Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Help A Poor Halfwit

Two questions that I'm sure someone out there will be able to help me with.

First, what is pinching out sweet peas and how do I do it?

Second, how do you put 'buttons' at the side of your blog? I know you're meant to go into the HTML bit and cut and paste the code but when I look at the HTML blog thing I don't have a clue where to insert the button code. Tried just putting it at the end but that doesn't do anything. There is a button I want to put on my blog but I'm such a dope that it seems impossible...

Help me, help.

Monday, 27 June 2011

I Must Ask You NOT To Scream!

...when you see my 'To Be Read' piles. Bookcases of them. It's quite disgraceful really but ever since I was a little kid I have read books voraciously. I would rather read a book over anything else in the world. Not only do you learn all sorts of stuff from books but it also makes you great at spelling and grammar....show me one person who reads a lot who isn't also brilliant at spelling, and I'll show you somebody who is telling porkies about reading masses of books.

Here are two FULL bookcases of 'To Be Read' books plus all the books on the floor, which are mixed up with ones I've read (this is my loft, by the way!). Maybe 10% of what I own have been read. And I've no particular likes or dislikes either. Well, apart from 'chick-lit'....I don't think I've read any and it doesn't sound that appealing either. Anything with 'Shopaholic' or 'Yummy Mummy' in the title is a complete turn-off. I like anything to do with the Mafia; thrillers; Scandinavian crime (but not especially 'The Girl Who....' books - I like Jo Nesbo and Arnaldur Indridasen); wartime social history like Nella Last's diaries and any factual stuff about the war; some autobiographies - Kenneth Williams' diaries are a big favourite of mine, though not strictly autobiographies I know - my favourite book EVER is the autobiographical 'Borstal Boy' by Brendan Behan; any crime books that are series set in the UK - the Peter Robinson ones and those by Jim Kelly are great; books about the 'Bright Young Things' and any early 20th century upper-class social history; I've ALWAYS got time for Enid Blyton, Noel Streatfeild and Joan Lingard; and and I really like reading cookery books too. Pretty eclectic taste, would you say?

In the last couple weeks I've read three books by Martina Cole - Close, The Family and The Runaway. Her books are okay but a bit samey. Her hero/anti-hero is always very tall, brawny, blue-eyed and black-haired, and of Irish extraction whilst her heroines are tiny, blonde with hands-span waist and big boobs, and there is always a jealous, bitter mother who resents her blonde, tiny etc etc daughter for marrying the local 'Face'. But they passed the time in the caravan. Surprisingly enough, one of the residents where I work, 89 years old and rather straight-laced picked up 'Goodnight Lady' by Martina Cole (for main characters see above, PLUS child abuse by the lord of the manor) and loved it. What can I say? We has hidden depths in Hampshire....lol!

I read too 'The Future Homemakers of America' by Laurie Graham, on Babcia's recommendation. It's about the friendship between five American service wives based with their husbands in Norfolk, and a local woman Kath Pharoah. I enjoyed it a great deal and you know, thinking about it, it could be chick-lit. I'm not sure. I don't think so though, it's not modern enough and there isn't any sex in it.
Then I read 'Going Gently' by David Nobbs, another book that, like the one above spans a long time period. I didn't realise until I saw it on Amazon but the author also wrote the Reginald Perrin books. It's a tragi-comic novel all about Swansea-born beauty Kate Copson who has a stroke just shy of her 100th birthday. She lies in a hospital bed, her body paralysed but her mind free to roam over her long life of love, adventure and happiness. She also deduces which of her three sons murdered her fifth husband. I loved this book and recommend it most wholeheartedly!
Third book was 'Brooklyn' by Colm Toibin. It's not that long so I read it really quickly. It's set in rural 1950s Ireland and is the story of younger daughter Eilis who is sent to live in Brooklyn. She is at first terribly homesick but just as her life blossoms something happens at home that pulls her back.....I liked this because although I grew up in Dublin City in the late 70s/early 80s, the descriptions of the country characters were very recognisable to me, as was the idea that the priest is the oracle of all and of course the idea that emigration is the only door open for the young if they are to progress. My oldest aunt was sent over to Chicago in the 50s from Wicklow and made her life there so this book had a lot of resonance for me. Oh and if you read it, Eilis is pronounced 'Ay-lish'. Just so you know.... ;P
Lastly I read a book that I got from the library at work, 'Monster Love' by Carol Topolski. It's not a thriller or a mystery though it is a crime story of sorts. A couple who are besotted with each other become pregnant, despite trying not to. They have a little girl who they neglect then kill because she threatens their overwhelming desire for each other. That's not a spoiler by the way...it's actually in the blurb on the back. The story is told in different voices, such as the social worker, a neighbour woman, the husband's ex-boss and also the couple themselves. It was OK...just OK. Not particularly distressing (I didn't think) and it was short so didn't take long.

So, there are my book reviews. I'm not sure what I'll read next but it's not as if I don't have a lot of choice is it?! I have four or five books I've started and not finished (The Resurrectionist, Kitchen Con, Angels of Death - Inside the Bikers' Global Crime Empire to name three I can think of). I hate to not finish a book so maybe I should put my head torch on tonight and finish a few.

What are you all reading? Have you read any of the books I've written about and what did you think of them?

PS  The worst book I have ever read in my life was Run For Home by Sheila Quigley - it stunk big time. What book almost put you off reading?

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

My New Toy and a Sweet Little Boy

I don't often show things I've bought whilst charity shopping (once, if I remember right) and this sweet little boy wasn't from a charity shop anyway, but from the car boot nirvana we in So'ton call Allington Lane. Cost - 50p.

He's about 6" high and is moulded all the way round...didn't photograph the back though, sorry. There's no maker's mark, it just says 'Foreign' underneath and he's hollow but I'm not sure what you would put inside to be completely honest. Flowers probably, but I think that'd look a bit odd personally. Maybe the remains of a tin of beans in the fridge like in the Heinz advert.  The painting of his skin is really delicate but with time his lips and inner eyes have chipped and almost come off...it wouldn't be too hard to repair with a bit of....mmm, probably enamel paint I'd say. Like boys painted their Stukas with back in the day.

Totally remedy-able worn-off pupils. 

How old are we thinking he might be? I'm saying 50s. Might he have cost 10/- new?

My new toy is something I've been after for a little while and is a useful tool (or so I told Big Man when he said 'don't start getting obsessive about this now!'). It's an OWL electricity monitor. I kept looking on eBay for one but got outbid a couple times; however driving to Wales we were listening to a talk-in about power price rises and someone was saying they had a monitor, which put the idea back in my head. Prices on eBay for BIN are generally anything up to £35 so when someone put this one on at £5 I pounced!!!

If you don't know what these little yokes do, you attach one part of it to the cable between your fuse box and electricity meter and it wirelessly sends data to this bit of the equipment - this shows either how much electricity you are using or what value you are using, depending what you want to see. Obviously you need to put in the price per kilowatt hour. I think it's going to give a very good 'rough' figure but because we have three different prices on our tariff I had to use an average so it won't be exact. In about 24 hours we used £2.25 (ish) worth of electricity. Hopefully it will show us what uses the most electricity, though I'm pretty sure it would be the tumble dryer, were I using it. The kids need training...this morning when I got up at 10:15 I discovered that Mr Charming's bedroom light had been left on since he and Big Man went out at 6:00. Smack hand Mr Charming!!!!

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

All By Myself

Have I mentioned before that Big Man snores to such an extent that I have to be sedated every night, lest I fade away from lack of sleep? And that eight years after he left the Submarine Service and came home for good I'm still not used to having to share my bed? I know, that sounds weird and kinda cruel but....ten years of bringing kids up alone with only weekend visits from a tired and distracted man can make a girl pretty independent. When friends tell me that their husband or partner has to go away on business (or whatever they do) for a couple of nights, and they 'don't know HOW they'll cope....we've never been apart before', I can't help thinking how lucky they are. What a sad sack she is.

Big Man never goes anywhere. When I go to visit Babcia I luxuriate in The Most Comfortable Bed In The World. It's nothing special, but it's a double bed and I am in it all alone. Nobody snorting, moaning, making little whiny noises, hogging the quilt, taking all the space, throwing a big sweaty arm over me or giving those kind of jerky spasms that happen when you dream you're stepping off a kerb. Just me, all by myself. I can read with the light on - if I want to read in bed at home I have to wear a special head torch that Big Man thoughtfully bought me two Christmases ago. Because after all, nothing says 'I Love You' like buying your wife's gift from the Army Surplus Store.

Obviously I try to get my husband to spend nights away from home but it's not easy. It's not specially easy to get him to spend days away, come to that, but I've succeeded tomorrow. Mr Charming has to go back to his uni in Devon for a 20-minute tutorial when he'll get his marks for the year, and to bring his stuff home from halls. It's a four-and-a-half hour drive each way, plus an hour or so there....between 10 and 12 hours Big Man-free!!!
You're probably all thinking 'what a cow' but listen. If you're with somebody all the time, apart from work, and you like to be on your own, plus you've had years alone (when you didn't have to take another adult into consideration) then it's just a bit hard sometimes. That's all.

So, tomorrow. Day off work. Big Man and Mr Charming leaving at 06.00 for a 13.30 appointment (just in case they hit traffic. And to sate Big Man's punctuality obsession...these ex-military types, eh?). Nice lie-in for me. Read a bit of my book. Early lunch. Hairdressers at midday. Tootle round the charity shops then home to maybe bake a cake and...mmmm, salmon quiche anyone? Nice bath. Bed (alone) at 18:00.

Without my head torch.

*This is, indeed, the same as mine....

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Skool Daze

I've written about my convent girl days before and thinking about it, overall I had a blast....at least compared to life now. Oh, to be young and free with only the worry of what mark Sister Pius would give my Math homework! If I knew then what I know now I would have been a far different girl.

When I was a kid we moved around a lot, between England and Ireland and I was lucky really to have all my secondary schooling in one place. But because we moved I didn't stay in touch with schoolfriends - not like Big Man did, for example, or like Red and Mr Charming have been able to. In fact, when Big Man was in the Navy and we had the opportunity to make the family 'mobile' (ie we agree to move around with him) I opted to be 'static' ( we stayed at home and Big Man lived in Plymouth in barracks), so opposed was I to moving the kids around. That's what 13 different houses and 21 different schools'll do to you I guess. Anyway, like I said, I was never really able to keep in touch with school friends.

But then there was Facebook!!!! I managed to get hold of one schoolfriend, Anita who now lives in London and is a nurse. Her parents still live in Dublin and in fact nearly all of the girls I knew then still live there also. Now I've heard through Facebook that there is a school reunion being held for the Class of 88, on July 23 this year. In Dublin, and my dilemma is whether to go or not.
If I thought there would be lots of girls from my 'gang', or even my class going I wouldn't hesitate (although the price of the flight plus finding somewhere to stay would be a big factor....I suppose the place to stay isn't insurmountable); BUT from what I can see of the RSVP list on the event page I only recognise one definite (out of nine!)and that's Anita, who I can see any time. Another two good friends live in Paris and Maryland so they won't be going. And like I blogged before, my bestest buddy Gez is MIA somewhere.

But apart from the financial aspect, the other thing that is putting me off is....what if they're all prettier, slimmer, cooler and more successful than me? I know I shouldn't care but it's human nature, right? I already told the mother of one of Red's old schoolpals who I met in Poundstretcher that Red was doing really well in London at uni, when in fact you and I know that she has dropped out of her course and is being evicted from her house (which I can't even bring myself to blog about at the moment). But in the face of her girl doing fantastically well, I just felt that I didn't want the inevitable sympathy and questions that would follow. I'm so shallow.....I'm just like a swan, serene on the surface and flailing around crazily underneath.

Of course I've seen some of the attendees' photos on FB and what they work as, and they're just regular women like me so I shouldn't worry, should I? But I know only too well that should even one old girl walk in looking fantastic and really together it would make me feel just awful plus I'd be stuck there, unable to skulk off home. Is it just me feels a failure most of the time or do other people feel like that too?

Just like Morrissey, I hate it when my friends become successful........

Perhaps I should heed Babcia's school reunion experience. She went to one quite a few years back and told me that the women attending were cliquey and had obviously kept in touch with each other over the years. There was only one other woman who had been in the same class as her '....and I never liked her anyway.'

Looks like my schooldays will probably remain in the past....

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Home Again, Home Again Jiggity-Jig..

Well, I'm back from my Welsh sojourn and I have to say it was a great holiday, short as it was. The weather was more or less great, the scenery was stunning and I have to say that, despite the Welsh once being my most disliked and feared race (following a very disturbing and frankly bizarre incident at the B&I ferry terminal in Holyhead), I am now a fully fledged fan of Wales. Sorry Lakota, Jane and Lucy by the way.. :S

If you've never tried a Daily Mail holiday you really should because they're awfully good value - we stayed at Brynowen near Borth, which is close to Aberystwyth. If you've never been try to visit. The views are incredible and it's just such a beautiful country. I think you can travel all over the world and still be amazed by what we have here in the UK.

I won't bore you with lots of photos because if you're Welsh or you love Wales then you know what it looks like; and if you haven't ever been...get yourself over there and don't waste time looking at second-hand pictures!!

I'm not sure what this fantastic Gothic-y place is on Aberystwyth seafront...a lady passing by said that it belongs to the University but was once an hotel. If only it still was!!! I'd pay an arm and a leg to stay there. It's like the house from 'The Haunting' with the vibe of the Overlook Hotel in 'The Shining'. Very disappointing to peep in the windows and just see boring files.

What was this place? The carvings and architectural details are incredible but like I said, I won't bore you with any more pics of it, not least because I'm saving one or two for the monthly photo scavenger hunt over here. Oh alright, one more.

My pic is a bit overexposed - this place is so incredible...

Just nearby is a set of mosaic murals that show different events in Welsh/Aberystwythian history. My interest in the macabre was piqued by this one...

We kept intending to go on the funicular but didn't get round to it...maybe next time.

We went for a ride on the Vale of Rheidol railway....more lovely scenery.

Probably our favourite place was Aberaeron. We had a lovely walk along the harbour; a gorgeous honey ice cream from The Hive; and a really nice river walk.

Look at the colour of that sky.....heavenly place

And naturally, since I am taking part in this....

I did plenty of this......

Not that many good bits to be had though I did get one or two. Plenty of Welsh themed souvenirs obviously but as my swap partner Lucy is from Wales it'd be a bit like taking coals to Newcastle if I bought her anything with 'A Present from Cymru' on it. Mind you, having seen how gorgeous and cool Lucy is I'm worried that she'll take one look at her swaps and decide I'm barking mad. Hmmmm.....might need a rethink :(

....and on the fifth day we came home, via Hay-on Wye. Being a massive book fan I had wanted to visit here since first I heard about the Literary Festival years ago. It's certainly full of bookshops!!! There's also a brilliant indoor Antiques Market, full of individual units and cases. I saw the most fabulous vintage wedding dress, white satin with a nipped-in waist, Peter Pan collar and masses of little satin-covered buttons up the front. There was the head dress too, a kind of white satin tiara, plus the white shoes to go with it. It dated from the 1940s and was only about £75. If you wanted something totally unique for your wedding day it would be just perfect. The prices in general were very reasonable and there were sooooo many things I would've loved to buy.

So, there you have it. Four nights in Aberystwyth. Nice food (but sorry genethod, Welsh Cakes and Bara Brith....double yuck :S), lovely weather, stunning scenery, great people. When can I go back?