Wednesday, 28 April 2010

I knew it couldn't last......

Thank you, thank you, dear friends, one and all, for your very kind comments about my lovely new bag.

Having a new handbag is always a weird experience.  A woman's bag is her constant companion as it contains everything she needs to survive, and, like shoes or the man in your life, you get used to it, its little ways, how it hangs, etc.  So when you get a new one, much like new shoes or a new man, you have to break it in, work out the best way to display such item to its best advantage, mould it to your way of doing things.

I'm still not used to mine though.  A handbag gets most used when it accompanies you out of the house on errands, visits, trips.  I have left the house precisely once since last Friday.

I knew it couldn't last - that high you get after an especially good birthday.  Like I said in my previous post, I'm used to bad things happening on my birthday and, once again, the Gods didn't let me down this year.  I woke up on the morning of my birthday with a bit of a scratchy throat, a bit like I'd smoked too many fags the night before, but seeing as how I gave up coffin nails 14 years ago now, I knew that wasn't likely. I wasn't concerned, though, it was just a bit itchy but apart from that I felt great, the sun was shining and nothing was going to come between me and London.

It didn't actually get much worse during the day but I still took the precaution of anaesthetising it with Margaritas.  The next morning, Saturday, it was v scratchy indeed.  I also felt like I had a brick in my head and was very lethargic.

It's got worse every day since.  I have now borrowed Ms Katyboo's patented Chaise Longue of Death upon which I am currently reclining, the painful coughs wracking my poor bruised body, while I contemplate exactly how much liquid the human body can hold and wondering if it will ever stop pouring out of my nose. It's been ages since I've had a cold and I've no idea where I've got this one from as no-one I know has had one either.

I expect I've inhaled too much Ejlsfdsoikfhukjfall volcano dust, that'll be it....

Saturday, 24 April 2010

This year I turned Thirty-Seventeen....

Yesterday was my birthday.  It was also St George's Day and the sun was shining.  Mind you, it's been shining all week and been utterly fabulous.  It's not always so lovely on my birthday, and I'm not just talking weather-wise.

One memorable birthday I woke up with severe tonsillitis and couldn't swallow a thing, so no cake for me.  But the very worst one was sometime in the early 1990s when my first husband, The Artist, admitted he'd been seeing another woman and couldn't decide between the two of us, so went to spend a few days with her in order to decide! That was cheery....

Why I took him back and just didn't build a bonfire of his belongings on the driveway I don't know.  We only lasted a few more years so the relationship was obviously on its last legs, so I've always been a bit ambivalent about birthdays.

This one was a good one though.  I turned thirty-seventeen this year which sounds a lot more palatable than 47, that's for sure. I certainly feel more like either thirty or seventeen, rather than the perilously close to the half-century that I am.

I decided I wanted to go up to London and finally spend the money I've been saving over several months on a new handbag.  I'm not what you'd call a shoes and handbag person.  On my feet I only wear trainers in the winter and Birkenstock sandals in the summer.  That's it.  I've had the same handbag for about 12 years, well, when I say the same handbag, after 3 or 4 years the zip always goes in the same place, so I buy another one, exactly the same.  I've decided that I now want a proper, grown-up handbag, a classic that will never go out of fashion, that's well-made and will last years.  Basically, the last handbag I'll ever buy.

I saw the Mulberry Bayswater and fell hopelessly in love. It fitted my criteria exactly, except for the eye-watering price.  I could have put it on my credit card but I decided to do the sensible thing and actually save up for it, using money earned from selling my jewellery and suncatchers, flogging stuff on eBay, plus whatever Christmas and Birthday money I'd get. I'll do a proper reveal with pictures and everything, don't despair all you handbag perves!

We caught the train and got to Waterloo about 3.15pm.  We jumped on a bus (so much more pleasant than the tube) to get us over the river and walked up to the teeming streets of Covent Garden.  I was very surprised to see great crowds of people standing around outside every pub, clutching pint glasses and wearing red roses in their lapels.  Some even had the cross of St George painted on their face and others were wearing flags like cloaks. It was rather nice to have reclaimed the English patron saint and his day from the fascists and football hooligans.

I love Covent Garden, especially when the weather is as kind as it has been. London is beautiful in the spring sunshine and even those that weren't well irrigated with horizontal lubricant were having a good time. Everyone was very laid back and chilled, enjoying the antics of the street performers.

We wandered up and down the handicraft stalls, at least one of which gave me a good idea for a new item of jewellery.  There's loads of lovely stuff on the stalls so if you get the chance, I would definitely recommend checking them out.

We then headed over to the Mulberry shop on Floral Street where I tried to act like I spend loads of money everyday but probably still came over like the hick from the sticks that I really am.

Then we sauntered down Neal Street, gazing at all the lovely shops.  Aren't there are lot of shops selling 'natural' shoes down there?  The Natural Shoe Store, Birkenstock, Joseph Siebel and I think a couple of others I've forgotten. I'm all for comfortable shoes but even I thought that was a bit excessive.

We got to the end where it joins Shaftesbury Avenue, where TLH used to work many years ago, and we realised we were opposite Forbidden Planet, not having been aware that it had moved there from, er, wherever it was before (near High Holborn, I believe).

Forbidden Planet, Shaftesbury Avenue

For those that don't know, Forbidden Planet is a sci-fi cult memorabilia/comic/bookstore.  It's the sort of place I can mooch around, finding no end of desirable items but usually buying nothing.  As TLH says, seeing, for example, all the models they have en masse looks brilliant and very tempting, but if you bought, say, a model of the Predator and brought it home, it would look pretty sad and out of place on the mantelpiece. It's also a very, very nerdy place filled with blokes that look like Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons.  But I do like it.

It was, by now, just after 5pm so we retraced our steps back towards Covent Garden and ended up at Seven Dials...
Seven Dials, Covent Garden

...before heading off to Chandos Place to try and find Wahaca, the Mexican eating place, for an early dinner.

I can highly recommend it.  It has a similar vibe to Wagamama's in that it's very busy, quite noisy and you get fed very quickly.  There are three in London, the one at 66 Chandos Place WC2N, one in Canary Wharf at 40 Canada Square E14, and one in the west at Westfield Shopping Centre W12.  They all serve the same food, you don't book, you just turn up.  You might have to queue but probably not for long.  You can see the menu here.

As this was the first time we'd been here, we chose the Wahaca selection which is for 2 people and is a mix of fish, chicken, pork and vegetable things.  We had tortilla chips and their homemade guacamole to start:

Tortilla chips and homemade Guacamole

But what to drink?  Beer?

Or Margarita?

Hmm - decisions, decisions....

I know!  I'll have both!

I'll start with the beer:

Then move onto a Margarita:

and maybe just squeeze another (or 3) in:


I was starting to get very amused by TLH's photographic recording of my slide into alcoholism:

What?  I'm just pushing my glasses back up my nose....

And then the food started arriving.  The first items to arrive were the two herring tostadas but I forgot to take a picture of them.  The portions are not huge but you get quite a few of them so although the waiter said it would be enough and we didn't believe him, he was quite right as we were totally stuffed by the end.  I think the tortilla chips and all that booze helped, mind.

Anyway, next to arrive were the three pork pibil tacos, which were piles of spicy shredded pork on soft tortillas:

Pork Pibil Taco - I was halfway through mine before I remembered I should also photograph the food, never mind the drinking.

I can't remember the order the rest of the food came but there were three seasonal vegetable tacos which didn't look all that appetising but tasted fab. They were made with winter greens, field mushrooms, borlotti beans and feta cheese, with a chili sauce:

Seasonal vegetable tacos

Then there were 2 huitlacoche quesadillas (Mexican corn mushroom, British field mushrooms and cheese on a toasted flour tortilla) and 2 chicken taquitos (marinated chicken, shredded lettuce, Lancashire cheese and tomato salsa, all in a rolled, deep-fried corn tortilla) served with refried beans and green rice:

Top of the picture - chicken taquito; Bottom of picture - huitlacoche quesadilla.  We'd eaten one of each.

When we arrived at about 5.30pm, the place was about a quarter full.  By the time we had finished, about an hour and a bit later (we weren't rushing and they weren't rushing us), it was full and people were queuing down the stairs, look:

We were so stuffed it hurt to move.  I would have dearly loved another Margarita as they were so unbelievably good but we still had to make our way to the station and get a train back home, and I'd rather do that in full control of my faculties.

As it is, I can't really remember which way we walked back to the station, but I took a few pictures while crossing Waterloo Bridge for all the Londonphiles out there. They're not great - I just pointed my phone and clicked:

View towards the City

Houses of Parliament and the London Eye

Not sure what this building is called, I just fancied shooting into the sun to see how it came out!

View along bridge towards Waterloo.

With regards to the last picture above, right at the end of the bridge you can see the dark dome of the IMAX cinema and to the left of that is a new building that has been constructed since I was last in London.  I'm afraid I wasn't in much of a fit state to think about how this picture would come out, but it was this building I was trying to capture, because it's been built with three huge windmills in holes at the top and I thought you might also like to see it.  I'll go online now and see if I can find out better information about it and a decent picture.

Aha, it's unofficially called 'The Razor' (officially, Strata Tower) and is in Elephant and Castle.  It looks like this:

Cool, huh?

We got home at the terribly sensible time of about 8.45pm where I found a lovely bouquet of flowers on the doorstep for me from my good friends Joe and Sam:

Today my good friend Jamie (my 10-year old chum who is planning to be the First Girl On the Moon and Probably Mars Too - an ambition I am wholeheartedly supporting) presented me with a huge birthday card she made me, and a lovely creamy white Azalea bush.  Jamie, you're a complete star.

I left the official unveiling of the new handbag and transfer of contents until today. And I took pictures for your vicarious pleasure.  Here we go then:

Isn't it fab?  I am, of course, expecting that it will make me look like this:

Happy birthday to me....

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Swifts arrive!!

Every year I look out for the annual return of the Swifts and this year they've beaten me to it!  I was pottering around in the garden, sowing vegetable seeds and chatting away to a visiting Robin when, by chance, I glanced up into the sky and saw, wheeling away, quite high up, the unmistakeable crescent shape of a Swift!

Seeing the swifts each year for the first time fills me with total joy and, grinning like an idiot, I rushed inside to inform TLH that they were back.  I then checked back on last year's first-swifts-of-the-year posting and it was 1 May.  Apparently the year before that, 2008, they arrived on 3 May, a good 10 days later than this year. I've no idea why this should be - perhaps this spring is warmer than in previous years so has tempted them up from Africa sooner?  Who knows.  I'm just pleased they're here, that's all.

[P.S. This post was going to be a tutorial on how to make blackberry vodka, but that will have to wait until later, possibly quite a few days later as tomorrow is my thirty-seventeenth birthday and I intend to drown in Margaritas first....]

[PPS. Is that picture of the orchid at the top too large?  It seems nice but a bit hulking to me....]

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Local Hero

You may recall that I did a post in March about the town of Godalming, which I live close to.  There were lots of pictures of architecture, because I think it's quite a pretty place to live, but after I got home I realised that I'd forgotten to take some pictures of the stuff dedicated to our 'local hero'.

John George 'Jack' Phillips was born in Farncombe on 11 April 1887 and died on 15 April 1912, having just celebrated his 25th birthday.  His claim to fame is that he was the wireless operator on board the Titanic who stayed at his post until 3 minutes before it sank and, effectively, went down with the ship.  Apparently he did actually make it off the ship but died of hypothermia in the water close to Collapsible Lifeboat B.  His body was never recovered.

There is a small cenotaph to him in the shape of an iceberg in the local cemetery.  All the pictures on this page were taken using my iPhone so, sadly, you can't click on them to make them bigger, but the inscription reads: "In memory of John George Phillips, aged 25 years.  Senior wireless operator on RMS Titanic, sank April 15th 1912":

The Titanic and its fate has become quite iconic these days, and, to be honest, probably always has been.  The ship had, after all, been trumpeted as being 'unsinkable' and, it being its maiden voyage, was crammed with the wealthy and famous. It truly must have been a remarkable ship to board at Southampton.

I didn't want this post to end up being about the sinking of the Titanic but I did find some interesting pages on the intertubes while doing a brief spot of research.  For instance, this page has a great deal of information about the radio aspects of the disaster, including a time line and detailed list of all the telegraphic messages sent out up to the moment the radio went dead.  You can sense the panic as you read them.

And this page has more on the biography of Jack Phillips, including photos showing where he was born and went to school.  Probably only of interest to those with a detailed knowledge of Godalming and Farncombe, to be fair.

Godalming was very proud of Jack Phillips, so a collection was made and a memorial to him was built in the park beside the Lammas Lands. It was decided to make it cloister-shaped.  As it was sunny today (12 April), I thought I'd wander down there to take some photos and post them up on 15 April, the 98th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.

The information board at the entrance reads: "The Phillips Memorial Ground is so named after John George (Jack) Phillips, who came from nearby Farncombe.  He was the Chief Wireless Telegraphist on the Titanic which sank on 15th April 1912.  The Cloister was designed by Thackeray Turner, a local architect, and the garden it contains by Gertrude Jekyll.  It was built in 1913 at a cost of £700 following the purchase of this land for £300.  The Cloister was opened on 15th April 1914.  In 1965 one wall was removed and the timber pergola put in its place.  In 1914 the ground was laid out with paths, seats and fences.  Planting was carried out over the years.... [other stuff about the rest of the park]".

Apparently it's the largest Titanic memorial in the world.  This aerial shot gives some idea of the size:

So here, then, are my photos, in no particular order:

The inscription reads: "This cloister is built in memory of John George Phillips, a native of this town, Chief Wireless Telegraphist of the ill-fated SS Titanic.  He died at his post when the vessel foundered in mid-Atlantic on the 15th day of April 1912" and underneath it "The Postal Telegraph Clerks' Association provided this fountain and contributed towards the erection of the memorial".

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Eh? What's that, sonny?

I'm feeling a bit sorry for myself. I can barely hear a bloody thing.  It's weird, like being underwater and no matter how much you yawn or gurn or grimace or blow your nose or suck a boiled sweet, they just won't clear.

When I was in the midst of my battle with infertility in the late 1990s, I was an active member on a message board called ONNA.  The board was mainly for women who were having difficulty getting pregnant and the name was an acronym for Oh No Not Again, which is what you said when your period (or as we called it on the board 'Aunt Flo'  - a name I still use) arrived.

I suffer from Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (which is worth a post in its own right at some point) and, according to fellow sufferers on the board, one of the lesser-known symptoms is that of increased ear wax production.  Great.  As if the weight gain and excessive hair isn't enough.  It's something to do with having too much testosterone, although how that triggers too much ear wax is beyond my ken.  But it seems I am now turning into a lumpen man-woman with a beard, hairy feet and repulsive waxy ears.  Mmmm, sexy!

My right ear suddenly went dead about 3 weeks ago.  I put it down to the minor cold I had at the time, and have been waiting for it to clear ever since, but it hasn't.  'Could be ear wax', I thought.  I've had my ears syringed once in the past, about 12 years ago, and while the procedure was actually quite painful - the force of the water needed to flush out a solid lump of stuff as it hits your eardrum will make you wince - the relief is immediate.  So a couple of days ago I went to the chemist to get some drops.  In the bath last night I decided to use them.

It says on the label 'tip head onto one side and drop 3-6 drops of the liquid into the ear'.  Quite how you can measure 3-6 drops when you can't see what you're doing is anyone's guess, so I just squeezed the bottle three times.  The ear canal filled and it was like I was underwater.  You have to hold your head like that for a few minutes while it does its thang.  I could hear some slight fizzing and felt a little bubbling.  'Ooh, this might be working!', I told myself.  Tipped head over to other side, did the same with my left ear.  Same result.

The label says 'wash out with warm water'.  I was in the bath already so just lay back and put my head under the water and slooshed it about a bit.  Sat up. Riddled outside of ears a bit to get the liquid out.  Water came out.  Hearing worse than when I got in.  So I checked the instructions again and it said something like 'as the hardened ear wax starts to soften it will expand, causing a feeling of fullness in the ears' etc.  In other words, 'you're going to be deafer than you were for a few days'.


I'm going out tonight for the first time in months to see Jimmy Carr perform and I WON'T BE ABLE TO HEAR A BLOODY THING!!  Some may say that's not a bad thing, but I quite like him and a whole bunch of us are going out to celebrate a friend's birthday and I WON'T BE ABLE TO HEAR A BLOODY THING!! Yes, I know I'm shouting but it's the only way I'm ABLE TO HEAR A BLOODY THING!!

I'm such an idiot - I should have left the ear drops until after this but I didn't think that it would make it worse before it made it better.  And it's really weird not being able to hear much outside of your own head - the noise of eating is astonishing, and it's bizarre to hear your own voice as if you're speaking through a pillow.  But the novelty has worn off and I'm fed up with it now.

Perhaps I should ask TLH to fashion me some ear trumpets like the picture above.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Happy Hooker Update - Lyra's Ripple Blanket

A couple of weeks ago, I was having Sunday lunch over at my mum's.  TLH was in Wales (where he is today, actually) looking after his parents but my brother, C, and his wife, S, were there with their 4-year old boy, Riley, and his 2-month old sister, Lyra.

My mum does a fab chicken dinner with at least half a dozen different vegetable side dishes and gravy and apple sauce and cranberry sauce and stuffing.  Very yummy indeed.

After lunch, while sitting round giving our stomachs a rest before the onslaught of tea-time sandwiches and cake, S noticed that Lyra could not take her eyes from my ripple scarf which had been chucked over the back of a chair when I'd arrived.  To remind you, this is what my scarf looks like:

She was completely fascinated by it, so I offered to make another cot blanket in the same ripple stitch.  I started it on 31 March and finished it yesterday.  I'm dead pleased with it but found I had to stop myself otherwise I would have just carried on making it longer and longer.  So, then, here it is:

It's 3 feet wide (that's almost a metre in new money) and just a bit longer.  This is quite a useful size, admittedly quite large for a cot blanket but it's a great size for putting over your legs if you get cold in the evening when watching telly, and it'll fit neatly across the bottom half of a single bed so it's multipurpose!

For those that want the technical details, I used Attic24's ripple tutorial. In the foundation row there are 154 stitches plus 3 for turning, so 157 in total.   There are 38 blocks of colour with two rows in each block, so that's a total of 76 rows.  Each row took me 16 minutes to crochet (I timed it) so 16 x 76 = 1,216 minutes or just over 20 hours.  The 'tail ends' of the wool - where you change from one colour to the next - need to be woven in and that took a leisurely couple of hours, so, in total, that's 22 hours of work.  Yes, it's a lot of work but just look at it - it's so worth it. 

It looks good from a distance too - don't forget you can click on all the pictures to make them bigger.

I just hope Lyra likes it, after all that!