Sunday, 29 July 2012

The Greatest Show on Earth

What a weekend of firsts - apart from Mark Cavendish in the road race of course.

It all kicked off on Friday by watching the Opening Ceremony along with 26 million other people. Now, I love Only Fools and Horses but isn't it funny that that is the only programme ever to have had more viewers with 27 million for an episode in the 90s. I've never bothered watching an opening ceremony before - but they were never in my home country but I'm so glad we couldn't get a babysitter on Friday. It was one of the best evenings of televisual viewing pleasure since I watched 4 episodes of The Wire in one go. I shall have to restrict my highlights to top 5 as they're too numerous to mention:

Good Evening Mr Bond

  • The Queen making her acting debut with everyone's favourite Bond
  • Rowan Atkinson's spoof Chariots of Fire
  • David Beckham's arrival with the torch by speedboat
  • The French team carrying Union Jacks - but I suppose London is France's 5th city.
  • The cauldron - nuff said. V clever.
  • A trip through British musical history because, let's face it, we are the best.
I know, that's 6


  • Why or why were all announcements made in French before English? I know we've just established London is France's 5th city but it's England's FIRST city. And anyway, no-one speaks French apart from the French and people from Martinique.
  • Macca - I love Paul McCartney but really......Hey Jude? It could at least have been "Here comes the Sun" or "A Hard Day's Night"
So, as we moved from our bottle of champagne onto a bottle of red (historic British events call for Olympic drinking which is what the rest of the world think we're great at), the teams started their long march around the stadium. Christ, how many countries beginning with "A" are there? We were almost onto our third bottle by the time the mighty force that is the Bangladesh team of 5 came on. Anyway, Learnt some very interesting facts about the various countries and I'm a girl who likes facts. Such as , Bhutan were the last country in the world to receive TV and that was in 1999. Brunei and Qatar are including women in their teams for the first time. Botswana is the largest producer of diamonds and Bolivia the highest and most isolated country. The Bs are far more interesting than the As clearly. Nauru has only 2 team members but I have no idea where it is. And Djabouti - learned absolutely nothing interesting about that.

I think it would be far more enjoyable to watch each nation compete in its opening ceremony costume. There were some corkers. Team USA looked resplendent in their Ralph Lauren designed British Airways cabin crew uniforms and the Czech Republic took the piss out of our climate wearing wellies. The Kiwis would find sprinting difficult in pointy trainers (no offence to all my kiwi friends and family) but the biggest disappointment of all was our own outfit. Normally the nation  of refinement and understatement, our costumes could have been confused with the one Elvis Presley may have worn as he munched on a peanut butter and jam sandwich before breathing is last on the toilet.

"You can find your lifejackets under
your seats"
2012 Olympic Games - Opening Ceremony
Rain Rain go away, come again
another day, not in London grey and dark
but in warm and sunny Prague.
The Associated Press
Chris Hoy - well known Elvis impersonator and national Olympic hero
Anyway, the whole thing was incredible. Having gone to bed at 1.30am and having consumed an Olympic swimming pool of wine, I got up early on Saturday to fulfill my own Olympic feat - taking a 5 year old to a sporting event. I had thought of going on my own but couldn't face the guilt I would feel ten years down the line when he berates me for depriving him of what would potentially, and most likely, be his only ever experience of the games. I panicked, took the portable DVD player, upgraded to weekend First Class on the train so I could avail myself of the plug socket and keep it charged for the mercilessly long 2 hour journey and bought him 3 magazines in case he was still bored and wanted to talk to me, god forbid. The day before I had suggested we take colouring crayons for the journey to which he had replied "Ok mummy, good idea, but just for the train. I won't colour at the gymnastics because then you'll ask me what I enjoyed most and I'll have to say I don't know because I was too busy colouring to watch anything". At least he's honest so I left them behind. He surprised me and was an angel until an hour into the gymnastics when he kicked the Japanese lady in front of us in the head (accidentally of course - he's basically a nice boy) and announced loudly during a lull in proceedings "I'm bored now - when can we go on the underground train?". Thank god for the nice couple next to us who gave him an ipod to play games on so I could ogle Team USA in their tight leotards for the rest of the session.

And so we made our long and winding way home stopping off for a packet of ham and a bag of chocolate fingers for him (I had lost the will to try and make him eat normal things) and a much needed can of Marks and Spencers Mojito for me. Believe me, despite the hangover, I needed one by then.

Last night I slept for 11 hours I was so mentally and physically drained. When our next door neighbour asked The Monkey this morning which part of yesterday he liked the most, thankfully he claimed the gymnastics, despite looking like he was having knitting needles stuck in his eyes for most of it. It made the 95 quid a ticket and the 12.99 stuffed Mandeville that I had to buy him at Waterloo Station all worth while. Perhaps one day, when he's a champion vaulter, he'll remember the great service I did by inflicting two hours of sheer boredom on him and thank me for being such a wonderful mother. Maybe not.

Today I did my last run of the week bring my total up to 29km since Tuesday. I've just spent the evening watching the swimming and I cannot believe that those guys experience more pain than I do when I run to the organic farm and back.  Next week I shall have to up my game to 30k.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Mary Mary, Quite Contrary..... does your garden grow?

For those of you outside the UK, that's one of our quaint old English nursery rhymes. The full verse finishes with...

With silver bells and cockle shells
And pretty maids all in a row.

Which, to me, makes about as much sense as taking a 5 year old to the mens' gymnastics . In fact, no-one really has any idea what it's about. The theories range from being a religious allegory of catholicism where the pretty maids are in fact nuns (?!) to a rhyme about Mary Queen of Scots. The "cockle shells" apparently could be referring to instruments of torture or alluding to the fact that her husband couldn't be faithful to her. I do wonder though why it can't just be about a girl called Mary who had a garden where little bells tinkled in trees and the walls were decorated with the shells of small, edible, bi-valve molluscs.

Mary Queen of Scots and her
instruments of torture...

pretty little mary tending her
garden .....
Either way, my garden is growing stupidly but in all the wrong ways. Since St Swithin worked backwards this year and it rained solidly for three and a half months before his feast day, my attempt at becoming anywhere near self-sufficient has failed miserably. With no sun from April to mid July I have failed to produce even one courgette, my purple-spouting broccoli spouted but I forgot to pick it to so it went to seed, my carrots have been in the ground for about 4 months and are still only about an inch long and my 10 pea plants haven't even produced enough to put in my annual pea and mint risotto for two. Though, given that I keep finding discarded pea pods around the garden, it's possible that the twins have learnt how to forage for themselves. Hopefully they'll bring back a whole venison next time. The only thing I've managed to produce is potatoes but it's hardly been cost-effective. The 40 litres of compost needed for each potato bag has cost more than I could buy the crop for from Waitrose. Haven't had a single tomato yet either. Still, I gather Monty Don's having a tough year aswell so I don't feel like too much of a failure.

Tonight is the opening ceremony of the Olympics and tomorrow is the men's gymnastics with said 5 year old. Tonight I shall go for a run beforehand to get into the sporting mood and then spend the evening planning, in meticulous detail, how I'm going to get The Monkey from home to the North Greenwich stadium, as it has been confusingly renamed, without accidentally on purpose leaving him on the train. I adore him but he talks me to death and cannot keep still. Even now he is leaning over my shoulder wittering in my ear and wanting to know what I'm writing about him. Learning to read does have its pitfalls, for the parents anyway.

And so, as I psyche myself up for my own Olympic-sized task tomorrow, I shall go and see whether my next batch of 3 peas are ready to pick and decide what to do with them. Add them to the bag of 10 peas waiting in the freezer or just eat them? I bet Mary Mary didn't have such conundrums.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Faster, Higher, Stonger

The sun is out, I have a glass of wine by my computer, The Boy is killing himself playing squash, The Monkey is on his first sleepover and all I can hear are the dulcet tones of one twin whining "cuddle mummy" from her bed. On Monday I was wondering whether it's possible to get clinically depressed from too much rain so I stomped round to my friend Judith's house and sat there in silence for an hour while she probably wondered whether there was any point to my visit. Now everything suddenly seems rosier. Clearly this is because the greatest show on earth starts in 7 days and because we have booked a staycation. It's enough to make me stop being cynical. Just a short rant then before moving on to brighter things....

There's been a lot of bad press here about the Olympics since we were awarded the games on that fateful day, 24 hours before our underground system was blown up. Everyone has whinged about the cost of hosting such an event during a global economic crisis and there are plenty of things that are winding me up about it:

Tickets - a farce. The ticketing system has been a joke. First of all you had to apply for as many as you possibly could in the hope that you didn't actually get them all for fear of having to remortgage your house when your Visa bill came through. There were stories of people applying for 20,000 pounds worth and getting nearly all of them and then the rest of us got close to none. It was easier to buy a ticket for our own Olympics in New Zealand than it was here. And there was also only one real method of payment:

Visa. One of the main sponsors of 2012 is Visa which means that no other credit card is valid as a method of payment. So when you set up your official London 2012 ticket account and go to pay, if you don't have a Visa, you then have to apply for one. It's the same in the venues - food, drink and merchandise purchases can only be made with Visa or cash. And who carries cash these days? So, when buying that food or drink...............

it appears that only the most inappropriate forms of nutrition for any self-respecting wannabee sportsperson will be available. MacDonalds and Coca Cola are major sponsors. Those generators of top athletes - how could Usain Bolt be the fastest man on earth without a McMuffin for breakfast? And the official beer sponsor is Heineken. Couldn't they find any British sponsors??

A rail against Reebok. Linford Christie and his
Puma contact lenses. Presumably he didn't wear
them whilst running
And finally, those hallowed rings. Only the official sponsors are allowed to use them. I know you'd have to have landed from Mars (ideally not via Heathrow) not to realise this country is hosting the biggest sporting event on earth but it seems that anyone not officially connected with the games via a multi-gazillion-pound sponsorship deal is not even allowed to mention "The Olympics" in their advertising so well-known pub chains are having to refer to a "summer of sport" when inviting customers to watch events on a big screen whilst enjoying a pint of Heineken and a burger. Unfathomable though that a butcher near the sailing venue in Weymouth was asked to remove a sign displaying a ring of sausages and the words "fantastic 2012". Apparently I also need to watch what I wear when I go. We've been warned today that we may not get into venues wearing Nike trainers or Pepsi t-shirts. Not that I have or want a Pepsi t-shirt.

But, those are my only gripes. This is the biggest event to happen in this country in my lifetime so I am going to enjoy every minute. I have got myself mens' gymnastics tickets for next Saturday which means, even if I go on my own, I'm going to have a bloody good day out. I had considered taking The Monkey but will a 5 year old appreciate a ticket worth 95 quid and will he sit still for long enough for me not to wish he was performing his gymnastics on the floor with the chance of a medal? But then again, it might not happen in his lifetime so should I just treat him?

I know a lot of people are avoiding London for the duration of the games but I can't wait to see the buzz. I almost wish we still lived there. Which other city would have sport's most scantily-clad event played where the prime-minister could see it from his bedroom window (it's just occurred to me maybe that's why). So, despite all the cynicism it was refreshing to see this article in the New Zealand Herald. I don't know what the media coverage is like where you are but this proves
 that there is still an undeniable bond between
Horse Guards Parade - if they had that
sand delivered from Devon our
holiday is screwed
us and our furthest flung colonial outpost. 
They still think we're great!

What with Andy Murray only just missing out on Wimbledon, Bradley Wiggins just about to win the Tour de France and me running 8km today, I think we'll be just fine over the next few weeks. As the pub blackboards say , it's a great "summer of sport" so bring it on!


Monday, 16 July 2012

"The Louder the Frog, The More the Rain"

Michael Fish & St Swithin.
Separated at birth?

"Earlier on today, apparently, a woman rang the BBC and said she heard there was a hurricane on the way... well, if you're watching, don't worry, there isn't!".

Those were the lovely Michael Fish's famous words in October 1987, on the eve of the worst storm to hit Britain since 1703. 

You would think that with today's technology where your fridge can place your shopping order for you (wish it would), a fairly accurate weather forecast might not be too much to ask for. But no. The Met Office famously predicted a "barbecue summer" for us in 2009 which turned out to be a complete washout and a "mild winter"in 2010 which became one of the harshest on record. So, what hope did our gloriously unreliable forecaster St Swithin ever have? For those of you outside our green and pleasant land, Swithin was a 9th century Bishop of Winchester. He clearly wasn't renowned for miracle-working during his lifetime as he is barely mentioned in contemporary writings (though apparently there was one incident involving and old woman and some broken eggs) but when his grave was moved a hundred years after his death, he suddenly gained a following as a weatherman.  His feast day in England is 15th July. Yesterday. And tradition has it that whatever the weather on that day, it will hold for the next forty days.The traditional rhyme goes like this:

St Swithin's Day if thou dost rain
For 40 days it will remain
St Swithins Day if thou be fair
For 40 days twill rain no more

However, given that yesterday here was a lovely day (no rain) and that I woke up to torrential showers again this morning I have rewritten the poem:

If on this day it chucks it down
You would indeed be right to frown
St Swithin couldn't poss'bly let
These 40 days be 'owt but wet 

But if this day there is no rain
And the sun shines down on you again
Then don't believe that summer's rumour
It's just St Swithin's sense of humour.

It's starting to strike me that I seem to go on about the weather quite a lot. That's because I'm English and it's what we do. Apart from a love of queuing, we like to analyse old wives tales and see whether cows lying down really is a portender of rain or whether the cows are just tired. Perhaps I am just a frustrated forecaster. Afterall, weathermen in this country (not to be confused with the underground New York hip hop group of the same name) achieve near godlike status and have even been immortalised in songs. Michael Fish even had one of his forecasts sampled by The Prodigy.

Thankfully I don't have to go for a run in the rain today. I'm having a well-earned day off having inadvertently run the     furthest I've ever managed yesterday. If I'd realised it was 7.2km to my intended destination, I probably would have stayed in and made myself a Pimms. Luckily I had absolutely no idea and so I plodded on. And on. And on. Sorely tempted to turn back after 5k to make it a nice round 10, I texted The Boy when I got there, half thinking that he might come and pick me up on my way back but unfortunately he only found the text around 3 hours later once I had run all the way home AND mowed the lawn. Or at least that's what he said.

So, the point is, my target for this past week was 20km and I ended up doing 28. Today I can hardly walk but at least the half marathon is now looking a little more do-able. The night before I shall check the weather forecast and then completely disregard it knowing that a) it's probably wrong and b) I won't be able to do anything about it anyway.

Red sky at night, shepherd's delight.....

Friday, 13 July 2012

Come On Baby Light My Torch

So, as you may know I'm supposed to be running a half marathon in October. I say supposed to be because I still cannot for the life of me picture me even crossing the starting line let alone the finishing line. Yesterday, I  went to Shaftesbury to see the Olympic torch. I figured it might act as a catalyst - something to spur me on. Actually it just filled me with dread but it also made me do a bit of research on the torch which was rather interesting. For me anyway because I'm quite anal about things like that.

Did you know that the torch for our London Olympics has been designed along the theme based on the number 8. There will be 8000 torchbearers, (and therefore at least 8000 torches given they're all given the chance to buy theirs for 200 quid which I think is a swizz. I always imagined there was only one torch), it is 800 mm long, weighs 800 grams (it has to be light enough for 12 year olds to carry) and is made of a gold coloured metal that is perforated with 8000 circle holes (which makes it lighter). I thought that was fascinating but enough of that.  As methods of conveying a flame go, it's rather smart looking. If you look back over previous designs, some of them look like kitchen utensils:

Egg Whisk

Montreal 1976 Summer Olympic Games
Montreal 1976
Mexico City 1968 Summer Olympic Games
Mexico City 1968

Honestly, trying to slot those pictures in has taken half an hour so figure out the magic pairs yourself. 

Anyway, given that I've been told now that "it's all about the miles", I'm trying this week to do at least 20km. Until today I had done 10. And today, unsurprisingly, it has been torrential all day. Of course. So, just as the ankle biters were about to hit the sack, I changed into my running kit and fartleked to the barn and back. I can't work out whether fartleking is supposed to cover distances more quickly than normal running because you're going faster for part of the time. Not in my case anyway but that's probably because I end up walking the bits in between. Though I did make sure that my fast bits coincided with cars coming along the lane in the hope that they think I always run like that.

And so, to another Friday night and my turn to cook. At the beginning of this whole blogging exercise I vowed to cook more and to make new things which has failed miserably on both fronts. Firstly because I can't be arsed and secondly because the one new thing that I did make (the salmon and noodle salad) I love so much that we now have it at least three times a week. We were going to have it tonight aswell  - this is how you make it:

  • Go for a run in the pouring rain to justify the bottle of wine you anticipate having
  • 7pm (it is Friday afterall) have shower and put pyjamas on (this is so that, when you get down to the kitchen and open the fridge and realise that you have half your ingredients missing you can't then go to the shop to buy them and so have to....
  •  resort to plan B which, against all my rules, is IMPROVISE
  • Away with the noodle salad and in with the Roast Salmon , lemon and thyme risotto.
  • Open fridge - dig out salmon (still within use by date), lemon (already halved and starting to go green and dry),  wine. Oops no wine.
  • Go to "wine cupboard"and find that, despite both working in the wine trade, we only have one bottle left which is too good to put in risotto.
  • Put it in the freezer (it's white)
  • Shout outside to The Boy who's in his office "is there any cooking white in the garage?" No reply.
  • Decide to do it without wine. Decide also that, as The Boy is working hard, not to open the good stuff in the freezer and put in a) the risotto or b) my stomach.
  • Go out to office to find that The Boy is "working" but has a beer in hand
  • Return to kitchen and remove good stuff from freezer and put into stomach.
  • Finish cooking risotto and eat - the recipe is now irrelevant.

Anyway, the point is I have seen the Olympic Torch AND cooked a new meal. All in the space of 48 hours.


Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Nothing if not patriotic

It was the straw that broke the camel's back. This morning I have been sent both a Facebook message from my friend and neighbour to say that it's lovely and sunny and hot in Majorca (she said she felt she ought to let me know) and a link to another friend's super-swanky holiday resort in Greece. This is on top of Softy Moore coming back from Thailand, Snooky Dougarry and her crew going to Croatia and Gaynor Raine returning from Portugal. We've just booked a week in Dartmouth.

I suppose it's our own fault for wanting to do our best for Britain. How could we possibly leave the country when the Olympics are on? Partly because the commentary on Thai TV might be difficult to follow (not that we were thinking of going there anyway) and partly because The Boy is dead against going abroad during the most expensive two weeks of the year to somewhere that might be too hot for toddler skin. Call me selfish but isn't that what Factor 50 is for? Hence the decision to staycate. I've got nothing against Devon - I love the place and grew up holidaying there - but this incessant rain is so beyond irritating now that I am losing the will to get up in the morning. And Devon is just not far away enough - with a fair wind I could probably walk there in a day from here.

All this frustration has got me thinking about previous holidays and the best and worst therein. My best holidays have always been sunny ones, bizarrely without any children.

Muscat - our first honeymoon (how many honeymoons does a girl need?)  Highlights - the sea was as warm as a bath and the beautiful oblong glass plate from the hotel room managed to magic itself out of The Boy's bag when we got home. Lowlights - I worried for months that the plate would be tracked down and that retribution would follow. Don't you get your hands chopped off for that?

India - this was our second honeymoon. Highlights - pretty much all of it. Getting Kelloggs Cornflakes in a china bowl in the first class carriage of the train from Delhi to the Himalayas. Lowlights - not getting the much-longed-for Delhi Belly despite eating in a restaurant next to a mountain of grey chicken heads and legs.

And the not so best...
Phenomenally unsuccessful for me. I didn't even try ski-ing until I met The Boy but he's rather nifty on a mountain so I felt it was a case of make an effort or lose him. Highlights - none. Lowlights - where shall I start?

1.   Broke and dislocated my fingers and tore a ligament in my right knee on a dry slope the day before going ski-ing for the first time. I was the only person flying TO a resort with a ski-ing injury. Spent all week in the chalet on my own.

2.   Tore my cruciate ligament in my left knee on the first day of my second trip. On the second day The Boy left to go up the mountain and left me with an ice pack and some paracetamol. I called him at lunch time to explain that the ice-pack had attached itself and that trying to remove it was also removing my skin. Apparently I was supposed to wrap it in a towel first but he didn't say that and I normally respond best to literal instructions. Spent all week in the chalet on my own with a knee which, once it had defrosted, looked like a chicken fillet and promptly shed its skin.

3.   Enjoying a leisurely lunch in a mountain restaurant in the Pyrenees on my third trip when the weather seems to turn and the restaurant starts to empty." I'm sure the announcement in French is saying that they're evacuating the mountain "I said to The Boy. He reassured me it was fine and that we should enjoy our long lunch and second bottle of wine. Left the restaurant to find that they had indeed evacuated the mountain due the now-raging blizzard. I managed to scramble into the last cable car down only to get trapped as the wind buffeted us from side to side hundreds of feet above the mountain-side. Almost fell out as the wind blew the doors open. I didn't find the cable car engineer shouting "Merde" into his walkie talkie or the Spanish father-of -three making the sign of the cross very reassuring. In the meantime The Boy skied down - he was, quite rightly as it turned out, more frightened of the cable car than the blizzard

4.    Trip number 4 and 6 months pregnant- arrive at departures at Heathrow to find a Matterhorn of luggage in the check-in hall. Instantly we knew this trip was doomed and sure as eggs is eggs and as sure as disaster follows me around on ski-ing holidays like a bad smell, our luggage didn't make it. It didn't make it in fact until a week after we returned. BA, in their wisdom, despite us flying to France, sent our luggage to Italy by road for sorting before sending it back again. By Road. It wouldn't have been so bad if we didn't have our first evening's meal in the suitcase. Knowing that the shops would be shut when we arrived and feeling smug for planning ahead, we had packed the ingredients for Chicken Fajitas for eight. When we were finally reunited with our luggage more than two weeks later, the chicken fillets looked like my kneecaps from trip 2.  Spent all week in chalet in the same pair of maternity jeans and wearing the same pair of disposable contact lenses.

I could go on but this is turning out to be quite a long one. Suffice to say, as I write this, I realise that actually, going to Devon is probably a good thing for me. How much trouble can I get into and what injuries can I possibly sustain? My bag should, all being well, arrive at the same time as me. The children have no chance of being sunburnt. We can watch the Olympics when (and I say when, not if) it rains and it's close enough to drive / walk home if it gets really bad.

Olympic Gold for Patriotism please.....

Sunday, 8 July 2012

50 Shades of My Skin Today

I have to say, today has been a a bit of a struggle. As hangovers go, it's not a killer but it's the tiredness that's got me. I'm not made for 2am finishes anymore. And it makes me look like the title of my least favourite book.

Last night was the highlight of our annual social calendar - the Cricket Club Ball. Snooky Dougarry, who you may remember is one of my fellow book club members, was chief organiser so we always knew it would be good. She's not exactly a shrinking violet and she likes a good time as much as the rest of us. However, being chief organiser has its downsides - the weather had been so bad that the venue had to be changed from the usual marquee on the cricket pitch to the village hall where the capacity is 80 fewer people. How do you cull 80 people? Simple really - those who haven't paid upfront and those who aren't in your book club or on your table. So having spent the day changing venue and culling guests and making soon-to-be-ex-friends, she still had time to knock up a cauldron of mojitos. When we were in Monaco on our book-club jaunt last year we pretty much mainlined on mojitos and so they've become our adopted book club drink of choice. Snooky Dougarry's version is better than the one at the top of the Rockefeller Centre:

1 cauldron
9 parts rum
1 part soda
half a bag of silver spoon caster sugar
98 limes
3 kilos of mint.

Hence the evening started well, we got through 2 bottles of rum between 7 of us. 

The Coven while we could still stand

Rhubarb venturing places
others dare not go
The event itself was suitably drunken. I made sure I was drunk enough to lose any dancing inhibitions for 4 hours but not so pissed that I fell over. At least I was pretty sure I hadn't fallen over but was thrown by a text this morning from Softy Moore suggesting I may have done so. Suddenly I started to doubt myself and had to ask The Boy who said he was the wrong person to seek clarification from as he couldn't remember much anyway. I replied to the text seeking reassurance that I hadn't embarrassed myself in any way more gratuitous than usual and was relieved to find out it was Rhubarb Hadman. The text had been addressed to us all. Phew.

And so today has been a struggle. The slightest squeak out of the children has made me shriek like a banshee    and even deadheading the roses was an effort. I know that Waitrose has done quite well out of at least two of us BC members today though. Softy Moore went to get some milk thistle tea for her liver and I went for a leg of pork. Serious comfort food was needed today.

Tomorrow night is BC night. Not only did we girls all sit together at the table last night so that we could discuss 50 Shades and complain about our husbands within their earshot, we've brought forward our meeting so we can further dissect both the true awfulness of that book and the gossip from the ball. Or at least the gossip that anyone can remember. It may be a short evening.

Just in advance of tomorrow,  to let you know that I have indeed started the second of the trilogy - mostly because I was feeling left behind by the other girls and not because I reckon it's any great literary triumph as you well know. It's the only time we have gone beyond the call of duty and actually all finished the book we've decided to read let alone move onto others in a series. I am on chapter 6 and am keeping a tally of the frequency of certain irritating key phrases:

Oh My                       2
Holy Hell                    2
Holy Cow                  4
Holy Shit                    4
Holy F***                 5
Holy Crap                  1
My inner goddess       10
My subconcious          3

May god or some other entity I may or may not believe in please help me get through this book without slitting my wrists.

Having mentioned before that the writing is not the best, I am also starting to notice factual cock-ups, a bit like I enjoy spotting continuity mistakes on TV. Unless it's all a clever ruse on the part of the author to really make the main character (I am reluctant to use the word herione) seem even more magnificently stupid than she could ever actually be without being sectioned:

For example

Christian Grey emails to arrange to pick Ana up to take her to her friend's exhibition opening (bear in mind they only split up 5 days before - rather presumptuous of him). They have to go from Seattle to Portland. The event starts at 7.30pm so he agrees to pick her up at 5.45. When he has his driver drop them off at the foot of a very tall building that has his helicopter waiting on top she is shocked and surprised that they would travel that way. Didn't she think that picking her up at 5.45 to drive 175 miles along the I-5 (I googled it and it takes 2hrs 55 mins apparently) was going to make them a little late? It's also June and while they're in the helicopter, America's most successful businessman talks about chasing the dusk and they marvel at the beautiful orange hues enveloping the city (or some such gut churning rubbish). It's not dusk in Seattle at 6pm at the height of summer. According to it's nearly 10pm. Grr. It drives me mad. I also can't figure out why America's most successful businessman is so behind the times when it comes to gadgets. He buys her an i-pad and then owns up to having bought himself one at the same time. How come he didn't already have one? They're only 400 quid. I admit I don't (but not through lack of dropping unsubtle hints when The Boy is bored in an airport) but my nan does and she's 90! FFS.

Anyway, I think I can quite safely say we probably won't  be on the Mojitos tomorrow night. I might take the litre of rum I won at the school fete though just in case.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

The Circle of Life

The day I walk past will be the day the
engineers haven't checked the metal supports

So, this weekend we all trooped up to my home town to see my dad. It's easier when he comes to stay with us but if I didn't go back I wouldn't be able to visit Mum's grave and, to be honest. I quite miss the place.

It's a lovely town with some very pretty streets, the only inland funicular railway in Britain and a castle that leans at a greater angle than the Tower of Pisa (sounds like "Where was I" in the Sunday Times travel section). What more could a town ask for I hear you ask? Some action perhaps? Nothing ever happens. The lack of activity is evidenced by the news in a more recent edition of the local paper that the town council has pledged a whopping 600 quid to spruce up one of the town's roundabouts and a kitten was rescued at the end of the famous annual charity walk. There's even a  weekly column called " I Hear That" which is supposed to be made up of snippets of interesting and amusing "news" but is actually comprised of things like "John Jones of Victoria Road put his kettle on a 9.09pm last Wednesday after he had watered his courgettes" and "Lilian Lewis of Hospital Street was surprised to find her living room curtains open when she arrived home from an evening in The Black Horse  on Tuesday until she realised she had actually forgotten to close them". Apart from the odd scuffle in the High Street on a Friday night when the local yoof have their manor invaded by outsiders from outlying villages, it's really quiet dull.

So imagine my shock, horror and intrigue when I rocked up on Saturday morning to discover there had been  a murder (3 outsiders have been arrested), an attempted murder (woman stabbed her husband which I have to say is fair enough), the Spar had been ransacked (Dad a bit cross when he ran out of pasta?) and the torrential rain that I had recently ranted about caused flooding (even drowning a man in a nearby village stream). And all in the space of a week. Nothing like that had happened since Johnny Rockstar had his throat slashed in front of drinkers in the pub I used to work in (don't get me wrong - it was a lovely pub, just got a bit unlucky one night, though admittedly not as unlucky as Johnny Rockstar). That was March 2001 - it rocked the town as Johnny was a bit of an icon. The guilty party (jailed for life), apparently appealed against his conviction 4 years ago on the grounds that it was unsafe - JRS could have lunged into his knife. just wouldn't would you.

So, as desperate as I was to leave the place, I've now decided I want to make it my eternal resting place. I've told The Boy that I want to be buried in the same cemetery as my mum and grandparents (it's won awards for being so nice though sadly that must be lost on the residents). He told me to tell my sister as apparently he's not planning on being around when I shuffle off my mortal coil. Given that he's not massively older than me I can only assume that he's planning on leaving me earlier than I thought he might or that he has taken my comments about wives stabbing husbands to heart and has (mistakenly I hasten to add) accepted that as his fate. Whatever the case, I want to make it clear, that's where I want to be. And thence there started an interesting conversation between The Monkey and Rat Rat (My Dad):

Monkey      Is Ratty buried in the garden with the cats? (Ratty is his name for my mum - no one in our family has normal names. In fact when we did the funeral flowers I had my tribute made in the shape of a giant rat)
Me              Er no.
Monkey      Is she here then, right under my feet? (disrespectful child, jumping around on my mother)
Me              Er yes
Monkey      Where do you want to be buried then Rat Rat?
Rat Rat       Oh, I've already booked it in
Monkey      What do you mean?
Me              Rat Rat wants to be buried with Ratty.
Monkey      Why?
Me             Because he loves her
Monkey     So, you've booked in then Rat Rat?
Rat Rat      Yes, that's right. I've told the people who need to know
Monkey     But how will they know exactly which day you're going to die?

A good question. And so it went on. This was shortly after he'd seen a woman in a fox fur and said "Mummy, that can't be a REAL hedgehog". Try wearing a hedgehog round your neck - likely to go the same way as Johnny Rockstar I would think.

So, as morbid as this all sounds, it isn't really. We can have a good laugh about mum though we can't bring ourselves to go through her things yet. That would feel like looting. I did have a quick look through her handbag collection on Sunday morning though (Dad made me) and I have my eye on a nice Luella clutch but I'm doing the right thing and waiting for Stick to come up so we can battle it out together with Dad refereeing. It might be quite difficult. She had exquisite taste in everything except her undying love for John Barrowman so we probably won't be fighting over her CDs.

By the way Mum, if you're reading this, where's your ipod? I can't find it anywhere.