Monday, 29 October 2012

Look back Monday...

Some scenes from the weekend...and what a funny weekend it was.  The Wonderful Man decided to play out a stolen version 'The Good Life' and filched a fresh 'neep' (swede) from the field opposite: 

The French claim that swede is only good for cattle and the English!

But it made a delicious soup

The recently harvested fields make a good walking ground.  The straw makes a satisfying crunch underfoot like a stubbly version of snow. Looking to the east, Torness power station dominates the horizon. I'm fascinated by how it seems to change - there's a peculiar beauty in its ugliness That sounds a very odd thing to say but it has a real chameleon quality; on a dismal grey day it fades to grey too. If there's a real sea mist and heavy cloud then it often looks like it might be floating. Bass Rock is just to the left of it and far out on the right a solitary container ship makes its way north (I wonder what it might be carrying?)

Saturday night a gathering of ghouls, devils and witches celebrated an early Halloween, birthday and wedding anniversary all thrown into one.  Yummy snacks of werewolf toes, bats' ears and satan's eyeballs were enjoyed by all (translation: sausage rolls, crisps and stuffed tomatoes) 

Even Lance, the doped cyclist, and Edwina Scissorhands made an appearance
Meanwhile I dug out a long black wig from the dressing up box and piled on the make-up and da dah - a reasonably convincing Morticia! 

There was no escape from the devil

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Desperately seeking brains

H is writing a short story.  Like most teenagers she is more intent on finding an original title and researching ideas for the plot than she is in actually getting down to write the content.  She flies into the kitchen, where I am desperately trying to finish some work of my own, to ask, "Which title do you think is best  - 'Blood River' or 'Rot and Live'?"  At this point the word 'blood' has made its way through my semi-listening filter and she now has my full attention.  I enquire nervously as to what kind of story this is going to be exactly.  "A zombie apocalypse story, of course!" she answers me as though I am either very slow or very old (probably both in her youthful opinion).

I wonder why it is that teenagers seem so obsessed with the undead? Is it because they share a number characteristics - the preference to stay horizontal in the darkened pit of their room rather than get up in the morning,  the mounting collection of black unwashed clothes on the floor and the 'uneven' skin tone perhaps. Or, I suppose, it could be the mistaken belief that they too are immortal and whatever crazy suggestion or dare they choose to follow there will be no consequence.

I find myself getting caught up in H's research.  I learn that the wonderfully onomatopoeic word 'zombie' originates from the Haitian Creole 'zonbi' and Wikipedia defines one as 'an animated corpse' (an oxymoron if ever there was one) that has been resurrected by the use of witchcraft.  In popular fiction of the 'Night of the Living Dead' variety the witchcraft element has been replaced as a cause with the idea of a modern-day plague causing hordes to join the zombie army that is threatening to eradicate all human life. We have the added disturbing complication of zombies' cannibalistic desire to eat living flesh, especially brains, which are incorrectly depicted, so I'm told by my resident expert Dr H, as being 'bright green'.

"What would you do?" enquires my teenager, "Would you fight, run or give in and become a zombie?" Clearly, this is an easy question to answer - give in, of course!  I'm always one for a party and the idea of an open invitation to rampaging revelry all night and not having to worry about whether I have something clean to wear or getting my hair done is much more appealing than wielding an axe or hiding in a cellar.
  "After all, I was a zombie once," I inform her.  She looks incredulous.  "Yes, for a whole year after you were born I was a 'mombie'. I didn't sleep and looked frightful.  My eyes were open but I was in a new mother trance with no will of my own and incapable of finishing a sentence."
"You didn't want to eat me though, did you," she says with a wry smile on her face.
"Oh, yes, I did." She looks worried now. "I wanted to eat you up with hugs and kisses. Consume you with love - my little zombie!"  She gives a relieved laugh and wanders upstairs to use her bright green brain and finish her story.

Friday, 26 October 2012

This moment...

Inspired by Soulemama's {this moment} - a Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing an image from the week.  A simple and special moment from the week that I would like to pause, savour and remember.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Look Back Monday

Well, back to work this Monday for me and so I thought I'd take a look back at some scenes from the weekend and remember the best bits:

L's freshly baked sesame rolls - yum.
Now you see leaves, soon you won't.
Two wheels good; four paws muddy.
Looking very much like a rug on a rug, Luna is in desperate need of a shampoo,  cut and blow-dry.

Back home and time to settle down and watch Downton Abbey along with a hot drink and one of S's delicious  gingerbread pigs!

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Something will turn up...

The Micawbers
Mrs Micawber is a bit of a literary heroine to me.  For those not familiar, Mrs Micawber is the long suffering and supportive wife of Wilkins Micawber in the Dickens novel 'David Copperfield'.  Wilkins Micawber is an eternal optimist.  He's always struggling financially but remains recklessly cheerful - his punchline always being: 'Something will turn up!'  Here's the connection for me to dear old Mrs Micawber for although L is indeed The Wonderful Man, he is also very much the optimist.  Entrepreneurial to the core he has followed every 'get rich' scheme and enterprise, never doubting for a moment its long-term success.  Consequently, it's either feast or famine in the Macfennell household as each plan results in the first flush of profit and then the downward trend once the novelty and usefulness of such an endeavour has worn off.  Currently, we are definitely in more of a lean period, not quite a famine in the biblical 'plague of locusts' kind of way, but certainly a time of tightening our belts and economising.

I like the idea of economising rather than the reality. In my 'fluffy world' (more of this in another post)  economising makes me think of the good life and all the positive adjectives attributed to people who care more about their spiritual well-being than the materialistic.  I start off with excellent thrifty intentions involving DIY and 'upcycling' (I love this neologism, don't you, the idea of of re-using and re-purposing the old into something new and improved...if only you could do this with people!)  The problem is that I don't really possess any DIY skills, my sewing sucks and I do not feel inspired to make my own cleaning solutions with baking soda and lemon, possibly because I don't feel inspired to actually clean the house either.  In my experience I have found people who harp on about how they have stopped using expensive shampoos and soaps, and how they make their own deodorant from a stone or cut their own hair, a bit weird (and quite often a bit smelly).

Our efforts at economising have taken a comical turn.  We decided, for example, to cut down on our alcohol consumption.  You would have thought that this can only be a healthy decision but once you know that you cannot have your requisite glass of wine it becomes an issue.  I found myself like some kind of fallen-off-the-wagon AA member searching through the cupboards for something more interesting and adult than water or milk.  I chanced upon a bottle of champagne, obviously being saved for an 'occasion' and decided there and then that desperation was occasion enough.  The following morning my coffee was accompanied by two paracetamol.  L and I do not on the whole drink spirits but we found ourselves looking deep into the recesses of the drinks cabinet and indulging in a tasting session.  We ruled out the Baileys (it had lumps) and decided that two bottles of a peculiar Danish schnapps sort of thing had to go as we had no idea how it was meant to taste and whether it was meant to be that cloudy.  This left us with various whiskeys, some with tombola tickets still attached, and a bottle of vodka left over from New Year.  

We extended our alcohol limitation exercise to our food consumption also.  Surely, there must be money to be saved by living off the contents of our freezer for a while.  All this exercise led to was a number of searching questions:  how long exactly can you keep salmon frozen for? Can chicken nuggets be 'upcycled' into something more sophisticated? Is that bolognaise, lasagne or shepherds pie in the tupperware and, more importantly, why is it not possible to tell the difference?!

There have been benefits though, especially this last week when the smell of L's homemade bread wafts up the stairs like a sensory alarm clock in the morning or family visits to our fantastic local library rather than one-click ordering on Amazon.  My car has stayed parked in front of the house and I have enjoyed being at home and having more time to look around our cosy abode and appreciate what we do have.  I know too that something will indeed turn up soon and we can stock up again on the non-essentials and the downright hedonistic.

Friday, 19 October 2012

This moment...

Inspired by Soulemama's {this moment} - a Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week.  A simple and special moment that I would like to pause, savour and remember.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

In praise of teashops and a grave confession

If anyone asks me about my hobbies I always struggle to give an appropriate response.  I feel quite sure that  the properly middle class have suitably accomplished answers such as playing golf or bridge, some kind of craft activity perhaps, gardening, hill walking, mountain biking... (those last three by the way would feature in my own personal definition of legal torture).  
My interests tend to encourage a fairly sedentary lifestyle and none more so than my predilection for teashops; this results in another long-standing pastime– counting Weight Watchers points and my constant battle with growing girth and derriere. Any excursion is never considered complete unless such an establishment has been visited.   One of my particular favourites is Smeatons, a mix of garden centre, art gallery and conservatory-based tearoom.   I’m not sure of its history, but in an area of Scotland devoid of shopping malls or stately homes it is fairly popular as a nice place to go.

The sloping roof of the Victorian conservatory has been accessorised with sail-like drapes to shade customers from the searing heat of the Scottish sun and bare light bulbs are disguised with large round paper shades á la the 1970s.  Terrible paintings by presumably local ‘artists’ are hung higgledy-piggledy on the damp walls and labels are attached with optimistic prices.  Today, while enjoying a cappuccino and (half) a piece of marmalade cake (at least 5 Weight Watchers points) with L, my eye was drawn to a picture of a dysmorphic hare for sale at £80.  At least I think it was a hare though it could quite easily have been a rabbit with a very small head or large ears either way.
This post is making Smeatons sound less than attractive and I am perhaps being rather harsh.  The fun of the place is this curious mixture and it really wouldn't be quite as charming if it didn't have the accompanying artwork, peculiar cakes or interesting decor.  The waitresses are languid girls, polite but without expression or conversation and the place always brings out the mischievous side of my nature; in short, fuelled with forbidden carbohydrates and with an unnatural caffeine high, I become badly behaved.

 Last summer, while sat at a sticky table in a forgotten corner, I was encouraged by my like-minded mother and companions to indulge in some minor vandalism.  Beside our table was a raised area, rectangular, with potted plants arranged on a bed of gravel.  It was at exactly the right height for errant toddlers to climb on to and the management had placed a typed and laminated notice there informing parents not to let their children play with the gravel.
The corrected notice

It struck me that this area was burial-shaped and so taking a small sliver of white paper, and re-purposing the stickiness of the table onto the back of it, I covered up the letter 'l' in the word 'gravel'.  Snorts of laughter and much merriment ensued as I showed the rest of our party what I had done.  This amusement continued for some time, as on later visits, choosing the same table, I noticed that my defacement hadn't been spotted and parents were still being advised, alarmingly, not to let their children play with the 'grave'! 

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Those crazy chooks!

We recently acquired four chickens (apologies to purists who prefer the more precise and purposeful noun - 'hens'). I use 'we' in the loosest sense as really I had no part in this decision and I wasn't too enamoured at first with the idea at all.  I find those beady eyes and the unpredictable flapping a bit disconcerting.  My mean-spirited response to their arrival was that they had better be L's birthday present as I envisaged the great expense required in purchasing materials for a kind of poultry-style Grand Designs not to mention the extortionate veterinary bills to treat some unknown bubonic chicken illness they would be sure to develop.

Betty Blue and Nugget
Cove Hen House
However, so far, I have been proved wrong in my misgivings.  Cove Hen House has been fashioned out of an existing garden shed and various objects already languishing in the barn including a rabbit hutch and a wooden frame from a fabric wardrobe of all things. In an attempt to help me 'bond' and to encourage the girls to look after them, we have each been assigned a hen of our own.  Mine is somewhat of an oddity. Dorothy is a 'hybrid' (don't ask me what this means in genetic modifications of the chicken variety). She is a peculiar colour mixture of grey and black giving her a sort of dotty appearance (hence the name).
Crazy Dorothy

Whilst the others do expected chicken verbs- pecking, scratching and squawking, she indulges in, quite frankly, rather psychotic behaviours such as staring for inordinately long periods of time at the wall, chasing sparrows and head-butting the bushes.  She is the only one not to have done her duty so far and lay an egg and she is definitely the ring leader when it comes to great escape episodes over the garden wall and into the neighbouring turnip field.  Nevertheless, she has a sort of chickadee charm and I am warming to her, though if I have to chase her down the lane one more time, doing my own version of a crazy strictly chicken dance, then I may be warming the oven!

Linking this post up with 3 Children and It and Oldies but Goodies 

Sunday, 14 October 2012

A favourite time of year...

Autumn has, for as long as I can remember, been my favourite time of year.  I realise I'm probably in a minority and, given the choice, most people would opt for the bright sunny skies of summer. But that's the thing when you live in the UK, especially the south eastern corner of Scotland - summer is never a sure thing. I think that would have to be one of the main reasons for loving autumn the most - the certainty of rain, gusting winds and in between the lingering chinks of afternoon sunshine, low in the sky and creating a warm amber glow against the turning leaves.

There's no disappointment with autumn; you know that it will turn colder, that you will need a jacket and almost certainly an umbrella.  You do not make elaborate plans involving packing a picnic blanket; you do not light the barbecue. You can give up entirely on any kind of garish summer outfit that might expose pasty flesh and give in instead to cosy-pile fleeces and concealing layers.

I think the appeal too for me is the turn towards introspection.  Spring and summer are extroverted seasons, full of frivolity and spontaneity.  Spring is doing, cleaning, planting; summer means outings, adventures and meetings with friends.  In contrast, autumn is a time for gathering, making, and taking stock; it's a season of calm and peace before the approaching Christmas preparations come hurtling towards us. There is a sweet melancholy about autumn and the slower pace of living.  Rain against the windows and a skittish wind stirring up a dry stew of foliage means staying in with a good book by the fire.  No one feels obliged to tell me that, 'I should go and get some fresh air' and I can stay where it's quiet and finish another chapter.

The autumn season is a pyromaniac's dream.  As darkness draws in earlier and earlier, lamps shine out from each and every window, welcoming me home from work and transforming a dark corner into a cosy spot. The hearth is still considered the heart of the home and our little log burner manages to persuade every member of the family (even a grumpy teenager) to come together around its warmth. Fireworks, lanterns and bonfires feature in the autumn festivals and candles become essential here when frequent power cuts accompany the stormy winds.  Autumn warms my soul, forges family ties and reignites the inner light.