Wednesday, August 31, 2005



I stepped out of the air conditioned office today into hot, damp air. It felt like stepping off a plane in the tropics. Walking home just now, a few heavy drops of rain fell, then a downpour and that particular smell of freshly wet summer tarmac. It's on days like this I enjoy the smell of the British seasons: soon we'll wake up, step out of the door and, suddenly, it'll smell of autumn. You won't be able to put your finger on what the smell is or what was different from yesterday, but you know.

Now, lightning is flashing round the rooftops, thunder is cracking and grinding and rain is pummelling onto the skylight. Up here in our loft conversion, you feel right in the middle of the weather.

Monday, August 29, 2005


Last essay!

I'm writing my last essay for my politics course today (hence several blog posts...) After this there is only revision. I'm strangely excited by the idea of the exam despite swearing many years ago (while slumped with stress during finals) that I'd never sit another again, ever.


Small pleasures

We were supposed to be in Edinburgh this weekend, staying with friends of Andy's, exploring, and seeing some festival shows. I had it carefully planned: a work trip last week for author meetings and school visits, then Andy arriving on Friday.

The snag came last Monday when it became clear that Andy's preparation for his next training courses would take all weekend. Now that the weekend has come, I find I'm very happy to be at home: playing board games; pottering around the garden tying up tomatoes and sorting out the worms; hanging washing and sorting post. All so humdrum but satisfying in a way that gallivanting rarely is. I spend my life trying to pack as much into each minute as possible which makes these slower times delightful.

Feeling a freshly mowed lawn under bare feet
Warm, soapy water running up my arms as I wash windows
Reading on the bench in the garden with the cat curled by my feet (waiting for his tea)
Painting my toenails in bed and half listening to The Archers
Hanging the washing under a clear, starry sky (so they get several hours drying time while I'm still in bed)
Taking it down on a hot afternoon with a tiny breeze lazily tugging the clothes and making the windchimes sound ever so quietly

There is much contentment in the small things.

Saturday, August 27, 2005



The inhabitants of our wormery haven't been so active of late. I've tried adding lime mix, in case it's too acid for them. Still noshing slowly. Same story with added worm treat to help them get their appetite back.

Today Andy asked if we'd had much plant feed from them yet. This is liquid compost that builds up below the trays. There is a tap to let it out and a ramp so that worms who drop into the pool by accident can crawl back up into the veg.

We put a bucket below the tap and, GUSH: dark brown, rich, smelly compost water came pouring out and pouring out and pouring out. Much excitment until we noticed that the liquid was thick with worm corpses, big and small, and just kept on flowing. In all, two bucketfuls came out and many dead worms.

I had no idea we were steadily drowning all the worms - awful. I've left the tap open now.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005



Hmm... spotted the contradiction between the last two posts? I don't even understand myself sometimes...



I feel like Superwoman! I dash round the office ticking things off my to do list every few minutes, getting to the heart of every matter I tackle, and radiating optimism and efficiency. I can concentrate, I don't get an after lunch sluggish hour... (hate me yet?)

Is this because of giving up (most) caffeine? Or is it low GI food and no sugar peaks? Or the 'August effect' (no one in the office to create irritating distractions)? Or delightful LURVE developments? Who knows... though long may it last!

If it is the detox, I'm not even missing the booze - yet.



Some familiar words were spoken last night, "we really must hang those lampshades this week". One or the other of us has been saying them regularly for quite some time. As we reflected, it dawned on us that we'd started putting this job off because it was dark by the time we got home from work and the electricity needed to be turned off to do it, so they had to be hung at the weekend. Now we're saying: "we really must hang those lampshades before it gets too dark in the evenings again" (gets dark at 9pm at the moment). How much longer have we spent discussing this than we would have needed to hang the lampshades?

It's an old problem; In my last flat, a door handle dropped off in my room. Easy, I thought - slot it back in and keep using it. Then the door handle fell out on the wrong side. No problem! A screwdriver slots beautifully into the hole and opens the door. Then a sudden thought - if I just fix the door handle with the screwdriver... Less than a minute later, I felt very daft that it had taken 6 months.

My brother, T, learned this lesson far more harshly. He lived in a shared four floor house and they'd been using the basement bathroom door with a screwdriver for months - there wasn't a handle when they moved in. One day, after everyone else had gone out, T found himself in the bathroom with no screwdriver, a closed door and, as he put it, "only a towel, not even a phone!" I'd give anything to have seen him trying to climb out of the window and shin up the side of the house to the first floor window in his towel.

What do you reckon the record is for procrastinating something so quick and simple?

Monday, August 15, 2005


A red hat that doesn't go and doesn't suit me

A red hat that doesn't go and doesn't suit me

The fancy dress party at the weekend was on the theme of 'what I wanted to be when I grew up'.

I'm the eccentric old lady in a red hat from the poem Warning by Jenny Joseph. Not as good as the poem behind the name 'barefoot earlier', If I had my life to live over, but I still like the sentiment.

I've started practising loosening up already, and I quite enjoyed the walking stick. It's kicking around in the car now, waiting for me to need it in 50 years. The only snag with the red hat poem for me is that she appears to have had a 'sober' youth. I'm not sure the same could be said for me.

We can only wonder what A wanted to be when he grew up...


23 month speech update

W, my nearly 2 year old nephew, is testing his new found ability to say the end of words. It's now "do..og" as a triumphant two syllables rather than "do". It's not always going quite so well though, although he thinks it is: frog is now a very clear "fuck".

He's so close to making himself understood he gets very excited about talking and plays with words when he's out in his pram, always at the top of his voice. "Bugger bugger bugger" is to be heard as he's wheeled about. He gets started as soon as he can see something he can name in a yell.

My plan is to wait until we're all somewhere a bit genteel and quiet like Betty's tea shop, then get out a toy frog.

Thursday, August 11, 2005


No fear

Last weekend we went to Coed-y-Brenin's man-made mountain biking trails with all the cycling gang for J's 40th. We were last there two years ago (the weekend my brand new car became forever known as the 'minging people carrier'*)

This time the trails were strangely easier. I remember severe adrenaline, triumph and trickiness, bruises and terror. I rode several of the obstacles with my eyes shut in panic and yelped often. None of that now; it was just a pleasant ride with a few fun challenges. I guess that's progress!

Plenty of people criticise man-made trails for lacking real challenge and I've never got it. What's wrong with a trail especially designed for skill testing and thrills? Coed-y-Brenin following so closely after the Lake District showed me what they mean. If you know the trail is all rideable, because it's been built to be ridden, there's less of a puzzle and it's that high speed, seat-of-your-pants puzzle that makes it all worthwhile.

*D arrived and said, "it's a minging people carrier!", at least that's what I miserably thought all weekend. She actually called it a 'mini people carrier', I discovered later. Everyone was entertained.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005


First day of detox: cleansing

I suppose I should have worked it out from words like 'purge' in association with detox. My tip for success? If you're going to take the clever detox supplements don't do it when you're going on a long journey, at a festival, or are otherwise far from a secluded toilet. Enough said?

On the upside, I have discovered that dried fruit and seeds make a filling snack, if you eat enough of them.

Monday, August 08, 2005



As holidays go, the Lake District was like a balanced diet: healthy yet delicious food; energetic days outside but a good bit of slobbing in the van too; plenty of decadent laziness yet an essay written. To save me from being far too righteous to bear, developing a taste for real ale tipped the balance the holiday way and has left me contemplating the detox shelves in Boots.

I've never had the will before, and maybe I won't stay the distance this time, but I'm going to have a go at my own slightly diluted detox plan. The BBC reckon that detox only works because it means people cut down on a few things and get their diet in balance. I'm inclined to agree so I'm just cutting out caffeine, booze, red meat and cutting down as much as possible on dairy and wheat.

Feeling good already from the gloriously sunny bike ride to the office, I started work, and within ten minutes was swigging a cup of coffee with relief: a morning of sales forecasting just wasn't happening without. Decided to replace the no-caffeine plan with a couple of cups of green tea a day: far more beneficial than giving up, I understand!

Is it really possible to prove almost anything you want to hear with the Internet? I think it might be.

Anyway, first day of the plan tomorrow - gulp.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005


Mystery digger

Mystery digger
For a while this summer there was a digger that lived on our street - gone before we woke up and back before we got home. The local toddlers adored it; their parents hated it (imagine "digger, digger, see digger!!" every 10 minutes all day).

It provoked debate: should comercial vehicles park in residential streets? Is it alright so long as they have a valid tax disk (this didn't)? If it is OK, why aren't the streets full of fork-lifts and milk vans? Shouldn't we have better things to wonder? Did caring what parked in the street and when make us small-minded, or normal?

I wondered where it went each day and starting looking for it while cycling round town - never found it, and now it's vanished. Shucks.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


Festival stress

A gets festival stress. He pores over the programme until his head swims with choices, grimaces, makes different marks on the timetable and complains. This year he also got anxious about the etiquette of writing his name on the cover (he didn't).

This is the first part. Next is the 'must arrive before the band start' stress - it's very easy to underestimate how long it takes to get across the site, I'm told (often).

I can't talk: I'm a fellow festival-stresser. For me, it's all about managing to eat every cuisine represented at the wall-to-wall stalls. Old favourite: Madras Cafe, tasty Southern Indian food with a conscience. New favourite: mushroom stroganoff pie near the Open Air Stage. All time late night favourite: a sugary bag of hot donuts and a hot chocolate.

Monday, August 01, 2005


WOMAD in a van

Forecasted thundery rain drove us to change plans and keep the van to trundle south to festival bliss.

Top three reasons for bliss:
On the other hand:

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