Monday, 25 June 2012

This is how we rock it in the countryside

One thing that I have learnt since moving from the Big Smoke (London), to the countryside (Oxfordshire), is that country folk like to foster a sense of community. As opposed to London where if you talked to a stranger, you were either wanting money or mentally ill. If you actually smiled at someone you didn't know, you would immediately be dismissed as a psychotic.

In the countryside, people are different: Quite a lot of them smile because they have got a weird concept called 'happy'. Generally caused by the fact they have just dug up a bloody huge turnip and had it for their dinner (with a carrot as a side). Or maybe they milked a cow quick enough to hear a full episode of 'The Archers'.

Either way, instead of watching international football on 50" TV screens, the past-time of wont amongst the country folk of Oxfordshire tends to be community gatherings.

And just last Sunday a garden 'open day' was organised in Beckley, a village close to where I live. The 'open day' bit basically means that lots of Beckley residents open their gardens to other members of the community to look round, and they also do things like serve ice-cream and tea to visitors. 

One thing I did notice was that there were lots of older people there. Maybe a gardening gene kicks in when you get to a certain age. Or maybe you realise that when you get to 50 plus, a bit of light mulching hurts less than playing a game of beach volleyball wearing skimpy skids. Either way, I decided to get into the spirit of things and take Izzy to the event.

And because I am like Mother Theresa, but with less facial hair, I have got some photographs for you. I was a bit annoyed with myself because I forgot to take my Canon S95 camera (surely I should be getting commission by now), and so had to use the camera on my iPhone which is rubbish in comparison. The photographs are nowhere near as vibrant.

Here goes .......................

Pic.No.1 This is an 'open garden' in Beckley. It involves lots of old people discussing planting configurations, i.e. it's the old people's equivalent of a pub crawl

Pic.No.2 Here are some pink flowers mixed with some white flowers. I wish my garden looked like that. Instead, after two years of concerted effort, it can still only be described as scrubland

Pic.No.3 As luck would have it, I was just about to inspect my second garden when I bumped into a chum called Denise. Izzy is bessie mates with her daughter, whom I shall refer to as Sprog A from herein onwards

Pic.No.4 Izzy and Sprog A seem to be taking a leaf from my book, and found the path of least resistance whilst visiting one of the gardens. Don't do that - you'll get lardy!

Pic.No.5 One of the gardents had a gorgeous courtyard eating area snuggled into a walled garden

Pic.No.6 This was the Manor House of the village. It's where the big cheese would have lived centuries ago

Pic.No.7 And the Lord of the manor would have been able to watch his peasants working the land from his window. In this picture is a 'Ha Ha' it is basically a big ditch that is dug through a field to stop the animals getting in the garden, but doesn't interrupt the view

Pic.No.8 Oh look. I bet you didn't except this - another garden. This time with a bloody great willow tree in it

Pic.No.9 Izzy and Sprog A hiding amongst the branches of the willow whilst eating an ice-cream that was whipped up by one of the villagers in her garden. 50p each. Bargain

Pic.No.10 This house had a large conservatory looking out over the unspoilt views. But hark, what is that on the patio? It looks like a large brown penis

Pic.No.11 Izzy and Sprog A under an archetypal country arch with roses growing over it. It's more English than a cup of tea

Pic.No.12 A fine selection of Spring flowers

Pic.No.13 This was a small courtyard behind one of the houses. I didn't nick anything

Pic.No.14 It was fair to say that Izzy and Sprog A got gardened-out pretty quickly. They cheered up a bit when we arrived at a garden with a swing and then proceeded to fight over who's turn it was

Pic.No.15 This is the village church. It's older than that tin of spam in my cupboard

And so dahlink, that was a day in village life. Two observations: (1) there weren't enough picture of ME in this post; and (2) although it was nice looking round people's gardens, there weren't many tellies being thrown out of windows, or roll royce's being driven into swimming pools. The most rad thing going on was some old dear crocheting a tea cosy.

Not only that, but I was outed as townie. It started off with me pointing at a flowery thing and shouting "that blue one's nice." 

"Oh yes dear, the Lavifolia Iridaceae really are iridescent aren't they?" said the garden's posh owner, who, unbeknownst to me was standing right behind. 

Time to swot up on my floras and fauna's me thinks. So far I have learnt about 'roses' and 'daisies'.

How is your weekend going and what are you up to?

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Father's Day schenanigans involving pants

Last weekend was Father's Day in the UK. I wouldn't have known if Izzy hadn't come back from school, happier than Jessica Simpson with a pie, and brandishing something in her hand that she'd made.

"What the bloody hell is that?" I asked her suspiciously, because school, Izzy and enthusiasm don't normally mix.

"Don't say bloody, it's rude," she replied indignantly.

"Sorry, I meant what the blazes is that?"

"It's a Father's Day card and I made it myself," she gushed jubilantly, as I examined her work of art whilst simultaneously thinking 'shit! Father's day is coming up soon'.

"Look, I used the D in 'Dad' and turned it into a sideways smiley face," she said.

"Did you think of that on your own?" I asked her, as she nodded vigorously.

Crikey, it's like having a little Leonardo Da Vinci around sometimes, except she doesn't invent helicopters. But then it dawned on me. We didn't have any Father's Day gifts. Sacre bleu!

In a bit of a flap, I turned to Izzy for inspiration; "can you think of a present that we can buy your Dad?" I asked.

"Yep," she immediately replied, "I want to get him some new underpants, because most of his old ones have got holes in."

I gulped. This was wrong on more than one level. Firstly, I didn't really want to know that my ex's underwear had holes in, because I could imagine where they were. Secondly, I certainly didn't want to be involved in choosing replacements. Quite simply because if you buy someone underwear, it means that you have been contemplating the dressing of their genitals.

But the ginge was adamant, so off to the shops we went to furnish Steve with some skids. After much consideration, she selected a couple of pairs of pink candy-striped boxer shorts.

"Are you happy with these?" I asked her, "or do you want to get something else?"

"I want to get him a tyre pressure gauge," she stated. That's my girl. None of the flibbertigibbet flowers and chocolate nonsense. So, once the tyre pressure gauge was procured, we were ready to rock and roll.

Steve was away for most of Father's Day, so we arranged to take him for dinner in the evening. I had arranged a 'surprise venue', i.e. a place that neither of us had eaten in before. And because I am kinder than Mother Theresa and her wing men combined, I have got some pictures for you.

Pic.No.1 The surprise venue was 'Brasserie Blanc' on Walton Street, Oxford. It was one of Raymond 'I'm quite good at cooking' Blanc's restaurants. It was very contemporary inside

Pic.No.2 Before we ordered our food, Izzy was super-chuffed to present Steve with her selection of Father's Day presents. You can see the tyre gauge on the table as he opened his underpants

He looked at the grundys, grinned, and turned to me saying, "do you still fancy me or something?"

"No, Izzy picked them for you, you numpty," I replied.

Luckily the waiter turned up at that moment to take our orders.

Pic.No.3 I was feeling quite adventurous, so I decided to order something I didn't think I would like - mackerel salad (on the whole I think fish is minging - all eyes, scales and bones). But it was bloody delicious

Pic.No.4 Steve bravely ordered Steak Tartare. If you live over the pond you probably won't have this on your menu's. Basically it is seasoned raw steak mince with a raw egg on the top. I tried a bit and it was scrumptious

Pic.No.5 And for main course (entree if you are foreign), I abandoned all sense of adventure to plump for a good old-fashioned roast dinner. Look! The beef was cooked medium-rare, my favourite. But I did have to ask for extra gravy because there were a bit tight with it

Pic.No.6 Me and my nipper. I love pictures with me in

The food in Brasserie Blanc was indeed very good, and most reasonably priced. But most of all, Izzy had a brilliant time with her Dad. And she told me she can't wait to show me a picture of: 'Daddy in his new undies'. That's something to look forward to next week.

So dahlink, did you celebrate any form of Father's Day? Just off to get myself a glass of Bolly before I hear all about it.

Monday, 18 June 2012

The sun is like a disguised version of Fu Manchu the (also) yellow peril

When I was a child, I used to enjoy reading the chilling tales of 'Fu Manchu the Yellow Peril'. And thrilling though it was, I have grown up to find myself somewhat wary of anything that's yellow.

Indeed, 'don't eat yellow snow', was a childhood mantra. And I always avoided yellow dusters because it meant doing housework. Not to mention that horrible big yellow chickeny thing on Sesame Street.

"Wait!" I hear you cry, "what about the sun? That's yellow."

Well spotted. The sun is my biggest point in case. It lulls you into a false sense of security by providing you with a deliciously tingly, sunkissed hue. But underneath it is even eviler than Fu Manchu.

We've all heard the experts extolling the virtues of not exposing our unprotected skin to the sun's rays. And we've all probably thought, 'it feels nice, it can't be doing that much harm'.

But think again. Whilst I was searching the internet for 'face which looks like a tyre that has been set alight and put out with a shovel', I happened across the following picture.

The guy was a 69 year old trucker in America, and he never wore sunscreen and always drove with the window open. Meaning that over the years, the sun damage only occurred on one side of his face; hence his right cheek looks like a flip-flop which lost a fight with a blowtorch.

Pic.No.1 Blimey it gives a whole to meaning to the phrase 'my good side', when the other side looks like a camel's scrote

So dahlink, next time you see that evil yellow thing in the sky, make sure you wear sunscreen, or you too will end up looking like a melted welly.

What the devil are you up to this week anyway?

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Dead dog on your hands? You've come to the right place

I was sitting at home the other night - contemplating Naughty George as he lay honking in his bed - and wondering what I would do with him if he ever died. I mean, it just seems so wasteful to lob his lifeless body over the back fence, or even bury it as is some people's wont.

Same with roadkill ...... and just leaving it lying there. It's not right, especially when there is a recession on. I would go so far as to say that in these financially trying times, I often feel a bit peckish when I happen upon a squirrel with a tyre track down it's face. [Note to self: maybe don't disclose this publicly].

It seems like we have this vast resource of dead animals and we just aren't tapping into it as we should. We should all be rallying around in these times of need and viewing our deceased pets as potential revenue sources. For example, I just typed into google; "can I make bio-diesel from my dead dog?"

Admittedly, no-one actually came forward saying they wanted to turn their pet dog into bio-diesel.

BUT, I did find a very interesting article in the respected journal 'Scientific American'. It was about a bunny epidemic in Sweden, where they dealt with it by capturing all the bob-tailed fluffies, and turning them into bio-diesel (I am assuming that there was probably some gory stuff in between). Not only that, but they subsequently diversified into cows, deer and dobbins. [Read it here: burning bunnies for biofuel?]

I am telling you - embracing dead pets is like discovering a seam of oil in your back garden (taps side of nose for added gravitas).

Anyway, I digress. Before discovering that Naughty George could power my car if he died, I also explored more frivolous avenues. Like maybe turning him into a fashion accessory.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that someone had already cornered the market.

I am not kidding. I found a company who's mission is; 'to turn your dead pet into something more beautiful than the live version."

That'll be American then.

And because I am kinder than Mother Theresa (but with a better fitting bra), I have included some photographs for you ............

Pic.No.1. A pair of ear-rings made from chicken's feet. The red in them would accessorise nicely with a pair of Laboutins
Pic.No.2 Here, a pair of pigeon's wings are welded onto a stylish headband. The ladies will be pondering that. Dead bird is last year's Chanel
Pic.No.3 A dead fox scarf. Perfect for those chilly mornings when you are doing the school run. The mouth exactly fits a can of coke. Beware, some mothers look at you like you are a bit screwy

Pic.No.4 A dead dormouse bracelet on a hairy woman's arm. An ideal present for new employees. You open it's legs up, and inside is a copy of the the company's mission statement

Pic.No.5 Dead animals can be used to motivate. Every employer should award this rosette to enthusiastic employees. The mouse bursting out suggests 'energy and commitment to the company'

Pic.No.6 Outside of work, you really can't get much better than this dead rat hairband. Why conform?

Pic.No.7 A dead mouse that has been made into a purse. Ingenious! Especially with the squashed facial expression

Pic.No.8 This guinea pig was innovatively made into a hair comb. I'm gonna wear it on the next school run to see if anyone says anything. Surely people can't ignore a deranged guinea pig on my head?

Pic.No.9 And the piece d'resistance ...... squirrels who have been made into decanters. They look some much better that way than scampering around in the wild

So dahlink, do you have any useful suggestions for how to utilise your dead pets?

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Huzzar! It's the Queen's Diamond Jubilee

So, I've just got back to Oxford after a jaunt 'oop north'. 

Man alive, it's been a busy week: In case you've been sitting in a broom cupboard all week with a copy of Men's Health, last weekend marked the Queen's diamond jubilee celebrations. 

Sixty bloody years on the throne ...... that's older than the pizza at the back of my fridge. It would be rude not to join in the celebrations, especially as I'm an unapologetic royalist. For heaven's sake, they only cost each UK taxpayer 65 pence per year, which is a right bargain for a real-life soap opera. That's less than a box of Pop Tarts, and far more fruity. 

The celebrations in this instance, involved Izzy and I joining a party up in Anstey (Leicestershire) at my cousin's (Jane) house. We headed up last Sunday and arrived at lunchtime, just as the celebrations were about to begin. 

I have to say that Jane was pretty brave. Not only were Izzy and I staying for a couple of days, but also her friend Georgina, and her three kids. That made nine of us in total. The house was fuller than Victoria Beckham after eating a stick of celery.

The festivities were split over two days: Sunday was a BBQ at the house, and Monday was a picnic in the village recreational ground. It was party food-tastic.

And because I am kinder than Mother Theresa, but with more stylish sandals, I have got some photographs for you to demonstrate our patrioticness (maybe I will get a CBE or something). 

Sunday - BBQ lunch (gobble, gobble)

Pic.No.1 This is Izzy and Zak (Georgina's son) getting into the spirit of things by holding up paper plates

Pic.No.2 The full complement of sprogs. From left: Finlay, Zak, Izzy, Imogen and Mitch. I made them all sit on one table so that I could avoid the crossfire, should chicken nuggets go airborne

Pic.No.3 Now let's add the adults into the Mix (Georgina is left, and Jane - aka Cara - is right). There was more crossfire on the grown-up table. A lump of grilled halloumi bounced off my head

Pic.No.4 That is Imogen behind that bloody huge pile of buns. She has got a patriotic flag on her forehead

Pic.No.5 Naughty George was conscripted into the festivities whilst having a power nap

Pic.No.6 But then he realised he had a crown on his head and stared at me in a 'WTF is that on my head' kind of a way

Pic.No.7 After a busy day, it was time to watch a random jubilee TV programme about the Queen's dobbins. Naaaaay

Monday - A giant Jubilee picnic at Anstey Recreational Grounds (more nom, nom, nom)

Pic.No.8 The day started off with Jane getting all the sprogs into the festive spirit. Here you can see Izzy's patriotic nail varnish

Pic.No.9 Zak didn't want to be left out so he had his nails done too. Naughty George doesn't look too happy about being sandwiched between two nail-varnished rug rats

Pic.No.10 This is Zak and Izzy trying to dry their nail varnish. Then they snogged and Zak asked Izzy if she would be his girlfriend (Izzy's words. She said she would. It was beautiful 

Pic.No.11 Naughty George manages to grab a nap despite the challenging circumstances

Pic.No.12 Finally it was time to head off to the picnic. This is Izzy and Zak arriving at the village recreational ground. Izzy was dressed as a medeival queen so that she could chop people's heads off (my idea)

Pic.No.13 Imogen got into the spirit of things by waving a Union Jack napkin and posing next to a prostrate cuddly toy that had been twatted by a bottle of orange juice

Pic.No.14 A picture of the Anstey picnic. What the blazes is that blue thing in the distance? Holey schmoley, it's sky

Pic.No.15 The sproglets enjoying their picnic with a random pair of legs

Pic.No.16 It's Mitch. I thought he would like his cider more than he did

Pic.No.17 Zak with his streaky bacon tongue prosthetic. All the celebs are getting them nowadays ...... apparently. Ok, I can't back that up

Pic.No.18 Zak with his new 'girlfriend'. He's buttering her up with chocolate mini-rolls. And she's fallen for it

Pic.No.19 My cousin Jane. I think she likes crisps

Pic.No.20 This is Georgina eating a ham roll. It was a totally exotic picnic

Pic.No.21 About time ..... there haven't been enough pictures of me. Now who says I don't get into the spirit of things? Ummmmm?

Pic.No.22 My cousin Jane with her son Mitch. He has just realised that the last chocolate mini-roll has beeen devoured. Not a happy chappy

Pic.No.23 As luck would have it, Prince Philip also turned up at the celebrations. Given his recent bladder problems, I wasn't so sure that I wanted him near the sandwiches

Pic.No.24 After kicking Prince Philip into touch because of urinary concerns, we were honoured to have Kate Middleton make an appearance. The epitome of grace and dignity

Pic.No.25 And there was entertainment for the sprogs in the form of a bouncy castle. But apparently (according to Zak) it had been blown up too much, and as such, was not conducive to effective bouncing

Pic.No.26 But all good things must come to an end. This is Zak and Izzy heading home through the vilage

Pic.No.27 "We need yet more pictures of me!" I declared. So here is one with Izzy

Pic.No.28 This is me teaching the youngsters how to do a Zoolander. Honestly, the kids of today don't have a clue

Pic.No.29 Once back home, we were in time for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee concert on the TV. This is a picture of Paul McCartney singing

Pic.No.30 This is Prince Charles and his wife, Horse, honouring the Queen at the end of the concert. Prince Philip couldn't make it because he was in hospital with a bladder infection. Too much information that. Why couldn't they just say 'ill'

It was all bally enjoyable patriotic fun. Except for Cheryl Cole singing. If I'd been a vet I would probably have tried to put her out of her apparent misery.

And that was the bulk of my Diamond Jubilee celebrations. I didn't get back to Oxford for another six days, hence the radio silence.

So that was the main of my Diamond Jubilee fun dahlink - what did you get up to?

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