Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Things wot i have learnt

1. As I get older my embarrassment threshold gets bigger. As a child I was very shy and hated unwanted attention. Imagine my absolute horror then when my paternal grandmother would cut holes in black bin bags for my brother and I when it rained on days out and insisted on me having two plaits in my hair when I stayed with her - even at the age of 12. Nowadays I find I couldn't give two hoots what people think of me. For instance, today you would have seen me with my red raincoat with cherries on, a cat in the hat tote bag (fig i) and sheltering under a Peppa Pig umbrella. I decided against my bright red wellies, but there's always the option there to look even more like a 3 year old. Please note, both children were at their respective educational institutes. There was only me to deflect the odd glares from passers by. And you know what? I didn't notice anyone look at me - possibly because they didn't - possibly cos I didn't give a monkeys if they were. I may start to carry black bin liners about as they come in handy for the whole family and I believe a good dose of embarrassment when young does you the world of good.
fig i

2. I've never thought myself good looking enough to make much of an effort in the day to day scheme of things. There's a particular Mum I see who, even first thing in the morning, has huge fake eyelashes and big hair. In my youth I would have been a) intimidated by her confidence b) annoyed in a feminist way that she was letting the side down looking like Barbie c) Probably a teeny bit jealous. Now though i look at her and think, "poor love" does she not think she's good enough underneath all that hair and tan? And I think "oh I'm not that bad after all" as i don't need to hide myself. As long as you smile, it doesnt really matter (fig ii), and I've never seen her smile.
fig ii (imagine this but wearing fig ii and I defy you not to smile or chuckle)

3. Buy fruit and Veg from the market (fig iii). I saved a fiver today and am working my way through a lb of cherries as I type. In turn I shall be regular which I  have also learnt is a vital thing as you get older. Fact.
 (fig iii)

4. I am actually a naturally slovenly slob but the Gemini in me is also fiendishly house proud. There appears to be a daily battle between the two to let the mess build up and up and also to fight it and be constantly putting stuff away. Most of the time the slob wins. Maybe i should learn to embrace it?

5. You are never too old to make friends. The girl has been at preschool three weeks and I can feel new friendships blossoming with two mums whether they like it or not.

6. I wouldn't be surprised if soon I begin to look like Pam Ferries from Darling Buds of May. Plump Rosy cheeked, aproned up, flour on my face and a needle and thread upon my person at all times. Greeting mine and other children at my front door laughing so I wobble, handing out freshly made treats and calling everyone "m'darlin". 'Id be sad if this doesn't happen as I have learnt to love the fact that I'm not a party animal. That I can no longer handle alcohol. That I love being at home and no longer have worry about coming home at 4am and a hangover. How very dull. My life before children wasn't exactly rock and roll but I got out and about. Nowadays, I get asked to take up children's trousers and make a curtain skirt for the reception classes butler sink.

HAVE A LOVELY DAY despite the rain cos that is somfink I have also learnt

Ps) It has not been quiet on the craft front even though its been quiet on the blog front. I shall post about my exploits soon 

Monday, 10 September 2012


So the aim of the London Olympics and Paralympic games was to inspire a generation. Now, I believe the generation they technically mean are today's children not a 30 something, unfit, wobbly mum. Yet its obvious that the tag line should be inspire generations as that's what the games have done.

My Mum is thinking of rejoining the gym and (she won't thank me for this) she is of pensionable age (just). My son wants to be a cyclist and I want to row or swim or cycle for team GB. Realistically I'm going to make a concerted effort to jog or swim once a week.

This sporting summer has reignited my childhood love of sport. I earnestly want to see live athletics and cycling events and will try to watch them on telly whenever I can. I loved taking part in sport at school so want to try something I can do now.

We were so lucky to get Paralympic tickets for the athletics and the experience will stay with me forever.  The games makers were fabulous - imagine exuberant jazz handed Americans but in the guise of Brits asking you nicely to smile and have your tickets ready. The stadium was stunningly beautiful. How many stadiums can you say that about? The facilities were excellent and the view we had was perfect. The park and waterway was in no way like what was there before. But the icing on the very big Victoria sponge cake was the athletes. My God they were beyond belief. Lets be honest here, I can barely run to the end of my road and only then if I get a doughnut and wine at the end if it. But they are truly superhuman. To do the amazing feats they do with the disabilities they have is...well there aren't enough superlatives for it.

I've been trying to figure out what I enjoyed more, the Olympics or the Paras. I think the BBC coverage of the Olympics was extraordinarily brilliant and that really helped to make the games for me. They need to win an award for it. Channel Four's coverage for me wasn't so great but I guess its because they don't do this sort of thing week in week out. However, I think I enjoyed the Paralympics more even though I saw less of it. This is purely because of the people that took part. I don't want to patronise or belittle and say how good they are considering they have physical or mental problems. I don't think this is the case anyway. I see them as people excelling at sport. Fulfilling their dreams and rising above adversity as Stephen Hawking said at the opening ceremony, "we are all different, there is no run of the mill". We all have times when we think something is impossible. When this next happens to me I'll think about those superhuman athletes who have a dream and work so damn hard to fulfil it. I'm so proud my son has been able to witness, and be inspired by that. The good old fashioned, if you work hard enough and you want something enough you will achieve it, message is the best thing to live your life by.

So, in the real world I know I will never win a gold medal. Unless they bring back the original events for ladies such as engraving or perhaps flower arranging - something I can do sitting down. But I am inspired to get off my bum and move. To reach for the stars (as per Hawking, not S Club 7) in whatever I do. To realise that its only yourself that stops you succeeding. 

I'm so immensely proud in a tear jerking way to be British in a way I've never ever experienced before. I'm proud to be a Londoner and I'm proud to be part of the most excepting and open society in the world. One that Mo Farrah was able to come to call his home, one that Oscar Pistorius said the legacy for these Paralympic games will be for the world to see disability as us Brits do. It has certainly changed my views which I thought were pretty liberal anyway.

As a family, we are really looking forward to being able to use the aquatics centre when its up and running and also to see what the new cycling park will be like when they renovate that as part of the velodrome complex. Bring on the Commonwealth Games and Bring on Rio.

So inspiring it hurts. What will I do with myself now?

Thank you world, thank you team GB and thank you London.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

cock a hoop

On the 6th June 2005 at lunchtime, I sat in a pub just off Oxford Street with my lovely friend (soon to be famous, voice of an angel Imogen Tonder - Google her) from work. Nothing unusual there you will cry. We had our usual lunch of Chardonnay and watched the scenes from Trafalgar Square on telly as they announced the host country of the 2012 Olympic Games. My heart dropped when they announced the winner was London. More importantly, Stratford, five minutes away from where we lived, Leyton.

You see, I didn't like being told I lived in a deprived area although I did. I also didn't like it that it would cost Londoners hundreds more in council tax and correctly guessed most of us wouldn't get to see the games we paid for. Also I wasn't all that interested and thought the money could be spent on more important things, like cake and gin. The boyfriend (he had not yet had the pleasure of marrying me) was happy as it meant our flat's value would go up. There was talk of prices in the area going through the roof. So we rubbed our hands with glee. House prices did go through the roof and then plummeted dangerously fast and smashed all over the cracked-potholed road and helped to cause the credit crunch. It was a nice road too. Our flat was a purpose built Victorian terrace and was very unusual but a native design of Leyton and Stratford. We did it up by ourselves and apart from the loud people upstairs we were happy there. It was opposite a beautiful red brick two storey Victorian school which my ancestors went to.

Fast forward to 2006. The mortgage was up for renewal and we decided to move. All the estate agents were excited saying "Olympics" alot so we thought we were cashing in and getting a great deal. Turns out if we'd have waited another year we would have got a ridiculous amount for our little home.

Everytime I went past the skeleton of the stadium going up on the way to work I'd get irrationally annoyed. Why were they building this here? Why are they knocking down local historical stadiums like the speedway and the Dogs? Albeit they were derelict and were waste grounds. Why were they bulldozing Eton Manor where my father played (probably with unexploded bombs) as a child? So we upped and left for (only) slightly better climbes further down the train track.  I still had to look at the stadium going up but was due to start maternity leave. Perhaps thats why I was irrational?
I've kind of blinkered myself to the games. Getting annoyed when I heard stories of local businesses that will struggle to stay open during the games.  How The Husband probably won't be home till at least 2am every night as the advice is to go to the pub instead of clogging up trains going to and from work.  etc etc...

Fast forward to 22nd July 2012 and we all go literally 3 minutes from our door across the park and stand right where the torch hand over will take place.

The pub opposite are playing London Calling by the Clash on repeat (this has a special resonance with me as the day after the awful 7/7 bombings - completely juxtaposed to the previous day in London - I danced really quite drunkenly to that song and everyone in the club had that stout-of-heart blitz spirit) and all of a sudden I come over all unnecessary. A bit teary. I sermonise to The Boy about how that flame had come all the way from Greece and millions of people have seen it and its right on our door step. I felt a strange sort of motherly pride in the young man who was carrying the flame.

A few days later a big airship flies over our house and I fight the urge to shout "the Germans are coming". And I stop and think - wow the whole world will be watching my part of London. My Stratford. My East End. My deprived wasteland. And wow what a wasteland it is now. The park looks gorgeous. The gardens look like an Eden and the waterways look like something out of a Wordsworth poem.

I have surprised myself and am so excited about watching the opening ceremony although I'm a little sad and surprised they didn't ask me to do a star turn. The Boy is really excited about seeing Chris Hoy, he was in the Chris Hoy1 class at school this year. I totally didn't see that hard athletes train and dedicate themselves to being the best they can be. I didn't know the motto of the modern Olympics was Faster Stronger Higher. What a great motto to live your life by. Its all very inspiring. Don't get me wrong, I'm not about to start show jumping or bowling but I will try to be the best I can be in everything I do.

Mostly I'm excited that the people that didn't cash in like us, that stuck it out in the dangerous desert that was Leyton High Road, can now reep the rewards that the legacy brings them. I hope they wont mind me coming to see what's happened in a few weeks.  Once I can get on a train that is!

Forgive me Seb and come on Great Britain.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

A little local surjourn

I'm a homely type (note the making of quilts, blinds, cushions, cake etc) and am not too spontaneous but sometimes I like to throw caution to the wind and jump in puddles.

 We are very lucky to live three minutes walk to our local park which has won Green Flag awards for cleanliness. The Friends of the park do a really good job keeping the park tidy and safe and also putting on events including an excellent Halloween afternoon every year and carols round the teeny tiny Christmas Tree in the pitch black. The Girl and I spent a lovely half hour on the wet Wednesday this week splashing, jumping, bounding (do you bound? Try it. Please. People shy away from you but it makes you feel bubbly inside), leaping, and in The Girl's case, sitting in puddles.

The teenage skate bit of the park is a prime puddle location. We wouldn't dream of going anywhere near it when the teenagers are there. They have strange haircuts. Wear odd 1980s clothing - I saw a boy with a pair of pumps on that were exactly like the ones of my Smash Hits '88 record the other day.
I dreamt of having the shoes with the watch on. It was a good record. I digress...

The skate park allows the kids to loll about away from street corners and allows them to graffiti on there own bit of turf. I think the ramps get painted over regularly so that new "tags" can be added. I liked this space one a lot.
This one however I didn't like. What does it mean. Is it a yoof joke? I didn't like it mainly on the misuse of the apostrophe. I'm a stickler for correct signage. It is not a good tag...this next one though is possibly the best one ever...
The cad that has this as their tag is a genius.

Nature an' that. Its great aint it.

Keep out!


view from under the wood

In my first view I gave you a wonderful impression of my idyllic neighbourhood. I think you'll find I described the trees brimming with native English fruit with cast iron fences round them. I teased you with tales of how quiet the street is as there is never ever any traffic. I made you envious describing how every resident eats off the pavement as its so clean and while I was at it the street is also paved with gold....

Oh didn't I?

Sorry I was mistaken and forgot I had sent a daily mail rant to the council about the glass, litter, muck and dangerous pavements.

Well my moaning paid off as the pavement is being replaced as we speak (I started this post on Monday, I'm either lazy or busy)

I was a little put out though as they said they had saw no problem with litter from Tesco or that Tesco blocks up the pavement so I sent them these puppies.

and said I'll gladly send them photographic evidence every time it happens (everyday). I clearly need a job. The council weren't happy and are going to 'ave a go at them innit. When they will do this I don't know as the inspector said he'd call me and that was Tuesday. I suspect I'll call him and complain he hasn't called me!


The council's policy is to sweep side roads every 15 working days and main roads every 10. This is fine if you like stepping in dog poo as soon as you leave the house. After my complaint about the glass etc they sent a team of about four to sweep the road. I couldn't believe my eyes. But a few hours after the road got swept this week

Tesco go and litter again! So that's another two weeks before it gets swept or another few hours before it gets blown down the street.

It goes to show that a little bit of campaigning and complaining gets things done. Ok so I'm annoying myself with this shifting of the curtains type of whinging but nobody fell over on to the glass as I got it swept and the pavement has been made safe and hopefully Tesco will be forced to literally clean up their act. Well done Havering Council for listening.

Hopefully the view is going to get better. What's the going rate to give a house to a field?

Friday, 29 June 2012

Friday loveliness

Bonjour as they say in foreign parts (ha ha foreign parts sounds like "lady garden" or "winkle").


So today has been filled with wonderful stuff.

Firstly, me and The Girl had an spontaneous coffee and cake session with our lovely friend who The Girl calls Dedy. In fact we were kind of dragged to the coffee shop and were treated by Dedy and I'm pleased we were, not just for the lovely marshmallow type lolly thing The Girl had, or the cake I had but for the great chat. Sometimes, its wonderful to chat absolute nonsense to a friend who is chatting equally nonsensical nonsense backatcha. For instance, Dedy talked about how she wanted to shout "WILLY WONKER" out in an empty sauna...I share this tourettes like need to shout loudly at inappropriate times. Anyone else share this need?

Secondly, my Mum came to see us after two weeks away in Tunisia. I think it was rather selfish of her to go away for so long. We were very excited to see her...well The Girl showed off a bit and was unreasonably shy but then didn't want Nanna to go home. I really wish I could see my Mum more than once a week.  I'm very lucky to have such a lovely mum. She does so much for me, I just wished she was round the corner so we could take advantage of her even more!

Thirdly, I've been feeling pretty damn poorly for about a year. I get really irrate and hormonal very often (what woman doesn't you male readers will shrug). I often fell exhausted, run down, brain dead (what mum with young kids doesnt you will all shout). Last October I felt really bad for a few weeks and couldn't eat fatty foods or drink a glass of wine without feeling the need to pass out. I also got weird red pinpricks all over my feet. I finally dragged my big ass to the drs after christmas and he sent me for blood tests. They came back with a borderline thyroid problem and the dr said to go for more tests in May and come back in June. So go back I did today and whoop whoop my thyroid is in perfect working order and I won't need medication for the rest of my life! The pinpricks on my feet have all but gone but I still feel pretty awful at certain times and also have uncontrollable rage Apparently and a big BOO to this, I have severe PMT. It can be cured with anti depressants as a last resort but I've been told to exercise. DOH. Do I have to?! I have a Wii fit, but find it hard to fit that in. I suppose I could go swimming but it would be about 8.30pm by the time I got there by which time I've half asleep! He also said I need to drink two mugs of milk a day, fine by me, and eat nuts. Do you think a cadbury glass and a half fruit and nut bar will count?! This news made my day. Alright now I can't blame my thyroid for turning me into a dragon but its such a relief to know its basically just good old fashioned women's rage.

I'm home alone tonight...this is the snack of choice

It was meant to be for watching a film but I seem to have eaten it already...oppsie.

This was the make of the week...

A pillowcase dress. Its the first dress I've made and its the first thing I've ever made that I've been 100% happy with. Not a great photo but she wouldnt keep still!

This was the day out last week...

The Abridge Village fair. Look at the beautiful cars
This is the one for me...Oh hold on...No this one...

Real thigh rubbing moment. I am a real VW campervan fan. In fact we are considering going on one a holiday in one of them. Its my dream to own one. Apparently the fabric on the front is called a bra!
This campervan cost about £50K!!!! To be honest it was a bit too perfect for me. Too clean and new. For me, I'd have to have it a bit battered outside and in and would def need a big of gingham and crochet chair covers!

Hope you have had equally lovely Fridays.

Donkeyshins as they say in Germany and Bottoms up

Sunday, 24 June 2012

View from under-the-wood

Our name is pretty misleading. Unfortunately we don't live under or near a wood. We live about ten minutes drive from a wood though. But it's not ours. We live very close to the town centre of an Essex market town. In the manky bit of town. I've noticed if you live near a town hall your street will be looked after. The further away you are from the town dignitaries the more unkempt your street will be. We are the wrong side of the tracks (ring road).

Not only do we get the drunk teenagers using our road as a rat run from the infamous nightlife of our town and helping themselves to our wing mirrors but we get tons of rubbish from passers by and Tesco's loading bay who took it upon themselves to build yet another store in our town in the main road behind ours. Now I like to complain to the council and companies alot. In a rather Daily Mail way too. I'm a middle class snob like that. While I'm complaining I often say "shutup you moany old crow" to myself, thats how bad I am. So after sending off my umteenth complaint about litter on our road this week I decided I would do a regular post of how our street is looking with words and pictures in full technicolour (its the future). I'm sure the council are shaking in their boots about this as I'm obviously a big player in the blogging world (6 whole views to my site this morning, beat that facebook!).

This week the road has looked pretty appalling. Everyday I scream at the Boy and Girl to stop at the corner in case they fall on this

This was worse at the beginning of the week and was spread out a lot more - its basically a whole case of beer bottles someone has dropped coming back from the shops. The picture doesn't show it clearly but there are bottoms of the bottles sitting up waiting for someone to fall on. On Friday the Husband talked me out of going up the street with my broom to sweep it up.

Then there's this outside of Tesco's loading bay.

This level of litter is actually less than usual, but it had been windy so its probably blown into our gardens. But look at the big hole in the water manhole type thing. Its an Injury Lawyers For You waiting to happen isn't it. The pavement is in really bad nick since Tesco was built earlier this year and the pavement outside our houses is raised and cracked.

I've not had a chance to take a photo but opposite our house is a council owned building and even the outside of that is a disgrace. They keep the gardens nice so at least we can look at that but there is a jungle of weeds growing up the wall and in the cracks in the kerbs. It is a leafy borough, maybe that's why.

There are more pros living where we do than cons, I'll grant you that. The houses are lovely, the neighbours on the tiny terrace are all lovely families, we are a stones throw from school, the shops and station and are really close to big green spaces.  But walking down our street sometimes is like some medieval version of Richard Hammond's Wipeout. Instead of the mudpool you have to walk over glass in your flip flops carrying a small child. Instead of those balls to jump on you have to jump over big holes in the pavement. Instead of that pendulum pedestal thing you have to get disentangled from the jungle of weeds.

Here ends the view from under-the-wood for this week. Lets hope they like the sarcastic, patronising online form I filled out. Whats your street like? Bet its nicer than mine.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Quilt virgin part 2

Right then, so on the first post about my cherry popping quilt experience I left off saying I had to do something with the grain of the fabric...well I couldn't be bothered to work out quite what that involved weft and weave and something so I figured as its my first go I would be let off by the rather scary quilting people that live in the world wide web.

I made a 5" square template and taking a row at a time placed the card in the middle of each square and drew round it (much like a 4 year old would i.e messily and not straight thus rendering the template pointless) with dressmakers' chalk.

Then I pinned the squares together as a row and sewed them together - making sure there was 1/4"  seam.

Do this for all 9 rows until you are very bored. Then sew each row together using the bottom and top chalk line as the guide. I didn't take a photo of this bit as I was obviously in the zone and in my true slap dash style the first few rows don't quite match up so take a minute to make sure all the seams are in a line while you pin them.

I then added a top panel of gingham fabric at the top of the squares

I kind of lost momentum at this point as I knew I needed a length of fabric for the back and make a tricky binding round the sides and order the wadding that goes inside. I tried to find a brightly coloured sheet cheap but they were all too much. I have an old flannel sheet that was my mum's and its probably older than me so I was going to use that until I found the Ikea gingham duvet cover. I ordered the wadding from ebay - polyester as the bamboo type that the posh quilters recommend was too pricey. I decided to not bother with the binding as I thought I would just make the back panel larger and fold it over to frame the top panel. So cut the wadding larger (about 2" if you like) and the back panel larger still (enough to have a little seam to tuck under) than the top panel.

Fold the back panel over, fold over a hem and pin through the layers (I found it helpful to safety pin the layers together first to stop it moving about too much). Sew round the hems. If I make another, I would also sew round the top of the binding/frame just to make it even stronger.

Now comes the fun bit - the actual quilting. I decided to do crosses diagonally on each square. I started off going right across but when I turned it over it had all rucked up so I had to mind numbingly unpick the length of stitching and do each individual square until I got bored and went diagonally across again!

and here it is...

I am pleased with it as I really did my best to do everything straight and neat so it would last but I'm worried once its washed a few times it may start coming apart. Therefore I will not wash it!

It cost under £20 to make. These cost about £60 made by a profession/from a shop so its worth a try. I am collecting fabric for one for my bed but The Boy has requested one so I'll carry on small.

If you have any quilting tips please share!

Happy Friday


Thursday, 21 June 2012



I've been on the go since my last post and haven't had time to round up my mega exciting goings on. I know you have been waiting with baited breath. I better make it a goodun then.

I last posted half way through the jubilee weekend. We had such a lovely time not only spending time with lovely family and friends but also watching the queen do her thing! As you already know I'm a fervent royalist - mostly because of what they do for the country terms of generating money through tourism, promoting us through foreign visits etc...they are probably the best PR we have. No other country has the heritage we have and no other country can celebrate our heritage like we did that weekend. Its not about supporting an out dated class system and celebrating the privileged. Its about celebrating a woman who has given up her life for the service of her country. Whether you are a dinner lady for 60 years or the queen it can't go unnoted. One things for sure, we and our children will never experience a diamond jubilee in our lifetimes again.

We spent the next weekend in Butlins. its the third time we've been and have a brilliant time every time. I often wonder what it'd be like to be a red coat; constantly smiling, being nice to brats and singing and dancing with the full fervour of an American stage school of cheese and jazz hands graduate. We had to drive through the flooded roads of Sussex to get home. The boy was really frightened - so was I but I kept up a happy sing songy voice for at least seven miles and got through it. I heard at Slimming World this week that someone tried to get there the day we left and got stuck five minutes from Butlins in a flooded car for four hours and then had to go home so I'm pleased we got to have our precious family time and that we got home in one piece!

So on coming back I thought I'd better crack on with my first quilt which I will post about in the final tutorial for but here's a glimpse...
I had been wondering what material to use for the back and used my fantastic bargain hunting hoarding skills wandering round Ikea. I have a family rewards card so was able to get a few things cheap before the big sale which started this week. Ok so I didn't need to buy most of it but I took advantage of it. I bought a hot pink double gingham double duvet (with 4 pillowcases no doubt!) for £8. Lets be fair, you can't buy the fabric for that. So I've used that for the back and....

Dear me. Hatty earned her keep this week I can tell thee. The Girl's blind (originally made by my mum when The Boy was in the little room, then I sewed it on to an Ikea roman blind when it fell apart) fell down at the beginning of the week and it looked really dirty. I knew I had a bit of blackout curtain lining in the rag bag so I took the old one apart and reconditioned it and am pretty proud of myself to be honest. I made pains to make it straight and really took my time measuring it and lining up the fabric but alas and alack I just am too slap dash in nature and a wonky seam will out every time! But, it does keep the light out and does go up and down. For how long, is another matter, but it will do the job for now! I'm waiting for some ribbon I ordered to come as I'm making this pillowcase dress for The Girl next.

The sun was out in full force on Saturday and was lovely so after having mummy and The Boy time swimming in the morning (I LOVED having an hour with him on his own. He's growing up so so too too fast and I often feel like he doesn't get anytime with me because The Girl is attached to my hip all the time) we took ourselves off to Walton and Frinton-on-Sea. Well, we didn't account for 100mph winds!
We took it in turns to be human wind breakers for the children! Look at the deserted beach, that was the bonus.
I love it that this is an hour away from us. We are very lucky to live so close to a lovely stretch of coast and we're going to try and explore more of the Essex coastline this year and we always go to Walton, mainly for the pier after a day on the beach.

I love the faded glamour of seaside towns. You can see real architectural gems that hark back to Victorian and even Georgian times and also the garish 1950s kiss me quick style and that's probably my favourite.

If you know of any seaside gems on the Essex or Kent coast, please leave a comment and share it!

Taraa for now. More regular posts from now!

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Book Review: Never kiss a man in a canoe

My beloved best friend bought me this hilarious book for my birthday. It was so enjoyable, you end up whizzing through it.

The book is a collection of answers from agony aunts from various publications from about the 1850s to late 1960s. We only get to see the questions/problems in a few of them - I don't know whether this is because they didn't publish them then, just alluded to them, or the author thought it better not to include them. However, this actually makes it better as some of the answers are so intriguing its very amusing to wonder what the problem was in the first place. The problems range from finding a spouse, keeping yourself decent, which entertainment was the right sort for a lady, career advice and health advice.

As you can imagine, most of the answers are funny to us as they are just plain ridiculous. Take for instance the popular question of making oneself taller - most answers instructs the reader to make a potion of various nasty sounding chemicals and drink it several times a day. Another lists laying deadly still at night and keeping the legs straight at all times!

Its insightful to see how women worried about finding a husband - some are quite racey; stepping out with several boys a week and then wondering why not one wanted to go steady with her, smoking and drinking not attracting men; women newly married bored of their husbands. Other women worried that their fiance would find out about their false teeth and hair.

This makes a brilliant stocking filler type present and is a good one to dip in and out of.

Thanks Pug

Monday, 11 June 2012

Book Review: The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox

Another lent book but this time as part of the world book night event. I was told to read it quickly and pass it on as you need to input the book's PIN into the website to you can track it, hopefully, across the world. So far the book has been to three people, including me, and has only travelled about three miles. I think I will send it to my BEST friend in Southampton as that's a bit further afield!

This book was so easy to read I managed to finish it in three days. It has no chapters, it just flows from one character to another and the past to the present. The present day main character, Iris is told by a mental hospital that their charge, Esme Lennox, is her elderly great aunt and that as next of kin she must decide what to do with her as the hospital is closing. Iris has a messy life so isn't in a great position to deal with this bolt from the blue - she asks her senile grandmother (Esme's sister) about Esme but gets no information. Iris decides to help Esme and takes her in and as she does the reader hears Esme's story about her childhood and how she was dragged to the hospital by her father.

The story was riveting as it highlighted the way in which mental illness was treated after the first world war - a time when doctors were becoming more understanding in the light of shell shock etc It also portrays the general treatment of women as second class citizens who, if they didn't tow the line were seen as hysterical and too different for decent society. It is indicated that Esme suffers from bi-polar disease and is schizophrenic and is locked away for 60 years as her family become increasingly despairing over her refusal to be a normal young lady. It is shocking to think that most of Esme's behaviour is something us modern day females take for granted - she wants to be free, not marry, stay in education, play unladylike music on the piano, not do as her parents tell her, walk barefoot and laugh at things that are funny instead of keeping quiet...I wonder how many people were hospitalised, drugged up and given electric shock treatment because they didn't fit in. I'm glad I live in these times, I love to walk barefooted, I always laugh at inappropriate moments, if I could play the piano then I would probably play Metallica on it and ok so I'm married, but on my terms, not my parents or society's. The ending of the book is abrupt and you kind of get whats coming a few pages ahead. You want to know what happens next to Esme and Iris but I guess that's the beauty of a good book to make you decide what happens once you've put it down. Yeah for Maggie O'Farrell!

Book Review: A Street Cat Named Bob

My lovely neighbour lent this book to me.  It's not one I'd normally pick up to buy (I was lent Marley and Me which I liked but I got a bit sick of the schmaltz) but I'm glad I read this one. I am reluctant to say "I love cats" in case you think I'm a mad cat lady but I kind of do. My own cat, Rosie, is one of the friendliest cats you will ever meet. In fact she's more like a dog than a cat - I shall give her her very own post soon. So I had a bit of an affinity with James Bowen, Bob's "owner".

James, formally homeless and a recovering drug addict found the injured Bob in his stairwell, he nursed him back to health and they have been inseparable ever since. James was a busker and Bob tripled his day's takings as people were so taken with him. James then went on to sell the Big Issue magazine which is where his literary agent first spotted them.

The adventures James recounts are really heart warming. It's as though the pair were meant to be together - despite James trying to set Bob back into the wilds of Tottenham, he kept coming back and even followed him across the mega busy Tottenham High Road and hopped on a bus to Covent Garden. Bob even managed to get back to James through London when they became separated. James decided to come off of methadone for Bob's sake and the chapters which describe this are some of the best in the book. Not only do you get an insight into what its like to get clean from drugs, but also the love the cat and James have for each other. It is clear that without Bob, James would probably not have got free from drugs and would possibly be using again.

The book shows how wonderful it is to have the unconditional love from a pet, be it a cat or a dog. We are all in the habit of humanising animals (there's a word for it, but I cant remember it!) and James sort of does this in the book by imagining what Bob is thinking in our terms. But to be fair, I often do this for Rosie (my neighbour even has a voice for her cat - she's promised she'll work on one for Rosie too so I can't wait to hear it!). The only down side of the book was the way James comes across with a huge chip on his shoulders. To be fair, he does admit this himself, but it starts to grate on you when you realise that most of the time he thinks people are out to get him...but I guess living on the streets, having to defend yourself and living hand to mouth will do that to you.

Bob is now a media sensation and can be found all over You Tube. Take a look at their interview on bbc in March and they can be found at The Angel station in London selling the Big Issue, but only I imagine until Hollywood come calling. Long may they be together.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Roll out the barrel week (Birthday and Jubilee days 1 and 2)

Eeeeee Johnny, as Johhny Briggs' mum used to say, this week has been a difficult one! I have a borderline thyroid problem which at certain times of the month (ahem) turns me into more of a nutcase than I usually am. I'm even more bad tempered, moany and shouty at the children and tend to feel pretty damn exhausted by about 8am most days. This week has been one of those weeks. Which was great as it was my birthday on Thursday. Thursday was the climax of my troubles for the week. I did get woken up by a beautiful rendition of happy birthday and a cake and some fabbo presents from the husband thusly:
To Kill a Mokingbird: Harper Lee
I capture the castle: Dodie Smith
Jamaica Inn: Daphne de Maurier
World without end: Ken Follet
All sewn up: Chloe Owens
Made by me voucher (I'm opting for the crochet granny square course!!)
and this...
nice eh. Tea tastes really nice in it too.

Despite these goodies, I did feel very down and one of my wonderful friends spotted this at a children's birthday party so she drove all the way across the borough and dropped my presents off and it warmed my cockles. It was a wonderful wire hen to store my eggs in (not my eggs obviously, that would be gross. Plus they aren't solid so I imagine the wire structure would not hold them). I do have some of the most wonderful friends you know. As I also discovered when I heard my name being called over the garden fence and my neighbour gave me their presents and bucked my spirits up even more with a lovely neighbourly chat. I was a bit shy opening it in front of her but I soon ran back out in excitement...

I'd seen the blog for this book and heard about the project so was bowled over that she had got me this as it shows what lovely friends I have that they buy the perfect presents. The projects in this book are so beautiful, I can't wait to start making from it and plan to make my bestie neighbour lots of things from it so she is soon fed up! I love my neighbours.

I also got a rather spiffing sewing box from one of my bestie bestie friends and had a lovely tea and cake sesh the day before with her gorgeous cup and saucer collection...

I drool over the art deco blue set. Literally, so one day she will find a puddle in the cup and just give it to me out of disgust. She asked me to give her a pseudonym (i think she is on the run) so I shall call her Sue, she'll like that...won't you Sue?!

I'm a very lucky girl who, no matter how poorly I feel, I have the most wonderful friends in the world. That old saying - you can judge a man by his friends...well if I was a man I would be thought of very highly, but alas I'm just a weak and feeble woman with a hormone imbalance. continue the barrel rolling, on Friday mum, the girl and the boy took part in the school's jubilee fayre after school. It was very good. I wore a union jack plastic bowler hat - what more can you want? Well you could want one of these beauties...

The boy had to dress up so went as one of the Queen's guards but as I thought he may get hot, I quickly ran this up before school.
Its little wonder I feel tired all the time!

The husband and I went out for dinner at Zizzi's and went to see Johnny Depp's new film Dark Shadows. I'm a HUGE Tim Burton/Depp fan so this was right up my street. Weird in a Burton way and excellently played by Johnny. He really is a genius. Someone told me recently that he reeks of coffee and fags, this would not bother me, it only adds to his allure. It was lovely being out with the husband. I can't remember the last time we had a "date". I do like him quite a bit really.

On Saturday, the barrel had another roll out. We won tickets for Sainsbury's family jubilee festival at Hyde Park It looked like we weren't going to go as the boy was mega playing up and when we left the house the girl fell over straight away and cut open her knee yet again and blood went EVERYWHERE!! She was so exhausted by it that she had to have an hours nap and we were all pretty tired and grumpy but decided to go for it and aren't I glad we did. We got there about 3.30 and after catching a glimpse of cavalry horses doing horsey things we tucked into our picnic which included...

for the purposes of...
Mary Berry's scones pretty damn perfect if I do say so myself and very fitting for a patriotic afternoon.

We then watched the day's grand finale - the Disney spectacular which was well...spectacular. Very jazz handy Broadway types sang the big numbers from the most popular films and then the cast of the Lion King musical performed for about 15 minutes which was pretty amazing. It was such a joy to watch the girl and boy dance and sway to the music.I was a bit disappointed the event didn't finish with God Save the Queen, but I did feel a little teary. I always get like that at public events. Especially if clapping along to music is involved. We only bought two coffees so had a great free day out. If you get the chance to win tickets for next years event (they usually do a family festival in Clapham Common) go for it.

I'm pretty tired now in that had a lovely day out kind of way and there are still three more jubbly jubilee days left WHOOP WHOOP! I'm off to NOT eat more scones before bed.

Night night and will bore you with more of my weekend antics later

Monday, 28 May 2012

Quilt Virgin part 1


Go on say it out loud. Dis-con-bob-u-la-ting.

I'm not so great with maths and counting and that. I find it very discombobulating. Makes my head go all fizzy and gets me all frustrated. Makes a sound like this in my ears eeeeeeeeee eeeeeeeeeeeeeee eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee eeeeeeeeeeeeeee whenever someone talks of figures, finance, economics and basic counting. Imagine my delight then when starting my first ever quilt I realise I have to do adding and that! Oh dear me. So it was jolly good I had my delightful husband on hand to do the tricky stuff wasn't it.

I worked out the size I wanted 50 inches by 70 inches. 2.5 inches binding all round the outside, 20 inches of gingham fabric at the top and 45 inch square of patchwork squares. This is for the girl so will fit on a single bed (or folded over her cot bed now). From my research most sites said for a beginners basic quilt make the squares 5 inches with a 1/4 inch seam allowance. I don't trust myself to be precise so I decided to cut them 6 inches and have a 1/2 seam allowance so that they are 5 inches. MATHS!

I then had a good ole time looking through ebay for fat quarters of material that would go with the pink gingham I already had for the top. There's a shop called favouritefabrics which has a lovely selection. So I bought a pack and added it to another I already had and come up with this bundle of loveliness.

Except I took out the blue big flower one after I took this as it didn't go with the maths and that did it. The husband correctly told me that I would need nine squares from each fabric for the patchwork part. He is so very clever, especially at maths and knowing things and that.

So...I made a 6 inch template out of card and used my swish rotary cutter and board to cut each piece.

Nifty eh?

Then I laid them out in rows of nine in a pretty random fashion.
I numbered each row and gathered them up into a pile.

This took a looooooong time. I am told that you need to sew the pieces together with the grain of the fabric facing the correctly way... Wha'?

Wish me luck