Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Summer Washout

Here is a poem I have written to enter Fawzan's competition which I have found out about from reading all the other blogs in our disparate but talented circle of blogging poets!
If on this summer evening
The rain begins to fall
Just look around your garden
The plants are growing tall
The diamond drops on velvet leaf
Adorn the branches of the tree
The spider's web shines with the dew
He's spun his own lace filigree
Just one thing missing, the clouds a-glower
But there's its face in the tall sunflower
Patience Strong, eat your heart out!

DIY Bodged Jobs

I am having great difficulty in thinking of things to write about in this blog as my kids are now old enough to knock about with their friends during the summer holidays so they are no source of inspiration, and they just come in when they want something to eat. So Meditation on a Tin of Spaghetti Hoops? I have just been outside for the dreaded weed when my eyes alighted on our back windows, or rather the corner of the window. We have had the front windows double glazed but rather in the manner of a film set for a Western it's all a facade and the rest of the house is slowly crumbling. The back windows are the original thirties windows and when they were actually hollow, because we didn't have enough money to do anything about it, Mark decided to take action and concreted the corner of the window. So yes, we have a concrete window. Interestingly ( I'll just break with the banal for a moment,)the plaster in our ceiling has a lattice of crack marks on it which was caused by the bombing in the war. If you enlarge the picture above you will see the cracks around the light fitting. (What a great facility that is, I'm always doing it) Hull was heavily bombed in the war, and they went for the docks, but the earth tremors it caused reached where I live and made the house shake enough to cause the ceiling damage.
More plaster issues are illustrated by the pic above. Once we were asleep and suddenly there was an almighty whoosh which made us sit bolt uptight in our beds. What had happened was that a whole load of plaster had fallen out of the window bay leaving a gaping chasm. I don't know whether the bombing in the war had slightly loosened this plaster so that it was gradually coming apart all these years so that the slightest thing would cause the avalanche (like the flutter of a butterfly's wings may eventually cause a hurricane on the other side of the world, but in timescale),maybe the lads coming home from the pub outside as it was a Saturday night. We lived with the chasm for a year (notice my attempts to prettify our bedroom with the jewelly light and rose curtains, but ultimately a futile gesture when there is a gaping hole in the ceiling) but the plasterer in our house was on strike so it was up to me to fix some boards over the hole, paint and polyfill. Quite a dangerous activity as I was on a step ladder and we didn't have double glazing at the time.
I can't even think of a concluding line to tie up this essay in banality. How banal is that?

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

My Kitchen Cupboard

I was going to do an art installation 'Pile of shoes by the door' because I think you could told a lot about us by our shoes
but it looks really messy and doesn't give a good impression. We do have a 'shoe box' but it never gets used.
So instead our kitchen cupboard full of light things. I say light things because my husband put the cupboard up and I put a load of tins in it and the whole thing fell down once narrowly missing me, so I keep the tins in a sturdy cupboard elsewhere.
I am a believer in vitamins and always have a mega 500g vitamin C (as an insurance or rather a talisman against the smoking). Next to the C are capsules of fish oils which are supposed to improve kids intelligence and have been heavily promoted recently. They do taste foul and you can't even disguise them in drinks as they form a little fish oil slick on the top of the drink so these have been abandoned, but I did make Jack have one a day throughout his SATs and he did quite well, though whether it means anything I don't know, and is hardly a scientific experiment. The one thing they are really good for is exzema, which Jack has on his legs, and after a few days of capsules the skin on his legs improves dramatically.
Curry and chilli powder and Italien herbs which mean the culinary world is my oyster. Flour for Yorkshire Puddings, and, when the kids were smaller to make play dough with. I used to bring this out whenever they had friends round, and put some oil in it for the texture, though the super deluxe version contains cream of tartare (I actually went out and bought this)and which feels soft and satiny to the touch. I also bought some food colouring to bring the visual experience of the dough in line with the tactile.
Behind the drinking chocolate is my packet of green tea which has the highest antioxidant content of any drink and is also a talisman against the smoking. I have many drinks of this throughout the day and leave the teabag in for maximum absorption but the drink does have the effect of stewed grass and I have caught my kids friends looking at it and me a bit funnily, especially the ones who have seen my daughter eating chives.
Packet of Ginger Nuts at the back as Mark is partial to a Ginger Nut with his tea. Sometimes if he is especially lucky I take out the brown box on the right and he gets a chocolate cake.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

Holidays in Dorset

Two years ago we went to Dorset, we always go down South for our hols as the weather is always better.

At the campsite we were told about Lulworth Cove, which is one of the most delightful places I have ever visited. It is a horse shoe shaped cove, surrounded by panoramic grassy cliffs, with just enough beach and a tide which never seems to go out. We bought a blow-up ring from one of the little souvenir shops of the way down for £3, which did us proud throughout the holiday for sailing on, using as a trawler to collect the scallop shells, lounging about on or even using as a prop for looking through on the photos, though the kids did cadge a go on a much covetted dinghy in exchange for us watching someone's belongings on the beach while they went on the motorboat.

This coastal scenery rivals anywhere in the world, but the only drawback with the beach experience is that the water is icy cold. I notice that lots of people were wearing special wetsuits(probably the locals) but my kids stayed in the water all day and only started shivering when they came out, maybe because they had time to think about it. The secret of swimming in an English sea is just take the plunge, don't wade in gradually as you will soon give up.
The coast is called the Jurassic Coast on account of all the fossils to be found there, and indeed in the cove were a succession of little islets of stones sticking out of the bay like the humps of some prehistoric Dorset Nessie, which all the kids (including my own) clambered about on.
After drying off we went for a walk up to see Durdle Door, which is a huge natural stone arch leaning out into the sea, one of nature's cathedrals. Then my kids found a hill on which to roll all the way down until we were back in Lulworth again.
Sitting on a rock was an ancient hippy (always worth some of your time and attention, these) who was painting the scallop shells which he had obviously found on the beach. He had an art gallery of shells on his rock which everyone was admiring, done in a pointillistic way, as obviously you can't fit much on a shell and he was painting all manner of things. We decided to have a go and started a scallop shell workshop on the campsite which many of the site kids joined in. Quite a good idea for a personalised souvenir to take home to your friends and family. We dried the shells round the front of our tent and had passersby stopping and admiring.
We went to the local hardware shop and got some proper paint, though the paintbrushes weren't up to much, and we couldn't achieve the pointillistic effect. The most successful shells were the ones which looked like peacocks tails, as obviously you have a headstart with this if you are painting on a scallop shell as it is a peacock tail shape. We spent a lot of time picking bits of grass off our objet d'arts though, which I bet doesn't happen in many art galleries.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Our Stained Glass Window

I have taken a picture of our stained glass window because I notice that Frances did one, though only yesterday, but she seems to have moved on very quickly to lots of other things, probably because all has gone quiet at her house, for the moment.
First pic, rotty, staffie stand off (behind the cars). Notice shaky camera work as I didn't want them to see me taking the pic. I'm going to have to improve my urban-picture taking technique.
Second pic, stained glass window. Quite nice corner of our house this, almost churchified with the tea light candle holder and the stained glass window. Also almost conservatory effect with the upper window which was customised when the house was built and is the genuine 30s article, the only one in the street. Makes this room lovely and light.
It is quite unusual to have a stained glass window on the side of the house like this, but in fact it isn't a real one but is made out of a special plastic sheet which you can put over the window. We did this to hide the wall and guttering outside, but it does resemble the genuine article.
While we are on the subject, I thought I would include more of my stained glass things. Third pic, our Indian light, like a lantern. Fourth pic some coloured glass bottles which I used to collect, and which I think make quite an inspiring assemblage, being so colourful and positioned in such a positive way, starting small and growing tall. Fifth pic, stained glass effect on our new front door. And I notice the pattern is very much like the one on Frances' window!

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Gritty Urban pics (cont)

This is meant to be the second part of today's posting, as I needed two posts to put my pictures in, but I've done it the wrong way round, as I have forgotten how blogs work.

First two pics show the attempts people make to improve their environment. Home-made fence hangings, actually there were quite a lot of these but due to the large fortress-like fence I couldn't get them all in. A garden full of sunflowers.

Third picture is Rock City which someone has had the foresight to build as a macho aspirational place which will hopefully help keep the lads off the streets. 'Climbing mountains' could also function as an inspiring metaphor for improving the quality of your life. The picture that someone has painted on the front is also very striking, hinting at the idea of walking off into the sunset.

Fourth shows an exotic palm tree, which is rather incongruous in its surroundings. I also took at picture of a stand -off between a rotty(Rottweiler) and a staffie (Staffordshire Bull Terrier) as they were being taken for walks, but very surrepticiously as I had already been questioned by someone and I didn't fancy being questioned by this lot. However, my husband forgot to download the pics into the computer and isn't in the mood to download anymore! I still can't do this part.

Fifth pic, on a previous posting I was speculating that someone in Hull had a lion in their garden, (rather in the manner of lions at the entrance to stately homes) due to the extreme size of the garden ornaments sold, and here it is.

Some more gritty urban pics

Much as I love this city of mine, even I have to admit that some of it is a little on the gritty side.

Today me and Scamp went for a walk to Hawthorn Ave, which is also called 'Little Beirut' on account of the mass fights which unaccountably break out over trival issues. Sometimes I have seen a load of police cars at the end of the street, sent there to break up the fight. Second pic you will see the barbed wire at the beginning of the street, which is apposite to the the street's nickname, but is actually put there by somebody to protect his property.

Somewhere near here is the shop I go to to buy the filters for my cyclone vacuum cleaner (they say it doesn't bags, which is true, but you spend a fortune on the filters) with the large wads of cash that are required. You can tell the blokes in baseball hats are up to no good as they hang around the phone booths, and I always get worried about the amount of money I am carrying. If you look closely at the first pic you will see someone has written 'Renton', who is the hero of 'Trainspotting',on the right, which just confirms me in my suspicions of what goes on in the area. Though whoever wrote that has, I feel, misinterpreted the message of the film, which was actually anti-drugs. But maybe film criticism isn't their strong point.

But, as always, there are people who make an effort to change their surroundings for the better.
There are people who put little glass and crystal displays in their window, and people who put train shapes in bricks on the side of their houses.

Actually taking pictures like this of streets like this is quite a patronising activity as I was reminded when I took a picture of a mural that somebody had painted in the local school. I was approached by a lady who asked what I was doing and I said I was taking pictures for a blog and she said that she worked at the school, and how everyone tried very hard to make it a nice environment for the kids and what a good school it was. I could tell she was looking at me to try and work out my motives for taking the picture but in the end she seemed satisfied. I think it may have been because I was wearing my scruffy trainers and anorak for dog walking and she probably thought I lived round there.

Monday, 20 August 2007

The beauty of churches

I have been thinking about this subject since seeing the picture Sweet Irene did (Sweet Wood Talking) of the silver ball with the stained glass windows reflected in it. I thought this was beautiful, and reminded me of Christmas, maybe the reflection you would see on a silver ball on a Christmas tree in a Church. The picture, with its digital reworking, also had rather a contemporary feel, which somehow brought the stained glass windows (an ancient religious artform)up to date. The windows refected in the silver bauble are, for me, where the spiritual meets the sensuous side to the festival.

I know that Sweet Irene likes churches, and so do I, though I am not religious, so I hope what I'm going to say will offend anyone with cherished religious beliefs. I like the beauty of churches and one of my favourite moments of the year is when we attend the carol service at our local church on Christmas Eve. This never fails to send shivers down the back of my neck.

I like the way you see neighbours and people you know all venturing out onto the cold streets, one or two at first, then a few more as you go along, and then all joining together through the doors of the church, like so many streams joining together to make a river. Not quite the sea of faith, as most of them, including us, only go once a year, but still there is something drawing us in. I like the symbolism of the church, the spire reaching for the sky, the columns and arches inside also trying to reach upwards beyond the purely mundane to the sky blue ceiling. I like the alter with the cross and candles polished to a sparkle by the ladies who also dress the church with holly and greenery tied with a red ribbon. I always think these are nature's winter colours like holly with its red berries, or the robin, with its red breast a vibrant challenge to the grey bleakness of mid winter. Also seen are the sprigs of mistletoe, which hark back to the ancient pre-Christian religions and festivals.

We all get a candle to hold, which my kids like, as they think it is slightly daring. The lights are turned low and we sing the carols in the dark to candlelight, which is again a symbolic gesture. The carols are wonderful, and probably my favourite music of all, but not music that I could reasonably listen to all year long in my kitchen. 'In the bleak midwinter...' My kids walk around humming carols for a few days afterwards. I find the whole thing a sensuous experience.

I don't know why I am thinking of Christmas at this time of the year. It was looking at Sweet Irene's picture what did it!

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Harry Potter

I feel I sort of know JK Rowling as my friend Bridget went to Exeter University, but a few years before JK, so I know someone who nearly knew JK Rowling, as Sweet Irene puts it.

On holiday once we also went to Christ Church College, Oxford where they film some of it, but weren't allowed in, but peered in through the window at the great staircase they use in the films, until chased off by one of the college wardens.

Today we went to see 'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix', and we took Jack's friend Ross. I notice that the staircase still features, but digitally remastered so that it goes on and on.

Sad to say, I think that JK is spinning it out rather as the plot is labyrinthine and complex, with more twists and turns than the fabled bull-like beast himself had to face. It is so complex that as usual I had to ask my kids what was going on. I think complex plots are a bad sign, perhaps that JK has run out of ideas.

Of course, a few years ago, when the whole Harry Potter phenomenon came into being we all thought it was great. The first book is the only children's novel I have read through to my son, a chapter a night, and which we never abandoned in the attempt. All the spin-offs were great fun, we had loads of little round Harry Potter specs (Eleanor got some real round ones, but pink), Harry Potter coins, games, dolls and I've just noticed that we've still got a Harry Potter water bottle at the back of the cupboard. Lots of broomstick action occurred, with little would-be Harrys flying around the garden with anything to hand, mops, sticks and once they even wanted to use those broomstick-like fire beaters that you sometimes see left out in forests in case there is a forest fire. Indeed, at the time, I must have had broomsticks on the brain because (another eg. of my faux pas)once at a toddler group I was going to help sweep up the debris and said to the leader 'Have you got a broomstick I could use, please?' Actually, this isn't too bad as at least I am putting myself down too.

We got some proper broomsticks when we bought the dressing-up gear, which means that we are now never short of outfits at Halloween, when my kids go trick or treating, as they all do round here. A great American custom which has cuaght on here, and which everyone takes in the right spirit.

I think the secret of the Harry Potter phenomenon is the great central idea of Hogworts, the magic academy, which is a whole new imaginary world which JK can elaborate on to her heart's content, partially based on Exeter University, I suspect. If it is magic then anything can happen. Then she can have flying, talking telegrams, games of quidditch where people go flying through the air and people walking through walls at stations. I think one of the stations they used was on the North York Moors, and we've been there too.

Saturday, 18 August 2007

Occasions when I have put my foot in it

I try to avoid those personality tests because although they are very interesting I know that I would get a zero in all the scores. This is because I have hardly any social skills at all. I do get on well with children and animals, but then neither do they. They are fun and cuddly and playful with themselves and each other, so social in that respect, but when it comes to what may be called the higher social skills they are sadly lacking, as indeed I am myself.

Sometimes it is verging on the autistic, I don't mind admitting this. I have a talent for saying the wrong thing or whatever pops into my head, just like a child.

This gets me into all sorts of trouble. For instance, there was a lovely woman at work who was very nice to me and with whom I got on well. However, once when a lady came to pick her up (who was wearing a pony tail) I said 'Oh, was that your daughter?' and she said 'No, it was my sister' but fortunately she saw the funny side and rushed off to tell her friend. The next instance is so bad that I can hardly bring myself to write it down. I knew that her ex was a body builder and very good-looking (indeed I had complimented her on how good looking her son was as I had seen him in Morrisons, and how much he looked just like her, I was trying to make up for the previous faux pas) and he had run off with somebody else (but a long time ago)so I said, in attempt to make her feel better (I do try, at least) 'Well, that's the problem with good looking men, they get loads of opportunities to stray. If you'd have had a not so good looking, bald one you'd have been alright!' She looked at me a bit funny, and later on I saw her husband pick her up, and guess what he looked like.

Another instance, at the same workplace people were showing their tattoos and, in an attempt to be sociable I showed mine too. Then I said 'This rose is a bit naff, if only I'd got a lovely celtic one like they have now. Oh, well, it could have been worse, it could have been a butterfly' and the next lass was rolling up her sleeves and guess what tattoo she had. Actually, this girl Abigail was the one of the few people I have ever met whose supreme social skills acted as a foil to or a counterbalance to my lack. In attempt to change the subject I had said 'Well, it could have been even worse because I know someone who had 'Sean's Woman' tattooed on her' and she said, pointing to the lass next to her 'Nicky, you've got one of those, haven't you'.

I am going to devote a whole posting to Abigail as she was very interesting. This is going to get x-rated, but I am now writing as an adult. These are chambermaids from Hull talking and if you're going to write about something you've got to be authentic. We were talking about Nicky's pregnancy and whether she had still enjoyed conjugal relations with her boyfriend throughout her pregnancy. She had said that she had not. Me, in an attempt to be nice and tactful again (in case it was because he had not found her attractive in pregnancy) said 'Well, I think that's nice. He perhaps shows that he doesn't want to hurt the baby'and she said 'No it doesn't. I bet his willy wasn't that big, was it Nicky?'

Friday, 17 August 2007

Saving Energy, Tips If You Are Lazy

1. Only varnish your toenails on the toes that will be showing. When I am wearing open toe sandals I find I can get away with three.

2. If you have young children and dogs keep a mop bucket with soapy disinfectanted water on the go at all times outside the back door. If you are worried about what it looks like you can hide it behind a shrub. Keep an eyeout for any snails which may climb on to it and save them. If the weather is not hot it will last for a couple of days.

3. If you can't be bothered to buy new felt tips when they run out get the kids to dip them in an eggcup full of vinegar. It really does prolong the life of the pens, and the kids quite like the idea, like they are dipping quills into ink.

4. Delegate. If you have got guinea pigs (and if it is not winter when they really need hay) don't shred up paper but put some sheets into their their sleeping area and they will shred it themselves to make their own bedding. It also gives them something to do.

5. If you can't be bothered to weed say that your's is a natural wildlife garden, but always make sure that the grass is cut short so people can tell it's not just a mess. This is in the same way councils are now leaving grass verges partially unmown so that the wild flowers thrive but always making sure that there is a border of mown grass to indicate upkeep.

6. Throwing a ball for a dog. Go to the top of a hill (in my case an old railway embankment)and then let gravity do its work. Because the dog has to keep running back up the hill this will mean that he gets tired more quickly meaning you have to throw the ball less. I notice Scamp has picked up on this idea as he will take his ball to the top of the stairs and then push it down, DIY ball chasing.

7. If you are out and about with a digital camera and your batteries run out to save yourself the trouble of walking to a shop to buy some new ones take out the batteries and shake them. It will keep them going for a few more pics. If they then run out and you are really desparate to take one last picture throw them on the floor and put back into camera. This also has been tried and tested.

8. If you are like someone I know just put a lot of bubblebath in the bath so you don't actually have to do anything like moving when you are in it and just let the bubblebath do the work, with the action of the bubbles.

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Listening to Music in the Kitchen

In my house the normal scheme of things is reversed with my kids shouting at me to turn the music down.

This is because I can only cook if I am listening to music. I have a whole load of CDs(out of their cases for easy access) which sometimes get messed up and which I wipe clean with a tea towel. Some are irreversably damaged, and I know which ones they are and wait for the hiccup in the music. So some tracks for me are forever associated with sudden unexplicable breaks in the melody.

Classical music doesn't do it for me. It doesn't have much of a beat, though some of the Strauss Waltzs are quite rhythmic. I do like rhythm and blues music and have a collection of tracks complied by Keith Richards. The Rolling Stones are brill. I like 'Brown Sugar', which has a suitably culinary title, especially if you are making cakes. I like English music with intelligent lyrics like 'The Kinks', Jarvis Cockers 'Pulp' and 'Madness', and am quite into my daughter's 'Barbie' CD, which is bubble-gum pop, sad to say. I like 'New Order' and am partial to a bit of punk, or punk-lite like 'Ian Drury and The Blockheads'. It inspired me to read his biography, and what a charismatic frontman he was, though not possessed of the pop star good looks, in that he was shorter than average and had a leg damaged by polio.

As a child of the eighties I like Michael Jackson, Prince and Madonna. I also possess a CD of the music of Ennio Morricone, which I got free in a paper, who wrote the soundtracks of the Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns. 'The Good, The Bad and The Ugly' is so evocative of outlawry in the Mexican desert with its dischordant and dangerous sound effects that it even provoked the curiosity of my son who opened the kitchen door for once and asked me what on earth I was listening to.

Sad to say, if the kitchen door is open I adjust my music to make a good impression on any neighbours who may be sitting in their gardens. To appear sophisticated and eclectic in my musical tastes I might play a bit of Ray Charles, or to give the ambience of cool and laid-backness I might give Bob Marley a spin.

Also sad, I give myself soundtracks to my life. For instance when my sister and I were helping each other out I used to play 'Sister Sledges' 'We are Family' a lot, and when things are going well I like to play The Maverick's 'Dance The Night Away'.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Are Guinea Pigs Stupid?

Well, they're not as intelligent as white rats, that's for sure.
However, my kids were once watching a programme about white rats and made a maze out of video boxes with a carrot at the end of it, and found that the guinea pigs did make it to the end of the maze. When my kids used to put them in a doll's pram, they made attempts to escape, which also shows signs of an incipient intelligence. Also when my kids made them go through a cardboard tunnel they always used to stay in the middle. They will climb over Tessa's tail, but avoid Scamp.
When you go past the shed they squeak, and it is arguable whether that is a sign of intelligence (they associate you with food) or whether they just have good hearing.
They are quite bovine creatures in that they spend much, indeed, all of the time eating, and during the summer when they are out at grass they expand to plump little rotund spheres. Or 'pot size' as my husband puts it. But he also calls them 'The Rodents'. They can reduce a large dandelion plant to a root in ten minutes, like cute , furry piranhas.
You can't toilet train guinea pigs but my kids used to carry them around the house in terry nappies.
They seem to have an appreciation for the finer things in life. For instance, in the morning they are to be found sun bathing in the hutch at the exact angle in which the sun comes through the shed window. They also like cherry tomatoes, but not turnip. They seem to have a rudimentary sense of aesthetics in that they like eating the nicest flowering plants in the garden, but avoid the weeds.
They also have personalities in that Misty is the bossy one. However, Daniel is the athlete as I find that when I try to put him back in the shed he can second guess me and swerves at the last minute, his little legs a-blur.
My kid's Uncle David has a natural affinity with the guinea pigs and we call him 'The Guinea Pig Whisperer'.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Hanging Baskets

I don't know if the love of hanging baskets is an English phenonmenon, I can't remember much about seeing any on my trips abroad, though I remember lots of pots of geraniums in Portugal and window boxes in the Black Forest.

They are an ideal way of making the most in gardening terms of a small space, because most English gardens are quite small. We used to live in a little two-up two-down terrace house which only had a tiny back yard and our neighbour Edie used to be a artist with her hanging baskets and tubs. She also had a display at the front of her house, and from her I have got most of my gardening knowledge and naming of plants. For a long time I thought there was a plant called an 'osta' until somebody said it was an hosta, because like a lot of people round here she used to drop her aitches. During the summer she used to spend all day tending to them, and lovingly dead-heading and watering them. She used every sort of container, even an old square sink, like somebody has used a boat above. She also used her net curtains as a form of self expression, having loads of lovely lacy ones which she used to vary. They were whiter than white as she used a special preparation to wash them in and used to dry them on the line in perfect folds.

First pic, you can't even see the basket anymore, it is a sort of flower explosion, suspended in mid air. A impressive summer welcome by the door to the person's house, in the same way people have wreaths at Christmas. A cornucopia of summer abundance and plenty, and I notice that people are indeed using cone-shaped baskets nowadays which makes the classical allusion even clearer.

Preparing a hanging basket is very enjoyable, from choosing the plants, the colour scheme, positioning the plants in the basket for maximum affect, and the watering, which, if it takes place on a summer evening can be a pleasure, not a chore. If you have left it for a few days you can watch it suddenly spring into life after the watering. No heavy digging is required. For the technically minded there are all sorts of complicated watering systems and fertilisers to choose from. Also environmentally friendly as it attracts insects. It is a form of self expression and a garden in miniature, and like a lot of miniature things a lot easier in more ways than one.

Monday, 13 August 2007

Summer Holiday Table Mess, An Art Installation a la Tracy Emin

If Tracy Emin can do this with her bed, then I can do it with my table. It will still be like this in a week's time if someone wants to take it away and pay me a lot of money for it.

Notice attempts at healthy eating with the fruit bowl full of oranges. Also, culture and current affairs with today's copy of The Times (partially hidden).

The flowers in the vase are past their best but they were a wedding anniversary present and I like to get my money out of things. Crystal vase a wedding present from my sister. Small woollen thing to the bottom left of the pic a knitted necklace Eleanor made at her grandma's. If you look closely you can see strands of wool coming out of it which you can use to tie round your neck when you go out.

Etch-a-sketch hidden under pile of books. You will notice that all the little shapes which you use to make patterns with have long since been lost. Torn bit of paper, maybe somebody has started to make something and then lost interest and then wandered off. Scrapbook full of pics of pop stars, David Beckham on the front. Blue Teddy with the nightcap on that Eleanor takes to bed. Jacqueline Wilson book.

Place mats obviously left on the table at all times because somebody can't be bothered to put them away. Lazy.

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Using up my last batch of gritty urban pics

I am going to sign on on Tuesday, so doubtless I will come back with a whole load more urban pics.

First pic, anchor fountain on Hessle Road. Hessle Road is the street where a lot of the fisherman lived when Hull was still a great port, and here is a reminder of that fact, though it is now a place where children play.

Second pic, Victorian buildings (built when Hull was a great port) sit side by side with the industrial present. The factory is Smith and Nephew (makers of medical dressings)where Holly's Mum used to work and where my friend Bridget used to work. I used to look after her kids in the afternoon after school and after a nominal payment she used to bring me fancy plasters, like Winnie the Pooh plasters for the kids, as she used to act as a guinea pig for the new plasters when they were being developed. Quite useful having a friend who did this when the kids were still in their falling over phase. You can see Clive Sullivan Way, which is a very fast dual carriage way and one of the main arteries leading into Hull. I once took a wrong turning and ended up on this and I could hardly used the gear stick, my hands were shaking so much.

Third pic, 'Heaven and Hell', I thought this was a night club, but my husband says it is a lap dancing club. I was lured in (not literally, just to take the pics)by the imaginative design of the club as depicted on the poster outside. It has two floors, and you go down a twinkly glittery staircase full of pure blue light (Heaven) into the bar which is a bit nondescript(Purgatory). The fun really starts on the basement floor which is lit by flickering orange strobe lights. I am quite open-minded about things like this, I have to be because I live in Hull.

Fourth pic, city centre, notice the noble architecture, pleasant flower beds (all over Hull, supplied by the City Council) and more kids larking about.

Fifth pic, sad this, an elegant Victorian building fallen on hard times.

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Fishing in the Peter Pan park.

Today me, Holly and Eleanor went fishing in the boating lake of the Peter Pan Park. On the way Holly and Eleanor amused themselves with their fishing rods brandishing them around Scampy, saying 'Look I've caught a Scampi' or round a rock 'I've caught a rock fish'.

We got there, and there were quite a lot of other people there too, fishing. A row was narrowly averted when Eleanor had two fish and Holly had none, but soon things were back on track as the number of fishes in the ice cream tubs equalised. I took four ice cream tubs, I've got quite a number of them at home which I keep for any eventuality, and we needed them today as all our little buckets had been lost or broken.

As usually happens when we go fishing we were soon surrounded by a crowd of small boys, who haven't got any fishing rods themselves and like to muscle in on the action. I liked it when someone said 'I've got a fish' and everyone rushed over to have a look, even if it was the umpteenth fish caught. Soon the little would-be hunters had appropriated one of our fishing rods and were advising the girls on handling the fish 'Just, do it like this, it's not going to bite you.' Soon the emphasis was on size with 'Look I've got a massive one' 'There's a massive one over here' and it all got very competitive. Holly asked for her fishing rod back and I gave the boys two of my ice cream tubs instead. My main function was to follow the girls on their progress round the pond with the fish in the tubs to try and minimise the time the fish spent suspended in the nets.

The girls spent a lot of time naming their fishes, Splishy and Spashy being Eleanor's, and wrote the names on their tubs, with the added information that Eleanor's were best friends with Holly's. I have let them bring two home each, but they will be put back tomorrow. It took quite some time carrying them home and I suggested we put the tubs in some carrier bags which I had with me, but they must have thought of goldfish in plastic bags at the fair and were alarmed as they thought the bags might have some holes in, but I explained that what I meant was put the tubs in the carrier bags. After some discussion about whether all the water would slosh out and a few practices and putting the tubs squarely in the middle of the carrier bags so that they were properly balanced we managed to get them home safely.

Scamp spent a lot of time watching, trying to work out what was going on. He seemed to think that the water was being put in the tubs for his benefit (as sometimes I use the tubs for this purpose) and tried to drink out of them. Walking home he thought that the rods were giant sticks and was barking at me to throw them.

The girls have just come in and they have bought some fish food from the petshop for their fishes.

Friday, 10 August 2007

Flowers in my garden

These are the flowers in my garden, which is just an ordinary surburban garden, but which give me great pleasure.

First pic, my camera does not do justice to these flowers, which to the eye up close look like the finest lace. It makes me think about where the lace makers got their inspiration from, perhaps from nature. I cannot believe that somebody once sat down and started making intricate patterns in white thread because they had just thought of it. They make me think of Elizabethan ruffs and that painting by Vermeer.

Second pic, pink poppy. Makes me think of cornfields, and peasant skirts and wild abandon in the hay. I went for a country walk recently and a lot of the farmers round here have seemed to have abandoned chemical fertilisers and pesticides and the fields were full of poppies, which is certainly something I have rarely seen. May be it is in response to a demand for organic food. Natural flower-arranging with the contrast between the dry corn stalks and the vivid, soft, floaty shapes of the poppies.

The ferns are primeval and make me think of dinosaurs. I am sorry, but maybe I have been reading too many of my son's dinosaur books.

Without the flowers, in bud, the fourth plant looked a bit futuristic, like something you would find in a Star Trek garden. I quite liked it as it was but my husband said there was more to come. I still think it looks a bit planetary, because of its spherical shape, like a purple moon.

Firth pic, nasturtiums, cheap and cheerful. Bright orange colour which makes me think of cheap and cheerful things like plastic washing up bowls or cheap and cheerful packaging. They use that colour for a reason.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Gardens I pass

These are the gardens which I pass on my dogwalk.

First garden, they like sunflowers. I have never seen sunflowers put round a border like this, it is not usually considered to be a border filling plant. So what, they don't give a toss. If you find something you like stick with it.

Second pic. The retired gentleman always put on a display like this (which he makes himself)which the toddlers gather to look at on their way to Playgroup. This year it is Bob the Builder and Thomas the Tank Engine. He stand there watering them (longer possibly than is necessary)throughout the day and likes to chat with the little groups gathered at the fence, which include a fair number of adults.

Third pic, a bit more sophisticated, a peaceful Zen Buddhist garden which has a statue of Buddha at the top of the circle.(Though it is not clear.) Well, it did have but now it is a Seven Dwarf. I used to like looking at the Buddha when I passed and had to double take one day when I saw Grumpy instead. When I asked the lady what had happened she said that the Buddha had been nicked and she had to replace it with one of the dwarves from her back garden. It can't have been a proper Buddhist who nicked it as surely stealing is against all their principles.

Fourth pic a Chinese garden. Not a good pic this as it is quite secluded and I had to hold my camera over the fence to get it. Then I worried about the ethics of taking pictures of people's gardens, it's a bit of a cheek. The bloke who was watering the garden in the last pic agreed and asked for fifty quid copyright. Said that flowers this year (and he should know) have bloomed for longer and more spectacularly because of all the rains.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007


These are the allotments where I walk the dogs. Scamp is always appreciative of the visit as there is always plenty of manure in which to roll and to end up as smelly as possible and raise his street cred with the other dogs.

I like allotments because they are utilitarian gardens and I like the contrast between the utilitarian grey shapes of the huts and fences and the softness and colour of the vegetation, which always seems to end up taking over, except in the most carefully tended plots. Nature will always prevail. Some of the allotments are spectacularly weedy with giant hybrid monster weeds, but I have chosen pics which are really rather beautiful, and which rival many a garden.

The first pic I asked permission of the allotment holders (who kindly gave it) to take it as it seemed such a perfect English scene, a couple gardening with clouds billowing overhead and the gentleman sporting a straw hat. Actually the lady said she agreed and wished she had brought her camera with her so I hope they find this blog as per instructions!

Second pic like a secret garden found among the rows of tended vegetable allotments, with pergola and slightly overgrown. Different flowers from spring when it was full of foxgloves.

Third and fifth pics look like somebody's prize blooms and look a splendid sight en masse. The manure has certainly been doing its job.

Fourth pic, that Russian Vine has transformed that shed roof into leafy thatch. Notice how it is billowing over the sides. They need to take action now or the shed will shortly disappear. Me and Scamp took the liberty of walking up one of the aisles to see this and again somebody has made it into a little garden with chairs to sit on and a collection of hanging mirrors to catch the light.

An educational visit for Scamp as he was playing on the field with Ash, a Border terrier, who is the daughter of the Border terrier which won Crufts a few years ago. I hope some of the class rubbed off.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

My garden

Here is my garden, which is just an ordinary little surburban garden, but I like it.

The front garden has a few abandoned objects in it, a skateboard and some silver shoes, which are not mutually exclusive, one can skateboard with silver shoes on. It also has a bench, which was originally on the concrete in the back garden because it is the front garden which catches the sun in the evenings and it provides a useful place to hang out. I got the idea from Elliot's Dad who had a bench in his front garden but it turns out he was just leaving it there for 'Relate' charity shop to pick up. Towering gladioli to be seen, one bent which is one of the hazards of having a garden which is also a thoroughfare for kids. Lovely little white flowers with petals like the finest lace and also self-seeding pink poppies.

Second pic weather beaten guinea pig run tied up with string, Let's hope none of the cats are particularly dextrous with their paws. Who put that football among my lettuces! I am currently a right little market gardener toing and froing with my fresh lettuce leaves, which I rinse in a collinder and leave to dry in the sink. There are always a few lettuce leaves on the go, useful for packed lunches or side salads.

Back garden, unfortunate fence. Was covered with a Russian Vine which lived up to its name and was cut down. Tiny bit of ivy coming through from next doors, hope it has the same fence camouflaging effect, for free. Note the exotic blue flower which was grown from a bulb and is the only thing that could be called remotely spectacular in our garden. The most pitiful hanging baskets I have ever seen. They are supposed to be nasturtiums but the soil was too poor even for these hardy plants. So bad they are almost good.

But see how in the last picture how it is transformed by the sunlight into something shimmery and ethereal. A natural light effect, like a sprinking of fairy dust.