Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Failing to Figure Skate

`Well, have you thought of renting a penguin for half an hour, madam?`

I must confess I never had before, but if you think…

The beaming (surely not smirking) bloke behind the counter gestured to a clutch of bright penguins in the corner – high-viz, perfectly stable and sturdy handgrip at the back. Anyone could maintain their equilibrium leaning on the like (couldn`t I?).

George and Brian enthusiastically refused to try one but seemed very keen for me to and I don`t know what they meant about less danger to everyone else.

`Do many beginners use these?` I asked the man hopefully. `Mmm, quite a lot,` was the unconvincing reply.

I decided to launch back onto the ice without one. And with a change of skates – it could well have been their fault.

I blame certain winter TV programmes for the fact that we were here at all – the thrill of the speed-skating, the utterly beauteous figure-skating, the soft crunch of ice beneath swerving skate… so tantalising.

And Caroline had received a discount voucher in the post.

So four of us gathered at SpeedySkate for our first venture, clad in layers of Vest and Woolly (tights and tutus having but briefly been considered) and grinning rictusly.

We stood trembling while our enthusiastic trainer Steve bombarded us with vital tips to get us started and keep us upright. His finest achievement was of course making us let go - of him as well as of the side.

For the blades don`t carve a gentle furrow – they skid uncontrollably about on top, because only diamond could penetrate that cold, evil surface.

`Don`t worry,` smiled Steve as we skittered about, `Everyone falls over sometime – you just get back up!` Obviously, he`s never seen Bambi. And his youthful bones wouldn`t be left on the ice in a trillion agonised shatterings.

As the tutoring session wore on, we did manage to inch forward by means of the lemon maneouvre - Bend knees-Toes out-Glide-Toes in-Knees straight.

(knees-toes what?)

In the nick of time we also learned to STOP!, to look where we were going (always prudent), and to attract the attention of a merry gang of under-tens as we attempted for some reason to navigate car tyres.

"Please can we watch?" they giggled. "Sod off" I snarled. To myself.

Soon we`d collected quite a crowd of schoolchildren, which I`m sure helped us relax into the terrifying uncontrolledness of it all. Specially when they started explaining to us where we were going wrong and that awful accident their brother had had when he kept doing exactly that.

Annoyingly though, a lot of their advice began to make sense, particularly after Our Trainer had departed. We found ourselves following their lead, imitating their bendy limbs and... having fun! – we could do Anything

In retrospect we may have got over-ambitious but no-one was really hurt and they`ve kindly reserved me a penguin for next time.

Look out for us on certain winter TV programmes next year.

Monday, February 2, 2015

If Thine Eye Offend Thee...

Aaaaaaah – get it Off me!

But no-one can hear me scream… It will cling to my eyeball like Alien to a space helmet for Ever.

How fortunate are we who can correct our vision with glasses and other foreign bodies like Contact Lenses.

I wear both, trying my first contact lenses at sixteen (probably not long after they were invented). Although that can`t be right because my dad had a vintage pair the shape of flying saucers. 
Mine were great – tiny hard discs that used to drop out every time I said Hello and hourly thereafter. On a night out once, a kind police car helped in the search by shining its headlights on the pavement we scrabbled about on. 
Alarming to think that in spite of the surrounding sea of splintered glass and dog crotte, if we`d found it, I`d have given it a lick and put it back in my eye…

Having miraculously escaped foul ailments, I recently took up with Lenses of the Soft Kind. And I must say, they`re jolly comfy and I can see for miles and miles. And when the optician manoeuvred them in and out it was a very smooth operation…

On my go, however… they let me have half a dozen fruitless attempts and then sent me home with tender words of Nil Desperandum. I didn`t desperandum until I realised I would be glued to this pair for the rest of my life.

There are myriad youtube vids demonstrating exactly how to ping them off with astonishing ease. Often the demonstrators look about fourteen and are dashing off this video tutorial before whizzing out to razzle or run a country or something, sporting their strange fake-iris contacts as some sort of ornament.

All I want mine to do is help me see beyond the end of my nose.

As I watched these laid-back stars of the google screen, it dawned on me that my problem could be the Hyperventilating – why couldn`t I, too, just breeeeathe and flip them out with a merry tune and wink at the camera…

And it worked – Ping

Now, did you see where they went?

Friday, January 16, 2015

Hug a Snail

Snails can be beautiful creatures -
but did you know they can make us beautiful too?
 One of my Christmas stocking fillers this year was a face mask or rather, an Intensive Anti-Aging Moisture Maskrejuvenating, purifying, moisturising and made of Organic Snail Gel
Naturally, this conjured up worrying images of the collecting process… how is a snail persuaded to hand over its gel unless at gunpoint? Where does it keep its gel?
Well Obviously (I discovered) it doesn`t need its gel (slime, in fact) once deposited in the process of moving (during which it is indeed jolly handy - particularly on the vertical or the upside-down).  Once Snail has hastened away, its deposit can be scraped up and used with abandon.
Internet delving assures that no snail is harmed in the harvesting of its output and they`re kept in such heavenly free-range conditions, they probably don`t even notice all those bucket-wielders following behind.  As someone who rushes to transfer any wayward snail struggling up the bin-bunker to a juicy green bit of our patch, I do like to believe they`re happy in their work.
Snail slime, used in olden times to treat gastro-intestinal ulcers and coughs (much the same), is now a hugely popular beauty aid, discovered in no small part by Chilean snail farmers noticing how soft and gentle their hands were. (They could probably even Do Dishes with them)…

It`s perhaps best not to dwell on the actual gelly base product - that image will never be glorious but luckily they disguise it... 

I, for instance, would never have guessed the origins of my face pack and though I say it myself, the  results are almost as miraculous as it says on the tin -  I feel smoothed, plumped and revitalised – a completely new woman! 

Mmm… don`t suppose you`ve got any cabbage on you...?

Monday, June 10, 2013


"After you…"
"Oh no, YOU have the table – I‘ll fold at home!"
"Well if you’re sure… Oh! is that your vest on the floor?"

Yes, that’s just how it is at Merryville Laundrette – why not Come On Down for an unforgettable day out with new friends and the chance to win big, BIG prizes! (Maybe not the Prizes). Nevertheless, it’s THE place to be with your Festerings. 

No longer the clutch of darkly muttering elbows you might remember from youthhood, battling to the death over washer and dryer - the Laundrette of today is a gathering of gay banter and sordid gossip, of crosswords, books and magazines and learning; a place where all ages and assets can

(So far, this young man from the ancient jeans advert hasn’t graced our laundrette with his boxers, but the other guy's a regular…)

And Pchaw to 24-hour supermarkets – this is the place to meet your new truelove – I mean, where better to gauge the cut of someone's jib than in the flourish of their fripperies?   

George and I have rediscovered the Shared Laundering Experience since moving to a house with room for neither dryer nor clothes-horse nor garden line. (I cannot describe our jubilation when we managed to squeeze the Washer in).

But what would be the Etiquette these days?

Should one simply bag a dryer, sit sighing extravagantly before it, then empty and charge off to do Vital Business? Or determinedly strike up conversation with the person gazing comatose at a notice about dangerous overloading…  whinge companionably perhaps about the swine who’s gone gallivanting off and left stuff in a machine, rendering it unuseable?

(In the old days it would have been emptied and fought over by everyone waiting -  now that’s probably against health and safety).  

Well I needn't have worried!  The Laundrette of today is very like the Lavoir of yesteryear - our next-door neighbour in France had one the bottom of her garden and up to the very Sixties,

everyone in the vicinity would commune to donk their laundry in the stream and bash it against the stones.  And a jolly hat was had by all.

Of course the handy and very popular rocky beach here provides a similar facility – just as well, because from easter onwards it's harder to find a Laundrette Machine not full of hotel sheets than it is a Parking Space in the eye of a camel.  (It is Written...)

So is Party-Laundering for you?  Would you like to rid yourself of calcium-buildup floods in your kitchen, or the machine that bursts into flames on an overnight Cotton Extraspin?

Perhaps forget clothes-washing completely, private or public:

Could you be tempted by this "...shirt you can wear for 100 days without washing or ironing!"?  (Yes we know about backpacking, but this one's fragrant at the end).  You might be slightly bored with it by then...
On the left, we see a man vigourously testing its sweatiness.

Or does the answer lie in those disposable paper dresses of yore?  Just wear and chuck when the wear and tear got too pronounced - they were like crunching around in crepe wrapping and they were FAB!
(That's very like me on the left).  Mine beloved own was an orange culotte dress.  Mercifully I can't recall how many wears it had before I could bring myself to chuck. 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Cruel for Cats

‘Is he OK now, your cat?’ she asked, hurrying across the road as we came home the other day.

Well, not really… but he’s always been like that.

It transpired, though, that this woman had noticed a cat hooked by the claw in one of our front net curtains.   (Yes all right - Nets!   But we’re a handspan from a very busy pavement, and I like to keep our sordid goings-on to ourselves, thank you)!

Anyway, probably-Scully had apparently been struggling to unleash herself for aeons, and the concerned cat-lover had come over and rung the bell to alert us. With no answer, she’d crunched across our bit of gravel to the window to


And Loh! With one bound the cat was free!

Instant terror at the unexpected Looming of anyone Not-Us had instantly done the trick!     
(We're hoping to get her down and reunite her with the toe very soon).

So that’ll be another on our little-sweetie-cats’ long list of sufferings since we cruelly transplanted them to this Completely Unsuitable dwelling. With practically NO garden! 

Scully doesn’t even deem our patch worthy of a stroll in.

Mulder has valiantly found he fits snugly into an old black cooking pot by the weeping cherry. (With which he seems to feel an empathy).
Gazing out from the tree's sad danglings, he dreams tormentedly of the old days – the neighbour’s vegetable patch (his loo of choice), the stream at the bottom of  the garden full of sparkly swimmy things, the bushes overrun with tiny tasty rodents…

Now both poor dispirited specimens resort to sleeping (all day) in the sun-drenched bay window, grumpily accepting generous comments of passers-by, for surely they areso sweet and gorgeous, Mavis - probably very young don’t you think…?’

In fact, Mavis, they’re seventeen and molly-well coddled...

Hark! Could that be the agonised howl of a cat desiring to come in immediately? Or that, the pained expression of one desperately needing a dollop of whatever we’re having for tea instead of Not flaming kittychunks again? And could we STOP plumping the settee back into shape, because they’ve spent hours getting the cushion concavity just right…

They seek solace in a hitherto unknown diversion  – TV.   If George and I are watching, we now squeeze onto the settee with both cats. Mulder particularly loves David Attenborough or Anything with birds - his head follows their flappings like a tennis match.

But it’s slightly worrying that only their heads are getting exercised; in the past they always worked hard to stay in shape...

What can we do to reinvigorate their lives, once more to see their merry, appreciative faces prancing in from The Tree and CookingPot for dinner?

It might take a while...

And Now! (at last - I couldn't make it work...) for the results of Canary Islander's painstaking Research (see his comment May 2nd):-

Splendid, CI - Thank You!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Bring me Fungus

Not long ago, in a blog not very far away, a wise man they call JW10 posted of Horse:

He told tales of burgers and ready meals invaded by horsemeat – invaded so cunningly that no-one could tell! 

Well, since JW10 unleashed this scandal, 60% of us have changed how we shop!  We don’t trust food any more - we're fleeing Processed Meat in terrified droves and some hitherto eaters of flesh are even going for vegetarian options!   The end of the world is surely nigh… 

Except, of course, for Vegetarian ready meal brands, sales of whose burgers, mince and sausages have suddenly soared.  Flavoured with hints of chicken, beef and not horse, they’re made from a form of fungus, you know.

A form of fungus.  What's so trustworthy about that?

George and I don’t eat huge amounts of processed food because we like cooking.   Mid house-move though, we lived entirely on ready meals and jolly nice too in their tempting plastic trays.

The first ready meal I remember was MadeByVesta – a veritable revolution in the sixties. At the time I’d never cooked anything except Chocolate Krackolate Cakes for school fetes (always a best-seller), but was inspired to make one of these miracle ready-curries for family tea.   Add boiling water, it said, give a quick stir and leave to festerno need to stand guard or stir again.   I'm sure that's what it said...

Mum and dad’s pan never recovered, and I gave up cooking.

Until, in bedsit-hovel days, I found Cup-Noodle and Pot-a-Soup. Nice and quick between work and gallivanting. Pour in boiling water and they’re… really edible. I became addicted -  sometimes adding, for an avant-garde twist, a tin of processed peas – sublime!

Even today, many find joy in pot and cup – only this week we met someone who’d tried his first Noodle ever, and found it Was Good.   Someone else we know delights daily in the taste and convenience of soups in a cup.   (A busy local TV celebrity who generally cooks cordon bleu). 

My own habits changed and I discovered (for gourmet gatherings) Boil-in-the-Bag.   That first Chinese Feast was a Triumph!  Except for the prawn balls, which turned out to be Not-boilinthebag and ended up bobbling around in the pan with strips of their molten plastic...  However, thirty seconds under the grill Worked Wonders.  

These days, cooking is always a joy, and I owe a goodly part of my expertise and quick thinking in the face of trauma to the eyebrows of Fanny Cradock:

Inspirational.  And it is She who's (Wikily) credited as the originator of the Prawn Cocktail! 

But what now of the horses?

Well obviously - it's all been a huge emotional upset...

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Is Cyber-Loafing for You?

Are you sitting comfortably? And is your comfort conducive to making a good job of whatever it is you’re doing at the moment?

It has recently been revealed that the founder of Facebook likes to keep the office temperature down at 15C/60F in order to encourage productivity. This is a whole degree below the office legal minimum - apparently intended to keep us jiggling about in our seats, brains palpitating in sync and pouring forth ideas and Stuff of brilliance.   Instead of enjoying ourselves.

For researchers at Kansas State University have shown that 60-80% of internet time in the office is spent Cyber-Loafing

If I knew what it was I’d have a go – it must be a Lot of Fun...  but is it fair? 

Lucy Kellaway of the FT refers to such dilly-dallying as Theft of our employers’ time. Well I feel bad about that already, but it was suggested that some kind of public shaming was needed - stocks were mentioned (would there be enough room in the car park for them all?). 

Or simple discomfort might suffice - Ms Kelloway tried standing up all day at work and didn’t Twitter once…

When I last worked in an office, mere email was a thrilling new world (‘oh god – where the hell’s that one gone?’). Surrounded by the webly temptations of today, it might be difficult to Just Say No

I mean, having a free moment before Rummikub club, I’ve just checked today's HuffPost, some favourite Twitterings, then I've googled - the musical group of the son of someone I met at the bus stop; a youtube vid on how to streak your hair with a hat full of holes and a crochet hook; and routes from France to UK for imminent visitors. 

And every google offered multitudinous sites, all of which led to countless other fascinating sites, and eventually answered every question in the universe.

Apparently in the harmonious period BeforeCyberloaf, people were sometimes encouraged in the workplace to put their All into actual Work by inducements of luscious fruit or zumba classes or the like - merry distractions to bring a beam to your face and to gird your loins for plunging back into the fray.   

Meetings BC (it is written) were more likely to carry on ad infinitum because everyone would get comfily ensconced round the table as they were plied with tea and coffee. 

Well  NO MORE!

SinceCyberloaf   it takes more than a chocolate bourbon to wrench us away from our personal diversions - it takes punishment!

At 15C (and chairless), people in meetings will no doubt be battling to get their word in and jog briskly off, woolly hats askew.

Coated at our desks, we'll try anything to keep warm...
...though I think that's going a bit far and just LOOK at those trainers! 
Anyway, Is Cyber-Loafing for you?
Yes! Oh yes! - it's a Drug, it's an Obsession, it's a Joy!
And it's in the back bedroom with the rest of our office space.