Monday, 26 December 2011

Just a track which sums up this vile story and this  example of consumerism gone mad so few words:

 "buy more" "Consume" "be happy"

I hope you all had a great Christmas. Feel free to ask me things (anything you want to know)

My next blog post will be answers.


Thursday, 15 December 2011

One Hundredth Post

I have been here, loitering. I have written, and quickly scrapped countless posts. I have re-visited older posts, an end-of-year evaluation, I suppose.

I was driving home from a retail park earlier, the road by-passes a village and you get the feeling you're driving through a groove carved out from the earth with a giant pointed stick, mountains all around. Neil Young came on the radio, I'm not a huge fan, but his nasal tones remind me of childhood. Staying up late on a weekend; my uncle's 'fragrant' roll-up cigarettes competing with everyone else's, pints of cider and lager dotted around, the musky perfume 'Tweed' by Yardley filling the bathroom, loud laughter. I'll have a small cup of Strongbow with a splash of Ribena please, and dream about being grown-up.
An intensely luminous rainbow shot out from the trees and over the mountain - it's beginning and end apparent but not obvious. The birds' silent flight makes it's own music by igniting rhythms and bass-lines lying dormant in your brain.
A balloon filled with helium bobs around in the back of the car, like a third passenger nodding to the music, what a noble gas.
I'm regularly reminded that the connections you make with people through sharing your life on here are not purely superficial.
My coat came from Sheffield, from a lady I've never met, I have never heard her voice, but I know her. I read her blog posts and everything about her is familiar. Someone giving me a coat and knowing it would fit and I'd love it - must be a friend? My ring came from London, a lady I've never met, my earrings from Stockport, a lady I've never met.
I laughed really rudely and loudly last night at the corner shop. A local lady with mild learning difficulties and a dearth of endearing characteristics was there furiously scratching lottery cards. Pink nightdress with a cow on the front, gaping pink fleece dressing gown and emerald green peep-toe shoes, eight cans of John Smiths on the counter awaiting payment. The new shop owner wore stonewashed jeans with a razor-sharp crease ironed into the front, and a baseball style jacket with denim body and baggy jersey sleeves, his shirt was a purple, mustard and teal abstract affair - like many of the eighties prints; a smudged chalk effect. My attire didn't disappoint either. Exercise leggings, cheap ribbed t-shirt, my son's hoodie, and running shoes. "Look at us, all dressed up and nowhere to go!" I quipped.
Tumbleweed blew past as I waited for a raucous response to my joke, a few customers shot me a filthy look.
I went out last Saturday with the gang featured in this post. Festivities, I embraced them - whatever they are. I even wore a party hat. My default 'pissed' behaviour came out of hiding. I was presented with endless glasses of water and ordered to drink them. I harassed the two very young barmen, I'm barely getting away with this now, lord help me when I'm a pensioner. I'm bound to be still at it.
I decorated the tree with the boys, ensuring that essential foul-mood which is unique to mothers of young children reared it's head. Usually when cooking, splashing boiling gravy, dropping pans and saying SHHHITTT! It was lovely.
I sat and watched the Christmas concert, kids can't sing nicely to save their lives, and I can't sit there without thinking what the REAL story was with that star, child-mother, 3 blokes and a barn. Terrible mum.

I bought a present following a recommendation on Jem's blog, I sent my charity-swap parcel off (more from the coat, swap etc. another time). I made Christmas cards, I DO try.

I wish you a very Merry Christmas.
What is your wish for next year?  Mine is for peace.

2012 is going to be a year of change, I don't know what I'll be doing this time next year, but I will definitely share it with you all. You're all wonderful, I mean it.


Lucy x


Thursday, 1 December 2011

Christmas rant/Shopping rant (yes, misery rules)

It would take so long to comment on all the posts I have either missed this week, or have only briefly glanced at on a tiny screen. This makes me feel like I'm not playing by the rules.. Sorry folks. Will try to remedy this very soon.

Where have I been? Everywhere and nowhere.  Trying to be a good PTA* member, failing to be a good PTA member. Trying to be more of a disciplinarian with the boys, failing to be anything but 'soft as shite'. Trying to be more domesticated, less of a lazy dreamer...failing.
Trying, trying, trying to be the type of person who talks about Christmas with enthusiasm FAILING.

I like seeing children smile, who doesn't? That doesn't mean I have to like Christmas. Remember that line as I won't be dwelling on the happy kids side of it again. i hope it goes without saying that my boys like Christmas.

I don't dislike Christmas, I even end up getting into the spirit by about the 22nd.
I like the school concert, but it doesn't make me cry. I'm a bit hard in the 'kids making me cry' department after looking after a girl until her death, who was smashed against a wall by her step father as a baby. She died blind, deaf, epileptic and happy 5 years later. I was 20 and one of my favourite pictures is of me holding her.

I like the Salvation Army band playing in town. I like watching people try to carry  something bigger than them home from town in the heavy rain, face like thunder, full of White Lightening. I like getting  a card addressed To no 17, from no 26. I am having great difficulty adding to this list.

I've been doing a bit of amateur psychology, trying to work out why I can't work up much enthusiasm for special occasions. I conclude; it's spontaneity I thrive on.

I've never liked wearing a watch. I have a reliable body clock, and am punctual. If I'm going out for the day, finding out the train times doesn't come into it. I'll turn up, and a train will arrive on the platform soon after.

Nights out, impromptu - great. Meticulously planned, deposit-paid, "I'm wearing this dress and these shoes" - boring.

Dinner - thrown together by instinct and with little thought - delicious. Military precision dining - no thanks.

Shopping for gifts - awful. Seeing something and thinking "she'd LOVE that" when it's nowhere near her birthday or Christmas - memorable (no, not 'priceless).

My pet hates; plastic toys, gift sets, waste wrapping paper, sickly cheap processed food, warm wines and spirits, grudges, general 'waste', insincerity, ungratefulness, token/thoughtless gifts, vile greetings cards, terrible music, hidden pain, debt, overly wound-up kids (Santa won't come), harassed staff, angry shoppers, grumpy postal staff...

I went to Cardiff with my 12 year old on Wednesday, he's itching to boost his social status with some over-priced leisure wear.

Hollister has arrived in Cardiff, everything about this had escaped my attention. On the train, talk of the queues to get into Hollister was to be heard from every angle. I didn't know what the fuss was about (still don't).

FORTY-FIVE minutes of queuing to get into a shop? No, I didn't do it. Great marketing, but why are adults sucked in? Fair enough the teens, but why would anyone find a shop reeking of artificial flowers, and staffed by underweight pre-pubescent looking androgynous types, an experience worth buying into?

The queue for the shop snaked all around this balustrade:

On to 'Cult' a shop stocking endless racks of overpriced hoodies and t-shirts emblazoned with 'Super-Dry'. I remember the Super-Dry collection about 10 years ago seeming like butch wear for ladies, and camp wear for gents (sorry to generalise).

Now, the Super-Dry jacket and hoodie are a sure way to prove you're a valid member of society. Huge queues in the store, identikit staff, stressed parents and grandparents.
I'm so out of touch with shopping. I think £10 is a fortune to spend on an a garment. Fifty quid for a zip-up hoodie? No  joke.

I did succumb though, I remember a brief period of wanting to fit in. Followed closely by a period of wanting to look totally unique, all second-hand or customised clothes from the age of 14 to the present day. I looked a total idiot most of the time, but the courage I had then, I miss. If my son wants to be a clone, he can be one. That's what he wants for Christmas.

On the way back, I stopped at just one charity shop, it was painful walking past the next 3. "Mum, you are the only one out of all my friends' mothers who dresses like an old lady". I bought a naff jumper, I will model it soon. It IS an old lady jumper - shame on me. My poor, embarrassed boy.

The guy who served me was pleasant, natural and funny, unlike the other shops. I spent £6 on a  jumper and trousers. Spontaneity ruled. For me.

Tell me what I'm missing.

Merry Bloody Christmas!

* PTA = parent/teacher association

Monday, 21 November 2011

Can you believe this pool has been empty for over 20 years, and just left to disintegrate? It's right in the centre of town - the heart of the war memorial park, which is my favourite haunt.
The changing rooms, shelter and other surrounding buildings are Grade II listed.

Presently, the shopping centre is undergoing a very expensive facelift. The giant concrete cuboid, formerly 'Taff Vale Shopping Precinct' has been demolished. 

The tax office which was encased in this architectural masterpiece is slowly being taken apart (good old asbestos). 

 Plans for Next, Debenhams and other such retail giants to open stores here in 2012, promise to lure cash-splashing shoppers back to Pontypridd.  

The precinct used to house 'Rainbow Records' "no love, I haven't got that top 20 album, I can get it by Monday?" (Monday never came, though I did buy some great stuff from there in the early nineties)

The barbers was by far the jewel in the precinct's crown though.
The couple who owned it won the pools in the 70's, and went on an intensive hairdressing course before they bought the shop. 

The same apron was used for every customer, they only had 2. The 'gold'fish were suspended in slime, like a smaller, rotten version of Hirst's Cow

The couple offered no small-talk to customers, never decorated the place, or took down the 70's posters, and never gave anyone a decent haircut. It was always busy though, I think the price structure had a lot to do with it.

The ultimate insult to throw at a boy would be "did you have your hair cut in the precinct?"

gone, not forgotten

The design template for most of the departmental buildings in Pontypridd (built post 1950) follow this pattern: get a ruler, draw a straight line, then another, and join up the sides.

Only 2 floors left to demolish now, this was September.

The other major re-development currently under way is the building of a Sainsbury's supermarket on the former Brown Lenox site.

Brown Lenox was a chain/anchor works, constructed in 1816. 

In junior school, lessons in  local history  tended to feature two things; coal-mining, and the chainworks. The image of Isambard Kingdom Brunel standing in front of the giant chains is iconic for me.

We walked through the indoor market on Saturday, the boys love it in there.

I bought 2 bras for £1 each from the beautiful stall Shapemakers - take a look, and imagine what shape you could create. 
The second-hand book stall is chock-a-block with working-class favourites; My Life Has Been Utterly Shite, I Met a Nice Man and he DIED, I am a copper and I DRINK NEAT WHISKY all day - you get the picture? I didn't buy a book.

However, I will mock the market no more. It's improving month by month, and  I remember getting excited about going shopping there as a child.

I'd buy a few ounces of coconut mushrooms ("why do you always choose the heavy sweets Lucy?") and look at the toy stall. I once bought a little doll inside a matchbox from there, it seemed  a perfectly sensible purchase.

Recently, four ladies my age  opened stalls, one (the market owner's wife) has a lovely delicatessen/butchers, another sells hand-made cushions, bags and  decorative items, the third - an organic fruit and veg stall,  and finally, a stall selling paper goods. 
Tasteful, contemporary, quality, maybe things are looking up?

If we stay in Pontypridd, I hope the boys won't remember it as a dump. It's  home. 

My parents aren't from Pontypridd, neither is Rob, but I feel settled here, even when some of the sights get me down.

I was discussing 'inspiration' the other day;  it recently dawned on me that you don't need to go far or be surrounded by stereotypical examples of beauty to feel inspired. 

I do feel a change of scene is important to keep your mind fresh and add intrigue, but when you're in the right frame of mind, a walk down a well trodden path, one you've frequented all your life, can feel new and exciting.

I refuse to feel depressed about a supermarket and various chain stores taking over the town.
I'm on first-name terms with the lovely elderly ladies at the 'Truck Stop Cafe' in the market, and the young ladies starting new ventures. There's room for optimism, as well as dismay (though, I revel in the latter).

What makes 'home' for you, and why?

Sunday, 13 November 2011

A 'No News' week...

A sweaty week on the sofa with the family. For me, swallowing was agony, every time, it felt as though I was attempting to gulp a whole tangerine coated in glass beads. Head colds for Rob and the boys.

I drifted in and out of consciousness, dreaming I was choking, before waking to find a child telling me he needed a drink, meal, entertainment or help to get his Spiderman or Hulk costume off to have a wee.
My neck was swollen, I dribbled, my ears stung and my head spun.
The gas man came, why do they always arrive at such times?

I'm nearly recovered, but feel rather fragile, I just want to get out and do things, but slight activity leaves me exhausted. This is my winter mode, every year since my early teens, it's the same. Please -  no suggestions of vitamin tablets.

Blogging material has been limited to the confines four walls surrounding me. An impromptu visit from a couple, whilst in the throes of illness, was most unwelcome. This duo usually arrive with chutney in early December, a tradition of which they're very proud. The chutney is ghastly, I'm not a fussy eater at all, to which any family member will attest. This red onion chutney, however, tastes like rubber bands steeped in wine and strawberry jam. I will donate it to the school, part of the Christmas hamper raffle prize.
They were doing the chutney round early this year, the reason is long and boring.

I tried  fobbing the grinning couple off at the front door, hoping my swollen, clammy, pasty face coupled with nightwear at 4 pm would be enough proof that I wasn't feeling well. It mattered not that I was potentially host of a SARS-type virus which could exterminate them before they get to the next lucky recipient of chutney.

I managed some half-hearted small-talk, made them a cuppa, and very efficiently 'swept' them out of the house when I could stand no more 'useless-doctor-at-the-hospital/surgery' talk.
I was racked with self-loathing and guilt when they left. Why can't I just be nice?

Anecdotes are so thin on the ground, days have passed, and I've yet to finish the post.

I ventured  out this evening, to Tesco Express in Treforest - home to the University of Glamorgan. It's always really busy, and not very big. There's a Pizza Hut, KFC and a bar all crammed into a space only big enough for one of these establishments. Students are always to be found in large groups, using their measly funds to stock up on essentials like boxes of wine and buckets of chicken wings.

I filled a basket with packed-lunch supplies quickly, the handles chewed into my palms. A lady who seemed to have the mental age of a ten year old kept getting in my way, well, everyone's way.
Sandwiches reduced to £1 were drawing a crowd, you really can't beat stale bread, cheap ham and some rubberised cheese for an evening snack, can you?

The lady getting in my way (I decided to call her Bertha) was with an equally charming male companion who had  a penchant for denim (he can be Shakin' Stevens or 'shaky' for short). Shaky took one look at the queue and decided he was too cool to wait, he picked up at least 4 big bars of chocolate and strutted out of the shop. Bertha huffed and puffed behind me, she had 8 cans of cider, loads of reduced sandwiches and 2 huge bags of value ready salted crisps - they should work up a thirst.

Bertha and I were served at the same time, she looked like a lady with not a lot on her mind, I noticed a key ring swinging from her hand, it was festooned with cartoon character trinkets. As I had more shopping, Bertha left before me.

I was keen to see where Shaky had got to, so I hurried out of the shop, to witness Shaky sitting in the passenger seat of a brand new Ford (typical girl - don't know the model) EATING the stolen chocolate, and DISPLAYING a disabled badge. I know lots of disabilities are hidden, I'm not about to have a rant about any of the thoughts which came to mind.

I got into my shed, and followed Bertha and Shaky out of the car park. Shaky had cracked open a can, Bertha was force-feeding herself a sandwich (maybe livers are fetching a good price at the moment? Bertha is following the foie gras method to plump her liver to maximum size. "Cash your liver TODAY!" "".

How the other half live eh?

Anyone remember 'Bertha'? I loved it. Rob always says he's not surprised I don't watch much TV now, I was completely addicted as a child:

Hope you all have a lovely week, I enjoyed everyone's blog posts while I was marinating myself in a Streptococcus sauce. Commenting was sometimes hard, my phone was thrown in anger on several occasions.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

When I was at junior school, I decided I was going to become an actress. I can't remember the exact moment, but I do remember starting to internally narrate my actions. 

I had a nightie which I adored, it was knee-length with 3/4 sleeves, a boater neckline and it depicted a scene comprising two rows of telephone booths fading to a vanishing point. Men on one side, women on the other (all identical) there were palm trees too, and everything looked like bright metallic car-paint. The women were wearing tight jeans, denim jacket, giant hoop earrings and stilettos. They were 'me'.

If I was preparing a Marmite and Dairylea sandwich for myself, which was possibly a daily ritual, in my head I'd be building my part up. "Yes Peter, I'm just making some sandwiches for us. What time are you picking me up? 7:30? OK, beep the horn".  I'd go upstairs and pretend to put on stilletos and ankle socks, just like on ZZ Top's 'Legs' video. 
I don't know who Peter is, but it was always Peter, which happens to be Rob's middle-name.

This internal narration took over everything, even having a bath became an episode of my own personal Truman Show-esque life. I 'spoke' about myself in the third person.

Everyone does this to a certain extent - don't they? Maybe not.

I had a stressful evening last Thursday. 
I took all three boys for a haircut and it was a nightmare (I may blog about it once I've recovered). Next, I bought jeans for my 12 year old, the type which look as though they've been designed for someone with severe rickets. 

That was  also a horrendous experience, not helped by the  crude music in the shop which could be described as "a migraine interpreted through the medium of Gabber techno" being blasted from a cheap stereo.  I love electronic music, so you can imagine how awful it was if I'm moaning. 

To cope with this unpleasant evening (did I mention the torrential rain, and toddler who refuses to have the rain-cover on his pushchair?) I narrated the scenes in real time.

"Now, she's buying some jeans for her son, they're not what she'd choose for him. It's difficult saying no sometimes. He really wants these jeans, and he doesn't get many treats from his mum. She spends half her life living out of a suitcase, so likes to spoil him on the rare occasions they get together".

Don't ask why I "live out of a suitcase" maybe I'm a top Kleeneze rep in my 'other' life or something.

We rushed home in the rain, only pausing to look at The Gruffalo's house. This house is being renovated, it's so creepy because it looks filthy and stuck in a time warp, yet a middle aged woman lives there (it really does look uninhabitable). 
The 70's curtains catch my eye, "oh, the things Vix could make with these".

When we got home, I didn't see the mess and disorder. I live in a large house, just as described in this post.

I think it's time to start living my life. Properly.

forward to 3:49 - dream footwear

A fiver to anyone who can listen to this in it's entirety without wanting to slice their ears off

A Gruffalo, why -  don't you know?

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Psycho-delic Furs

The charity shops called yesterday. If I had the funds, and a shopping trolley to bring it all home, I would have pretty much emptied the Wales Air Ambulance and St David's Hospice shops.
There really is an improvement in stock once the boot sale season ends.

I bought three hats in the ambulance shop, some pretty material, a skirt, vintage napkins, a pyrex casserole dish (with lid!), a merino wool jumper and some picture frames. Sum total £15.75. "I'll put the hats on ebay" I thought.

In the hospice shop, I found myself wondering if some of the customers thought it was an actual hospice.Two wheelchair users, a man and woman, and their respective partners, cut a sorry sight. The shop manageress greeted the older couple with a welcoming familiarity. They were after a blanket for the lady in the wheelchair, to keep her legs warm. A pile of beautifully crocheted blankets sat on a table, knitted in subdued, tasteful and gradually merging  tonal shades.

The lady, who looked at least 65 said "I  don' wan' one-a them, they for grannys, in't they? I'll look like I belong in a nursing home!".
I  thought about the current resurgence in popularity these blankets are having, and how they'd fetch a pretty penny on some 'hip' city stall,  thirty-somethings snapping them up to dress their sofa.  £3 for one the size of a single quilt, £4 for a double. Very reasonable.
They left with nothing.

The second couple looked malnourished and really pathetic, they were wearing those strange padded hoodies, with mystical transfers on the back of wolves and wizards, don't know if you've been lucky enough to see these garments on show?
The manageress spoke to them in an over-familiar, prying way. I know her, I worked with her daughter a few years ago, she tested my patience, which is in pretty high supply.

Before shop she was the manageress at Mc Donalds, and raised a lot of money for charity. She has one of those union representative type personalities.

"What happened to you then, why are you in a wheelchair? It's like wheelchair club today".
Great way to break the ice.
"I'm diabetic love, feet don't work at the moment, hahahaha"
"Terrible thing, diabetes, my nan had her leg off with it". Great retort

They went on to discuss infections, hospitals, rubbish wheelchairs...
I kept getting drawn towards a  beaver lamb fur coat, which smelt of badgers, not that I'm familiar with the scent.
As I tried on the coat, transforming myself into the type of lady who gets 'taken out', I eavesdropped further on the conversation. I wish I hadn't.

"Infections - they can be very nasty. I had a terrible internal itch in my bowels awful, it was. Antibiotics didn't work, and you can't exactly scratch your bowels can you? They had  to open me up. I still wasn't better. The smell was horrendous, let me tell you, I made myself feel sick, so lord knows how my family coped. I got in the bath one day, the water was brown in minutes, it was." My partner used to sponge me down, but he began retch".

She glanced over, and changed the subject.
 "That coat looks stunning, doesn't it? Real beaver, it is 1930's" (sheepskin, possibly early 1960's).
The couple agreed it looked nice, and seemed  to accept wearing a 1930's beaver was perfectly acceptable. Caught up in my little fantasy, I bought it, £10, way over my usual spend allowance.

As I paid, I decided to show her my hat collection, "ooh, what a bargain, REAL mink!"
I looked again. It was real.
Oh dear, how many dead animals was I willing to take home? I really hadn't thought about it.

You can't really argue that "it's already been killed, so it's ok - second hand" can you?
It's still glamorising fur. Is it ok if you're a meat eater and the fur is a by-product of the food chain?

I won't be wearing the mink hat, that's for sure. The smelly coat? What do you think?

As for bowel stories, as much as I love toilet humour, the brown bath tale even had me feeling a bit sick.

ready for bed in tartan p.j's and beaver

Ebay? Keep?

Ebay? Or pet sematary?

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Good Life

I'm just getting over a virus, many are calling it 'flu, but this is an exaggeration. I've felt generally like I've got the worst hangover, all my energy stolen, limbs feel useless, heavy and bruised.
The worst thing? Bloody ravenous, all the time, despite not being able to taste anything (definitely not 'flu then).

Enough symptom talk, very boring, and I spend most of autumn/winter poorly every year so it's nothing new.

The past few weeks, very limited use of a PC means relying heavily on my phone to keep up with blogs - not easy unless you have a really snazzy phone (which I don't).
Sorry if my comments have been poorly typed, or if I haven't got around to commenting and I usually do.

It's been such a lonely fortnight for me, thank goodness for blogs, and twitter, which I'm warming to more after being unsure about if for most of the time.

I haven't been in a very communicative mood, generally, probably due to being run down. I did want to be around people, but only people who don't feel the need to fill the air with dialogue, close friends in other words. This period of near solitude has been good for me, provided a chance to think about the future.

I walked past a hair salon the other day, I have been walking past it on my way to town since I was three. It's called Pandora, and two ladies in their sixties run it, one of their mothers owned it before them.
Only old ladies go there now, but they probably went there when they were my age. They go in and have their hair 'set'. As the frail looking ladies sit, their head under the heaters, they look like corpses being warmed up. Invariably, they leave the salon looking only marginally different from when they went in.

I very suddenly became aware of the lapse of time, it was strange, I felt a sad longing,  all vulnerable and under pressure.
When you don't work, you see the same types of people; other mums, the unemployable, and the elderly. These elderly ladies getting out of taxis every Wednesday to wobble into Pandora were me, not so very long ago.When I walked past aged 3, who knows, maybe one of them was in there having a perm, sipping weak tea, enjoying a bit of peace. Corned beef hash planned for dinner, a night out lined up at one of the now long-gone bars or clubs that weekend.

Like many people, I get scared when I think about the future, excited and scared in equal measure. I think of death, illness, one or all of my sons becoming tearaway, of me being fed up as I juggle work and family commitments.
I also think of having more fun, being less tied to the family, meeting new people at work, getting out and about more.
I think of the past, those days which leave a lasting impression on your mind despite nothing notable happening (like standing in the lane, aged 8, looking at an open attic window on a hot day and feeling like I was looking at myself from another vantage point. Duran Duran were blasting from the bedroom).

I reckon Pandora will be gone soon, those ladies have been standing up all day in stilletos for over 40 years. I bet  they'll never be able to wear orthopaedic shoes now.

I'm reaching a prime, not necessarily a prime age; a prime time. I don't want a perm, don't want a full-time job, don't want a tattoo, don't want a degree. I don't want to go to a show. I don't want a girls weekend in Butlins.

I want to get fit, dress more like 'me' than some blend-in with the furniture mum. I want to make things, make friends, cook more, talk more (I don't talk much, believe it or not) and create memories to look back on for notable reasons. I can't wait

I hope these thoughts make sense, I sometimes wonder if a diary would be better than a blog?

Monday, 17 October 2011

Fairtrade bananas, a vicar and a poem...

We've been treated to some of the most beautiful autumn skies I have ever seen, day and night.
As I ran with my eyes fixed on the enchanting moon, I  barely missed lamp posts, confused new students finding their way around Treforest (home of the University of Glamorgan) and dog-walkers.

Last Thursday I spent an hour at church, listening to cringe-worthy harvest songs sung by children innocently and naively thanking God for conkers, bananas and parents. The vicar was a rather bemusing character, ultra-camp, I think panto was his true calling. 

I pulled a chair to sit near two mums and chat before the service began, I didn't have much to say, but they invited me and I had been feeling rather 'Billy no mates' sitting alone at the end of a row of 20 empty chairs. The vicar insisted I was a fire hazard and made me return to my original seat, with a worse vantage point - I was destined to sit alone.

I'm glad I did sit alone, it was easier to stifle the tidal wade of childish giggles that were ready to flood the church. The vicar  put on a bizarre display using a banana as a prop. The banana became a gun and a mobile phone, "what did you say mummy? Stop playing with my food?"
I was too shocked to react and didn't dare imagine further uses for the phallic prop (really, I didn't).

I looked around the church; stained glass windows all around ensure you don't look out to the sky and the world, a large organ, fire extinguishers everywhere, a giant projector and screen - everything was at odds. Even the churchy feeling I usually get, a sort of  general heightening of my senses, eluded me.
The songs were beautiful in their celebration of nature, but for me, this was spoilt by the suggestion god had carefully and cleverly designed it all.

The vicar showed us a clip promoting the  fairtrade scheme - great,  I love a fairtrade banana and bar of chocolate.
 I wished I could think only about the happy farmers, but I thought of the child labour, the starving AIDS-ravaged families, the helplessness.  I almost envied the vicar's faith as I looked at the plump, comfortably clothed school children who have more pencils in one drawer than a whole village in parts of Africa, a sense of intense guilt washed over me because I am always moaning about the price of food.

Babies and toddlers became restless, I started to focus on the vicar's sharp intakes of breath before each sentence, anything to detract from the tedium - my concentration span is incredibly poor.
Light flooded in through the red robe of whichever saint adorned the east facing window, occasionally painting the vicar's face a devil-red.
A pile of tinned food for the local hungry people looked sterile and inappropriate in a church, I felt it should look like an offering to the gods, all laid out with doilies, candles and incense sticks.
I mouthed the words to All Things bright and Beautiful,  instantly being transported back to primary school, the smell of the woodblock floor, damp walls and rancid farts.
The teachers looked at their watches, probably planning their coffee breaks and willing the vicar to wrap up the service, the pupils started to shuffle and giggle. Carrier bags started to rustle, I wonder when carrier bags will be something we remember from years ago, like fags being smoked on a bus.

The vicar allowed the headmaster to take centre stage, he too thinks he's a funny guy, he read a Roger Mc Gough poem and grinned as if he was hearing it for the first time.

The vicar thanks us for coming, the church quickly empties.
As I was about to leave he came over to apologise for embarrassing me regarding the fire-hazard saga. I tell him he made up for that with his banana routine.
The vicar tells me the children love his banana routine, I can hold on to the tidal wave of guffaws no more.

Just Another Autumn Day - Roger McGough

In Parliament, the Minister for Mists
and Mellow Fruitfulness announces,
that owing to inflation and rising costs
there will be no Autumn next year.
September, October and November
are to be cancelled,
and the Government to bring in
the nine-month year instead.
Thus we will all live longer.

Emergency measures are to be introduced
to combat outbreaks of well-being
and feelings of elation inspired by the season.
Breathtaking sunsets will be restricted
to alternate Fridays, and gentle dusks
prohibited. Fallen leaves will be outlawed,
and persons found in possession of conkers,
imprisoned without trial.
Thus we will all work harder.

The announcement caused little reaction.
People either way don't really care
No time have they to stand and stare
Looking for work or slaving away
Just another Autumn day.

Roger McGough

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Reasons to be Cheerful [IMAGE HEAVY]

There are so many reasons to be cheerful.

I won TWO 'giveaways' -

Firstly, a garment that has been on quite a journey (returned to sender once, and from the depot to my house THREE times!)  fitting, really, as it features a large feathered bird:

I won this on Kat and Emma's monthly  giveaway and I love it.  They are such a creative duo, true artists with a passion for embracing all things unique, quirky and fun.
This cardigan caused quite a stir at the doctors last week! Children wanted to touch it.

Secondly, I won Scarlett's latest giveaway, and I had some help opening the parcel:

Suits you, sir

they insisted I paint my nails IMMEDIATELY!

can I eat it, mum?

they love these Enid Blyton tales

I plan on using the buttons for crafting, and framing the tea-towel - my kitchen needs to be brightened up -


As if this wasn't enough to keep my spirits up, in between these parcels, the queen of treasure-hunting, style and generosity, Vix sent me a parcel of goodies. 
Just by reading past blog posts, detective Vix managed to glean enough information to choose items I simply adore.

Even down to the card, Vix picked out just the right detail.

Lovely earrings, poncho created by Vix in my favourite shades with shades in my favourite shade too! Bracelet I've hardly taken off, pinny just perfect for my pizza nights, cute blue slip which cheered Rob up a treat (winceyette p.j's not so popular).
Even the card was thoughtful - I mentioned wanting a dresser full of treasured finds in a past post.

I also one a parcel full of chocolate on Crystal Jigsaw's caption competition post! 

And, a 1980 edition 'Mandy' annual I picked up for 10p has provided some double-entendre delight:

"Sorry for choking like that mum, I just wasn't ready for 'Big Ben'"
"We'll get used to it in the evenings dear"

Whilst I'm going a bit crazy with the images, here I am wearing my most recent charity shop finds:

Coat - Eastex -  Red Cross- £5.99
Black dress - St Michaels - Wales Air Ambulance - £3
Black Heeled Brogues - my mum's original
Scarf -Richard Allan - Wales Air Ambulance -  50p
Orange Cardi -  Hand-knitted - St David's Hospice - £1
Patterned tights - 'new' from charity shop (can't remember) - 50p
Patterned skirt - St Michaels - (I wouldn't go out dressed like that - honest!) - Wales Air Ambulance £1.50

I ended this evening with a book that was written for me,  cheers Vix.

Scarlett, Kat and Emma - your prizes made me so happy! Thank-you very much.

Kathryn (Crystal Jigsaw) I'm going to have to run an extra mile a day at least to work off the damage done by the giant chocolate parcel you sent me! Thanks though - loved it (yep, all gone!).

I'll leave you with something I managed to avoid taking home from the charity shop....

Have a great week everyone!

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Six ninety-nine please

Everyone was walking past the house to go to the shop for wine or beer. I bought some wine too. I wanted to be transported somewhere exciting, maybe £6.99 being removed electronically from my  bank  account for a bottle of rotten liquified  grapes was the key.

I was swept along with the tide of seemingly happy people on twitter, they love drinking wine on Friday.

I'm on my second big glass, watching The Comic Strip. I'm not finding it very entertaining. Rob has drifted into one of those naps which start with jerky spasms, a hangover of evolution; stopped us falling from trees when were apes.

I have no computer, this week I have been solely using my phone for electronic communication. Frustrating for a ham-fisted individual like me.

To be using my phone to type a blog post suggests desperation.

Overdrawn, overtired, overstimulated, understimulated, groundhog day, content, fear of the future, longing for adventure, longing for hibernation, want to dance, want to sit motionless in 10 decibel silence, laughing uncontrollably with friends, serious chat with friend,.want to be thin, want to be curvy, want to dye my hair, love the natural colour, need new footwear, washed the dog shit off my running shoes; they look box-fresh, want my sons to be more independent, still want to be the centre of their world, want more free time, worry free time means I spend that valuable time doing things like this...

Typos, grammatical errors, inevitable tonight - sorry readers.

Monday, 3 October 2011

I was looking for a job....

I'm so annoyed with myself. I've allowed the house to become something which resembles student digs.

I haven't been plucking  my eyebrows regularly enough, so now I look like Oscar from Sesame Street (that reminds me - I used to look after a girl called Oscarina who had 'Sesamstrasse' trainers - I loved them).

I have been eating bread, chocolate and crisps most days. I'm not particularly enjoying my own company, I'm constantly telling myself to 'pull myself together' and clean the house. In my defence, the weather has been too nice to stay in tidying up and cleaning. Then again, not doing any chores for 2 weeks is inexcusable.

I completed an on-line 'talent screening' contest for a cashier post Marks and Spencer - the algorithms deduced something I already knew:

Dear Lucy,

Thank you for taking the time to complete our on-line talent screener.

We received a very high standard of response for this position and we are sorry to tell you that you have been unsuccessful on this occasion.

The abilities that we test online are those which we believe are good predictors of success in Marks and Spencer and have been validated to ensure they predict performance in the role.  Unfortunately we felt that based on the answers given, you did not meet all of these requirements.

We would of course welcome your application again in 6 months time for a Customer Assistant role, all of which are advertised on our website

May we take this opportunity to wish you every success with your future career and hope that you will not be discouraged from applying for any future vacancies.

Kind Regards,

Resourcing Operations Team

I'm not what they are looking for!

I'm not what anyone is 'looking for' I'm unique - you don't realise you're looking for me 'til you find me - then you wonder how ON EARTH you got through life this far without me. If you just give me the chance Resourcing Operations Team, I'll prove I can do this. I was BORN to serve customers. Retail is in my blood. All my friends and family tell me I'm a brilliant till operator.  I'll prove you wrong*.

Anyway, I'm not really a massive drama queen having a sulk, honest. I'm mildly fed up because I go through periods of restlessness and boredom quite regularly, and I only have myself to blame. I have hobbies, but I also have 3 children and an almost obsessional addiction to cooking fresh meals every day - so time consuming, no dishwasher either. Woe is me.

At least the keywords this week in my traffic stats were amusing:


* I am fully aware that working in retail is not easy. I have previously worked in a clothes shop and I was awful. I walked out on a busy Saturday I hated it that much. The animated cartoon interviewer saw through my usual impeccable impression of an ideal employee.  BITCH!

p.s I think you should all check out this post by Genius Loci for a visually stimulating treat.

Friday, 30 September 2011

Watching you watching me to see you looking back at me

This week I've been staring a lot at people I don't know personally, but have noticed them 'around'.
Some of these people look back at me with a hint of recognition in their eyes. I'm probably "that woman who's always pushing a screaming kid around town".

This brief, extra late Indian Summer, though welcome, and very much expected by me, is strange. The park smelt rotten, the festering, damp, autumnal mulch, intensified by the alien heat rays. 

I got to the park early every day to enjoy the initial peace and increasing warmth with my monkey of a son;  the squirrels, birds and the park keeper our only company.

By 10:45, the squirrels are hiding and out come the pigeons, ready for some of Greggs' finest crumbs, dropped by the hoards of toddlers who arrive.  Peace will be restored in under 24 hours, until then,  goodbye park, I have been frequenting you all my life and will never completely give up on you.

As I exit the park, I recoil by HSBC bank. The "loud, chopsy thin woman" which is a rather poor nickname (coined by my mum) is even thinner. If she was 7 stone before, she now looks less than 6, a walking corpse; skin like flaps of peeling PVA glue hang from jutting spiky bones. Her voice is now ghoulish, I can imagine her saying "help meeee" in a terrifying whisper. She no longer chats for too long to the charity shop volunteers, she's fading. I don't think she's as old as she looks (which is about 190) and I think she is clever, though she seems like a 'difficult' person. I stare and recoil a few more times - how can someone so poorly be out and about?

In the market, I see a man who scares me, if I'm near him in a shop I go all cold and tense. I'd say he's in his mid to late 60's, he never smiles, there is no evidence of an emotion, positive or negative, on his face. It's the upright walk which unnerves me, that and the eyes of a shark.

A new addition to my 'I've seen you before' file, intrigues me. I reckon I'll get to know her one day, she seems worth getting to know. I like her clothes and the way she looks up, not just around. I'd say she's in her mid forties, lives alone, and suffers from depression - her eyes look quite sad, like they're desperate to be rinsed out with cold water and shown a bright picture.

The last in today's list is a lady who has lost it. Once, she looked the part. In the 80s she 'nailed' (I hate he use of that word all the time) the big hair, frosted lips and stiletto-revealing toe-cleavage look. Time has been unkind, and I reckon moving on (there goes another crap term) would be a good idea. Ordering all the discontinued 'Sky Blue Pink' Constance Caroll lipsticks from some obscure website, still back-combing her hair even though it's brittle and grey, and spraying an emphysema-inducing amount of Insette hairspray to hold it in place, has done her no favours. She doesn't smile. She used to smile a lot. I bet she's got bunions.

When I become "the woman who USED to push a screaming kid around town" I hope I look happier, not sad and lost.

Do you have any nicknames for local strangers? 
Rob and I have hundreds. Just in a small section of the street we have: 

'My Ex' (so called because he asked me on a date once when I first moved in - I declined)

'Your mate' (I call the guy who lives over the road Rob's mate because Rob fixed his  computer once. He lives in the dirtiest house imaginable and is rather eccentric, very much NOT Rob's mate)

'Snoop Dogg' (He lives opposite and is never without his dog. Seems a nice guy, but has the worst hairdo; fringe which comes to his eyebrows, long hair to his shoulders; cut short at the sides for his ears to poke out. Oh, and a moustache to complete the look. And 70's addidas track suits which would fetch a tidy sum on ebay)

I'm a very nosey neighbour.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Meet Loren - Korea Girl

The 'Korean' pose

Loren is a 23 year old English Graduate from South Wales.I met her through a mutual friend earlier this year, and she really encouraged me to give blogging a whirl.

A very early interest in clothes led Loren to pursue a career in the cut-throat world of fashion journalism. Good internships, let alone jobs were in scarce supply, so she decided to take on an adventurous role - teaching English in South Korea.

It's one thing to go travelling with a friend to experience different cultures, but I believe you don't get the full experience unless you fully immerse yourself.

Here Loren answers some prying questions for me ( I really am that nosey).

What made you choose Korea?

Money was my main motivation in choosing Korea.  I'd heard that you could save quite a lot working here, something that is unfortunately necessary to get my future off the ground in this time when graduates are expected to work for little or no money.  I was also intrigued by the country.  There's a lot of negative stuff posted about it on the internet, particularly about being an English teacher here.  This contrasted deeply with the glimmers of interesting stuff I read about the zany fashions, kitsch culture and the up-and-coming music scene.  I decided to contact bloggers to see what they thought and the response was overwhelmingly positive, urging me to go for it.

What does a typical working day entail?

School is a 10 minute walk away for me so I leave the house at 8:20 and head there.  Typically I teach about 3 or 4 lessons a day in classes of 40 high-school boys (15 year olds).  Luckily I have a coteacher who handles discipline so I can teach without worrying about that, plus most of the kids are very focused and determined so I barely ever have a problem.  They can be a little loud or grumpy, depending on the weather and what they’ve eaten: they get very agitated just before lunchtime on a humid day, for example.  I stay at school until 4:30, preparing lesson plans, helping out with any grammar/ linguistic queries the other teachers have and proofreading any work that needs looking over.

What do you do in your spare time?

In the evenings I’ll grab dinner with someone or eat alone at home. Eating out is incredibly cheap here, you can get a decent meal for 3 quid and the portions are enormous.  It’s actually cheaper to eat out as a single person than it is to eat at home alone.  Korea also has burgeoning obsession with coffee so since I live in a bustling University area there are tons of coffee shops around.  I like to sit and read or write in them since they all have WIFI.  In fact, Korea has the fastest internet speed in the world and there are plans to blanket Seoul in free WIFI in the near future.

On weekends I generally visit Seoul.  As the second largest city in the world, there’s always something going on here.  A typical weekend would be to have dinner with friends on the Friday evening, normally something more expensive than usual such as galbi (Korean Barbecue) or maybe something western.  On a Saturday I do some exploring and in the evening I’ll go out to Hongdae where all my favourite bars are.  There’s always some kind of party organized by someone on the expat scene so you always see the same faces out, which is fun.  The Sunday will be spent hungover, shopping and/ or eating.

What is the food/drink like?

I’ve already mentioned food twice so you can assume that I love it! Korean food is cheaper than western food so I try to eat that as much as possible.  At the moment I’m obsessed with mandu, which is the Korean version of chinese steamed dumplings.  I also love galbi because it’s such a sociable idea to sit in a restaurant with your friends, cooking your own meat.  Korean food comes with tons of side dishes so even if you feel like you’ve ordered a small meal it often turns into a big one.  I’m not always a fan of the side dishes though, they’re often very strange foods such as jellified roots and fermented vegetables.  Koreans eat kimchi with everything and I mean EVERYTHING.  Kimchi is fermented cabbage, salty and spicy with an odd slimey texture.  I can’t stand it but it’s meant to be some kind of superfood so I try to eat a little of it now and again.

I can’t mention drink without mentioning soju.  You can get a bottle of this Korean vodka for 75p.  The drinking culture in Korea is pretty crazy.  The country is meant to be so conservative but then you regularly find yourself sitting next to an inebriated passed out middle-aged man on the subway.

What is the weather like?

The weather isn’t great. When I came it was cold but within a month it started getting considerably warmer.  We had six weeks of gorgeous sunshine but then rainy season started.  Rainy season is meant to last for a month but this year it was more like three.  It’s hot, grey and humid and everyone gets very irate.  Koreans told me that this is the worst rainy season they’ve ever seen.  Clearly I brought the weather with me from Wales!  It’s autumn now and the cool, dry weather is a bit of a relief.  I’m worried about the sub-zero temperatures that winter is going to bring but on the bright side that means I get to go skiing for the first time.


The scenery isn't the best.  I miss looking at the valleys.  Korea has dry looking mountains, surrounded by apartment blocks.  The cities are packed with people and the architecture is functional as opposed to beautiful.  I have been to some gorgeous places in Korea though, but you do have to seek them out.  I've also been to some places that would have been more gorgeous had there not been a random ugly building plonked obscurely in the midst of a scene.

Best thing about Korea?

Most people say the public transport.  I have to admit, that is a huge draw for me.  I live in a city 30k away from Seoul but I can get there in 40 minutes for less than a pound.  A few weekends ago I visited the east coast of Korea for a few days, taking 3 hours on a bus to get there, at peak time during a public holiday.  The bus took exactly the time it was scheduled to take and cost me 14 quid return.  It’s so cheap and convenient.  It seems like a boring answer but what it means is that the best thing about living here is the freedom to visit anywhere else in the country at the drop of a hat.

Worst thing?

The worst thing is that because Korea is so homogeneous there is a lack of multi-culturalism and a high proportion of casual racism.  I get stared at constantly, especially when I'm not in Seoul.  Also the language barrier can cause problems but you just have to adapt to that.  You get really good at impromptu charades.

Have you made any good friends?

I’ve made some great friends, more than I thought I would.  Initially I planned that if I failed to make any friends I would just acquire a cat and go on adventures with it in tow.  Luckily I’ve made a great group of friends and I meet new ones every week.  There’s a feeling amongst the foreigners that everyone is in the same boat so most people are very friendly when you meet them out and about.  I’ve made some great Korean friends too, although this is usually harder than making friends with non-Koreans because Koreans can often be shy and are very nervous about using English in front of a native speaker.

How long do you think you'll stay?

Possibly a couple of years, maybe more.  I will eventually be coming home to start a career but at the moment it’s a relief not to be living in depressing recession-era Britain.  I'm also looking into moving to some other countries to teach since I'm feeling the wanderlust.  I'm thinking Taipei in Taiwan, Buenos Aires in Argentina or Prague in the Czech Republic

Smiling, at a sporting event? Unheard of

What is your dream job?

My dream job is to be a fashion or features editor on a national magazine.  Failing this, I’d just like to be paid to write. 

Any funny tales?

Far too many.  Mostly funny weird though. The strangest thing that happened to me is probably when I was at the Buddhist Lantern Festival in April. I was minding my own business, checking out the art stalls, when a shaven-headed female monk in robes came up to me, around 10 more monks in tow.  She presented me with some art made from a rubbing that she had just done and then all of the monks encircled me.  They took a picture with me and left me flabbergasted, as fleetingly as they had appeared.

Currently listening to? 

K-pop! Nah, not really.  It’s a bit too bubblegum for my liking.  Although I do love Big Bang and 2NE1.

Currently reading? 

Diary by Chuck Palahniuk.  He’s one of my favourite authors and luckily I managed to find this in the foreign book shop in Seoul.

Loren, and some other creative pals in Korea have set up Chincha?! a great website offering a snapshot of the best things Seoul has to offer.  She'd be delighted if you'd have a look and let her know what you think.

Follow Loren's blog where you won't find lengthy self-absorbed rants, just cool stuff like this which only take a moment to enjoy, but leave you inspired:

The Thorium dream  



Naughty Barbie (as a former Barbie addict, I LOVED this [yes, me - a Barbie fan as a kid])

Thanks Loren for letting me grill you. I think your ambition is admirable - you deserve the success which will inevitably come your way.