Thursday, 29 July 2010


I realised tonight that I've had a tattoo for nearly twenty years. I had a small Celtic knot put on my shoulder in 1991 and it was so unusual for a woman to have a tattoo that people would come up to me in the University Bar and ask if they could see it. A few years later I had a flying heart put on my upper arm but tattoos become so popular now that I've said that given the choice I would prefer not to have any at all. Until tonight.

Inspired by an amazing tattoo we saw with pin cushions, buttons and stitch style writing, some of my Itchin' for Stitchin' girls and I were considering some stitching themed body art. I thought I could cover my Celtic knot with a picture ball of wool but I haven't decided what the "thread" would say. Any ideas?

The Literary Gift Company

May I just draw your attention to this rather wonderful website? I don't think there's a single thing on here that I don't want to buy for me or someone I love.

The badge at the top of the page would be perfect for all those times on public transport or in waiting rooms that people presume you're reading because you're bored and lonely and would much rather be talking to them about immigration.
The earrings are delicate and elegant and I'd buy them now if I didn't know for a fact that I'd lose them in a couple of days.
The Dorothy Parker poster may still find its way to my study wall as she's one of my heroines.
And the bag inspires me to see if I can make something out of an old book or two (my apologies right now to The Girl for the mess I'm likely to make).
I'm also sorry about the weird positioning of the pictures on this post but I've spent blinkin' ages trying to sort it out and I've had enough; I'm hungry and I'm going to make myself some lunch.

Moving On

In a previous life I was a counsellor and therapist before the urge to tell people to pull themselves together got too strong and I became a teacher and actively encouraged to boss people around. When I first learned about Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and her model for the stages of grief I was amazed by the common sense I saw in it and how pertinent it was to my life. I've seen it mentioned as having anything from four to seven stages and it applies, not just to the grieving process following a bereavement but, to any ending. I've realised this week that I'm in a really good place emotionally and was thinking about how the model applies to the ending of my marriage. I've reproduced it here, with notes- in italics- by me.

1. SHOCK & DENIAL-You will probably react to learning of the loss with numbed disbelief. You may deny the reality of the loss at some level, in order to avoid the pain. Shock provides emotional protection from being overwhelmed all at once. This may last for weeks.

January 2009
This was the stage where Husband moved to the spare room but I went on as normal, cooking, cleaning, going to work. Nothing changed. I told people we'd split up but did nothing else differently.

2. PAIN & GUILT-As the shock wears off, it is replaced with the suffering of unbelievable pain. Although excruciating and almost unbearable, it is important that you experience the pain fully, and not hide it, avoid it or escape from it with alcohol or drugs.
You may have guilty feelings or remorse over things you did or didn't do with your loved one. Life feels chaotic and scary during this phase.

March 2009
This went on for a long time. I was working in a town someway from home and I spent a lot of my commute crying. When I told my sister-in-law that I found it difficult not to cry on buses because I had time to think about what had happened she suggested I stop getting the bus...

3. ANGER & BARGAINING-Frustration gives way to anger, and you may lash out and lay unwarranted blame for the death on someone else. Please try to control this, as permanent damage to your relationships may result. This is a time for the release of bottled up emotion.
You may rail against fate, questioning "Why me?" You may also try to bargain in vain with the powers that be for a way out of your despair ("I will never drink again if you just bring him back")

March 2009
My anger was aimed at his family (over real issues is has to be said) and those of his friends who dropped me, but rarely at him, though phone calls (once I'd kicked him out) always started calmly and then went through anger, crying, begging, crying and back to calm again.

I also tried to find practical ways of sorting things out, in retrospect it was obviously bargaining.

"If I lose weight will you come back?" "If I pay for you to go into rehab and get over your addictions, will you come back?"

4. "DEPRESSION", REFLECTION, LONELINESS-Just when your friends may think you should be getting on with your life, a long period of sad reflection will likely overtake you. This is a normal stage of grief, so do not be "talked out of it" by well-meaning outsiders. Encouragement from others is not helpful to you during this stage of grieving.
During this time, you finally realize the true magnitude of your loss, and it depresses you. You may isolate yourself on purpose, reflect on things you did with your lost one, and focus on memories of the past. You may sense feelings of emptiness or despair.

This was last summer. I even had a (very brief) fling with someone and attempted Internet dating until I realised I wasn't ready and it wasn't fair on others. I found it difficult to tell friends how much I was suffering as they could all see how much better off I was without him but I still managed to talk about him ad nauseum.

5. THE UPWARD TURN-As you start to adjust to life without your dear one, your life becomes a little calmer and more organized. Your physical symptoms lessen, and your "depression" begins to lift slightly.

Mid-September 2009
Work picked up after the summer break and The Stitchettes started meeting, my life started to open up and I started to get on with things and see my own value.

6. RECONSTRUCTION & WORKING THROUGH-As you become more functional, your mind starts working again, and you will find yourself seeking realistic solutions to problems posed by life without your loved one. You will start to work on practical and financial problems and reconstructing yourself and your life without him or her.

This started around Christmas 2009. I started to talk about him less and have more interests in my life. I'd still tell people what had happened at the drop of a hat but now I often related stories from my marriage as funny anecdotes until I realised that no-one else was laughing and I was telling tales of emotional and mental abuse.

I had a set-back when I had to spend some time in contact with Husband over some fall-out from his extra-marital activities and was so dismayed at how badly I coped with contacting him that I decided to be proactive and get myself some help. I found a therapist who had a working style that suited me and started seeing him once a week. Talking in any detail about my marriage must have lasted about three weeks before we moved on and Husband became largely irrelevant. Which brings us to...

7. ACCEPTANCE & HOPE-During this, the last of the seven stages in this grief model, you learn to accept and deal with the reality of your situation. Acceptance does not necessarily mean instant happiness. Given the pain and turmoil you have experienced, you can never return to the carefree, untroubled YOU that existed before this tragedy. But you will find a way forward.
You will start to look forward and actually plan things for the future. Eventually, you will be able to think about your lost loved one without pain; sadness, yes, but the wrenching pain will be gone. You will once again anticipate some good times to come, and yes, even find joy again in the experience of living.

Joy? Did you see me with The Stitchettes on Tuesday? I was pretending to have antlers and laughed so much I snorted? Did you see me last night at MrsB's? She made an absolutely filthy comment and I nearly fell off my seat? Did you see me when I sold my Stitching? I was almost dancing in the street. Will you be there next month when I see my family including a brother I've not seen in eighteen months (he lives in Spain), a sister I've not seen in three years (California) and sisters and nephews and nieces I haven't seen for a year? My life is so much better now. It's not perfect; I worry over money a lot; my health isn't what it should be and, Oh God, what I'd give for a bit of bedroom shenanigans but day-to-day living is fun and fulfilling and I have friends and family who love me.

I still think he treated me appallingly. You shouldn't marry someone you don't love, someone the wrong gender, and then punish them for your unhappiness. You shouldn't make promises you have no intention of keeping. You shouldn't start relationships with new people (yes, plural...) until you've ended your old one. You shouldn't lie, cheat and abuse. But, and it's a massive but, I will not let his actions, his cruelty, define me. Despite what he told me I know myself to be strong, brave, kind, energetic, intelligent and attractive. I am not lazy, stupid, boring and unfanciable, but I suspect I know someone who thinks he is...

I couldn't have done this on my own and, though almost everyone in my life was a support in some ways, I need to mention some people in particular: MrsB who can't cope with me crying but can always make me laugh so it doesn't matter, HullBestFriend for listening to my endless analysing, BermudaGirl for taking me in and taking me away, BellyDancer for showing me that I was worth enough to travel miles a three-hour round trip to visit on a school night, OriginalBestFriend for total unconditional acceptance, The Stitchettes for opening my life to new possibilities, listening to my analysis of my therapy (poor sods) and keeping me from violence on one of the worst nights of my life, and Boy for showing me I was sensual, sexual and desirable. Thank God for them all.

The details of The Seven Stages of Grief come from which isn't a bad website if you can overlook the comic sans.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Camp Coffee

I am a coffee aficionado. Hemingway first popularised that word outside Spain; it originally meant one who was a passionate follower of the bullfight. For me the passion is coffee. I love buying beans, talking about blends, grinding to a perfect softness; I love my Bialetti stove-top moka with it's blackened base that speaks of many scalding, devilishly strong cups of espresso. I love the bitter black silk on my tongue and the kick of the caffeine. I affect an air of sophistication in cafes as I sip from a tiny cup.

So how do I explain my love for Camp?

Yesterday I made fudge in my friend's kitchen (see below) and couldn't find the vanilla extract. Instead I found a bottle of Camp and made coffee fudge. Looking at the bottle brought back so many memories that I couldn't resist putting some in a glass of milk. Oh my Lord! It was delicious. And, if I thought the sight of the bottle had evoked nostalgia, the taste sent me straight back to my Mammy's pantry. No wonder I grew up to love espresso with sugar; Camp is strong and sweet and bitter -heaven in a bottle.
With my espresso I stake a claim to European cafe culture but with Camp I am tapping into the British Empire and the request from the Gordon Highlanders to Scottish Food magnet Robert Peterson to provide them with a coffee drink they could brew quickly whilst on campaign. The design of the label has been, quite rightly, changed so that the Sikh and Scottish soldier are now equals but I am sad that consequently some of the subtle undertones have been lost.
The label is supposed to show Fighting Mac, Major General Hector MacDonald, a crofter's son who rose through the ranks to be a national hero but committed suicide in disgrace following accusations of homosexual activity with servants and native boys. Camp coffee indeed. Clearly homosexuality was "the love that dare not speak its name" and, even in contemporary Britain, gay rights came later to the army than the rest of society but there is little doubt that, had he been part of the establishment, the whole situation would have been hushed-up as it was in other cases.

Jake Arnott, author of The Long Firm trilogy and Johny Come Home (which contains an odious character he named after my brother), has written a book imagining a meeting between MacDonald and Aleister Crowley called The Devil's Paintbrush. As with all his books, but especially The Long Firm, it is highly recommended.

Thanks to for the image.


There are days when the smell of cooking fudge, in all it's vanilla-ey goodness, just makes the world a better place. I don't know if standing over a saucepan of boiling sugar is good for the complexion, but breathing in the clouds of butterscotch-scented steam is certainly good for the soul.

Making fudge is actually ridiculously easy, though you do need to be careful as boiling sugar is up there with napalm on the dangerous substances list.

I made this yesterday with a friend's eight-year-old, by which I mean she weighed out the ingredients and then I stirred for twenty minutes whilst she went and played a cooking game on the computer. Modern life eh?

If you don't have the time or inclination to make your own, you can buy delicious Fair Trade Fudge here

  • oil, for greasing (I used one of those Frylight sprays and it worked really well)

  • 300ml milk (You can use semi-skimmed but if you're buying it specially go for the full fat)

  • 350g caster sugar

  • 100g unsalted butter (to be honest I always use salted butter and it's never been a problem)

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract or Camp coffee

1. Grease an 18cm square cake tin. Luckily my friend does a lot of tray bakes for school and had tin-foil cake tins so I didn't have to worry about ruining her bakeware.

2. Put the milk, sugar and butter in a heavy-based saucepan. Heat slowly, stirring all the time, until the sugar has dissolved and the butter melted.

3. Bring to the boil and boil for 15-20 minutes, stirring all the time.

4. When the mixture reaches the soft-ball stage * (115°C on a sugar thermometer), remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract or Camp. Leave to cool for 5 minutes. Use this time to eat some of the fudge mixture on chopped up bananas as a sauce.

5. Beat the mixture with a spoon for a few minutes until it starts to thicken and the gloss disappears.

6. Pour into the prepared tin and leave to set at room temperature (do not put it in the fridge).

7. Once set, cut the fudge into small squares and store in a sealed container eating any pieces that are irregular just to neaten it all up nicely.

* Soft ball- have a bowl of cold water next to the cooker and after about fifteen minutes drop a little of the mixture into it. If you can form it into a soft (and yummy) ball it is ready.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

The Boy Who Cried Wolf.

It's a sad fact that most of the children I teach only know traditional tales if Disney have turned them into a film. Now I love a good animated film (unlike my friend MrsB, but frankly she's a nutjob) and have nothing against Disney but I do think our children are missing out. The first few years at school are meant to be fun and so the curriculum is largely based on fairy stories, folk tales and nursery rhymes but time and time again we find that we're starting from scratch as the children are more familiar with the songs of Michael Jackson than Mary Had a Little Lamb.

I can't help thinking they're missing out on more than just fun. Traditionally stories were also teaching aids. Cinderella taught us that we shouldn't be cruel to stepchildren (an important message given the mortality rate during childbirth until the twentieth century), Beauty and The Beast taught us the importance of looking past externals to the true character within and Puss in Boots taught us the importance of fabulous footwear. Of course the best of these have to be Aesop's Fables. I love using them at school as they're short, simple and pithy. I get the children to reproduce them as comic strips, or act them out with puppets, or retell them in their own words and I hope they learn from the message as well as achieving some literacy goals.

It seems to me that it's not just children that could learn from these fables...

I have a friend who is kind, generous and fun to be with but tells lies. It started a long time ago when he would exaggerate a little for comic effect. Fair enough. We all knew it was an exaggeration and had no problem with it, especially as the stories were amusing. Then stories started to be told about what he had said to someone. You know the type of thing,

" And the girl in the shop was too busy talking to her friend so I got the manager and said ' Your staff are treating me appallingly I'd like you to reprimand them', so he sacked the girl and I got a £50 gift voucher"


That's what he wanted to say, but it didn't occur to him until he was half-way home.
Once again we let it slide because we've all told someone we said something when really we didn't think of the witty rejoinder until we were in bed that night, alone.

And then he took it to a new level. Following the breakdown of my marriage I did the normal stalkbooking, and, as is inevitable with these matters, just succeeded in upsetting myself. My husband's new profile picture showed him being hugged by a male friend and looking for all the world like the happiest gay couple you've ever seen. I was distraught, not by my husband's sexuality, which was no shock, but by suspicions that he'd moved on within days of leaving me. One night my friend was round and I showed him the picture. Did I get words of comfort and support, did I get told to stop being so silly, that was X who'd been to my house, who was straight, who had a girlfriend...? No! I got told,

"Oh yeah, I know him, he's gay. He's out, he's on the scene, I know him."

A lie. A stupid lie. A lie that, had I bothered to believe him, would have really hurt me. My friend was so busy showing off that he failed to remember that one of the men in the picture was my husband; the man who had stood in front of an altar and promised to love me forsaking all others. He totally ignored the fact that this was someone I was still in love with.

I looked at my friend and it dawned on me that he was more concerned about telling a story and being the centre of attention than in my pain and something changed. I started to notice other fibs. A holiday we'd been told about last year- complete with details of who he'd met and where they'd gone- didn't actually happen. A night out clubbing in Birmingham was related to HullBestFriend but when I asked about the city he said he'd never been. HBF and I talked about it and realised there were discrepancies in many of his stories and in some cases we'd been told completely different things. And we started to wonder what, if anything, we could believe.

So that's the moral of my story, and of Aesop's, be careful about telling lies because the time may come when people don't believe anything you say. HBF and I are still friends with The Boy Who Cried Wolf but any time spent with him is immediately followed by frantic phone calls where we compare notes and marvel over his flights of fantasy. I'm not sure how he'd feel if he knew but I know that I'd be mortified. I'm not saying I've never told a lie as there are times lying is the less hurtful thing to do but you can trust me.

Picture from

Things I can't do

I can't tie myself to the bed.

Let me explain. I suffer from numerous allergies; some are life-threatening (the mould that grows on damp tents and marquees anyone?) and some are just annoying (biological washing powder). Sometimes in bed at night the itch becomes intolerable and I wake up and find I've scratched myself raw. I've tried wearing scratch mittens but it's amazing the damage you can do just by rubbing and I've tried anti-histamines but they knock me out and I'm a zombie the next day.

One day I had the brilliant idea of tying my hands to the bedpost. I should explain that I already sleep with my hands up on the pillow and my head cradled on my forearms so it's not an uncomfortable position. I toddled off to our local specialist underwear and "toy" shop, Gwenap, and bought myself a set of neoprene and Velcro cuffs. They're soft and utilitarian and exactly what I needed. I don't think for a moment that the lady believed me when I told her why I wanted them and I smiled wryly to myself as I left the shop and some workmen asked me what I'd bought in traditionally ribald terms.

The next time I started to itch I asked my husband to do the honours and he secured me to the bed. I had a fantastic night's sleep and woke up non-scratched and refreshed. Over many other nights we did the same thing: I'd call him to the bedroom, he'd tie me up, he'd leave, I'd wonder why he didn't take advantage of the situation, I'd wonder what he was doing downstairs, I'd finally fall asleep, I'd sleep through the night. On the health front it was an ideal arrangement as I was managing my allergies without drugs. My self-esteem found it less satisfactory...

Well, the mass of frustration and pain that was my marriage is over now and I share the bed with the cats (and yes, I can see the irony in a post about allergies). The night before last I woke up and realised my skin was itching so I got out the cuffs but, try as I might, I could not manage to secure them and me at the same time. I could get them onto the bedpost and secure one hand, or I could secure both hands but not onto the bedpost. I felt like a reverse Houdini. Finally, I took a Vallergen. This was at 4 am. I finally stopped feeling drugged and spaced-out at about 7pm.

So it seems to me that I need to find someone to tie me to my bed...

Sunday, 25 July 2010


Short o or long?  I'm a soft southerner so when I eat a scone it rhymes with Ron.  However you say it. they're easy to make, quick to cook and delicious.
There was no bread in the house this morning- again- so I made a quick batch whilst I waited for the bread to cook. 

  • 8 oz self raising flour
  • 1  1/2 oz butter
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons caster sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • milk
Preheat the oven to 220 C.

  1. Sift the flour into a large bowl and add a pinch of salt.
  2. Cut the butter into pieces and put into the flour, rub in until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.  You don't need to be quite as light fingered as with pastry but the less you mess with the mixture the better.
  3. Add the sugar and mix through lightly.  You can make the mixture up ahead of time and stop at this point as long as you leave it in the fridge, it will keep for a few days and can be finished off when you have guests (who will be madly impressed) or for breakfast.
  4. Add milk to make into a firm but pliable dough.  This is the point where it can all go wrong as it is very easy to add too much.  Start by adding no more than a tablespoon and add just a tiny bit at a time so that your mixture isn't too wet.  I have deliberately left out a quantity from this recipe as measuring it does not work; you need to do it by eye.
  5. Roll on a floured board (or work surface) with a floured rolling pin (use a wine bottle if you don't have a pin) until it is about 3/4 of an inch (2cm) thick.
  6. Cut out the shapes and place on a non-stick baking sheet.  Put them all bunched together (don't worry, they won't stick to each other) so that they rise better.
  7. Cook near the top of the oven for 10-15 mins depending on the size and shape.

Best eaten warm from the oven with butter, but jam and cream, cheese, even Marmite are all delicious on them.  They aren't particularly sweet so they can be served as sweet or savoury as you chose.  Eat them on the day of baking (the fresher, the better); they don't keep well.

Saturday, 24 July 2010


  1. I'm not keen on John Lennon and think "Imagine" is a pompous dirge of monumental proportions.

  2. I hate pubs and pub crawls. Now, before someone phones my dad and gives him a heart attack with this news, I should say that I love country pubs with beer gardens, open fires, specials on a blackboard and the smell of beer and furniture polish. I hate the pubs in this city. I hate going on a pub crawl and paying huge amounts of money for a glass of sugar and water or a truly dreadful glass of vinegar that pretends to be wine. I hate having to shout to make myself heard and being so much taller than my companions that all conversation seems to happen down around my shoulders. I hate there being nowhere to sit. Invite me out for coffee, invite me for a meal, invite me for tapas, invite me for a bottle of wine in a cafe bar but don't bother inviting on one of those evenings that involves a long list of where you'll be at different times; I'm likely to "get lost" between pubs and be found at home with a pizza.

  3. I can't do long-division.

  4. I'm not that keen on travelling. I love city breaks and I love going to visit friends and family all around the world but the thought of throwing a few things in a backpack and setting off round Europe or Asia...? Hideous. I like to spend time planning, reading guide books, making lists, I like to know where I'm sleeping at night.

  5. I pretend to like Arthouse Cinema but I'd really rather go and see a good Sci-Fi.

  6. I enjoy picking my nose.

  7. I love QVC.

  8. I'll happily eat chocolate for breakfast.

  9. I judge people who use poor grammar. Seriously, if your Facebook updates have no punctuation, confuse homophones and use text-speak or deliberate misspellings ( I think you'll find the word is "have" not "ave") I'll think less of you and won't bother trying to decode your messages. Grammar is all about good manners; if you don't put the effort into making your text clear and easy to understand you are expecting your readers to do the work of trying to understand you. Why should we bother?

  10. When I'm feeling stressed and need to think about a "happy place" I think about Waitrose. It's so clean and calm and well organised, everything I'd like my life and home to be. Everything that it isn't.

Friday, 23 July 2010

"You should hear what she says about you"

Nearly twenty years ago I had a boyfriend who left me. I went to pieces. I took it as a reflection of my own value and my self-esteem plummeted. I was very young and drank too much and cried, a lot. For a long time. Looking back, it was the culmination of a year where a lot of bad things had happened and I don't want to judge myself too harshly, and I got over it.

One of the reasons I got over it was that I had kind, supportive friends who listened when I rambled and bored them in my self-indulgent misery. It must have been difficult for them at times, it was undoubtedly boring, but they were there. One of those people, Gill *, was there for me through it all and is still one of my absolute, most trusted, most loved friends nearly twenty years later. So why then, did one of our mutual friends feel the need to say,

"You should hear what she says about you behind your back."?

Why does that comment NEVER come before a list of lovely things, of praise, of kindness and support? Why does the Teller always find that one, throwaway comment made in exasperation, in a grumpy mood, because the dear friend needed to vent? Why do they need to pass it on at all?

Do they think you'll be grateful? Do they think you'll be glad the scales have fallen from your eyes? Do they think you'll like them better because your friend turns out to be human?

I don't care what they are trying to achieve. They manage one thing; I stop trusting them. I remember all the support my friend gives and understand that they love me but need to moan sometimes (don't we all?) and I refuse to listen to whispers and suspicion.

Gill is still my friend; the person who "told" is not. Oh, and when one of my friends tells me something lovely about another, I pass THAT on.

* Name has been kept the same to praise the praiseworthy!

A puzzle...

Here's a quick Friday morning challenge for you. What do you think this picture is all about? I'll send a silly little prize to the first person to get it right and post all the details and the artist's name later today.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Lulu Guinness

I love Lulu Guinness products and her unique retro-inspired style. I have one of her handbags- a wonderful bargain buy from TK Maxx which I will show you when I've found my camera (has anyone seen it by the way?)- and would love more.

She has a sale on at the moment and this beautiful handbag is reduced from £175 to £52.50 which is a fantastic bargain if you're not a freelance worker facing a couple of months with no work.
If you're a little more solvent you can buy it here, but I was wondering whether I could adapt the idea by embroidering a homemade tote bag with simple line drawings?
I'll let you know...

Sunday, 18 July 2010


I thought for years that I liked living alone.

I thought I preferred to be alone because I preferred to be alone to living with someone who poured his coffee on the floor if there wasn't enough sugar in it, left filthy underpants on the bathroom floor and said he'd "never be the kind of man who takes his dishes through to the kitchen" as if I was asking him to give up an essential part of his integrity.

I'm glad to say that my housemate, The Girl, does none of those things! Actually, she's so tidy that she inspires me to better things and I really hope that my natural untidiness doesn't end up driving her crazy. I've been getting home earlier than her most evenings so I've been cooking the dinner, but she's been doing the washing-up and it's so nice to be able to share the chores.

But mostly it's nice to share jokes, chat, craft supplies and quiet evenings in.

So, these are the inhabitants of Vista del Nada,

  1. Dorothy Sims Crumpet- that's me. Tall, voluptuous,shoe-obsessed, talkative, coffee-loving, romantic and messy.

  2. The Girl- housemate. Tall, gorgeous, funny, patient, cleaning machine, mad cat lady.

  3. Maggie- Black cat. Cranky, talkative, grumpy, loving.

  4. Maud- Tabby cat. Beautiful, funny, cuddly, stripey.

We're not the most harmonious home in the world due to Maggie's habit of hissing at anything that moves but we rub along quite nicely most of the time.


I am obsessed with islands. It's a long-held fascination that started in childhood when I read my Dad's copies of Swallows and Amazons and imagined myself to be Nancy Blackett. I'd draw endless maps, I'd play islands on the rockery in the garden, I'd spot them in the clouds and I'd daydream about living on one. The first time I watched Jaws I spent more time being delighted by the idea of living on Amity than I did being scared by the Great White.

As I've grown older those imaginary islands have been replaced with the real thing and my last two holidays have been spent in Venice and on the Isle of Mull. During some of the bad times of the last few years I've spent hours on Google Earth, Google Maps and Google Images looking for my house.

When I'm feeling stressed at work and wishing I lived somewhere quiet and beautiful with a strong community I imagine myself living here:

Isn't it just the most beautiful place you've ever seen? This is The Old Ferry House at Grasspoint in the south of The Isle of Mull. It looks out over The Sound of Mull and back to the mountains of the mainland. You can see more pictures of it here,

and you can rent it for your holiday, but in my fevered imagination it's going to be my family home one day!

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Clarks Originals

Those of you who know me in the real world will know that I am more than a little in love with shoes. I'm having a few health problems at the moment that cause swollen ankles and I'm genuinely less concerned about my circulatory system than I am about the possibility I may have to give up wearing high heels.

In the meantime I will be saving my pennies for these beautiful Clarks Originals.
Now Clarks say,

Victoriana-inspired ladies shoes in soft black suede, with luxurious red velvet laces. This feminine style combines an easy to wear mid-height heel and delicate stitching, with the natural comfort of the Originals crepe sole.

but I think they'd look perfect with a 1940's inspired outfit. The heel is high enough to give your posture a little lift and add elegance to your walk but low enough to still be comfortable after a day in the classroom and a bus ride and walk home. The ribbon adds a touch of quirky stylishness and fun to a classic shape.
I'm a huge fan of Clarks shoes, they're comfortable, hardwearing and often very chic, and I think their Originals range is fabulous. There are a number of t-bar and Mary-Jane style shoes in the range that need to find a home on my shoe rack so I'm hoping I get lots of work over the coming year so I can buy them all.
Most of the shoes are in the £50-£70 range so they aren't cheap compared to budget ranges but they're hardly in the designer price range and they will last you for years with the right care.
If you'd like them you can order them here:

Normal Service Has Now Been Resumed...

All those posts in a single day and then nothing for ten days. What must you think of me? Please let me explain...

I was happily pottering about on the Internet one evening when the strangest thing happened. Every time I tried to type the letters they appeared on the screen as numbers, except when I tried upper case which was completely invisible. I was not happy. I was even less happy when someone "liked" the resulting status update on Facebook (seriously, think about what you "like").
The Girl (as housemate is known in the blogosphere) was having a few issues with viruses and whatnot on her computer so she ran some software on mine and discovered I had 24 risky bits of gubbins on my laptop. 24... Yes you read that right. 24.

We've cleaned most of them off but the problem remains and this is The Girl's laptop I am using.

The moral of the story is or, should I say, the morals of the story are...

1. Make sure you have anti-virus software installed (I am an idiot).

2. Don't let stupid boys who like looking at porn anywhere near your computer.

3. Get one of your friends to move in to your spare room and borrow her computer.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

And finally...

It wasn't really an overheard as it was said to me by my cousin as the best comment on my marriage I'm yet to hear.

Embroidering the Truth.

Our exhibition is up and running, we had a fantastic opening night (many Margeritas were consumed by one person I know), and we've all sold at least one piece. I wonder if you can tell the difference between my early pieces and the ones I stitched as I became more practised.


Yesterday, one of my students said,

"I know people say you get better with practice but God knows how bad she must have been when she started,".

Apart from thinking this one of the funniest things I've heard in a long time I wished we were still stitching our Overheards as I'd love to do that one. Here are some of the pieces I did make, please forgive the dodgy photos.


I don't normally blog this often in a day but I want to introduce you all (all? I have two followers!) to my interests and obsessions.

I love crafting. I've been trying to make things for years but for some reason (surely not lack of skill?) my creations have never matched up to the beautiful pictures in my head. I taught myself to crochet but I never managed to finish anything, I'd just unravel and start again. It became a bit of a joke though the wonderful girls at my Stitch and Bitch group never held it against me. I spent money on crafting magazines, crafting supplies, fabric, thread, sewing machines, wool, paint, papers, ribbon, glues. You name it, I had it. And yet nothing was ever finished and I was never satisfied.

Then one evening one of the Stitchettes said,

"I think we should have an exhibition!"

I'm sure I'm not the only one who felt a cold hand clutch her heart whilst feigning enthusiasm . But the idea was born. We'd have an exhibition of cross-stitches and embroideries with the theme, "Overheards".

Just imagine, all those times you hear someone say something totally ridiculous, funny, disgusting or amazing, all those times you look round thinking,
"Someone must have heard that!", all those times you've loved someone's one-liner and wanted to write it down, all those times lovingly stitched, mounted, framed and hung.

I started badly. I hadn't embroidered in 28 years and was a little rusty. I didn't realise that you really DO need to split your embroidery silk into strands to get a good result, but this was my first creation.

I heard it on a bus going through a particularly deprived part of town and I should explain that Chicken George is a sub-KFC fast food joint, not a gourmet experience.

Things I have planned for the summer holidays...

  1. Finish sorting out my clothes.
  2. Improve my Italian.
  3. Learn some simple ukulele chords.
  4. Learn to sew a simple skirt.
  5. Eat salad I have grown for myself.
  6. Visit my parents.
  7. Earn some money.
  8. Blog.
  9. Give the attractive man at The Range my phone number.

Things I am likely to do in the summer holidays...

  1. Read.
  2. Watch bad t.v.
  3. Spend hours on facebook.

Looking Hot!

I find it very difficult to cope in hot weather. I don't sleep properly, I have to share the bus with people who think deodorant is optional, the children get fractious, my feet swell etc. Worst of all my face shines red and I look like I'm having a heart attack or have the worst case of sunburn in the world.

I find heat frustrating because I can't wear my favourite clothes and shoes, I'm not a follower of fashion but I do love all things apparel related. I'm a bit of a retro girl but I'm too big to fit in to all those cute little floral frocks (one of this summer's targets is learn to sew) so I have a retro-inspired style of my own.

Last night I had an extra meeting of my Stitch and Bitch group and walked down my beloved Newland Avenue to meet the girls. I was wearing a Monsoon wrap dress ( a good five years old) in greens and browns and a pair of bright scarlet sandals with a high heel and a platform. They were brand new but as I was only walking a short distance I thought I'd be safe wearing them in.
I passed a man of about my age and heard him say
but thought nothing of it and kept walking He passed me, turned around and walked back toward me. As he reached me he smiled and said,
"You look hot tonight!"
with undisguised (and totally unsleazy) admiration.

What an ego boost! I didn't fancy him and I didn't want to take it any further but I smiled and thanked him and kept walking, only this time I was ten feet tall.

Maybe hot's not so bad after all.


I usually work as a supply teacher in primary Schools in Hull and the East Riding. I love it. Every day is full of variety and new experiences though I'd like the regular salary of a classroom teacher. I've always said there's no way I'd teach at senior school because teenagers are horrid. Most of my experience of them over the last 20 years has been based on experiences on buses and round town on a Saturday when herds of teenagers bask in the sun trying not to let their emo skin lose its milky pallor. Now I'm not saying I want to face a class of thirty of the little darlings but over the last week I've discovered something amazing; teenagers are people too.

I've been working in a secondary school for almost a week providing one-to-one tuition for 13 and 14 year olds who aren't making fast enough progress and the three boys I'm working with are a delight. Witty, enthusiastic and well-mannered, they make my job easy. I've made sure they're writing about things that interest them and interspersed our sessions with games and exercises on the computer (Hurrah for BBC Bitesize and Skillswise!) but they've worked incredibly hard for me even when they've been taken out of lessons that they love. On Monday I wasn't really in the mood to be my normal, over-enthusiastic self (bad news and bad sleep having taken its toll) but their cheeriness and willingness to get stuck in took me with them.

Now don't go thinking this is some high-achieving school in the leafy suburbs. This is a tough school, in a tough area of a tough city. These children live in an area of social deprivation and see poverty all around them. The people they know are likely to distrust education and have low aspirations but these boys have been meeting every challenge I set them.

I still find groups of teenagers intimidating and I'll be interested to see if I find the girls as easy to work with (I change to new students on Friday) but I've decided to remember that they're not just youths, they're individuals with likes and dislikes, enthusiasms, foibles and quirks. If someone from a group speaks to me on the street I will smile and answer.

And if they're being a nightmare on the bus I will tut and bury my head in my book, I'm not stupid!

Sunday, 4 July 2010

The Salad Project

Year after year I've planted tomatoes and watched them die of blight before I could harvest them, or had such a bad summer that they never ripened. This year I've decided to grow something a little different.

The builders doing up a house down our street were putting a broken chest of drawers in a skip so I asked for the drawers to use as planters. I filled them with potting compost from The Range (more of that later...) and put a seed roll from Waitrose into them. That was late on Wednesday.

Today is Sunday...

We have leaves! They're growing under a film that will puff up into a kind of poly tunnel as they grow. I'll keep you informed as they grow.

Broad Bean Pate

This is the easiest recipe I've ever posted and probably one of the most delicious. I made it as I had left-over beans due to my propensity to cook enough for a tribe.

You will need:

Broad Beans
Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar
Fresh Mint

  1. Cook the broad beans until soft- I admit that I use frozen broad beans these days as they're so convenient and delicious.
  2. Dress the warm beans with the balsamic vinegar. Serve some of these with your dinner, they're lovely.
  3. Let the beans sit and absorb the vinegar for an hour or overnight if you're using leftovers.
  4. Using a food processor or sick blender start to puree the beans, add a generous sprig of fresh mint and salt and pepper to taste as you blend.
  5. Add some good quality olive oil (avocado oil would be delicious too). I'm currently living with a dieter so I used less than normal, about a two teaspoons of oil per handful (not heaped) of beans and this gave a stiff paste.
  6. Serve as on toast or as a side dish with cold meats or fish. We had it with salmon and I made a sandwich out of it.
I didn't worry about taking the papery skins off and they were invisible in the finished pate. This will keep in a screw-top jar (a use for those Bon Maman jam-jars we all hoard) for a couple of days in the fridge. You could pour a layer of olive oil onto the top to stop it from discolouring, just pour the oil off before serving.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Why They Called Me Dorothy...

This picture in no way does justice to the beauty of these shoes. The suede is soft, the patent shiny and they are the most vivid red. I get compliments whenever I wear them and they're amazingly comfortable.
They make me happy...

You can find them here at Next where you can find some of the most beautiful shoes on the high street. They have many pairs of red shoes which are my current obsession, not least because the wonderful Shoeperwoman challenges her readers to wear red shoes every Ruby Shoesday.

Mystery Mail

I got home from work yesterday and an envelope had arrived through the post with a silk sleep-mask. It has come from a company called Jasmine Silk in Egham but I didn't order it and I don't know who did.

It's silky and luxurious and makes me wonder whether someone wants me to have a good night's sleep or a naughty adventure with a blindfold. Who would spend £9.00 on an anonymous gift for me?

Any ideas?


Well, hello there!

Welcome to my new blog, created to allow an outlet for my random musings, recipes and attempts at craft projects. I had a blog when I was married and during the year it took me to start recovering from the break-up but I felt it was a good time to start again on-line just as I am starting again in life. As an added bonus my Mother-in-law does not know this address; she's a lovely woman but I have no wish to share the details of my new life with her.

I'm not sure what you'll find here but I'm going to have fun finding out and I hope you'll enjoy reading some of my nonsense.