Wednesday, 31 July 2013

On Maintaining a Husband ... A Guide

AS we have been celebrating our wedding anniversary at Quirky Kook Towers this week, I thought I would dish out some invaluable advice to would-be brides on how to maintain a husband with the minimum of fuss and bother.


(Inclusive For All Models And Years of Manufacture)

1. Don't start sentences with the words: "I think we...."
    Preface everything and anything from where to go on holiday through how many children to have to what to have for tea with: "Don't you think we." ........ Then tell him what he thinks.

2. Don't complain about his cooking...
3. Or his DIY skills..

4. Or his driving ...

5. OR his sex technique.

6. Basically, don't complain about anything. Ever.

7. Learn how to smile when you're crying inside (with laughter or despair) to deal with numbers 2 to 6.

8. Always be suitably appreciative of his gifts.
    Even for the ones in your least favourite style, colour, shape, size or fit (which will be most of them). And definitely for the ones when he repeatedly reads the instruction manual, out loud and very slowly

9. Even if you have, at some point, decorated a room, mended a washing machine, changed a fuse, tiled a bathroom or changed a tyre (delete as applicable). Do not in any way imply you can do it better, faster, quieter, with less mess and definitely less swearing when he does it.

9. Expect to have to watch sport.

10. Be aware that when the great Douglas Adams wrote: "Time is an illusion, lunchtime doubly so" he inexplicably forgot to add that Man Time is in a dimension all of its own. But then, he was a man. *tuts*

11. Never question why you have to seated, smiling and expectant when he cooks for you, but it's apparently perfectly acceptable for him to be ten minutes late to the table, covered in oil and asking: "Is that it?" when you cook for him.

And last, but in no way, least, remember:

12. You should NEVER ask him: "Is that it?" .... EVER. Trust me on this one.

Disclaimer: This blog post does not accept any blame, responsibility or liability for any divorce caused, contributed to or directly related to this blog post. So there.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Soundtrack To My Wedding ...

On Friday July 29th 2005 I married The Man. It was not a typically traditional wedding in many ways and probably an event that consisted too much of stable doors and bolting horses for wedding purists.

Four years after The Man asked me to marry him (at the birth of our daughter, LITERALLY the birth of our daughter), I  We decided to get married. Serendipity provided a date that co-incided with the eve of that year's local music festival, the inception of which had been the catalyst for our very first meeting in 1991 (in the darkened backroom of a local pub surrounded by overly-sweaty, half-naked men since you're asking). AND despite it taking another nine years after that first meeting to the First Kiss (in a car-park, in the rain.)

Romance. Yorkshire style. *rolls eyes*

Anyway, it took three months to arrange our wedding which wasn't an extravagant affair by many standards. My wedding dress was a length of sari silk worn sarong style, a white beaded basque from eBay and stars in my hair. Total cost? Seventy quid. I, and my three daughters, carried flowers that the local greengrocer refused to charge me for.

The Man meanwhile in search of a wedding suit came back with a guitar and a can of deodorant. He was eventually wrestled into a shirt (cream, silk and mine) and trousers (bespoke, Italian *rolls eyes*) in time for the wedding.

I walked down the aisle, if aisle it is in a registry office, to Led Zeppelin's "What is and What Should Never Be." 

Not the first song that springs to mind for a walk down the aisle admittedly.

When we were officially what we had already been for several years, we left the room again as Mr and Mrs to the equally untraditional

The bit in between still remains slightly hazy but we got a certificate for it so we must have done it right.

Then, like Elvis, we exited the building to be greeted by people throwing things at us, our minuscule guest list having been swollen by my fellow school gate mums offering either support or sympathy via the medium of confetti.

Then we went to pub. Obviously.

Our first dance was, eventually,  to ...

.. which was unexpected, barefoot, in a park, in front of a pair of thousand watt speakers and three other people about midnight.

Like you do.

*turns volume up to 11*

What were your wedding songs?

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Silent Sunday ...

The School Reunion ...

School-days were probably some of the best days of our lives. But the kind of best days it would be better not to remember all that often, so when you get an invite to a school reunion  it can be a bit of a trauma. To go or not to go? That is the thing.

A school reunion is an unrivalled opportunity to stand beside and before your peers to be measured.  They might not admit they're doing it, you might not admit to yourself that you too are doing it back, but everybody does it and we all know we're doing it. Who's the most successful? The richest? The thinnest? The widest? The youngest looking? The most raddled? Addled? Divorced? Dessicated? Surprisingly gay? Who got what from the great menu of life?

But generally in my experience after the first five minutes everybody also thinks: "Sod that for a game of one-up-manship, let's get pissed."

But then I did go to a comprehensive. In Yorkshire.

I left school 30 years ago so there's been several reunions of one kind or another. The first school reunion I went to was in the late '90s, the twins were four years old, I was going through other traumas and thought one more wouldn't break me. So I went; armed with photos of the twins, a quavering smile of trepidation and a complete inability to recognise anyone at all.

The school reunion stood around  a bit, looked at each other a bit, shuffled their feet a bit and then, like the proper sensible grown ups we had become got pissed and went on to a nightclub.

There was another school reunion not long after The Boy was born five or six years ago.This time I met up with a good school-friend (one of those you start with the same point you left off at, however long the gap) before we went.

We were already mildly hammered when we got to the reunion itself and proceeded to get more so when we arrived. We did a lot of standing outside the venue chain-smoking and making the occasional vodka run to the bar but as everyone else was doing the same, much of the actual reunion-ing was in the car-park.Just behind the bike sheds.

Nothing changes.

This week the arrival from Antipodean shores of a former schoolmate induced another reunion, less formal, in a pub, but still as inexplicably nerve-racking to attend. And yet, once again, time slipped a bit because a reunion is just what it says, a re - union, a joining together again of people and experiences shared and it wasn't long before there was the sound of ice breaking....

Glasses of wine and pints of ice, school reunions for the mature woman.
....Though that was obviously due to the weather and NOT AT ALL to do with us being Ladies of a Certain Age. Uh no, not at all.


Tuesday, 23 July 2013

There's a Hole in my Bucket List ....

The busy term-time diary of do this, do that, be there, when and why is done and dusted for another year and the long summer school holidays stretch ahead of us temptingly empty and ready to fill with fun, games and real wild times.

Or not.

I asked The Tween what she would like to do over the holidays, she compiled a list. It read:

1. Do nothing
2. Be alone.
3. Go shopping with *insert best friend's name* at *insert name of local shopping centre* ALONE

So that looks like fun for all the family. Not.

I asked the TeenTwins if there was anything in particular that they would like to do over the holidays and the pair of them rolled their eyes with an impressive twin synchronicity. They have WORK to do in preparation for Year 13, Important Work that will forbid any and all activities of a family nature because they will be so very, very busy. 

Not too busy to go out with their friends at the drop of a hat though. Apparently.

*watches them disappear out of the door AGAIN.*

And so I asked The Boy and he too made a list, his read:

1. Eat fish and chips.
2. Build the electric railway.
3. Go to the train station.

Which might, if we take our time eating the fish and chips, fill up a day. Though of course he wants to the same thing. Every. Single. Day.

The family bucket list definitely had a hole in it so I made a bucket list of my own:

1. Go swimming
2. Have a couple of days away
3. Go to a zoo.
4. Create something (and not just a mess)
5. Visit a few art exhibitions
6. Spend a day in York
7. Go to the cinema
8. Spend a day doing absolutely nothing at all but watching videos and eating ice-cream.
9. Go pleasure shopping (which is nothing like normal shopping and involves trying on things you wouldn't be seen dead in and wondering whether you really need a 6ft tall furry penguin)

And then I realised tackling my bucket list would be a MUCH more enjoyable if I didn't have to cart four moaning, groaning and complaining children behind me; two of  whom want to be elsewhere, one who wants to be anywhere else and one would much rather be watching trains, preferably whilst eating chips.

*Buys a couple of steam train DVDs and puts the fish and chip shop on speed-dial*


Disclaimer: I have not been sponsored or paid to mention the Wakefield Music Collective's Clarence Park Festival. As if. *rolls eyes* 
But I did anyway because of this and that.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Silent Sunday ...

The Best Wedding Present Ever ...

At the end of this month eight years ago I married The Man of my dreams.

(That I had already supposedly married the man of my dreams and discovered he was the stuff of nightmare within 24 hours of having the ring put on my finger, I will quickly gloss over. I do believe though, that every woman should marry Totally-The-Wrong-Man at least once because it gives perspective if nothing else. And as my first marriage also gave me the TeenTwins, I can't even bring myself to regret it much.)


During my first marriage I learned a couple of important lessons. One was never say yes to making a cricket tea and the second was never to rush into marriage again. It took four years from The Right Man asking me to marry him in the delivery room of the local hospital after I had given birth to our daughter before we got round to actually getting married.

And after the wedding bit and the champagne bit and the dancing barefoot to AC/DC in the park bit, I found amid the wedding paraphernalia in our honeymoon hotel room a gift from TeenTwin1, then nine years old.

It was and is a book of  utterly invaluable advice and guidance on marriage. It's one of the most precious books I own and definitely one of the most wise.

Nobody knows what she had against boats, but we didn't go on one just in case.

But my favourite part is her idea of love:

Which reads: 

"Love is the main ingrediant for a happy cheerfull marriage. you need lots of this to have a sucsessful marriage. Your husband must also make love and buy you chocs as well and also lots of  flowers and roses."

And do you know, she's not far wrong.

Friday, 12 July 2013

The Harlot's* Shuffle ....

Last week I braved the trauma that is listening to five consecutive songs with my iPod on shuffle. And then I blogged about it, like you do. This week, I'm doing it again ....

My iPod is an old friend, one of those friends that holds secrets safe. Put the iPod on shuffle in public though, and suddenly it becomes that friend that blabs every dirty little secret it keeps while exhibiting an uncanny ability to assess which song of the several thousand it hoards that will be the most embarrassing.

I have, over the years, perfected an almost balletic Skip Button Swoop but still it's hard to carry off when you're curled up on the floor writhing in embarrassment.

This week ....

1: Jean Jacques Burnel: Euroman.
The bassist from The Stranglers and from his first solo album the utterly glorious "Euroman Cometh."

I loved The Stranglers. When I was 13 I kissed the boy next door because he let me tape his Rattus Norvegicus LP. It was sloppy, ill thought out and I didn't want to ever do it again but the album was bloody brilliant. Jean Jacques released "Euroman Cometh" in 1979. It famously features an entire track that is just a Triumph Bonneville motorbike revving up, and throbbing a bit. ACE.

2. I Should Have Known; The Foo Fighters.

It WAS only a matter of time before The Foo Fighters appeared in my iPod journeys because I love The Foo Fighters with a girlish enthusiasm which is entirely unbecoming in a 48 year old woman.
Let's just say when I was 12 years old my dad was not impressed to find me kissing the TV screen when The Police were on Top of the Pops. I learnt my lesson, now nobody ever finds me kissing a screen but when the Foo Fighters are on it doesn't mean I don't.
*fetches the Mr Sheen.*

3. The Rose: Bette Midler.

A song to be sung loud, hard, with wine enthusiasm in full throttle and your arms wrapped around the people you love. Or curled up in a ball on the floor, sobbing. Either will do.

Bette Midler is one of my heroes; funny, gorgeous and extraordinarily talented. The Rose is not just a song, it's the theme tune to an entire movie roughly based on the life of another of my heroes Janis Joplin. It's one of my favourite movies of all time, it makes me laugh, it makes me cry, it makes me shimmy and I only ever watch it when no-one is around. Which is probably for the best.

4. Fatalite: Trust

Trust were a French rock band from the late 70s and early 80s. I bought this single in Arles, France, on a school trip and I have it still, magically transported from vinyl through the magic of technology (and swearing) to the iPod. And no, I have no idea what they're singing about *headbangs anyway*

5. Pink: So What

And, so what? I like Pink and it is to my everlasting regret that I've not been dumped by anyone since this was released in 2008 *looks accusingly at husband.*
One of the best "Fuck You" songs ever, and yes that is a real genre. Probably.

Next week, will Kenny Rogers finally rear his silver-haired head? *nibbles nails*

*Not an actual Harlot.

We're Jammin' .. Simple Strawberry Jam Recipe

I used to think that jam-making required some specialist arcane knowledge only divined through regular attendance at barn dances and the WI. And even more specialised equipment. But upon gaining an allotment a couple of years ago, wherein already lay an extensive strawberry patch, I have discovered that even I can knock together a strawberry jam that has been declared, by my own family at least, as The Best Strawberry Jam In The World Ever AND I didn't even have to bribe them ....

The Best Strawberry Jam In The World Ever


Homemade Strawberry Jam

1kg/2lb 3oz of strawberries (Obviously)
1kg/2lb 3oz sugar (either granulated or caster, doesn't matter)
Juice of half a lemon
Knob of butter

(With such an easy recipe, it's easy to scale up or scale down according to how many strawberries you have. If you are scaling up though, you're going to need a bloody big pan)

Monday, 8 July 2013

Just a Suggestion ...

Today the temperature reached about 26 degrees in Wakefield and it was hot, uncomfortably so at times. The temperature isn't predicted to drop much lower for the rest of this week and might even reach the giddy heats of 29 degrees. After what has seemed like more than our fair share of winter, a barely sprung spring and many, many dull overcast days, I SHOULD be celebrating the sunshine.

And I would be celebrating it if I didn't feel like Torquemada as I wave The Tween off to The Academy at 7.30 in the morning, just as the heat starts to crack the cobbles* Because The Academy in their wisdom have a strict uniform policy, so strict that on the very hottest days it DOES amount to torture.

First day at The Academy
The Academy's uniform policy requires all the girls to wear 40 denier black opaque tights, a buttoned-up-to-the-collar white blouse complete with clip-on (for health and safety reasons *rolls eyes*) tie and a blazer, polyester and black. There is the excitement of choice in wearing either a pencil or pleated skirt, polyester and black, or trousers, also polyester and black. Shoes should be flat and, you guessed it, black. There's just one concession in warmer weather and that's the option to leave off the jumper. Also black.

So today my 11-year-old daughter left for school, a 30 minute walk away, dressed almost entirely in black man-made fibres carrying two heavy bags of books and PE kit because The Academy, where "children come first," don't think those children can be trusted to have lockers.

They don't trust them to turn up in the uniform either, and a couple of teachers stand at the gates checking each pupil over as they arrive with an increasing scale of alphabetically-numerically listed punishments unfolding like a motorway network in front of transgressors so even the possibility of turning up be-sandeled and de-blazered and hoping no-one notices is instantly thwarted.

And this is wrong. This is all kinds of wrong. This is the wrongest wrong that has ever been wronged since the first ever wrong. It. Is. Wrong.

At no point has anyone ever proved that the wearing of a uniform improves anything other than the sales figures of uniform manufacturers. And no one has ever done a study on whether par-boiling pupils increases the exam pass rate, but soon enough there'll be an investigation into the increasing incidence of Thrush among schoolgirls every summer. 

Forty. Denier. Tights. That's all I'm saying.

Would it be so subversive, an erosion of The Academy's educational aspirations to ...oh.. I don't know ... introduce A SUMMER UNIFORM? 

Wearing weather-appropriate clothing? A radical thought I know but one that has been trailed extensively and for-fucking-ever by anybody with any common sense at all. And as it would also mean the official uniform supplier selling even more official uniform at inflated prices I'm surprised The Academy hasn't thought of it already. 


*We don't really have cobbles even though it is Yorkshire. The council sold them off years ago. *Tuts*

Sunday, 7 July 2013

I'm A BeeBeliever ..

This week for Silent Sunday, I published a picture of a bee ... or a wasp, I'm no expert but it was definitely stripy, buzzy and hanging around a flower ... and I got some lovely comments from other bloggers who admitted to having a bit of a thing about taking their own bee photos and I thought: "Hoorah, it's not just me."

Because *stands up and says it loud and proud* : "I am A Quirky Kook and I'm a BeeBeliever" .... which is a bit like being a Belieber, but doesn't involve an annoying little insect. Oh.

Anyway, over the past couple of years I have taken many, many, many pictures of bees (or wasps) and, frankly, I have no idea why. In pursuit of this passion though I have planted bee attracting plants in the garden and allotment - lavender, thyme, mint, sunflowers, godetia, salvia, verbena, hollyhocks, marigolds, bramble plants and an apple tree -to entice them in front of the lens.

I take photos on my phone camera as it's what I usually have in my back pocket when I'm knee deep in weeding. It was the shots that I got on my old Defy that convinced me when I upgraded to stick with Motorola so now I use a Razr.

So for the first time, collected together, I would like to introduce my gallery of bees (and some wasps) *bows*

And this is my favourite bee picture which was, ironically, one of the first I ever took two years ago.

"You just put your head in and go wibble, wibble wibble"
 BeeBelievers Unite !

Disclaimer: I have not been asked by either Motorola, Justin Bieber or any bees to mention them in this post but what of it, I did anyway.

Silent Sunday ...

Friday, 5 July 2013

Don't Put Your Daughter on the Stage, Mrs Hawkins ...

Tonight, this night, right now is the opening night of the theatrically inclined TeenTwin2's school production of "Oliver" at the city theatre and excitement has been building all week. And it's not just excitement that's building, there are rival developments arising in anticipation, tension, worry, hysteria and emotional tears.

And that's just me.

Thing is, I live in a family of performers of one sort of another. The Man does his music thing, sometimes to 40 people in a pub, sometimes to a couple of thousand South Americans. Like you do, when you're a musician. 

And both theTeenTwins and the Tween have "walked the boards".... even if the Tween's was more of a sulky stomp. Oh. and now The Boy, aged seven, is apparently trying to rehearse a troop of classmates through "Gangnam Style" for the school's annual Talent Show. Er.


Whether my nearest and dearest are in Guatemala performing to thousands, at a Saturday morning piano recital in a gym, in a talent show or performing with a full band at both their 13th AND 17th birthday parties *rolls eyes*, I'm ALWAYS the sweaty lump of traumatised cabbage in the corner worrying.

I worry that something, anything or everything will go wrong. I worry it won't meet their expectations.  I worry they'll be disappointed. Or hurt. Or upset. Or let down. Or embarrassed. I worry they won't come out intact or, in the case of some The Man's more exotic tours, even alive.

I worry. And then I worry some more. Just in case.

Last night was the Oliver technical and dress rehearsal: TeenTwin2 , after leaving home at 7.45am, returned at 10.30 at night with the news that one member of the cast had been sent to hospital, another had been kicked out and meanwhile everybody else forgot their lines, their moves, their entrances, their exits and, in extreme circumstances, their own names.

I reassured the TeenTwin with old saying: "Bad dress rehearsal, good show" and, smiling brightly, there was absolutely no need for her to worry. At all.

Because I'll be doing it for her.


Wednesday, 3 July 2013

The Harlot's* Shuffle ...

Most nights I listen to music and these days I do it via my aged iPod Classic upon which I have, over the years assiduously, diligently and with carefully considered forethought collected, compiled and hoarded a selection of music.

On it are my favourite bands (full discography of each obvs); many, many odd individual songs that mean so much they're stitched into my veins regardless of their provenance; several un-issued releases from Bands-I-Have-Known; and songs I have been known to dance to.

There are tracks that are there simply because they're memories captured, sparking a spiral fall into another place and another time. And there are tracks that I've downloaded because a child needs it, wants it and can't live without it. As if that's a reason. *Rolls eyes*.

Oh, and then there's some right sh*t that may, or may not, have been downloaded under the influence of wine-related enthusiasm. *Looks shifty*

I mostly access this box of musical delights through the shuffle option. Creating one's own compilation album, every night, all night? There's even rubbish on there I don't WANT to listen to like on a proper compilation album.... iTunes shuffle (or at least my iTunes shuffle) is right up there with those behemoths of worst compilation albums ever like Ronco and K-Tel. It's living dangerously, but I love it.

Though it can make it awkward when we have visitors. There are only SO many ways that you can explain your reasons for having The Stripper blaring out at lunchtime and none of them (five, if you were wondering) are any good. I did download it for a friend. What of it? ....  The man tiling the kitchen next door didn't looked convinced either. Note to self, keep the windows shut whatever the weather.

So take your musical appreciation by the hand and join me on a journey through the next five tracks on my iTunes shuffle ....

First up, Kate Bush "Moving" and the first track off her album "The Kick Inside." That's cool, I can live with that despite many years of being told I look like Kate Bush. I do not look like Kate Bush. Kate Bush, sometimes, might look like me. *tuts*

Number 2: "The Battle of Evermore" by Led Zeppelin. Also cool, I love Led Zeppelin. I walked down the aisle to What Is And What Should Never Be, like you do. Beats the hell out of a bit of Bach.

3. Robbie Williams: "Grace" I love Robbie Williams. True fact hard with knobs on. That I once interviewed Take That in the very early afternoon-gigs-in-nightclubs-for-schoolkids part of their career and didn't marry him immediately occasionally depresses me.. *sad Cougar face*

4. Jospeh and Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, "Poor, Poor Joseph": At no point do I remember dowloading the soundtrack to Joseph. And I have absolutely NO interest in Donny Osmond, at all. Uh no, not me. Oh alright then, maybe just a little bit..

If you were thinking of having a sing-a-long with the family on a lengthy car journey though, you can't go wrong with a bit of Joseph,  *taps side of nose* *says no more*

Number 5. Tom Jones: "Lord Help The Poor and Needy" I love Tom Jones even more than I love Robbie Williams. When this happened my squeals could be heard by nesting penguins in the Antarctic. And at a party a long time ago a couple of guys once mocked my love of Tom Jones, they laughed at him and me. And they covered a newly bought Tom Jones CD with tomato sauce. Then they stuck it to a kitchen cupboard and they laughed again. A lot.

Extracting my own peculiar revenge I eventually married one of those guys and have accompanied our 14 year relationship since with regular, comprehensive and inexhaustible amounts of Tom Jones....


Things we have learned on this week's iPod journey: Revenge is a a dish best eaten not just cold but while nicking half the duvet and with Tom Jones on repeat. *nods*

Next week, another five random tracks from my iPod. What's on yours?

*Not an actual harlot.
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