Tuesday, 31 May 2011

May Book Review

Book me up people. I feel like it’s been longer than a month since I did one of these.

Wuthering Heights took up a lot of this month – if you missed my stellar review then pop here.

On the agenda this month?

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter – Kim Edwards

I felt a kind of overwhelming disappointment with this book. I guess that’s what happens when you read a book that everyone has raved about. I didn’t really know what it was about, I just heard lots of people saying it was good and saw lots of copies lying about the place. Culture Friend kindly lent me her copy and I got on it as soon as possible – mainly because I’ve been in a book debt to her for a very very long time, if I finished this book I would officially be all square with her.

Basically a woman gives birth to twins. Her husband delivers the baby and upon seeing that the daughter is Down’s Syndrome he gives her to a nurse to be put into a home before the wife sees her. The wife is told that the daughter died shortly after being born. The nurse doesn’t take the baby to the home and instead runs away with her to raise her by herself.

The book follows both families, told in alternate chapters, as the children grow up and move on with their lives. The couple’s marriage starts to fall apart – wifey can’t get over the death of her daughter and hubby struggles with the enormity of the secret he’s keeping.

It was just a bit blah. I felt like it didn’t really get under the skin of any of the characters, instead painting with broad brush strokes. I like a bit of meat, I like to know how they’re feeling and why they’re feeling that way and this book just didn’t really dig deep enough for me.

Plus I seem to struggle with books that try to cope with large expanses of time in a relatively short book. Give me a tome that I’m going to have problems carrying and I’ll be totally happy, but give me something that covers the same time span that I can fit in my handbag and, unless the writer is supremely talented, it’s not going to work for me. At the end I had the feeling I was just reading to finish my book debt, rather than because I really cared about the book.

I wouldn’t go as far to say “Don’t read it” but maybe I would say “Don’t buy it” see if you can nick someone else’s copy.

The Year of the Flood – Margaret Atwood.

I’m not normally a one book girl. Usually there’s a couple on the go – one at home and one that lives at work (I read on my lunch breaks and...you know...when people leave me alone in the office). But occasionally there comes along a book that totally consumes me and there’s no room for anyone else.

This is one of those books.

I think I’m going to struggle to convey how much I enjoyed this book and I’m already pretty certain that it’s going to be the Book of the Year, I can’t see how anything’s going to beat it to be honest.

Year of the Flood takes you to a parallel universe, where everything seems at once familiar and yet strange. Some kind of plague has wiped everyone out, leaving Toby and Ren to tell the story of how the world got to this point. The world is a mildly terrifying place – the CorpSeCorp are a terrifying security force in charge of law enforcement, people live within compounds, like the Healthwyze compound where suspect vitamins are made and distributed. The ‘pleebs’ are the run down areas of town, occupied by outlets of Secretburger (the secret being that you don’t know what meat the burgers are made out of) and ruled by mobs. In the fields folic green rabbits and rakunks and there are liobams – lion/lamb splices.

Toby and Ren are members of The Gardeners, a cult that believe in the good of God and his earth – think super hippies and you’d be on the right path. They live on their Edencliff Rooftop Garden.

We start the story after the plague has hit – Toby is stuck in the AnooYoo Spa where she worked and Ren is stuck in the Sticky Zone, a safe room in the Scales and Tails club where she works. Year 25 is the year of the flood and we then go back and start from Year 1 and hear the story of the world from Toby and Ren in turn, before we catch up in Year 25 and their attempts to escape from the places they’re trapped in.

It is amazing. I gobbled it up like a greedy book reader. I could have read forever. I was angry when the story ended because I could have read about them forever. In a way this book contrasts nicely with The Memory Keeper’s Daughter – both don’t contain great amounts of detail, but Atwood handles it supremely better than Edwards. Whereas Edwards’ lack of detail left me not caring about any of the character, Atwood left me begging for more.

And more is on its way. When I discovered that Atwood had published a book called Oryx and Crake a few years before, which features The Gardeners and a lot of the same characters, I was ordering it quicker than you can say Greedy Book Reader. What better recommendation could you get?


Book of the month?

Erm....The Year of the Flood obvs.

And whilst we're on the subject of monthly reviews...I've decided to drop the Photo Scavenger Hunt. It was just getting too complicated, I have enough trouble finding a photograph each day without putting more pressure on myself! Plus compiling the posts was just becoming an annoyance - once the annoyance/pleasure balance gets thrown out like that I think it's best to drop it. I don't want things to become a chore.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Running Woman - Part 2

About three years ago I joined a gym for the first time ever. I would just do a little bit of running on the treadmill, I used to try and run for 1km which would near on kill me. However periodically I would suffer from horrendous pain in my shins. I could never explain what the pain was – I could move my foot and leg about quite happily and even run on it, but I couldn’t bear to touch my shin because it was so painful. As in – having trousers touch my shin would hurt. I would constantly check my shin, convinced that there was a massive bruise there but there was never a sign of one.

I couldn’t work out what it was. I asked someone who apparently knew what they were talking about if it could be shin splints but they scoffed and said it couldn’t possibly be that. Me being the fool I am I believed them.

Fast forward to nowadays and the pain has made a bit of a comeback. I’ll go running and not have any problems, but a few hours later a familiar pain will appear – only ever in my left leg.

I’ve learned every stretch in the book and do them daily to strengthen my muscles.

I bought new trainers going to a lovely man who knew what he was talking about.

Two weeks ago I was struck down by another bout of this pain. I asked around and someone sent me a link.

Guess what?

It’s shin splints.

But whilst I was reading the website and nodding vigorously at all the points and going “Yes! That’s like me!”, I was feeling down the front of my leg and was kind of horrified to discover a very large lump half way down my left shin. Now I’m no medical expert but I’m pretty sure that lumps on your leg are not a good thing.

I spoke to a colleague who runs marathons and she said she was familiar with my problem and that she’d ended up having physio on it. I asked about running through it – the strategy I had been adopting – and she said it probably wasn’t a good idea because she’d done that and had developed a stress fracture.

Cue panic.

I placed a call to Hull Physio Direct and spoke to a very nice man who said that it sounded like a biomechanics problem. The shin splints is being caused by the way in which I run, which is why it’s a problem that keeps reoccurring and isn’t getting better the fitter I get.

So basically I run weird. (Cue paranoid thoughts. My god maybe I do run like Phoebe from Friends!)

The diagnosis?

No. More. Running.

At least, no more running until I’ve been seen by a physiotherapist and a podiatrist to assess whether it is a biomechanics problem or not. If it is, it should be fairly easily sorted with some orthotics, inserts I can wear in my shoe/shoes to correct whatever it is I’m doing. But if it is a biomechanics problem, running on it before I’ve seen them will just cause the damage to happen again. The lump is most likely swelling or is a thickening of the tissue which has occurred because of overuse.

So I’m on a strict regime of icing and ibuprofen (which is working, the lump is definitely getting smaller thank goodness).

I am not a happy bunny. Just when I’d really gotten in to running. Just when I’ve got to a point in my life where I’m enjoying my body and I feel like it’s letting me down. I’m so incredibly frustrated and maddened by the whole thing I can’t explain it. And the worst of it is that I’ve no idea when I’ll be able to see a physiotherapist – hopefully it will be no more than 3 weeks but I’m at the mercy of a waiting list.

I would love to go and see one privately but can’t afford it so that’s out. In the meantime I’m still allowed to do things that don’t irritate it – Zumba is still ok so that’s allowed and I’ve booked myself into an extra Spinning class so that I can try and keep my cardio activity up. I know that swimming is another option but I don't have a swimming costume that fits me (my wardrobe still mainly consists of clothes that are too big for me and require belting up and tucking in) and as my gym doesn't have a pool, it would be an extra cost for me to go to a swimming pool.

There’s no way I’m not running the Race for Life (which is now 7 weeks away), whether I’m allowed to or not, I’ve trained for it and I’ll be doing it. Shin splints won’t make my leg fall off, it’ll just make it hurt and I can handle that.

My advice to you would be to not run past me – when people jog past me at the moment, my eyes narrow into jealous little slits and unpleasant thoughts of ‘accidental’ tripping cross my mind. It’s not pretty.


And on another note - I seem to be having serious issues commenting on people's blogs at the moment, is anyone else having this problem? I go to comment and when I hit edit it wants me to put my log-in and password in, so I do that and then I return to the comment and hit enter and it wants me to put my log-in and password in ad infinitum. Ring any bells with anyone else?

So I'm sorry I haven't disappeared I am still reading and desperately trying to comment!!

Edited: Aha! Just after I wrote this I found the answer to all my problems from TopChelseaGirl - untick the 'Keep me signed in' box and that rectifies the problem. Hurrah!

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Running Woman - Part 1

A few people have asked me how my running is going since I made my resolution to run a 5km this year. I’ve been meaning to tell you all about this for so long now and so much has happened that it’s now going to have to be a two-parter such are the tales I have to tell.

I had decided on a strategy when it came to training which basically avoided having to run outdoors for as long as possible. I’m sure I’ve told you all before about my fear of running outdoors but in case I haven’t....I have a fear of running outdoors which largely centres around my belief that everyone in the whole wide world is looking at me and scrutinising me and thinking I look like an idiot. It’s like a cross between extreme self obsession and self consciousness.

So I told myself that I wouldn’t run outdoors until I knew beyond all shadow of a doubt that I could run 5km on a treadmill. You can imagine the mix of delight and horror I felt when I ran 5km on a treadmill – hurray I’d done it but oh no, nowhere to hide, time for outdoor running.

I came up with another strategy.

I would plan out a load of 5km routes using Run my Route so I would have lots to do and wouldn’t get bored running the same route.

Yeah you guessed it, major delaying tactic.

In the end I decided to steel myself. I had to do this. I had to get over it. No-one would be looking at me, nudging their friends and saying that I run like Phoebe out of Friends. No-one would even notice me.

To be on the safe side I got up at 7am one Saturday morning and went on my first outdoor run.

I was expecting it to be tough. After all the beauty of the treadmill is that it’s a) flat and b) keeps you at a steady, constant pace. Outside I would be subject to the vagaries of unbalanced paving stones, leaves and a complete inability to pace myself.

So you can imagine my astonishment when I discovered that actually running outside really isn’t that much harder than running on a treadmill and is a hell of lot more interesting.

My overall time was a little bit slower than a treadmill but that was to be expected given that I was pacing myself and was probably running fast and then a bit slower and then a bit faster.

Once the ice was broken I was rearing to go. I have to give myself a little pep talk every time and remind myself that the world doesn’t revolve around me and it’s highly unlikely I look totally nuts when I’m running and then I plug my earphones out and off I go.

I can’t believe how much I enjoy it. I can’t believe I’ve just said that. Me. Me who hates running. It’s like I’ve had a brain transplant.

I feel like I’m part of the secret gang. When you see other runners on the street we give each other little smiles before we’ve passed each other. We know what the other person’s feeling. We’re runners. I’ve learned to avoid dogs, I guess it’s the wolf in them, but all dogs see a runner and suddenly become very alert and want to join in the fun. Although I have to say that the fear of getting a Westie tangled up in your legs doesn’t half push you to run that little bit faster.

I wouldn’t be without my i-pod when I’m running – or more specifically the running cd that Dorothy got me for my birthday. Absolutely amazing tunes on there that are, funnily enough, perfect for running to. My new favourite is Electric Light Orchestra’s ‘Hold On Tight’ because it has a brilliant beat and makes you feel jolly as you’re running along and they’re singing in your ear “Hold on tight, to your dreams.”

Yeah I know, it’s just a 5km but it’s a big deal for me.

All has been going so well that I have started, in the back of my head, to plan to run a 10km at some point. I can handle 5km no problems now. I’m not running it in a particularly good time at all but my only goal is to keep running for that distance, not to break any land speed records.

I went back on Run my Route and planned out some longer routes to have a bash at.

Things were going well.


Monday, 23 May 2011

Innocence lost

One day in 1991, a 17 year old footballer started his career with a rather famous team.

At the same time, there was a little girl in Hull who was 8 years old. She had an older brother, whom she adored and he was into football and supported Liverpool. So in that perverse way that little sisters have, the little girl decided she would support Liverpool’s biggest rival instead.

It seems obvious that an 8 year old would develop her first ever crush on a footballer and this little girl fell head over heels in love with this 17 year old footballer.

And so, for as long as she can remember, she’s been a little bit in love with him.

Her bedroom was covered in posters of him that Just17 and Sugar had published. There were stickers on her files at school. She didn’t care that other people didn’t understand why she fancied him – saying that he was all hairy and had little piggy eyes. She thought he was wonderful.

Other footballers came on the scene. Probably better looking but the little girl remained faithful to her footballer. As time went on, it just became engrained and one of those things that was central to life – the sun rises in the morning, politicians are crooked, the little girl loves this footballer.

Eventually the little girl wasn’t really a little girl anymore. She was a grown up and she could have left the mindless crush behind with her school days but she chose not to because now she liked him for other reasons. She liked him because he wasn’t like all the other footballers, he wasn’t in the public eye, he didn’t court the newspapers, he did his job and that was it. It was an admirable quality – in an age where footballers were revered as demi-gods who could do whatever (and whoever) they liked, this footballer was different. He didn’t go in for all that nonsense (not much at least, the little girl remembers a time when he went out with someone pretty famous and it didn’t end well) for the main part and got on. He didn’t deliberately seek fame, choosing not to play for a bigger National team when he could have because he felt loyal to the country of his birth.

In short, the no-longer-little girl loved him because he wasn’t like all the other footballers.

So you can imagine that someone who has had a crush for 20 years on someone (my god I can't believe it's been that long. How am I so old?!), would be more than a little bit upset to find out that the object of her crush is (allegedly) exactly like all those other footballers.

The no-longer-little girl isn’t a total idiot. She’s actually a pretty cynical individual who had experience from a young age that some men can’t keep it in their pants. But at the same time she doesn’t like believing that everyone’s the same, she wanted to believe that some people are different and can be trusted. She doesn’t want to become that cynical. Maybe that’s the little girl inside her still wanting to believe in fairy castles and handsome footballer princes.

Either way, the little girl’s heart has been broken a little bit this weekend. And that makes the no-longer-little girl sad for her.

Obviously all of this might not be true and the little girl’s crush might still be the person she wants him to be. She’ll always remain hopeful.

(I've had this as draft because I wasn't sure if I was going to have police bashing through my door in the middle of the night, but seeing as the News at Ten just named him, I reckon I'm safe.)

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Fighting the Fear

"Sometimes it is good to try something new." I tell myself over and over again. "Don't get stuck in your comfort zone, give something else a go."

And so, many months ago, I decided that I would try something new craft-wise. Dorothy had bought a copy of Make (I've tried to find an online link and can't anywhere for some reason - it's a fancy crafty type magazine) and in there was a tutorial for a pretty wall-hanging/mobile for a little person.

Step 1 - Fold fabric in half, right sides together, and pin letter template to it and get cutting.

I knew that my niece's Christening was happening at the end of May and decided I would make one of those for her.

I'm a little retarded when it comes to fabric stashing. I obviously didn't get the memo that this was something I should have been doing so I don't have this magical stash that crafty people always refer to. But I did my best to pick up a little fat quarter here and there and decided I had enough to set about making it.

And then I stalled.

Step 2 - Get stitching! Stitch all the way around the outside (leaving about 5mm from the edge) until you've got about a 3cm gap. Then turn inside out, stuff with toy stuffing and then sew up.

You see, although I know it's good to do something new, I get scared of doing new things. Like really scared. And I do that thing where you just pretend that you're not scared and that there isn't an impending deadline - some might call it sticking your head in the sand.

Which is how I got to the point where the Christening was 2 weeks away and I hadn't done anything.

The problem? This project involved using my greatest enemy. A sewing machine. I have no idea why, but I'm scared of them. I've never so much as even touched a sewing machine before and I seem to have a pathological fear of sewing my finger to a curtain or something. It's silly I know and I just need to get on with it and learn but this fear was the main cause of the Head in the Sand situation.

So I decided to take the easy way out and hand-sew the letters instead. I know, I know. But it was the only way that it was going to get done so I stopped behaving like an idiot, pinned my letter templates to my fabric, wielded some scissors and a needle and thread and got my act together.

Step 3 - Hurrah! You have all your letters. Now attach about 25cm of embroidery thread to each letter so you can hang them from your twig/stick/piece of dowelling.

And pretty soon (like really soon, this process does not take long at all) I had one name. Hurray for me. But nothing to actually make a mobile out of. My saviour came in the form of a bamboo type plant thing that resides in my office. Part of it has died and my colleague was getting rid of the dead branches and they were perfect  for me. Way easier than having to forage in the park for a stick that a dog has probably had a wee on.

Add some ribbon and I do believe you have one finished wall-hanging thing.

Step 4 - Tie each letter to the stick making sure they've all got room. Put a wee speck of superglue on the string to make sure they don't fall off the stick. Try not to superglue a pair of scissors to your hand like I did.

I feel enormously proud of myself. I know I've technically cheated because I didn't use a sewing machine so haven't really conquered my fear but I have never sewed before so, you know, baby steps people, baby steps.

And although I know a sewing machine would be so much quicker, hand-sewing something this small doesn't really take that much time either.

Step 5 - Feel smug

Now. Who wants to commission me?!

Friday, 20 May 2011

Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte

If you are desperate to read Wuthering Heights there’s kind of a major plot revelation in this post. Sorry but there was no way I could explain how I felt about this book without revealing it and if you haven’t read it, you’ll be as shocked as I was.

Pretty much the only reason that I set myself the task of reading more Classics this year was purely because, well....I didn’t feel I’d read enough Classics. You know, people would talk about a book and I would have to just smile emptily and either fake it or admit that I hadn’t read it.

Even so, you hear enough about some Classics to have a vague idea of what they’re about and the main themes and storyline.

Like Wuthering Heights.

Erm....not so much.

So I started off reading Wuthering Heights with the sound of Kate Bush in my head and a vague knowledge that there’s Heathcliff and Cathy and they love each other but life is in some way difficult and the story is going to be about their turbulent time together.

Yeah. No-one tells you that Cathy bloody dies halfway through the book do they?!

We start off on a bit of a slow burn. Mr Lockwood is a tenant at Thrushcross Grange and comes across his landlord, some bloke called Heathcliff at his house (that’d be Wuthering Heights to you and me). Somewhat perturbed by the strange set up he sees there, Mr Lockwood returns to Thrushcross and gets his housekeeper, Ellen, to tell him the background.

Ellen is our narrator throughout the whole book (how come she never gets mentioned when people are bleating on about the moors?!) and starts us off from the very beginning, when Cathy’s father brings in a bedraggled orphan called Heathcliff into the family home and raises him alongside Cathy and her brother.

A side note: The family relations in this book are confusing to the max. Thank goodness my copy had a family tree in the front of it because otherwise I wouldn’t have had a clue who was who or what was what.

I won’t go into the whole plotline here, that’s why God invented Wikipedia. So you can read more there.
So there I am reading away, not really feeling the book to be honest. It’s one of those classics that requires concentration, which I’m not always brilliant at. But I’m sticking with it, even though I’m finding it hard to sympathise with any of the characters (seriously, Cathy’s just kind of a bitch and Heathcliff has some serious rage issues) when all of a sudden Cathy has a child (I must have missed the ever so subtle hints that she was pregnant, despite flicking back through the pages to find out where they were) and then BOOM she dies. What?! There’s still another book to go!

At this point I got in a bit of sulk with Wuthering Heights and put it to one side. I wasn’t really feeling the groove anyway and all of a sudden there was this curve ball into the mix and I didn’t know what to do. Plus there were Royal Weddings and Bank Holidays and stuff. But I knew I couldn’t give up and I had to make a concerted effort to get this finished by the end of the month if I was to stand a chance of completing my challenge.

The second half of the book is really all about Cathy and Heathcliff’s children, and Cathy’s nephew, Hareton, whom Heathcliff keeps cowed and deprived of his birthright of Wuthering Heights. (Hareton’s father, also Cathy’s brother, gambled the mortgage away to Heathcliff. Told you it was confusing.)

Cathy and Edgar’s child is helpfully called Cathy and she takes after her mother in her headstrong ways. Edgar tries hard to keep her away from Heathcliff but he eventually gets his grubby mitts on her, literally locking her up in Wuthering Heights and forcing her to marry his sickly, frail and totally irritating son, Linton.

In short the second half of the book is far more interesting than the first – the characters are more engaging, the plot is more interesting and it made me want to go back to the beginning of the book and read the first few chapters again, to better understand the situation that Mr Lockwood walks into when we first see Wuthering Heights.

I guess the book is about love. The inconvenience of love. The all consuming nature of love. Heathcliff and Cathy have that kind of destructive relationship that many people have either had themselves or know of someone else who’s had it. Heathcliff is the guy that you know you should stay away from, but for some reason, you can’t leave him alone, even though every bit of sense is telling you to stay away from him. Little Cathy shows the same destructive streak as her mother in his insistence on visiting Linton (before Heathcliff forces her to marry him). She says of her visits,

“...the rest of my visits were dreary and trouble – now, with his selfishness and spite; and now with his sufferings; but I’ve learnt to endure the former with nearly as little resentment as the latter.”

I nearly said out loud, “Why do you keep going back to bloody see him then you mentalcase?!”

The generations of the Linton and Earnshaw families seem doomed to perpetuate the mistakes of the previous generations. Hareton is treated by Heathcliff in the same way that Cathy treated Heathcliff when he was growing up in Wuthering Heights. Linton is as weak and ineffectual as his Uncle Edgar. To be honest, you can’t help but begin to despair of them all until the end of the book when Mr Lockwood returns to the area to discover that both Linton and Heathcliff have died, thus releasing everyone of the ties that bind them and allowing Cathy and Hareton to declare their love for one another.

Yeah you’re right. They are cousins. Don’t judge. This is an old book.

To be honest, my head is still a bit of a whirl when it comes to this book. I couldn’t tell you if I liked it or I didn’t, mainly because I’m still having to readjust my expectations and come to terms with the reality of this book rather than the Cathy and Heathcliff twaddle that everyone else seems to talk about. I’m starting to think that no-one has actually read the book and everyone’s faking it and just keeps talking about the same two people in the hope that no-one rumbles them.

But yeah, loving this challenge. Bring on the next one.

(It’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles. I’m not being easy on myself.)

Monday, 16 May 2011

SFD - The Aftermath

I have made it through to the other side alive. My first foray into Slutty Fancy Dress is over and done with and whilst I wouldn’t exactly call it a success, I wouldn’t say I have been scarred for life either.

I gathered a few observations during the night which I would like to share with you all;

- We went for a makeover at Shu Uemura in the afternoon of the hen do. This was a good call because at least it was one less thing to worry about on the night – we know we looked good. Plus we could choose wicked awesome false eyelashes. Most people chose lovely, subtle, classy eyelashes. Me? I chose massive black feathery ones.

- SFD requires alcohol. For me at least. I would love to be possessed with the kind of self confidence that allows people to strut into a bar in a groin skimming dress as if it’s no big deal, but alas, I am not. Alcohol helped me stop feeling quite so conscious.

- BUT. Be careful to not drink too much alcohol. We saw an incredibly inebriated Queen of Hearts at the end of the night and SFD + Copious amounts of alcohol = Very unclassy looking person.

- And on that note: When did Manchester become a hive of Hen Nights?! I don’t remember that from uni days at all. It’s kind of disappointing and tacky but my guess is they’re mainly in the area we were in and a small trip further afield would be L-plate free.

- BUT having lots of other Hen Parties around also in fancy dress took the pressure off somewhat. There are other people you can a) smile knowingly at and b) think to yourself. “Well at least I don’t look as bad as that.”

- Until the alcohol has kicked in and all the other Hen Parties were around I kept reminding people to “Fake it until you make it” – pretend like you don’t care and eventually you’ll stop caring. You can’t go out in SFD and look embarrassed about it, you have to forge ahead and just pretend this is a normal, every day activity for you.

- If you are wearing something as short as I was, get a pair of hotpants. They will make you feel better psychologically just knowing they’re there. The thought of people seeing your pants is less horrifying than the thought of people seeing some hotpants. Which is ridiculous I know, but it’s the same as letting people see you in a bikini over your bra and knickers.

- When you buy said hotpants, make sure you actually see them. Don’t just ask in the shop if they have black hotpants and have the shop assistant say “No but we can order some in for you to come and pick them up.” Then your housemate will kindly go and pick them up for you and send you the following text message “Got your hotpants for you. Did you know they were leatherette?” I think I died inside a little bit when I read that message.

- Going to The Birdcage was a good call. Mainly because it was mostly full of other Hen Parties. Yes this does mean an awful lot of tacky Hen Party paraphernalia flying about but it also means a distinct lack of men. Being around other women made me feel much less self-conscious. Had we just been in a club I would probably have wanted to kill myself, or the gobshite trying to feel me up.

- Younger blokes will do their best to perv discreetly. Older men will just openly turn into slobbering fools.

- When the Maid of Honour announces that she’s got a drinking game where you all have to pull the name of an Artist out of an envelope and then down your drink whenever a song by said Artist is played during the night – do not pull Michael Jackson out of the envelope. Seriously. That man was responsible for too many good songs. I had to be given a reprieve at the end of the night before I ended up in need of a stomach pumping.

- Knowing that the Hen had a good time made my feelings about SFD pale into significance. At the end of the day, this was about showing a friend a good time and she wanted to do fancy dress. As far as I’m concerned, that’s what I had to do.

Overall I’m glad I did it. I had a good time and I feel it’s something I can tick off some kind of mental list. I don’t want to look back and regret things – I already do that looking at pictures of a much younger, thin me, saying “Why did you cover yourself up girl?!” I feel I’ve been given a second chance now that I’ve lost the weight and at least I’ve taken advantage of that.

Have I changed my mind and become a devotee of fancy dress? Erm....no. I think it’s ridiculous (not to mention expensive). But being a good friend is more important to me than my feelings about wearing polyester and looking a bit of a twat.

(I don’t think you appreciate quite how slutty this SFD was. I would love to share a picture with you but I’m just not brave enough. I’m still praying that my brother doesn’t log into Facebook and see pictures of his little sister looking like Alice in Wonderland was never meant to.)

Friday, 13 May 2011


Erm so thanks blogger for completely spazzing out and deleting this post after it had been published. In case you haven't seen it already here it is again. 

I know that I’ve spoken about this before. My fear of fancy dress. It is a great one and is showing no signs of alleviating. I still hate fancy dress with all my soul and being but I am willing to accept that for some people it’s fun and if you’re going something for someone else you have to just suck it up and get on with it. It only lasts a few hours after all.

But there are different levels of fancy dress I’ve discovered. There are those where there is a fairly wide theme, take my friend’s hen do back in October 2010 which was a 50s/60s theme. Very broad, can be interpreted in many number of ways meaning that people can be as flamboyant or as reserved as they like. Or another friend who had a Pink Lady theme which meant that you could go for full on 50s regalia, or hire a Pink Lady jacket and sling it over your normal clothes.

But then there are those themes which are narrow. Narrow, narrow, narrow, leaving you with very little options.

These are the themes which really kill me and I’ve got one coming up which is narrow to the extreme.

This Saturday my friend is having a hen do in Manchester and she chose a fancy dress theme......Disney characters.

For a start I don’t like Disney. Maybe that makes me weird, maybe it doesn’t. But I don’t get the obsession some people have with Disney, clearly I was abused as a child.

I knew that this wasn’t going to be a theme that I would enjoy. But I didn’t realise how much worse things were going to get when I typed “Disney character fancy dress” into Google. I had officially entered the top tier of fancy dress dread...

....Slutty fancy dress.

SFD is the worst of all the kinds of fancy dress and the one that really makes me want to curl up into a little ball and cry myself to oblivion.

You know what I’m talking about. You’ve seen them. You know the hallmarks of a classic SFD –something very very very short involved, knee high socks come along to join the party and more often than not there’s a flash of more flesh than anyone needs to see.

It turns out that when it comes to Disney characters in fancy dress, you basically have one option. And boy is it slutty. It doesn’t matter which character you choose, it’s slutty. There is no getting away from it.

I chose Alice in Wonderland (mainly because it was the only Disney character I could think of). I thought that maybe I could fashion something myself, a blue dress, a white apron, black shoes, happy days. But then I realised that the cost of buying myself a blue dress and trying to make an apron etc would end up costing more than just getting some kind of ‘official’ fancy dress outfit.

I did find one Alice in Wonderland outfit that wasn’t slutty. It also cost £35.

I moaned and I grumbled and I complained. I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t. I really really didn’t. But in the end I knew I was just going to have to suck it up and go slutty.

I hadn’t really prepared myself for the level of sluttiness I would be reaching when I bought this outfit. It really does send a shiver down my spine every time I look at it.

One of my friends said she didn’t know why I was complaining. “But you’ll look good in it now that you’ve lost all the weight, your legs go on forever.” I understood what she was saying, and thank goodness I have lost the weight, if this was a year ago then I just plain wouldn’t have gone on this hen do rather than put myself through the horror of SFD. But I had to explain to her that I’d lost weight, not had a brain transplant. The fact is that my brain is not hardwired to embrace SFD, no matter how much I weigh.

One option is to turn to alcohol to numb the pain but again I need to be careful because the shoes that I’ve chosen to wear might be familiar to some. It’s the Embolism Shoes.Hurray!! And do you know what else I figured out? That Saturday will be the one year anniversary of the day that I went into hospital with said embolism. Some would say that this is officially a sign that I shouldn’t wear the shoes but it’s a good thing I don’t really believe in all that jazz. (But maybe I’ll take another pair and decide on the night, just in case I chicken out.)

So staying away from the alcohol means that I need to find some other way to make my peace with the SFD. I’ve told myself that it’s just this once and I’ve also told myself that I’ve seen worse sights wandering through Hull on a Saturday night. There’s a part of me that thinks, “Why the hell shouldn’t I do this for one night only?” I figure that the window of opportunity for me to be stupid and be silly and make a fool out of myself in public, is rapidly narrowing – soon I’ll be too old, I may succumb to middle age spread. I don’t want to look back and be gutted that I missed my chance to get my legs out in an inappropriately short skirt.

So I’m taking a deep breath. Buying a pair of hot pants. Pulling up my knee high socks and getting my SFD on.

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Crazy Cat Lady Part 10 - Lily

Remember when I wrote a post all about how I love my Fred? Didn’t I say that Lily would get her own turn?

I love my Lily because she has just ever so much of a touch of the crazies about her. If she was a human, Lily might be diagnosed with ADHD or something similar. Everything is done at a hundred miles per hour until she eventually crashes in a heap somewhere, chin out flat on the ground like a dog.

If Lily is particularly interested in something she starts to put her head on one side. This movement gets more and more exaggerated until her head is 180 degrees. I’ve never managed to get a picture of her doing this because I’m laughing too hard. Accompanying this extreme head tilting is the wide eyed stare – the eyes get bigger and bigger (and ever so slightly crossed) the further the head tilts until she resembles a bush baby.

One of Lily’s greatest loves? My i-pod earphones. If I’m at Mum’s I have to put them in the zip up compartment of my bag, otherwise, before I know it, Lily will walk past me, earphones in mouth, dragging the whole i-pod behind her.

Her other great love is tea towels. Mum puts them in the washing machine when they’re dirty and Lily duly pulls them out again and walks about the house, dragging them between her legs.

But her greatest love of all is her brother. She loves her Fred ever so much and always keeps an eye out for him. When they were tiny they wouldn’t go to sleep without each other but now that’s changed and they’re more independent, more likely to sleep somewhere on their own, but something happens during the day/night and eventually they migrate towards each other.

Lily acts as Mum to Fred, making sure he’s sorted, giving him a wash when she thinks he needs it (which is far more often than he thinks he does), making sure to get well behind his ears and under his chin. I have a brilliant video showing her washing him but that kind of technological wizardry is well beyond me so I can’t share it with you at the moment I’m afraid.

Lily is also a classic chitterer. Chittering is what I call the sound that cats make when they see birds. Lily will do it at anything that moves – like small flies and spiders. Birds get the biggest reaction out of her and the tail starts swishing like a mad person, meaning that you have to move everything out of her way before it gets knocked on to the floor. And if the ring-necked doves appear in the garden, her head nearly falls off. She’s not deterred by the fact that they’re half her size, she’d take them on given half the chance.

Lily sees things that aren’t necessarily there. She hones in on something on the carpet and the starey eyes begin. You pull your feet up on to the sofa, certain that a tarantula is going to appear from under the TV cupboard but nothing seems to happen. You go over to see what it is she’s looking at and discover that it’s a money spider. In fact, probably smaller than a money spider. You kill it for her and get it out of the way but she doesn’t quite believe it’s gone so will just sit and wait for it to reappear, she has patience like no other.

Patiently awaiting the return of the money spider. She was there for half an hour. For reals.

Lily is affectionate. Super affectionate. The kind of affectionate that will probably end up in someone falling down the stairs because she’s winding round their legs. The kind of affectionate that makes her miaow outside the bathroom door if you close it when you’re in the toilet. The kind of affectionate that means she will sit on the side of the bath while you’re in it. The kind of affectionate that’s knocked over glasses of wine due to an over-zealous nudge of the head.

Lily being affectionate while I cut the Rhubarb cheesecake on Mother's Day

Mostly I love her because she’s silly. Silly Lily.

Putting on a show for The Person on May Bank Holiday weekend

Monday, 9 May 2011


So as you may have guessed from the not very unsubtle hints in previous posts, I have now mastered the art of rippling. To be fair it’s been a long time coming, I seem to be the only person that has struggled with the art of rippling. Or at least the only person that’s been brave enough to prattle on about their incompetency for the blogosphere to read.

I had a couple of practice goes with some yarn that was hanging around not being useful and the first couple were disastrous. I can only blame myself. Clearly I am incapable of counting. It shouldn’t be hard to do multiples of 14 but for some reason my brain couldn’t cope with the mathematics and had some kind of meltdown.

This left me a little nervy about starting my ripple for real, even after the Yarn Fairy gave me all the yarn I could ever want to get started on my blanket. That’s right. I got scared of counting.

I decided I would wait until I had a nice quiet moment to myself during the recent bank holiday madness. I procrastinated and did all kinds of other things but eventually sat myself down to make that first initial scary chain. In the end I made it easy for myself, I would focus all my attention on what I was doing and Chain 14. And then stop. And then chain another 14. And stop. And so on, in the hope that my brain wouldn’t implode.

I had no idea how long to make my foundation chain so I just kept going until I felt like it. I didn’t want to necessarily make another mahoosive blanket but I didn’t want something not even big enough to wrap around myself.

It suddenly came to me in a flash of inspiration. Like everyone else I am holding out hopes for a good summer this year (god knows we deserve it). And in this summer in my head, I am spending lots of time in my local park, sunbathing and reading and eating ice cream. You know what’s missing from that picture? A blanket to sit on! Something to take with me so that I’m not forced to go him with either a wet backside, or scrunched up cardigan that I’ve been forced to sit on.

So it’s not going to be a massive blanket, but at least big enough to sit on. I tested it out by sitting on my foundation chain (yes really) and decided that I was good to rock.

I’ll be honest, I expected more tears and tantrums along the way. I thought things would be going wrong and I’d be having fits and going into a frenzy every five seconds, but it’s been smooth sailing all the way, going up and down over the gentle ripples as my blanket has slowly built up.

There has only been one incident of some kind of miscounting where a row had to be redone but no-one was harmed in the making of my spazzing out so all’s well that ends well.

I decided early on that I needed to try and consciously avoid repeating the same colour pattern all the way through. You know me, Little Miss Order and Neatness, I like my patterns, I like everything to “make sense”. But I knew that that probably wouldn’t be the best thing for a ripply blanket, it would cut it up into sections and wouldn’t flow nicely so I’ve had to force myself to deviate from my natural tendencies. It’s really tough to be honest, but I think it’s going ok so far.

The plan is to keep going until the yarn runs out and then see where we are. I think I’ll probably buy another one of each again to make it that little bit longer and then there’ll be more for the yarn stash of randomness.*

One thing that is missing however is a name. I don’t know what to call this blanket at all. Calling it the Ripple Blanket just doesn’t feel like enough. I mean this blanket has only come into being because of Heather and my Mum’s friend, Lorraine providing me with the yarn. Maybe it should be called the Hellaine Blanket? Or the Leather Blanket? Or the Yarn Fairy Blanket? Any suggestions would be most welcome.

It’s nice to have another big project on the go. Something to dip in and out of. I shouldn’t really be working on it at the moment because I’ve got loads of other things I should be doing but sometimes the call of the ripple is too strong...


*Speaking of the yarn stash of randomness, I dipped into it over the Easter break and produced some squares for Sarah London's Crochet a Rainbow project that I first heard about over on Lucy's blog. I love it when I can use up all my random bits of yarn that aren't big enough to make something properly with but I can't bare to throw away! I'm just waiting to get the address to send these guys off.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

The Not Really Resolutions: Update 3

1. Run 5km race: Running continues to go well. I am capable of running 5km and now it’s just a case of improving my fitness generally. Although my old knee problems have subsided, I still get terrible pain in my shins that isn’t shin splints but which no-one seems able to diagnose. I would like to run further, and in the back of mind I can hear a 10km calling but I don’t want to hurt myself. I’m considering just slowly increasing my distance and seeing how I go.

We’re also having training sessions as a group. One of the girls is rather helpfully going out with a personal trainer and he’s giving us some training for free. This involves improving our fitness and recovery times, running round cones and then doing 12 sets of 400m. It is difficult, but my competitiveness keeps me running, I don’t want to be the loser. We’re yet to run a whole 5km together which worries me slightly, I don’t want them holding me back goddamnit!

2. Crochet a ripple blanket: Mwah ha ha ha ha. I am an official rippler. It tried to break me down, it tried to crush me but eventually I have conquered it. In my last update I was practicing and things weren’t going well. I decided to start over with another practice session and really concentrated on my counting and suddenly all was going well – I think the first time round I had just run out of fingers and toes.

I would tell you more, but I really think it deserves a post of its own.

3. Back up photos on to CD: All the photos from my old laptop are now transferred on to CD. When it was done I started celebrating because I thought “Hurrah I can cross that off my list now!” but then I thought that really really I shouldn’t just be talking about my old laptop, even though that’s what I meant when I made this resolution. I should be backing up all my photos, including the ones on my current laptop and then I will be able to keep updating the CDs as I take more photos.

So that’s what I’m doing now. So I know I said last time that I wanted this one crossed off when I next did an update, technically it is crossed off but I’ve extended it to include more photos. I have bought more CDs and I’m ready to rock, I just need a quiet evening/weekend to sit down and sort them out. Hey I can ripple and copy photos at the same time and have a Not Really Resolution Day!

4. Paint my frog – Done, done and done.

5. Go to the cinema on my own: I’m pretty sure there’s something wrong with me. There is nothing that I want to see at the cinema. I don’t know why but nothing takes my fancy. I haven’t gone to the cinema at all let alone by myself. I could go and see some random film and just get it over with but I think we all know that your first time needs to be special (nudge nudge, wink wink).

6. Project 365: Carries on merrily. Over 100 photos taken and officially a third of the way through. Wowza. The turn in the weather and the plethora of bank holidays in April provided more photo opportunities but I continue to live in a state of fear that there’s going to come a day when I literally cannot find anything to take a photo of. All I can say is thank goodness for cats. On days when there’s nothing to photograph (meaning I really haven’t done anything) they provide willing (and hilarious) subjects.

7. Make album/scrapbook of my France 2010 holiday: Thanks goes to Alex for helping me with this one. She let me know about a deal on Snapfish which although I couldn’t take part in (it was for existing customers) did lead me to have a little browse around and discover that I could have all my photos printed for a bargain basement price. So I now have all my photos. I have my little book. I have all the little bits I saved along the way. I have a little list of all the things we did each day. I have a nice pen. In short. No excuses, time to get on with it!

I have also been looking at the photobooks you can create on Snapfish which seem like a really nice alternative to doing it yourself, I will definitely be bearing that in mind if I ever have another holiday! Or. How about completing one with all your favourite photos in from one year? That’s certainly started me thinking.

8. Travel to Belfast to see my family: Keep your fingers crossed guys but I might just have managed to save some money up for this one. I think my Mum’s going to be coming over with me and we’re looking provisionally at September to pop over for a long weekend. But funnily enough, some of my family are going to be coming over towards the end of May for my niece’s christening so I’ll be seeing them anyway!

9. Read 12 classics: I am still on schedule with this one. I was way ahead of schedule and then along came Wuthering Heights. It’s been on the go for ages but for some reason I can’t get a grasp on it and I ended up leaving it alone for a few weeks. Big mistake. This means I now have to get back into it. I need to get it finished this month or then I’ll be behind schedule. Noooooooooooo.

This reading of classics has also had an interesting effect on my overall reading. I’ve found myself now reading “easier” books generally rather than the options I normally go for because I feel like I need to rest my brain in between classics. Not sure how I feel about this, my intention of reading the classics was to expand my reading overall, not leave it virtually unchanged, or heaven forbid, worse.

10. Cross stitch one Christmas card per month: Also on track with this one. Four months have passed and four cards have been completed. I’m quite enjoying flipping through my overflowing file of charts and choosing something to cross stitch and having the time to stitch more complicated things. It’s also making me want to design some more of my own after the card I made in March.

The card on the bottom right is very cool and is Three French Hens, unfortunately some of it has been chopped off in the making of the mosaic.
Can't believe how much things have changed in a couple of months. I've gone from not being able to do several of my not really resolutions to being potentially on track to getting them all done. This is thanks to bloggy friends for acting as Yarn Fairies and Photo Fairies and the fact that my job is not only officially safe (hurray) but has also resulted in a payrise, meaning I've been able to save some dosh (bigger hurray).
I am looking forward to my next update already - please to god I'll have at least one thing crossed off!

Friday, 6 May 2011

Crazy Cat Lady Part 9 - The Striped Avenger

Round where I live there is a bit of a problem on the streets. It's kind of gross and horrible and you need to keep your wits about you when you're coming round for a cup of tea.

And when I say "wits about you", I mean keep your eyes peeled (not easy when it's dark, especially as there aren't any streetlights down our part of the street) and your feet nimble.

When people come for the first time they tut and shake their heads and say "Some people are awful. Why can't they pick up after their dogs?"

At this point we have to explain to people that the mess on the streets isn't the result of irresponsible dog owners, but is actually cat poo.

For reals.

I know it's hard to believe but it's true. And it's prolific. It's bountiful. Basically, there's a lot of it. And as soon as someone cleans it up, it reappears. For a long time Dorothy and I were unable to work out who the culprit was because it's at a cat metropolis around here, with cats coming at you from all sides and all angles.

But eventually the responsible party was caught red-handed.


The Striped Avenger!

Don't be fooled by her beautiful little face. (So beautiful that I've mistaken these photos for Maud a couple of times until I've seen the collar.) And definitely don't be fooled by her loving personality, as she winds herself around your legs and mews at you to stroke her. This is a poo monster.

She's not exactly light on her feet. She's most definitely a plus sized model. There was a rather hilarious moment during this photo-shoot when she aimed for a graceful leap on to next door's wall, only to not quite make it and instead dangle off the end of the post, her claws scrabbling frantically as she tried to haul her ample frame up. She failed and fell off and walked away in disgrace.

The Striped Avenger is a  really lovely cat so it's hard to be mad at her. But when you look like you're recreating Riverdance as you come home after a hard day at work you can't help but curse her a little.

Don't be fooled by that face!

Thursday, 5 May 2011

April Flickr Favourites

This was a good month for photos. The sudden appearance of the sun, a bit of craftiness, and a couple of bank holidays make for lots of photo opportunities.  

9th April - This was the first weekend that was gloriously sunny. I, like the rest of the UK, got completely caught up in it and I bought myself a summer skirt and went to sit in a park and read my book. However I failed to remember that blue skies do not a warm day make - it's still the beginning of April and all the sun in the world isn't going to make the temperature rise that far. But I sat and shivered it out like everyone else and made a secret little prayer to the weather gods that this weather will continue into summer.

12th April - Ok so I still almost shed a tear any time I think about the demise of my poor duck babies but instead I will try and focus on the good times. Even if they were only around for a week, I loved them so much it almost made my teeth hurt. And actually it's ok because I have discovered more duck babies, but they're for another post...

17th April - My first proper bit of embroidery and very proud I am of it too. Blogged about here, it still needs to be framed properly and I swear I will get around to it. Probably.

25th April - I don't even know if there are words for this one. Those cats crack me up something rotten and this is Fred at his very best. We excuse their poor behaviour on the fact that they are still babies, but they'll actually be three years old in August. I envy those people who have well behaved cats that don't jump on work surfaces and scavenge for food even though they're well fed - I have no idea why these two are such minxes. But I love them for it.

27th April - Oh hi. I can ripple now. WOOOOOOOO!! (I'll tell you more another time I promise.)

29th April - You may have missed this but there was a Royal Wedding recently. I had a tea party and it is officially one of the most fun things I've ever done and this photo will keep me smilling for many years to come. It's the product of a huge amount of blood, sweat and tears but an example of hard work paying off.


Can't believe I've made it through four months of taking photos every day. I marvel at myself, I really do. (Mainly because if I don't, then no-one else will.)

All Project 365 photos can be found here if you wanted to have a gander.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

April Photo Scavenger Hunt

Yet another post that's a couple of days late, let's all pretend this is the end of April 'kay?

I failed yet again to get all the photos for this month. But only missed out on two so I'm getting better! God I'm the worst photo scavenger ever.

April shower - You know I actually had a picture all sorted for this? On my birthday there was a real life April shower, it absolutely threw it down and I took a lovely picture of a rainy street with my umbrella in it, but then along came the stitch-a-long with Feeling Stitchy and guess what? It was only called 'April Shower' so I guess it was meant to be.

Something Yellow - I know it should be a picture of fluffy little Easter chicks but instead I went for these lemon cupcakes that I made for a colleague's birthday. This was also the first time that I used the piping bag that Dorothy got me for my birthday. You'll have to excuse the kind of wankness of the icing but I was teaching myself at 10.30pm after a day at work followed by spinning and bodypump and wasn't in the best frame of mind.

A church - This is Holy Trinity Church. Believe it or not, this bad boy is in the city centre of Hull. It's tucked away, and you probably would only come across it by accident, but that's what makes it special. It's very beautiful in that grand old way churches can be - I've been here for all sorts, a wedding, a christening and I've even sung and played the viola in here when I was at school.

A sculpture - This caused me much headache and much debate over the question - what is the difference between a sculpture and a statue? In my head a statue is of a real person whereas a sculpture is more representative of something. This bad boy is in the peace garden in Queen's Gardens. He used to be surrounded by big spikey things because he was representative of political prisoners but these got removed at some point, I've no idea why, I hate to blame H&S but I've a feeling that might be the cause. When I was a wee thing I used to beg my Dad to take me to see this guy but would also be terrified of him at the same time.

A set of keys - These are the bad boys I cart around with me on a daily basis. I don't live in a bank vault, I just seem to go through a lot of doors. There's three for work, 4 for my Mum's and just one measly little one for home. And another key has just joined the party in the form of some keys for Dad's where I'm gong to be house-sitting for the next few months.

Your camera - This is my little bad boy. He feels intimidated by the big beasty 'proper' cameras that everyone else has but he's holding his own and taking photos every day. I would love a big camera but this guy can be slung in my bag and travel everywhere with me.

And he has a cool little screen so you can take photos of yourself and know that you haven't cut your head off.

Eggs - These bad boys were all ready and lined up for some serious baking action for my Royal Wedding tea party. I used over a dozen of the buggers.

Breakfast - Crumpets! A treat. Normally my breakfast is weetabix but hey I was on holiday, so I went mental.

An interesting shop name - This is my very local yarn shop and pretty much the only yarn shop in Hull. It's just round the corner from me and sometimes I go in there just to look at the lovely stuff.

Something to do with St George - Okay okay so I know that it should be a St George's cross rather than the Union Jack but, hey, that makes up part of the Union Jack so it can still count right? You've got to cut me some slack, there were no dragons around and a lack of St George pubs!

So I'm two short, I failed to get a picture of a cross and something to do with Shakespeare. Sorry. Forgive me?

And I've seen the list for next month...cripes. I don't think I'll be making all of those either. And the first one on the list is my biggest fear - how to get around that one?!

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

April's Book Review

Argh! I'm late! I hate being late. Hate it hate it hate it. But it's not my fault. I took all those days off work and I was punished because my internet at home is crap to non-existent. Throw in a Royal Wedding tea party and The Person coming to see me for the bank holiday and my schedule got thrown well and completely out. Nightmare.

But never fear, I will just have to borrow some of the days in May instead, I'm sure it'll forgive me.

Cutting for Stone - Abraham Verghese
I am attracted to books that are mahoosive. I won't lie, if there are two books that are the same price but one is bigger than the other, more often than not I will pick the fatter book. I know, I'm a terrible person. Anyway I didn't buy this book but borrowed it from my Dad's wife. It was described as a "rich tapestry" which also attracted me, I love characters, I love feeling like I really know people within a story.

This book was an odd one. It was just kind of dull. And very.....very.....slow......paced.

Marion and Shiva are twins born in Ethiopia. Their mother dies in childbirth and their father abandons them and they are brought up by Drs in a hospital. Shiva does a "bad thing"  to Marion (I won't give away what the bad thing is nut you'll see it coming from a mile away and it will creep towards you at a snail's pace.) and Marion eventually moves away to America and Shiva makes up for the "bad thing" and oh look, there's their Dad.

Yeah I didn't think much to this one.

Pies and Prejudice: In Search of the North - Stuart Maconie
Another one borrowed from the library of Dad. I saw this reviewed on Lucy's blog and thought I'd give it a go.

You know me, I love my North and this book is a celebration of that. I agree with Lucy, it is very north-west focused but to be fair he does make a disclaimer about that at the beginning and it worked pretty well for me because the north-west is my favourite too.

I loved beyond all everything when he was talking about Manchester and the environs - I got excited when he talked about the Factory Records office because I was remembering being in there at uni (it was then a club called Paradise Factory) and getting lost in it's twists and turns, just like he did back in the day. I was with him when he travelled by tram to Bury market...you get the drift.

Would you find it funny if you were from the South? I'm sure you would, some of you must have a sense of humour (jokes!) but I feel like this is a love letter from The North to its inhabitants and maybe it holds a special something for us.

And he didn't even go to Hull. I'm trying not to be sad about that.

Handle with Care - Jodi Picoult
Another borrowed one - this is the last of the Jodi Picoult's that I borrowed from Culture Friend, I have officially almost cleared my Book Debt with her.

This is actually one of the better ones I've read of Picoult's. It's about a young girl called Willow with brittle bone syndrome (I can't be bothered to try and correctly spell the official medical term right now) whose mother decides to sue her obstetrician (also her best friend) for not alerting her and her husband to the possibility of their child having the condition.

The story is told in a series of letters to Willow from her mother, her father, her older sister and the obstetrician.

It's good, it's engaging and it's an interesting story and I happily got lost in it. There is a big shock ending which leaves you scratching your head a bit. And then you remember the ending to My Sister's Keeper and you think "Really Jodi? Again?!"


Book of the month: Pie and Prejudice: In Search of the North.

Monday, 2 May 2011

A Right Royal Do

Argh, not having the internet is killing me I tell you. I will sort it out, I will I will I will. But until then you'll have to bare with me. I have now joined the modern world and got a phone that allows me to browse the internet but it has a tendency to spaz out when it comes to commenting so although it might appear like I have disappeared I swear I haven't, I'm still here!!

So without further ado, and in follow up to my last post about my plans for a Royal Wedding tea party, let me tell you how it all went.

I was up from 7am on Thursday morning until about 2am on Friday morning getting things ready and there were about four nervous breakdowns but I got there in the end. There was, as predicted, far too much food, but I sent people home with piles of cake and I'll probably put myself in a diabetic coma before the week is out.

Now I know what you all want to know. How did the Union Jack battenburg turn out?

Luckily I have a sense of humour about it now.

The instructions told me to only add a little bit of blue food colouring to the sponge mixture or it would turn green. I duly only added a little bit. And it turned green. I actually managed not to cry, although I did throw a spoon across the kitchen. Luckily for me all was well, I was officially ahead of schedule and I had time to try again. So I cracked eggs and measured out flour and beat everything together and added even less blue food colouring than before.

And I got a mint green cake.

I really did flip out at that point. The trouble with being anally retentive a bit of a perfectionist is that when small things go wrong I have a tendency to go into complete meltdown because now everything won't be perfect. 

I couldn't make yet another sponge so I downed tools and went to my appointment at the hairdressers. There we had a chat about it and he told me that when people come in wanting their hair dyed blue they have to first bleach it and if even the slightest trace of yellow remains in their hair then the hair goes green. Aha. Basically it's all the fault of the eggs and butter. I'm at a loss as to how I would get it blue, I couldn't have used less food  colouring than I did. My sister has suggested food colouring paste instead, but who knows, I can't say I'll be repeating it soon.

Home from the hairdressers I decided to just forge ahead anyway. I would just have a green union jack and pretend there was an eco theme to my tea party and dare anyone to laugh at me.

It is massively fiddly. It's every bit as fiddly as it looks but the good thing about it already being kind of ruined meant that the pressure was kind of off and if it messed up, well it messed up. But I mean it still looks like a Union Jack - right?!

And at the end of the day it tasted good so whatevs people.

But I still had a light green sponge spare. That was not on the itinerary. Luckily a friend on Facebook gave me an idea and a quick trip to the greengrocers and some more buttercream icing later I had another Union Jack going on.

Mini round of applause for me, I'm calling that a save.

I had plenty of decorations to put up thanks to some birthday presents and Poundland which provided some tacky bunting.

And see the fireplace? That's the cross-stitch pattern I was working on before from Mr X Stitch remember? Yeah I didn't get around to framing it unfortunately, but thanks to some clothes pegs and a fireguard I think it turned out alright.

I got up bright and early on Friday morning to do the last minute bits and bobs, including laying the table and last minute hoovering. I was so keen, I was ready by 8.30am and felt very antsy waiting for people to show up.

This table is one of my favourite pictures ever, I don't think I'll ever get bored of looking at it, it is beautiful to me.

And because I can't get enough of it, I took a photo from a different angle too.

And hey, who knew coronation chicken was so easy to make? I was almost convinced to buy some in a jar but I'm so pleased I didn't because it was easy and bloody scrummy, in ma belly. I'll be making this again.

My royal wedding commemorative mugs went down very well - I used some to house some daffodils for decoration and all the others were out on a stand and I asked people to choose their very own mug to have their tea in.

We oohed and aahed as we saw the dress and we discussed all manner of things - like at what point Prince Harry was going to crack on to Pippa Middleton.

I had been concerned that there wouldn't be enough booze to go around but I realised I'd made a slight miscalculation. Two of my guests were pregnant and all the others bar one were driving. So I went from panicking about there not being enough, to being able to bathe in pink fizz if I wanted to.

After the carriage ride and the balcony kiss people started to drift off home. As I said, all were driving and all had other halves who may not have wanted to come to a tea party to watch the Royal Wedding, but still wanted to spend an extra bank holiday with their girlfriends/wives. We're all growing up you see!

All in all? A success, I very very very much enjoyed hosting my first tea party. Although next time I might charge entry, it's pretty expensive to host one of these and put everything on yourself, the total bill came to over £50. Ouch. It'll be a lean month for the rest of May!

So I guess the next one is the Diamond Jubilee next year. Who's up for it?