Sunday, 27 May 2012

The further adventures of the Ginger Ninja or how to get a teenager to tidy up

This is Paddy.  
You may recognise him as he is perched in his favourite flowerpot on the right, so you probably see him whenever you visit.  I am a cat person.  I do like dogs but I can’t bear all that incessant walking in the rain/sleet/snow, the necessity to bathe them regularly or have your house and furniture stink and the ever-present, unconditional devotion is a bit of a pisser too, TBH.  And there is no-one and nothing on this earth whose turds I wish to scoop out of the garden.

Nope – give me a cat any day.  I like a bit of haughty indifference – a bit of “well, I can take you or leave you” and a few snooty looks.  The thing I don't enjoy about cats is the hunter-gatherer instinct.  I have written about this before here and there have been many times when Paddy has brought all manner of disgusting wildlife into the house – some of it alive and some of it rather mangled.  I still haven’t quite found the product that successfully gets rodent blood out of carpets.

Now that you have met Paddy, let me introduce you to these:-

These are my daughter’s Doc Martin’s.  They are the real deal and I shuddered and swallowed hard as I coughed up over £90 for them a few weeks ago.  I’m trying to look at it on a cost-per-wear basis as they will last for decades. (They’d better).  And lo, she brought them home and the Shah did laugh and rant and call her “Like Minnie Mouse” and she did hit him hard.

Now daughter is inclined to come home and kick off her footwear, leaving it wherever it falls.  When I got sick of falling over these giant boots, I instructed her to leave them at the bottom of the stairs where they would be out of the way.  This worked well for a while until I realised the fatal flaw in this plan.

The bottom of the stairs is, basically, the killing fields.  Don't ask me why Paddy likes to bring wildlife in and ritually slaughter it under the coats hanging there, but he does and it’s not uncommon to find a neat little pile of guts waiting there for us.  So, one morning recently, it felt odd to wake up without Paddy on the bed or nearby.  He is always around in the mornings as he is ruled by his stomach.  I shambled along to the top of the stairs and this is what I saw:-
 A quick call out to the Shah ensued (it being a blue job to rid the house of all rodents, living or dead).  He very grumpily lumbered along and took the offending boot out into the garden and shook it out, depositing a little field mouse in a flower bed whilst I distracted Paddy with some of these 
which he loves more than life itself.

So far so good.  The Shah and I sniggeringly came to an agreement that we wouldn’t say anything to the daughter as we knew she would be less than impressed (understatement of the century) to think that there had been any kind of wildlife sheltering in her boot, probably crapping itself with fear.  Paddy worked the innocent look:-

That all went fine.  Until yesterday.  I took some pictures of Paddy being daft in the garden and the daughter grabbed my phone to look through them...

Daughter: (flicks through pictures) Oh bless Paddy!  Look at him, he's such a sweetheart!  Hey - what’s this? (brandishes phone under my nose)
Me (weakly): Um a picture of Paddy admiring your boots...?
Me: (Trying to hide laughter and failing) um probably...
(stamps up the stairs, is not seen again for some hours).

Me:  Result!  Thanks Paddy. (showers cat with extra treats)

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Facebook floats my boat

The recent flotation of Facebook, making Mark Zuckerberg  19 billion dollars in the process, has been much in the news lately.   I have to admit that I am a convert.  And, like many good converts, I am filled with zeal and devotion.  What is it about those who have changed their habits and adopted something new?  What makes us keener than anyone else?   My late father loved to tell the (probably apocryphal) story about the lady of gentle birth who converted from the Church of England to become a Roman Catholic.  However, when she discovered that monks and nuns were normal human beings who (gasp) went to the toilet in just the same way that lesser mortals do she was so disgusted that she left the church immediately.

I’m not quite that bad.  I finally gave in and signed up for Facebook at the beginning of this year and I have to say that I’m a fan.  
The real joy of it has been making contact with old friends – people I’m very fond of but with whom contact had dwindled to the odd Christmas card.  It’s great to see photos of M & J renewing their wedding vows in Las Vegas recently (not to mention the original photos of their wedding 20 years ago) and pics of J’s new house and her gigantic dog, not to mention keeping up with developments in other people’s lives.  Not just friends – I also chat regularly to far-flung cousins who I would normally only see at weddings and funerals these days. 

I have to admit too, that it’s always fun to receive “friend requests”.  And I was flattered to get one such from my own son (lawks! – clearly keeping his bad behaviour off Facebook if he’s allowing his old mum to see it) not to mention my nephew who is currently studying in Moscow and, ahem, painting the town Red (sorry) in the process.  

And it’s not just Facebook.  I’ve also taken to Twitter like a – what?  A bluebird to the airwaves?    I don’t Tweet much but I enjoy other people’s efforts.  And I just LOVE watching something on the TV and simultaneously reading the tweets  about it.  It’s like inviting a million cynics into your living room and very funny.

Having soundly berated the children on a regular basis for their excessive use of social media – and been told in return that “old people like you mum shouldn’t be allowed to have Facebook” – I decided to cock a snook at them and see how many “friends” I could accumulate.   It's true to say that I don’t have millions and certainly not the several hundred that both my kids sport, but at least all of mine are known to me or related to me and are genuine.   I worked for IBM for some years and I’m probably more technically capable than many women my age (at least my kids think so!) and I was proud of my prowess.  Until, that is, I received a new and unexpected friend request this week. 

From my 84 year old father-in-law.

Yes, you read that right.  He is all over social media like a rash and has more “friends” that I will probably ever accumulate. 

He was recently celebrated on BBC local news as being the hardest working member of his gym, in terms of miles run and weights lifted.  I wonder if there is a current holder of the world’s oldest regular Facebook user title?  I might poke Mark Zuckerberg and ask him but I think he’s got more pressing issues on his mind at the moment.  It seems that the bubble may have burst and his brainchild lost around 12% of its flotation price on day one of trading.  Never mind, I’m sure he’s got millions of “friends” to keep his spirits up....

Sunday, 13 May 2012

You are what you eat

I like cooking.  Cooking runs in my family - we all cook, even the men well, especially the men.  My dad was an excellent, inventive and instinctive cook and we were brought up on an exotic diet that left many of our friends open-mouthed - not always with envy.  Living out in the country, we were often presented with game and it wasn't unusual to have Pheasant for Sunday lunch or to come home to find my dad with with a large Hare hanging from a hook in the kitchen, being casually disembowelled.  Funnily enough I would never choose to eat game these days.  I think I had enough of almost breaking teeth on bits of shot during my childhood to last me forever.  

One of the reasons I like cooking is that I like eating. I come from a generation to which waste was an anathema and if you didn't like what was on your plate there was no alternative.  If you weren't Brussels Sprouts hungry, you weren't hungry at all.  There was none of today's endless snacking - you ate what you were given and were expected to be bloody grateful for it.  Leftovers went into a bowl and into the fridge and were only thrown out when their coat of blue-green penicillin rendered them unrecognisable. (My ma still holds to this maxim today, worryingly.)  My (ungrateful) children have commented on my efforts here if you can be bothered to read it.

And I do like a good food blog: David Lebovitz and Pamela Timms' Eat and Dust are just two of those that I follow and read whenever I have time and they're both fabulous.  There are also some real horrors out there in the blogosphere though.  Take this for example - this is a picture that I unashamedly stole from somewhere ages ago - so long that I can't even remember and own up - sorry!  But how appetising does this look for a food blogger?

I have absolutely no fucking idea what on earth this can be but I find that I saved it with the file name of vom.jpg which just about says it all.

Alternatively, I know exactly what these little cupcakes are meant to be:-

braaaaaaains by xsomnis

I just love the drips of 'blood'.  I have a life-sized brain mould in which I made pink jelly one day, and rendered it opaque by adding some Carnation Milk (remember that?)  I thought the children would be hugely entertained but they were utterly repulsed and most of it went in the bin.  I think the brain is in the garage somewhere now.  No sense of humour, some people.

Anyway, throughout my deprived childhood, I don't remember anyone being fat particularly.  These days, it is quite a different story.  Obesity has been in the news this week with pressure coming from some lardarses POETs (People of Enhanced Tumescence) to eradicate the word "Obese" from the English language on the grounds that it makes them feel unhappy and victimised.  Aah woogums.  Here's a diet tip for all you fat bastards deliciously curvy souls out there:  Eat less, move more. That's about the crux of it.  You can then ditch all the medication, the fat blockers, the appetite suppressants, the gastric bands etc and we will no longer have our teeth set on edge by the sound of your wobbly thighs rubbing together.  I'm not saying that, as a family, we're stoutist or anything but the Shah has been known to stalk the grossly obese at airports, trying to get a glimpse of their boarding card for their flight and seat number, hoping against hope that they won't be sitting next to him. 

And, of course, they say that you are what you eat.  This is supposed to be a truism but it's strikes me as strange because I don't recall eating a bitter old trout.