Wednesday, September 30, 2009


As I am camera-less, or indeed I am until Rick comes home in the evening and I can get hold of his phone, I thought I'd have a play at that age-old online favourite known as mosaic-making. I can't believe I've been keeping track of things on here for almost two years and I haven't done a mosaic yet... And so today I picked some images off Flickr and put together this pic. How many cities do you recognise? These are all places where I've had the good fortune to live and/or work and/or vacation in over the years.

From top-left: Paris, San Fran, Cannes, Milan, London, New York, Manchester, Nice, York, Chicago, Lancaster, Dublin.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


See this?

That's the iPhone, otherwise referred to as 'eye pee', attempting recovery in that rice-filled hyperbaric chamber I spoke of. It's been over two days and it shows no signs of life. It was therefore with a heavy heart that I went to my local O2 shop this morning and asked them whether there are any options available to me, anything other than paying £ 35 per month for the foreseeable future while not having the actual item or using the actual service I am paying for. They played the tune I knew they would play; Apple doesn't repair water-damaged eye pees because it costs them more than selling you a new one. Of course, that makes sense, but a repair would cost me less than buying a new one, wouldn't it? I left struggling to keep the latte down. One thing is to think that the new phone 'will probably cost me £ 400' and quite another one is being told that 'the new one will cost you £ 400'. Damn blast. It really brought it home I am telling you.

On the way back, however, I resolved to call my insurance broker and friend Paul, who has always advised me against purchasing further insurance of any kind (not that AppleCare would have made a difference in this instance), because I've got a comprehensive house cover, or so he tells me. Still, I was seeing doom, and even went through the disastrous mental scenario that saw me shouting down the line: 'That's it! We're over! Don't call me!'. I am smiling as I write it, as Paul greeted the re-telling of the sob-story with a: 'I bet you were ready to threaten our relationship over a phone'. And so I was, but I needen't have worried because I can get a straight replacement through the house insurance. Thank you God! And thank you Paul for having me sign good stuff I never really read! I feel a little lost without the ability to go snap happy whenever I am around, but it shouldn't be long before I am back online and able to contact everyone on the currently lost address book. Relief doesn't come close to it.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Killer Cake

I spent the morning doing domestic things and you know how much I dislike to fritter weekends, and Sundays in particular, dealing with washing, ironing et al... And yet, sometimes, needs must, right? Righty-ho and so, at around about 2 pm, I decide that I may as well do something rewarding while the floors are drying, such as baking a cake. Now I wish I hadn't thought that one up, even though the resulting cake looks good.

My £ 400 slab of pleasure, otherwise known as the iPhone, skidded along the kitchen side as it was jostling for space with the scales and the kitchen towel and the steel bowls and the cracked eggs and the wooden spoon. It skid and skid and skid like a graceful black figure skater on ice, eventually jumping the sink lip and lodging itself right underneath the crockery drainer, into the tray that collects barely a quarter of an inch of water. And so it glugged itself to oblivion, as I watched, handheld beaters whirring away, a little bemused by the screen lighting itself up upon contact with water. For a moment I thought it costs so much because it works in water. Now it is in a hyperbaric recovery chamber filled with dry rice but it ain't looking good. So if you are one of my friends, I suggest you call me at home and leave me a message if I am not in. And don't forget your name and number because, quite frankly, I won't really know who you are, nor how to get back to you.

Friday, September 25, 2009


Good grief, you spend what feels like two minutes off the radar because you are ill, and next thing you know it is the end of the week, and you haven't done half of what you wanted to do at the beginning, and there are another three loads to put in, and the other two still to iron and, suddenly, it is autumn.

When I went out on Monday, I didn't see half as many dead leaves as I did today, neither were most of the trees sprayed with tentative muted hues of reds, coppers and bronzes. Today it was everywhere and it stirred inexplicable feelings deep inside. One second I was feeling like fist-pumping the air, yes, autumn is here, how grand, how fab, and the next the weightlessness of sadness crept upon me like November fog on a lake. I do not even know what I am sad about. Maybe that's because I am not sad at all, just anxious about many things. I must admit that walking, or trying to walk, as if a lump of lead was strapped at the base of my spine did not help proceedings. As time went by the strain took over, in that familiar pain-becomes-anxiety-becomes-more-pain way that eventually landed me on my doorstep with a clammy veil of cold sweat upon my face, as if wet chiffon had been stretched over it.

I wish I too could shed the old leaves, could peel off all of the crinckling layers like an onion. A year ago I thought that crossing the finishing line of my PhD would have been the best day in my life and now I cannot even tell you when that day was. When you can fly in each and every direction, you may well end up flapping your wings on the spot like a hummingbird forever poised by the same flower. Not that a big girl like me could successfully compare herself to a dainty, insect-like bird but if you allow me this artistic licence, then I am sure you understand what I mean.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Who knows, maybe last week I wasn’t feeling too great because my back was about to give in to a bout of acute pain. Deep down I believe that The Body Knows Best and even though only on Sunday I was bending over backwards doing a camel, yesterday morning I was struck down by such a stabbing that I have been unable to walk straight ever since.

This is no news. I have a number of prolapsed discs and sometimes they make themselves felt, especially when I think that, hey, I am not doing too badly, am I, when was the last time that I couldn’t move, I cannot even remember. Yes, every time I think that maybe the little blighters have fixed themselves, they return with a vengeance, making me drop whatever I am doing in favour of a number of days spent crawling from door-frame to door-frame. But I am telling you, I am doing better than years ago. At some point I couldn’t even grab the door-frame; I was trying to reach the bathroom by crawling like an insect, I kid you not.

It’s funny how people always sigh when you speak of back pain. Oh yes, I get it too. Oh no, I am thinking, like this you do not. How can I tell? Only once have I met a person in whose eyes I recognised that well-known sudden mix of terror and helplessness at the mere mention of acute back pain. All the others are just normal people that try to empathise with you but who do not really know what it is like to need assistance for a wee or to brush one’s teeth or to get a glass of water. When I am like this, I cannot even turn in bed without yelping like a little dog.

When it started I forced myself through normal life but it is evident, judging by the nail-like pain that is puncturing my lower spine, that I should have just surrendered to the nerves and huddled on my side in bed, waiting for it to subside. This morning has been a disaster; I do not even feel hungry, which, really, tells a story of its own. I find it amazing that only two days ago I was stretching down with my legs plank-straight, my nose almost on my knees and my palms very nearly flat on the floor and right now my hands hang like skinny marionettes by my shins, as if a crane were holding me back. It’s a kind of an unpredictable black magic really.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Minute Weekend Update

I felt a little under the weather over the last couple of days and so I skipped the picnic yesterday in favour of one today. All the better for it, as the sky was then gray and low, while today it was clear and happiness-inducing and very autumn-like. Dunham Massey was positively heaving with people and when that is the case, deer are usually nowhere to be found. But once we set up our camp under a tree by the pond, one lone little darling wandered over and seemed to enjoy all of the ooohing and aaahing that ensued. And apart from the ghastly spider that I caught crawling up my shoulder and that I flicked into nothingness after I burst its eardrums with an earth-opening shriek, I really enjoyed myself too.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Occupational Hazards From The THE

This article, published by The THE last week, talks of the same job-seeking woes that sometimes I let seep in here. The interesting thing is that Nicholas Tesla isn’t fresh out of the uni or fresh out of his PhD; no sir, he is applying for high-end management roles within the academia (and must therefore have... twenty-five years worth of relevant experience perhaps?) and is being treated with the same contempt usually reserved for us, scum at the lower end of the research spectrum. Naturally, his piece isn't just about his own interviews, for it raises questions about the role of leaders and the one of managers, but even if you have no interest in higher education, I urge you to have a read, if only to rejoice in knowing that no, it is not just you at the mercy of HR androids everywhere.

I particularly love his reference to those institutions that do not even have the decency to acknowledge one’s application (cue, ‘superlicious silence’). I am telling you, when I read that, I felt like laughing and crying at the same time, if at all possible. Was I crying with laughter? Was I laughing while crying? I’ll never know and, let me tell you, it’s better that way.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Patrick Swayze Dies

I will remember him for being with his wife since they were teenagers and I will also remember his great love of animals, particularly horses and dogs. But of course he had millions and millions of girls and grown-up women alike swoon over him. After his turn as Johnny, each one of them dreamt of becoming a dancer that could effortlessly twirl in his arms eventually lifting off like a graceful bird. Absolute, utter, dreamy movie magic even for those of us who cannot tap a foot in tune with anything.

Monday, September 14, 2009

View From The Sofa

There is never a moment of privacy in this place. And I mean, never.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Picnicking It

I woke up to a vomiting dog and so the first three hours of my Saturday were frittered washing floors, bedding, dealing with long, sad faces and, eventually, preparing the picnic I had been planning. William eventually looked up for it and off we went into autumn and it was yet another fabulous day at Tatton Park. Sorry if this is boring people but now that the light is slicing low and that greens are mutating into golds... well, I’d be crazy to miss it.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

One For The Girls

Today was the best day ever. I drove to Tatton Park with Victoria after we dropped Rick off at work and the weather was fabulous and the sky was super-blue and the water was crystal-clear and the leaves were turning, it was cold, peaceful, beautiful, argh, I am running out of sugary-sweet things to say. Magnificent I am telling you. We had a five-mile walk, enjoyed the sights, the deer and having the whole park pretty much to ourselves. I had never seen it so quiet but then we always love to go at the weekend, so it’s obvious that there was nobody around today. We then returned to William with a chewing cigar and he forgave us for the private girlie time. Anyway I later took him for a spin to the garden centre to meet another friend so he really doesn’t have anything to complain about if you ask me. What dog wouldn’t love to look at plants and paving stones and flowers and gravel I am asking? Isn’t that what dogs do? Shop at garden centres?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Well I had a great day. I spent it with a friend and her daughter, she gave me an amazing birthday present (a lace scarf knitted by herself, no less), then we had tiramisu which she bought at Marks, we toasted my PhD, my precarious future and tra la la, it was evening. As I was driving home, home to further celebrations of ‘new tidings’, see below, a swoosh of gratitude swept over me.

Only two days ago I felt a little displaced. This is the first September since... since... since ever, that I do not have school and/or work and/or uni to go back to. The first time since I was six years old I am telling you, and for someone so keen on the academic year-rhythms as I am, the realisation that for the first time in my life I do not have to work at anything came as a shock. A shock of identity-searching proportions, a shock of subjectivising proportions. I’ve got my whole life ahead of me, I can fly in whatever direction I want to and yet I feel small and almost unable to move, fearful to take the leap into the unknown.

So as all of this was going on, there comes Britt with the scarf (and some tea and a soap and a card and the cake). By the time I arrived home and twirled in my room in the scarf and threw shapes and tried different brooches on it I felt completely and utterly elated. I need to stop worrying, stop trying to plan the future. I am just so grateful for everything and should enjoy it right now. And so I am, with a bomb of calories. Yay!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Pukka Love

While at the uni, only three events made us drop everything we were doing in favour of some TV time:

1) The wedding of Sophie and Edward (and God knows why);
2) George Michael talking about the incident in LA to Parky (and the reason is self-evident);
3) Anything with Jamie Oliver in.

It is thus that I vaguely recall the beginnings of my fondness for Pukka Oliver, as we loooooved to call him at the time (and as, if truth be told, I still call him). The then shaggy hair and crash boom bang attitude around the kitchen had us, and another few millions, captivated. It was only years later that it was brought to my attention that Jamie is a polarising figure, as some people love everything he does and others detest his perennially over-salivating plump mouth and southern accent. I must admit that I had not noticed the over-salivating plump part until it was pointed out to me by one of Jamie’s detractors but of course in my eyes it only denotes juiciness, not greasiness. There you go, the glass is half-full here.

Regardless, Jamie has managed to irk many people, namely the lowest substrata of the underclass, thanks to his school dinners crusade first and then thanks to that debacle about Rotherham later (which I think is a royal dump, but then if I were to choose between Rotherham and Stockport... well... I’d be hard-pressed to pick the shitter of the two, I am telling you). Anyway, no matter. Sometimes I am perplexed by Jamie’s attempts at justifying the whole killing thing. It seems to me like he does not want to offend militant vegetarians and so pussyfoots around the slaughtering. And you know Jamie, you cannot pussyfoot around the slaughtering and you cannot convince me that Halal slaughtering is really not that distressing, as is implied in your latest Jamie’s America. I understand that you want everyone to like you but that’s just impossible love.

Well, I am a vegetarian and I love Jamie. Love, love, love him. I love his excellent work across the board, his commitment to younger people, his attempt at making the nation understand that rubbish is only fit for the wastebasket and not our stomachs, and his incredible passion for learning and good food. Jamie is an artist and a national treasure and so tonight I spent some amazing time in bed, enjoying his latest literary/culinary effort. But do you know something? Reading such books in bed is really bad for you. I suppose that’s what midnight snacks were invented for.

Monday, September 7, 2009

I'll Snap His Neck When He Is Not Looking

This pretty much sums up their relationship...

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Sunday Fab

Today I managed to sneak out of the house without the guys sussing I was going to a park. I had to act casual and, crucially, had to wear something other than my riding pants and boots, in order for them not to suspect I was up to no good. But you know how it goes, you cannot take dogs to a museum and so, sometimes, they have to forfeit the park. It won't happen again though guys I promise.

The mansion at Lyme Park started out as a Medieval palace, although you wouldn't know it by looking at it now, as it underwent several face-lifts over the centuries. The gated gardens are very beautiful and have something for everyone, whether you like damp paths by a stream, fending off swishy ferns, a tidy rose garden, a less formal flower garden, a very serious thou-shalt-not-come-near Dutch garden or a magnificent orangerie with exotic plants, Victorian tiles and sprouting fountain.

Sadly, as is often the case, the interiors are off-limits to a camera lens but I find that this helps the visit in some ways. Have you ever noticed how some people wielding cameras zoom from room to room, safe in the knowledge that they got it all captured anyway? If I cannot take pics I take much longer, as I want to impress my own retina with what I see. And there was plenty of beautiful detail at Lyme, from ancient tapestries to silk lampshades, from numerous clocks to countless paintings, secret passages, window seats, wood panelling, a piano, a harpsichord and plentiful staircases to the upper floors which afford charming views over the gardens, the park, the Lantern and the Cage. A fab, fab, fab way to spend a Sunday at the end of summer. Now back to walkies...

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Tudor Tales

The weather turned quickly this week. Not that we had a summer of any description, bar those two weeks at the end of June, but today it was nippy and the sky promised Big Doom. See?

Except it did not rain. It stayed cold all day and what better way to fight the cold then to tour an ancient Tudor home that hasn't been heated for centuries? Yes, today I finally visited Little Moreton Hall, a Tudor hall that had been on my list of to-go places for a very long time. As the path curves and the hall comes into view, it looks wonky and more than a little unsafe. I thought it was all down to an optical illusion but, no, it ain't no illusion my friends, the hall really isn't level and the National Trust has spent many millions of pounds in its upkeep and restoration and to ensure that we can continue to walk around it without it caving in and taking us with it.

As I stepped into the courtyard I felt like I had entered a movie set. The enclosed space, beautiful bay windows and fetchy black-and-white walls are so picture-perfect that they could be used in a period movie without a touch-up to speak of. The hall was built at the beginning of the sixteenth century but it didn't immediately look as it does today, for extensions and a viewing gallery were added over the years. The latter was built in a precarious way, to the point whereby major restoration work was undertaken at various times to ensure that it wouldn't slide off the top of the building and onto the entrance below, nor crash through onto the forecourt.

I took a guided tour and listened to plentiful horrid tales of poor hygiene and of servants sleeping on hay infested with moths, fleas and all other disgusting little crawling things. In some respects, the Morton family didn't fare much better, for their clothes too were infested with insects and were kept in the garderobes (read: their toilets) because the smell of ammonia (read: wee) acted as a deterrent.

Now do you see why I am adamant that those people who speak of the 'gentle pace of life of yesteryear' haven't got a clue? When I visited Dunham Massey early this week, I read that gardeners would be up at the crack of dawn, come rain or shine, regardless of the season, in order to pick vegetables and fruit, start preparing them for the family and even selling them at the local market. I know that it is très chic to speak of the past as a better, gentle time but, really, only those who haven't got a clue about it can say its pace was 'gentle'. Go to Little Morton Hall and take a look at their 'toilets': you will not wonder why their life expectancy was so short but why they had a life expectancy at all.

Still, it is a magical, charming place with an Alice in Wonderland vibe. Do not miss the upstairs fireplace that looks set into the wall sideways. It is in fact straight, it's just the rest of the room that isn't. Ab fab I say!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Blast From The Past

I do not drink, no more than the occasional shot a couple of times a year or the occasional Irish coffee in the middle of January, but today I felt certain I experienced a hang-over. I often do the day after my birthday, as I look forward to it so much, but this year it was worse because the day ended an already long weekend and returning to some sort of normality today, that is Rick at the office, me with a mountain of washing to put in and one of ironing to stare at, felt worse than the worst post-New-York-in-February anti-climax. When I woke up at something past eight, had a look at the phone and realised that it was already Wednesday, I experienced a time-warp as Zoolander does in the movie of the same name. Where has the past week gone?

And so while I tried to resist the mundane and fight the hang-over as much as I could (by virtue of a triple-shot Starbee, a flick through American Vogue and a listen to a jazzy CD), I also, eventually, begrudgingly, found myself in a supermarket, pushing a small trolley while glassy-eyed and bored. Until I came across a wall of these and there and then I experienced an out of body experience. I wasn’t really in a supermarket, standing in a pair of Pradas and wearing a hot pink silk dress.

Oh no, I was in my room at the uni, hunched over my desk in an Adidas tracksuit, manually counting the number of words of my first uni essay written in neat long-hand. We used to live on cup-a-soup at the uni, all of us. They were a staple item in our cupboards, together with spaghetti hoops, loaves of white bread and plastic tubs of plastic Flora. For the first time in many years, today I picked a packet, went home and made myself a uni lunch, a cup-a-soup and a Marmite toastie, even though I cheated on the bread, as I had one of these trendy seeded batches and not one of the lowest-of-the-low white cheapo loaves that even seagulls, but not students for some reasons, turn their beaks at.

And do you know something? It was my Proustian moment as a flood of memories swept over me but despite how much we all like to romanticise our own past, no matter the good times we all had at the uni... I’m much better off making a real soup from scratch, despite that site calling the cup-a-soup a 'British delight'. Errr, yeah.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


I always feel a little sad as my birthday trickles into the evening. They don’t last half as long as they should birthdays, that’s what I think. I always try to remedy the problem by telling myself: ‘It’s my birthday month’, every time I am about to do something I normally wouldn’t. So for the entire September, I buy more books, more make-up, more candles, more flowers, more food, more magazines, just more, more of everything I come across because it’s my birthday month and I should have one long celebration that continues until the very end. It has worked really well for all these years but hasn’t managed to remove the sting I feel at about 8 pm on the day itself, when I sigh to myself and think that another year has begun and I wonder what it will bring and when and how and if?

Today I spent the day in two places, Dunham Massey and Quarry Bank Mill. I often go to the Massey but always with my dogs, which means I visited the gated gardens and mansion for the first time today. And I had a fantastic time. Every time I visit one such property I lose all track of time as I walk through the magnificent, still rooms and wonder what the people who lived there were like, and what they hoped for themselves and what they did every day as they woke up and saw that gigantic canopy all the way to the ceiling. Weren’t they afraid of spiders nestling in the folds of the fabric? I suppose staff must have kept everything super-clean every day, no spiders for them. I couldn’t take pics inside the house but I urge you to go if you’re local or find yourself around these parts. As you can see below, the weather was pleasant enough, with blue sky and a breeze making it all the more pleasant.

It wasn’t to be at the Mill though. After lunch, which consisted of a birthday cake I made myself (a truffle cake if you must know, which means chocolate, cream, Golden Syrup and nothing else),

we headed to Quarry Bank but it was lashing down already and thank God we were only doing the tour of the Mill anyway. There too, no pics, and I cannot begin to tell you how annoying I found it. It’s not every day that you get to see ancient looms still in operation, I surely would love to have captured the moment. I have noticed, however, that photography is possible, provided it is arranged before your visit. And that’s what I am going to do next time; I will ask to be allowed to take some snaps for some project I am doing and that will also give me an excuse to buy a decent camera. It’s my birthday month after all.

Visiting the mill was beyond fascinating. Cutting my fabrics for my home projects will never be the same again now that I have seen how they are constructed. However, walking through the partly dingy rooms filled me with a certain sadness as well. To think of those people, and lots of small children too, crammed in there, working to an ear-splitting noise every day made me feel uneasy and not that happy after all. But it was a speck on an otherwise great birthday. Oh and did I mention that I received a pair of fabo Prada shoes from my parents and then had pizza in the evening? Well, it doesn’t get better than that people.

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