For Sale

You know when everything gets a bit crazy, and for 5 minutes you just need to seek sanctuary in something completely mindless and mentally re-group? Yeah, so, as much as I hate mobile phones, and how relentlessly humans are bound to these anti-social black rectangles; I am also fickle and weak, and my new favourite ‘down-time’ thing is looking at the awesome stuff people advertise on Facebook’s ‘Marketplace’ .

These are a collection of my most recent favourites, because I feel this is a bandwagon everyone should be jumping on, and you’ll see what I mean…

Showing that alcoholism can not only be organised, but profitable. Brilliant! Pushing the boundaries here and making people think differently about their recycling box.

‘Marketplace’ is also quite an inspirational online space where people see potential in ways perhaps others wouldn’t. There’s always something to take away from it. I’m growing as a person.

Artistry ….. all around. I think it’s an original.

A study in crochet. It’s always difficult to know quite how to make garden furniture assimilate with its surroundings, but I think this really works. And for £10!

Through experience, I don’t believe that’s quite how it works, but maybe there is a not so obvious depth? We are all indeed unique, ‘handmade’, one-of-a-kind.

And it’s true, they are free to make, but thereafter it seems that’s the only bit associated with these products that is….

If in doubt: ten pounds.

Ten pounds.

There are generous souls too on this site! The man giving these away will drive round to your house and deliver it to you…for free! Totally recommend and totally legit. Just don’t ask him what the banging from inside his boot is all about. It seems to make him cross.

Aww, bless you! ‘xxxx’ too. Ten pounds.

Ten pounds, but look at that awesome paving slab arrangement! The proliferation of hard paving in our environment is increasingly becoming a problem due to the large amount of surface run-off it creates, eventually leading to flooding in some areas. It’s great to see more people taking this issue seriously.

Now this swing seat is maybe a bit more pricey, moving away from the popular ‘ten pounds’ pricing strategy, however the ‘visual’ of the quality of its previous occupant I think is all the explanation we need.

It’s the framing of the subject in this one that really does it for me.

Similarly, ‘colour and context’ is bang on the money here.

So you see why I encourage you to join me in this ‘mindless pursuit’, when you can see and learn so much.

Life is beautiful. Live it well.

Castle on the Hill

Love really is responsible for some pretty cool things.

Pictured is Wilder’s Folly, or ‘Pigeon Tower’ as it’s also known locally (which is far too utilitarian a name in my view, given its romantic intentions), and was built by Rev Henry Wilder when he fell in love with Joan Thoyts, a local girl from Sulhamstead. The intention of the folly was that Henry and Joan could each see it from their respective dwellings, and would serve as a physical representation of their affections until they could be together. They married in 1768.

The folly is no Taj Mahal, but on my walk this morning when I saw it, it just made me think about how much I love that love can drive people to do extraordinary things. Like, it’s such a powerful emotion, and creates such energy, it feels like it can’t always be contained in your being; it drives you, propels you to ‘act’ in some way.

And then heartbreak can have a similar effect. In the same way that falling in love can make you feel like a Duracell bunny, no longer experiencing the return of your affections can sometimes create a new type of momentum, keeping you running for fear of falling flat on your face. It’s not always a bad thing. It’s a chance for introspection, and wisdom, and the fact you have all this energy to channel into finding balance again means that happiness becomes rather a cause for action, not merely an ambition. Elizabeth Gilbert I think would probably agree.

I wonder if love past and/or present for someone, or something is actually the cause of most action? Other than that carried out through obligation…

Perhaps time for another walk.

Important opinions on fish

I have never felt a compulsion to own fish. They are really pretty to look at, but then so is a nice vase, or that calendar with the Firemen on; yet neither of those things require feeding or a noisy pump.

Actually, I guess actual Firemen require both of those things, but that’s ok because I really like their shiny poles.

Having fish must just be like having a permanent screen saver.

This morning I was contemplating that I would really like to make a career out of blogging. I then thought that perhaps first I should try and refine my phraseology, whilst my punctuation and grammar can also be embarrassingly sloppy, but having revised the above, I’m feeling ‘engaging subject matter’ should maybe be my priority…

And strike ‘Practical Fishkeeping’ off the list of people to apply to. And put ‘Firefighter Magazine’ at the top.

It’s a journey.

Repeating numbers

Every now again, I have these times where I’m really aware of the frequency and consistency my attention is drawn to repeating numbers. I’ll notice this most when I’m checking the time; it will be 14:14 on the clock, but then the next time I get a chance to look it will be 14:41, and then 15:15….

This pattern will also be on the time stamps of messages, on signs, on things I get through the post, on buses that drive past! And it’s not even here and there either, it will literally be one thing after another!

So weird.

If you Google the phenomenon, apparently it could be the universe trying to tell me something, or I’m on the cusp of an auspicious event. That would be nice. I haven’t particularly got my belief system nailed down yet, but I think it pays to be open minded about things, just in case. I mean, it would be sad to dismiss something just because you don’t understand it, or it doesn’t make sense, because then you could be missing out.

So universe, do what you will…but, seriously, how long did it take some product designer to come up with a container that holds exactly 888ml of washing liquid?

A machine at the library made me sad

Tilehurst Library

I love our local library.

Granted, it’s not the most attractive of buildings, but it is light and bright inside, has a great children’s section with a magnificent elephant rug, and smells glorious. You know, that smell of old books. A bit like petrol flavoured sawdust – that smell.

So, anyway, I have visited this same monument to papery loveliness since I was born, and I adore the fact that absolutely nothing has changed. Nothing. Except I think they have got a new computer, and perhaps a new easy chair, and there is now a carpet covering the crazy mosiac tiles in the entrance lobby…but otherwise time has stood still, and that is just how I like it. I like that there is a ritual to doing things, I like that that children are still made to ‘shhhh’, and that Kate reinforces this if I speak too loudly. I really like the staff at the library, that you can chat about the books you are taking back, or discuss where you have got to in the books you renew. I love the ‘stampy-stamp’ sound of the stamper, and weirdly feel a real honour when they have to glue in a new stampy page at the front of the book because the other one is full up, and you are the first person to have a stamp on this fresh white beauty.

Lush.

But then ‘The Machine’ arrived.

It’s a self-service machine. You pile your books up in a little box, and it scans them, and checks them in or out, or renews them, and there is a credit card and coin slot in case you have accrued a fine, and then it prints you out a receipt to confirm all or any of the above. But there is no stampy-stamp sound, no discussion of what is a ‘great read’ if you like ‘such and such’ as an author, Kate doesn’t get a star on her children’s book card. You don’t have to interact with any human being at all now to visit the library.

And that made me sad.

Thinking about it in a greater context made me even sadder. Modern technology allows us to save money, and undoubtedly increases convenience, but it is doing away with human interaction in so many ways.

There was a tale I heard recently of an elderly person who used to visit her local supermarket every day to buy some essentials. She would wait patiently until all other customers had been served so she could then stop and have a chat with the staff with whom, over this time, she had struck up a relationship with. It was only when she died, did a relative pop in to thank the staff at the supermarket for preventing this lady from becoming isolated and lonely. They were the only human interaction she would often get in a day. Great then, that there was another option to the ‘self-checkout’ (a term which now sort of lends itself a alternative meaning).

This, and ‘that Machine’ at the library has made me reappraise how I interact with people, particularly those closest to me. I am now aware of how long I spend looking down at a screen, how I ‘follow’ people I barely know, spend a healthy amount of time looking at the pictures of their new kitchen, when I could use that time to actually talk to someone I know instead. I interact with my friends over instant messenger, which is convenient, but I can’t see their face, hear their voice, and I’m sure on many an occasion I haven’t interpreted what they are saying correctly, because we are missing inflection. I’m sure there is also a delay in actually meeting up with friends sometimes, because the assumption is that we have already ‘caught up’ via ‘Whatsapp’. But there is only so much you want to type, to relay on a daily basis, to ‘bother’ people with often. Sometimes you need to be in the company of someone, put the world to right without substantive gaps in conversation (when things could have moved on anyway), and not measure how much someone cares about you by how recent their ‘last seen’ time stamp was. When you need a hug, a yellow smiling face just doesn’t cut it.

So here I am, trying to kick (in my view) my quite unhealthy habits of creating and maintaining relationships, whilst also hopefully setting an example to my daughter that a relationship with a person is far better than a screen.

Here’s hoping that will be the way of all things, that convenience and cost savings (at what cost?) won’t keep removing actual humans from our lives, and that, one day, ‘that Machine’ at the library can go back in the box where it came from, and where it belongs.

Belonging, where you don’t.

Porlock Weir

About 10 years ago I fell in love.

It happened on a train to Bristol Temple Meads at some ridiculous hour in the morning on my commute to work, and I remember this vividly, whilst eating a minty ‘Chewit’.

Yep. A minty one.

I fell in love with heading west.

Sounds a bit peculiar, but every time I have headed in a westerly direction from my birthplace and current captor of Reading, I have always felt a little sense of adventure, of freedom, of going home. Something inside does a little jiggy dance and then I feel the need to exhale, in the same way you do after you’ve painfully counted down the miles until the next service station, and you finally get your ‘Welcome Break’.

I don’t know why this happens, but it does, usually just past Swindon when the landscape noticeably changes and the dreary ‘anywhere’ towns are replaced by rolling landscape, big skies, and eventually, coast.

I went on holiday to the beautiful village of Porlock recently, encased in the stunning scenery of the Exmoor National Park, and as expected, the butterflies of being reunited with my beau returned. I nestled myself in the feeling of big arms being wrapped around me, giving me a tight squeeze. I belonged. I was home.

Except I wasn’t.

I don’t know how to qualify this phenomenon, and certainly to date I have no plans to move. I am also a little nervous that if I did move, the heady spell of infatuation would eventually wear off, and I would discover a vile, foul mouthed monster, drinking endless cans of Stella, whilst picking his nose in a yellowing string vest. But when I need a little flirt occasionally, a little tickle, a cheeky wink, you are likely to find me heading down the A4, M4 or some other ‘4’ to get my fix. And probably cheese.

Yellow Spoon

yellow spoon

We move on from food to cutlery.

So I have this yellow spoon. It’s really old (at least 15 years), pretty bent, and looking at it objectively, not the most attractive item in the kitchen. But if I could only ever eat one meal ever again, it would be with that spoon. I love it. It might be something to do with how lovely it is to hold with it’s worn plastic handle, how it is weighted, the fact that I eat faster than a dog scoffing chips and you can fit an untold amount of cereal on it, I just don’t know.

I wonder if everyone has a yellow spoon? Perhaps not yellow, or a spoon, but something that isn’t the most beautiful object in the world, but is used time and time again, for whatever reason, because somehow it has simply commanded the title “favourite”.

If you do own such a thing, I wish you many more happy times together.

Chewing it over

Rhubarb

I have never really ‘got’ food’. As in, I do like eating, and everyone needs to eat, but I have never really been one to paw studiously through recipe books; and my definition of meal planning is to look in the fridge, see what’s most withered, and concoct a questionably edible creation around it.

Until now.

I have started to understand more the creative side of haute cuisine; it’s a bit like painting, but with an asparagus tip and a raspberry jus. What really appeals to me however, is how food is basically a wonderfully social thing. Really, thinking about it, so many countries make mealtimes the backbone of family life and time with friends, and this is totally genius! Everyone needs to eat, and sharing a meal is a collective experience, so there is at least something everyone has in common at that time. There is also the growing, preparing and cooking of the food which can involve lots of interaction and working together. The growing part is totally fantastic too –  I’m sure I will write at length about our allotment in time as it is becoming less like a muddy patch, and more something Tom and Barbara might own up to.

So with all this in mind, I have started to invest a bit more time into culinary experiments (some more successful than others), with a mind to sharing as many as possible. So far, actually, it’s been really great. On those days when it’s been raining, we’ve been potty training, and Iggle Piggle has almost broken me, it has been lovely to invite some friendly faces round and offer them a bit of cake. On the odd occasion where I have even managed a pot of something, turning up to a friend’s house to share lunch has been a bit spesh.

Despite having lived here for most of my life, Reading doesn’t often inspire me, but I will take ownership of it on this occasion, as there is organised ‘The Reading Town Meal’. This is a mission to feed 1000+ people at a special lunch in the town’s ornamental gardens, using home grown fruit and veg. I think it’s an awesome idea.

Now I’m rather afraid I sound a bit ‘holier than thou’, which, obvs is totally not the case. This blog is, as ever, a mind dump of things that inspire me, make me laugh, and occasionally throw me off the rails entirely. I just wanted to share with myself really that something as simple as food can build upon two of the things I probably value the most; friendships and adventures.

And an excuse to eat cake. Brill.

A Post on Post

I think it is possible that the former occupant of our house received the most post ever. For months on end we were e-mailing an incredible amount of organisations to remove us from their mailing lists – from double glazing manufacturers to decathlon training outfitters, freemason organisations, and the one which tugged at my heart strings a little (and I had serious thoughts about joining). – ‘Friends of Ferrets’. Two years later we are still receiving letters for Mrs W, and ‘returning to sender’ has become almost a ritual in our household.

There is however one subscription that there is no way I will ever be able to part with, and that is Mrs W’s bi-annual wig catalogue.

Now I had little experience or knowledge of wigs until this arrived on our doorstep some months ago, but it has opened up a whole new world to me.

Firstly there is the choice (and considerable) price point between a synthetic and a real hair piece. It is a difficult decision, but having researched the issue thoroughly, I believe ‘real hair’ does indeed give you a more luscious look, but I am still unable to come to terms with the thought of stepping out with a head of hair manufactured by a foreign scalp. There is also the hassle of split ends and the thought of lingering dandruff or even head lice that seals the deal with synthetic for me. Even though this does, as warned, pose with it a greater risk if the wearer were to experiment with naked flames, or even ‘open the oven door’ in some cases. If attending an event therefore where unusually the host has brought in the caterers, the reason may not be purely gastronomical. And one ought to be cautious around the candelabra.

The main reason however, I appear to be so enthralled by these fascinating reads of follicle loveliness, is the rather endearing names given to each ‘do’. Rather than referring to each wig as a ‘bob’ or ‘elfin cut’ as one might given a conventional style, they are given monikers such as ‘The Virginia’, ‘The Sophia’, or if you are feeling rather racy, ‘The Mauritius’.

What is more, you may also choose from a wide range of shades such as ‘shaded wheat’, ‘platinum’ and the rather disappointingly named brunette choice – ‘medium’. For the older lady not afraid to sport some silver, ‘granite’, ‘truly mink’ and ‘sahara’ are also available. I am always rather tempted by styles in the fetching tone of ‘honey glaze’, but I then become rather distracted by a longing for gammon.

The Sophia
The ‘Sophia’ courtesy of naturalimagewigs.co.uk
The Virginia
‘The Virginia’, courtesy of naturalimagewigs.co.uk

‘Jacqueline Wigs’ and ‘Natural Image’, the two publications we receive also carry ‘wig styling and care’ tips which, of course, I too have a penchant for. Achieving a ‘wet look’ for example is possible by simply combing your ‘wig conditioner’ through from scalp to tip, and leaving for an hour for the fibres to assume a stylised placement.  An ‘up do’ may also be achieved for longer wigs by conventional means, but go easy on the hair spray as even a venture out in fine weather may mean a visit from the emergency services. The most important feature of securing the desired look however is to achieve a good fit on your wig. This is possible by adjusting the velcro fastenings inside the head piece, along with the ‘anti-slip strips’ which means the wearer may feel ever confident in blustery conditions. Vital I would have thought, particularly by the coast.

And so, I shall leave it here, sad in the fact I shall have to wait a further 6 months until my next wig fix, but rather excited at the thought of what the winter collection may bring. I shall be looking up tips on ‘hat hair’ in preparation.