Tuesday, 29 May 2012

50 Shades of Dorito

I am a member of what must be the world's best book group. It's very select, there are only 5 of us and we either meet in eachother's houses with plenty of wine, in a bar for cocktails (yes, there is one bar in Wiltshire / Dorset / Somerset that does cocktails) or go on little book group jaunts. I figured that our group might make an appearance in one of these posts so false names have been used to protect the not so innocent. In true juvenile fashion, they're porn star names, so first pet plus mother's maiden name. I can't hide myself because you know who I am but to give you an example, I am Sooty Satchwell.

So, last night was our monthly get together and a standard one goes something like this:

  • Arrive
  • Open wine
  • Bring out Doritos because "Gaynor Raine"  says they're fat free
  • Gossip
  • Open next bottle of wine
  • Finish Doritos
  • Discuss said book for perhaps 3 minutes and make appropriate highbrow comments such as " but isn't that bloke such a ****" and "did any of us actually finish this book?"
  • Move discussion on to where we might have our next jaunt.
  • Open next bottle of wine and more Doritos
  • Complain about husbands (Sorry Boy if you're reading this - I bet you complain about me when you play Squash)
  • Open next bottle of wine 
  • Discuss what we might wear to the cricket club ball
  • Choose next month's book.
  • Disperse 

The scene of much lounging around discussing Nietzsche and The X Factor

And so it goes on. But occasionally, and nowhere near often enough, we meet somewhere out of our little countryside enclave. Like Monaco.....That was last September and I don't think we discussed a book once during the whole long weekend. We lounged at the beach, drank enough Tatty and Mojitos to revert the UK to non-drought status and still complained about our husbands, but did it somewhere altogether sunnier and much more chic. This year we were planning to repeat but may have to rethink due to marital strife (Rhubarb Hadman's, not mine) which renders the weekend accommodation out of bounds due to the husband in question owning it. Unless Rhubarb can break us in. Any ideas gratefully received.

Moving onto the book of choice for this month. This is always a difficult task as Rhubarb found out last month when she, rather unexpectedly and equally bizarrely, chose Kate Adie's autobiography. After we'd all gone to great expense to order 5 copies, Rhubarb texted us with a plea to change to something slightly less "sh*t". Rather predictably this time we have jumped on the "mummy porn" bandwagon and have gone with "Softy Moore" 's choice of Fifty Shades of Grey. At least I should be able to finish this one in time for next month's gathering as, by all accounts, it takes about 4 minutes to read. It must be a popular read at the moment because "Snooky Dougarry" tells me that when she typed in "Sh" into the search box on Amazon, "Shades of Grey" came up immediately meaning Shakespeare has been knocked off his literary perch by a woman writing for 30-something mothers. I've downloaded it onto my Kindle because at least that way the other passengers on the 9.01 to London Waterloo will assume I'm reading Harry Potter or possibly even something very intellectually taxing. I used to be so anti-Kindle but its advantages are becoming apparent and you don't get Doritos caught between the pages either.

Friday, 25 May 2012

O talent, where 'art' thou?

So, what's the obvious thing to do when you're in the London Bridge area and have an hour to kill? The Tate Modern of course.

Never done it before so it also ticked a box on the 'new things to do' list. I really like art, I nearly did a degree in fine art but now I'm wondering whether I'm actually a complete philistine. That was an hour of my life that I will never get back and I left there feeling like I needed a drink to calm me down. If my blood had boiled out of the top of my head while I was in there I could have turned it into an installation and sold it for half a million. I'm not completely against modern art- even though the Dalis are a little weird there's clearly a talent there and I appreciate that Damien Hirst has a way with skulls and diamonds that most of us couldn't emulate but what I don't get is the correlation between the description of the "work" and the work itself.

Take this for example.

 Match the description to the installation. For crying out loud, it's one chair stacked on top of another.

 And then there's this one....

 As hard as I try I just cannot see a goat amongst the debris on the floor. I can, however, recognise that an old ironing board was used in this incredible creation. Honestly, the 5 year old monkey creates better installations than these and at least they resemble the intended object.

My colleague and I spent an hour rolling our eyes and wondering whether the rooms we were ambling into were pieces of art or store cupboards in need of a good clear out. I'm going to go home and stick a few egg boxes together with some pipe cleaners and call it "an existential view of despair and fear in the face of an unknown joy and longing" and see if I can become the next Tracey Emin. In a strange way I'm glad I went because the old power station itself is a very impressive structure and I can tick it off my list but I will always be resentful of the anger it stirred in me. Or maybe I'm just jealous that I can't sell my penguin for a few grand....

Sunday, 20 May 2012

It's just not cricket....or is it?

See what happens when I get let out for a day, back in the big smoke? I try to recreate my early 30-something self, the one before kids, when a day at Lords was a regular and always completely self-indulgent occurrence. Unfortunately on Friday I was let down by a customer and so had to spend a day at the cricket with my lovely sister Stick. It all started off swimmingly, a great picnic and some chilled fizz packed in the bag but the sight of mouse droppings in our wine glasses should have hinted at a potential fall from grace because we had to nip downstairs and ask for a couple of plastic pint glasses (must get the pest man round again - clearly it didn't work). It was still going swimmingly at tea however, at which point we moved seats to sit next to some old friends, who were a bad influence even in the old days. The last couple of bottles of champagne were my undoing. Luckily, Stick, who is two years younger but eminently more sensible, was there to bundle us into a cab and onto my train. I thought I was having a touch of deja-vu when she reappeared on the train next to me only minutes after having got off to make her way home. But yes, she had got back on to move me into the front three carriages - something I do without even thinking whenever I make that regular journey from Waterloo.

Hey ho - a power-snooze later I woke up at Salisbury which was rather handy given that my station is 10 minutes later. Luckily Stick had also phoned Boy to warn him what train I was on. Apparently I had too, though what were the chances of me remembering that? Zero it seems because I followed the call with a text just to make sure he knew.

Still, I suppose it was good practice for the coming week - the week when the entire wine trade gather in London to gossip and, theoretically, "do business". Needless to say it's more of a sustained bar session with almost obligatory late nights every night. It's tough also being away from the kids but at least The Monkey had some touching parting words for me - "Mummy, I love you more than my clothes and more than any curtain". Well, that's ok, I can rest easy then.

At least I have some words of wisdom for the little boy who Stick overheard being threatened by his mother as he misbehaved at the bus-stop. "If you don't start behaving, I'll take you to the cricket!"she said. That's fine but when you're there don't swap your dainty wine glasses for plastic pints.

Here's a bad and very dull photo to prove I was there, even if I don't remember it.

All out.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Pickled herrings must make you big and strong

I've just returned from a 24 hour invasion of Denmark and it's my new favourite country.

This is what I discovered about Denmark:

          • It's very flat. So I'm thinking of moving there for running alone because I'm bored of leaving my front door and being faced with a 250ft vertical climb everywhere I turn. It's so dispiriting. In fact the average height above sea level in Denmark is only 31 metres which I reckon would be more than bearable.

  • No-one lives there. It's completely empty - where are they all? Somewhere warmer? Apparently Denmark has 129 inhabitants per square kilometre but I think I saw only 2 of them. By comparison England has around 400 people per square kilometre and I know that most of those are in Ikea at any one time.

  • You can't buy a glass of wine in Denmark.Wine by the glass is a growing trend in the UK because we're all super-concious of drink-driving and binge-drinking (aren't we?) but it's a concept that doesn't exist in Denmark because, by their own admission, they prefer to drink a bottle at a time. So it's no surprise that Denmark has the world's 7th highest per capita income because they need that much money coming in to buy all that wine which is also horrifically expensive. In fact we imposed our own austerity measures by staying in a hotel on an industrial estate outside Odense so that we could afford a wheat beer and a bottle of wine in the bar - the bottle cost half as much as our rooms and was only Peter Lehmann Clancy's which is just over 8 quid here.

  • As we know from our Viking history lessons at school, the Danes are very tall. So tall in fact that they supply you with a wooden box to stand on when you're being patted down at airport security. All so that they don't hurt their backs bending down to our height when we're being frisked.

  • They're nice people and clearly lost their aggressive streak when they settled in Britain because apparently they only resisted German invasion in 1940 for 2 hours before surrendering. My train from Copenhagen to Odense took longer than that.

  • They could do with some nose-clips. After a lovely Danish burger and a bottle of red I retired to my bed full of dreams of the new things the next day might bring, only to be rudely awoken at 1am by  a generator doing its thing in the car park below my window. "Is that really necessary?" I thought, "I know we're on an industrial estate but can't they turn it off at night for the poor unfortunates who have to stay here just so they can afford a bottle of wine?" Then I realised that the gentlemen in the rooms on either side of me were synchronising their snoring and all I heard for the next 6 hours was the repetitive "Honk" from my left followed by a "snnrrrrr" from my right.

Next time I'll stay in Copenhagen in a hotel with thick walls and try and get someone to take me to Noma for dinner.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Much Farting Around

Sunday evening and so tired I can barely put one finger infront of the other on the keyboard. This week I have done two things I've never done before and the word Fart has made an appearance in both of them. Last week I made a promise to read the Sunday papers before the following Sunday (nearly achieved - read most of it within 12 hours of it landing on the doormat then the Culture section languished on the bedroom floor for 7 days), have 2 AFDs in a row (big tick for Monday and Tuesday and then another on Friday as a result of too much on Thursday) and go for 3 runs which I also managed if you count today as the last day of the week and not the first of next week. Naturally next week I'll have to include it as the first day of the week to get that tally up too.

So, this week I have been fartlek-ing which, for those of you who are as clueless as me, is the Swedish word for torture. I had hit a running rut and all the helpful websites suggested a bit of speed work. This sounded great because the reward for a burst of speed is a gentle amble to get your breath back. Now I understand why. I ran so fast in the fast bits that my legs felt they would get tangled up in eachother - actually a technical impossibility as they're too short. And the slow bits weren't great either because your heart is bursting through your scalp. I suppose strictly-speaking this isn't the first time I've 'fartleked' because I think I may have tried it around 17 years ago (approximately) but now I realise why I left a 17 year gap between one session and the next. Still, I have to feel pretty smug because I've fartleked twice this week. Today I had to fit in my third run so went with a friend who is taller, thinner and much fitter than me. Like much much fitter. Still, it was nice to have someone talk to me for 40 minutes while I tried to breathe.

And so to my boy twin who has had a little trouble with his movements and hence the second new thing I did this week. I have done what no-one wants to do and have put a suppository up a 2 year old's bottom thus inducing much farting from him and much guilt from me. Ironic that I have been full of beans fartleking and he has been full of baked beans to make him fart.

There have been other little achievements this week too. I challenged the Monkey to a walk to the beacon in advance of the Jubilee Beacon Lighting when we'd have to get him up that hill somehow (v v steep and long) but I may have challenged him too hard thinking there was no way on earth he'd do it. He didn't complain at all until he got to the top and then declared he was "never ever going to do this again, ever!" and the "my heart is breaking " when  he was nearly at the bottom. So the big achievement has backfired because he was so traumatised we'll probably have to piggy back him up there on June 4th.

This week I'm off to Denmark which is somewhere I've never been so that's something else ticked off already.

Skol! As they say in Copenhagen....

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Holiday Schmoliday

Thank god for work - the banks may call it a holiday but it was no break for us. It's become increasingly obvious that I'm not going to achieve any new things during daylight hours. All the new things I managed to do this weekend (2) were done once the ankle-biters were safely sobbing in their beds.
Well, the evening at the village hall was a revelation. Our MP turns out to be a lovely guy who was happy to talk about all sorts of things - important stuff like 'dualing' the A303 along its entirety, the proposed pumping station in the village (more of that another time - a rant coming on) and Monsieur Sarkozy's impending fall from power (though not sure how that's a local issue). Most importantly we learned that the ticket price for the Jubilee Hog Roast and Beacon Lighting have been halved to a fiver following a grant from our very generous council - there was a stampede to sign up. But a new thing happened to me. I am now on the Village Hall Committee which I can only imagine is a very important thing indeed. Because I have a vision and that is to turn it into a pub once a month, with a barrel of local beer and some decent wine. Most importantly, a pub that we don't have to drive to. Although you could argue that that's the function of our sitting room every night - apart from lacking a barrel of beer.

The second new thing was that I honoured my promise to cook more by making something on one of the 3 bank holiday evenings which is one evening more than I might normally have bothered. The 'Sweet and Sour Salmon Noodle Salad' from this month's Olive magazine was a triumph and went rather well with the bottle of 2005 Grand Cru Chablis from Fevre. And that was on top of harvesting and cooking our rhubarb (with orange juice and ginger) and making a chocolate sponge.  But I was so exhausted from that effort that Boy had to run the kitchen for the next two nights.

This week's promises include going for 3 runs, trying to read the Sunday papers before Sunday, making a cornish pasty and, potentially, two AFDs (Alcohol Free Days) in a row.

Place your bets now.....

Friday, 4 May 2012

"Why do today what you can possibly put off until tomorrow?" I've always been adamant that that little known phrase would be carefully carved onto my gravestone. But I'm having a change of heart. I'm too fidgety to abide by that rule so I've decided to still maintain it but reserve its use for the more mundane aspects of life - ironing (can't remember the last time I did that anyway), reading a letter from HMRC, persevering at a tough sudoku. From now on I am going to cook more, try more diverse wine (stuck in a bit of an Antipodean rut in this house with both of us working for Oz and Kiwi wineries), run more, train properly for the half marathon and generally try lots of little things that I might not have done before. Day 1 starts with an evening at the village hall - radical I hear you say. But that's precisely my point. The old me would have put off spending an evening listening to our local MP in favour of watching another 3 episodes of ER (only 15 more to go) but, what the hell, I'm going to go because I might even learn something new. And it may give me something to rant about tomorrow other than suitable stone for graveyards - more of that another time. Tally Ho!