Miscellany and detritus, from the writer of Is This Mutton?com

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Sunday, March 28, 2010

87/365: The first tulip

Yes here it is, the first tulip to flower in the garden. Not one of my favourites, I prefer the old-fashioned ordinary sort, but a vibrant flame red and very striking among the daffodils. There's a whole posse of tulips waiting to unfurl.


Saturday, March 27, 2010

86/365: Spring catalogues

The clocks "spring forward" tonight and we go into British Summertime. Yay! Signs of spring are everywhere, not least of which the pile of catalogues piling up on my desk. I do love to browse a catalogue, even if I never buy anything. I'm waiting eagerly for the Lakeland catalogue with its Weber barbecues, hurricane lamps, plastic teasets and picnic baskets. I'm feeling so optimistic about the barbecue summer that I may actually buy some of this stuff this year.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

84/365: To bee or not to bee

The sun was out and the bees were buzzing among my hyacinths. How wonderful they smell! It's so great to see all the daffodils out at the same time - usually the early Tete a Tetes have died off before the hyacinths make their dramatic entry. Can't wait for the tulips.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

82/365: A strange face at the window

This one is for Anonymous who loves cats :-) This is one of Molly's friends, coming to call for her.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

77/365: I partake of the grape at Ragdale Hall

For years Diane and I have been saying "we must meet up" but we never did, and 20 years went by. We met on a women's development course when we both worked at BT, me in London and Diane in Preston. So it surprised both of us when we recently took the bull by the horns and booked a reviver break at Ragdale Hall health hydro.

I've been to Ragdale Hall once, about 15 years ago. It's changed a lot since then: much bigger. I couldn't believe the number of cars. Mr Darling, if you're looking for the deficit, it's here.

Diane and I recognised each other right away and we were soon talking the hind legs off a donkey, whatever that means. After a spell in the amazing pool complex we took our lizard skin upstairs and cracked open a bottle of wine. This was followed by another (Ragdale is not one of these curmudgeonly places that is pious about wine) and I must confess I was somewhat jaded today as I attempted to use the gym.

Fond farewells and a promise that we will rebook very quickly to make it a regular stay. But next year, for two nights.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

76/365: Book worm

I am off to Ragdale Hall in Leics today for a one-night stay (it's a spa) and I will be meeting up with a friend I haven't seen for at least 20 years! Exciting. A picture tomorrow :-)

I doubt if there will be any time for reading but at the moment I have a bit of a books feast going on. I was in Waterstone's recently and picked up the latest one from Paul Torday, The Girl on the Landing. While I was paying the girl asked if I wanted Marina Lewycka's new one, We Are All Made of Glue. My hand was reaching out for it involuntarily but I declined, although as soon as I got home, I ordered it from Amazon.

It amused me how Torday and Lewycka are yoked together. I guess it's because their quirky first novels came out at roughly the same time.

Anyway, I'm halfway through We Are All Made of Glue and enjoying it enormously. I love pen portraits of eccentric old ladies with secrets. The Girl on the Landing was a spooky ghost story and very thought provoking. I then ordered The Irresistible Inheritance of Wilberforce, his 2nd novel.  This one really hits you between the eyes. It starts at the present and then works its way backwards. As the tragic story unfolds, you find that the initial repulsion and scorn you felt for Wilberforce, a pathetic alchoholic, gives way to pity and sadness at the circumstances that forced him down that path.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

74/365: A weekend in Devon

Had a lovely weekend in Devon with my mum, enjoying balmy weather. On Friday we went to Tavistock and had lunch at the Bedford Hotel; on Saturday we went clothes shopping in Plymouth and on Sunday we went to Torquay for Mother's Day lunch at the Corbyn Head Hotel. It is a little like something out of the 30's with a piano tinkling in the background and hushed enquiries "horseradish madam?" but thoroughly enjoyable.

After that we went for a stroll along Goodrington Sands. We had some happy times there years ago, watching the steam train chug by and spending hours on the red sandy beach.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

69/365: Stunning sunset

I took this one on Monday night at Wroughton. Absolutely stunning sunset, and starlings were swooping in huge skeins across the sky, creating a somewhat surreal atmosphere.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

68/365: Top speed 1000 miles an hour

We had another webcast today at work as we introduced employees to Project Bloodhound, the next attempt on the world land speed record, currently held by GB (hurrah.)
The photo shows Richard Noble, project director and a former record holder. My company, Intel, is IT provider to the attempt which has the full backing of the UK govt as an iconic project that will increase interest in STEM projects (science, technology, engineering and maths.)

I could see that the audience was gripped by the idea of a car powered by a combination of fighter plane and rocket engines that will ultimately attempt 1,000 miles an hour in the South African desert. The driver has to have a unique physionomy that will withstand the terrific G force and the risk of blackout.

Our support of the initiative, which is backed by companies including Rolls-Royce and Lockheed Martin, originated from one employee's passion for the subject. He got the backing of others and it snowballed into us becoming IT provider which includes hosting the website (potentially 30 million hits in a month), providing the server cluster for the CFD, Atom processors for the cockpit and providing the hardware for the IT office. It's also a great platform for our education initiatives and links very well to our brand campaign, Sponsors of Tomorrow.

A very exciting project and one that everyone in the UK and beyond will certainly be hearing a lot more about. Check it out here: http://www.bloodhoundssc.com/

Sunday, March 07, 2010

66/365: A year in flowers - the crocus

Plenty of mileage to be had with flower milestones, I think.
Here are some of the crocuses (crocii?) in my garden. The problem with crocuses is that you need hundreds to make an impact. Mine are a bit patchy. Over zealous weeding got rid of most of them in the autumn. But they do look stunning in clumps all the same colour.

Friday, March 05, 2010

64/365: I go to the register office

Ha, I bet that had you going! No we didn't sneak off for a secret wedding but had to present ourselves to the local registrar to complete some paperwork. J had to answer the questions on me and I had to answer the questions on him. It made me think of the film "Green Card," but fortunately the registrar didn't ask J to name my brand of face cream.

After producing numerous documents we were done. Rather like posting the banns, the registrar now posts our intention to marry on his noticeboard and in a couple of weeks I can collect the permit to use On The Day when we get properly married in June in Westminster.

J was being a bit shifty about taking photos so he only took one of me and as you can see, I have my eyes shut. Tsk tsk J!

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

62/365: Cheeky chap

About a year ago I tweeted "blogger bitten by squirrel," an unfortunate incident that happened when I went to the nearby cemetery to feed the squirrels. I had heard they were tame and thought it would make a good photo opportunity.

I had to laugh because my tweet evidently caught the attention of "Squirrelnet," who are now following me. Here's one for you guys: I'm sorry for being such a dead loss content-wise.

This cheeky squirrel was watching me from a tree in the garden at work. As I tried to move closer he shot higher up the tree until he was dangling very precariously.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

61/365: A year in flowers: snowdrops

They're late this year but the snowdrops and crocii are now flowering profusely in the lovely garden at work.
Snowdrops hold a particular place in my heart, not just because they're one of the first harbingers of spring but because when I was a child, I spent my pocket money on some snowdrops for my mum and she always remembers that.

I've tried to plant them in the garden but they are notoriously difficult. Don't ever buy them as seeds or plants at any other time of the year except now: you have to buy them "in the green" and they will be available now.

Monday, March 01, 2010

60/365: Short and curly

I hate going to the hairdresser's. A trip to the dentist, or even the optician, where I get told that I'm contradicting myself, is preferable. So for years I have had the "wash and go" style you see in my profile pic on the right. I never used any 'product' or even a hairdryer. Sometimes it resembled a mullet, and it was this, coupled with the inevitable comment in makeover programmes that if you've had the same hairstyle for hundreds of years, you need to have it either cut short or bobbed.

So a few weeks ago I bit the bullet and had a bob, of sorts. Not as aggressively bobbed as Anna Wintour is how I describe it. And it came to pass that I had to use volumising mousse and blow dry it every time I washed it. What a faff!

So lately I've been washing and going again, and because it's a bit shorter than my normal mullet, it seems to curl up a treat with a little curl enhancing cream and some finger scrunching. This is the result (left.)

And as for the hairdresser's, well initially I was so impressed by the posh place I went to in central London that I went back for a gloss colour with blonde highlights. The result was a horrible washed out red with some brassy bits. Another salon disaster.  Needless to say, I am now avoiding the hairdresser's again. Normal mullet operations should be resumed in a few weeks!
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