Sunday, 31 January 2010

Old Skool Horror...........

I was watching TV last night, when a rather clever 'infomercial' came on. It was several minutes before I realised it was plugging the release of the forthcoming horror schlockbuster "The Wolfman".

Initially there was a series of talking heads, extolling the virtues of the days of cinematic classic horror. As a teenager, I lived for Friday nights and the double bill of Hammer Horror films on television.

I loved snuggling up on the settee in the dark with a mug of hot chocolate anticipating thrills and chills.

I loved the classic horror stalwarts - Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney, Bela Lugosi, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Elsa Lanchester, and my personal favourites, Vincent Price and Peter Lorre, whose voices could send shivers up my spine.

I read voraciously back then too, and devoured the horror classics, Frankenstein, Dracula, Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde, along with the rather more graphic Pan Horror Stories, selected by Herbert Van Thal. I can still vividly remember some of those stories, which have stayed with me in a dark little pocket of my psyche for the past 30 odd years.

Anyway, back to the infomercial and after the classic Hammer Horror clips, the actual Wolfman trailer appeared, and very glossy and Hollywood it looked too with the added gravitas of Anthony Hopkins looking very Van Helsing-esque. Hope they've got plenty of silver bullets, which as 'any fule kno' is the only reliable way to kill a werewolf.

But call me an old reactionary, I'd rather watch the old versions any day. I may, in the fullness of time, get a copy of the new one on DVD but I could never, ever watch in the cinema. I like the safety harness of a pause button to enable me to gather my scattered wits and make a calming cup of hot chocolate.

I'll let you draw your own conclusions

Sorry, can't embed the 1941 Wolfman trailer so you'll have to click HERE.

Lard M'lud........

Because of the ongoing upheaval caused by the re-organisation of the office, PP has had sole use of the enormous desk, positioned right in front of the patio doors with a panoramic view of the garden.

Every since the snow 'event' earlier this month she's been feeding the birds every day, on a makeshift bird table on the patio, and while attempting to identify some avian visitors, came across the Big Garden Bird Watch, organised over this weekend by the RSPB.

Basically the idea is that people print out a 'counting sheet', and record the number of different birds they spot over the course of the weekend to give a snapshot of various types of birds in different areas of the country.

To encourage the maximum number of birds to visit the garden, PP made some bird cake yesterday, consisting of various nuts, seeds, old muesli etc which were added to melted lard then allowed to cool. The resulting 'cake' is extremely nutritious and birds generally find it delicious.

What we didn't bank on was Small Dog finding it equally irresistible.

One of the wood pigeons must have knocked a few of the larger pieces off the bird table onto the patio, where they were discovered by Small Dog, on one of her frequent squirrel hunting expeditions.

I was alerted to this by hearing PP shouting, "NO! PUT THAT DOWN! BAD DOG! YOU'LL BE SICK!!, followed by her dashing out into the garden to apprehend the culprit. I arrived in the kitchen just in time to see Small Dog racing back in through the door, closely followed by PP, who cornered her in the hall and attempted to extricate a large piece of bird cake from her clenched jaws.

No amount of persuasion would convince her to relinquish her prize, despite the fact that she couldn't even close her mouth properly so big was the chunk of seed-encrusted lard.

In the end we had to hold her upside down over the sink and shake her in an attempt to get her to unlock her jaws, which she eventually did, letting drop an enormous chunk of 'cake'.
She was absolutely disgusted with us and stalked off, licking the last of the lard off her whiskers.

She hasn't been sick.........yet, but we have no idea how much she managed to scoff before she was spotted. She'll probably wait till bedtime then yuck up all over the duvet.

Anyway, she is currently in the doghouse, and having been caught red-pawed, in the act, she has been sentenced to a good telling off with no remission for good behaviour.

As if.

Anyway, while we await further developments on the canine projectile vomiting front, here's how to make a delicious bird cake...

Customer review.........

I've just unpacked and tried out my new iron. Which entailed peeling a protective film from the soleplate to reveal a pristine, gleaming, mirror-like surface.

So, very, very different from the old one, whose soleplate was the equivalent of sticky sandpaper.

The new iron is sleek and streamlined, and when plugged in a little red light comes on and it heats up.

Ermm.....that's it really.

But for £3.87 it's nothing short of miraculous.

I'm hoping it will make mini ironing a breeze, gliding over my delicate fabrics smoothly and effortlessly without a single snag or grab.

Now I just have to extremely careful not to get glue on the soleplate, or put it onto the wrong side of iron-on vilene, which instantaneously seems to meld its molecules directly with those of the metal, rendering it impossible to remove. Even with a metal scourer and cream cleaner, applied with a liberal dose of elbow grease.

Mind you, at £3.87 it isn't going to break my heart if, in the fullness of time, the virginal new soleplate does get messed up.

So, I'm going to give it a thorough test run this afternoon, pressing the minuscule seams of 5 tiny 6-piece jackets destined for some new Jumeau-style toy dolls.

Like I said before......I'm really very easily pleased.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Well, I'M excited..........

It doesn't take much to please me.

Not really.

I'm very low maintenance.

I'm really looking forward to tomorrow, for no other reason than I have a new iron.

Now. Don't get me wrong.

I absolutely HATE and REVILE ironing with a passion.

I dread having to iron.

I would rather be shut in a small room with 3,000 bird-eating spiders than have to do a pile of ironing.

EDIT - I've just had to have a lie down at the prospect of being shut in a room with 3,000 bird-eating spiders.


OK, so perhaps that was a tad unrealistic. I'll revise that to THREE bird-eating spiders.

Which for an arachnophobe is still a lot of big spiders. With hairy legs and poisonous fangs and that slow, deliberate, crawling, 'I'm coming to get YOU' gait.........




New iron?

It's for the workroom. I have been using the same iron to press sumptuous silks, rainbows of ribbons and thousands of tiny seams for the past 10 years. It is heavy and unwieldy and the soleplate has numerous battle scars in the form of dried glue, vilene and bondaweb, despite frequent applications of a wire scouring pad, which may explain the lack of a non-stick surface.

More of a 'definite stick' surface.

So today, I decided to bite the financial bullet and determined to buy a new one.

Which I did.

For a whole £3.87 at Tesco.


How on earth can they sell an electric iron for such a risibly low price?

Even so,the most expensive iron you can buy from Tesco costs £293.47.
OK, so that's an all-singing, all-dancing steam generated number, which retrieves your clean washing from the ironing pile, presses everything immaculately, folds it and puts it in your drawer. It then gently wakes you up with a cup of tea and a chocolate Hob-Nob.

The most expensive bog standard iron costs £89.97. Which is still a fair amount of money in anyone's book. It claims to be self cleaning and has anti-calc, anti-drip and anti-scale systems.

Well whoopdidoo.

But I'll bet even its smugly self-cleaning soleplate would still struggle with congealed Aleene's Tacky Glue and Iron-on Vilene's wrong side.

I'm trying it out the 'value version' tomorrow so you can read my review here first.

Bet you can hardly wait.....

Back on track........?

With just three weeks to go till the Thame Fair and the subsequent club workshop, I'm heading into familiar panic territory, paddling frantically down the rapids of squandered time, heading inexorably for the thundering waterfall of unrealised goals.

I should by now be drifting through the placid pools of preparedness, fetching up gently on the shores of satisfaction, and wandering though the sylvan glades of 'job well done'.

Chance would be a fine thing.

On the other hand, despite the domestic chaos caused by the upheaval of re-organising the office, I do seem to have achieved some small progress on preparation for the fair, although of course, not as much as needed.

For example, I managed to soft-clean an entire kiln-load of tiny toys and dolls. OK, so the kiln hasn't been unloaded yet but nevertheless, that is no small feat.

I've started preparation on a really good trade order which has to be completed by the end of February, so I'm well on track for having that completed in time.

The workshop packs for the class I'm teaching on the Sunday following the fair are done and dusted.

I'm well into a batch of tiny rainbow ballerina dolls which proved so successful at Kensington, as well as more than halfway through a set of Jumeau style toy doll kits and dressed toy dolls.

So not too bad considering.

Of course the next three weeks will fly by, and no matter how much I manage to do, I will inevitably feel that it isn't enough.

Looking beyond 21/22 February, I have the prospect of some unfettered quality time to get stuck into my stalled work-related projects, to which I'm really looking forward. With no impending fairs or imminent deadlines, so long as I can keep the displacement goblins at bay, I should be able to crack on with stuff I really want to do, as opposed to the stuff I have to do.

Happy days in prospect then.


Friday, 29 January 2010

Death by Dichloromethane....

The new office carpet was left to 'settle' overnight, which meant that today the only flooring related task remaining was to glue it to the floor around the edges.

We had bought an aerosol can of heavy duty carpet adhesive, the main constituent of which was dichloromethane. The instructions warned gravely of the need to avoid inhaling any of the spray or fumes and for good measure added a skull and crossbones graphic for those incapable of reading.

The window was duly opened, although due to the nature of the job, the door had to be kept closed, and we began, spraying the floor and the back of the carpet then laying each section flat.


A each newly sprayed section of carpet was allowed to drop to the floor, a waft of fumes was funnelled up into our faces, so that by the time we got all the way round the room and back to where we started I was gasping and desperate to get out.

Needless to say, a casual Googling of death by inhalation of dichloromethane produced a startling array of post mortem findings and dire warnings of all manner of health problems should you be lucky enough to avoid death in the first instance.

And to think my main concern was that the inside surfaces of my lungs would be glued together.....

Thursday, 28 January 2010


The new flooring in the office is now in situ.

In situ but not fitted.

This is because PP balked at having to pay £45 to have a £50 piece of carpet professionally fitted.

I wasn't exactly keen myself, but I know my limitations. Also in the final analysis it is almost always cheaper and quicker to have a professional do the job.

The carpet in question is a utilitarian silver/grey office quality gel-backed carpet which will not be affected by two office chairs rolling over it on a daily basis. Being gel-backed it had to be stuck onto the floor, so the pre-existing underlay and gripper rods were redundant.

The office in question is small and rectangular. No alcoves, or radiator pipes coming up from the floor, and no obstructions, other than the door, to give us pause for thought at the advisability of tackling the job ourselves.

We picked up the carpet from the supplier this morning, along with a can of spray adhesive, with which to fix the carpet to the floor. Having assembled the necessary tools (Stanley knife with blade of uncertain vintage, old length of skirting board to act as a (hopefully) straight edge, marker pen and tape measure, we set about the job with muted resignation.

First off, we had to cut the 4m width of carpet down to a handleable size, while still retaining a comfortable excess which could be trimmed. As we don't have a room big enough to lay the roll out flat we had to manoeuvre it into the kitchen and lap the ends up against the kitchen cupboards.

At this point, Small Dog, who shows a keen interest in DIY, wandered into the room to check on progress, then decided that she really, REALLY needed to go out into the garden. Which meant that we had to hoik the carpet off the floor to get the door open for her. While she was attending to her ablutions (which can take some time as she always has to check every inch of the garden perimeter for possible alien/squirrel incursions) we repositioned the carpet to begin the process of measuring and marking, prior to cutting. Of course as soon as the delicate task of cutting along a black line on the black back of the carpet, Small Dog decided that she really, REALLY needed to get back in again, just in case we needed her expertise.

Up came the carpet again, in strolled Small Dog, who gave us a "good job, keep it up" sort of look and disappeared off for a nap on the sofa.

Having measured, re-measured, and measured yet again (just for good measure) the carpet was finally bisected and the larger of the two pieces hefted into the office. Knowing that there was one perfectly straight, square, factory finished edge was useful as it provided incontrovertible evidence that the room was most certainly not.

Square that is.

With the carpet perfectly lined along one edge of the room, there was a definite discrepancy along two other walls.


This meant that instead of having to trim along just two edges, it was necessary to trim along three. One of which was the long axis.

Buggrit some more.


As I said, the carpet is in situ but not yet stuck down as we have run out of daylight, energy, patience and mutual goodwill.

It looks fine.

Better than fine.


  • It took more than half a day, so I have lost half a day's work during which time I could have undoubtedly have made enough stock to cover three times the cost of having the carpet fitted by someone who had the skill, confidence and proper tools and who would have done it all (included sticking it down) in less than half an hour.
  • PP has probably done something dreadful either to her back, or knees, or both.
  • We've ruined three perfectly good pairs of scissors and one casting board.
  • We're not talking to each other and Small Dog isn't talking to either of us.
When I was little, my mother used to get tradespeople in 'secretly' to do jobs in the house. For some reason, (probably related to being a man), my father used to think he could do just about anything, from plumbing to bricklaying, despite the fact that most things he attempted turned into a fiasco requiring extensive (and usually expensive) remedial works to put right what he had bodged. Throughout my childhood I was witness to various DIY disasters, ranging from him putting a pickaxe through a water main to falling off the roof trying to sweep the chimney, so my views on DIY are somewhat jaundiced. Aside from easy stuff like painting or wallpapering, I am always predisposed to leave jobs to people who know more about them than I do.

Referring back to my earlier post about books, I was introduced to Jerome K Jerome as a child by my mother. I still vividly remember her reading this excerpt to me, which had us both crying with laughter. When we had recovered our composure, she whispered conspiratorially to me:

"Who does Uncle Podger remind you of?"

Through a veil of tears and snot, I whispered "Daddy."

Is it too late..........?

There are times, thankfully rare, when I pose the question:

"What on earth am I DOING with my life?"

This usually coincides with a period of existential angst, which can be provoked by any number of external influences.

Or sometimes it's just because I just feel a bit down.

Of course there is no sensible or satisfyingly concise answer to this unanswerable question. But it hangs there in my consciousness nonetheless.

Probably everyone has 'what ifs', and 'if onlys' in abundance, and it can provide an interesting introspective hour or so, musing on how life could have turned out differently, if you'd chosen Route A instead of Route B.

When I was growing up, I harboured a burning ambition to be a librarian.

This was based on little other than the fact that I loved books (still do).

The look and feel of them.

The smell of them, either new and virginally unopened, or long-abandoned, dusty and musty.

As far as I could see, from my regular visits to the mobile library van, and my less frequent sorties to the local library in the nearest town, 10 miles away, librarians lived a charmed life.
They spent all day closetted with books. Some even got to escape from the cosy confines of the library building to tour around the outlying villages, lending literature to the book bereft as if they were distributing manna from heaven.

They used lovely little rubber stamps, with which they stamped the 'return due' date in each book. I especially liked it when my favourite librarian carefully lined up her stamp so that it fitted neatly within the confines of the grid, rather than the haphazard, oblique style of most of the others. I was fascinated by the small buff-coloured cards, held in sweet little pockets inside the front cover, which were removed and stored in ranks of wooden boxes. I loved the card index system, housed in a bank of little wooden drawers, and would spend ages rifling through the 'Find By Subject' section if I had a school project to do.

Librarians seemed to have a psychic bond with the books in their charge and had an uncanny ability to locate a title almost instantly. Of course I knew nothing about the Dewey classification system at that time and merely wondered at their prodigious memory.

The mobile library van visited our village once a week and I rarely missed it. As a young child I was only allowed to borrow from the rather limited children's section right at the back of the van, but if my favourite librarian was on duty she would permit me to borrow certain carefully selected adult fiction, which I would carefully secrete under my coat as if I were temporary custodian of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Of course these days librarianship is a whole different proposition, and its probably way too late in the day for me to be changing professional horses, but I still harbour secret fantasies about working in a cosy little library somewhere.

I'm sure I've blogged it before, but HERE is just one of my favourite book-related blogs, written by a librarian.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Drudgery, epiphanies and inspirations.....

Today has been a day of drudgery.

I finally completed a marathon 3-day session of soft-cleaning, which is my most hated pre bisque- firing task. It requires complete concentration and a light touch, both of which are often beyond me. However, it's all done, with minimal breakages, so I can load and fire the kiln tomorrow.

PP has successfully completed the re-decorating of the office. We lifted the old flooring today and it looks like a new room already. Hopefully the new flooring will be fitted next week so we can finally begin putting the room to rights.

In a fit of masochistic fervour, we then tackled the understairs cupboard, dragging out all the 'stuff' which had been stuffed in there, adding the resulting debris to the office detritus already littering the ground floor. I even found my old camera bag, which I had thought long-lost. We were completely ruthless and consigned no end of useless bits and pieces to the bin, while the moderately useful extraneous stuff will find its way onto Freecycle in due course.

So we have one clean, neat, tidy and clutter-free under stairs cupboard, while the rest of the house looks like a tip.


However, throughout the day, I've had little sparks and flashes of inspiration and ideas which I've carefully noted down lest they filter through my Swiss-cheese brain to be lost forever. If I'd sat down specifically to come up with those ideas they would have been completely elusive, but because I was faffing about with other things they came unbidden.

But welcome nonetheless.

Also there was the added bonus of this being a 'wine-night'. Which was also welcome.

So now we are chillaxing in our combined office/study/sitting room/storage area/stationery cupboard, with Small Dog sprawled outrageously on the sofa. Just goes to show that it's possible to get used to any amount of upheaval when it's for the greater good.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Friday at last..........

As I predicted on Monday, it has indeed been a long week.

Trying to run a business from the 'front room' in the temporary absence of our office, has been something of a trial.

Small Dog has put us both on notice, that if we don't get things sorted out quick smart she will be packing all her worldly goods into a spotted handkerchief tied to a stick and setting out to find fame and fortune elsewhere.

On the plus side, PP did today manage to complete the painting in the office, so tomorrow we will take up the old carpet, hoping that no terrors lie in wait underneath. All being well, we can then order the new flooring.

It's just as well that the end is in sight as we are both flagging. PP has developed housemaid's knee and tennis elbow and I am in meltdown at the prospect of an impending, immovable deadline.

Plus I could murder a Mars Bar.

Or indeed any chocolate.

But under the terms of our 'non-resolutional' regime, all I have to look forward to is prunes with low-fat custard.


Thursday, 21 January 2010

Template tantrum..........

I have spent the last 2 hours struggling to design a page layout template. I've finally found a style that I like and that I think will work well for my book.

It's clean and simple and works on the basis of three two-page spreads which can carry different material but clearly belong together, with just a few techniques repeated to provide a flexible but unified layout.

So far so easy.

Or so I thought.

Two hours in and I've deleted the unholy mess I somehow managed to create and will have to start all over again.


How can something so simple be so difficult to get exactly right? I've had a crash course in page bleeds and gutters, picas (No. I have no idea what they are either) and CMYK. Through no fault of my own, I now also have a passing acquaintance with Master Spreads and crossovers.

And my brain hurts.

Day 4........end in sight?

It is entirely possible that the office will be repainted by the weekend and ready for the new flooring to go down early next week.

Of course there is then the gargantuan task of relocating all the 'stuff' but that can be done over a few days as I really, really need to get on with prep for Thame.

Small Dog has calmed down somewhat and seems reassured that we're not planning a moonlight flit, although she really doesn't like the wholesale disruption throughout the house. Her basket has had to be relocated and she doesn't like its new position so she has vetoed it completely, preferring to snuggle down on a duvet on the sofa.

It's a dog's life.

In other news........well there is no other news. However if anything exciting happens which has nothing to do with redecorating, I'll be sure to blog it.

Meanwhile it's back to the salt mines.........

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Chaos & mayhem -Day 2

Today we have to do more preparation for decorating in the office.

I'm running out of steam already and we're nowhere near finished. Not to mention feeling stressed about the amount of work still outstanding for the Thame Fair. I should be soft-cleaning greenware today, not pratting about with the office.

After a marathon paper shredding session yesterday, the shredder overheated and the thermostat kicked it off. Hopefully it recovered somewhat overnight as there is more to do today.

Not to mention moving the old desk and two filing cabinets out so that we can tackle the next task, getting some grotty old wallpaper border off the wall. It's a very small room so that should be a quick task. It's mid-way up the wall so it's easy to get to, but it's self-adhesive so is stuck to the wall like a limpet and soaking it will be no help at all.

A quick Google yesterday found the suggestion of using a hairdryer on a hot setting, which should soften the adhesive and make it stringy, hence rendering the paper border easy to remove. I have no idea if this will work, but I'm going to give it a go. Apparently a wipe down with white spirit will remove the remaining gunk on the wall.

It's going to be another long day.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Chaos & mayhem.........

As predicted, the clearing out of the study/office has spread chaos and mayhem through the entire ground floor like a creeping miasma.

PP is now temporarily relocated to a desk in the sitting room, with a panoramic view through the patio doors out into the garden. Aside for a panicky hour or so when her life support system (t'internet) was disconnected while we moved all the computer gubbins from one room to the other, she is now happily ensconced in a spacious new (albeit temporary) workspace.

I, on the other hand, have now downgraded from a rickety folding table to a tray on my lap on the sofa, with even less workspace than I had before, so I am not a happy bunny.

Small Dog is completely traumatised, and seemed to be convinced that we were aiming to move house. She watched the activity from a vantage point at the top of the stairs, poking her head right through the banisters to keep an eye on things.

So the sitting room looks like a disaster area, as does the dining room, into which we piled all the books, business paraphernalia etc from the office.
The office, although emptier, is also a guddle, as I am working my way through the filing cabinets to get rid of all the paperwork we no longer need.

Which is a lot.

However, I think that tomorrow we should be able to relocate the small desk to an upstairs bedroom, and the filing cabinets temporarily into the dining room, which will leave the office completely empty.

I can't begin to describe the horrors we've uncovered behind the desk and filing cabinets, which we haven't been able to get to since we moved 6 years ago. Imagine 6 years worth of dust and debris, pens, paper clips etc bound together with structurally engineered spider webs and you will have some idea.
When the room is completely empty, and the old carpet has been lifted, it will take several hours with gallons of sugar soap and very hot water to clean the paintwork and get the room ready to repaint.

The workroom, despite its customary untidiness, is a positive haven of peace and calm compared to everywhere else, which is just as well as I will have to put in a reasonable day's work tomorrow to catch up with things.

However, I'm tentatively hopeful that by this time next week we will have a freshly painted, newly re-floored, de-cluttered office in which to work. Just what state the rest of the house will be in by that time is another matter.

Blue Monday.......

According to scientists, today is the most depressing day of the year.

How did they work that out?

Well, they have a formula which goes thusly..........

\frac{[W + (D-d)] \times T^Q}{M \times N_a}

where weather=W, debt=d, time since Christmas=T, time since failing our new year’s resolutions=Q, low motivational levels=M and the feeling of a need to take action=Na.

Apparently the date was calculated by using many factors, including: weather conditions, debt level (the difference between debt accumulated and our ability to pay), time since Christmas, time since failing our new year’s resolutions, low motivational levels and feeling of a need to take action.


Not sure about that.

I did a quick 'back of an envelope' calculation based on my own set of circumstances using the formula and got the answer 17 9/13ths, which is of dubious practical use.

In other news, we've started emptying the office. Which has definitely proved the theory that every action has an equal and opposite reaction, as both the sitting room and dining room are now full of 'stuff'.

So there you have it.

Mathematics and physics explained and demonstrated in one post.

It's going to be a long week.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

A journey begins with a single step.........


New flooring has been decided upon, and apparently can be laid at just a few days notice. This means that we can crack on with emptying the office and thoroughly de-cluttering.

The main issue is that of internet access for the business, so PP will set up a temporary centre of communications/operations in the lounge, and all the 'stuff' from the office will be ferried into the dining room, thus rendering three rooms uninhabitable in one fell swoop.

Once the office is empty, we can then rip up the old carpet, underlay and gripper rods. When it is completely bare, there then exists a tempting opportunity to give it a couple of coats of paint to freshen it up a bit. The room is really small, just 2m x 2.6m so it would take less than a day to repaint.

Of course, all of this chaos is undesirable just 5 weeks before a fair, when I should be concentrating on working hard to restock lots of tiny toys, but I've worked from a tiny, cramped, uncomfortable folding tray table for over 6 years and I'm thoroughly fed up.

Aside from the impending week or so of everything being topsy turvy, I'm really REALLY looking forward to having a proper computer workspace, in a room which bears more resemblance to an office, and less to a large stationery cupboard.

Not only that, I can look forward to shopping for a new computer chair and some stylish storage boxes to streamline the bookshelves.

Happy days............

My destiny.......

My horoscope for today reads:-

Delving into the more obscure areas of whatever work you do could be your primary focus today, Sandra.
This could involve some in-depth research, or exploring possibilities for new enterprises, or even something as mundane as cleaning out drawers or file cabinets.
Some intense conversations concerning these matters could take place.
Don't be surprised at anything you turn up! Strange objects and/or information are definitely in the wind!

Now. The part which caught my eye was "something as mundane as cleaning out drawers or file cabinets." This is exactly what I should be doing today, in preparation for a makeover of the study/office. We have two rather lovely wooden 2-drawer filing cabinets. One is easily accessible and PP and I have a drawer each for our personal filing, household accounts etc.
The other is ostensibly for business stuff but is completely inaccessible, living as it does, behind my little folding laptop table. I honestly have no idea at all what's in it.

Possibly strange objects abound.

I don't think I've been into either of those two drawers more than two or three times since we moved here 6 years ago, so there can't be anything vital to the running of the business. I have a vague, hazy memory of there being several years worth of tax-related bumph, along with masses of work-related information going back to 1989, vintage books of cheque stubs, bank statements relating to accounts long since closed. All that kind of stuff.

Realistically I should be able to just shred and or recycle the lot, without giving it a second glance.

Realistically that is never going to happen.

I'm going to have to look at every single piece of paper and make a decision on what to do with it.


Some days I could zip through both drawers in record time, safe in the knowledge that all my decisions were spot on and that nothing valuable or important had been discarded.

Today however, something in my brain isn't quite working properly, and my thought processes are clunky and unreliable. It's probably MS throwing a spanner in my cognitive works and I know I'll just have to wait for it to pass, and the MS gremlins to move onto some other part of my anatomy.

However, I had 'scheduled' this weekend for further clearing out the office so that we can get the flooring replaced and create a workspace more conducive to creative endeavour. This of course will mean completely emptying the room, which is a Good Thing.

Nothing, NOTHING, which isn't useful or essential is going to be allowed back in. Which means that for the duration, the dining room is going to look like a tip and the resulting overflow will creep into other downstairs rooms until the fate of various 'stuff' is decided.

So I really need my thought processes to be working at optimum capacity.

Which they're not. Resulting in a flaw in an otherwise damn fine plan.


Saturday, 16 January 2010

Recipe for good health........

I've been waiting for this for years.

As a classic 'pear-shape' I've always rather envied 'apples' their slim hips and thighs, but now I can embrace my shape, secure in the knowledge that I am more effectively insulated against diabetes and heart disease.

Of course there is just one small, teeny-weeny caveat, revealed in the very last line.


Friday, 15 January 2010

Enough already..........

Now THIS is Small Dog's fault.

She's very interested in anything to do with Yorkshire Terriers and was watching from her vantage point on my lap while I was 'researching' the Barmy Army's musical exploits.

She happened to ask if they had a club mascot. Perhaps she had it mind to apply for the position herself.

However, lo and behold they do! The stunningly originally named Terry the Terrier.


I rest my case.

That picture was taken seconds before he was set upon and savagely beaten by his team mates after scoring an own goal then weeing on the goalposts.

Displacement Activity? Certainly Not!


I should just have walked away.

Turned my back on the displacement goblins (who are out in force today) and carried on with my sorting out.

But no.

I just had to do one final Google. Which turned into 15 minutes of full-blown displacement activity.

It's my own fault entirely. I just wondered if Huddersfield Town had a club song. Something stirring, and tuneful, documenting the highs and lows of a football team.

The goals.

The fouls.

The sending offs.

What did I find.............?

Der ... Der ... Der...

Der der,
Der der, der der, der der,
Der der, der dede der,
Der de der der der de, de ....

OK. So technically speaking I suppose that qualifies as a 'chant'. And perhaps when sung in unison from the terraces of the Galpharm Stadium, it acquires the melodic dignity and charm of a mediaeval Gregorian chant.

Who knows.

If you're up for a bit of displacement activity, have a look here for more musical treats, guaranteed to bolster the Barmy Army through times of terror and despair.

Now I really must get on...........

Normality...sort of.....

It's hard to believe that just a few days ago the view from all our windows was of a snowy hinterland. Seemingly overnight the snow has all but disappeared, with only a few isolated patches scattered here and there.

I'm in a 'sorting out' mood today, thanks to an uncharacteristic burst of energy.

Tonight's dinner is simmering quietly in the slow cooker. I'm trying something new and exotic - Persian Chicken, which smells delicious.

I've updated our Internet Security/Antivirus software (which took AGES) and in between clicks, cleaned the kitchen thoroughly, then made a start on the study/office, which you may remember is being remodelled to give me some workspace.

I've also dealt with a load of outstanding financial gubbins, part of which involved the Yorkshire Building Society. I don't visit their website very often, and after I'd concluded my business, I idly browsed the various financial products on offer.

You'll never guess. The YORKSHIRE building society has a TERRIERS ACCOUNT!

A boney fido account for Yorkshire Terriers. Or so I thought at first glance.

Disappointingly, the truth is rather more prosaic and I fear that they are aiming the account at a very small, niche market.

Key Features

  • Open an account with £1 if you're under 18 (£100 for over 18's).
  • Receive a gift up to the value of £10 from the Huddersfield Town club shop. Subject to availability.
  • Qualify for prize draws and other special deals offered by Huddersfield Town.
  • A cash bonus for Huddersfield Town based on savings balances.
  • Earn an attractive rate of interest.
  • One instant access withdrawal from your account each month.
  • Manage your account online.
Now, I'm assuming that Huddersfield Town's nickname is The Terriers. I'm also assuming that if you are a die hard fan of Huddersfield Town, this is the savings account for you.

I couldn't help wondering what sort of 'gift to the value of £10' is available from the shop, and just had to find out, anticipating a plethora of terrier-related merchandise.

Sadly, there was not a single Yorkshire Terrier branded item. I can't help feeling they're missing a trick there.

I also have to take issue with the assertion 'earn an attractive rate of interest'. Personally, I don't regard a net rate of 0.20% attractive, but perhaps Huddersfield Town supporters take a different view, seeing as the club gets a cash bonus on savings balances.

However, despite my advice to the contrary, Small Dog is very keen to enter the world of high finance, and is adamant that a Yorkshire Terriers saving account is the way to go.

Sadly, she only has 47 pence to act as a deposit, so she has asked for an advance on her 'pawket' money of 53 pence.

It will all end in tears......

PS - Hope I don't get hundreds of 'hate-emails' from staunchly loyal Huddersfield Town supporters for dissing their savings account.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Breaking News........

We've just been to Tesco.

Drove there in the car and everything.

They had fresh fruit and vegetables, bread, and real milk from cows...

It was really, really exciting.

*note to self - must get something approaching a life.....*


I have exciting news.

We're free.

FREE I tell you!!!

It has rained overnight and miraculously, much of the snow which has held us hostage for the past 9 days has disappeared.

We can actually SEE the road. And cars are actually DRIVING on it, as opposed to slipping sideways.

This means that we can get out to Tesco and avoid having to eat the manky stuff still lurking right at the back of the freezer/cupboards.


Edit - a refuse lorry has just driven up the road. Civilisation returns at last.......

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Thinking aloud...and an epiphany!

By Jove, I think I've got it.

Art Nouveau!

"The Art Nouveau style appeared in the early 1880s and was gone by the eve of the First World War. For a brief, brilliant moment, Art Nouveau was a shimmering presence in urban centers throughout Europe and North America. It was the style of the age--seen on public buildings and advertisements, inside private homes and outside street cafés--adorning the life of the city."

It fits perfectly with the period I'm trying to evoke (late 1880's) and with the quintessentially French style I have in mind. Also it's contemporaneous with the gorgeous Jumeau style dolls which will be on display inside the shop.

The cherry on the icing on the cake is that Art Nouveau fonts are really rather lovely and immediately evoke La Belle Epoque at a glance.

So, the hunt is now on for ideas for suitable architectural features which I can incorporate into my boxy-looking little shop.

I feel inspired.........

My bedtime reading........

This is a wonderful little book which details dozens of small independent shops. I've been leafing through, making notes on various architectural features which I might incorporate into my little 'posh doll' shop.

As I surmised, the shops which mine most closely resembles in its current incarnation, belong to funeral directors, so black was clearly NOT a good choice.

In other news, it has snowed again. Probably another inch or so has settled on top of the existing 8 inches in the garden so we're back to square one. The road outside, which had been gradually clearing, is now as bad as ever, so our proposed trip to Tesco today is out of the question unless we walk.

Which is also out of the question.

It's gone beyond a joke. Looking out of the window it is STILL snowing and the sky looks full and menacing.


Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Can't decide........

Very busy day today but have successfully completed 75% of the Thame workshop preparation so I'm well pleased.

Thanks for all the doll shop suggestions and keep them coming. Much of my prep today was fairly mindless and repetitive (try plaiting about a mile of waxed cotton thread and see if your mind doesn't wander) so I've been musing on the little doll shop and what to do with it.

I'm leaning towards pastel shades for the exterior........sort of French looking. Shabby chic-ish.
However for some insane reason lost in the mists of time, I painted it black. And not just any old black. Black gloss enamel.

Just how I am going to cover it up successfully is a conundrum. I'll need to sand it down first, to take the gloss sheen off.

That's a horrible job.

Then I'll need to give it at least a couple of coats of a good quality undercoat, before having a go with any top coat. Perhaps instead of bricking under the windows I could tile. Somewhere I have a book of nursery rhymes which feature tiled murals which could possibly be shrunk down. Or maybe patterned tiles which tie in with the main colour would be better.

Then there's the colour of the internal display shelves to consider. Again, something light and pastel which will show up the posh dolls. Pink perhaps. Or blue. Maybe pale green. Or a neutral cream.

Decisions, decisions.

I really, REALLY wish I hadn't painted it black. Cutting in around the 'glass' in the windows and door will be a nightmare, and I'll never be able to get right into the channels. Which means that I'll have to add some sort of very fine wooden mouldings around the windows so that the channels can't be seen.

The interior is not too bad. The wooden floor is fine and because the shelves cover 95% of the wall space, I don't really need to change the wallpaper, as it won't be seen. The bay windows are a bit on the skimpy side and don't offer much in the way of display potential, so I may need to finagle something to add more space.

Not sure what though.

I think I'm in danger of encountering the law of diminishing returns.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Projects update.....and competition

Whilst working this afternoon, I've been musing on the various work-related projects on the back burner. They are all part of a greater plan, and making progress, any progress, on any of them, would reap dividends, as well as giving me creative enjoyment and satisfaction.

The easiest project is the upgrading of a little single storey corner shop which I built from a kit aeons ago and is in a very basic and perfunctory state.

As you can see.

It must be around 18 years old, and has been living, unloved and untouched on top of a cabinet in the workroom for all of the 6 years we've lived in this house. I don't know why I didn't lavish more care on its construction when I built it, and I can't remember what sort of shop I intended it to be.

Perhaps a funeral parlour given that I decided to paint it all black.

I cringe to look at it now. The tiling on the bay windows was made using little card price tags glued on and painted plain black. The door window blind is faded and tatty. It never even had a shop sign. Inside, there was one awful, tatty, imported. dark wood display cabinet and a similarly dire counter.

I don't know what I was thinking.

In my defence, I must have built it during a period of miniature insanity when I had 17 doll's houses, shops, rooms boxes and settings, not one of which was ever completely finished.

However, I espied it a few months back, dragged it down from the top of the cupboard and gave it a closer inspection.

After I'd wiped 6 year's worth of dust off it. Which for the dust-conscious houseproud among you, is a seriously scary amount.

Of course, after I'd dusted it off I didn't really know what to do with it, so I replaced it on the cupboard top and forgot about it again. However, having shrugged off its cloak of invisibility, it tugged at my consciousness, and I found myself taking it down from time to time to assess its potential. Just a modest single storey shop, with perspex roof which I'd neglected for years.

Then the kernel of an idea took root in my brain. What if I gave it a makeover? A complete upgrade. Outside and in. So before Christmas I managed to track down three display cabinets just like the ones in my Victorian toy shop. The ones with the removable perspex shelves. In my toy shop I installed lighting in each and every one of the many display cabinets, which was a true labour of love. As the little shop has a perspex ceiling, which allows light to pour in, I don't have to do that, which is a bonus. In fact, the three cabinets are such a perfect fit that I don't have room to install any lighting at all.

Double bonus.

The exterior needs some serious TLC. I'm torn between a complete repaint, or adding brick slips around and below the bay windows. Obviously I need to re-tile the tops of the windows, make a proper shop sign etc.

But compared to the scale of the other three 'projects' this will be a walk in the park. As always, I'm open to suggestions for interior/exterior decor.

As to what sort of shop it is to be.......well a very high-class toy doll emporium of course, which will sell only the very best dolls for the discerning doll's house child. I envisage something along the lines of the Harrods or Fortnum & Masons of the doll world.

Which brings me to my competition. I can't decide on a name for the shop so I'm requesting suggestions. These can be in the form of comments on this post, or emailed to me at

I will award a prize of a boxed toy doll to the winner, which will be picked at random by Small Dog.

Closing date for entries 31 January.

Multiple entries accepted.

Good luck!

Monday again........

We're still not inclined to take the car out onto the skating rink formerly known as a road, although a team of community-minded residents had a bash at clearing tyre tracks earlier using brushes and shovels. Our car is still entombed in a white coffin of ice and snow and when the thaw does allow us entry it probably won't start.

So nothing else for it but to get stuck in to's not as if I don't have enough to do.

Back to work this morning and accomplished a final batch of casting to enable me to load the kiln and do a soft-firing.

There are now less than 6 weeks till the Thame Fair. Then on the day after the fair I'm teaching a miniature toy wicker pram workshop for the Thame doll's house group, therefore I really need to get the prep for the workshop nailed this week so that I can use the remaining time to work on making tiny toys.

Then there are my work-related 'projects' of which there are four, on which I had been hoping to spend at least a few hours each day. Of course that was hopelessly unrealistic and although I might be able to do some pre-prep, I won't get a proper run at them till after Thame.

Then there's the website, which is badly in need of updating and re-jigging. I might be able to do a bit of tinkering in the odd spare half hour but it really needs a concerted effort.

Then there's the million and one other things 'to do' which constantly clamour for my attention.

So, I'm trying to view this weather-imposed purdah as a way of ensuring that I buckle down and make some inroads into what I have to do.

Sounds like a plan......

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Avian free-for-all.........

PP has set up a bird bistro on our patio, with leftovers of Christmas cake, cheese straws, biscuits etc.

I can count approximately 20 or so birds, all vying for poll position on the big wooden board, supported across two chairs. The fattest pigeon in the world is sitting slap bang in the middle, while blackbirds, thrushes and our resident robin flit in and out grabbing what they can.

There seemed to be a bit of co-operative team spirit earlier, when they all saw off a pair of magpies who'd been intent on annexing the board for themselves.

Small Dog has been banished to her basket in the study. She regards incursions by any living creature into HER garden as a blatant act of aggression and has formally declared jihad on the feasting birds, barking her head off and throwing herself against the patio doors in a frenzy.

Outside, huge chunks of snow are falling from the trees so a thaw is in progress, despite a bout of fairly heavy snow earlier.

I'm cosied up on the sofa with my laptop again today, working sporadically, and flicking through the TV channels hoping to chance upon a half-decent film. We have a roast dinner to look forward to later, with the last of our fresh vegetables. Thankfully, Artistic Daughter, whose partner owns a 4x4, has offered to act as an emergency taxi for us, if we can't get out in the car this week. The only vehicles currently getting as far up the hill as us have been 4 wheel drive.... all other cars have been sensibly tucked off the road for the duration.

I'm actually quite enjoying the sense of isolation.

At least for the time being.....

It's mellllltiiiing......!

Although it does seem to have snowed in the night, there are definite signs of a thaw as our leaking gutters are dripping water instead of huge icicles.

PP has been out back this morning, clearing a 'wee' spot for Small Dog, who has declared a moratorium on going outside to do her ablutions. Last night we were reduced to taking her out into the garden on her lead, lest she disappear into a snow drift never to return.

The thaw, when it sets in proper, will cause huge problems in many area of Hastings which lie in dips and hollows. The one advantage of living at the top of a hill is that all the meltwater will flow away from us.

Except for the stuff in our garden, which slopes down towards the patio.

I have just glanced out of the window and another flurry of snow flakes has started to fall, so perhaps I spoke too soon.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Breaking News......

It's STILL snowing.

Small Dog has found a new vantage point in the bay window in the study at the front of the house, from where she has been able to closely monitor all sledging activity down the hill today like a winter Olympics official.

The snow on the patio table is now close to a foot thick and the sky is still laden with the stuff.

If it keeps up I hope to be able to achieve this tomorrow.......

Total whiteout.........

It's snowing hard.

Really hard.

And it's set to continue ALL WEEKEND. We currently have 9 inches of snow in the garden which will almost certainly increase to over a foot today if it keeps snowing like it is at the moment.

We've battened down the hatches (again) and I'm nesting for the duration. I'm snuggled up on the sofa with a panoramic view through the patio doors into the garden, which is under a rapidly thickening thick blanket of snow.

Small Dog has vetoed venturing outside as she can no longer lift her paws above the snow surface and has to progress like a small, furry snow plough.

Albeit a very disgruntled one.

I think she's reached the stage now where she's a bit scared of it. There are parts of the garden where the snow has drifted. One of them is her favourite wee spot and when she tried to get to it, she became completely submerged and started to panic, leaping up and down like a gazelle. Unfortunately her legs are quite short so her leaps aren't very gainly or elegant.

She's curled up on a blanket on the sofa, keeping a weather eye on the snow, occasionally jumping up when the wind blows a particularly fierce flurry against the windows.

We will NOT be venturing out today, especially after our expedition yesterday. I think we'll be ok for food etc in the short term, but our fresh fruit and veg will probably run out by Tuesday. A brief reconnaissance of the store cupboard has revealed a motley collection of packets and tinned goods. The sort of weird stuff you buy on a whim then don't know what to do with.

Marinated squid, pilchards, assorted unusual beans and pulses, 7 different types of rice, quinoa, polenta etc. I can foresee a time in the not too distant future when our dinner menus become somewhat experimental. Small Dog has enough dinners to keep her going for about a week so she should be ok, although the dog milk won't last beyond Monday.


Laptop on lap, I'm intending doing a bit of computer work this afternoon. In front of the TV, just in case there's a good film on.

Needless to say, there will be no displacement activity. Unless you count gazing out onto the snowy wastes.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Paignton's gone viral..........

This video clip has had over 4 million hits in the past few days.......

I'd pay good money to see what happened just round the corner...

And before you say anything, this isn't displacement activity either.

Aside from the Great Trek earlier I've done two batches of casting and made serious inroads into my next two miniature toy theatres, both of which will feature scenes from well-known fairy tales.

Not to mention having a great idea for a series of little 3-D nursery rhyme dioramas.

So there.

In other news, after a resolutely (but non resolutional) wine free week, this evening, I shall be enjoying a cheeky little Sauvignon Blanc.



Nanook of the North......

Author's Note - to be read in the style of the account from an intrepid explorer of the 1920's, or a Boy's Own Adventure story.

We have safely returned from an expedition through the icy wastes to a faraway place known as Wunstopp, where we had heard tell of stocks of provisions to delight the eye.

Our preparations for the journey began early this morning as we assembled the equipment necessary for such a perilous journey...... ropes, crampons, belaying pins, ice picks and emergency rations in the form of a miniature bottle of Tia Maria attached onto Small Dog's collar.

As we had no flares, we took instead some leftover party poppers, which we had the foresight to dip in white spirit, planning to set light to them before pulling the strings.

Very quickly.

Sadly we had no opportunity to test these impromptu but ingenious devices in advance of the trek, but trusted to a higher authority that they would prove unnecessary.

Our equipment and supplies thus assembled, we thenceforth turned our attention to our clothing, and spent an hour or so adding layer upon layer till we could scarcely bend over. Only stand with our arms held out from our sides like a person wearing many, many clothes.

Fortunately, during our camping trips in the wilderness we have encountered much in the way of adverse weather conditions, and so we consider ourselves lucky to have developed myriad survival skills.

One such skill is the wearing of elastic bands over the top of socks before the application of wellington boots. Research into this method of containing sock slippage is in its infancy, and the minor drawback of causing gangrene in both feet due to the fact that no blood can flow beneath the bands is offset by the fact that when removing the boots, there is no embarrassing dangly sock foot.

PP took the precaution of further adding a fur-trapper hat, with the ear flaps tied securely under her chin and most fetching it looked too.

Not at all comical.

Small Dog was to be the expedition's lead dog, on the basis that if she fell down a crevasse we could most easily hoik her out by her harness. She was kitted out in a thick fleece jumper, followed by a thick fleece-lined coat, fastened by means of leather buckles. Thus attired she could barely move but nonetheless gamely struck out through the ice and snow, her scrabbling paws kicking up flurries of flakes in her wake.

We had planned to bivouac by the play equipment half way down the ravine, but the extreme cold, coupled with the copious amounts of yellow snow, forced us to revise our route. Therefore we made a detour and traversed across the ravine, which brought us into a field of dangerous pack ice.

How fortunate that we had the foresight to bring our crampons. It was the work of a mere hour and half to fasten them securely over our wellingtons, what with the constant falling over and resulting spinning slowly like an upturned turtle, flailing ineffectually in an attempt to right ourselves..

To our disappointment, after a short while of this, Small Dog seemed to want to disassociate herself from us and went a little way off, where she sat resolutely staring into the distance, deaf to our pleas for help.

Eventually we were able to continue, and with the aid of the crampons, set off at a blistering pace, covering a distance of almost 10 1/2 yards in the next 30 minutes.

During this time we met no other living soul. It was as if all creatures were somehow safe and warm elsewhere and the bleak whiteness of our surroundings, coupled with the keening wind, made us feel oddly sad.

And tired.

So very, very tired.

How we longed to curl up on the kerbside and slip into a dreamless sleep.

However we knew that to do so would almost certainly mean certain death. So we trudged onwards, Small Dog a mere speck in the distance.

Some time later we reached the bottom of the track, where gradually unaccustomed sounds of civilisation filtered through our chilled ears. Wheeled vehicles and even a solitary human being gradually came into view, and as we emerged from a forest path the wind dropped and we could discern a small settlement, wherein we espied the fabled Wunstopp.

Instantly, all fatigue forgotten, we plunged onwards through the snowdrifts and eventually arrived at the portals of the store, which seemed eerily deserted. The reason for this swiftly became apparent as I pushed open the door, almost falling inside, so great was my excitement at achieving our goal.

My delight was soon dashed as I gazed around at the empty shelves. Not a crumb of bread remained. Only some out of date teacakes which had had their monetary value reduced to mere pence. Milk also was nowhere to be seen. I fell upon the chilled food section with a cry of anguish, beating my poor, frostbitten hands on the bare space where the milk should have been.

But hush.

What is this? Our of the corner of my frost-rimmed eye, I spied a bottle of something white. Suspecting slow blindness may have affected my vision, I closed my eyes, shook my head and looked again. No, there was most definitely a bottle containing a white liquid.

Milk substitute.

The legend on the bottle declared that the contents tasted just like semi-skimmed milk. But it had been scientifically engineered to contain no dairy product.

I fell upon it with a sob. I cared not a fig whether it had been dog milk. The prospect of another day at base camp with porridge made without milk was too much to bear and so I grabbed the bottle and paid for it the princely sum of one pound. My frozen fingers fumbled with the coins and I could barely whisper my thanks to the young man behind the counter, before stumbling back out into the elements, holding the bottle aloft, triumphantly.

PP and Small Dog looked askance at my prize, and I fancied I heard Small Dog mutter that she'd have preferred dog milk, but I paid no heed.

We now faced the most daunting part of our trek, the uphill slog back to base camp. The sun had by now slipped behind banks of heavy, grey, menacing clouds. A freezing wind had suddenly appeared from nowhere and buffeted us from all sides. We shook hands gravely, embraced briefly and gave Small Dog an encouraging pat on the head. Pausing only to rope ourselves together, we began the long, slow trudge up the slope, upon which the ice lay several inches thick.

How many trials besieged us on the way back I cannot tell. My head was swimming, and as we gained altitude I began to feel strangely light, as if my spirit was leaving my corporeal self behind and floating on ahead of me, beckoning me forward.

I gritted my teeth, set my jaw and carried on, one heavy step after another. Even Small Dog, whose stamina is legendary seemed affected by an unusual malaise. Several times she stopped, whimpering plaintively, clearly pleading with us to pick her up and carry her. I instinctively knew that to do so would surely prove fatal, so I urged her onward with a encouraging, friendly tap with my boot.

Perhaps I should have removed the crampon first.

Finally, we reached the last section of our journey and the end was in sight. However the final 100 yards was the steepest part and several times I felt that we would achieve our goal. Small Dog, now lagging behind, used her snow-encrusted paws in the manner of sled-runners and allowed herself to be slowly hauled up the north face.

When we reached home, so great was our joy that all the perils of our journey and our great fatigue were forgotten. It took a mere 45 minutes to disrobe ourselves and divest Small Dog of her garments and cargo of snow, which had woven itself into her fur. She is now resting, comatose in her basket, twitching slightly.

During the writing of this missive, the warmth has at last returned to my fingers and I can almost feel my feet again. I have not yet removed my socks but I am reasonably confident that I still retain my full complement of toes.

I now look forward to a warm and cosy evening safe from the elements, and give heartfelt thanks that we successfully survived our excursion.

PS - this can in NO WAY be construed as displacement activity.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Say what.......?

We have a salt mine in this country???!


I thought they were apocryphal.......

Late surge.........

Having had my carefully planned work schedule derailed by the inclement weather this morning, I have more than made up for it since by completing two batches of tiny toy casting and several hours of prep for the post-Thame workshop. Not to mention making a start on two new miniature toy theatres.

So all in all, not a bad day, considering.

We've had lots more snow, which is lying crisp and deep and even.

Except where Small Dog has been treading in her own footsteps and making a right old mess. She seems incapable of going outside without bringing a barrow-load of snow back in with her, strongly attached to her person.

This was after she'd been intercepted coming in looking like a snow-dog, been rubbed down and had the worst of the snow pulled off her legs and undercarriage. She's looking so scrappy because this denied her the pleasure of pulling off chunks of snow then chasing them round the kitchen floor in a frenzy.

Yesterday we thought this was quite amusing, until the resulting pools of meltwater rendered the floor as slippery as the skating rink outside, so now when she returns from forays into the garden we have to 'field' as she races in the door. If she manages to evade Silly Mid Off then the we still have the fall-back position of hopefully heading her off at Deep Square Leg. However she's a slippery little bugger so she can often achieve the relative safety of Deep Extra Cover, also known as Under The Duvet.

Obviously this usually has us stumped.

In other news tonight is yet another non-wine night in keeping with our non-resolutional no alcohol Mon-Thurs (inclusive)


It's been a l-o-n-g week.


As expected, all of yesterday's snow has frozen solid and the road outside is more use as a ski slope than a thoroughfare.

Today is 'bin day' up our road, but I don't expect the truck will be able to get up as far as us. However, just in case, and as our household rubbish bin hasn't been emptied since before Christmas, I ventured outside this morning to skid it down the drive.

My first challenge was opening the porch door which was completely frozen. I was reluctant to put my shoulder to it lest I was jettisoned out onto the drive and careened down the road on my back. Eventually I managed to get the door open to discover the next challenge. The black bin lid was firmly sealed with about an inch of solid ice.

So, back indoors to boil a kettle of water with which I eventually managed to melt enough of the ice to get the lid open.

Next I had to negotiate the drive, which had a deceptively safe-looking layer of several inches of snow, over thick black ice. Using the wheelie bin as a brake (yes I know...... what WAS I thinking?) I gingerly advanced down the drive, holding onto the handles of the bin for grim death, which is exactly what I was anticipating if it gathered enough momentum to fling me head first to the ground.

There then followed a very chilly 15 minutes trying to brace the bin in a position where it wouldn't either:

a) topple over, spilling the detritus of two weeks of Christmas festivities all over the place.
b) start to slide down the hill, banging into cars and toppling small children like tiny screaming skittles.

I did the best I could, jamming the bin precariously up against next door's tree, and headed back indoors, only to remember that I had still to read the electricity and gas meters which are housed in little boxes behind the porch.

This necessitated trying to move the green recycling bin, which had frozen onto the drive and wouldn't budge. I used the last of the hot water from the kettle, making a mental note not to set foot near the bins again before the thaw, as the water lying on the ground would surely freeze and create even more of a hazard than the frozen snow.

Needless to say, both meter doors were frozen shut and I had run out of hot water.

I had also run out of patience.

So, with the judicious application of several increasingly frantic thumps I eventually gained access to the electricity meter and dutifully noted the number.

I was a tad more wary of the gas meter cupboard, as a Methuselah of a spider, who I'm sure was a stand-in for the Great Spider in The Haunting of Toby Jugg, lives in there, and has a tendency to spring forward threateningly whenever the door is opened.

My caution was unnecessary however, as there was no sign of him. Rather than being relieved, I was worried that he had gained access to the house via one of the ventilation slits just under the cupboard. Of course he may have succumbed to the cold, but in that case I would have thought I'd have found his shrivelled corpse inside the box.

Where DO spiders go in the winter? No on second thoughts don't tell me. I don't want to know.

I'm almost completely thawed out now, but all the messing about has played havoc with my new work schedule, and my 9.30-11.30 time slot has all but passed.
So, in order not to squander the remaining time *ahem* I have just scored a minor, but very satisfying victory on Lexulous.

Lexulous, for those who don't indulge in displacement activity, is basically an online version of Scrabble. I only discovered it recently, and have been playing the solitaire version, where I have been routinely beaten and humiliated by a robot.

This would be bad enough, but you can select the skill level of your virtual opponent and every time I've played I've chosen the lowest possible level for the robot. Despite this 'advantage' I've been beaten every single time.

Until today.

This morning I beat the bugger, 296 points to 267!

Woo, and indeed, hoo!

However that might have been a fluke. Although I did get to put QUIZ on a triple word score.
Take THAT you low-skill robot you!

Well, enough of this. It's coming up to 11.20 so I need to go and get ready for my 11.30 till lunchtime shift and I've got lost time to make up........

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Waking to a Winter Wonderland.....

It was so dark this morning that my body clock refused to accept it was time for me to get up. So I got a sneaky mid-week lay-in, which hopefully won't play havoc with my new regime too badly.

The much heralded 'snow event' has taken it's time to get to St. Leonards on Sea, but it's snowing hard now and several inches have already accumulated. I haven't seen a single car inch its way down our vertiginous road this morning and having got ours safely off the road yesterday we won't be digging it out any time soon.

Small Dog took one look outside and promptly turned tail to return to her cosy nest by the radiator in the study. Despite the fact that her bladder can be only the size of a walnut, it must be cast-iron as she can keep her legs crossed for hours if need be.

The light is so bad today that I am considering re-jigging my schedule to avoid doing any casting. However, to do so would feel like a gross dereliction of duty, given that I've done so well this week so far. Perhaps if I use both my SAD lamp AND daylight lamp together I might have enough lux to enable me to cope with casting and de-moulding another batch of very, very tiny toys.

However, before I do battle with casting, I have my porridge to look forward to. Many thanks for all your suggestions on how to make this bland paste more palatable. Today I'm going to add some dried cranberries and a soupcon of honey.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Doomsday scenario........

The radio and television news has been full of dire warnings of a major 'snow event' over the next 24 hours in the south of England.

Parts of the south will experience snowfalls of up to 40 cm while here in East Sussex we can expect around 10 cm. This of course will cause chaos, and on the basis of the snow just before Christmas our road will be impassable. As the snow is set to continue off and on for the rest of the week, with the temperature never rising above freezing, we have the possibility of being virtually housebound till the weekend and perhaps beyond.

This prospect, far from filling me with fear and foreboding, is music to my ears as I can concentrate 100% on work and personal projects in equal measure.

Small Dog is rather ambivalent about the whole snow thing. She hates the cold, and although she is happy to jump around and play in the snow for a short while, she quickly gets soaked through to the skin and starts to shiver piteously.

She has put in a request for a dog sled. She added the unnecessary caveat that it would be used as sled for her to sit on, rather than pull, dog-team mush-styley. Apparently she envisions sitting on it while we pull her down the road so that she doesn't get snow-logged before her walk in the woods. Naturally she would then expect us to pull her back up the hill again, presumably at a rather slower pace than her downhill jaunt.

As there is currently a nationwide 3 month waiting list for sledges, we will have to improvise her dog sled from an old metal tray, with two holes drilled through the corners and a length of thick string for the pull. I suspect that our home-made effort will not meet her exacting standards of style and panache so we may have to customise it with go-faster stripes and flames over the sides.

In the meantime we have battened down the hatches and await the snow event with anticipation.

Edit - just idly browsing through Google videos and came across this. So that's where she got the idea from......

Day 2 and still on track.......

Day two of my new regime.

So far so good.

It's still blisteringly cold but at last the house seems to have absorbed enough residual heat for us to stop shivering. In view of the Arctic temperatures I decided to have a bowl of porridge for breakfast to set me up for the day. Why is it that a modest amount of oats expand exponentially in the saucepan to provide enough porridge for a family of four?

PP disdains porridge. Even the stuff with chocolate in, which of course isn't real porridge at all.
Despite my Scottish roots I disdain porridge made with salt.


However, porridge made with milk, is creamy gorgeousness in a bowl. As a child my mother used to drizzle a few spoonfuls of condensed milk over the top, which instantly transformed the humble cereal into food of the gods. Naturally my new spartan regime (remember, it's NOT a resolution) forbids the use of condensed milk, so I had to slum it with a spoonful of evaporated milk (low fat naturally) instead, which performed as a satisfactory substitute.

Small Dog wandered into the kitchen as I was halfway through my bowl. She is always very interested in anything in a bowl, as she is eternally hopeful that it might be pudding. So I left her a tiny smidgen, which she initially viewed with a certain amount of suspicion, until she tentatively lapped a morsel, then rapidly dispatched the rest.

Thus fortified I set about a marathon casting session which has just been curtailed by the news that blizzards are due to hit the whole of Southern England tonight. So we're now having to do a quick dash out to the post office to send off orders, then a scoot round Tesco to reprovision as the cupboards are bare and anticipated snow drifts might render our road impassible for the rest of the week.

Actually I've just seen the first few tiny snowflakes floating down from a heavy grey sky so we'd best be off.

I may be gone for some time....

Monday, 4 January 2010

New year, new regime........

Mindful of my new work regime due to begin today, I was up this morning at 7.30 am (aka the middle of the night) in order to get right down to it.

Have I mentioned how cold it is? It is absolutely freezing both outside and in. It has taken since we arrived home yesterday afternoon for the house to warm up sufficiently for me to be able to work at all. The kitchen especially is like an icebox and Small Dog had to have her blanky laid on the floor under her dinner bowl last night to prevent her dainty paws from getting chilled.

Anyway, the first task on my newly revamped 'to do' list this morning was casting, which I thought would ease me gently back into the work saddle. What I hadn't bargained for was having to schlepp up ice-encrusted steps to the shed, then rummage around in the freezing cold to find a new gallon of porcelain slip.

I then had the 'pleasure' of sieving and mixing it several times to get all the frozen lumps out before adding the slip tint. It's a horrible, slimy, messy job at the best of times, but when the slip is so cold it's extra miserable.

No matter.

The slip was eventually mixed and I've completed my scheduled casting batch so that's one thing I can tick off today's 'to list'.

It's now lunchtime but my new regime (it's not a resolution remember) stipulates that instead of a cheese and tomato sandwich, followed by a cup of tea and a Kit Kat, I will be savouring the delights of two pieces of fruit, followed by a cup of tea and NO Kit Kat. I'm a bit surprised that I'm not feeling ravenously hungry, but considering my food intake over the past three weeks it's surprising that I'm surprised.

No matter there either.

PP is making a deliciously hearty home-made vegetable soup for dinner which undoubtedly, as my granny would have said, 'will stick to my ribs' thereby rendering me replete and famine resistant.

This afternoon I will be working on preparation for the workshop in the wake of the Thame Fair next month, as well as getting organised to make a start on some orders.

So the work ethic is working well so far, and I will not let the fact that I'm only 5 hours into the new regime lull me into a false sense of security.

In any case, I have a cunning plan to link all work efforts to my 2010 aim, which is, as Ms Hill correctly divined in her comment on my previous post, to finally get into print. I've been fiddling and faffing around with my first book for a while now, but the time is right to grab it by the folderols and knock it into shape.

Preferably something book-shaped.

To this end I have been industriously laying plans, including, following the advice of a fellow blogger, making a secret little virtual work area, carefully camouflaged as a blog, but to which only I have access.


It's a great idea and I can store all my resources, ideas etc in there and talk to myself to my heart's content. I imagine it to be just like Vita Sackville-West's study in the Tower at Sissinghurst Castle..... cosy and intimate, lined with books and filled with sumptuous fabrics and textures. A perfect little writing retreat.

I have to get my writing-space thrills virtually and vicariously as in the real world I'm still stuck with my laptop on a tiny tray table, although providing myself with a proper desk space is high on my newly prioritised list of stuff to do.

So, onwards and upwards and back to work I go.......