Sunday, 30 May 2010

In the early mornings, I belong to old men.  I leave the house at 6.30 (must remember to bring my insulated mug home), to walk to the station.  The first person I talk to, most days, is the elderly gentleman round the corner who's just taking his dachsunds for a walk.  They are beautiful dogs: miniature, long-haired.  The older one is black, with a delicate curl to her fur and limpid eyes which blend into her coat.  The younger, more excitable one is brown, with black tips.  She's inquisitive and bright, and always thinks she'd like to say hello to me.  After a sniff or two, she remembers I'm a stranger and barks.  Between the impulse and the memory, her owner and I share How Are Yous.

Then, two corners later, there's the singing alarm clock man.  I overtake him and his wife on the final stretch, these days, but they both Good Morning and smile.

Some days, there's an Asian lady, scurrying over the road with a mug of tea, chatting and giggling for a few moments.

Weekends are altogether different.  There's no imperative to get up, but the puppy sneaking onto the bed makes it unpleasant to stay there, and disruptive to fight him off.  So mostly I'm up by 8 at the latest.  Which does constitute a lie in, admittedly.

This morning, coffee and poached eggs and a snuggle on the sofa with my young son.  And here I am, be-dressing gowned, waiting for the bathroom and wondering what to do.  In fact, there's nothing *to* do.  Well, there's a quilt in the making, and a bit of work to finish, but neither of those are speaking to me at the moment.  I suspect I shall browse T K Maxx for a ball dress I don't need until next month, and go to Boots, to find the wherewithal to remove my moustache.  I harbour fantasies of weekends spent in shared endeavour; children and partner and I all wrapped up in mutual delights, and so I can't help feeling a sharp sense of anti-climax at the prospect of shallow, solipsistic mooching.  But the children are of an age where they don't want to be with their parents in public, and the partner doesn't mind sharing the bed with the dog. 

So in the early mornings, I belong to old men, and at weekends I belong to myself.  It's a strange discipline!

Thursday, 13 May 2010

It's a funny thing, applying makeup on the train. The first few times, you are focussed on the motion, the gentle sway interrupted by arrhythmical lurches. You have to learn to balance your arm as if on a gimble, so that the lurches don't result in interesting streaks of mascara down your cheek, or a quick stab of eyeliner. That takes a couple or three repetitions.

Once that's mastered though, there's really nothing to it. But it's an odd sensation, and you sit quietly at the back of the carriage, in an airline style seat which you've carefully picked out because its twin is unoccupied and there's nobody across the aisle, either.

Five weeks in, and I am sitting this morning in a face to face cluster of 6 seats. The airline style seats  over the aisle are all full, and facing me, but there's nobody else in my pod. I settle, tucking my briefcase behind my legs and my handbag on my lap, and rummage in the side pocket for my glorious  makeup bag. It balances neatly on the opening of my bag, and I unzip it and begin the familiar routine: lid off the eyelid foundation, finger in, a quick slick across each lid and blend into the brows.   Somebody over the aisle rustles, loudly. I am not distracted. Lid on one pot and off another. Dip in the  brush, and spread the powder that's supposed to neutralise the shadows under my eyes. And then spread a bit more, because it has an increasingly uphill task, these days. Brush back, lid on, reach for  the crayon pouch. As I slide the first crayon from its holster, my eyes rise and flick round the carriage. I am gathering an audience. Over the aisle, one glance retreats hastily back to its laptop, one book is briskly raised, and the chap looking slightly over his shoulder is too late to disguise his gaze, and shifts slightly in his seat. I twist the pearly crayon out of its case, and, resisting the temptation to run my tongue over my lips, rub it over each eyelid. It's quite difficult to spot against the shadow neutraliser.   Next is the black crayon. I steal a glance across the aisle, and wonder whether they'd be less shocked if I went for the full Marilyn Manson rings.  I do my usual smudgy corners.  Mascara next.  The tension  mounts, but I manage not to smear it everywhere and, with a flick of the blusher brush and some judicious blending, job's a good'un.

I can't decide if my audience is thrilling to the delicious risk of a poke in the eye, or whether they're just surprised to see a woman so publicly at her toilette. So I look again. The book is being read, and the laptop judiciously tapped. But Mr Over The Shoulder has an expression of incredulous disapproval. I might as well have been hooking up my bra.

I mentally shrug, and settle down to read the paper over my new neighbour's shoulder. Why is it that, even in tight spaces, men must sit with their legs splayed?

And the man over the aisle has an iPad.

Sent from my iPhone

Monday, 10 May 2010

This, mes petits choux fleurs, is amongst the coolest gifts I have ever been gifted.  "Why is that?"  I hear you cry.  Well just look at it!  It's a Billy Bragg (I don't want to change the world, I'm not looking for a New England, are you looking for another girl?) autograph!  Not only is it a Billy Bragg autograph, but it's a Billy Bragg autograph written on an SWP leaflet, and collected at the Make Votes Count rally outside The Work Foundation this very afternoon.  How perfect is that?  Only very perfect!  How many years does that take you back?!  And who would give me such a perfect gift? Well, only my beloved who chose to go and rediscover his activist youth, this afternoon.  Yes, he went in search of his youth and he found Billy Bragg.  So many metaphors...

I am going to frame it, and hang it in my office, thereby firmly establishing my credentials-by-proxy.

So we went to Epsom, yesterday, to the family party.  It was one of those large events, 50 odd guests, designed to show how well my father is coping with my stepmother's new circumstances (mobility issues, dementia, high dependency and so forth), so high on emotion, tension, and stress.  It went remarkably well, but poor Dad was really struggling.

Lots of lovely people there, though - my favourite aunt and uncle; my sister, her husband and two small nephews; the dotty next door neighbour. 

In other news, a friend writes "am sure you must have more hours in your day than anyone else - which isn't fair!  Or perhaps you don't waste as much time 1) drinking 2) watching mindless tv 3) shouting at small children 4) drinking!"  So you might like to know, friend of mine, that I am sitting in front of The Daily Show (Global Edition), with a glass of wine beside me and the laptop on my lap, arguing with Daisy about whether she can stay up a bit later if she uses the time to have a shower or whether bedtime actually means bedtime NOW.  I'm just very practised at looking sober in type...

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Look what I found today, in my lovely kitchen shop!  Aren't they beautiful?  They had to be tested, though, immediately.  The only recipe I could find that needed lots of mixing bowls was, unfortunately, for banana and golden syrup muffins.  So  I mashed bananas and beat eggs, and creamed butter and sugar to my heart's content. 

They didn't last very long, though, so I might have to try it again.

In other news, it has mostly rained today, and I either have a stinking cold or stinking hay fever, I can't work out which.  So I've blitzed it with lemsip and loratidine (?) and still the sneezes keep rolling in...

We have all stayed indoors, today.  My beloved has rigged up a television and freesat in the front room, so I have curled under a rug watching rubbish films on the satellite channels.  My poor son is being copiously and violently ill.  I rather suspect a migraine, but since he can't keep anything down I can't even offer paracetamol. 

Tomorrow, we have to go to my stepmother's birthday party, which will be trying.   And is a long journey.  Perhaps if small son is still copiously ill, we won't be able to make it...

Thursday, 6 May 2010

So.  The apron.  It's delightfully fifties, and reversible (the other side is a white, floral Alexander Henry fabric which I will show you another time, the camera being almost as big as the photographer, today).  The ties and bodice top and waist strip are made from a lovely Alexander Henry day of the dead fabric, which there wasn't quite enough of to make the whole thing... but I love this pattern.  It's almost good enough to waltz around in wearing nothing but lingerie and high heels underneath...

And on that salubrious note, I'm going to go and cast my vote.  Do the right thing, people!

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

I missed my early train. I hustled my low heels out of the house and down the road as fast as I could. A heeled, bustling, grey suited fury.  Overtook the labourers strolling to the cafe, swerved efficiently round the bus drivers in a huddle around their bus door (honestly! They have a whole flippin' bus station! Why do they need to park on the pavement?) and rounded the corner - a full minute, minute and a half from the station door, never mind the platform - just in time to see my (fast) train pull into the platform above me.


So now I'm on the middle train, which isn't really mine at all, and I must change at Nuneaton, and then at New Street. Well, it was that  or wait 16 minutes at the station for my late train.

Between Nuneaton and Birmingham, I need to put my makeup on.  I didn't actually mean to turn into the sort of woman who does her makeup on the train, but in the fine judgement between that and getting out of bed before 6am, somehow public vanity seemed like the lesser evil.  Somehow else, the possibility of going to work without makeup was dismissed altogether.  Didn't even enter into the equation.  Such are the hidden shallows of seniority!

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

I will never understand how it can be 7.18, and the train advertised for 7.16 can still be showing as 'on time'.  On my way to the station, I passed my alarm clock. He is a somewhat weatherbeaten man, probably not  much beyond his early sixties. He wears (always) a crumpled, leather hat with straw-like whisps of blonde hair escaping in every direction beneath it. His face has a similar leathery consistency as the hat, but several  shades paler and split by a large smile. His jacket is red, waxed (presumably) cotton, faded to a dusty tomato colour. I haven't paid much attention to his trousers. They're a khaki shade of brown. I imagine they're cords.  Every morning, he walks his wife - a short woman in a long skirt, grey bun bidding for freedom from high on top of her head - to the station.  Every morning, they are engrossed in conversation as they climb the stairs, and then wait silently on the platform for the train. She climbs aboard, and every morning he watches her settle before waving a
jaunty farewell and setting off again. On his way home, every morning, he sings.

On days when I'm catching the early train, I walk behind them, watching him lean his head down to catch what she's saying; observe the fondly solicitous hand on her elbow as they climb the stairs. Pass them on the platform - nod, smile - as I take my place where the front of the train will be. On days when I'm catching the later train, I hear him before I see him, singing as he walks alone to the next place. He breaks neither his song nor his stride, but tips his hat, smiles and passes by.

I like catching the later train; his song is cheery and feels like sunshine. But I like catching the earlier train, too. They are so lovely together. I hope they are as deeply, fondly contented as I imagine them to be.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Chocolate mousse didn't go so well; failure was roundly blamed on the children but, in truth, I'm not sure it wholly belonged there. 

Still, it will probably taste good.  It's currently in the fridge, setting, and I am tempted to make some meringues, to go with it, just to prove that I *can* keep the bubbles nice and light and delicious.

And there was the consolation of 10 egg yolks that needed not to be thrown away.  Egg yolks which, as it happened, whipped up very nicely to make eggy bread.  What do you call eggy bread?  When I was little it was french toast, but that's something else these days.  At Uni, it was universally referred to as Tinkers' toast, but I'm not sure that's sufficiently enlightened to be encouraged.  Anyway, we had eggy bread (with golden syrup trickled on top) for brunch, and then I took my temper out to the shed.

The shed is a place of gloriousness.  In fact, it's two sheds in one.  The back door leads to a bike storage/general shed.  The front door (and windows) though are mine.  All mine!  It is my retreat from family life (and failed chocolate mousses).  It is a fully insulated, boarded and decorated room in the garden.  I have electricity, light and heat.  It is my atelier cum office (cum retreat from failed chocolate mousses).  Often, I make quilts and clothes in it.  Today, I am mostly making an apron. 

This image is very cleverly (if I say so myself) stitched together with a tool called Double Take which you can find here - I rather stupidly moved the chair half way through taking the pictures (contrary to the fisheye impression, the inside of the shed is a very tight space, not always conducive to spinning round taking pictures!).  I have lots of fabric storage under the cutting table on the right, and you can just see a little pressing board on top of the cutting table at the back.  The white blob just above the floor and under the laptop is an overlocker, and the main sewing machine is in the sewing cabinet on the left.  The zig zag shelves hold all my paper dressmaking patterns, and cunning thread storage boxes, while the book cases (there are two of them at right angles) hold books, magazines, art materials and so on.  My shed is truly a place of wonder.  And peace!

And that's enough for one day.  There may be a photo of the apron, later.  But there may not!
Coffee in the morning, when work doesn't beckon me early out of my bed, is one of my favourite times of day.  I am recently re-acquainted with the joys of the Bialetti stove-top coffee maker; and it's fast re-become one of my favourite things.  I can show you it this morning, thanks to a manic splurge of housework at about 9pm yesterday when a couple of friends texted to say could they come for a nightcap, since they were at the restaurant down the road.  Well, of course they could!  Friends always welcome!  But the house was a tip... about 45 minutes later, it was presentable, and I'd even put my makeup on.  And then they texted to say service was slow, and perhaps they'd better go straight home and rescue the babysitters!  Oh well, this morning we reap the benefit of a lovely clean house.

So, another blog.  If it only lasts half as long as the last one - no, I'm not going to link, those of you who know it do, those of you who don't, won't.  Anyway, if it lasts half as long as the last one, that'll be good going.

This will, I suspect, be mostly a rambling about things I'm making.  Which, today, will be chocolate mousse.  But since I haven't got started yet, here are some pictures of the very lovely creatures who inspired the blog name...

 This is Silas.  He's 8.  Or possibly 9.  I'm not so good with chronology.  He is, as you see, a faithful friend - mostly Border Terrier with a little Lakeland throwback, he is the sweetest natured, most obedient dog I have ever known.  Unfortunately, he is also hairy.  Very hairy.  And blonde.  Very, very blonde.  This is not always a good combination of traits.

This is Beano.  He's 8 months.  He is young, and bouncy, and very inquisitive - hence the odd camera angle and mischievous light in his eye.  He is a Lancashire Heeler, and while we love him very much, he has a lot to learn!  Although in the last few days we have made excellent progress with the "not climbing onto Mum & Dad's bed" rule.  *sigh*...

And this is Jip.  We don't know so much about her, as she's a rescue dog.  I got her in 2006, and think she was 8 then, so 12ish now.  We think she's also a Lancashire Heeler - or mostly.  She was a very unsettled dog when she first arrived, but is now sweet natured and loving.  But it was hard work!

And later, there will be chocolate mousse.  Which I'd better get on with!