Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Here On Earth - Alice Hoffman

I laid in the bath this evening, bubbles seeming to continue to multiply whilst simultaneously popping near my ears and decided to read a couple of chapters of my book.
I'm not entirely sure what time I got into the bath but I think it was about two hours before I finally realised the water was cool and the bubbles had all but gone.
Turned out that a couple of chapters wasn't enough, I finished the book. And loved it.

It went in a direction that I felt I should have anticipated but hadn't and was hanging on every word. I occasionally find myself jumping to the last sentence of the page I'm on, in a rush to have an answer to what's happening within the paragraph I'm reading.
I remember my grandmother read a lot of crime books, she told me that she always read the end of the book first so that she wouldn't grow to like the character of the murderer and end up being disappointed in them.
I can understand that to an extent. The characters in this didn't develop as I thought they would, the relationships changed in ways I didn't expect. What I was sure would be the end didn't even feature.
There were lines I wanted to memorise for their beauty whilst carrying envy I didn't put those sentences together myself.

All this from a tale of a mother and daughter, March and Gwen, gone to a funeral in March's home town and the story of the strength of her passion for her first love.

I loved how the storytelling swapped from mother to daughter to friend to person to person in the blink of an eye. Seeing everything from all angles and so very accurate in showing that so many situations are not the way you imagine because your vision is coloured by your assumptions.

It was beautiful and sad, touching and heart wrenching.

Monday, 29 October 2007


As I stood in the Post Office this evening with my mammoth pile of parcels a guy came to the window and I overheard him saying he wanted to pay a bill. I wasn't really paying attention until I heard a strange noise and glanced in his direction. He had a huge margarine tub filled with tuppences and pennies.
I attempted to surreptitiously glance at the bill to see how much it was. Almost £200.

I tried to imagine what £200 in tuppences would look like.
The lady behind the counter narrowed her eyes and said "It isn't ALL tuppences is it?"
The chap said that not all of it was, but a lot of it was coins.
Then proceeded to tip them all out.
It was the kind of noise you dream of every time you play a fruit machine. Or in my case those tuppence machines that I play until my fingers turn black, all the while determined to win the piece of tat just out of reach. Then when it finally falls and is within my grimy hands, I stand, stare and wonder what the hell I was thinking. Well it's either that or my determination to make the giant overhang of coins make that delicious crash, until you stoop to collect your winnings and realise you fed the machine with over a quid and have twenty pence to show for it.

Anyway, it would never, ever occur to me to go in and pay with a margarine tub full of coins.
I'd be incredibly embarrassed. What's so uncool about coins? Especially those little pennies and tuppences?


Literature is a luxury; fiction is a necessity.
- G. K. Chesterton

I like to see patterns in things. Most of the time I imagine them, but I like the world of coincidences.
When I collect my parcels together and complete the certificates of posting I like it when all the people have the same initial, or all live in houses with names not numbers. Just feels like something in the world lined up neatly.

I've rediscovered my love of reading and am to be found, nose deep in a book at some point every day. I've always had a love of books, but once out of the habit of reading it was far easier to sit and watch tv instead. Now that my love of fiction has been reawakened I'm flying through book after book.

I'm currently reading Here On Earth by Alice Hoffman which I can't get enough of. It sat on the shelf for a long time and now I feel sorry that I didn't get to the story before. But I like the pattern that I'm imagining exists that links book to book to book. The main female character is called March, in my previous book (The Secret Life Of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd) had characters called August, May & June. See? There's a link, they're all named after months of the year.
I know I'm imagining it but still...

And the link from The Secret Life Of Bees to the book prior to that (To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee) laid in the racial tensions evident in both.

Is everything linked in the world in some way? In this small world of ours? Is it all subject to those six degrees of separation?

I must say though that I really liked The Secret Life Of Bees, every now and then you watch or read something and wonder if maybe you don't want to be a beekeeper? Or a jet pilot (Top Gun)? Or able to talk to the animals (Dr Dolittle)!
Those stories set in a time of such change, like The Secret Life Of Bees and To Kill a Mockingbird really change your view of the world and they make me wonder how I would have felt and behaved all those decades ago. Would I still hold the same views that I have now? After all, Atticus Finch speaks about how women weren't allowed to be on juries - he joked that we'd talk too much and ask too many questions. Uttering such a thing today would result in uproar from the sexual equality groups. Although I am all for equality, it has to be said, I'd quite like to have been spared from the mind-numbing boredom that was jury service.

Anyway, I am loving all the books I'm reading. I've either been very lucky or am too easily pleased but I haven't, thus far, found many books I haven't enjoyed. I found D.H. Lawrence's The Rainbow quite hard work but enjoyed it all the same somehow.
The only book in my life I can ever remember hating was Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder. I know it won awards but I couldn't even bring myself to finish it. Nor could I bring myself to allow it shelf space.

Friday, 26 October 2007

Karma's A Bitch

So I've driven to Stansted and back today already and it's only 10.30am
I love other drivers, I really do.
I'm very grateful for the way they examine my rear bumper so closely when driving behind me.
I also love how, when driving precisely half a mile faster than the lorry in front of them, a lorry pulls out and proceeds to take five miles to overtake. I like how they indicate to let you know they're going to pull out, but how they always time it until they're three-quarters of the way into your lane anyway, thus encouraging you to test that your brakes are operational. I appreciate how my safety is at the forefront of their mind.

And to the guy who drove remarkably slowly in front of me, refusing to pull in, then when finally overtaken seemed to develop some sort of temper tantrum and floored it as he passed me again, I say Ha! And once again Ha! I hope you enjoyed your little chat with the gentleman in uniform that pulled you over. I love Karma, especially when it's a bitch (and not at my expense).

I'm pleased to see Friday roll around, it hasn't been the best of weeks, with its fair share of bad news. I almost made a full week without injury too, until last night. I look like a troop of mosquitoes partied on my arm, but I just burned it. What is the name for a number of mosquitoes? A swarm? Hmm, if so, they need something more impressive.
After all, it's a murder of crows, a crash of hippos, a parliament of owls, I think that mosquitoes deserve something, purely for their irritation value.

I just looked and birds have, by far, the best collective names.
Check it out:
A murmuration of starlings.
An unkindness of ravens.
A convocation of eagles.
A charm of finches.
A pitying of turtledoves.
I wonder how much they vary country to country, continent to continent?

Wednesday, 17 October 2007


I don't usually remember my dreams these days but last nights has stuck with me.

So, although I'm at a house I've never been in before I know it's home.
I'm in the front garden behind a bush (what I was doing there I have no idea) but suddenly a full grown tiger strolls into the garden. He sniffs around the lawn and then saunters out again. I emerge from behind the shrubbery and make a dash for the front door, which is one of those that is almost entirely glass and as I turn to shut it and lock it, the tiger has reappeared.
In a very human manner he's got a paw in the door to stop me shutting it. Then suddenly his nose is in the gap of the door and I'm punching him in the nose!
(Because that would happen!)
He pulls back and I shut the door but whichever way I turn the key it won't lock and I have to keep pushing on the door to keep the tiger out.

And this is where it gets weirder, for some reason the tiger is suddenly sitting on a newspaper, not a broadsheet, just a little tabloid affair. The tiger shrinks and goes to sleep. I open the door, roll up the tiger in the newspaper, run down the street and throw it away.

I run back to my house, but the tiger has woken up by being thrown away (funny that) and is chasing me again - and is back to full size! His paw is in the door again as I slam it shut but this time I manage to remove the paw and lock the door.

Then I woke up.

What the hell is that about?
Now I know your dreams are supposed to work through what happened that day, but I was not in contact with a single tiger all day! Honest!

Tuesday, 16 October 2007


Tim and I drive to the airport so that he can fly off and join Mum in France.
We arrive, take a ticket from the machine, which gives you precisely ten free minutes - is it me or is that not a wee bit on the stingy side?
East Midlands Airport does everything in its power to ensure you will end up paying for your parking, yes, you get ten free minutes - but it then forbids you from stopping almost anywhere but a designated space, all costing precious minutes. Now it's not that I'm especially tight with money, it's just that if I'm going to take out a mortgage, I'd prefer it to be for a house, not for parking in their car park.
Eventually we find somewhere to stop, Tim unloads his things and heads off to the departures whilst I head to the exit, still with five minutes to spare. I get to the exit, wind down the window (grateful to be in their car which has windows that wind down unlike my own lovely vehicle). Ticket in hand, I stick my arm through the window and aim for the slot. I'm not sure if the car rolled or if the wind caught the ticket but suddenly it was gone.
I flung the car into reverse, leapt out (ripping my skirt in the process - naturally) and was faced with about two dozen identical tickets littering the floor.
I made sure that the rip to the back of my skirt wasn't causing any kind of indecent exposure, crouched down and started rifling through the tickets. I won't even try to describe the looks I got from the passing cars because I'm sure they're quite easy to imagine. Finally I found one, with today's date and the approximate time we arrived. I ran back to the car, hopped in, drove back up to the exit, inserted the ticket without incident and the display read 'this ticket has already been used for exit'.
I reversed again, jumped out (without further tearing to my skirt) and started searching again. Found another and repeated the process.
You know what they say about third time lucky?
Ha! Second time lucky for moi!

Oh yes, the barrier lifted, the display told me to drive safely and I was free.
Ah the thrill of the open road.

I'm really quite pleased that the next airport trip is to Stansted.

Monday, 15 October 2007

Random Notes On My Day

I opened a brand new carton of milk this morning, sleepily poured it on my bran flakes, settled myself on the sofa and took a mouthful.
It's really unfair that unopened milk, well within its Best Before date would go off. The label should change colour or something.
It does make me wonder where on the scale of nasty tastes sour milk comes. I'm giving it a high vote!

Then, I only had enough peanut butter for one slice of toast.
Does the cosmiverse not appreciate that I do not function well in the morning and to not press me with challenges?

Later on though, the Red Arrows took off directly above my head, which was mighty cool. I could almost make out the rivets on the planes.
And, as if to make up for its taunting me earlier, the cosmiverse did not place in front of me a single slow driver and for this I am truly grateful.
However, it did choose to taunt me instead with a beautiful bedroom set at Hemswell. Maybe I need some maple....

I spoke to my sister, Siobhan, who regaled me with the nightmare of her recent move to Bristol, but she's loving her new place. As she picked up the Texan accent so quickly when she was living over there, I'm wondering how long it's going to be before she's uttering the words 'Alright my lover?'


It doesn't take a talent to be mean,
Words can crush things that are unseen.
- Jewel

I've rattled on about my love of words before and I adore those lyrics from Jewel's song 'I'm Sensitive'. Words are such a powerful thing. I know that they make up a tiny portion of a face to face conversation, with the rest coming from body language, tone of voice, etc.
There are, however, for me some words that no matter how they're spoken, I just can't abide.

And to be honest, swear words don't even register to me. They certainly don't make my list of hated words.

Top of my list is 'stupid'. Personally, I find it to be the most offensive word in the English language. If I hear it the hair on the back of my neck stands on end and I stiffen, wanting to admonish the user. It's a damaging word and a cruel word. I remember hearing one lady tell me that they had banned it in their house and feeling grateful I wasn't alone in my hatred of it. I think it has to be the biggest insult anyone could lay at my door.

Next comes 'nice'. Is there a more mediocre word in the English language? What does it express? Really? Almost nothing. Which is what it's worth. It has no passion, it screams 'I couldn't be bothered to think of anything better to say'.
Many years ago (more than I like to admit) when I was at primary school, we had to write a poem. We had to take the word 'insect' and create a poem where each line started with the letters from the word. I know there's a name for those but it has escaped my memory for the moment. Anyway, the word nice was banned, but I used it in my poem and my teacher insisted I rewrite it. I never understood her hatred of that word, but I've grown to agree with her.
I hear it fall out of my own mouth and cringe, desperately searching for something to replace it. It's just so non-committal.

Also on the list is 'cute'. Although it's the application of the word I object to, more than the word itself. Kittens, puppies, baby seals - all undeniably cute. Small children, also guilty of cuteness on occasion.
Adults? Not so much. We grow to be attractive, handsome, pretty, beautiful. To me, you get to an age, where being called cute is no longer complimentary, it starts to feel like 'I couldn't think of anything else to say' is what it really means.
If I'm wrong, which is eminently possible, I just want to know: What makes an adult cute?

On the flip side. I really love the word tegulated. Not because it means anything special, just because I like how it sounds and how it rolls in the mouth.

Friday, 12 October 2007

Book Titles

I've mentioned my handling of books many times.
But I haven't mentioned the book title & author combination that has yet to be beaten from first place in my list of favourites.

It's just genius.


How To Swing Better by Gay Brewer.

I love it. I'm puerile and I know it. It's about golf by the way.

I found a book today by a Rudolf Rocker and I've developed a desire to marry a Rocker. Just so I can introduce myself as Mrs Rocker.


I drove over to meet Harriet in Horncastle for lunch as she had a short 'meeting' over there. To pass the time we decided to head to The Old Co-Op for a bit of browsing. I love it there and at its sister shops. It's a wealth of junk and collectables. As a hoarder I'm dangerous in such an environment. I'm quite convinced that if I had a space like this, it actually wouldn't look too different. Old suitcases piled 20 feet high. I can't help it, I love the old things with their stories. The wealth of stuff they have there actually beggars belief. It has to be seen to be believed.

Harriet and I ventured upstairs to where fabric lies in piles and covers rail after rail. I sidled carefully past all the fur which never fails to send a shiver down my spine. I poked and prodded at various fabrics and wandered around the room until I suddenly noticed what looked rather like a small dead dog. A fur had fallen in such a way to make it look like it had legs. I jumped back, cursing and pointing it out to Harriet. At this point I also managed to stand on a wire coat hanger which flicked over and hit me in the leg. Scream? Moi? Maybe just a little. It scared me to death, I thought the thing had come to life and was biting me.

And Harriet? She laughed at me.

But she did buy me a brie and grape baguette for lunch so all's well that ends well.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007


Well, it's my own fault really.
I shouldn't have brought it up.
You know what I heard this evening?
Frosty the Snowman. I ask you. It's fricking October.

Went to the music quiz tonight. It's once a month and it's a damn cool quiz. There was a chap sitting on his own and took a quiz sheet as they were being handed out. I was a little amazed he was going to have a solo attempt and in a moment of generosity lent him a pen. Which, by the way, he didn't return. I admit I may have taken that pen from Barclays myself, but even so. Anyway, Gary and I attempted the CD covers part of the quiz and realised we recognised an exact total of zero. We normally get around half. It was getting to off an abysmal start. It has to be said that we were mediocre and at the end elected to swap with the chap sitting on his own. To my mind at least we'd be able to mark a sheet that would be worse than our own.
How wrong we were.
We swapped sheets, he'd answered almost every question and he'd completed a couple of the album covers.
So, marking started and we realised we had been beaten, by 30 points no less.
Not only that.
He won the whole damn quiz! Fifteen teams and he was on his own.
I suspect he was wearing one of those ear devices and being fed answers secretly from the outside.
After prompting Gary suggested to him that maybe he'd like to join us next time and be on our team.
When his winning was announced the team on the next table suggested that maybe he'd like to be on their team, to which Gary and I squealed that we'd already bagsie'd him.
Turns out, he lives in Nottingham and isn't likely to be here again, so quite frankly he should have shared out his winning beer tokens if you ask me.
On the upside, Gary did get to go home with a lovely polo shirt as a prize for our being quite crap. But only third from bottom. Oh yes, we weren't worst. Amazing really.

I have hiccups.
That's not relevant apart from the fact it's currently really annoying me.

Another thing that was annoying was the owl outside my window at 4am. How do you go about making a catapult from a pair of fishnets? It's not that I wish the wee owl any kind of misfortune, I'd just like to attempt to persuade him to roost elsewhere.

And, as I'm on a roll of random blatherings...
I would like to ask why some people see very faint patchy mist and feel the need to switch on their fog lights? You end up driving behind them being slowly blinded. Whilst I'm sure they think they're being super-safe. However, if you can turn on your full beam and not have it reflected in the 'fog' in front of you, it's a sure bet that it's not that foggy, if you can see the car in front of you (a quarter mile in front of you), also a sure bet you don't need fog lights. You can clearly make out the junction you want to take? Then turn off your bloody fog lights! I'm sure that you're supposed to turn them off as soon as someone is behind you anyway, a bit like dipping your headlights. Grumble, grumble.

Actually, one last motoring related grumble. What is it with people not indicating? It's like a phase half the motoring population are going through. They get to a t-junction and nothing, you are left to guess which way they're going. Sometimes their lane placement gives it away and you assume that because they've pulled to the left that they're going to turn left. But one cannot be fooled, because the non-indicators change their minds and turn right when you least expect it. I especially enjoy driving down the road, pootling along at sixty when the car in front of me slows, I look around the car, there appears to be nothing in front and nothing in the road. Is he going to stop? Is there a problem with his car? Should I overtake? Who can say. At that point you realise there is a junction ahead. Maybe he's planning a turn, but he's choosing to surprise you. I just love that. If I overtake is he going to choose to turn right and demolish my car? Or, is he going to turn left and leave me cursing I didn't overtake? Ah but I guess that's why the horn is so beautifully located near the steering wheel, so that it may provide your own bleeping as you hoot and curse.
Road rage? Moi?

76 days...

Did you know there are 76 shopping days till Christmas?
Oh yes indeed.

Last Wednesday I saw a big blackboard announcing there were 83 shopping days left and it sent me into a momentary panic. I almost felt obliged to start writing cards. Or else arrange sale of a kidney to pay for all the gifts that need buying.

My mother was requesting Christmas wishlists and making cards, the shops are full of decorations and calendars for 2008. I've quoted Loudon Wainwright III before but his song about Christmas is brilliant:

Suddenly it's Christmas,
The longest holiday.
When they say "Season's Greetings"
They mean just what they say:
It's a season, it's a marathon,
Retail eternity.
It's not over till it's over
And you throw away the tree.

How long is it going to be before the strains of carols start being heard being pumped through supermarket speakers? Before everyone starts flooding the shops, desperate to get the best gift?
I'm starting to feel a sense of dread about the whole thing. And I can't get the damn countdown out of my mind.
It won't be much longer before the competition to see who can complete their Christmas shopping first commences. Where's the fun gone? By the time Christmas comes around I'm so sick of it that I'm rather looking forward to being able to go to the shops and not be confronted by endless images of Santa and his ho-ho-ho'ing. I'm turning into Scrooge!
No, that's not true, I'm just a little nostalgic for when it felt less mercenary. When the build-up didn't last for three months.
Ah well, can't fight consumerism.

And, because I love it so, I'm posting the whole song before I go.

Loudon Wainwright III

Suddenly it's Christmas,
Right after Hallowe'en.
Forget about Thanksgiving;
It's just a buffet in between.
There's lights and tinsel in the windows;
They're stocking up the shelves;
Santa's slaving at the North Pole
In his sweatshop full of elves.

There's got to be a build-up
To the day that Christ was born:
The halls are decked with pumpkins
And the ears of Indian corn.
Dragging through the falling leaves
In a one-horse open sleigh,
Suddenly it's Christmas,
Seven weeks before the day.

Suddenly it's Christmas,
The longest holiday.
When they say "Season's Greetings"
They mean just what they say:
It's a season, it's a marathon,
Retail eternity.
It's not over till it's over
And you throw away the tree.

Outside it's positively balmy,
In the air nary a nip;
Suddenly it's Christmas,
Unbuttoned and unzipped.
Yes, they're working overtime,
Santa's little runts;
Christmas comes but once a year
And goes on for two months.

Christmas carols in December
And November, too;
It's no wonder we're depressed
When the whole thing is through.
Finally it's January;
Let's sing "Auld Lang Syne";
But here comes another heartache,
Shaped like a Valentine.

Suddenly it's Christmas,
The longest holiday.
The season is upon us;
A pox, it won't go away.
It's a season, it's a marathon,
Retail eternity.
It's not over till it's over
And you throw away the tree.

No, it's not over till it's over
And you throw away the tree;
It's still not over till it's over
And you throw away the tree.

Friday, 5 October 2007

For A Woman

I went to view the local auction today. It's always really busy and as I pulled into the car park the only space left was one in the corner by the entrance. An awkward spot as the gates stick out into the space a little. I contemplated abandoning the car in the middle of the car park as is the norm when the spaces are full, but decided to back my beast of a car into the space.
I was half way in when a car a few spaces down started to back out and I cursed my timing but continued reversing.
The other car stopped in front of me, in the entrance to the car park and I assumed someone was coming in, but no other cars appeared. I didn't think much more of it, finished parking and clambered out.
The driver of the car wound down his window and shouted out "That was good parking, for a woman" and promptly left.
Now, should I be complimented by the fact he waited until I exited the car so he could tell me that he was impressed or offended that he assumes women can't park?

Wednesday, 3 October 2007


I get ready to go to the barn, throw everything in the car, get to the barn and realise I forgot two things so drive all the way home again. I'm now rushing as my military timed packing has been thrown off. I fling myself back into the car and something doesn't feel at all right.

I arrive back at the barn and investigate. I've torn the lining of my skirt. My white, thin skirt. I really don't have time to go home and change again.
I pack up everything and head to the post office.

I realised that I needed to stop at the doctor's surgery to request a repeat prescription. The thing that was worrying me - could you see my underwear because of the tear to the lining. I attempted to check my reflection in my dirty car. No good. So, I confidently strode into the doctor's reception, made my appointment and requested my prescription. Then when it came time to leave, I attempted a sidle, trying to make it appear that I was interested in something on the other side of the window. All the while my brain was screaming 'can they see my pants?'

I get back to the car and drive the very short distance to the post office and sidle inside. A miracle has occurred and the post office is empty. I get to the counter and start handing over parcels. The door opens, a woman enters and she stares at me. Is she staring because she can see my pants or because I'm staring at her? Then two men enter. I attempt a nonchalant lean so that my backside is facing away from all of them, I fail to achieve this and just look ridiculous instead.

I slink out of the post office and try to decide whether to just go into the shop and buy milk or to go home and change then come back and buy milk. The good thing about a little supermarket like that, you can walk sideways and pretend to be pondering over your shopping choices. I tried carrying my basket behind me, but you have to be double jointed for that, and you also need to not have bought four pints of milk. That stuff's heavy. When you're paying for your goods at the checkout, the entire queue has an uninterrupted view of your behind. I stood there willing my skirt not to be see-through.

I got home, I ran straight to the full length mirror. Good news is that I don't think the village got to see my underwear. Bad news is that I really have to try my sewing skills before I wear that skirt again.