Monday, 16 November 2009

Sunday in Munich

Sunday is a quiet day in Munich.

It was not raining (at first), and arriving in the late morning, one might have high hopes of engaging in productive activities... such as searching for new and exotic yarns to smoosh and to buy. Or things.

Munich Airport (voted Europe's Best Airport), it is the simplest and least ridonkulous airport into which I have ever, ever flown. I may endorse moving here; E should be encouraged by many close friends that German will not be impossible to learn (ahem). Already, thanks to Dawny, we know not to sing the first verse of Deutschland uber alles, so we are well on our way to assimilation.

On the train into the city, a Portuguese lady made friends with me (so that I could help her with her luggage off the train, since she had apparently purchased an entire newsagent/grocery store and packed it into her second suitcase). She has lived her for 36 years and likes it much better than her time in London. She will be going home for Christmas, and her mother collects magazines for her. She has 25 people in her family for whom to buy presents. She prefers Lufthansa to AirBerlin, and she doesn't approve of EasyJet at all.

My best decision of planning this trip (since I have failed, failed, failed to research either my yarn or beer options on my own) was to elect to not stay at the conference hotel, the Hilton Munich Park. It is in a park. My Hilton points would have increased, along with my proximity to Platinum level. But it would have been sooooo dull and 20 minutes from the centre! My 'super secret' hotel from is directly across the street from the Hauptbahnhof (Central Station), and it is a 5 minute walk to where the ice rink will be and where shops are open (but not on Sundays).

On Sundays, everything is closed. Except shops in the Central Station. The sushi bar there does not take credit cards. You must spend > euros5 in the quick shop or you get glared at until you manage to add enough Snicker bars and gum to make up the difference. Hauptbahnhof Starbucks is the speediest Starbucks I have ever seen.

Upon venturing up out of the subway, the first sign was at least recognisable. It is next to the Starbucks (but it does look a little older).

Despite shops being closed, there are loads of people walking in the city on a Sunday, and it seems that Germans, like the French, save Sundays for family. This is such a lovely concept that more of the 'developed' world should adopt, and it makes one not too traumatised to miss one day of manic spending. Unfortunately, there is yarn to yearn for...

It was approximately 34 minutes after leaving my hotel (for Sunday constitutional after 3.00am start to day) before the first person asked me for directions. It is slightly less comfortable when you speak nothing of the language (well, other than 3 numbers and hellos/goodbyes -- not enough time to coordinate appropriate language prior to trip), but the repetition of this phenomenon wherever I go makes me think that my attempts to follow E.M. Forster's endorsement of immersing oneself into the place one is visiting, has relatively successfully developed (I cannot locate the precise quote, which makes me cross -- so shall have to re-start reading A Room with a View and A Passage to India again.). My travel game is to figure out my bearings, navigate shortcuts, and find local shops and restaurants -- basically to see how quickly I can become (or give the illusion of) a pseudo-local. One has to think of something amusing when one is a solo traveller so much of the time.

The medieval section of the city is still delineated by gates, although they may be rebuilds since the city was pretty devastated after WWII. The 'Americans' were in charge of rebuilding Munich, and the history lecture by a tourist representative at our conference indicated that this was extremely fortunate since, unlike the other rebuilding forces, they did make efforts to recreate the city as it was. E says, in Britain's defense for its reconstruction strategies in other cities (including unfortunate Norwich), that the US was the only country to emerge from The War not fiscally devasted, so their efforts could afford to be cavalier. Either way, the result in Munich is lovely.

For example, Lisa (my New Jersey friend, who works for a London university and who crosses my path quite frequently) and I are not sure that the gates might be one of these rebuilds. The plaque looks old, but the main body of the walls looks new. This newness continues down quite a bit of the main High Street, with only a few obviously old buildings remaining -- e.g., The Rathaus (to L).

'Rathaus' means 'town hall' and is usually the prettiest building in Germanic cities. Munich's Rathaus clock tower has a ginormous glockenspiel (the green bit in the photo). It plays at 11am and noon each day, and at 5pm in the summer (it is no longer summer). Unlucky friends will be forced to watch my hand-held video of the glockenspiel during lapses in Christmas conversation.

It is quite fantastic with tilting knights (with armor and on horses), dancing peasants and other little twirling figures. However, it is slightly dangerous to be a tourist doing an impression of a goose in the rain for this event when the Kristkindlmarkt (Christmas market) is being set up; the men driving the forklifts are not delicate in their attempts to get on with their work, and you know they must want to just forklift all tourists in the backs of their oblivious little knees.

It is important to point out as well that this part of Germany takes its identity from its history. They are Bavarians first, hence the reason that the Bavarian knight always wins in the glockenspeil tournament :) The region is the Bavarian Free State (a remaining privilege from falling on the correct side in earlier conflicts -- the tourist lecture said it was granted by Napoleon, but this is not what Wikipedia says).

The city of Munich was (according to the history lecture, not wiki) was ruled first by Henry the Lion, who built a bridge over the river Isar next to the Benedictine monastery. He apparently wanted tolls (Why else would you build a bridge? The French built one into Wales...). This occurred in or before 1158, as this is the first date the city was mentioned in literature. 'Munich' comes from the old Germanic word Monche (with two dots over the 'o', but I do not know how to force this into blogger's html), which means 'monks'. The symbol of the city is still a monk, and he is everywhere from drain covers to over doors (not terribly easy to see in this picture, but he has cute red shoes!). It is more likely that he is holding a Bible, but if you just glance, it might look like a stein of beer.

In order to fully appreciate the city's long religious and brewing history (and on the recommendation of CAMRA Peter), I located an Augustiner pub off the main street and had a lovely repast, after visiting the Frauenkirche (since my 3am start hadn't really inspired much hunger until the smell of lovely snaussages hit my nosey). Its name, Augustiner am Dam, refers to its proximity to the Kirche.

Due to current building height restrictions, The Cathedral of Our Blessed Lady stands out in the skyline of the city, even after 500 years. The whiteness of the interior gives it an almost sterile atmosphere, but this in no way detracts from its beautiful quietness. Bosses on the ceiling are not as intricate (nor probably as numerous) as Norwich Cathedral's, but the spans do seem much more regular -- possibly since it is 300 years younger than Norwich's.

Bratwurst and sauerkraut is nicely accompanied by eine Weissbier. An interesting fact to note is that sauerkraut is not only fabulously healthful, but also apparently as effective as Viagra in its functional benefits (from a Kings College London study). Not to be rude, but my sausages were longer and thinner than one expected, especially compared to Texas German Bratwurst, although the flavours are pretty similar. But the beer is definitely better...

The Augustiner brewery is Munich's oldest independent producer. Beers are sold in .50 l or 1.0 l. One litre is rather a lot of beer. I only ever had Weissbeir on this trip, but next time adventuresomeness will win out -- as the wiki article has made me regret not having some Helles or Dunkles.

As it is winter, darkness descends quite thoroughly by 4.45pm, and since my energy was flagging after the early start, I managed to make it through the entire book that was my 'trip' book. You just can't win -- when I bring 3 books, I don't have the energy to read more than 2.784 pages per night and have hence wasted the luggage weight comparable to a new pair of shoes. sigh

Tuesday, 10 November 2009


Admittedly, the lottery has not come in yet. This is a shame, but not terrifically shocking since I have never bought a lottery ticket in my life.

And I do seemingly have to continue my attendance at work if my paycheck is to arrive in its monthly manner. sigh

So, whilst crafting (NOT to be confused with 'arts and crap') is not yet my prime time-consuming activity, it is indulged in quite a bit -- between Gu & Fru puddings [in place of Nutella, I am now using promotional sale specials at Sainsbury's and Waitrose to justify my addiction -- kind of like Alcoholics Anonymous with coffee & ciggies... but this is much less odoriferous.].

As may have been noticed before in previous Making-and-Doing episodes, it is particularly pleasant and focussed to craft when Clare comes out to La Village. This generally leads to a fair sense of accomplishment (unless one has not got one's spinning wheel working, and one has to find something like carding wool to look industrious). Clare is always industrious and Makes-and-Does at a remarkable rate (as evidenced by her blog and Flickr accounts and by the blur of all photos of her).

After several failed attempts at getting my own spinning started once I got my brake band rigged with a champagne cork (similar to L, but really not...), it appears that failure was due to my insistence that the wheel go in a counter-clockwise direction. [It is supposed to go clockwise... Hence breaking of all attempted fibre batts and many leader strands; and much fruitlessly vociferous berating of wheel.]

His Lordship also enjoys crafting, and has his own techniques and everything. Generally his assistance involves locating, from the vastness of the couch the precise spot where my yarn ball resides, and planting himself squarely on top of the smooshiness. Occasionally, though, he just commandeers a project. (Whatchu lookin' at, Willis?)

This project, with His assistance, is now finally finished -- about 2 months later than planned (frown). The second one (in white) is well underway. It is a raglan pattern knitted from the top down; having never knitted a raglan before, the pattern was simple but everyone at knitting was intrigued at how it would be difficult since they are used to knitting raglans from the bottom up. It is a really fun pattern, and for this second rendition, a method for monitoring cables appropriately and more accurately has been devised.

It may be possible to crochet a wee green edging on the white version cardi so as to match... the newest booties! Tiny is just sometimes too much -- squeeeee![This is why i need to craft full-time. Dang the need for money and responsible behaviour.]

Dave the Train finally has his small tea cosy... he is reported to have worn it on his head during the final Beer Festival Planning meeting. And another one is now commissioned by Dave. Need to figure out RNLI pattern for this one, as is for Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

And the Big Knitting has been developing, too.

First, we started with a large fabric strip ball (created with the Singer assistance of E. He is a much smoother treadler than Herself.).

Then we cast on (a little trickier and fiddlier than one would think with materials similar to ginormous crayons).

One does not recline on the sofa whilst wielding these implements. Personally, I find it easiest to stand behind sofa using pillows as props for needles ends. If one happens to be watching a musical of some derivation during creative industrious activity (such as South Pacific or The King and I or Moulin Rouge), one can also sing and dance about a little bit and alarm people who may happen to be sat in the room. This behaviour generally makes them not want to cause any problems. Although, it would be nine times cooler if the singer/dancer were wearing a Snuggie...

Because I decided not to spend my valuable crafting time hemming the edges, there is a great deal of stringiness on the edges, but at the moment, it is pretty cool (as it is not currently on a floor) and secondly, i think the strings will be vaccummable and mostly go away if it is ever put on a floor. However, the current size of the remaining ball makes me suspicious that this will either be: a decorative pillow cover or a patch in a larger patchwork rug.

As if collecting yarn weren't enough, I have further forced my hoarding onto E in the form of corks (slightly more understandable to him). He built a frame for me last year, but there has only now accummulated enough to create the finished product!

And, finally -- it is probably not very good to admit excessive gloating and pride over activity at a church. But I am quite elated with my waxing project of the moment at St. Clement's.

Only the choir stalls and the back two rows (both sides of the aisle) have been done so far. In the photo to R, the floor beyond the heating pipe has not been tackled yet.

In L photo, is compare and contrast -- the dull bit is the dry wax prior to buffing. One really might ought to wear ear protection as the ringing took about 30 minutes to stop on Sunday.

But now with my clever brushes, let the tackling commence... on Saturday.

Friday, 6 November 2009

A Witching Moon

Perhaps it is not honestly the moon which is making things loony. But perhaps it is.

There is postive insanity and then there is just plain vexing stupidity.

Either way, if one could just sit and look at the moon for a while, things would be calm and good in one's head. There have been so many gorgeous cinematographic-quality moons over the past week, and they cannot be simply have been ordered for All Hallows, All Saints, and All Souls. But it is tres cool that they have coincided. Even though la lune is now on the wane, the nights are still unbelievably bright.

The moon, though, seems to be having an effect on many things, including:
* politicians (a continuing saga)
* Human Resources personnel
* the running of buses and trains
* property 'management' companies (also ongoing saga -- nothing to do with moon, but rather hair colour and grey matter)
* my hair

I am aware that there are many complaints in and about Obama-land, but reporting on them is not nearly as entertaining as the British approach. Self-deprecating humour and an eloquent debatory approach (which E refers to as Radio Argue) just make my day.

Human Resources seems to require proof that I am allowed to work in this country, despite their having a two-year-old copy of my work documentation which expires in 2012... So we have now wasted 3 more pieces of paper (because you have to have a copy of the outside cover of a passport, you know. That isn't a completely anonymous image or anything.)

As it is now Saturday morning (I started blog last evening, but was forced away from computer for evening excursion), it is my strong hope that my bus-riding does not go as last week's in which I ran for bus three times (with granny trolley and in wellies). The busses were early, I swear. Stopping a bus in the dead middle of the village (to great annoyance of other motorists, most certainly) is not recommended, but it is the sign of a kind-hearted (albeit grumpy) driver; it was amusing, and completely against Health & Safety, to leap onto bus as it is still moving. And I was grateful. And standing in heels for an hour and a half on a late and crammed train is not recommended, either.

Also as it is Saturday morning, it is noteworthy that the washing machine is going (on what is, if figures are correct, the 8th load of laundry since Tuesday evening). After 2 weeks of ineptitude, our property 'manager' managed to have a washing machine delivered (Sunday) AND finally installed (Tuesday). Jones/Strain genes really particularly useful when services are required from unintuitive creatures.

Finally, the hair. This was definitely due to the full moon. After months of waffling about bangs (aka, fringe), the scissors came out two weekends ago and approximately 1.5 tentative inches were sacrificed to the Waitrose bin liner. On Tuesday (in celebration of washer installation), a further 4 inches cavalierly bit the dust. E has been slightly suspicious throughout this manifestation of madness, but change seems to be accepted now. No photos as of yet.

(This really is an attrociously and not a relaxed- and/or thoughtfully-written piece, but one has to get back into things somehow)

Other things that have been going on:
  • 32nd Norwich Beer Festival -- E volunteered 114 hours last week. Herself volunteered only 4 evenings, 7.30-10.00. Donations from our hours going to Anthony Nolan Trust (leukaemia) -- same charity as the dragon boat races.
  • Craftiness -- this really needs its own blog...
  • The Great Waxing of 2009 -- this is my project of the moment at St. Clement's. Having imported (in my luggage) some Murphy's Oil Soap, washed portion of floors in Cinderella-style two Saturdays ago and applied wax the following day. Last Saturday involved complete failure to buff floors with lambswool pad on floppy drill attachment. However, (following a great philosophical debate) my new (!) drill buffing brushes arrived yesterday; and (after removing the dust which will have accumulated in mediaeval manner over the past two weeks) the waxing shall commence in approximately 1.5 hours! One thing that may shock my American readers -- should any remain -- is that Murphy Oil Soap is a) not sold in the UK and b) completely unknown. Perhaps my surprise is funny in a dense sort of way, but because those Irish ladies in an old commercial seemed to know about it. This is not the Irish ladies, since that one is not on YouTube :(
  • November's First Friday Five -- on which there was knitting and commentary
  • The Beginning of Rugby Season (i think there are about 4 rugby seasons per year)
Now must run (in very bad writerly style) so as to make it to bus... because we all know how that goes.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Ally Pally!


This is shameful: more than a whole month of silence (literarily speaking, that is).

When I told E that a blog was imminent, his response (which received an extremely raised eye-brow, resulting in effusive reiterations that 'it was only a joke!') was 'Oh! So I get a break, then, eh?' [and that was yesterday, so I figured it best to get off the proverbial backside and attempt to amuse even in the smallest way about at least one recent excursionary activity... the backside here is proverbial, because it's not like herself has just been sitting around. She has far surpassed the 95,000 miles-in-air mark, and she is busy, busy, busy!]
Our activity on Friday (mine and Clare's) was to excurse with some others from the Norfolk Yarns shop and some WI (Women's Institute) ladies to Alexandra Palace in London for the Knitting and Stitching Show. The coach, pictured in middle below, left Castle Meadow at 8am (sharp) and made it home around 9pm. ...of course Bear went... What a silly question, Auntie!

Oh my Lord, one would never imagine that it could be so giddily & completely joyously fatiguing to hunt, smoosh, pet and drool over yarn, silk, buttons, beads, and envy creative people, etc., etc., etc. To put it in perspective: this was not a little car boot sale of Arts&Crap and about 10 times as large as the Ark-la-tex Gun Show ('Sure as shootin', I'll probably see you there!'). There was an awful lot of 'sqeeeee' noise-making, as this is how Clare and I communicate a lot of the time [this is something akin to a squeal mixed with a squeak; generally, a sign of happiness.].

It seems more tasteful not to bore with descriptions of every hoarding decision that we made (and safer, too. The Holy Bible says that we should not make our brother (or sister) stumble, and I certainly wouldn't want to cause any readers to sin -- either through jealously or judgementalism over my silk purchases. Or my yarn. Or the alpaca fleece.)

Ahem... anyhoo, it has come to my sociological attention (totally should have taken Soc101 with Dr. Fisch a year earlier), that although knitters are by and large a friendly and welcoming segment of the population, stitchers of other persuasions (a lot of them; NOT all. I know some lovely needlepointers) are rude, self-absorbed shrews. It is inconceivable that cute little old biddies (and large ones with frizzy hair, who aren't so cute) can charge right in front of one, knocking arm out of aim for what one was reaching; shove frequently past one in an aisle with a shrewdly placed shoulder; ram backwards into one, glare, and refuse to apologise. Shocking behaviour! [and one dares to wonder why rudeness has become de rigeur... if the aged do it.]

Also on the sociological note: there were an awful lot of Americans there selling wares... this seems to be a productive route into the UK. A couple from Texas were selling Buffalo Gold (admittedly their graphics are not so great on the site, and the yarn kind of looks like buffalo chips -- titter -- but the yarn is amazingly soft and smooshy). I do declare; The Colonists seem to be bringing the 'coolness' of knitting to the Motherland! [It even made the Daily Wail -- I mean 'Mail' -- this week.]

However, there was more than enough inspiration to make Clare and myself wonder why the hecks we haven't been able to figure out a way to turn our obsession into sustenance [this is a knitted 3-D 'painting']. We may have figured out a method, though -- there was a definite dearth in spinning accoutrements (other than fleece, which we happily hoarded). No, we mean bobbins, lazy kates, wheels, spindles, and those crazy pointy Disney princess hats [well, perhaaaaaps the last item wouldn't sell so well, but as one might ask 'What good is a dinghy if you haven't got a paddle?', likewise 'What good is a truckload of fleeces if you haven't got a pair of carders?']. So... think, think, think.

As at events of this kind (or just generally similar to my many previous whims), something caught my eye. Extreme Knitting. This is knitting on a LARGE scale. Large doormat-size rugs start at £200 (those are the ones with silk in the mix). Then there are the ones with strips of fabric (a fabric ball costs between £7-12). Many fabric balls in a willow basket is an unusual and alluring sight. Oh, there is just so much to knit! I am hooked (pun probably intended).

M. Townsend had posted this fascinating link on my Facebook wall last week, actually; but, my defeatist thoughts had merely turned to self-pity over not having gone to art school and/or dyed my hair purple or blue and/or been Dutch and/or clever and minimalist. But then, on Friday there was a 'Squeeee!' and magically I have developed a slight blue tinge and a smoke-stack on my head: 'I think I can; I think I can!'

Showing the only moments of self control all day, no needles came home with me (the crochet hooks were £12.95); but I happen to know the most wonderful Enabler (who also cooks, as evidenced in photo background).

E made these this afternoon in less than 2 hours. AND had the added skill and patience to throw a crochet hook into the creative mix as well! [I planted some pansies.]

Clare will be so pleased when she gets back from hols in Edinburgh!

Now, I have the legitimised capacity to start hoarding fabric. Well, no. My plan is to actually knit a rug for the study to cover that hideous carpet. And then, who knows -- £200 doormats by commission...? An added incentive is, no doubt, toning of triceps -- everyone wins. Hoorah!

Now, I had best get back to my hoard...
(if one is giddy on yarn spastickisity, this little ensemble looks like a little face with a hat. If you squint a bit, there is a mouth and moustache. Actually, now that I look at it again, he looked better when there was less knitting done.)

Will report on auction (Sat) next. Another incredible outing!

Sunday, 30 August 2009

The Repercussions of Yarn Bombing

Alert readers (or simply those with excellent memories-- since that is what you need to 'follow' my blog lately) will recall that as an indulgence in Worldwide KiP (Knit In Public) Day, several of us tootled around Norwich knitting. Most of us are imports, you see, so we do try to fit in with Normal for Norfolk as much as possible.

On this tootle, we further indulged in very mild Yarn Vandalism (if one were unimaginative and mean-spirited and Uriah-Heepish enough to throw such an epithet at amusing and harmless activities). Said Yarn Vandalism involved leaving three balls of wool (with accompanying needles) in two locations. These have been tittered about occasionally since, but none of us had the presence of mind to check back or the idea that anything would have happened to any of them.

However, following a Norwich Beer Festival planning meeting this past week, Herself received first-hand intelligence regarding the current situation of the ball of wool planted surreptitiously in a drawer in a table at The White Lion.

So, she had to go and verify this for herself (Clare being away from home and unable to accompany as witness, she was forced to take photographic evidence).

One can here see the setting of the Yarn Vandalism:

And for the knitters amongst readership, a close-up here demonstrates an impressive range of knitting skills which have followed Wonderland-style instruction.

According to one barman (not Ralph), it is reported that one of the knitters was a 19-year-old lad with a mohawk and tattoos. There are very few dropped stitches, and by and large I am impressed.

It is time to replenish the yarn supply methinks :) (and someone needs to check The Playhouse!)


Even though some people are woefully behind in thank-you notes (b-a-d), lamb chops seemed a strong reason to bring out the tagine and give it a go! Friday was the Time to Do This.

As with all things culinary, E (Himself) had a Plan. And it was Good!

The beginning involved preparation of Le Fire. (3/4 of a bag of charcoal seemed a bit gregarious, but...)

The Second Step was the preparation of (utilising handy garden table located in bargain section of IKEA -- see, I don't only think of myself when indulging in Swedish-style-organisational-mania):
  • mushrooms
  • onions
  • garlic
  • ginger
  • bell pepper
  • tomatoes
  • sliced potatoes
  • zucchini/courgettes
  • garden herbs (mint, dill, basil, parsley)
  • spices

Thirdly, the monitoring.

Herself assisted by talking telephonically to entire matriarchal section of family in preparation of non-surprise-pour-Le-Oma on Tuesday (this apparent laziness was mostly due to Chef's dubious judgement regarding her knife-handling abilities, despite 33 years of successful chopping, deboning, and formative part of childhood as a sous-Butcher and Deer Meat Processor). His Lordship assisted by mewing pitifully around feet of chef at various moments of crucial cooking activity in attempt to trip person, causing trip to A&E (American translation: 'emergency room' or 'ER' -- smirk. When I first moved here I kept wondering what Arts&Entertainment television had to do with unfortunate incidents and why people always said they had to 'go' to A&E... were the high quality films, or perhaps Actors Studio, going to help the pain in some way?), thereby leaving lamb sustenance for himself.


Not a snake as in Badger, Badger... Snake! but a real, veritable, scaley (and smished-ed) snake.

This is the first snake I have seen in the 3 years I have been in Britain. It was slightly alarming as if I had travelled through some space-time continuum, the delirium of cycling up the hill ending not in quaint English countryside as at the bottom but in a Stephen King version of sunny Colorado (in this story, the population of zooming Smarty&Fit male cyclists who make pseudo-encouraging comments to wheezing cyclists has been decimated by either a plague of locusts or the local zombies).

There are apparently three types of snake in Britain (I thought there was only one). The Grass Snake, the Smooth Snake and the Adder. The only poisonous one is the Adder. In my skilled estimation, this flattened specimen is/was probably a Grass Snake (although it looked like a Rat Snake or Cottonmouth to me at first), but unlike any little old grass snake I ever did see before.

Rumour has it as well that there are some sort of wierd reptile that looks like a snake but is actually a lizard -- a slow worm. Who knew!? Anguis fragilis is a legless lizard -- apparently the top reason for population reduction in suburban areas is Felis catus. However, our Catus blackus seems to prefer furred, pointy-nosed prey. Or feathered...

*NOTE: This entry is slightly deceptive, as the snake is nearly two-week-old-news by now. Death Of Snake didn't make the EDP (as far as I know) but you never know when they might need a news story... (see Woman Trampled By Cow). Reason for delay in reporting (this time) is a recent spending of 10-12 hours on the computer each day in preparation for a manic work trip and a complete lack of desire to look at, let alone type on, any sort of keyboard object.

Added to this is the near constant pain in elbow, shoulder and back from mouse over-usage -- age is catching up, you see. Am now on NHS physical therapy list -- let's hope it is slightly more 21st century (or even 20th, for that matter) than the NHS dental service.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Fun on a Friday Night

(or evening... post-work whatever.)


It is 6.03 pm. We have the Appletons arriving at 7.00pm (or earlier, as they are quite perfectly punctual).

Since Himself had to work until 6 this evening, I cycled today with the optimistic goal or making it home by 5.30, vaccuuming madly, taking shower, fussing with annoyingly uncooperative hair and eyebrows, lighting candles, plumping pillows, arranging post-dinner drinks, feeding repetitive Kitty -- generally being obsessive compulsive and having high blood pressure for a whole hour and a half (woo hoo!).

However, about 3/4 of the way up that complete b----- of a hill before you make it to the cattery, I realised that, like last evening, I probably didn't have any house keys. [This was after the annoyingly healthy fit man zoomed past me at Mach 3 and in Gear 16, no doubt -- chipperly offering the encouragement, 'You're almost to the top!' as a type of cyclist greeting. If I hadn't been wheezing asthmatically in Gear 1, I would have attempted some smart retort. But as it was...]

My premonition was proven true as I dug fruitlessly through all pockets of panniers and various bag-like accoutrements.

Fortunately, the side door was open to the alley, so's the bike (and Herself) didn't have to sit by the front door looking homeless and a complete fool [It is preferable to do that online, instead].

Have swept the back yard pavements (as a half-hearted attempt at obsessive complusion, but it just really wasn't enough to make me frantic. I ought to be hyperventilating by now... alas.), rearranged tomato plants (again), talked to neighbors, who weren't sure if it was Angus or Arthur who wandered through the pub today (snicker).

So, am sat sweating in the back garden, with a black kitty on the table, a dead blue-tit (frown) in the grass, and some chips and guacamole (made fresh this a.m. and tookened to share with work!). At least it is not raining :)

.... It is 6.17pm and the back door has just been opened by Himself (who is now home)!

Let the Obsessive Compulsive behaviour begin.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009


Technically, 'scrumping' is stealing, particularly apples from an orchard. However, it can be used casually to refer to general hunter-gatherer activity, and it is this sense in which we indulged in scrumping today (at the instigation of moi). It comes, no doubt, from being a Keachi child, and perhaps watching and reading a bit too much Little House on the Prairie.

I have been itching to pick blackberries for weeks, esp. when I am organised enough to cycle to work and greedily look at all the lovely fruit. However, they are more deceptive here than in Loosyanna -- probably because of the lack of traumatic heat -- and are still quite tart until they are plumper than plump.

Along the alley that leads to the High Common, there are quite a few plums; there are crabapples on several massive trees along the Common; we even picked THREE raspberries in the WILD (very exotic for children from the humid South) when the Traceys and the Irish aunties came for a visit. Then, of course, I am keeping an eagle eye on the elderberries, so I can remember where they are in November. Simply so much scrumping to be done!

Naturally, it is most definitely not thievery if one picks tomatoes that have grown in one's garden; but it doesn't really count as scrumping since it is kind of 'planned' vegetable produce, I think. Consuming 'planned' produce can very loosely be considered scrumping if one happens to be visiting someone else's garden and that kind soul lets you nibble on several different little appetizers (such as rocket leaves, and tarragon, and raspberries).

We have two ripe tomatoes (finally)! The garden has gone quite nicely this summer, despite being started rawther a bit late. There is still a veritable plethora of green tomatoes, and we have had beans with dinner about 5 times now. I have had weeks of lettuces for my lunch salads, and they are still going strong!

Another activity in which to indulge when one is out and about scrumping, or scoping for future scrumping opportunities, is to feed the ducks on the Common pond...

This is always amusing and guaranteed to cheer, even those in the glummest of moods. The rustling of a bread bag (or maybe it is the sound of the cycle gears clicking) leads super instantly to a zipping, flapping, quacking migration across the pond (as seen to L). Because my camera is so blessedly smart, it made me miss capturing the frantic ones who felt the need to fly the extra 10 feet. *sigh*

However, today's feeding of the ducks was more amusing than average when an additional odd clucking sound began and 4 chickens emerged down the muddy bank and decided they were interested in this frenzy of duckish activity as well.

Approximately 2 minutes later, as the bread supply was decimated, two tiny kittens with festive collars emerged from the trees by the bank as well, boldly and blithely meowing at certain people! The chickens chased them onto the road (and one poor kitty had perhaps had its eye damaged by a chicken talon), which leads me to suspect that chickens would be safe here as they would be perhaps able to bluff the locals of the black feline persuasion...? Hmmmmm...

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

A Big Step

Today, herself took a Big Step towards intercultural assimilation.

Before everyone goes all hysterical, this does not mean she suffers any loss of affection for her storage container or her Coon-Ass Kitty or her wonderful fambly and friendses. (This is not her Kitty, but it is a dead ringer... for some reason E seems to think it is remarkably like certain persons, too. But he is deluded.)

Of course, she does still have her Loosyanna driver's license (which has the incorrect address, because DMV employees are only hired based upon a complete lack of customer service and high levels of illiteracy -- I don't think I am offending anyone I know by this hyper-generalisation, but hey, it has been known to recur with startling frequency). But today, she finally sat in a little booth with a dodgy curtain with Godknowswhatall bacteria on it (and she kept having to touch it to hold it closed since it was windy -- ewww) and a sad simile of an ice cream parlor stool; she ooched and scooched and lowered the ice cream stool until her head fit in the little oval on the screen and took a picture for her provisional driving license.

One is not allowed to smile. One has 3 chances. The monotonously chipper woman's voice bleats instructions with only 4-second pauses, so there is really no time to gather yourself. There are buttons to push (green to take a photo -- at least she counts down for you; and red to say that you want to take another), curtains are blowing, the woman is telling you to move your head backwards -- through the wall, apparently -- it is just all quite a lot to coordinate, esp. if one is carrying any items at all other than an elegantly engraved cigarette case with lipstick accessory, or a bowler hat.

This glorious image cost £4. Bless.
Scary, Southern, psycho-killer character actress available for glaring and eyebrow arching.

Then, hyperventilating all the way (and for about an hour after), she posted application form, photo (NOT attached to form, where handy photo-sized grey area is delineated with instruction:
'Official use only DO NOT attach your photograph here Simply include it loose in the envelope'. There is apparently no need for punctuation on government forms.), and beloved passport to Swansea.

I am sure it will be fine. They claim that all identity documents will be returned within 10 working days. Which I sincerely hope, since my next voyage dans l'aire begins 4 weeks from today.

However, there is a wierd feeling of intense alien-ness. Obviously, n'est pas La France Occupee c. 1940, where one needed identity papers at all times; but without a passport, one would perhaps (in some unfortunate eventuality) have a hard time proving one's identity. You don't really think about this when you are in your home country, because after all, you generally don't have to go anywhere where government issued photo identification (not issued by local illiterate) is necessary in case of emergency. It is perhaps silly, but it is an interesting awareness.

Fingers crossed that the passport follows DVLA optimism of a 10-day return. Otherwise, I might take an ulcer with me on September trip. This whole thing is, of course, my fault for delaying -- just because someone didn't want to sit in that horrid little curtained hut. But it was simpler than dealing with the Walgreen's girl. She don't let you have 3 tries... mmmm, mm, no ma'am.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Spot the Kitteh.

Our game today is Spot the Wrong Kitty!

True skill comes when one is able to determine the Correct Kitty without restorting to mundanely obvious clues such as the tinkling of the pink bell or the yowl for instant-service food upon sight of Human Staff Member. Hints on how to do this include ascertaining a certain guilty/defensive look on one face (indicating full expectation of imminent bouncing from house) as well as distinguishing fur quality and pointiness of nose.

But there is not going to be an ejection of interloper, Arthur, today, as it is tipping it right down (today has been a FABulous windy day of thunder and rain and interspersed with sunshine -- proper weather instead of stiff-upper-lip weather!)

Monday, 27 July 2009

And now for something completely different...

Sometimes, I go wandering off. And yesterday, I was chasing butterflies (during the semi-finals of the racing)... and picking blackberries. And people worried. But it was all fine!

Earlier in the day, I noticed the prettiest butterfly on the Buddleia next to the Porta-loos (I called them 'portolets' and was mocked -- oh, come on, people. USE YOUR FREAKING CONTEXT CLUES! I'm obviously not talking about the nearest Starbucks... However, I must admit that portable toilet facilities have come a looooong way -- these flushed with blue liquid and had water faucets with a floor control, like the train!). Not being the kind of person who normally takes a camera to the toilet with them (although in airports, I am sometimes glad to have one handy to take photos of silly stick figure signs), this stalking opportunity was missed.

However, after the first round of the semis, I turned around from reading a history sign I was reading and Mr. E had disappeared. So I wandered the opposite way (from where our settlement area was) down the path less travelled, except that it was still fairly travelled, most notably by a large number of chocolate labs -- who seem to have absolutely no sense of occasion when persons are trying to caaaaaarefully stalk an insect and photograph it. But that is okay :)

[For the benefit of Judith, will think this looks like a path along which brigands might be lying wait, this is the smaller path right next to the larger path, which was very open and not filled with lurking murderers. Norfolk is the safest county in England!]

Quary would be spotted, camera made ready (because heaven forbid it should retain settings), creeping motions through nettles and grasses would ensue... and butterfly would fly off. Normal walking would proceed for a bit, some berries would be consumed (purely for energy and fibre), and then behaviour repeated, with some more productive interludes when other creatures would sit nicely.

This may or may not be golden rod -- I don't seem to be allergic to it, though. I think this is what they call a 'wasp' here. They ain't seen no real wasps...

This little fellow posed for quite a good while for me. He is rather dignified, and the tips of his antennae look like they have been dipped in gold. He is a Tortoiseshell. There is downy almost fur on his body (maybe it is) and it was a lovely olivey-browny-goldy colour.

A little further down the path (after another failed attempt at the main objective and a nettle sting), this nice Common Brown was willing to be photographed. Although, maybe he is a Gatekeeper, instead...

And a dragonfly, who bravely withstood an onslaught of shrubbery beating by a wagging tail and stayed still for me to capture several lovely shots.

Then, we have some ladybugs (or ladybirds, as they are called here). They always pose so nicely and don't flit away with the slightest hint of breeze. We need some to come live in our garden, but despite rumours that you can purchase a bunch of them and bring them home to set free, I have not yet found where one does this. (S'pose I could Google it, since I am constantly impatient with people who do not Google their questions.)

And finally, this was the only photograph I managed of the Peacock, which was taken during a veritable gale and involved me balancing on my toes with camera reached out as far as my arm could go, with an aim and a click. He is rather stunning, isn't he!? But after all that kerfuffle, I think my favourite is the Tortoiseshell, since he was so well-behaved and I got to see such detail on him.