Thursday, 24 May 2007

Happy Birthday Queen Victoria

You have to admire this woman.

Not only did she become queen at 18 and marry as a monarch (imagine how she fitted the headdress on over the crown) she was also a prolific baby-machine and according to unconfirmed rumors a bit of a goer. That and she reigned over a quarter of the world's population as empress of where-ever and had a thing for legs (why else cover them up? I mean, they even covered up the piano's legs, for goodness sake!) She reigned for the longest time of any British queen, indeed any British Monarch and she had an incredible love story. She was buried beside her beloved husband,Prince Albert, in the Royal Mausoleum, which she had built for their final resting place and above the Mausoleum door are inscribed Victoria's words: 'farewell best beloved, here at last I shall rest with thee, with thee in Christ I shall rise again'. How romantic is that? It's interesting to ask what life in Victorian times would have been like had Albert not died in 1861, sending her into a depresion and a withdrawal from public life. What could this woman have done if she'd stayed very much at the fore-front of political ambition, with such a strong husband behind her?

But the reason you have to admire her most of all? She turned whole parts of the world pink. The original Martha Stewart? It's a good thing

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

No, it's MY day.

Since I was little I have always been able to pretend that nobody shares my birthday. My birthday is unique. I don't even admit to sharing it with Joan Collins who, unfortunately, had the temerity to try to pass it off as her birthday. I've always been lucky enough to not know anybody who has the same birthday. (and I don't want to) The only person I ever shared it with was the first boy to kiss me, on the school field when I was 13. He used to tell me that his idea of heaven was a decent settee, a video of Blakes 7 and me. He was 14, or I suppose a decent bottle of wine would have featured in there too. His name was Chris but, for some unfortunate reason everyone called him Bessie. And, yes, I did like/love him in that strange sexless way that you can when you're (very) young, and any thing physical just seems like a big joke (you do what? And put it where? Oh how disgusting! I still think sex proves that God has the biggest sense of humour going) But then I grew older & decided that he wasn't the one and that strange gawky friend of my brothers might not talk sci-fi but didn't half have beautiful eyes. One look and I was gone. Take your glasses off, Peter. Not only are your eyes lovely, but you'll never see how mean the years have been to me. Of course, I'll have to lead you everywhere by the hand, but that can be romantic, too, can't it?

So, here we are, the big 39. I'm not ashamed, I'll celebrate every birthday and next year... well, next year I might have a party or I might just persuade PT that we need to go to France on holiday. I can read French, I can buy books in french in France.... no, I'm rambling again.

I have to say thank you again and again to those of you who remembered (How clever of you! How did you know? Next year I'll be more delicate & just change my banner headline to DON'T FORGET 23RD!) It's lovely. Mmmm.

So I have got up, opened my presents, got my post, read my books (a little) and am posting about my day before it's over. The red and white flags are out all over Liverpool to celebrate my special day and, apparently, they've arranged entertainment for me in Athens tonight. Nobody gave me a ticket, so it's fish & chips, a Kir Royale and the Telly for me tonight. The kids are staying up late especially... DP hates football, but loves staying up, JW does football and tells everyone if they want to improve their game, they need to wear studs (The postman was surprised) and The Princess' Nickname is Chopper, after Chopper Harris. Yes, I know, there are lots of you out there going 'who?' but apparently he was a famous footballer in the 70's who was infamous for going in for the balls plural rather than singular. The Princess is a bit of a toughie. Bless.

I have a couple of friends coming, Barefoot Contessa style, for lunch, so I am cooking lunch. It's a fun thing, not a work thing like cooking dinner would be. Nice tablecloth, clean glasses for elderflower presse, confit de canard (my favouritest food ever) and fresh strawberries with extra thick cream. Mmmm. How good is that? And a litle time afterwards to drink fresh coffee and plan for next year. Meal out? Weekend away? Dublin? Paris? Or lunch at mine with confit de canard again? I'm a traditionalist, so it'll be the duck, then.

Pictures in this post (I'm not good enough to be able to label them yet) have been from 'The Barefoot Contessa at Home', Trish Deseine's 'Nobody does it Better; why french home cooking is still the best in the world' and her essential cooking book, 'Ma Petite Robe Noire et autres recettes' which lays out her top cooking repertoire in the manner of a fashionable wardrobe. Oh, and it's in French (that's me bragging that I've bought a french recipe book... sorry. Bragging is not polite, but I'm so chuffed I can read it) They also include Sarah at Everything Stops For Tea's card to me... thanks Sarah! And Papoosue at Random Blether's gift parcel, a beautiful seeded heart and a coaster with the definition of Besom on... Oh joys! I now have a nickname suitable to my age and abilities! Thank you, Sue, and I shall keep it by the 'puter and think of you!

Friday, 18 May 2007

I love the Post man.....

Or the little self-employed courier.
My Amazon parcels were delivered today by a very very nice man and his wife who dropped them off with a smile and a very pleasant exchange. I always get a smile off the post man too. Is it that I am a naturally smiley person..... or is it the fact I answer the door still in my nightwear?

You have a chance to decide which sort I wear, 1. this or 2. this
Leave a comment and I'll see exactly what sort of a girl you think I am!

(and I'll post about what I got on Wednesday 23rd..... wonder why?)

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

How good is that?

I have, finally, taken the plunge. With the prospect of a half a day in nursery/reception tomorrow, I have invested my not-yet hard earned cash in a couple of Barefoot contessa books, her At Home and Barefoot in Paris, one to arrive next week, the other next month. Nicely timed, isn't it? And a couple of Trish Deseine books, the Nobody does it Better book as featured in the Mail on Sunday (available for less than half price on Amazon) and one of her french cookbooks.... yes, that's right, it's actually in french, but I couldn't resist the title; Ma petite Robe noire et autre recettes. Yes, a little black dress book; How good is that?

And the Winner is.....

How I have enjoyed reading the entries for my birthday competition (that's my birthday on the 23rd May, Carolyn, please take note!) If only I were realy like these descriptions, I'd be a wonderwoman!

Thank you, muchas gratias, danke, grazie and merci beaucoup to the very willing entrants; Papoosue at Random Blethers, Thimbleanna, Sarah at Everything stops for Tea, Isobel of the Cosy Corner, a Shropshire Girl, Weirdbunny of The Crystal Mountain, Victoria May Plum, Alison of Foxgloves in the Breeze, Beachy's Cape Cod Cupboard, Valerie of Un Arc de Ciel dans le lavabo and Gill at Lucy Locket. I had great fun trying to decide which one was most like me and how..... carefully balanced I could be between me and the person I think I am. No one put me down as a 6 foot blonde, which was a little disappointing as, obviously, in my wildest dreams I have been known to grow six inches, lose 5 stone and change hair colour, but I can live with that.

What? You want to know what I'm like?

I am 5 foot 6, I weigh *harrumph* stones and 5 pounds. I take a size seven in shoes. I like to act my shoe size not my age, and that suits my kids just fine. I do have a sense of humour, a strong sense of right and wrong which can be absolute (I don't like grey, and my Hubby has to remind me that life is grey) I am nosey. I used to always, always have to go to the bathroom in everybodies house just to have a peep, still do if I get the chance and I bemoan the fact that the downstairs loo has put an end to that gentle curiosity. I do walk along the street and look into houses and wonder about who lives there (the cream sofa, cream carpet & cream curtains; who lives there?? Probably the 6 foot blonde lady with immaculate kids. Don't talk to her) I'm bright, but I know my limits, a Jack of all Trades and Master of very few, a flibbertygibbit, a will o'the wisp, a clown and I sing in the shower, too. I place my family above everything else because that is the season of my life I am in and I am content with that.

I wear trousers and t shirts mostly, but I like a nice dress for special occasions. I wear minimal make up and usually have my shoulder length brown hair tied back (how did most of you know?) My eyes are greenish-hazelish with brown flecks and I have fair skin. (I burn easily, then fade to pale again. How tough is that?) If you want to picture me, think the Barefoot Contessa or Ma Larkin rather than Nigella (although Nigella is where I want to be!) and I shall post a picture of me on my birthday. (I need to dye my roots, put on the concrete, find my mother's strongest foundation garment and get a shatter-proof lense to risk it!)

And now..... drum roll please! The Winners are;

I had such a hard time choosing, but I had to make a decision (That's really hard for me) so, the winner of the description I felt closest to was.... Papoosue, with Gill and Sarah very close runners up (It was the windows on the bus line that swung it; that is exactly what I do!!). The description I most wished was true was...... Alison. That extra three inches, as I keeep telling my husband, makes all the difference. And I always wanted curly hair. And the winner of the lucky dip, thank you for commenting and do call again was...... Shropshire Girl. Please e-mail me with your details and I shall pack up a fun pack for you all. And, please, would everyone else send me their address as I'd like to send a thank you card by snail mail to you all. Don't you just love the post man?

Monday, 14 May 2007

Thinking of Madeleine.

Lovely Little Cotton Rabbits has this image which you can go and use off her blog freely.... It helps to put anything else in perspective. My heart weeps when I think that there but for the grace of God goes any one of us... it is but the chance of a moment that anything happens and I'm sure we all can imagine what we think we'd feel in their shoes, without ever wanting to be there. Those brave, brave parents and the level of support and feeling that there is for them

At times like this, and I apologise if this offends anyone, I find my faith a great source of comfort. I know I cannot go and stand by them, I cannot go and search in Portugal and I cannot offer to take care of the twins while they do what they have to do, but I can pray.

I can pray to God that there will be a happy resolution.

I can ask that He will be with Gerry and Kate as they go about their business.

I can ask that he will be with Madeleine and keep her safe.

I can ask Him to touch the people who have taken her and make them repent, that they will give her back.

And I can ask Him to help the police and investigators to have faith and solve the case quickly.

Jesus said, "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, I shall be there."

I've seen it done over the telephone, do you think internet praying works, too? I'm sure there are lots of us all praying for the same thing. Let's hope God answers us soon.

Inconsiderate Parking Drives Me Wild!!!!

We live 50 yards away from school. We knew we lived close to school (part of the attraction of the house was its proximity to a school we liked) but we never realised how bad the parking was. People often park across my gate. I don't like it. I always ask them to move. And sometimes they do. This silly cow today didn't and it freaks me out. I feel so angry with her for being so selfish, but I know this is a carry over from the other selfish cars who make easy passage in and out of the road impossible by parking as close as they can to school. These are healthy & fit people, not disabled persons, they're perfectly capable of parking another 25 yards away and leaving the turn in clear. aren't they? The worst thing is, there is noone to complain to. DH says don't rock the boat or we'll get double yellow lines, but we don't want that. We had cones off the police, but the community Bobby couldn't get here everyday to put them out & when the Selfish Gits saw it was the caretaker who did it, they chose to ignore them. And today it was as bad as usual. At least no one parked on the double yellow lines, like one silly woman did the other week. her justification? She didn't know that the lines meant no parking. I'm off to ring the police, the school, the council and the Samaritans. Who will be most use? I'll let you know!

Sunday, 13 May 2007

Our Weekend Guest.

This weekend we had a little visitor from school.... no, not nits, but Cookie.

Cookie comes home with the best behaved child in the class... and this weekend it was the Princess! So, we had to entertain him (yes, he is a he despite the dress & pink socks) so he joined in very happily with all the things we did this weekend.

A teaparty to welcome him to our house.

An early bath (Friday night is video night) and a chance to try on some new Tigger pyjamas.

Pizza in front of the TV

Ice cream sundae in plastic sundae dishes (£1.99 for 4 from Home Bargain!)

Bedtime stories.

An early bed. Without the Princess and with!

Shopping at Sainsbury's and a trip to JJB.

Church parade, where he joined in very nicely with the Rainbows.

Swimming (he was far too modest to let you see him in his costume; bears are, you know)

Watching the last day of the football... apparently, Cookie is a keen Wigan supporter, so he was very happy by the end!

And an hour on the 'puter setting up a powerpoint presentation for the Princess to take into school tomorrow to show her Teacher that I'm not such a bad Mummy after I forgot about her trip to Croxteth Park on Friday and never sent her in with any wellies (She has insisted upon wearing them all weekend instead to taunt me) but at least I have time to put together a small selection of the 83 (83!!!!) photos we took of Cookie this weekend.
And we have to give him back tomorrow.

I miss him already :(

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Don't Forgets.... there are two of them!

Don't forget to pop over to the Best of British; Crafters Days Out in Britain and see what's going on in various parts of the country. If you're inspired & you'd like to post a contribution, please drop me a line & I'll add you to the list of allowed personalities; I sent out invitations to all the people whose e-mail I had or could find; apologies for anyone who thinks they should be a contributor but isn't.

Also, I am so enjoying the answers to the question "What do you think I'm like". I should print them off & read them as positive affirmations everyday. Gosh, I must be a nice person, after all, not that horrible bitchy cow I always thought I was! There's still time to enter the competition before next Monday (I think that's when I said I'd judge, but it could be Tuesday) Go back to this link and have a read before you commit your thoughts to the screen. I need more positive inspiration, so come on!

I'm not weird.... it's just the rest of the world that's a little peculiar.

Tagged. Three times so far,darn it.
Thank you to Andsewtosleep, Alison at Foxgloves in the Breeze, and Gill at Lucy Locket. I'm sure I'll find a way to express my deep gratitude at this momentous event.

And I thought I'd done such a good job of keeping my head down and staying quiet.

Never mind, better luck next time.

Right, seven weird things about me.... er,..... um,... em.

1. All my names make up pretty much the whole holy family except for Jesus. (Jo=Joseph, Anne= Mary's reputed mother, Elizabeth= his Aunt and Mary= His mother. I always joked I was going to take Jesus as a confirmation name and in the end didn't take any because 3 is enough and who would want more than 3 and, anyway, my initials are great just as they are JEM, get it? And, yes, I have trouble using Joanne as my name because Joanne is a little tubby girl with her hair in big bunches who cries a lot. Jo is a capable and very humorous woman. The power of a name. (Damn. And I've gone and given that power to you all. Never make it as a spy...)

2. I always dreamt I'd marry a farmer and have a large kitchen with an Aga and lambs warming in the coolest drawer. (That's live lambs that need feeding, not a nice roast dinner which I can and do cook nowadays) Then I married a lawyer whose idea of hell is anything with four legs that actually moves and for whom a farm would be an unneccessary waste of decent building land. The man has no soul, but he has read Austen and Bronte and he is possibly the only person I know who can beat me at Trivial Pursuits so I'll put up with the dead dream & stick with the living vision of brains and cuteness combined. (I think he's cute; you wouldn't. OK?) And, no, I don't have an Aga, but once a year I get to stay at a cottage that has one, so I get my fix from there.

3. I can go through a game of Trivial Pursuits only using the brown (art and literature) squares and an occasional pink one. I like books. ( alot) Now, I know that liking books isn't weird, but to the extent to which I take it, it is. I would rather be able to buy another book which I may/may not read than pay for the food that day. Actually, if I can afford both, I will do, because I like food too. I probably don't spend on clothes or going out, instead.

4. When I am ill, I watch the film Outbreak. It helps me feel better to know that there are worse illnesses out there & I'm sure I haven't got Ebola, Dengue or any other Viral Haemorrhagic Fever. I also enjoy being ill if I'm not too ill, and I don't have to do anything and I can relax and enjoy a comforting day. But I do not like being sick. Not one bit.

5. I always save the best bit of my food til last. And I eat biscuits strangely. I eat the biscuit part of cream biscuits first, and then eat the cream part after. I get quite messy and it's not something I do in public. Also, I adore eating Tunnocks teacakes, but I have to eat them in the same order; chocolate, biscuit, any jam and the marshmallow last. Yes, I know.

6. I caught hayfever off my husband. I swear, I never had it as a little girl and then I married him and... Wallop! Itchy eyes, tears of pain and a prescription for ..... something. And I love flowers, well, the idea of them. I think I'm allergic to tree pollen, but I take the stuff straight away & just thank God I didn't get it when I had to sit exams.... with sympathy to anyone who did. Urgh!

7. I like changing babies nappies... I'm sorry, I do. And it doesn't matter if they're my baby or not. I don't have a sensitive sense of smell, poo is poo and if a baby is dirty I won't let them sit in poo for an hour waiting for it's Mummy. Besides which, when the nappy is off is the best time to blow kisses on its tummy... and babies tummies are irresistible, aren't they? This goes along with me being a baby whisperer. I can get any baby to calm down eventually, most babies to calm down almost at once, and put a baby to sleep. I also can persuade children who've never left their parents to stay with me while Mummy goes shopping/decorates her house/ goes to sleep. I should be a child-minder, but teaching pays better and has holidays. So, here I am waiting for the grandchildren (and my eldest is 9; I don't want any babies until they're much older, please. I'm not that desperate.)

So, there you are, 7 weird things. And I'm supposed to, what? Tag four people? Do I know that many people who haven't been tagged? Ok, here goes. I tag
Sarah at Everything stops for tea
Sue at Random Blethers
Lizzie at Kindred Spirits, and
Valerie at Un Arc De Ciel dans le Lavabo
Have fun, girls & I'll be reading your tags, soon!

Saturday, 5 May 2007

Ordinary day.

An ordinary day.... the base of life's quilt onto which golden days of joy & dark days of sorrow are sewn.

What Women really Want....

Is to be allowed to choose without either way being the 'easy' or 'lesser' option. This, from David Elkind's classic book, 'The Hurried Child';

“Within the short space of twenty-five years, the role of the middle-class woman has been profoundly altered. In the 1950’s a woman who worked was looked down upon as someone who did not “care enough” to look after her husband and children. Today, however, a quarter century (at least!) after the feminist revolution, a middle-class woman who chooses the life of the house-wife is often regarded as un-ambitious (and therefore less intelligent than her working counterparts) and generally lacking in self respect and female pride. the situation is complicated by the fact that with the higher divorce rate, more and more women have to work.
Thus many women are caught in a conflict between their desires to perform well the traditional role of mother and wife and what may well be an equally strong inclination to embrace the new professional and social possibilities that have opened up for women in our society.
Women who choose to stay at home may thus come under considerable (not necessarily conscious) stress for having opted for this traditional role. In her book, ‘The Cinderella Syndrome’, Colette Dowling captures well the emptiness and restlessness of some of these women. “Despite admitting a certain pride in their husbands’ positions and income, many women admitted to a certain eventless ness in their lives. they couldn’t quite break off from their bridge groups, though they described them as boring. In the empty house, when they weren’t shopping or entertaining or chauffeuring the kids, they read romances.””

Well, yes, I do read romances, but I also read serious history books, thrillers and anything else with the printed word on it.

What made me cross, well, sad, really, about this quote was the fact that one side or the other had to be lesser. House-wife or full-time employee, one has to be denigrated for the sake of the others pride and, usually, the minority gets castigated for being 'different'. This is not female liberation as I want it. I don't think our grandmothers, God bless them, in their flowery aprons and scrubbing the step, since that was the mark of a 'good' housekeeper, would have been too keen to go to work. They wanted someone to respect them because of what they were, not despite. The work we choose in society, paid or unpaid, should not be the deciding factor in whether or not we are worthy of respect. The fact we are human is good enough. Equality for the sexes does not mean making everyone go out to work, it means accepting that everyone is working for the greater good and that the unpaid childcare and domestic servant is as valid and useful as the highly paid chief exec.

That a woman chooses to stay at home for an extended period to raise the future citizens of the country should be a cause of celebration, not of denigration. Am I 'just a housewife'? No, I am a human being. I have a brain and ambition, but I have chosen to put both to use in unpaid manual labour. Does that make me a lesser being? Not in my children's eyes. It makes me their rock and their foundation. It makes me the person they know is there for them after school, the person that they know will have found them a treat for Friday, that will have sought out their favourite comics, their best food, their new clothes. In the eyes of my children at present I am special just for being their Mum.

I am in the fortunate position of being able to work part-time. I was also able to stay off work while the children were at home and I will be in the fortunate position to be able to work full-time at a job that gives me time off with my children when they are off (yes, part of my motivation for being a teacher was its child-friendly aspects; mother and teacher, my two great ambitions. That and a best-selling novellist, but that's on hold for a while), but not every woman has that luxury.

I don't think womens' libbers knew what they really wanted, or at least that those who were most vocal were actually speaking for the majority at that time. When they spoke of equality, they always spoke of women going to work, of equal pay, of being 'the same as men'. I am not a man. I have no wish to be a man (Urgh! Those bits on the outside! The hair!) I am a woman. I am equal to a man, but not the same as a man in the same way as a Van Gogh is equal to a Da Vinci, but not the same as. We are both humans, and that should guarantee us equality. We should both be working together to make the world a better place and accept that either is capable of great things. That some women want to work, that some men want to stay at home, that both sexes want to raise children in a world where the way you are treated is fair whatever the sex you are, the colour of your skin, the religion you follow. That true equality comes with acceptance not with conformity and that rights must be followed by a response. To quote from Uncle Ben, "With great power, comes great responsibility" I can take great pride in my role as a stay-at-home (mostly) Mum without needing to denigrate a working mother and I expect the same response back.

When a CEO can honour his mother as the woman who raised him and extend the same respect to the women who work in his factories for minimum wage, then we will have achieved equality. When a woman is respected for being a human being and a man is honoured for being a father then we will have achieved equality. When all men and women are able to say 'I am useful' and 'I am content' then we will have achieved equality. I just pary that it comes soon, and not when everyone, male or female, has been forced to work because that is the only way to achieve status.

What do I want? I want you to look at my role and say, "That is a good job to do." I want you to look at me and say, "Well done." I want you to feel the same pride in my end-products as I do.

And I want that whether I am male, female, black, white, poor, rich, disabled or not. I want equality, proper equality, not a one-size-fits-all-if-all-fit-one-size equality.

'Nuff said?

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Happy May Day!

So, this is the beginning of summer according to one source. As I sit here listening to Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds at full pelt from the other room (DP has recently got ever-so into this) I can believe it. Hasn't it been glorious? And I, in a burst of luck, have not been in work. Feast or famine; supply is not a certain source of income and I need something better. I'll work on that. But in the meantime;

I have painted my bench and little picnic table. The garden has been weeded and the plants watered so that I can, this evening, take a cool beer out and enjoy the sunset through my trees. (must remember to take my hayfever tablets) I have got white geraniums to pot up and put at my front door and a red poppy, birthday gift from my Mum whom I dragged out to the garden centres today. I had a shopping trip yesterday and came back proud recipient of floral tins, wooden pegs (none better!) big shopping bags that will stop me using more plastic than I have to and a net canopy for the princess. Whoo! So much stuff on one little trip, but mostly from Home Bargain, so nothing cost more than £3!

These lovely early summer days make me happy. I begin to throw off the cold of winter and to look ahead to long, hot days spent in the garden, tip-toeing over warm pathing stones to tickle my toes on the too-hard grass. I can anticipate these days, even as I realise that the grass is still too cold (just) to lie on for more than an hour, that the warm days are followed by nights just too cold to set my bedding plants. That is a pleasure I save for my birthday, three weeks hence. For now, I stroke the plants in the garden centre and dream of owning a green house, a big one to walk inside and water. I buy my plastic jug for the summer ahead, and sip cool juice from coloured plastic glasses. I know that in two months time the sun will heat up the juice to warm unless I put in ice cubes, but that now the glasses keep their cool edge.
May as a month for me is all about anticipation; for the summer's heat, for holidays still to come, for my birthday & those of my family in June, for the heat that will drive me inside in the middle of the day and make me still. May is a month of doing, a busy month spent preparing for the high summer, the langurous heat and the months of pure being. Bliss.

You may have noticed, I managed to mention my birthday three times in that blogpost. I'm famous for that. I used to drop hints as subtle as bricks at home, a build up to my birthday that must have driven my brothers mad. I was the only summer birthday in the house, you see, so I could, if I worked hard make it last for two months. I'm not a lot different now. Eh bien, 39 and still the same. Except, I have learnt to share my birthday. So, in honour of my being ever so slightly more grown up than I used to be, I am holding a birthday competition. I am asking you to send me your thoughts on what I look like and what I'm really like. I haven't posted any pictures of myself, and I wondered what sort of person you all think I am. There are three prizes, one for the closest description of me in reality, one for the best description of me even if it bears no relation to what I'm actually like and one for the hell of it... that one will be a name pulled out of a hat. The prizes are still in discussion, but probably books, papers, thread or buttons. It'll be interesting to see what you think of me... or is it true that evesdroppers ne'er hear well? Looking forward to hearing from you!
PS.... I'll keep the contest open til Sunday 13th May & post results on the next Monday, so that parcels can be posted by 23rd... my birthday!
Post your answers before Monday 15th, I'll judge on the 16th and post everything asap after that.