Wednesday, 25 August 2010

One day to go (or further adventures of the obsessive knitter)

At some point in the afternoon I abandoned the packing.

It was too early to start on the wine and there were no choc chips left in the baking cupboard so the only alternative was wool therapy. I drove to a wool shop to buy another ball of sock wool that I'd run out of after knitting 3 socks. You knitters know what it's like, if I don't finish that 2nd pair of socks asap that poor lonely little sock will reside in the drawer of unfinished projects forever.

So wool shop it was. £20 later I came out with the ball of sock wool...and another ball of different sock wool...and 3 balls of wool that looked like the kind of thing I might make something out of one day when I finally finish knitting socks. If not then they'll make great loft insulation.

Wool shops warp your mind.

[Btw, for those of you who don't normally read my blog I do actually write about home education sometimes. Really. ]

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

'My life in a suitcase' (or 'Further Adventures of the Low Self-Esteem Packer')

Two days to go.

Chickens have been farmed out (thank you Carolyn for taking in my scrawny anorexic terrorists).

Boxes and cases have been packed, unpacked, rearranged, exchanged, packed again and sworn at.

Bathroom tiles have been resealed with bathroom sealant.

I have dusted places that I didn't know existed before programmes like 'How Clean is your House' and I have hoped the growth in the fridge would spontaneously disappear before our housesitters arrive.

Van has been loaded, unloaded, altered, loaded, unloaded, sworn at.

List has been ticked, debated over, scribbled on, restarted, sworn at.

Doorkeys have been distributed, no swearing involved.

Marital harmony has been maintained despite two hissy fits and an obsession with finding 'the right box to make use of that space'.

For those brave souls who are housesitting I have written a list of instructions concerning all my quirky and dangerous household appliances. This comprises a whole side of A4 on:

why if you plug in the dishwasher at the same time as the washing machine the plug melts

why you can't run hot and cold water at the same time

why the vacuum cleaner has no 'ON' switch - 'it's plug and go, just watch your socks'

why you need to empty the margarine tub that catches the drips from the toilet plumbing

why you need long fingernails to open the cupboards in the lounge

why we only have two tropical fish left ('don't worry they're naturally carnivorous')

why the oven is full of dog hair and

why the Wii machine inexplicably goes 'pfutt' and stops working whenever you get to a good bit in a game and haven't saved it...

I have ventured into the world of wool (my loft). As any knitter will sympathise I wanted to take 8 crates of the woolly stuff, plus all the patterns on my shelf, plus every size of knitting needle (just in case). I restricted myself to 4 balls, different colours. Then added more balls (don't want to run out). Then taken some away (too many). Then added some more. Just in case. Ditto knitting needles. It is a suitcase in flux. It may - or may not - reach equilibrium before we set off. Otherwise I'll be the woman wailing on the M6, 'If only I'd brought along my green superwash sock wool and set of 4 double pointed 2.5mm needles - waaaaahhhhh !'

I have put clothes into suitcase. I have salvaged slightly worn clothes from washing basket (those that passed the sniff test) and put them in. I have taken contents of suitcase out, removed one-third of clothes (supposedly the prescribed amount of clothes to remove when packing for travels) and then realised that I only have 2 pairs of knickers and no trousers left. I have watched the weather and done the okey cokey with summer clothes (in-out-in-out-oh-bugger). I have folded, rolled and eventually stuffed items in. I have washed clothes (those that didn't pass the sniff test) and waved them around hoping that they will dry in time to pack. I have realised that half of my children's clothes (the ones we need) have been left at other people's houses. I have bemoaned the lack of space and redistributed the boring stuff in my case to other people's suitcases (towels, very boring). I have wondered if they sell facial wipes, scissors, string, notebooks,'Vegetable Garden' tinned vegetable chilli, clothes pegs, boys pants and the special sort of strawberry toothpaste that dd likes, in Scotland and then packed the lot anyway.

I have looked at my Diploma reading list (see previous post). I have scoured the charity shops for books on said list. I have put 5 of such books in my suitcase. Considering I have never yet managed to read a novel while camping (least not since I've had children) I challenge anyone who has ever called me a pessimist.

So decision has been made. A Streetcar Named Desire gets in (though I don't know how I'm supposed to do all the different voices - maybe I'll rope the kids in). I'm sorry, Salmon Fishdie, your Midnight's Children did NOT pass the 'browse test' ('Hmmm..there's a lot of words on that page. My, what interesting fluff has collected down the cracks in the floorboards').

'To Kill A Mockingbird' got in on 'browse test' merit. It's not actually on the reading list, but that's because the list is written by people who think everyone will have read books like Mockingbird in their first year of primary school. (I'm not suggesting that academics are out of touch with the public, just stating a self-evident truth).

The next book that reached the finals and secured a place in the suitcase...drum roll....was some book whose title I can't remember and is written by someone I don't know (and cant remember either). It has an unremarkable stormy seasidey cover that looks like every other book on the bestseller shelf in WH Smiths. The only reason it's going in is because I was hoping that the contents might be some sort of sado-sinister Chick Lit. AND because the alternative might have been Jane Austen or some book about a guy who hangs himself (yeah I checked the ending on Wikipedia before buying that one). Unless I'm getting confused and there's someone who hangs themself in a Jane Austen novel. If so, I might give that one a go.

'Oranges are not the Only Fruit' passed the 'weird front cover' test and got in as a last-minute wildcard.

And, yes, I know that's only 4 books and I said I'd packed 5. What's number 5? Oh I dunno. Maybe it was Easy Suduko or something.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

The anticlimax

I think I peaked too early.

We are going to Scotland.

Back in April I was asking people for recommendations of Scottish historical fiction for children. I bought out Amazon marketplace. We eventually started reading the first one a month ago.

I borrowed all the books on Scotland from the library. Ordered more. Left them on the shelf til they were overdue.

I made the kids watch documentaries on Hadrian's wall (nearly Scotland) and Scottish lakes and Mary Queen of Scots.

I joined the Caravan and Camping Club and booked campsites for the journey up.

I ordered more books from Amazon (this time on walks in Skye - we might only be there a few days but, hey, of course we'll do masses of walks and stuff).

I bought those pocket things that hang on the back of car headrests to put all my scotland books and maps and walking books.

I bought two of the kids new walking boots.

We bought a new gas cylinder.

I bought car chargers for phones and Ds thingies and rechargeable batteries and leads for this and adapters for that.

The kids have new paper and pens and stickers and other junk.

Dh bought a selection of tarpaulins.

We spent 5 grand on a 6-seater van.

I went to Tescos and bought up a selection of tinned vegetable curry (about the only thing that ds1 will eat when we go camping) plus two boxes of other assorted food that I'm not sure anyone will eat, like Smash and boil in the bag rice.

And now it is all piled up on the table. With THE LIST.

Don't you just love packing?

Thursday, 19 August 2010


Apparently when I email to this address it will appear on my blog, so I thought I would try it out.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Hello to my followers, fans and - er - hangers on

Because I'm having a warm and fuzzy feeling tonight (possibly brought on by sobriety due to lack of alcohol in the house) I thought it was time that I said 'hello' to those people signed up to follow this blog. There are, according to Blogger, a wholesome 32 of you. Which is really quite a crowd. An admirable audience.

Of course it is quite possible that some of you signed up mistakenly. Possible that some of you were expecting something else from this blog. Possible that some of you have been disappointed. And also possible that some of you don't care and don't read anyway.

But whatever. I want to say 'hello' to you all. And 'thank you'. I feel toasty to know that there are 32 people who might occasionally drop by and lurk (plus those of you who comment but aren't followers - yes yes, I love you all too).

Thank you audience. Please give yourself a round of applause and take a bow. Oh, and if you wish to step up from your seat and comment while cheering yourself, please do.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

'Assonance means getting the rhyme wrong...'

Today I received my course handbook for the part time diploma in Creative Writing I'm starting in September.
Slap on the doormat it went, a slender A4 spiral-bound tome containing a recommended reading list of 168 books.

Yes 168!

I counted.

In a panic I emailed a friend who is also signed up for the course. She replied saying that yes, she has read most of the books at some time or other (damn, no sympathy there then).

I counted again. Just in case I had missed something. Out of the entire list of 168 books I have read 4.

FOUR books in my entire lifetime.

And 2 of those were 'how to write' type books, so I'm not even sure that they count.

What have I been doing with my life?(Obviously not reading the same books as everybody else.)
Even accounting for periods of drunkenness and periods of hangover recovery, surely I must have read more books on this list.

I read down the list:


And I'm there. I AM Julie Walters in 'Educating Rita':

["Suggest how you would resolve the staging difficulties "inherent in a production of Ibsen's Peer Gynt"
you have written, quote. "Do it on the radio. "Unquote.]

As if this wasn't bad enough (yeah it's bad enough), from week 6 we are 'doing' poetry.




Nope, writing it in different font doesn't make it any more attractive.

168 books in 8 weeks before the course starts...that makes it about 20 a week, or 3 a day (4 a day if you want weekends off). Yeah, no probs. I'll go get started now...

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

'Best Before End' Trumps...(or how housewives manage to avoid hitting the bottle before noon)

Thursday morning. Ds1 is throwing up. I settle him on the sofa with a king sized tub trug and resign myself to a day at home.

A day at home.

So what do I do? Oh the choices are endless. I could feed the washing machine monster. I could find a way of fitting all the kids clothes in their drawers. I could burn chocolate cookies. I could poke out the gunge-slime from the rubber seals in the dishwasher with a take-away chopstick. Or I could solve the problem of life the universe and everything.

Well even though the latter sounds mighty tempting it's not really compatible with emptying vomit out of a tub trug at regular intervals and so I decide, instead, on the task of clearing out the kitchen cupboards. Not just any kitchen cupboard, but Baking Cupboard Hell Hole, that desolate-thingimagig-stuffed-flour-mite-dog-hair-infested-no-mans-land.

Yes. I may be some time.

So here is an account in pictures of the contents of my baking cupboard on Thursday 29th July 2010.

Somehow it looks much tidier in a photo than it does in real life:

But as I start to remove items, the reality shows:

I reveal what no good vegetarian should have in their cupboard (close your eyes). I find two packs. But to be fair we used them to make 'snot' one halloween, not to eat.

There are strange things lurking. A regular item in our diet (not). Maybe some strange healthy visitor snuck it in there when I wasn't looking. Or maybe the kids used it for dinosaur world or coke bottle rattles or amunition for assorted weapons...

There are indicators of a guilty 'we ought to eat more healthy' moment. 3 different packs of pumpkin seeds, signifying 3 separate moments of food health guilt.
At least one, as you'll note by the use-by date, occurred before 2003:

Ahah! I'd forgotten that wonderful game. The 'best before' game of trumps.

And so I start with Dried Stoned Dates....

...July 2006

I trump that with Mixed Dried Fruit (looking more dried than fruit)...

...Oct 2004

Well that definitely beats Green's Velvety Cheesecake mix...

which has an almost edible March 2010

Quick intermission (doesn't everyone have tattoos in their baking cupboard?)

Then back to the game. I trump Velvety Cheesecake Mix with Ready To Serve Custard (complete with layer of authentic kitchen grease and dust), September 2009.

Which thrashes last year's Classic Christmas Pudding, still in date with a best before of September 2010:

But I'll top that with Flaked Pudding Rice...

with date of Jan 2003...

Which trumps Tescos Walnut Pieces...

that is sadly only April 2004:

But both are trumped by my positively retro selection of Gram Flour packs...

The first with the date of December 2001

And the second ...

...with the super bbe date of 7th August 2001! Yay! We have a winner!

The only problem is that at this point I get bored.
And somehow all this has to go back in that cupboard:

Never mind, maybe I'll just ignore it and go tackle the lifeforms in the fridge.
I am taking on the world, one cupboard at a time.