Archive for December, 2009


Our central heating is something akin to that in a caravan. Powered by four red gas canisters – which look like those barrels you shoot in House Of The Dead when there are too many zombies to kill with your measly revolver – the Calor Gas heating is usually functional, if a bit wiffy when you turn it on. It’s also got a broken gauge, so you can’t tell when all of the canisters are empty and you need to buy new ones.

We won’t be able to get more gas until Thursday, which would be fine only we’re going up north on Wednesday night. Three days without heating in the snow… how hard can it be?

In other news, S- bought new loo roll last week. Festive loo roll. With reindeer on. And that smells of mince pies. Needless to say that when I do brave a trip to my bathroom (a small and icy lean-to on the side of the kitchen) I am deeply disconcerted at the fact it smells like Christmas treats.


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Writer’s Block

Writer’s Block.

Deadline Monday.

Rewrites Due.

Mario Kart. ūüėÄ


I love snow.

I think my affection for this magnificent mass of crystallised water comes largely from my days in rural Aberdeenshire. Teenage vanity would force me to the bus stop in the depths of winter without a coat, and I would shiver in my little goth-boots until someone would yell from across the square, “Snow Day!” At this point, an excited buzz would ripple through the cliques of children – not dumb enough to have forsaken their Kappa track suit tops – and we would dissipate into the snowy mist.

Back at home, I would toss aside the homework I’d planned to do on the bus into school and go sledging, suddenly excited about dressing up like the Michelin Man in my quilted coat. Whether I remained jubilant whilst out largely depended on the type of snow – soft, powdery snow that meant fabulous sledging for kids on their plastic baking trays inevitably meant that my heavy wooden tobogan would sink into the soggy mud beneath and I would left at the top of the hill like some strange, beached tyre monster.¬† On the other hand, if the snow had been trodden into hard-packed ice, my waxed metal runners would make short work of the other kids’ sledges. I suppose it was the equivalent of driving a turbo-charged tank through a herd of Citroen AX’s – the plastic just didn’t stand a chance.

I don’t have a sledge anymore. My toboggan is entombed in the condensed contents of my father’s double garage, which now inhabit a space the size of a garden shed. Also, I think the Health and Safety people might object to the later additions of a cross-hair so that I could better aim at R-*.

Nowadays, after the initial excitement wears off, I find myself experiencing a strange sense of calm. The world looks softer – blanketed and still in the snow – and I feel myself accepting that things aren’t going to happen instantaneously. The icy weather brings with it a temporary patience, a short-lived ability to accept that some things are worth waiting for.

And so now I’m waiting – waiting for more snow, for S- to come home from work with some milk, for the kettle to boil and for the world to catch its breath. As soon as the snow melts the rush will begin again but for now I am content to just sit back and let things happen.

* R- was a nasty kid from the next village over who just so happened to share my birthday. I never forgave him for it. Also, he had a head that looked like an upright watermelon. He never forgave me for pointing that out…

Apparently, these are the things I talk about…


Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers

I blame the following on M-‘s Dad. Entirely.

I’ve loved the Refreshments since tentatively, around fifteen years ago, I began to really get into music. I’ve always liked warbling along, offkey, to the various cheese my Mum played in the car. Disturbingly, I can still sing Curtis Stigers as if we wore the cassette out yesterday. But then one day, M-‘s dad went on a business trip across the pond and returned with mana from heaven. Fizzy Fuzzy Big and Buzzy.

This hopeful, happy, slightly psychotic album took me right through my teenage years and single-handedly balanced out all of the angsty tripe that I listened to by offering something fresh and energetic. As the internet slowly began to leech away my life, I learned of Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers, composed of the Refreshments’ drummer and lead singer, and a plethora of various other musicians.¬† I defy anyone to listen to RCPM and remain in a bad mood. Try it. I dare you.

M- and I had always planned to go and see the group in Mexico, or on a tour of the states, but imagine our joy when the band announced they were playing Edinburgh, not far from where M- lives.

So, in thanks for brightening up my life considerably, this is my little plug – a list of simple instructions:

Download the free tracks.
Be happy.
And come.

I’ll tequila you all under the table!

Christmas Shopping

I appear to have largely failed in my attempt to hand-make this year’s Christmas Presents. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t been as large a consumer whore as in previous years, but only my Dad’s gift is 100% homemade.

I’ve managed to sneak little things into other peoples’ presents – some chestnut jam for M-, a hand-drawn card with a Morgan car on it for V- and various jams for other friends. And I’ve tried where I can to buy from independent sellers – I bought Mr. C-‘s cake from Misti, lovely little ethically sourced toys¬† for my nieces from peagreen, and a few bits for my Mum from the almighty entity that is ebay. The crowning glory of this year’s shop is my present for S-, which is not only a mightily awesome print of some Resident Evil 4 artwork, but it also supports Child’s Play – a US based charity, run by video game fans. Child’s Play aims to provide hospitals with toys for children stuck on a ward over Christmas. Some things the kids get to take home and keep, others are left there for the enjoyment of future patients. It’s a small thing, but I think it’s one of those small things which makes a tremendous difference and which most people don’t even think about.

In any case, I ventured onto the high street yesterday and wouldn’t have, but for my friend’s very poorly car. With grave resolve, the pair of us ventured into the heart of Cambridge and battled with the mass of other people, panic buying. Luckily, said friend and I are both somewhat pragmatic when it comes to shopping, so there was no unpleasant trawling through unnecessary shops and herds of hyperactive teenagers. Still, the whole experience left me feeling somewhat hollow and worried that I wasn’t doing enough for the people I love. Seeing everyone there with stacks of money changing hands and hugely expensive gifts being wrapped or put aside was a real eye-opener. This year’s most costly gift was perhaps the ‘little extra’ something for S-, in case his art doesn’t arrive in time for Christmas day. I can’t help but feel a cheap* as a result.

Much as I’d like to spend a fortune on the people I love, I simply can’t, and this year I feel that I’ve failed for not making more of their gifts as I’d originally planned to. If I’ve learned one thing from volunteering it is that time is more valuable than money, and I seem to have failed my family and friends in that respect too, not using my time to create something unique and beautiful for them. I just hope that the hours I spent trawling round the shops yesterday have yielded things that everyone will enjoy, or at the very least find amusing for a short while.

I have a plan to remedy all this for next year, though – a cunning plan, some might say – and it is one I plan to start on straight away… watch this space…


*I’d like to think my DNA and upbringing excuses this a little – Sheffield born and bred, and Aberdeenshire raised.

Thomas the Tank Engine

I’m a huge Thomas fan. I always have been. I even named my first car ‘Percy’ after the little green engine featured in the books.

I’m also a huge fan of the Daily Mail – not because of the quality of the articles, you understand – but because of the scaremongering headlines and the hilarious articles it sees fit to print. Whenever I pick it up, I know that I’m sure to find at least one thing to set my blood boiling. And today’s example is this little gem – Thomas the Tank Engine is apparently sexist.

//begin rant.

I mean, honestly! Who could hold a grudge against the Thomas the Tank Engine Books?¬† They are quite possibly the most innocent set of stories since Beatrix Potter put pen to paper. Twilight has more blatant ‘women-should-be-submissive’¬† themes than Thomas could possibly have subliminal sexist undertones – why not attack that pile of tripe and leave things penned before Political Correctness went mental alone?

When I was little, there were only two girls in Thomas the Tank Engine – Annie and Clarabel – and I never even noticed. At that age, it hadn’t really occurred to me that there was an opposite sex – boys were just like I was, only they tended to have blue lunch boxes and got cars in Happy Meals instead of miniature Barbies*. Kids are wonderful – they notice differences, but they just accept that they’re there. It’s the way of the world and they’re largely happy to leave it at that and just get on with things. The fact that these so-called ‘professors’ draw attention to the lack of female characters in such a negative way can only really serve to highlight any absences that were present in the texts to begin with.

‘Professor’ Shauna Wilton also seems to have forgotten that these books were written at a time when girls didn’t really have access to things like train sets and sooty engines – in the 1940s when the Rev. W. Awdry put pen to paper, girls were expected to play with dolls and pretty things. And besides, the books were written for a little boy, which would naturally make the characters predominantly male**.

I also notice how Wilton fails to mention modern television programs such as Angelina Ballerina where only two characters featured on the website are male. I don’t think she’s as ‘all-about-equality’ as she makes out. That’s what really gets me about this whole thing – I want equal rights and I want to be taken seriously. When I do think that I’m being unfairly treated as a woman – and if you don’t believe it still happens, try being the only girl on a factory floor – I’m never taken seriously because crack-pots like this academic goit give anyone who still believes that feminism is about choice and equality a bad name.

Also, did you notice the section of the article which said:

In one episode, for example, Thomas whistles impatiently at a police officer and is replaced with a different engine as a punishment for showing dissent.

Umm … scary PC lady? Where I come from, not respecting a police officer is something that should be punished. It’s called discipline. I dread to think what your daughter will grow up like if she isn’t told off for being naughty. Heaven forbid that good manners are more important than over the top ideals of political correctness.

As one of the comments on the Daily Mail site said: rather our children be confronted with slightly outdated stories with good social morals than toy adverts like pokemon.

//end rant.


*Thankfully my parents refused to take me to MacDonalds – something that at the time I thought was grossly unfair but now realise was for the good of all concerned.

**I actually had a large discussion on bookarmy not long ago about how readers tend to identify more closely with a main character of their own gender.

Football, in the context of the living dead.

Ah, football. A controversial rant.

I don’t mind football as such, I just don’t see the point in 20 men chasing a ball around a field for an hour and a half while two men try to stop them kicking said ball into a rope net. I don’t know – I suppose it encourages teamwork or something. To tell the truth, I don’t really ‘get’ any ball-sport. They all seem like wasted energy to me. I sort of understand people who feel the need to be able to run – I mean, if the zombie apocalypse comes, running would be a pretty useful skill to have. The same goes for archery, and motor racing. I’d like to be able to shoot a zombie enemy in the head or to power away from/through them in an F1 car*. Football just isn’t going to help when the undead start walking though… or at least not in any way that I can see.

Yet footballers earn more money than any of the scientists who might be able to stop a zombie plague. They also earn more than all the good people selling guns and cars with bull-bars on the radiator grills, not to mention the mass of soldiers who, in a 28 Days Later situation, might be able to Christopher Eccleston their way into making a stronghold.

They also earn more than doctors, nurses, bin-men, dentists, bus drivers and Steve – a guy I once met in the UEA pub.

If a football team went on strike, nothing would happen. If a bin-man – regardless of whether he was called Steve or not – went on strike, the nation would grind to a halt. Sure, football players spend more of their life in the public eye and deserve to be paid a little more for it, but no more than the men and women in the army whose lives may be lost at any moment. And no more than the doctors who could stick said army folk back together.

Even before the end of the world is brought about by half dead cannibals, it’s still grossly unfair that any one football player should earn in one game the same amount of money that most people do in a year.

You know what? It’s just not cricket.**

*I realise me driving the F1 Ferrari is somewhat unlikely, but so is the zombie apocalypse so I feel justified in mentioning it.

** Cricket is an exceptionally useful sport where killing zombies is concerned. If you don’t believe me, watch Shaun of the Dead. Ner.

My grandparents’ furniture.

My grandparents’ furniture.

These things around are not just things,
But remnants of your bygone days –
holding neither bits nor bobs
but memories of all your ways.
A touch of walnut, brush of lace,
and I am five years old again.
The scent of powder, cakes and oil
makes me wish I were still ten.
But you are gone and I am grown,
with my own house to care for now,
surrounded still by all your things,
I bathe in memory, love and…