Tuesday, 24 November 2015

It's curtains!

I've had a bit of a triumph on the Domestic Goddess front in that I've actually managed to turn up a pair of curtains. I know! Who'd have thunk it.

This is the sort of task that many of you will be able to do in your sleep, and I have many crafty friends who can whittle things out of wood and renovate chairs, knit and sew, and perform all manner of tricks with glitter  and bits of card. The handicraft gene seems to have skipped a generation, because while my mother can happily whip up a cushion-cover, I struggle to thread a needle.

I have what is laughingly called a needlework box that contains a colourful tangle of bias binding and other bits and pieces I have no recollection of buying; but the only items I usually reach for when something needs mending are Copydex and a stapler - and yes, this includes fixing clothes. I might, if pushed, manage to manipulate a strip of Wundaweb, but there really has to be lots of luck and a following wind.

However, now that the external renovations on our house are complete, for now, we're turning our attention to the inside, beginning with our bedroom. Since my husband was kind enough to put up a new curtain rail, I thought the least I could do was to wash the curtains. Unfortunately, they shrank. Fortunately, the friend who originally turned them up for me had left a generous hem for just such occasions.

With much grinding of teeth and puncturing of fingertips, I managed it. True, I did stitch the material to the living-room carpet at one point (always my work surface of choice), but then again, I once stapled an early-years reading book to the classroom floor when I was a parent helper at my son's infant school.

Anyway, they're up, they're level and they meet in the middle. Good times. 

Friday, 20 November 2015

Time to celebrate

Has there ever been a better week to celebrate the small things? So much of what is going on in the world at the moment is just too big. I don't understand it and I certainly can't do anything about it. Therefore I'm going to focus on improving things in my corner. Perhaps if we all do that, the little patches of goodness will join up.

So today, in very general terms and in no particular order , I'm celebrating family and friends, music and books, having a home with central heating and enough to eat, health and relative wealth, and just leading an ordinary, uneventful life.

Celebrate the Small Things  is a blog hop. Visit Lexa's Blog for the rules, and then post every Friday about something you're grateful  for that week. Originated by VikLit) and co-hosted by L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge and Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits Blog.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Hooters and tooters!

Every social group or society has its own rules of engagement, which can make it seem rather odd to the outsider. At a jazz concert, for instance, the audience is expected to clap after each solo, mid-song, and the performer will give a modest nod in acknowledgement.

I mention this because we had another extraordinary evening at Kettering Arts Centre yesterday at which we were introduced to brass band etiquette. We went to see Boobs & Brass, an all-female ensemble that was founded here in Kettering 10 years ago. It is a scratch band: that is to say, its members rehearse separately and only come together for performances. They have raised in the region of £175,000 for charity, predominantly for research into breast cancer.

Now, brass bands aren't really our thing. Apart from having watched the fabulous film Brassed Off many times, our only other brushes with the genre have been seeing The Unthanks with the Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band, and catching the tail end of the Raunds Temperance Band's set at a local music festival. We only went last night because we wanted to support the Arts Centre (tickets hadn't been selling well) and because it was for a good cause. Actually, there was a decent-sized audience, but how many of these were related to the band members I wouldn't like to say.

Anyway, back to the etiquette. We began with the national anthem, which took us by surprise. Then through the evening we discovered it is apparently quite normal to have an exposition on each piece that is played. This meant that we saw quite a lot of the redoubtable compere, and interesting though it was, I'd rather have had a couple more tunes and read about the music in the programme.

There is, of course, much fun to be had with the name of the band. Its website says that some magazines have been unable to promote them because of the word 'Boobs'. We managed to come with some alternatives - and I'm sure you can think of more: Tits and Trombones is almost too easy; Menopause and Mouthpieces; Vaginas and Valves; Fannies and Flugelhorns;  Dames and Drums; Uteruses and Euphoniums; and one very rude one involving cornets.

It was a surprisingly entertaining evening. I can't help but wonder what Victoria Wood would have made of it.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Coming back to the surface

Whitstable in the mist
It's been a while, I know. Did you miss me? Probably not. I know how busy  you all are. Anyway, I'm back and if not normal service then at least some service has been resumed.
Actually, I haven't really been anywhere, apart from a couple of days in Canterbury at the end of October for a bit of a birthday break. I've just been really busy trying to earn a living. I've picked up a couple of interesting jobs, one editing copy and the other teaching a private yoga class. All good stuff, but it's taking me a while to adjust my schedule to fit everything in and still keep an eye on home life. There have been a couple of days when the fridge has been empty because I forgot to check if we needed supplies.

Added to this, the builders, who were just getting going when I last posted, are still here, although the end is in sight. Tarick and Lewis (for it is they) have been brilliant, but they've been here. It's hard to concentrate on anything when there is a young man outside my home-office window throwing gravel at the walls.

We've had a skip outside the house for three weeks now, due to an administrative misunderstanding (it should have gone back last week: don't ask!). Needless to say, some random items have appeared in it that have nothing to do with us. The latest additions are a door and a toilet. If someone had knocked on the door and asked if they could avail themselves of the skip - which we hired at no small expense, I might add - I would have said yes, except to cardboard. There's no excuse for dumping cardboard, because the council collect it. To sneak stuff in under the cover of darkness, though: well, I ask you!

On the other hand, I was standing looking dolefully out of the window when the scrap metal man drove past, did a double take and reversed back to our skip. Through hand signals we agreed he could have a rummage, and he managed to retrieve a double buggy, an iron, something computerish and a box of goodness-knows-what that looked heavy and seemed to delight him - none of which had been donated by us.

We came home from Canterbury via Whitstable, which I'd never been to before, and as you can see from the photo it was very misty-murky - all very Dickens. A promising prompt for a short story, perhaps?

Monday, 12 October 2015

Happy Monday!

My day started well when one of my yoga students gave me a plant she had grown from seeds she brought back from Monet's garden. Wasn't that kind of her? Then one of my editorial clients told me I was awesome, which was nice, too.

A look at my finances has led me to the conclusion that I need to work smarter. I always seem to be busy, and yet my earnings aren't high enough. I'm not on the breadline, the house is safe and we never go hungry; but a bit more of a cushion would be nice. As I write this, a builder is unloading some equipment in my garden with a view to fixing some structural deficits. We seem to have cured the leak, but as always with old houses, one problem solved reveals at least one more than needs attention. (Cue husband, mumbling something about a moneypit.)

My writer friends will no doubt have received the latest missive from 'Writers & Artists', which includes a link to an article by Melanie Sumner called 'Who will buy your book?' Actually, it's about  why people won't buy your book: maybe they don't understand how the book world works, perhaps they're broke, or maybe they just don't like it...

I'd better take note. Then I'd better work smarter and get another book finished.

Friday, 9 October 2015

Celebrating small things

What's worth celebrating in your world today? Here's my two penn'orth.

My little brother came to stay last weekend and came with us to see Sean Hughes, who was very funny. He (my brother, not Sean) brought me some flowers, which are still going strong, and a bottle of wine, which has gone.

I have finally finished an article that has been sitting in my in-tray for quite a while. I don't know why I procrastinated, because once I sat down and wrote the darn thing it came together quite well. Fingers crossed that the editor thinks so.

We're off to a celebratory barn dance tomorrow to mark the 25th wedding anniversary of our friends Rosie and Robin. Take your partners...

Celebrate the Small Things  is a blog hop. Visit Lexa's Blog for the rules, and then post every Friday about something you're grateful  for that week. Originated by VikLit) and co-hosted by L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge and Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits Blog.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Ending the week with a smile

Well, with the help of a fairly substantial number of digestive biscuits I have survived the week. It was touch and go at a couple of classes, when I thought my voice was going to give up  - and why do I always want to cough when I've just settled my students into their relaxation? - but it didn't. I even made it to ukulele practice, for a very squeaky rendition of 'It's Five O'clock Somewhere'. Do you know the song? I was amazed how many people didn't.

I've managed to keep on top of the word-related work, too, which fortunately has been quiet this week. On the other hand, that means earnings have also been down, and I've had to have a lock replaced and a leaky roof fixed. Next job is to tart up the living room where the rain poured in, and after that the rendering on the whole house needs sorting.

A couple of things have made me smile, however. First, I have generously passed on my germs to my husband who is so muddle-headed with cold that he was out of the front door yesterday before he realised he was still wearing his slippers. Second, I spotted a nice bit of shelf-stacking in Morrisons. Whoever thought it was a good idea to put a tower of wine at the end of the nappy display should get a medal.
Emergency childcare essentials