Friday, August 28, 2009

And I Return!

And the prodigal son returns too. The reason for my lack of entries is down to a lack of Mac. I took him to the Mac doctor last weekend and it only returned home today, with a spanking new casing, trackpad, optical drive, keyboard and power adapter. The little guy is as good as new and I've got some extra memory to install tonight and I've waved goodbye to my Dark Knight desktop in favour of suitably sickly sweet pink cupcakes. Very, very me those.

So I am resuming the past week starting last Friday, when I returned home with some unapologetically brash dahlias, as dahlias always are. I love seeing them everywhere at this time of year. And now Friday seems to have become Dahlia Day, as today too I bought another two bunches for a ridiculously small price. Gosh they are so damn fine and plump that I feel like cutting the stems off and using them as tennis balls around the house. Not that I do play tennis around the house, although I did use to play volleyball as a child but just with a limp helium balloon you know...

I spent last weekend walking as per usual, this time at my favourite jaunt, Tatton Park, otherwise abbreviated to TP (or maybe I should say Tee Pee). The weather was suitably August-like on Saturday and the guys ended the day panting but happy, with great felted tongues hanging down and out all over the car seats. See the white speck below? That's one of the them, although which one I really cannot tell. But it's off-lead, isn't it? The speck must be William.

Then on Monday something shocking happened. As I waved a couple of pedestrians through at a crossing, one of the two old ladies came towards me and asked me to roll my window down. I can tell you that, at this stage, I feared for my life; I mean, you never know with people, do you? What if she had taken exception to me waving her through because a little old and frail-looking and thought about giving me a piece of her mind? And don't you find that those people who like to give a piece of their mind away are those who can least afford to spare a piece?

Anyway, I needn't have feared. She touched my arm and said, very slowly, for cinematic effect: 'Thank-you-for-your-courtesy'. Bloody hell, I was so stomped, so, so, so stomped by her own courtesy that I just grinned and managed a very pointless: 'Errr, yeah, that's ok, I am glad'. Glad about what, I wondered for the rest of the day? Maybe I meant that I was glad she was glad I let her pass? Was I glad that she looked glad maybe? Or was I just glad in general, like some look narky or tired? Who knows people. The truth is, I was so shocked by her kind gesture, coming over to me like that, that I didn't even know how to react. It put a smile on my face and it stayed there all day. In fact, it has returned right now that I am thinking about it. So lady, if you're reading this, thanks for thanking me.

The week continued with a full-immersion into my projects, little things that I am figuring out and piecing together. In particular, I finished my first full-on sewing project, a double-sided tablecloth for the kitchen. Boy, am I chuffed to high heaven over this one. I've got enough fabric left for a couple of kitchen towels too, which are now next on the to-sew list.

My birthday is coming up fast and I expect I will have a fabulous time, like I always do, no matter what's going on in other areas of my life. This year it tags to the long weekend and I am so, so, so looking forward to the next four days I cannot even put it into words (so much for being a writer of sorts, eh?). Over and out for now, I feel a snooze coming on.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Scarred for Life? Really?

Yesterday The THE fell through the door. I need to be brutally honest with regards to The THE: as of late, I haven't been reading it as thoroughly as I used to, mainly because it is turning into a Daily Mail for academics. If I wanted to read slap-dash, sensationalistic reporting with the occasional blinkered column for good measure, I would read the real Daily Mail. At least they use fresh pics and not stock PowerPoint images.

Still, it fell through the door with this cover headline: 'Admissions of Failure: How a generation of students has been sold short'. This relates to the tough competition for uni places when degrees are more than ever necessary in the job market. You can read for yourselves right here.

As it turns out, they are talking about this generation, the one that got its A-level results only this week. I feel the need to clarify this point as, upon scanning of the article, I thought that they were talking about my generation, the generation of those that crossed the finishing line ten years ago (and in some cases again a few years later as post-grads) and are now living in poverty, unable to afford food and water. I know because I am one of them.

I also know because John is working himself into the ground trying to make a living in IT, on call at all hours and at work from 7 am until 10 pm, while his builder brother-in-law lives in a 6-bedroom mansion in Berkshire. I know because Sam lives on a pittance of a salary as a receptionist and you really do not need a degree (or two, as in her case) to be a receptionist. I know because Charlotte can only afford to live with her parents on her teaching assistant salary. I know thanks to many other Johns, Sams, Charlottes. So I am not really sure that this fresher generation has been sold short, or indeed shorter, than the previous one. If I had my chances again, I would learn a trade at 15, practise it well and save myself £ 30,000 worth of university-related expense and a lot of unaccounted-for heartache thank you very much THE.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

New Ventures

All of this time spent in semi-isolation, dedicating myself to the activities that I love, has yielded a lot of reflective thinking. And, boy, did that hurt. I've come to a number of conclusions, mainly that I need to re-focus on different creative endeavours so to start autumn with a few strings to my bow. And so I've got a number of (very small) new ventures in mind and I spent the morning plotting them out. I like the two little words, new ventures. I also like them because I recently signed the contract for my book, which will be distributed by New Ventures. So it really is going to happen, how utterly swell!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Being Me

I have been less committed to recording my daily ongoings as of late because I’ve been busy being me. This is an interesting development as never before have I been able to concentrate on all of the things I like and like to do without the line on the not-so-distant horizon indicating that the good times were about to be up. Not so right now.

For the past week I’ve been engaged in lots of interesting activities, from knitting to drawing to quilting (first cuttings below) to cooking to writing to reading to yoga and I must admit that I am having the time of my life, despite some annoyance stirring at the back of my mind. For now, I do not care as I’ve got lots of fabric to cut and piece and lots of books to return to. I cannot begin to tell you how great it feels to have all of this liberty, all of this time to spend in whichever way I choose. And I really ought to enjoy it while it lasts, as I will not be job-less forever...

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Deary Me

The weather last weekend was a bit of a freak accident. I can rarely go around parks in a pair of riding pants and a strapless top, I can tell you. Today I added a couple of t-shirts and a jacket but it was still a total wash-out for the entire duration of our walk back to the car. Not in the beginning though, when we managed to come across the lovely deer and take a few snaps too.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Vive Le Weekend!

You know when you spend the week hoping that the good enough weather will hold for the weekend and invariably dark clouds set in on Friday evening, delivering a lash-out that only eases off at around 6 am on Monday morning? Usually that's what happens around these parts, which is the reason why I was both surprised and really, deliriously happy to spend one full weekend outside, without feeling too hot for comfort or too stoically wet despite the wax jacket.

Today we headed to Lyme Park which is absolutely fabulous and set to become another one of my top ten favourite places. You will have heard of Lyme Park if you have seen the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, as the palace posed for Pemberley. Remember Colin Firth emerging from the waters like a broody Poseidon with sideburns? It was shot right here.

Mind you, it is all hearsay for me, as I never saw that adaptation. I have, however, in good English-graduate fashion, read the book and I highly recommend it to anyone that can handle something more than a shopping list or Helen Fielding's latest. I had a fantastic time, as did my dogs (happy faces below), and then returned home for a spot of garden de-weeding. I cannot say to have gotten that far on this one but some is better than none. Glass half-full today.

Saturday, August 8, 2009


Today I went into the woods at Quarry Bank Mill, which is one of those fabulous places around here that I do not visit half as much as I should. This is going to change, as I am going to visit the mill next week and will also have the opportunity to access the garden that is off limits to dogs. I like the place because you can follow the paths at the back of the mill and quickly find yourself in the woods. As I was perusing tall trees and heavy bushes, I grinned to myself as autumn is just around the corner. And it cannot come soon enough!

Friday, August 7, 2009


I am re-reading Julia Cameron’s seminal book about the creative process, not something that I do often as I prefer to read books I haven’t read yet, and there are so many of those... But this book is such a classic for lost, and not-so-lost, artists that it makes good reading even when one feels above the instruction. Something that struck me this time was her piece on anger. When I read it the first time, I didn’t think much of it, but now I can see how anger is the artist’s friend.

Anger is fuel. We feel it and we want to do something. Hit someone, break something, throw a fit, smash a fist into the wall, tell those bastards. But we are nice people, and what we do with our anger is stuff it, deny it, bury it, block it, hide it, lie about it, medicate it, muffle it, ignore it. We do everything but listen to it.

Anger is meant to be listened to. Anger is a voice, a shout, a plea, a demand. Anger is meant to be respected. Why? Because anger is amap. Anger shows us what our boundaries are. Anger shows us where we want to go. It lets us see where we’ve been and lets us know when we haven’t liked it. Anger points the way, not just the finger. In the recovery of a blocked artist, anger is a sign of health.

Anger is meant to be acted upon. It is not meant to be acted out. Anger points the direction. We are meant to use anger as fuel to take the actions we need to move where our anger points us. With a little thought, we can usually translate the message that our anger is sending us.


Anger is the firestorm that signals the death of our old life. Anger is the fuel that propels us into our new one. Anger is a tool, not a master. Anger is meant to be tapped into and drawn upon. Used properly, anger is use-full.

Sloth, apathy, and despair are the enemy. Anger is not. Anger is our friend. Not a gentle friend. But a very, very loyal friend. It will always tell us when we have been betrayed. It will always tell us when we have betrayed ourselves. It will always tell us that it is time to act in our own best interests.

Anger is not the action itself. It is the action’s invitation.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Tomato Crêpes

I often let myself work/read/write until I am rabid for food, and I mean rabid like an animal. And do you know what happens then? I make for the kitchen, fling the fridge door open, get the cheese, get the Marmite and the bread stick from the pantry, switch the George on (that's the name of my toaster) and make myself a cheese and Marmite mini-toastie. I lived on these while I was finishing my PhD and I continue to fall back on them every single time I cannot wait any longer than four minutes flat for food to reach my watering jaws. But the thing is... this happens more often than I care to admit and I really ought to get myself organised, so that I am actually preparing food half an hour before the critical moment hits.

Tonight I did no better, except I convinced myself that I could whip out a crêpe, which I had never tried before, in as few minutes as it takes for the cheese and Marmite toastie to start wafting through the house with its mix of buttery, savoury sourness. And do you know something? I made it. You can make crêpes as quickly as you can make a toastie. This is a no-weight-lots-of-gain recipe that I made up while in search of a double-quick time fix.

You'll need this:

two tablespoons of tinned chopped tomatoes
three eggs
one heaped tablespoon of plain flour
a pinch of salt
a splash of olive oil for the frying pan
a table spoon of grated Parmesan

Makes four small crêpes (I am thinking... 20 cm diameter or so)

Heat the oil in your frying pan on medium, then wipe the pan with some paper towels, so that it is all nice and greasy but not overly so.

Crack your eggs in a jug and add the pinch of salt, the two tablespoons of tomatoes, the plain flour, the Parmesan and, if you have it, a fistful of your favourite herb (I added chives, by all means not compulsory). Now pour a little bit of the mixture in your pan, swirl it around and watch the sides of your crêpe as they quickly come away from the pan itself. Turn with a spatula as the bottom comes away too.

Cook on the other side for another scant minute and continue like so until you have exhausted all of your batter. If you can make pancakes, you can make these, except they are far quicker and less calorific. But, hey, you can always fix this one with a vatful of cheese to melt under the grill.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Spicy Buttons with Eggs

While the other day I celebrated my first bona fide omelette, I have now resolved to doing eggs every day. Tonight I whipped together some button mushrooms with eggs which are particularly lovely on crusty bread. Proceed with caution, as usual, or remove the chilli if you really cannot stand it (I pity you if this is the case, but you still deserve my blessing).

You'll need:

200g button mushrooms
one red chilli
two eggs
a pinch of salt
a splash of olive oil
a splash of milk
plenty of freshly cut chives
soy sauce for the mushrooms
generous grated Parmesan

This serves only one!

Cut the chilli in thin slices and throw it in your small frying pan with the olive oil on medium heat. While that is going, brush your mushrooms well, then cut into quarters and cut the chives too. Now add the chives to the chilli, stir well, add the mushrooms, stir well and add plentiful soy sauce. It was bubble and steam up, but don't let that worry you.

As the mushrooms fry away, crack your eggs into a jug, beat them lightly, add the Parmesan, a pinch of salt and a splash of milk. Given them another quick beating and pour over the mushrooms. Lower the heat to medium-low and let it all cook for five minutes or so, until the mushrooms are nice and brown and the eggs are no longer a gooey mess.
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