Monthly Archives: May 2010

Garden designs #2

I’m absolutely in love with the Atelier garden studios from Apropros… their website is here

I think I most love the curves and the white space inside. I’ve commissioned Steve to make me one. I think it would look wonderful on the edge of the garden. It’s nice to have all this space and freedom to do what I want. I should imagine the ‘shed’ would be fairly easy to construct, except for the curves.

Je demenage!

So the moving day (well, day 1!) is finally upon me. It’s actually really hard. I’m packing up all my things, which I know I will get out again, but it feels almost as if they are being packed up for good. It’s hard to wrap them in newspaper, even though I hope I’ll have unpacked them soon enough. It’s like putting my life away.

Also, the boxes are the sum total of my life. Apart from the various things I need to live, I have very little else except books and photos. To be honest, if the photos were scanned in here, I could live without the albums, though they are beautiful. I’m a big fan of Paperchase loose albums. They’re kind of old-fashioned, as you stick the photos in with photo corners, but I think they’re much more beautiful than those you slide the photos into. Also I tend to annotate mine with the details accompanying the photos. They’re more like stories of journeys on which I’ve been. Books are my only other indulgence. I have thousands. These take up the majority of my stuff, and to be honest, they could go into storage. I’m obviously a frustrated librarian!

Still, seeing bare walls and empty rooms is very sad. This place has been my absolute fortress. Nothing has happened in this house that I did not orchestrate myself. I painted the walls, had the curtains designed, picked the fabrics and the colours. I chose the furniture and the layout. The garden is my (admittedly chaotic) planting. And it all feels very flimsy and thin without all the other stuff. I took my photos down and every thing looked so empty and bare.

No matter how much the new house will become my new fortress, this one has seen so many events and it has been me. It’s like my shell. I’ve retreated here when I’ve needed to, and it has always protected me. I can shut the door and it’s mine.

Not that it’s sold yet… that’s an ongoing saga.

But it’s so sad to see it stripped of its finery, so empty and barren. It’s like a plucked bird. When all the boxes are gone, it will feel very bare indeed. I don’t think I will be able to stand it!

Plus, I know it will be such a long time until everything is decorated and straight in France, partly because of funding, partly because of labour intensity. We still haven’t decided whether to do the upstairs or not, and mainly because of how much it would cost to do. I know my dream fulfilment is far away. But then, I must remember, it took me 14 years to get my own house to this state, and it isn’t exactly how I’d have wanted it. I’d have liked wardrobes in the back room, and fitted shelving, a new kitchen and bathroom… and so I know I have to hold my horses and know that it takes time – sometimes a lifetime. Room-by-room, just like I did here. Piece by tiny piece. Like my packing!

Book review: The Scarecrow by Michael Connelly

I’m a big Michael Connelly fan. I love Harry Bosch. He’s hard-boiled enough to pick up from the greats, but with a soft centre. I also like how the characters interweave, like some great complex ballet, some extended narrative. You make connections between them and they live their lives beyond the text… Jack McEvoy is no exception – along with Rachel Walling, who have appeared in other Connelly texts.

What I miss about Bosch, though, is the world-weary cynicism and the blues he brings to the storyline. Yes, this has pace and threat and twists, although the reader knows who the key players are and what has happened on both sides of the good/evil line. It reads like your run-of-the-mill crime thriller, where the Bosch ones have an edge. The Poet, where we met Rachel before, was clever. There’s no empathy or motivation for the killers in this novel – they seem to just do it without reason. I didn’t really ‘get’ Jack… he’s not got the edge that Harry has, the sadness, the cynicism, the drinking a beer in an empty bar at the end of the night… the Hopper painting that so beautifully conveys the sad tragedy of the gritty Bosch. In fact, I found the preview of the 2 chapters of Nine Dragons better than the rest of this novel. Sad, I know!

I love Michael Connelly. I love Bosch, and I loved Mickey Haller in The Lincoln Lawyer, but Jack doesn’t cut the mustard. Connelly is one of my top three ‘thriller’ writers, with Robert Crais and Lee Child, but this one didn’t do it for me. I don’t mind the widening of investigative repertoire… Rachel and Jack are fine with me, but they’re no Terry McCaleb, and they’re no Harry Bosch. Still, it passed the time. And that’s damned the book with faint praise, I know!

La Historia me absolvera

I have to say I have more faith in the police following my ‘mugging’ and assault (with a deadly tie) – the culprits have been caught. Who knows what will happen to them – I hope the only thing that they realise is remorse is a terrible feeling. I don’t care how much or little punishment is needed for them to realise they too were lucky and it could have been much, much worse.

I do believe, you see, in karma. I believe that what goes around comes around. I believe that you WILL be bitten on the arse by the giant Universe. I believe that punishments come to those who need them. I believe that everything has a meaning and a significance and nothing happens from which we cannot learn. Sometimes shit happens to good people. I hate that, especially where no-one is responsible. We can die in horrific and terrible ways. My Gramps and Andy both died far, far too young and in far too much pain. I don’t believe that was karmic retribution. If they’d been bad, their suffering would have been long and intense, I know. I do believe in the butterfly effect. Maybe if I’d have said yes to a pug, I’d have kept Andy here. Maybe if my Gramps had believed less that he’d be dead by 70, he’d have gone to the hospital sooner. I believe little things can have big consequences. I can’t, however, justify my Aunt Chris’s chronic arthritis, or Liam’s fever or my Auntie Lynne’s aneurysm, or my own suffering at the hands of others. I don’t know why these things happen to good people. I feel like the boy in ‘Night of the Scorpion’… like I can’t justify the suffering of a good person just because of my beliefs in karma.

But, at times like this, I like to think the Universe has a hand in helping consequences along. If we sow goodness, we reap goodness. However, no matter how carefully you plough the field and sow your seeds, sometimes weeds get in there. It’s just how it is. You could be as good as you know how to be, and yet the wind will sometimes blow a huge big pile of dandelion seeds your way. My advice? Be good, but prepare for the weeds that blow over from other people’s untended lots. Those weeds can be deep-rooted, like the belief my Gramps had that hospitals were not good places, or the ‘weed’ of tobacco that undoubtedly caused his cancers. Those weeds can be other people’s untended patches, like the boy who killed Andy who just didn’t think he ought to drive carefully. Still, it doesn’t make for good universal understanding about why my Aunts have to suffer, or my wonderful uncle Liam… I don’t know how to come to terms with that.

I believe that history tells the story, and we will be judged by how we are seen when we have passed on. The weight of our sins against the weight of our good deeds.

And that’s my weighty philosophy of the day!

More rules of the road that don’t apply to anyone else…

I think I’m going to start giving lessons in the Highway Code. Not only is St Helens Road still awash with cars parked on double yellows, but today, I’ve been subjected to the idiocy of the roads beyond Bolton.

1. Motorways aren’t permitted for use by particular drivers, such as learner drivers or drivers of 50cc motorbikes. Why, then, must they be populated by idiots?? Surely idiocy precludes holding a driver’s licence? Could they not include ‘occasional’ drivers, ‘nervous’ drivers and ‘oblivious’ drivers?

2. Apparently you should use your mirrors before moving. Why, then, is it now compulsory to use your mirrors after pulling out, and then only to check the reactions of everyone behind you as they gesticulate wildly?

3. You apparently should give priority to traffic already on the motorway. This means when you’re coming on, you shouldn’t just pull into oncoming traffic with a view that ‘they should have moved’. Such people are obviously driving with a suicidal deathwish.

4. You should ‘match your speed’ to the traffic of the motorway. Not pull into the first lane, overtake and cause everything else to have to need to pull out into the outside lane. Yes, Mr Audi, I mean you. Just because you’ve joined the motorway and it’s going 60 doesn’t mean you should immediately swerve into the middle lane because you feel like you should.

5. My favourite: remain in the left-hand lane until it’s safe for you to pull out. This has certainly been over-ruled whilst I wasn’t looking. I thought the aim of the game was to get as quickly as possible into the outside lane??

6. This one has been abolished too: ‘keep a safe distance’, unless the phrase ‘safe distance’ means so close you can smell what the driver in front had for their lunch. Sometimes it feels as if I’ve forgotten my tow bar and the car behind would really, really like a lift. I feel like a bitch being circled by amorous dogs waiting to mount me.

7. Apparently, the speed limit is 70. Not 50 for the inside two lanes and 110 for the outside lane. I hate it when you’re forced to crawl behind two lorries jockeying over 15 miles for position and you can’t pull out for fear of killing yourself and everyone else around you. This is perhaps why 4 & 5 go by the wayside. It’s like the ‘Overtake of Death’ on the M40.

8. Likewise, the outside lane isn’t JUST for people who want to tootle along at 70. There are other lanes. BOTH of the outside two used to be for overtaking. Now they’re for dawdling in whilst everyone else tries to a) get in your boot b) raise their blood pressure c) invent new swear words and d) make you realise the middle and inside lane are empty.

9. Apparently, according to the Highway Code, you should drive in the left-hand lane unless overtaking. I think lorry drivers are the worst at making this rule pointless since over-taking to them equals going 1 mile an hour faster than the lorry in front. In Germany, lorries are forbidden from overtaking in some places, as they are in France. Why not here?? It’s like the Grand National of snails. Sometimes, on the continent, lorries aren’t allowed on the roads at all. What a difference that would make. However, where as France is ruled by farmers who throw turnips every time the law threatens to change, England is ruled by lorry drivers on account of our addiction to consumerism.

10. There is nothing that says lorry drivers can’t block junctions by tailgating each other for miles and overtaking. It’s okay for them to cause a rolling blockade.

11. Apparently, you are supposed to use your mirrors before indicating. I wish someone would tell Joe Public that.

Am I the only person who checks the blind spot these days? Good lord, there’s some drivers who WANT to be in hospital and going through a lengthy insurance process.

It also says ‘signal in plenty of time’. I might put that on my t-shirt for next time I have to get out of my car. Signal-move-mirror seems to be the new protocol, closely seconded by move-mirror.

And… finally, one for me. No, I’m not perfect. I need to remember not to overtake on the inside. Boy, they should legalise that, or else enforce all the others!

La Parole de la Reine

I like the Queen. I like how she says ‘My government’ and I wish she would take a firmer hand with some of them. I wish I had a carriage to turn up in. I’ve always liked the idea of a gold carriage. It’s very environmentally friendly (except for the gold mining, really) and even though it has got gold, it’s hopefully not ‘blood gold’ and it is ethically sourced. Certainly, it’s renewable and sustainable. You can just melt it down and make something new. Ultimate sustainability.

I also would like a big train. I think I need a retenue. I feel incomplete without one.

Clegg looked a bit like a schoolboy in assembly, and Cameron looked like a slightly smugger version of him. I think they both looked quite nervous, as if she was going to say ‘there’s been rumours of girls pushing in front of pensioners in the Interchange’ like Miss Batty, our demon Headmistress, used to do, when every single one of us would feel ashamed and sheepish.

Speaking of boys being sheepish, PC Shepherd came down from Essa Academy today. She thinks she knows who the boy is with my camera, though she agrees it’s likely to have been whizzed, along with my phone. I can’t say I’m best pleased. Having seen that the maximum ‘punishment’ would be a caution – “Don’t do it again!” – I think restorative justice must be the way forward, although I can’t bring myself to accept that a bit of a smack on the wrists and a lecture from me is going to be enough. I want blood. It’s not quite enough that I’m okay and it was all a bit of a harmless prank. The lad robbed my camera.

Between the Queen and my robber, it’s England of today. I like the way the Queen did a little kind of Japanese-style bow. I also like Phil. How doesn’t he get any older?? He’s looked that old as long as I can remember. I like the fact that Cameron is younger than all of her children. It must be great to be the Queen. I hope she goes on forever. Viva La Diva.

Is it just me or do traffic regulations not apply any more??

Right… today I have:

  • seen some idiot parked on double yellow lines outside the police station. I was quite sure double yellows meant no stopping or parking.
  • been held up because several vans decided to block the road
  • gone past 16 cars and vans on St Helens Road that were parked on double yellow lines
  • had a van stop right in front of me as I was coming out of Staples
  • nearly had a collision in Sainsbury’s car park
  • watched a taxi do a 3 point turn on an A road
  • had to slam on because a taxi pulled out of a side road without stopping
  • had to stop and wait for a file of traffic to go past because an elderly Asian gentleman thinks you should stop about a metre after the dashed white lines – he was most upset that I beeped when he tried to pull across the front of me and stop there whilst waiting for more traffic to move

For future reference, this:

means NO stopping, parking, letting passengers out, letting your kids out, waiting for someone to come out, waiting for a taxi pick up… Are there really 20 drivers in Bolton who are so retarded they don’t know this??! I do believe the given definition is NO WAITING AT ANY TIME!

Does this now mean “feel free to park here, stop as long as you want, get out, have a natter, unload some melons, say ‘hi’ to your friends, stop for the cash machine, block the bus stop by all means, post a letter…”? And if so, why wasn’t I informed???!

The other one that gets me is:

I believe this now means… pull out into the main road, stop the traffic to your right, especially if you’re trying to turn left and you’re in a Chelsea Tractor or you’re in a rush. It also means, stop halfway over me… I’m here as a guide for you to guess where half way along your car should be….


It seems this afternoon like there’s only me who knows how to drive without parking on yellows, going into the main carriageway from a minor road.

And don’t get me started about jaywalkers! Apparently, though, it’s not a crime and anyone can walk into the road when they feel like it, pelican crossing, lollipop lady or no.


Addendum ‘Go Laws’

So QCDA don’t get a specific mention…. but will they survive the cull. Becta have already put a memo out on their website.

I was just thinking, though, how Bolton College/University has bought ridiculous £70 a slab paving stones when £4 ones would do. Too much in this country is improper aesthetics over practicality. What kind of ‘public’ architect would arrange for such items? Probably the same type of person who’d recommend the ‘green’ cycle lanes, which have been coated in a kind of surface that’s good for bikes but disintegrates within months, and the same type of people who’d rather put down speed bumps than fix potholes.

I guess this is why ring-fencing is a good thing. What’s to stop Bolton Council spending all its money on fancy paving rather than fixing the roads? I’ve lost 3 tyres, a drive-shaft and good suspension to Bolton’s ‘tank traps’

I never would have thought I’d be so political, really… but all these cuts have lanced a boil that’s been festering within me about public spending and tax waste.

Go Laws! Go Laws! Go Laws! (and Osborne too)

Funny how mostly Osborne meant wallpaper to me…

David Laws is announcing cuts as I type. I like the fact that all civil servants whose salaries are worth more than the PM’s (£142,ooo!) will have to have their salaries approved. No matter what you do, your job is not more important or stressful than the PM’s. Perhaps all private sector business bodies should say the same. I promise here and now that should I earn more than £142,000 I will donate the rest to charitable causes. I’d even give it to the tax-man. Imagine if everyone who earned more than this figure gave even 10% to local charities or schools/hospitals… it’d be amazing. You could actually see what was being done with your money. I know every time I had a pay rise, I donated more… never as much as I could, but always at least 1% of my wage. 1% of £150,000 would be £1,500. You wouldn’t even miss 1%. It’s 10p in every £10. In £100, it’s a single pound. I think we could all afford this. And nothing a civil servant does could be worth more than the PM’s salary. Good on you, David C, for making this point. Honest Dave, you certainly seem to be.

It beggars belief that some people earn so much, especially when it comes from not-for-profit Government. Fair enough in industry or football, to some extent, but when it comes out of the public coffers, they should be accountable.

It’s funny how the Government is little more than a big version of one of us debtors. They spend more on debt interest, according to Osborne, than on defence, transport or the police. As a debtor, I hear this. I know I spend more on interest than I do on clothes. I spend more on debt interest, including my mortgage, than I do on food. If I didn’t have the interest from debts, I’d be able to live off £400 a month. Thus the move to France. Partly. I can afford to live debt-free. Funny how we all strive to be debt-free, but, like Willy Loman, it usually takes us to the end of our lives to afford it.

I’m also glad quangos won’t be able to use first class transport. From Manchester to London, it’s £317.00. I never understood why Wigan Council would rather pay this than let me fly for £60. I don’t think that sweeping irrational act was really worth almost a quarter of a grand. When I was trained as a consultant, my room was £900 for 4 days, to stay in Kensington. Whilst it was lush, I wondered what kind of life I was being welcomed into. The only time I’ve ever stayed in a £200-a-night hotel was there. The Ibis would have been more than adequate, quite frankly!

Looks, too, like local government will be hit. Half a billion of savings to come from them. Good stuff. Having seen the waste at Bury Council, who are notoriously poor, and at Wigan Council, I say good! I like how advisers are appointed…. amalgamate two schools. Give the good teacher the job and send the bad teacher to be the subject adviser for the authority. Let him work his way up the ranks, even though he was never more than a head of Art or Music, and let him tell schools how to operate, whilst spending most of the time in meetings, meetings and meetings, in expensive hotels, all over the country, when a phone conference or video conference would have done. Or a memo.

I think all these cuts are going to my head.

I like that Laws and Cable have got rid of their limos, and Cameron walks the street. I once worked for a head who patrolled constantly; it was the best school I ever worked in. He was a God among head teachers.

I’m seeing a problem with the ‘de-ringfencing’ however… schools are a microcosm of Government… when money wasn’t ringfenced, it was spent on stupid things, like a £40,000 emblem on the hall floor. Ring-fencing it is the only way to ensure councils do what they should with it, rather than financing art centres no-one goes to.

Black swans and Ozymandias


I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away

I don’t think I could sum up my feelings about the QCDA any better than this. Everything falls. Just because you’re big and mighty doesn’t mean you don’t come to an end.