Monthly Archives: March 2013

Seriously, Spring?

So we had a couple of warmer days last week, up at 19°, and I managed to get the lawn mowed and partially dig over the bed for the potatoes. I’d usually put them in on Good Friday, but I’m sensing they aren’t ready yet. It’s still BBBBBRRRRRR!

I picked up a Viburnum Tinus for 4€ yesterday and I’ve decided to plant that in the space I made a couple of weeks ago.

In my head, this is how it will look, eventually. It’s only in a 2L pot right now!!

It will tolerate shade and it will give me some flowers from December to April. Though it can be savaged by the viburnum beetle, I’ve got some good spray for it. I don’t usually spray anything, but this is worthwhile.



It has five or six little sprays of white-pink flowers right now just like this one, which is pretty late, since it is often a harbinger of spring.

I love viburnam. I had a Viburnum Opulus back in Manchester, and I have one here. I love the snowball shapes of the flowers. They’re just quintessential springtime to me.

Guelder rose

Back in the UK, I had another Viburnum in the front garden, a Viburnum Bodnantense,

A bloom in winter

This is another real favourite of mine. It has such a heavenly smell and year on year, it thrived where I’d put it.

I think it would be very easy to have a garden full of viburnum; it’s my go-to shrub of choice with a million different facets. Evergreens, deciduous, warm-loving and cold-loving, shade-loving and sun-loving, berries and flowers… doing stuff for every season. Does a plant get more useful than that? V. Lantana, V. Davidii… I don’t think I could even pick a favourite!

viburnum 2


I can’t decide still what to do with the clematis I picked up. I think I’m going to end up banging them in somewhere and seeing how they grow. They like it very much in the lean-to where it is warm and sheltered, but they can’t stay in there!

The weekly what’s up and what is not continues to grow…

  • Gardener’s Delight tomatoes
  • Super Marmande tomatoes
  • Alicante tomatoes
  • Super Roma tomatoes
  • cauliflower ‘merveille de quatre saisons’
  • musselburgh leeks
  • Autumn Giant leeks
  • kale
  • sweet banana pepper
  • Rachel’s cauliflower seeds that I can’t remember the name of
  • cheap aubergines
  • expensive aubergines
  • savoy cabbage
  • oak-leaf lettuce
  • red lettuce
  • brussels sprouts
  • basil
  • red cabbage
  • Webbs lettuce

Also, my broccoli is getting florets! Yah-hoo! It’s only been in the ground 10 whole months. That is one lazy plant. I guess, though, the florets are really seed heads and that it takes a year to get to ‘seed’. I’ve put in some impatiens, which is a little late, but the packet says its germination heat is 21°-24° and even in the propagator, it’s just not that hot.

Today, I’m planning on planting some more seeds – I have annuals to get started. I am also going to plant my courgette seeds, cucumber seeds, cornichon seeds and pumpkin seeds. It’s only 6 weeks from the last ever frosts, and 2 weeks from the usual end-of-season frost, so by the time they germinate and have a few leaves, it will hopefully be warm enough to plant out. I think I’m still going to plant up a few more tomatoes – can’t get enough of the red beasts! It looks like it will stay cool and dry til Friday, when the heavens will open. I wonder how much I can do by then?!

I am at the point where every windowsill, every surface in the sun and every single space has been used up for a pot of seeds. Mantlepiece or bookcase, there’s a plant on it.

Usually more…

Anyway, better scoot. Busy days at the moment!

You think you only know me when you turn on the light…

In 1986, I was lent a cassette by my friend Laura. She in turn had borrowed it from her brother. That cassette was Black Celebration by Depeche Mode, and although it had a very profound effect on the teenage me, it’s not very jolly, therefore I can’t use it to pick out a Much Love Monday song for fear I’ll send you into an epic depression. Instead, I’m going for the much more lively New Life to get you in the mood for the week.

Firstly, Much Love to Laura. I lost touch with her when we left university and I am very, very sad about that. We wrote epic letters and I’m pretty sure we invented smileys. I had lots of other friends, but she was THE coolest and THE most confident in her skin, I’m sure of it. Plus, she had fierce curly hair. The last time I saw her was when she was back from Oxford for the summer and we met up in the Salisbury pub. That’s the problem with changing addresses so frequently. I never thought I would be grateful for Facebook for bringing my friends all back to me. Before that, it was Friends Reunited, which returned a good few my way. But, when you have a friend that you know would eschew the whole social media thing, it means they’re a lot harder to find. Still, Much Love to those friends in life who’ve brought me something that is still with me 27 years later.

Second, Much Love to bands you get to grow up with. I saw Depeche Mode on Letterman and they’ve still got it. Sure, they’ve not done anything epic since Personal Jesus, but such is life. I had the most intense love for Dave Gahan and it’s always good when your epic crushes of early life don’t end up having a nervous breakdown. Sure, DG nearly died several times over in his heroin-abusing days, but he is still pretty hot. I still would.

Other crushes did not end so well. Adam Ant? Well, not so much. He’s a bit crazy and weird-looking these days. George Michael? Lovely as I’m sure he is, he’s turning into a gay parody of himself as each year passes. Bono just turned all chugger and lost any sex appeal he had.

I had a poster I ripped out of Jackie magazine and I stuck it on my wall. It was soon joined by posters of Echo and The Bunnymen and The Smiths. Ironically, it took me one Google search to find it…

tumblr_m7mypb4MsM1qhi7rzo1_400I think Dave Gahan was largely responsible for why I developed the hugest crush on a boy named Daniel. As many of the lads at our school did, Daniel was part of the CCF, or Combined Cadet Forces, and on Friday they got to wear their army gear. Daniel in camouflage pants and huge army boots, with his Sun-In fringe and dark Croatian eyes – ah. First loves rock. I confess, Mr Daniel did not age as well as Mr Dave Gahan, heroin aside. I seem to recall always liking the strange boys – the ones you were most unlikely to develop a crush on. My love for Daniel lasted two whole years, which is practically a lifetime for anyone who is a teenager. I still have stuff he gave me. That’s how much he meant to me.

Of course, time passes and if you are lucky, your teen sweethearts grow old with you. I ♥ all those people who have been together since their teens. They make me very happy because we all like to believe in soul mates and true loves. All teenagers should be told that your first love just MIGHT be the person you grow old with. And then they should be told that by the time you are forty, your first love MIGHT have paled in comparison to all the other loves you’ve had. It’s good to know there are some true love stories out there that have been going on since high school. It restores my faith in love!

I was a fickle girl, it must be said. There was a new boy’s name adorning my folder virtually every Monday morning.

Anyway, here’s to bands who grow old relatively gracefully and who don’t turn out to be a guilty secret in your adult life. Here’s to first loves. Here’s to Dave Gahan. Here’s to Martin Gore (btw, anyone back in the day would have put money on him being queer and he’s so straight as a die…) Here’s to Alan Wilder and Andy Fletcher. And here’s to sensitive boys singing about their hearts to a synthesiser beat.

Silent Sunday

I could do with a little silence today. It’s been a busy, busy week.

DSCF3239Tea and scones in Les Papillons in Oradour-sur-Vayres…


Storms over Anais


And plenty of weird cloud formations


Blue skies this morning over us on our walk


But still lots of water for splashing in


Sparkly water


And finally, my plum has blossomed… Spring is here.

Reader is dead. Long live Feedly

Now if you are a regular reader, you know I like to wax lyrical about feedreaders. And unless you are a hardened social media whore such as myself, it is probably nothing to you that Reader posted the following message last week:

“Sorry, all you thousands of people who use our service. Just when you all got comfortable, we thought it might be a complete hoot to pull the rug out from under you. Plus, we can’t be bothered with you any more, so we’re closing. Byyyyyyeeeeeee!”

Or something like that.

I guess they wouldn’t be internet demi-gods unless they acted with a little whimsy and a whole load of arbitrary smiting.

Reader, I confess, is my best friend. Apart from Google documents and searches, it’s the only reason I use Google (alright, that’s as much as a usual person….) and it’s the third thing I do each day.

1. Facebook, in case a celebrity has died or a football match has gone seriously wrong or someone wants to post a funny photo of their dog

2. Hotmail, in case someone wants to give me work via email or in case my Mum wants to say hello and that she loves me

3. Reader.

Reader cut out all the nasty revisiting necessity of surfing the internet. Instead of having to surf, it brought you what you were looking for. Exactly what you were looking for. And nothing else.

No revisiting pages hoping for updates. No missing important news. No poring through five hundred stories on Craftgawker that I’ve missed if I didn’t go on a couple of days.

It cuts out all the best bits of the internet, the news I follow, blogs I follow, stories I like, sites I like, and puts it all in a little digital cut-out-and-keep folder.

I say ‘cuts out’, because, after July, it will cease to do so. This present-tense state of things will soon cease.

So, do I go to email alerts, that fill my already-full email account and then risk losing the work notifications in amid the 300 updates I get daily?

Do I go back to checking sites regularly in the hopes there’s the right amount of new stuff?

Do I disconnect from the world and all its news and updates?


I did what any sensible girl would do in a similar situation. I searched for another lover. I started with netvibes which didn’t seem to be that friendly, looked a lot like Hootsuite, which I don’t like and had loads and loads and loads of unnecessary stuff that I couldn’t navigate. I’m just not THAT much of a social media whore.

Then I tried The Old Reader, which was supposed to look like the Old Google Reader, of course, but that crashed. Probably it had everything to do with the other people in the world who are going to desperate lengths to secure a new reader before the old one disappears for good.

Then I got to Feedly, which is “magazine-style” and looks like it should be gracing an ipad or something. It was a bit too shiny and new. I’d kind of got used to the old-fashioned style of google reader. However, it was working, it imported all my reader feeds with one click and so far, I’m loving it.

It did get me thinking about those freebies we take for granted (like WordPress) and how they all survive. Luckily, most of them are monetised, or belong to a company who can afford a little goodwill pro bono software. But then, you would have thought that about Google Reader. Surely Google are minted enough that they could invest a little in this great service? Especially since it means that some people in the world can read stories from ‘banned’ or censored websites via a third party.

But no.

They seem to be too busy making shoes that log you in to 4square, or building computer screens in glasses. All important work, I’m sure.

Of course, you just know that busy girls like me are the most affected. Google Reader is a colossal time-saving device. I can sift through loads of news, updates and info (some of it work-related, and lots of it pleasure-related) and just scan the headlines. I don’t have to scroll down the full page or look at adverts or even read by-lines if I don’t want to. Not only that, it’s personalised. As soon as any of the big English newspapers run an education story, it’s in my reader feed. I can save things to read later. I can save stuff I want to read again. It’s the best way to gorge on the Internet in 15 minutes, without having to spend 6 hours visiting all the different sites. If I were a bee, it’s like someone bringing all the best pollen to the hive instead of having to fanny about finding it.

Not only that, we bloggers are often a haphazard and intermittent lot. We post whenever we feel like it, by and large, give or take one or two wonderful bloggers who manage to be regular and interesting. I don’t have to keep visiting a site to keep up.

Other services offer a blog-gathering service, like Hellocotton and Bloglovin. But they don’t include news or other website updates.


So Feedly it is, and I shall keep my fingers crossed that this very useful feed-aggregating malarky doesn’t die like Google Reader has. I like that the news comes to me. Who’d want it any other way?

I know. You might be one of those people who likes to read the news. I don’t. It depresses me. It’s all about bad politicians making criminal decisions, or how much footballers cost. Most of it is very depressing. If I visit a news site, I just get lost in the trash and the misery. Much of the education and autoentrepreneur news is trash and misery, but at least it’s contained.

Is it just me or is the whole stability of the internet on the move? Hotmail turned into some kind of ugly cheap copy of Outlook (which I hate and never use since it looks like it was invented in the 1980s) and now acts and functions as if it has been designed by a four-year-old. MSN Messenger, which I haven’t used for donkeys because they kept changing it and it was MAHOOSIVE and slow, is now Skype. I don’t mind, since I used Skype anyway, but from time to time, I used MSN Messenger to teach when Skype was down, which it can be quite regularly.

Perhaps I’m just getting old and hate change more than the 30 year old, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed version of me did. I might go back to proper newspapers, writing a diary, watching the television and sending letters. Steampunk is the new black, right?

Letter and envelope from Nashville, Tennessee to Hazlehurst, Mississippi, March 1888

Oh Spring, where art thou?

Even with last year’s cold April and May, I still had got my potatoes in by now, as well as a couple of rows of beetroot, onions and carrots. This year, it’s STILL too wet and cold to put anything in.

Luckily, this is not deterring me as I am simply hoarding things in the lean-to for want of warmer days.

It is very disheartening though. It is still too cold for me.

So, in these cold, dark days, what is up and what is not?

So far I have…

  • Gardener’s Delight tomatoes
  • Super Marmande tomatoes
  • Alicante tomatoes
  • Super Roma tomatoes
  • cauliflower ‘merveille de quatre saisons’
  • musselburgh leeks
  • Autumn Giant leeks
  • kale
  • sweet banana pepper
  • Rachel’s cauliflower seeds that I can’t remember the name of
  • cheap aubergines
  • expensive aubergines
  • savoy cabbage
  • oak-leaf lettuce
  • red lettuce

The kale and cabbage are coming on good and strong, which is great. The tomatoes are also looking good, if a little leggy.

Today, I will try to get out and sort out another bed for the potatoes. It’s still been too wet to get down and dirty with the soil, and the grass is really too wet to mow. Weird to think that by this time last year, the Tardoire had disappeared. I know it was a cold and wet April and May (we had three full weeks where it didn’t rise over 11° on the thermometer) last year, but if this keeps up much longer, I’m packing up and heading somewhere warmer. Like Death Valley.

I’m not a cold weather girl, as you can tell.

Maybe I could have a cactus garden and grow aloe vera instead?

XC weather is predicting a rise by Friday to 17°, but wet. Oh lord. It’s right about now I’m thinking of marrying my electric blanket.

Although I might moan, I’m really gritting my teeth and getting on with it, albeit wrapped in four layers, still. Surely it can’t be that far off?!

Can’t you tell I’m English? All that weather talk must be a sure-fire sign.

I was talking with a friend about resurrecting a rant session on my blog. Before blogging (and beyond it) I do have an extremely short fuse. I used to rant A LOT. Now, I do a whole lot less of it. Maybe it’s age. Perhaps I’m more philosophical. Maybe it’s the lack of interaction from others who tend to rain on my parade and stick giant stumbling blocks around my life just for kicks and giggles. I suspect it is as much to do with the lack of traffic, the lack of people and the lack of work aggravation that makes me much more placid than I was.

Blogs also tend to polarise people. You are revealed either as a navel-gazing narcissistic cynic who hates the world and has to grumble somewhere, or you keep your dirty laundry in the basket and spend your blogs saying how lovely everything is and end up looking like a simpleton nitwit who spends her life surrounded by beautiful things like My Little Pony and Care Bears, and is probably headed for a colossal confrontation with something known as reality. I know I tend to keep the grumble stuff to a minimum (I often think of writing open letters to certain individuals who could do with a piece of my mind – despite the fact it would make not the slightest difference) but also I’ve never been the kind to show my dirty nether regions to the masses. I kind of think Sylvia Plath pre-empted all the navel-gazing bloggery with Lady Lazarus when she wrote “there is a charge for the hearing of my heart”, and the image of people picking through her bones is a bit too close to some of the emotional spillage that seeps out of some blogs like toxic ooze.

None of that here.

I am far too English.

I will talk about the weather and will not show my scars for you to pore over.

I do feel like the countryside goes a long way to mellowing a person out. You get all ‘meh’ about stuff. Plus, my rant list is very small these days and limited to very few things.

  1. Why French people MUST pay with a cheque and cause a MAHHHHOOOOSIVE queue at the checkout.
  2. Why French people MUST drive in your boot as if to say you are driving very slowly, when France has a quite terrible (though improving) accident rate.
  3. Why M Hollande should increase taxes for self-employed people when they earn 9,200€ on average, and not increase taxes for every other person in the whole of France.
  4. Why every other bugger in France who has a union will strike endlessly so they don’t have to cut back on any single thing, leaving the poorest people to soak up the cost.

That will do for now. I think that’s all I can muster. Hollande is probably the least-popular president ever. He is messing with the French psyche by changing the school year and he has raised my taxes by 2% (alright, not the 20% they first touted just to be alarmist like flippin merchants in a souk who start high so that they can get a good price out of you…) and that in itself makes me want to hurt him. Is the sole aim of every politician just to make you realise that the last one wasn’t so bad? If that is their aim, they’re pretty good at it. It takes a really crappy politician to make me think good of the pointy-haired vanitorium that was Nicholas Sarkozy.

I feel it coming together…

Being 9 years old in 1982, there was only one thing that interested me AT ALL, except for the very limber Adam Ant. That thing was Fame, of course. What else could a young girl want? Between Adam Ant and Fame, it’s no wonder I grew up loving men in make-up and leggings.

So, today’s MLM is brought to you with the very best of 1982…

I was watching some reruns a few years ago and it struck me how very camp Gene Anthony Ray was. The things you never notice as a child. The days when Larry Grayson was no more camp than your favourite uncle, John Inman was just a very well-dressed man and Freddie Mercury was just a moustached man in leather.

Was it just because I was a child or were we really completely oblivious to the fact that the entertainment industry was a seething mass of camp men who were a little light in the loafers?

I watch the scenes where the girls are fighting over Leroy and I think they weren’t the only ones who needed gaydar.

Obviously, my Fame love explains my Glee love. There’s nothing like a bunch of weirdo misfits channeling their emotions through music and dance, is there now? However, Glee just takes it to a whole new level and Fame never had Sue Sylvester. You can tell I’m old though because now I look back on Fame, all the actors look really, really old and when I watch Glee, all the cast look really, really young. Ironically, most of the cast of Fame were a lot younger than the super-old cast of Glee. Cory Monteith who plays Finn Hudson is 30, for God’s sake! Even Olivia Newton-John wasn’t that old when she played Sandy in Grease. I’d hazard a guess that Stockard Channing was in her thirties when she played Rizzo though.

Fame also gave me an enduring love of legwarmers, ballet, tutus and dancing on taxis. I confess, though, the 9-year-old me had other loves. One of those was roller boots. Another was ra-ra skirts, as modelled here by the ineffably cool Strawberry Switchblade:


And finally, my love was for E.T. 1982 was a good year for me. I would hazard a guess, though, that as a result of the eyeliner, the New Wave goth look and the lace, that it is the reason I looked the way I did at 16… 287_15709318140_2841_nThis was for my sixth form ID. I have no idea what attracted me to this jumper. I wore it a lot. It was all preppy and Molly Ringwald in The Breakfast Club. Usually, I wore either something outlandish or something black. I miss my silver spandex pants with pink dragons on them. I think I must have been told to tame it for the photo…

By today’s standards, pop stars are not only tame, but lacking in personality. It’s all just about how much flesh you can show or how extreme you can be. There’s no charm. Either you’re crazy Nicki Minaj or you’re Lady Gaga or you’re The Saturdays. Like Madonna or not, Cyndi Lauper, Wendy James, Debbie Harry, Strawberry Switchblade and Bananarama (still the most widely popular girl band ever…) didn’t have to show too much flesh. None of them had perfect bodies, all of them had crazy style and every single one of them inspired women of my generation not to be THAT bothered about their bodies or their hair and to use it as a statement. I’m not quite sure how Lady Gaga is a style icon any more. “Crazy” gets you a big twitter following.

So, Much Love to the girl bands who taught me that it’s cool to customise and that you can be pop and edgy at the same time. Much Love for 80s fashion, leg warmers, Fame and all things that glitter. May your Monday have just a little sparkle as well.

Silent Sunday… almost








Although there are some certain signs that spring is on its way (I’m waiting to see what these bulbs become in the sixth photograph. Asphodels maybe?) there was a lot of ice on our usual walk. Most of the leaves are skeletal versions of themselves – their colours long faded, except for the brambles, which are so purple they are almost black.

The footprint is my own, I realised, going in the opposite direction from some other walk. It’s always kind of cool to be in almost 4000 hectares of space and realise that the last person to walk that way was you! It’s not always like that – as you can tell from the paths, it’s a well-used place. Now the hunt season is almost over, I can even take the green and blue trails which, somewhat riskily, go right through a rifle range and through several clearings with hunting platforms. I’m not sure of the sense of putting pathways through hunt zones, so I don’t take those paths in hunt season. Usually, I go my own way and pick up my own paths, but sometimes, I like to follow a trail. The blue trail is 10 km and it’s all easy going, except if you need to dodge a hunter.

I can’t tell you how lucky I am to have such a well-managed and amazing place right on my doorstep. Not only are there lots of preservation zones, but it is mushrooming heaven. There are six types of bat who frequent the place and it’s a rare day that I don’t see a wild boar, roe deer, a rabbit or a pheasant here. There are plenty of hunts but it’s big enough to stay out of the way of any hunters, and they are very well organised and clearly marked. I could probably tell you the best places to shoot, though! I spend half my time investigating trails left by various animals. I can go from deciduous forest to evergreen conifers, from shade to sunshine, from sand to peat. It’s truly a sanctuary. We come here once a week or so for a longer walk. More if I can. And the best thing is that I can do a 10km trail and not see a single person. Now, that’s a true gift! Might be something to do with the ungodly hours that I find myself there, or silly temperatures when wiser creatures than I stay inside by the fire.

Come on Spring, where are you?

First, I need to confirm that I did in fact see The Brotherhood of Man. I was three. It was my Auntie Pauline’s birthday. We were in Torquay and they were playing in a hotel, so we did have a meal. Not only did I see them, but they got me up on stage to sing to me. She did not confirm, however, that there was chicken-in-a-basket.

There you are.

My nana just phoned to confirm that it did really happen and it wasn’t some weird sequin-induced euro-dream.

Early claims to fame.

Despite the cold snap today, I realised that things have actually blossomed a little earlier than last year. The forsythia by my window is just bursting into flower and there are lots of daffodils already in the polytunnel. The plum has yet to blossom though and that is usually one of the first trees to burst into bud. I can tell that it is close. I am just desperately hoping that the cold snap doesn’t kill off my cherries. I love my cherry tree and cherry picking is the highlight of the season for me.

I confess, though, the rickety home-made ladders are not exactly my cup of tea.

Ambulance for one?

So what is up this week, and what is not?

So far I have…

  • Gardener’s Delight tomatoes
  • Super Marmande tomatoes
  • Alicante tomatoes
  • Super Roma tomatoes
  • cauliflower ‘merveille de quatre saisons’
  • musselburgh leeks
  • Autumn Giant leeks
  • kale
  • sweet banana pepper
  • Rachel’s cauliflower seeds that I can’t remember the name of
  • cheap aubergines
  • expensive aubergines

This week, I have added savoy cabbage and today I’m going hell for leather with some planting to get my garden into gear. They might all only be tiny seedlings on the windowsill in the lean-to as yet, but they’re just biding their time. Maybe I should do a time lapse video for the season? It seems to grow and be over so very, very quickly. Stuff that goes in in April is out by September at the latest. You realise how short the growing year actually is. Except my broccoli. That’s still out there. I’m still waiting. All leaves and no florets as far as I can see.

I even mowed part of the garden on Saturday – though my neighbour shook his finger at me. Obviously he didn’t think it was time. Bah. At least my courtyard looks a little more presentable than it did.

Today is my big gardening day and I’ve got a good few things to get in. The things that are in the propagator are ready to move out and new stuff to move in.

So, what will I be putting in there next?

Tabasco peppers for a start. Then some flowers. I’m a little late with them. I got some packs of Busy Lizzies and some Mexican sunflowers that look a bit like asters if you ask me, but who am I to quibble?

Then it’s the herbs that need to get a move on. I can’t believe I haven’t got any basil in yet because mozzarella, basil and big beefsteak tomatoes are just about my favourite combos.

I think today will be a potting day rather than a digging day – the weather is supposed to be very cold. I believe there’s been all kinds of snow chaos further up north, but nothing here yet. Mostly, we shall be trying to keep fingers and paws warm. We went out for a long walk this morning, saw a few wild boar trotting through the forest, a couple of pheasant and the first wild primrose in bloom.


I am just considering the cold weather and thinking. Perhaps I should plant some extra peppers and then I could warm myself up with my own tabasco sauce. Considering you really only need cider vinegar and a whole heap of tabasco peppers, it sounds pretty straightforward to me.

By this time last year, I had got a few rows of beetroot and carrot out – not this year. I’m a little behind. Nevertheless, they should be in by the end of the month, I hope. I just can’t get enough homegrown beetroot. Brassicas and root vegetables – I’m hard pressed to find ones I don’t like.

So come on Spring. Get a move on. I’m tired of waiting for you.

So long, honey, so long

I’ve been getting unnaturally giddy about the Eurovision song contest over the last couple of days, probably just as I was last year, and I was just reminded that Abba and Bucks Fizz were not the first foursome to do it for me. No. That pleasure goes to the Brotherhood of Man with Save All Your Kisses For Me. So today’s MLM is brought to you with the happy cheer of England’s finest.

I have some vague recollection of seeing Brotherhood of Man – nay, even having the song sung to me – when I was small. I need to warn you that this could be a complete fabrication as it is not an event often talked about in my family (unlike the time my brother bit me) and I was probably about four or five. I’m pretty sure no photographic evidence exists, which makes it even more unlikely that it’s true. However, in my head, there is some kind of chicken-in-a-basket meal followed by music and bar stools. What follows in my mind is quite a lot of winking and singing. I’m pretty sure it was in Portsmouth or somewhere on the South Coast if it happened at all. Since we went away at Easter sometimes, I’d hazard a guess it was Easter of 1977, though that would be weird because my sister would have been very small and I can’t think that we went away when she was only a few weeks old. Plus, they were very popular and by their decline in 1979, I think I’d have remembered something like that.

Anyway, there it is. My first brush with fame. Maybe. I’m sure someone in my family will correct my faulty memory. Otherwise, someone WILL have lied to me and told me that I was the girl who was only three and the whole cheesy lovefest is a song to the young me. You can kind of see how that might evolve into a chicken-in-a-basket meal with entertainment in Portsmouth, can’t you?

If it’s not true, it’s a pretty weird thing to fabricate, but hey ho. I guess Freud dealt with worse.

I’ll be pretty sad though if it’s not true.

So, besides (constructed?) memories about Brotherhood of Man, what else gives me much love this Monday?

First is the fact that although it is going to get cold from tomorrow, you kind of can live with it because you know it will be over soon. It’s like when I used to do marathon-long runs. The hardest point is between the 16 and the 21-mile mark when you can’t see the end and you just want it to stop. The last few miles are just run in elation as you near the end and you know it’s all about to stop.

Much Love for the first barbecue of the season this weekend.

Much Love to me for changing the oil on the lawnmower, replacing the primer and finding a blade that will fit. It’s like a new mower.

Much Love – and this is the best bit – for the Tilly Popper. I bought Heston a couple more toys last week. Of course, they’re not just his toys, but Tilly, my little spaniel, has never shown the slightest ‘chase’ inclination. She played with a bit of bone for a while, but if it’s not food, it doesn’t interest her. She likes her Kong, but because it gives her food treats. But she has learned – or relearned – lots of good things these last few weeks. The first is on walks. She is much more adventurous now and goes off on little adventures of her own, which is very cute. And, though, this is the best bit. One of the balls I got for Heston makes a bit of a noise when it rolls, and she went mad for it. I’ve never seen her play with a ball at all, and it’s just great to see her have so much fun. I guess she hadn’t been walked often before she came to me two years ago. She managed half of the smallest walk we ever do and lay down on the floor in protest. Weeks later, when we got lost and had a three-hour accidental walk, I had to carry her. Now she runs most of the way round our walks, and though she is not as fast as Heston by a long stretch, she gives good chase. Having a dog who loves walks and is learning to play again is all good stuff. Not only that but she quite often puts her paws up on me now – and she never used to do that before. She is so totally cute. I love my Tilly Popper.


It must be horrible to be the kind of dog who isn’t expected to do doggie things, like walk or play or jump. It’s no wonder she just liked treats. She didn’t even use to like being petted or touched, and now she will very often sit on my knee, though she is too big to be a lapdog.

Of course, she likes it that she is top dog. If she growls, Heston obeys. If she wants to sit with me, then Heston can go to hell as far as she is concerned. She’s always been ‘second dog’ so it’s kind of good for her to be top dog.

Her little wiggly bottom is just about the best thing in the world to bring a little Monday love to me. Going for walks is all worthwhile just to watch her wiggle!

The first of the great detectives

I’ve been continuing with my reading mission for 2013, though it was somewhat distracted in amid all the cold weather by getting snuggled down in my duvet on the sofa and watching a couple of films and series. The first one I watched was Sherlock starring Benedict Cumberbatch (full marks for spelling, please) and partly written by the great – and decidedly creepy – Mark Gatiss, oh he of The League of Gentlemen. 

If you haven’t seen The League of Gentlemen, you really should, but only if you like the weird and the creepy. I still have nightmares about Papa Lazarou. If anyone could ever creep me out, it would be Papa Lazarou muttering “you’re my wife now!” in my ear.

One of my ex boyfriends, Pete, and I would go through whole epic lines of the conversations between Tubbs and Edward, the weird brother-sister, husband-wife team. “Can I help you at all?” is so engrained in my psyche that it’s almost like I invented it.

I confess at this point that Pete and I went to Hadfield and took pictures of the roundabout and bought a tin of spam in a local shop. The town must have been sick of its weird alter-ego what with people turning up and asking if they were local.

If pressed, I’d say Tubbs was my favourite character, though I loved Pauline and Mickey too. Barbara, the pre-op transsexual was also a favourite too. It would be fair to say the characters were as creepy as they were amusing. Herr Lipp, the pedophile German teacher is just such an example. Harvey and Val, the toad-keeping eccentrics with a toilent-and-masturbation habit, are also totally freaky. “If you don’t understand any of my sayings, come to me in private and I shall take you in my German mouth” is just about the scariest thing a man could say to a child if you ask me.

So I expected good things of Mark Gatiss’s Sherlock and it truly delivered. The series are only three episodes long, but each one is a good hour and a half. The only thing wrong with it was Moriarty, who sounded as camp and non-dangerous as Graham Norton.

So I started reading The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes again – I’ve read them maybe a couple of times before, and a few of the stories I taught at GCSE. I love them all. I love them that much that I managed to put aside my distaste for the weak-sauce Jude Law and watch the recent films with Robert Downey Jr as the lead. Surprisingly, Jude Law didn’t ruin it. He’s the male version of Keira Knightley – a bit of an emotionless dish rag. In fact, him starring alongside Miss Knightley in Anna Karenina just about gave me all the reasons I needed not to watch it. He, however, is not awful. He’s just ‘blah’. Just as I can’t imagine a man (or woman) finding Keira attractive, I can’t imagine anyone finding Jude Law attractive either.

So, I can add the two volumes of Sherlock Holmes to my list. No idea what I’m starting on next, though.

  • Freakonomics
  • Dude, Where’s My Country
  • On Chesil Beach
  • Follow the Money
  • Hija de la Fortuna
  • Cold Case
  • My Family and Other Animals
  • The Grapes of Wrath
  • Collected Stories of Sherlock Holmes

I better get more speedy. I’ve only read nine and I aim to get to 52!