Wednesday, December 24, 2008

And then they were off again....

So, after a week of the sort of blissful deprivation that stressed, suited, executive types pay a lot of money for we were home. Filled with ideas and plans and a new found gratitude and respect for the humble electric light switch we grasped tightly our newly devised timetable which would show us the way to health and happiness and steer us gently away from the land of chaos and disarray that we had been lost in. Order, organisation, routine were our new friends.

Oh how boring it sounds but how good it felt to know what we were doing again. To live life with a plan, a direction. No more waking up when we felt like it, spending half the day in pyjamas, forgetting to eat lunch and working until midnight; that life had been like a drug habit, memories of the early days we spent lying in bed until midday, eating when and if it occurred to us, staying up half the night, getting dressed once a week were much more exhilarating than the effect it was having on us now. Now that we are Old. For that I suspect is what it has come down to. At the meagre ages of 23 and 27 respectively, we are old bastards and we need a routine.

Of course that routine lasted all of two days for a mere 48 hours later we were off again. This time on an altogether different sort of holiday, back to the town we abandoned a little over two years ago and a wonderfully comfortable penthouse with central heating, running hot water, hardwood floors too slippery for rabbit paws, patio doors leading from every room to wrap around balconies and a (quite literally) million dollar view.

Don't be silly, it's not our Luxury Penthouse; it belongs to The Inlaws who are off to the Caribbean for a month, leaving behind one empty and very enticing house and one 94 year old Grandfather in need of company and Christmas dinner.

So here we are, in our old city planning not only our first married Christmas but the first Christmas dinner that we have ever cooked together. For we are hosting Christmas this year and it's really quite a scary prospect. Me, my new husband, my mum, my husband's cousin and his dear grandfather will gather round a table that doesn't belong to a single one of us and eat a meal cooked by two young 'uns who don't have a clue what they're doing, who are the pair that tie this motley but much loved crew together.

Presents will be opened under a weird, spiky palm tree thing decorated with fairy lights because I couldn't bring myself to buy a Christmas tree for someone else's house and then we will gather around the computer screen to watch the eagerly awaited Wallace and Gromit Christmas special.

Perhaps we will ruminate on the fact that this is our first Christmas together, perhaps we will ponder what Christmas memories we might make in the future but I suspect that it is more likely that we will eat cake for breakfast, throw wrapping paper at each other, feed banana to the rabbits, get sweaty and stressed cooking Christmas dinner, eat too much then fall asleep on the sofa too damn tired to ruminate on anything.

Then, just this once because it's Christmas, we will let ourselves sleep right through our new routine, waking up when we please, getting dressed if we feel like it and eating whatever and whenever the sweet baby Jesus we want. Just for one day though, because on the 27th it is home and on the 28th back to work, back to the timetable, back to routine and all of this, all of this last month, this last year perhaps, will feel like a strange dream. One of those dreams that you can't quite put your finger on, that you couldn't quite put into words but that you wake up from with a smile on your lips, feeling inspired and optimistic and ready to face the day ahead and all the sweet potential that it holds.

Merry Christmas dear friends and readers. May your day be filled with love and contentment and all the joys that the festive season might bring.

Beautiful and inspiring images courtesy of -1. Tae*; 2. Rosiehardy;

Monday, December 22, 2008

A winter holiday, V

And so, after a week, they left with a new perspective. The girl knew that she wanted a different life and she felt energised by that knowledge. Her husband let out the worry he had been holding inside, the fear that as much as he needed a life in the countryside his wife needed life in the city and that their two needs would never be compatible, the conviction that her one days had always meant maybe which really meant no.

They started planning a new home, a home they would design and build themselves, a home made from materials that would have little or no negative impact on the countryside that they loved, that would be powered by the wind, the sun and some magical device they would bury in the ground that would give them hot water. They planned gardens of vegetables nourished by a compost heap and possibly a large tank of trout and the boy promised his wife that he would grow her beautiful flowers and a tree that she could read under as she had black fingers of death and the only method she knew for not killing plants was to completely ignore them and leave their care to someone else.

She delighted in the knowledge that this was what she wanted, for she knew that her one days really had meant I have no idea if I want the same thing as you my love, I don't know if I can do it and I'm not ready to make my mind up yet. It pleased her no end to realise that she and her husband wanted the same things after all. Of course it would all take some time. The house that they lived in was a building site and it would take work that they barely had time to do, money that they didn't have and energy that they were lacking to get it finished. And there was the small matter of a little financial crisis that was going on, a property market that had dipped so low the for sale signs in their street were actually giving up and keeling over. Who knew when a time would come when a person might be able to sell their house, building site or not?

Then there was the decision of where to move, for they might know that they wanted to build a home, they might know what materials they wanted to build it out of but as for a place, a plot of land? They were buggered if they knew where they would find one.

And of course there was that thing, that Big Thing that was looming on their horizon. That thing she was trying to think of as An Awfully Big Adventure, as opposed to The Awfully Daunting Ordeal That Might Just Break Her Heart, that thing that was all together too personal to write about on her blog yet all together too important to ignore while writing about The Future. That thing that she felt like a bit of a prat for alluding to but not really explaining and hopeful that her readers and friends would understand her reticence and not think her too much of a tit for leading them on then giving them nothing. They couldn't go anywhere while That and all its consequences was waiting for them in their near future.

But doors were opening, doors that had previously lurked at the end of long dark corridors were thrown wide open, light pouring in. The girl and her husband weren't quite ready to step through them but they savoured the view and delighted in laying plans for the path they would take when finally, they stepped over the threshold.

The End.

Or was it just the beginning?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A winter holiday, IV

And after a week they thought they knew. Barely a word had been written for despite what she had imagined sitting in front of her laptop was not really what the girl wanted. What she wanted was to sit in the dark with her husband. To read the paper by torchlight, to join in with her new relatives while they gathered and chopped wood, to play with her rabbits in the garden, to get wet, get muddy, to talk to her boy about the things she had read, to discuss their dreams and the lives they wanted to live. To realise that the pace at which she had been living had been bad for her. To realise that doing things constantly was not healthy, that stopping and sitting and doing nothing but reading the paper was good for her, good for her soul. That although she thought she couldn't live without the constant hum of the city on her doorstep she was wrong, that it wasn't everything that she thought it was. And perhaps most importantly of all she discovered that peeing in a bucket in the woods, by the light of the full moon, while stargazing and feeling the gentle breeze on her bare behind was one of the most perverse pleasures she had ever experienced. She tried not to worry about what this said about her.

Barely a picture was taken because when out in the beautiful wide world the weight of her camera pulled her down and tethered her to the viewfinder when what she wanted to look at was her husband, what she wanted to do was let her thoughts and her excitement soar from her to him and to be ready to catch them when they bounced back again, a slightly different shape but in essence the still the same...

A winter holiday, III

They spent little time in the funny village though, favouring days spent in the woods; huddled in their tiny but well insulated garden shed; building fires in the stove; reading by torchlight and snuggling by moonlight. On the rare occasion that the rain stopped they walked in the trees which whispered of fairy dwellings and night-time sprites; they strolled by moonlight and squealed when they stepped in mud that came up to their ankles; they gathered wood which they later dried by the stove and turned into fire the next day; they talked to Boris, the handsome chap who lived next door but who growled at them when they came too close to the garden boundaries. For there were many little houses in the woods, in varying states of decay. There were shiny ones with double glazing and fancy solar panels; there were ones that looked like the only thing holding them up was the mould around the edges yet smoke spiralling from the chimneys betrayed the fact that someone, someone hardy, was living in them; and then there were ones like Mim and Larch's.

Ones in-between. Ones that had solar panels but batteries that didn't really work, leaving them with little to no electricity worth speaking of but a plentiful supply of candles instead; ones that had stoves that heated the water, giving them hot showers at certain times of the day but that without the stove on in the winter were not much warmer than being outside. Ones that were slightly ramshackle but had beautiful wood panelled interiors that inspired 'ooh, it's just like a fairy tale!' gasps from their awestruck guests. Houses that had little sheds in their gardens, big enough for a very large mattress, a homemade stove and a hutch to house two rabbits. Houses in short, that were a breath of fresh air for city dwellers who longed to be country dwellers, desk slaves who longed to be outside, compulsive screen addicts who were desperate to switch off but who didn't know how. Heaven for those who lived in a 100 year old stone house, with draughty windows, loud neighbours and heating that they couldn't afford to switch on and that didn't work even when they did. Those whose nearest patch of nature was a park that albeit beautiful and once deeply loved, the girl had barely been able to set foot in since that May night when horrendous crime took place there, a crime that left the girl shaking each time she thought of the park, let alone walked by it.

Oh yes, the girl and her husband needed this woodland retreat and the lack of electricity, the kettle that took an hour to boil on the stove and the candles that lit up the darkness only enough so as to not walk straight into the stove but not enough to be able to see the rabbits who were snuffling and thumping in the corner. They needed it to salve their weary souls and to remind them of what it was they wanted from their life together...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A winter holiday, II

Parking alongside all the other rusty old cars the girl and her husband stepped out into the darkness. She stood anxiously by their trusty jalopy which despite the odds had got them there safely, breathing the crispy woodland air deeply and stretching back over the roof of the car to watch the stars, trying to rememberthe last time she had seen any. Meanwhile he donned the head torch and ventured down the track looking for signs of their hosts. Too soon, for the girl had not sufficiently cleansed her motorway lungs with the night air, two little lights came bobbing up the path, one of them was her husband and the other was her new cousin-in-law, wielding a wheelbarrow.

On a hillside, surrounded by trees, reached down a track traversed by a fleet of wheelbarrows full of bunnies and bags and banana skins, the air filled with omnipresent moisture and the sweet chugga chugga of half a dozen petrol powered generators, the house sat; unassuming, almost hidden, a woodcutter's cabin straight from little red riding hood. With the modern wood dweller's addition of solar panels, surfboard and that pesky generator. Yes, you heard me right – surfboard. For but five minutes though the ancient, protected, native woodland lay a bay with the steepest cliffs, the cleanest sand and the tallest waves. Not to mention rock pools full of squidgy pink anemones and feisty little hermit crabs.

Five minutes in the other direction lay a town with a silly name, excellent muffins and unfriendly locals. The town cracked the girl up, not simply because it was named after a large pair of boobs in the harbour but because of its 120 shops all but around 5 were independent and the girl hadn't seen a town without a Starbucks for many years, nor a town with such an improbable number of stores selling scented candles, decorative door stops and ornamental dogs. There was also the fact that the residents of Boobs seemed to have an average age of 97 and were ridiculously unfriendly. Obviously living here would drive a girl to desperation but the predicable foulness of those that she smiled at made her laugh for now. Of course the sign posts helped too. Peppered with words entirely devoid of vowels, the girl wondered how the hwll one was supposed to speak Welsh and her dyslexic husband thwnkwd thw lwrd that he wasn't born into a country with a language so cruel to those with literary impairments. It didn't matter what they did or where they ventured, for the girl was filled with the excitement that only a holiday can bring. That feeling of endless possibilities, of everywhere a new experience, of being somewhere foreign!

Friday, December 19, 2008

A winter holiday, I

Packing their car, catching their bunnies, filling bags with cereal bars and bananas – the essential fuel for any journey, a girl and her husband prepared themselves for eight hours on the road, their destination a tiny shed in the large garden of a small wooden house.

As they drove through what little of Scotland lay South of them, crossed the border to England (a country which seemed never to end – are we in Wales yet? No. Oh. When will we be in Wales? In about a week. Oh) and stopped every 50 miles or so for the girl with the weak bladder and a suspicion that she might be missing something if they drove too long without getting out of the car, excitement (and the unmistakable whiff of a rabbit in a box) filled the small, smelly car. They were going on holiday! And it was all so unknown, how would they manage without the internet? Just what would it be like living without electricity? And would the girl survive the indignity of relieving herself in a bucket for a week?

Eventually, as the crisp Scottish sunshine turned to snow which turned to wind, to sunshine, to rain, to wind again, to snow, to rain to frost and finally to a uniform greyness, the road signs started to change too. 'The North' gave way to 'The Midlands', demands of “do a Liverpool accent. What to people from Birmingham sound like? Ooh, can we go to Blackpool?!” issued from the girl who took her task of entertaining the driver very seriously. One could question whether demanding entertainment from the driver really fulfilled her job description, but he seemed to be finding her amusing and at least he was still awake, which was the important thing. Eventually signs pointing to various shires became less regular and just as the light was starting to fade they saw their first truly unpronounceable place name and they knew they were finally in Wales.

Following the directions that the magic oracle on the dashboard gave them, they found themselves in a cul-de-sac of large, grey, pebble dashed houses, the little flag of joy that denotes one's destination glowing tantalisingly close. This is all wrong they thought, Mim and Larch live in the countryside, the woods, The Wild. This is Suburbia. Not right at all. Then they came to the end of suburbia and all that was left was a narrow, lumpy, hole-strewn road leading into the dark and that little chequered flag sitting proudly on the map. So they called Mim and Mim said keep going, you're nearly here. I'll come and meet you with the wheelbarrow. And into the darkness they drove...

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Story, part I (repeated)

Once there was a girl, she was planning a wedding. It was to be a relaxed affair but oh so stylish and very intimate. She and the boy would only invite people that they truly loved, that they couldn't image getting married without. It would take place out doors, or so they hoped, and prayed, and hoped some more. But they lived in Scotland you see? And in Scotland it rains, all year round. So although the wedding was to be in August it would be foolish to plan a wedding outside. But the girl was a fool and would not be swayed from her plans of an aisle of the sweetest smelling grass and a summer barbecue in a stone clad courtyard bordered on one side by a rambling old castle and the other by a cottage country garden. The flowers were just too pretty and the air too fresh, she would not be married indoors, oh no. But just in case the Gods had other plans for her, indoors was the sweetest room, painted with blue skies and white clouds and maybe even there was a cherub or two, she forgets now.

The girl was young, 22 when she got engaged and although her friends were so very happy for her they were living lives very different from hers and she felt embarrassed to talk to them about weddings. Shades of ribbon, weights of card and registries of gifts seemed so very odd to her. She was not the kind of girl who had dreamed of her wedding all her life. Perhaps she had hoped that in the future there might be a man she would would love so much that marriage would not seem a terrifying prospect and perhaps she had even thought of what heavenly delights she might wear on such an occasion, but the thoughts were fleeting. She was not sure that she even believed in marriage and once she had found a man the more people told her she should marry him, the more stubbornly she denied any desire to.

Then one day, once the talk of shoulds and the right thing to do had died down she realised that maybe, just maybe she did want to marry this man. That maybe as she was already planning a whole long life with him that marriage wasn't so scary after all, that it was quite a nice idea really. She remembered the hopes she had indulged in on the special occasions, before the talk had started, that perhaps he would ask her. But she knew that she had made herself quite clear over the last 12 months, she did not want to get married, he knew that. She had told him the whole idea was nonsense, why should they get married? Oh what a pickle she found herself in. She knew he would never ask her, she had well and truly scared him off that one. There was only one thing for it, she would have to ask him herself.....

Please tune in next week dear readers for part II of The Story of the Boy and the Girl.....

Friday, December 05, 2008


I'm aware that for some people being given homewares for birthdays or Christmas is just unacceptable, like being given a hoover or an ironing board or anything else that suggests the only thing that the giver thinks you are interested in is cleaning (or cooking). But I love kitcheny bits and inspired by my recently purchased heart shaped measuring cups I thought I'd share a few of my favourites with you...

This vintage inspired milk bottle and glass set is gorgeous. Its blue tinge is beautiful and who doesn't get a small thrill from drinking from a glass with a barnyard animal on it?

A retro red fire extinguisher. For those of us who do this when we bake...

We were given a Le Creuset version of this red heart shaped casserole dish when we got married. I love the Staub version's pudgy little shape and the handles though.

Sophie Conran casserole. You would be forgiven for thinking that I really like casseroles. I don't particularly but I do love a pot with a lid.

I adore all of Nigella Lawson's kitchenwares. I want to fill my house with them, bake volumptuous delights and maybe rub them against my face a little. The jugs, not the baked goods. Cakes are for eating, not face rubbing. Unlike crockery of course.

Who could deny themselves a little canoodling with this sexy teapot?

A chestnut pan. It turns out I don't really like roast chestnuts, they have a weird texture. But I suspect that they might be delicious in baked goods and the whole fire thing looks fun.

I bought these last week when I found them in Urban Outfitters, desperate for some cup measures so I could stop fucking up the American recipes I've been trying to convert to grams. Two days later I discovered that the British Heart Foundation are selling the same one, cheaper, with all the proceeds going to the BHF. I was a little annoyed with myself.

And the best for last. I adore this pouring bowl and this picture. It sums up everything I want from a kitchen - scrubbed wood, simple but textural crockery, lots of cream and obscure overpriced ingredients.

Images from Cox and Cox, Amazon, The British Heart Foundation and The Dining Store. And the glove was me.

Monday, December 01, 2008

December 1st...

December 1st - World Aids Day.

Image courtesy of Rhyt

In 2007

2 million
people died from Aids

a quarter of a million
children died from Aids

people were newly infected with HIV

people were living with HIV/Aids

Photograph: © Paolo Pellegrin/Magnum Photos and via The Guardian.

As HIV/Aids decimates the developing world its prevalence in the west increases among every gender, sexuality, nationality and age group.

Aids is killing thousands of people daily and the numbers are just getting bigger.

You should know all you can about HIV and Aids, you never know when you might find it affecting someone you know.