Tuesday, 30 June 2009

allotment gardening - the Dark Side

Oh dear, black clouds are gathering over our leafy Eden. The secretary appears to be on the warpath. An Allotment Committee Meeting has been called for this coming Sunday, and Roger, quoting one of the old codgers, tells me that it appears to concern "getting rid of A".

Now I've never met or even seen A from a distance, and her plot, the blighted one with huge tree roots, is indeed a bleedin' disgrace, probably because it hasn't seen her either, but so is the one next to Eddie's, shared by a dentist and a policeman (true! supposed pillars of society - you can tut loudly here). The secretary's oft-threatened but previously mythical Letters have been sent out, and the errant gardeners should have 4 weeks in order to make a respectable effort. It may be that the meeting is intended to ratify the first step in eviction of these offenders, in which case it seems a bit premature to me. Or as they say here, a bit previous.

However, these are not the only plot holders to make little effort, and two other allotmenteers, not happy with the arbitrary nature of the Letter-sending, asked me what I thought we should do. All I could think of, my heart sinking at the sudden and unusual emergence of open conflict and decisive action, could only think of being awfully British and playing fair. "Er, ask them if they really want their plots - they have paid their year's rent, after all - give them more time, and (oh, a revolutionary thought, this!) maybe even give A a hand".

Something tells me that this Sunday's meeting will not be seeking arbitration, mediation, or even ordinary niceness; I'm not looking forward to it. Maybe I should make cakes again.

Eddie the Poisoner tried to convince me today that my own Letter would reach me next week.

Monday, 29 June 2009

little corner of heaven: the guided tour

As some of you, unfamiliar with the allotment tradition, have asked me about it, I thought you might like to see this fabled allotment of mine, so now, thanks to Roger's skill with Google maps and dotted lines, you can.

Picture 1: the serene environs of Bacteria Gardens. Here they are - the dozen or so streets of gardenless terraced houses and student flats, the steep hill rolling away to the little river Ouseburn, and on to glorious Jesmond Dene and Heaton Park,or, by taking a right turn which suddenly plunges you into an open grassy area where no roads or buildings are visible, our allotments. To reach them, we must trudge down this steep hill and along to the gate, and the return trudge after a strenuous digging session is often accompanied by loud puffing and groaning .

Our site, outlined in red, with the vaguest-looking allotments, is positioned next to the pigeon holders' site, with its cluster of crees and sheds. Most of the men in there seem to be named Alan, and the river sometimes bursts its banks at this point and floods the lower half of their site. The whole area used to have its own little village, with two pubs and a church, and much was eventually abandoned because of persistent flooding. One pub remains, recently refurbished so that new customers under the age of 60 and who do not wear flat caps and nicotine stains could be encouraged. The walls and ceiling are no longer brown, and while it is certainly much cleaner and better-lit, it has lost its charm entirely

There is another self-contained group of allotment plots at the top right. The gardeners there have clubbed together to build a gazebo; we don't have anything to do with them, for no known reason, unless, perhaps, we just aren't gazebo people. Maybe we are tumbledown hut people, neo-Neolithic types with low brows who wouldn't know what to do with a gazebo and a glass of chilled white wine.

Picture 2: a closer view. The plot outlined in red near the top is mine, although the picture was taken a couple of years ago, and some derelict cold frames have been removed, to allow the weeds greater freedom. Oddly, my beloved shed is near-invisible, as is any evidence of gardening activity on my part.

The largish polytunnel in the plot above mine is Suspicious Colin's, who builds it himself every year, grows huge leeks in it, which he invariably pronounces a deep disappointment (prize leek growers are rarely satisfied) and then gives up as the winter winds tear his sheets of polythene to ragged shreds that are left to flap forlornly till next Spring. Colin responds to any question, no matter how innocuous, with a shifty and alarmed look and an evasive response. This could be the mark of a chronically guilty conscience, or perhaps I haven't recognised my own unconscious imitation of a copper's nark, but it makes conversation challenging.

Eddie the Poisoner is opposite me, his tidy garden filled with bird feeders heavily vandalised by squirrels, and considering Eddie's state of health, the Grim Reaper hovering at his elbow and breathing hotly down his neck, it may be that the war of wits he wages on those squirrels is what keeps him alive. Not that he poisons anything except weeds, being a great softie with all wildlife, but he talks tough, and frequently encourages me to poison my weeds, hence his nickname. I am very fond of Eddie, and also, to my shame, secretly covet his old 5-tined curved fork specifically designed to dig up potatoes.

Roger's plot is on the opposite side, bottom right, also outlined in red. The end section of his plot is tangled riverbank, and the dog finds that it all smells very interesting down there under the briars, suggesting wildlife that appeals most to terriers. Roger grows woad, and other things that can be used as natural dyes, but before the knitters and weavers amongst you get excited, he doesn't appear to knit, spin or weave. Or, to my eternal disappointment, to paint himself and Tim blue in order to advance menacingly on Hadrian's Wall.

The other plots are held by a motley group of gardeners, some very experienced, with fine soil and serried ranks of cabbages, some so new that they haven't seen, as I have, the relentless march of the Jerusalem artichokes that someone planted some years ago and then shared. Another ten years of this insidious invasion, and the entire site might be renamed Jerusalem Gardens, with a bunch of defeated gardeners putting together J.A. recipe books and presenting a brave face to the world.

So, that's the place where we go to battle with Nature, wreck our fingernails, and replenish our souls. See how lush and green it all looks? Mostly weeds and brambles, perhaps all that stands between us and world domination by the artichokes, but a secret little patch of heaven between the city and the Dene. I love it.

Saturday, 27 June 2009


Anyone who watches the weather forecast might notice that the North East coast often has entirely different weather from the rest of the country. I know you probably all say the same about where you live, but unless you live in the Tyne & Wear area (or Stornoway), you haven't got much to complain about, I reckon. While you bask in temperatures of 19-24 (and 30 prophesied for next week!), we have 12-14; while you have occasional showers, we have rain, drizzle, downpours and occasional cloudbursts.And generally a nasty wind, a North East coastal speciality.

But yesterday and last night it was still and misty, a soft, hair-curling dampness that looked dreary when viewed from indoors, and not at all alluring to either the dog or I in our comfy chairs. But when we stepped outside, and in particular first thing this morning, oh, the feel of the soft milky air, the glorious scents, even in a city, of green things growing, of trees breathing softly, of the allotment calling faintly - come and see! everything has grown, the spider webs are glistening, the birds are flicking splashily in and out of dripping bushes, and your curly-leaved lettuces are ready to cut!

So the dog and I set off, lured by the scents and the feel of the air. I took a large umbrella, just in case, and we let ourselves quietly in at the allotment gate. Not a soul was there. The secretive little wrens allowed me to watch them for a long time, before we walked the narrow overgrown ribbon of path to my allotment, arriving soaked from the knees down, just through brushing past grass and cow parsley.

Everything glistened and gleamed; the pond was full, and the alchemilla mollis held perfect diamonds in the centre of its leaves. I watered the tomatoes, picked a handful of strawberries, encouraged the peas and beans with friendly thoughts, and tested one of the red gooseberries - no, not ready yet - and left it at that. It wasn't a day for gardening, but for being still. I could have sat for hours, drinking it all in, the peace, the silence, the utter tranquillity, fullness and greenness of it all, ten minutes from the city centre. I never cease to marvel at this, the isolated patch of gardens, surrounded by a belt of trees, hidden from the bustle and noise of the nearby streets and the thundering coast road traffic.

I had to change soaked shoes and trousers on returning reluctantly home, and the lettuce, sorrel, spinach and oriental salad leaves had to be washed twice to get rid of splashes of soil and tiny slugs, before sharing with neighbours. We'd had a lovely start to our day, and now the mist has cleared and the sky is brightening. I'm glad we hadn't waited for the weather to 'improve'.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Thursday, 25 June 2009



just one year

In June last year, Harry and Kevin were still here with me. I had no inkling of how short Harry's time as a delightful companion would be. And Kevin, it seemed, could have gone on for ever.

And now I have Lottie and Millie, delightful companions too, hopefully here to stay for a very long time. But I haven't forgotten my lovely boys.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

a little test

Today I was chatting to a musician neighbour who lives at the end of my street, just general chitchat about plants, and mentioned the front garden makeover which is part of a general drive to get my house in order for valuation. She was very interested in my plans to move away - like me, she has been in this street for ever - and immediately said that she would mention my house at orchestra. No one has responded in a practical way like this before.

It gave me a little jolt - suddenly, in one casual conversation, my house sale plan became real, and I could see that other elements might come into the equation: whether or not I felt ready, someone might want it (or at least to view it - let's not run away with ourselves here!). Perhaps I should start to keep it tidier, even as I plod through the maintenance tasks on the to-do list!

But the really interesting thing about this encounter was that despite the jolt, and the sense that I might not be in total control of what could happen, I had absolutely no qualms whatsoever. None. I might not be ready, and I might feel daunted by the laborious process ahead, having no experience of house sales other than when we bought this house all those years ago, but it feels like the right thing to do, whenever it happens. It might take a long time, too. But I still need to be a little tidier, just in case....

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

traipsing round the countryside 3

And after a long leisurely stroll, a deeply interesting chat with the owner, and a few fine purchases, we set off through the winding country lanes in search of lunch. After getting lost for a bit, we found it here, at Meldon, where a Victorian walled garden and its outbuildings have recently been turned into a delightful spot for ladies who lunch to sit on the sunny terrace and contemplate someone else's gardening labours while waiting for our home-grown salads.

And then we went home, where my friend's lovely boy was thrilled to see us. He even went to fetch me a dustpan and brush; visitors generally receive a present from him, and I have been brought shoes on previous occasions, but today I must have looked ready for a little tidy up after my hours in the sun.

And later on, back in my own home, after collecting the dog from Lesley, I was presented with a fuzzy tummy.....

All in all, a grand day out.

traipsing round the countryside 2

And this is Stanton Hall today. It is set in rolling countryside, has lovely gardens on several levels that you can walk through, and is maintained entirely by the owner and his wife, who grow and sell a huge array of healthy plants and trees.

There are polytunnels too, that in today's sunshine were hotter than the hobs o' hell, as they say round here. We didn't linger in them, fearful that the soles of our sensible sandals might melt.

traipsing round the countryside 1

Stanton Hall, Northumberland, c.1956. Its recorded history dates from around 1400, when it was a fortified tower house, and then a bastle, later a fire-damaged semi-ruin, and now a fine old house once again. The hamlet and chapel that stood near it are long-lost.

A friend who grew up in the area remembers corrugated iron covering the remains of the roof.

Another friend and I went there today to buy a few plants and enjoy the hot sunshine - latter always a surprise. Read on....

Monday, 22 June 2009

you have to love 'em

The best thing about this Live Feed widget is the constant pleasure of discovering the glorious place names that come (sometimes wrongly - out by 1000 miles, one of you said) with the visitors. Wolfville, Antigonish, Germantown, Ambala, Decatur, Tassin-la-demi-lune, Trois-rivieres....so evocative, so mysterious, so completely unknown to me, and thus ripe for fantasising as to the inhabitants, what they wear, how they talk, who named their towns. I want to visit them all. Especially Wolfville....

Sorry, Milton Keynes and Birmingham, I've visited you already. I know you aren't magically suspended in time, somewhere around the mid-1600s, although I'll grant that you do speak an unusual form of English.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Cardamom bread

Slice it, butter it, eat it. Be thankful.

I am.

Ooh, they don't half go on!

Making bread used to be a fairly straightforward procedure in my household, back in the days when Doris Grant's wholesome, wholewheat, mix-rise-bake, no-nonsense, that's-what-your-teeth-are-for loaf of great sturdiness was what we liked. But today I fancied something whiter, fancier, flavoursome in a more interesting and possibly sweeter way, so I dragged down all my baking books and started to search. The lovely fresh yeast waiting in the fridge began to twitch in anticipation.

I browsed the experts, and my enthusiasm started to wilt. What an opinionated bunch today's artisan bakers are! So much high-flown text - miles of it, so many injunctions, so much to terrify or at least turn off the butterfly-minded who only wanted to knock something up today, not in four days or even months after leaving tubs of something mysterious to grow in the fridge - I have lots of those already, thank you, though they might not be best suited to breadmaking (or human health). I didn't want a treatise on the alchemy of natural leavens and sourdough starters. I resented being told that my kneading technique was all wrong, and that only the French knew how to do it properly. Silly me, I thought that was kissing....The only thing that appealed was a story of Russia's equivalent of Mrs Beeton, writing in the mid-19th Century, who described proving the dough in a bucket of water: when it floated to the surface, it could be put in the oven. I might try that one some time, just for the hell of it.

Eventually, thoroughly put off by the preciousness and superiority that oozed from their pages, I packed up the great and the good, suppressing feelings of both irritation and unworthiness, and made a choice between an old faithful and a plain and simple guide.
The old faithful, my ancient, stained and much-loved 1970 copy of the Tassajara Bread Book has always been an absorbing read, but today it wouldn't do. It is filled with joyous text, sweet little sketches, and sometimes delightfully relaxed recipes, for example those several calling for 2-8 eggs (you choose), but I didn't want to have to think much today. I wanted to be told, straightforwardly, to Do...melt...add...mix...wait (and have a cup of tea and maybe do some gardening) and then come back and Do some more; no theory, no science, no elaborate explaining why only This Way is the Right Way or scorn for anyone who ever bought a loaf from a supermarket.

So the plain and simple, Rachel Allen's cardamom bread, not even made with bread flour, won in the end over the delightfully greedy Tassajara monks, and is sitting in the boiler cupboard, swelling in the most modest and self-effacing way, as I write. The kitchen smells of freshly-ground cardamom seeds, obediently removed from 28 pods (see, today I did prefer to be told just what to do), and now I only need to go and do that bit of gardening while whatever it is that happens to flour and yeast and water (no, don't tell me, I don't care!) takes its course.

If it turns out well, I might take a picture. If it doesn't, I'll eat it anyway, sharing it with Roger, who brought me the yeast and is thus Chief Taster.
As the Tassajara book says, "Bake the bread, and the yeast dies. Slice it, butter it, eat it. Be thankful." And so we shall.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Oh no!

Millie's fur fetish gets worse. That nasty-looking object I've just spotted amongst the cat biscuits was once the favoured toy - a 5-inch-long strip of fur, very useful for throwing in the air and catching with the utmost ferocity, and with a handy bell that was excellent for waking up sleeping humans before dawn, if the throwing and catching didn't do it first.

This is all that remains. I fear for Millie's insides, although I suppose fur is quite digestible - except cat fur, of course, which has to be barfed up on the clean duvet.

The cat toy budget is going to be slashed. The existing and despised stockpile of velour, cotton, fake-fur and stripey knitted mice will remain available on request, but there will be no more special trips to the smelly petfood warehouse to buy the real fur versions. I never felt easy about them anyway, but somehow couldn't resist when I found how much she loved them, and how eagerly she played with them.

I suppose she might be telling me something. And I should be pleased that she didn't eat the bell.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Table manners and the art of mouse chomping

Millie loves these teeny toy mice more than any other toy, except for a larger strip of fur with a bell on. But after months of playing nicely with them, she has suddenly taken to chewing them up, probably inspired by the dog, who will steal and chomp them whenever she gets the chance - although the dog's chomping involves a lot of laborious gum work rather than the use of teeth, resulting in a soggy, flattened mouse that is then hidden in her bed.

But Millie is evidently a more refined creature than the dog, because she takes the mouse to her dish to chew it up. If I remove it, she will just retrieve it and put it back in her bowl, along with her biscuits, and carry on demolishing it. Clearly, this cat went to finishing school in a former life, whereas, obviously, I didn't.

Next: Millie teaches me how to use a finger bowl.

peas and beans means pleased!

Not that I'm easily excited or anything, but after several years of total pea failure, I'm rather thrilled to have spotted these two young things today. I know, I'm a bit sad, but the truth is that I'm a haphazard and disorganised gardener who, the moment she arrives on the allotment, forgets everything she has spent hours reading up, and who invariably loses and forgets the crop rotation diagram.

I will spare you the neighbouring stunted sweetcorn or the mysterious missing brussels sprouts. Last year the carrot seedlings disappeared, but this year they are thriving in their sand-filled barrels, and the second-attempt French beans are swarming up their canes in a spirited fashion. Even the experimental soya has sprouted at last, although as I know nobody who has grown this before, I have no idea what to expect.

You can see that the weeds in the background are doing pretty well too.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

getting ready for bed

Life with personal care attendants.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Desk ornament

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

a tale of three aunties

In all this house-sorting that is absorbing my waking hours, I've been going through heaps of old photographs that my mother inherited from her sister, my Tante Mimi. In the process, I have unearthed this crumbly old damp-damaged picture. The writing on the back, signed by my Tante Georgette, who was their sister-in-law, suggests that it was given by her to my other aunt, Agnes, the much-younger adopted child who came into the family unable to speak French, thus changing the family's tongue from French to Flemish overnight.

I would like to think it is a photo of Tante Georgette herself, but I can't be sure. It might, indeed, be some famous celebrity or film star, although it is hard to imagine my aunts and mother treasuring such a photograph amongst all the family pictures that range over at least 80 years. None of them are alive to consult.

So I'll choose to say it
is Tante Georgette, famous in the family for being arrested by the Gestapo in place of her husband, Oncle Cyril, who had escaped to the South of France; she was held for some weeks in a civilian prison, until complications in her pregnancy prompted her release. After the war, she was the only member of this family, with all its derring-do, to have a war pension - a prisoner of war pension.

The last time I met her was when we visited on my 6th birthday, and my memories of that encounter focus entirely on two less-than-thrilling events: the present from my 3 older cousins, two blue-checked pinafores of the sort nice little girls on the Continent still wore over their day dresses, and which it was hard for a six-year-old to receive with untrammelled joy, and the birthday tea.

Or perhaps it was just tea. Not for us jelly and ice cream, cake with candles, and finger rolls with egg and cress. I forget everything that was on the table except....oh horror!.... the large impossible slices of jellied tongue. Tante Georgette herself seemed just like everyone else's mother, ready to cajole, fuss, pile plates high with food, and to try to persuade me, a horribly squeamish little girl with a deep and lasting loathing of any meats with jelly or fat attached, to just try this particular delight. My mother joined in - she suffered on a daily basis from my squeamishness, and food presented us with many opportunities to engage in mutual torment.

So, it might be Tante Georgette in this picture, glamorous, mysterious, and far removed from maternal irritations, or it might not. But this is how I would prefer to think of her.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Not big and fat!

Just big-boned. And get out of my tree.

Visiting the neighbours

All the way down the back lane on top of everyone's yard walls to Suzy's tree, checking carefully to see if Big Fat Hattie is around. Could BFH be a friend? She looks more like a predator, full of less cautious kittens. Maybe safest to stay where I am - BFH will never get her portly carcass up here!

Sunday, 14 June 2009

making friends 2 (or not)

And this attempt wasn't so successful. Large grey cat appeared at top of (scruffy) back lane. Millie was in paroxysms of delight: new friend on the horizon! Some stalking, aloofness, attempts to outstare, until I got bored with the cat version of Glacial Speed Dating and went back indoors.

Lottie remained behind a wheelie bin; was she the chaperone, or just a scaredy cat?

After ten minutes, Millie flew in, wildly rattling the catflap, the fur on her side loosened in tufts suggestive of a hefty swipe by her new friend. Other than being a little over-excited, which is her default position anyway, she seemed unharmed, although happy to remain indoors with me.

I went out to find, and possibly rescue, timid Lottie, to find her sitting nose to nose with the grey stranger, all fluffed up to twice her usual size, and a distinct air of "Touch my little sister again, matey, and you'll have me to deal with!"

But she let me pick her up and carry her home. Discretion is the better part of valour, after all.

making friends 1

This is Millie with Toffee, a young cat who lives across the back lane. They met for the first time last week, stared fixedly at each other for a long time, spat politely once or twice, and hummed up and down the scale a little, just to establish that each was a fierce young tiger not to be trifled with.

Then Millie made her mind up that Toffee was in fact there to be trifled with, barged past her and let herself into Toffee's house through the open back door, played a little with Toffee's toy mouse, and disappeared into the further reaches of the kitchen, where no doubt she put her face into all the saucepans and any cupboards that were standing open. I called her in vain, and banged on the back door, also in vain, eventually walking round to the front door to tell the occupants that they were being burgled by an 8-month old kitten. Of course they fell in love with her, and told her so, and she, flushed with success, has tried to burgle them again several times since.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

postal pleasures

Click to enlarge, as they say.

I complain (often) that I never get anything nice in the post, just junk, and regular notification of fuel bills going up. But this has been an excellent week for post: my new audio CDs, and two £25 Premium Bond prizes from the normally tight-fisted Ernie.

And this, which arrived yesterday from PG of Middle of Nowhere. Layers of delight: first there was a teeny little red stamp with her logo, Red Flannel Designs, then a tiny egg-shaped sticker, followed by a glimpse of her beautiful cards, and then - ta-ra! - 2 packs of cards depicting the loveliest saggy, baggy, patched, much-loved-looking animals going about their evocative and mysterious business. You can find her work here.

Grumpy postman, so hated by the dog, you can keep on bringing me post like this, please.

Friday, 12 June 2009

a bit better?

That's 2 CDs-worth of priming and Farrow & Ball's Off White acrylic eggshell, a nicer shade in real life than it looks here. Near the small chair are the trunk and a little shelf awaiting their turn.

Now, having looked at these pictures, I'll go and straighten those books, shall I? And do something with the lamp wire. No, nothing sinister or self-harming, but the temptation has been there today.

Thursday, 11 June 2009


but before I could throw myself in the river, this arrived in the post. A treat to myself, ordered at a time when I must have known subconsciously that there would be moments of bleak horror ahead, like furniture-painting day. I already have the audiobook of Juliet Stevenson reading 'Persuasion' - the only thing that kept me sane on that nightmare journey to Australia - and I know that she has a special affinity with Jane Austen's work. I stalked this on Amazon for a long time before I felt sufficiently deserving to have it, and it can be my furniture-painting soundtrack for the duration. I can share my despair at how fiddly painting a bookcase is with my exasperation at that milksop Fanny Price, and have a good mutter to myself; always very satisfying, a good mutter.

the will to live

is rapidly draining away from my enfeebled being.

Amongst my many ill-assorted possessions are several items of cheap, mass-produced bits of furniture that could, if you stretch the imagination sufficiently (i.e. a lot), be transformed into a reasonable stab at a Scumble Goosie-type of loveliness at a fraction of the cost. The cost of paint, that is, not the human cost to my mental and emotional wellbeing.

So far, I have painted some walls (that was fine; quick and rewarding), primed a bookcase and a small table (slightly tedious and a bit smelly), and applied part of the first coat of paint on said bookcase. Still to be done: finish first coat, apply second coat, varnish twice. Then do the same with small tables (two) and a trunk. It's hardly technically taxing, but it's soooooooooooo boring, and I am soooooooooooo not in touch with my furniture painting side. Or maybe just bone idle. Whatever.

This may take some time, because of all the stopping to sigh, make cups of tea, read other blogs, look out of the window pondering the meaning of thrift, and consider the case for half-painted furniture as the new aesthetic.

Or, because she
said that painting furniture was a lovely occupation, just persuading Lesley to take on the task in exchange for home made cakes and ice cream.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Daze of the week

I woke up this morning and I just knew it was Sunday. It took about 10 minutes for reality to dawn. But in those 10 minutes I was suddenly, intensely, completely in touch with the awfulness of Sundays when I was growing up. The dullness, the dreariness, the extra-long church services (twice!), the sheer boring length of the day.... worst of all was the compulsory television hour of my joyless boarding school, everyone squashed on hard benches in the assembly hall, watching a flickering black and white tv in the dark. I could still feel ill with hatred at the thought of Captain Pugwash.

I suppose it gave the Sisters some time off (apart from the old killjoy who was in charge to make sure no one enjoyed themselves too much, or, indeed, moved). I wonder what they did while we were imprisoned in the echoing gloom? Danced sedately to old Glenn Miller records? ("You be the male lead, Sr. St John of the Cross - your feet are big enough to be a man's.") Traded holy pictures? ("I'll give you two Saint Bernadettes for that St Maria Goretti!") or sat in corners and gossiped about Reverend Mother? ("She seems awfully keen on talking to that new priest, Father Fiery-Pitts. He's a bit too Vatican II, if you ask me, with that little dog collar and a cricket jersey.")

So, today, being Tuesday, has been wonderful, just wonderful, mostly for not being a Sunday.

Monday, 8 June 2009


Mrs Bagwash from The Life Laundry has tagged me thus:

What is your current obsession?

Getting this old house painted throughout/ attic cleared of junk, so I can have it valued and put on the market, and move to somewhere warmer. Note: obsession doesn't necessarily mean decisive action

What is your weirdest obsession?

Er, none. In my book, weird = not good. Clean towels in bathroom, though = good

What are you wearing today?

Black linen trousers. Black/grey striped cotton top. Socks (well, it's June in Britain!). Possibly scarf, gloves and duvet coat if I dare go out

What's for dinner?

Some veggie stirfry/rice noodles/black bean sauce concoction that never looks glossy and well-separated like it does in food magazines. Food diary fortnight prohibits silliness and loss of self-control in the dinner department

What would you eat for your last meal?

A mound of fluffy mashed potato and extra butter - what else comes with it doesn't matter, and neither does a food diary

What's the last thing you bought?

Cat food for Millie who tells me she is starving to death because the kitten food is poison

What are you listening to right now?

Radio 4. Aren't you?

What do you think of the person who tagged you?

Interesting person! Would like to know more about her course. Could post more often on her blog (hint)

If you could have a house totally paid for, fully furnished, anywhere in the world, where would you like it to be?

Australia. Blue Mountains current favourite, but need to explore more of that amazing country before making final choice

If you could go anywhere in the world for the next hour, where would you go?

Where my son is, if I could lure him away from work for an hour to talk and drink coffee. I haven't seen him since March (sniff...)

Which language do you want to learn?

Ooh, learn? From scratch? All that grammar and those difficult tenses? None. But I wish I could speak Japanese already. Sounds totally different according to the speaker being a man or a woman. Klingon would be good too, for those bad-tempered moments

What's your favourite quote (for now)?

Quoting my friend Annie: Get a grip

What is your favourite colour?

Today? Dark purplish grey

What is your favourite piece of clothing in your own wardrobe?

Erm.... it's all awful. I am a slob who lives in loose pants and tops, and lumpy fleeces. I have a loving memory, though, of a tiny chocolate-brown Biba dress with lots of little buttons. Worn till it fell to bits. ....from the first hand-drawn catalogue. Yes, I'm that old - Biba's hand-drawn catalogue

What is your dream job?

Only nightmare jobs come to mind now I've retired. Dream week = one where there is nothing scheduled, nothing at all

Describe your personal style

Plain. Simple. No frills or busy patterns. Nothing to weep over if a cat jumps on me, crampons fully engaged, or I spill my lunch down my front. Both frequent events

What is your favourite tree?

Beech, the bigger the better

What are you going to do after this?

Go to the post office, bracing myself for shock and outrage at how much it costs to send a small package

What is your favourite fruit?

Cherries. Especially those huge black American ones that you need to remortgage your house to afford

What inspires you?

Sunny days. Sometimes pictures in magazines of beautiful homes. (sometimes these induce despair instead...)

Your favourite books?

Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales, especially The Snow Queen

What are you currently reading?

Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town: Stephen Leacock (a present from Shelagh in Toronto)

Go to your bookshelf, take down the first book with a red spine you see, turn to page 26 and type out the first line (sentence)

So familiar is the Sweet Mignonette of our gardens, and so like and yet unlike are the wild species, that whilst no one would take them for the garden plant, one need not be a botanist to see their natural affinities at a glance.
(Wayside and Woodland Blossoms; A Pocket Guide to British Wild Flowers by Edward Step, F.L.S. p. 1905)

What delighted you the most today?

A lengthy, badly-written, heavily sarcastic rant by one of the locals, mocked-up as a Lib Dem newsletter, and hand-delivered, presumably to every house round here, complaining bitterly about the residents' parking scheme in the neighbouring area that has pushed all the surplus cars into our area instead. It's anonymous, as his earlier enraged missives have been, but he is so often seen waving his arms and shouting at some poor captive neighbour, that everyone knows who he is and what his current obsession is. No neighbourhood should be without one.

By what criteria do you judge a person?

Seriously? How nice they are to their children. Not (so) seriously? State of their armpits, teeth, bathroom towels

My added question: Were you ever in love with a film star? Who? How old were you?

Well, you weren't expecting something weighty, were you? Aaaahhhh.....Dirk Bogarde......me at 11.....doomed love was ever my forte.....

The rules:
  • Respond and rework: answer the questions on your blog, replace one question you dislike with a question of your own, add one more question of your own. (How does that work then? Wouldn't it be an ever-expanding list of questions? Who would want to be Taggee Number 207? How would you know which question I've deleted if I've answered it? My tiny brain hurts now.) I'll just mark the question I've added, and you can mess up the process at will. Don't even try to explain this to me; I'm too dim.
  • Tag eight other people.

So, that means you, dear peeps! : Lauren (My Aunt June), Mountainear, Susan (29 Black Street), Marie (Don Estorbo's servant), Isabelle (In This Life), PG (Middle of Nowhere), Judy (Every Day is a Gift), Kristina (Jolly Hockey Sticks). Sorry if you are all tagged out and hate the thought of another one. Say something under your breath in Klingon, and ignore me.

because you asked

Why guinea pig? Well, I meant experimental subject, really. Guinea pigs, like rats, rabbits, mice and many other creatures that we humans think are there for us to treat just as we like, used in medical and scientific research, and a whole raft of spurious and repetitive experiments besides, that humans could test perfectly well in their place, making me wonder if karmic consequences, including "As we sow, so shall we reap" will apply in due course.

But that's another discussion altogether; it's too early in the day for me to be frothing at the mouth about the cosmetics industry,
and this blog specialises in drivel and trivia rather than well-thought-out argument on serious topics.

In this case, the Grand Mohnstrudel Experiment was benign - in intent, anyway - and I included myself in the subject group, so that's all right then. All we had to suffer for the sake of the experiment was a little weight gain. (And at my age, that's likely to be permanent weight gain. One has to suffer for one's art, perhaps.)
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