Thursday, August 27, 2015


Pondering the questions of life......

Why do two satsumas - tangerines, easy peelers, whatever your supermarket calls them - from the same pack, always taste the polar opposite of each other? There's always one - and usually the first one you eat - that is so sweet and so close to perfection you can't quite believe it's real. And then the second one contorts your face so much you could challenge the world gurning champion.

Why are braids so hard to do? Attempting to teach yourself French braids and fish tails and Dutch braids is supremely difficult, especially when you have uncooperative hands. You have to do it all behind you, unable to see what a mess of crap it looks like. When I see people with perfect braids, I hope they had help otherwise I would like to yank out said braid. *jealousy*

Why do muggy days make kids go crazy? My Wednesday classes were all out of sorts and squirmy and fidgety and irritable. I guess it's probably the same reason it makes the adults crazy and irritable, because it's all hot and sticky, but not sunny, and it's uncomfortable, sweaty and gross at times. And most of the time you wish for it to break and rain, just for a hint of relief. I realise I've just answered that one myself. But really, it does make the kids wilder than usual.

Why does my brain decide it's fully on board to edit my novel, three days before we go on holiday, when it's been avoiding any work on the subject for at least a month? This really does baffle me. But hey, I'm rolling with it at the moment, and hoping to get more done - maybe even reach about half the book before we go. #amediting

Why does it always rain on me? (Ah, Travis.) Well the answer to this is just: August. Britain. There is no other explanation.

Why do I insist of making all these 'to do' lists, when I barely ever complete them? Sometimes it just feels good to write stuff down, even if you end up ignoring the list, or discarding it. Just the action of pen on paper is an event - wow, I really am sad. But the inevitability of completing all the things I write on a list is nothing short of impossible.

Why do I keep forgetting to take my damn library books back? Probably because I ignored the 'to do' list which told me to take my damn library books back.

Why can I never think of anything to talk about in the lift with the neighbours, other than the weather? Am I in fact a Brit Bot, programmed only to talk about the weather, queues and my own personal space? Perhaps. But you can't really discuss personal space in a lift, can you? I'll stick to the weather I think, less likely to say something stupid.

Why are sports bras so difficult to take off? I've probably asked this before but really with all the technology out there and all the advancements in stuff and things, you'd think they would be able to have a stab at making a sports bras less scary to take off. You do worry sometimes, that you might have to live in it forever.

And finally, before I leave you: why is there never enough time to read books? This one sucks the most. Really sucks. Because unfortunately there are times when you have to sacrifice your reading time to other pursuits and that's rubbish, but sometimes necessary. Boo.

I will now leave you to ponder your own whys of life, whilst I ponder why I wrote this blog.


Friday, August 21, 2015


Ah. D.I.Y. Do. It. Yourself. Three words that instill fear into the wise and excitement into the bat shit crazy. They'll tell you, 'It's so rewarding. It's so great to know that you did that in your own home. No one can take that achievement away from you.' But what they fail to tell you is how much time it leaches from you and how grumpy and tired it makes you. No one can give you that week back. And they fail to tell you that it's not easy to make your painting look professional. You will have streaky bits, and the bits where you went against the grain - as it were - because you couldn't be arsed doing the Mr Miyagi up and down motion, you just wanted to cheat and go across with the paint brush. No of course we never did that anywhere. Don't look at the bit above the skirting boards, don't look at it!

But do look down your radiator. Turns out it makes a pretty good shot. 

Granted these renovations were long overdue and we have lived here for over six and half years. So a re-paint and some new carpet was in order. But still. Having to box everything up and take all of the furniture apart and off the walls, just to put it back on again after we've painted, was a ridiculously tiresome task. And don't get me started on carpets. A wonder of the universe, they may be, but they are on the floor, underneath everything, which means all that heavy furniture and shelving needs to be moved. But where? You live in a one bedroom flat which has no spare room to dump stuff, no additional storage facility. Nothing. So it all goes in the bedroom and then you can't sleep there for four nights. Leaving you with the couch - now luckily ours is comfy - and the smell of paint. Yay!

There ain't no way we're getting in that room to sleep. 

Come on. Where's Mary frickin' Poppins when you need her? Or Hermione Granger? I'm sure she could just Wingardium Leviosa the furniture off the ground - with all the stuff in - and hey presto the carpets would be down. That way it wouldn't take a day to box everything up and then another two days to un-box all the stuff you had to box up in order to be able to move the furniture in the first place. And you would also diminish the chance of forming Madonna arms along the way from carting around all those ridiculously heavy boxes with copious amounts of books in. Come on Hermione. We needed you.

Personal hygiene becomes a long forgotten ideal. If you manage to brush your teeth, then you're king of the cleanly. Because your shower is full of paint rollers and brushes, either washed and drying, or waiting to be washed. The rags you used to wash down the walls are strewn up dripping into the bath, and if you're not careful you might trip over a paint can and ruin your new carpet.

You'll also be privy to some very new experiences. At least I hope these are new experiences for you. Like, peeing with the door open, because there are four sets of shelves leaning against the bathroom door and nowhere to put them. So you make sure your partner is as far away as possible and you tell them to sing, whilst you're having a tinkle.

Then there's painting with the light of the iphone because the natural light has left you and you can't see a feckin' thing. That was fun. I think there was a midnight paddy and eventual surrender. 'Did I miss that bit, or is it just a shadow?'

There was also painting the ceiling whilst wearing sunglasses, in order to keep the paint out of our eyes. Again, see above for the shadows issue. It all goes kinda dark when you wear sunglasses, but it's either that or risk further sight problems.

We also had a huge problem when we were painting the hall and living room, as we had the paint mixed especially for us due to our original colour of 'marble white' being unavailable. But when it was opened, to say it had a pink tinge, was a slight understatement. Pink on my walls? I don't think so. Cue another taxi ride to the paint shop and back. Stupid paint machine. We settled for white.

Oh and at some point when you're D.I.Ying, I hope you experience the sleep deprived, absolute exhaustion giggles. Something small and probably not all that funny will set you off and you'll be unable to stop. There may even be tears. Ideally, avoid painting at this time. Spill factor: high. But savour these moments, because as the works go on, you may get less and less of them, as the grump slump takes over.

Okay, now to some tips for that D.I.Y project, whatever it may be. These may just about keep you sane.

  • Try to stay aware of the location of your screwdriver at all times. Or better still, attach it to you and have a batman utility belt. Or even better, have multiple screwdrivers. This tip also applies to that pesky roll of masking tape that you keep putting down, and those damn screws.
  • Be creative with your labelling of boxes. Try something that will make you laugh when the end seems impossible and you just want to give up and live in a hotel. 

  • Be realistic with your targets. If you know something should take you X amount of days, then always account for an additional two or three days on top of that. Don't set yourself up for failure and subsequent guilt. It's just not worth it. Painting takes time, but more than that it's the moving everything before you paint, and wiping the walls down and making sure the dust sheets are down. It's not an easy process, so don't rush it, and don't be grumpy with your partner if it's not quite going to schedule. 

  • Try and get in enough food for each day, or if it's a big project, stock up for a couple of days to stave off any chance of hunger anger. You certainly don't want that on top of the exhaustion and general grumpiness of your house being upside down. 
  • But do try and get out into the world, if only for a bit of fresh air and a leg stretch or two. Otherwise you might just go doolally. 
  • Prepare to cull. This is a great opportunity to thin out your stuff and give to charity, re-gift or just recycle. We have filled up the recycling bin two weeks in a row - sorry rest of the building. We have also sent about five boxes of stuff to various charity shops and have got rid of a lot of crap we've been hoarding for some time. Unfortunately this also takes a heck of a long time, so plan appropriately. 

  • Finally, try to have fun with it, if at all possible. And try and be proud of your work. But most of all, be grateful that you won't have to do it again for another few years. And just be thankful there was no way you could do the carpets without professional help. 
Playing my bass guitar - which is actually a decorative gecko normally on the wall - whilst surveying the sea of stuff. 
 Cleaning brushes once again. 
Enjoying the new carpets and the space without all the furniture.

Good luck with all your D.I.Y endeavours.

Rants out.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

I shouldn't complain, but............

As the title suggests, I shouldn't complain, but then if I didn't complain and rant, then I wouldn't be able to call myself Rants of a bitter northerner, or a Brit, or a woman. And besides, sometimes you just have to.

Bond - Oh Dear!
So I am currently reading my first ever Bond novel. That's James Bond, 007, Licence to Kill, brought to life by Ian Fleming and a British institution. I took Live and Let Die out of the library and was quite excited to get going on it, being brought up on Bond films, since a young age as every bank holiday weekend they would show at least two of them, and my mum and dad loved them. I mean, come on, who doesn't?

But oh dear. I mean, you often forget when they were written - this one 1954 - especially with the modern Bond films incorporating more women in lead roles - Dame Judi Dench for instance, as M - and not just "Bond girls" there for his amusement. Also, there is more diversity in the characters, people of different nationalities etc. But then you read one of the novels and you physically cringe. The amount of sexism, racism and presumably lots of other isms that are used is hideously cringe worthy and anger inducing.

Women are nothing but play things and objects to look at or sleep with, and most nationalities are written about with disgust and ignorance and general stereotypes. And yes Mr Fleming can be defended by saying that was 60 years ago and times were different, but I was still shocked by the use of a word I will never use in print or otherwise - if you've read this book you'll probably know what I mean, and if not you'll just have to guess because I'm not writing it - as it featured so heavily especially in the opening few chapters.

But, I will say that it is well written, has good pace and a certain addictive quality, despite my feminism and racism alarm sounding frequently. And I find Bond to be way less womanising and sleazy. In fact they give him a lot of very human feelings in the book. He shows fear and sweats in his sleep and really cares for his colleagues. I think in this respect perhaps the recent Daniel Craig films pull it off best, making him much more real and rounded.

Cake Vs Music Class
Okay, so I'm used to being made to feel like a slight inconvenience when I teach in some of my schools. Its part of the job I guess. Teachers don't like you going into their classroom and the kids really enjoying their time with you. They also don't like the slight disruption to their daily routine - heaven forbid there should be some flexibility in their days - even though it's not really a disruption any more when it's written into the Wednesday schedule and I've been going for 18 months.

And I've had to compete with all sorts of obstacles, such as outside play, releasing butterflies - yes this did actually happen - and Easter egg hunts. At these times I am once again made out to be the cruel person who is keeping the children from these things, when it should be more like I'm the nice person coming in to give them a music class, something not everyone in the class gets to do. Woo hoo! But no, they schedule all these things to coincide with the lesson and then I have to deal with the wandering kids who just want to hunt Easter eggs, or play in the ice - this was when it was really hot a couple of weeks ago.

So yesterday was a new challenge: Birthday Cake. One of the children was having a birthday and also her last day at the nursery, so I walk in at 10.30 to do my class and I find them all sitting down singing happy birthday, ready to have cake - At 10.30! Feeding kids cake! At 10.30! - when they know it's music class because I've already been in the nursery an hour teaching two other classes.

I walk in and all the children say hello and all the staff ignore me. I go and sit on the carpet and they still ignore me. They are cutting up cake to give out to the children, whereas the usual policy is to send cake home in case anyone has allergies or doesn't want their kid hyped up on sugar at 10.30 in the morning. Anyhoo, I have to ask if I can start the class and of course it's all shrugs and sighs - again, what an inconvenience I am - and then we have to prise the first group of children from the table because they want to have cake with everyone else.

Not fair. I shouldn't have to compete with sugar and sponge cake. I shouldn't have to compete with anything. I'm providing a service, a service paid for by the parents of the children, and I should be supported not hindered. Fuckin' cake. Luckily there were only a couple of irritable kids, the rest really enjoyed my class because they knew they would be given cake afterwards, and of course, they love music class. Of course. It's awesome!

Baby cards - Enough of the freakin' gender colours.
This is an issue I know I have brought up before in a rant, but as more and more of my friends are reproducing, I know this will continue to be an issue and something that really riles me up.

Some friends of mine have just had a baby girl, I wanted to get a card to congratulate them, but I hate pink and under no circumstances will buy a card with pink on. Now that is my choice, I understand that, but the fact that the only options you get are pink or blue then this is not only assigning gender to colours, which I hate, but it is once again society throwing the idea of pink and girls and femininity down our throats. Babies should be able to be brought up without the pink or blue bubbles around them. They are little people and should be exposed to all colours and ideas and concepts. No colours are girlish, no colours are boyish, they are just freakin colours!

Unfortunately, the cheaper card shops just have the pink and the blue sections, so I wrote them off early on. Paperchase is usually my saviour as they tend to have a pink and a blue section, but then also a section called 'new baby', which unfortunately removes the gender of the child, but at least offers more colour choice. I mean, why can't you buy a beautiful blue card or red card or green card that says 'congratulations on the birth of your daughter'? What the feck? Or a pink card that says 'congratulations a new baby boy?'

I have in the past bought blank art cards that happened to have nice pictures on, like a rainbow, or a caterpillar, and given them as birth cards as I've been so disgusted with the choice on offer. But I did manage to find a nice one in the 'new baby' section - I found a few nice ones actually - that is black and white with an elephant on it, and the elephant has red bits on its feet and ears. Perfect. No push towards any sort of gender stereotype and also a contrast of black and white, which is something that attracts babies in their first few months, as they can't really see much else or many colours. That's why they have all these baby books that are black and white with maybe one other bold colour, and it is all about pattern and contrast.

Well done Paperchase, but there is still a long way to go. And as I know about four people currently pregnant, I'm pretty sure I'll be having more and more issues on the same subject. Can't buy them all the same card.

Abolish the pink and blue sections! And remove gender association from colour. Let the colours be free! Let the children be free.

Jeans for Giants
I found a pair of flared jeans yesterday, very exciting prospect, you don't see them very often and they were very reasonably priced. They had different waist sizes, but only one length. And that length was Giant. I tried them on and there were literally six inches of unnecessary denim. I am short, but not that short, an average short if you will: 5 foot 4 and a half inches.

I remember a time when jeans were organised in length and waist - as they still are in men's jeans - but in this particular shop, it was made for women of at least 5 foot 10 inches, the rest of us can go to hell. Sort his out H and M. Sort it out.

I was tempted to get them anyway and have them altered, but by the time you do that, you've lost half the flare and that's the whole bloody point. Jeans rage!

Ordered a UK 6, why not send a UK 4? That'll work
So I ordered some sandals in the sale from Hush Puppies. Free delivery, free returns and half price. I'd been eyeing them up for a while but didn't want to pay full price, and thought they would come in handy for Morocco in a few weeks' time.

So when I get home on Tuesday and the parcel is there, I'm giddy, until the point when I look at them and think, they're pretty but look quite small. And yes, they've sent me a freakin' size 4 instead of a size 6. Bit of a difference there. And now I have to faff around with returns and shit. URGH!

End thoughts....
Okay, I think I'm possibly ranted out there for a day or so. Got to get back to Bond, only 62 pages left. Let's hope I can finish it without too many racist or sexist comments. Fingers crossed. My cringe quota is way over loaded.

Thanks for reading and I'm sure I'll be back soon.