Sunday, 31 July 2011

July Book Review

Good lord. What have I been up to this month? Clearly not a lot because I’ve managed to read 5 books. Fear not, I’m not some voracious reading machine, these are all very easy reads. I’ve even managed to squeeze in 2 classics, but these weren’t great tomes either. Ahh shame, I was starting to feel good about myself for a moment then.

What was on the list this month?

In my Sister’s Shoes – Sinead Moriarty
Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe
Letters from Father Christmas – JRR Tolkein
Go Tell it on the Mountain – James Baldwin
The Importance of Being Seven (44 Scotland Street series) – Alexander McCall Smith

In my Sister’s Shoes – Sinead Moriarty.
Not the sort of book I’d pick up at all but Mum nearly begged me to read it saying that it was really funny. Poor Mum, she must be spending too much time on her own now that she’s retired, this really wasn’t that funny at all. I think I laughed out loud once and really I was being kind.

I can’t even be bothered to summarise what happens in it. Usual chick lit stuff. Poorly developed characters. Poorly developed plot. I don’t think Marian Keyes needs to be quaking in her boots.

Letters from Father Christmas – JRR Tolkein
Hands up if you love a bit of heartwarming reading. This is the guy for you. I picked him up for £2 in a clearance outlet and am so pleased I did. JRR Tolkein sent letters every year from Father Christmas to his children, telling them tales of the North Pole and the antics of his friend the North Polar Bear and the evil gnomes. The book contains photographed copies of the actual letters and the lovely drawings that he also used to send.

If you don’t feel a little tug on your heartstrings when you read the last letter sent to his daughter then you’re not human.

It’s one of those books that you don’t really need and indeed when I finished it I thought “Well what will I do with this now?” Answer. Keep it. You will read it again, you might even read it to your children.

By the way did anyone else get letters from Father Christmas? I have two in a box somewhere that I received, oh to be so young that you don’t recognise your own Dad’s handwriting.

The Importance of Being Seven – Alexander McCall SmithI know I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I love Alexander McCall Smith. Love him love him. Although oddly can’t love the No1 Ladies Detective Agency which is weird I know. But I especially love the 44 Scotland Street series and each time a new book comes out I do my very very utmost to be patient and wait for it to come out in paperback.

If you see any of these pick them up and read them, I know these characters so well it’s like putting on an old pair of slippers, and the fact that it’s serialised in a newspaper means that the chapters are so short they are easy to dip in and out of.

Love love and love a bit more.


Book of the month?

The Importance of Being Seven. Mr McCall Smith I love you. And I see that the latest Courduroy Mansions book is out in paperback, excuse me while I make my way to the bookshop....

I really need to start reading something a little more highbrow. Finding the thinnest Classics I can and reading letters from Father Christmas isn’t really expanding my horizons.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Jungle Ripple blanket - All done!

Hurray hurrah. For I am finished. The Jungle Ripple blanket is done.

It has been down to the wire but it's done in time for the baby shower which is taking place this Sunday. The baby isn't due until August 20th but there's a real chance I won't get time to see her before the bundle arrives (plus, let's face it I want everyone to be impressed with me at the shower).

In an ideal world I would have done a border around the blanket, and I even went so far as to consult my crochet guru, but in the end I ran out of time, and more importantly, I was running out of yarn. Much as I love my friend and wanted to make her a present rather than just buying her something, I did want to keep it as inexpensive as possible. The yarn cost around £8 and we all know by now that we don't count our labour properly in these kinds of things or else you would be handing over a gift and saying "Yeah I made this for you, that'll be £153 thank you."

However if I make a ripple in the future, I would like to give the border a try, just to see if I can do it.

I really hope this blanket actually gets used in some way. Whether it's out in the pram, or in the cot, or out in the garden, or just randomly thrown on the floor and played with. I want to know that I've made something useful, rather than something that just gathers dust in a nursery somewhere.

Hey my not really resolution was to make a ripple blanket this year - and I've totally gone and made two! Winner.

The "need to knows" for those of you who are interested:

Yarn used: Stylecraft Special DK
1116 - Green
1425 - Emperor
1246 - Lipstick (best name for a red ever)
1082 - Bluebell
1114 - Sunshine

Size: 31 x 41 inches.

Time to complete: 28 days

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Crazy Cat Lady Part 12 - Fred and Lily Update

It's been too long. I know you guys love a bit of Fred and Lily action (no, really you do, you just don't know it yet.) and it's been a while, so I thought I'd fill you in.

There have been some traumatic events in their lives lately.

Traumatic Event Number 1: A stay in the cattery when Mum and I were over in York babysitting for my brother.

Lily loves staying in the cattery. Her best friend is the lady who runs it and the feeling’s mutual. Whenever we go to pick them up she gushes about how funny Lily is and how affectionate Lily is and how generally awesome Lily is. Their first stay in the cattery was when they were 4 months old and they stayed there for Christmas. They had a habit at that point of climbing up your leg or on your back – it wasn’t too painful because of their itty bitty claws. However Lily still climbs on Cattery Lady, I think she gets away with it because Cattery Lady wears a very heavy fleece, either that or she enjoys her skin being flayed.

Fred does not love staying in the cattery. He takes the rejection very personally. When we come to pick him up he is always, always already sat in the cat carrier, ready to come home. I’m pretty sure that he actually never comes out of the carrier when we drop him off and just stays in there waiting patiently for someone to return.

When they’re brought back home Fred attaches himself to you like a limpet and doesn’t like you going out of his sight. Lily is like that generally so it’s hard to tell the difference. This time, not long after we’d brought them home, Mum and I were leaving the house again and we turned round to find two little forlorn faces looking at us from the kitchen. If these looks don’t say “Please don’t leave us again” then I don’t know what does.

Look at Lily, she's a right chubster compared to Fred.

Traumatic Event Number 2: Rowan comes to stay.

Remember Rowan? She is my sister’s dog and is a very lively, very bouncy and very big Irish Setter. She has a bit of a strange effect on the cats. Fred, who is normally the softest boy going, getting regularly beaten up by his sister, turns into some kind of macho cat and bullies Rowan relentlessly. He sits on counter tops and batters her when she walks by, runs up and hisses at her when she’s just sitting quite calmly. Rowan is the biggest cissy of them all and ends up trying to climb on the sofa to hide behind a human or sits on the floor and looks at the ceiling, taking huge care not to look directly at Fred in the hopes that he leaves her alone.

The Dog Bully in butter wouldn't melt guise.

Lily takes a much more passive approach to things and decided to just hang out on the top of the kitchen cupboards for the whole weekend. She likes it up there, she can see everything going on around her, is well away from the wagging tail, can see the birds out of the kitchen window, and, most importantly, we all tend to forget she’s up there meaning that she gets vital alone time with food that’s been left out.

Mum’s getting better about letting them outside although she still hates it and is on edge the whole time that they’re out in case they disappear. I think they look forward to when I’m looking after them because I’ll let them out a little more often (although I end up on edge because I’m aware of the trouble I’ll be in if one of them gets lost under my watch).

Fred is a bit of a wanderer although he tends to return quite often to go back into the kitchen and lie down on the cool floor and pant. Panting cats are hilarious.

Lily never really strays far though, and if you’re in the garden she definitely won’t leave, preferring to hang about and see what you’re doing. She gets very agitated when Fred disappears and doesn’t come back for a while, to be honest I think she’d be quite happy to just lie on the white rug in the living room all day, keeping an eye on you.

A random, unprovoked attack on my Yarn Fairy Blanket.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Running Woman Part 8 - What goes through my head when I run

I am actually sitting here in my running stuff, all sweaty so I can write this down while I remember it all. I hope you appreciate the gross lengths I go to for this blog.

I know that my mind wanders at times when I'm out jogging and when I went out tonight I decided that I would try and consciously remember all the things that go through my head when I'm pounding the pavements. Today was the first time I've been out since the Race for Life, my shin was in pretty bad shape for the week afterwards and today was the first day that I felt I'd be up to it so I went out for a little practice.

So this was what went through my head over tonight's 3km run (which took 18 minutes, if you wanted to know my pace. I believe that falls into the category of "snail pace")...

- God I hate the beginning when I'm not properly in my stride, feel like everyone is going "My god look at the size of her arse."

- Gosh there are an awful lot of hydrangea bushes in this part of Hull. Are hydrangeas a middle class plant?

- If there was a middle class plant, what would it look like?

- Oh god, main road coming up, must look like I'm not out of the breath in the slightest so all the car dwellers feel guilty about their sedentary ways.

- Jesus Jack Russell attack! Thank god she had him on a short lead.

- Ugh. Pub coming up. Need to try and run past it and look fit whilst not breathing in any of the second hand smoke.

- Hmmmm maybe I should have just run around the block, am I pushing it too hard?

- Oh god what if the shin splints come back? I'll turn off at the next cut through and not run the whole way to the end of the road.

- Erm...where's the cut through? Oh my god I've gone the wrong bloody way, I shouldn't have gone past the pub, I should have been heading in the opposite direction, there isn't a cut through on this street!

- Ha I love this Running Tracks album that Dorothy got me for my birthday - I'm running to Cliff Richard, Move It.

- Jesus. Pay attention, the car totally nearly reversed into you, less Cliff, more concentrating.

- I should really run round the park and not go straight home.

- No I should just go straight home.

- No I should run round the park.

- No I should just go straight home, don't push it.

- Yes! Home straight, time to pick up the pace a bit. Can see the door.

- Should have run round the park instead of coming straight home.


And that's what went through my head this evening.

Now I really need to get changed because the sweat is drying and now I'm cold.

Really hope the shin splints don't come back.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Grandma and Grandpa

Before my Dad left to go back to France we went out for dinner and somehow started talking about my Grandma and Grandpa. I feel huge amounts of guilt that I don’t really know much about their lives when they were younger, that’s the trouble with me not really speaking to that side of my family for near on 5/6 years, those were the years when I would have been asking those questions and by the time contact was re-established those bonds weren’t there anymore and the topic never came up.

So what Dad had to tell me was a bit of a revelation, I didn’t know any of this stuff and after he’d told me I knew I would need to write it all down before I forgot it. Enter....the blog. If I didn’t have this, I wouldn’t write it down and I’d soon forget.


During the WWII my Grandma worked in a dairy office – she was actually lucky, a lot of women had to switch jobs and become more ‘useful’ but dairy’s were pretty damn necessary so when war broke she didn’t have to leave. In fact only one person did have to leave and that turned out to be Grandma’s friend, who went from working in a dairy office to being a welder on ships in the docks in Hull – quite the career change.

Grandpa was in the RAF, working as ground crew, he was lucky enough to not have to leave British soil for the duration of the war. The reason he joined the RAF? He knew he would have to join one of the forces – the Navy was out because he couldn’t swim and he didn’t want to be shot, which knocked the Army out of the field, so the RAF it was.

In town there was a dance hall called The Dump. Grandma used to go there most weekends, she was a bit of a wallflower and would sit on the sides, waiting to be asked to dance. She had terrible eyesight but refused to wear her glasses out, so she would sit patiently waiting until a shape loomed towards her and asked her to dance.

One night, a man called George asked her to dance. They danced the night away and he asked her if he could walk her home. She obliged and they went off to their separate cloakrooms to retrieve their coats, and in the case of Grandma, her glasses.

She obviously didn’t have a clue who he was and it took some friends to point out her suitor so she could see him with the added benefit of lenses. Her reaction? He looked really old and had a stupid big hat on.

Not the best of starts then.

She obviously put these feeling to one side at some point however because eventually they became engaged. It was at this point that Grandpa uttered the ever so romantic words, “I suppose you’ll want a ring then?(He had a way with words did Grandpa.) He then tried to foist on Grandma a used engagement ring that came from a broken engagement he’d had previously, Grandma politely (I’m sure) declined but suggested that he could maybe use the ring to put towards getting a new engagement ring for her.

The wedding wasn’t devoid of drama either. Grandma was terrified of what would happen on the wedding night that she ran away immediately after they got married and went to the cinema for the night on her own. Without telling anyone. Clearly she got over her issues with my Dad and two Aunties as testament to that fact, but for as long as I can remember, they slept in the same room, but in separate beds.

Before you think they were totally devoid of romance, there is one nice story. When they were married they went to live with Grandma’s mother. This proved to be short-lived after an argument about Grandma cleaning out the passageway meant they had to move out and live with Grandpa’s parents. Grandpa objected to Grandma having to clean the passageway (she wasn’t treated particularly well by her mother) and pointed out that they gave her board so they could stay in one room – at which point Grandma’s Mother kicked them out. Perhaps not the best ending, but at least he stuck up for his woman.


(And now what I really need to do is pump my Aunts for information, I know that my Dad has a tendency to not remember history accurately so I need to check all of this with them!)

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Go Tell it on the Mountain - James Baldwin

I’m coming to a bit of a conclusion when it comes to Old Classics and Modern Classics. The basic rule of thumb when it comes to my little brain is this: Old Classics I “get”. I might not always like them (sorry Wuthering Heights) but I understand what they’re trying to say to me, there’s a decent story and everything makes sense. Modern Classics have a tendency to leave me feeling distinctly stupid. They are much more abstract in the themes they deal with, so abstract in fact that they completely pass me by.

This is the 3rd book that I would probably terms as a Modern Classic (the others being Midnight’s Children *shudder* and Things Fall Apart) and this one, like the others (although not so much with Things Fall Apart) has left me scratching my head a little bit. So much so that I actually felt compelled to conduct some research into the book because I was so sure that I wasn’t “getting” it and was missing some bold point.

I actually don’t think I was (although the references to homosexuality completely passed me by, I just thought he looked up to him as an older boy, god I’m an innocent) but people are unanimously adamant that this is a seminal piece of American literature I just read. And I don’t really think that racism is the main theme of the book, which could be expected, having been written by an African-American writer in the 1950s. Race is a sub-theme within the book, it’s there, bubbling under the surface and there are occasional references to it but it’s not a great big club that Baldwin’s smacking you over the head with. Religion is the order of the day it would seem.

Semi-autobiographical, the book takes place over the period of 1 day, the main protagonist being John, a young boy whose father, Gabriel, is a preacher in the church. John has been told he is destined to follow his father but harbours no wishes to do so and has an almost all-consuming hatred for his father who is the most un-Christian preacher you could come across, liberally beating his children and wife.

Whilst everyone is gathered in the church, we hear the background stories of Gabriel, his sister Florence, and John’s mother, Elizabeth, in their own voices and begin to understand a little of the forces and dynamics at play in each of their lives. Gabriel is a gigantic huge twat it turns out – knocking some girl up before stealing from his first wife to send her away to have the baby. However his life as a preacher gives him the perfect excuse to “do as I say not do as I do.” Hypocrite. Florence is the least religious of them all, has some kind of moral compass, but has had a rough deal in life and Elizabeth has had an equally tough time.

This is all marvellous and I enjoyed reading these background stories, understanding a little more how and why everyone was interacting with each other in the way that they did, and then the book in the final part goes totally haywire.

John undergoes a hysterical conversion to God and has various dreams and visions that made little or no sense to me.

And then the book ended.

I hate books that do that. I felt cheated, I didn’t understand, is John’s conversion real or is he doing it to get back at Gabriel and act as a check on his vile behaviour? If it’s real then why has it happened? We don’t know what’s happening in John’s head when he experiences God, we’re too busy focusing on the lives of Gabriel, Florence and Elizabeth.

I don’t really know what I thought of this one. I think, if it’s impossible I’m just ambivalent to it. Maybe it would strike more of a chord with me if I was American and had more of a feel for the culture and the time in which it was written? Maybe he’s just not the author for me. Whilst I wouldn’t tell people not to read it, I’m not desperately looking for hands to thrust my copy into either.

Final verdict? Odd.


(Get me! I’m ahead of schedule, this, my friends is Classic Number 8. And there’s another Modern Classic on the way – The Great Gatsby? Step on up.)

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Craft Hurricane

At the moment the living room at my Dad’s looks like a crafty hurricane has been through it. There’s aida, fabric, thread, needles, yarn and patterns strewn across the place and in the middle of it is little old me feeling increasingly overwhelmed with the stuff I’ve got to do.

I need to sit down and make a system, I need to make a list, but instead I wander aimlessly from one project to another, picking something up, only to put it down 10 minutes later and start on something else. I can slowly feel my sanity dripping away.

But then I remembered that I have a blog and I use this blog in a most inventive way. A way of documenting things I have done or things I want to do. I have also noticed that when I put things on this blog and say I’m going to do them, I am immediately held accountable and that post will act as a little niggly devil on my shoulder prodding me to get a shift on.

So things I am working on/need to work on:

- Jungle Ripple blanket (needs to be finished by 31st July for the baby shower but can be postponed because the baby isn’t due until 20th August.)
- Christmas card for July
- Wall hanging like the one I did for my niece’s christening
- France 2010 album

See? I already feel better. There isn’t actually that much I’m working on at all, it just feels like a lot because of the paraphernalia and the mess. I hate the mess you know.

So I need to prioritise.

I am tempted to put the Christmas card up at the top because we’re almost at the end of July now but then again is it really necessary? Would it be the end of the world if I did two in August instead? Would any of you hold that against me?

It would be lovely to get the Jungle Ripple finished by 31st July but it wouldn’t be the end of the world if it didn’t. All that would happen is I would miss out on the admiring glances from friends – which I can’t lie, is hard to turn down.

The wall hanging is a surprise addition to my list, I knew I was making it but didn’t think I’d be making it so soon. However this little lady was unwilling to hang about in the uterus for a whole 9 months so arrived a little early. Some people are so impatient. Plus I know that these bad boys intimidate me but actually don’t take that long to do at all. This could easily be finished in a weekend, I just need to find a man with a saw to cut some dowelling.

France 2010 album does need doing but has a deadline of 31st December 2011 so isn’t that urgent, I’m just aware that if I keep on postponing it I’m never going to get it done.

So after that mindless rambling and the knowledge that I have a free weekend ahead of me. I think I have a plan of action.

1. Wall hanging
2. Jungle Ripple
3. Christmas card for July
4. France 2010 album

I think Number 2 & 3 might be interchangeable, depending on how progress with the blanket goes. If it’s not looking like getting done for the 31st then I’ll abandon ship and pick up needle and thread and get cross stitching instead.

Phew. Thanks for getting me through that guys. Come back in September when I’ve decided I want to make things for people for Christmas and am having a complete breakdown about it.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Baby Fever

When my friend announced back in February that she was pregnant I’ll admit that I didn’t take the news too well. I’d grown tired of losing friends to the altar and the crib and didn’t want to see another one bite the dust.

I’ve got over myself since then and have slowly come to terms with the fact that it’s happening. I don’t particularly like it but it’s happening.

What’s helped is that this friend has been remarkably laid back throughout her pregnancy – too many of my friends have gone in to hibernation as soon as the scan picture has been posted on Facebook – declining invitations to come out, spurring offers to meet for tea, not wanting to be generally sociable which all starts to leave non-pregnant people fearing pregnancy as akin to some kind of disease.

It would appear however that those friends are basically weirdos. This friend has come out on hen dos and taken part in fancy dress (have you ever seen a pregnant Pocahontas? It’s a little disturbing), she has been the last one on the dance floor at weddings wearing her heels and bump has even been exposed to the delights of Take That. I know that isn’t for every pregnant person but I admire my friend for it – she has stayed herself, just with some extra padding, rather than turning into a “pregnant person”. In fact if you turned her around and just looked at her back you could quite happily pretend there’s nothing different about her at all.

I hope that if I’m lucky enough to have children then I’m able to be like this throughout my pregnancy. And I believe that my friend deserves to have a nice present for this well-travelled baby.

Since I’ve caught the rippling bug I decided I would ripple my way to a present but I was stuck for some time when it came to colour choice. They have decided not to find out the sex of the baby and they’re not really pastel/neutral kind of people so I wasn’t really sure where to go.

Then I started to think that I wouldn’t make a blanket at all because the baby’s due in the middle of August. But then I remembered that
a) we live in England and August does not necessarily mean sun. and
b) it’s going to be autumn in a few months (sorry to bring it up) and a blanket might come in handy, and
c) I would like this blanket to be used for many things, it can be thrown down on the garden or thrown over the pram or left in the room for decoration.

When I found out that the nursery has been decorated with a jungle theme I hotfooted it to the Indoor Market in Preston (it’s where all the cool people go you know) and got me some Stylecraft in all kinds of bright colours and then the Jungle Ripple was born.

It’s been called a Rasta Blanket and the Bright Blanket but Jungle Ripple is its official name so far, unless anyone else can come up with any suggestions.

It’s harder to keep the colour choices random than it was for the Yarn Fairy blanket because there are only 5 colours I’m dealing with but I’m hopefully doing ok so far.

Good thing is that babies are small, which means that only small blankets are called for which should theoretically mean that I should be done with this blanket in double quick time. If only everything else didn’t keep getting in the way.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Running Woman Part 7 - I did it!!

Let's get all the drama out of the way at the beginning shall we? None of this slow build up, no sense of tension, no "did-she-didn't-she" nonsense. I was planning on doing that but quite frankly I'm a bit of a smug git at the moment so instead I shall just say,


Three cheers for me. For she's a jolly good fellow and all of that malarkey.

I was struck down by a wicked bad cold a few days before the race and I am still very phlegmy and full of snot at the moment but as if I was going to let that get in my way. And my shin splints also made an unpleasant and un-wanted return but I knew that that might happen and I knew that I would run on them regardless and deal with the pain later.

The night before the race I had every bad dream you could possibly have that was running or race related. I dreamed that I didn't get there on time, that I couldn't find my team mates, that I went to the wrong place, that I didn't have my shoes - the list is endless, you name it, I had a panic about it in my sleep.

The Person had come over to see me run (first time I've seen him in 5 weeks, long distance relationships suck balls but that's a whole other topic for discussion) and he knew not to try and engage me in conversation the morning of the race but to let me wander about and look nervous and not really say much. In case you were wondering what I look like when I'm nervous, this photo will show you:

See? Worried.

I had no reason to be nervous, I knew I could run 5k after all, it's just all the hype and excitement that gets you going I think. In the end up it ended up being the easiest 5k I ever ran, it wasn't the fastest but nor was it the longest, it just didn't feel as long as my practice runs did. Maybe because I was just running about, following the pack and getting caught up in the atmosphere.

Unfortunately we were dingbats and forgot to time ourselves properly. The clock hit 37 minutes as we crossed the line but I reckon we were a good 3 minutes if not more getting to the start line so we've put a ball park figure of 35 minutes which is about standard for us. What's annoying is that we actually felt like we could have run faster but it's incredibly hard to pace yourself when there's 3 of you running, I think you err on the side of caution.

Plus we had a nightmare at the beginning of the race trying to find a pace that suited us and allowed us to dodge round people. If you know that you can't jog 5k please please please do not put yourself in the joggers group, just wait and go with the walkers. It was unbelievable how many people were walking after about 200m of the course - GET OUT OF MY WAY. We decided that should we run it next year we'll put ourselves in the runners group - we didn't do that because they said to go in that if you were planning to run it in 20 minutes or less (erm not so much) but in hindsight we should have just put ourselves in the back of that group and then we'd at least have had free ground ahead of us.

I was beyond pleased with myself at the end of the race (even if my shin wasn't, it's absolutely fine to run on but not long after stopping running he starts up a pretty tremendous racket) and didn't really know what to do with myself. The Person and I went out for lunch and it was lovely but all a little anti-climactic. I wanted to yell in people's faces "I just ran the Race for Life and I know it's only 5k but it's a really big deal for me!" but I decided against doing. For one thing, that just takes too long to say.

But I am pleased and I would love to do a 10k next but I'm not making any promises. I'm still unsure how to proceed with my shin problem - whether to ignore it and cope with the pain or just try something else to keep fit. I'm really not focussing on that though, instead I shall bask in my triumph.

This is my happy face. It's not particularly photogenic. It's definitely not attractive. But it sums up how I was feeling pretty well.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

A Letter to Someone

Dear Someone Who Doesn't Want Me to Run the Race for Life,

Well you're certainly trying your hardest I have to say. I don't understand why you don't want me to do it you know. I'm a pretty nice person and haven't been too horrible throughout my life and I really want to run this race, I feel quite strongly about it and I decided it was important enough to put on my list of Not Really Resolutions this year.

I've tried hard to make sure I'm fit enough for this race. I've gone from someone who absolutely hated running, to someone who enjoys doing it more than anything (at least while these light nights last) and I want to carry on doing it.

I just want to run this race. Why don't you like it? It's for a good cause, it's fun, it's important to a lot of people, why are you trying to ruin it for me?

You've thrown shin splints at me. And I saw a physiotherapist and learned how to deal with them so I don't get them anymore. You threw a twisted ankle at me. And I just ran on that anyway. You stopped me from running for nigh on 2 months and yet I still went out this weekend and ran 5k in preparation.

So now you've thrown a cold at me. And it's a doozy. I don't know how you've done it but I went from feeling on top of the world one minute to almost literally the next minute sneezing my head off, dealing with a snotty nose and a throat full of razor blades. I can't even muster up the energy to get dressed, never mind go out and run.

I don't understand what your problem is. But more than that I don't know why you're bothering. Haven't you learned who you're dealing with yet? Have any of those things you've thrown at me stopped me so far? No. They have not. And neither with this cold. I'll run it with my razor blade throat. I'll run it with a snot goblin on my back. I'll sneeze my way round hopping on my one good leg if that's what I have to do.

Cut it out. You won't win. And you're actually just really irritating me now.

I'll see you on Sunday.

Yours sincerely,

The Girl

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

It's not called a test for nothing.

I’ve been wearing glasses on and off for pretty much all my life. I got my first pair of glasses when I was at school and my my were they funky. One red arm and one green arm, the top of the rims yellow and the bottom of the rims blue – so basically I looked like Timmy Mallet. When I hit pre-teen years I developed a sense of shame of these glasses and just stopped wearing them.

Things were fine up until my final year at uni, when a year of sitting in front of a computer screen and burying my nose in books resulted in some wicked painful headaches. Off to the optician I went and got me some glasses.

For the past 7 years they have remained my faithful friend but whereas before I could decided whether or not I felt like wearing them, I was increasingly finding that I needed to wear them to avoid squinting like Mr Magoo.

I kept meaning to book a test but just never really getting round to it. Meanwhile I can no longer see subtitles on the telly without my glasses – the latest craze of a character in a tv show getting a text message and having it appear on screen has caused me on several occasions to nearly break my neck running to press my nose up against the tv.

The final straw came one day when I was waiting for a bus to go to my Mum’s. A bus was coming towards me but I couldn’t for the life of me work out what number it was, in the end I had to ask the little old lady who was stood beside me what number bus was coming.

Time to book an appointment.

The other problem I have is that I have a bit of an eye phobia. It took me until I was in 6th form to learn to put mascara on and I was at uni before I could pluck up the courage to try eyeliner. Every summer was torture for me because summer would mean hayfever and hayfever would mean itchy eyes and itchy eyes would mean eyedrops. I remember well being held down by various members of my family whilst they tried to put eyedrops in my eyes – I’m pretty sure they never touched my eyeballs , I was crying too hard.

I don’t particularly like talking about eyes – I’m blinking furiously whilst I’m typing this by the way – and do not, under any circumstances either insert or take out or generally play around with your contact lenses in front of me. I will go very pale and feel very ill.

Although I’ve never had a bad experience at an optician, I still have an irrational fear that they’re going to do something horrific to my eyeballs so my heart was pounding when I turned up to my appointment a couple of weeks ago.

I don’t know if I’m the only one that does this but I feel an extreme pressure when I go to get my eyes tested, I worry that I am going to fail this test in some way shape or form or I’m going to get told that I’m making it all up.

Like the test that they did to test my peripheral vision. This involves covering one eye and looking in a big computer screen. A number of dots flash up and you have to say how many dots have appeared. The trouble is these dots flash in extremely quick succession, it wasn’t that I couldn’t see how many there were, my brain just couldn’t tell me which number I was grasping for quickly enough. I was shouting increasingly louder, “ 4!!” By the time that test was over the sweat was dripping down my back.

I was the same inside the actual test. As he placed the lenses in front of me and asked me to say which was better or worse I began to be overcome with panic – wait was it better with number 1 or number 2? I couldn’t work it out, I think my eyes had just become completely glazed with terror.

But the worst was to come.

“Now what we’re going to do next is test the pressure in your eyes” said the lovely optician lady.

This immediately did not sound like something I was going to enjoy. And indeed it wasn’t – they perform this test by blowing three short sharp puffs of air into your eye. You have to place you head in something that looks uncannily like a vice and then sit there knowing that they’re going to blow something directly into your eyeball. Surely that goes against all of your natural instincts?

At one point during the test she asked me if I was ok, I replied yes and asked her why she’d asked me. “It’s just that your knuckles are white where you’re gripping on to the handles” she said. Clearly I suck at completely covering my fear. I wanted to tell her that she was lucky I was still there at all and not running screaming down the street.

The verdict is that my eyes have indeed got worse (although I passed the eye pressure test and field of vision test with flying colours. Go me). My right eye is actually in pretty good nick, only -0.25, whereas my left eye is in much worse condition, -1.50 (what is wrong with the left side of my body? Shorter leg, worse eye, the pulmonary embolism was in my left lung as well you know). I don’t have to wear my glasses all the time if I don’t want to but I think I’ll keep them to hand.

Next time there might not be an old lady to tell me which bus is coming.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

The Not Really Resolutions: Update 4

1. Run a 5km race: My goodness. Who would have thought that one little resolution would be the cause of so much flippin’ trouble? It’s actually kind of hilarious reading back the last update I did in May. I’ve actually said in it “I still get terrible pain in my shins that isn’t shin splints but which no-one seems able to diagnose” How hilarious.

Of course you are all bored of hearing about my running calamities over the past 2 months. But just in case you fancied a re-run then click HERE to read all my Running Woman posts.

The good news is that despite all of my setbacks I am ready the run the whole thing – it won’t be a groundbreaking time, in fact it might be embarrassingly slow, but I will make sure I run the whole thing.

We do have a sponsorship page set up, I’m sure you’ve already received a thousand and one demands to sponsor people for various activities this summer, but if you did have a couple of quid knocking about and wanted to throw them our way then that would be great. Our sponsorship page can be found HERE  (Please excuse the absolutely terrible photo of me on the front of the page, it was not my idea to have my photo taken with my hair scraped back and my gym clothes on!)

2. Crochet a ripple blanket: Cue sounds of excited panting and heavy breathing. I’ve totally crossed this one off! Last update I had officially started him and now I am pleased to say he is finished. You can see him in all his glory HERE.
3. Back up photos on to CD: Cue more sounds of excited panting and heavy breathing. I’ve totally crossed this one off too! I told myself to stop procrastinating and get a wriggle on and sat down one evening and before I knew it, everything was copied on to CD. And thank goodness I did, because on the 1st June my laptop completely crashed because of a meltdown in the hard drive. Luckily everything was saved but I came very close to losing all of it – so you can imagine how very smug I was that I had all my photos backed up.

Even better than this, I am the biggest geek alive now. I actually have a system in my Pictures folder on my laptop so I can keep track of what I’ve copied and what I haven’t. If I folder has a ‘C’ at the end of the title then it’s backed up, if not, it’s on my to do list and I make sure I frequently keep things backed up. Smug smug smuggy smug smug.

4. Paint my frog: Done, done and done

5. Go to the cinema on my own: I’m seriously starting to doubt that I’m going to get this one done you know. It’s not that I’m scared of doing it, I haven’t been the cinema at all this year, with anyone, let alone on my own. It’s just not really part of my life, I don’t know what to do about it really.

6. Project 365: Hurray, we’re in July which means we’re over half way through – woop! The pictures are getting increasingly random and if not, increasingly samey, I’m coming to the conclusion that basically my life revolves around cats and crochet. As always the photos can be found on my Flickr page in the set imaginatively titled, Project 365.

7. Make album/scrapbook of my France 2010 holiday: Totally started this one! Read all about it HERE. It’s a very exciting project, although it’s also a very time-consuming project and hence work on it is s.l.o.w. It keeps getting put to one side in favour of other projects and I’m very aware that this could be one of those things that slips past me – after all, summer will soon be at an end and then crafting for the big C will begin and I don’t want him forgotten about.

8. Travel to Belfast to see my family: Money is now saved up for this and I need to book it fast before I spend the money on something different. In my last update I’d said that some of the family we’re going to be coming over for my niece’s Christening at the end of May but unfortunately this didn’t happen in the end. I’m planning on starting to coordinate something next month.

9. Read 12 classics: We’re all good. We’re on track. We’re loving this resolution (even if it does result in boring book review posts that no-one wants to read) and I love that I’ve read books I would never normally have picked up. And so far I am officially on track, with 7 classics already read and another one almost finished. I have pretty much decided that this is something I’m going to carry on with in 2012.

10. Cross stitch one Christmas card per month: Also on track. (Although I haven’t started number 7 yet – will get on that immediately!) 6 little cards all stitched up and made into cards and ready for the end of the year. I’m so so pleased I made this a resolution – if I hadn’t I know full well that I wouldn’t have stuck to it and would have let it slip, even if I don’t manage to make all my Christmas cards this year, at least I know that there will be 12 lucky people receiving one – now all I have to do is decide which 12!


Not bad going - managed to cross two things off my list since my last update and hopefully by the next update I'll be able to cross off one more.

If you did want to keep track of how I'm doing on my resolutions, I do try to keep the page regularly updated, it's right up there at the top on the right hand side - "Not Really Resolutions 2011"

Monday, 11 July 2011

Running Woman Part 6: Why it pays to be stubborn

This weekend I have been popping in here and there to check on my Mum who’s laid up with a bad back. She doesn’t get ill often, but when she does she is the world’s worst patient. She’s miserable as sin because she hates being incapacitated, but at the same time doesn’t want to accept help and it becomes a frustrating situation. For instance, on Friday, instead of waiting for me to come home in an hour’s time she decided to get down on her hands and knees to feed the cats. Ridiculous.
But as frustrated as I was with her, it all sounded a little familiar. If you ever wanted to know why I’m such a stubborn creature then you won’t have to look very far. Whilst you shake your head in disbelief when I tell you that I most certainly will be running the Race for Life this Sunday, remember that it’s not my fault I’m like this, it’s in my genes.

Last time I’d told you about Eddie the Ankle Egg. He looked pretty terrifying but actually didn’t seem that painful to walk on. Even so, most people would decide to rest him and not risk running on him. Not me. I decided that I would put him to the test and have a little run out and see how the land lay.

Now technically I should have been only running to the end of the street and back again, to get my shins warmed up again and avoid the dreaded splints, but I am terribly impatient and decided that rather than be sensible I would wang out 3.5k and see what happened.

Miracle of miracles – I was fine. No shin pain. No ankle pain. In short, I’m basically a machine.

A few days later out I went again, this time to try for 4k. Miracle of miracles – I was fine. No shin pain. No ankle pain. In short, I’m still a machine.

However, after walking 10 miles round London last week on a school trip I was involved in through work, Eddie was not such a happy chappy. Luckily for me I was at the physiotherapist the next day and I was pleased to tell him that my shins were good but Eddie was not. He poked and fiddled about and told me that I’d sprained the posterior talo-fibular ligament. (That’s right I know the fancy name!) There are 3 ligaments on the outside of your ankle, front, middle and back. It’s usually the front and middle that get injured in a sprain but I’d managed to be that little bit different and sprain the back one – most probably because I was wearing heels at the time. My lovely physio then did some fun taping around Eddie to keep him stable when I went out running. That marked the official end of my physio with NHS Hull, I’m pretty sad about it, he’s been great and I feel very lucky to have been able to have 5 physio appointments free of charge – big up the NHS – WOOP!

I’ve still been talking to my podiatrist friend whilst all of this has been going on and he had advised me to get some inserts, which I’ve also been using when I go out running. He was still frustrated that he couldn’t figure out why my shin splints were only happening in my left leg and before I knew where I was, I was lying on his kitchen floor being attacked with a tape measure.

Turns out my left leg is only 2cm shorter than my right leg.

For reals! Horror of horrors. I’m a lopsided freak.

But this did possibly answer the question of why it’s only happening in my left leg. It’s having to stretch and twist more to hit the ground so is putting more strain on my shinny shin shin. My friend told me to take the heel raise out of my right trainer and see how I went on.

It was after all of this that I managed to run 3.5k without getting any pain. I wouldn’t like to credit any one thing in particular - it’s either down to one or all or some of the following:

- The insert in my left shoe aligning my wonky legs better
- The strapping the physio showed me that I spoke about in my last post
- Being more conscious of stretching after my running

Either way I daren’t not do any of the above now until the race is over.

There was still however the issue of general fitness and whether or not I would be able to keep going for 5k. Even machines lose their fitness after 2 months of sporadic running you know.

The ultimate test was set for yesterday and I and my team mates came together for the first time in 2 months to try and run 5k.

How did I do?

You are looking at a 5k machine. I totally did it!

One week before the Race for Life and I am officially on track to run the whole thing without stopping, just like I intended.

See you on the course!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Things Fall Apart - Chinua Achebe

I know. I’m a machine aren’t I? Here I am, worried that I won’t be able to stick to my deadline of reading 12 classics in a year and here I go and finish number 7 before we’re halfway through July. I’m nothing if not efficient.
When I decided I wanted to do this challenge, I had an image in my head. That image was of a box set of books that my Mum had got me from the Book Man ages ago. It’s a set of 10 books that have all been banned in various countries at one time or another, for various reasons. This is a Penguin collection and it quite clearly states Penguin Classics on the side so who am I to argue?

Trouble is, I had no idea where this box set had gone to. When I moved out of the flat and in with Dorothy, an awful lot of my books had to go into storage a.k.a. my Dad’s house. They were shifting things around in their house at the time and everything was all of a jumble and I couldn’t find my beloved box set.

Until I started living there and had time to rummage and finally laid my grubby hands on them. I think it’s safe to say these are all what you would probably term Modern Classics. I don’t want to start off a grand debate on whether a classic is Pride & Prejudice territory or Midnight’s Children territory – I’m going with the publishers on this one.*

Anyway, so there I am, deciding what to read next (and praying for a teeny book rather than a hefty tome) and up pops this post from Nose in a Book about Chinua Achebe. And in my box set there resided “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe. And it’s about 150 pages long. Decision made.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the main difference between Old Classics and Modern Classics is a question of making your brain work a little bit harder. Modern Classics tend to be just that bit more complicated with hidden meanings and themes running throughout whereas the Old Classics feel more concerned with writing a good story with good prose.

For 150 pages Achebe packs a lot in. Okonkwo is great warrior in his village of Umuofia. To say he has anger issues would be underplaying his character – he beats his wives and is responsible for the death of a boy he has virtually adopted. However, when he accidentally kills a fellow clansmen he is extradited for 7 years, in which time missionaries and colonialism sweep in to change the lives of the villagers.

He is a proud man and is incapable of dealing with the change this brings and the book draws to a climactic conclusion that could leave you a little disappointed.

The power and beauty in this book is the simplicity of its writing. I don’t mean by that that it’s not clever, it’s just very to the point, the lives of the villagers are ruled by proverbs and when you’re reading Things Fall Apart you feel like you’re reading one of Aesop’s Fables or a book with old fairy tales in it.

And to prove t hat simple does not equal ugly, check out these couple of paragraphs;

“At last the rain came. It was sudden and tremendous. For two or three moons the sun had been gathering strength till it seemed to breathe a breath of fire on the earth. All the grass had long been scorched brown, and the sands felt like live coals to the feet. Evergreen trees wore a dusty coat of brown. The birds were silenced in the forests, and the world lay panting under the live, vibrating heat. And then came the clap of thunder. It was an angry, metallic and thirsty clap, unlike the deep and liquid rumbling of the rainy season...Palm trees swayed as the wind combed their leaves into flying crests like strange and fantastic coiffure.

When the rain finally came, it was in large, solid drops of frozen water which the people called ‘the nuts of the water of heaven’....The earth came quickly to life and the birds in the forests fluttered around and chirped merrily. ..As the rain began to fall more soberly and in smaller liquid drops, children sought for shelter, and all were happy, refreshed and thankful.”

Aren’t you just there and part of it? Lovely.

Achebe takes you in to the lives of these villagers. The book feels like it’s not going anywhere, but in fact you’re just learning about their lives – learning about their customs – how they deal with justice, death, marriage, birth and all that life brings in between.

Okonkwo sees the missionaries as a threat to this life. They come and denounce the Gods that they follow and some people are converted. When Okonkwo’s son, Nwoye, converts to Christianity, Okonkwo washes his hands of him, feeling he’s betrayed his life and way of living.

The colonial governors and officials are a step further along – people who don’t understand their way of life and don’t wish to, merely looking to change their customs to the “right” ones, as they see them.

I know the book is supposed to leave you feeling outraged at colonialism – how dare these people come in and ruin whole villages – but I think I felt a little differently. To me the book represents Okonkwo’s total inability to deal with change and the unknown. As much as the colonial governors make no effort to understand how things work in Umuofia, Okonkwo is so filled with rage that he will not attempt to converse with them either and is instead intent on waging war.

This is not a post extolling the virtues of colonialism by any means but I don’t think that the issue is quite as black and white as it’s supposed to be. At the end of the book, there is reference to a book The Commissioner is writing which is going to be called ‘The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger’ and I’m guessing this could be a reference to Joseph Conrad’s book – Heart of Darkness, which is mentioned in the post over at Nose in a Book.

This is where Achebe has excelled where so many fail – he’s written a book that’s easy to read but yet provokes your mind into turning issues around and around and upside down. You don’t need vast tracts or points rammed down your throat, Achebe makes them subtle but they reverberate in your head long after you’ve turned the last page.


*Also. Remember me saying how I’d never heard of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich until my Dad recommended it along with some other people? When I uncovered my box set, guess who was in there?!

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

I can see the sea

This weekend was the weekend of the big squeeze. My sister, brother-in-law, two eldest nephews and their Irish Setter came to stay with my Mum for the weekend and I came to join them. That makes 6 people, a big dog and 2 cats in a 2-bedroom house. Yes, it’s every bit as claustrophobic as you can imagine.

Especially when Rowan forgets that she’s a dog and decides to sit on the sofa the second you get up to make yourself a drink and then do sad eyes at you so you don’t have the heart to move her.

In an attempt to stave off cabin fever and take advantage of the lovely weather we were in for, we went out for an adventure on the Saturday to Mappleton.

You know how I’m always banging on about people thinking Hull is on the coast? Well it isn’t, it’s on the banks of an estuary, trust me, you don’t want to be paddling in the Humber. But the coast isn’t too far away and when I was younger we were always heading on trips to Hornsea to eat fish and chips and paddle about.

Mappleton is about 10 minutes away from Hornsea but has one major advantage if you have a dog. You can let them off the lead on this beach. Dogs are persona non grata on big public beaches, but they’re allowed in the odd spot here and there and Mappleton is one of them.

To be honest, I think I’d rather set up camp on the beach here than be rammed in by the crowds at Hornsea. The beach is gorgeously sandy, with a few pebbly bits and it only took 2 seconds for me to kick my shoes up, attempt to roll up my jeans (note to self, skinny jeans were not made for paddling, not when you’ve got calf muscles like mine, you don’t stand a chance of rolling them up) and get my feet wet.

The water is a little suspiciously and oddly foamy when the waves come in. It made me feel like I definitely didn’t want to put my hands in it and then touch my mouth. I’m sure it’s not dirty at all, it just didn’t look appealing. But I was happy to stick my feet in and trot about.

Standard blog photo of feet in the sea.

Rowan loved the experience, capering about on the beach like the mad Irish Setter she is, full of seemingly unending energy. There was no getting her in the water however, she was scared of it and would run up the shore and then bark incessantly at the waves as they came rolling in. No amount of cajoling could get her in there and one incident involved my sister and I becoming so preoccupied with getting Rowan in the water that we didn’t see a freakishly large wave coming in and got much more than our ankles wet in the process.

There are rocks to scramble about on but unfortunately Eddie the Ankle Egg prevented me from doing any scrambling. He’s doing really well but only if I move in a forward motion, any attempt to twist my foot and he lets it be known that he’s not happy about it.

After letting Rowan expel some energy we went back to the car, dusted off the sand and headed in to Hornsea to visit Sullivans to get fish and chips. I’m sure there are plenty of fish and chip shops in Hornsea but this is the one that we always went to and the one I will always go to. The chips are gorgeous big thick chunks of potato, loads of grease, terribly bad for you but absolutely perfect.

We ate them on a bench on the seafront, wondering why on earth it wasn’t busier than it was. It was a lovely day, perfect beach weather, not too hot at all but it wasn’t anywhere near as crowded as I thought it would be. Maybe people had packed up and gone to Bridlington or Scarborough for the day. Who knows? I didn’t care as it meant we got a bench to sit on. Rowan wasn’t thrilled about being on her lead but she was soon appeased with an ice cream.

Then it was back in the car to go home, at which point we all seemed to fall asleep. Obviously the sea air tired us all out. Whilst everyone was asleep I snuck outside to sit in the sun and read the next classic on my list and try and fail to take arty pictures of myself.

Then it was pizza out on the decking (sleeping 6 people in a 2 bedroom house is actually much easier than finding room to feed 6 people in a 2 bedroom house) and then an evening of Mum, me and my sister sitting in the kitchen talking, whilst the menfolk watched Jurassic Park.

All in all, the perfect Saturday.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Finished - Yarn Fairy Blanket


That’s what goes through my head when I realise that I have a finished object on my hands. It’s basically a series of sounds – whooping and hollering with some shrieking thrown in for good measure.

The noises increase to fever pitch levels when I do a photoshoot with said finished object – when it is laid out in all its finished glory while a snap away like a craft obsessed David Bailey.

And so I (and my head noises) would like to present to you...

My finished ripple blanket.

*pause for shrieking excited noises*

I can’t remember the exact date I started it, some point in the Easter holidays, I think possibly Easter Monday and finished on 30th June. So about 2 months to complete. To be honest it would have been finished much quicker but I kept having to put it down to cross stitch Christmas cards and make mobiles and stitch babygros and start albums of holidays in France.

(Ooh actually I’ve been quite crafty over the past couple of months. Well done me.)

Who would have thought that at the beginning of this year I couldn’t ripple at all? Who remembers the spitting out of the dummy and the wails of “I’m never going to be able to do this! I hate rippling!” and blaming it all on being left handed (not a card I pull out often but I find it does occasionally work well).

I think that, and it pains me to say this, the problem was just that I wasn’t concentrating very hard on that initial foundation chain and making sure I was counting properly. I’ve always struggled with counting. It’s because I’m left handed. No? Can’t use it there either? Damn....

But whatever the problem, it’s now sorted and I am a rippling machine. I increase and decrease with the greatest of ease and there was only a couple of times where there was a bit of swearing and frogging of a row because I’d forgotten to decrease or stuck an extra increase in somewhere.

There is one major drawback to rippling versus my beloved granny squares though and that’s do with transportation. Granny squares are good to take away with you somewhere because you just have to shove your balls of wool in somewhere and you can easily build some stacks of grannies. When you’re rippling though, it’s only really transportable in the early stages, soon it gets pretty big and unwieldy and it’s just not possible to take with you places. That was pretty annoying.

This blanket is destined to be a summer blanket. My vision is that I can go to a park and take it with me and lay all my stuff out on it and not get grass stains on my bum. And make people jealous.

The reason why I love this blanket? Because it’s a special Yarn Fairy blanket. I didn’t buy any of the wool myself for this blanket, it all came from the Yarn Fairy. You may remember she visited me on my birthday, coming in 2 guises, as Heather from Little Tin Bird and also as my Mum’s friend Lorraine. As luck would have it, all the colours went together (obviously not luck, the Yarn Fairy knew what she was doing!) and I set about rippling away.

At one stage I wasn’t sure if I was going to buy another set of balls and carry on rippling but I decided that I would keep this purely as a Yarn Fairy Blanket, made just from what she had given to me. Also it turned out that by the time I was getting to the end of the yarn, I felt the blanket was big enough to sit on in the park.

It’s been an exercise in colour bravery for me as well. As I’ve mentioned before my natural instinct is to fall into creating patterns. Random is a dirty word in my brain. Order is where it’s at. But I knew it wouldn’t be right for the Yarn Fairy Blanket so I forced myself to be random. Kind of. I built it up in sets, taking all the wool and working out what order I would use them, then do the same thing again, making sure I wasn’t putting the wool in the same order as before. It was good, it was a way of combining my need to be organised with a need for the blanket to look good. Everyone loves a bit of compromise.

I desperate want to make an awful crochet pun about being hooked on rippling but I’m reigning myself in.

But oh look at this! I appear to be rippling again already...addictive.

Just in case you wanted to know stats about the yarn – here you go:

Special by Stylecraft
1061 – Plum
1019 – Cloud Blue
1084 – Magenta
1188 – Lavender
1034 – Sherbet
1083 – Pomegranate

Life DK by Stylecraft
2359 – Melon
2346 – Mixtures blue haze
2357 - Aqua

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Tess of the d'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy

When I decided I would read 12 classics this year, this is the kind of book I had in mind. Serious heavy classic stuff. Tess has been sitting on my bookshelf for absolutely ages and I’d managed to studiously ignore it for the first 5 months of the year. It just seemed a little too heavyweight. Plus whenever you mention Thomas Hardy people tend to groan and go “Oh my god he’s soooooooooo awful. He’s so depressing. He’s so grim.”

But June came along and I decided it was time to man up. Besides if this resolution has taught me one thing it’s that these classics are never quite what they seem.

It came close to the wire with this one, I finished it on 29th June, meaning that I’m still on track for reading 12 in a year. It wasn’t the easiest read I’ve had in places and there were times when I wanted to sigh and ask “Really? How much more can she take?!” but I love love loved this book.

First up. Hello tragic love story. Heathcliff schmeathcliff. Angel and Tess’s love story is far greater and more powerful than Heathcliff and Kathy. Their love is the kind of all consuming, can’t do without each other love that I was expecting from Wuthering Heights.

But the key word we have to remember here is tragedy. Tragedy all the way. I can see why people think Hardy is depressing, Tess’s story is almost unbearably sad and sometimes the book feels as if it’s one continuous list of shitty things that happen to her. I probably wouldn’t recommend it if you were perhaps feeling a little low (although you could draw comfort from the fact that no matter how bad your life is at least it isn’t as bad as Tess’s). But behind all the awfulness is just beautiful writing. Hardy is descriptive and you able to fully immerse yourself in the scenes he creates for you.

For instance, how about this sentence,

“The drops of logic Tess had let fall into the sea of his enthusiasm served to chill its effervescence to stagnation.”

Or this one,

“The pair were, in truth, but the ashes of their former flames.”


It’s probably not the one to read if you have feminist leanings, you’ll be crawling the walls with temper by the end of it. The subjugation of women is rife in it....or is it? You could also argue that Tess was the original independent woman – carrying on in the face of adversity, not asking for help when she could have done and getting her stiff upper lip in place. But nevertheless, she is nothing without her love, as she writes to him at one point;

“I would be content, ay, glad, to live with you as your servant, if I may not be your wife; so that I could only be near you, and get glimpses of you, and think of you as mine.”

Tess seems to lurch from one crisis to the other and just when you think her happiness is finally secured, it is snatched away from her and she is plunged into despair once more.

At times it was a little rough, hence why it took me a whole month to plough through, but towards the end I found myself turning the pages faster and faster as I willed Angel to come back to her and followed him through the countryside on his search to be reunited with his one true love.

Don’t worry, I haven’t just given away the ending. And I won’t. But if you have read Tess of the d’Urbervilles I just need to quickly say something to you,

“Oh my god I did not see that coming!”

I really didn’t. It’s not often that endings catch me unawares but this one sure as hell did, leaving me desperately searching for someone else who’d read it to say “Oh my god. What just happened?!”

Is it a happy ending? I think we know enough about Hardy to know that no it probably isn’t. But is it? All I can say is that Tess is happy at the end.

One word. Beautiful.

Friday, 1 July 2011

June Flickr Favourites

Months go by and the photos I take each day appear to get weirder and weirder. I think they call it scraping the barrel. I call it, “I don’t have a very exciting life.”

Whatevs people, I like that I’m documenting every tiny little detail of my life. It’s fun to look back and go “Oh yeah! I remember that.” Small things which wouldn’t ordinarily stay in your head but which provided you with a moment of happiness. Not big things, but it’s nice to look back and remember those feelings.

So what happened in June?

5th – I went to see Take That didn’t I?! God this feels like it was longer ago than the beginning of this month. I remember the horror of realising I wouldn’t be able to get tickets and then the rush of elation when I managed to snaffle the last ticket that a friend of a friend had going spare. And then began the wait that seemed to stretch on forever until suddenly it was upon us.

It was a brilliant night. Great show (although not as spectacular as the Circus tour and a little too Robbie-centric in my opinion) and it was fun to screech and scream like a small child. What was less fun was the long journey home after the concert, we’d opted to travel there and back in the same day which meant not getting back to Hull until after 2am on the Monday morning. I praised my clever forward planning for taking that day off work.

6th – It’s fun to do something new. And this month I started something very new, namely my album for my holiday in France last year. I’ve already bored you senseless with it in this post

10th – This month also saw me taken on my Magical Mystery Tour by The Person to South Lakes Wild Animal Park where I got up close and personal with all manner of creatures, but mostly fell in love with lemurs. (Still can’t believe I’ve got a photo like that by the way.) I posted about this here.

14th – You know when you have an item of clothing that just makes you happy? This is mine. I saw it in the window of Dorothy Perkins a while ago and knew it had to be mine. I saved my pennies and bought it this month. I would have worn it every day if I thought it was appropriate. It just screams summer to me. I wear it on a sunny day and I’m all bright and breezy and I can wear it on a dark and gloomy day and bring a little ray of sunshine to the office. (And if you did want to buy it, it’s in the sale now grrrrrrrrr)

26th – Speaking of the sun, when it has shown its face it has been absolutely marvellous to take advantage of Dad’s lovely big garden with its table and chairs and big garden umbrella. This day saw me feeling pretty ropey after a couple of nights out in a row, plus I was nursing Eddie the Ankle Egg So I took myself outside with a cup of tea, some chocolate and Tess of the d’Urbervilles (which I was woefully far behind on if I was to meet my target of finishing it at the end of the month) and had the best lazy Sunday ever in the garden.

30th – Hands up if you love the feeling of a finished WIP? Me too! And today officially saw me finish my ripple blanket A woo. hoo. There will be a proper post devoted to this momentous occasion, but I’m waiting for some nice weather so we can try and have a photoshoot outside.


6 months down, 6 months to go....