Wednesday, 9 December 2009

A month condensed

(please don hyperbole detector when reading this post)

This is the past month in precis.  It will thus omit to highlight the number of times one has had to retire to the parlour to lie on the chaise longue in tattered crinoline, holding a lace kerchief to one's fevered brow because of the sheer TRAUMA of it all.

October to November in a nutshell - house offer, job stops, claim benefits, get new job, hate new job, change mind about house offer, still hate new job, change mind again about house offer and annoy everybody including self, "dream house" comes on the market again (and unlike last time I'm in a position to actually put an offer in, but it seems there's something wrong with it which is why it's back on the market, stoopid, so I have to sit there looking at it on Rightmove like a kid at the window of a toyshop and DO NOTHING whilst getting enraged), the passing of time does not alter my hatred of job, start looking for new job, fill in forms for solicitor and get maudlin about leaving home of past ten years, watch as price of "dream house" is reduced and still DO NOTHING, develop grudge about workplace which doesn't do wonders for motivation, wake up to a blood spattered sitting room after "playfight" between felines goes all Tarantino on the laminate, take MrCat out for the first time in AGES and celebrate this fact by ordering a spicy poppadom.  NO EXPENSE SPARED!

I ate most of it.  Was that wrong of me?

There'll be more of this dross along soon I can assure you.  And there’ll be more detail, so leave now.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

My OId Man’s a Dustman

Only he wasn’t.  My father, that is.  He didn’t wear gor blimey trousers or a dustman’s hat although occasionally, it has to be said, he looked a proper narnar.  For which I can only blame the brylcreem.


Anyway, this evening SmallCat did an impersonation of me.  It wasn’t so much what he said, it was HOW he said it that alarmed me.  It sounded like Michael Caine, (don’t get me started on him, just DON’T).  In other words – Cockney.  Like I was born within the sound of Bow Bells.  Like I’m some kind of Pearly Queen, for heaven’s sake.

Let me get a few things straight here.

1.  I was neither born within the sound of Bow Bells and nor have I even HEARD them.

2.  Yes, I was born and brought up in London but everyone in my house had Irish accents and not once were the words “blimey”, “leave it out, mate”, “you’re avin’ a larf” or “geezer” heard over Sunday lunch.  Which, incidentally, was dinner.  Not lunch.  We never had lunch.  Lunch was only introduced into my vocabulary when I went to college and I still feel uncomfortable using it. In reality, there is no such thing as lunch.

3.  I detest Michael Caine

4.  I do not watch Eastenders. 

Having established the ground rules, I think we can move on now.  Me old china.


This week I have been mostly still not employable

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Facts, figures and backsides

Days away from blog – lots

Amount of days left before unemployment - 12

Job applications made between 15th August and 5th October – at least 30.

Interviews – 0

Offers on house – 3

Offers withdrawn – 3

Number of chest infections SmallCat has had since July – 2 (yes, he’s had another bad incident since the pneumonia, hence the absence)

Number of inhalers in house – 3

But figures can also be good.

Number of interviews since 5th October – 4

Number of interviews lined up this week – 2

% morale boost achieved by said interviews - 100

Catflaps successfully installed – 1

Mortgage offers agreed – 1 (hurrah!)

Children now much better – 1

Lovely boyfriends – 1 

Number of young men exposing their bottoms to your erstwhile bloghost this year – 1.

Well, really.  I have no idea what that was all about, but whilst at Hardwick Hall this summer we took a tour of the older, ruined Hall which was replaced by the jaunty number in the previous blog post. As we were ascending a set of stairs to look at some precariously placed plaster decorations, the young man ahead of me suddenly, and with malice aforethought, dropped his pants without so much as a by your leave.  It was all done so quickly that MrCat didn’t even notice, and the youngsters ahead continued on their progress with the merest of guilty sniggers to give them away.

b1The view from the top window was unexpected to say the least 

I had two options.  Express shock like the middle aged, middle class, middle of the road woman he no doubt took me for, or make some kind of nonplussed comment in the hope of embarassing him in front of his friends.

I leave it to you, dear reader, to decide which route I chose.

This week I have been mainly frantic and on the phone

Sunday, 13 September 2009

What would Bess do?

This is Hardwick Hall.  It was built by Bess of Hardwick who was good mates with Elizabeth I.  MrCat and I went there this summer during our Peak District-Yorkshire Moors-Northumbrian Hills “sort of walking” holiday.


The cost of curtains alone would bankrupt a Duke

When I was a history undergrad, we heard a lot about Bess.  Any woman who was mentioned in lectures more than a couple of times and who was not a) an executed wife b) a decorative mistress or c) Elizabeth I, had to have something going for her.  The only people who did “stuff” back then were men.  Women doing “stuff” were a bit out of the ordinary, and Bess certainly did a lot of “stuff”. 

Bess was mentioned so frequently because she built Hardwick Hall, which had a lot of windows.  We had a guy who specialised in Architectural History, and apparantly the windows of Hardwick Hall say a zillion and one fascinating things if you’re interested in that sort of mullarkey.  Sadly, I did not attend his lectures.  He wore very odd suits which put me off so I chose a different course (Papists and Puritans in Elizabethan England, since you ask). 

Anyway, I say “sadly” because if I’d done his course I’d have gone on a trip to Paris to study Louis Quinze chairs.  It wasn’t the lack of chairs which bothered me, you understand, but the lack of moules marniere and steak frites.  The best I got was a video of “The Life and Times of Philip II of Spain” one afternoon in the history department.  Hey ho.

Bess married several times and was almost as rich as the Queen.  She probably invented the pre-nup and as a result, did rather well and held on to just about everything she gained despite her sex and the fact that she didn’t start ahead of the pack.

So, perhaps I should learn a lesson from Bess in the midst of my current woes.  No job?  Can’t afford your home?  What would Bess do?

Yes, that’s right.  I have to marry the Earl of Shrewsbury.  I can send him a proposal through

Sadly, I fear his political affiliations are likely to make this a somewhat rocky relationship.

But needs must.


This week I have been mostly proposing marriage to Tory Peers.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Five little monkeys jumping on my self esteem

It is a fact universally acknowledged that when a lime coloured feline is in a funk, then the whole world turns to pants. 

The post which follows is a self indulgent, self pitying rant.  Please don ear muffs and sturdy shades.

Here are some reasons not to be cheerful. 

  • I probably don’t have a job anymore, and there are no jobs out there. 
  • My house is for sale, but I don’t want to move. 
  • I am in debt up to my eyeballs – indeed, as I write this I’m waving my hand around ABOVE my eyeballs only you can’t see that. 
  • And I am so very tired of worrying about money and not sleeping properly, it has been going on for the past few years, and has aged me.  The foundation and powder is beginning to accumulate in the scowl lines around my eyes of a morning (I don’t have laughter lines).  When people look at me closely, they can see Maybelline products with alarming clarity.  They can probably even name the shade.  Hell, the label is PROBABLY ON MY FACE! 

But, as MrCat always says “what’s the worst that can happen?”.  And he’s right.  Let’s be resilient here.  Beans are cheap and nutritious and I am also really rather fond of Autumn.

So to cheer myself up this evening I decided to think seriously about updating my rather tired Etsy shop and adding something new to the product line.  Surely I can come up with something original but most importantly SIMPLE TO MAKE, which people want to buy?  We’ve had enough of bunnies and bears and samey looking dogs and cats.

And then I saw this.  Five little monkeys, jumping on the bed.



Frankly, I think this is a work of genius.  But, but…….



PS – if you click on the picture, you’ll go to her shop.  It’s very good. 
This week I have been mostly growling

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Headless on my Window Sill

Here is the progress I’ve made with three of the four creatures I am crocheting for Speechless, Mostly.

I now wonder if it was a bit cruel to place the heads of these monkeys directly opposite their dismembered limbs. They are giving their body parts slightly beseeching looks. There is genuine anguish on the face of the (ever so slightly bosseyed) pale lilac monkey as it realises that it won’t have a stripe on it’s sweater like the other two. The green monkey is turning away as he can’t look at the scene of carnage any longer. The brown monkey is simply appalled.

I think I ought to go downstairs right now and apologise.

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Monday, 31 August 2009

The Kraken will awake soon

Nearly blogworthy again.  It’s been a bit of a month, though.  Child gets pneumonia, then I go on holiday, then I come back, then I get told I don’t have a job any more, so I go on holiday again, then I come back and get told I might have a job for a teensy bit longer but how long that is remains unknown.  All this whilst trying to sell a house without really knowing for sure if this is the correct course of action (a course of action which requires constant tidying and clearing up the whole time to boot) and contemplating the vast weight around my middle, about which SOMETHING MUST BE DONE.


I wish I’d stayed in bed

However, on the plus side, Mr Cat DID take another lovely photo of one of those comical Cadw signs when we were in Wales, so you at least have that to look forward to when I finally get round to distilling all this frantic activity into a sensible blog entry.

And I have completed three monkey heads for Speechless, Mostly, which are not attached to bodies yet so are rolling around in my craft bag like I’m Henry VIII’s chief executioner or something.
This month I have been mostly sagging around the edges.

Friday, 31 July 2009

Yet another pause...

In yet another exciting non blog update, I'm off on hols for a bit. Much needed, as SmallCat has had pneumonia which was horrible and scared everyone, mainly me. He was as stoic as he always is. I could learn a lot from him.

In the meantime, some more piped music while you wait. This time, I'll leave you with a playlist.

Rasputin - Boney M
Shaddup Ya Face - Joe Dolce
Funky Gibbon - The Goodies

I trust that will keep you entertained for a few days.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

I should have known he was a wrong ‘un

Yesterday, Mrs Speechless expressed a rather foolish interest in one of my monkeys (oh will you lot stop tittering).  So I went to my stash box, realised it was a complete mess, and upended and reorganised it.  Not as thorough as Coffee Lady but I am a slattern after all. So now, I can see which lovely wool I have available. 

As I packed the wool into some kind of order, I realised that the box had become a microcosm for my past and present life.

At the bottom - wool which was a mistake right from the word go but you bought it because it said REDUCED and was all shiny and tinselly and you are a fool because you know that after about 5 minutes you will hurl it across the room with a heart full of disappointment saying "I wish I had never been fooled by that shiny glittery stuff.  It looks lovely but it is impractical and I can do nothing with it".

(I used to go out with a ball of wool just like that).

b1 “‘ello darlin'! You come ‘ere often?”

Next layer - wool which looks like it might be interesting, but you daren't use because it's posh and made of alpaca and you're scared of destroying it.

(There was a ball of wool like that at college.  He never gave me a second glance and I could only gaze at his well bred 100% pure fibres from a distance).

Next layer - Cheap and cheerful acrylic in lots and lots of bright colours which is good for testing patterns on and giving the resulting heap of poo to SmallCat  because he thinks it's funny.

(Ok, he was very nice and all that, but he was only two ply so it was never going to last).

Next layer - chunky wool which you don't use very often because it's so damned chunky.

(This is my waistline).

Top layer - cotton yarn. Oooooh, lovely cotton.  It’s firm and holds it’s shape well although it requires a bit more effort than your average cheapo brand.

(Well obviously, this has to be MrCat.  He is sharing the top layer with some lovely babysoft, which has to be SmallCat because it is so lovely and cuddly and cheerful).


If MrsSpeechless looks very carefully, she will see five balls of cotton in mauve, rose pink, brown, pale yellow and russet.  With those, I shall make her some hideous creatures.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Craft your head off

Considering this is supposed to be a vaguely crafty blog, there’s scant little evidence of any crafting going on.  So while everyone in blogland appears to have disappeared for the summer (or are in the pub, or possibly prison), I thought I’d delight you all with some truly hideous examples of my “work”.

First up, Small Cat insisted that I made a “thank you” present for his poor, beleaguered teacher.  As if her life isn’t hard enough without receiving THIS abomination, masquerading as some sort of “gift”.  She’ll probably think I’m really angry with her when she gets this tomorrow.

By the way, it’s suppose to be a monkey – I need to tell you this as it won’t be obvious.  It was based on one of these lovely creatures (and yes, I know mine doesn’t have a mouth), but since the designer didn’t make the pattern available, I had to guess.  I should have known. 

b1 I’m going to pretend this isn’t happening

From the front she looks a bit like a deranged tellytubby

b2Monkey hear, monkey see, monkey speechless 

To compound this error, I made SmallCat a Super Mario Mushroom out of scrap yarn.  I have no idea what a Super Mario Mushroom is when it’s at home, but apparantly, it looks like this.

b3Keep that garlic away from me 

If I found this in my risotto, I’d be asking for my money back.

This week, I have been mostly grumbling

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Room with a View

Remember that hideous room, which only convicts and deranged madmen would consider habitable?  Yes, that one.  Well, after years of ignoring it, keeping the door closed on it, never going in there and allowing only the cats to wander in – and even they had reservations and they’re hardly fussy beasts at the best of times – we finally made it look normal.  It was done on the cheap, by two DIY idiots (yours truly and Mr Cat), and a professional who came in to do the flooring (the dad of one of SmallCat’s friends.  Yes, he has trade contacts already.  At his age).

This is like Gok Wan at the end of “How to Look Good Naked”, but here goes….


fear my awesome collection of maps and walking guides

Ok, there are still bits of wood lying around, the guitar only has five strings at the moment and we can’t eat in there yet as WE DO NOT HAVE A DINING TABLE.  So it’s just the Welsh dresser and a guitar.  I suppose you could eat off a guitar at a push.  Couldn’t you?

Please note – the ornamental cat collection is not my doing.  Most of them aren’t even mine.  I suspect they belong to the convict.

To celebrate this triumph, here is a picture of some craft I did a while back.  It is a rabbit.  I am the only person in the world who doesn’t think it’s rubbish.  My own child laughs at it.  Openly.  But believe me, this is like a Michelangelo compared to the thing I made on Sunday.  Even thinking about it brings me out in hives.  So, you know, be grateful.  It could be worse.

b44 If I hear so much as a titter, I’ll bring out the carrots.

This week I have been mainly losing my glasses.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Not waving, but drowning – which is hardly surprising since I can’t swim

I see from my blogroll that quite a few other people are quiet at the moment, so I don’t feel too bad.  However, this isn’t even a proper blog post, just a pathetic, nay FEEBLE, excuse for absconding.  Here are some bullet points (see, I’m insulting you further by not even writing proper paragraphs now).

ljban almost-but-not-quite gratuitous picture of lovely Captain Jack and lovely Gwen. See 6.

1.  You know that cliche “emotional rollercoaster”?  Well, I’m on one at the moment, so, you know – I forgot the blogcakes, ok?.

2.  AND I have to decide whether to sell my house, or not.  It’s been coming for a while because (as is the way of these things), the break up with SmallCat’s dad left me up a very large creek with a faulty paddle because I can’t afford a proper one anymore.  It’s been quite the Sword of Damocles. But “things cannot go on like this”.  As they say.  Well, as I say.  But if you looked out my window right now, right this very minute, on a perfect English summer evening in a perfect English village…well….the chances of me making a SENSIBLE decision are looking pretty slim at the moment.

3.  I have planted a lot of things in the front garden but I don’t know what they are.  I really need a magic botanist like MrsMagpie to come over and explain to me what, exactly, those pink things are.  Ok, ok, stop shouting at the back.  I’ll take some pictures, so quit your moaning.

4.  Slattern no more!  The dining room has finally been “done”.  What?  You want pictures of that as well?  Ok, stop heckling me.  I’ll do it.  

5.  I’ve decided to continue novel number 2.  Novel number 1 requires an ENTIRE blogpost to itself and when you read it you will all laugh at me and rightly so.  But 2 needs to be picked up once more.  After a 6 year break.  I would like to point out to MrsM (she gets everywhere, doesn’t she?) that it is nothing like the pile of nonsense I once forced her to read.  Nothing like.  Oh no. 

6.  Torchwood is back next week – hurrah!  Well, I had to justify the picture of Lovely John Barrowman, didn’t I?

7.  Celebrity Masterchef – if any of my UK blog friends are watching this programme can you answer me a question?  Does anyone actually cook food like that for their family, because if they do, I’m just going to feel really bad about myself.  Actually, if you do cook like that, can you please just lie to me?  Thanks.


This week I have mainly been very confused about life and wondering whether that plant is a harmless Hollyhock or, in fact, a Giant Hogweed.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Spirit Levelling

I have paused for a while to recover my equilibrium. It appears to have flown the nest, hopefully temporarily.

Until then, here is some piped music....

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Counting Crows

The gripes of last week haven’t entirely gone away, but some things have improved.

For your information, I reckon there are now about 5,000,000 assorted crows, not to mention their friends, nesting in the trees next to my house. And yes, I know exactly how many zeroes I’ve put after that 5 and no, I’m not going to delete any of them. It is not hyperbole – it is what my ears are telling me is an accurate figure.

This morning I found a fledgeling crow hopping about in the garden (no doubt SPYING on me on behalf of Crow Headquarters in the tree opposite). I told it, in no uncertain terms, that I had purchased a four pack of ear plugs from Boots. Hopefully this message has now been passed on by the juvenile secret agent, and my feathered tormenters will realise that their evil plans have been foiled.

In the meantime, to make up for the loss of the Stinking Billy crop, my little helper has assisted with the planting of the most garish dahlias I could find in the shop.


Dahlias with built in crow repellent

And unbelievably, one of the plants I set last year has actually blossomed. This is an almost unheard of event. I was so shocked I could barely hold the camera, but felt it important to get the evidence before the whole plant is eaten by killer slugs overnight.

blog2 Help!

On the craft front, things are going less well. The alpaca has not progressed. His legs are willing, but his body is totally deformed. I’m going to give it one more week and then advertise it as a stunted mule. What’s the worst that can happen?


This week I have been mainly getting used to having foam in my ears.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Everything’s Coming Up Henbane

Over two weeks since the last entry. Admittedly, I rarely have anything interesting to say, but a fortnight of being quite grumpy has passed so why not spread the joy, I say.

Reasons to be grumpy.

1. I have had a sore throat for 6 weeks. It is not much in the scheme of things. I’ve had worse. But it’s relentless, pretends to go, and then comes back the next day just to wind me up.

2. When I caved in and went to the doctor about it, he told me that in the old days, people had to cope without antibiotics “and just got on with things. Or died”. Yes, he really said that.

“Well in that case, let’s just send children back up chimneys, down mines, reintroduce workhouses and stop women voting!”. I didn’t actually say that, but I thought it nonetheless and I bet he was secretly scared of me.

3. Having spent forever setting up a game of Mousetrap with SmallCat, one of the family pets (a real cat), decided to join in, leaped onto the table and ruined the board layout. Have you any idea how long it takes to connect the toilet to the sink, the car to the box and the net to the pole? No? It’s like Dante’s seventh circle of hell, I tell you.

b2 “I’d like the orange mouse, please”.

4. My Stinking Billys died. And before you ask, I refuse to call them Sweet Williams because of what happened at Culloden, 1745*. Yes, it was that long ago and no, I’m not even Scottish. But had my mother lived in Edinburgh I MIGHT WELL HAVE BEEN!

5. My local pub has stopped running a quiz on Sunday night. They will pay for this. I’m not sure how, but I’ll think of something.

6. The dawn chorus. As the sun rises earlier, so do the feathered fiends. Every morning about 5,678 assorted birds start singing the ornithological equivalent of Status Quo’s greatest hits. For about THREE HOURS.

7. My dining room has looked like this for the past 9 years.

b1 GAH!

Admittedly MrCat has done a lot to alleviate this over the past two weekends, but how can one just leave these things for NINE WHOLE YEARS?! I’m not a Domestic Goddess, I’m a Domestic Slattern and I shall be writing the companion handbook post haste.

*Sweet Williams are named after William, Duke of Cumberland. In Scotland, however, he’s known as Butcher Cumberland because of his disgraceful behaviour after the Battle of Culloden. To show their annoyance, the Scots were rude to a plant.


This fortnight I have been mainly reading Ariana Franklin novels and shaking my fist at crows.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

A meme? Is that all about me me me me me?

I appear to have been tagged by Eurolush, and now I have to answer questions. Being a generally uninteresting person, the answers will be as dull as ditchwater and this will serve Eurolush right!

What are your current obsessions?
Sleep. I am obsessed by the fact that I hardly ever get any. Normal obsessions require energy and effort, and I don't get enough sleep to put any effort or energy into anything. Oh to be obsessed by something! It would mean I was fully awake for once!

What's for dinner?
I don't care so long as it's quick and someone else is cooking it. Preferably MrCat. I wouldn't want to risk cuisine a la Small Cat. Small Cat would give me a very badly constructed jam sandwich and a packet of monster munch. Every day. Forever.

What's your greatest fear at the moment?
Is my permanent state of bewilderment down to the fact that I don't get enough sleep (see question 1), or is it because I'm losing my marbles early?

What are you listening to?
I haven't bought a CD for ages. I download stuff (LEGALLY, Thank you!) per track. On the way in to work on Friday I listened to Tricky, Tim Deluxe, Rufus Wainwright, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Judie Tzuke, June Tabor and Lemon Jelly. On the way home I listened to Schubert. Categorise that if you must. Small Cat forces me to listen to the Sugababes and Scissor Sisters over and over and over and over again but you know this. I posted about this a few weeks ago. Didn't I? Sorry, what was the question (looks around for marbles).

If you were a goddess what would you be?
I would be the Goddess Somnambula-Mascara. I would bestow sleep on the downtrodden and accursed. And nice cups of tea. And I would have the ability to apply make up so it looks "sexy and alluring", as opposed to "that woman who looks like a cross between Robert Smith and a clown".

What are your favourite holiday spots?
What is a holiday?

What are you reading right now?
Oh my, it's dreadful. It's some godawful nonsense about the Princes in the Tower and it's making me want to gouge my own eyes out with a plastic spoon. I won't tell you what it is because you should be spared.

What is your guilty pleasure?
Pleasure shouldn't induce guilt, surely? Unless you enjoy putting eyeballs in peoples sandwiches, or something equally awful. Which I don't, I hasten to point out.

Who or what makes you laugh?
Small Cat. Every single day. He is hysterical.

What is your favourite spring thing to do?
Skipping through the fields singing "la de la de da, I aint gonna wear socks no more".

Where are you planning to travel next?
To work, and then back again. Until I die.

What is the best thing you ate or drank lately?
Er, whatever it is that Mr Cat cooked last, OBVIOUSLY (desperately tries to remember. fails. picks up marbles and shoves them back into ears). No, I recall now – he did a rather splendid new potato salad this evening with mozarella, spinach, wholegrain mustard and roasted red peppers and (get this), he ROASTED THE PEPPERS HIMSELF. Me? I would have put them in a) raw or b) got them out of a jar, pre-roasted by the slave from the red pepper dungeon.

When was the last time you were tipsy?
The more accurate question would be "when was the last time you were NOT tipsy?". Ha! That's taken you by surprise!

What is your favourite ever film?
The Lion in Winter. This will not please Coffee Lady as no one gets shot or blown up, and Bruce Willis is (fortunately) nowhere to be seen. I say fortunately because he has a face I could never tire of slapping and were I taken to see any film in which he appeared I'd have to be dragged from the local Odeon having been repeatedly pelted with popcorn by an angry horde for causing a general fracas. No, none of that. Lion in Winter is the best film ever, beautifully acted and shot, fantastic dialog, great music, stunning scenery. Katharine Hepburn and Peter O’Toole – come ON people! Clearly I am a cut above. Oh yes.

What is the biggest lesson you've learned from your children?
Preserving ones dignity is not always possible. In some situations, it's best to just put the banana outfit on and quit complaining about the effect it is going to have on your hair.

What song can't you get out of your head?
There's nothing in my head at the moment. It's too full of stuffing and old bits of wool.

What book do you know you should read but refuse to?
Anything on my Literary Theory reading list. I didn’t read it 20+ years ago when I was actually supposed to, so I’m damned if I’m going to read it now.

What is your physical abnormality/abnormal physical ability?
The little fingers on both my hands are completely bent. This terrible affliction stopped me from stretching to more than an octave on the piano. I could have been a world class pianist, travelling far and wide, to public acclaim and large bouquets, breaking the hearts of handsome violinists the world over. As it is, I've had to make do with a tin whistle and a pair of bongos.

What is your favourite candy?
I love a ripple with a nice glass of cava.

What is your favourite body part?
Please. This is a family site.

I now have to tag someone else. So I’ll tag my lovely friend Kevin over on HotRunes because he never updates his website so this might focus his mind. And I shall also tag Roman Sock as she spends far too much time slaving over a hot crochet hook and this might give her a break.


This week I have been off work a fair bit due to feeling like poo, and also reading a very bad book which is making me want to remove my own eyeballs (see above post).

Monday, 11 May 2009

Please Close the Gate

Apologies for the lack of blogging. I have had a variety of distractions and irritations keeping me otherwise occupied.

So, MrCat and I went for a walk last weekend. It was around the environs of Blenheim Palace, ending up with a splendid view over the Capability Brown landscaped gardens and lake. With lovely vistas. And cute wee newborn lambs. And electrified fences which were so low you could just walk over them and barely break your stride (not that we did this, I hasten to point out). And gates with no purpose. Gates which just sat there looking slightly embarassed. Embarassed gates, and shamefaced stiles.

Let me give you an example.

b1move along, nothing to see…

Is this some kind of joke?

The park keeper is behind that tree and he is going to laugh at you, yes YOU, if you climb over this thing. Do not fall prey to this outrageous piece of trickery. WALK AROUND THE STILE, people. AROUND. That’ll show ‘em.

And what in the name of holy haddock is going on here…

b2 I’m not embarassed. Not even a little bit.

Please close the gate? WHY?!!! Is there something I should know? Is there an invisible forcefield on either side of the wooden frame which will twang me backwards across the path and into the other field, where I and all other transgressors will be savaged by nursing ewes?

Best not risk it, then. I’ll go through the gate and close it behind me.

Blenheim Palace looked rather lovely. We didn’t have time to go in, but it looked splendid from the other side of the lake. All I know about Marlborough is that he fought at Blenheim, Oudenarde and Malplaquet but I neither know nor care what he was doing there. Or what particular year it was.

I know very little about the 18th Century. My interest in history stops dead at midnight, 31st December, 1699. However, having pondered it for a while, I managed to come up with ten things I do know about one of the least interesting periods of history on the syllabus. Oh, quit moaning at the back, you bewigged fop. You know it's true. Everyone wanted to do the Wars of the Roses and Henry VIII at school, and who can blame them.

Mind you, one or two of these items do redeem the period a tiny bit.

  1. The Aristocracy wore wigs with powder and looked ridiculous
  2. Mozart. For this, the century gets mega brownie points.
  3. The French cut Louis XVI’s head off.
  4. People drank a lot of gin
  5. Culloden. For this the century gets a MASSIVE deduction in points and a severe telling off.
  6. The South Sea Bubble. Don’t ask me, I have no idea.
  7. Nasty, nasty George I locking his wife up in a dungeon in Celle. Points deduction and two missed turns. Oh, and a slap.
  8. William Blake, Thomas Paine and Mary Wollstonecraft born.
  9. Nelson at Cape St Vincent and the Nile
  10. Poldark set in 18th Century. Casting of Robin Ellis in leading role – 1000 points.

I think that just about covers it.

This week I have been mainly feeling poorly and reading “view from the foothills” by Chris Mullin.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

STOP! Hammer Time!

No, nothing to do with 1980's baggy trousers and bad dancing. I only wish it was. The truth is far more terrifying. A craft nightmare, in fact.

A few weeks ago, MrCat's mother lent me a 1970's craft magazine. Just looking at the pictures was a joy. There was all manner of fabulous, beautiful stuff, and also some lunacy, like a crochet bra and pants set. Itch-tastic!

Anyway, there were a few crochet patterns in there so I decided to try one out. I usually opt to downsize things slightly – a smaller hook or thinner wool usually does the trick - and it's just as well I did in this case otherwise the ensuing catastrophe would have been EVEN WORSE THAN IT WAS!

It was an alligator. Here he is, in the magazine, looking quite cute.



Halfway through making his body I began to feel slightly uneasy. By the time I'd sewn the head on and attached the eyes, I realised that I was actually in the process of creating a monster capable of destroying civilization. Small Cat was less dramatic, and far more succinct.

"It is a hammer. With eyes"

(sigh) "It's an alligator. Without limbs"

"Don't put legs on. I want to use him as a hammer".

"No. I can't stop now. It's already used up two balls of wool. I intend to see this project through".


It is at this point that I have to 'fess up. I swore to the Coffee Lady that I would complete the monster COME WHAT MAY and then post up a picture. Well, I lied. I got as far as the back legs and couldn't take anymore. I sewed them on, rather gracelessly it has to be said as I just wanted the nightmare to end. No positioning, no alignment, no nothing. Stab, stab, stab with the needle. I wasn’t even looking at what I was doing, as is obvious from the evidence below.

Basically, I've let myself down, I've lied to another blogger and I've wasted two balls of wool.

bb2 if you grasp him around the bum, you can use his head to secure nails

At least the Small Cat was happy.

"It is a hammer. With legs. It's really horrible - I like it".

"It's disasterous".

"It's like the rubbish toys you used to make when you didn't know what you were doing. Can I have it?"

"Why? In God's name, WHY?"

"Because it's an alligator with hammer superpowers".

"Obviously. Here, take it. Take it from my sight, quickly".


bb3 “Fear my DIY superpower! Rarrr!!!”

Sometimes, you make a cake and it's a soggy, sunken mess. A couple of weeks later, you make the same cake to the same recipe and somehow it’s wonderful. Following this catastrophe, I finished off a squid I'd promised to make for a friend. It turned out exactly as I'd hoped. I'm not sure what lesson I learned from all this, save that alligators might not be my forte.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Careful now…

There is something immensely endearing about the hazard signs used by Cadw on their ancient monuments. I spend more time delighting in these specimens than in actually examining the monument I’ve allegedly paid good groats to visit. Here are some of my favourites;

Hazard One – The Backward Lunge

wales1 aaaaaaaargh!

Really, I have no idea what this person was thinking. Anyone attempting to scramble on those walls deserves everything they’ve got coming, frankly.

Hazard Two – The Osteopath’s Delight

wales2 Oooooooooh!

People who attempt this kind of manouevre have only themselves to blame. I’ve got no sympathy for this kind of slapdash approach to historical tourism. It lets everyone down.

Hazard Three – The Diving Fool


Hurling yourself backwards into a moat is pure exhibitionism, detracts attention from the monument itself and is the kind of arrant tomfoolery one shouldn't have to witness in a public place. I wouldn’t even bother putting a sign up – it just gives these people the attention they crave.


This week I have been mostly not getting any sleep.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

The Irishwoman who went up a hill…and nearly got stuck


Hatterall Hill. We were on that bit where it goes all vertical and dangerous, the bit where no sane person would venture.

We’ve had another lovely, long weekend in Wales, which included a climb up Hatterall Hill (aka THE HILL OF DOOM!). After walking for some miles, the last one being almost entirely uphill, we were very nearly at the ridge. We were promised spectacular views of England on one side of the hill, and the dark, glowering Black mountains of Wales on the other. So when we finally got there (after a particularly exhausting and completely pointless detour which is where everything started to go wrong), I noticed that Wales and England had swapped places. I suggested this to MrCat, but he wasn’t having it, despite all argument to the contrary.

“No, really. England is in the wrong place. It should be on the right, not the left”.

“I don’t think so”.

“No. No really. Look – that is a patchwork of gentle, green fields. That is your stereotypical English landscape. See those whopping great mountains over there, the BLACK ones? That’s definitely Wales. That is not, most definitely NOT, Hereford or Worcester. Actually, I don’t even think this is the ridge path”.


“Let’s carry on, shall we?”

So we carried on. And by now it was 5pm, and we’d been walking for hours. And all of a sudden, we were on the edge of what appeared to be a precipice, with no path, no shelter, and no clue where we were. The wind was so strong it was impossible to breathe. I insisted we go back, MrCat used logic and said all would be well. But it would have meant walking along this tiny little path, clinging on to the side of the hill, as the sun sank lower and lower, with no idea whether it would meet the main path again or not. And if it didn’t, and it was dark by then, it would have been horrible. So I got panicky (MrCat later said he was quite impressed, as my panic translated into walking very fast, and very vigorously, at speed away from the edge of the hill). I wasn’t walking. I was stomping.

bblog1 Shangri-la at the end of a long walk

Half an hour later we were back on the wrong path we’d been on before, but at least it was sheltered. In MrCat’s rucksack we had all we needed to survive a night in the open.

1. A bottle of water
2. A big bag of satsumas
3. A box of fondant fancies which, as every fule no, is vital for outdoor survival.

Five mintues after this, we finally found the Offa’s Dyke ridge path. It was about 2 metres away from where MrCat had decided to take his random, and ill advised, detour through the gorse.

I didn’t say anything. I just gave him “the look”.

The path down Hatterall Hill drops into the grounds of Llanthony Priory, another one of those beautiful monastic ruins so beloved of your blog host. As luck would have it, part of the cellar of the priory has been converted into a teeny little bar, where cold beer can be acquired by shell shocked walkers. It would have been rude not to buy some. It’s what the monks would have wanted.


Llanthony Priory – you can see the entrance to the teeny bar just on the left


This week I have been mostly making an enormo-alligator from a 1970’s pattern book, and reading Seance.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

The Perils of Penelope

After a late meeting in Romsey on Friday night, I started the drive home at about 12.15am. There were pockets of mist on the dark, country lanes, it was cold and a wee bit spooky, and I was in the car on my own. As I reached the village of Hursley, a man appeared in the middle of the road. I slowed the car down a bit, but he still didn't move. I veered to the left. He moved to the left. I veered to the right, so did he. I couldn't drive on without potentially hitting him, or mounting the kerb.

I didn't have much choice but to slow down to a crawl, at which point he loomed over the bonnet and then tried to open the car door. It was at this point that fear turned to bloody minded anger. I could literally feel a wave of it surge up from the pit of my stomach which only seconds before had turned to pure jelly. I bawled "no you don't!" in what I hoped gave the impression of a redoubtable middle aged lady in possession of a very heavy and potentially lethal handbag. I shoved the car in reverse and pressed the pedal as hard as I could. I expect I zigzagged across the road, but at least I did it at speed!

Because he'd had to move over to the side of the road to get at my door, this left the rest of the road clear so I got the heck out of there.

Now, I think the young man in question was the worse for wear. But even so. You don't expect to stumble across something not unlike a scene out of "American Werewolf in London". You know, the bit when they're on the moor, near The Slaughtered Lamb pub.

You don't get werewolves near Winchester and I jolly well hope it remains that way.

I was shaken, but not stirred.

(This week, in between defending myself from lunatics at midnight, I have been mostly reading The Aviary Gate and trying to crochet an alpaca).

Friday, 20 March 2009


A couple of weeks ago, myself and Mr Cat (who booked the weekend away in double quick time before I had time to display any signs of wavering) made the relatively short journey from Winchester to Tintern. On Friday, after work, it still only took a couple of hours. Why do I forget that it's possible to do these things, and still be back in time for when small cat is dropped off by his father on a Sunday? Tsk!

Lots of nice arches and stuff

Anyway, you'll be pleased to know that I've decided NOT to give everyone a history lesson, as is my wont. I have to admit I'm struggling though. Tintern was one of the religious institutions dissolved by Henry VIII in the 1530's...

Phwoarr! Look at that view!

...and your useless blogging host took this here course called "Papists and Puritans in 16th Century England" as a wee history student. So you can understand why I'm fit to EXPLODE!

More nice arches

But since I bore even myself on this topic, I won't overdo it too much. Save to say that the Abbey is located in a beautiful spot, and we got there as it opened on Sunday morning, with the sun shining. And it looked glorious. Although it is difficult to escape a certain sense of sadness that such a thing came to pass, that a whole way of life - yes, sometimes corrupt, but no, not always - and such an intrinsic part of the social and cultural fabric of the country, could be destroyed in such a short time. It was nothing short of catastrophic and possibly one of the most significant historical events on these islands. STOP NOW, WOMAN!

If you want to go to Tintern, it's worth the visit. You also have Raglan and Chepstow castle within easy driving distance. We went there on St David's day, and entry was free, which was rather nice. We ate the night before in the Royal George, just opposite the Abbey (which is lit up at night and looks rather eerie). Our meal was very civilized and pleasant and Mr Cat was most impressed by his lamb shank. It did make him walk a bit funny though - kerboom tish!

If you want to read something palatable about this period of history, but don't want a big old stuffy history book with cobwebs all over it, and dust and wafer thin pages which fall to bits as soon as you look at them, then I have just the thing!

Murder, mystery, suspense, and the dissolution of the monasteries - what more could you need. And he's a very good historical novelist, so hopefully you won't be disappointed.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Fame at Last!

Well no, not really. Just a minor excursion on to a mainstream UK blogging site, but even so.

UK Handmade featured Cynthia the Squid on their front page on Sunday. Ok, she's not exactly a best seller is dear old Cynth, but I'm rather fond of her. She has angry green eyes and looks as if she's about to nut someone. I like that in a toy. Less so in a person, but in a toy squid I think it's probably just about ok.

Are you looking at me?

And having her as an example to illustrate an item about amigurumi has made me feel chuffed to bits.

Three cheers for the Squid.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

No light at the end of the box

As you know, I tried to make a lightbox recently. It appears that one of these things is essential for getting your craft wares photographed nicely for sale. They provide a clean, crisp background for your products, and capture the light properly. Well, anything which helps take nicer photographs is fine by me for the following reason;


So I looked up "Lightboxes". They're expensive. Too expensive for me. I saw one on eBay (gggrrrr!!!) which was about $10, but the p&p turned out to be something like $45,00000.

But help was at hand - some of my fellow crafters had made their own for less than a tenner, using only an old box, a discarded sheet, some scissors, tape and a bit of card. And apparantly, the whole thing would only take thirty five seconds to produce!!! And look, here are the instructions!!!

I got snipping. Several hours, a lot of debris on the carpet and a very red and angry face later, I produced this pile of rubble;

That badger is not impressed. Small Cat's plastic trees are pathetic. It looks like some stuff in a box which has been butchered by an angry woman with a red face and draped with badly cut fabric. But hang on a minute.... with a bit of fine tuning, you get this little beauty....

It's uncanny! You could almost believe you were in an ACTUAL FOREST!! Just looking at this I swear I can hear the twitter of birdsong and the distant sound of gunshot.

I think the main problem was the failure to establish the correct lighting. Daylight bulbs (almost impossible to find, but I did eventually track some down) are all well and good, but taking a photograph with one hand whilst waving a table lamp above your head with the other isn't how a professional is supposed to work.

This one wasn't too bad though. You can see a reasonable amount of detail. I don't remember him having red eyes when I took the picture. Blasting him with a flashlight and a daylight bulb obviously took their toll.

To end on a high note - the Gelati box in the picture belonged to Ex Mr Limecat. Cutting it to shreds was in some ways quite cathartic. Yes, childish I know. But I don't care.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Gang aft agley

This weekend, as befitting any self respecting mouse or man, I laid some schemes. Small cat was with his father for the weekend, and Mr Cat had gone to a gay wedding in Newcastle. I had a whole day to myself, and lots and lots to do.

My plan was as follows;
  • Blitz the pile of ironing in the laundry basket
  • Finish off an unsewn, unstuffed badger and pop it on Etsy
  • Sort out the terrible mess created whilst trying to make a lightbox earlier in the week (don't ask)
  • Possibly paint some more of the tiles in the kitchen, or even strip some more wallpaper.
  • Sort out the mass of DVD's lying around without covers and catalog them (because I am anal like that)
  • Organise life.

These tiles are a mess and need sorting out...oh look - tea!

What actually happened was this.

  • Woke up at 9am
  • Made tea, went back to bed with danish pastry and laptop.
  • Read Guardian online
  • Remained in dressing gown until midday BECAUSE I COULD!
  • Went and had a hair cut
  • Browsed in Monsoon and stroked two blouses (but did not buy as I cannot afford £65 for a single item of clothing no matter how luscious)
  • Went into two craft shops and purchased some card and some daylight bulbs for the purposes of completing the lightbox (see! I did achieve something!)
  • Had cup of coffee and cake whilst reading Private Eye in cafe
  • Went home
  • Made more tea and blogged.
I did finish the lightbox, though. I'll be writing more on this in a later post. But until then, a word of warning. When someone says "oh, it's so easy to make this at home. All you need is ten minutes, a scissors and some card", tell them to go away and come back when they've learned not to tell lies.
The worst lightbox in the history of the world. Ever.

On a positive note, when I checked my mail I discovered that I'd had an order for a pattern all the way from sunny Italy, so it wasn't an entirely unproductive day.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Rugby = Octopus

Every 6 nations team should have it's own octopus. And now, two of them do!

Sad to say, the attempt to make all six ended prematurely when I lost interest and couldn't be bothered anymore. Yes, I'm ashamed. So now I have Denis and Daffyd moping about the house and, after what happened at the weekend, they're not getting on very well. Daffyd has been weeping into his leeks whilst Denis has been insufferably smug and keeps shrugging nonchalantly.

Anyway, here's Denis, in the snow, looking insufferably smug.

"la plume de ma tante; le singe est dans l'arbre; Vous avez perdu, le Pays de Galles"

And here is Daffyd, the day after his defeat, threatening to hurl himself off Raglan Castle in protest. Fortunately a Cadw employee coaxed him down before anyone was hurt.

"Booo hooo!"

As a treat, we took Daffyd to Tintern Abbey on Sunday to cheer him up. It certainly cheered me up. A weekend in Wales was just the ticket. And yes, we did do a walk, around Tintern and up into the hills, but more on that later.

I think Daffyd is hiding behind one of the pillars. Sulking, probably.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Nothing Zen about me

Limecat Junior decided that he wanted to be taken on a trip to "The Play Farm" yesterday. So after strapping him into the boot - er, back seat - I attached my Zen Stone to the stereo system and handed it to him so that he could control the playlist. I thought this would be preferable to having him request that I fast forward, or reverse ten times. Instructions like this can be confusing when you're trying to concentrate on the driving.

How wrong I was.

There were about 50 tracks available for him to choose from.

With the Zen in his hand, this is how Radio Limecat panned out;

Laura - Scissor Sisters
Laura - Scissor Sisters
Nothing sweet about me - Gabriella Cilmi
Laura - Scissor Sisters
Laura - Scissor Sisters
Laura - Scissor Sisters
Laura - Scissor Sisters
Laura - Scissor Sisters
Girls - Sugababes
Laura - Scissor Sisters
Laura - Scissor Sisters
Girls - Sugababes
Laura - Scissor Sisters
Laura - Scissor Sisters
Laura - Scissor Sisters
Laura - Scissor Sisters

By the time we got to the carpark and I was, mercifully, able to switch off the engine, my ears were in shock. The effect of listening to the Scissor Sisters a zillion times without a break was, as Morrisey would put it "enough to make a shy, bald Buddhist reflect and plan a mass murder".

I'll never make that mistake again.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Oh dear, not another one

Another book review, that is. It's supposed to be walking and crochet but it's turned into reading.

I have an excuse, though. Mr Cat is in the process of doing something new fangled so that any walks I blog about can be highlighted with a pictorial representation of our every footstep. Thus, you can see where we get lost and double back on ourselves, fall into mantraps and end up in lakes. But he hasn't done it yet, so the walks are in a blog queue.

So until they're unleashed, I'm going to recommend The Suspicions of Mr Whicher. I was SCARED of this book. At least for the first couple of chapters, which are very creepy. It's another Victorian murder mystery, only a true one this time. This probably gives the impression that I'm interested in all things Victorian, when the opposite is the case (if it's possible to smash an era of History repeatedly about the head with a cudgel, I would choose the period 1714-1914, with particular cudgelling reserved for the Victorians) but this was the only book which looked remotely readable in the St Pancras International branch of Foyles. I had a long wait ahead, and a Danish pastry to get through. And it's really rather good.

As for crochet, I was in the process of making a character from Wall:E, but someone from Craftster pipped me to the post so I won't be able to start a new project until I've stopped sulking. Eve will have to remain in the craft basked, headless, until I do.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

A good read

Not having much luck on the reading front of late. Books are something I cannot live without, but recently I've found myself ploughing through a swamp of mediocrity.

Fortunately, a readable offering came my way recently when I picked this one up in Waterstones.

An historical novel by a person called Kylie Fitzpatrick filled me with trepidation (well come on - my old moniker was going to be Beatrix Canticle. You wouldn't read an historical novel by someone called Beatrix Canticle, would you? Would you?!), but it was just fine. It's never going to win the Booker prize, but if you want a few hours of pleasant distraction then this will be just the ticket. It's quite gentle, and what I'd term a ladies' murder mystery story, despite having a wee bit of a feminist message. Which is fine, really. After all, those action adventure stories that boys read can get a bit boisterous at times. They're enough to make you drop your cup of Darjeeling. And that would never do.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

There's a peahen in my garden

Just before Christmas, there was a thud outside the French windows. This was not quite what we expected to see when we went to investigate.

The ginger Tom was very perturbed and started slinking around, belly close to the floor, in that macho, catcho style they adopt when they're trying to look 'ard as nails.

Fortunately, we'd already ordered the turkey for Christmas.