Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye, goodbye! So long, so long, so long!

November 30, 2011

This year was easier than previous years. Once I get in the right mindset and start keeping track of my ideas it isn't actually that difficult.

My favourite posts this November are:

My quince tree
Saturday morning in the Team Green household
Your wish is my command

And now for the bad news ... this blog's days are numbered. I will never do NaBloPoMo again here, and I will most likely be deleting the whole of Spankcracker in the fairly near future.

Isabel is getting older and I feel that having all this on the internet isn't very fair on her. It was never written with the intention that she should ever read it, but that day is getting closer all the time. If I'm going to continue writing, it will be with anonymity. This probably means I will have even fewer readers than I do now, but oh well! If you would like my new URL, you'd best comment or send me an email.

Thank you for reading, and good night.

Advancing years

November 29, 2011

Two things happened this week that made me feel old.

1.  I was in the gym last night and caught the tail end of a conversation between two girls in their early twenties. One was moaning about her housemate.  The other one said, "Is she old?" and the first one said, "Yeah, thirty or something?" and the other one said, "Eww... gross".

2. On my way home from Cubs I was talking to our 18-year-old leader and his 16-year-old girlfriend about music for the Cubs party next week.  He said, "I can bring along one of the old Now albums, I've got Now 75".  I commented that I wasn't sure what number they were up to and he said, "Now 79, Now 80?"

I said, "Do you want to know what number Now album I remember listening to when I was a teenager?"  They looked at me with interest.  "Now 7," I replied.  They looked absolutely gobsmacked.  I added hurriedly, "I was quite young!  Probably only about 12!  I don't remember the first Now album being released!" but it was too late, the damage was done.  They think I'm ancient.

17 gym sessions in 30 days - a new record?!

November 28, 2011

Lately I've been working really hard to get super-turbo-fit before Christmas. My gym program is so brutal that smoking isn't really an option at the moment. It's not even crossed my mind.

Here's a handy calendar:

Tonight I'm going to my Monday night session at the gym. It's called Party Fit and it involves circuit training around ten stations - lunges, squats, weights, press-ups and various other forms of torture with only 15 seconds to catch your breath inbetween. Then you get a couple of minutes to recover before doing it all again. Then at the end you get to do ten minutes of merciless sit-ups and other abdominals. I saw the instructor on Saturday and she said this week would be harder than last week...

Last night I had a crap night's sleep, I've been at work all day and I've just got back from walking the dog - truthfully I'd prefer my bed to the gym.

Hopefully this will all be worth it.

Yellow Mini

November 27, 2011

The game "Yellow Car" was first introduced to us by one of Isabel's friends. His knowledge of the exact rules was a bit woolly but basically it's a counting game in which you get one point for seeing a yellow car, one point for a Mini and one point for a convertible. And a million points for a car with jigsaw puzzle pieces on it.

I soon realised this was a totally unfair points system, as Minis are quite common and yellow cars are (relatively) rare. So I re-designed the scoring system as follows:

Mini = 1 point
Mini convertible = 3
Yellow car = 5 points
Yellow Mini = 20 points
Yellow Mini convertible = 50 points

I later added an extra rule where you also got 5 points for a pink or orange car.

Other rules:
Vans/lorries/motorbikes/emergency services vehicles do not count. Vehicles must be at least 50% yellow to qualify. If anybody gets out of the car for any reason, the game is over and scores reset. Nobody scores if there's a tie. Vehicles hidden behind hedges or down side roads don't count - they must be in clear view of all occupants of the car. You can't opt out of playing, even if you say you have. And if anyone ever spots a car/van/lorry/anything with jigsaw puzzle pieces on it, they score a million points, become the ultimate winner and the game ends forever.

Isabel, Mattgreen and I played this game with ferocious competitiveness for about ten months. Every time we got in the car, it shook with the cries of "YELLOW CAR"! It became so ingrained to look out for yellow cars that Mattgreen and I couldn't help noticing them even when we were alone in the car. We never saw a jigsaw puzzle piece van, despite playing the game for literally thousands of miles.

Then my brother came to visit. We played the game with him. The next day he went to Leeds with a mate of his and texted me from the motorway. Yep:

Isabel declared that this did indeed count and the game is now over. Several months later and I'm still noticing yellow Minis....

Hairdo part II

November 26, 2011

Sorry this isn't much of a post, I've had a busy day! Cub training, followed by the gym, followed by going out for dinner in a little while. So it's just haircut pics I'm afraid!


And this one was taken immediately after Mattgreen took a sneaky photo of my tits*:

* which has now been DELETED Mattgreen :P


November 25, 2011

Today I spent three hours at the hairdresser.
I was going to show you the before and after pictures, but I look hideous in every "after" picture I've tried to take. They aren't fit for the internet.

I think I need natural light so it'll have to wait until tomorrow.
For now, here is the BEFORE:

Pokemon fan fiction - be very afraid.

November 24, 2011

Recently it was Izzy's birthday and she had a few friends over for some party games.

One of the games I came up with was the one where you give each child a word and sit them all in a circle. Then you read them a story and every time their word is mentioned, they have to get up and dash around the circle and sit down again. Quite a pointless game really, but kids like it.

Anyway, I was trying to find a suitable story that had several characters mentioned frequently. I came up with the idea of trying to use a Pokemon story as Izzy and all her friends are into it. So I was googling away and I found a website with Pokemon fan fiction on it.

This turned out to be stories, written by tweenagers, about their favourite Pokemon. It was never going to be good. However, even I wasn't expecting the first one I clicked on to read:

At Tesco a young Pikachu was doing his daily shopping. “Yo dude, I need some Washing powder,” ordered Pikachu at a staff member.

Hmm. It doesn't get any better.

In the end I adapted a story from Pokemon World magazine, which had at least felt the tender touch of a paid editor. Izzy and her friends had a great time!

Fortune teller

November 23, 2011

Once upon a time, long ago, in a lifetime far far away, I bought this fridge magnet from a service station on the way to a Magic: The Gathering tournament.

When you press the red button, you get either this response:

Or this one:

This has entertained all my friends, my child, my friends' children and all other visitors to our various houses for over a decade. Mattgreen even had to change the batteries once when they ran out. That is how much we love the fortune teller.

If you leave questions in the comments, I will ask the fortune teller whether it's in the cards or not on your behalf. (Questions must have yes or no answers, obviously). Leave a comment, dammit. I have nothing else to do.

(This post was inspired by Fussy's Yoda, who is a far more impressive fortune teller than mine).

Dentist music?

November 22, 2011

Today I went to the dentist. I've got a phobia of dentists and I have to go to the next town to see a special guy who deals with anxious patients.

I knew today's appointment wasn't going to go well because I've been finding gritty bits of broken filling in my mouth for a while now. As predicted, two of my fillings have cracked/broken and need to be replaced. Bugger.

I discussed the various options with the dentist but the best one is to man up and try to get through it without any sedation. All the other options involve Mattgreen having to take a day off work to drive me/look after me and that seems a bit shit when we're so short of annual leave next year.

The dentist suggested I bring an iPod and listen to that to drown out the sound of the drill. I've tried it before and it doesn't really work because even if I turn the volume up to max and virtually deafen myself, I can still hear it.

Tonight, Mattgreen and I kept playing songs on YouTube which might be loud enough to work:

Ace of Spades - Motörhead
Sad But True - Metallica (too low-pitched)
Screamager - Therapy? (not shouty enough)
Missing Link - Curve (quite good but I don't like Curve)
Seven Nation Army - White Stripes (too many pauses)
Surprise! You're Dead - Faith No More
Firestarter - The Prodigy (too quiet)
Head Like A Hole - NIN (verses far too quiet)
Something by Hadouken!?

Any further suggestions in the comments would be most welcome. I don't really like metal - most of these are Mattgreen's ideas - but consistent, loud, high-pitched noise is what's required. Thanks in advance!

Your wish is my command

November 21, 2011

Isabel came hurtling into the bathroom this morning, wailing.

Me: What's up?
Izzy: (stroppily) I haven't got any tissues, I need a tissue!
I pass her some bog roll.
Izzy: I haven't had any tissues in my bedroom FOR MONTHS!
Me: Have you written "tissues" on the shopping list?
Izzy: (rudely) NO, why would I?
Me: Because if you write things on there, I will buy them...?

Mattgreen: (from bottom of the stairs) I want a motorbike...
Me: Have you written "motorbike" on the shopping list?
Mattgreen: (rushes off in direction of kitchen)

NB: Isabel later discovered there was in fact a box of tissues in her room after all, she just 'hadn't seen it'. Hmm. Teenage years have arrived three years too early, it seems.

Sunday service

November 19, 2011

This might be a terrible idea, and I've wrestled with it for months now, but today I'm going to talk about my religion.

Since the beginning of this year I've been attending the local Unitarian church.

First off, I could never be involved in any religion that didn't accept that all people are equal. Unitarians are one of the few religions which allow openly LGBT members to be ordained ministers and were one of the first faiths to ordain women. Tolerance is of critical importance to me. Unitarians welcome people from all faiths including Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, pagans and atheists and frequently include content from other faiths in their services.

The thing that attracted to me to the Unitarians was the lack of dogma. There is nobody telling you what you should believe. There is no text saying, "this is the truth". You're allowed to be an individual, but you're still part of the community. You're welcome, even if you say, "I don't know if I really believe that". There is no communion, every service is different, you don't have to take part in Lent, you don't have to turn up every Sunday, you don't have to kneel, you don't get baptised, you aren't going to hell.

The concept of original sin - that is, humans being responsible for all the evil in the world and having to beg God for forgiveness - isn't something Unitarians subscribe to.

Unitarians believe that most of what was written in the Bible was allegorical... as in, not exactly what actually happened in real time. The stories have a moral and meaning can be taken from them - but Jonah wasn't really swallowed by a whale, and Noah didn't actually collect up all those species and put them on a boat. The stories are metaphorical. That makes a lot more sense to me than trying to force myself to have faith in things I think are impossible.

Unitarians believe in science and evolution. There doesn't have to be a conflict between science and spiritual beliefs - they each have a place. I'm still working on this, but essentially I couldn't be a part of a religion which required me to pretend that science = fantasy.

Unitarians don't promise that you'll go to heaven after you die. In this morning's service, the minister said, "The only thing I know for certain is that you should be very, very skeptical of anyone who says they know with absolute certainty what happens after you die". Some Unitarians do believe in heaven. Others believe in reincarnation. Others believe in nothing at all. But most believe that seeking spiritual meaning in this life is more important than what happens after you die.

Note: Much of the above are my own beliefs and do not represent Unitarians as a whole.

I hope you can understand how this religion makes sense to me. Please respect my beliefs. If Mattgreen can manage it, anyone can. Thanks x

Last night something genuinely scary happened....

Mattgreen has gone away for the weekend. So last night, once Izzy was in bed, I just noodled around on Facebook and reading blogs for a while. It was about 11.30pm, I'd turned off the computer and was thinking about going to bed when Ludo started making snuffley woof sounds. She does this a lot, usually when she hears something outside. I told her to be quiet.

Then she made a louder, yelpier sound. I went into the hall, switched on the light. "What's up Ludo?" I asked, but before I'd even finished speaking, I heard a knock at the door. Our doorbell is temperamental at the best of times, and I figured it was probably one of the neighbours telling me I'd left the car lights on or something.

I opened the door.

Standing there was a man. His face was completely covered in blood.

I reacted completely instinctively and screamed loudly, right in his face. I was just totally taken aback, I didn't expect to scream but I was freaked out and couldn't stop myself.

The next thing that happened, also completely unexpectedly, was that Ludo went mental. I've never heard Ludo bark her head off like she barked her head off last night. She lost her shit. She barked and barked and barked and would not shut up. I had to hold her by the collar so she didn't lunge for the bloke.

The bloke stood there, looking bemused. He did not appear scared or aggressive or anything really. He said, "Is this Daniel's house?"

I said, "No, no, it's not... erm... do you want me to call you an ambulance?"
"No mate, it's fine," he said. He appeared pretty unaware that he'd been hurt. He rubbed his face with his hands but the blood didn't smear. Then I noticed he was swaying slightly. The unmistakeable smell of vast quantities of alcohol wafted towards me. Ludo kept barking.

I didn't know what to do. "Have you been in a fight?" I asked.
"Nah, just a scuffle. Daniel's not here?"
"No, he doesn't live here".
"Sorry mate, sorry, sorry, must've got the wrong house," he mumbled and then turned and walked down the path. There was blood on his trousers too. I know most of the people in our road and can't think of anyone called Daniel.

I came inside, shut the door and sat down on the floor with Ludo. She kept barking. It was 30 minutes before she finally stopped snuffling and huffing.

I have never before seen Ludo behave in a protective manner. Estrelas are bred as guard dogs and are used as police dogs in Portugal, but I never had a great deal of faith that Ludo would cut the mustard in an emergency. Perhaps I was wrong. She was fierce last night, that's for sure.

This morning, I looked down the stairs and she was fast asleep at the bottom. Gotta love the dog.

Och aye the noo

November 18, 2011

Today I went to the library to get out some bagpipe music. We're having a Scotland evening at Cubs in a couple of weeks (to mark St. Andrew's Day) so I wanted to get an appropriate soundtrack.

We're going to eat Scotch pancakes, play mini highland games, the Cubs can wear a kilt if they have one, we're going to get them to design their own tartan on squared paper, etc. I love all that shit.

Mattgreen is away and my computer is broken, so I've used his iTunes to burn all the bagpipe music. Heheheh. Actually I'm listening to bagpipe music right now and it's rather good.

That reminds me, I did say recently that I was going to start playing more music around the house....

Perhaps I could set the bagpipes to be my 6.30am alarm call?

The future and the past

November 17, 2011

Further to yesterday's post, I found a totally awesome article about minimalism called A Day in the Future. I showed it to Mattgreen who thought it was really well-written.

Near the end, it says:

I often marvel at the thought of the unimaginable value someone two hundred years ago could get out of a random box of somebody’s neglected junk.

That reminded me of my first ever mobile phone. I was an early-adopter because my boyfriend at the time had a mobile and I thought it was super-cool. I got it in 1998 and I was the first person I knew to own a mobile. I was trying to explain this to Izzy the other day, and she just couldn't even get her head around the idea that in the past, not everyone had mobiles. Even she's had one since she was nine. Madness.

Anyway, after much scuttling around the internet, I managed to find a photo of My First Phone:

Awesome huh? It had a little aerial that you had to pull out to try to improve the reception. It was about the size of a small brick and took up half my handbag. I've just googled it and apparently it weighed 236g, measured 148 x 56 x 25 mm (wow!) and could store up to 10 dialled and received calls in its memory. It had a battery life of about 2 hours... less if you actually made any phone calls.

My iPhone is somewhat more impressive now, but I'm pretty sure I was just as delighted with the Nokia 2110 when I first got it. It's crazy to think that actually, that wasn't even all that long ago. I can remember phoning my Mum and saying, "Guess where I am? On top of a hill!" and thinking that this was a brave new world indeed.


November 16, 2011

Today I have made a big decision.

Unfortunately I can't talk about that yet. What I can talk about instead is CLUTTER. One of my new year's resolutions was to be better with money. I didn't realise at the time, but what I actually wanted was to own less stuff. Mattgreen and I have been gradually getting rid of things, but it's an incredibly slow process. I intend to become even more ruthless until we have as little as possible left.

This is a really inspiring five minute TED talk about not needing boatloads of possessions. And there's lots of inspiration on the internet, including this and this and this.

I've decided that I don't want anything for Christmas this year. I actually want the opposite, I want to get rid of things, I want to have less.

I'd honestly be quite happy to wake up on Christmas morning and have nothing to open. It's really a lot more fun watching Izzy open all her presents. REALLY, HONESTLY, I'M NOT JUST SAYING THAT. But if you really want to buy something for me, please consider these:

1. Donations to charity. I particularly support Water Aid, APNI and the Fistula Foundation (warning, that link may make you cry. Or maybe I've got PMT. Whatever).
2. Consumables, preferably home-made. I particularly like gifts which get used up, e.g. a jar of homemade jam or a handmade soap.
3. Useful home made gifts, like a purse or a cushion.
4. Practical gifts - such as a watering system for the garden, a non-stick pie tin, a sports bra, luggage tags. Boring, I know. But at least they will actually be used.
5. John Lewis vouchers (to be spent on practical things)

In the first link of this post, I mention an orange silicone stirrer I'd purchased that day. I have never used that item. I actually don't even know where it is. This has to stop. Our house is full of this sort of crap. I don't want to live like this anymore.


November 15, 2011

Today I had to go to Brighton for work. I decided to go early so I could do a bit of shopping and had a lovely morning meandering round the shops without a child trailing around behind me, picking up inappropriate things and shouting "WHAT'S THIS?"

After that I went down to the seafront and decided to get some chips and eat them on the beach (screw the diet). It was a cold but bright day and the beach was pretty quiet.

I underestimated the evil seagulls who basically followed me to my seat, then tried to creep closer and closer to my chips as if playing a rather sinister game of What's the time, Mr Wolf?

I wondered what I'd do if they actually snatched one (at one point they got so close that I thought that they might!) and then realised I could just pick up a pebble and chuck it at them. I had to do this a few times but they didn't really give up until all the chips were gone.

From my position on the beach I could hear the faint sounds of the funfair on the Pier, the rush of the sea on the pebbles and the caw-caw-caw of the seagulls. For once, I didn't have a dog with me, straining on the lead and barking at the sea and making a nuisance of herself.

I should go to the seaside by myself more often.

Best ever chilli

November 14, 2011

This is what we had for dinner tonight. It's called Quick Chili and it's from Nigella Express. I'd never had much success with chilli before I found this recipe. I've probably made it half a dozen times and every time it's been gorgeous. It only takes about ten minutes to prep too!
I've de-snobbified the recipe for you as it's full of Nigella's usual, "visit your local artisan herb-collector and purchase magic beans ground by elves" type bollocks.

QUICK CHILI - serves 4
150g chorizo sausage, sliced and cut into 5mm half moons
500g minced beef (I used a mixture of lean beef and Quorn mince)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon chili flakes

3 cardamom pods, crushed in a pestle and mortar and outer husks discarded
1 x 400g jar cheap tomato and vegetable sauce for pasta
1 x 400g can mixed beans
60ml sweet chili sauce

How to do it:
Put the sliced chorizo into a hot frying pan and cook over a medium heat until the sausage crisps a little and releases orange-ish oil. Nigella says you should now remove the chorizo and set aside - but I didn't bother. Add the mince and cook for about 5 minutes, breaking it up with a fork and stirring occasionally until it browns.
Add the cooked chorizo (if you were arsed to take it out) and stir in the spices, pasta sauce, tinned beans and sweet chili sauce.
Bring to the boil and then turn down the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. I quite often add extra water during cooking if it looks a bit dry. Serve with rice, chopped coriander, sour cream and grated cheese.

Trying not to smoke for the 873498574th time

November 13, 2011

It's not going well. So, as of tomorrow, I'm trying not to smoke for the 873498575th time. Sigh.

To be fair, all the stressy shit going on at work has not made things easy. Also, we had visitors who smoke, which causes my willpower to dip to an all-time low.

But! We've got a few clear weeks in the diary including various occasions where smoking would be a pain the arse (non-smoking visitors, a day-long course, and slightly later, a couple of 27 hour flights). Today I was running on the treadmill at the gym and it was hard work and I know it's smoking-related. It makes a massive difference - I can notice it within a few days of stopping.

Also smoking is expensive/stinky/bad for your health/sets a bad example yadda yadda yadda.

The problem is I like it. I always feel like I'm missing out when I don't smoke. It feels like everyone else is invited to the party and I'm not. Non-smokers always fiercely deny this but they're wrong. Go to any given social event and I guarantee the most interesting people will be outside having a fag.

Nevertheless, I'm going to have to be a boring bastard from now on. Gah.

Saturday morning in the Team Green household

November 12, 2011

This morning was the first Saturday I've been able to have a lie-in for weeks. We're usually really busy so it's a huge luxury to not have anything planned.

At 8.15am, the dulcet sounds of next door's scaffolders clanking poles and banging around woke me up. I lay in bed.

Me: Mattgreen, can you hear that clanging?
Mattgreen: (grumpily) Yeah. What time is it?
Me: 8.17. A. M.
Mattgreen: Unnngghhh.

At 8.35am, next door but two across the road started jackhammering. REALLY INSANELY LOUD. I drag my ass out of bed and open the window. They are wearing ear defenders. Even the scaffolders are wincing slightly at the noise. I make various unrepeatable comments about our beloved neighbours one and all.

Me: I'm going to unfurl a banner outside our house, saying "I hate you and I hate you even more".
Mattgreen: No, it could just say "We would just like to inform you that there are no major building works planned at < our address >".

So, we all get up and I get breakfast ready. I put on "Boys Don't Cry" by the Cure at high volume to drown out the jackhammering with Killing An Arab. Isabel is playing Cake Doodle on my iPhone in her dressing gown. Mattgreen brings in a pain au chocolate for her and puts it on the table. She carries on playing.

Mattgreen: Your pain au chocolate is going to be a pain au tepid at this rate.
Izzy: Pain au tepig?
Mattgreen: TEPID, you doofus.
Izzy: (grinning) Tepig's a Pokemon.

Mattgreen wanders in from the kitchen carrying the coffee jug. He holds it up, flipping the lid open and shut like a mouth whilst saying in a Muppet-esque voice, "Would you like some more kwaffee?" I laugh. He goes to pour it and then as the coffee gushes into the mug, makes loud vomiting noises. Then he says in Muppet-coffee jug voice, "Sorry about that"!

Something weird is happening to my thighs

November 11, 2011

Lately I've been going to the gym a lot. Yesterday I saw my Personal Trainer. He is a very nice lad but does seem to have a somewhat sadistic streak.

Yesterday I did something called TRX, which is basically a sort of rope/lashing affair which you tie to some piece of equipment and then use your own body weight to exercise with. I did push-ups whilst dangling in mid-air, rowing while leaning back at a 45 degree angle and various lunges and squats. Then I did this hideous exercise that involves jumping off a step into a squat, and then back up onto the step. That hurt. Then we finished with kettle bell circuit training - more lunges and a truly brutal exercise called "cleans". He also has an evil device called a Vipr (cue much sniggering from Mattgreen, a la Beavis and Butthead) but thankfully I got a reprieve from that yesterday as we ran out of time.

By the end I was utterly shattered and in agony, but it's definitely working. Today I went to the gym again, I did 25 minutes interval training (running at 9km/hr at a 3.0 incline) and a load of weights including more squats and lunges. Everything hurts.

However - I did notice that my thighs have got a strange bulging shape to them. I was wearing leggings and my legs don't look like they usually do. I don't quite look like Jodie Marsh....

...thank fuck! But I'm definitely getting more toned. I checked my record and I've been to the gym 14 times since 17th October. My aim is to keep this up until at least Christmas.

Three good things

November 10, 2011

1. Our car passed it's MOT today! It had a full service, and nothing extra needed doing. This is despite the fact a weird light came on a few weeks ago. I looked it up and it said "TAKE STRAIGHT TO YOUR TOYOTA DEALER" so I phoned Mattgreen and he said, "DO NOTHING" and then the light went off again and nothing bad has happened. Also, the brakes were making a horrible squeaking sound this summer. I was prepared for a gigantico bill, but it was incredibly cheap. It's just so good when that happens, and it almost never does. Yippee!

2. Isabel's school got a fantastic Ofsted report- Outstanding across the board. It couldn't have been better. I've had the occasional disagreement with them (despite being a governor there for the past three years!) but the standard of teaching and learning is undeniably very high. I'm really pleased that has been recognised and it means the school's excellent reputation is assured for the next few years at least.

3. Today, by total fluke, I found my long-lost hairdresser. Since we moved here I have only had one good hairdresser and she left the company and they refused to tell me where she'd gone. Today I saw a sign outside a hairdresser that's 60 seconds' walk from my house, it said, "Get 10% off with our new employee Beth," and I went in and IT WAS HER! How awesome is that! I booked an appointment on the spot.

All is right with the world. I am going to open the wine to celebrate.

Getting Sick

November 09, 2011

On the way to work this morning, I spent a happy ten minutes hoping I would get ill. To me, being ill involves getting a free day off, snuggling on the sofa with a hot water bottle, being waited on hand and foot by Mattgreen, watching crappy telly and having super-luxurious daytime naps, and not having to be arsed to cook dinner or go to the gym.

Being ill is like being on holiday, only better, because usually my holidays involve being really busy. I'm always really envious of people who get ill often. It always sounds really idyllic to me, and I'd happily trade "having a bit of a cold" or "feeling under the weather" for a lazy day on the sofa.

Of course, I almost never get ill, and when I do I am the world's worst patient. I forget completely what it's like, and have very little sympathy when anyone else is ill because I think, just pull yourself together and get on with it! I remember a few years ago (just checked: it was in 2007!) I had a cold and it was so bad I posted on a forum:

I am getting by on Lemsip alone, but may need to up my game as I feel like total shit. I'm still walking the dog, going to work and playing racquetball as I refuse to let it beat me, but I am feeling grimmer than a grim thing.

Everyone told me in no uncertain terms that I should stop doing all that stuff and just rest. I got better rapidly after that.

Oh, why can't I get sick now?! If anyone's got any good germs, come and breathe on me please.


November 08, 2011

Earlier this year, Gordy and Will sent us the following postcard from their hols:

It amused me greatly at the time and it's been stuck on our dishwasher ever since. Tonight Isabel was looking at it and she said, "Can I connect the dots?"

I then had to try to explain why it would somehow lose its amusement value if the dots were actually connected. The joke is in the absence of the lines.

Turns out this is a tricky concept for a nearly 10 year old.


November 07, 2011

Today I found out that the Olympic Torch is not coming to our town. I told Mattgreen as soon as he got home from work. He dropped his bag, shouted, "OH NO!" and collapsed on the sofa dramatically.

Mattgreen is not that interested in the Olympic Games.

I've got tickets for second round tennis at Wimbledon, which I suspect will be very much like going to Wimbledon and not really at all like going to the Olympics. I applied for bajillions of tickets but tennis was all I got in the ballot. Isabel is really keen to go with me, I haven't decided yet whether to let her. It depends whether she can sit still through a whole tennis match I suppose.

A few months after I applied for Olympics tickets, the Paralympics ticket ballot opened. Armed with the knowledge I'd gained too late when ordering Olympics tickets (apply for the most expensive tickets in fewer categories), I was a lot more successful. We've got tickets for Goalball, Swimming and Athletics - so we get to go to both the Aquatics Centre and the Olympic Stadium which will rock. Izzy is totally up for it and I reckon it will be an amazing experience - probably way better than the Olympics at Wimbledon.

Mattgreen is planning on getting quite a bit of decorating done.

Exciting times in the life of an entomologist

November 06, 2011

This is a story Mattgreen told me a couple of weeks ago when he got home from work, and it was so funny I decided to save it.

Mattgreen, as you probably know, works with insects. Sometimes people from other institutions or other parts of the company come to visit and tour the lab. On this particular day, Mattgreen had a visit from the bubbly, enthusiastic social media girls from the Marketing Department. They were looking for ideas on how to raise the company's profile via social media - apps, Twitter, blogging etc.

As he showed them round, one of them was making notes in her pad. She said, "I've just got so many ideas, my head's fizzing with ideas!"

Girl: Could we do this?
Mattgreen: We could... that'd be nice, but unfortunately that'd be illegal.
Girl: Could we do that?
Mattgreen: Yeeeeah, hmm, maybe not. That's illegal too.
Girl: What about ....
Mattgreen: We could blog about that, and it would be very good ... if it was in fact true.
Girl: I've got another idea, wouldn't it be amazing if we could track ....
Mattgreen: It would certainly be amazing to track that sort of stuff but it's sadly beyond the laws of physics.
Girl: How about ...
Mattgreen: That one's feasible, that could actually work. It'd cost about a million pounds. Given infinite resources, we could DEFINITELY do that.


Mattgreen: What does that leave you with? Tracking caterpillars as an app? Excellent, yeah... go with that then.

My quince tree

November 05, 2011

Mattgreen and I spent most of this year turning our garden into a beautiful circular design. The central feature of the garden is my quince tree, which was a gift from Mattgreen for our "Wood" wedding anniversary (5 years).

We had friends visiting yesterday and they asked what the story was behind the quince tree.

Years ago, I had a beloved friend who lived in an amazing house in Silverstone. He had a quince tree in his garden and one year we went to visit him on Bonfire Night. We ate drop scones (cooked by his wife on the Aga) and watched fireworks in his garden. As we were leaving, he gave me a carrier bag full of quinces. I went home and googled for recipes, and made quince tart and quince jelly and quince paste and quince anything-else-I-could-find-a-recipe-for.

Quinces are an old-fashioned English fruit, very popular in Tudor times and similar to a pear but yellow and very hard. They are inedible when raw, but when cooked have an unusual flavour that's not quite like anything else. More info here, if you're interested.

Anyway, the following year, I arranged to go and visit my friend again in October, hoping to collect more quinces for a reprise of the previous year's culinary experiments. Sadly, the visit had to be cancelled as he was taken ill, and later died of sudden onset throat cancer. It was awful.

Quinces have always reminded me of him, and I'd mentioned to Mattgreen on numerous occasions that I'd have a quince tree in our "forever" house. This is probably not our forever house, but I do now have the tree. For the past couple of years it's been pot-bound, but now it's planted in the ground hopefully I'll have a better crop next year. And if you happen to visit us in October or November, undoubtedly I will have managed to crowbar quince-something onto the menu.


November 04, 2011

Our dog, Ludo, will be five next year. She's going a bit grey around the muzzle and she's definitely a bit of a grouchy old lady. It's sometimes a bit of an effort for her to haul herself up into the car and she's growing increasingly lazy, if that's even possible.

Estrela Mountain Dogs usually only live to be about ten. My colleague's 14-year-old dog passed away this week so I've been thinking about it a bit. It's hard to imagine life without Ludo.

While I was typing this she was sleeping on the floor next to me and her ear had fallen upwards and her legs were crossed over, making her look really cute and funny. I took a stealthy photo:

She woke up and without even moving, fixed me with that look that says, "What?"

Dogs are awesome.

A warning

November 03, 2011

Today I was in Sainsburys and they were doing a promotion on Baileys. They had the new biscotti flavour - I'd seen it on Facebook and thought it looked nice so I tried some.

It is a rare day that I don't like alcohol, especially free alcohol.
It's even rarer that an item of food or drink is too sweet for me.
It's unheard of for me not to finish a tiny sample-size drink, even if I'm not that keen.

Dear reader, I had to clean my teeth when I got home to get rid of the disgusting taste.
Do not make the mistake of purchasing it! VILE VILE VILE! And I love Baileys. And biscotti.

I also tried the hazelnut one and it was even worse ... don't go there.

Christmas cake and small mercies

November 02, 2011

Tonight I've been making our Christmas cake. I've branched out to a new Nigella recipe (shock horror!) for a change so fingers crossed it will be edible. I've been drinking wine whilst baking it, so better also cross my fingers that all critical ingredients are included.

And if they're not, it will be pudding for a few days and then I'll make another one. So fuck it.

After a truly awful few days at work, I've still got a job. It has changed somewhat from the job I actually applied for, morale at work is at an all time low, but at least I still have one, and for that I'm grateful.

Crazy diet tips for November

November 01, 2011

I'm currently on one of my health kicks. This is partly because I have to wear a swimsuit and throw myself off cliffs in February, and partly because I've got some personal training vouchers that needed using up, and partly because I'm ALWAYS on some kind of health kick.

Anyway after much wailing and gnashing of teeth, I think I've finally identified why I struggle to lose weight and struggle even more to keep it off.

I love cooking and I think I cook quite healthily. I make dinners from fresh ingredients every day, I often have homemade salads for lunch and porridge with fruit for breakfast. I eat five-a-day virtually always. I restrict the amount of red meat in my diet and I only buy free-range. Sounds OK so far?

However, between meals I'm a nightmare. I love to snack. It's not uncommon for me to eat five or six biscuits at work, and I only work 5 hours a day. I eat chocolate bars on the way to school and prowl the kitchen in the evening checking out the cupboards.

So I figured if I stopped snacking between meals, I would be slinky malinki in no time. I tried it, but I was starving marvin instead and couldn't handle it. So, I've come up with a new rule. And to make it extra fun, I'm going to do it for the whole of November and see if it helps. It cannot possibly be as difficult as March.

So the great plan is : Only eat fruit and vegetables between meals.

Simple, eh? I'll keep you posted as to whether I'm surviving, and how long it takes before raspberry ripple ice cream and strawberry bonbons start counting as fruit.

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