29 Mar 2024

Hestia and Spring

I am hesitant to say this, just in case Mama Nature decides to throw storms or snow all over the west coast in a fit of pique, but today feels a bit like Spring.

It's just coming up to the Easter weekend and yeah, it feels quite nice outside really.

Feeling Nice Outside means that I have to don my gardening jacket and get out there and do something in the garden. Which isn't really fun because the soil is still bloody cold to work with.

Anyhoo - I had to get four plants into the front garden before they reported me to Monty Don for cruelty (been waiting - in the kitchen - to be planted for a fortnight) and so today was the day for getting them in.

In other news, here are some photos of a lovely pot that I have at the front door.

Crammed with goodies from Farmer Gracy (can recommend - quality bulbs for sure!) We have Blue Eyes hyacinths, tiny turkestanica tulips and the foliage for the Rasta Parrot tulips and the Pheasant Eye narcissus are all up and looking lovely.

Almost feeling like the garden could look nice this year.


19 Dec 2023

Knitting Effin' Socks

Many, MANY years ago, my late auntie Chrissie taught me to knit. It was quite an ordeal for her because as a left-handed knitter, I SEEMED to do the right things, but my stitches were not quite kosher. She also ended up smoking about 60 cigarettes a day. But I don't think that teaching me to knit was the reason. Not the whole reason at any rate.

My late auntie Betty taught me to crochet and we used to sit up until late on a Friday night, our hooks flashing as we watched Don't Watch Alone. Which should really have been renamed Don't Watch With Your 12 Year Old Niece. It was me that ended up with the twitch after that.

Fast forward many decades are another dear now-departed friend, Fifi, decided to teach me how to knit socks. Reader, after she died, I had that half sock on my needles for over TEN years. I couldn't bring myself to go on. I couldn't bring myself to rip it out.

During lockdown I forced myself to get the sock back out and back knitting it. I had already done the tricky bit - the turning of the heel. I ploughed on for a few more rows before Nero decided that he loved the feel of real wool in his mouth and half my sock became an unravelled ball, the other half became salivary felt.

More recently, I became determined ONCE AGAIN to actually complete one or two of my craft projects and the sock needles glinted at me accusingly.

'I can't knit socks,' I moaned to the lovely Karen Wiederhold. Karen took up knitting socks during lockdown. She can churn out a pair of hand-knitted merino gents socks quicker than I can cast on 68 stitches. She has also designed patterns for all sorts of things for magazines.

'Try again,' she urged.

'I can't. I knit left-handed and it always ends up a dog's breakfast.'

Then, in a moment of supreme self-sacrifice she uttered the words that she has probably regretted most days subsequently 'I'll help you. There aren't many things that I haven't had to deal with when I was setting patterns.'

Now, reader, at this point you probably think that I got the (now ancient) denim blue sock yarn out and got started. Not a bit of it. Neither did I use any of the mysterious yarn stash that I have accumulated in a box beneath the spare room's bed. No. I did, of course buy NEW YARN.

It was lovely yarn in from one of the OPAL 4-ply ranges at the Wool Warehouse, but sadly, I don't seem to have kept the yarn band and nor can I find the receipt.

Anyway, we began. Oh reader, I wish I could tell you that it was all plain sailing this time around. Karen pulled on her Big Girl pants and led me through the long-tail cast on. Tick. No problems. Then 20 rows of ribbing (2 plain, two purl) Tick. No problem.  It was around this point that I realised that something funky was happening: I was knitting my sock from the inside out. 

There then followed several frantic and increasingly abstract concept video calls with Karen who was pretty baffled.  But she kept on gently explaining to me where I was going wrong. But it was like trying to explain Quantum Physics to a budgie. 

Several decades ago, I once pulled into a garage forecourt to fill my wee mini up with fuel. But then I realised that my fuel cap was on the other side to the pump, so I drove round the fuel pump and could NOT understand why my fuel pump was STILL on the wrong side. After a few minutes of sitting feeling baffled, the penny dropped and I tried reversing back into the pump. I was so spectacularly bad that I ended up just driving away in SHAME.

This was exactly where I was with my knitting.

No matter how many videos I watched and how many times I turned it all upside down or knitted back across a row, the bit of sock that I knitted was standing UP like a chimney, not hanging down like a ... sock.

There were tears. But I would NOT be beaten by a SOCK.  Karen persisted. She may have developed an alcohol dependency, IDK. I wouldn't be surprised ... it took a long while to sink in.

And so the months dragged on - Prime Ministers came and went, the economy plunged deeper than a Victoria's Secret bra ... but I made progress.  Sure, there were so many errors in Sock 1 that I thought I would never wear them, but, dear reader, I did get them finished!

TADAAAAH!!!!! My first ever pair of socks!

Kitchener toe! Woah - what has happened to my font?!

TADAAAAH - second pair of socks (with the original ancient wool!)

TADAAAAAAH - current pair of socks with yarn gifted to me by the patient and lovely Karen. You should check out her stuff! Pardon the pun, but I'm HOOKED!


13 Jul 2023

Possibly the worst tabloid in the world

This post started out as a different animal altogether, but between typing the title (originally - my midlife crisis is here!) and getting to the end of the first paragraph, Huw Edwards was revealed (on his behalf, by his wife) to be The BBC Presenter at the centre of The S*n's story about photographs of a sexual nature being paid for.

And I just felt so sad.

Edwards is in hospital where his mental health is buckling - as you might expect after being outed by The S*n. The statement confirming that he is the much-speculated presenter was made by his wife.

I am glad that his wife was the one to make the statement (he clearly isn't in a position to do so) and it gives his family some element of control over the narrative - his wife isn't sitting at home keeping dutifully silent and one would hope that after nearly a week his five children have now got their heads wrapped around what is going down.

I am not here to troll or gloat over what has happened. There but for the grace of god go I. We are all entitled to a private life - so long as we don't break the law while we're living it.  At the moment it seems that he hasn't broken the law (maybe breaching covid lockdown rules). We don't know everything and I hope people won't be too quick to judge anybody in this scenario other than the ghastly S*n newspaper.

Remember - those paragons of virtue at The S*n used to count down the days until their favourite boobilicious page 3 girls hit 16 years of age.

My reaction also depends what kind of creature we've got here: It wasn't too long ago that we had Philip Schofield coming out as gay to nationwide sympathy and then a few breaths later, looking for all the world like a child-abuser at worst or someone who was prepared to collude with a child-abuser at best.

But if what we've got is simply a closeted gay man who likes younger guys? That's not exactly news, is it? The world is full of older people who prefer younger people's bodies - it's not the end of the world. It's horrendous for his wife and children - but should be PRIVATE to them.

And it would seem that the first young man was not responsible for outing Huw, but his mother. And for a mother to take her story to the press instead of the police, well, I have my doubts about the intentions behind that - but maybe I'm being too unkind.

Another young man has come forward and produced emails where Edwards is splenetic at the thought of this young man outing him on Twitter. To be honest, I'd be fucking livid as well.

But what possesses a man who is in the public eye to take such risks?  You cannot be telly-famous in the UK and put yourself onto 'dating' sites (I don't know whether they all met on a dating site, a paid content site or on a gay forum etc) and not expect there to be a high risk of something going catastrophically wrong.

Perhaps we can assume that he was listed there under a username or handle that was not his real name and did not load up photos that would identify him to casual viewers. Perhaps he only revealed who he was to those he had struck up private correspondence with and grew to trust ... slipping into the DMs as they say. Oh Huw - it seems that you misjudged your security with at least one of them.

I feel so sorry for his wife and family in all this, blind-sided by their loved one having (we assume) a completely closeted Other Life. The shock, the betrayal, it will pile in on them for months as each of them replays a million different events and conversations as they look for signs and the realisation that when dad said/did this, it was really THAT.  None of that is anybody's business but theirs.

Huw Edwards is not squeaky clean. Truth is, nobody is.We all have our private worlds and foibles and mostly they harm nobody. More stuff might come out and I might change my mind - but as it stands today - consenting adults did something sexual. The world is FULL of that. Meanwhile, our former PM can't share his Whatsapp messages because he's 'forgotten' the log-in details. HE'S a criminal. But hey ho, let's fire up the torches and grab the pitch forks and go for somebody different instead. It's a mess. 

I just hope Edwards and his family get the help and support they need. 

And I hope The S*n finally sets in the west and Liverpool gets the last long and hollow laugh. 

10 Jul 2023

Botanical Art at Bute Yard

My sketches


 I will be 60 next month and while it simultaneously makes me feel panicky AF and also grateful that I've had 60 years above the soil, I'm now throwing myself into Doing Stuff That Makes Me Happy Before It's Too Late.

One of these events took place last Wednesday at a new venue here on the island, Bute Yard. It's a big cool hanger of a space with professional kitchens, oodles of space (for your wedding or crime fiction festival lol!) and a small piece of it was hived off behind a couple of dividers for 12 of us to do this Botanical Art workshop event.

It was my lovely friend Ruth Slater who was running the event - excellent professional artist who lives locally - and she had laid out the two long tables with absolutely everything that we would need to master painting a sprig of Lavender and a sprig of Rosemary - nib pens, Indian ink, paint, brushes, paper - the full nine yards.

Isle of Bute Gin were also involved in the event and we were each greeted with a very lovely French Martini on arrival - which helped the creative juices flow no end! And half way through we were given a lovely Gin & Tonic which kept us feeling boho and arty until 9pm and home time. 

Bute Yard - it's BIG, isn't it?  We were at a couple of tables up at the top. Close to the bar. Of course. 

Here we are, nursing our French Martinis and practicing our penwomanship!

Fancy Indian Ink fun and my little bit of Rosemary.

Our half-time G&Ts being set up on the bar - hooray! 

Look at this beautiful work from Ruth with her memories of Spring - isn't it gorgeous? 

And this is also by Ruth - her Autumn study work. 

Getting the sketching done and preparing to mix some colours and bring it all to life!

My Rosemary

My Lavender

So here are the pix of the event. It was a lot of fun and the first time that Bute Yard has done something like this. It won't be the last though - I'm also signed up for a tapestry workshop too at the end of the month.

Hoping for more gin, of course!

Also wtf is going on with the formatting here?! Anyone got any ideas?! 

3 Jul 2023

Life Lessons From Wordle

I don't quite know when or why I started doing Wordle, but it has become a daily obsession - along with Quordle, Octordle, Sedecordle, Waffle and new kid on the block Connections. Over the weeks (months! years!) of doing the puzzles every day, a tiny community of friends has built up where we share our scores and commiserate when it all goes tits up. It is very soothing, and I love them all.

We tend to run into the same hurdles over and over again on these Wordle-type word puzzles, so here are my Wordle-fu insights, as life lessons.

1  Get all the vowels out of the way

In Wordle it's unlikely you will hit upon all the consonants you need to create the answer word, but you can easily eliminate all the vowels in two attempts, tops.  

Therefore, in life, you will never have all the answers, but there will be some things that you can easily eliminate that will help you muddle forwards.

2  Never fall down the missing first letter hole

Sometimes in Wordle you get all the letters bar the first one. How many times have I and my Wordling brethern and sistern immediately jumped into the AHA! it must be this!!! Only to discover that it is NOT that letter. And then you bang in another letter. And it is not that letter either and before you know it, you have ONE line left and THREE other words to guess that you haven't even looked at.  Quordle can be a complete bastard like that. 

Don't fixate upon and chase one thing at the expense of another three things that you haven't even looked at. Men, jobs, whatever. You do not want to be 80 and discover you've only got one line left and fuck all chance to look at the other three options.

3  American Spellings

Oh yes, WE on this side of the pond know how to spell COLOUR and COLOR is not it. When you adhere to a set of beliefs without examining them properly, you'll DIE of absolute blazing righteous anger in Wordle. And in life. Life is not fair. Consider all the sneaky options too. 

4 Trying to second-guess the wordle-puzzler's mind set

You have three of the five letters and a myriad of options that would fit the spaces, but only three attempts left. You wonder whether the puzzle-setter will go for the obvious choice or hit something completely mad (yes, CAULK, I'm looking at you). Forget trying to get inside that weirdo's head. Just make your best guess.  Same as in life - don't try to work out what makes another person happy and twist yourself out of shape trying to fit in. Just be your own weird, wonderful self. You might lose the guy, but you might get a job setting the Wordle puzzles.

5 Don't cheat

I see them, the people that solve Wordle in 2 lines, Quardle in 6 etc. And they do it just about every day. Of course sometimes people DO get it in 2 and 6, but they are so vanishingly rare that you are applauding them for DAYS when it happens. If it happens every other day? You're cheating - AND WE KNOW IT.

In life, yes, you can cheat your way to first place - but you don't really win. And we all know that you cheated. Better to fail honestly than cheat *says she who cheats at Trivial Pursuits and has NO REGRETS* 

6 Still not got it and it's line 5 already? 

Don't worry, there is always the chance that you can pull it out of the bag. But don't rush at it. Use a pad and pencil if you have to and make a reasoned final attempt.  

And in life? Even when things go really wrong at the beginning, and the middle, and you fear that it's never going to straighten out ... get a pad and pencil and write down a good first step at an attempt to get on track, even if it's a micro-tiny step. And then do it. If you strike out and get the dreaded X/6? ....

7 Didn't get it? So what?!

Some days, despite our best efforts, we end up with an X/6 but my standard reply to a woeful pal who has struck out is .... tomorrow is another day. We always get another chance at the game.

And our life lesson from Wordle for this: Don't worry, we always get another chance at the game. As St Scarlet of O'Hara (truly the patron saint of lost causes) once said 'Tomorrow is another day'. 

Unless you die in your sleep or something. 

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