Archive for the ‘A to Z’ Category

400!

Good morning everyone. Today is quite a significant day in my blogging career. It’s half way to 800. It’s two times 200. It’s one more than 399 and one less than 401. Not guessed it yet? Well, let me tell you.

It’s my 400th post today!

Now you’re either thinking one of two things about this fact.

1. Wow, that’s impressive. What a lot of interesting things she has to say.

2. Omygoodness, that’s a lot of nonsense.

To mark the occasion, I debated a few different possibilities. The favourite amongst my friends was to stuff 400 mini marshmallows in my mouth and photograph it. As I am sadly lacking in mini marshmallows and the shops open late on Sundays, I shall have to shelf that idea until it’s time for another significant post, 500 maybe?

The next idea was do something with 400 of my worms, I’m not sure what. Put them on a plate and photograph them maybe? But as the worms have only just been put in their new home (a proper worm bin as opposed to their previous home, a saucepan) and they were very naughty before then, I feel they need a bit longer on the naughty step before being allowed to join in the blogging fun. Honestly, it’s like having hundreds of naughty little schoolchildren. I’m like a babysitter. The other night I came home from an evening out and they had escaped and were everywhere – the kitchen floor, the outside toilet, the garden, some were even hiding inside the mop. Naughty worms.

I thought about climbing 400 steps but I’m quite comfy here on the sofa.

I thought about drinking 400 cups of tea but I’ve heard that you can drown yourself if you drink more than 26 in a day.

I thought about reading a page from 400 different books but it’s my first day at Ham House today so time is limited.

So I thought I’d refashion a post I did ages ago, called Things I Have Learned. For the following to make sense, you’re best reading the original first. And, if I’m clever, I’ll make it exactly 400 words. Look, it’s Sunday morning and it’s the best I can offer. Get over it.

Here goes…

1. My post is never as big as I think it is (or rather, ‘hope’ as I look longingly at other blogs and their posts filled with wisdom and then at my little silly ones about Taylor Swift).

2. Most people are a little bit bored by blogs about how to blog. As a new blogger, I lapped them up. Now I’m not really so keen. I don’t get anything about the blogger in these ‘advice’ blogs.

3. People like to shorten words (e.g. ‘NaNoWriMo’ or ‘NaBloPoMo’ or ‘NeeNorNeeNor’)

4. Missing a typo is horrible. Especially if the typo is talking about someone you did yesterday instead of something.

5. Writing a post that people notice is a fine art.

6. Most bloggers thrive off the drama in their lives. Cause then they can blog it.

7. Blogging makes you feel better.

8. Sometimes, blogging all your problems is the worst thing you can do.

9. Making your own chicken stock is more trouble than it’s worth. (No, I know this doesn’t relate to blogging but it’s still a fact.)

10. If you can’t make it good, don’t post it. Save it til later and sort it out then.

O! And one more…

11. Denying the existence of a rubbish post doesn’t mean it’s not there.

Umm. It’s not 400 words. It’s way more. O well. Shoot me.

L is for…

LOVE!

Now, there’s a lot of love between my colleague, Mimi, and I. You might be wondering if you remember the name Mimi from a previous post. And you would be right. For it is Mimi of Falling For You fame. Tabasco-breast Mimi, if you will.

Now Mimi is like my long lost sister. Ish. Kind of. Our surnames are a bit similar and our signatures are similar too. So you see, a lot of love.

After a few months of working together, we were on a shift one day and it was handover time. At 3pm, the evening shift starts and the morning shift finishes. It was at this point that a company who delivers our packaging decided to bring everything we had ordered for that week. As there was loads of stuff, I told the evening shift person I would stay to unpack it, save them trying to do that plus everything else you need to do on an evening shift.

As I got started, I clamoured over all the boxes and was kind of wedged in with my back to the big fridge, unpacking stuff. Mimi, with her coat on ready to go, leaned toward me with one arm outstretched.

O, we’ve reached that stage in our relationship, have we? I thought, as I responded to the invitation to hug. This is nice. This is how we say goodbye now.

I really went for it actually, embracing Mimi and knowing that this was a significant moment for us. We were now, officially, best friends. (Mimi says I was a bit like a limpit, clinging onto her.)

A pause followed. Then Mimi spoke.

“Get off. I’m trying to get to the fridge.”

“O, I thought you were… I thought you were saying bye.”

She laughed vigorously, assured me that she wasn’t going in for a hug and could I please move cause she needed to get the fridge.

Hurriedly, I unclamped and stepped aside a little, while she put something away in the fridge and bustled out, saying bye as usual.

I’ve not tried the goodbye hug again. But still, there’s a lot of love.

K is for….

KERFUFFLE!

Which is what these worms are turning out to be. Bloody worms. Bloody I’m-so-environmentally-aware-and-do-my-own-composting worms. Yeh, right.

Firstly, the company I ordered my worm kit from promised to get it to me in 3-5 days. 8 days later and they finally arrived. A basic worm kit consists of the bin with all its trays and taps and this, that and the other, a carpet thingy, some worms, some worm feed and a fibre block thing.

When I opened my box, I had worms, a carpet thingy, worm feed x 2 and a fibre block thing. Hmmmm…. I’m missing all the main bits, as in the bin to put it all in.

And so I went online, to the value starter pack with its picture of a person putting some food waste into a worm bin. Then I looked at the small print next to it and in fact, the basic value pack consists of only what I got. Hmm… So the picture of the person putting food waste into a worm bin actually shows nothing that you even get in the kit you’re buying.

So I searched around the shop, because obviously now I need to buy a bin and send off for it, as my poor worms are just chilling in a bag next to the outside toilet. I am sad for them. So I looked for a bin to buy. And I looked. And I looked. And I slowly grew more enraged.

Where is the BLOODY bin for these bloody worms? What’s the point in selling me these stupid worm feeds and carpet thingy to put in my bin if it’s not bloody possible to order the bin separately?!

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(my bag of worms)

I gave up on them in a rage (not before sending a carefully worded email telling them that they need to just send me a bloody bin and ask me for some money or they’ll be sorry… Yeh…) and went to Google. I googled ‘vermicomposting’ and ‘worm composting’ and ‘worm bin’ and ‘where to buy a worm bin’ and came up with lots of worm suppliers. Wormsdirectuk promised me so much but then just offered me some worms.

I don’t bloody NEED any bloody worms, do I?! I got worms coming out my ears. I need a bloody bin to put them in.

After lots of searching, I found a DIY worm bin website and will probably just go and get a few square plastic buckets tomorrow and drill holes in them, as I’m assured the worms will love that.

And so, Wiggly Wigglers and wormsdirectuk, I shake my metaphorical fist at you and curse the website you walk on. You have fooled me! You fooled me into thinking that environmentally conscious companies like yourselves, who are assisting me in my quest to live a more useful life, would be fabulous too. Fabulous and friendly and fuss free. I thought my interactions with you would be of people in the know, whispering secretively about our passion for all things green, helping each other and making it easy for us to move forward in our quests.

But no. You sent me a bag of worms and some worm feed in a cardboard box and then left me out in the cold. I banged on the door and asked to let back in the party but you opened the door only to punch me.

“Take your stupid worms and get out of here! Figure it out for yourself!” you told me.

Well, worm people. This lovely quest to use worms to compost my food has turned into a right KERFUFFLE.

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(the worms in their temporary home, a big saucepan)

J is for….

JET PLANE!

As in Leaving On A….

When I was 18, I decided to go on a gap year. I really decided who I went away with in a bit of a panic. Anyone else I knew who was taking a year out before uni had arranged it already. So panic set in and I applied for the first thing I saw. Thankfully, it was brilliant. Before we left, we went on a training course on a little island off the coast of Scotland.

My favourite favourite song, at this point in time, was Leaving On A Jet Plane by Peter, Paul and Mary. When getting to know everyone else on the course, one boy, who was probably the most fun ever, revealed that his favourite song was Leaving On A Jet Plane!

Omygod, no! That’s my favourite song! No, it’s my favourite song. Omygod, we’ve got the same favourite song! This is like fate! It’s totally fate. I love the version Bjork did. Do you remember it? No, I didn’t know she’d done a version. I like the one by Peter, Paul and Mary. Wow. Same favourite song. This is amazing. We’re like so best friends.

And so we went on our gap years, me to Africa, Joe to China. And we spent a few years being here, there and everywhere. Until finally, inevitably, we both ended up in London. And we are still good friends, in fact we met for dinner last week.

And there have been various songs that epitomise different times in our relationship. For example, Cool by Gwen Stefani and Goodbye My Lover by James Blunt will always transport me back to the time I spent in Beijing with Joe, around the time that both of those songs came out. On the day I flew home, we walked down a quiet road near his hutong singing loudly and when I got in a taxi to leave, the unfairness of constantly living so far apart really got to me.
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(Us pretending to be fabulous pianists in a hotel in Beijing)

And now we live at opposite ends of the same tube line in the same city! Although we’re no longer 18 and no longer act as if we’re on drugs that make you hyper, I knew that song meant something when we discovered it was both our favourite!

H is for….

HILARIOUS

…which is how I consider most people’s reactions to Margaret Thatcher’s death to be. Now I am not talking about the fact of her actual death, as death in any way is not, in my opinion, a thing to be celebrated.

A lot of people celebrating her death are acting as though she were still in power while it happened and thank goodness her reign of terror has ended. I mean, whether she is dead or not, she no longer had an active influence over the way the country is being run so her death or life, is of little relevance to the country at large.

The lady on this morning’s news was talking about how the very fact of her becoming Prime Minister was a good thing for women everywhere. When confronted with the numbers of women in the Conservative Party now (lower than in Thatcher’s time) and whether Thatcher’s legacy of empowering women really exists, this lady, who probably wasn’t alive when Thatcher was in power, said – and I quote – “She wouldn’t want that to be a measurement of her legacy. Yes, there are less women in the Tory party now but she wouldn’t want that to be the focus.”

Ok, there are numerous things wrong with this statement. Firstly, one’s legacy is now of their choosing, is it? Had Hitler said, before he killed himself, “By the way everyone, I’d like my legacy to be one of abiding love and acceptance of all fellow men and more hugging, please,” would we say, “You know what? Hitler didn’t want the numbers of the dead to be a measurement of his legacy. He wanted hugging. So let’s write the history books how he wanted them.” No, unfortunately we do not do this. So, Lady On The News, you are sadly mistaken when you say that we should not measure Thatcher’s legacy by the number of women in politics because she ‘would not have wanted it.’ The legacy you leave is little to do with your opinion of what it should be.

Secondly, o Lady On The News, you of great and infinite wisdom, you must be Margaret Thatcher’s daughter or friend or colleague because you are obviously her greatest confidante. Because you tell me, with such authority, that “she would not have wanted her legacy measured that way.” Wait a minute, you look about twenty. So you were probably born in the early 90s, when she was already a grown woman, had done her thing and was no longer in power. So I’m tempted to think you’ve never even met her and HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT.

I’m not saying she did or didn’t want her legacy to be a certain thing or not. What I am certain of, though, is that you are making a random guess. How can you, o Lady On The News, woman of great opinions, know what someone you have never met, ‘wanted’?

Please, spare me this madness.

And then I logged onto Facebook. I should have known better. The madness continues there.

Now I am operating under two principles in relation to the whole thing. The first is that I didn’t live under her government so it would be wrong of me to weigh into such an emotive discussion to offer my opinions on something I never experienced, especially if the conversation contains lots of people who do have experience of her.

My knowledge is second hand or textbook-based and leads me to think negatively of her. In which case, my second principle comes into play, that if you don’t have something nice to say about someone, you shouldn’t say it at all, especially not if it goes so far as to rejoice in their death, never a good thing.

If she were still in power, that’s different. Then it is important to voice opinions and be dissatisfied and seek better ways of doing things. That’s called progress. It’s what makes us constantly strive for better things for ourselves as a country. But she is not in power any more. She was an old lady who was no longer running the country who had a stroke. Nothing is gained by saying I disliked her policies.

And so, back to Facebook, where the majority of my Facebook friends are my age. For this, read: too young to remember when she was in power.

“Ding dong, the witch is dead,” was a real favourite, as though the fact of her continued life was causing us all such problems.

“Doing more good than bad but still being criticized? The British citizens of this country will never be satisfied.” This from someone who can’t be much over twenty. I was puzzled about this until her father later posted a photo of Thatcher looking all patriotic next to a British flag. Ah, now I understand. I’m glad that it was distinguished that we were talking about the British citizens of this country. As I’ve heard the ones in Spain are constantly satisfied.

It’s just all a bit mad, really. It feels like people are ready to go outside and have a fight, should a differing opinion appear in their news feed. One person said she was having a Facebook cull of everyone who’d said anything positive about Thatcher. Woah there. We weren’t discussing her on Facebook before her death. Why are we now making or breaking friendships based on our feelings about her?

Hating or loving the things she did while in power won’t change them. The best thing is to try and make sure the things that are important to you are heard by the people who are in power now. Surely?

G is for…

GARDEN!

I have utilised two of my recent blogging themes today (Trying To Be Useful and AtoZ) to tell you about the latest exciting developments in my garden.

Simon Gear, in Going Greener, told me to start a compost heap, which I love the idea of and have been meaning to do for ages anyway. Then my Abel and Cole deliveries started and there were little hints in their booklet, of what to recycle etc. One of the things they mentioned was composting. So it seemed like I was being nudged into finally actually doing it and I took the plunge and started searching around online for a good composting option.

Before long, I came across the Wiggly Wigglers and started to get excited. I’d heard about composting by using worms and on this site, I found a starter kit for £32 which would get me started on using worms to make compost out of my old scraps of food waste.

The basic principle is this. I put my old food in the top, the worms eat the old food, the worms do a poo, the poo is compost that I can use in my garden, to grow my tomatoes and herbs and chillies.

It’s like having a small farm containing only worms in a bin, kind of. So just the worms. And no other animals. And no eggs or milk. Just the compost. So sort of like a small farm. Sort of.

My next garden-related challenge from Simon Gear was a challenge to grow my own veggies. Now, the tomatoes, herbs and chillies are a standard summer installation in the garden so I decided to expand a little more, to step out of my gardening comfort zone.

A friend recently told me about a grow-your-own oyster mushroom farm thing so I checked it out again and decided it fitted well with my instructions and have ordered one. The idea goes something like this – soak a paperback book in water, scatter the mushroom seeds inbetween the pages, put it in the bag they send with the seeds, leave it on a windowsill, watch your mushrooms grow. Apparently I will get about three crops from it.

Books and mushrooms, what’s not to love?!

I shall report back on both the worm farm and the mushrooms. They are due to arrive in the post any day now. Oo, you should get some too! Then we can compare notes on how our baby worms are doing, like mothers in the playground.

P. S. Following on from previous posts, I have not been to a supermarket for 12 days. So for 12 days, I have only bought or eaten food that was grown locally, by people who I have taken the time to do some research about. It feels great. I have also not taken a bath, since I was told to shower instead.

F is for….

FLIGHT

I had a bit of a random dream last night and since you guys are pretty good at working them out, I thought I’d share it with you. It was obviously influenced by the fact that I watched that film, Flight, last night.

I seemed to be on some type of trekking journey somewhere, I think to find the plane. There were four of us, a woman, a man and a boy, about twelve years old, I think.

Two of us got into one of those small two seater paragliders and the others got into a bigger one with ten other people already on it. I had my phone and was filming the take off. We circled past the other plane then came out across an open delta area, all vivid blues and greens that, when I think about it now, reminds me of aerial photos I’ve seen of the Okavango Delta in Botswana.

We swooped lower and there was a big deep bit of water, like a huge lake. All four of us jumped in from our planes and started swimming to the edge. It took quite a while.

When we got out, we were on a busy shopping street in a town and we made our way to a cafe and then upstairs to a room above it. We were watching the videos I took on my phone of the first minute or so of the flight when the boy and the woman started to get really ill and shivery. I was hugging the boy and trying to warm him up and talking about how the water in the lake must have made them ill.

Then I woke up.

E is for….

EGGS!

Eggs come from chickens, which are the key to my imaginary life. In my imaginary life, I have chickens in my garden. Currently Danda is blocking the acquisition of a chicken for the back garden.

What’s that? My garden’s only the size of a small room and the chicken would have hardly any space to walk around? Yeh, ok. Way to rain on my parade. I’ll never become a farmer if I’m up against such constant negativity.

Anyway, back to chickens and eggs and my alternate universe life where I live on a farm. My day on my farm goes as such….

At 7am I leap out of bed, bright as a daisy and ready for the day ahead. I can’t wait to go and see my beloved cows and chickens and piggywigs.

“Good morning, dears!” I sing, Julie-Andrews-esque, sailing effortlessly from field to field, greeting my animals, who love me for my Mother Earth qualities. Never mind that when I was actually on a farm, I was mostly tramping through soggy mud and vaguely tried to stroke a cow on it’s nose but it turned its head and licked me instead and its spit was all supergluey and disgusting on my fingers.

But it will be different on my farm. I will be at one with nature and glide around, happy and loving.

After greeting the day and my animals, I will approach the chickens who, rather than clucking frantically and heading in the opposite direction, will swarm around me, cooing affectionately while I make my way to the coop and collect some eggs.

While returning to the farmhouse, I will pass the cows, kneel briefly with a mug and get some milk (cause it’s really easy, right? And only takes a minute or so and there’s no faffing around with buckets or stalls, is there? Good, I thought not). The cows look at me, doe-eyed with love, and moo to send me on my merry way to breakfast.

I arrive in my lovely kitchen with a rustic flagstone floor, shout out to Danda and put the kettle on to make tea. I crack and scramble the eggs and toast some of the seeded bloomer bread I made the night before. Danda and I eat scrambled eggs with toast and drink tea with our fresh milk. Our toast is buttered with the butter I made from churning the fresh cow’s milk yesterday.

The rest of my day is spent as such. I visit the vegetable garden later that morning, to gather asparagus and tomatoes and potatoes and chard, which I will make into some kind of new potato salad for lunch. I also collect leeks and carrots to make soup with.

I visit the little pigs for some fun really, to watch them snuffling about and rolling over in the mud. Ah, my farm life gives me such glee.

I tend to the roses and the lavender and notice, with pleasure, that the bees are swarming around, collecting nectar.

This reminds me to check on the new hives so off I go. Rather than stinging and causing me to swear, the bees buzz a friendly hello and clear out of the hive, hovering politely nearby until I finish and they can return. I find a glut of honey and extract it with ease. None of the honey drips on me and none of the bees are angry.

“Have it,” they buzz, smiles on their little bee faces. “It is a gift.”

I accept their gift, graciously taking it to the kitchen (it comes already in jars, right? That’s what’s in bee hives, isn’t it? Pre-packed jars of honey) and think what to make with it, for I am very Mother Earthy and like to make everything from scratch using the lovely gifts that the earth has presented me with. I make some breakfast muffins for the following day using the honey and I also glaze some apple slices and gently roast them for later this evening.

As there is a deer cull at the moment, the farmer next door has brought me some venison, which I have minced and mixed with lots of herbs and am currently in the process of making into sausages, because I make everything from scratch and am never pressed for time and never burn things and people always rave about my sausage making skills.

Before the sun sets and I start cooking my venison sausages, I skip around the farm saying goodnight to each animal individually. The chickens hug my ankles with their wings and offer me presents of eggs, which I take back to the kitchen to make into custard for having with the apple slices later.

Tired, but fulfilled and relaxed, Danda and I eat our dinner in front of the log fire and listen to the sounds of the cows mooing.

Being a farmer would totally suit me. I’d be ace at it, as is obvious from this post, cause I well know exactly how to be farmer. Isn’t that obvious? I can’t believe Danda won’t let me get a chicken and have eggs in the morning. It’s like he doesn’t realise that this whole post could become a reality, if only I had a chicken.

I’m being stifled here. Stifled.

D is for….

DOG!

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(This is a picture of my friend’s dog, not mine, as you will see.)

I’ve never really been a dog person. You know, they’re just there, being dogs. And I’m just here, being me. And our paths very rarely cross.

One of my first doggy memories is of a little girl racing across the back field at a million miles an hour, closely followed by a barking dog. Behind our back garden was the large back field that she was running across and she was heading in our direction. We opened the gate into our garden and she ran in and we shut the gate so the dog couldn’t follow her. In my mind there are quite a few people there, all watching this little girl being chased across the field by the dog. Now that I’m writing it, it seems like a slightly wierd thing to have happened. I’m not sure of this is an actual memory or a creation of my overactive childhood imagination.

My next experience of dogs was when we, as a family, decided to get a dog. My brother was excited and I did whatever he did so suddenly, without really thinking about whether I really liked dogs, there was one there, in our house, yap-yap-yapping. I was about seven and too nervous to speak up but I was pretty scared of it. It was little and excited and loud. I was horrified at its jumpy-loudness.

My brother played with it and threw it things and what fun he had. I stayed in the hallway and listened to them in the front room. Eventually I decided to go and see the new dog. I went into the front room and it jumped for me. I ran away from it and it chased me. I ran around in a circle panicking and shouting for someone to open the door, which they did, and I made my escape.

I did not approach the dog again that evening. The next day, when I came home from school, it had been returned to the shop.

And that, my good friends, is the sum total of my experiences with dogs.

Well, I lie. We had a dog when I lived in Africa but that was more like looking after a child in a dog’s body. She came and went as she pleased and very often wet herself while sleeping.

B is for….

BAKING!

I’ve done a little adjustment on my daily instruction from Karen M. Jones in The Difference A Day Makes. She asked me to find a common cause to contribute towards. She gives examples such as cleaning up the park or repainting a wall or something as things the community can mobilise and spend a day doing.

As I’ve been meaning to join the National Trust for ages, I figured I’d scale this up a little. Stately homes and gardens are one of the many things the National Trust looks after and membership with them recognises, in a way, a dedication to a common cause to preserve history. It also gets you free entry to tons of cool places. I figured it sort of fitted in with my instruction for the day.

So I went along to Ham House yesterday to join up…
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…and while I was there, I asked about volunteering as it suddenly struck me that they have a kitchen garden and a cafe where they produce food made with the vegetables growing outside. Omygoodness, I’d be a bit like a farmer if I volunteered to work in the gardens here, I thought, while enquiring about it.

The lady who looks after the volunteers took me to the office to chat and talked about all the different things volunteers help with and in amongst it all, I heard this….

“…and we have some volunteers who work in the big old 17th century kitchen and do baking demonstrations for the visitors….”

O. To the M. To the G. This is so me! Baking! In a big beautiful old kitchen! Talking to people about baking and then feeding them!

“Oo, that one! Can I do that one?” I exclaimed. The lady seemed equally as excited for me to get involved.

“Would you be willing to be in costume as well, when we get round to doing a fitting?”

“Would I?! Of course I would!”

So the scene has been set. I am to be added to something called Google Calendar and to just add myself onto a day when I’m free. I shall wear a 17th century outfit and hang out in a kitchen all day baking cakes and biscuits and talking to people and feeding them. I don’t know how I could be more excited.

The lady who talked to me actually also lives in Ham House and I reckon, if I play my cards right, I could get in there too. It could be mine and Danda’s holiday home. Our Ham House holiday home.

If you don’t know anything about Ham House, go and watch Never Let Me Go or the new Anna Karenina – they were both filmed there. Then think of me dressed in my 17th century outfit, baking biscuits.