Monday, 25 August 2014

The Birthday Post

Hello everyone, and happy birthday to me.

I've been having a lovely relaxed day, reading stories, eating cake... my new purple trews (Cancer Research, £4.25, Per Una!!) were lovely and comfy and now feel a wee bit snug. I've run out of cake now though. Oh, hang on... no I haven't. Huzzah!

I've had some really lovely presents. Most practical are the new purple DMs bought for me by OH. My old tartan ones are getting recycled into flowerpots.

It's not been a terribly frugal weekend. I know, I've let the sisterhood down! But I don't care.

I had a Taste card on trial, and that came in very useful. OH took me for a gorgeous meal at a hotel near us, and all the food was 50% off.

The weather is all crappy and rainy at the moment, but while the sun was shining, I went swimming, and I cycled all the way to Spratton. This was where the Women's Tour did their Queen of the Mountains stage on their second leg through Northamptonshire, so very much a challenge. I coped with the first big hill but not the second... I had to get off and push the last bit. But what a beautiful village to end up in! I took a breather at B23 cafe, which is part of the King's Head pub.

My annoying head music that I regale to anyone listening as I zoom past is "Let it Go" from Frozen. Hey, it helps me.

Other Chazza shop bargains I have grabbed this week - 10p each, Robert Rankin's The Sprouts of Wrath and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Classic!

Currently reading a library-sourced book, the most beautiful prose of fellow local author Judith Allnat: A Mile of River. It's a very crisp debut.

Some readers will have noticed there is a gap in time where a convention happened... I intend to write about that on my website very shortly. Yes, I also brought free books back from that one too...

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

My First Sky Ride

Move over Wiggo... I've joined Team Sky!

Actually I have merely joined a social cycling group, organised by Sky and British Cycling. Called SkyRide, it's a wonderful motivator. There are women-only rides called Breeze, or there are mixed group rides. There are rides suitable for all levels, from Steady to Challenging.

Actually, my Steady ride was a pretty challenging one. This is because:
  • I'm rubbish
  • I hate downhills
  • I don't like bleeding
  • I've got no sense of direction
  • I can't balance
  • What are gears?
  • I live a long way from places that cyclists normally drive to first.
But I was awesome, because I rode 7 miles to Pitsford Reservoir, did the 5-mile route, rode back, didn't fall off. AND THERE WAS THUNDER AND LIGHTNING! Also, I talked to men driving a steam train who pointed out that I was racing their train AND FLIPPING WELL BEATING IT!! (Yes, they were wearing those natty red neckerchiefs. Proper train drivers!)

I had a wobbly moment when I got cocky and tried to drink and ride at the same time. I nearly did a Froome and crash into someone - at a bus stop. But 19 miles isn't shabby at all.

Plus I found an almost whole loom band, got a free hi-vis jacket, and didn't die.

Awesome view

Not my puncture.
I flippin' well deserve this cake!!!!!!
If you like cycling, this is recommended. The people are nice, they showed me how to brake on gravel properly and fix my sticky cogs. Sky Ride is free, too.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Improv, Caterpillars and Frogspawn Jelly

My first attempts at trying to be Felicity Kendall have hit a wall of fail...

Felicity is disappointed with me.
I've been harvesting salad and strawberries from my garden, and gazing with admiration at the yellow blooms on my courgettes, the beanstalks slowly winding their way round the canes, and the leafy promise of my cabbages. Not hugely impressive, but it was a good start.

Then, woe is me - my rocket got a load of flea beetles. They're not even in my gardening books, what the flip do I do with them? To top that, my cabbages are more shrunken and lacy than Beyonce's latest skimpy stage outfit after some sneaky butterflies managed to get under my nets. And an unknown something has been nibbling at my mizuna. I think it was one of these...

Be More Rabbit.
Oh well... I think we can still get a stir fry out of the pre-nibbled cabbages - a small one. Just got to check extra-carefully for the sneaky green caterpillars - they're not as easy to spot as the stripy, spiky ones.

This week I've not done too much in the garden, besides flinging caterpillars to almost certain bird-related death beneath the sycamore tree. Instead, I had a rather cultural weekend. On Friday, I went to see "A Shoemaker Goes to War" at the Northampton Museum and Art Gallery. I learned that the famous Lord Kitchener poster was designed by a Northampton artist - Arthur Leete.

There was a rotating display of poetry by ordinary Tommies that reminded me somewhat of Baldrick's "The Guns of War." Those poor men, trying to find something to make them smile amidst the mud, lice and gore produced these personal writings full of silliness, licentiousness and humour, with bawdy, cheeky language and crude accompanying sketches.  It seems almost unfathomable that the First World War began a whole century ago. They may have been born Victorians, but they still did lad jokes.

It's a good display, so do go and see the exhibition. It's still our museum, even though they've lost their accreditation due to selling off the Egyptian statue - which you may have read about in the news. Some people think they will have made enough from that sale for the accreditation not to matter for the next few years, but that's not the case at all. Selling the statue was all in all, not a good idea, but it's not the fault of the staff there. The museum is still an asset, and the rest of the artifacts must be defended. The Save Our Sekhema Action Group inform us here of why this sets a dangerous precedent and why it's such a bad thing to have happened to the museum.

Also this weekend, I spoke to artist Noah Rose about his forthcoming project in Northampton, Changing Tracks. I am looking forward to learning more about this interesting pan-European public art installation as it develops!

I went to my friend Tom Young's improv night - The Same Faces at NN Cafe and they were just the ticket - extremely sharp and funny.

On Saturday I got to perform myself at the NN Festival, where I kicked off poetry hour along with fellow bards Ruth Harvey Gasson and Peter James Norman, and Bardic founder and stalwart, Justin Thyme. The chilled picnic vibe was occasionally threatened by rain and thunder, but that made for an intimate gig as a load of festival goers dragged bales of straw into the marquee to hear Justin and Peter. It was lovely, and all the acts seemed to go down well. I also  got to hear sets from Leila Jane (gorgeous voice) and the fabulous Retro Spankees.
Spanking good.

My picnic for the occasion was rather less successful... I made some lovely cheese, leek and cumin muffins and a pasta salad with some lemon and berry jellies for dessert. I got the idea from the Co-op magazine, which had the idea of presenting the jellies in pretty glass jars. Unfortunately, the lids seemed to loosen en route, and so I had a sports bag full of lemon jelly. We tried to eat it anyway, after I'd slopped it back into the jars. "Is that frogspawn?" asked a passerby.

Glorious muffins! Just look at the muffins... ignore the frogspawn.

We made a valiant effort, braving the barely set sweet as the only wasp in the field decided he'd like to hang round us. Stupid wasp... it was low sugar jelly.

Anyway, that was all free and lovely... couldn't make it back for day two as I had a lot of work on.

It's been a good week for vouchers, as I made the most of the ones for Morrisons last week, and a couple in the Metro for Subway, Gu and the magazines GQ and Glamour, which I got for £1 each. This was particularly good value as the magazines came with a free razor and moisturiser. Voucher-badgers, look out for the evil Murdoch rag again tomorrow, which apparently has the ones in for free fruit in again. And melons.

Currently babysitting... I've missed Bake-Off as we had to read Asterix and the Olympics. Bloomin' eck... that's more racist than I remembered! Skipped a bit there...

My brother said I could have a glass of fruity home brew cider as a treat. It's lush. Well done, Bro!