Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Road Trip!!

So this weekend The Boy and I went on a road trip to a Sledge Hockey tournament. Sledge Hockey is the sport he plays, and once a month there's a tournament, and they're all over the country. We packed some sandwiches and selected some Cd's to entertain ourselves and headed out. The drive up was good, traffic seemed non-existent, and the sun was shining. The company was good too!
The tournament went well, The Boy's team won one of their matches. I had a laugh with some of the other women who'd come along to see what their men were getting up to at the rink.
We stayed the night with one of The Boy's friends and his wife, which was OK.
The next day we drove through sunny countryside to visit The Boy's parents in the seaside town he grew up in on the way home. He gave me a tour of the town, showing me where he went to school and where he worked as a teenager. We sat in the conservatory drinking tea in the sunshine as The Boy opened his birthday presents before strolling down to the front for a lovely dinner in a restaurant, local fish served with chips. Traditional and delicious.
The drive home went swiftly and we collapsed on the sofa to watch a film before attempting to sleep in the awful heat. The storm the next day was definitely needed!
All in all a great weekend, and we got to spend some time together, just the two of us, driving around the country.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Broody? Me? Good Heavens No!!!!

A lot of my friends seem to be breeding at the moment. Every time I log onto Facebook it seems another person has changed their profile picture to a squashy red faced baby. Newborns looked all squished to me, like bulldogs or a t-shirt in need of a good iron.
I don't dislike babies, unless they're screaming and you're not doing anything to stop it, or they puke on me. Some are really cute, and babies in adult sunglasses are really hilarious, I don't know why.
I'm glad you're happy and had a healthy baby, I hope you do an excellent job raising them to be kind, caring, intelligent and engaged in the world.
But they are expensive, polluting, over-populating, and sometimes I just don't care about your kid.
So please, change your photo back to you, it's your profile after all, and stop updating your status every time they do something like blink or breathe (I can do that too, you don't seem me boasting) and just enjoy their babyhood, they'll be obnoxious money grubbing teenagers soon enough!
Rant over.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Bakin' brownies.

For The Boy's birthday I baked some really yummy chocolate brownies, the recipe's originally from a magazine, with slight tweaking by me. Makes about 16, depending on how generous you're being.

170g butter, unsalted or healthy alternative
200g caster sugar
100g light muscavado sugar ( or soft light brown sugar)
3 medium eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g cocoa powder
50g plain flour (I used a little more to make the mix go a little further)
1/4 tsp salt
100g walnut halves or chopped chocolate (or choc chips from the baking section)

Heat oven to 180oC.

Butter and line a brownie tin.

Melt butter in a pan until it turns golden brown. Leave to cool.
Mix together the sugars and eggs until thick and glossy. Beat in the vanilla and butter. (I did this by hand, but a mixer on a low speed works just as well).
Sift the cocoa, flour and salt into a separate bowl, then fold into the mix, careful not to over mix.
Add the walnuts/chocolate and scrape into baking tray.
Bake for 20-25 mins until mix sets, test with a sharp knife, if it comes out clean, they're done.
Leave to cool before lifting from tin and slicing.
If wanted, add melted chocolate to the top and place in the fridge to set.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Books that make me cry

I've been doing a lot of reading, one of the benefits of having a surfeit of time on my hands I suppose. But it seems I've been picking books that make me well up and weep. Both The Girl In Times Square by Paullina Simons and When God Was A Rabbit by Sarah Winman have reduced me to sobs this week. Both deal with some sad stuff, cancer and death in the former, 9/11 and death in the latter. I know this makes me a soppy idiot, but when a book is well written and tugs on the heart strings, I cry at the sad bits. Other books make me laugh, and cannot be read on public transport as the stares of my fellow passengers can be a bit embarrassing, these include everything by Terry Pratchett, and the two volumes of biography on comedian Billy Connelly that his wife, Pamela Stephenson, wrote. All are guilty of making me laugh in public, although they're not alone.
I always think it's a sign of excellent writing when a book affects your emotions, changes your mood, makes you think. Talented and skilled authors know how to lure the reader in and then make them connect with the characters and the story, in whichever way they want.
Perhaps I should read a book that makes me giggle, like The Pirates! series by Gideon Defoe (very funny books indeed) or Marc Acito's How I Paid for College and Attack of the Theatre People (also hilarious). Or perhaps I ought to concentrate and solely read the words of Neil Gaiman (literary genius) and get on with my dissertation.
What are you reading??

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

A little light in a dark place

Today the sun is streaming through the glass, the floor feels warm to the touch where the carpet bathes in the light, it should make me feel hopeful, but it's not really working.
Even with the bright, cheery sky, so much more uplifting than the grey rain-soaked streets at the weekend, I can't find my way to a smile.
Things were going so well, I was working, studying, socialising, having a jolly time of things. Then it ended. My contract came to a close, and there was nothing else for me there, so I'm back to being completely broke, struggling for bus fare, sitting in one place filling out job application after application, hearing nothing back. Worrying about how I'm going to pay my bills this summer, dreading having to return to the cretins at the job centre, who say things like "if you took your degree off your CV, you might have more luck with low-skilled jobs" as though the 3 years of blood, sweat and tears, not to mention the £20,000 student debt was all for nothing and matters not a jot.
I have a dissertation to write over the summer, I just need a job that'll tide me over until I'm finished and can look for a full-time, permanent career type thing.
My friends are all in different places, my best friend just bought a house with her boyfriend, she's one of the few with a stable job, my other best friend is still at uni getting his degree, and living off student loan money. Others are working as many hours as they can fit around their studies, teaching piano, stock taking in high street shops, pulling pints. A few are doing more off-beat things, selling jewellery on etsy, making cakes and painting faces, busking.
The Boy is volunteering while he studies, a useful gap filler on a CV, but something that comes with little in the way of financial aid for bill paying, so you have to either have family support or work as well.
My CV isn't exactly bare, I've done voluntary things since I was 13, and worked since 18, including volunteering while at uni and working at weekends. I can juggle, so I can juggle a job and my dissertation, as long as they're flexible. It was the best thing about my last job, and if it wasn't a charity, and undergoing restructuring (meaning everyone was being made redundant), then perhaps they could have found a way to keep me on. But it wasn't to be.
I've been applying for a whole host of jobs, mostly admin ones, and some of them in the Arts sector (where I'd most like to work). So far nothing. The worst is when you hear nothing, not a yes or a no, just a silence.
I have things I'd like to do this summer, and I have long term plans. But financially I can't do a thing til I get some work.
Even the sun making electric light unnecessary this afternoon can't illuminate things enough for me right now.

Monday, 6 June 2011

It's a trip when you're young and hip*

Erm, so my excuses....

I've been a little busy, doing a Masters, working and trying to squeeze in my friends, my boyfriend, and my family has been really hard. My contract's done, so I'm unemployed again, hopefully not for too long, have to pay my phone bill somehow!
I have my dissertation left to write, due in at the end of August, which sounds ages away, but will be here sooner rather than later.
It's the lovely Aleks' birthday tomorrow, party on Sunday, so that'll be good. My awesome, funny friend Ben is back in town for the summer, there's Pride, hopefully a festival, some random days out, a few afternoons in the park, road trips, and general summer fun still to come. I'll be studying and applying for new jobs, spending time with my lovely Boy and trying to get some reading done.
I will also be blogging again, I missed it. It was difficult to find the time, I had a two hour commute each way while I was at that job, and was always too tired to do much of anything, let alone write a blog post.
But I've decided to try to blog about 2 times a week. Today's rush of posts won't always be a possibility. I'm thinking about what I'll blog about, probably compose a draft on my phone, a Blackberry called Bob, and drop hints on Twitter (which is still the best way to keep in touch).
I'm also going to try to get round to other blogs again, the blogging community was so good to me and for me last summer when I was really down, and I miss reading about what everyone's up to.
Please let me know how you all are in the comments, and what you'd like to see here.
Thanks for your patience.

*totally nicked this from Aleks' birthday event on Facebook.

Book Review: Kraken - China Mieville

Mieville's latest Embassytown is out now in hardback, but as I haven't yet read it, I thought I'd review his last book, Kraken, out now in paperback.

Kraken starts in the back rooms of the Natural History Museum in London. Young archivist, and cephlapod expert Billy Harrow has been put in charge of preserving the museum's latest acquisition, a giant squid. Only it's gone missing. Thrusting Billy deep into London's cult underground.

With various cults, gods, talking statues, apocalypse worshippers and other assorted craziness, Mieville's underside of London is akin to Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere.
Billy is not entirely believable as a naive scientist, he occasionally becomes slightly annoying, and some of the side plots and characters could probably be done without. Having said this, I'm a Mieville fan, especially of his Bas-Lag books (Perdido Street Station, The Scar & Iron Council), and I quite enjoyed this romp through an alternative London, the darkness that many writers have explored. You can't have a city of officially 7 million and not have scary stuff bubbling away underneath.
Mieville is a tremendous writer, The City & The City was my starting point, and I thought that was brilliant if a little mind-boggling. His only book for younger readers, UnLunDun also looks at another London beneath the real one. Presumably it's a theory he'll return to at some point.
If you like fantasy writing, mixed with a little realism, crime spliced through with conspiracy theories, then I suggest you give Kraken (and the rest of Mieville's stuff) a go.

Here we go again...

There's been a lot said recently about young people and reading. Here's my two cents.

I read, a lot. Always have done, learnt to read at three and never saw the point in stopping. I love books, libraries and book shops are my favourite places to spend time, wandering through the stacks, looking for old friends and new ones. When I was younger I read whatever I could, still do, and some of it probably wasn't suitable for my age. My parents trusted me, they knew I was mature and sensible enough to decide what was appropriate reading for me. I read Lolita at 17, by request of the school librarian, who wanted to see whether or not I thought it something that should be included on the library's shelves for anyone to pick up and read. It is not really a book most people would ask a 17-year-old to read, let alone a librarian in a church school, but there you go. She was a smart woman who knew her readers, and trusted us to be sensible about things. I told my mum I was reading it, she didn't mind. It is a work of fiction, yes it is contentious, yes it does feature a man obsessed with an underage child. No it isn't really something any school would include on their syllabus. I can distinguish between reality and fiction. Lolita contains some gorgeous phrases, and is a work of literary art. It is not the true story of a peadophile.
That is an extreme case, what the Wall Street Journal's article seems to be saying is that all fiction written for teenagers is dark and dangerous, and will leave your child damaged. I don't particularly like the current trend for vampire fiction, mostly because the vampires are so wet. I grew up watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, with its genuinely quite nasty monsters, and the Twilight thing leaves me cold. My sister adores it. She's able to understand that it's fiction. It doesn't impact on her life, they're just stories. The idea that parents have to be gatekeepers and only spoonfeed their kids books they
consider suitable is absurb.
Yes, there are dark books for teens, some of which are classified as fantasy (vampires, werewolves etc all come under this) and some are realism. Melvin Burgess' Junk, about two teen heroin addicts, is often banned for promoting drugs, it actually does the opposite, Gemma and Tar's lives are so bleak, it'd put even the most determined rebel off.
And yes, a lot of books do address teen sexuality, the reality is, teenagers are experimenting and exploring themselves and their potential selves, so why shouldn't the books they're reading to do the same.
In short, parents, trust your kids, they'll be ok. Teens, talk to your parents, reassure them, they can't help it, they've forgotten how to be young.

*Update Bitch Magazine (love) have a really interesting article on the topic.*
*Also if you're on Twitter, follow the #YASaves tag for more comments and articles from writers and readers*

Wednesday, 1 June 2011


Why are the three most loaded words in the English language "I love you" ?? They can make you smile like an idiot, or break your heart or both at the same time.
When he says those three little words, my heart sings, my mouth smiles, my face glows
Or so he tells me.
I can't see but I know how I feel
Like never before, like the grass after rain
His arms around me feel like home
There is nowhere else I want to be, buried against his chest, listening to a heartbeat echoed by my own
This can never end, must be forever, the thought of pain makes my smile fade
I love you.
Please, say it again.