Friday, 14 October 2011

Things Our Parents Didn’t Have To Deal With #225736

Spirits were high when youngest son’s school taxi arrived home the other day. He tumbled out and ran indoors as usual, but his companions were sat wiping tears of mirth from their faces.

“You know the ‘Chas n Dave’ Rabbit song? When it comes on the radio, he laughs so much, he makes us all laugh.”

I’m not a ‘Chas n Dave’ fan, and that song is as old as the hills, it comes as news to me that anyone, let alone the taxi driver’s radio station of choice, plays it at all, never mind often enough for it to be the subject of so much hilarity on the way home from school, but, evidently, they do!

Elder son was intrigued. He’s constantly on the look out for dodgy U-tube clips to share with his mates, so wanted to ‘check it out’. I warned him his social standing would nosedive were he to share this one, but nonetheless he looked it up and, I’m relieved to say, was unimpressed. Not so younger son… I had to put up with ‘Rabbit rabbit rabbit’ blaring from the I-pad for the rest of the afternoon, while younger son laughed so hard, his asthma kicked in. That's a typical afternoon in my world…

It wasn’t until later when I sat down, I happened to glimpse what he was watching over and over again. It wasn’t an official video, rather a pastiche put together on the aforementioned ‘U-tube’ featuring cute and cuddly rabbits, interspersed with, yup, you’re way ahead of me there, pictures of a certain infamous brand of vibrator. [and if you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can look up ‘rabbit’ and ‘vibrator’ yourself - so long as you’re not of a nervous disposition, in which case I wouldn’t bother!]

This is one of the problems with kids and the internet, and it doesn’t just apply to autistic kids like my youngest son. There is no way of policing what they stumble across. Yes, so I could ban the computer, but that isn’t realistic in this day and age. And, just as the boys used to play recordings of Roy Chubby Brown in the tape player in my school’s senior common room, there will always be people who find it really funny to dub rude language over cartoon clips, or paste inappropriate pictures. And in context, being viewed by the people whom the joke is aimed at, ie not my ten-year old, it is funny. But for me, it’s a headache.

My autistic son is a computer whiz. He loves the internet, because he can find things that really appeal to him, and watch them over and over again. It’s fuelled an interest in making films himself. But I have to keep an eagle eye on what he’s up to, because he doesn’t understand some of the content may be rude or offensive, and he will repeat things that have tickled him. Once that happens, it's virtually impossible to get him to stop. It’s just a shame there isn’t a way of policing with strict categorising what's posted in the first place, although I suspect even that wouldn’t stop my lil’ techno-demon’s surfing.

Rabbit rabbit rabbit. I have until he gets home from school today to work out how I’m going to stop him watching that particular clip. He won’t ask me what the coloured, funny shaped thing is, but his brother might! Parents of yester-year really didn’t know how lucky they were!

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Knitty-Nora and The Finished Sweater

One of the best things about being a single 'lay-dee' is that you can cultivate a whole raft of interests and hobbies without the fear of ridicule from your 'other half'. And whilst your imaginations race way ahead of me to conjecture what sorts of sordid activities I could mean, I have to spoil it by confessing I'm talking about knitting. Yes, knitting.

My Mum taught me to knit when I was little, although as I remember, I wasn't an enthusiastic pupil. I wouldn't have dreamt of doing it while I was married: in fact, Mr X finds the sight of my knitting needles on the coffee table so hilarious, he now calls me 'Knitty-Nora', hence today's title. But once I started knitting, I discovered that far from being a sordid habit, loads of people do it. I even worked with one girl, the most unlikliest crafter you could ever meet, who confessed she liked nothing better than to crochet. And she did - beautifully!

It's not something I do all the time, in fact I'm a sporadic knitter; I'll weave away for a few weeks, then I won't do any for ages. I find it quite meditative, sitting clicking away with some nice music on in the background, or, more often than not, whilst I'm watching tv. It salves my conscience on those nights when I fancy a bit of trashy tv; I'm not really wasting hours of my life watching rubbish, I'm being creative. It works!

Two years ago, my Mum sent me two enormous balls of wool, and a pattern for an arran sweater. I'd never tried anything so complicated, and I did try, I really tried, but I'm not a pattern girl. I like to bash away at something straightforward, so scaves and simple stuff is pretty much where I'm at. I did try the arran sweater. I even asked a friend's mum to show me what to do. But it was so complicated, I kept forgetting what to do. This little section is all I managed.

Actually, I'm quite proud of that, but don't ask me how I did it! The next question was what to do with all the gorgeous pink wool? After much rummaging through books, I found a really easy sweater pattern, and started knitting. And stopped knitting. And started, until eventually, here we have....ta-da!

How about that? It's taken nearly two years, but I got there in the end. I don't think knitting sweaters is much of way forward for me though, I'm definately sticking to smaller projects from now on.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Recycled Art for TicTocc

In amongst the millions of things I haven't been doing lately, I haven't got back into doing Kat's TicTocc challenges since she restarted them after the summer. [If you don't know what I'm talking about, pop over and visit the fabulously talented Kat Wright at Wright Story, all will become clear.] But when this week's challenge (#19) arrived in my in-box, I thought, yup, I can do that. So here we are.... Ta-da! Turn empty glass cosmetics jars into tealight holders!

First take one clean, empty jar, peel off the labels and wipe the whole thing with white spirit to remove lingering adhesive.

Then decorate it with relief paste and glass paint. You need a steady hand, which I don't have...

Et voila!

and here's some I made earlier... aren't they cute?

For my next trick, I want to work out a way to turn the tons of bits of broken china I keep finding in the garden into pendants.

I have the ideas, but I'm very short on know-how. The best suggestion I've come across is to glue fabric and wire to the underside of each piece, but if anyone has any advice, I'd love to hear it!

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Skipping (revisited)

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while, only my self-imposed hiatus intervened. It wasn’t until after I posted my flash piece ‘Skippers’, it occurred to me not everyone might know what I was talking about. But luckily everyone who commented either here, or over on ‘facebook’ had heard of ‘skipping’ or ‘dumpster diving’ as it’s called in the US, and yes, you were right, I had been watching ‘Cherry’s Cash Dilemmas’ in which the presenter, Cherry Healey, went out foraging with a dedicated ‘Skipper’.

I watched that programme a few times, out of a mixture of awe and disgust. Having worked extensively in the catering industry, it goes against the grain for me to consider eating out of rubbish bags, but at statistics like £14million worth of food being thrown away by shops each year, the skippers, or ‘Freegans’ as they call themselves, seem the sane ones here. If you pop over to their website, you can read their philosophy. And it all sounds so sensible, my children have spent weeks trembling at the thought I might insist upon us raiding a few skips ourselves. They are relieved when it’s time to go ‘chez papa’; he prefers expensive farm shops and doesn’t entertain wild notions about righting societal wrongs. As one ‘facebook’ comment said though, it does make you wonder why on earth leftover food isn’t automatically given to homeless shelters. Madness indeed.

Anyway, my Tai Chi teacher has a favourite saying, and this is it:

"To change the world, you must first change yourself."

I’ve been thinking about this a lot ever since I saw a report on the BBC’s ‘Countryfile’ programme about how the average household wastes so much food, it makes supermarkets and food retailer’s efforts look like a mere pebble tossed into a very large ocean. So instead of being self-righteous about what shops ought to do, perhaps I should examine my own habits.

And it’s true: I do waste a lot of food. Okay, maybe not that much because our hens obligingly turn leftovers into eggs, but still rather a lot. I’ve been watching what I do, and here’s what I’ve come up with.

1. Things that come in large packets turn mouldy before I can use them. Prime example here is soya milk. I pour cartons and cartons of the stuff down the sink. Now soya milk is vile, but youngest son is on a dairy and gluten free diet, and it’s handy for cooking. But it comes in litre cartons, and goes off before I can use it up. It is possible to get smaller cartons, but they’re like gold dust.

2. Fresh fruit and veg. Yes, so I compost what I don’t use, but I buy too much in the first place. Doesn’t matter whether it’s a farm shop or the supermarket, I lose all sense of reason when faced with a display of fruit and vegetables. I’ll make this, this and that, I’ll think. But I won’t. And it’s worse if I’ve been watching Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and his divine River Cottage, because then I’ll buy weird stuff that I don’t even know how to use, like the salsify root mouldering at the bottom of my fridge. Let’s just say it’s been there a while.

3. Pre-packaged fruit. This is like a combination of points 1 and 2, but how many times do I fall for the supermarket’s ‘two punnets for a pound’ scam, only to chuck the fruit in the compost bin two days later when no one wants the squashy berries. Yes I could make smoothies. No I don’t.

And whilst I’m at it, why don’t supermarkets have huge bins to collect the plastic trays this stuff comes in? Youngest child loves strawberries, but even from the strawberry farm they come in a plastic pot, and there’s only so many uses you can invent for them before you have too many. Our local council doesn’t recycle them either, so, much against my principles, it’s into the bin they go. Such a waste.

4. Preparing too much food. This is a real bugbear of mine. You’d think after so many years of cooking for one woman and two kids, one of whom has a smaller appetite than the tiniest bird, I’d have sussed out how much to make, but I regularly make too much. Most of the time this is okay; I either freeze the leftovers, or feed them to the chickens But if it won’t freeze, it winds up in the bin. Maybe I should be thinking about setting up my own homeless soup kitchen.

Providing we don’t actually manage to make ourselves extinct, I think history will look back our ‘throwaway’ mentality with incredulity. I do often think, when I’m tipping an over-ripe melon, or squishy strawberries into the composting bin, I wouldn’t take the financial equivalent, coins or notes, and throw them away. I wouldn’t put a fiver in the bin, so why am I doing it with food?

To change the world, you must first change yourself. It’s going to be a long and arduous task.

Do you have any thoughts on this issue, or tips to share? Do leave a comment and let me know what you think....

Tuesday, 4 October 2011


Your head lolls, your eyes are wide and rolling, trying to fix on the turbulent sky. It rained before. I wonder if you can feel the earthy damp, the wet grass soaking through your torn sweater, seeping through your greying flesh to your scrawny bones. Your body jerks, foam flecks your lips. I can’t tell if you’re trying to move, or trying to talk.

“It’s okay love,” I sound patronising; my ears cringe. “The ambulance is on its way.”

I take your hand; you startle. I squeeze your nicotine fingers. Your pale blue eyes flail, trapped amid your once-handsome face. Your jaw works, your limbs twitch. I hold your hand, and I pat your shoulder. For that moment, in the universe, there is only you and I.

Then the ambulance arrives. They strap you down onto white sheets on a squeaky stretcher, and then you are gone. I turn back to daily life, and carry on as though nothing happened. I don’t know you; I don’t know how you are. But I think about you. Sometimes the briefest encounter leaves the deepest scar.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Paintings by James Mousley

I saw an exhibition by artist James Mousley the other day, and if you have a chance, do go and look at his paintings. He has produced a truly stunning series of paintings; birds working in goldleaf and oil paints. If you're reading this in the UK, and happen to be near my stamping ground in Lancashire, you can see the pictures at Cedar Farm Galleries (just click on the link for directions) or alternatively, many of the pictures are on his blog, James Mousley Art.

If you can make it to Cedar Farm, do go: the pictures look fantastic in their long gallery. If not, take a minute to look at them online. Right now I'm trying to work out whether or not if I can afford to buy one...
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