Thursday, 29 October 2009

Forward planning

I used to be a real planner. I never would have imagined I could turn into a person who, on Thursday night checks her flight confirmation to discover she is flying out half a day earlier on Saturday than she thought. I haven't washed anything, packed anything; in fact I don't even have everything. And I certainly haven't learnt everything I should have. Under prepared is not the word. I'm desperately hoping for a sailing instructor with Dalai Lama-like patience.

At the moment through the windows to our backyard nature, we can see the animals prepare for the winter. I couldn't believe just how fat and fluffy the squirrels have gotten. I was really quite saddened on the weekend when told that squirrels hibernate. I've had so much joy recently watching them dart along fences, turn 360s in our big tree, then chase a friend across the roofs. The other day, one particularly feisty one managed to tumble about 10 metres from the tree to the ground and still land on his feet with a look on his face as if he meant the whole stunt.

The big fat wood pigeon can't believe his luck as the berry bush just keeps on producing; and Mr Fox can still be seen sneaking his way about the back of the garden in the now-dim early morning light.

It's a good thing I don't have to hibernate. I really would doubt my ability to plan far enough in advance.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Ladies that paint

We love our house. But even I could tell that the kitchen needed some TLC in the form of a lick of paint.

And so it was that on a Friday night when most of London was still at the pub, three ladies met at a little DIY store in Clapham, to arm themselves for a weekend of re-decoration.

We pushed everything into the middle of the room, and covered the entire place in plastic (thanks Lambeth Council for all those recycling bags).

And then we spent the rest of Friday evening washing and filling the fault lines which ran along the edges of the walls, as well as the holes from picture hooks a long time past.

The next morning, bright and early, we sanded. And sanded. And sanded some more. Then we washed.

Finally it was time to paint. This, we discovered was the relatively painless bit. So Saturday night was spent roller in hand. As was Sunday morning.

By 6pm Sunday evening normality had returned and we were washing the paint from our hair and nails and admiring our work through very weary eyes.

Now it is a little bit like when you play too much tetris and your eyes start fitting blocks in everywhere you look; all of a sudden I seem to be obsessed with examining paint work wherever I go.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Out of my comfort zone - number 2

I'm sure nearly everyone has something that scares them. For me it's death. So much so that even thinking about it now is making my stomach contract. Let's keep this post short, shall we?

It is the thought of there being nothing afterwards that has me staring into the dark of night sometimes, gripped with fear.

So in order to confront my gut-twisting phobia, this week I went to the somewhat ironically named 'School of Life' for a lecture on 'How to Think About Death'.

I was running late which was great because it meant that I didn't have time to think about the possibility of what awaited me.

Fortunately, what did await me on arrival, was my very calm friend Kath and a large glass of wine.

We looked at the philosophical side to death and then brought it a bit closer to home and started to think about our own deaths. By that time I was onto my second large glass of wine, so I was becoming less worried about death by the mouthful.

I'm not sure that after listening to someone talk on death for two hours, that I'm less scared of it; although I quite like the idea of planning my own funeral and writing my own eulogy. If I have to die, I would at least like to force my favourite music upon people for one last time.

Monday, 19 October 2009

The crab apple epilogue

Here is one for you Ness & Dave!

The Sunday evening following my jelly experiment, I baked a batch of scones, one of which I topped with my crab apple jelly that had been cellaring in a cool spot under my sink. The consistency was good; the colour was spot on; and fortunately the taste was fitting for crab apple jelly as well. Success it seems.

Next stop plum jam I think.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Sunday Jelly

What is a girl to do when she sees an underutilised, overabundant crab apple tree in a garden with no one but the birds paying it any attention?

Well, when life gives you crab apples, make crab apple jelly.

I've never made such a thing before, but on a grey and drizzly Sunday, with the Internet as my sous chef, I attempted to construct something from a fruit I was about 95% sure was crab apple.

After weeding out all the bad apples, I sat the entire population on the stove in an excellent jam making pot I happened upon in the back of a cupboard.

I boiled the lights out of them and then strained the juice through an old (but super clean) white shirt which had been retired.

I then added more sugar than you'd ever care to know and boiled the juice which looked remarkably like dirty dish water until slowly it clarified and began to seem a lot more like a crab apple jelly I know and trust.

Eventually I carefully poured the liquid into the identical little jam jars I bought from the funny little DIY store just down the road.

I then spent the rest of the day feeling so ridiculously proud of myself that you'd have thought I'd just split the atom.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Books to read before I'm 30 - book three

Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

It's one of those books I have always meant to squeeze into my life somewhere along the way, but I never was much good with the idea of wizards.

However the overwhelming talent of Tolkien is enough to capture even this realist's heart. Just like when reading 'A Suitable Boy' I spent a lot of time whilst reading 'Lord of the Rings' wondering how this could have been written by a human being. Its detail, depth, complexity, poetry, colour and life is such that you could be led to believe it is of another world.

I may have rolled my eyes once or twice at having to read a book which is so long my version was separated into three 'normal' sized books, but I have already found myself forcing it on others like some crazed paperback pusher.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

52 Shots #30

A Swiss Daisy poses with an air of disgruntlement as I pass her field on my way down the mountain.

2. Climb a mountain

Right under the marathon on the list of nine things to do whilst I'm still 29, is a mountain.

After a weekend of severe cheese and wine ingestion, early on a sunny Monday morning, a party of five walked up Rigi just across Lake Lucerne, Switzerland.

The cloud came in in the afternoon but the view 1800 metres up was still spectacular. As was the macaroni cheese at the restaurant just down from the summit.

I enjoyed myself so much I think I might try and knock a few more mountains off over the next few months.