A stitch in time saves wine.

This year I decided that I probably wasn’t going to bother with a birthday. We’d just moved house the day before and there were boxes everywhere, plus moving house is extortionately expensive so we were both pretty broke, and a birthday just seemed like a bit of an unnecessary extravagance. So I decided just to skip 25 (I don’t like odd numbers anyway). I mean we didn’t just ignore it completely: we had breakfast and did some more unpacking before just quietly going to sit in the pub all afternoon. It was what I wanted.

Choosing a birthday like that – a non-birthday birthday, if you will – was a truly brilliant idea. Not only did I not have to organise people or pay lots of money to go to a club I wouldn’t like to be felt up by men who make me wretch, but because I didn’t see many people, it means that even now (nearly 3 months later), I’m still receiving gifts from people. And not just any old gifts, but CRAFT GIFTS!

One of the best non-birthday birthday presents I think I’ve ever received was a cross-stitch set to make your own coasters. I have previously professed my undying hatred for cross-stitch, due to my inability to follow a pattern and count the squares, so Rachel was really making a bold move by buying me this. I think she knew the I ♥ GIN designs would win me over, and boy was she right.

gin

 

The kit contained two coasters and two patterns: one that said I ♥ GIN (see above) and one that said I ♥ TEA. I started off with the gin one and found it so easy that I’d finished it within about half an hour and decided that I would mix things up a bit by creating my own pattern to substitute I ♥ TEA for I♥ WINE (because I do). However, I think I have a medical condition, which is probably called something like superioritis. You see I have this thing where, if I’m following instructions or a recipe, I get to a point where I’m like “I think *I* know better than this” and then just do as I please. It happened recently with a cheesecake I made, which I decided didn’t need anywhere near as much sugar as the recipe suggested, and which inevitably ended up in the bin, entirely uneaten. It happened again with JB’s birthday cake. And the I ♥ WINE coaster was yet another example of my arrogance getting the better of me.

I started off well by doing the letters I knew I could do (I, N, and E) but the W was the straw that broke my back and it ended up looking like it said I ♥ IVINE. I suppose it would be the perfect coaster if you were in love with someone called IVINE, but I’m not so I had to spend about an hour unpicking all of the stitching before eventually just following the pattern.

coastersDespite my little set-back, I’m quite pleased with the results and the coasters have pride of place on my coffee table. However I’m not sure I’m really cut out to be a cross-stitcher for the following reasons:

1) I really hurt my finger when I accidentally pushed the needle underneath my nail
2) Patterns are hard to follow and stifle my creativity
3) I am arrogant

I give cross-stitch a 6/10.

Sx

 

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5 Reasons I’m not sad that Maggie is Dead

minersa

(http://archiveshub.ac.uk/features/mar04b4.shtml)

Today, 8th April 2013, is the day that Twitter exploded. I was part of that explosion, and I’ll tell you why I’m proud. Like so many other kids born under the shadow of Thatcherite politics, I have been waiting – sometimes patiently, sometimes not – for Margaret Thatcher to die. And today we all got what we were waiting for.

When I first found out that she had finally died, I felt electric. I was hysterically laughing and I felt about 5st lighter. Friends on Facebook were quick to chide me for this inherent joy, but instead of being sorry I went and bought a bottle of Champagne. Such friends probably didn’t grow up in a mining village in South Yorkshire; maybe their dads weren’t actual coal-miners. I’m sure that if they had grown up in mining villages, they would see the damage – even today – caused by Thatcher.

Nowadays the abandoned mine is an ominous ghost which overshadows the entire village where I grew up. The village shops consist of mainly takeaways and tattoo parlours. The other day I listened to a man on the radio spout off about the “underclass” and I was outraged. Outraged, that is, until I returned this weekend and saw that people like my villagers are the underclass. Not because we are worth less than anyone else, or because we sponge off the state. But simply because nobody cares about us. We are trampled by the middle and upper classes, simply because we were born in an area of poor social mobility; where kids have kids because, well, what else is there to do? No jobs. No prospects. No expectancies of life. And for once, I’m not exaggerating for effect: South Yorkshire is an area totally and irrevocably broken by Thatcher’s Tories, with Cameron’s lot merely serving to ensure that nothing positive will ever happen for the lower classes.

So, no, I don’t feel sympathy for her or her children. She brought a country to its knees and caused irreparable damage to the lives of millions. I am not sorry that she is dead, and here are 5 good reasons why:

1) Margaret Thatcher smashed the Trade Unions, stripping workers of their hard-earned rights and setting the country back decades,

2) As the first ever female PM in the UK, she had the power to promote gender equality and radically alter the traditional roles of women in society. Instead she dubbed feminism “poisonous”, froze Child Benefit payments, and openly declared that she “owed nothing to women’s lib”.

3) Milk

4) She was my first window into politics. As a child I watched her on TV and saw that she was powerful. I named my Cabbage Patch Kid after her (to the dismay of my mother and miner father) and thought she was great because she was bossy and I was bossy too. I will never again be four years old and I will never forgive myself for worshipping her enough to call my most prized doll ‘Margaret Thatcher’. A part of my soul dies every time I recall this.

5) I’m pretty sure that the amount of champagne sold today has single-handedly pulled the UK out of a triple-dip recession.

So tonight, as I sip my bubbly and listen to my ‘Thatcher is Dead’ playlist, I will not be in the least bit sad that she has finally died. I will, however, reflect upon the tens of thousands of British people still living in poverty because of her and will pray to my secular God that people will remember Margaret Thatcher the next time they think it might be a good idea to vote Conservative.

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You can come too too too…

jbsurprised

When JB discovered I’d never been to a zoo before, she was dismayed to say the least. She couldn’t understand how my parents, who profess to love me unconditionally, could possibly have neglected to provide me with insight into the animal kingdom which one can only gain from visiting caged species. I tried to fox her with moral reasons for not wanting to go to the zoo, such as my experience in Lyon’s Parc de la Tête d’Or:

There’s this park in Lyon, which is absolutely massive. It has rose gardens and deer and ample space for picnics. It also has loads of zoo animals kept in the most dreadful conditions: elephants who are obviously extremely distressed by the small patch of concrete they have to live on; mangy tigers separated from their families, etc etc. As my first zoological experience (apart from Flamingo Land, but my overriding memory of that place is losing my hat on a ride) Lyon Parc was pretty horrific. I always thought that my mother was against zoos too (but it turns out that I was mistaken and she’s actually against circus animals), and being a very malleable person, I decided that zoos were obviously heinous.

WRONG.

ZOOS ARE GREAT!

butterfly

My first experience of a zoo was truly magical. After a bit of a false start a few days earlier (we had to postpone our trip due to snow reasons), we finally arrived at Chester Zoo for a day of animal-spotting and biscuit-eating. We thought we were being SO CLEVER by choosing to visit CZ before the summer months because, not only would there be fewer children there, but there would also be no wasps. We were mistaken about the children (LOTS of school trips), but we were bang on about the wasps. No wasps at all. Far too cold for wasps. And, it would seem, it was far too cold for all of the other animals too. So we’re walking around freezing our tits off, having paid the best part of £40 for the entry fee, and all of our favourite animals are snugly hibernating under mounds of hay. For the first hour or so I thought we had made a terrible mistake. Especially when I got really excited about seeing butterflies and then remembered I could have just gone to Tropical World in Leeds for £3 and seen the same.

But then things changed. We saw our first proper animal in the form of a big black cat that I thought was a panther, but JB thought was a black leopard. Whatever it was, it was pretty majestic, and just kind of stalked around like the champion it is. We also spent a lot of time looking at the monkeys (and were both a little sick in our mouths when we witnessed a chimp poo into its hand and then eat it) and cried a little bit when we found the elephants hiding inside. I was supremely disappointed not to see any giraffes, because they are my absolute favourites, but was thrilled to find out that the reason for this was because there had been a birth in the giraffe house THAT VERY DAY! I cried a bit when I found that out, too. It was a very emotional day.

ducksducksducks

I think JB got a little annoyed with me though when we almost missed seeing the rhino who had momentarily stepped outside, all because I was busy playing with the ducks and feeding them party rings. I can’t help it. I love ducks, with their silly fat bums and inquisitive beaks. I wish I could own one, but my dad’s cousin Sandra used to have a duck that lived in her living room and she had to get rid of it because it was too noisy and the neighbours complained a lot. Plus I would never be able to afford to feed it enough, especially now I know how many party rings they can eat in one sitting.

Zoo-keeping, zoology, and animal-spotting are all brilliant hobbies. I learnt a lot, and found some new animals that I didn’t even know existed, such as the critically endangered Onager, which must get really pissed off at constantly being mistaken for donkeys. They are so much more than just donkeys.

In summation, I like zoos. I would like to visit again soon to see the baby giraffe, and also to see the pandas and spend some more time watching the monkeys, because I feel like monkeys are my spirit animals. Next time I will probably wear waterproof mascara though.

Chester Zoo gets 9/10 from me.

x

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Review: MOSI Manchester

sewer

Recently JB and I have been trying to think of fun things to do in Manchester. We always seem to start off well and have good intentions of doing something slightly cultural, but inevitably either end up going to the pub or staying at home, drinking wine and watching either Greys Anatomy or 16 and Pregnant. Last week we decided that we might go for a little jaunt around Chorlton water park, maybe even take our bikes – it would be good for us to get some fresh air, we thought. However, unpredictable as Manchester weather is, we woke up that morning to find soggy ground and grey skies, so went to the pub instead. It wasn’t our fault.

Last week, on date day, we went to the Imperial War Museum. I’ve been before and blogged about it before, so I won’t go into the pros and cons of military conflict again, but I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed the trip to the Cadbury’s shop afterwards. This week, date day was Monday (yesterday) and we decided to continue on our roll of cultural-savviness and try out another museum. I have to say that initially I was very reluctant to be inside another museum so soon after the last ordeal. I know they’re good and I should like them because I’m writing a PhD about the Middle Ages, but I usually find them mind-numbingly dull, with only the gift shop offering me any form of comfort. However, JB won me over by telling me that MOSI (The Museum of Science and Industry) has a 4D cinema inside it.

Mind.

Blown.

4D??! FOUR DEE??? HOW??!! I thought 3D was the most D’s you could get, but apparently not! And so it was that we ended up at MOSI Manchester.

knitting

Upon arrival, we were greeted by a very friendly gentleman who explained the layout of the museum (it is HUGE) and warned us not to forget to visit the sewers. Then we entered the room where they teach you all about the cotton mills and how ribbons are made. I liked this section because we could watch ribbons being made on a loom and also because I got the opportunity to try out knitting. It wasn’t actual knitting, fortunately, because I’ve already learnt that I’m not very good at that. It was kind of like finger-knitting (I’m not sure if finger-knitting is a certified form of knitting, but when I was younger and I used to stay with my Gran, she used to give me a ball of wall and tell me to finger knit to keep me quiet and still), but I liked it anyway and felt proud of my achievements.

Next up on our tour of science was an old warehouse where we learnt about Manchester and how it came to be like it is today. I learnt that Piccadilly Gardens used to be home to an Infirmary, within which were baths to be used by wealthy residents only. Poor people weren’t allowed to use them, and sick people had to bathe separately even from the povvos. But my favourite thing about this section is that it is home to the 4D cinema and I finally got to see what all the D’s stood for.

We watched a film about Robin Hood. It was animated and I didn’t really like it very much because I thought that Maid Marion was unnecessarily busty. We put on some 3D glasses, like I’d expected, and when the film started our seats started moving, like in one of those flight simulators that you get at the fair. I was becoming a little disappointed that that’s all 4D entailed, when some ropes started whipping my legs to simulate rats’ tails running around my feet. I absolutely shat my pants at this point, pulled my legs up onto the seat, and refused to put them down again until the film had ended. Then, to get us into the spirit of being confronted by a slobbering dog, we got squirted in the face with water, and every time Robin Hood fired an arrow, we got air gushing into our eyes. It was really intense and actually a bit scary. To be honest I was glad when it was over and we could leave.

Not wanting to disobey the gentleman greeter, we popped into the sewers before leaving. They were pretty cool, and didn’t really smell, which was my initial concern. We learnt about the history of toilets, and the different sewage systems, like this one, delightfully modelled by JB:

jb in sewerThere was also a mock-sewer (see pic at top of page) and all of the pipes leading into it had fake poo on them and stuff, which was pretty grim but added to the authenticity of the experience. We then had a brief look around the gift shop (I bought an “I ♥ SCIENCE” pen for JB’s little sis, BB) before heading straight to the pub.

MOSI is a great, free day out: we didn’t see even half of what’s there and we were there for hours. It’s much less depressing than the Imperial War Museum, and very hands-on and interactive. I can understand why school kids go on trips there, and why parents would want to take their kids. However, I must admit that I didn’t enjoy it anywhere near as much as I enjoyed my pint and bag of Quavers afterwards. History is alright, but it doesn’t make me forget about my unwritten thesis in the same way as alcohol.

Sx

 

 

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In the land of no Internet…

It’s been quiet from me lately, due to reasons. The main reason is that I’ve moved house and we have only just got back online this week, but other reasons include:

1) I have started to feel The Fear about completing my thesis on time and have really begun to get shit done
2) I have been drunk for all or most of the time, as February is officially “birthday season”
3) Since moving house, my commute has increased by approximately 2 hours per day, which has left me much less time to fanny around making a dick of myself in order to get the blog-hits.

I learnt a lot from not having the Internet. At first I convinced myself that three weeks being offline was no biggie because I had everything I could ever wish for in my beaut new apartment and too-smug relationship. However, this belief soon proved to be a delusion when I discovered that I can’t get 3G coverage where I now live. This realisation was met by frustration and tantrums, and eventually resulted in me throwing my phone across the room (an action which I immediately regretted).

After a few days of meticulously researching local pubs and cafes with reliable wifi connections, I started to get slightly more used to the idea of offline living and even embraced traditional pastimes of years gone by. I’d have my couple of hours on the Internet in the afternoon and then come evening, I’d do such retro things as converse with my peers, listen to records that haven’t been streamed from Spotify, and one night we even played cards. It was a brief flashback to a simpler time, before one had to censor one’s life for fear of embarrassing videos ending up on YouTube, or flyaway comments made in jest being overheard by publishing firms and resulting in job-loss. I won’t say that I enjoyed this period of my life, because that would be admitting that life without the constant presence of the World Wide Web is easy (which, I am at pains to add, it is not), but I began to come up with ways to entertain myself and others offline. JB and I watched “DVDs” (which are discs that show the kinds of films one might find on sites such as Netflix or LoveFilm); we cooked food from recipes found in books rather than Delia online; we bought Guess Who.

Board games have never really been my thing, but Guess Who is a hoot, especially if you play alternative rules and ask questions like “does your person look like they read the Daily Mail/are a source of embarrassment and disappointment to their parents/are into kinky stuff?” My mum was always dead against board games because she says “they aren’t called BORED games for no reason”, and I was strongly discouraged from partaking in competitive activities after I threw the Trivial Pursuit cheese at my brother’s head after losing a particularly tense match as a child. But I like Guess Who because it gives you the opportunity to judge people, which is one of my favourite things to do.

Pedro-sanchezOn the back of my new-found parlour-game interests, I decided that I would make my own game. We were having a Mexican-themed night (which basically meant that we had decided to get hammered on Margaritas and eat loads of chilli and tacos) and I decided that no Mexican-themed night would be complete without the presence of a Mexican. Since I don’t know any Mexicans personally, I went for the next best thing and enlisted my favourite fictional Mexican – Pedro Sanchez – to provide the evening’s entertainment in the form of ‘Pin the Moustache on Pedro’.

moustache pedroThe game provided that perfect balance of making people look stupid, whilst still retaining that definite spark of competitiveness and a slight hint of danger which comes from wielding a sharp implement (pin) whilst inebriated.

So I guess this game proved that you don’t need the Internet for entertainment, although you do need a LOT of Margaritas. I felt like a convert to the simple life and was even considering becoming Amish. I felt like it had finally proved to be a relief not to have the sum total of the world’s knowledge at my fingertips and was actually thinking about how I could reduce my online time in order to preserve actual human interaction. But then the Internet got connected again and I couldn’t resist watching videos of goats that sound like humans and babies that dance to Gangnam Style. It’s a disease.

 

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Once upon a time…

onceuponatime


therewasagirlshe thought nothingfellinloveROMANTICWALKSblogneglected
sozeverafter

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Hobbytrials vs. Kirstie Allsopp

I just found out that my GF loves Kirstie Allsopp more than she loves me. I don’t know whether it’s her kick-ass approach to property development; her amazing wardrobe; her curves; or if it’s just her crafting talents. Whatever it is, I am upping my game. I’ve resolved to revert to my promise of only ever wearing dresses and cardigans, I’m not going to take any shit from Phil Spencer any more, and I am DEFINITELY going to do more crafting.

I decided that, in order to get to know the opposition (i.e. La Allsopp), I would invest an hour of my life watching Kirstie’s Vintage Christmas, so that I could properly suss her out. Only 10 minutes into the programme I too fell a bit in love with her especially when, whilst “making a toboggan”, Kirst left two guys to do some sanding and sawing and went to make a brew. She is definitely my kind of woman.

I kind of felt a bit smug when Kirst suggested making Christmas tree hearts out of tartan to hang on your festive branches, turned to JB and was all like HELLLLLLOOOOO??! DID I NOT ALREADY DO THIS?? Anyway, I was glad that Kirstie brought them up because it gave me the opportunity to harp on for a bit about how “bang on” I was, and how Kirst had actually copied ME, so really JB shouldn’t be fancying Kirstie at all because she is just me, but in better clothes and with a nicer accent.

One of the things Kirstie did suggest was making your own baubles. I’d seen something similar on Pinterest a few weeks ago, but had forgotten all about it. Basically, you just get a polystyrene ball and stick stuff on it and then put a ribbon in the top and hang it on your tree. I decided that I would endeavour to emanate Ms Allsopp and make some of my very own baubles using this method, and use some of my button-based inheritance to spread a little Christmas cheer.

buttonbaubleIt was SO EASY to make these that I kind of feel like a cheat for even counting it as crafting, because all I did was  stick buttons onto polystyrene using pins. That is it. I *did* have a bit of trouble controlling my OCD during the process because, as much as I wanted it to look really bright and cheerful, every fibre of my being was telling my that PINK SHOULD NOT GO NEXT TO RED, and that GREEN-TOPPED PINS CANNOT BE MIXED WITH GOLD-TOPPED PINS, etc etc. Luckily I managed to ward off all colour-related obsessions and the result was THIS —->

finished baubleI’m extremely pleased with the end-product of this crafting trial, and to be honest, I kind of think it looks better than Kirstie’s attempt because she only used black and white buttons and hers wasn’t anywhere near as bright as mine.

I really really like button-related crafts; they make me feel so happy and warm inside. I also love Christmas and Christmas-crafts, so this was an absolute TRIUMPH of a hobby for me. I’d give it a healthy 9/10 on my hobbying scale (it only didn’t get a 10 because I used nearly a full tin of buttons on one bauble and now I feel a bit sad that I hardly have any left and I’m thinking of dismantling my bauble just so I can have more buttons again).

S x

 

 

 

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