32.Village survival, a sad lamp.

It was (local best friend) Anna’s Birthday coming up and I have to say I quite envied her youthfulness. Her birthday still began with a 3! Ok she was going to be 39 but the all important first digit was still a 3!!  My birthday is just after Christmas and this year I’d been feeling even more dread than normal at the thought of it. My Birthdays now start with a 4 and have done so for a little while. But anyway I needed to put my birthday angst aside so we could get on and celebrate Anna’s. This year she wanted to go for a ‘lovely autumnal’ walk and have a pub dinner with me and her best friend from Uni – Tash. As much as I love Anna, I can just about manage a couple of hours of Tash if alcohol is included. I can’t even insert a joke here about her name corresponding to her upper lip because she’s not mistashey at all – dang. You may understand what I mean and not lurve your best friend’s best friend from Uni??

Tash is a GP and lives in Lincoln. Tash is – let’s say ebullient, full of unrelenting enthusiasm and gung ho-ness. She’s a chess champion, regularly goes handgliding and also plays lacrosse which she is super good at it – is it like Quidditch?? She’d be good at that too. And definitely in Gryffindor House!

My mother had also picked up on my downess of late and held me to inquisition during a routine skype call. Awks.

“You really do seem quite grumpy at the moment, is it the children?” she observed irritably much like you’d be annoyed by a wasp at a picnic. She always assumes that any problems arise from my kids or my modern parenting.

“I’m fine Mum,” I mumbled unconvincingly. That was the trouble with Skype – I couldn’t get away with feigning jolliness (or emptying the dishwasher) while looking at her chin on the screen – she of course got a full head shot of my ill disguised miserableness.

“I think you’re just feeling sorry for yourself! Buck up darling, have you painted the spare room yet? That’ll give you a boost,” WTF? “And it would make it more pleasant for your father and I when we visit at Christmas, which reminds me, shall we bring the Amuse Bouche for the big day!”

My mother loves christmas and she always brings the effing Amuse Bouche/starters. Usually something really ‘grown up’ like mini reindeer steaks or worse- gazpacho. And when the kids baulk at eating Rudolph or cold soup my mother actually wonders why ….. She insists that we have a ‘selection of puddings’ (according to her preference) so she brings a homemade trifle which is so laden with sherry that it would blow up if it got too close to the lit Christmas Pudding.

“Well?”My mother insisted. A disembodied voice could be heard from her moving chin.

“Well what? ”

“Why are you feeling so mis then?” My mum thinks its acceptable to say mis instead of miserable – it isn’t, she sounded irritated, “Is it writer’s blockage?”

“No,”

“What then?”

“Errm, I’m not quite sure, maybe because…..” God I don’t know – was it the run up to Christmas? The pressure of making the costume for the fourth sheep on the left? The threat of doing 4 hours involuntary service at the PFA Christmas ‘Bizarre’? The early darkness and shorter days? The cold and driving rain? The compulsion to stockpile Lidls Stollen and eat all the Christmas Pringles well before the end of November and other British problems? I don’t know, I just felt low. Hashtag not allowed!

“Get yourself a sad lamp and some echinacea and for goodness sake snap out of it before Christmas Eve, must dash I’ve got Bridge now.”

So there we have it. Snap out of it! Buy a SAD daylight lamp and paint your spare room -wise words for anyone like me who was feeling a bit sh*tty.  I’m hoping my Mum wasn’t going to offer her voluntary services at a local Christmas Soup Kitchen over the festive period. Unfortunately I could imagine her bustling in as a helper and suggesting gazpacho as a ‘nice change’. She’d try to ween long term drug users off class A’s and onto Murray Mints and force them to learn how to play Bridge whilst telling homeless people to buck up! Of course she would be told to buck off herself and rightly so.

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Bored of effing autumn leaf shots – well here’s another one!

So, anyway back to Anna and her birthday. Last Saturday we set out with Tash on our ‘lovely autumnal walk’ which emcompassed a pretty (National Trust owned) stretch of woods before arriving at an estuary side pub with a roaring fire and gastro menu. And as we walked I asked myself what autumn means to me? Did I b*ll*x! Course I didn’t but in the interest of writing this post, imagine that I did (I was probably mostly visualising the dinner I would consume with lashings of Prosecco). At least the walk was fairly uneventful – with no children in our party we were spared the following – a Pooh Sticks altercation where a twig was thrust in one tweenagers eye by another tweenager. A plethora of wet socks from predictably overzealous puddle jumps and a myriad of face planting incidents resulting from bastard slippery leaves.

There was still the unavoidable you know I’m damp but you’ll still sit on me – you tw*t bench.

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The forlorn and lost article of clothing left behind. Lost my arse!

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And shuffling through leaf covered dog sh*t while Tash droned on about handgliding off the Breacon Beacons, but at last we finished the (frankly unnecessary in my opinion) ‘lovely autumnal walk’.

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Thank eff for that!

At the pub I glugged on a large glass of Prosecco. Anna went to the loo, which filled me with dread! What was with all this dread? I didn’t want to be left alone with ebullient Tash. I jumped up and made like I was going to read the specials board and waited for Anna to return before I sat back down at the table with them.

“So what’s the matter with you then Hillie,” commented Tash unceremoniously, “You’ve got a face like a five day old Morrison’s halibut,”

“Yeah, you’ve defo been a miserable cow of late,” colluded Anna, as she plonked herself back down.

“I’m fine,” I said, looking at them as if they were the idiots. Attack is the best form of defence you know!!

“She doesn’t seem herself,” Tash said to Anna.

“No, she doesn’t does she,” Anna concurred.

“I’ll get us some more drinks,” suggested Anna, thinking of a bona fide solution and left the table.

Tash fixed me with a stare.

“Come on – what gives?” she ordered. I’m glad I’m not one of her patients.

“I’m fine, and this is Anna’s night out,” I reminded her.

“Yes, but she’s worried about you, so you may as well say what’s on your mind.”

I stalled a moment because I could see Anna bringing one of the drinks over.

“Ok,” I conceded, “I’ve been feeling weird recently, like I’ve been going a bit mad.”

“Go on,” said Tash.

“I feel pissed off, my head feels like its full of crap and…..” mumbling I added, ” I’m getting hot flushes and palpitations.”

“You’re far to young to get hot flushes! I keep telling you to shut the door on your woodburner,” chided Anna.

“Any other symptoms?” enquired Tash slipping into GP mode while slurping deeply on her glass of wine.

“Yes, I feel like a dozy tw*t most of the time.”

“Hmm, I think I have an idea what it could be,” said Tash knowingly.

“Dozy Tw*ts disease?” suggested Anna helpfully.

“Hmmm, yes. I think you’re peri, yes you might well be peri…….”

“Peri what?” I interrupted.

Perilously pitiful? Perry from Kevin and Perry i.e moody and monosyllabic?

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“Peri-menopausal. Basically the bit or should I say long drawn out bit where your body moves towards menapause. Symptoms include, anxiety, hot flushes, depression, palpitations, night sweats, lack of libido and in Hillie’s case – brain fog.”

“Doesn’t sound very appealing and you’re only 42,” squeaked Anna!

“Don’t worry Anna, we’re in our thirties and so a way off being perimenopausal,” Tash replied.

Oh that’s ok then!

Tash went on to elaborate, “It’s your body’s way of adjusting from the more fertile years into the next phase of your life, but it causes your oestrogen levels to change and fluctuate, hence the low mood. It can take a while and be quite a drawn out process. Some women are more affected by it than others. ”

“Bloody marvellous,” I said but it all made a lot of sense.

“You may be affected by the darker days – known as Seasonal Affective Disorder too, although research does not actually confirm this is a disorder” advised Tash before telling me to visit my GP and get a sad lamp (no harm in a bit of extra light).

“Make an appointment with Dr Garry,” said Anna, “and you know I’m always here to talk to!” she added reaching for the menu and perusing it.  I looked at the menu too for something comforting.

“Hmm, here’s a main course you might like Hillie,” Anna pointed at the menu “How about the Peri Peri (menopausal) chicken,” she quipped.

As you were!

More next week.

PS, If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this blog post – talk to a friend, see a health care profesh and buy a sad lamp which you can get from somewhere like Dunelm Mills but if you’d like to try a SAD daylight simulating lamp I’d recommend a specialised retailer. Perhaps you’re the right age to be/feel peri peri-menopausal, feel free to anecdote on down in comments.

PS, this is a work of fiction, therefore all mistakes of any kind are my own. I thank you.

 

 

 

31. Village survival, Top(iary) revenge!

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Is revenge a dish best served cold? It depends I guess if you’re having a bowl of rice pudding revenge or a cheese sandwich of retribution? Enough with the food/revenge analogies, here’s Anna’s story……….

“I bloody hate topiary,” said Anna randomly. Actually it wasn’t that random because we were discussing an older couple in our village who were topiary experts. They also happened to be Holly’s parents. If you’ve read previous blog posts you’ll know that Holly is the young woman who had an affair with Ben (Anna’s husband)……………I know.

Holly’s parents Howard and Lilian Perry own a large farmhouse which was tucked away at the back of the village. They have a garden full of topiary and they’re never happier than when they are bastardising some defenceless bush into submission with a pair of top grade and possibly lethal garden shears. Anyway, they were so good at the art of Topiary that they ran courses on it and wrote about it for flouncy home and garden magazines – you know the thick ones you find on coffee tables in posh hotels that give you an achy hand from just picking them up – lots of glossy photos, quite boring but ultimately make good draught excluders. The Perrys even entertained TV production companies from time to time to film in their extensive grounds. Anyway, so what, I hear you cry, I’ve got sh*t to do (cool way of saying stuff), crack on with the story. Ok, I hear you.

Anna had passed the stage of shock and disbelief about Ben’s affair and had moved on rather seamlessly to anger. Or incandescent rage. Holly herself had scarpered the village as she had swanned off to University (aged 22, far too much gap yearage if you ask me!). Ben on the other hand had come under heavy fire, he’d rightfully received about 20 b*llockings and actually seemed contrite. He also wanted to make another go of it with Anna. I tried to stay out of the mud slinging and name calling because I was well aware that whereas it was ok for Anna to scream every name under the sun at him – it wasn’t ok for me to do so. I get that. He wasn’t my husband, ahem, it wasn’t my privilege per se. Although in the early days of hearing about his infidelity I could have quite cheerfully twatted him with a frozen roast dinner for one had I come across his sorry arse in the village stores.

Well anyway, back to Howard and Lilian Perry and their topiary gardens because it’s all relevant – stay with me. A real life production company was coming to film a scene for a new  TV drama starring, you’re not going to believe this, Luke Norris (the good looking kindly  doctor in Poldark who is having an on off ‘liaison’ with heiress Caroline Penvenen as long as he doesn’t get killed off in the war or die of typhus/common cold/Ross Poldark’s monotonous monologues). The production company were making a period drama, Norris was playing a super posh, emotionally inhibited, slightly arrogant and yet outrageously handsome and ‘very nice really’ Gentleman of the era! Luke.png

Photo source: Radio Times

Dr Dwight Enys *off of* Poldark

    Luke Norris:  Actor, Playwright and also looks mighty fine in a cravaty type neckerchief thingy. 

Love a period drama me – and especially one that draws in the likes of famous TV actors. So the word on the street (horse sh*t lane) was that Holly’s mum Lillian had told Mick the arsy landlord (Holly’s old boss) who told Ted (my husband) that Holly was coming back from Uni for a couple of days to ogle Luke Norris  help her parents with the event and the film crews etcetera.

Anna was understandably anxious at the thought of seeing that bleeping bleep Holly back in the bleeping bleep village.

“I bloody hate topiary,” commented Anna.

“You’ve already said that,” I reminded her huffily. Personally I’m quite indifferent to tree/bush coiffure. Not keen on the silly animal ones. Don’t mind a neat boxy hedge! We had dropped the kids off at school and were having a nose in the vicinity of the topiary garden to see if anyone famous was knocking about. We pretended we were walking Anna’s dog Binky but we were quite obviously loitering with intent to look out for semi famous lovies from a polite distance. We didn’t want to run into bleeping Holly of course.

“And I bloody hate Holly…..and Ben apart from I still love him too…… an annoying cross between love and hate,” her words trailed off to a whisper.

Later that day the production company started to roll into the village. All kinds of lorries and vehicles thundered up the main horse sh*t lane and past my cottage. I *may* have abandoned my writing shed and worked on the kitchen table so I could keep an eye on proceedings! This was really going to mess with my novel writing if I spent all my time peering out of the window or going on tenuous custard cream runs to the village stores to spot minor TV actors and extras. Just before 3:30pm that day Anna and I wandered along the lane to pick the children up from school when she said something that frankly curve balled me somewhat and shocked the hell out of me.

“I’m going to toilet paper that bastard topiary garden tonight so that it looks *king awful for filming tomorrow!” she said menacingly without a hint of humour in her voice. I waited for the ha ha ha! Ha ha ha! It didn’t come.

  • Toilet papering is the act of covering an object, such as a tree, house or another structure with toilet paper. And lots of it!

“Have you been watching too many teen movies again?” I joked but but couldn’t help feeling slightly disturbed such was the seriousness of her demeanour!

“Sure have! I’ve had plenty of time to watch crap TV and teen movies since Ben left,” she said bitterly, “I’ve looked it up on Wikihow and now I know how to do it properly!” she added sounding decidedly clued up!

“You’re telling me there’s a right way and wrong way to toilet paper someone’s property?”

“Oh yes, and I’ve got every intention of decorating their fancy bushes just in time for filming”

“You can’t,” I squeaked, horrified. “if you get caught, they’ll do you for criminal damage or vandalism or something??” I didn’t know? – not ever having done anything more criminal than 33mph in a 30mph zone. Ok, there was this time when I managed to walk out of Sainburys with a pack of hairbands for Lottie in the bottom of my trolley which I had somehow genuinely forgotten to pay for but it’s fair to say I didn’t got rushing back to Customer Services to rectify my misdemeanour/shoplifting. That’s criminal isn’t it? But as such I wasn’t generally speaking a law breaker, as much as anything I knew I wouldn’t look good in an orange boiler suit.

That night I went to bed wondering. Was Anna serious? Could she be toilet papering their bloody beloved topiary bushes right now?  I couldn’t even go out and sneak around the village looking for her because Ted was working away in Bristol and I couldn’t leave the kids! In the morning, first thing, I texted Anna worriedly.

You didn’t did you? (no emoji, there’s a time and a place).

You notice I didn’t mention the deed just in case she or I had our phones checked by the police. I didn’t want to be an accessory to criminal bog rolling and go to prison. If Scotland Yard are reading this, it’s all fiction ok.

Anna texted back. Might have! Angry emoji face. The one with horns.

Holey shmoley, once I’d dropped the kids off at school – I couldn’t get round there quick enough. My heart was in my mouth, knowing Anna’s wrath at Holly I could well imagine their manicured garden strewn with reams of wet toilet paper and people running hither and thither in a state of bog rolled hysteria. As I walked up the lane I heard raised voices! Sh*t! I kept going, trying to look casual – nonchalant. Then I heard someone scream something, then more hammy screaming ensued.  As I turned and the topiary garden come into view I scanned the scene, the place was teeming with crew, props and actors who were rehearsing but there was no toilet paper in sight, the bushes looked to be bog roll free. I even heard Holly’s mum cheerfully chatting to someone important looking – probably the Director?

I rapped loudly on Anna’s front door.

“Thanks so much for putting the fear of god into me!!!!!” I squawked barging in. Anna’s hallway was full of toilet roll packs stacked up everywhere.

“I’ve got no where to put them,” she said referring to the great wall of bog rolls. She looked like a mad woman in an unusually themed padded cell!

“What stopped you doing the deed then?” I asked, curious, as I squeezed past the loo rolls, still miffed at her.

“My Mum wasn’t free to babysit and she would’ve wanted to know what I was doing going out with 5 packs of loo rolls, she’s nosey like that!” admitted Anna, “It’s horrible hating Holly, it’s so exhausting,” she added sounding tired.

“What you need is a flamin’ night out and a few drinks,” Anna looked non plussed, “so we’re going to Band Night in the pub tonight with Babs and Lorelle whether you like it or not.”

“I haven’t got a baby sitter!”

“Yes you do, I’ve already spoken to your errant husband and he’s coming over at 7pm, so make sure you’re ready and for gods sake iron your ‘going out top’ and find your heels,” Anna gave me a droopy look but she didn’t tell me to bog off (pun most definitely intended) so I knew she was up for a drink after all.

We got to the pub at 7:01pm, clattering on the stone floor in our various heights of going out heels. We were the awesome foursome, Anna, Lorelle, Babs and me. We hadn’t met up for a night out for ages and we hadn’t been to a band night in a very long time. It was organised by Mick the arsy landlord in deference to his days of being in a rock band – like 40 years ago. He saw it as his duty to promote local up and coming bands, some of which were crap and others even more crap. But each band agreed to play some covers during their set to keep the regulars happy so we knew we’d recognise some of the songs if not the rest of the durge. Plus we all needed a drink and cheesy chips and something from the puddings specials board! Wolfie the annoying pub pooch who happens to be a Pyrennean Mountain Dog and therefore the size of a shetland pony welcomed us with his usual indiscreet crotch sniffing/butting and general over exuberance. “More of a Perineum Mounting Dog” quipped Babs as we fought off the lecherous great hound in our bid to order some drinks! No one wants a bearponydog in their way when they’re trying to get to the bar.

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Wolfie (next to an average male adult stickman – just for your visual reference).

Not long into our foray of school night alcohol embibement and listening to the first crap band Babs slapped me on the shoulder,  “Shiiiit,” she hissed into my ear (it bloody hurt, and I probably now have a fungal infection in my left lug hole). “Holly’s just come into the pub with a load of actor types.”

“Has she no mo fo shame,” I muttered my gaze following the sassy cow as she strutted into her former place of employ with a gaggle of extras and a couple of recognisable TV actors (not Luke Norris, he obvs had better taste). Mick the arsy landlord seemed vaguely pleased to see her (traitor) and Wolfie was beside himself at the arrival of his former favourite barmaid.

Indeed Wolfie was so thrilled and excited to see Holly that he bounded over – on the look out for a sly dry leg hump and knocked her flying – it wasn’t just a clumsy collision. The dog was huge and therefore heavy and Holly was jettisoned into the air before she came down hard on the flagstone floor. An ambulance was involved. Much drama and squawking and screaming ensued. Mick the arsy landlord was now seriously arsy about the noisy scene and the subsequent upset of his band night! Since this was posted I hear that Holly is hobbling around on crutches at her parents house with a broken leg wearing one of those oversized and somewhat unattractive ski bootesque contraptions!

“How was that for a taste of revenge? No bog rolls required!” asked Babs while the paramedics trollied a distressed Holly off to the waiting ambulance.

“……actually revenge feels like showering but then putting on yesterday’s skanky underwear again! Get me a *king drink!”

Suffice to say we got her another *king drink. And a big *king pudding!

As you were!

More next time.

PS, any more successful revenge stories in comments if you will! Thanking you!

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30. Village survival, slightly offensive Fencing!

fence.pngNot this!

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More this!

So the half term hols have passed by in a purple and orange swirl of pumpkin sludge (that stuff really grosses me out) and highly flammable/handwash only lurid halloween costumery. For part of the week off we escaped the village and went to a well known holiday park for a little get away! Now, I’m not going to talk you through it or mention the name of said holiday park. I’m also not going to go on about the usual staycation gubbins such as cycling through soggy leaves, drinking deluxe gingerbread flavoured hot chocolates and splashing about on the swimming pool slides because no one gives a kipper’s dick.

However I did book the tweenagers into a kids Fencing class which I think may be worth a mention. I thought Toby and Lottie would love being able to legitimately and repeatedly thrust a sword into each other without getting a rollocking and I knew that the class  would be held in a safe and controlled environment with a Sports NVQ wielding Yoof to preside over proceedings……….

Fencing – the ancient art of swordsmanship and the ancient art of orderly vertical planks stuck together.

The Sports Trainer Yoof welcomed us into the Fencing Salle! (may drop a few more french words for added pretentiousness later on – keep a look out). Toby and Lottie had worked themselves up into a heightened state of excitement at the thought of stabbing and maiming each other for the next 45 minutes. This was partly due to the wait outside with a happy band of exuberant children and *Fencing enthusiast* parents waiting for the class to begin. One of the Dads, I’ll call him Hugo for arguments sake was practising Fencing steps with one hand behind his back and offering advice to his 7 year old son who didn’t seem to think his Dad was a total prat at all (ahh bless, give it another 5 years). My prat alert radar was bleeping loudly because another Dad (let’s call him Crispin) had also started earnestly showing his twin daughters proper fencing lunges with his oversized umbrella as a blade. I say proper Fencing lunges – they looked very foppish and swordplayish and my previous experience – watching the Fencing scene in Die Another Day with Pierce Brosnan and Madonna -hardly qualified me to comment on this Olympic sport.

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Madonna and Pierce Brosnan (properly dishy in his day) and always liked to keep his tip up in Die Another Day.

Once ensconced in the Fencing Salle and after a quick warm up the children were issued with fencing gear. The swords were Foil? Epee? Sabre? Nah, they were Foam (innit). Like the ones that kids always want you to buy at multifarious stately homes/castles, you know the ones – conveniently placed at toddler height next to the wooden swords (for all your cut lip needs) and probably near the erroneous book selection – ‘That’s not my castle’ anyone?  All with a free and guaranteed Dolby Surround Sound melt-down when not purchased.

Engarde

It was clear from the off that Sports Trainer Yoof didn’t have full control of the class. All of the 10 children were giddy and some of the parents were frothing a little at the mouth too. Toby and Lottie were old enough to spar together so Ted and I were simply there as entourage – the support team, on hand to take photos, utter encouragements and issue fresh towels/Haribo on demand!

Sports Trainer Yoof began by showing the class some moves and paired the children off to have a ’bout’. Once unleashed, the kids started stabbing, thrashing and flailing at each other and it didn’t look terribly controlled – scrappy – if you will, but as you already know – I’m no Fencing expert. So Sports Trainer Yoof reined it in and demonstrated again how to lunge and parry.

“I’ll have to stop you there,” piped up Hugo (the expert Dad) with a florid and agitated expression about his gouty face, “I did Fencing at university and I really think you aren’t covering the basics properly,” I’m surprised he could remember his university days frankly.

Then uninvited – Hugo along with the assistance of Crispin (other umbrella wielding expert Dad) proceeded to demonstrate how to fence properly complete with terminology and mincing steps.

This started very politely and formally but once Crispin realised that Hugo wasn’t to be outshone in front of his 7 year he too stepped up his game and a full on fencing ‘p*ssing contest’ ensued. Hugo’s son (Charlie) started cheering and shouting indecorously for his Dad and so the twin daughters of Crispin (Henrietta and Iona) entered into the shouting and heckling fray. Sports Trainer Yoof looked perplexed nay flabbergasted at this audacious display of peacocky buffoonery! He eventually recalled his health and safety training and mustered the children over to the other side of the salle from where he tried to continue his lesson amidst the duelling, stamping and grunting sound effects coming from the two pompous Dads. As we were leaving, sweaty and puce faced Hugo and Crispin were still sparring/bouting/whatevering each other and it looked to be an old fashioned contest – until first blood drawn from the torso! Bit tricky with a foam sword………

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As you were!

More from the village next week.

PS, apologies if you are properly into Fencing and all the lingo, any mistakes are the fault of my ghost writer. Crap research on her part!

Super chuffed to be a featured blog on #FridayFrolics this week. Big heart emoji!

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When you get Liebstered!

dhsdgshgdshgdsThe lovely Sam at Mouse Moo and Me Too has given me the old Liebster (it’s better than nits or a Lily of the Valley Toiletry set). I’ve done this before but always happy to oblige! I’ve answered the questions and set the same homework for my Liebster nominees (have a look below my answers) enjoy! I’d like to see you show workings and hand in before the end of term. Go ahead and nominate a load of lovely bloggers for the Leibster and spread that Leibstering lurve. X

The Aloha Mummy   Shinners and the Brood   Coffee and Bubbles

I’m not telling you what to do but…..

1) Acknowledge the blogger who nominated you and display the award.
2) Answer the questions the blogger gives you.
3) Nominate some bloggers that you think are deserving of this award.
5) Let the bloggers know you have nominated them.
6) Give them questions to answer.

My Answers:-

1) Best burger topping evs?

Ooh a nice knob of St Agur – bien sur.

2) What’s the last book you read, and was it any good?

I’m currently reading The Singles Game by the author who wrote The Devil Wears Prada. Reading it because I LOVE tennis. Ahem *Not a classic* is my comprehensive review. You’re welcome.

3) What’s your one must have baby product?

Did love my Phil and Teds buggy, twas a veritable Black Beauty of a carthorse and lugger of erroneous crap during those arduous baby and a toddler transportation years.

4) What’s your favourite season?

Summer of course, all the others are colder and decidedly more pants, don’t try and convince me otherwise with one of your luxury hot chocolates with squirty cream and marshmallows.

5) You’ve got two unprecedented childless hours. What do you do?

Go to the village pub for a pint of prawns and a couple of Babyshams what else?

6) What’s your one desert island survival item?

Fishing tackle. Sod that, someone(s) very funny like Mel and Sue for all the larfs while starving to death without any fishing tackle.

7) Favourite Spice Girl?

Posh because I like to take an interest in fashion, I can’t sing either and she’ll always be that little bit older than me!

8) What’s been your worst job?

When I was a student I was a waitress in a greasy spoon near Gloucester Bus Station. It comes under ‘Outstanding Achievements’ on my CV.

9) Does swearing denote a higher level of intelligence?

Abso-bloody-lutely but only where necessary! No need to be effing and blinding on loop now is there .

10) What’s more scary, spiders or clowns?

Clowns! They are particularly unsavoury and Daddy Long Legs are waaay easier to remove from the bath.  

11) You find £4 in change in the self-service checkout coin dispenser. Do you swipe it?

That would depend on my mood, if I was ‘on one’ I might swipe, if I was cheerful I’d probably stick it in the charity box at customer services.

Here are some Liebster questions I prepared earlier for those nominated blogging lovelies, copy and paste at will and let me know via Twitterville so I can have a gander at your answers. Ta.

My questions to you lovely Liebster nominated Bloggers are:-

1, What’s your favourite weirdest sandwich filling?

2, Which celeb would you have around for dinner?

3, Your worst holiday destination (like ever).

4, TV, Computer or Book and why?

5, What is your favourite Kid’s film?

6, Henry Cavill or Tom Hiddleston for a date?

7, What’s your secret favourite (not really allowed) pop song!

8, If you could fly in the sky or swim under the sea, which would you do and why?

9, Victoria Sponge or Carrot Cake and why if you can be arsed?

10, What makes you you in 5 words (soz a bit like extra homeworky)?

29. Village survival, last week’s Harvest Festival.

blackberries

It was the school Harvest Festival last week in the village so I thought you might like to take my ‘Vest Fest Test!  

When Harvest Festival is mentioned at the school gates or the letter comes home in the book bag do you start humming/singing? :-

  1. We plough the fields and scatter
    The good seed on the land,
    But it is fed and watered
    By God’s almighty hand.

2. Cauliflowers fluffy and cabbages green, strawberries sweeter than I’ve ever seen etc

3. Cabbages and greens, broccoli and beans, cauliflower and roasted potatoes taste so        good to me……it’s another Harvest festival etc

4. Big red combine harvester, big red combine harvester….

Answer mostly 1. You’re a child of the 70s and early 80s.  You say that you still listen to Radio One. You struggle with *all the new fangled* Harvest songs!

Answer mostly 2. You also love the line “Broad beans are sleeping in their blankety bed…yeeeah”. And yeeeah you’re gunna sing it loudly in the church while your kids pray for adoption!

Answer mostly 3. You’re totes into this sic ‘Vest *tune*. Admit it, you want to throw some shapes too (and I don’t mean Kellogs Multigrain).

Answer mostly 4. You are probably the proud owner of a four or five year old and will be singing this tune on loop until Aldi spins out its Christmas bird in a bird in a bird in a bird 30 bird roast advert! (is there a sparrow in the middle?). You’re so down with the kids you can see all the cheerios squished into the carpet.

How did you get on with the test? Answers in comments if you would.

T’was that time of year again when we all crammed into All Saints Church to watch our little darlings perform in the School Harvest Festival Celebration Service. Anna (local best friend) and I went together on account of our husbands being at work (and Anna’s husband being a philandering errant *twit with an a* anyway). It was the only occasion of the year when every village heathen was super keen to pack into the church to watch their offspring pick their noses in the front row, warble about leafy green vegetables and hold up dodgy hand drawn pictures of corn on the cob. Even the trusty Christmas Carol Service didn’t draw the same kind of numbers as the blessed Harvest Festival.

It followed the same format each year; parents queued and jostled for the best positions inside the church. They elbow jabbed their way to the best pews where the line of vision wasn’t obscured by giant marrows or oversized bags of pasta. The church smelt like that delightful first burst of odour you receive upon opening the waste food bin to scrape in erroneous vegetable matter.

Every year we were asked to bring in some garden produce for the PFA to sell afterwards. I brought a punnet of blackberries that I had picked the weekend before. Also this year we were all encouraged to bring a box of cereal for a local charity but I’m not sure the headmaster Mr Bygraves had thought it through because there was an ominous tower of them on the font and a great wall of them stacked way too close to where the Reception kids were sitting…. the pile was getting higher and we could barely see the little blighters!

I spotted Toby (my 9 year old) who gave me a stiff look as if to say ‘I see you but don’t acknowledge me under any circumstances’. Lottie (my 7 year old) on the other hand was straining out of her pew to wave at me and giggle. Mr Bygraves stood up and introduced the service, the whole church went quiet apart from tittering from the Reception children and then they all broke into a cheerful food inspired song and the parents were instantly  enthralled. This year the village’s Vicar Dennis was away on a cruise (Eastern Mediterranean Delights aboard the Princess Star Aurora Spirit Dream Adventurer) and so a supply Vicar was drafted in. Vicar Dennis knows from years of experience that the parents children can’t cope with a long sermon type thing and so he keeps it short and sweet – along the lines of “come to church more you bunch of ungrateful atheists!” and other motivational words to that effect.

Anyway young new supply Vicar Mark obviously hadn’t been briefed by Mr Bygraves on keeping it brief and began droning on about sharing the world’s resources and breaking down global barriers. Certainly a worthy conversation but the Reception kids were by now full on fidgeting, moaning, flicking their bogeys and trying to scale the Anglo Saxon church pillars. The Teachers and TA’s for those classes grew restless. Irate. Then suicidal. I can neither confirm or deny that they were all mantra-ing Pinot Grigio this evening over and over in their heads. Vicar Mark finally sensing unrest in the crowd closed his sermon with a flourish about how we should break down international frontiers and be more globally aware. As if on cue the wall of cereal boxes came crashing down as a bunch of Reception children, frustrated that they couldn’t see their Mums or Dads, knocked them over revealing the rest of the class – all in some stage of nose excavation, happy slapping each other and desecrating the pews. Young Vicar Mark styled it out with aplomb! “Err hmm, thank you to Acorn Class for demonstrating quite literally how to break down barriers, and now let us bow our heads in prayer.” About 96.3% of parents took this as their cue to slide out their phones and upload photos of their little darlings holding up a vegetable/singing/ear-picking (then flicking) onto their favoured social media.

marrow.pngThe last effing marrow.

After the Harvest Festival Service the PFA sold off the produce that the parents had brought in – back to the parents! All proceeds to local charities and towards a new roof for the Church Vestry.

“What are you going to buy?” asked Anna pulling her coat around her, it was cold in the Vestry (probably due to the holy holey) roof. The PFA had set up ‘stall’ and were trying to sell off a glum array of seasonal fruit and vegetables. I always ended up buying the last marrow which I never made into chutney or stew or whatever you’re meant to do with a freakin’ marrow. I have not and never intend to – fill one with savoury mince and bake it – so do one Delia!

“I think I’ll go for the blackberries I brought,” I harrumphed, scanning the miserable looking choice.

“Ahh Hillie, there’s a large marrow left, I know how much you like them,” trilled Clare brightly (vice Chair of the PFA).

“I’ll buy the blackberries thanks,” I said smiling and offering Clare a couple of pounds for the blackberries that I myself had singlehandedly picked for an hour (braving thorns and stinging nettles) then soaked, washed and punetted (probably not a word)…but I won’t go on about it!

“Oh. I think Vicar Mark has his eye on those,” she said taking them off the table proprietorially and putting them underneath. “I’ll pop that marrow in a bag for you shall I?”

Anna and I were just leaving via the church gate and wondering whether 11:30 am was too early for a cheeky drink in the pub when Clare caught up with us after tactlessly trotting over numerous gravestones in a bid to reach us before we scarpered off.

“Hillie, you are daft! You forgot your marrow! Oh, ladies while I remember – can I put you both down for running the sweet stall at the disco?” she asked expectantly – a sickly *I dare you to say no* smile about her lips. And so it was that we moved seamlessly onto the next event in the village calendar ….. that popular paganistic PARTAY – the good old Halloween Disco. Bloody Marvellous I thought as I shoved the marrow under my arm.

As you were!

Is revenge a dish that tastes best served cold?  It depends I guess if you’re having a bowl of rice pudding revenge or a cheese sandwich of retribution? Coming soon, what does Anna do about her husband’s philandering ways?

PS. I *may* have had the last laugh because I made a totes delish marrow & pecan cake*.

*all opinions are my own. The kids weren’t having a bar of it – small wins #yum.

Mummuddlingthrough
Life Love and Dirty Dishes

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28. Village survival, it’s nit always good news!

Last Friday morning before school, I noticed that Lottie (my 7 year old) had nits. Oh arse. It was too late to drag a nit comb through her long hair so I would have to de-nit her after school. She seemed unfazed by the crawling critters and she only had (ahem) a few anyway! I had a sneaking suspicion that Lottie *may* have given me one or two as well.

“When is a nit not a nit?” Lottie asked me cryptically.

“I don’t know? When is a nit not a nit?” when I’ve nuked it with (trademark) Nittaway?

“When it’s a gnat!!” beyond hilario if you are seven! Sorry if you are not. Seven that is.

I pulled her untamed locks up into a tight bun and hoped she wouldn’t inadvertently spread nit-joy amongst her friends that day or worse – keep scratching in a really obvious nitty way. I didn’t want any barbed teachery comments over the bulbous marrows and tins of baked beans at the upcoming Harvest Festival next week! Where was the bloody nit comb anyway? I scratched my own head like a dim cartoon character…….hmmm itchy.

HEADER

After school drop off I made a big cup of coffee and made my five second commute to my new writing shed. I was pretty much all moved in and had cleared up after Ryan (my needy electrician) who had left me with power in the shed but also all out of my favourite Costan Rican Coffee which he consumed in vast quantities. He had also left *builder’s dust* everywhere as well as several erroneous drill bits mislaid on the floor. All of which were stepped on by me or my passing tweenagers Toby and Lottie who never seem to wear their bastard slippers. I had spent the past few days fannying around in my writing shed – doing the nice bits like putting up photos of Ross Poldark the children and Ted (husband) and the like. Of course it had been necessary to buy new stationary and shiny up-to date office wares for my desk and I still wanted a cosy rug for the floor and a compact blow heater for when the weather turned! I also required a daylight table lamp so that I could pretend that living in England wasn’t dark and ****king awful after Halloween and before Easter. Except of course for Christmas, everyone loves Christmas*.

shed1-copy

Shameless re-use of last week’s imagery!

I plonked myself down and slurped on my coffee absent mindedly scratching behind my left ear. The air felt cold, there was condensation pooling at the bottom of the window and it was decidedly un-bloody-cosy!  Ted had built the shed in a shady part of the garden so that we didn’t waste the sunny area where the children played. I couldn’t be creative like this I decided diva-ishly and hand hugging my coffee. It was quite obvious that I needed to go shopping again. So I texted Anna (local best friend) to see if she wanted to come with me to buy extra crap I didn’t actually need and a portable heater for my writing shed.

She texted back no, she was busy. Something wasn’t right. Anna, as you’ll know if you have read my previous posts has had lots of trouble with her ‘maritals’. Her husband Ben had moved out just before the summer into a rented flat above the village stores and Post Office. On the plus side he was never without a stamp and envelopes or a packet of Happy Shopper Bourbons biscuits. Anna had started to accept that Ben had left the marriage, she was beginning to deal with it but intuition told me to abandon my steaming coffee and cold shed and go and check on her. I walked over to her cottage and let myself in through her kitchen door – creepy thing you learn to do when you live in a small village community -unsavoury but everyone does it. The kitchen was empty but just at that moment Anna walked in wearing a dressing gown over a tracksuit with her dog Binky at her heels.

“Holy crap, you scared me to death,” she shrieked. Binky also yapped noisily at my unwarranted intrusion.

“Sorry,” I said. I could see by her face and her demeanour that something was seriously up. Ok perhaps I should have texted that I was coming round, after all this wasn’t an episode of the Archers ahem this was real life…..

Anna slumped down into the wing back chair next to her Aga.

“Put the kettle on would you,” she said heavily as if the words were difficult to expel from her body. I could tell she had been crying.

I turned to put the kettle on and locate her teabags. There were a number of glass teabag jars, oh sh*t which one was the builders? I found myself scratching my head. Hmmm itchy. Particularly behind the ears.

“Apparently Ben has been having an affair for the last 18 months,” Anna said faintly, almost inaudibly above the sound of the kettle.

WTF. I spun around theatrically. She was rubbing her forehead with her thumb and forefinger rhythmically, as if to smooth out the creases of her thoughts.

WTF?

“Are you sure?” I asked cautiously. Ever the optimist slash resolute dumbass non believer of very bad news.

“Sure…” the word came out like a sinister whisper.

A flurry of angry expletives filled my brain and threatened to leap out of my mouth but I held them back and waited for Anna to elaborate. She bent her head. Silence.

“Sod the bloody tea, we’re getting the hell out of dodge,” I announced surprising myself with the kind of spontaneity I didn’t usually employ.

“I’m not going anywhere,” squeaked Anna visibly recoiling into the chair.

“And get out of that rancid dressing gown…..find some sunglasses, ” I added decisively and bossily – as I reached into my handbag for my car keys and jangled them at her menacingly. Perhaps there was a crappy old bridge somewhere in Devon that I could drive us both off?

Anna looked to me like she needed air. I also suddenly wanted to go somewhere I could breathe. It felt like the the walls of her cottage were falling in on us. I wanted to get us away from the cloying village, away from the pristine gardens, the twitchy curtains in the quaint cottages, the windy lanes and the blackberries clinging to the hedgerows and the old church which the PFA stalwarts were preparing for the school harvest festival. Away from the all encompassing suffocating village. It was a flight or fight reaction and I was fleeing on both our parts. Plus we might be able to stop in at Lunnery Mills on the outskirts of Stockton Abbott to get a portable heater! And Boots to get some Nittaway (sh*te product that you feel you should use but doesn’t kill nits and smells like your Nan’s favoured talcum powder from 1983).

The day was turning into one of those very warm autumnal anomalies, after an early frost it was as if summer had flounced back on stage like a diva for an encore. Our village wasn’t that far from the coast so I pointed my clunky old Mini in that direction. Anna sat mute beside me in the car dressed in just her tracksuit, at least she’d jettisoned the skanky dressing gown. Small wins. She was shivering even though the warmth of the sun was so hot I wanted to switch on the air con. I accepted that Anna needed to be silent as we drove so I put on Sea Breeze Crap Coastal FM  Radio One of course. We finally parked up on the seafront at Teignmouth. I bought us take-away coffees and we wondered onto the pier almost accidentally. A selection of slot machines and other amusements rattled and broke into tactless tinny tunes. It felt end of season dead. Outside, at the end of the pier, everything was also shut down and the view out to sea was unbroken apart from a lone motorboat. The sun was surprisingly and blisteringly hot. We found an empty bench to sit on which was remarkably free of seagull sh*t and fish’n’chip wrappings. No one else was about except a middle aged couple who were feeling very smug about the glorious weather they were having on their *out of season* holiday. I actually have no idea if they were feeling smug at all…I just totally made that bit up. No disrespect to that couple from the East Midlands.

pier

I gave Anna a sideways look which she ostensibly ignored.

“I’ve got all day…..well until school pick up at least….no presh, ” I told her stubbornly. More silence ensued. I waited and slurped on my coffee.

“It was Holly from the pub,” whispered Anna, “they’ve been seeing each other since our 12th wedding anniversary,” I tried to compute the information.

Holly?” I gasped, “the barmaid?….from the pub?…..Holly?” I caught on quick me! “Sh..she’s only 18 isn’t she?” I stammered.

“She’s 22 actually, and can you stop scratching your head like a flea infested tramp!” Anna sighed as I finished rummaging about in my hair.

“I’ll never drink in that pub again!” I sneered blinking back tears. Perhaps that was a bit rash!

“It’s ok….” Anna gave a hollow chuckle, “….she’s leaving the village. She’s going to Uni and Ben says it’s over anyway.”

“Over?”

“He says he’s sorry,” Anna spoke hoarsely.

“Sorry?” I repeated incredulously like a complete half wit.

“Are you just going to repeat everything I say like a complete half wit?” Anna asked.

“Probably,” I admitted trying to absorb the shock of it all. We sat in silence and then I pulled myself together. “And how do you feel about that?” I asked evenly, my voice measured. Like I was acting the part of a therapist – my Equity Card wouldn’t be arriving anytime soon.

“I hate him…I love him….I hate that I love him…I hate that I hate him,” she sobbed and the tears came. And came.

We continued to sit on the bench for ages in a quiet snivelling snotty silence. I put an arm around Anna’s shoulders and our heads touched. There’s something about being by the sea that makes you reflective and floods all the senses.

“You do realise you’ve probably got nits now,” I admitted.

“Some bloody friend you are!” she replied but she didn’t pull away.

GNASH I hate u I love u (ft Olivia O’Brien) This is a great song and sums up how Anna was feeling. After the first bit the song does contain all *the swears* so not suitable for small ears and if you’re at work Julie in Accounts might think it’s a bit much too….

As you were!

More from the village next week.

*disclaimer – some people in actual fact find Xmas to be a total arse.

Very chuffed indeed to be a featured blogger on this week’s #FridayFrolics! A very big YAY!

Life Love and Dirty Dishes

Island Living 365

Mumzilla

Prose for Thought

27. Village survival – my new writing shed!

shed1 copy.png

He’d done it! Ted (my husband) had finally finished building my writing shed in the back garden! It had *only* taken him the best part of two years but there it was constructed and painted! I had always envisaged a cosy bolthole inspired by a Devon shepherd’s hut (with a log burner and daybed) but then I reminded myself that I wasn’t married to Amazing Spaces George Clarke. So I was grateful for Ted’s simple four sided ‘shed’ construction complete with a rusty window that we’d found in a skip. It was a lucky find because my skip searching or *skip skanking* as I call it was tentative at best. I didn’t dive in head first like Kirsty Allsop with her Kurt Geigers waggling in the air and just the hem of a Reiss coat discearnable amongst the detritus. I would take a furtive glance at the gubbins/tat/crap on the surface and have a *risk assessed rummage* to pick off (using the least amount of digits as possible) anything interesting on the top. My new writing shed also had a proper door! Our neighbours had given us their old wooden front door complete with a letterbox flap and door knocker! Small remittance, in my opinion, for their rutting cat’s usage of our garden as a knocking shop!

Now! I wasn’t going to go all whimsical and sit out there in my shed freezing my extremities off writing on an A4 jotter with a bic biro wrapped in a duvet so I needed power sockets and a kettle. I wanted to be snug in my writing cave, a place where I could sip good coffee and diligently tap away on my laptop. It wasn’t as if I fancied myself as Roald Dahl or Virginia Woolf or any other famous writers-with-writing sheds I just wanted a little place to call my own. Somewhere I wasn’t distracted by festering laundry or Poldark on demand. And so it was that I needed a qualified electrician. ‘Ryan’ the electrician as it goes (recommended by the door/randy cat neightbours) and after a not taking the piss quote we asked him to do the work. I think I knew he was a bit *needy* from the start but didn’t give it much thought such was my excitement at getting wired!

He started texting a lot, not in a creepy stalkery way but in a just plain old annoying way to keep me informed!  Of course it wasn’t just a case of running a cable from our house out to the shed, there were all kinds of boring details and guidelines to adhere to. You might want to stick the kettle on for this next bit –  you won’t be missing anything. Pop back in 5 minutes.

  • A qualified electrician should be employed to install a Steel Wire Armoured cable in a deep trench to provide mains power in your shed.
  • Your electrician will want to locate your fuse box and may need to upgrade it before your shed is wired in.
  • You’ll receive hourly texts from said electrician that you weren’t expecting – about your plug socket requirements; chrome? shiny or matt? bevel edged? Further text updates will be required on the progress and depth and your abilities to dig an adequate cable trench across your garden plus an abundance of other electrician- jargon loaded messages that will right royally get on your nerves.

It’s ok, you can come back now, techy stuff over.

The evening before day one of project Power up the shed Ryan texted me to say that he would be arriving at 7:30 a.m (ouch). Yes we’d be up and about and getting ready for school but actually it would be a right pain in the jacksy having a bloke lumbering around in bovver boots (my spell checker wants to say beaver boots! – I think that’s an entirely different type of boot all together) at that ungodly hour.

Day 1. He actually arrived at 7:20 a.m with a jaunty disposition – super jolly. He had no business being that jovial at 7:20 am with not one but two biros angled behind his ear and a bulging tool belt slung about his skinny frame like an undernourished Bob the Builder. His van was parked outside our cottage (he’d run over a lovely big pile of horse poo and it was nicely squelched into the tred of his left tyres) and as he unloaded it he whistled! Hold your effing horses! Whistling at 7:20 am in the morning? When is whistling even allowed anyway? Right, I’ve looked it up and whistling is only permitted after 2pm if you are a farmer and you’re trying to make your sheepdog herd a flock of sheep in a force 9 gale – that is officially the only time – glad I could clear that up. You’re welcome.

I went to make breakfast as he traipsed all his tools through the house to the kitchen-diner and plonked them next to the french doors leading to the garden. He brought in builder’s dust (from where exactly?) like a swirl of snowflakes as he persistently whistled through the house. Quickly I thought of a way of shutting him up – I’d make him a hot drink. I put the kettle on and offered him a cup of tea. It was then that he muttered six ordinary words in an ordinary sentence and yet they drilled ten bells of terror into my soul…..

“I’d love a coffee actually love!” it wasn’t his Devon accent (so thick you could stick a sandy wig on it and watch it run for president) that bothered me, I love a regional accent. Or even the toe curling use of ‘love’ in 2016.  It was the request for coffee and not tea! I had Devonshire Tea, Earl Grey, Chai, Green Tea with Camomile (for all you grass and cow piss flavour needs) and even some ancient Lapsang Souchong festering in the back of the cupboard. But my only coffee was my best Costan Rican Aromatic blend filter coffee (Fair-trade)  and it was all mine (even Ted knew to leave off) so there would be *swears* before *shares*. I could barely bring myself to do it but I plunged his coffee to the tune of his bloody persistent mouth music and the expletives in my head. Ryan and I had not got off to the best of starts and then to compound my 7:25 a.m irritation he replaced his whistling with slurping my coffee. Was there enough depth to drown myself in a milky bowl of weetabix I wondered?

coffee

After I’d dropped the children at school I came home and set about doing some writing. My romantic novel *Twelve Days and the Thatcher  (inspired by a hunky thatcher who had worked in the village) was coming along now and I really needed to focus focus focus! Ryan continually interrupted me to ask questions or give me fascinating updates on my router cables and other developments in my shed’s electrical journey. You’d think he was project manager at the Blackpool Illuminations not wiring up an outside office but at least he took his work seriously I suppose? So when Anna (best local friend) texted suggesting a jolly up to the local garden centre for lunch: a meander round viewing varieties of bird table fat balls, over-priced chimineas and end of line *sale* rattan garden sofas that were still priced higher than a family holiday to Florida. I  texted back that I’d be delighted to leave Ryan to his cables and drilling and pop out for a bit……

“Oh no! You can’t go out. I might need to ask you something about the job,” blustered Ryan seemingly hurt – told you he was #needy. One thing I liked about working from home was the freedom of movement (Ryan and Brexit seemed intent on completely bollocking that up). So you can imagine my irritation when I had to text Anna back that I was confined to barracks because of my overzealous lecky man. She didn’t mind swapping a nice garden centre toastie for a decidedly average one at my house and fully accepted that she wouldn’t get a cress salad garnish! I also asked her to grab a jar of instant coffee from the village stores on her way round. No probs said she…..

“He’s not a patch on *Thatcher Man is he,” whispered Anna unapologetically disappointed by the attractiveness of my electrician after her introduction to Ryan. In all fairness Ryan wasn’t a looker but there was no need to compare all skilled tradesman to Thatcher Man. A bit sexist in 2016 and like comparing all of us to Rosie Huntington Whiteley (Devon born super model off the telly and M&S adverts) such was the gorgeousness of Thatcher Man. “Oh and I forgot the instant coffee, soz!”she added. In my head *swears*.  

After Ryan had interrupted our decidedly average toastie lunch for the third time (we were discussing Anna’s errant husband and Poldark plot lines) Anna couldn’t help but comment.

“Err see what you mean by needy, he seems to require a lot of external affirmation and recognition – poor lad,” she lamented sympathetically.

“He’s just annoying,” I countered.

“Yeah, bloody annoying!”

Later that afternoon I called out to Ryan,”I’m just popping up to school to pick the kids up…is that alright?” Is that alright? What was wrong with me? Sorry I didn’t pick you up from school kids – I had to make expensive coffees and keep up persistent bants with the electrician.

Just before I ran up to school, I would pop in the village stores and grab some of their instant coffee (unknown and suspicious coffee brand no one has actually ever heard of alert). When I got to the shop there was a sign up in the window saying that due to staff illness they’d shut early – please use the Post Office in Stockton Abbott. Oh arse.

“Cup of tea Ryan?” I asked – all faux jolly on my return with the children. Listen to my sing songy voice – I am only offering tea, that’s tea! You are allowed tea, only tea and if you could finish up one of my sh*te herbal teas mores the better……what is it about herbal tea that is so deeply deeply unsatisfying? Discuss.

Cup of tea

“I’ll have a coffee ta, and a coupla extra sugars wouldn’t go a miss love.” Ryan had very quickly and efficiently located my short fuse, he was obviously very good at his job. Annoyingly he downed the dregs and promptly announced that he was off for the day.  Luckily I noticed before he went home that he’d left a phalanx of drills and sharp looking tools next to the french doors. Each power tool seemed to be suggesting that a passing tweenager might like to impale themselves on it or lop off a limb on an unsavoury looking blade. Ryan huffily traipsed back through the house to put the most lethal Freddie Kruegaresque looking ones in his van till the morning.

Part 2, will Ryan ever power up my writing shed?…find out next week in the second exciting instalment! It’s ok, I wouldn’t put you through that. I’ll wind it up in this post.

Day 2. Was much the same, he arrived at the ungodlys whistling – mostly the X Factor theme tune and demanding coffee. Out came my best Costa Rican etc again and a small part of my soul dissolved into builder’s dust. If you’re a coffee lover this will not seem overly dramatic. Ryan had the electricity on and off all bloody day and when the power was on he seemed to be drilling and every time the power was switched off the internet died and then took an age to fire back up – just in time for him to turn the electricity off again. I couldn’t check my email or Twitter. Imagine how many Groupon alerts I’d missed! I couldn’t do any writing and to make matters worse I wasn’t able to bake any effing cakes for the PFA cake sale at school. I’d be shunned by Clare (PFA Vice Chair) when I didn’t show up with 24 Bake Off standard identical fairy cakes or a twelve slice Victoria Sponge.

Day 3. Picture me in my cosy, electric light filled writing shed drinking my Costa Rican  coffee, pouring over my laptop……………………………watching Poldark! Yes our wifi worked a flippin’ treat out there!

shed copy.png

Err excuse me, I think the Poldark series writers are missing a trick here, shouldn’t Ross Poldark have a devastatingly good looking cousin/long lost brother/smuggling pirate mate in Devon? Come on Poldark don’t just pass through on the A30 in your horse-drawn camper van……stay a while!!!!

As you were!

*Twelve Days and the Thatcher: gritty love story set in a Devonshire village and stuff. Starring a very handsome and buff thatcher called Marcus.

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26. Village survival, baaake off!

 

produce-show-copy

Last weekend heralded the arrival of the Annual Vertonbridge Produce Show. Two days of shuffling around in a stuffy marquee admiring scrubbed and bouffanted vegetables and displays of perfectly ripened seasonal soft fruits! There were of course numerous other delightful categories such as Flowers and Arrangements, Baking and Preserves, Children’s Classes and Handicrafts!

One of the excitements at the show this year was the ‘new’ Vertonbridge Bake Off Challenge – open to all ages! A recipe for carrot cake was published in the parish magazine and everybody had to adhere to it. The guidelines were very strict and unfortunately bakers were forbidden from going off piste – ergo they weren’t allowed to replace carrot for chocolate or any other more desirable fillings! But they were permitted to use their own design for the cake decoration (the organisers weren’t complete fascists??).  This was to be judged by June Nesbitt – local W.I baking expert and also best friend to the dastardly village baddie  Deirdre Snellon  (chairwoman of the horticultural club and dictatorship regime).

The Signature Challenge.

Lottie (my 7 year old) seemed very keen to enter the carrot cake bake-off, and although I’m not a lover of this root vegetable infused cake I was aware that there would come a time in the future when Lottie didn’t think it was cool to bake cakes with me. Or hang around in a tent with a load of rudely shaped vegetables so I decided to put my carrot in a cake prejudices to one side and enjoy a cooking session with her. We felt vaguely confident due to the spate of baking we’d enjoyed lately inspired by the Great British Bake Off. Lottie and I were both addicts for this warm muffin of a programmme and watched it avidly on demand whilst munching on something cake-ified. We then tried to do whatever they’d baked on the show that week…….

Cake Week – we baked a (collapsed in the middle) chocolate cake. Not a mirror glazed multi layered fruit infused genovese sponge.

Biscuit Week – we made gingerbread persons which were burnt underneath, not a 3D gingerbread extravaganza…well it’s not Christmas is it…not until John Lewis says so!

Bread  Week – we made bread rolls, no plaiting, corn dolls or fancy ingredients on display here. Move along.

Batter Week– we made bog standard pancakes which received a smothering of nutella, not lacy frilly ones ….nobody wants more hole than pancake!

BTW, telling Lottie that Mel and Sue would not be presenting the show anymore was akin to telling her that her guinea pig Golden Graham had passed away in the night. She was devastated.

“But who will say baaaaake?” she wailed, seemingly aghast. I had to somehow hide my own dismay and disillusionment. I secretly hoped that Paul and Mary would refuse to  defect from the BBC too and that Channel 4 had effectively acquired themselves a £25m tent. Since this was posted it would appear that Channel 4 have managed to secure the tent and er….Paul Hollywood! Well it won’t be the same without Mary, Mel and Sue – how can it be? They set out to prove that baking wasn’t boring. The show has had a very good rise in popularity but suddenly it seems battered and has the now *soggy* bottom fallen out of it forever?…. discuss.

Cupcake header

The Technical Challenge.

Unfortunately, a couple of weeks before the produce show, I was cornered in the village stores between the freezer and the toilet rolls by Deirdre and W.I baking expert June. I saw them before they spotted me so I ducked behind the ice cream freezer to tie my shoe laces (I was wearing Birkenstocks). I felt an ominous shadow pass over me, the air suddenly felt chilly – probs my close proximity to the freezer, let’s not be extra dramatic – as June and Deirdre loomed large. Admitting defeat, it would’ve been a real technical challenge to get past them unnoticed, I put my hands up like an accosted robber and I agreed to all their produce show demands. A clipboard was duly whipped out from June’s heavyweight William Morris adorned jute shopper and I was swiftly scribbled down on the rota for a stint in the tea and cakes tent. They also wanted me to judge the adult poetry class (all subjects, rhyming in any format, no longer than 4 verses). I think it’s because I’m the only writer in the village – but I’m no poet – so it would have to come down to my personal opinion. Luckily I wouldn’t be privy to who wrote the poems until I’d awarded the 3 rosettes – otherwise I might’ve been tempted to rate them in order of how much I like the poetical villager rather than the quality of their written word……because I’m totes proffesh like that!

So the marquee was erected on the village green and Lottie and I made our bake off entry  carrot cake. We couldn’t enter any of our homegrown fruit or veg because our pathetic offerings were not up to show standard, probably because local cats used our garden as a giant litter tray. If there had been a category for ‘Best dried out turd by next door’s cat’ we’d have been looking at the winner’s podium, rosettes, a shiny trophy and a plethora of sponsorship deals.

“Can’t we just buy some vegetables from Sainsburys and then put mud on them?” suggested Toby – Lottie’s brother, who had recently turned 9 and took a fleeting interest in the Produce Show before dismissing it as lame.

“Err no, that is in fact cheating,” I tried to sound apoplectically outraged and failed miserably. However we did have two undersized and wretched looking marrows that we’d grown accidentally, i.e they’d been seeded from next door’s garden (and probably aided and abetted by the free fertiliser from their crappping cat) so the children Lottie could turn the runty specimens into characters for the ‘Make a Marrow Creature’ class.

The day of the produce show was gloomy, the mist on the village green hung low and in turn this seemed to dull the moods of the involuntary ‘helper’s’ as we glumly set out tea cups and saucers and displayed cakes unenthusiastically. I remembered to take Lottie’s cake to be entered for the carrot cake bake off challenge, “just leave your named tin, we’ll do the rest,” barked a bossy show steward – one of June’s stooges. Anna (local best friend) had also been drafted in to help with the teas and cakes but was banned from entering the carrot cake bake off on account of her professional cake maker status. Another villager and a new mum at school – Linda Smith was sent as reinforcements. Linda brought with her two tins of cakes and diligently set to work laying tables with sugar and putting out chairs. The problem with being ‘on’ teas and cakes is that you just want to eat the wares all day. Anna had already purloined a piece of Linda’s carrot cake, “amazing bake!” she told Linda, and if Anna knows anything – she knows a good cake when she tastes one!

June Nesbitt, her dog Beatrix and Deirdre Snellon came by our stall to buy teas and to preorder their ‘cream tea’ in case their was a rush on later and we ran out. “You haven’t forgotten you’re judging the poetry at 3pm sharp have you Hillie? Anyway can’t stop to chat,” said June dramatically as I passed her a takeaway tea.”Beatrix and I are meeting Jo Sandelson, she’s officially opening the dog show – Jo is a famous blogger and cartoonist don’t you know! I’ll send her your way afterwards for a cream tea.”

Jo's dog pic.png

Moments later we heard cheering and barking so I stuck my head out of the tent just as the Vertonbridge Dog Show ribbon was deftly cut by cartoonist Jo. There were dogs everywhere in various states of slobbery excitement, wrapping their leads around hapless owners and show stewards, it looked like canine carnage to me. The tannoy hummed and screeched into life. “We’ll be starting the dog show with a parade of all the dogs and then the first class will be ‘Dog that looks most like it’s owner – fancy dress permitted’.” I imagined June and Beatrix -the Scottie dog, would win hands down with their duplicate tartan attire (June in an Edinburgh Wollen Mill finest skirt and Beatrix in a small plaid doggy coat). But what would seal their victory was the matching grey chin whiskers – June probably had a few more than Beatrix to be fair.

The Show Stopper.

The judging of the Vertonbridge Bake off ‘Carrot Cake’ was completed after lunch – people were standing about in a happy stupor having gorged themselves on hog roast and large doses of tea and cake from us. June Nesbitt and Deirdre Snellon (her judge’s aid) stood proudly up on the small platform with a microphone so that everyone could see them.

“Err hmm, the judging of the carrot cake bake off – in all the three age categories, under 10s, under 18s and adults has been adjudicated and the results are in,” June barked officiously into the whiny mic.

“Cripes, its not the bloody ‘Strictly’ results,” commented Anna wryly in my ear. Ted (my husband) had arrived with Lottie and she was standing close to me, clutching my hand, eager to hear if her cake had been placed.

“However, I must draw your attention to a very grave matter first! We take cheating very seriously at this show, we expect every entry to be bona fide and of true provenance. So it is with great disappointment that we will be disqualifying Linda Smith for entering a shop bought carrot cake!” There were sharp intakes of breath form the crowd and audible tuts.

“That’s ridiculous, how can they possibly tell?” I asked Anna in hushed tones.

“They just can,” whispered Anna wisely.

“By way of extra confirmation, not one but two Waitrose carrot cake boxes were spotted in Linda’s recycling this morning.” Oh my god, June and Deirdre had even been checking village bins and recycling boxes for signs of malpractice….

By now Linda had thrown her hands to her cheeks and scurried out of the marquee in shame, bursting into tears as she hurried.

“I know a shop bought cake when I taste it even if the icing has been fiddled with,” continued June archly, narrowing her eyes menacingly “I didn’t earn the W.I cake baking expert accolade for nothing. I have years of experience and I can identify a fake bake in one bite!!” she finished her sentence with a forceful flourish. June was like the baking equivalent of Miss Trunchball from Road Dahl’s Matilda. The whole of the marquee fell silent for a moment (you could have heard a wren fart). The atmosphere was horribly tense but gradually murmurs began to softly permeate the canvased room.

“So!” June, composed herself a little, reining in her malevolence, “we’ve had a great variety of real carrot cakes to judge,” she heavily emphasised the word ‘real’ “and there’s been some soggy bottoms, floppy risers, and uncooked centres, not to mention some unconventional cake icing and what I call modern decorations, but Deirdre and I have picked our way through and tasted every one. We’ve left comments by all the cakes so that you can learn from your mistakes…. so let’s get down to business and award the top three spots to the real bake off bakers of Vertonbridge….”

Outside, at the dog show, the tannoy rang out again loudly with extra screechy static,”next in the arena – we have best bitch in show.

June would win that without her dog,” I hissed at Anna from the corner of my mouth. I think I’m so funny.

roses copy

Lottie and I didn’t get a rosette in the carrot cake bake off, ‘we’ didn’t even get, Highly Commended or a Commended! We just received a snotty hand scrawled post-it note about how we had over baked our cake resulting in a crusty bottom and lack of moistness. June suggested that we try a bit less baking powder next time and to use a better quality nonstick parchment! After that I left a disappointed Lottie looking at vegetables that look most like their grower with Ted while Anna and I abandoned the tea and cakes in search of Linda. We caught up with her outside the Huntman’s Inn where she was wiping tears from her eyes with her sleeve. So we dragged her into the pub. Cos we’re thoughtful like that!

“I baked a carrot cake for the bake off competition and bought two from Waitrose for the tea and cakes stall, I didn’t have time to make more than one cake, so I just put all three into tins and I must have entered the wrong tin for the competition,” Linda explained over a double gin and tonic. “June won’t believe me now,” she sniffed wiping her nose with a pub serviette.

“We’ll see about that,” said Anna, “I’ll have a word with the old bitch”.

As we were leaving the pub I noticed Jo Sandelson in a quiet nook near the woodburner, she was necking a pint of Guinness like a camel at an oasis. I went over and introduced myself and said something about loving her blog.

“I never asked for this dog show opening gig,” she said resting her pint for just a moment, “I’m on bloody holiday- staying in June’s daughter’s holiday let and they collared me to come to the show.” Jo took some more hefty swigs from her Guinness.

“I’ve got to get back to the dog event and judge best stud dog in show now, ” she lamented downing the dregs.

“Come back with us, ” I suggested, “we’ll get you a large cream tea to ease the pain.”

Back at the Produce show, I fulfilled my poetry class duties, it took me about 3 minutes to work out which poem I liked best but I had to stand around for ages looking pensive and serious as I considered all of the poetry entries.

This was my favourite and the winner of the first prize rosette by a Devon country mile!

When something is great! An ode to Bake Off.

Without Mel and Sue who will shout baaaake

before millions watch the contestants making a caaaake!

There’s the comedy welfare of the bakers and viewers at staaaake!

Losing Mary, Mel and Sue is more than the fans can taaaake.

Come on Love Productions you’ve made a giant mistaaaake,

Bring back Bake Off with Mel, Sue & Mary to the BBC for goodness saaaake!

By Linda Smith

As you were!

PS, Anna got hold of June and Deirdre and set them straight on Linda’s cake mix up. She also vouched for Linda’s carrot cake – the one she had tasted from the tea and cake stall and then insisted that the old bags apologise to Linda…..on the mic! As I’ve said many times before – Anna is my hero and probably Linda’s too now!

PPS, a big thank you to Jo Sandelson, amazing blogger and cartoonist for opening the village dog show! Sorry you had to deal with June – boo hiss! It’s not just the dogs in Vertonbridge who are barking!!

 

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25. Lottie’s 7th Birthday Pottery Painting Party….

villbunting

……….more than just a brush with crockery!!! Warning this post contains scenes of birthday party angst from the beginning which some viewers may find distressing.

I steeled myself for the question!

“Lottie, what would you like to do for your birthday party this year?” adding brightly,  “how about having a few friends around for a tea party?” I knew this would have a very high lame quotient (we’re probably talking 93%) but I thought I’d chance my arm anyway.

Sure enough this was met with one or Lottie’s best eye roll to camera so I waited for her answer.

“A Clippety Climb party!” Oh gawd really…again, we did that last year? Not a re-run of the claustro climbing walls, lack of daylight, dank breathy atmosphere and worse still chafing my hands to hell from ‘clipping’ multitudinous clambering and over zealous kids.  There was also the intense neck ache (akin to whiplash the next day) from looking up 2o feet of wall at a 90 degree angle shouting encouragingly ‘go on – you can do it’ and ‘good job, high five!’ all the while perspiring heavily in a high vis ‘clip team’ jacket for the duration. 

Blatantly ignoring her reply I continued haplessly.

“What about something outdoorsy…..in the woods?” I’m thinking you and four friends at the free playground in the forest with a picnic and therefore avoiding chafment of hands and  remortgaging to pay for it? “We could do a treasure hunt…….” I added trailing off unconvincingly. For a nano second I thought she might be actually entertaining the idea (it would probably require the deployment of of her new sparkly Frozen wellies after all). But no, her face very quickly crumpled into a look of disdain and she then shot me a suspicious look as if to say ‘have you completely lost your mind?’.

“A sleepover, can I have a sleepover please?” Oh no, no, not a sleepover – *Clippety Climb* suddenly seemed so much more appealing (perhaps I could wear gardening gloves and a neck brace). “How about pancakes for pudding?” I said heading her off at the pass with a known winner from my arsenal of distraction techniques.

 …………………………………….

“Lottie might like a party at that new pottery cafe on Pittcombe Beach Parade?” suggested Anna (local best friend) who dropped in the next day for a coffee unannounced and set about distracting me spectacularly from writing my novel Twelve days and the Thatcher. I didn’t mind, she’d brought supplies – Chelsea Buns and Refresher lollies. Anna also brought tidings of great joy about the real Thatcherman (the inspiration for my novel). Apparently he was coming to the village to re-thatch Anna’s neighbour’s house which served as another distraction – such were his ridiculously good looks. I’d enjoy eyeballing him on the school run!

The pottery painting birthday party idea was met with approval, nay, unbridled enthusiasm and star jumps from Lottie so I booked it up! She was about to turn seven. I’ll freely admit that I’m not a natural party planner slash giver. I tend to spend the week running up to the event with what feels like a heavy anxious and annoying ‘party planner’ orangutan draped over my shoulders. One that intermittently taps me on the shoulder with: have you even thought about the fillers for the party bags? Have all the parents rsvped – they probably haven’t seen the invitation in the book bag? You gave out the invites very late! What if the party is totally rubbish and you have too much time to fill? What if you lose a child? Have you bought the number ‘7’ candle yet? What if you forget to bring the cake or the pottery cafe burns down in a freak kiln fire before next Saturday?????  Here he is….orangutan-copy

Lottie and I arrived at the pottery cafe in plenty of time to welcome her party guests, ‘you’ll want to be early, what if there’s road works or traffic or the car doesn’t start’ banged on my overly officious orangutan. The weather that week had been particularly warm so I decided on a whim to do ‘party food’ at the beach after the pottery painting! Lottie was beside herself with excitement at the prospect of the presents seeing her friends out of school and an extra trip to play on the beach.

Here is the motley line up of party goers.

1- Amelia.The inappropriately dressed who one turned up in a prized bridesmaid dress that she had worn earlier in the summer and was now her best favourite bridesmaid party dress ever! Ahem, we were about to paint pottery ergo with paint and go to the beach which would then expose us to further hazards such as sand and sea???

2-Lily. The tardy one. Only 51 minutes late into a 2 hour slot at the Pottery Cafe………

3- Isobel.The one whose Dad is a GP in our local Doctors Practise (Dr Merney). Therefore the avoidance of eye contact was necessary in the hope that he didn’t remember our last surgery visitation with Lottie’s brother Toby and his virulent (ten pence sized) multi headed verucca.

4- Jasmine. The one with the spectacularly snotty nose – a permanent green crust crystallised to her nostrils – hmm yes my gag reflex was in fine working order it turns out. But it’s ok because my annoying anxious party planner Orangutan reminded me that I’d need to bring a box of tissues just for her.

5- Sophie. The one whose parents gave Lottie a gift that represented hours of parental  involvement slash crafting and was probably something they were quite blatantly re-gifting.

6,7 The extras, Chloe and Beatrice, invited for school ‘politically correct’ reasons (I know you get me).

We were met by the pottery cafe owner Cheryl, a calm and composed kind of woman (the antithesis to fretty old me and my anxious pet party planner orangutan).  She was dressed in a floor length tie dyed dress with bright blue hair, and seemed to float about on a waft of serenity, she was renowned locally for being something of a pottery painting guru. Soft panpipe background music filtered from hidden speakers, it was actually *quite relaxing* – I felt safe in Cheryl’s hands, I could do this! But at the point when I needed guru Chezza most the cafe became inundated with other customers and holiday makers! She had barely briefed us about the paints and brushes before she went AWOL amongst the throng. I felt that biley anxiousness that only people who *can’t draw for crap toffee* feel when they have to be artistic in a pressurised environment and this wasn’t even on paper with a rubber either. It was *painting straight onto matte china* – there was no going back! Eight pairs of seven year old eyes looked to me for guidance???……. so I styled it out, adopting my best teacher voice and we all began sponging and painting away on cups and ornaments with gusto. I can report that there were no breakages or paint disasters apart from on my plate which made Jackson Pollock’s paintings look orderly (I tried again with a latte mug!). Amelia (the inappropriately dressed one) had been mummified, at my request, in adult sized aprons by Cheryl so that her face was barely peeping out over the top of them. She scarcely had use of her arms either but at least she didn’t get any unsightly and stainy (not a word) splash-backs on her best favourite party bridesmaid dress ever.

…………………………………

So after the pottery painting I met Ted (husband) at the beach, he was in charge of bringing the party food and birthday cake! He hadn’t forgotten either – things were going too well. Ted had also remembered our (rather flaccid looking) blow up dinghy which he set about pumping up.  The girls had brought swimwear and towels and were running around excitedly, apart from Amelia who wouldn’t be parted from her best favourite bridesmaid party dress ever and was climbing on the rocks behind us. Just as I had passed Jasmine (you know -the snotty/crusty nosed one) her 33rd tissue and I was unwrapping sausage rolls and other nutrient deprived party fodder, an old man pitched up next to us with his elderly German Shepherd dog! Great! I love a dog me, but not one that gets too close to my party picnic and not one that looks like it could possible have the arm off any of the 8 young girls in my care! It may have been arthritic but it still looked menacing and seemed to be baring it’s teeth. Sensing my concern the old man, who in complete contrast had no gnashers – removed a rack of false teeth from his pocket, wiped them down on his trouser leg and popped them into his mouth with an unsavoury cluck sound. He was then capable of offering up the ubiquitous dog owner statement…..

“Oh he won’t hurt you, Dexter here doesn’t bite!” At this point I always wonder if I’m meant to be grateful??? The old man explained that the teeth baring was actually just a canine overbite. I really didn’t need his life story or information on the dogs dental records, I had carrot sticks and mini rolls to lay out.

At this moment Amelia let out a bloodcurdling scream from behind me, terror struck, had she torn her best favourite bridesmaid dress party dress ever? Phew, she came hobbling towards me protesting wildly about an injured foot instead. On closer inspection there was a fish hook in her heel, ouch, but actually it had hardly broken the skin (no blood) and I whipped it out quickly when she wasn’t looking. I was just relieved that she hadn’t damaged her best favourite……you know the rest. I bet you didn’t even think to bring any plasters did you? – piped up my annoying anxious party planner orangutan! Actually I happened to have a small selection in my handbag – my own personal stash for blisters. I was glad that a small incident had befallen us and now we could get on and shut this party down…..

By now all the children, apart from Amelia, were in the sea shrieking and giggling as Ted dragged them about in the dinghy. The old man had let Dexter off the lead and he was throwing balls into the sea for the ancient dog to retrieve. I carried on setting out the party food on the blanket – time was ticking on and parents would be along soon to pick up the girls. I didn’t notice the commotion at first but Jasmine shrieked and pointed frantically, I looked up to see the old man shouting and throwing his arms about. Dexter the dog was well out of his depth in his quest to retrieve a manky old tennis ball and was experiencing difficulties! Alerted by the old man’s anguished calls, Ted deposited the girls on the beach and swam out to the dog towing the dinghy behind him (like a very naff version of Baywatch). He reached Dexter (who was drowning not waving) and managed to unceremoniously flip the great heavy sodden animal into the inflatable boat. Back on the beach, the old man, Ted, Lottie and all her friends crowded over the aged dog in the dinghy. Dexter didn’t look at all well, insofar as he wasn’t moving or indeed breathing (to the naked eye), the girls were horrified. Lottie, Jasmine and Isobel started crying (more tissues required) as they all stared at the motionless dog. How the hell are you going to come back from this? Chided my annoying anxious orangutan.

“Do you need a doctor?” said an authoritative voice behind us, Isobel’s Dad (Dr Merney of the big verucca shame) and her Mum Jan had arrived and they had witnessed the event unfold as they approached. Actually we need the SuperVet but you’ll do! Dr Merney did something medical looking……possibly CPR but without rescue breaths….I imagine he drew the line at giving the German Shepherd the kiss of life – especially with that overbite. Suddenly the dog raised it’s head, puked (in our now dingy dinghy) struggled up and proceeded to shake and splatter us all with wet-dog spray. The girls all cheered and the old man shed a few tears whilst pumping Dr Merney’s hand with gratitude. Then we all celebrated with cocktail sausages, crisps, party rings and birthday cake. And after the last of Lottie’s friends were picked up by their parents, I felt instant relief about my shoulders as the annoying party planner orangutan naffed off too………or until the next birthday party at least!orangutan-backOh sod off party planner orangutan!

As you were!

PS, I’m not showing you my rubbish Jackson Pollock inspired plate, but here’s my latte mug which worked out a bit better……..mug

PPS, Dexter the dog was given a clean bill of health from the vets and the old man popped into the surgery to let Dr Merney know. Isobel’s mum Jan passed on the good news to me at the school gates (just in case you were wondering…….probably not?)

Note to myself: The one about Lottie’s 7th Birthday Party

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24. Village survival, an interview with Execellent Magazine

 

Last week I was interviewed for Exeter’s Execellent Magazine. The article will come out in November, but here’s how it went. They were running a piece about local Mums working  from home and they wanted to chat to me about writing and blogging. I went along to their rather swanky offices in Exeter’s Southernhay. The decor was all sour lemon and steel greys and on arrival I was plied with barista coffee, San Pellegrino, chocolate cake and a goody bag (somehow I contained my excitement). I sat down and tried to make myself look comfortable (and not like a complete bumbling eejit) as my arse slid and squeaked on the high gloss canary yellow leather couch and I all but pitched my cappuccino over it.  execellent.png

My interviewer was Lucy, a bubbly and enthusiastic 20-something with the kind of unacceptable joie de vie that can only be maintained with a constant stream of; double lie-ins at the weekend, items of Whistles clothing in her wardrobe, regular impromptu after-work drinks and frequent European City mini-breaks. Her fresh faced cheeks hardly required the subtle pink blusher she had applied as she swished her fishtail plait. Her whole persona shouted young, on trend and *not tired*.  I didn’t feel terribly at ease and wondered if she was going to ask me any tricky questions and how my answers would sound? Fortunately, I wasn’t given any time to mull this over because effervescent Lucy got straight down to business.

“Hi Hillie, it’s really  great to meet you and have this opportunity to interview you.”

Cheers love, you hadn’t heard of me or my little old blog before last week but thanks for the effusive welcome.

-You are a Blogger and Writer, what is your Blog about? Chirpy Lucy was poised with a ballpoint over her notebook smiling expectantly.

“It’s about surviving living in a small Devon village, family life with my husband Ted and our two children Toby (aged 8) and Lottie (6). I also blog about my writing journey as I aim to get published again………….dot dot dot.” A tuft of ‘writing career’ tumbleweed wafts by.

-You are currently working on a new novel, what is it like being a working mum at home? 

“During term time I get lots of writing done while the children are at school”.  Err, flagrant disregard for the truth alert! After I’ve dropped the kids off I come home and put a load of washing on, read some blogs, think about cleaning the bathroom but then prevaricate by having coffee and biscuits instead. Next I’ll flick over social media, fanny about doing some ‘writing’ research and distract myself further by looking on Rightmove. Then after some lunch, I’ll put the festering washing (that I had forgotten) on the line or in the tumble dryer, procrastinate further by making a cup of tea and half heartedly tidying the kitchen before sitting back down in front of my laptop to write and *oh crap* it’s time to pick up the kids from school. “I love being able to take a step back over the summer holidays, write when I can (up to the ruddy small hours!) and just hang out with the kids. This year we had a great holiday in a gite near La Rochelle which refreshed us all”. Apart from the intense heat, the urgent trip to A&E with Ted’s septic hornet sting, and having to pay the exorbitant repair costs for bunging up the septic tank when Lottie flushed a load of wet wipes down the ‘no unflushables’ toilet. Full story available here at 23.Turning up in France.

-What’s it like living in a rural Devon village?

Let’s just say I spend rather a lot of time looking for a property in Exeter on Rightmove.  Often my darkest moments occur after the internet has dropped out for hours and I’m jittery with Twitter withdrawal shakes. Or Deirdre Snellon (from The Village Horticultural Club dictatorship regime) has popped around to helpfully inform me that my hanging baskets are a *bit dry* and would I *like* to sign up for a 5 hour slot in the Tea & Cake tent at the annual village produce show? “I feel very fortunate to be part of a small rural community. The village often comes together for events and celebrations which we all enjoy and the children love going to our little village school up the road”. Even bouncy Lucy looked like she wanted to vom in her mouth a little!

-What is the last book you read?

Oh arse, I can’t even remember the name of the *Airport Bilge-Lit* I read on holiday…was it… *Meeting Mr Right at Love Lane’s Blueberry Bakery Cafe Book Club After Sunset*? I’d better lie and come up with something highbrow, quick think Hillie….err…… I last read ‘All the Light We Cannot See’ by Anthony Coerr, I enjoyed the detailed historic elements to the story. Ahem, extra literary points methinks for it’s Pulitzer winning status! Lucy jotted it down but her nose wrinkle suggested that she could smell a rat or perhaps she’d clocked the sequel to my holiday read poking out of the top of my handbag *Leaving Mr Right at Love Lane’s Blueberry Bakery Cafe Book Club But Getting Him Back Again Of Course After Sunset*. She probably reads nothing but Tolstoy on her European mini break weekends in her Whistles outfits after a refreshing lie-in.

-What was your last music download?

You’re joking aren’t you! I don’t get anywhere near my iPad, Lottie last downloaded ‘Company’ by Justin Beiber but I’m not ‘fessing that! What’s that band they keep mentioning on radio 1? I stalled for time – sliding forward easily (like a bob sleigh) on the slippery couch to retrieve my mineral water from the coffee table, oh yes, it came to me…..“‘Tame Impala’, their latest album, err it’s…err great…….(fade to black)Bubbly Lucy didn’t look wholly convinced as she flicked her fishtail plait down her back, but mercifully she didn’t quiz me further on my blagged ‘cool’ music choice. I could have sworn I saw her jot down *probably Michael Buble* but I may have imagined it. 

-What do you love about our beautiful city of Exeter?

The main draw is that it’s a city for starters and not a ‘provincial village’.  There’s a lovely Zara – so I can feed my insatiable ‘Breton Tee’ addiction. I also like the fact that, during a few hours off from writing and parenting I can rock quietly in the John Lewis Cafe, sipping a latte, having spent half an hour previously stroking items in the handbag department that I can’t afford.  “Oh it’s such a great university city, the cathedral square is a lovely spot to sit and watch the world go by (boring myself now, sorry readers of Execellent). Exeter has fabulous restaurants and cafes and is a great transport hub too”. Sparkling Lucy looked up from her scribblings, expecting me to elaborate more about Exeter without sounding like I was reading aloud from the Lonely Planet guide, but alas she gave up sighing quietly – and came up with a new question for me instead.

-Devon Apple Cake or a Traditional Devonshire Cream Tea?

That’s like asking me which one of my children I love more……not really! If I’m eating cake I certainly don’t need any *apple* in it so it would be a Cream Tea everytime (the strawberries in the jam don’t count, everybody knows that). “Oh I do love a Devonshire Cream Tea, my children are also big fans of this teatime delight!”  

At least her line of questioning had lightened up a bit, what would be next? Snog, marry avoid a famous Devonian – with Josh Widdecombe (comedian), Sir Francis Drake (explorer) and Dermot Murnaghan (newsreader)?  Obvs, snog Josh, marry Dermot (he’s still got it) and avoid Sir Francis on account of his deadness, ridiculous frilly collars and outdated opinions! Bouncy Lucy continued with a slightly more sensible question.

-Name a famous Devonian who has inspired you?

That’s easy! “Who other than Dawn French- fantastically funny and female!”

-Let us into a secret, what’s your best Devon discovery? 

Oh gawd, ask me one on sport! Let me think, err…..“Devon has everything…from the dramatic moors to the stunning coastal paths. You can visit a spectacular waterfall, climb a tor and splash in the sea all in the same day. I was on a roll now with my hackneyed travel guide spiel, again bubbly Lucy looked a little bored at my cheesy answerMy favourite Devon discovery is Dartmoor. It’s fun to climb a Tor and get your picnic trampled by an erroneous wild pony or two. Or go for a scenic drive  on a day out recently we made a marvellous *discovery* – that there were tearooms at *both ends* of National Trust’s ‘Lydford Gorge’ ergo I was secure in the knowledge that I was never more than twenty minutes from a nice slice of cake/scone which made the walking so much more enjoyable and there are so many lovely tearooms  walks to discover on the moors. Devon really has it all!”.

execellent

As you were!

PS. Before I get any letters of complaint – I’m not dissing Devon Apple Cake, if you like fruit in your cake I urge you to try it with a dollop of clotted cream on the side, just don’t blame me when you realise it’s not as good as a cream tea. You have been warned.

Note to myself: the one where I get interviewed by Execellent Magazine.

 

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