Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Progress report

Midway through the week, and I'm making headway.

My dining suite, previously my parent's 1970s, mahogany stained table and beige velour upholstered chairs, is now "chalk white", and upholstered in bright pink, and looks fab. I've mastered the power drill (well, when I say "mastered" I mean "used") and put up a curtain rail and a radiator shelf. Tomorrow I'm making curtains. Making. Curtains. And then I have a wall unit to put up and I think my dining room will be finished. In fact, it will be transformed.

I'm getting a real kick out of doing all of these very tangible things. Every job makes a difference, and, as one friend said, the smell of paint is the smell of progress. I'm feeling very Ideal Home!

But there are loads of other jobs too.

I've had quotes to replace the two double glazed panels that have blown and gone manky inside, and tomorrow I'll pick one and book that in for next week. Not glamorous, is it? What a dull way to spend money. I'll pay a sizable amount of money for someone to take out windows and put in ... windows. Whoop-de-doo. I know it needs doing, and I know that I'll feel better when they're done, but new windows aren't very exciting, are they? I know that, when I invite my friend's 'round to show them the newly finished dining room, they'll oooooh and aaaaah in all the right places, but the phenomenally more expensive windows won't be noticed. At all. By anyone.

Today I paid a man to put a TV aerial on the roof. Again, a fair chunk of money paid out, and I can see a massive difference - there is no antenna balanced on a box behind the telly now, and I've managed to reduce the huge knot of wires and cables in the corner - so money well spent!

But I can't get other people excited about it, can I? "Would you like to pop 'round and see my new tv aerial?" "No." Fair enough.

It's a harsh lesson in the cost of home ownership. The boring and necessary stuff costs more and pleases less.

Or maybe it's another lesson. The things I'm enjoying most are the things I'm doing myself. Maybe it's just a lesson in the thrill of getting your hands dirty!

Anyway, got to dash. Got curtains to pin!

Sunday, 27 June 2010

This Weekend (12) ...


But I was also a bit poorly.

Just hayfever, I think, which I am suffering from in a "Biblical Plague" kind of a way this year, so I'm dosed up on, I think, four different types of tablet which give the world a pleasing blurry fugginess.

Anyway, the weekend panned out like this ...

1) Before my usual appointment at the pub quiz this week, I had to go to a meeting regarding the Artist's Open House event that we're hosting in October. Nothing amazes me like the ability of artists to stray from the point. At 8pm, having been there for an hour and a half, and having debated whether the event should be called "Open House" or "Open Studio" for around an hour, one of my committee co-members rocked back on his chair and asked if we should break for a cup of tea. I wept quietly in the corner. But I also managed to bagsy a walking tour, and a techy "press the red button now" type tour for my patch, so it was worth the effort.

2) Pub quiz. Diminished team, but we didn't embarrass ourselves. A question for you all, however (no prizes for getting it right this week): Only three Mr Men have teeth. Name any one of them ...

3) On Friday morning, I felt like poo. Poooooo! And with 100 jobs to do this week, I felt that I'd be cheating to not keep going anyway. But I sat down on the sofa to think about what to do first, and woke up an hour and a half later, feeling much better.

4) Which meant that on Friday afternoon I could order my new bedroom carpet, buy a power drill, buy a new wall unit for my dining room, go to Sainsburys and return a mistakenly purchased bra to Marks and Spencer. Rock and roll!

5) On Saturday my parents came to visit. Before they arrived, I had time to have some cakes baked and iced, so I could give the illusion of being a domestic goddess. But they came, they brought plants, we planted them, Dad broke stuff (it's a habit he can't shake when he's at my house), we ate, walked on the Common and I waved them goodbye. A nice compact, bijou kind of a visit. Perfect!

6) Today was the seventh birthday of my neighbour's son. I bought him a little Lego game which he was disproportionately pleased with. As a six year old, seven was all he could think about, but I was struck by what a very little boy he still is. When I was seven I thought I was quite the grown up. I wonder if that's a Girl vs Boy thing or a Big Sister vs Only Child thing, or a Me vs Him thing. I can also remember that, for my seventh birthday party, I wore some slouchy pink dungarees and thought I looked ace. So probably I wasn't half the grown up I thought I was. Probably I was a very little girl still. Odd how you remember things though, no?

7) Whilst I was baking some (more) cakes to take to a friend's house this afternoon, my phone pinged a message from an unknown number. "Tooting, is this your no. still?" "Yes it is! Who's this?" It was someone I had a very lovely date with about five years ago, and never heard from again. I've no idea why he's chosen now to look me up, but we've had a pleasant afternoon exchanging messages, so I chose not to ask him, and enjoy the chat.

8) There was some football on the telly. 'Nuff said.

9) I spent a very lovely afternoon loafing in my friend's back garden, enjoying the sun and the company and lots of food and some food and a bit more food and chatting the unspecified chat of friends. I told them about the flock of parakeets that are currently living around here, and they looked at me as if I were mad. Ten minutes later, a flash of green shot across the garden. "See," I said. They nodded.

10) I have thirty followers! Whoop de doo! I'm going to have a little party RIGHT NOW!

Saturday, 26 June 2010


This is a short post about stripping.

As you may recall from my list of Jobs What Need Doing, I have a chest of drawers and two little bedside chests that I want to have stripped back to bare wood. This is a job that I was resigned to, but not looking forward to, doing myself.

Just out of interest, I just looked online to see if there are any local furniture strippers who I could get to do it for me, and I found a bloke with, in my humble opinion, the BEST company name ever!

So tomorrow, I'll be calling Jack the Stripper for a quote. Because how could I resist?!


Yesterday was my last day in the office until 5th July. Doesn't that sound like a blissfully long time? Actually it's only a week, but with the cheeky Friday addition, it makes for a nice loooong break.

Not a break at all, as it happens, for the time off work is essentially so that I have a good run of time to crack on with some work on the house. I suspect that I'll go back to work for a rest after this week.

My intentions are to:
-paint my dining furniture
- hang a shelf and some pictures
- construct a wall unit
- strip a chest of drawers and two bed side tables
- make some curtains
- order bedroom carpet
- get a radiator moved
- get a TV aerial on the roof
- order the furniture for my bedroom
- start work on the paintwork in my bedroom

How far down this list do you think I'll get ...?

Well I ticked off a few preliminary jobs today, which included a need to go to Ikea, Croydon. Oh, the horror!!!

I went today expecting it to he hell, expecting not to be able to buy the one piece of furniture I really wanted, expecting to talk to morons and expecting to send money on things I didn't want or need. And in fact, I was pleasantly surprised. I found the wall unit that I wanted pretty easily, found a man to print out the reference numbers for all the bits for me and offer to help drag the heavy bits off the shelves, and came home with only one item (costing just 99p) I didn't need*. I even found a way to break free of the blue arrow route that they MAKE you go around. It was an almost pleasant experience. Hoorah for me!

There was a moment, however, when I was reminded of the purgatory that Ikea can be. In the bed department were two women. A mother and daughter, at a guess, the daughter being in her late twenties. The mother was sitting on the edge of a bed, doing that half hearted bounce that English people do when they are trying to establish whether a mattress will be comfortable. The daughter was standing, arms by her side, tears slowly rolling down her cheeks.

The mother asked her what she thought. Is this one better than that one? Would you prefer mattress Sven, or mattress Abba? It was an innocent enough question, but I could see that any reason had gone out the window a long time ago. I could sense that the daughter had Ikea Syndrome. She was going to bite. So naturally I hovered around to listen ...

"Mattresses? MATTRESSES?! I don't care! I don't care any more! How long have we been here? HOURS! And you KEEP picking up vases! I want to go home, but I don't even know where I am anymore! I don't even know where in London I am, so I can't leave, even though I want to! I WANT TO GO HOME!"

I gawped. I couldn't help it. I mean, we all know how easy it is to snap in Ikea, but MY WORD, she had totally flipped!

As I was driving home, smug, with my set of stacking Lubdarg boxes on the back seat, I got to thinking that Ikea have missed a trick. They have a creche and a cafe, and they have those little wooden pencils everywhere, and even a home delivery service, but they don't have a counselling facility. I might write a letter to someone (who'll presumably be called Bjorn) with a suggestion that they install a spa facility. After all, if anyone knows how to do it, it's the Swedes.

* A fish shaped ice cube tray! I might not need it, but BOY did I want it! My summer beverages can now have minnows bobbing in them. Amazing!

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Is it wrong ...?

... to actively dislike a little old lady?

There's this woman who gets on my train. I don't see her every morning, but I do see her most mornings. I get on at Streatham Common and one stop later, she gets on at Balham.

She's small, and has a little old lady short curly hair-do, and wears powder and spectacles. Not glasses. They are most definitely spectacles. She wears sensible flat shoes with buckles on, and always, always, always wears a beige mac and a wee checky scarf. She carries one of those nylon shopping bags that Nanas have been using since before reusable shopping bags were trendy.
This isn't why I don't like her. I mean, there's no excuse for an ugly handbag, but it's not a reason to dislike a person.

The first time I noticed her, she was sitting next to me, and busying around with her purse (one of those wide flat ones in tan with a metal clasp and a smell of peppermints) and her driving licence dropped out onto my lap. As I handed it back to her, I saw her birth date. 1954. She's 56. FIFTY SIX! Read the description above again. Are you picturing a 56 year old? NO! She is seven years younger than my mother, and yet I had her pegged as someone at least ten years older.

This isn't why I don't like her either. I'm no fashion icon, and I might be a little more frumpy than I could be, but I don't think I look 50! But still, it would be mean to dislike her for that, no?

The reason I dislike her is that she uses her old-lady-lookingness to get a seat on the train. Can you believe it!? What a rotten trick!

There are always rather more people on the train than there are seats for them, and so there are always people standing up in the aisles and around the doors. Obviously it's always nice to sit down, given the choice, but it's only a fifteen minute journey, so if there's no seat, it's not the end of the world. This is the mentality of almost all the people on the train.

Not the "old" lady though. OH NO! She gets a seat every morning, the "old" troll. I've started watching her when she gets on now. She stands amongst the seats then starts muttering. The muttering attracts people's attention to her, and when someone then offers her a seat thinking she's genuinely old, and not just badly dressed, she manages to look peevish about it.

Every morning.

So that's why I don't like her. Not because she's old and has an ugly bag. Not because she's not really old, just badly dressed. Not even because she gets a seat every morning. But because she has the nerve to try it on every day, and wins!

So tell me. Is is wrong to actively dislike a little old lady?

Monday, 21 June 2010

This Weekend (11) ...

... I'm a little tardy.

I spent the bulk of this weekend either (a) drunk or (b) hungover, which makes finding 10 inspiring things to say about my weekend a little tricky. Ten things which I'm prepared to reveal to the group anyway ...

So anyway, I thought, if I left it a day, I might be able to think of more weekend things, and pad this baby out a bit. I'm not sure that I'm quite up to ten yet, but let's see if we can't eek a LOT of white wine* out a bit longer.

1) Thursday evening rushed up a me a bit. Having spent a week saying to a client, "we should get that offer out this week. Really. This week. Yes, I think it would be wise. Shall I send that offer out this week?" I got instructions to send afore mentioned offer out at 17:55 pm. Bastards. So I had to run around like a fool putting it all together and working out how to work the post franking machine, and then dash to the post office to discover that the last post had gone. Bastards. So I feigned ignorance, put it in the post box anyway, then went to the pub. Don't tell!!

2) Pub quiz joke question this week ... What's the difference between a golf ball and a g-spot? To say that this appealed to Team Biscuit's sense of humour would be an understatement! We had to narrow down six proposed answers to one: If you can't find one of them, you get heavily penalised. The other is a golf ball. Boom boom!

3) On a Friday morning, I almost always do the same thing. I set my alarm for 8pm, rather than risk losing my whole day to the duvet, and I go out for breakfast. It means that I'm up, dressed, out, and Doing Something. I usually go to a caff in Tooting (that I've blogged about in the past, but I can't find it, so you'l just have to trust me ... I'm loyal). This Friday, when I went in, the owner greeted me with the phrase, "the usual?", and I made a mental note to order something else next week.

4) I meet up with a friend for lunch, who said he'd take me to a pub that I've heard a lot about, but not been to before. But when we go there it was closed. So we went to a pub that we've been to before, and drank some white wine*. Then some more white wine* ...

5) ... then we went to another pub to meet some friends of mine to watch the football, and drink some more white wine*. Let me know if you can see the point at which the wheels might have dropped off. Anyway, suffice to say that I behaved badly. But sometimes, that's fun, no? So let's move on.

6) I've noticed, since I turned 30, that hangovers don't always behave as they should. So on Saturday I woke up relatively bright, relatively early, and feeling relatively pleased with myself. Possibly also relatively drunk. Cup of tea, shower, and set the coffee machine going, then, whilst I had a chat with a pal on the phone, the hangover swept over me like a wave, forcing me to excuse myself and go back to bed for an hour. Then I woke up and felt fine! Hoorah!

7) So, with hangover tempered, I set off for the fabulous Furzedown fun day on the Rec. What does a girl with a barely concealed smell of white wine* about her person really want? That's right! Three hours working in the information tent, selling arm-bands to small children and saying, "would you like to buy an Eco bag?" over and over and over and over again. Actually, once I got over the initial shock, it was great. All organised by a group of five volunteers, and a few strays (like me), and on a budget of about £2.50, the Rec had transformed magically from a litter-strewn hang out for local teenagers into a full scale festival. There were stalls selling fabulous local creations, and people playing African drums and face painters and plants and cakes and food and drinks and bouncy castles (for up to 13 years old only. NO FUN!) and Punch & Judy and a stage with bands and microphones and lights, for crying out loud, and it was all fabulous!

8) And after that, I was pooped. I came home and made some tea and put a DVD in and then fell asleep half way though and was back in bed about twelve hours after I initially woke up.

9) So since Friday and Saturday had both been such a write off, I had to get down to business on Sunday, doing exciting things like cleaning the bathroom and hoovering the stairs and catching up with some over-due jewellery making. And actually, busying around all day, ticking a series of small items off my "to do" list was oddly cathartic. I have next week off work to Work On The House. I only hope that I have the same sense of purpose then! (The one day of hard work, I mean. Not the two days of drunken stupor!)

10) And to round of the weekend, and because I am a domestic goddess, on Sunday evening I let the pan boil dry whilst cooking beetroot. So now my kitchen looks like someone's been murdered in it, and my nice, useful, medium sized, cook anything in it saucepan has a black and charred kind of a finish to it. RATS!

Well there you go! I did have ten constructive things to say about the weekend after all. Here's hoping that next week is a little more sedate though, eh?

*just typing "white wine" still makes me feel a bit queasy. I think I might be broken. Forever ...

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Hats, bags, fizz and horsies

Oh, what a fabulously lovely and gorgeous day!

You find me tired, a bit tipsy, and sun burnt. But happy!

Too much to tell you everything, so here's just a few of my highlights ...

Gorgeous Jules and I had a lovely leisurely morning, pottering around, getting dolled up, and munching scrambled eggs and smoked salmon for our breakfast, before heading out to meet the girls.

This year I was in a dark maxi dress and quite a big black feather fascinator, which isn't your typical Streatham Common station clobber, and might have raised a few eyebrows. But Jules was something else! Killer electric blue heels, miniskirt, and a head-dress made using 75 peacock feathers, and standing 23 inches (we measured) tall. To say we attracted attention would be an understatement. I shall feel quite dull tomorrow morning, scruffing along in my trousers and flats. I might wear a hat, just for the hell of it.

Anyway, trains, trains, trains, blah, blah, blah, nothing to report, until we picked up a particularly glamorous looking Baglady at Ascot station and our party was complete.

And then really, the day was a blur of champagne, hats, fascinators, gorgeous bags, champagne, racing cards, cardigans, royalty, horses, ice-creams, wins and losses, Union Jacks, champagne, brass bands, sun burn, racing tips, feathers, gusts of wind, Arabs in white suits (very "the man from Del Monte"), Vera Lynn, BBC, tiny little jockeys, and, did I mention, champagne?

Oh, what a lovely, lovely day! Apart from the fact that the combination of sun burn and a strappy dress makes me look like a doily, and the fact that I have to go to work tomorrow, it was perfect. So roll on Ascot 2011!! We're planning a theme of red, white and blue!

Oh, and the Queen, in case you were wondering, was resplendent in red! Gawd love 'er!

This is not a picture of the Queen.

And they're off ...

Tomorrow I am going to Royal Ascot.

This is the highlight of my social calendar, and a wonderful tradition that I look foward to each year.

I can remember, quite vividly, my first trip with three girlfriends, and the picnic that we hauled into the Silver Ring (the cheap seats). I can remember the sense of daring when placing a £1 each way bet, and the extravagance of the jug of Pimms.

Tomorrow we are a group of six. Three of the originals, one long standing attendee, one back for the second year, and one newbie. But we all embrace the excess these days, spending the weeks before comparing notes on dresses, shoes, and, of course, hats. We will pamper in the morning, arrive around lunchtime, sup champagne all afternoon, and, of course, have a flutter on the horses.

So now my dress (the third that I bought this year in my effort to find just the right thing) is hanging up, still with the price tags on, so that it will feel extra specially new when I put it on in the morning.

My hat sits nestled in its tissue paper bed, having been quietly tried on and posed in several times over, waiting for its Top Of The Bill appearance tomorrow.

And, in this house, we are getting in the swing of things!

Pop back tomorrow, and I'll report back on champagne shenanigans, horse races won and lost, and the colour of the Queen's hat.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Aspiring comedy genius ... The Results!

So, you might remember that last week I threw down the gauntlet, and invited you answer the question that Team Biscuit had been unable to answer at the pub quiz. You might also remember that I offered a prize to the funniest response.

After Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie featuring the joke on their Radio 2 show last week, and started using it in their nightly trailers, I was overwhelmed with both of your entries. Ha ha!

The question ...

Who is the coolest guy in the hospital?

The gorgeous Baglady suggested that it was the ice surgeon. Ice-surgeon, icesurgeon, eye surgeon. Gettit? I have to give her a big pat on the back because I believe that's the answer gave, and we thought it was funny enough to earn a point. Our question master, alas, disagreed. But I still think it's quite good.

The fabulous Ally over at Today Is My Birthday thought that the coolest guy in the hospital was the one in the morgue. Factually, I believe that she is correct, and whilst it mightn't be in the best taste, I did snort Coke out of my nose when I read it, so it goes to show that some times, tastelessness gets the laugh.

So, eeny meeny miney mo ... Well, I'm torn. But I'm seeing Badlady in the flesh (can you believe?!) on Wednesday, and I'm sure that, if I ply her with champagne, she will understand why I am declaring Ally the winner! Hoorah! Now I just need to buy a prize ...

Oh, and the real answer?

Who is the coolest guy in the hospital?

The ultra-sound guy!


And who takes over when he's on holiday?

The hip replacement guy!

Thanks very much folks! I'll be here all week!!

Saturday, 12 June 2010


I've been grateful three times this week.

I don't mean small-time grateful, like when someone makes you a cup of tea, or when you get a seat on the train, or when it starts raining five minutes after you get back rather than five minutes before. I mean big-style grateful. Like when you realise you're lucky and have to take a big deep breath to think about it.

One of my grateful moments, I wrote about here.

The other two are related.

On Tuesday lunchtime, I popped out at lunchtime to one of my favourite bead shops to pick up some provisions. I needed some things that I know they only keep in the stock room, so I waited for the shop assistant whilst she talked to another customer, but the conversation went on for a while and didn't show signs of slowing, so in the end I shuffled over to see if I could catch someone's eye. As I got closer, I realised that the reason for the delay was that the other customer was deaf, and trying to ask where something was in the shop.

It transpired, after some time, and, in the end, the use of a biro and a sheet of paper, that she was after some silver leather cord. It's no wonder that sign language wasn't getting the message across, is it? I mean, it's not like asking for apples in the greengrocers. It's a fairly specific product, and a fairly hard thing to gesture. She got there in the end, only to discover that they were out of stock, poor love.

I can't imagine that world. I can't imagine the isolation that she must feel by not being able to hear the world around her, or be able to communicate with it. I can't imagine the frustration that she must feel every time she has to carry out anything other than the most simple of transactions, or the gratitude you must feel when you finally get your message across. People say things like, "I would miss the sound of birdsong," or something equally saccharine, but you know what I'd miss? Noise. Plain and simple. I'm sitting here now hearing the sound of the buttons on the computer, the faint purr of the main road, and the occasional car or person on the street outside, a bike's brakes squeaking. Imagine not knowing any of that's going on.

I realise that you only know something's worth having if you've lost it. I don't know this lady's story, obviously, but I do recall a programme a few years ago about a couple who had cochlear implants in their retirement, and were so horrified by the racket that they turned them off and went back to their quiet worlds. Perhaps it's patronising to be sorry for her. But is did make me grateful that, when I wanted to know if there were any spools of black cotton cord in the stock room, I could just ask the question and hear the answer (which was that they were out of stock of that too).

Then on Thursday, I had my third burst of gratitude. My train to work is one of those with two seats on one side of the aisle and three on the other. No-one ever wants the middle seat of the three. There is no way to sit in those seats without getting uncomfortably close to the strangers sitting next to you, and that's terribly un-English. But then, so is standing when there's a seat. You can see the dilemma.

Anyway, I had the aisle seat of the three, and the middle seat remained empty for a couple of stops until a chap came to sit down. I, and the lady in the window seat both did the sharp exhale of breath that is traditional in such circumstance. It's meant to convey (a) a wish that the seat was still empty, and (b) an acceptance that there's no reason why he shouldn't be there. Don't judge me. It's the law of the commuter train. I didn't really take in much of this guy though. I was reading and I tend not to notice much around me before the first coffee.

It was only as the train pulled into Victoria and we all got up to leave that I realised that he had been, I assume, a thalidomide baby - I'd guess he was about ten years older than me, so the timing would be about right. To all effect he had no arms.

As I walked along the platform behind him, I became curious as to how he'd manoeuvre the ticket barriers. Then my thoughts moved on. He was wearing a buttoned shirt and lace up shoes. Did someone help dress him, or is there a way to deal with laces that I've not thought about? And what happens if, midway through the day, he decides he wants a jumper on? Or if he has to blow his nose? What happens when he needs a pee, for crying out loud?

I gripe about the fact that my ankle hurts (although it's hurt for over a year, on and off, and I've not yet seen a doctor about it) and that I'm too fat for my clothes. I gripe if there aren't clean clothes in the morning. I gripe if I dribble toothpaste on the only clean top I have when I'm running late. But my goodness, do I have it easy.

I think that it's the reserve of the comfortable to moan about discomfort. And I think that I am guilty of that myself. And I know that, in all likelihood, I will be ungrateful and moaning about my comfortable life in the near future. But for now, I will try and keep in mind how lucky I am to really have nothing to complain about.

Friday, 11 June 2010

And ...

... relax.

What a week!




I am very lucky to have a great job again. A job that reminds me why I chose this career which is, if I'm honest, a bit nerdy, but which I am good at and which I have an instinct for and which I love.

My old job sucked. The actual role was the same as that in my current place, but the job? Well that was poles apart. I spent my life smiling at people I knew bitched about me behind my back (well ... they bitched about everyone else, so I assume they did about me too), pleading with people to tell me what they were doing before I heard it from a third party, repeating myself, being sworn at by my boss, and dealing with an overwhelming apathy from my colleagues. Every day was like walking through mud. Every week was agonisingly exhausting.

But you know how it is. When you do something every day, you don't notice that it's not normal anymore.

This week has been frantic. I had a "to do" list (I do like a list) of eight things that, whatever else happened, I HAD to get done this week. Well. Lots else happened. Loads of things came to a head this week, so there were letters and letters and letters, notes to clients, emails and phone calls and more letters, and each thing went to the top of the list and the eight things dropped down it. And to boot, we are working on a really exciting project with a client which, if it comes off, will be a-maz-ing, but which, in the mean time, is a black hole for time.

So today I found myself dealing with things for our big exciting project, dealing with the things that came in, dealing with the "to do" list (still seven items long this morning), answering the phones, and generally chasing my tail.

And in the midst of it, when I was having a little banter with my colleagues in a spare thirty seconds, it struck me how much more fun it is to be busy beyond compare at the new place, than it was to fight fire at the old, and how lucky I am to be there, and be able to enjoy the thrill of the chase again. I celebrated my half-anniversary there this week. And I can't wait to enjoy the next six months. But in the mean time, BOY am I ready for the weekend!

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

I am a crafty devil

Recently, on a weekend at my parents house, shortly before I left to drive home, I went out into the garden with a large hardback book (Physics for the Enquiring Mind, if you were wondering), some sheets of A4, and a pair of scissors. I proceeded to work my way around the garden, cutting off attractive leaves here, flower heads there, and pressing them all carefully in the book.

Mother came to check on what I was doing, and when I told her, she rolled her eyes. "I rather thought you'd have grown out of all this by now," she said. "You were always a begger for the cutting and sticking."

When I was a child my favourite toys weren't toys at all, but crafty things. Tubes of glue and glitter and stickers and scissors and coloured cardboard. Oh, I loved it! And she's right, I haven't grown out of it. I get new ideas for sticking things and sewing and cutting all the time, and rarely get the time to put them into practice. The pressed flowers are for some greetings cards that I want to make for an arty event later in the year, but I've not yet got out the card to see what I've got supplies of.

I've also got designs on some little mother-of-pearl buttons at the moment, that I'd like to turn into some kind of door hangings, and of course, I always have loads of jewellery to make up. Oh, there's just so much to do!

But a while ago, the lovely Gillian taught me a new technique that I spent some time on at the crafting event that we ran last weekend. It's compelling and wonderful, and I challenge you, once you know what it is, not to try it yourself.

What you do is this: Take plastic carrier bags, cut them to make a design or pattern or picture, and lay it out, as you want it to be, on a sheet of greaseproof paper. Lay another sheet of greaseproof paper over the top, and iron the lot (quite a cool iron, all over, but not letting it sit too long anywhere. Like when you're ironing your delicates). Now, this is important ... don't try it without the greaseproof paper under and over the bags. Otherwise you'll end up with carrier bag melted onto your ironing board, or your iron, or both. Trust me. It doesn't come off!

The whole lot melts slightly and fuses together. No glue or tape or pins. Just plastic and heat. It's marvellous! And VERY addictive!

At the weekend, the kids who were trying their hand at it were largely producing pictures of flowers (primarily because that was one of the examples that we made up in advance, I suspect), but we've also tried weaving two colours together to make a sort of matting. Here's the thing though - you could, in theory, make ANYTHING! Gillian told of a lady who'd made herself a rain mac. Could be myth, but has the potential to be true, and it's this potential that MAKES ME WANT TO TRY IT!

In the mean time, I think that I'll satisfy myself with making some bunting for the front of the house (Sainsbury's orange flags ironed onto an Ocado purple cord, I think). But the sky's the limit!

And whilst you're ironing yourself some bags, you can give some thought to the punchline to my competition joke from Monday's post. Come along now. Don't be shy!

Monday, 7 June 2010

Aspiring comedy genius?

Each week, at the pub quiz, there is a joke.

We are given the joke, and we have to come up with the punchline. Funniest gets a point.

Usually we can work our way to the answer through a combination of word-play and luck. Unfortunatly this week this techniqe failed us. We did not get the point. We were not amused.

So, I thought I'd give you the joke and let you give me the punchline. Send me a comment with your proposed punchline.

In fact, I will send a prize to the funniest person (based on the punchline. Anything else would be rude) which I have yet to acquire, but which will TOTALLY be worth the effort of commenting!

Here it is. Are you ready?

Q: Who is the coolest man in the hospital?

I'll post up the actual answer next Monday, along with the prizewinner.

Have fun!!

Sunday, 6 June 2010

This Weekend (10) ...

... has been very much a weekend of two halves.

The good bits have been superb, but the bad pretty flaming ghastly.

So instead of my usual ten point chronology of my weekend, I'll give you an alternating rant and rave on a theme of why it's foul and fabulous to live here.

Let's start with a bit of fabulous. It's good to start on a high note, don't you think?

So, on Friday afternoon I was cleaning the car. Yup! Me! Bucket and sponge. Amazing, no? Well believe it or not, that's not the fabulous bit. A neighbour walked past and commented, as is the neighbourly way, that I could make a start on hers when I was finished. She's a lady I've seen around a bit over the eleven months that I've lived here, but never been introduced to. Whilst we exchanged pleasantries my next-door-neighbour, and a friend from book club also came by. The four of us stood, chatting about mutual friends, connections, gossip, rumour, events and news. By the time we parted company twenty minutes later, I'd offered to help organise a street party and joined the local Neighbourhood Watch group. Not, it transpires, a moment too soon.

On Friday evening, I settled in for the night with a cuppa and a DVD. By the end of the trailers, the noise from outside was unbearable.

Next-door-but-one lives a single mother and her teengaged son. She's OK. A bit rough, and fond of a can of Special Brew, but essentially OK. Her son, on the other hand, is out of control. He's 17, has left school, and does nothing but hang around with his live-in girlfriend and about ten of their mates. There are local theories about how they all make money, but these are 80% speculation, so let's not dwell. They are also thought to be at the centre of the majority of local "incidents", but whilst most people know this, oddly no-one ever witnesses anything. Generally, they are trouble. They have taken, of late, to hanging around on a Friday and Saturday evening on the front wall of mine, and my neighbour's house, drinking, smoking, and talking unintelligibly.

As the decibel level rose on Friday, I got up to close the window, and as I did so, I realised that, as well as sitting on my wall, they were sitting on my car. Five teenaged boys, all six feet tall and more, sitting on my tiny little car. Ooh, I was mad! But what to do? I was scared to confront them, but also scared not to. What to do, what to do?

We have a very good local police team. The Met have set up Safer Neighbourhood Teams, designed to deal with these small groups who operate on a local level. Our local team is second to none. But at 10pm, all I got was an answering service, so I left a message and dithered some more. Finally, after a lot of counting to ten, I decided not to let the buggers intimidate me. I opened the door and told them to get off the car and my front wall. Sulkily, then all hitched along to my neighbour's wall and car. I pointed out that this wasn't really what I meant. "Do you have nothing better to do than sit on our front walls all night?" "No." What more was there to say?

Within five minutes though, they'd thought of something else to do. They started chasing around the cars, jumping over bonnets and throwing any missile that came to hand. They fought in the street - play fighting at first, until someone threw too well timed a punch, and it escalated. One lad found a fence post and started waving it around, until it bored him and he threw it along the street. And then as quickly as it started, it stopped. They scattered; some left, some right, and some back into the house, and five minutes later the police arrived. A suspicious person would think that they knew they were on the way. There ensued a row on the street ("I know my rights!" "Show me your warrant!" "This isn't "The Bill", sir," etc etc etc) before everyone moved inside and things calmed down.

On Friday night, nine people on my street called 999, and I only left an answer phone message! Rats! At least I now know how to get results. The neighbourhood has now become "them" (the family at number 23 and associated gang members) and "us" (everyone else, plus the police), and none of us can see how life will get better without getting markedly worse first.

It's a huge frustration to me, and, it seems, the police force, that we all have to wait for a disaster to happen before anyone can really do anything. Petty crime, intimidation, a level of vandalism and antisocial behaviour will make this street a hard place to live for the foreseeable future, but until the Police can pin something good on one or two of them, there's nothing that can really be done. Meanwhile we all live in the knowledge that a stabbing, a beating, or worse, is a constant possibility, and can only sit back and wait for it to happen. Deary me. Where will it end?

Anyway. Yesterday dawned bright, sunny, and with such an air of positivity that it was hard to believe the unpleasantness of the night before was any more than a dream. As I left the house, a neighbour who I say hello to but don't really know also stepped out of her house. Bonded now by our respective observations of the night before, we chatted for a while, and as we parted ways, we both commented that every cloud has a silver lining. Civil war on the street has drawn the rest of us closer together. We're going for a drink this week.

Later in the day I helped a friend set up the opening event of the Furzedown Festival - a crafting event for children in a local community centre. I spent a happy, if exhausting three hours showing people how to make pictures and bunting out of carrier bags (it's MUCH more impressive and much less crappy than it sounds. I might give you a step by step guide to the most fun you can have with greaseproof paper, if you play your cards right) and marvelled at the fact that if you unplug children from their Playstations, and give them some buttons and glue and fabric and colouring pens, they are as happy as Larry (whoever he is).

So there you have it. In one weekend I have seen battle lines drawn in the street with such purpose
that I can't see how the next few months won't be vicious and dreadful, and yet am warmed yet again by the wonderful sense of community that this place has over any other in London. I tell you ... you have to love this place, or it'd drive you mad!

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Ungood English #5

It's been a while since we had a dose of Ungood English, hasn't it?

That's not to say that there hasn't been any, but I haven't seen any really choice examples when I've had my camera to hand, and been quick enough with it.

Yesterday, I saw this from the top deck of the bus.

Now. Firstly, and most importantly (and I am aware that I've said this before. A lot) if you're paying serious money to have your shop sign made up, RUN A SPELL CHECK FIRST! Really, people! If you're buying a car, you test drive it and look under the bonnet. If you're buying a bed, you lie on it and bounce up and down a bit. If you're buying a new shop sign, GET SOMEONE ELSE TO READ IT AND TELL YOU IF IT'S RIGHT!

But there are other underlying issues. I should say, for clarity's sake, that I haven't set foot inside Glamourous [sic] Nails and Beauty so I can't actually account for how glamourous (...) or otherwise it is, but as a rule, I think that if you have to write it on the outside of your shop, you are probably trying too hard to convince everyone.

There used to be a shop on Piccadilly called Posh. Seriously. Posh. They sold "leather effect" jackets and PVC trousers. Not in a kinky way. Just in a tasteless way. Every time I went past I wondered, do the owners really think it's posh? Or do they think that punters will be lulled into a false sense of security? Or are they being funny? Who knows. All I do know is that posh, it was not.

Whether a shop is posh or glamourous (!) is surely in the eye of the beholder. Otherwise wouldn't all shops be called "Nice Clothes" or "Comfy Sofas" or "Delicious Food". You call a shop, "Glamorous" then it's got a lot to live up to.

You call a shop, "Glamourous," you've pretty well managed everyone's expectations. So maybe they've got it right after all.