“A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Theatre…”

 

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Sometimes I actually do feel as though the stuff that happens in my life is part of a Universal vaudeville routine… I try to console myself with encouraging platitudes like Oh well, it could be worse, it could be raining…

Alternatively, I think: “F&#$k it that’s an absolute b#@%ard”… I swear quite appallingly so I’ve been told, although personally I think I do it rather well, having a flair for the more , um, earthy side of our language… but anyway, generally I just laugh.

For example, the other day my morning began at 5.00am with a sound guaranteed to make any cat owner react with lightning fast speed – I awoke to the sounds of Tooty vomiting copiously down the side of my bedside cabinet. I leapt out of bed, a little too late unfortunately to prevent drippage on to the handles of the cabinet, wondered momentarily at the cat’s ability to run and vomit at the same time, but cheered myself with the thought Well, it can only get better…

On the bus to my appointment with my psychologist – yes, I have a psychologist, yes, I have now managed to instil a level of anxiety in him concerning random issues that he has never previously considered, like doorhandles, and should beans and chips really touch on the plate if you’re eating them together – but I happened to overhear a weary father talking to his little son on the bus as the child burst into a bellowed rendition of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”

No, buddy, that’s not a star, it’s a snowflake,” the father patiently pointed out yet again.

But it looks like a star!” the child insisted. Then, a little defiantly: “Well, I’m going to sing every time I see a star or a snowflake!”

A look of hopeless resignation settled across the father’s face…

Then, as I was coming back, I noticed a man leaving the supermarket who clearly had his life’s priorities sorted. He was carrying a tray of cans of beer and a large pack of toilet rolls – I shudder to think how he was going to spend his weekend, but mentally I applauded his ingenuity, for, he had the toilet rolls on his shoulder first, then the beer on top, thereby creating a soft and comfortable pad to carry the items home.

I also recently seem to have adopted quite an interesting habit as I disembark from the bus…I leap off and run away…not quite sure where that’s come from, I know that “Mission Impossible” left a lasting impression on me…but the puzzled look on the other passengers’ faces is quite rewarding to see as I speed away… Try it…

A Bit Of A Re-Blog…

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I just seem to have had one of those weeks where I have run out of time, not been able to catch up with anything and I have been using the same shopping list for the past ten days…consequently we have plenty of cat kibbles, a bewildering preponderance of frozen peas, pepperoni and vegan pizzas and an advent calendar for Charlie. The others don’t bother so much but Charlie loves the daily thrill of opening the little doors…

Anyway, I was trying to catch up with my NaNo when I found this little story from a few years ago, and it made me feel a little sad at how bleakly it read, although the original idea was actually sparked by a charming dinner service I saw in our supermarket, with all manner of fanciful beasties…have a read and see what you think, friends, and I will try to be more organised and catch up with everybody…

Alice Updated.

Don’t worry, you’ll make friends once you’ve settled in.”

Don’t forget to work hard, we know what you students are like, out drinking all night!”

These words fell on frightened ears as her parents left her. They left her, in the hall of residence in a nameless, faceless block in a city she didn’t know and she was afraid.

It was bleak, it was dark, it was autumn and she longed for the golden days of summer when she had been at school. The city was brutal, it was dark and it rained. She didn’t know where she was or how she felt to be so tenderly abandoned. She was not equipped for this.

The gentle county of her youth, her kind teachers and thoughtful friends, the lessons, the plans, the routine, these were things she understood.

Scornful tutors mouthed incomprehensible words in echoing lecture theatres and people laughed. She couldn’t eat, she didn’t know how. And yet, and yet, she was touched with kindness as others saw her and were drawn to this sad, lonely girl, “Alice of the Otherworld” as the darkness called her.

Here, come out with us, have a drink, you’ll feel better!”

The tall dark boy with knives in his eyes laughed like a maniac and pushed the glass towards her.

She drank, and was transported. Down and down she fell, tumbling down a smooth golden tunnel that smelled enticingly of childhood and weepingly of home.

When she opened her eyes, she was lying in a field. The day was golden and dusted with sunshine, the old oak tree she reclined against felt warm and comfortable, as comforting as her bed at home.

She sat up and her hands touched grass, grass that slithered through her fingers as soft as silk and as warm as blood. A winged rabbit fluttered by, its delicate wings etched in green, flushing pink as it startled at her presence and shied away.

And as she looked, and looked again, what at first she took for flowers beat their wings and flew away in a chattering flock, and she heard the swallows singing at home as they prepared to fly to Africa.

She sighed and laid down again. This was not home, but it would do, the echoes were familiar and some of it was comforting. She drew this atmosphere around her, like her duvet at home, and shut her eyes.

*

Ally! Ally! No! Ally, wake up! You bastard, what did you give her?”

The dark youth smiled uneasily and slid away, as her head lolled and a trickle of thin, yellow vomit escaped her smiling mouth, while the one who would have loved her grabbed his phone and cried.

Murder By Moussaka…

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Not moussaka… 

Now. Regular readers might remember I have a few issues around the subject of food. Don’t get me wrong – I love food, am an avid watcher of cookery programmes and enjoy myself cooking and baking when I have the opportunity.

No… it’s the reverse. The older I get, the more foods I find that dislike me. The other day I went to my mother’s for dinner – I am aware that she thinks my food foibles are pretty much in my head, but I also get extremely anxious whenever I discuss food and what I can and cannot eat with her. She comes from a generation where you show your love and appreciation by eating whatever is put in front of you, clearing your plate and asking for more… it took me twenty years to pluck up the courage to tell her I detest Brussels sprouts…

Look!” she said, gesturing proudly and a little defiantly towards the oven – “I made moussaka!”

Ah.” I said, a little hesitantly. “Does it have-”

Only the tiniest amount of cheese in the sauce, but you can’t expect me to eat it otherwise!”

I subsided, duly chastened and already worried… my stomach rubbing its nasty little paws in anticipation.

Mother served the moussaka, and it lay there, on my plate, plumptious and tempting. Savoury layers of aubergine and courgette, chinks of onion, like little pearls, interspersed with nodules of seasoned brown mince, glistening like the sweat on a lover’s brow, and over all this, billows of creamy white sauce, smooth, subtly beckoning, flowing sensuously over everything…

Reader – I ate it.

And managed to make it all the way home before the roiling indigestion, knotting stomach cramps, nausea – well, you get the picture.

Lying pale and limp on my bed, surrounded by sympathetic cats (well, vaguely concerned if I’m honest) I got a text from my mother.

Hope you enjoyed dinner – see you tomorrow xx”

I can only conclude she was setting up her alibi…

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A butterfly. Butterflies are good.

The PenIs…Mightier Than The Sword!

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Of course…whatever did you think I meant… made you look though! And that’s my point – words are powerful things.

I was in town a couple of months ago, sneaking in furtively to fulfil my latest craving… violas. Yes, those sweet little spots of floral colour that provide a pleasing range of hue in the garden in those dark few months between autumn and spring. The lady on the plant stall laughed when I said they were very “more-ish” but she knew exactly what I meant.

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I sped away, clutching my new garden friends and decided to call in at the crystal shop, Lizians. That day, Ian was at the helm and we launched into, among other things, a discussion about literature and the actual art of writing.

I love words, the music they create as they flow from your pen, the pictures they paint in your imagination… it’s like a three-in-one hobby. We both like to actually physically write, put down initial thoughts, words, ideas, so we both have notebooks and pens always at the ready. Laptops are obviously more convenient for sheer volume but sometimes my fingers trip over themselves and both myself – and my laptop – have absolutely no idea what I was trying to say…

I find connecting with pen and paper very organic, an emotional action that helps layer flavour and imagery, a useful way of capturing a string of words that chimes in the mind like a musical note…I am possibly too wordy, and a bit of a grammar stickler, but Ian and I both agreed that when you write, your aim is to make your reader feel without getting too bogged down in spellings and so forth. These are the sort of weapons people use to put aspiring writers off, intimidate them, when really, the action of writing is very important – a way of immortalising yourself, and your surroundings as the very first artist realised in the caves at Lascaux when they turned an abstract projection of rock into the figure of a horse…

I hope you get what I mean…or am I waffling? A lovely crisp baked treat…or pointless meanderings of words. That’s their beauty – words can be used to describe, punish, communicate, immortalise or obfuscate, but some of the simplest words are also the most beautiful!

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Ambivalent About Birds…

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Although I welcome birds to my garden – and sometimes my house, usually courtesy of Lily – as part of my wildlife-friendly environment I have endeavoured to create, I have decided I don’t really like them. They’re quite rude.

Alex had a budgie, who was a much loved and sadly missed family member, but even he had issues – a small yellow and green bird with the heart of a lion and the temper of a wolverine.

But yes, birds outside. I was planting some dianthus and violas in the back border when I heard a scream of raucous laughter.

Rude,” I thought, “I’m just minding my own business.”

I heard the laugh again and looked up, prepared to make a cutting remark like “Go away!” when I saw a magpie, perched on a tree branch above my head watching me. It opened its beak and gave another yell of unrestrained laughter at my gardening efforts and flew away.

Then the other afternoon, I was calling Ting. Every time the word “Ting” left my mouth it was echoed by a chuckling rasp, like nails down a blackboard. I looked up, and sat in the ash tree on the park was a jackdaw. It cocked its head on one side and laughed derisively, glaring at me with its pale blue eyes.

Ting! Hehehehehe!” it bellowed, and flew off in a flash of silvery black feathers.

We have a park at the back of our house and I can look out over it from the one of the back bedrooms, and I often see crows and seagulls diving and whirling like fighter jets, executing such tight turns and spins a Red Arrows pilot would be envious. Usually they battle each other, but sometimes they will unite in the face of a common foe and mob the peregrine who flies across every so often in search of food, screaming and laughing like demented banshees.

I don’t mind the little robin, Mr.Gibbs, who is part of the Avian Quality Control team in my garden. He will sit in the honeysuckle and make politely encouraging remarks. I also have a pair of little wrens, charming tiny brown birds that flicker in and out of the hedges, although they have a terrible, booming alarm call if one of the cats wanders too near their territory:

Cat! Cat! CAT! CAT! CATCATCATCAT!”

Now. I have a herb garden, which I planted earlier this year, and I am quite proud of it, not least because I recently introduced my partner to the pleasures of cooking with herbs. I was gazing absently out of the kitchen window – the back door was open – when I heard the most terrible scream.

Uh-oh, Lily’s got a bird!” was my first thought.

I ran outside to find the source of the enraged screaming and fluttering, fully expecting to see Lily at least dragging a pheasant, when a black feathered ball of rage shot past me.

There, in my lovely herb bed, was a battle royal. Two male blackbirds were having a massive punch up, going at it like professional wrestlers. One seized the other by a wing tip and flung him into the parsley- which was flattened by the force of his landing. He rebounded off the sage and dived for the other, grabbing him by the leg and upending him into the lemon balm. The other one retaliated with a solid body blow that knocked him into my thyme – I’m very fond of my thyme as it has therapeutic benefits as well as flavour – and that was when I decided enough was enough.

Oi! Get out of it you little b$%*&@*s!” I shouted – most unladylike, I know, but I had glimpsed what they had done to the chives.

They turned and looked at me.

Fair cop guv!”

And fled.

For such little birds, they fought with surprising ferocity – easy to see they’re descended from dinosaurs!

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Now – butterflies I like!

Gardens Are Good!

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My garden earlier on in the summer

When I was a little girl, I used to love watching “Gardeners’ World” (and still do, actually) with my Nan and Grandad. The presenter at that time was the wonderful Percy Thrower, another Shropshire resident like my grandparents, and those evenings spent in the company of my beloved grandparents and the gentle voice of Percy Thrower stared a love of gardening in me.

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These petunias are called “Galaxy” – you can see why!

It’s only in the past two years that my love of gardening has been able to translate itself into the creation of my own garden. For some reason, it was assumed that I didn’t like it, the dirt, the labour, the bugs… However, this misunderstanding is something I have endeavoured to put right.

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These are “Ray Sunflower” – love the name!

Also – the link between gardening and the benefits to mental health are undoubted. That veritable green-fingered gardening god Monty Don and the brilliantly brave and lovely Rachel De Thame have both in recent programmes talked about the emotional connection with their garden. I found it very moving.

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One of my wonderfully tactile ornamental grasses, “Pennisetum Rubrum” – or “Basil” to his friends..

I am perhaps a somewhat chaotic gardener. I start out with the best of intentions (“Why don’t you make a plan Mum?”) but then I get carried away digging, or something, and I forget what I’ve planted where… It’s like my birthday every day in my garden when Spring arrives, as there are new surprises sprouting up all over, much to my delight.

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I named this one “Casanova”…although he is more properly “Pennisetum Fairytales,” just couldn’t keep his hands to himself on the bus home!

I love the stately beauty of tulips, the robust colours of dahlias, but perhaps my favourite, well, in this year just gone at any rate, have been the petunias and ornamental grasses. The grasses bring a lovely flow and movement to the garden which I find ineffably soothing, and after a stressful day, there is nothing more I like than to come home and dig a few holes, plant some things, tend to others and communicate my love for my garden, watched, usually, by my four faithful girly gardening buddies.

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Not unsurprisingly, one of my favourite books is “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and I would like to finish with this quote:

If you look the right way you can see that the whole world is a garden”

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Meeting Mr.Middleton…

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Now. I don’t often mention mental health or my own go-around with depression and anxiety because I write this blog for entertainment and if I can make someone smile, forget their cares for a minute, then my job is done. (“Meet the gang coz the girls are here – the girls to entertain you -” Oops, apologies to all who might remember “It Ain’t Half Hot Mum”)

It’s been a difficult few months earlier on in the year, one of the reasons why I was absent from the blog, but I read a book that really helped… I suppose this a sort of self-help post. But I have lived with a formless sort of fear for a long time which in turn gave me crippling anxiety to the point where I found myself in Asda crying because I was completely unable to choose potatoes.

Enter Ant Middleton. Not literally, of course, but metaphorically. He is an English ex-soldier, adventurer, television presenter and author. I have watched his television programmes, “SAS:Who Dares Wins,” “Mutiny”,”Escape” and “Extreme Everest.” I was taken by the absolute determination and fearlessness of the man. Granted, he’s not to everybody’s taste, but his courage, achievements and adaptability drew me.

I read his book, “First Man In: Leading From The Front.” Then I read it again. Bite size chunks of psychology and encouragement that I could understand and apply to my own life, put in such a way I could understand and use his lessons. One of the first – “Always have a plan” might seem pretty basic but it rocked me back on my metaphorical feet. Of course. There are always options.

Then he brought another book out, “The Fear Bubble.” I was wandering absently along when I saw it advertised in W.H.Smith. “Oh I must buy that” I thought. Then I read the poster properly… Ant Middleton was coming to Nottingham. I could get my book signed. OHMYGODICOULDMEETANTMIDDLETON.

I must point out here that I am not merely “fangirling”… well, perhaps, a little… but reading this man’s book has genuinely altered my mindset, and for the better.

Handily, Alex was able to come with me on the Saturday that Ant was coming to our city, so we arrived at W.H.Smith and joined the queue. I must say thank you to all the staff who made it such a pleasant and well organised event too. I gave my book to Alex to hold as my hands were getting sweaty with nerves, and as I was somewhat inelegantly wiping them on my front, who should appear from the back of the shop but – Ant Middleton!

I’ll tell you now, I don’t do cool. I have tried, but it never really works for me… so I said, in quite a loud voice: “Look! He’s here!” and shook Alex by the lapels in excitement. Ant smiled and said: “All right guys?” to the queue and disappeared to the front of the shop.

After some more waiting, we moved up and I had the chance to watch how he was with people. He was – brilliant.

Am I gushing? Perhaps, a little – but anyway, from an old lady, to a teenaged lad, to a little girl and others, he had a kind word, a hug or a handshake for everyone. Then it was our turn, he grinned at me, maybe remembering me from earlier, and said: “Come on then mother!”

We walked over and he laughed as I said I was unreasonably excited to meet him and gave me a hug. I said “It’s wonderful to meet you!” and he smiled, he has very blue, very direct eyes and shook Alex’s hand. He is extremely charismatic and very “alpha” but he uses that quality in an empowering manner. He asked us a couple of questions, and then I said: “Thank you. Very much.” I hope I managed to convey a little of how much better his book made me feel.

So… could be I’m “fangirling”… perhaps, a little – but I thoroughly recommend both his books, and as I said I am aware he’s not to everyone’s taste. But I was – and still am – unreasonably excited about actually having met Ant Middleton!