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

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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Brassed Off

When I was young the five sure Signs of Ageing were:
1) Getting a mortgage
2) Wearing slippers
3) Irrational happiness at the idea of a cup of tea and a sitdown;
4) Perusing seed catalogues
5) Listening to brass bands

I now own up to all five, having today overcome my aversion to the brass band, previously sullied by Terry Wogan and the floral dance.

I was enthralled by the The Black Dyke Colliery Band on Aled Jones' show this morning.

The mournful timbre of the brass band is all the more evocative now as I recall the deserted mines and the dashed hopes of families mainly in the north and Wales. The brutal closure of the mines was one of the worst atrocities of the Thatcher government.

Check out the Black Dyke band at their website and on Spotify. You'll be pleasantly surprised, unless you're still young enough to be appalled by any of the Five Signs.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Return of the Squirrel

A couple of interesting developments with our daring squirrel raider.

Yesterday I replenished the birds' nut feeder and J set up the camera and tripod. Unfortunately we missed the daring deed, when the squirrel released the nuts, but J got a couple of pictures of the creature tucking in.

I wonder about its methodology. Does it shin up the pole, or does it dangle from a tree? The full length picture shows the bird feeder so you can figure it out.

Then last night, the lid of the bird feeder disappeared. Did the squirrel drag it away, determined to remove this blockage to its bounty? Or was it a hungry fox looking for a nibble?

Answers on a postcard.

I'm going out to look for the lid, as I'd like to fill up the bird feeder again and see what happens (Groundhog Day Part 3.)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Daring squirrel raider

More four-legged fun in the garden, this time involving a squirrel.

This cheeky Sciuridae had scampered up the bird feeder post (somehow) and released the nuts. It was then frantically gathering its bounty and hiding them under a tree.

Molly was somewhat nonplussed by the intruder and sat watching. When the squirrel had gathered every last nut, she went sniffing around where it had been, trying to find out what had obsessed it so.

I was lying on the floor in the lean-to poking the camera through the cat flap in a bid to get some photos without scaring the squirrel away.

This post is dedicated with love to the crew at Squirrel Net, who have been following me on Twitter since my post "Squirrel bites blogger".

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Eurovision Yawn

I used to love the Eurovision song contest. There would be great excitement around the choosing of the UK song, the semi-finals and then the big event itself.

This year: nul points. Zippo. Nada.

I tried to revive my interest with Justin Lee-Collins' quest to find a country that would let him sing. And my brother keeps trying to entice me into watching a semi by telling me it's the same as it used to be.

But I lost interest two years ago when Terry Wogan did, when the voting had got completely out of hand and UK, along with the other countries who fund it, were always going to be bottom.

So on Saturday I'm going to be watching Avatar.

But good luck to the UK entry, Josh Dubovie, pictured, singing a commercial little ditty written by Pete Waterman. Poor kid needs the luck: he is 200 to 1 in the bookies' odds, which may well see Royaume Unis getting nil points again.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

My new car: BMW M6 convertible

OK, OK. In my dreams. In fact that's where it was. I was enjoying a delightful reverie in the car today (while diligently looking out for Dentressangle and Bailey's horse feeds lorries, of course.) It was the daydream I call "when we win the lottery," where I spend the millions.

Now it's always been a source of frustration to me that when I've played this game before, I couldn't decide on a car.

The trouble is, I wouldn't want anything too ostententious or dare I say pretentious, so to me that rules out Porsche, Maserati, Lotus, Ferrari etc. Sorry guys but that's the way I think.

A cute veteran sports car would be ideal: an old Morgan, for example.

And now I have chosen a BMW M6 convertible. It's just perfect. It doesn't scream out "loads of money" but the discerning driver knows full well what's under the bonnet. Plus they're so nice at the dealers. The only one I've come across that patronise women.

In great excitement I called J to ask him how I could find out more about this marque. Highlighting the main difference between us, he couldn't understand why I was even bothering to fill my head with such notions. "You need to keep your feet on the ground" he suggested.

But I can start the day with a light heart, knowing that when Deadly reads out our numbers in the Lotto, my car is chosen.

Now all I have to do is decide on the house. Architect built new build or old building with original features? Aaargh.

Which car and house option would you go for?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Ice cream weather arrives

Hurrah, the weathermen finally came good and the country basks in sunshine. Barbecues are stoked, plumes of acrid smoke billow across the land and pale British skin starts to redden.

I am already a very healthy brown, as if I have been on two weeks' holiday in St Tropez, thanks to the spray tan I had this morning. It was a "dry run" for the pending nuptials. I wanted to see if the colour would be OK, fearing I might turn orange like Michelle Heaton or one of the WAGs.

The prevarication over which motor continues: faithful readers will recall that J has mandated that we share one car instead of having one each: something to do with his government's austerity measures.

The trouble is, each week there's a change of mind about which car it's to be. Last week we were sharing "his"choice of car, a looker to be sure, but this week the pendulum has swung in favour of my more sensible choice, better suited to pounding the motorways and clocking up the mileage.

Anyway, despite poring over the car brochures for hours on end, J has to see the choices of alloy wheels again (another extra, grrr), so off we went to Loughton and the Sytner showroom. I'm surprised they're not on first name terms with us. I took this photo on the way.

My strategy is to order my choice before he changes his mind again. And they said women are ditherers.....

Sunday, May 16, 2010

135/365: Stop the Pigeon

Came home after doing the shopping to find the lean-to and garden a blizzard of feathers. The immediate suspect was the cat, but it turned out J was the culprit. A pigeon had found its way into the lean-to (perhaps to check out my crafting supplies) and in the ensuing kerfuffle, a good many of its feathers were lost. I even found a couple in the washing machine.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

134/365: Whatever

Been a bad week for taking a picture a day. I had some great photo opportunities one day when I was in London - the setting up in Leicester Square for the premiere of Robin Hood, for example - but the camera battery was flat. Memo to self: make sure that doesn't happen again.

Instead I have been learning editing functions in Photoshop and so I "gussied up" this photo of me with the cat. Suffice to say, the cat didn't need any gussying.

Monday, May 10, 2010

129/365: Car shock

My dear faithful car did a Lewis Hamilton today - a puncture but on the first lap rather than the last, which meant I had to turn round at 5.45am and return home.

Anyway, while I sort that today,  at least it's nice and shiny. J, for the first time ever, cleaned my car yesterday.

He was trying out a new pressure washer and a strange fleecy mitt thing which he reckons is The Business.


Sunday, May 09, 2010

128/365: The asparagus season

Three of my favourite things were on the shelves when I did the shopping: British asparagus, Jersey Royals and scented British stocks.

I was a relatively late convert to asparagus - it was only a few years ago that I made it a New Year's resolution to try some. I like it steamed and sprinkled with lemon and parmesan.

When I lived in Germany I found the Germans go completely bonkers over spargel as they call it. Restaurants have special spargel menus and along the roadside, spargel honesty boxes appear. Their asparagus is white though and to my mind not quite as tasty.

My mum and I adore stocks. The smell is so heavenly you want to eat them. They will definitely be featuring at The Nuptials.

And "JRs" as we call them are sublime in salads and roasted.

Any special recipes for asparagus or JRs?

To heighten my enjoyment and anticipation of this wonderful trio,  I only buy them when they're in season from these shores.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

124/265: In love with a Kindle

I am beyond excited. My new Amazon Kindle DX has arrived, hopefully giving me freedom from taking at least 10 books (thick ones too) on holiday.

I didn't open it immediately but eyed the parcel from Amazon US with some suspicion. As we girls know, opening a new gadget is often fraught with problems. However, the Kindle is simplicity itself. Honestly.

I started charging it and as if by magic, instructions appeared on the screen. I was already registered with my usual Amazon account, and the wireless (I think it's 3G actually) was, well, just there. It didn't need configuring. I was able to order my first ebook right away. It was The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. J has just read this but his copy has been read by several people and it was a little too battered for me. It cost just over five dollars which compares very favourably to what it would cost in the UK.

According to Which, the Kindle and the Sony eReader are level pegging. I chose the Kindle because I wanted a larger size (the DX is 9 inches and very thin, similar to holding a light hard back book.) And also because it's so easy to buy with Amazon One Click. Too easy in fact because when I placed my order, I was horrified to discover I had ordered two Kindles, having put one in my shopping basket a while ago. I couldn't change or cancel the order either, but fortunately Amazon's Kindle support team were very helpful and amended the order.

I am very pleased with my purchase. How handsome it looks in its classy leather wallet!

And think of all the extra clothes I can now take to Rhodes, without lugging all those books around.

I don't think an eReader will ever take away the joy of opening a pristine new book but for a voracious reader like me it makes sense. I accumulate  too many books, even though I give lots away. I used to use Read It Swap It a lot but the problem is that you give away a book and get sent another in return. Charity shops often won't take books and the nearest Oxfam book shop to me is in Marylebone, which, if I was taking a large number of books, which mean a car trip to central London (ugh!) with parking costs and the congestion charge. There's a big opportunity up for grabs for charity shops, as I read that second-hand book sales are on the increase. Why not create drop-off points or organise pick-ups?

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

123/365: The first spraying

Here are the roses getting their first spraying of the season - ahead of any signs of trouble. As far as greenfly are concerned, it's personal with J. He won't allow them house room. This follows an incident two years ago when we returned from holiday and found the roses crawling with greenfly. Yuk.

People complain that roses are demanding and prone to disease but I disagree. Provided you give them a little attention every now and then - spraying a couple of times in  the season and fertilising with Rose Plus - you get strong vigorous bushes and profusions of blooms. They are one of the hardiest plants I know, brutally pruned in the winter and then bouncing back every spring.

There are lots of buds so I'm looking forward to the first flower.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

121/365: A flurry of blossom

It's a bumper year for cherry and apple blossom, they tell us. Perfect weather conditions over the last year have resulted in a blizzard of blossom, all bursting forth at the same time.

Our gnarled old apple tree has done itself proud. Each year it produces a few mean, maggotty little apples which I throw away, too squeamish to sit down with a knife like my grandmother used to do.

In a nearby road the cherry blossom trees are in full flower. I took this photo standing beneath one of them. I remembered a Pause for Thought on Radio 2 last year, where a Japanese woman with a hypnotic whisper talked about the significance of these trees in Japan. Parties are held and people picnic with tea lights beneath the blossom.


Saturday, May 01, 2010

120/365: The Edinburgh fringes

I'm handing over photographic responsibilities to J today. He has been faithfully going to Edinburgh every Monday, returning on Thursday, for the last few months. Normally he goes out for a run in the evening but as he's resting since the London Marathon, he's been walking instead and took a few photos.

Top left is his running route. Very hilly as you can see. The other pic shows a different view of the park. The Scottish Parliament building is on the left of the roundabout.

I've only ever been to Edinburgh once. We went for a weekend a couple of years ago and I was amazed by the look of the city - very different and distinctive. I'd love to go back for the Edinburgh Festival. J ?!
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