Friday, 25 March 2011


As news stories go, this one is pretty splendid:

Frozen 18kg kebab stolen from Trowbridge takeaway

Astonishingly, it's not from our local paper,'s from the BBC website.  Honest.  Take a look. 

The description of the kebab made me snort tea out of my nose.  No charge for that image, blog fans.

"How big was the kebab, sir?  We need a description for the Wanted posters."

"Hmm...pretty big, officer.  Yeah, pretty big, I'd say."

"Pretty big?  Can you be more specific at all, sir?"

"It was massive.  And made of meat."

"Massive...meat...  Ok, sir, got that.  Anything else?  Any distinguishing features?"

"Let me was sort of meat-coloured I suppose.  And massive.  Did I already say that?"

"Yes, you did, sir."

"Oooh!  It had a metal skewer through it.  A massive one.  Metal coloured."

"Excellent, thank you sir.  We'll get that description out immediately.  If you receive a ransom demand, please let us know."

I also love the idea that people might be offered "kebab meat in suspicious circumstances."   You mean, other than at 2am from a food-vending caravan staffed by a sweaty man who has giant vats of chilli sauce close at hand?

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Craft WIN

To take away the shame and chagrin of The Terrible Tie-Dye Incident, I finished making my new notice board today.

Ta- daaa:

It began life as a skanky old cork pinboard.

Ugh.  Please note the faded patches where it's been hanging in my study for SO LONG. 

I used wadding, fabric, ribbons and buttons, cunningly held in place with a combination of terrifyingly sticky spray glue, staples and prolific (and fluent) swearing to create a new thing of beauty from the ashes of the old. 

Aren't we posh?  Fruit on the sideboard and nobody ill. 

I did iron the fabric before I stapled it in place.  This is just to give the general idea. 

If you look closely, you may notice that the diamonds are not all exactly the same size.  If that sort of thing matters to you, sorry.  I measured by eye; next time I make one I shall use a tape measure I think.
The worst part was hand sewing all the buttons on at each intersection of the ribbon.  I think there were about 40 in total, and it took fucking hours.  HOURS.    Next time I might use a staplegun to hold the ribbon in place, and then carefully (and lazily) glue the buttons on to disguise the staples. 

So now I have a rather lovely fabric notice board, on which the Village Fete PRIZE certificate from Belgian Waffle sits in pride of place, among the Sherlock Holmes film cards and foreign receipts. 

The shark postcard is from Mr WithaY's Great White Shark tagging expedition to Mexico a couple of years ago.  He went away for two weeks to poke huge sharks with a stick.  Impressively, he also came back again. 

Now I  feel less artistically inept.  Plus it makes my study feel more organised, which is encouraging. 

Time for a celebratory cup of tea, I think.

Craft FAIL

Remember I was banging on about how unsuccessful that tie-dye experiment was?  And how ghastly the bedding looked after I'd finished dicking about with it?

I wasn't kidding.

You can just about make out the unpleasant bruise-like quality of the colour mix.  Please note the enhancing effect of the sickly yellow circles.

Mmm.  Sweet dreams.  Do the yellow circles look like unfortunate stains to you?  They do to me. 

Is that a patch of paler green in the top right hand corner?  Why yes, I believe it is.  What a delicious colour contrast.

Perhaps the pillowcases will look a bit better.

Or perhaps they won't.

The whole lot was discreetly wrapped in a bag and placed in the village clothing and fabric recycling bin while nobody was about. 

I hope that someone, somewhere gets some use from them, although frankly I can imagine frozen Third World rough-sleeping beggars turning up their noses at the whole sorry mess.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Mellow yellow

Yesterday was astonishing.  I sat and watched the BBC news reports from Japan with horror, which got deeper and deeper as time went on.  Waking up today to news of nuclear reactors exploding just seems unreal somehow. 

The footage of that enormous whirlpool way out at sea, with the fishing boat fighting to get out of it was like something out of a disaster movie. 

To try and raise my spirits, I thought I'd try to do something a bit creative today, what with my developing life plan to become a creative dynamo and all. 

The other day as I was performing some unrelenting domestic drudgery, I found a set of bedlinen that looked a bit drab. 

Plain white, a duvet cover and four matching pillowcases, all trimmed with sort of broiderie anglais stuff around the edges.  Pretty in an uninspiring kind of way.  Also, it was looking a bit tired somehow.  Clean, and everything, but just not living the bedlinen dream any more.

Mr WithaY and I had already decided to go to Salisbury this morning, so I thought I'd pick up some fabric dye and attempt to tie-dye it.  The bedlinen, not Salisbury. 

What was I thinking?

We packed away the traditional brunch of Eggs Benedict in Patisserie Valerie, performed a rapid synchronised scoot round several shops to pick up various essentials, and then hey ho to the fabric shop.  Mr WithaY needed to buy some orange fabric to make armbands.

Don't ask.  I promise to take photos when all can be revealed. 

While he was speculatively examining every roll of fabric in the shop, I decided to get some wadding, fabric and ribbon to make a posh notice board out of a scabby old cork board.  That's my plan for tomorrow. If it works I will take gloating photos.

I also decided to get some fabric dye for my tie-dye experiment.  How hard can it be?  Hippies manage it, after all. 

I bought a box of yellow, and a box of vibrant blue. My plan, such as it was, was to tie up the bedding, dye it yellow, undo the ties, re-tie it all slightly differently, dye it blue, and thus end up with a gorgeous mixture of white, yellow, blue and ahahahahahaaaaa GREEN in a random yet stylish pattern all over it. 

The first part went ok.  I spent bloody ages tying multiple bits of string artfully around the pillowcases and the duvet cover, then bunged them in the washing machine with the yellow dye and half a kilo of salt.  I even had to make a special trip over to the garage to buy extra salt.  That's how seriously I was taking this.

Mr WithaY was busily making armbands on the kitchen table, so we both had a cup of tea and watched the bright, bright yellow water in the washing machine. 

The washing machine finished, beeping at me bossily.  I took out the gorgeous yellow bedding.  I untied the string, waiting to see the lovely patterns, and there was nothing.  Nada.  Zilch.  Fuck all.  The entirety of the fabric was bright yellow.  Mr WithaY squinted helpfully, trying to be encouraging.

"I think there's a sort of paler bit there in the corner." 
"Really?  Where?"

"Right in the bottom corner...oh.  Now you've moved it I can't see it any more.  Is that a circle of white in the middle there, though?"

"Might be...maybe...."

I sighed sadly and put the beautiful blue dye and yet more salt in the washing machine, then spent at least seventeen hours (maybe longer) unpicking the wet string and re-tying it into careful patterns.   I was hoping that where there were some paler white-ish bits, the dye would be blue, and where it was nice and yellow, there would be green, and where the string was, would stay yellow. 

I remember having to spend ages in art at school dicking about with colour wheels and so on.  Yellow and blue make green.  Definitely.

I wasn't very good at art, mind.

I am now the proud owner of a set of khaki bedding, spotted with distressing yellow circles, much like little rings of sickly toadstools here and there on the forest floor.

Fuck it.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

The times they are a-changing

It's all change here at the moment.  I found out this week that my request for early release from work has been approved by the powers that be, and that the end of May will therefore see me leaving the Civil Service.

I am SO excited.

Inspired by this, and also by the fact that his own job has become increasingly tiresome over the last couple of years, Mr WithaY has thrown caution to the winds, his hat into the ring and his fate upon the bosom of the gods, and applied for early release as well.

He finds out in July, as there are about 100 times more people being hoofed out of his Department than out of mine, so the process will take much longer.  If successful he will be plodding forth into the snowy wastes with his little bindle on his shoulder in October. 

But where will we go?  What will we do?  Will we be begging for scraps outside the pub of a lunchtime, and busking for small change in Bath city centre on a Saturday?

Quite possibly, yes. 

However, my immediate plan is to take the summer off - I can't wait - and take some time to consider what I want to do with myself.  I have already started looking at what jobs are around and trying not to automatically consider all the stuff that is exactly like what I'm already doing. 

It's like shoe shopping.  Whenever I go shoe shopping, I end  up buying a pair of shoes very much like the ones I am already wearing.  I can't help it.  And it seems that job window-shopping is the same.

I reckon I could find a job pretty quickly, I always have in the past, and am usually pretty fortunate at interviews.  I've never been unemployed,  so perhaps I am over-complacent.  I could get a temping job somewhere, doing office-y admin-y stuff, but I want to change direction.  I went into the Civil Service more or less by accident, as a "well, I need a job and this will do for now" stopgap, and then stayed there for years.  And years.  And years. 

This is my chance to change my life in a big way.  I am grabbing it with both hands.  And all my feet.

We were discussing it the other night, and Mr WithaY made the point that unless we ever won the lottery (a remote prospect at best) we'll never be in a position where we have a reasonable lump sum come into our possession.  So, how marvellous, how exciting,  how fortunate, that we can ask ourselves "what would we like to do?" and not "What do we have to do?" 

Of course things would be different if we had children to think about, or huge debts to manage, or fears about being able to provide for ourselves in the future, but we don't, so we can both face whatever is coming our way with excitement, not anxiety. 

I am loving it.  For the first time in a very long time - since I left home to go to college I think - I feel as though things are going to change in a big way, anything is possible, a new vista is opening up for me.  God.  It is fucking brilliant.

Other news:  Mr WithaY made the local paper this week, as a "member of the public" who called the police when the garage was being robbed.  Fame at last. 

Also, today we bought a cold frame at Lidl.  It has been assembled in the back garden and we are planning to plant aubergines.  Or maybe sweet peppers.  Something tasty will be grown in there.  We also bought seeds for the vegetable garden, mostly French beans, courgettes and squashes.  Or is it squash?  Anyhoo.  I wanted carrot seeds but Lidl was disappointingly short in the carrot department*.  I shall go to the garden centre tomorrow and get a packet or two.

This week has seen the worst train chaos I have had to deal with since I started working in London. I left work early on Monday night, wanting to scamper home to tell Mr WithaY that I had my release date.  I got to Waterloo thinking I would be in time to catch the 4:50 was cancelled. 

Ah well, I could get the 5:20.  Cancelled.  Fuck. 

Trying to be clever, I got on a train that was headed for Basingstoke, according to the information board, thinking I could get a local train to Salisbury from there and then either get Mr WithaY to come and pick me up, or get the train back to where my car was parked.  Lateral thinker, me. 

The commuter chaps around me were very helpful, finding me a seat and helping me stow my bags and coat.  I settled down and smiled at them, asking what time we were due at Basingstoke.

"We're not going to Basingstoke, love."

"No...first stop is Winchester."

I was horrified, and had to gather up all my stuff and get OFF the train in a rush, for fear of ending up halfway across the country from where I needed to be. Gah.   They were lovely, though, asking me if I wanted them to save my seat in case I came back.  I declined.  I have a feeling we'd all be planning a holiday together by now if I'd said yes. 

Back to the concourse, to look sadly at the Board Of Many Delays. 

O-kay...the 5:50?  Delayed.  But on the platform. I got aboard and settled in grimly, waiting for the train to leave, or death, whichever came first.

The train left. 

I got home at almost 9pm, having left the office just after 4.  Almost five fucking hours. 

I worked at home on Tuesday and Wednesday, then up to London again on Thursday.  The train was on time, but the further along the journey we went, the slower it got.  Eventually, at the time we were supposed to be arriving at Waterloo, we got to Surbiton.  The guard told us the train was terminating there, and we all had to get out.  Fucks sake.

Twenty minutes of standing on a bleak platform, icy winds blowing through from Siberia, followed.  Several trains chugged through without stopping, until a local train halted.  Everyone piled aboard, and we made our way painfully slowly into Waterloo, stopping at every signal along the way.  We got there an over hour late, which meant I got to work over four hours after leaving home, cold, stressed, grumpy and tousled.

I am unutterably happy that this will end in a few short weeks.

*That sounds like a euphemism: "He's a nice bloke, but disappointingly short in the carrot department."

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Newspaper review

The local paper has been most informative of late.

Outcry Over Regalia Cost is a story all about the mayor having a new chain of office, and people getting grumpy because it will be expensive.  Over £1,200 to be exact.  That's a lot of chain.  But there's more to it than that...  The mayor has asked for a new chain because the old one is too heavy.  She wants "a lighter chain attached to a collar,"  a request which has provoked "fury" from some of her colleagues.  One of them was quoted as saying "People in the town have heard what has happened...and are furious.  The Westbury online forums are full of comments."


That should stop those pesky chain-buyers...a bunch of ranting Westbury dwellers on a variety of forums (fora?  forii?) arguing the toss in cyberspace.  Yeah.

The thing that has particularly caught my attention, other than the idea that a good pet shop could probably provide a nice light collar and chain for about £12, is the fact that there is more than one forum for the people of Westbury to vent their fury on.  Who'd have though it?

Historic Monocle Unearthed makes you think there's an Indiana Jones-stylee story coming, maybe involving the undead guardians of some forgotten tomb, or a bunch of fanatical ninja priest warriors, all sneaking round West Wiltshire in pursuit of the Monocle of Doom.  But no.  It's a bit of photography kit used by William Fox Talbot, "found" at Lacock Abbey, where he lived and worked.  So not so much "unearthed" as "moved a few things and there it was, right where he left it. "  How disappointing. 

Post Office To Fish Shop Plan is a collection of words which, when put together, make no sense whatsoever.  When you read the supporting paragraph, all becomes clearer.  It's a planning application.  Dull.

Other headlines to spark mental images:

Pavement to be widened
Thief Disturbed
Bingo Fun
Census Plea
Accordian Night
Spinning Fun
Historians Meet

This week, though, the prize for "non news item" goes to this, which I make no apology for repeating in full:

Parked car block.  A poorly-parked Honda 4x4 blocked Kingsfield in Bradford-on-Avon from 10am for several hours on Friday before being towed away by police.


Wiltshire.  Where no news really is good news.

Other news:  We had a call from the police this afternoon.  The thieving bastards who robbed the garage at the weekend have pleaded guilty to the charges and are due to be sentenced in the Crown Court soon.  Excellent.  The police rang to thank us and to say that "your call was extremely valid" which was nice of them.  Also the lovely people at the garage have given us some wine as a thank you for being helpful and community-spirited. 

I think we should get capes and masks.

And utility belts.