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Monthly Archives: April 2011

crafty business

J has no qualms telling me he didn’t marry me for my cooking. Something always used to go wrong when I did cookery at school (things would burn, or just taste plain odd). Not much has changed.

Yesterday was my idea of hell. An acquaintance and her friend were stopping by for lunch in the middle of a huge bike ride. We sort of knew her and had politely asked her to drop by thinking she wouldn’t. They then texted to say that there would, in fact, be six people arriving (none of whom we knew apart from this one lady).

Cue mad dash to T*sco. I hate T*sco and never shop there but the shops in town were all closed for the Bank Holiday. Gargh! But it’s obviously where the world goes on Bank Holidays, so my quick dash became a blood-pressure raising, soul-destroying Dodgems game.

Fortunately, our cyclists turned up thirsty and late and were so hungry that my modest pasta/salad/unexciting spread was praised to the high heavens. Phew. My new strategy is to wear out guests so much their taste buds are too exhausted to notice things.

In defence of my culinary shortcomings, I did make a simnel cake for Easter which J scofffed very enthusiastically and went as far as to offer to another friend who’d never come across simnel cake before (neither had I, as it happens, until I married J). Which proves it can’t have been too bad.

My other food failing is a tendency to shop only for the next two meals and reject buying too much ready made stuff or storecupboard staples on the basis that ‘you can make it yourself’ (and this from someone who can’t cook) and ‘it’s expensive’ (forgetting that food is fundamentally essential to survival). So, while I can live on a permanent diet of Matzos with some cheese on top,  poor J is scrabbling around in the fridge for real food with some meat in it.

Hope everyone else’s Easter was as sunny and chilled. I made a couple of peg bags from old children’s clothes (that’s the clothes that are ageing, not the children). This one’s for my mum and the other (not pictured, it’s on the line) with a cartoon cat on is for me (of course. You didn’t think I’d post an entry without a cat reference, did you?).

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London swimmers

Since we moved to Suffolk, I’ve started swimming regularly. The local pool is large, clean, well lit and the staff are friendly. The Oasis, which I used to visit occasionally in London, is certainly large. But it was one of the least welcoming, angriest places I’ve been to.

I don’t know whether is because stress levels are higher in London, but the fierce and concentrated splashing was really daunting. No one smiled. Here in Suffolk little old ladies, families and dedicated professional swimmers all share the space happily and it feels natural to say hello to the lifeguards. In London, they were too busy checking you’d showered and gone through the foot pool and would have called in the bouncers if you hadn’t.

spring zen

I was working like mad yesterday to finish a deadline. I got up early and galloped along in fifth gear to get it done in time. It was an interesting project, but so dense and relentless it was like wading through treacle.

The reward was a stroll along the river to the pub. Even at 8 o’clock, it was just about warm enough to sit outside (for the first five minutes at least). The view – I wish this photo did it justice – was beautiful.

I had declined more freelance work, as Wednesday used to be my volunteer day. I’ve posted before about how I was struggling with it. I overcame that but I did find myself a bit frustrated because it was a bit of a paper pushing job.

I wondered why I was choosing to turn down paid work  just to sit in an office all morning for no pay! My freelance work fluctuates quite a bit, and while it’s been quiet the voluntary work has been a pleasure to do. But now that the paid work has picked up I’ve become ruthless about what I’m turning it down for.

So I resigned from my voluntary role and now I’ve been in contact with a local cat charity about helping with trapping or home visits and also with a horse charity, so I can learn build up my knowledge and confidence around horses.  Well, they say find the thing you love and do that! (Sadly, I’ve yet to find the job that just involves ‘pottering about a bit.’)

What’s more, one day when J’s work slows down I’ll probably have to get a steady full-time job rather than continue with the erratic freelance work. And that’ll probably be inside, in an office somewhere. So in the meantime, being out and about and maybe getting experience that might lead to a paid job with animals seems the way to go.

Picture of Pippin sticking his tongue out from the safety of the apple tree.

legs, legs!

I went to my riding lesson feeling a little trepidatious this afternoon. This was because I was a bit concerned that my legs wouldn’t function properly, having walked round the entire county of Suffolk at the weekend.

My brother-in-law, his wife and friends came to visit and they’re all keen walkers. One in particular. Very keen.

So we extended our daily amble along the river to a seven mile round trip with a stop for lunch in the pub.

It was easy flat walking (ahem, this is Suffolk) and bright and beautiful (I got sunburnt. I do whenever the rays poke through the clouds).

One of the party was technically a giant and I took three strides to his one (not hard, I’m only about five feet tall). This meant the pace was just that little bit too fast for my comfort. But I wasn’t going to show myself up by asking them to slow down – oh, no – particularly as they all live in Cambridge and have huge brains. Besides, I’m trying to get fit for this horse riding lark.

I spent most of the afternoon whispering, ‘Ooh! Legs’ to J when no one was looking. (Actually they all got blisters and fell asleep in the tiramisu, so it wasn’t just me).

The next day we decide to go for it all over again with a walk round Aldeburgh. (Packed. Where was everyone last November?)

Well, my legs recovered speedily, which was good because my riding instructor is keen that I use them effectively as aids to move around horses. (Actually, it was hands she wanted me to use this week. And shoulders. And back. But I’m getting there).

Fortunately, a large group of school children had nabbed all the solid, dopey, chunky horses (Fergus and Bertie), leaving me with Duke. Yes, you can tell a lot from a name.Duke was enormous and I got vertigo at first. But he had the advantage of being really sensitive to any aids. Unlike the safe, slow horses, he responds to slight pressure of the leg rather than requiring several ungainly kicks.

The disadvantage – other than his height – was that he was more likely to spook easily and bolt (Fergus just stops). He didn’t, and I felt happy being on a horse that would normally be ridden by an experienced rider because I totally trust Karen, my instructor.

It was like having a go in a Ferrari, before you’ve actually passed your test. You know it’s beyond you, but it’s motivating.

On the way back I stopped off to check out the cattery Pippin will be spending our summer hols in. More horses! Hundreds of cats! Kittens! I would’ve sneaked one of the kittens out in my pocket, if it weren’t for Pips carrying the cat flu virus which he could pass on.

Anyway, today horses and cats are the things I’d add to the Action For Happiness website.  I love the concept. It’s crashed now due to too much interest, ironically making people cross and frustrated rather than happy.

I’d also add being outside in the sunshine, matzos with cheese, builder’s tea in the afternoon, finishing my freelance work way before the deadline andhaving a huge supply of library books on the table. J’s away doing exciting radio production work in London, which makes me sad, but there’s the anticipation of his coming home, plus I can watch back to back episodes of Shameless all evening while he’s not here.