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.
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!
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
‘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.
Today I found the charger to an Eee PC that was my work horse for a number of years until it was replaced with a shiny big screened Dell. Regrettably I haven’t turned it on for years, but have had a lovely couple of hours reuniting myself with old writings, classic tunes and best of all, forgotten moments captured on film. I always tend to have a folder for miscellaneous photos, and these are always my favourite to rediscover. Here are a few gems from this evening’s little foray.
The wife and I visited Vietnam and Cambodia on our honeymoon, and typically when Neil and I go anywhere, there are moments when we want to cry. But in a good way. Our driver greeted us with this sign in Hanoi. I am pleased to report spellcheck is alive and well in Vietnam.
There is a famous children’s book in the US called ‘Make way for Ducklings‘ set in Boston Common, and I found them. A bit star struck here as you can tell.
Also Boston – and now it is Mr F that is often on that plane heading home from Logan Airport. Wave if you see him.
My friend Kat who sadly I don’t see as often as I like, but when I do it is always an adventure. This photo was taken on a no.17 bus after a night on the town, when Kat engaged some pearly queens in a rendition of such war time classics as ‘There’ll be bluebirds over’. A verse in and the entire lower deck had joined us. There should be more singing on buses.
Clearly I have issues. This was taken pre-toddler and when I was home alone for the weekend and happened upon some shaving foam. I would like to say this doesn’t still happen.
My very good friend Adeline Santos had the cheek to change jobs when we were both working as planners at Wokingham Borough Council. We made her our own version of a mix tape and named it ‘Addy Road’, featuring all of our favourites we used to rock to when the bureaucracy just got too much.
The Euphorbia Wulfenii from my our old garden. One of my most favourite plants. It will be featuring in our new garden, and frankly, it doesn’t feel like spring without it.
Matias Sakorai. A legend in his own right and my intern buddy when we were both learning the social media trade in Kew Gardens. A 118 body double, he is also in a heavy rock band and arrived from Brazil to the UK with nothing but a set of kitchen knives (apparently an essential) and a bottle of Jack Daniels he bought in duty free. This photo was taken on our first assignment to interview the Chairman of a Digital Leaders think tank, and we of course got lost. Epically so. Carrying thousands of pounds of camera equipment on the tube.
- My admiration of well pedicured feet (I know people can see me looking – but how do they make their feet look pretty?).
- The amount of time spent reading posts such as ‘the definitive ranking of banana flavoured things on Buzzfeed (regardless of how compelling and potentially useful this information may be).
- My obsession with Gabriel Macht.
- And Suits.
- Or possibly just Gabriel Macht.
- The number of times I tell people my interesting hedge trimming fact (not a euphemism).
- The need for all curtains to be striped.
- Number of Peppa Pig episodes watched.
- Excitement at finding an episode of Peppa Pig I have not yet seen.
- Need to sort smarties into colour groupings then eat them in order of the white light spectrum.
- An inner itch to knock over the plates display in John Lewis (afraid one day I will).
- My secret delight in sometimes hiding my husband’s slippers.
- My love of filling in visitor books.
- The frequency with which I listen to this song.
- Smelling chlorine on my arms after swimming.
- My prejudice towards people who incorrectly pronounce ‘aitch’.
- A growing obsession with watching the man who is always cleaning his camper van.
- An enjoyment of chewing wooden coffee stirrers.
- My predilection that a cup of tea looks lonely without a biscuit.
- An uncontrollable urge to make lists of everything on Google ‘Keep’.
- And my blog.
- Re-homing slugs found on our allotment plot to other peoples.
- Never going to bed early enough.