Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The aftermath 

I know I'm going to start obsessing about this.

I'm taking it far worse than Hen is, I an tell you. I just can't understand why they would turn her down. I hope this is not just classic Schadenfreude- after all, we knew it was a selective school before we put her name down for the exam. We've been really laid back about the whole process, and she is completely unfazed, both by the exam process and by being turned down.

I think I feel that in the long run, this will be a good thing for her, that Colyton appears to turn out more than its fair share of quantity surveyors, accountants, and people who whinge about not getting into Oxbridge.

I just can't help wanting to know WHY they didn't want my lovely, clever, organised, methodical daughter. Just what is their problem? Do they know what they're missing? And mostly, if Hen was deemed unsuitable, what the hell they can possibly be looking for in a ten year old child? I do hope they didn't think she had been coached to take the damned test, because that is the last thing that has happened. She really is that good naturally.

I am taking this Very Personally. Hen is dealing with it in a far more mature way.

Hen's fate 

I have just received an email from Devon CC education allocation informing me that "a place has been allocated at Crumphole (thank you, KW-a quick google reveals this to be a neologism, and a fab one at that) Community College", which I did not even apply to. Which I guess means that she didn't get into Grammar School. Although given that they did not even put my child's name on the email, it could be destined for anyone. Am I alone in feeling confused that despite parental choice, my child has been allocated a place a place at a school I did not even choose on her application, and which claims to be oversubscribed?

Will she be taking up her place at Crumphole Community College? Not if we can shift the money to engineer one of the alternatives.

Why is it always so hard to get going again after a break? I get used to not sharing so quickly...

Anyway, to share this with you all, I have literally a ton of literal shit to shovel today, so I shall post before and after pics later, just to prove that my absence from here has not been groundless. Although that's just today.

The days before saw me haring the breadth of the country, culminating in a three and a half hour drive on Saturday -about as long as it can be across the island of Britain, unless you count driving down to the tip of Cornwall, where it disappears into the Atlantic.

I'd imagine that it's as hard for people who live on a large continent to understand how poky our UK is, as it is for us to understand how vast the United States, Canada, or Australia are. You just can't swing a cat here without pirouetting off into the sea.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


Dog stowed, chickens catered for (not literally), guinea pigs battened down (also not literally)-
I'm off, I tell you! Only about three hours late to drive for three hours. See you on Saturday...

I'm reeling from discovering a spelling mistake in my 1987 copy of Roget's Thesaurus. I mean, Roget's Thesaurus? If any publication in the world were less likely to contain a typo, I'd like to know about it.

I have a problem- I need a word in English for generic arty person, encompassing performing musicians as well as video makers, composers, and photographers. The word 'artist' seems to be the only obvious one to use, but I worry that it comes across as too biased towards the visual arts. What do you think?

Also, I have a theory about blogging, and why we do it, that I want some anecdotal evidence to give a little framework of knowledge to (ouch! ending a sentence with a preposition- slappy wrist). As anybody knows, a little knowledge goes a long way, and is a dangerous thing, especially in the wrong hands. So trust me, I'm a doctor...of useless information, or at least I am when I pass off the Boff's PhD as my own- (ha! some chance! I couldn't even blag my way though his title.) but I digress...

I want to find out what proportion of my readers (I'm assuming you're representative sample of peoples wot reads blogs, although yet again that might be a dangerous theory- I mean, Purple Pen might, for example, have managed to attract a bunch of deranged psychos, or people who only like flower-arranging- it would be statistically unlikely, but you never know) -but I digress again, slappy wrist, had too much some coffee this morning...

...how many of you, therefore, work or are at home without adult company in the daytime?

So tell me in ye comments please whether you are
a) In the house during the day or
B) Out of the house during the day

I have no twisted psychological agenda, unlike certain other polls you might be asked to respond to... I'm shalllow, me. With three 'l's.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Hypochondriac list 

Things one cannot do when one has done one's hip in:

Lean over to pick up cup of cocoa from coffee table
Sit on hard wooden benches for any length of time
Sleep comfortably after the paracetamol has worn off
Wash one's feet in the bath
Put on socks or trousers or underwear (I just suffer and do them anyway)
Walk without the gait of a ninety-year old former jockey
Bend down to pick stuff off the floor (this is tricky, since about 78% of my life revolves around this activity)
Stand with two legs on the floor
Kneel down to light fire
Step over electric fence to let chickens out
Drive, if one wishes to change gear at all

Who would have believed one used hips for so many activities?

Sunday, February 19, 2006

A ragbag 

Have spent some of today creating an in-garage haven for our feathery fowl friends, should the lurg begin to strike our own English birds. I'm not sure wuite what the advice is for the owners of 12 chickens- all the advice seems to apply only to large flock owners. We're just not taking any chances with our dear chickens.

My left hip hurts. It flares up periodically, but is especially ouchy at the moment, and allows me to do what I rarely do, which is to say "Ow!" out loud every minute or so. It's good for sympathy and cups of herbal tea from my dear children.

Other than that, the weather is good for frogs, wrestlers and umbrella salepersons. Talking of which, has anyone ever seen an umbrella shop? I mean, one that exclusively sold umbrellas? They'd probably do roaring business in Devon, but it's unusual to see that degree of specialisation these days.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

This evening, our main room will be invaded by a bunch of drunk farmers and grockles*, as we attempt to thrash out some sort of plan for our dear little church, which is not yet ours.

At the moment I am preoccupied with sisters, cheese straws and beer chilling, along with tending the sick (Hen) and recovering from a scale and polish this morning.

It's all go here, I tell you.

*ie- anyone who is not seventh generation Our Tiny Village.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

"Well, what are you effing well going to do about it, you stupid effing b***h?" the man says, pulling at the child in her arms. The child is screaming, clinging to his mother. The man is strong, far stronger that he looks. She knows it only too well. She does not want to risk injury or any further upset to her child. He will not at least harm the boy, she believes.

Many times over the last few months she had found herself cornered by the man, at train stations, near the bins when she went out to put out the rubbish, on her own front doorstep, his bulk inserted between the door and the jamb. He is usually abusive, and frequently aggressive, and has hurt her physically a few times.

She has contacted the police, trying to be calm about the situation. The police's response has been barely lukewarm. After one incident, in which she had sat in her car at the station, hooting her horn and shouting for help as he harangued her, inches from her face, her car key in his hand, and received no help whatsoever from any of the passing commuters, the police had not even taken her statement until four weeks later.

Every time she'd tried to get the police to help, he'd been viler and more violent afterwards.

She was alone and she knew it. So when he came and took the child, right there at the hospital, after the appointment, she knew better than to shout for help. He could break her jaw in one easy move, and hospital security were far away. Besides, she'd never wanted to get to this point with the father of her children.

His sister was with her; she'd gone along for moral support. Emotionally fragile, she nevertheless knew her brother, knew what he was capable of. She cautioned against calling the police.

"Just go home," she advised. "He'll bring him back". What she did not know of were the threats to jump off Beachy Head.

When she spoke to her own sister a little later, she was not so forgiving. One thirty-second phone call later, and the police were on their way. They also went out to his home address, where they observed the man's car parked outside, but got no response from the house.

Later, after he'd brought back the child and been arrested for harassment, it transpired that he had told the impressionable four-year old that there were monsters banging at the front door, and that they had to leave through the back garden.

He'd taken a taxi back to her house and dropped off the child, all the time maintaining an icy politeness as he knew that the police sat in the dining-room. He then left. By the time the police emerged to arrest him a few moments later, he'd disappeared.

They cruised up and down the street a couple of times, and not seeing him, ostensibly gave up and drove off, rounding the corner from the other direction just as he emerged from a bush half-way down the street. As they arrested him, he calmly maintained that "There was no harassment*" -clinging to his shreds of plausibility. My sister is convinced that he was waiting until they left so that he could come back and beat her up for calling the police.

You have to wonder how an intelligent woman could end up in this situation. I reckon it could happen to any one of us if we are willing to compromise and do anything for a quiet life. It really is quite chilling.

*Did you notice the use of the passive mode? He is a cunning bastard, and oh so believable.

Update: They have released him on bail, pending investigation, but with no bail conditions (ie no specification that he should not approach my sister) he has a hearing at the start of April. It is anybody's guess what he will do between now and then. My sister has been instructed by the police to dial 999 if he should come anywhere near her. I'm not sure it's much of a resolution, really.

Monday, February 13, 2006

To Woodbury Common, with the dogue, for a little exercise. The Common is used, amongst a vast array of activities, as terrain practise for the army, and by model aeroplane enthusiasts (ps- why does the word "enthusiast" immediately conjure a negative or laughable mental image? Enthusiasm should be a good thing, surely?).

Picture the scene: Upon the ridge, a selection of seventeen-year old recruits are being put through their paces in teams, setting the bearings on missile launchers. The is a loud short sergeant to shout them to order for patting the dog.

Down below the ridge, an anoraked septuagenarian, scarf pulled up against the slight chill breeze, holds the controls of a small model biplane. The little red plane loops and rises, tiny engine screaming as it strains into the sky above the valley.

The recruits are being instructed on bearings. They are all focused, intent. The bearings are set, the sergeant seems satisfied.

And then unthinkable happens. A young soldier accidentally releases the safety catch and fires a shell.

There is a deafening bang, and bits of crimson balsa wood and tiny sprockets rain down on the watching pensioner, mouth agape, remote control hanging uselessly in his hand.

Above the ridge, the soldiers and dog walkers struggle to feel anything other than relief at the descending peace and quiet. Some recruits are even sniggering in a most juvenile way, their sergeant alternating between consternation and mirth. The pensioner sits on the ground, confused and surrounded by particles of his pride and joy.


I wish I could say that this happened somewhere other than than my imagination. The first bit is true. The rest is but wishful thinking.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Colin's back, and this time he is generously digging the large rectangle of ground we've ear-marked for vegetables this year.

Last year's veg was characterised by disorganisation and a "potager" effect which mean that the unwary never quite knew whether the leaves they'd just picked were chard or canna, parsley or buttercups.

This year I've been organised, oh yes. At least I have in the last 24 hours. I decided to take even more advantage of Colin and the weekend by luring our neighbour's chap and assorted sons over with a promise of cappucino, and getting them to move the hen house to half-way down the garden.

We've spent the day redeploying the old hen house site, rather precariously underpinned with rat-runs, and digging for...something. I've an apricot tree and two dwarf plums to put in in the next week, and the air was suspiciously balmy today at over 10C. Spring is in the air. You read it here first. Or not.

The lilac (Syringea) buds are getting ready to burst, and they've been greening up since the end of January. T'aint natcheral, Oi tell you.

So this year will be the year of neat veg. *snort* Serried ranks will be insisted upon. Yields will be catalogued and accounted for. Mostly in salad bowls and saucepans and mouths.

When I look out of the kitchen window, I miss seeing the hens. They have done a lovely job of manuring and digging the veg beds through the winter, but they have also been very messy. They were not happy about being relegated to mid-way down the garden and glared all the more balefully when they realised they had swapped their lovely modern electrically-lit house for the inferior version without power (we have not yet run the wires down the garden). They will probably stop laying, to teach me.

The neighbours will probably glare balefully when they realise that they connived in moving Arthur the Squawker aka protector of the stupid hens, nearer to their house, from which his deafening screams shall doubtless be plainly heard at 5:30 am tomorrow. Although given the lack of electricity and the siting of the house under three tall and dark fir trees, they might actually escape that fate for another few weeks.* They will probably stop helping move henhouses, to teach me.

*Cockerels tend to crow at first light, which for Arthur seems to mean anything from somebody getting up in the night to go to the loo and putting on the bathroom light, to full glaring sunshine. He takes his job very seriously.

Egads, what fun it is to have an erratic sleep pattern. You just never know when you'll be up at larks' sniff (4:45am one day, let's call it 'Saturday') yet still awake 22 hours later (2:29am the next day). It's a barrel of chortles, I tell ya. Just as well I'm used to it by now. I yam what I yam.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

The architect 

So they talked about kitchens. The architect proudly showed off his favourite projects, pointing out details he thought might be of interest in their case.

The more she looked at the pictures, the more she discovered that what she wanted was a large open room, solid and still, almost baronial. A room that would give the impression of possessing a quiet power of its own, with no need for self-referential or ironic fioritures. No need for showing off.

Once, eons ago, at a twenty-first birthday party, a girl had complimented her on her dress, a 1950s full-length ball gown in black velvet, throat unadorned for she always hated jewelry, saying she looked like a Dutch marriage portrait. She’d been taken aback at the skewed compliment at the time.

Now, she realised that perhaps austerity suited her. The stark grey wall the architect thought to soften, to adorn in a most unmasculine way- he was an architect after all- this wall suited her personality. She also realised that this tall grey wall was never going to be to anyone else’s taste, and that it possibly suited her too much.

It suited her as much as a wasteland, or that kitchen garden after her father has finished his angry frenzy on it, or entropy, suits anyone- for a short time the newness, the novelty, please, after which one seeks the comfort of humanity and civilisation.

The kitchen would doubtless be civilised, with some concessions to the humanity that inhabited it. Slightly adorned even.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

I really don't think that any day that starts with cutting one's thumb open, with blood and everything, on a slice of toast bodes especially well. Of all the phule ways to cut oneself, that one just about takes the biscuit.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Am vair avir drunk. chinese out with large roup o froejds. am vair drunk. ddi cycle home with boff three miles. we fell off. is miravcle we remebere d way. just like bieng students gain. left children at hoime alone first time. they were fine asleep in sofa twhen we got hoem e. am vair vari drunk.

Friday, February 03, 2006

In which the dog gets it right 

I see them as I pull into the parking space alongside the promenade. Three of them, one standing on the electricity sub-station box next to the sea-wall, the other two framing him, standing with what seems to me a hint of aggressive posturing.

I can't hear them over the noise of the car's heating system, but as I open the door and climb out, I can tell that they are roaring drunk. Literally. I immediately bristle with middle-class indignation: soon, they will move on from their stage and impromptu street show, and begin stumbling down the promenade, shouting incoherently at passers-by and pushing over rubbish bins.

Glass will probably be broken, and a skirmish may even ensue if they meet another group of drunks. Stories from the papers, of vandalism and loutish behaviour insert themselves in snatches into my mind.

I can't help it, but I am prejudiced against them from the outset, self-righteously so, and have no wish to cross paths with them. The promenade is mostly deserted, and who these days can rely anyway on the kindness of strangers? I am alone with only a daft dog and my wits for defence.

So I play it cool, refusing to rush or draw attention to myself by seeming scared. The three men are now moving off towards me, still roaring and shouting, incoherent and stumbling. They might be singing, they might be chanting racist slogans, who knows? I curl inwardly, but outwardly wrestle dog, lead, and plastic bags into submission. Everything in order, everything as usual. No need to worry.

The dog, of course, gets it right. He has been gazing intently through the rear window at the men, tail wagging, and as soon as I give him the go-ahead to get out, he jumps out of the boot and, straining at the leash, rushes at the men who are now lurching around the flower-bed towards me.

I lean backwards, dragging him back tawards me, trying to shut and lock the car boot. He pulls towards the men, choking.

"Hello boy" says one of the young men, leaning slightly over to pat him. The dog is beside himself with joy, jumping and leaping, trying to lick the man's face. The man begins to stroke his head as I sharply remind the dog not to jump up; suddenly the man stops and looks enquiringly at me. Here we go, think I. Now what?

"Is it all right to stroke him?" he asks anxiously. Beery fumes engulf me from three feet away.

Suddenly everything is OK. The young man is, far from being a potential attacker, merely a young man who has had rather a merry evening. He is in fact utterly courteous. I breathe a huge inward sigh of relief.

"Oh yes!" I gush inanely, "he is as daft as a brush. He won't hurt you- he just loves attention! He is more likely to lick you to death than anything!"

"It's all right, I used to have a dog meself" says the young man, still petting Goofy. "I loved that dog. He used to pull like yours, and he was a really powerful dog. I could hardly hold onto him. He was Staffie-terrier cross."

Eek, think I, unreasonably, prejudice still needling, I bet he was a nasty piece of work, and violent to boot, I daresay. I bet you made him wear one of those chain collars, or one with studs. Aloud I say "Yes, they are rather powerful dogs, aren't they? What happened to him?

"He died, replied the young man. "He was eleven years old. I loved that dog. Got to go now," he apologises, stumbling off after his friends, a dog lover rather than person attacker.

The dog was right. Maybe dogs can "see" people's personalities better than we can.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Here's my contribution to the Blogichef idea, started by Blue Witch, and which is running all week.

My recipe is for Sweet potato, chicken and coconut soup. It is more of a meal in a bowl, as it contains all of the major food groups and is very solid as soups go. You should know that I 'lifted' it from Eat, a London luncheon place, after having it there once. I had to work out the recipe for myself, but I think my version works well - my crew always consumes it happily, which cannot be said for many soups. If you're on a budget, it is a relatively cheap main course even though some of the ingredients are not Budget.

Sweet potato, chicken and coconut soup for 4 (or fewer if you're really hungry or are glutton- it should make about 6 bowls)

1 onion
a few cloves of garlic
oil to fry (I always use olive)
2 chicken breasts (you can substitute sweetcorn for chicken if you prefer- add at the same time as the tomatoes and coconut milk)
3 medium sweet potatoes
1 can tomatoes (as Value as possible- you're going to liquidise them anyway)
1 can coconut milk
1 vegetable stock cube
mild chili powder, or paprika
ginger root to grate in at the end


Chop and fry gently to golden the onion and garlic (did you know that garlic cooks faster than onion, so you should put in after the onion?) in the oil.

While they are cooking, cut the chicken into little cubes, taking care to stir the onion and garlic every so often.

When the onion is done, add the the chicken cubes and fry until they change colour.

While the chicken is cooking, peel and cube the sweet potatoes to the same same as the chicken.

Add the sweet potato, and continue stirring from time to time.

Open the cans. Pour the tomatoes into a bowl, and liquidise them with a hand blender (you can't, alas, do this straight in the can- I've tried, but they make the business end of the blender just a tad too large. bastards. They just want to make washing-up for us. Alternatively, if you a latter-day King Midas, use passata and skip this whole stage.)

Add the tomatoes, and the coconut milk to the saucepan. (preferably a heavy-bottomed saucepan, btw. I apologise of you've got all this way and now have to change saucepans, but did your teacher never tell you to read to the end before starting? It's just better for soups to use ones with a heavy bottom. haha)

Add one can of water (I am a miser, and always use a canful of warm water to rinse out the cocounut milk one- it's difficult to get the dregs out otherwise).

Crumble your stock cube in, add chili to taste- it depends on how hot your chili is. You want a slight bite.

Stir, and covering, leave to simmer for about 25-30 minutes.

Serve and eat immediately.

At the table, you can add finely grated ginger root and chopped spring onion for colour and taste.

Haven't time to sort out Blogichef icon at the mo. Shall do it later.

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