Tuesday, 30 August 2011

The Underworld

We've just had the last Bank Holiday of the summer here, the traditional signal that Autumn is on the way, and then in no time it's winter, and then we might as well all just DIE in a howling void of ice and gales and closed roads due to 20 foot high snowdrifts. 

Maybe I'm reading too much into it.

Mr WithaY was away for the weekend, taking part in a re-enactment thingy as part of his cunning plan for future solvency through swordfighting.  I was, therefore, at home on my own for a 3-day weekend. What would Captain Kirk do?  Call his mate and suggest going out for a curry, obviously.

As it happened, Bestest Mate was available at the weekend as well, so we went out for a curry on Saturday night.  Mine was fab. His was good but not brilliant, partly due to unfortunate menu choices. For example:  garlic mushrooms as a starter. In an Italian or French restaurant, yes, fantastic.  Mushrooms. Garlic.  Butter.  Nom nom nom.  But in an Indian restaurant?  I'd suggest sticking to something a tad more traditional.  That way, there's not likely to be any surprises when you cut into your vivid orange-crumb-encrusted mushroom to discover a strange yellow curry-flavoured paste nestling in there along with the mushroom. 

As an aside, I learned a good deal about a product called "Ruskoline" that evening.  It's a (possibly) vivid orange breadcrumb-type "crumb dressing" used to cover fish. I expect it could cover all kinds of other foodstuffs but Bestest Mate seemed most knowledgeable about the fish aspects.  I'd never heard of it, he was insistent that it was well-known. Possibly only in Shetland, though.

The things you learn on a night out.

One thing I like about that particular curry place is that everyone in there seems to know everyone else.  I saw some of our neighbours, and said a quick hello, but the surrounding tables were full of people exclaiming at seeing old mates around them.  The restaurant used to be a Little Chef, so it's huge.  I like that; it never feels crowded even if there are 30 people eating in there. 

They have a childrens slide out the front of the restaurant, left over from the Little Chef days, in the shape of an elephant.  I noticed that now it has been adorned with eyeliner and golden bodypaint highlights, rather than just plain grey paint.  Excellent. 

The following day we decided to go to the coast for a nice walk and a crab sandwich.  Mr WithaY and I live in a landlocked county a surprisingly long way from the sea.  It's always a bit of a shock to realise how fara way the coast is.  We drove and drove and drove, miles and miles and bloody miles, till we got to Weymouth. 

"There's the road to Portland," I advised, in my role as unwilling human satnav. 

"Are you sure?" was the reply.  Never a good sign. We had an agreeable - if accidental - scenic tour of Weymouth seafront, before finally turning round and following the road I had suggested initially.  The one with the sign on it saying "Portland." 


Portland itself is an odd place.  As you drive through it on the way to Portland Bill, you pass a small shop for Portland's Feral Cats.   I imagine it is a fundraising shop, rather than a hellish room crammed with spitting furry pointy-eared bastards wearing labels saying "This one half price" or "Special offer - buy one get one free" and a terrified sales assistant in full body armour, poking at them with a long stick if they get too close to the till. 

We kept our eyes open but I failed to spot any cats whatsoever, never mind exciting feral ones.  I had hoped we might witness a lynx perched moodily atop a rock on the cliffs, or perhaps leaping onto the fish and chips of unsuspecting holidaymakers.

No such luck.

As an aside, I just did a Google search for the Portland feral cat place, and found this news story in the Weymouth newspaper.  It's got nothing to do with my post, but I like this quote in it:

               Photographer Dave Haysom of Tollerdown Road said: “I didn’t see the car go up in flames but when I got there I saw the police photographing a pair of trousers which had been discarded in the road."

Never mind chasing the arsonists.  Photograph their trousers, dammit!

Anyhoo.  Portland Bill.

It was a breezy day, with big black clouds blowing across from France, so there were plenty of "Jeeeeez it's cold!" comments interspersed with basking in the sunshine.

Here's the lighthouse under moody and magnificent skies.

Here it is from a different angle, demonstrating the changeable-ness of the weather rather nicely.

There were plenty of people wandering about, a few brave souls canoeing in the sea off these cliffs.  Mental.

I liked this boat-lifting crane, and the tumbled blocks of stone.  It all looks half-finished somehow, as if someone will be back to put a last wall up or something.  Once they've had their tea break.

And of course Portland is where they bury demons, to prevent them taking over this dimension. It's hard to bestride the human realm like a mighty terrorising fiend, subjugating all mortals to your eternal will when you're up to your horn-tips in Portland stone.

They also do a nice line in signage here.

I was tempted to stand on the clifftop, pointing at the sun, just to see what happened.  Maybe they release the demon from his stone prison to fling you into the uttermost abyss of perpetual darkness.  You and your unsupervised children, puny Earthling. 

And there was this place.  Is it a beach hut?  A stable?  A dairy?  A hobbit holiday home?  It looks like it's made of corrugated iron that's been plastered over, but the front is all stone.  And it has a stable door.  And a chimney.

I was very taken with it, anyway.

Maybe it's where the demon-wrangler lives.

Other news: The carrot crop is starting to get freaky.

Brrrrrr.  It's the end of days, my friends. 

Friday, 26 August 2011

Show and tell

I've been living in a creative maelstrom this week. It all started with a cake I made.

We've had success with the vegetable garden this summer, and have a lot - a LOT - of courgettes coming to fruition now.  Zucchini, for our American readers.  We're eating them with supper most nights, cooked in a variety of interesting ways, often sliced into long thin strips and pan-fried with mixed herbs and a little butter.  Nom nom nom.

Anyway.  I was flicking through a free magazine that came through the door, and lo! it contained a recipe for chocolate courgette cake.  I had to try it.

Readers, it was excellent.  Really.  Plenty of sugar, cocoa, eggs, flour, vanilla.  All the usual malarky, but you also add loads of finely grated courgette.  The cake was dark, moist and delicious, and I shall definitely make it again.  I tore the recipe out of the magazine and put it in the new noticeboard.

In fact, here's a link to the recipe. Try it, you'll thank me.  Plus, it's a great way to make children eat vegetables, apparently. 


What's that you say?  Why, yes, I have made another fabulous notice board, thanks for asking.

Here it is, look:

Hanging in the kitchen, adding a much-needed point of interest to the otherwise dull sad corner where the bin lives.  None of the cool appliances ever go there.  It's like the Woking of the kitchen world. 

Inspired by my soaraway success in the noticeboard arena, I made some cushion covers to replace a couple that had got tatty and spotted*, utilising some of the fabric liberated from father-in-law WithaY's antique-restoring stash. 

Unfortunately, this gold one looks a bit sad and flat. I think it needs a new feather cushion thingy.  We all get a bit squashed by life, I reckon, but this poor cushion shows it more than most.

However, this one I am delighted with:

I spent bloody ages making sure the pattern was central to the front of the cushion, as I knew that otherwise, every time I looked at it I'd get all anal** and grumpy about it being off-centre.

There is a new set of bathroom curtains almost finished, too, I plan to get them up tomorrow.

Other news:  Went into town today thinking that the rain had stopped for the afternoon.  Fool that I was.  Mr T would have pitied me, no doubt about it.   

As soon as I parked the car and got the heavy box of crockery and assorted ephemera from the boot, the heavens opened.  Actually, I think the heavens opened, and hell was raining upwards, there was so much sodding water everywhere. 

I had to walk (slowly because of the heavy box) to the charity shop in torrential rain, blinded by the wet stringy hair that was in my eyes (mine, not someone else's with no concept of personal space) and my raincoat hood blinkering me like some sort of piteous Victorian cab-horse. 


By the time I got to Oxfam and handed the box to the nice lady behind the counter, I was soaked.  My trousers were absolutely drenched, but my feet stayed dry - hurrah for Converse shoes! - so I thought I might as well walk around town as it wasn't physically possible to get any wetter.

A man from Wessex Water was stood on the pavement beside his van, watching the rain flooding down onto the main road from a narrow driveway, muddy water cascading into the drains.

"You out collecting?" I asked him.

He laughed and said  "Don't need to, we've got plenty thanks."

It's rained almost every day this month, or that's how it feels.  Hopefully we'll have a nice Indian summer next month.

My roses are looking splendid though.  All this rain has brought out a second crop of flowers, so I am dashing out and cutting a few in between downpours so we can enjoy them in the house. 

Mr WithaY bought me a proper woven willow shopping basket the other week when he was at the Wilderness Gathering.  It's a three day event where Men*** gather to do Manly Things.  However, he didn't stay there this time, he commuted from home daily.  Last time he went he slept in his little tent and spent the weekend making a fish spear, casually whittling and lashing as all the other manly men wandered past enviously.

I imagine he'll get a stern letter from Ray Mears, telling him off.

It was very impressive, though.

*Spotted with bits of food, mostly, from where we use them to rest trays on when we scarf down dinner in front of the telly.  Shame, shame, we are chavs and slatterns.  But, hey, Star Trek and all, right at dinnertime. 

**Welcome, dodgy word googlers!

***And women. 

Thursday, 18 August 2011


It's the middle of August, supposedly the height of summer.  We've got all the lights on in the house in the middle of the afternoon; it looks like November outside.  The rain hasn't stopped lashing down all day. Apparently there has been flash flooding in Dorset.

Ahhh, English weather.

Last weekend things were different.

Mr WithaY and I had a long-planned few days away to see some friends in East Anglia.  Remember Tall Richard, who took me to dinner at the RAF Club?  Yeah you do.  It was a visit to see he and his lovely family.  We've known them since before they had children, and now look at us.  Their eldest is halfway through his time at University now, which makes me feel older than I like.  I commented to Tall Richard that his son is now the same age I was when I first met him.  That made us look faintly appalled for a moment. 

Age-related trauma aside, it was a lovely weekend.  We went to look around Thetford - sadly most of it was closed - but we wandered through the hill fort, supposedly the highest in the country.  I'm not sure if it really is, or if it just seems that way to the people who live there, Norfolk being so notoriously flat and all. 

On Sunday they took us for a look at the north Norfolk coast, which was very scenic.  Flat, though.  At one point we were driving along the coast road and realised that the sea was actually higher up than we were, thanks to the dykes.  Not something I am used to.

However, low-lying land fears and all, we had a very pleasant day.  A stroll on the causeway to look at the view, a fine pub lunch featuring crabs, then a wander round some art galleries, followed by a little walk around the town to look at the interesting architecture. 

Lots of the towns and villages in Norfolk and Suffolk have these signs. Not all of them say "Blakeney" though.

There were people swimming, which I thought was rather ambitious.  Rather more people were catching crabs off the quayside. 

It really was a beautiful day.  And there is an awful lot of sky up in that neck of the woods.  Not many woods, though.

I did like the buildings made of flint, particularly the white-painted ones.  Very pretty.

Worryingly, we saw metal signs in the walls of one house showing where the last lot of flood waters had risen to.  It would have left only the very top of Tall Richard's head out of the water.  We measured.

Other news:  Today I made a chocolate and courgette cake.  Nom nom nom.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Whose pigs are these?

I had a busy day on Monday.  I went into town to run a few errands, then called in to see father in law WithaY at the nursing home - things have indeed improved, and hopefully will continue to do so - then headed back towards home.

As I was driving into our village, I noticed some pigs snuffling about on the grass verge. 

"How nice!" I thought.  "Someone has pigs, and they are being allowed to graze free-range."  I slowed the car down and took a proper look. 

That was when I noticed that they weren't just grazing, they were escaping.

I stopped the car on the opposite side of the road and watched the pigs in the sunshine for a minute.  They were intent on rootling about in the grass, seemingly unaffected by the traffic.  Then one of them headed onto the pavement, and then towards the road itself.

I got out of the car.  I was suddenly committed.

The pigs looked up, and then came trotting towards me. I squatted down and scritched them behind the ears and made vague pig-encouraging noises.  They liked this, and both of them started rubbing their cheeks on my legs as I scritched them, grunting ecstatically. 


What would you have done, readers?  I enjoyed their company for a little while, shooing them off the pavement and back onto the grass every time they looked like they were going to wander onto the road.   

They seemed to be all alone, there was nobody in sight, apart from the bemused car drivers going past.  A woman slowed down and unrolled her window. 

"Whose pigs are these, do you know?" I asked her.

"No...I don't know anyone in the village who keeps pigs," she said.  She pulled her car over to the side of the road and got out as well.  We both stood there, watching the pigs, unhurried and happy, methodically quartering the grass on the verge for, well, anything edible, I suppose.

We agreed that the pigs ought to be herded into a field for safety, and that the paddock across the road seemed like the best place, at least until their owners could be found. 

We found a place in the wall that looked low enough that the pigs might be persuaded to jump over, and started to shoo them across the road.  Remembering the Bath and West pig-wrangling contest, I got a couple of big map books out of my car and attempted to herd them along, making "cooosh cooosh" noises as I did so.

""Ooh, you're a natural!" said the other lady, admiringly.

Not necessarily what I would hope to be remembered for, but you know, it's nice to be applauded for a skill of any kind.

Another lady stopped her car - in the middle of the road - and hopped out.

"Whose pigs are these?" she asked us.

We admitted we didn't know, and explained what we were trying to do.

"I've got a pig feed bag in my car!" said the newcomer, retrieving it and waving it about triumphantly.  The pigs looked up, eyes brightening at the possibility of a snack they didn't have to dig up with their noses.

Using a careful combination of luring (with the feed bag), and coaxing (me using my map books to great effect), we persuaded the pigs to walk across the road to the paddock.  They refused to hop over the wall, and started gruntling and snorting in alarm as we tried to encourage them.

"It's really hard to move them," I said.

"Yes," said pig-feed-bag lady.  "They have nothing to grab hold of."

She was right.  A pig is designed without any convenient handholds.  Schoolboy error.

As we coaxed the pigs off the road again, and out of the way of the traffic, a man in a van stopped and got out.

"Whose pigs are these?" he asked us, grinning widely.  We explained the situation. 

He joined us in our efforts to coax the pigs over the wall.  It was no use.  Pigs, like white men, can't jump.

I don't think I helped much, as by this time I was giggling like an idiot.  Finally, eventually, the lady with the pig feed bag coaxed the pigs under a handy fence rail and into the paddock, then we dragged a bit of chicken wire across the gap, which seemed to do the trick.

The four of us stood in the road, proud.

Then we realised the combination of our haphazardly-parked cars and our inept pig-wrangling had drawn quite a crowd. 

As they drove past us, I could hear people asking "Whose pigs are these?"

We never did find out.  But at least they were safe. 

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Nothing ever happens

Notable events of today:

1) Completed all of the ironing whilst watching a dreadful sci-fantasy film about dragons and that. Shame on you, Jeremy Irons, what were you thinking?

2) Did an impressively competent job of mending a right-angle rip in one of Mr WithaY's shirts. I quite like mending, it's like dressmaking without all the tiresome cutting out and machining of seams.

3) Ran around the house unplugging electrical appliances when there was a thunderstorm this afternoon. I look forward to discovering what I forgot to turn back on over the next day or two.

4) Bit a huge - seriously huge - lump out of the inside of my cheek whilst eating an apricot. I was spitting blood into the sink for half an hour afterwards. Nice.

Mr WithaY is away for the week. I'm lonely. Does it show?

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Nothing is free...

In an annoying recent development, The Onion have decided to start charging non-US visitors to their website.  You can read 5 stories in any 30 day period, and after that you have to pay them about $3 a month. 

They can poke right off.

Yeah, you heard me, Onion. 

I shall get my top-notch news information via The Daily Mash from now on instead. 

Other news:  Went to Salisbury yesterday to meet bestest mate for lunch. All very pleasant.  My, aren't there a lot of tourists about, though?  I'd forgotten that about Salisbury.  Mr WithaY and I tend to pop in early-ish on a Saturday and be on our way home by the time most of the tour buses are arriving in town.

I might re-think my plan to go to Bath one day next week. Or at least, make sure I get there early if I do go.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011


It is what is traditionally known as The Silly Season here in the UK.  This means that, partly because Parliament is in recess, partly because most of the serious journos are on holiday, the newspapers are scrabbling around for things to fill their pages.

Today's winner is this.  Apart from the fantastic headline - Paul-Daniels injured in Sooty pizza throwing accident - there are all the mental images it conjures up.  Exactly what was on that pizza that was heavy enough to give him a black eye?  Tinned anchovies?  A whole coconut?  Gravel?

Last week we had this.  It's got all the elements you need for a good story.  Again, a superb headline - Harry Potter dwarf spared jail over jugglers hat sex act - which immediately grabs the attention.  Consider the composite elements of the headline, too:

Sex?  Check.  A dwarf?  Check.  A juggler's hat?  Check.  Harry Potter reference?  Check.   How could you not want to know more?

And, it all happened on a train.  You can just see the made-for-TV-movie, can't you?

Other news:  It's hot.  Damn hot.  Every day that I am able to sit in my garden, in the shade, reading a book, I am grateful for the fact that I am not stuffed into a stinking commuter train, heading for an office where the windows don't open, and if they did would just let in the traffic fumes from Victoria Street.

Yes, still enjoying the whole "not working" thing.

Developments with father in law WithaY are encouraging.  We had a long talk this week with the owner of the nursing home.  She was unaware of many of the issues we have been trying to resolve there over the last 2 years, and has taken personal charge of the situation.  Things will improve, I think. 

I've been scouring the house like a housewife in an Ealing Comedy over the last few days.  Minus the curlers and headscarf, although I think I could rock that look if I tried. 

I was sick and tired of the boxes everywhere, the endless detritus from someone else's house, so I moved a lot of it into the shed.  At least it's out of sight, if not finally dealt with.  I have piled up a heap of stuff in the hall to take to the charity shop in town, and have made executive decisions to throw away some things (a broken telephone, rolls of grubby wrapping paper, cracked crockery) which has made the place feel much better. 

That leaves us with a few boxes in the kitchen, now consolidated in one place, and the ongoing Stygian hellhole that is Mr WithaY's study.  Baby steps.  Baby steps.  We'll get the dumper truck and snowplough in there in time.  One day, maybe one day soon, we'll see the floor again. 

I'm still waiting for the builders to come back and repair the doorstep, which was the reason I called them in the first place.  They fixed the hole in the roof - did a good job too - but obviously then got sidetracked and left the doorstep.  I've phoned a couple of times, but they are "busy on another job" now, so I will have to wait.  Gah. 

Also, the keyword searches which have brought people here in the last few weeks include:

Big jugs porn   - shame on you, filth seekers
Had to pee  - shame on you, different filth seekers
He wore a monocle and looked at me - Hello monocle fans!
Recycling humour - Welcome, eco-conscious comedy seekers
Catholic who lives in the woods - If you're not following that with "firelighters" or "persecution" then hello
Basketry conservation - basket case, possibly

I like the thought that the readership of my blog consists of people looking for sleaze, people who are interested in conservation, and complete mentalists. 

Welcome, one and all.