Thursday 31 December 2020

Into 2021 (101st)


The doughnut dough is rising in the kitchen so we are all set for an evening of House of Games quizzing. 
My new year resolutions have been quite successful over the last few years. I have managed pretty well at not-beating-myself-up-about-things, and not beating myself up about how seriously I take my new year resolutions is an interesting side effect. On the other hand big stuff is going to happen next year. Lewis and Rachel will have their baby and then get married. Monkey will go (probably) to Russia in the summer and then to Fukuoka in October. As a result of these things some serious baby knitting is going to happen, and ... Tish and I are going to learn some Japanese. The phrasebook was a crimbo present, but we are planning to use Human Japanese, that Monkey used when she started teaching herself, and possibly Duolingo.
I hereby undertake to definitely read more than 25 books next year, and to write more thoughtfully about them. I found an interesting little challenge in the Guardian the other day, a 31 day 'literary diet' with things to read, listen to, or watch every day throughout January. I have enjoyed the 100 days to Offload challenge that I started back in April; it has pushed me to post more, and I have quite liked allowing myself to just write about random stuff happening at home and at work. I will try and keep up more regular posting. People keep saying that 2021 has got to be better, I don't want to contemplate them getting worse so will try and be grateful for a warm house and a steady job... and doughnuts.

Wishing all regular and random visitors a Happy New Year.
Stay safe. See you tomorrow.

Wednesday 30 December 2020

100th Day - oh duck


Here we go again. Just when we thought it was safe to go back in the water the world is shutting down again. No library books, no gym, nothing decent on the telly, we're going to have to make our own entertainment, good job I got a nice puzzle for christmas. The packet backlog at work is nearly gone, and now we have to close all the shops and send people back to the interweb. But now is the perfect time to stay home, stay safe and, if you can avoid going to work, do a puzzle. Wash your hands, wear your mask and do that thing with the open windows, even though it is bloody freezing outside (the covid situation was much more bearable when the sun was shining). Find your spot in the queue for a vaccine and turn up promptly when your invitation arrives. It feels like people have put up with so much, and so many people have already died, we have to see it through and keep taking our responsibilities to each other seriously. While I feel angry about all the delays and prevaricating, and furious at the fact that some businesses, and some individuals, have made a lot of money out of this crisis, it is at times like these that people show the positive strengths of human nature. It's been a slog, lets slog on until it's safe for us all.

Stay safe. See you tomorrow.

Monday 28 December 2020

100 Days - nine and ninety What The Living Do

 Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell down there. 
And the Drano won't work, but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes have piled up

waiting for the plumber I still haven't called. This is the everyday we spoke of.
It's winter again; the sky's a deep headstrong blue, and the sunlight pours through

the opening living room windows because the heat's on too high in here and I can't turn it off.
For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street, the bag breaking,

I've been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying along those
wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my wrist and sleeve,

I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it.
Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called that yearning.

What you finally gave up.We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss - we want more and more and then more of it.

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a  glimpse of myself in the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store, and I am gripped by a cherishing so deep

for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I am speechless:
I am living. I remember you.

Sometimes just a poem is enough.

Stay safe. See you tomorrow.

Saturday 26 December 2020

100 Days - Books of the year (ninety eight)


My christmas pressie to myself was a subscription to Gardener's World and I will enjoy learning lots of new things about plants. 

It has been a weird reading year; looking back I find that I have only reviewed 25 books, a pitifully low number for me, though the figure has been on the wane over the last couple of years. I will try and get around to linking back to them all on the Book Review page. The year started with the best book for me, which was 'Ducks, Newburyport' by Lucy Ellman, a story that absorbed me right in for several weeks and left me wanting to start again, which is an unusual thing. Back on Day 1 in April I reviewed 'Homestead' by Rosina Lippi, a most beautiful tale of remote Austrian farm life, then Day 11 took us to the surreal world of the Northern Ireland during the troubles with 'Milkman' by Anna Burns. In October I fell into the world of Rami and Bassam and the Palestinian/Israeli conflict and a story to remind you that real human beings are the victims of political conflicts. I don't feel like I have written a proper review all year, I have a few things waiting in line for the new year and I will try and take more time for reflection on my reading (but that's not a resolution). 

Stay safe. See you tomorrow.

Friday 25 December 2020

100 Days - 97th surreal crimbo


 Tiny birds that look like balls of cotton wool and live exclusively on Hokkaido island were going to be the cutest thing to happen today, until we opened an envelope that Lewis sent:
and now I have to adjust to the idea of being a granny. Had some other pressies and the cat is having a great time in the wrapping paper ... but look a baby.

Stay safe. See you tomorrow.

Thursday 24 December 2020

100 Days - alas, it's day 96


According to the Grauniad  ‘Alas’ was said more than 80 times in House of Commons in November 2020, more than any other month since 1800. Alas the pandemic will not be over any time soon, alas we are all likely to be in lockdown again come the new year, alas not everyone will have received their packets and cards this Christmas (though the office was much clearer than any of us could have anticipated), alas we shut the CSP door at 4pm so anyone who didn't check the opening times may come out later and be sorely disappointed, alas I am going out to collect covid kits on Sunday so my nice holiday weekend will be briefly interrupted, alas we are out of wrapping paper so will be using my copy of the Courier, alas they had sold out of Tia Maria so we had to buy rhubarb and custard gin instead, alas the Grinch leaves crumbs much to small of the other Who's mouses (alas Toby does not appreciate my commentary on How the Grinch Stole Christmas), alas the British Gas boiler man may or may not have fixed our boiler properly (the jury is out on the subject, it stopped, but is tentatively working at the moment), alas we only scored 24 out of 55 on the 2020 books quiz, alas the library was closed so I could not pick up my book, at least crimbo is finally here.

Stay safe. See you tomorrow.

Wednesday 23 December 2020

100 Days - ninety five (95): the end of the world


'Leave the World Behind' by Rumaan Alam is an unusual take on the end of the world. Amanda and Clay and their children Rose and Archie have rented a high-class holiday home for the week, but out of the blue the owners, George and Ruth, turn up on the doorstep, having driven away from New York in fear because of a black-out. Like when I read 'The Martian' a few years ago my main thought was that it would make a good film, maybe a rather arty atmospheric film. Nothing much happens but from the first knock on the door there is this weird tension between the grownups, which is impressive since you get the thoughts of each of them though from an external point of view. Stylistically this was unusual since the insides of people's heads are often reflected in their actions and words when a third person narrative is used. The narrative lurches from sitting in the hot tub to contemplating if there has been a nuclear strike, the whole thing is just so surreal. There are brief mentions of terrible things happening in the 'outside world' but they don't have any source of information. What I found most interesting was its examination of how dependant people are on their phones; all them are at a loss for what to do next without the reassurance of the phone. The person I felt most frustrated by was Clay, who drives off to the nearby town, and gets lost, despite having driven there for shopping the previous day. But then on the other hand I like that he was allowed to be weak, and how he admits to himself that he doesn't want to be strong and fix things for the others, he wants someone to take care of him. It is unusual for male characters to be able to admit this (though he lies to the others about getting lost).

"Without thinking, Clay gave his phone his fingerprint. The phone showing him a photograph of the children, Archie, then eleven, Rose, only eight, rounded, small, innocent. It was startling to look at this evidence of the selves now gone, thought he often didn't truly see this picture, obscured by little squares of information, the seductive glow of the phone itself. He felt fantom tingles when the phone was not at his side. Clay recalled that in January, in the spirit of resolution, he'd tried leaving the phone in the other room while he slept. But that was how he did most of his newspaper reading, and staying informed was as worthy a resolution. 'Still nothing,' he said, answering a question they all wanted to ask, even if none of them bothered to. they decided to go to bed." (p.63-4)

An interesting list popped up on my facebook feed, assessing all the 'best of the year' lists from across the interweb, looking at books that appeared on many of them. This book appeared on 20 lists, so I think that makes it pretty highly recommended, assuming that my opinion carries very little weight.

Stay safe. See you tomorrow.

Tuesday 22 December 2020

100 Days - 4 and 90 crimbo film time


Tish plays a silly game with friends on facebook where they post cryptic photos of scenes in films and they have to try and guess what each other are watching. Guess what we are watching tonight? 
My Christmas cards still have not arrived, but I delivered stuff today that was posted yesterday, so some parts of the system are functioning. Royal Mail have admitted that the current closed borders are going to impact packets coming in to the country, but things are not quite the disaster that they were a week ago. Lets not even talk about Brexit ... no I mean it lets pretend it's not happening.

Stay safe. See you tomorrow.

Monday 21 December 2020

100 Days - quiet today (93rd)


Every other person who came to collect a packet today commented about how quiet it was and they expected a queue. In fact it was a hectic day. What they didn't see is that people came all day at a slow trickle, just long enough between for me to walk back to the desk, log back in to the computer and start booking in the next packet before someone else would ring the bell, so that, although I never had much of a queue, I spent the entire day walking back and forth to the door. The "big boss" apparently finally admitted that he should have allocated our office far more temporary staff than we got and the chaos was basically his fault. It's no consolation really. It's gritting-your-teeth-for-the-final-push week, in theory the peak is over and things should tail off now, except all the last-minute panic buyers will just use the special delivery system and that will be swamped the next couple of days. 
Sitting in bed listening to the sound of sellotape being unrolled; the girls are wrapping presents downstairs and watching Muppet Christmas Carol.

Stay safe. See you tomorrow.

Sunday 20 December 2020

100 Day - ninety second (nearly done)

So the big question this week is: star or angel? Neither, in our house. We have two squirrels at the top of our 'tree'. I was worried I would run out of days if I am to finish the 100 Days to Offload challenge before the end of the year, so lets see if I can post every day between now and the 31st. 
Well, goodnight. We are off to the gym early tomorrow and glad that we remain in tier 3 so at least it will be open for the time being. The backlog at work is gradually receding; you even can get at the fire escape door again now. 

Stay safe. See you tomorrow.

Saturday 19 December 2020

100 Days - ninety first: Yo Jimmy


Having said that the postman doesn't know where you live it is not unheard of for me to spend half an hour with random badly-addressed cards tracking down where they might be going. I will send letters and packets back out with suggestions for possible addresses on them. 'Yo Jimmy' was all that was written on a card the other day and I left it on the stairs at 9 Egerton. 

Monkey had the final class of the term and then put Geraldine in the santa dress to get her in the mood for Christmas. Tish did her last shift of student covid testing, though she has more of the same after the holidays. I spent seven hours of my day off sorting cards and packets, then came home and we all cleaned bits of the house. This evening the tree has gone up, and Monkey read Mole and Troll doing silly voices. We still have the hexagonal cardboard creation that we made a few years ago and it still looks fab every year.

Lyra likes it too:

Stay safe. See you tomorrow.

Friday 18 December 2020

100 Days - (90th) Workiversary


It was Christmas jumper day at work today. I don't own a Christmas jumper, but may acquire a santa dress for next year, as Pauline looked fab in hers. I went in on my day off to try and make a dent in the unsorted Christmas cards. Managed to empty about one york. Jeff went home at 10 saying he had been there for 12 hours. I carried on with the letters until the "boss" asked me to do packets instead and then did a few hours on packets. It's my workiversary today; I have been with Royal Mail for eighteen years, and have never experienced anything like what is happening now. It is like an avalanche. I walked past Langdale frame yesterday and it was all clear (having not been out for three weeks) but you turn round and management have learned nothing from that experience and other walks have been abandoned instead, or posties told to concentrate on the packets and leave the letters. We even had the "big boss" tell someone to prioritise the door-to-door advertising! Management have had ten months to prepare for this. Right from the beginning of the pandemic, when everyone was stuck at home and all the shops were shut, we knew what was going to happen. It took 8 months to get some extra high capacity trollies. A couple of weeks ago we got some more PDAs (but they are only on loan apparently). More agency staff keep turning up, and a couple of people from other offices, but they can't do letter delivery, and some of them struggle to get many packets done, just bringing them back at the end of the shift. I feel stressed knowing that people's Christmases are going to be spoiled by things not arriving. There is no way we will be clear on Christmas eve. The discussion this morning was about how much was being offered for people to come in and work Boxing day. 
Oh yeah, by the way, sorry but the postman does not know where your friend lives. If you don't know the address don't waste your time sending a card. And just to be on the safe side don't order anything else now, go to a real shop instead.

Stay safe. See you tomorrow.

Tuesday 15 December 2020

100 Days - A Thousand Moons (day 89)


'A Thousand Moons' by Sebastian Barry is a continuation of the story in 'Days Without End' that I read two years ago. A Thousand Moons follows the story of Thomas McNulty and John Cole's adopted daughter Winona. The post Civil War world of Tennessee is a tumultuous place and their unusual mixed household gets some unwanted attention. Winona develops a relationship with a local man Jas, but given the opportunity he rapes her and she is left traumatised and confused. The Southerners are unhappy about the outcome of the war and the wider unsettled social and political situation rumbles in the background of their family's personal drama. Barry captures the atmosphere of the period beautifully; Winona recounts their life, interspersed with incidents and stories from her childhood. As a Lakota woman she has her own perspective on the situation and has worked hard to prove herself within a society that does not respect her. While she has the love and care of her extended household she tries to protect them from the problems she feels she has bought on them. She is intelligent and resourceful and tries to sort things out herself. In this scene she is trailing Colonel Purton's men as they go to confront some rebels, and she first meets the young woman who becomes an important presence in her life:

"The smoke of gunpowder rose from the melee. It might have been a clement morning mist along the peaceful river only for the great caterwauling of voices and the horrible screeching of wounded horses. I had seen just this before, but from inside a Sioux village. Inside the terror, at the heart of it. And everything I loved up to that moment about to be cancelled off the earth. As if bogus lives. Kill them all! And I sat there astride the mule like someone not there at all, but somewhere else, somewhere far away on the plains of Wyoming, but also, someone exactly there, living, gasping for breath, terrified. Then this strange girl comes blazing from the undergrowth, dressed vividly in a bright yellow dress that even in my great fright I noted it, bringing up her musket as if it was part of her own body, as if it had her own blood running through it in veritable veins, and fired it as my body. I felt the bullet tear into my right arm, I was only half leaning down to the Spencer rifle, I was just on the point of grasping it, when the bullet battered into my arm, battered into it, and I hauled up the Spencer, I knew the bullet was sitting in its little grave, and I fired blindly, something rose through me like a fire, my own blood was burning, it was the fiery pain of battle, and the pain pitched me down into blackness. No, no, now I was awake again, wide-eyed. That was a strange quick blackness. Did a minute pass? A moment? My enemy was now lying out across a riverside bush, also very strangely. I didn't know if I had killed her. Or even shot her. I couldn't see blood. She was a black-haired dark-skinned girl so beautiful the creek below wanted her. Her two legs remained on the bank, but the whole rest of her was depending on the kindness of that bush not to drop her down. Her head was furthest away, only four feet from the surging creek, which was full of spring rains. She was trying to bend back to safety with her two arms outstretched." (p.98-100)

Winona saves the girl and thus changes her life, in unexpected ways. The denouement was a little too neat but it only detracted in a superficial way from the strength of the story. Sebastian Barry creates such wonderful characters who you really bond with and allows you to feel that human beings are capable of such love and goodness in the face of the crap that life throws at them; I also loved 'A Long Long Way' that I read in 2012 (and wrote a much better review of). 

Its late now and I have to sleep, and the piles of parcels are still mounting up at work; Huffington Post ran a story that confirms the chaos is widespread. I am going to risk posting a pressie to my sister, but christmas cards that I ordered three weeks ago have not arrived so those will probably be late, or non-existent this year. We have panic-bought a stock of sweeties and some advocaat so we are going to hunker down over the holiday weekend and eat ourselves silly.

Stay safe. See you tomorrow.

Monday 14 December 2020

100 Days - 88 Rain


Anecdote of the day from Saturday: lady comes into the callers office clutching some letters, asks if she can give them to me because she doesn't want to use the postbox outside. She says she has had incidents recently where letters she has sent have arrived wet and she thought they were getting wet in the box. I explained to her that they were most probably getting wet on delivery because, although Royal Mail delivery pouches are ok, when you are out all day pretty much everything gets wet. So she said that how did that explain that she sent several letters all to different places and they were all wet. So I said to her 'It rains everywhere' and smiled sweetly and she went outside to post her letters.

Stay safe. See you tomorrow.

Wednesday 9 December 2020

100 Days - eighty BOOKS seven


'The Most Fun We Ever Had' by Claire Lombardo was picked up at random in the Waterstones BOGOHP thing (I've been working hard, I deserved to buy some books). It is one of those family saga stories, just people and their tangled lives and relationships, marked by somewhat excessive tragedy and drama, as if it would have been dull without sudden death and secret babies. I found the jumping back and forth in time a bit annoying and an unnecessary device. And then she annoyed me more by biological inaccuracy; nice little scene: "There -he exhaled- was Marilyn, in their bed with a daughter on either side. The Tiny Seed was open facedown in her thighs. They were all sleeping soundly. Violet's head resting on Marilyn's ribcage, Marilyn's hand frozen in midworrying of Wendy's hair. His breath caught at the quiet perfection of his family, honey-blond Wendy and dark, serious Violet, tiny bodies in tiny pyjamas, their thumbs in their mouths, their legs - little frog legs- twined together. And Marilyn: the girlish smattering of freckles across her nose, the slight leftward tilt of her head. He noticed, suddenly -a sharpening of vision like Waldo materialising from a sea of striped Vikings- the curve of his wife's belly. He stiffened. It strained against the pale blue knit of her sweater, a swell of maybe eight weeks or ten." (p.141) This is the imagining of a woman who does not have children. You get a 'swell' at eight weeks pregnant, it's the size of a kidney bean! But an enjoyable read leaving you warm and fuzzy.

'My Dark Vanessa' by Kate Elizabeth Russell was the opposite of warm and fuzzy. It recounts a Lolita-ish tale of a relationship between a teacher and a teenage pupil, from the point of view of Vanessa. It shows you quite subtly how grooming operates, how she is made to feel special and important and is convinced that he loves her. The jumping back and forth in time was, in this book, an important device as you see Vanessa looking back on events and can observe the ongoing impact of the relationship on her. He persuades her to takes the blame for the rumours about their relationship and is removed from school. It is unpleasant and insidious, you can see her being manipulated but she does not. As new accusation emerge from the school after she has left she is forced to confront the uncomfortable truth about her abuse. I am not sure that even then she wanted to let go of the idea that he loved her. I did feel that it had some of the qualities of Lolita, the unreliability of the story as if she is more believing of the story she is telling herself than the reality of what is happening; the scene where he rapes her preoccupied me because it was so awful and her experience of it was traumatic, but afterwards she convinced herself it was what she wanted. A very thought provoking book.

In this scene, he is persuading her to come to his house for the first time, you can see the manipulation, that she kind of recognises but refuses to acknowledge: "He stares at me, the shine of his eyes moving back and forth. I gnaw harder at me cheek, thinking maybe he won't be mad at me if I hurt myself enough to ignite a fresh round of tears. 'Listen,' he says, 'I have no expectations. I'd be happy to sit on the couch with you and watch a movie. We don't even have to hold hands if you don't want to, ok? It's important that you never feel coerced. That's the only way I'll be able to live with myself.' 'I don't feel coerced.' 'You don't? Truly?' I shake my head. 'Good, That's good.' He reaches for my hands. 'You're in charge here, Vanessa. You decide what we do.' I wonder if he really believes that. He touched me first, and said he wanted to kiss me, told me he loved me. Every first step was taken by him. I don't feel forced, and I know I have the power to say no, but that isn't the same as being in charge. But maybe he has to believe that. Maybe there's a whole list of things he has to believe." (p.90-91)

Mum sent me Ian McEwan's 'Machines Like Me' and I thoroughly enjoyed it, though did not find it funny which was how she described it. In it Charlie invests his inheritance on a 'synthetic human', and thus a relationship develops between him, Adam (the synth) and Miranda, his upstairs neighbour. McEwan has created an alternative 1980s, with Thatcher and Tony Benn, but with weird advances in technology out of sync with  other aspect of life. Artificial intelligence, and the idea of a computer thinking and learning like a human is separate from the technology that might create a robot that looks like and can pass as a person. Adam is more the latter than the former. He has all sorts of abilities and works hard to learn how to be a person, but others synthetics find human life unbearable and deliberately destroy themselves. In some ways the book is more about the relationship between Charlie and Miranda, and Adam is observing it from the sidelines, writing lovelorn Haiku to Miranda. Adam does not really have much 'personality' and you don't get attached to him as a character. I think this affected how much I thought of him as a person. Charlie and Miranda don't seem to think of him as a person and often treat him as a thing. Miranda has a hidden secret and as the events unfold Adam is forced to make a moral choice that will affect them all. There are a lot of interesting ideas in the story but I think all the historical stuff was not relevant, it felt just a bit of a gimmick. I really enjoyed 'Black Dogs' in 2017, 'Nutshell' in 2018 and 'Cockroach' last December.

I found a review in the Guardian and 'The Liar's Dictionary' by Eley Williams was a delight. Peter Winceworth in victorian times, and Mallory in 2020, are both working on Swansby's New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Winceworth is putting the mountweazels in and Mallory is working to take them out again. It is just a story about words and people who delight in them. The chapters are titled with words for each letter of the alphabet, from 'artful' to 'zugzwang'. I immediately warmed to Winceworth who is bullied by his colleagues and in a surreal scene he finds himself fighting with a pelican in a park. Mallory has to contend with mysterious threatening phone calls and the moral sapping ancient computer she is forced to work with. Here she muses on the hourglass busy icon: "The iconography of the hourglass hinted at a particular progression: that all natural things tend towards death. This was not good for office morale. Waiting for the computer-screen hourglass to empty and refill and empty again generated a feeling not just of futility but also of mortality. I understood why it was the favoured prop whenever 'Father Time' or 'Death' are figured as personae in Western culture, and if Disney's Alice in Wonderland's White Rabbit had been described as crying, 'I'm late, I'm late, I'm late!' while clutching an hourglass rather than a pocket watch, he would have been a far more morbid (iGoogled this on my phone) leporine sigil. Shouldering for room with skulls, burned-down candles and rotten fruit, hourglasses are also one of the recurring tropes of vanitas pieces, those works of art that illustrate the world's physical transience. Crumpled tulips, dry parchment. Trading upon this saturnine thrill of memento mori set-pieces, pirate ships of the seventeenth and eighteenth century bore hourglasses upon their flags alongside the more famous skull insignias. Hourglass iconography is also prevalent on a number of gravestones, often supplemented with mottoes such as Tempus fugit ('Time flies') and Ruit hora ('The hour is flying away')." (p.44-45) Sometimes you just find a book that speaks to you and this one did. It is clever and unusual, quirky with flawed and sympathetic characters, and a cat called Tits, what's not to love. 

Stay safe. See you tomorrow.

Tuesday 8 December 2020

100 Days - Fukuoka day 86


This is the reclining Buddha in Fukuoka, Japan, apparently the largest in the world. Coincidentally Monkey will be going to Fukuoka in ten months time. Although she has not yet done the application Manchester uni has allocated her the available place at Fukuoka Women's University (she would only be turned down if by some catastrophe she failed her second year). We are jump-up-and-down excited as it was her preferred university. It is however the other side of the world and I am having mild anxiety about her being so far away. It has been a very long road from her initial interest in learning Japanese and wanting to visit Japan to the, now, very real fact that she will be spending an entire year there. It feels amazing that she had a plan and, though some parts of it have been very difficult, she has pursued it and is reaping the reward of all her hard work. I anticipate lots of posts about Japan. 

Stay safe. See you tomorrow.

Friday 4 December 2020

100 Days - (eighty five) send in the cavalry

Rose was sorting her backlog into boxes because she was worried about being swamped by an avalanche of packages. I am going to deliver a chunk of them this morning, having cleared Derby's overdue packets yesterday (I mean, not just yesterday, it took three days). Mind you, there will just be another backlog there on Saturday ... because there are more packets than human beings to deliver them. 

However, it is alleged that poor management decisions may be having some impact on the chaos that is overwhelming us. (You didn't hear that from me). They sent in the cavalry yesterday. Managers and random staff from other offices descended on our office to try and regain control of the situation. Lots of stuff left the office, and to be honest not as much came back as I expected. Lee spent a couple of hours sorting three weeks of Langdale packets ready to go out. The customers on Langdale have been getting quite irate, understandably so. Usually I enjoy this time of year. It's just that this year the Christmas pressure period has lasted since March, just without the fun of matching random floating Christmas cards with random empty envelopes. Hey ho, once more into the breach ...

Stay safe. See you tomorrow.

Thursday 3 December 2020

100 Days - hands face space day 84


Please bear in mind, in these days of contact free deliveries, that your postie can no longer shelter in the porch while they wait for you to come to the door, we have to stand out in the rain. Please answer promptly ... and that means you 75 Egerton Road.

Stay safe. See you tomorrow.

Wednesday 2 December 2020

Tuesday 1 December 2020

100 Days - the eighty second day : belated chocolate advent calendar week


Don't ask me what that picture is supposed to be, a series of them came up on Wiki commons when I searched for advent calendar. I wrote about Chocolate Advent Calendar week back in 2014. I should hereby apologise to anyone who's advent calendar has not arrived on time this year. I went out doing overdue packets on Derby walk this morning and there were quite a lot of chocolate advent calendars, so at least some people got them just about on time. Do people mostly use them as intended or do they just open all the doors and scoff the choccy on the first day? We don't bother with advent since we only celebrate in a secular yay-it's-three-days-off-to-scoff-choccy-and-watch-bad-films way. 

Feeling very frustrated and angry at work with the chaos that means so many people are not getting their post and packets. I know I have a tendency to feel like I have to fix things for people and so my brain is overloading looking at all the stuff I cannot fix. Then colleague who shall remain nameless suggested we knock off early this evening where there were several yorks of packets needing to be sorted. I said no. He then proceeded to sit in his coat and wait for half an hour until home time. Having spent the afternoon watching him stand around listlessly between parcel customers while I did all the booking in I was losing patience somewhat. 
Don't forget to breathe.

Stay safe. See you tomorrow.

Saturday 28 November 2020

100 Days - 81st : Super Compost Woman

The doorbell rang at 8.30am and confused me, but there was a nice delivery man with my plum tree. It is a Jubilee plum tree on dwarf rootstock (limiting its growth to about 6-8 feet tall) bought from Chris Bowers back in September. They are a fruit specialist and have lots of good advice on how to choose and care for your trees and bushes. I picked it because it self-pollinates, many varieties need to be around other trees for the fruit to set. It arrived well packaged and bare-rooted; many trees are best planted in the late autumn when they go dormant.
So I rushed up to Hulme Community Garden Centre and came back with 50 litres of compost on my shoulders. 
As we walked home Monkey said it reminded her of this:
I emptied the bottom of the worm bin to get some lovely extra nutritious stuff for the tree:
and then planted it in one of the second-hand pots we bought a few months ago. I mean it just looks like a twig in a pot so you have to use your imagination, but I am excited to watch it grow. I added some mascara armeniacum (armenian grape hyacinth) bulbs to the compost so that we have some flowers in the spring. It is unlikely to fruit next year, though maybe we will get blossom. After the first year I will get another half-barrel and pot it up. I am enjoying making long term plans for the garden.

Stay safe. See you tomorrow.

Thursday 26 November 2020

100 Days - 80th day, BUY NOTHING


The older I get the less I want stuff, and the easier I find it to resist capitalism's demands that I spend my hard earned income on useless crap. The TV is jumping up and down at the moment yelling at people to buy things on Black Friday, which has now become Black Friday Week (because one day is not enough for all the spending they want you to do). I saw a review for a BBC programme, The Truth About Amazon, supposedly investigating Amazon and examining their bad practices, but on closer examination it seems to be more about how to beat them at their own game. Amazon is busy fucking over the planet and killing off independent retailers. Visit here and see how Jeff Bezos's wealth really compares to normal people. It's mind boggling. Don't give him your money. Visit here and see how people are standing up to Bezos. The Guardian lifestyle pages offer advice on how to spend your money more ethically. People tell themselves it doesn't make any difference where they shop, but when you look around for presents for your family this year think about finding small and local businesses to patronise. Maybe try out and support your local independent bookshop. Guardian also offers a guide to avoiding Amazon shopping. Traidcraft is focussing on getting people to consider the source of the things they buy, and go to The Story Off Stuff to pledge to change the way you think when you buy stuff. But you know, mainly there is more to life than buying things. Buy nothing on Buy Nothing Day, and then try it again the day after. you'd be surprised how quickly it becomes a habit.

Stay safe. See you tomorrow.

Sunday 22 November 2020

100 Days - 79th that statue


So this statue was put up to honour Mary Wollstonecraft (who's book, Vindication of the Rights of Woman, is waiting somewhere on my shelves). First it was just reported on, then there was much heated debate (I do go places other than The Guardian for news, sometimes). I tended to agree with the argument about how men are not 'honoured' with statues of naked men, and then in swoops Mona Eltahawy (who came to the literature festival last year) and points out why the white middle class feminists are missing the point, as usual:

“As far as I know, she’s more or less the shape we’d all like to be,” Hambling said. 
And that was a “we” too far for me. Who the fuck is “we” and who the fuck is the “every” in that “everywoman” and why the fuck is she young and white?

Saturday 21 November 2020

100 Days - Knock Knock (who's there) (eight and seventy)

I knock on people's doors for a living. Been doing it for nigh on eighteen years now. I received no training for this important skill, just learned my own techniques as I went along. After Mrs Kelly complained at me that her husband was in and did not hear me I upped my game. I have regularly been accused of knocking like the police. Once I was accused of knocking like the debt collectors, but I think that said more about the customer than about my knocking. A couple of times I have been complained at for startling people,  and then the other week a complaint for knocking too loud and disturbing a baby (my ESP was turned off at the time and I didn't notice there was a baby in the house). Yesterday I was complained at for (just potentially mind you) denting someone's new front door with my bionic knuckles. Most people just say thank you when you arrive on their doorstep on a cold and rainy November afternoon but whatever. 

Stay safe. See you tomorrow.

Thursday 19 November 2020

100 Days - Long term projects (day 77)

 I wrote about pistachios way back at Day 2 and I am pleased to say I found a use for the buckets of shells that we have accumulated over the year.
When we moved to Prestage Street I started making a pouffe out of random left over yarn. Like many projects it was abandoned in favour of more interesting things.
At some point I searched for suggestion for what to do with the pistachio shells and came across the idea to use them like beanbag filling.
They are covered in salt so I washed them in a big tub and then dried them in the yard (this is just one of four batches):
and then sewed some fabric bags to try and keep them in shape (time will tell how this works out):
Last night I finally put the whole thing together. The top and sides were one piece then a separate circle for the base. I bought a thick piece of foam to add on the top after Toby commented that it would be a bit lumpy (from Manchester Foam who will cut any thickness to any size for you). By the bins a month or two ago I found some abandoned kitchen units and removed one of the back pieces of hardboard and cut a circle to make a solid base. Then I crocheted on the circle base with double thickness yarn. It weights a ton but is pretty comfy. It's only taken me two years to finish.
And sometimes we do quick projects. Monkey picked up a set of the cutest cookie cutters when we went to Ikea recently. Using this BBC Mary Berry recipe we rustled up some moose cookies:
Stay safe. See you tomorrow.