Friday, 18 September 2020

100 Days - sixty three

So much for trying to post more, that didn't last long ... or at all. Was going to post yesterday. Came home from Dunk's and hunted on youtube for a NestlĂ© advert that we saw on the telly but couldn't find it. They had a young girl having her hair plaited up and she was the spitting image of Greta and I was fuming that they dare try and associate themselves with her, this is a company that fucking steals people's water.  Am on leave this week and it has been so nice; Dunk and I took a lovely walk down to Sale Water Park on Tuesday and then rode our bikes up to the Gorton reservoir again on Wednesday. I was supposed to be holidaying in Cornwall with mum and dad and Claire, but the local lockdown spoiled that so I am trying to just enjoy the autumnal sunshine in Manchester.
Gym and swimming and volleyball stuff just gets dumped as we come through the door so the house remains a bit of a tip, but we are all pretty fit so I'm not beating myself up about it. We have done six weeks so far and have established a good routine. I am liking the gymming more than the swimming, but some days we have even done both. I still can't do a sit-up though.
Cute photo of Lyra in one of the craft boxes. We had a new puzzle out and use the lids for pieces so she has a new favourite place to snooze.
I found this blue tub out for the bin men when I was on delivery a few weeks ago. This is a physocarpus opulifolius, it will grow to six feet or so and provide some much needed height and bushiness. It will flower in the summer and then produce berries in the autumn. I ordered two bags of compost and the tub took almost a whole one so I can see I will need more pretty quickly.
Potted up the borage plants, which are now real plants, not seedlings. They have come on a storm, enjoying the warm weather on the kitchen window sill (outside) and am looking forward to filling the garden with them next year. 
I worked a day off last week so have had two trips to the garden centre; went back a second time (with the girls to help carry) and acquired several big preloved planters. I have been looking to buy some but terracotta is quite expensive and I did not want to buy plastic, but second hand is perfectly acceptable. Am thinking of looking for spray paint to jazz them up a bit. 


Tuesday, 1 September 2020

100 Days - 62nd : summer reading


Some members of the clan have been having an exciting time buying new houses in Devon with panoramic sea views and going on dappled sunlit bike rides with the oldies ...
some of us have just been going to work and coming home and not writing any book reviews.

This is a bad pile. I have had backlogs before but this is bad. From the top:
'The New York Trilogy' by Paul Auster. I read, and loved, 4321 back in 2017 but after I read the first two novellas, that were too alike in theme and character, I crawled to a halt on the third.
'Purple Hibiscus' by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was quite a hard read. I found I hated the controlling and violent parenting so much that I was just angry at the situation while I read; angry at the mother for not protecting her children, angry at the respect for religious people that allows such behaviour to go unchallenged. Have read several others by her that I enjoyed more, here, here and here.
'The Bluest Eye' by Toni Morrison is another one that made me angry, but for the grinding and inescapable poverty of their situation as much as for the people's behaviour. 
"The Discomfort of Evening' by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld has just won the International Booker Prize but I bought and read it some time ago. I don't want to say it was another book that made me angry but it was. What is it with people writing about stifling religiosity, anybody would think that all religion is controlling and stifling ... oh wait, it mostly is. It is a story of loss and people crumbing under it. When Matthies dies the parents just kind of fade away, leaving their remaining children to emotionally fend for themselves. I cared about them and wanted to wrap them up and reassure them, to reassure Jas that it was not her fault. I loved the relationship between Jas and Hanna, her younger sister was the saving grace of the story, which made the ending all the more traumatic. I got to the last page, the last line, and cried out in horror, but of course I should have seen it coming. The naive, optimistic part of me wanted to believe the love of her sister would pull her through, but it didn't. 
'The Stories of Eva Luna' by Isabel Allende was just a lovely collection of stories, some funny, some a little dark, all about the characters and their intriguing lives.
'Arboreal' edited by Adrian Cooper, subtitled, a collection of new woodland writing, was a lovely collection of people just writing about woods that they know and love. Some were very lyrical or childhood remembrances, others much more scientific or expounding on the ecological significance. The sheer variety kept it interesting throughout. Having experienced much tree joy this year what's not to love in a book all about the joy of trees.

'The Terrorist at my Table' by Imtiaz Dharker. I came across one of her poems in the Guardian back in April and very much enjoyed the rest of her collection (you can read several on her website). Unusually for a poetry book it was punctuated by her atmospheric line drawings. I lost the paper on which I listed my favourites. They managed to combine the personal and the political with just lovely evocative images and use of language. I have to pick this one, just because ... tea (I also love the one entitle Tissue). Maybe the literature festival will invite her some time.

The right way

You call this
Black brew, no sugar, raw milk?
Let me tell you how it should be.
Put the water in the pan. 
Add sugar, more than that,
more. Then boil it
till it becomes quite syrupy.
Now add the tea-leaves,
let them boil, to get
your money's worth from them.
This is when
my wife would put in
ginger, cinnamon, or seeds of cardamom.
You have none of those?
No matter, let me show you.
Put milk now. Boil again,
yes, boil. Let it rise,
turn down the heat.
Turn it up, let it rise again,
sizzling. Blow on it to keep it
bubbling just inside the rim.
This takes skill, and shows respect 
to both tea and guest.

Then take the cup
and strain it in. No,
don't drink yet,
I am showing you the way
we drink tea in my village.

Pour it in
to the saucer, blow.
Now drink. Don't shake, don't spill.
Don't laugh.
Good, no?

'Why I'm no longer talking to white people about race' by Reni Eddo-Lodge is a highly recommended and thought provoking look at the race situation in Britain. So much is being said in the news about race in America at the moment that you sometimes find British people being a bit smug, but you know what, we are as fucked up as they are. Our history is as fucked up, our economy and education systems are as fucked up, our criminal justice system is as fucked up. There is no area of life where people of colour do not get the short end of the stick. If that's not systemic I don't know what is. People complained the other day about an Argos advert with a black family in it, and you want to smack your head off a brick wall. You know what, don't be sorry, don't be defensive, don't say 'yes, but', just accept that this is the reality of our society and see what you can do to challenge it. Reading books is a good first step because it's important to know what you're up against. 

I borrowed the Gardening the Containers from Julie and have enjoyed browsing ideas and learning about plants and compost and all that jazz. I also found 'How to Garden' by Alan Titchmarsh in the charity shop which has been great for all sorts of basic stuff about growing plants. I am getting much joy from seeing things grow and want to do more
I know I have gone back to living inside my own life recently, well, since I bought the house really. It feels selfish. Going to the gym and caring about being fit feel selfish. I could have gone and joined with with some XR stuff in Manchester but I didn't want to. I feel like I am hiding, but you know what, I am not beating myself up about it, it's just what I need to do right now.
Stay safe. See you tomorrow.

Monday, 31 August 2020

100 Days - one and sixty: Dunbar number


I found 'This Book is Full of Spiders' by David Wong in the big charity warehouse when we went looking for tea plates. It is the second in a series, bit of a first spoiler for the first book (John Dies at the End) because John appears in this one too. It is a book that screams 'please make me into a film', lots of very tense scenes of people crawling into the unknown with flesh eating spiders that most people can't see. I really enjoyed it, which is strange because I hate horror films. Maybe I don't have a vivid enough imagination to transform the words into images in my head, though I did have to turn the light on when I went for a pee in the middle of the night (which I don't usually bother to do). David and John battle against both the spiders and the authorities who plan to obliterate the whole city to destroy the spiders. What was interesting about the story was the way people infected by the spiders were so quickly dehumanised and how it became acceptable to kill them rather than try and cure them. The infected people have their behaviour taken over and they are quickly described as zombies and combined with a news blackout where people inside the infected area cannot communicate with the outside so have no means to assert their humanity. David has a conversation with the doctor about the Dunbar number, a theory that primates have a limited number of individuals that they can include in their social sphere, and thus who they think of as 'real people', and how easily we ignore, or lack empathy for, the suffering or experiences of anyone outside this number. The wikipedia page is interesting but David Wong's article on Cracked called 'What is the monkeysphere?' is a more accessible explanation of how it operates in human society. 

Chatting to Monkey the other day she was bemoaning the fact that the most viewed articles on the BBC was Katy Perry and Orlando Blume's new baby and the fact that Sarah Harding had breast cancer. Then it occurred to us that of course people know so much about such celebrities that they actually consider them part of their own Monkeysphere. It is the other side of the same coin that saw a horrific response on the Daily Mail to reports of a migrant young man drowning in the Channel; people who not only lacked sympathy but actively dehumanise people who are so desperate. It explains the huge outpouring of grief at the death of celebrities, but the utter indifference to starving children in Yemen. Yet another aspect of how fucked up our society truly is. It's just taken me a couple of hours to write this drivel and I have not managed to articulate quite how the book, despite its style and content, was asking interesting questions about human beings and how they relate to each other. 

I have been feeling very despondent and unmotivated again recently. I deactivated my facebook this morning to try and focus on real life more. The gym is going well, the mutual support and encouragement is very important, but I am managing to go by myself on mornings when I have an early start. Tish and I went this morning and there were loads of new exciting machines moved into the space. The local lockdown might be lifted in the next week or so, but going to Cornwall seems unlikely. The garden is drowned. I had to empty water out of the pond as it was overflowing. The water butt is full, but nothing needs watering. 

Stay safe. See you tomorrow.


Tuesday, 18 August 2020

100 Day - sixty: the first rule of swim club


moss side leisure centre

The first rule of swim club is don't wear leggings to go to swim club. The second rule of swim club ... well you know the rest; getting them back on with damp skin is a bugger. So, we joined the gym. Oh no, I am now one of those people who go to the gym. The girls have been thinking and talking about it for quite a while, and what with the lockdown thing and not having their usual places to go life has become very sluggish (as in they behave like slugs, but not the ones in our garden which are pretty nifty). More than anything they need the structure and a reason to leave the house, besides the getting fit thing (or to be honest, getting fitter, because both of them were pretty active before lockdown). We are alternating gym and swim. I am wondering where all the people are who were complaining about everything being closed. This morning me and the real swimmer in the pink swim hat had the pool to ourselves at nine o'clock. The down side of having a job is that I will probably have to go by myself quite a bit as the others don't get moving so early. I have been going to pilates for several years now but I didn't manage to get myself motivated to do online pilates classes. I liked it for the sense of focus and concentration it gave me, and I love Sarah's voice (I would regularly do the whole class with my eyes closed). A few years before that I used to go to Zumba, which I enjoyed for the buzz. Structured exercise has felt a bit superfluous when you do a job as active as mine but in recent years I have begun to feel more and more worn out and have decided something that improves my strength and stamina could be a good idea. We will see how it goes.

Stay safe. See you tomorrow.

Saturday, 15 August 2020

100 Days - 59: the second plague


Having dealt with the sawfly a couple of days ago we are now beset by a plague of fruit flies. They started, of course, in the Julian food bin, but by the time I put it outside the back door they were already well established in the house. Tish made a fly trap that worked really well. Then last night we bought some strawberries and raspberries to make Eton Mess, but when we came to make it the flies had invaded both boxes and swarmed on the fruit. Tish then made several more traps that are now dotted around the kitchen. The rice wine vinegar we bought to make the sushi is pretty effective and the numbers are now in decline. I will know in future to keep a closer eye on the flies. They are actually a fascinating species and are used extensively in genetic research because they have such a fast life cycle.

Stay safe. See you tomorrow.

Friday, 14 August 2020

100 Days - 58th Taking the slugs for a walk


This is the improvised slug and snail transportation pod. Mum goes round her garden with a bucket of hot water but I find myself unwilling to kill stuff just because they are eating my courgette flowers. I need, she says, to get myself a decent torch, which is good advice because at the moment I am borrowing Tish's phone. I had been going out as it was getting dark, around 10pm and not finding very many. Then the other evening I went out a second time a bit later and commented to Monkey that it was as if they knew and were waiting for me to do my slug hunt before emerging. Initially I had just chucked them over the wall into the lane, but as I learned many years ago when we lived at Moor End, slugs have a homing instinct (I trod on the same slug several nights in a row in my bare feet, one of life's less pleasant experiences). I read somewhere that you need to take then more than 20 metres so they don't come back. So I now put them in the ice-cream tub and take them to the park at the end of the road in the morning. They are surprisingly nifty little creatures and will attempt to make a swift exit while you are hunting so you have to keep a close eye.

Stay safe. See you tomorrow.

Thursday, 13 August 2020

100 Days - 57th Water Butttt


Here is my lovely water butt from Even Greener, manufactured in the UK from recycled plastic. I think it's important, if you are going to bother sending your rubbish to be recycled, that you purchase things that are made from recycled materials. I found my worm bin last year at Worm City and Tish found a watering can too. I am currently on the hunt for some planters for the garden. Looking forward to a rain storm tonight now.

Stay safe. See you tomorrow.


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