – I haven’t done this one. Mainly because I haven’t seen anything that I would like to go and see at the cinema at all, let alone on my own. Plus I keep forgetting that this is even on there. I should make this a quiet Sunday task I think. When something good comes on that is.

6. Project 365 – This continues to tick merrily along and I haven’t bashed my head against a brick wall so far, although I am aware that I’m only 2 months in. It is challenging but I already get a little mini thrill looking back over what I’ve done so far and it’s been very handy as a way of keeping a diary and seeing what it is I’ve been up in 2011.

The link to my photostream is on the sidebar so feel free to take a gander.

7. Make album/scrapbook of my France 2010 holiday – see Resolution 2. Stalled due to lack of funds. I did look at the last resolutions update I did in January and apparently I was hoping to have some spare money in February/March to do this...erm....not so much. If I was being reckless I would say it certainly won’t be until May which is also frustrating. But such is life. Clearly I should have picked more not really resolutions that involved me spending no money at all.

One good thing about this resolution is that once I do have the money I’m ready to go, I’ve made a list of all the photos I want to get developed (I don’t own a printer so can’t do it myself) and I’ve even managed to write down a list of the things that I did when I was out there so I won’t have completely forgotten by the time I get around to doing it.

8. Travel to Belfast to see my family – Do I really need to say it again? Nope. Didn’t think so. I think this is the most likely of the resolutions to be incomplete by the end of 2011 unfortunately.

9. Read 12 Classics – Hey I’m not a total failure! I’ve read 3 already and we’re not even at the end of March. Well done me. I’m really pleased I made this resolution, it’s been fun discovering books I wouldn’t normally have picked up and I most definitely think I should make this a resolution every year – it’s not like I’m going to be run out of material to read.

I am keeping a track of the books I’ve read and the review posts I’ve made of them on the page that’s up at the top of the sidebar called The Not Really Resolutions 2011.

10. Cross stitch one Christmas card per month – Also still on track with this one. Two months gone and two cards completed. I’m using this resolution to take the time to make cards from some patterns that I’ve had for ages that have never been used because I only pick them up in December, at which point it’s really too late to contemplate stitching something using 12,000 slightly different shades of the same colour.


I do have a secret confession though. Alongside these I have also been beavering away at some smaller designs which were sent to me by some very kind bloggy friends. Ha look at my little stash! I’m not including these as one of the monthly cards because they only take a few hours to whip up but at least it makes it more likely that I’m not going to have to buy any Christmas cards this year.


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All in all I'm pretty pleased. I'm on track for most of them and the ones that I'm not on track for I actually can't do anything about. I just need to get my backside in gear and get those photos backed up - it most certainly would be useful to have an external hard-drive round about now!

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Cultural Desert?

I know that some people (who are awful) wouldn’t necessarily associate the city of Hull with the word culture.

In fact we did make a bid to become Europe’s City of Culture a couple of years ago, but failed miserably. Whilst I admired the hopefulness of this effort, I think we’re a few years away from that kind of accolade.

But things are slowly improving. We had the Larkin 25 celebrations which included the Larkin with Toads installation and I think that the desert is beginning to get a few more water holes.

Whitefriargate is in the centre of Hull and is one of the main shopping parades. At least it was. St Stephen’s shopping centre was open on the other side of town and this led to a migration of people away from the area. Lots of shops closed down and it was starting to look a little depressed.

However some clever, bright people decided to turn this depression into an opportunity and commissioned artists to exhibit installations inside the empty shop units. Unfortunately I think some of these have gone unnoticed, but the latest, and final exhibition is most definitely on a mission to be seen.

Whitefriargate is playing host to an exhibition by two artists called Hsiao-Chi Tsai and Kimiya Yoshikawa who have put in place 3 installations in a piece called Rainbow-Friargate (see what they did there?!).

Whilst a lot of people walking with their heads down might miss some of the pieces inside the shop units, one of the pieces is pretty much unmissable. Mainly because it’s up two freaking trees in the middle of the street.


This piece is called Rainbow-Friargate Float and is made from bits of foam which have been strung up and tied to the branches of the trees. From a distance it’s absolutely beautiful, it’s like a tree on acid and is one of the cheeriest things I’ve seen in a long time, especially given the dismal weather we’ve been having (all of you with blue skies can do one, there hasn’t been blue sky in Hull for over 2 weeks now!).

I felt like quite the twerp in a busy street taking photos of foam up a tree but I am trying to steel my nerves and not let it bother me. Especially as I’m taking part in Kathy’s photo scavenger hunt (PS One of the items we had to collect this month is ‘a rainbow’ – I think this fits the bill.) and need to get braver about looking like a bit of a twat.


Apparently the other two pieces incorporate UV lights and paint so will change according to the time of day. I’m thinking I might have to stay in town late one night to check this out. So far I’ve only seen one of the other pieces called Blooming Propeller which is as beautiful as the Float piece, but I haven’t had a chance to photograph it yet.

I love that Hull is doing stuff like that but I hate that my first reaction is to go “Uh-oh that’s going to get vandalised.” Unfortunately it’s a thought borne out of experience. The toads lasted less than a week before they were vandalised and I have serious fears for this piece as it’s only made of foam and you can reach up on to your tippy toes and touch it quite easily. I have my fingers crossed however that the citizens of Hull will do me proud and not do their best to ruin a great piece of culture.


I will (obviously) keep you updated and try and get some photos of the other pieces before the rainbow shimmers and disappears into thin air.

The installation is running until May 13th and I think I’m already going to miss it.

You can go here to read more about the installation and artists.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Maintenance

So one month ago I hit my goal weight at Weightwatchers. How have things been going since then?


I am officially now a Gold member. I have a snazzy little card to prove it. (Well I have a paper copy at least, I’m still waiting for my ‘real’ card to appear in the post.)

What does this mean to you people not familiar with the language of WW?

As a Gold member I can now weigh in for free. I can go as often or as little as I like, as long as I get weighed at least 5 times a year. I have to be within 5lbs of my goal weight or else I will have to pay for that meeting.

This is where I start to have a problem.

My goal weight was not some long strived for target that I had been lusting after for years. It was not the weight I would need to be to fit into a size 10. There was no great thought process that went into my decision, instead it went something like this....

WW leader: And what would you like your goal weight to be?
Me: Erm.....12 stone?

I knew that 12 stone was just within the ‘ok’ range for my height (if you subscribe to BMI methods which I KNOW are iffy but we have nothing else to go on so I say you’ve got to suck it up and get on with it.) but wasn’t so far away from my beginning weight that I would give up before I started.

I actually ended up smashing my goal weight target on the day I reached goal. I immediately had a mad week where I ate out 4/5 times (not in celebration, just one of those busy kind of weeks) and didn't have time to go to the gym and the week after I reached goal I’d put on 3.5lbs, which I actually thought was kind of impressive.

Since then I haven’t been back to weigh in. I have been busy but also in the back of my head I’m a little bit scared to go. It seems natural to me that I will probably have put a little bit of weight back on. But the thing is, I’m fine with that. I know I haven’t stacked it on, clothes are still hanging off me and there isn’t really a difference when I look in the mirror. I’m happy at whatever weight I’m at at the moment.

It's just I have no idea what that weight is. I don’t own scales, I never have.

I could just go to a meeting and get weighed and get it over with but part of me doesn’t want to. What if I’m over 12 stone 6lbs? The fact is that if I am that’s ok with me. But technically I will have failed. I don’t want to feel like that. I especially don’t want to feel like that because of some totally random number I pulled out of thin air.

It’s a strange kind of feeling, one that I didn’t really expect. I didn’t think that I would be left feeling so conflicted about WW. I have loved it and do love it still and I can’t really fault it, it worked for me in terms of me losing weight. But I don’t want to feel permanently worried that I’ve “failed” at maintenance because of a rule that says I have to be within 5lbs of my goal weight.

I guess I’m just going to rip the plaster off and see what the scales say...

Monday, 7 March 2011

Party Girl?

This weekend I had a night out planned. It was a friend’s birthday and we were going to paint the town red, or something like that. I was feeling pretty excited about the night and couldn’t work out why. A quick glance at my diary soon made me realise why.


This was to be my first night out since before Christmas.

What?!

It couldn’t be. I went back and double-checked but it was definitely true. Somehow it had escaped my attention that I was old.

Surely it was only yesterday that a night out at the weekend was mandatory? God I remember when I would have died rather than stay in on a Saturday night, even if that meant not going out until 11pm because you couldn’t afford to really drink. I remember when it was normal to for me to go out a couple of times during the week as well as on a weekend (aaah those heady days of working as a waitress and stumbling about hungover, or more likely, still drunk, serving people cups of coffee.).

But the sad fact is that really that wasn’t yesterday. That was years ago and slowly, slowly, ever so slowly, the nights out have been diminishing the older I’ve got.

I think this is due to a number of factors. As people have settled down the nights out have decreased – if there’s no need to go trolling for men then there’s no need to go out. As people opted for cosy nights in with their other halfs, town has been denied my presence more often. Also people were suddenly saving up for houses. Or saving up to do their house up. Or saving up for a wedding. Or spending their money on nappies. No room for a few cocktails when that kind of thing is on your list.

To be fair I probably haven’t noticed the paucity of nights out because I’ve had my own money worries – I might not be saving up for a house but I have been saving up to be able to stay in the one I’m currently in.

So on Saturday I made up for lost time. I didn’t feel sad that the nights out don’t have quite the same edge that they used to. No more shots and flirting with strangers. Instead, alternating alcohol with soft drinks and talking to friends’ partners and husbands. It wasn’t bad, it was just different.

I guess it’s what they call growing up.

Other signs that I am old:

- I complained more than once about how crowded the bars were.

- I complained that the level of noise was so bad that I couldn’t hold a decent conversation.

- And, despite being one of the last ones standing, I still made it home before my Dad and Step-Mum, whose house I was staying at that night. Jesus.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Victim of Crime

Last week I became the victim of that most 21st century of crimes.


Debit card fraud.

It started like any other Friday really. I came into work. Pretending to work for a few hours and then popped into town to buy a Euromillions ticket because my friend and I decided that I have about as much chance of winning the lottery as I do of finding a decently paid job at the moment.

I had some spare cash this week and had heard a rumour that Barry M nail varnishes were on offer in Boots for 2 for £5. My little eyes lit up at all the pretty colours and I decided to go mad and treat myself. For some reason the chip and pin device wasn’t working properly and the lady had to go back to the ever so provincial method of swiping my card and having me sign a receipt.

I then went to the cashpoint to draw out some money and when it spat my card back out at me without giving me anything the alarm bells began to sound.

Luckily for me, my bank has a branch very nearby so I ran into it and gave my card to someone behind the counter.

When her initial words were “Don’t panic but...” I immediately began to panic.

“Don’t panic but you need to ring the fraud protection unit immediately.” She said.

Racing back through town I got into the office and, with shaky hands, dialled the number. I discovered that my accounts had been frozen because some nasty pasty had somehow obtained my card details and had tried to use my card to buy something. When I asked how they knew my details had been stolen I was told that they had received reports from various agencies including the police.

“Don’t panic though, it’s all ok” he told me.

Why did people keep telling me not to panic? How is this not a panic-worthy situation?

I know it’s great that they caught it in time and I feel reassured that the fraud protection system appears to be in place and is working well. But it’s just a horrible feeling that someone has tried to steal from you in such an underhanded way. I know they don’t know who I am but does it ever cross their minds that the people whose details they’re stealing probably don’t have that much money to begin with? (That was probably their karma, goodness knows what they tried to buy but I’d bet an awful lot that I didn’t have the funds for it.)

I’ve been left scratching my head trying to figure out how this happened to me because the brilliant thing is that I am totally paranoid about card fraud. I only use my credit card for online purchases for that very reason and my card is used once a week when I draw out my weekly budget from a cash-point. I guess they maybe put a card reader on the cash point I used last week but I certainly didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary. It’s a total mystery to me.

My card was cancelled and a new one is winging its way to me. If I want cash then I have to go into a branch with ID and draw it out over the counter.

The whole thing has left the nastiest of tastes in my mouth.

Damn you technology, damn you.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

All hail the crochet cushion

I want to crochet a blanket. Like really badly. It annoys me that I can’t do this but no matter how hard I try I haven’t been able to put anything aside each month to create a Yarn Fund. I had high hopes for next month but that’s been dashed because I’ll have to be paying out £100 for the second hen do of the year that’s taking place in May. Oh and then May will be out because I’ll have had to pay for the actual night out of the hen do. And then I believe the third hen do of the year is currently booked in for the end of June. You see a pattern emerging?

Sigh.

But I still have my scraps. Scraps which have kept me going for quite some time. Scraps from all the blankets I made last year. The sit in their glass jars, looking all colourful and stuff and I have tried to put them all to good use. They made The Beast remember and they made some crocheted flowers to put on some cards but I still had an urge to do more.

And then I remembered that I said I wanted to make a cushion cover so the hook came out and the jars came down and I made a start.



I quickly knocked up 9 granny squares to make one side of my cushion and then I came to a screeching halt. Didn’t I say I was going to do different kinds of crochet this year? Didn’t I say I was going to stop grannying so much? So I stopped grannying and picked up Jan Eaton and picked out Number 3 of her 200 blocks, the Square Target. It was fun to do something new and I only made a couple of modifications (she wanted me to do 4 chain to turn a corner and I felt that 3 was probably enough).





I felt proud and ever so smug. “Look at me, crocheting something different” I smirked to myself.

Only then it hit me that I could come up against a potential problem. Making sure both sides of the cushion were of equal size so that they could be sewn up together. Cue panic attacks and much sweating. What would happen if my tension was all different? Oh my goodness the horror THE HORROR.

Then I came up against the realisation that my magic scraps really were turning into scraps. Obviously the trouble with doing one massive square target is that for each round you need just that little bit more wool and I was getting to the point where my wool wasn’t going to go any further. I'm not sure why I didn't just do 9 squares targets like the granny squares on the other side but obviously at some point in my head I was going for broke and doing one massive one.

Cue more panicking and sweating.

Luckily the gods of crochet were smiling on me and I managed to a) get both sides to fit the cushion and each other and b) I managed to make the wool last, just.


Then it was just a case of taking my cushion and its cover to Stitch and Bitch and crocheting the sides together around the cushion. Yeah, this isn’t a cover you can remove I’m afraid, that would involve a sewing machine and I still have a morbid fear of those. And if I’m perfectly honest I don’t think I’ve washed a cushion cover in my life. I know. What a grebber. Worst comes to worst I will bung the whole lot in the washer and life will be tickety boo.

But stop ruining it all with practicalities. Instead just feast your eyes on its amazingness.


I love that it’s got 2 very different sides. I know that some would prefer symmetry but I really like that I can turn it around according to my whim and it looks like a completely different cushion.

Well done me. Now, what else can I cobble together with my scraps?....


Hmmmm when is crochet too much crochet?

Thursday, 3 March 2011

The Moonstone - Wilkie Collins

I know you can’t see me but I’m doing my smug face right now.

Why?

Because I have read 3 whole Classics and it’s not even the end of March yet. That makes me officially ahead of time, which I love. (Come back and talk to me when I’m falling behind and see how freaked out I am.)

The Moonstone has got to be my favourite so far. I couldn’t even tell you why it was on my bookshelf, clearly I was going mad in Waterstones and picked it up as part of the 3 for 2 offer, most likely as a way to assuage my guilt that I didn’t read enough heavyweight stuff.

To be fair, The Moonstone is not heavyweight. But it is a bloody classic (surely there can be no disagreements about this one?!) so I was happy to include it.

First things first. Anyone else think that Wilkie Collins was a woman? No? Am I really the only one who heard the name and thought “Female”? I have no idea why I thought she was, I’m guessing it’s from hearing Wilkie Collins, closely followed by Woman in White and the two have possibly become jumbled up in my tiny little head. Anyway. This is irrelevant and nothing to do with the book.

So apparently The Moonstone is regarded as one of the first detective novels ever written. My my my, get me and my fancy reading. It was published in serial format which I think has led to it being quite a tome of a book, it really is hefty (although it didn’t really feel like it when I was reading it.).

The Moonstone is a big fuck-off diamond that has been passed to Rachel Verinder on her birthday by another member of the family. On the night after her party the diamond is discovered to have disappeared and the finger of suspicion points at many people – is it the Indians who have been following the diamond around the country in an attempt to return it to its rightful birthplace? Is it Rachel herself who’s hidden it away because her mother doesn’t want her to have it? Is it the poor little servant girl who’s all hunch-backed and stuff?

I spy with my little eye, something beginning with MYSTERY.

The book is told from several viewpoints, starting with that of Gabriel Betteredge, servant to the Verinders. I think the brilliance of this book lies in Collins’ characterisation – you cannot help but warm to characters like Betteredge and Drusilla Clack, who appears later in the book, and parts of their commentary will have you at the very least smiling to yourself, if not embarrassingly snorting in public. Take this gem from Mr Betteredge:

"Selina, being a single woman, made me pay so much a week for her board and services. Selina, being my wife, couldn't charge for her board, and would have to give me her services for nothing...Economy - with a dash of love."


Slowly the mystery of who took the diamond is revealed through the narratives of Sergeant Cuff (apparently based on the real life Inspector Whicher), Betteredge, Miss Clack, a cousin of Rachel Verinder, Franklin Blake, the man in love with Rachel Verinder, Mr Bruff, the Verinders’ solicitor, and Ezra Jennings, the man who is instrumental in discovering whodunit and why.

It’s hard for me to tell you about it without accidentally revealing the plot but as you’re reading it it all seems very familiar and very “classic mystery” – one big house, something goes missing but all the doors are locked and no-one’s heard anything, several suspects. But you have to keep reminding yourself that Collins isn’t following the formula for a mystery, he was creating it. This is the beginning for all those other mystery novels you’ve read. (Don’t think about it too hard though because it actually gets a bit mind boggling after a while.)

You would think that it would be disappointing to be reading the very first detective novel nowadays and it is true that there are an awful lot of coincidences that happen to make the plotline run along but there are times when you have to take your cynical hat off and put it one side. This was written in 1868, give the man a break.

But if I’m honest, for all it would be easy to be superior about the plot of The Moonstone I have to hold my hands up and say I didn’t really know who had taken it beforehand, or how they had. Well maybe that’s not strictly true but I didn’t figure it all out – I had an idea and I think you will too when you read it but I think you’ll be surprised at the twist the novel takes before leaving you feeling smug about having guessed.

I absolutely loved this book, would most certainly recommend it and think you’d be hard pushed not to get caught up in the mystery of it all, it’s immensely readable.

I would also most definitely like to read The Woman in White now. Just so you know. Would it be cheating to have 2 books by the same author on the list of 12 classics? (Must remember to make myself a set of strict rules next time I attempt something like this.)

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Next classic on the list: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Project 365: A look back at February

And whoosh. Another month has flown past. I would like to personally thank Lady Time for letting the sands through her fingers so liberally. Not.

I’m definitely starting to feel the burn of Project 365 now. The novelty has worn off and I’ve photographed pretty much all I can do on my walk to work and back each day. In fact a disturbing number of my photographs are taken when I’m at work – every time my boss leaves the office, I’m rummaging around for my camera and setting something up to photograph.

I haven’t taken any photographs this month that I’m particularly proud of. I wanted to write this post and thought I couldn’t really call it a round-up of my favourite photographs – more of a round-up of my favourite moments of February 2011 as represented by my Project 365 photos. 

(Why have a snappy title when you can have a convoluted one I say)


01/02 - How very convenient. The 1st February happened to be the day I reached my goal weight. Hurrah. Definitely a moment to remember. (I bragged about it here) I should say that since then I have paralysed with fear about going back to weigh-in. I am now a Gold Member and weigh-in is free for me as long as I am within 5lbs of my goal weight. Now I’m in somewhat of a dilemma, I’m sure I will have put weight back on (I don’t own scales so can’t say for sure) but I’m still happy as I am, part of me is very reluctant to go back to be told to lose weight, just because of an arbitrary number I plucked out of thin air when I first joined up. Hmm...not sure how I feel about it all to be honest.

03/02 - I snapped this on the way to the gym after work (ps how much lighter is it now already?! Hurrah!) because I thought that Hull City Hall, as seen across Victoria Square looked so beautiful. I might be alone in this one because the poor little photo hardly got any views on Flickr. Poor Hull.

12/02 – This month I made my very first cushion cover. It’s been exciting. And I haven’t even done a blog post yet about finishing it. Shame on me. But when I finished this side of it one weekend I felt immensely proud of it.

17/02 - I’ve got a lot of love for these when I included them in my February Photo Scavenger Hunt post and it made me very pleased. I absolutely love these shoes and have done from the very first day that I spotted a whole shelf full of them reduced to £3 in Primark 3 or 4 years ago. The sad truth is that I bought them and then didn’t dare wear them in public (although they did get an outing to Vegas when I went to see American Girl and Boy in 2008 – if you can’t wear those shoes in Vegas you seriously can’t wear them anywhere). I have decided that I need to get my fancy shoes out more though, I have a few of them but never ever wear them because quite truthfully a lot of them cripple me so can’t really be worn on nights out. So I have decided that at Stitch & Bitch on a Thursday I’m going to give them all their turn in public – it’s only up the road, I can totter there and back no problems. Expect lots more shoe photos to come in the following months...

20/02 - Somehow I’ve managed to get to the age of 27 and never travel in First Class. However, when I was booking my tickets to come home from Preston after a weekend of interview and Manchestering I discovered that by some quirk of fate a first class ticket was the same as a standard ticket (no I have no idea why either). I won’t lie, it was bliss, I am not looking forward to having to slum it in standard from now on. Lots more room, including bigger arm rests so you don’t have to get into an elbow war with a complete stranger and no having to listen to some chav’s music blaring out of his earphones. And on the train from Preston to Manchester there were free biscuits on offer. That’s right folks. Free biscuits. (There was nothing from Manchester to Hull because it was 6pm and there’s no trolley service on then. Booooooooo.) Small things please me people, what can I say.

23/02 - I don’t know about anywhere else but last week was freakin’ miserable weather-wise. If it wasn’t raining the sky was just grey and heavy and leaden. I think the sun broke through once on Thursday and I had to be restrained from cracking open the sun lotion. When I woke up on 23rd to yet more dismal stuff I decided to cheer myself up by putting on a summer dress. Another Primark bargain from a few years ago, it hasn’t been worn in a while (due to a) no decent summer weather and b) being too fat to button it up) and I had a burst of inspiration and put my black jumper over the top of it so I didn’t freeze. This might not sound like a burst of inspiration to you but I have little imagination, especially when it comes to wardrobe matters, so this was a major breakthrough for me. And you know what? It totally kept me happy all day. Win.

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If you want to check in on my Project 365 photos then click here or on the link on my sidebar.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

To squeeze or not to squeeze: Tales from the cyst

Warning: Those of a sensitive disposition who really don’t like reading about pus might want to give this post a miss. Just be thankful I didn’t include photos.


I find that people fall into two broad camps when it comes to the topic of squeezing spots – those who believe in getting the bad stuff out and those who believe that fiddling with your body is not a good idea. I am most certainly in the first camp (in fact I’m thinking of running for Treasurer next year.) The way I see it is pus is bad. It should not be inside your skin, it should be on the outside, preferably on a tissue.

I was fortunate as a child to not really suffer from adolescent acne, although Mum takes great pride in telling me that I was the spottiest out of all 3 of her children. What tended to happen is that I wouldn’t get anything for months at a time and would then develop one huge whopper (usually right on my pubescently greasy forehead) that was so big I wouldn’t have been surprised to hear warnings about it on the shipping forecast.

The trouble with not really having any problems with my skin is that I can’t get my squeeze fix very often and I have been known to offer my services out to those who don’t want to or can’t reach a troublesome pimple. (Are you liking me less yet?) I swear I’m not weird I just love the sense of satisfaction when you get a good one – come on are you telling me you haven’t had a good old squeeze and had a thrill of exhilaration when there’s a popping sound/feeling and the bad stuff comes out? You know it’s true!

However last week I met my match...

On Monday last week I noticed something a little weird under my armpit. A small red lump. It wasn’t painful it was just...there. The next day it was a little bit bigger and a little bit redder and kind of painful. It had a hair coming out of it and I figured a hair follicle must have got infected so I tweezered the hair out in the hopes that would be an end to it. By Wednesday it was even bigger and definitely painful. My friend (also a member of the pro-squeezing camp) suggested I stab it with a sterilised needle to relieve the pressure.

(In hindsight I think I should have been a little more patient and waited a few more days before my stabbing. Unfortunately I was impatient.)

A stabbed away and felt pretty satisfied because some nastiness came out. “Excellent job” I told myself. My armpit disagreed. That night I was kept awake by a very angry armpit lump that I christened Pete. Pete was unhappy at being stabbed, apparently he wanted to keep hold of that pus for a little bit longer.

On Thursday I noticed that a rather strange hard lump had formed under my skin all around Pete. This did not feel good. And he was ramping up his pain levels all the time. I felt that I had started on a course of action that I should follow through so I performed my squeezing duties and more gunk came out. “That’ll be an end of it” I told myself.

Pete had other ideas and on Friday I nearly died when a quick check of the armpit discovered the hard lump was about 3 times the size it had been the day before. The pain levels were pretty awesome and I couldn’t hold my arm against my body he was that big. I decided in the afternoon to take a painkiller and found some super strength codeine in my desk drawer, given to me by the Dr when I was on Warfarin and couldn’t take ibuprofen. I hadn’t taken these pills in some time and I think the weight loss kind of affected me because in 20 minutes time I found myself stoned at work. It was hilarious and awful at the same time. I don’t cope well being stoned, I don’t enjoy the feeling at all, why anyone would pay to feel like that is beyond me. I took myself home to lie on the sofa and feel spaced.

Unfortunately Pete decided that Friday night was when he was tired of hanging around and he decided to let it all hang out. What did you do Friday night? Hot date at the cinema? Fun drinking with friends? I spent it squeezing and wiping pus out of my armpit at my Mum’s house. We put hot poultices on it to try and draw every inch of horror that was in there out but late on Friday night I had to call it off and go to bed. Pete was wrapped back up so he didn’t leak all over the sheets and I had a nice sleep.

I didn’t want to check on him on Saturday because I was afraid of what I might see but I am a brave girl so I decided to have a look. What happened is so horrible I can’t even believe I’m telling you it. I took off the bandage and what I can only describe as the remains of Pete fell into my hand. There’s just no other way of putting it. Imagine a spot, vomiting, and you have an idea of what happened.

Is it possible to be amazed and grossed out at the same time? This was like the ultimate spot squeezing but was so horrifying I wondered if I’d have nightmares for the rest of my life.

I was thankful that Pete had left me but he has left a hole in my life. Literally. There is a hole in my armpit. I nearly died when I saw it but apparently it’s normal. I’m inclined to disagree with this, holes in your armpit are never normal.

A trip to the Doctor on Monday has resulted in a course of antibiotics and thankfully no lectures about squeezing Pete out of my life. Apparently he was a cyst/abcess and he is to be filed away as “One of those things that happen”, something which doesn’t fill me with comfort, I’d prefer it if he didn’t happen again thank you very much.

Have I learned my lesson? Probably not. I’m a squeezer for life baby.

Anyone got anything for me?

Kidding.

Not really.

There really are photos you know. I sent them to The Person who I felt should share in my pain. As I said to him “Love means hearing about my pus-filled armpit.” But don’t worry I don’t expect you guys to love me that much, just be grateful I didn't put it up as one of my Project 365 photos.