37. Village survival, how to embrace trees!

This is not a proper life style piece – I’m not usually that helpful!


It appears that I have something in common with Prince Charles, no I don’t fancy Camilla Parker Bowles, and no my ears are relatively normal sized; but like His Royal Highness – every so often I like to hug a tree. This is quite a new thing for me – like only months old. Since moving to Devon, I have in fact been surrounded by trees for years, but it’s only now that I want to … get involved – shall we say! 

In the media, we can’t move for articles written about that trendy zeitgeisty gig Mindfulness! Have you got the app, been to a class, bought the self help book? It’s all good I say, but hugging a tree is an underappreciated kind of moment in the present, all of its very own. Unfortunately, there’s no app and I feel that this leaves a big gap in the market. Perhaps something similar to Tinder would be good here – Timber – an app listing local trees that are available for cuddling. Just make sure you swipe thoughtfully.

The actual machinations of embracing a tree.

There are some instances when hugging a tree seems tricky, even off-putting, let’s talk about that:-

  1. When there are too many bastard stingers at the bottom of the tree.
  2. When there are lots of cobwebs and you don’t want that creepy fuzzy stuff on your face –  yeeeesh.
  3. When there are too many low lying branches and you’ve left your trusty machete/swiss pen knife/chainsaw in your other handbag. It’s the wrong tree, pick another one.
  4. When there’s a particularly arsy squirrel pelting you with his nuts!
  5. When there’s a high probability of cheek and chin chafing – always a consideration but exacerbated particularly by chunky bark – perhaps opt for a smoother trunk such as a Silver Birch.
  6. When the circumference of the tree is just too chunky to wrap your arms around. So frustrating, pick a slimmer tree.
  7. When there’s dog/fox/squirrel poo at the base of the tree, no one wants to scrape that out of their tread with an old toothbrush. No one.
  8. When there are (trip hazard) exposed roots which may result in faceplanting directly into the tree before a hug can be performed.

Many of you reading will say: well I haven’t got the time, when can I possibly fit in tree hugging?

Good question! Let’s talk about that:-

How about on that run you do on a Saturday morning, or on the walk into work? Why not think about wrapping your arms around a tree with your toddler at the park? Have you considered a cheeky fumble with a sturdy trunk when you’re out with the dog(s)? I personally favour a nice tall fir tree, which I pass on my run that I affectionately call Douglas!  Actually, if a physical embrace is too much for you, scientists say that just being amongst trees, and touching their bark can have beneficial health effects (unless you’re allergic in which case it might bring on a particularly unpleasant rash). Appaz it’s to do with the vibrations trees give off, after all, they are mighty living, oxygen-giving heroes. I like to think that The Beach Boys – Good Vibrations is actually all about trees and not about a surfer in her frayed Daisy Dukes! Sigh.

Some of you (who are still reading) may think what is the puh-oint slash other health benefits of tree hugging?

Good question! Let’s talk about that:-

  1. Experts (that’s not me then) say that hugging (after approx 20 seconds) can release endorphins in our brains, thus flooding our systems with homemade opiates. Homemade is always best right!
  2. Trees, since the dawn of time, have stood for reliability and strength, and are therefore sending a positive subliminal message. The strong and mighty oak! The towering pine! Even saplings speak of new hope and youthfulness!
  3. Embracing a tree allows you a moment or two to concentrate on your breathing (Tic Tacs are optional).
  4. You are with nature, by nature, in nature, on nature. Totally naturey right?
  5. When you hug a tree, if you haven’t chafed your ear and cheek, you will hear things, both inside and outside of the tree. Listen…….
  6. Trees are great listeners themselves and are never judgy.
  7. The trees might actually like it too (no scientific research yet to back this up. At all).
  8. A form of Mindfulness that is as cheap as wood chips!

Tree hugging does not require a mobile phone/device/Fitbit but it does require a little of your time and a tree. Ok, it’s not without its hazards but executed correctly it can leave you feeling all the inner naturey peace. Think of it as a little treet in your day.

As you were!

If you like to hug or commune with trees then I want to know about it x

Island Living 365

36. Be a lover not a *Haytor!

*Not a travel post! Well actually this post is all over the place (so a bit travelly and liable to cause motion sickness) and for that I make no apologies…because it’s the blog’s first birthday so humour me! Well actually it was 24th February and yes sorrynotsorry I already had all the cake. 

Anyway let’s talk about February, it’s a month for love right? A couple of weeks ago Valentine’s Day loomed large much like Donald Trump’s #wrongquiff – seriously, you couldn’t make that hairstyle up. Valentine’s Day seems to divide the nation into lovers and haters of…. Valentine’s Day! Put simply it is either a fabulous/ball ache occasion (delete as you find appropriate). Last Sunday to finish off our February of enforced amour we made one of our many yearly pilgrimages to a place we love called Haytor on Dartmoor. Dartmoor makes me feel small, not in a put me down, call me names or send me threatening texts kind of a way. It just makes me feel like I’m a mere dot on an ancient map. It’s expansive, you can see for miles and I always get the notion that thousands of years worth of people have shuffled about there before me. Quite possibly freezing off their neanderthal nockers too.

dartmoor pony.png

As a family we always have two rules before we go to Dartmoor.

  • We must have inadequate fuel in the car.
  • We must have at least one tween who desperately needs the toilet in the least inhabited part of the Moors. We’re talking where there’s nada public conveniences, not even a pub with a loo, just your pick of hedges slash mossy walls to widdle behind.

This results in a stressful hunt for a petrol station in the unpopulated wilds and finding a suitable hedge for a child to pee behind. Not too prickly, not too many stinging nettles, not to high, not too low, not too many bulls in the field…you get the picture.

On this occasion, after going ten miles out of our way to find a petrol station we managed to pre-empt the panicky picnic pee predicament by hurrying to the first cafe we came across. We wanted to have a sandwich or something similar anyway and I hadn’t packed a picnic because I couldn’t face lunching a la car with an erroneous Dartmoor Pony head butting the window for our apple cores (I’m not making this shiz up).

It was a quaint looking tea shop, or so we thought (cue Tim Burtonesque freaky music and theatrically squeaky door). On entering we were warmly greeted by a wave of Elderly Peoples Rest Home aroma (I don’t think Air Wick has this in their range yet) and this sticky carpet……


…..time to reverse right back out yes? No, firstly we were welded to the carpet and as we tried to swivel on the spot we were clobbered by the overly helpful proprieter who herded us like a stealthy sheepdog over to a table flapping two menus to propel us there!

Oh arse!


The place was wall to wall old folk all chowing down on some variant of flaccid carvery meat and a new aroma of boiled cabbage was now fighting for airspace too. The decor of this particular cafe was pre 1982 unromantic dado railism. There were wallpaper borders which had their own wallpaper borders while non matching floral pelmets were in abundance atop the rather tired flowery curtains. I feel like I’ve had my fill of pelmets lately. Much like asbestos these curtain toppers really should carry a health warning and be removed from buildings by specialist contractors in protective clothing, before being blown up in a safe and controlled environment. This dowdy old dear of a cafe was so dour that even the daffodil table decoration – officially the most cheerful flower on earth (registered Trademark) seemed to be choking on the cabbagey Rest Home dining room ambiance!


I needed a coffee!


Just not one that looked like a geological study – no one wants jurassic style #coffeesediment.

But hang on just a moment I’m a lover not a hater! The children were happy and enjoying their sausage and chips. All notions of a sandwich had gone west once they’d clapped eyes on the Kids Menu. My husband Ted didn’t mind his pallid carvery meal. The daffodils were breathing through it and I could use my knife to stir my drink and reach to agitate the #coffeesediment – so time to quit complaining right! Yes Devon has outdated and dreary cafes but doesn’t every county………even like Surrey?

Once refuelled with crap cafe sustenance we made our way to Haytor. This is a most magnificent Tor which rises from the moorland majestically. Let’s just say we walked the hill towards it without being trampled by stampeding wild ponies and then we climbed it, yeah Haytor you got owned and stuff!!


Photo: supplied by crap photos at it doesn’t do it justice dot com

And as we look back on February, the traditional month of love and did I mention the Birthday of this darling blog, I hope you too can say, hand on heart that you have been more of a lover than a Haytor!

As you were!

If you liked this post here’s my last post. If you didn’t, fair enough!

Life Love and Dirty Dishes
Prose for Thought

35. Village survival. For Sale or To(i)Let!

house.pngWe are outgrowing our home, so Ted and I have tentatively started to look for a new house slash cottage. We don’t want to leave Vertonbridge (our village) but last week we made the treacherous decision to go and see a house in…… another village! Ok it’s only up the road a bit and turn left but nevertheless it felt rather perfidious. It was still a local village, just different horse sh*t in the lane and I (rather refreshingly) didn’t know everybody’s name, inside leg measurement or their current electric meter reading.  On the plus side as well as horse sh*t in the lane this village has an award winning pub and a small cafe, imaginatively titled The little Tea Shop (the cream teas are crazy good, set aside a days calorie intake for this pleasure, 5 stars yadayada). In a bid to make the house viewing go smoothly with our children Toby and Lottie ( 9 and 7 years old) I primed them in the car by suggesting that:-

-they didn’t touch anything in the house.

-they wiped their feet before we went in.

-they didn’t say anything impolite about the house until we get back in the car.

– bribery was implemented in the form of a reward of chocolate brownies and hot chocolate in The Little Tea Shop if the above was adhered to.

There was a two hour open house viewing of the property so we knew there would be other people milling about. It was a strategic and insidious ploy by the estate agents to whip up interest and rivalry amongst any unsuspecting viewers. We were welcomed into the house by Paul (the painfully thin) estate agent. He had the kind of puny and skeletal physique which can only be maintained with a 20 a day habit and infrequent Pot Noodles. I wanted to invite him round for a hearty Sunday Roast (plenty of crackling and goose fat covered roast potatoes) apart from I didn’t because (my new oven is such a ball ache) and Paul wasn’t that friendly and kept flicking over his phone to ease his obvious boredom. He was however happy to inform us in inverted commas that we’d just missed the rush and had the house to ourselves. A vague scent of bullsh*t wafted up my nose which to be fair made a nice change from the more traditional local horse sh*t aromas. Toby and Lottie both wiped their feet as I had requested and then dissolved into the house before rushing back to us with really helpful questions and observations:-

“I don’t like that bedroom, it’s got a purple carpet and flowery wallpaper.”

Try and imagine this room decorated how you’d like it with your bedroom furniture in it darling!

“Can we keep the parrot in the cage?’

No, it belongs to the people selling the house and they won’t leave their pet parrot behind…..

“What about the Iguana in the tank in the dining room then?


“The TV isn’t big enough.”

Yes, if we move here, we’ll have to leave behind our big TV and have this smaller one instead……(insert horrified tweenage faces and enjoy small snigger behind house particulars!)

“Euuugh they like pineapples, will they leave the pineapple when they move out?”

By now I wanted to bang my head on the nearest feature wall…….. 

“I don’t like the painting of the lady with her boobies out, I don’t think we should buy this house if that’s on the wall.”

All remnants of parental patience were gone and I just about resisted punching a hole through the closest non load bearing(and quite possibly also feature) wall……

By this time all I could think about was consuming a large coffee in The Little Tea Shop and putting Paul out of his misery too. He looked to me like he needed to get back to the office for his Pot Noodle lunch (original curry or even possibly Bombay Bad Boy flavour?) and a cigarette (Lambert and Butler I’d wager). Not necessarily in that order.


A Pot Noodle. Original Curry.

Paul sensing our waning enthusiasm for the house began prevaricating about the garden and the attractive summer house, (actually so gnarled and misshapen with green mould and moss) it looked like Bilbo Baggins lived there. So we went outside, which was more of a hit with the children and particularly good fun when they started running about and we had to prise them off the damp garden swing, slimy trampoline and other multifarious kiddy apparatus. We found that the swing-ball worked marvellously which was demonstrated all too well when Paul was nearly tw*tted in the face by the ball at 30mph.  The lawn was also very wet and muddy. Ted and I stuck to the path wondering if sunlight ever reached the garden at any time of the day/year. Not even on summer solstice apparently. No one was going to throw up a stone (or twelve) into a henge and call it a world heritage site any time soon. There was also a large bloody pond. There’s a simple parental equation that goes with ponds! Yes, I’ve done the math.  Pond + young children = ball ache (squared) to the power of 100.

Back in the house, Ted and I decided to have one last nose around and the children could be heard ferreting about upstairs. Now, I don’t seem to have a problem seeing past nasty furniture, badly fitted laminate flooring circa 2009 and pelmets but this house was littered with trite quotes everywhere. Every wall, and surface seemed to be heaving with cliched cliche placards. I couldn’t move for banality! Here are a few of them. A word to the bromidic sayings makers distributing to gift shops and department stores nationwide, make up/find some new b*stard sayings would you ever!

I like to cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to my food.


Marriage is a relationship where one person is always right and the other is the husband!

Just inexplicably naff and sexist!

Sometimes I wake up grumpy and sometimes I let him sleep!


Every love story is beautiful but ours is my favourite.

Excuse me while I vom my spleen!

I’d just about had my fill of matching wallpaper, duvet covers and pelmets plus the aforementioned hackneyed sayings. This house wasn’t the one, we weren’t sold, it was time to shuffle off. So we located Paul (possibly even slightly thinner) to say we were going, thanks very much and all that. We found him in the master bedroom trying to clean a brown patch on an area of the cream shagpile carpet with some toilet paper which was disintegrating in his hands.

“I think one of your children may have brought in mud from the garden,” he said faux politely through teeth so gritted he’d be spitting enamel for days….”and your daughter wanted the toilet…”

Ted and I exchanged worried glances. I felt a rush of cold prickly fear. Lottie had been to the toilet just before we left home, could she be? Yes I feared the worst, she wasn’t just doing a wee! Mortification swept over me like Storm Doris bashing the Devon coastline. Sound effects wafted through the door. Paul looked horribly pained. I began rustling in my handbag noisily for the car keys and humming, yes humming! Just as Paul was diverted by  the doorbell announcing that more house viewers had arrived, I heard Lottie unlock the bathroom door and I hurriedly barged in. I was all over the damage limitation, you know kids….they like to leave their mark!

Have you viewed a new home with children in tow, how was it for you……???

As you were!

Well, if you liked this post here’s my last post. If you didn’t, fair enough.

Featured blogger on #fridayfrolics with Claire www.lifeloveanddirtydishes.com Emma www.islandliving365.com and Lucy risforhoppit .uk  A big yay!!!!

Life Love and Dirty Dishes
Life Love and Dirty Dishes
Prose for Thought

34. Village survival, the joy* of a new oven!

Last week the oven blew. It made a terrifyingly sinister zz..zhsh..zzz sound, sparked and flashed momentarily and then gave up its shiz like a dying Darlek. To be fair it was a bit knackered, the oven door seal was falling off and the knobs were getting tired!! Anyway, the thing was kaput so as we like to eat cooked food we decided to get a new one……oven1.png

So, here is my handy cut out and keep guide: How to get a new oven delivered and fitted (in a rural Devonshire village) in 10 easy steps. Ok, so it’s a bit niche.

Step 1. Talk to Dan ‘no eye contact as standard’ at a large electrical superstore near you like Barely Adequate Electricals R US!

Or indeed order your new oven online for ease and convenience. I personally need to feel up/fiddle with knobs/try out any possible home appliances before purchasing (can’t bring myself to buy online – even from dependable stalwarts John Lewis) so I trekked to the thriving metropolis of Exeter to probe a few possible oven candidates. Dan who served me did, in fact, manage a whole ten minutes of sales patter and the completion of said appliance sale without making any eye contact. At all. Impressive. I could have undressed seductively and been totally starkers when he passed me the receipt and he’d have been none the wiser. Equally, if I’d ‘lifted’ a Vegetable Spiraliser on the way out he wouldn’t have been able to identify me in a lineup. Something to think about in staff training don’t you think Barely Adequate Electricals R US!……

Step 2. Arrange a daytime delivery slot so it doesn’t interfere with school drop off/pick up time because the village lane is too effing small to accommodate an articulated lorry from Barely Adequate Electricals R US plus the school bus and parents who will be really arsed off by such a vehicle in their way.

Step 3. Receive a text at 8:10am on Monday morning, we’re on our way- we’ll be there at 8:40 – mostly because the village lane is too effing small to accommodate an articulated lorry from Barely Adequate Electricals R US plus the school bus and the parents who will be really arsed off by such a vehicle in their way.

Step 4. Allow your Monday morning angst and first world oven delivery problem stress you the big one! The massive lorry (we live on the narrowest lane in the village – you may want to put that on the delivery notice said I to Dan ‘no eye contact as standard’ and to be fair to him he did pop it on the delivery details) pulled up outside our cottage dwarfing it like a big thundercloud and spraying horse poo as it travelled! A smattering of ill-disguised tutting could be heard from the early mums who had to squeeze past the lorry to get their offspring to school.

Step 5. Start oven replacement hoohar. Have bants with delivery drivers about how they are supposed to take the old appliance away (payment had been made for this pleasure). Not on the delivery sheet appaz! Cajole delivery drivers to take old appliance. Plead and then bribe delivery drivers with tea and McVitie’s Belgian chocolate chunks Boasters to remove the old oven. Huffily phone Barely Adequate Electricals R Us and ascertain that arrangements had indeed been made for the old appliance to be disposed of! Hastily remove McVitie’s Belgian chocolate chunks Boasters from play ….

Photo source: britishshopabroad.com


I tried to draw a Boaster but it didn’t look like a Boaster or certainly didn’t evoke enough reverie for this venerable beauty of a chocolate chip cookie.  McVities you can thank me later when my one reader in Mid Glamorgan buys a packet!

Step 6. Swing (like an effing skilled trapeze artist) between tweenagers who can’t find their shoes/PE kit/water bottles/bookbags and delivery drivers needing attention. Holler “put that iPad down and find your school shoes. NOW!” Locate school bookbag remove green Furby Furbling before realizing it is actually last Friday’s uneaten mouldy break time snack. Point driver in the right direction for the fuse box. Replace mouldy Furby Furbling snack with a fresh one and homework book. Holler “You haven’t found your school shoes have you but….(seriously)….you’ve managed to pick your nose until it’s bleeding.” Sign officious looking documentation that declares electrics are in accordance with UK electrical standards and therefore the delivery drivers can proceed with installation (ffs). Stuff a tissue up older tweenager’s nose.

Step 7. Leave delivery drivers installing the oven to run up the road and drop kids off at school. Smile placatingly at arsy parents who aren’t happy at having to go the long way around the articulated lorry. Be accosted by Mr Bygraves the headmaster about the preposterously large Barely Adequate Electricals R US! lorry. Point out politely that ‘delivery at the time of school morning drop off’ had not been requested. Listen to his passive-aggressive suggestion that the highway should be kept clear at all times during school pick and drop off. Passive-aggressively suggest that Vertonbridge is a living breathing village for village dwellers and not just a school destination. Then make an excuse to get home and therefore facilitate the speeding up of the offensively large Barely Adequate Electricals R US! lorry blocking the highway.  

Step 8. Arrive home to find polystyrene, cardboard, plastic packaging and shiz everywhere, plus several McVitie’s Boasters missing but…new oven installed. Receive instructions to turn on the oven to burn off noxious factorynesses!

Step 9. Show delivery drivers out, pick up all polystyrene debris wafting about on the pavement and thereabouts. Skilfully deflect arsy looks from late straggler parents whilst receiving a light spray of horse sh*t as the Barely Adequate Electricals R US lorry wheels spin off.

Step 10. Turn on oven and gas out the whole kitchen with vile noxious and possibly poisonous fumes for forty minutes. This is akin to a hike around Sellafield Nuclear Plant or five minutes in a fart infested fug that is a tweenage boy’s bedroom. Spend next two weeks getting to know the oven! Not liking the touch screen bit and wondering why the bastard is always beeping? It beeps when the timer is put on and beeps in a distressed way if the timer hasn’t been put on, then beeps when it’s at the desired temperature. It then automatically starts the timer for the length of time that the oven is at the desired temperature because it has control issues and thinks everything should be timed (and beeped). Feel harassed and bullied by appliance. Google recipes which do not require a conventional oven. Find 100 Essential Recipes on the Hob and nearly buy it. Finally, stand up to appliance by actually properly reading the instruction manual. But feel head screwed some more when finding all manner of sub-settings, as well as the bog standard fan assisted oven, things appear such as forced air, convective heating, maxi cooking and other multifarious settings shiz! Pass the manual to husband or ** another responsible adult who also registers 9 on the new oven panic scale. Book Sunday lunch at the pub and order in a job lot of baked beans.

Have you been bullied or intimidated by a new household appliance? Does it feel like there’s a stranger in the house? If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this blog post – pop your woes in comments – and although I’m not qualified in counseling, remember I know first hand that new household appliance pain is real people.

As you were X

PS. Hard to believe I know, but this post was not sponsored by McVitie’s Belgian Chocolate Chunks Boasters. They just get a lucky mention which will no doubt boaster sorry bolster their sales immensely!

*joy, read, effing awfulness!

**responsible adult of your choice, perhaps a nurse or teacher….

Yay for frolics on a Friday (did that because it rhymes) I was featured blogger on Friday Frolics! Thank you to the crew Emma, Claire and Lucy xx

Life Love and Dirty Dishes
Life Love and Dirty Dishes
Prose for Thought

33. Beefing on about Wellingtons!


The Wellies and the Wellie wearer!

1. ‘The Dullard’ – as the name suggests – a very dull wellie boot, supplied to the nation via a plethora of dimly lit and cavernous outdoorsy clothing warehouse emporiums, such as Go Outdoors (I hate a shop that tells me what to do! Build A Bear! Accessorise! Eat! Ahhh Jeff off!). 

Dullard Debra. Debra isn’t interested in wellie boots, her bog standard turbid green (little-toe grating) stalwarts are perfectly serviceable for mucking out the ferrets, driving the John Deere up the back paddock (sadly not a euphemism) or doing the school run. She doesn’t have any truck with those expensive fleecy welly boot socks either. Yes, a pair of inflexible Dullards are perfectly adequate and (not that Debra cares) they go well with her dog-haired covered fleece of the same joyless colour. Debra *may* have been hoping for a pair of pretty spotty wellies from Asda for Christmas (sad face emoji)………and some of those frivolously cheery fleecy welly boot socks (sadder face emoji).

dullard copy.png

2. ‘The Fakeass Jolly Spotty’  – ‘Joules’ type wellie boot effort (no rubber trees were harmed in the making), supplied to the nation in bulk by leading supermarkets. On a busy (multi-laned bastard) roundabout near you.

Spotty Suzanne. Suzanne loves a floral/stripey/spotty welly boot, it adds a little colour and pizazz to her welly boot days (it’s always pissing down when she has to get Poppy to playgroup) and there’s no way Suzanne is paying through the nose for a pair of muddy puddle jumpers (so do one Peppa Pig) especially when Mondelli Pinot Grigio Blush is on offer and the kids swimming lessons want paying for. And you can do one dry January as well!.

fake jolly.png3.’The Aspirational Jazzy’  – patterned wellie boot that aspirational people wear, supplied to the nation by aspirational shops LIKE Joules, Cath Kidston, Boden etc.

Jazzy Julia. Julia loves an aspirational patterned wellie boot with the extra buckle detail. They are a bit like Hunters only prettier and more patterny. Julia likes the way they go with her indigo skinny jeans and they even seem to coordinate with her jazzy patterned anorak too (if you squint – with the sun behind her). Yes, Helen loves a patterny branded wellie that was expensive enough but not silly money like Hunters. Helen says,”Why pay nearly £100 for a pair of welly boots? Seems ridiculous!”. Helen just wants a pair of Hunters……

4.’The Lurid’ – brightly coloured Hunter Wellie Boot, worn by ‘bonkers’ people all over this land – supplied to the nation by companies LIKE Hunter at multifarious garden centres across the British Isles.

Lurid Lizzie. Lizzie loves her Hunters, she considers them to be the superior wellie boot but she’s not going to have a safeass navy pair or gah! – the black ones! No siree Bob! When she’s taking Whippets – Andy and Murray out she wants to be noticed in her (canary cadaver) yellow Hunters – bonkers – what is she like! Yes she likes a sturdy, iconic, royalty endorsed wellie but she’ll be damed if she’ll conform to dreary ‘farmer’ green especially when she can get the stupid coloured ones at a knock down price in TKMaxx. “What am I like? Bonkers, you know what I’m like!” she says as she bends down to scoop up Murray’s third turd of the walk, even her warm crap-filled poo bags are a jolly jazzy colour! Lizzie is going for bright coral when her current Hunters wear out……what is she like?


5.’The Leathery’ – looking boot which isn’t a wellie that pretentious people who may not actually own horses wear because they think they’re above the humble welly boot. Supplied to the nation by companies LIKE Dubarry in those 1950’s style posh independent shoe shops for old and posh people who always wear waxed jackets.

Leathery Lavinia. Lavinia did have a pony when she was growing up but her top rider days at Pony Club are alas a distant memory. Nowadays she doesn’t favour a wellie boot and as such will only wear her (like) Dubarrys and would never go back to conventional wellies. “I just don’t like the feel of rubber on my skin,” says Lavinia whose husband nods disappointedly in the background. Lavinia is secretly pleased that her daughter Isabella went off ponies, ballet is so much more…well how do I put it – economical! Especially as her husband’s post redundancy ‘consultancy’ work hasn’t panned out, the house needs re-thatching and the Land Rover keeps breaking down…..she may have to get a job or face a life of abject financial misery……a Ford Focus….rubber Dullard wellies……shudder!

6.’ The Champagne’ posh Welly – Le Chameur, worn by people with 400 quid to spend on wellies, supplied to the nation by proper posh companies such as Le Chameur and quite possibly sold at Harrods (I haven’t done the research if I’m honest).

Champagne Charlotte. (Lady) Charlotte (St John Smith) lives in the Great House (old money you know) and she is often seen strutting about the village in her (like) Le Chameurs. She isn’t even really aware of the leather lining or the full length zip, it’s just luxury that she has always known. Lady Charlotte walks her grounds shod in (like) Le Chameurs all year round with Bunty and Bracken, her Airedales yapping at her side.  But she isn’t smug or snobbish and often integrates with us commoners. In fact she’s always first in the wellie wanging arena at the May Day village Fete  – ready to hurl some low grade rubber…….be a dear and pass her a Dullard would you!

Wang trphy

What sort of wellie wearer are you? Do they brighten your rainy days or bring shame upon your shoe rack?

As you were! x

Life Love and Dirty Dishes

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?”


“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.


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.


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


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’.


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?


“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!


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.


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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