Sunday, June 25, 2006


Makes the heart grow fonder.... hmmm. Sometimes maybe.

Missed you lot, thats for sure.

My mum is very ill - I'll be away again this coming week, with her and my Dad. Not very much else is equally/more important at the moment.

But I was home for long enough to:

* catch up a bit on blogging

* water some of the plants in my garden (not all of them. Hose-pipe ban in London, don't you know?)

* go to weaving class and MAKE BUTTONS! yes really! (details/pics on my Niddy Noddy blog) (wonderful Mandy again) [I have a bit of a button fetish, so yes, it is exciting for me.]

* discover that No, M hadn't had enough time (in his 3 whole days) to pop out and buy the extra dye needed to dye an old sheet black for LG (more on this below)

* buy more gin

* do some washing

* fill the bird feeders

* gloat ove
r new shed which arrived before I got home (hehehe. Not yet assembled. Not yet ready for visitors. Soon.)

* nearly have beer with Trac.

* go into loft and pass down to M bits of handed-down carpet (as in handed down from someone else, rather than simply handed-down from the loft) [still with me?] which are destined for our stairs (something else he'd not been able to get around to) [ though he had phoned the carpet-laying man] {enough brackets yet?}.

Photo of shampooing machine loaned by parents: what a cracking design, eh? Bloody vintage or what?

* Shampoo various bits of carpet. Yes, it did actually function - though it worked its way through a few fuses in the process!!

* do a few bits of WORK. Aaaargh. (as in paid work). Enough of that already.

* catch up a bit more on blogging

* MSN friends I've missed.

* re-charge my phone

* turn dyed {only just in time} black sheet into Grim Reaper costume for LG.

LG was "Death" from the Terry Pratchett discworld books, for book week fancy dress competition at school.

M had managed to make an excellent scythe. (Done in haste on Weds. afternoon, scant hours before my return. What happened to Monday and Tuesday, I
want to know?) [No, I don't actually.]

LG and I spent Thursday evening (last minute as ever) constructing v. successful large hour-glass which, with cat, completed a great fancy-dress. She was very glad of the excuse for wearing black lipstick to school.

(For other Terry Pratchett readers: I wanted her to take a frying pan in as well - she wouldn't. Hahaha. For non-Terry Pratchett readers: your loss). {The hobbit feet - seen bottom left in this photo - were NOT part of the costume}

The prize went (in her class) to a friend dressed as a dictionary. A very good costume, though not exactly a book character. (but no less so, I suppose, than the numerous Batmans and Karate Kids, and much cleverer than those.) (LG won 2 years ago for a great "Dark Tan" (trap disposal rat) costume - Terry Pratchett again. See - you're really missing something good if you don't read Pratchett.)

LG had a good day, after the initial (and rapidly-rising) panic on the way to school when we didn't, for a while, see any other kids in costume. OH NO!!! What if I've got the wrong day? what if no one else is dressed up? I can't walk down the road, there are people! Somebody might see me! what would you do if I was the only one dressed up? .......

She was fine once we got to the playground and saw lots of other Year 6 children in great costumes. Until the hourglass started coming to bits and spilling cous cous all over the playground..... So, maye not so successful after all?

end of excursus

* go to B&Q with friend and buy paving slabs and painty-wood-preserving stuff for shed. (They didn't have exactly the duck-egg blue I wanted, but got lovely bluey-greeney colour). And lots of other bits and pieces which cost pennies each but mysteriously added up to a horrifying amount.

* go to Boot Fair.

Books and textiles-related stuff, as usual.
But also some shed-related things too. (RHS Veg. book for RW and her allotment).

* fill bird feeders agai

* do more washing.

* start to sort out spare room, ready for arrival of in-laws on 5th. (This, of course, involving still more washing) [and the 5th being the same day that the carpet man will be here oops!]

* take pics, write and post this blog.

Off again tomorrow. I will try to find time to keep up with blogging comments etc. - aged parents have computing technology, but no Broadband... not quite what I'm used to.

Back soon.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Poem for a daughter Mother

I kept this poem ("Poem for a Daughter") when it was published in the Guardian thinking of my own daughter and how she has transformed my life - and me. Its been getting tatty and yellowed on our fridge door along with timetables and learning objectives and shopping lists and magnetic messages and STUFF.

In fact, writing this, I now have to go and take a photo of our fridge door. Is there anything interesting on your fridge?

The magnetic messages say such things as:

"I wish the dangerous orange hippopotamus boy better poop."

"the king is very small so feed that baby buns 4 tea."

"and the loveable old yellow bear plays with the lion who can make beautiful new socks."

You may also have spotted an armadillo fridge magnet.

Here it is, dillo No. 28:

Texas Turkey - because apparently dillos (frequent road-kill in Texas) taste like chicken turkey.

A claim which I don't plan to authenticate.

The experience of being a mother/having a daughter has also immeasureably deepened my love and understanding and appreciation for my own mother.

I will be spending a few days with my mum, and so will be absent from bloglandia for a while. In the meantime, here is the poem:

Poem for a Daughter

by Anne Stevenson

'I think I'm going to have it,'
I said, joking between pains.
The midwife rolled competent
sleeves over corpulent milky arms.
'Dear, you never have it,
we deliver it.'
A judgement years proved true.
Certainly I've never had you

as you still have me, Caroline.
Why does a mother need a daughter?
Heart's needle, hostage to fortune,
freedom's end. Yet nothing's more perfect
than that bleating, razor-shaped cry
that delivers a mother to her baby.
The bloodcord snaps that held
their sphere together. The child,
tiny and alone, creates the mother.

A woman's life is her own
until it is taken away
by a first particular cry.
Then she is not alone
but part of the premises
of everything there is:
a time, a tribe, a war.
When we belong to the world
we become what we are.

(published in 'Staying Alive: Real Poems for Unreal Times ed. Neil Astley. Bloodaxe 2005)

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Girls' Sheds

The renovation of the end of my garden continued this past weekend (for earlier before and after pictures, click here and here). M and S (Brother in law) both sweltered over erections in the heat.

They fixed the fence and attached trellis across the bottom of the garden.

My sister and I, meanwhile, conscientiously objected to working went to the Clarkes Factory shop where she bought 5 pairs of shoes for £50 - thus narrowly beating my previous purchase of 4 pairs for £45, some time ago (details in a previous post) (couldn't be bothered to do a link). I bought none at all, I was her personal shopper for the morning and also so relieved not to be at home while M. was working in the heat that I didn't need shoes to cheer me up.

I am now good to go, garden-wise.
And inspired by my friend Mandy's garden.

She has always had a fabulous garden, for as long as I have known her. She now also has a new shed.

Scarcely noticeable as you leave her kitchen door and walk past the patio and pond...

At first glance this looks like any old shed ...

.... but no

this is a girl's shed.

In a good way, of course. Mandy said that my house is a bit like a girl's shed - I took it as a compliment.

Both functional (her lawnmower and other tools etc. are stowed inside too) {and string. Watch my textiles blog for an up-coming post about Mandy's wonderful shed-string. Its about as string-like as her shed is shed-like, she is a textiles guru as well as a gardening guru} and I hope attractive to fairies, this girl's shed has given me inspiration for the newly-available end of my own garden.

I have been on-line ordering my own girl's shed this week and I am now eagerly anticipating its arrival.

We speculated on the possibility of a Baba Yaga shed on chicken legs - but I could find none, not even on the world-wide web, not even for ready money.

There are - imagine my surprise -
Baba Yaga candle holders

Baba Yaga lego

Baba Yaga toys

But no Baba Yaga sheds for sale.

I quite fancy this one:
it would make a great witchy shed but unfortunately its not for sale.

Mandy found this shed on the web. Could be potentially very girly. Thats about all that can be said for it. Blimey o'reilly. How many of those do you think they sell each year? Though of course, if we did buy one like this, the RWs could come and live in it. But we'd have no garden left at all then.

So - I've ordered one just like hers. I might paint it greenish or duck-egg bluish... what do you think? Bluish or greenish? girly or witchy?

Sunday, June 11, 2006


Quiet in blogland at the moment, isn't it? (or are you so pissed off with Blogger that you've just given up?)

Maybe you, like me, have been getting pink lying like a beached whale relaxing in the garden, ignoring housework spending time with friends/family, guzzlingdrinking Pimms / G&T / Cava / wine / beer (delete as applicable).

I'll even admit to watching some football on Saturday.

I blame my sister.
It was all downhill after the first 4 minutes though.

I have however found time to search for an answer to one of the most basic questions of life - who was I in my previous existence? Here it is:

Your past life diagnosis:
I don't know how you feel about it, but you were male in your last earthly incarnation.You were born somewhere in the territory of modern North China around the year 1700. Your profession was that of a trainer or holder of fine animals, such as birds..
Your brief psychological profile in your past life:
Revolutionary type. You inspired changes in any sphere - politics, business, religion, housekeeping. You could have been a leader.
The lesson that your last past life brought to your present incarnation:
You are bound to learn to understand other people and to meet all difficulties of life with a joyful heart. You should help others by bringing them a spirit of joy.

Well, could have been worse......
Find out who you were, and let me know.

I'm sure the fine animals were armadillos - and here is Armadillo No. 27 - sunburnt dillo?

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Foul and delicious

The playing-with-melted-candles thing is obviously a widespread practice, you identified the alien artefacts so quickly! This would have been my next clue, had you needed one:

- these are just as my daughter LG left them lying on the washstand in our hall..... She's rarely happier than when in her room, listening to Cradle of Filth, and playing with candles... She coats her fingers and carefully stores the relics of shaped wax. The disconcerting flesh colour is the result of blending all sorts of left over bits of melting wax. Her rug is covered with gobbets of wax and I keep finding little piles of these foul and scary items around the place. I think she's starting a collection...

As is clearly the case for lots of you, I do understand the attraction (although I find the "collection" a bit worrying) - nothing more fun than playing with the candles at the end of a good meal with friends over the red wine and cheese. Thats hyperbole, obviously, there are some more fun things... I hesitate to mention quavers, but not much of a hesitation, no doubt someone else will say it if I don't.

From the foul and scary to the delightful and delicious:
The picture below is from Wild Food, a wonderful book by Roger Phillips - a guide to finding, identifying and using wild plants, mushrooms etc.

There are some great recipes/ideas and lovely pictures, though some of the photos have hunks of meat nestling amidst the woodland roots, fruits, flowers and funghi, which strikes me as somehow bizarre. I must have a (narrow) vegetarian streak in me somewhere.

This picture is elderflower champagne and water ice:
Elderflowers are just coming into bloom in London - probably will be later for all you country folks (and not for a couple of months in the North East Cream) Though its in Durham that I first made elderflower champagne, which is WONDERFUL - also easy, and fun to do with children.

Try it, if you haven't! Its a gorgeous fragrant flowery flavour, extremely refeshing and summery. (Elderflowers are also good fried in a light batter, and/or added to rhubarb dishes).

There is a natural yeast on the flowers which makes this drink powerfully fizzy. Its not alcoholic - presumably because the yeast is the wrong kind and/or doesn't ferment for long enough to produce alcohol. It is however vigorous enough that I've known it to explode even glass cider bottles - so caution is needed!

Here is the recipe from the Wild Food book:
NB Collect suitable bottles ahead of time - I use plastic fizzy drinks bottles.

Elderflower champagne
4-6 elderflower heads in full bloom (more if they are small heads)
4 1/2 pints (1 gallon) boiling water
1 lemon
1 1/2 lb sugar
2 tablespoons white vinegar.

Dissolve the sugar in the water. Add the squeezed and chopped lemon and juice - add, with the elderflowers, to the water. Leave to steep for 4 days. Strain off and bottle.
Ready to drink within a week usually, test for fizziness from 2 or 3 days - sometimes it "goes" very quickly, sometimes takes a bit longer. If it doesn't seem to work, leave it in sunlight. Occasionally a batch fails, but it usually works.

And I'd recommend making at least twice this much! it goes fast....

And below is my sister-in-law's recipe for elderflower cordial - this has the advantage of being easier to store than the champagne as it is concentrated (so needs to be diluted with plain or with sparkling water before drinking). It also stores well in fridge or freezer.

Elderflower Cordial
25 flowerheads
2 kilos sugar
2 litres of water
2 lemons cut into 8/10 pieces
50g citric acid

Boil the water and sugar for 10 mins. Leave to cool a bit then add all the other ingredients. After 2 days remove the lemon pieces. On the 3rd day take out the flowers and bottle. Keep in fridge or freezer.

In the Autumn I'll bring you a marvellous elderberry syrup recipe.

All very delicious and not at all foul.

Though once it has fizzed, you may need to keep letting the pressure off now and then to avoid exploding bottles. And if M drinks too much of this champagne, we all suffer from explosions of noxious flatulence. Be warned.

Dangerous but delicious.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Alien artefacts?

This is a quick collection of bits and bobs. ("Quick" as I often aim to be but don't so often achieve.....)

Firstly a couple more pics. of my beautiful beloved roses:
I almost didn't buy this rose because its called Schoolgirl. I ask you - "Schoolgirl" - for goodness sake!

Its actually a fairly modern rose, but with the look of an old cabbage rose and some scent. And the colour is more peachy than it looks here. Its supposed to climb but hasn't yet had much of a chance, being swamped by other more vigorous plants.

My garden is somewhat permissive - almost anything which roots itself is given a chance. Theres no such thing as weeds, just a couple of things which I don't welcome. This Spring my lawn grass was full of forget-me-nots, which the guinea pigs have been neatly mowing around. So its also a garden of/for the fittest to survive, as they all have to compete with overcrowding, slugs, snails and lack of due care and attention.

I heartily recommend this gardening style, which can be satisfactorily excused as "naturalistic" or as a "cottage garden".

This second white rose is imaginatively called "White Cloud". Still, probably a better naming than Schoolgirl, or indeed Golden Showers (thanks Molly! I'll never look at that one in the same way again).

Its a very lovely ice-creamy sort of rose. Really good, expensive, organic ice cream made with real vanilla pod.

And finally (for now)(with reference to the roses that is) this is my Graham
omas rose, one of my most favourite. Its a David Austen rose with a delicate and delicious jasmine/tea scent and a wonderful luminous apricot glow.

Second, about time for another armadillo. Yes, there are still a few still to make their debut - had you forgotten about the dillos? shame on you! (if you're familiar with my blog) {if not, you have some excuse for not knowing what on earth I am talking about} and the last one (still to come) is particularly to be anticipated, being the Ur-Dillo, the source of them all. So I'll hurry the dillos along a bit over the next few posts.

This is, according to my reckoning, No. 26 and its a Wade whimsy dillo. Slightly slug-like, but not enough to cause me too much anxiety.

Not so much a quick blog then, after all. Even for those of us less naturally inclined to ramble than others, blogging seems to foster rambling abilities...

but this is finally final, as well as being
Quiz of the week - Alien Artefacts

Animal, vegetable or mineral?

Whatever on earth are these?

Your only clue (for starters, at least) is:

My daughter, LG, is responsible for them (in the sense of creating them, not in the sense of taking responsibility to NOT leave them lying, littering, lurking all around the house just lately).

Saturday, June 03, 2006

ENGLISH holiday

May bank-holiday half-term week here in sunny rainy England.
I suppose we should have known better than to expect good weather just because its June.

None of the clothes I took to Ipswich were really quite warm enough, so I resorted to wearing all of them all at once, all the time. (plus some socks I nicked borrowed from RW's laundry pile....)
I think we had our English summer a couple of weeks ago.

BUT - I have had a very good half-term week, largely due to the wonderful RW, and doing lots of very ENGLISH things, and seeing lots of very ENGLISH sights, taking my mind off the things from which my mind needs taking (grammar?).

I had lots of opportunities to exercise my fab new prize camera. Its rather better and much more compact than the one M bought me. I felt some slight twinges of guilt for keeping it, rather than the one he got - but only very slight. Though the one he bought had a more powerful zoom, which would have been useful for catching the bunnies on RW's lawn first thing in the morning.

And here is the less-twitchy nosed RW herself, on the lawn, first thing in the morning.

Only on our last day, though. The weather wasn't generally conducive to breakfast al fresco.

But the cold wet weather didn't keep us at home. No, we are ENGLISH.

We went to the Sussex - sorry Suffolk County Show. More County than country - I'd half hoped to come back with some exciting fleece/s (YES, fleece can be exciting) - but there wasn't a great deal of genuine country craft. Thatching notwithstanding. (Who would have thought that the sentence "thatching notwithstanding" could make sense?) (Yes, it did).
Lots of gents in tweeds, and quite a few young Conservatives farmers.

There were lot of genuine country animals.

Particularly sheep - watch RW's blog for further details.

And there were some wonderful heavy horses.

We also

went to Sutton Hoo. Not really British, (demn those angl0- saxon invaders...) but English I suppose.....

The girls were impressed by the old bones,

LG was impressed by the armour and weapons,

RW and I were impressed by the GOLD and fabulous celtic designs.

We then did that very ENGLISH thing of loitering on the beach in cold miserable weather, pretending we didn't care whether or not the sun came out.

The sea was genuinely the colour of a tepid and too-milky cup of tea in an ENGLISH motorway cafe.

The girls got soaking wet trousers/ feet/ wellies/ trainers.

We picked up lovely pebbles,
sea-glass and exquisitely smooth- broken shell...

We pissed about experimented with my new camera's settings ........

(I wish my hair was really that colour... )

And we looked for possible accommo- dations for the homeless RWs....

Thanks for a great time RW.