Monthly Archives: December 2012

The end of the year rolls in

I think I’ll be in bed by about eight pm. Some years are like that.

In all honesty, Mark’s death, some kind of divine virus and a fever that won’t go away have kind of put a dampener on my usual spirits – the fever is on its way out and the virus seems to be less virulent. That just leaves a bit of a hole where a good buddy used to be. A foul-mouthed creature, a ‘nightmare on legs’, as Julie Pressland said, but a person who nevertheless looked out for me and had a heart at least as big as his sense of humour. I suspect that hole will be there for a long time. I feel a bit empty, if the truth be told.

Pretty much all I’ve been up for is lying about groaning, sniffing, feeling yuck and looking scruffy. Managed to get Heston out for a walk with his brother today, which both enjoyed immensely. Heston is pacing the lounge currently though, so it wasn’t quite enough to tire him out for the day.

Charlton and Heston
Charlton and Heston

He’s hunting for baguette that I left outside for the chickens. Not quite as good as a bone.

I’ve got a run-down of all my last resolutions. I think you’ll like what I’m going to do with my new ones.

61. Read two more Dickens novels. Yeah, that was a fail. I’m rubbish at reading these days. 

62. Read some Victor Hugo in French (one of my 10 books!) And a fail too 

63. Plant a rose bush yay! I planted four! One day I will properly have a rose garden. I swear it. 

64. Spend a day in Limoges Fail. I’m such a homebody these days. 

65. Go down to Rocamador. Likewise. Though I did go to Aubeterre-sur-Dronne, which was uber-cool.


66. Go on 10 new long walks. I over-achieved on this. I can safely say I know the forest inside out. 

67. Have a proper picnic with a proper picnic blanket. And I did this one too. 

68. See a French film in a French cinema and laugh or hold my breath in all the right places. Okay, so I saw an English film and it doesn’t count. 

69. Go to see something at the Carmelite music hall. The Jakey Boy. That’s even better. 

70. Celebrate 14th July in France this year – first time since I was about 8! Yay! With full-on fireworks and everything. 

71. Do 100 blog posts. I did 203 new posts, according to WordPress. That’s not bad. 

72. Join our local library Fail. And I so should have done. 

73. Go on a 30 km + bike ride (and I know the exact route!) I did 29 km so that totally counts. 

74. Bike ride at least once a week. Fail. I’m too mard in the winter. I need to get my act together. I need to do it to get Heston properly running as well. 

75. Scan all my non-scanned images and back them up. Dream on!

76. Do at least one vide grenier. I did. Even though I didn’t do it all. I worked hard these weekends!

77. Go to at least five vide greniers and spend less than 10€ I did this, but it was totally not worth it. The Emmaus is where it’s at. 

78. Paint the kitchen blue and re-tile the back wall. Another pipe dream. 

79. Put some shelves in the kitchen and make a cute under-sink curtain to hide the storage! Didn’t get this far. 

80. Make a big tote bag (I’m such a child of the 70s… I’m sure my mum had a huge tote bag she made herself!) I made a couple of great bags. And they are very lovely indeed. 

Why must all cats sit on the stuff you are doing?
Why must all cats sit on the stuff you are doing?

81. Go to two festivals I’ve not been to before. I went to the Cognac Blues Festival with Mr Jake, and I also went to the rather average medieval festival in La Rochefoucauld. Cognac Blues was cool. Dignac medieval festival was way better than La Rochefoucauld. I also went to a firework festival, which was totally awesome, as were the fireworks at Exideuil.

Dignac Medieval Festival
Dignac Medieval Festival

82. Make macarons of my own. Oh I so should have done this. 

83. Knit some super-cute leg warmers. Yay! Success. 

84. Upcycle a really cheap piece of furniture into something really, really gorgeous. Yay also

85. Try three more French cheeses to add to my repertoire. I did, and I should confess it just makes me miss British cheeses all the more. Cheddar; Cheshire; Lancashire; Wensleydale; Stilton; Double Gloucester; Red Leicester; Caerphilly. Sage Derby. The French are cheese racists. You can buy Danish, Norwegian, Italian, Swiss… but not English, or Austrian. I miss smoked cheese too. When I get back to the UK, I’m going to have a cheese smorgasbord and go into a cheese-induced coma, surrounded by Jacob’s cream crackers’ crumbs and bits of Branston Pickle. 

86. Try Pomerol. Yes, I did. It was fine. 

87. Not end the year with a white tummy and body and brown arms, legs and head. I kind of end the year as white as I began it, but having had wellie-line tan, I think this is a fail. 

88. Wear a hat when gardening. I did sometimes. I miss my corduroy hat. 

89. Learn more than the basic functions and stitches on my sewing machine. Jake found out more about it than I did, I’m afraid. 

90. Paint some pebbles. You’ll see! Fail

91. Can more and freeze less. Fail too. I needed a big boiling cauldron; I have one now!

92. Start an art journal. Well, I kind of did. 

So I reckon I had a 50% success, which is not bad at all really. Plus, I did a whole load of other cool things. Like…













gone kayakinnatashanevillezumbathon

Panther Cap mushrooms... maybe!
Panther Cap mushrooms… maybe!

And I think you’ll agree, that’s a lot of stuff to do.

As all years, it’s had lots and lots of very sad bits. And it’s had lots and lots of very good bits. Most importantly, there was not a tornado and the Mayan apocalypse did not happen. That would have been a terrible year. Overall, I’d like to say I’ve cemented my place in village history by getting not one but two black animals (which puts me on a par with Old Demdike and Chattox in French people’s opinion – or at the very least is criminally bad luck) and appearing naked by accident to some people who had the misfortune to drive past my house after I’d been kayaking. It’s been a marvellous year of friendship. That is never a bad thing.

Tomorrow, I’ll share my New Year’s Resolutions with you.

Above all, have a great night, enjoy the end of the year. The hard bit is over and we can all breathe again as the nights get shorter and the days get longer. I suspect 2013 will be a magnificent year.


I’ve hoped too long

Rest in Peace Mr Mark Holroyd

Sometimes, Facebook brings you shit news; sometimes it’s even harder because it’s news that means you want to be with the friends who share what this means to you and you can’t be with them even though they really get where you are coming from. It seems it’s how you find out about people dying these days, too.

On March 3rd of some year I can’t determine, a boy fell out of the pub on top of me. He was six foot two, hair down his back, covered in ink, the hottest smile I’d ever seen. We went back to Alison Prince’s house and a legend was created in which Alison’s mum walked in on a very steamy kiss. The kiss ended, but 20 years’ later, the story was that Mark had actually asked Alison’s mum to give him five minutes. He did not, of course, as he was always a complete gentleman to other people’s mums.

That night, I wrote a little something about him in my diary and I sussed him right from the start. He told me way back then, in those last years of the 80s, that he was an alcoholic. I wrote then that if he kept on like he was, he was going to die. It took him 22 years of fighting and losing and trying and losing some more and in the last few years, we got to watch him fade away, trying as hard as we could to do something about it. In 2008, his mum had kicked him out, again, and he came to stay with me for a week. I won’t lie. It was hard work. He was listless, depressed and couldn’t sleep, though he was trying so hard to stay off the booze. But I got him, right from the beginning. Little 17 year old wise me said…

He just wants to drink his life away, some kind of guitar hero like Slash or Dave Mustaine or Chris Holmes. In a perfect world, he’d be in LA, playing guitar – a superstar. 

I think after the initial shock of meeting someone on a slow suicide, we all kind of got used to it. He was always a clown and I loved him very much. I never stopped wanting to be able to take away whatever it was inside that had switched to self-destruct, and I never could. I knew that the moment I met him and every single one of us who have stayed friends with him has known it ever since. We kind of had to put that aside and remember it wasn’t always like that.


This is Mark and me at a reunion gig in Bury in 2009. True to form, he got in a fight and had to be kicked out. Life was always like that with Mark. I didn’t see him from about 1995 to 2007 but when he saw me in the kitchen at Henny’s, we hugged for about 20 minutes. And then he probably did something really offensive that made me want to hurt him.

I think I thought in that 12 year hiatus that he would have died. In fact, probably one of the last real times we were really good friends, he’d been run over and was in hospital for weeks. I thought he was dead then and visited him loads. I think I’d got round to thinking he was invincible like Keith Richards and he was never going to die. Like he could do whatever he wanted to himself and get away with it.

I wrote him a poem in 1992 called Mariners 4, 5, 6

For all those crazy, intoxicated nights in your company,

I still know you, transient. 

I see the swooping gentleman, 

the darling child, 

the stolen daffodils, 

a sad clown-warrior 

fighting with himself,

drunk on his own philosophy.

Your soul, siamese to mine, 

Is stars away.

I know you as well as I know myself. 

You see me as you see a looking-glass 

A reflection without sense 

A reflection without depth; 

An echo from a star that died billions of years ago.

I know you. 

I know you as well as I know myself.

As the years went by, I took it a lot less personal that I couldn’t find something to help him anchor himself to this world. It was just Mark; it wasn’t for lack of trying on my behalf. I’ve watched him dying for a quarter-century.

Despite all of this, I have nothing but happy memories of him. Getting a surprise visit from Mrs Prince, him nick-naming me Purple Haze – something he still called me. Mark doing crazy, crazy things I cannot repeat on here, for it is a family blog and it might make your eyes bleed.


Mostly, reactions have gone from ‘WTF?’ to ‘Waste of a total dude’ and lots of pictures of Mark in the prime of his life. He leaves behind his daughter, his princess, and that in itself is a whole other story of sadness. Mark’s mum died then and it sent him into a final spiral. He adored his mum above everything. He’d gone to rehab again, but left because it was ‘too Christian’.

Mark is the only person I communicated with entirely in swear words and profanities. We still had a funny, free friendship like we did when I was fifteen. He used to send me messages like this: “ur the best girl i no x love u x”

but also like this: “Watching dwarf pron and thinkin of u x”

The guy was NSFW from the moment I met him.

Exactly this time last year, he’d decided to go to rehab again. I sent him this:

“Good luck and big hugs. You know we’re all rooting for you big man. The world has not seen what you can do yet xxx”

In August, he sent me this: “Ur prediction of me lasting for ever was a tad wrong got hepatitis of the liver” and I just knew. All the fight was gone from him.

I don’t like to think of him like that, because as much as he spent a long long time dying of this disease, he also did a lot of living. I can’t count the amount of fun times we had, like when we went to a concert in Bradford and how on earth we ever found it, I’ll never know. We went to Liverpool first and then the police redirected us, thankfully, in the right direction. He saw me at my blackest and darkest, and I think I saw him in that place too.

I’m going to finish with a sad song that Mark always played when he was at his worst, and then a happy song that will always remind me of him. I think this first song is just about how he felt. I just looked at his Facebook page and it was the last song he posted. It’s funny. I kind of knew it would be.

And because that’s not how I want to remember this remarkable, crazy madman…

Night, Mark; hope you’re raising hell wherever you are, and if you are in a bar filled with pirates then have a drink or two with them on me xx

Ten… nine… eight…

So far, I’ve got precisely one resolution, and that is to shake this foul cold I’ve been harbouring for a week. A week of being ill is just a pointless waste of time. I’ve even stopped in tonight because I feel so vile and yuck. It’s back to work tomorrow, so I better feel better. I aint got time for it.

I thought I’d just include a quick recipe for the Christmas Chelsea Buns I made.


I don’t hold with American measurements. Sorry, Americans. Cups are a stupid way to measure things. What if I have a big cup? Or a small cup? Is there a measuring cup you have to buy? If you have to buy equipment, you might as well have scales. I don’t think cooking is that much of an exact science, but a cup seems a very haphazard way of doing business.

So… in grams. Because everyone understands them and they aren’t culturally biased!

500g strong white flour

50g white sugar

15g dried yeast

1 tsp salt

75g butter

200ml milk

3 eggs

1 jar of Mooreish drunken mincemeat, or whatever substandard product you might have to hand, about 250-300g,

100g icing sugar


1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon

Mix the dry ingredients for the dough: bread flour, salt, yeast, sugar. Add the softened butter and work it into breadcrumbs. They don’t have to be very fine, but finer than crumble. Make a well in the middle. Pour in the milk and add two of the eggs. Stir in with a spoon at first until the mixture is less moist, then begin to knead the dough. Knead it for about 5 minutes on a floured surface.

Leave to rise for about an hour and a half.

Knock the air out and roll out to a rectangle about the thickness of a euro/pound coin. Mix the mincemeat with the remaining egg (whisk before you add it) and then spread the mixture over the dough. Make sure you don’t leave any bare bits around the edges. Roll it up like a Swiss roll, then cut into 12 segments. I usually cut it in half, then half, then threes. Put the rounds on their sides in a  cake tin lined with parchment. It doesn’t matter if they’re touching. Leave it to rise in a warm place for another hour and a half.

Bake at 220° for 10 mins, then 180° for 20 mins.

When it is cooking, prepare the icing mix. Blend the cinnamon with the icing sugar. Add enough milk (maybe 3 tablespoons) to the icing sugar make a thick drizzle. When the buns are cooked, pour it over the top. Yum.

I’ve not only been busy with the baking, but with my needles. I knitted three scarves, two hats and a little sleeveless jacket. Whoo!


I’ve also made a few more gifts, but you can’t see them yet because they haven’t all been a) completed or b) received.

As for Resolutions 2011 number 61-70…

61. Read two more Dickens novels. Fail.

62. Read some Victor Hugo in French (one of my 10 books!) Fail.

63. Plant a rose bush. Success! 

64. Spend a day in Limoges. Fail.

65. Go down to Rocamador. Fail.

66. Go on 10 new long walks. Success!

I like to keep maps of my big walks, though I confess, it’s largely Heston who has spurred me on in pursuit of this goal.

67. Have a proper picnic with a proper picnic blanket. Yay. Had several of these in the summer!

68. See a French film in a French cinema and laugh or hold my breath in all the right places. Okay, not a French film, but an English film. I need to get myself more cultivated. 

69. Go to see something at the Carmelite music hall. Even better! It was Jake!

70. Celebrate 14th July in France this year – first time since I was about 8! I even watched fireworks! 

I reckon I’ve got 38 out of 70. That’s not too shabby. I wonder what I’ll think of this NYE to keep my brain moving in 2013.

The best part of these lists is the enjoyment I’ve had in doing the things on it. Or in near misses. As anyone who has suffered depression knows, a ticklist like this can sometimes be little more than a seemingly pointless bucketlist. The medical term is anhedonia. A lack of enjoyment. A list like this can just make you feel even more empty and devoid of fun. You just see it as a ticklist of experiences that will be long-forgotten. Japan was on my tick list and I’m sad to say I did not enjoy it as much as I should have done, even though I enjoyed it a lot. Being able to create such a list as the one I made last year, and – even more – being able to enjoy the things on it – is a big change for me.

Countdown to the new set

I’m struggling to think of even one resolution for the new year. I don’t smoke, I don’t drink. I am frugal. I could do with some more exercise, certainly. There will be a good few resolutions that will carry over from 2012 into this year, so at least it will keep me busy. Out of the 50 so far, I’ve only done 22 of them. I say ‘only’ because that’s still a lot of stuff I’ve done.

My resolutions 51-60 from last year were as follows…

51. Add a little loveliness to my life every month. I don’t know whether I did this or not. I think I did. I wasn’t really keeping check. 

52. Spend less than I earn. Definitely. I was a frugal creature this year. 

53. Make a start on the cabin as it transforms into the most amazing uber-kitsch stopover point for anyone who wants to stay in it. I made a start. Let’s just say it’s a work in progress. I haven’t got any photos to show you yet, but it looks a whole lot better than it did.  

54. Paint some more t-shirts. I painted a couple for Steve and Jake for their birthdays. I don’t know why but I can’t find Steve’s photo. It was AC:DC’s Hells Bells in Latin. It was pretty good. I did a couple of others as well that are knocking about. I did this one in 2010. I realise it’s not everyone’s strawberry daiquiri, but I thought it was pretty good. 


55. Make 10 completely new recipes. This is another that I don’t know if I did or not. I think I did. Like I made these mincemeat chelsea buns on Christmas Eve. 



I’m trying to think of any recipes I’ve made that I hadn’t before. A chickpea and chorizo soup. A beetroot chutney. Probably I did this but next year, I want to keep them all as archived files so I remember what I did!

56. Go inside the chateau at La Rochefoucauld, instead of just looking at it from the outside

la rochefoucauld chateau


As I had expected, it was very wonderful. It has a great library, fantastic staircase and is actually a U shape, not a square. I need to do more visitings of places.

57. Document my village on camera. I did a little. I started with La Rochefoucauld, rather than my own village. I did some, but not enough. 


58. Document La Rochefoucauld on camera. As above. 

59. Go to lady lunches with friends. I did plenty of lunching. So much lunching that I need a diet. 

60. Learn two new recipes off by heart. Honestly, I don’t know. I have such a wide repertoire now that I can’t remember much using a recipe book. I guess I did, if I can remember the things that I used to make. Meh. 

Anyway, with only five days in the year left, I better get on with thinking about what I want to do in the new year! 

What else did I achieve in 2012?

I’m up to 41-50 out of 93 resolutions. I must be the craziest resolution maker in the world. In 2011, I made these resolutions:

41. Plant two new fruit trees. I planted another apple and another cherry. This year better give me some actual fruit. I fear, with all the insects flying around today, that there will be another dearth of insects come real spring and I’ll be pollinating with a paintbrush. 

42. Organise a party for my 40th Birthday… it will be here, on the 15th December, 2012. Clear your diaries, book a room with me! I WILL have the best-laid birthday feast, I promise! Well, I didn’t organise it. Okay, I organised six of them so far. I have Madame Verity to thank for achieving this one. And it was the most memorable and fun birthday of my life. Yay!!


43. Repurpose Steve’s old bed in the garden. Oh will you see! I dismantled the bed, set up the soil but didn’t finish the planting. It’ll happen. One to carry forward! 

44. Work on the ‘small steps’, petit à petit, l’oiseau fait son nid…  I have no idea what I meant here. I think I was being crazy.

45. Make some more bird-houses (you’ll see those too!) I made some. I will make more! 


46. Get busy with the festivating and make lots of home-made ornaments. This year’s were a winner! Yay! I even got a tree up this year!

Christmas collage

47. Propagate succulents


48. Have 10 hammock days


49. Finally get over to the Cote d’Argent. I didn’t get there, but I did go to St Palais for the day. Next time, I’m taking the dogs and camping overnight. Mimizan-Plage, you are mine!


50. Make my feet look nice again

Lovely lady feet!
Lovely lady feet!

That’s not bad going. I can see where I’ve spent my time this year, and if there were to be a toss-up between painting a ceiling and having an actual rest in a hammock, well, I know which one I’m glad I did. The ceiling will always need painting!


Chick rock

I’m obviously spending most of the prelude to Christmas buried ear-deep in Christmas songs. Anyone who knows me knows I love the festive season.

Anyway, as a bit of a break from that, I thought I would have a big Much Love Monday love-in for all the big-haired girls in the world, courtesy of Ms Lita Ford circa 1984.

Not just the big-haired girls either. Much Love to all the girls in my life who buy me chocolate, who give me amazing and cool gifts, who send me parcels from other countries that are filled with my favourite sweets and stripper videos and crazy warm pyjamas and beautiful glass hearts and rainhats and Toffee Crisps. Much Love to the ladies who give me little pick-me-up mince pies and pieces of Christmas cake and never laugh at me when I turn up at their house in my pyjamas. Much Love to the women who worry about me and think about me and care about me.

I can’t think how any girl can live without girlfriends. I know of some women so lacking in self-esteem that they have no close girlfriends. In their quest for popularity or love or whatever it is that they think they will get from being nasty, they resort to Mean Girls’ behaviour. Not only is it massively counter-productive to be bitchy to other ladies, it’s also completely unnecessary. Most people I know are their own biggest critic; they certainly don’t need some mealy-mouthed, neurotic, sourpuss-fishwife running them down.

Without my girls, I would be sad, lonely, depressed, anxious, alone… who would laugh at me when I turn up with soot on my face or a twig in my hair? Who would coo at all my pinterest craft projects and witter with me about knitting? Who, when we look like this: gossiping_old_ladies … would make me feel like this… sex_and_the_city11 Let’s face it, ladies. No gift is big enough to cover all the things our best friends do for us.

It’s funny… I was having a chat with a friend and we were talking about the Bette Midler track Wind Beneath My Wings which has the potential to reduce me to complete tears in seconds. Not only the fact that when I saw it in the cinema, I wept buckets and buckets and it reminded me of my best friend, but the fact that it’s almost a par-for-the-course funeral song these days… but what better movie could there be about sisterhood? Not a one.

Do guys have such movies that make them cry? No. They do not. And it’s their loss. Sure, bromances are all the rage these days, but nobody watches Tom Sawyer and tears up about the friendship between Tom and Huck. Men’s friendships on film are comedies, like Grumpy Old Men or The Odd Couple or Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. They don’t do movies about friendships so deep and powerful they can make grown women weep with a few bars of a tune. Oh, okay. So The Outsiders makes me well up and a couple of blasts from Stevie with Stay Gold and I’m weeping like a girl. There’s a reason we weep like a girl though, and that is because weeping is a very good thing. Mostly, I am very glad to be a girl. Except for having poor power-tools abilities. That’s the only down side. Sometimes the weeping. That’s not good always, especially if you do it at inopportune moments.

So, first, Much Love to the ladies in my life. You might not think I have Much Love for the lurgy that actually made me take a day off work last week, but I got to have a Glee-fest and that is a good thing. I love Glee. I love all of it. I love the great show tunes and the music, and I love Sue Sylvester very much. She’s a Mean Girl with a very small heart, but I love her anyway.

I love it when she says “I don’t trust a man with curly hair. I can’t help but picture birds laying sulfurous eggs in there and I find it disgusting” and when she says “I’m off to notify the Ohio secretary of state that I will no longer be carrying photo ID… because people should know who I am”

So, on this festive Monday, let’s hear it for the girls!

Where was I?

Resolutions completed and incomplete. Things to carry forward to 2013. Things to abandon as a pipe dream. I told you I’d abandoned a report about 21-30 on account of they were all home-related and I simply have not enough hours in the day. I need a clone. If I had a clone, would they have rights? Maybe, in the future, when we all have clones, there will be a Clone Emancipation Act and then all the clones will want a life of their own.

31. Plant leeks, parsnips, turnips, swede, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages, potatoes, tomatoes, lettuce, gherkins, melons, peppers, chili peppers, corn, peas, beans, borlotti beans, broad beans, courgettes, pumpkins, squash and plenty of other things. Oh Yeah. I totally grew a whole load of interesting things. Next year, having been inspired by Mavis on 100$ a Month, I’m going to set a target for weight grown and how much I can get out of my garden. This year, the weather was a dead loss. We’ve had nothing but rain and very little by way of winter yet. Mind you, last February was practically Arctic with temperatures of -15°. I guess winter is still to come. I did have all of those things in the list bar pumpkins and squash. The curcubits got heavily hit by the late frosts. 

32. Get my perennial garden going and sow some aqualegia, some dicentra – lots of other flowers in my virtually flower-less garden. I so totally did have a lovely flower garden. Yay!


33. Make a pillow-case lounger. Fail. One for next year. 

34. Make a craft room. In the words of Bon Jovi, I’m half way there. I need about 300 more book cases, but I have the beginnings and all my stuff is in there. 

35. Get my sewing machine set up permanently. Fail. It will be when I find an Allan key. I need a bigger range of screw-driving utensils. 

36. Get some more chickensThe Corrie Ladies are well and truly established; they’re way less cocky than the last lot, but then they say good night to me every time I shut them in. 

37. Fox-proof the garden, and César-proof the hedges. Tried and failed. That dog could get through a minefield and a hedge of thorns without a scratch. Plus, I love César and although it worries me foxes and weasels and badgers can get in and eat what they like, including my chickens, César has a second home here. 

38. Make a display out of some of my travel treasures. Fail. I need more hours in my day. 

39. Learn to crochet. Well, I tried and I failed. I crochet too tightly and it all ends up like a tight little knot. It should be easy and it’s not. Plus, it’s the opposite hands to knitting and my wool gets in the way. I’m sticking to knitting. Much as I’d love to crochet cute little Amigurumi creatures, I cannot. 

40. Make bunting for the garden. Fail.

That’s a lot of fails. Some will go forward to next year. I’m putting crochet on the list of things I cannot do. It’s funny. I meet so many people who are in one camp or the other. It doesn’t make me feel bad. Both my Nana and my Mum are champion knitters who don’t crochet. Such is life. My Nana said when she used to knit little socks for my dad, her mother used to crochet the heels. They’re my knitting idols, so if they can’t crochet, that’s fine with me.

Never fear. I’ve only got another 50 resolutions I made that I could have failed in….


I used to love doing surveys. I was a total Myspace survey geek. There’s something kind of insightful about doing them and I think I feel like I know myself a little better. I got this one from The Curious Pug. She’s a girl after my own heart. She crochets. She likes surveys. She always has great links.

This one is a list of firsts:

First thing you do when you wake up…

The first thing I do is have myself a Heston and Tilly love-in. Now we don’t all need to get up and wee before we burst, we have a little doggie love.

First thing you reach for when you open the refrigerator…

Usually something liquid. Diet coke. Milk. Juice.

First thing you do when you get to the gym…

My gym days are long behind me, much as I loved Virgin, Esporta as was. The first thing would have been to dump my stuff. My gym is the house these days. Stacking logs and shifting dirt is enough for me.

First thing you do when you get home from work…

I have the luxury of doing very little work that is not at home, so I get to teach or write or mark in my pjs. Tonight I’m sporting the fleecy spotty lilac pjs that my excellent sister bought me, coupled with my Hunter welly inserts which are damn warm. I went out to put the chickens to bed before and they kind of stayed on my feet.


Admit it. You never saw anything so elegant.

Anyway, if I am out of the house, when I return the first thing I do is look for Tilly since she’s usually on the back of the couch looking for me. Then I pet the doggies. Then I look for carnage, the scene of a disembowelled duvet, a chewed hat, the remnants of a sock. It goes one of two ways after this. Either, my things are safe and I am happy. Or something has been wrecked. Sometimes this is amusing. Sometimes, it is sad, like when Heston ate my fluffy pink Kangol hat which has been everywhere with me.Then I check emails, facebook and the likes, make a drink and leave it to go cold whilst I get hung up looking at 25 terrible autocorrect accidents or the likes.

First car

The first car I owned myself was a 1986 Mark IV Ford Escort I bought off my first proper boyfriend. It was silver. It was the least reliable car I ever owned and I used to have to coast from Horwich to Chorley of a morning.

First accident

This is a bit random because I don’t really remember my first accident. I vaguely remember cutting my hand open and I remember being in hospital having some stitches in my head once. I think someone bought me a lego fire engine or helicopter for my pain. If it’s the first accident in a car, that would be when an articulated lorry ran in the back of me.

First thing you wanted to be when you grew up

I think I either wanted to be a teacher or a dictator. Or a writer. I don’t think I really knew until I was at University and my friend Rafiq was having such a great time on his teacher placement that I knew I wanted to do that as well. Up til then, I would have liked to have been a psychologist. I was such a little worker bee that even from about 12, I wanted to be in a profession that would always guarantee me work and a living and I could never really be made redundant. I was always a bossy child, so anything that involved telling people what to do would have been right up my street. I’d like to have written advice columns or have been a go-to girl for people who needed an opinion and had none of their own. 

First choice beverage

Something caffeinated. Coffee. Diet Coke. Either is fine, depending on the weather.

First choice breakfast

A pain aux raisins and a cup of tea.

First choice dessert

Ironically, for someone who likes chocolate, it would not be chocolate. Give me a steamed sponge pudding and custard any time. Or something fruity. Fruit and custard is a winner for me.

First song that comes to mind

Because this post is a follow-on, I can’t help but go A-Ha. Instead, I’ve got a little Life of Agony groove on.

I’ve got another little one to go with it as well… big voices, these two.

First major purchase

It went like this: car, house, good stereo.

First job

I had about five little jobs I used to do, collecting milk round money, working in a greengrocers, working in restaurants and bars, working in kitchens. My first big girl permanent full-time job was as an English teacher in Chorley. Chorley is always amusing to me. Even the way people in Chorley say Chorley is funny.

First time I flew on a plane

I can’t even remember. It should be more exciting, right? To me, a plane is just a big bus in the sky and it’s a whole lot less comfortable. In fact, when I was just thinking before about going to work in the Emirates (yeah, right! I have some weird daydreams!) I thought I’d prefer to go by car and drive there. Now I live on the mainland, I can drive to Kamchatka or Korea if I feel like it. That’s pretty cool. I can even drive to South Africa or Thailand. Madness.

Anyway, I shall be reviewing my resolutions 2012 tomorrow – feel like I’ve still got a lot to achieve!


Resolutions 2012

Today, i’m a little ick. It’s the first day in two years I’ve had to cancel work because I don’t want to spread my lurgy. I’m so very sick that I have a bag full of Moore-ish tiffin to eat, just about the nicest thing there is in the whole world, qnd I couldn’t eat even a piece. That’s the problem with not being ill often… when I am, I’m a total wuss.

Anyway, yesterday, I was thinking about my resolutions at the beginning of the year and working out my tally out of 93. I know 93 is a bit of a random number, but there you go.

From 11-20 are here:

11. Finally have some success with carrots. Did that! I had 10 kg of the beasts. They were small and I should have thinned them out, but I had some at least!

Carrots - Lady Justine's blog

12. Paint the front wall and build a small herb garden. No. Didn’t get there. Another one to carry forward.

13. Make tin-can planters and tea-light holders to hang from the trees. Yes to the tin-can planters; no to the tea-light holders.

Decoupage on plant pots - Lady Justine's blog
Decoupage on plant pots

14. Finish painting the gate! Another miss. Again. This has to be my first spring task!!!

15. Render the outside wall of the lean-to. Nope.

16. Add some lean-to art. Nope also

17. Finish painting the lean-to window frames – I need new windows, so I’m foregoing that. Steve painted the shutters though…

Pink shutters - Lady Justine's blog

18. Make curtains for the lean-to. Ha ha ha

19. Find some cheap chairs to renovate for lean-to sitting. Likewise.

20. Paint the rest of the laundry lean-to. Finally, a lean-to related task completed

So I’m at 9 out of 20. That’s not bad. It’s almost 50% This year, I think I need to make like Boxer and work just that little bit harder. If I knit a pair of socks by the end of the year, that would be 10 out of 20 so far and I can live with that!

I’m off back to my sickbed. Is this what happens to your immune system when you are 40? If it is, I don’t like it. It’s a night of Glee for me in bed with my knitting. Between electric blankets, hot water bottles and these super-cool fleecy pyjamas from my sister, I think I’ll survive. If I’m not up to eating chocolate tiffin by tomorrow, I’m booking a plot in the cemetery.


Do you like these pjs? I’m in total love with them. If I just taught by internet, I could wear them all day.

Anyway, I better be better tomorrow. I have things to do. I hate being ill. In the words of Ms. Sweet Brown, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”

I’m hoping to make some sweet Christmas rolls with Moore-ish mincemeat. I’m very Mooreish at the moment. January, the lady behind Moore-ish things, is the ideal woman to make anyone feel better. She knows comfort food like nobody does!

If you are too far away and you fancy a little chocolate tiffin yourself, here’s the BBC Good Food recipe. January’s has meringue in it – and between that and the glacé cherries, they’re my favourite bits. All wrapped up in chocolate. Yum.


Projects 2013

I’m always so damn excited about the new year that I could almost wet myself. I don’t know why I feel the need to wait for the new year to start something new, but I do. Here, it’s even worse, since I start my planting calendar from January. The first seeds get their bottoms warmed in the propagator and I start busying myself in the garden.

Cannot wait.

Anyway, I need a kind of focus for the new year. I love blogging, but I’m so very random. Mondays are often Much Love Monday, and I plan on keeping them that way. It’s a good way to start the new week off. Sundays are sometimes Silent Sundays where I put up seven pictures from the week before. I kind of like that too. I love photography as you well know.

I also like the dedication of bloggers such as Dar’s 52 Mondays but since I already do MLM, it’s not such a good rip off. I did, however, see this cool post on her blog, which I so think I could do: it’s a giant patchwork of paintings. Now, I reckon I could do that. I really do. I think I might do one a week if I can and aim for two squares of 25.

I’m so itchy about resolutions that I can’t wait to get started. That’s pretty sad, I know. I make some throughout the year and I use StickK already, and Rescue Time. Rescue Time makes sure I stick to online work/play goals, and StickK is good for general goals. For instance, I wanted to make sure I was truly committed to walking the dogs. That might not sound like an inspiring goal, but it’s something I love doing, and on busy weeks, it’s something I need motivation to do; when it’s raining and I’m busy, it’s tempting not to. Ly goal is to take them out for a one-hour-plus walk three times a week. That doesn’t count any walks that are less than an hour, which is practically every day. Out of 11 weeks, I’ve mostly been successful. There have only been three weeks where I only got two in and not three. I’m pretty pleased with that.

So, whilst the rest of you are getting festive, I’m already almost aching for the new year. The nights start getting shorter, the days longer, the earth picks up a gear. There are only a potential 90 wintry days left to weather. That’s 75 down from first potential frost dates right to now. I feel all snowdrop-like, as if I’m just waiting for the days to lengthen again. It makes me giddy.

Anyway, last year I had 93 resolutions; This is my progress report:

1. Do some appliqué stitching on a design. I have something in mind! Crap. First one is a fail. I have the fabric. Heston ate my embroidery ring. I have needles. I am rubbish. 

2. Knit some socks. Another fail. Bah. I have knitted seven scarves though. 

3. Make something in patchwork, even if it’s very small. Fail. This is rubbish. I need to print my list off and not keep it buried in a blog back in the annals of time.

4. Knit a hat. Yay! Success. I can’t post a photo yet though. It’s a present. 

5. Knit a cat costume. Fail. 

6. Finally get back to water-colour painting. Have paper. Have stretching tape. Have paints and brushes. Have no board. Grrr. Yay! Success! I’ve even done a repertoire. 

Mushroom card - Lady Justine's blog

7. Do more art. Yay! I’ve done lots of art, from pastels to inks, watercolours and acrylics. 

8. Listen to French news more. I’m much more French-news-savvy. 

9. Read 10 more books in French. Yay. I read virtually entirely in French now. Plus, I’ve discovered Emmaus, which is full of books. This was also a build-on of the year before. 

10. Grow a wider variety of stuff next year and don’t sow the whole packet! Well hell yeah! I grew cardoons, corn, broccoli, red cabbage, cauliflower, leeks, spring cabbage, savoy cabbage, peas, broad beans, borlotti beans, tomatoes, carrots, onions, beetroot, garlic. It was a crappy year as well and I still got a freezer full! 

Tomorrow, I’ll review 11-20. Hopefully, my record will improve. Still, that’s 6 things out of 10 that I did that I didn’t think maybe I would.