Friday, August 31, 2007

An industry in crocodile tears

Flipping through channels I just caught a little of the BBC's coverage of today's service for Diana and was moved to turn on the computer in order to rant about it. VOMIT! There was a little boy on saying how it was about the memory of the dead princess and looking "suitably" sad. But that child was probably only a baby when she died and ... words fail me, it's absolutely ridiculous. He really had no idea of her other than he'd been told; as the majority of the public don't either, just what they read about her or saw on telly. They "owned" her but didn't "know" her. It makes me cross to think we're raising a new generation to buy papers full of drivel about her. Sigh.

Although her death was sad for her children and family: it really wasn't and certainly isn't now that sad for anyone else.

If Joe Public is weeping for her ten years down the line, I think it's being extremely self-indulgent. Lachrymose, false sentimentality, enjoying just how empathetic they are, wallowing, revelling in their feigned sensitivity. Vomit. She was an extremely privileged woman, and while it didn't come without a price and I doubt she was a particularly happy person, she wasn't worth this beautification. She did work for charities and I'm not knocking that, but all of the royal family do that - I believe Anne is usually the hardest-"working" royal when they work it out.


Thursday, August 30, 2007

The time is right

You know of course that the best possible time to make your first ever attempt at baking a non-dairy cake is two hours before the party you are supposed to serve it at?

It's patently obvious that you should. If you do it that way you have absolutely no worries about it going horribly wrong and you won't need to call in the troops to rush down and buy an unsuitable allergen-laden cake instead, which you use only for the birthday boy's candles, birthday song and blowing out thereof, and have to sneakily replace his piece of cake with a non-dairy bun and bit of icing. A stress-free operation I'm sure is always bound to result from such planning.

And also the best possible time to start growing a crystal garden with lots of stinky vinegar, is just before you have visitors to whom you wish to present as close to a "show-home" image as possible.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Demon bunny

It is a bunny eating a carrot, it is not a demonic figure fellating itself.

Contrary to any naughty opinions otherwise.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Honey we're killing the kids

I watched the above show this week and was somewhat horrified by it. The format is basically another help-the-useless-parents type show, but with the twist that the presenters show the parents mocked-up versions of how their child is predicted to look at 40, and during the show get them to change their ways in order to get a prettified version of the same with a smile instead of a frown. The family had two daughters, one thin & pretty and one plump & whiny, and the parents found it difficult to show affection for the latter, thereby increasing the whininess exponentially.

I wonder about these shows, I really do, because I can imagine the latter child seeing this programme and knowing for sure what she already suspects, that she isn't easy for her parents to love and they do prefer her sister. No matter what inroads the shrinks and lifestyle managers (or whatever the heck the so-called experts call themselves) make on improving the family's dynamic, that child actually seeing the show would be like dropping Little Boy on her.

If you were seven and you knew you were on a tv show, you'd want to see it, right? And you'd probably tell the other kids at school you were on telly, wouldn't you?

It's exploitation tv.

And it makes me agitated.


The name, Qashqai, for a car seems very frank of the manufacturers: "we are really hoping this car will be our new cash-cow, please form an orderly queue for milking, goodly consumer".

Apparently it's really the name of a nomadic tribe, but that's not amusing me.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Hidden Valley

This attraction near Bodmin was a mixed success with the children. I think it will be more fun for us as a family when T is older, or if M could come with us. S was excited about pursuing the challenges to get time in the Vault, but I didn't have T's pushchair and he got tired and didn't understand why we were going to and fro (searching for clues).

It's a beautiful setting. T did very much enjoy the ride on the Little Didtre train, and looking at the miniature railway sets, and of course the outdoor play area, but he was really too small to appreciate the quests, which made it difficult to maintain my enthusiasm, as I was carrying him and everything else. Perhaps his pushchair would have made the difference.

We did complete 1 and half crystal challenges, and then we had to go as T was grumpy and we were picking up gran for the weekend.

It's a good place to go and a bit different to the norm, so I think that when he's older we'll try it again. He probably needs to be about 5, or I need to have an adult with me who can either take S hunting clues or show T the trains and slide endlessly. Divide to conquer in this case, I think!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Twits and twit-twoo

What can you do with a man who insists he will not use crutches when he does in one leg? He will use a walking stick, but his pride(?)/pig-headedness will not allow crutches.

You can predict the outcome for his other leg, which at any size is not designed to take full-weight on its own, but when the subject is of a rather rotund nature, it is clearly asking too much. Of course he's knackered his knee in the uninjured leg now.

Argh. What can you do with a man like that?

Still, as I was driving back from there at dusk yesterday, I was privileged to see a barn owl perched on a post at the side of the road. It's no wonder they are such icons of the owl world, they are so beautiful. This one wasn't impressed by my braking to get a better look and took wing in rather ungainly fashion, so perhaps was a young one, (or didn't wait for the right wind thinking I was an owl-axe-murderer or something).

The toe of my boot for holiday home owners

There's a swathe of recent reports about just how fecking terrible the affordable housing levels are in the South West at the moment. Read it and weep: one in 27 houses in Devon and Cornwall are holiday homes, while prices are 14 times the average salary (in some areas 16 times). Cornwall is one of the places with lowest wages anyway, comparitively, so it's a bloody miracle if a local can get a toe's nail-hold on the property ladder.

We're so very lucky to have got this house, but them other poor sods who are on the waiting lists which have increased 150% and more - it's just awful. I'd like to personally kick each and every second home owner in the arse: it offends my sensibilities to think of all these properties sitting empty for 90% of the year while there are so many people who live and work here with not a snowball's chance of getting somewhere secure.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Something Mel didn't need to share

I wussed out on M's choice of DVD last night: it was Mel Gibson's Apocalypto. I watched so far, and then I just pegged it upstairs to embrace the solo joys of computer gaming.

Eurgh, that film! It was the baby held upside down by the leg that did for me. That's an image I could have happily lived without. I really didn't expect to have such a reaction to the film, but it was a stomach-churner. It was all over for me then, and I'm glad I only saw that much and on a small screen, as the human sacrificing hadn't even begun at that point.

It's going to take a lot before I'll suffer anything Mel Gibson again. Bleurgh!

Something I really don't need to share

Someone had an elephantine shit in the toilets I clean. It certainly wasn't the most pleasant start to the day. It took four flushes to get rid. I suppose it would have been more environmentally friendly if I'd used a pointed stick and a single flush, but frankly that would have involved looking and aiming. Not going to happen.

I suspect the creator of that particular turd walked a bit funny afterwards.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Snobbery, pisspots and alumni

I have been invited to join the Alumni society or whatever it is of one of my old universities. It amused us to think that I could take M along to an event, for he got kicked out never to darken their doors again, in the first year.

I was strangely stumped by the form, for it asks for my present position (not just 'seated at the PC' clearly). What was strange about my stumpedness is the realisation that I was quite happy to put down my qualifications, as I went on a bit after my degree, but when it came to what I'm doing now bit, I was reluctant to confess.

I'm a snob, I look down on myself! Mrs **** **** BA(hons) MA: toilet cleaner and housewife. Mwhahaha. That's what edumacation (plus total lack of direction/ambition) does for you. There's a bit of cognitive dissonance in this, because I do genuinely believe that my role as stay-at-home parent has value and meaning. I suppose it's just I have all this education and have never used any of the qualifications to any purpose SO FAR. Never say never.

Here I was thinking that I don't care about society's expectations and blah-blah, but it turned out I do a little. I imagine some career-driven academic reading my form and going "Ha! What a waste of resources she was." In the end I settled for writing my employer's name, as it is a venerable institution, and the fact that I work part-time for it.

That my job entails mopping the lavs wasn't something I felt they needed to know. "Now and then there's a fool such as I am..." [/Elvis]

My present job is a piece of piss (literally), it's not like cleaning pub loos which I've done a fair amount of over the years running pubs. The venerables that venerate the venerable institution tend to toilette with decorum and aren't usually under the influence, presumably. Although as ever the women's bogs are always worse: you always get that assumption that guys are filthier, and indeed they can be pretty grim, but it tends to be less frequent, while I've found women's loos are consistently strewn with bits of tissue and make-up and unsanitary products.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Spiderpig, spiderpig

We went to The Simpsons Movie at the cinema. It was a purely positive experience: the children both sat enthralled and there was no trouble, no dropped popcorn as soon as we bought it ('tho it was close!), no million visits to the loos, no "no likey Simpsons", no trying to wander off nor climbing from seat to seat, just perfectly behaved children watching a film.

I think it was probably familiarity with The Simpsons that helped T keep interest and at just under 90 minutes, it wasn't too long for him. I was happy too with the children's snack pack that the Vue cinema did: £1.99 for some popcorn, sweets and a drink, all in an easy to carry & get-at cardboard tray. It was the right sort of amounts of everything, and not having to manage 2 floppy-but-full boxes of popcorn, 3 drinks that squeeze-too-hard-and-they-spurt, tickets, change, keys and cards all at once really made a difference.

It was a funny film, although I'm not sure it was quite as funny as the guy in the back, who absolutely honked with laughter, thought it was.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Reading Record the 2nd

It is time to make this slightly easier for me to find and update since scrolling down is too much effort, so I am splitting 2006 and 2007 properly at last.


Hitchhiker's Guide To the Galaxy / Douglas Adams (to children)
Extra(Ordinary) People / Joanna Russ
The Edible Woman / Margaret Atwood
The First Casualty / Ben Elton
The Amber Spyglass / Philip Pullman
The Subtle Knife / Philip Pullman
Northern Lights / Philip Pullman
C is for Corpse / Sue Grafton
B is for Burglar
/ Sue Grafton
The Vintner's Luck / Elizabeth Knox
The Alchemist / Paulo Coelho
Making Money / Terry Pratchett
Cross Bones / Kathy Reichs
The Body Farm / Patricia Cornwell
Broken Biscuits / Liz Kettle
Monday Mourning / Kathy Reichs
Sex Wars / Marge Piercy
The God Delusion / Richard Dawkins
Mercy / Jodi Picoult
Killing Me Softly / Nicci French
Herland / Charlotte Perkins Gilman
The Women's Room / Marilyn French
Mrs Frisby and The Rats of Nimh / Robert C. O'Brien (to children)
The Great Gatsby / Scott Fitzgerald
Peter Pan in Scarlet / Geraldine McCaughrean (to children)
Peter Pan / JM Barrie (to children)
Hitler's Canary / Sandi Toksvig
Black Notice / Patricia Cornwell
The Scold's Bridle / Minette Walters
Reading Lolita in Tehran /Azar Nafisi
Is God Past his Sell-by Date? / John Blanchard
The Poet / Michael Connelly
The Tinder Box / Minette Walters
The Breaker / Minette Walters
Phantoms in the Brain / VS Ramachandran
The Blood Doctor / Barbara Vine
Q is for Quarry / Sue Grafton
Crippen / John Boyne

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Dead sheep and wet dogs

I had to laugh when in the corner of a field cum car-park, I spied a 4x4 having trouble escaping a muddy rut. As Nelson would say, har har.

It did eventually rock its way out and the bloke behind the wheel looked slightly abashed. As well he might.

I have a rational or possibly irrational hatred of those things.

One was parked extraordinarily badly at an extremely busy park and ride car-park the other day, and the temptation to key the damned thing was great. Having to squeeze past it in its crazy "that'll do, I can't park for toffee and who cares, I'll just abandon it there" angle in the car-park, with its pristine* paintwork and its stupid wingmirrors just at clock-you-in-the-back-of-the-head height, did nothing for my temper after trawling round many a car-park in search of a space. I suppose other cars are equally badly parked and driven at times, but the 4x4 is just so very noticeable and it says, obnoxiously, "I'm rich, yah boo sucks, I'm poncy, I'm going to kill you with my bullbars if you're an unlucky pedestrian, I'm a fuel-guzzling beast of a machine, I won't see you if you're behind me and I certainly won't give way on the road even if it's your priority because I'm bigger and I'm a bastard." Doubtless there are exceptions to this, nice considerate 4x4 drivers out there probably enraged out of their nice consideration by me now, but frankly I'm tarring you all with the same brush, so neah, yah boo sucks!

* The pristine paintwork bothers me, cos I think 4x4s should only be used by farmers and such-like who get them dirty and fill them with straw, hay and animal feed. They should smell of dead sheep & wet dog and be covered in mud. Obviously said farmers would never wash or valet their vehicle.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Skip to my Looe, my darling

This week's summer holiday expedition has been a trip on the Looe valley line from Liskeard to (surprise, surprise) Looe. It's a pretty low cost trip at £3 a return for adults and £1.50 for children over 5. It's not a long journey, but it is a picturesqueak one. The children were quite excited by going on a proper train ride. The driver has to get out and change his own points partway through the journey, which added interest.

Looe is a picture-postcard seaside/fishing town: lots of tight narrow streets with a multitude of souvenir shops, surf shops, eateries of all ilks and a working harbour. We walked from the station into the town and decided to try another form of transport: a boat trip round Looe Island and the bay. It was a gorgeous day, and the children were delighted with the bob-bob-bobbing. We were the only ones on our particular trip, which was quite nice. The skipper told us we might get to see a seal and after a little to & froing and radio conversations between various boats, we were lucky enough to find it and see it swimming. S made up some sea shanties featuring the seal on the way back into harbour, and T joined in for the chorus.

Lots of people were crabbing off the harbour walls, and S had a yen to do it too, but I wussed out, not being too fond of bits of fish or for that matter, scuttling creatures with excessive amounts of legs. I'm hoping that M will go with us another time for that kind of malarkey. It's actually more the bits of fish I have a problem with than the skittering beasties.

We headed towards the beach, stopping off to admire the RNLI lifeboats, as they were open to the public. The beach is rather nice, sand rather than shingle, and although Looe itself was incredibly busy, it wasn't at all crowded. We walked along by the water and collected shells. S was pleased with her recycling ways when she found a loose carrier bag and used it to put her shells in. At the far end there were some rockpools to investigate, so it had a lot to interest the children even though we weren't properly equipped for the beach, as I hadn't initially planned to go there. Usually we would need buckets & spades & swimming costumes etc, but on this occasion they were happy with just scooting along at the water's edge and filling their bag with bits of shell.

The children were nicely tired out for the train ride back, and snoozed in my arms.

The finished product

All done, the switches even turn... All done, that is, unless I add a door handle. The right solution to that problem may present itself, as the other bits did.
I actually finished a project!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Bob the builder

I'm quite pleased with myself, because I took a notion to create a toy cooker for the children yesterday and from scraps of wood I have built this.

I'm going to add some old CDs for the cooker rings and bottle tops for the buttons, once we've put on another layer of gloss.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Monday Monday ba ba ba baba

I just read Kathy Reichs' Monday Mourning. I enjoyed it quite a lot.

The bumpf or guff at the front has reviewers comparing her as a writer favourably to Patricia Cornwell with her coroner protagonist Scarpetta. I'm not convinced on that one.

I prefer Scarpetta's cold fish routine to Tempe Brennan's meanderings. I suppose Scarpetta's a bit closer to the noirish detective fiction, with the mostly isolated hero-detective fixated on the solution of a problem, whereas Tempe is warmer. I didn't feel as drawn in to her world, however. She was very emotional, "numb with horror", and so on, but I was pretty unmoved by her emotions, quite frankly.

I don't think it is actually a problem with me being jaded or something, though, because there are certain books which have grossed me out or make me feel a bit queasy. Perhaps I'm buying into a stereotype about police/pathologists, assuming they must develop certain callouses or go mad? Could you really deal with violent death and not try to distance yourself? Is the Khandi Alexander CSI pathologist who babies every one of her dead bodies more realistic than the ones who evade emotion? That character (Khandi Alexander's Alexx) irritates me with her excessive sweetness! It seems to me more human to joke and laugh irreverently in the presence of death/illness than to immerse oneself in imagining what that dead person's last moments were like, etc. Surely it's a self-preservation technique? If you were to take Alexx's/Tempe's path, wouldn't you just burn out? The nurses I know insist that they wouldn't be able to do their jobs if they couldn't somehow push it all back occasionally. It's not that they don't feel things, it's just that they can't afford to dwell on it. While Tempe definitely dwells.

I was also very aware of every chapter ending, as though there should have been adverts or I should have gone for a cup of tea at that point, every single time.

I presume this was a technique of writing Reichs was using in order to get you to go onto the next chapter, but to be honest, if it's that obvious, it's not working properly. I felt it was the kind of book designed to be read in chapters, and "we'll find out what happens next time!" (as I say to S when I'm reading her a book at night - currently The Hobbit), but that's not the sort of reader I am. It peeves me if you tell me that 'this took me aback, but not as much as what happened on Monday morning'. End chapter. It seemed a bit clumsy to me. Customarily I will read a book in one sitting, and I felt I was being told to wait for the next episode, if you like.

Still, all this shouldn't delude you into thinking I didn't like the book, cos I did!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Tamar Valley Donkey Park

The children and I went to this very nice attraction on Monday. It was a lovely sunny day, which always helps, and we had fun.

On the way in, there were some friendly donkeys to pat, then it was in through the gift shop. I had forgotten to bring T's hat, and hoped to buy one, but they didn't sell them. However, the assistant was kind enough to loan us one from Lost Property. As well as this very kind and helpful person, we met a sheep there, which was helping itself to the carrots.

A sheep's bum

We went through the play-barn, which also has an indoor area for donkey rides in wet weather and into the adventure playground, which S had spotted as we went in. She also wanted to stop in the play-barn, but I didn't want to waste the weather, and anyway, we came to see donkeys, dagnamit. There's a huge slide, and some challenging play equipment in this area.

T was happy with the tyre tunnel and trying the wobbly bridge. There were also two loose donkeys, one apparently 48 years old.

Wearing a fencing mask in case of Zorro. Or flies.

We decided we were thirsty so went in search of the cafe, seeing ponies and donkeys and goats on our way. Also a rather phwoar farrier sorting out hooves. There's nothing quite like a muscular fellow who's earned his tan through working with his bare 'ands outdoors. Ahem. Is it hot in here? That was the best view for the ladies, thus far. There was a bit of a rush on in the cafe, but we got our drinks quite quickly. It seemed reasonably priced, although we didn't get any food as we weren't hungry.

And so, out into the smaller children's play area. This kept the two children occupied for ages; it was very well equipped with a variety of slides, playhouses, ride-on toys and even a sand-pit. Some of it looked a bit faded and weather-worn, but that's only natural when it's outdoors! Nearby there were trampolines available, with hutched bunnies & guinea pigs and pygmy goats just outside the cafe.

After a while I extracted the children from the play area, and we headed down to see the donkey rides. Children get one free ride with price of entry. At first S was reluctant to try a ride, but she became enthusiastic once she saw Teddy there. He was a donkey shown on the leaflet for the Donkey park, I think, so it was a bit like meeting a celebrity for her. But even when another child got Teddy, she was happy to go on Connie instead. Once S went, T wanted to try it too, even though he'd said "no-likey" to start with. It surprised me that neither had initially wanted to ride, since they both have ridden (or at least sat on in T's case) ponies before. He got to go on Connie too, but after a few steps Connie decided her day's work should be over and demonstrated a quality for which donkeys and mules are renowned. Ie. being stubborn. I hummed myself some "Delaney had a donkey, that everyone admired, permanently lazy and perpetually tired, a leg at every corner, a-balancing his head, and a tail to let you know which end he wanted to be fed..." We switched T onto Teddy instead, not having a town full of people to carry her to the finishing post.

After the rides, we went down to explore the wooded area in which we expected to find Hensington, Duckingham Palace and PorkMinster. We were a bit disappointed as the coops were empty, and so was the ferret house. It may be that there were ferrets and they were asleep or hiding, but it didn't feel like it. The large rabbit warren was also deserted, since, according to the sign they had an outbreak of myxomatosis a few years back and although they restocked after a couple of years, the rabbits didn't flourish - plus the pig had uprooted part of the fencing at one point, setting any rabbity residents free. PorkMinster did contain this escape-abetting specimen of porcine beauty, called Blossom, and our failed mission to find bunnies at least meant that we could see her up close, as she was snoozing by the fence between her abode and that of her bygone bunny neighbours.

We did actually see a rabbit scarpering in the woods beyond the enclosures, and it was pretty and cool in the dappled shade, so it was a pleasant little walk. I would have liked to have known that many of the animals had been moved or whatever, before we walked down there, as it was a trifle disappointing to find so little there, but maybe I'd missed a sign or something.

After another play in the adventure playground, we went into the play-barn, which had plenty for both of the children to do: some large soft play equipment for S, and a toddler area too. There was also a nice lady offering face-painting, fake tattoos and funky hair on that day, so S had some bright pink and blue hair bits put in.

I'd had enough excitement for the day, so with the promise of lollies on the way out, we made for the exit.

It was a very pleasant way to spend the day, and both children said they'd had a great time. We'd go again.

I have no idea why I'm blogging this.

I don't usually do blood and gore, but I am strangely fascinated yet repulsed by the blood blister that has arisen on my arm. I burnt it a few days ago, and initially it had a clear blister, but I banged it on something and it burst. It scabbed and then a small red dot became a large red blood blister. Eurgh.

Look away now if you are of very weak stomach.

I am, I feel queasy at the least little bit of blood. Aa a teenager, I was quite freaked out by the fact we're all full of slithery organs pulsing and veins and the red stuff. First Aid courses make me feel a bit faint! (Pathetic, really.) But this yukky thing is on my arm, and somehow it became interesting.

I wish I'd kept a photographic record of its 'orrible progress in a way...