Friday, 23 November 2012

Coming to inversions

I have found somewhere with wi-fi and a plug and I am going to attempt to update my blog with PICTURES, hooray, before I have to dash off to buy yet another aubergine before I meet my friend for lunch, you see the glamour of my life. Firstly, however, there is a deeply unfortunate development I'm afraid I have to tell you about.

I have changed jobs, and I now have a job where I am supposed to roll up reasonably on time looking professional and say things like 'and have we factored that in to the project plan'. What actually happens is that I roll up looking just on the relatively acceptable edge of bizarre and fight over the coffee in the machine AND WIN (memo to self, try to cut down). I am not helped, however, by some particularly vocal harrassment I encounter along my route. And I can't avoid it! There's no other way! That's the way I have to go past!

Why hello

This is Bad Stripy Cat. This cat strides out and shouts at me when I pass him. Sometimes he shouts at me when I am 10 metres away and because I am an idiot I shout back. 'Mrrrrrrrrrooooooow! Mrooooooooowwwww!' he shouts, furiously, and I call out, hello kittycat what's going on with you today and then we have a conversation.

Me: What on earth is it, puss cat?
Cat: Mmmmmrrrrrrrooooww! (Furiously)
Me: Are you alright? What's going on?
Cat: Mrow mrow mrow mrow MMMMMRRROOOWWW!
Me, sympathetically: Poor Pusscat! Did they really?
Cat: Mrow!
Me: I've got to go to work now. I'll see you later.
Cat: MMMMMMMMrrrrrrrrrroooooooooowwww.
Me: Don't make me feel guilty. I've got a busy day. I've got to go!
Cat: Mrow. (sulkily)

Sometimes passers by join in. That is how loud this cat is. I mean, I am not easily embarrassed, but the whole situation is just very difficult. Because I am an utter sucker, and it now happens to me so often that cats just stride out and shout at me as I am passing innocently, I perform a brief health check while I am stroking them in case they are unhappy. I have a white pussycat friend on another road who I think is too thin, and once I flagged down his neighbour (no, really, I did) and quizzed her about the cat's medical history so I could judge if I needed to put the cat in my bag and rescue it or not. She was a very middle-class lady with fuschia lipstick. The cat is fine. It is old and has a longstanding medical condition for which it is under the care of a vet. Bad Stripy Cat, however, was fat, warm and sleek. I do not know what he is trying to tell me. I do not know.

Quilt of boringness

This is my quilt I am making. It is the Quilt Of No Brain. It is 6.5 inch squares joined together and I am going to add a pink border and then I am going to wrestle with batting and swear. I have so many quilts and blankets on my bed at the moment that one day I will probably be discovered smothered under them and then who will Bad Stripy Cat have to shout at in the mornings, hey?

And finally I wish to report an utter triumph. This is the move I am working towards on pole at the moment (picture from this book – this is an expensive but helpful book).

Imagine me with gritted teeth shouting 'no it's ok, I think I'm locked on'

Actually, I can do this move, I just do it in a ratty tshirt rather than a bikini and I have a tortured expression and someone has to hold my head so I don't drop on my neck and break it, which would be unideal. However, this is the move I NEED TO BE ABLE TO DO BEFORE I CAN MOVE TO THE ADVANCED CLASS:
I don't even know why this pig is so hard. I think I approach it in a limp-wristed feeble manner

Readers, it has been agonising and I am not there yet. Every week I whimper at the mention of inversions. It has not even been that I am nearly there, I am just so completely wrong that I thought I would have to give up and get another hobby which did not involve chalking my inner thighs. However, last night I nearly managed it – I touched my legs above my head on the pole and I think I have got the right action. So I feel there will be inversions in my future. Inversions! I am going to open the biggest bottle of champagne you have ever seen when I have managed it. I am chuffed with myself. It has taken some perseverance. Again I muse on why I chose such a difficult sport but there we go. Perhaps it chose me?

Sunday, 4 November 2012

A cautious hello

I’ve been quiet over here, haven’t I? I won’t do the traditional ‘sorry I’ve been awol’ post because, well, reasons, but I am sorry, because I have missed my blog and I’ve missed all my readers. I even had a glass of Chardonnay the other week and nearly did an update and then I didn’t. Anyway. Here I am, and I don’t know if this means I’m blogging again but I don’t know that it means I’m not so I’ll just chat and we’ll see how we go. Does that sound like a plan? I think it sounds like a plan.

So. Readers, since we last spoke here is what has happened: I have been sucked – schluuuuurp - into the yoga sorority and I have bought a year’s membership at Cam Yoga. I am not going to tell you how much that is because I confessed to my brother earlier and even he was shocked, and Dan is fairly unshockable. So obviously you are desperately curious now and are going to google, and when you have picked yourself back up off the floor and rearranged the cat who you knocked over in the shock of the moment, you are going to comment and say, how could you afford that, and the answer is, I could not but they make this marvellous thing called a 0% interest balance transfer credit card and I am bored of being sensible*. So over it! In my defence, it is cheaper if you do it upfront. It’s no worse than a gym membership, honest guv, and if you average it out over the year it is actually just like the veg box (yes, I did go through quite a complicated mental process of moral justification before, and nightmares after,) and by the end of the year I imagine that not only will I have achieved spiritual enlightenment but I will also be able to do a wheel pose. My resolve did not even quiver when I went to Hot Yoga last week and the teacher manoevred me into a half lotus which I don’t think was a dignified experience for either of us, given that we were both dripping with sweat and I have this mental block where I can never understand if I should be gripping something overhand or underhand.

Hmm. What else has happened?  I hit pay dirt at a recent vintage fair – I’ll show you when I’ve charged the camera and found somewhere convenient with wifi. And I’m in the middle of an evening class on physical theatre. I chose this evening class because it was literally the worst thing I could imagine doing so I thought it would be good for me, and do you know what, I think it has been. I walk a narrow line between thinking, hmm, perhaps this is kind of fun and thinking What Am I Doing Do Not Touch Me This Is A Foretaste Of What They Will Make Me Do In Hell. And I’ve been officially told in pole dancing that I need to have shorter shorts. Here’s my advice: don’t google ‘pole dancing hotpants buy uk’ and expect to get something you fancy wearing. I’m 38! I go to Waitrose! I’ve got limits! I’m going to go back to Sweaty Betty and bleat.

I knit something as well. I made Stitched Together’s (can't link on this computer, but, beautiful shawl. I might take a picture in daylight. I’m planning my next shawl now. I might have the yarn for it (examines lapels thoughtfully). I might need input on the pattern (examines lapels thoughtfully again).

OK, so I blogged. A bientôt? We’ll see!

* Even I think yoga is a bit of a feeble way to rebel. Other people do promiscuity and cocaine, I do the Right To Go And Do A Down Dog Whenever I Feel Like It. What will I do for an encore? Get into debt buying sensible pants? Eat slightly more than five vegetables a day? Walk round John Lewis with a bad attitude?

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Things that can go terribly wrong in Yoga: number one

I bought a special introductory offer one month’s unlimited yoga classes at the local yoga place, which is excellent value if you use it to go to as many yoga classes as you can in the month, not so excellent value if you only use it to go to one and then give up and sit drinking coffee and growling in their sweet little vegan café and altering the karma in a negative direction. So, this month you will mostly find me in down dog, failing to stretch my hamstrings sufficiently.

I am having fun. It has been exciting. I have done a hot yoga class, which is essentially yoga in a room with the heating turned up really, really high, like a sauna. Partner says this is a ‘gimmick’. I will say that I am not rushing to book on my next hot yoga class: indeed, I thought I might be their first fatality. I kept thinking of that man who put a lot of people in a sweat lodge and they died, and he said he was going to ‘absorb that lesson as part of his spiritual journey’ as he got on a plane to a country with no extradition arrangements with the US. Anyway, I have this piece of wisdom for you: if you go to a hot yoga class, wear very little and take a towel, because you will sweat. You will sweat even if, like me, you are a person who doesn’t sweat, ever, and whose internal temperature gauge is turned lower than that of most people, and whose touch is like the Cold Grip Of Death.

I have done more. I have yoga flowed. I have been conscious of my breath. I have fallen on my nose doing a posture ‘to give the hips a good deep opening’. I have ommed. I have ‘engaged my core muscles’. I have discovered I am ‘further on than half bind but not binding fully’ and require straps around my nether regions. I have done shoulder stands and kept my legs in the air for surprising amounts of time, a posture which, Mr Iyengar assures me in his book, will deal with constipation with the efficiency of a Dulcolax overdose. But something so terrible happened to me this morning that I began to fear that the remembered trauma would mean I could never do yoga again.

Obviously, this will surprise you, but, sometimes I take clothes out of the washer and I do not put them away immediately, I know, you thought I was Martha Stewart and Anthea Turner (poor Anthea!) combined. But, no! I chuck them on the beanbag overnight. Well, I have learned my lesson. Because this morning, as I staggered out of bed half asleep to amble off to Yoga Flow Detox, and put on my vest that I wear, I realised something had been sharing my vest with me. It was an enormous spider. With great big thick black legs. And it was now sitting on my waist. So this morning saw me running backwards and forwards in only my ratty sports bra and with my head trapped in a lycra vest, squawking and wriggling and jumping up and down to dislodge it. It is not on me now: but, it is somewhere, and I do not think the other people at the yoga classes, who have the proper kit and are in touch with their Prana, have to deal with spiders. But, I keep on. Because, when you are a person who is further on than half bind, the only way is forwards. I have mastered plough pose and now am working towards wheel. When I get there I will open a bottle of wine.

Love, Susie, the world’s most unlikely yogi,


Monday, 27 August 2012

Introducing colour

We went to stay in Brighton and the B+B we stayed in was not painted like a mad white cube.
Colour!!! Partner said, at least it had a white ceiling
So I began to feel I could introduce some colour into our lives. I have been considering painting a bit of furniture ever since I saw a painted chest of drawers on the front of Making magazine, which was quite nice, and which chased away terrible memories of stencilling, and of ragrolling in mediterranean colours which you will understand my shuddering at if you are of my vintage (37)*. Anyway, the other day I trotted off out to buy the Observer and someone had put a small table out to be taken away (they had. I didn’t just take someone’s table. It had a sign). It was a house near where the Worst Cat In Cambridge lives, I just tell you that for local colour: anyway, I came home with the Observer and a free table, which surprised Partner a bit. And today I have painted my table. This was the table before I painted it:
I think it's highly unlikely this table was worth money but if it was, please don't tell me
And this is the table now, painted in Habitat Mediterranean and Cumin (Habitat go into administration and now suddenly they’re everywhere, doing paint in Homebase and featuring in the Argos catalogue, who knew):
I'm not 100% sure I like the colour of the legs. I shall sleep on it
I bought two tester pots of emulsion and a pot of varnish, which came to £13.59 (I had brushes/ masking tape/ white emulsion for undercoat already). So, this is my £13.59 table which is reasonably thrifty, I think. I shall touch it up in daylight and then I shall varnish it. I am gradually making inroads into our bedroom, and this is going to be my bedside table. I am going to move the current bedside table and beanbag to the study for Reading Nook purposes and make a replacement beanbag for the bedroom, which is a work in progress. This is all displacement activity because what I really need to do is sort out Partner And The Ridiculous Book Mountain, but baby steps, people, baby steps.
Bonus picture of cows who just come and hang out in the city centre as if that is both normal and acceptable, stopping me getting to the PUB
* If you are reading this in a room with ragrolled stencilled walls, don’t listen to me. I’m sure it looks lovely, and please enjoy your tuscany-effect ceramics, sun-dried tomatoes, and affair with the milkman.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Confronting my fears

I have been experimenting with circus skills classes (no, really, I have), and a few weeks ago found me dangling from a trapeze. I was not entirely sold on the trapeze as the damn thing would not stay still, so, today I went and did silks, which are these. Silks were great. They were just like pole dancing and I shall go again. You have to wrap them the correct way round your limbs and hook them around bits of you with your feet. It is essentially a cross between knitting, bondage and acrobatics. Anyway, with the help of a special knot for terrified people, I managed to dangle upside down in the silks with my legs in the air and splayed out in the splits position (I mean, I can't entirely do the splits but just so you can imagine the shape), which has been my worst fear since I was old enough to articulate what a fear is. And it was fine. I am still alive. But I would now like to know when my midlife crisis is going to end and I can go back to sitting on the sofa knitting and watching Jeremy Kyle*. I am now sitting and having a nice cup of tea while I stop trembling. Then I will clean the bathroom and that will ground me.

I am on the frill of my gold shawl. It may even get finished in this lifetime!

* I'm not even sure I'm really old enough to have a midlife crisis yet, so I hope the worst isn't still to come. I really don't want to end up standing on the wing of aeroplanes or anything awful like that.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Taking stock of life and deciding to knit something (and sew something as well)

You remember I had a thing I was miserable about? Over it. No, really. It isn’t over (it will never be over!!!) but do you know, you get to a point where you think, we’ve laughed, we’ve hugged, we’ve cried, we’ve had catharsis, we’ve had lager, I’ve texted apologies for the texts I sent when I’d had the lager, we’re done. So there we are, the Situation is ongoing and I shall update briefly when I am in front of the House of Lords in ten years’ time or as soon as we make the Telegraph, but, I am not miserable any more.
I strongly suspect you of photographing me and thus I shall fix you with a disapproving glare
Partner is happy, as Partner spent a large part of the early months of this year standing over me like a Victorian patriarch in a melodrama, beard blowing in the draft from our inadequate central heating, shouting ‘this is not worth a single tear of yours! You have done nothing wrong! Get up NOW and get a solicitor!’ as I huddled sobbing under the duvet.

I have some actual serious advice for anyone reading this who is at the huddling sobbing under the duvet no-one-can-ever-help-me stage, so listen up briefly and then I shall show you the knitting: ring the Samaritans. It helps. I do not know how it helps, as what happens is you cry and they are sympathetic in an appropriate way, but it does. And you can sometimes get legal advice and help (right up to the providing-a-barrister stage) for free under your house and possibly car insurance, but, check the terms. I tell you these things because you may not have Partner with flowing beard standing over you in a crisis, so I have distilled there the essence of what you must do. Remember.
I just sometimes wonder what people are going to do with it when I sell them spray paint
Anyway, so here I am and I look around me and I think, gosh, I did not think I would get this far but now I have I should probably do something, perhaps I should start by sewing up some of this fabric, I don’t know.
I don't iron it before I cut it, no
I have no clue how I even acquired some of this fabric. Some of it had John Lewis labels on so I suppose that solves part of the mystery but when did I buy it? The only thing I can think of is that in times of distress I must dissassociate mentally and trot off and buy fat quarters. If you are in Cambridge and you see me ambling off towards CallyCo or John Lewis with an empty bag and a vacant expression come up to me, wave your hand in front of my eyes and say, Susie! Credit Card Bill! Stop It! And hopefully that will stop the ridiculous fabric pile from becoming any bigger. Make sure I don’t just turn round and wander off towards wool, though. Anyway, I am making an Amy Butler Gum Drop Pillow with these and I am particularly looking forward to stuffing it with bean bag beans, if anyone knows a way of doing this where I will not end up with them sticking to my entire body with static like last time let me know.
I am doing it without stitchmarkers. Scary
This is the Shawl Of Guilt, I feel bad about this. I started a knitalong with this shawl which is a very beautiful pattern from Chrissy of Stitched Together and I kind of dropped out because I had no mental capacity for knitting. Anyway, I could not forget the pattern, and I wanted the shawl, so I have started it again and I am on the last chart, somehow my mental capacity came back. Lace scares me a bit: sometimes it will not Get Knit however hard you try, sometimes it almost knits itself, it makes me think of the Fates and their thread. Anyway, this time I am hopeful. I think it will be pretty when it is done.
I keep having to buy new needles because I keep sitting on them
And a boring rainbow sock. I am Using Up Stuff, and this wool is part of the Stuff I am Using Up. I say I am Using Up Stuff: I am going to make a small exception, as I am going to buy some new wool to knit something for Dan. I am going to knit something, and in return Dan is going to do an open mic night with me. Yes, I think I will soon be ready: I can force my way through Where Did You Sleep Last Night, I have my post feminist deconstructed backing for Jolene and I have written new lyrics. Dan’s end of the bargain will involve him dealing with my inevitable hyperventilation and downing of Stella just as we are about to go on, and suppressing his winces every time I miss the change to B7: mine just involves possibily a bit of colourwork. I shall look for a suitable pattern.

I went on a trapeze at the weekend. I was really, really scared. I shall probably try it again, though.

Monday, 30 July 2012

A very, very long way from Yoga

Recently I have been venturing out into the scary world of fitness classes. This is because I am cross-training as I wish to become a better pole dancer because I am dedicated to my Art, those are words I thought I would never type. As I am always on the hunt for a Bargain, I prowl the wider reaches of community centres and colleges where good-value classes might be experienced. I have just been to one that had possibly the highest muscle-working-to-pence ratio I have ever experienced, and I think it may actually have killed me. Weights were involved. Crunches were also involved and a man shouting at me ‘come on, Susie, stick your bum out’, it was not dignified.

I had to fill in a questionnaire where you had to state what regular exercise you took if you were over 35 (I mean, that is depressing to start with), and I wrote cheerfully, ‘yoga and pole dancing!’, I bet they will read that afterwards and think, oh, the poor innocent (although, I would like to state that I was the only one there who could touch my toes). I am now going to have as hot a shower as I can stand in an attempt to stave off tomorrow’s inevitable suffering, which will involve me crawling behind the desk in the art shop moaning and looking like Mrs Overall, trying to look sad enough that someone will offer to go and get me a croissant. All those PE lessons I missed at school – I have now been paid back. I am half tempted to go back next week and see what I would look like if I actually developed muscles somewhere around my middle, as at the moment muscles are there none. Weights! Bench pressing! Something that may or may not have been called a Burpee?! I may need therapy. Read the small print, other intrepid bargain-exercise-class-goers, that is my advice, because that was a very long way from Yoga, to which you can generally wear your most stylish leggings and not break a sweat.

(You know what else is hard? Zumba is hard. But do you know, I’m starting to kind of admire my own intrepidness. Do you know there's a 37-year-old Russian gymnast? You see, you can get fit at any age!).

Monday, 23 July 2012

Zine review. Papa Tofu Loves Ethiopian Food

As I have said previously, I am now vegetarian again and looking to expand my cooking repertoire once more. I have a useful piece of advice for you if you are vegetarian, and that is, learn to cook vegan food, because, to start with you might end up vegan and if that happens you will be half way there, but also, if you are vegetarian, there are a lot of very depressing recipes out there of the Add Cheese To Everything variety *cough* Delia *cough*. I stopped by a restaurant the other day and was looking at the menu, and I swear to you that every option for veggies involved goats cheese or blue cheese. The only cheese I can manage is cheddar.What would I have eaten? I would have starved, and that would have been sad. I think there was a period in the late nineties where it was actually illegal in Britain to not eat goats cheese and rocket salad at least once a fortnight if you did not eat meat. Anyway that is my rant about cheese, which is, in essence, that replacing a sausage with a bit of goats cheese does not a delicious vegetarian alternative make, and that is why vegan food is great as it is imaginative and different. If you are reading this and thinking ha, ha. No, then, you are not up with the revolution that is modern vegan cooking, Buster. Come here, sweet innocent, and be educated.
Try not to be scared by Papa Tofu. He means well. He just looks like something from your darkest nightmares
So, I wanted to show you this excellent recipe zine that I bought – Papa Tofu loves ethiopian food, by Kittee Berns. Kittee has a website which contains my favourite Evah recipe for Aloo Gobi, which we eat often and which is Partner’s top favourite, especially when I make a mistake and put too much chilli in. Anyway, I had no idea about ethiopian cooking, which (tilts head thoughtfully) I do not believe has come to Cambridge yet, but, I am dipping my toe cautiously into the waters.
You need to imagine how much better this photograph would be if I had not done it on formica so that everything is beige. That on the left is my delicious spicy niter kibbeh in a natty Klippit
Kittee’s recipes are based on a spice blend – berbere – and a flavoured butter – niter kibbeh (using vegan marg – I used Pure), and she gives you recipes for both of these. I was able to make the niter kibbeh (and should be able to make the berbere) using spices I had already, but, this is the spice corner:
Buying spices from Tesco and Asda isn't going to deconstruct heartless global capitalism, is it now. Think on, Susie
So you can see we have quite a lot (I tell a lie – I have had to buy allspice and I bought some fenugreek powder, but only because I hadn’t got the energy to grind it myself). If you have fewer spices to start with you will have to spend more money, but it is worth it (go to your local mad health food shop/ indian grocer, it is better value. You can see I have got my spices there from every shop in Cambridge, so I know whereof I speak). My niter kibbeh smells amazing (and that’s not a euphemism). I have unfortunately stained Papa Tofu already with turmeric, but I think he can take it. I suspect it won’t be the last.

I branched out into a bit of ethiopian cooking last Saturday. I had leftover dal (this is obviously completely inauthentic and from the wrong country but it was leftover, so, you know), and I made Kittee’s ye’abesha gomen, spicy greens, which were delicious. I also had injera. Kittee has a recipe for injera fakeouts in the zine, but I could not find teff flour even when I walked backwards and forwards the entire length of Cambridge chiz chiz, so I will have to order it online. In the meantime I used another recipe I found in this book, which used millet flour instead. God: injera is delicious. It is like an oatcake or a big fermented pikelet. How lovely does that sound, eh? A big fermented pikelet? Is your mouth watering? It’s like Derbyshire meets Ethiopia.
Best dinner ever and a giant fermented pikelet. Have I converted you all to the veggie cause? I must have done
I shall be making more Ethiopian next weekend – I am going to try red lentils in a spicy gravy, and I am very excited. I may even make the epic trek to Waitrose to see if I can track down any berbere and not have to pay a million pounds for shipping.

Anyway, in conclusion. This zine is great, and you should buy it. It has about 30 recipes, which are all vegan and even gluten free. There are starters, sides, spicy stews and milder stews, and something very exciting involving chickpea fish. It also has loads of notes on everything you ever needed to know about ethiopian food: how to serve it, where to get ingredients, why you should be careful with dachshunds (I cringed), what to do with leftovers, anecdotes, all sorts of things.

And I’m really impressed (says she, non-patronisingly) with the work that must have gone into it. So much research! How many mainstream cookery books have you seen that give you a recipe for niter kibbeh? Have you ever seen Nigella flip an injera? It’s fun to read, as well. Kittee comes across as a nice person. I mean, she might not be: she might be the sort of person who creeps up behind dogs, pokes them in the ribs, and goes ‘woooh!’ as I once witnessed happening to that poor unusually furry guide dog in John Lewis. Or, she might go through doors that people are holding open and not say thank you. We just don’t know. But she’s made a nice zine. So, if you would like to buy one, too, and be cool and ahead of the food pack like me, you can find the details here. And if you find anywhere that sells teff flour or berbere near Cambridge please let me know as I am fed up of going and peering thoughtfully in all the shops on Mill Road. I’m worried they’re getting suspicious.

(I mowed the lawn and did a zumba class! I’m so on a roll).

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Flag waving

I have found the most patriotic house in Cambridge. Unfortunately it was raining when I took this picture, as I can imagine this house looks even more impressive in bright sunshine. I felt there ought to have been a crowd of people outside, waving flags, drinking nice cups of tea, singing Jerusalem and being slightly sexually repressed.
Look closely at the corgi in the middle of the downstairs window. Is that literally the campest thing you have ever seen? I thought so
There were flags outside Al Amin too. (I say that as if you all know Al-Amin. Al-Amin is the nice shop on Mill Road where I buy my millet flour, of which exciting foodstuff more tomorrow, poppadums and harissa).
Yeah yeah, Al-Amin. Asian, Arabic, Persian and Afro Caribbean but not a single packet of berbere and I can't ask if they've got it because I don't know how to pronounce it. Burrburr? BearBear? Burrburr-eh? Chumley?
I am surprised actually at the dearth of flags and sports propaganda given that the Olympics are starting next week. I keep reading bits in the papers that say it’s because you are not allowed to use Olympic branding unless you are one of the official Olympic sponsors. Is that true? I found this in the Independent, which is obviously faintly worrying, as we have a little Olympic display in the window at work which consists of some wooden rings which we have painted carefully with acrylic paint and hung on transparent nylon thread. Now, though, I realise we have been cynically threatening the profits of Proctor and Gamble and BP, and indeed the ultimate viability of the Olympics itself! So, if you are sitting down next week, all ready with your Big Mac and Coke waiting for the synchronised swimming to start, and suddenly a message flashes up on the screen saying ‘there will be no synchronised swimming because a selfish shop in Cambridge impinged on our trademark and now we can't afford the nose clips’ then it will be my fault. I am just apologising in advance.

Objectively speaking, it would be a good idea for them to make an example of me because it is not like I am not used to lengthy pointless vindictive legal battles. I do hope I will still be able to watch the gymnastics, though, as I like them very much.

No rain next week. Its... summer!!!!. I think I perhaps ought to mow the lawn?

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

In My Hands

When I was younger (in those innocent halcyon days) I only ever thought of my hands in terms of whether or not they were attractive and if any of my nails were broken, which was obviously a disaster of epic proportions, oh the naivety of youth. Nowadays I am much, much more paranoid about my hands, but I do not care any more what they look like, in fact I would not care if they suddenly became green and hairy (well, I suppose I might a bit). No: I am paranoid about getting cuts, burns or other injuries, as I am always doing so much with my hands that it is just so inconvenient to have them out of action. The other night there was a bit of an injudicious moment with a piece of hot aubergine and I was completely furious with myself, but luckily I have no blisters (not as bad as the time I put my finger in hot fudge. Don’t ever do this. Learn from my mistakes).
OK so I bleached my hair so I look the part, but it turns out you actually have to practice your chord changes as well. So bourgeois
These are my roughened and calloused fingertips from playing the guitar. I do not know if my guitar just fights back more than other people’s, but, I get actual string indentations in my fingers which last for days. The fingertip issue is my least favourite thing about guitar playing (it’s going very well, thank you for asking). I find it strange and creepy having reduced feeling in the fingers of my left hand. Actually, if I stopped to think about it too much, I might panic and run around the house squawking. Also, I do not know how this can be and I am sure I must be wrong, but, it does not seem to me that there can be many people who both play guitar and knit lace out of laceweight silk, because, when you knit lace with very thin slippy yarn you kind of have to flick the yarnovers with your left hand sometimes to separate them out as they get mixed up on the needle (do you know what I mean?), and, this is more difficult to do when your left hand fingertips are knackered and a bit numb, as are mine. I feel if this were a common problem there would be some kind of a product for it. At work we have a Special Rubber Knobbly Finger Thing for when we are counting out sheets of thin paper. Perhaps something like this would be a good idea, but then, I don’t know how I would get it to stay on, so perhaps I will leave the Special Rubber Knobbly Finger Thing in its Special Place behind the till.
Note to self, next time use more dry talc as hot skin on metal does not go well. I bet this kind of thing never happened to Anastasia
Blister from pole dancing: I took the top level of skin off. I have bruises as well, all over my knees and down the insides of my legs. I have been trying to get a good photograph for you but frankly I started to think that was a little odd, so I’m afraid you will just have to imagine. I recently found myself considering ways to ‘improve my upper body strength’ and pricing up – wait for it – gym memberships??!!!! (fyi, the YMCA seems to be relatively affordable although I stress the relatively - £10 a month?) as I had a vision of myself toning my biceps using some kind of a machine and then being able to hang upside down effortlessly from my pole. That sentence just there is top of my list of Things I Did Not Think I Would Ever Write. Readers, I am frightened: what if pole dancing is The Sport For Me? That would be crap, wouldn’t it? That would be far worse than falling in love with someone you shouldn’t fall in love with (as the song goes), because, experience tell me that I should not in any way underestimate my ability to domesticate & indeed render monogomous even someone utterly unpromising, but, I do certainly doubt my ability to fit a pole to the ceiling joist of our living room. In fact, the rooms in our house may literally not be wide enough to swing a cat in so what that says for me swinging round a pole with legs extended I leave to your imagination. I may go and google boxercise classes instead as this whole pole thing may be one of those things that do not end well. Anyway off to the pub to ponder these things further.
Out in the world in my Fairysteps shoes ( with the green laces. So comfy! I want a pair of the boots for winter but will have to rob a bank first! Don't worry though, I'll make sure I go for Barclays!
(It costs £150 for a pole. I do the research, so you don’t have to. You’d probably have to get someone to fit it, though. Good luck explaining that to a carpenter).

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Novel update and bored of the rain

God. What a month it has been. I have been dealing with my Difficult Situation, and there have been tears, laughter, glittery cupcakes and banging of heads against walls, but, I would now like to declare OFFICIALLY that I am (cautiously) back in the land of the living, and I would like to update you on my novel. I have gone through, rewritten bits and checked the spelling, and I have it now as a pdf and a word document which I am going to make a start at trying to upload to something or other tomorrow. As I do not know entirely what I am doing and how successful this is going to be (or indeed how long it is going to take…), I thought I would say that, in the meantime, if anyone just wants me to send them the pdf (obvs free of charge, indeed I should probably be paying you…), then email me at uselessbeautydesigns [at], and I will email you back with the pdf attached.

Remember: no matter how bad this book is, I guarantee you it is inner-goddess free. And no-one, at any point, ever says ‘Oh my!’ when confronted with bdsm paraphernalia. These things I promise you. And although it starts off a bit slow, if you can get through a few chapters it starts to pick up a bit, and, if you can get through the whole thing, then you will know who the characters are and be able to read number two, which is better. I bet I’ve sold you on it, haven’t I? I’ll wait for the flood of emails. (It’s alright, that’s self-aware irony).

I think it has now rained in Cambridge every day for three months. Every single day! And our front door is swollen and we cannot open it, so every time I leave the house I have to walk through the back garden, and fight all the greenery, which is overgrown, because I cannot get out to trim it, because it has rained EVERY SINGLE DAY FOR THREE MONTHS. I am very bored now of the rain, and would like to request some sunshine, please, although Partner says there will be no sunshine for another three years, as actually we are in year three of a strange six-year weather cycle, and he knows this because he heard someone say it on the cricket. Luckily, I have decided not to listen to Partner, and I decided not to listen to him anymore even before he told me that my hair made me look like the albino monk from the Da Vinci Code. But I still wish we could have some sunshine. Please?

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Newsflash. I have found a book that is worse than Twilight. No, really

I am commuting to London for a few weeks (hopefully back and blogging next week), and therefore now I am a sophisticated metropolitan. I stride on to the train in the mornings with my small cappuccino and croissant and I do the Guardian crossword (not the hard one), also I have worked out the best place to stand on the tube and I run up the escalator looking purposeful and tutting. However: I forsook the Guardian crossword on Monday and succumbed to something shameful.
People, don't do it, however bad things may seem and whatever your Inner Goddess says. She's written two more, you know. Someone stop her
Yes, I kind of hate myself. Does this mark a low point? Who wants to take advantage of my questionable emotional state to send me a first edition of Thomas Hardy and a contract wherein I may wish to specify in long boring legally unenforceable detail my feelings vis-à-vis caning? Only I have to warn you that I would put the Thomas Hardy straight up on ebay, and I am fairly sure I have not emitted an aura of innocent sensuality since about 1992, if then. Perhaps I'm confusing it with the CK1.

I have finished it, it was quick but unspeakable, I have given it away, we will never refer to it again, and I will just warn you that if you read it on the train people do look at you, especially if you actually cringe with your entire body and go 'uggghhh' every time she refers to her inner goddess. Sorry, man who sat next to me on the train from Kings Cross yesterday, I could tell you were nervous and I was not sure if it was the book or the glittery cupcake. It did kind of go everywhere, didn’t it? Glitter hangs around, as well, doesn’t it? Never mind. You be careful and sit next to someone reading the Telegraph next time.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Saying thank you and a quick update

I am checking in to say thank you so much for all your comments on my last blog post, it was very encouraging. Also I wanted particularly to say to Sarah who said about that terrible sinking feeling you get when people want you to read their books that, yes, I understand completely and I know that feeling, because not only have people done that to me (I once didn’t get beyond the first line of someone’s novel, and yes, I still feel guilty) but I also used to read unsolicited manuscripts for an agent. And it was at this time in my life that I learned a very, very important lesson, which I should perhaps have applied in other contexts: if anyone ever asks you if you are broadminded, you say NO, because no good will ever come of saying yes. Just trust me on this one. If they have to ask, you are not close enough for your being broadminded to lead to any fun. I may think of a way to shorten that and put it on a tshirt.
I hate to be judgmental about wildlife but I really feel this might be the ugliest duck I have ever seen. Is it even a duck? We could not decide
Anyway, so I am going to get my novels up asap, and this is how we will do it: I will make them available, tell you when, and then we will never mention it again: you can read them, or not, as you feel, and I shall be happy and grateful to know that I have uploaded them with the potential of them being read one day by someone. I do not need to know if you have read them, I do not mind if you read the first page, think, NO, and go and eat biscuits or read Twilight, I do not mind if you hate every single one of my characters including the horse they collectively rode in on (there is no horse, this is a turn of phrase. There is a dog called Rex though, I had forgotten Rex) – this is all fine. We can move on. I will still love you. You can read my blog (or not). I have cat pictures. But thank you for your support, as it means a lot to me. X x x look, kisses for you all.
I cannot walk past black/brown/grey spots cat without her having a sniff round whatever I am carrying. Cat, in this bag is a canvas upon which I will paint a picture of Aunty Kath in which she looks as if she has been exhumed, which will cause all the art class to ask if she is as fierce as she looks, and me to reply, yes
I have realised there is a slightly depressing bit in the first novel, despite what I said, but I would like to reassure you that it all turns out fine in the end. Indeed, the only person I have allowed to read my novels who does not actually have to be nice to me as he is not bound by ties of blood/ affection/ mortgage said he ‘never realised I was such a cheerful person’. And that was his only comment (and I feel fairly secure in saying that cheeriness was not a quality he was ever going to admire me for). We have not discussed my novels since. I am saving that one for if I ever become famous for anything and you have to give examples, for an article in the Observer or similar, of when people in the past damned you with faint praise, as I bet no-one ever said that to Kafka.

(In other news: I am painting a picture of Aunty Kath and it is so bad I actually can’t show it to you. I am going to give it to her for Christmas and insist she hangs it somewhere really visible. Also, in an act of minor triumph this week, which is not an easy week, I managed to do this in pole dancing (with no hands). This does not look hard but it is, you have to grip very firmly with your thighs; however, when you have mastered it, you can start to do more complicated moves. Where will it end? I just keep thinking, as I add more kinds of spin to my repertoire and some floor moves like on the Pineapple Dance Studios programme, if things go really, really belly up and I have to look penury and despair right in the eye, which I actually might, although I shall not bore you with my Difficult Situation again, at least I have a marketable skill now! I will be fine).

Friday, 8 June 2012

A post in which I am deeply uncool and ask you to read my novel

Right. After the blinding success of your advice on my hair, (and I want you to know that I wore bright red lippy with it yesterday and it looked very cool), I have one final favour to ask you lovely readers, and then I am so going to leave you alone. Not only will I make no more demands, but I will post constructive things about knitting and take some nice pictures (not of mad cats) and be helpful. All this do I pledge. One more favour only.
Have some Waitrose Lemon Cupcake. Yum, taste of the middle classes, on offer, £2.45 for 4
This is how it is. Years ago, I used to write and it used to amuse me more than most things amuse me (obviously not as much as mad cats. I’ve met someone else who knows where the Mad Cats of Cambridge are, and now I’m stalking a particularly bold furry black one she’s told me about. I know this is an unhealthy development. I’ll let you know if we start work on a Cambridge Cat Map App). Before it stopped amusing me, I cranked out 2 1/2 novels, and I thought they were ok. I mean, Tolstoy wasn’t quivering in his grave, but there were a few bits in them that were funny and sometimes I used to drink wine, read them, and snigger, hur hur hur. Then life got silly and fiction couldn’t compete, and then I couldn’t even read, never mind write, because everything seemed Very Very Serious. Well, now I can write again, and I need to move on to the next novels or poetry (God help me) or whatever is to come, so I want these ones off the table, and I want someone else to read them who is not me. Because, they might be amused, and if not, they might think, this is rubbish and I could write something better and will do it, and then I will have something new to read myself. Who knows? It’s fine by me either way.
The pen is mightier than the sword, although, today, I am ashamed to admit, we brainstormed ways to kill a particular person with my new 2.25mm sock needles (blow them through a tube like darts), so, sock needles are probably mightiest of all
So I am going to try to self publish my novels as ebooks. I don’t know how ebooks work, I don’t know what I am doing, and I am certainly not intending to make any money out of it – it’s a clearing-the-decks exercise which will pay me back spiritually not monetarily (ha!): here is the favour I am asking. I don’t want your money: I want your souls. I know some of you nice people must read books sometimes. If I haul my reluctant arse off to the library with my laptop within the next month or so and work out what to do, would someone read my book? Please? I will do codes (if I can work out how!) so that there are free copies for blog readers. I cannot promise you much, but I can promise you it is not as bad as Fifty Shades of Grey (look, I read the blurb, it did not look good), it is a bit funny, there is a ginger cat in it, and it is not depressing. OK, that’s probably all I can say, but – not depressing! A bit funny! A ginger cat! That’s surely a start! Come on, you’ve read worse than that!

And it would be nice for me, because, when I am sitting grinding my teeth over my laptop in the library, all confused about what a Kindle is, I could think, I am fifty shades of despairing over how to upload my file, but, I will persevere. Because I, Susie, have a potential reader, and, as God is my witness, I will upload this file for them. Hell, I will even run the spellcheck. Because I care.

(OK, I’ve looked at Lulu quickly. This might be doable. OMGosh! Exciting. Off to rewrite chapter bloody 1).

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Blonde ambition (I'm out of blonde quotes now, you'll be pleased to know)

OK. I had my hair dyed. Do you want to see? Do you? Do you, though?
The stuff in the background is lavender and although it looks questionable it is allowed to be there
I look a bit knackered, because I’m having a bit of a week, and also because I am not photogenic. Try to imagine me with a few hours’ sleep and some lippy. I kind of love it. (Nobody say, ‘roots’). It took hours. We went through two applications of bleach and one of toner. After the first application of bleach it went that really unspeakable yellow that hair goes when you’ve had a really bad dye job or indeed done it yourself with some Domestos after a few too many Bacardi Breezers. The hairdresser washed it off and dried it and was saying, gosh, this is looking amazing, and I sat there thinking please God no, not on top of everything else, you as a capricious divinity cannot possibly have sent me orange hair. It is as bad as when the henna went wrong when I was 14 and Keith Smith called me Cheesy Wotsit all term, O what can I do, as obviously the hairdresser is looking enthusiastic even though I showed her the picture and everything. So I nervously squeaked out, do you think perhaps it should be a bit less orange, and it turned out we were only half way through and it was looking amazing for that stage, not as a finished thing.
Gremlin says, why go blonde, I find it incomprehensible
So that shows you that you should chat to your hairdresser all the way through and not get sidetracked reading articles in women’s magazines about how to be happier and make a peplum work, either or. I know how to be happier: shall I tell you? Write lyrics for songs. I have written a song and now I feel much better. All I need now is a McCartney to my Lennon (Dan, I believe you may know more than three chords, and I am looking at you. I am looking at you most pointedly).

Tuesday, 5 June 2012


I have been painting our living room. Our living room has gone unpainted for a while because Partner and I have this ongoing battle about painting things. Partner says we must paint the entire house WHITE like a MAD WHITE CUBE and if I show him dusky blue or grey he looks appalled and disgusted, and it all becomes difficult. I say, other people have colour in their houses why can’t we, let us experiment with subtle coffee colours. Then Partner says, no, WHITE! WHITE EVERYWHERE! And I say, clearly we are not suited, and actually you would probably be much better off with someone else, perhaps I will leave or alternatively you could leave, and Partner says, I cannot leave because I would have to make a lot of trips on the Number One bus with all my books in boxes, so we had better just find a way to compromise and live together. And I say, magnolia? And Partner says, no! WHITE!
Paintings by me
Paintings from etsy and I am reasonably sure there is nothing dodgy on that bookshelf
Anyway, my friend has now moved into a mansion, and after I saw it I decided Partner and I must make a pretense at living like adults, and not e.g. have a hole in the ceiling which is partly covered by a botch job involving handbag interfacing. So I gave in and painted the living room white, and actually I think it looks fine. It makes the room next to it look worse, but, I will move on to that one at some point, although I may do the bedroom next. I am embroidering this cushion to put in it,
I am working up to engaging with the French Knots
and I think I may cut off the back panel and back it with something different, then use the back panel to embroider something else. I have some skull transfers from Sublime Stitching, so I thought that might look nice. Skulls and roses.
I am a brave little soldier
I saw this furry little chap in Cambridge the other day. Is there anything sadder than a dog tied up outside a shop? He was being very brave and patient, and waiting. I bet he was left there for, ooh, a good five minutes. How do they get their faces to look so poignant? It is probably a skill I would do well to master.

(Dye job tomorrow. Me = nervous!).

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Episode of blonde

OK, ladies, Aunty Kath who objects to the term ladies even though it is ironic, and Dan. I am having a truly, truly rotten week with my Situation, and also I have sprained my finger pole dancing (I do a routine!) and it has swollen up. And I don’t want to alarm anyone, but there was talk last night of some students possibly doing ‘a bit of a routine’ at the carnival next year, although as it stands all everyone would hear would be the squeak of my inner thighs sliding down the pole and that is not elegant. I need your advice. But first, in the spirit of sharing things that do not go well, as well as things that do, I am going to show you my first portrait in oils, completed today. It is unspeakable. Let this be an inspiration to all future portrait painters that when your first portrait in oils looks like Mr Potato Head you should not necessarily just give up and put all your paints in the bin, because I am sure my next one will be better.
Oh good Lord. Perhaps I should start with less complex living things, perhaps those guinea pigs who are hairy and look the same at both ends
You see peppers, I could do. People, they are more complicated (this is based on a Rembrandt sketch but you wouldn’t know it!). When we lined them all up at the end you have never seen such a rogue’s gallery. We could not discuss the finer points of the brushwork because we were laughing so hard, gosh they were terrible. The words ‘Colonel Gadaffi’ may have been spoken about mine but that is a rumour I will not confirm. I was not going to go to art class because I was quite miserable about my situation, but the tarot cards (I know I sound mad. I’m actually quite nice) were quite definite that I should, and they were right, because all we did was laugh and it was cheering. Also I learned a lot, so it was worth creating something a bit daft. Painting, u r difficult (a bit).

OK. Now here’s the bit I want your advice on. This is a recent picture of me, and my hair is still like this pretty much:
Happy! Terrible Rembrandt Homages still unthought of!
Now I want to go peroxide blonde. I have made an appointment for next week, I have had a consultation and the hairdresser says it will look ‘very cool’. I want to go blonde like this:
I know what this model would say to anyone who tried to put her in a situation like mine. She would say, stick your malicious vexatious lawsuit right up your bum. Can you look as good as me in red lipstick? Thought not
And although I don’t look like this model obvs, I promise if I had peroxide blonde hair I would sort out my eyebrows so I don’t look like Alastair Darling, and I will wear eye makeup (occasionally) so that it looks cool. In other words, I will dress it up. It will look fine. Won’t it? What do you think? Peroxide blonde or die (dye) and have a change and a new lease of life, or stay mousy and a bit fed up? (This isn’t a response to the miserable situation – I had rung the hairdresser before things got bad). I don’t want highlights, and I don’t want to look subtle – I want peroxide blonde or nothing. I want to look like Blondie! I want a new image! Tell me this isn’t a mistake! Partner is just about on the verge of locking me in the cupboard to stop any attempts at self-definition, because his taste in female adornment frankly makes the Amish look a bit racy, but I am fine. Because none of cupboards have locks and TBH since all the rain most of them don’t shut properly.

What do you think?

Sunday, 27 May 2012

I could get a piece of meat/ from a barren tree. Nothing ever spoiled on me

I have got a confession for you. I do not like gardening. There. I said it. It is like housework but with grass and I do not like housework, either. It is obviously very ironic, then, that we have a ridiculously large garden (ridiculously large for Cambridge, not for the rest of the world,) and if I am completely honest I sometimes have fantasies about selling it to a property developer. In fact, I have worked out where the paths would go and everything. I appreciate that this confession will now lead to my blacklisting and everybody unsubscribing from my blog but I think it is best that you know the truth. I don’t like it.

Strangely enough, though, the moment I admitted to myself that I really don’t like all the boring bits and decided instead to concentrate on the bits I might conceivably find more interesting – i.e. growing flowers and possibly dinner, rather than Strimming Edges and engaging with Weed Suppressant Membrane – all my plants started growing better. It was as if they had had a conference together and decided to reward my self-awareness. You see, this is why plants make me nervous. They have minds of their own.
I have actually watched Black Squirrel dig in these pots, there are literally no words for how bad that animal is. The spiky thing in the middle is a particularly naughty weed
The ones with actual flowers on are stocks. I bought them from Homebase, put them in a pot and did not kill them. This is an achievement for me on a par with, well, it is an achievement so great I have no parallel with which to illustrate it for you. And the straggly green crappy things are going to be Marigolds (not the gloves) which I have nurtured on the windowsill, drumroll, from seed. From seed! But this is my best one ever:
As God is my witness, I shall never go short of Saag Aloo again. So long as I don't run out of potatoes
Spinach. I put soil in a planter, I planted seeds straight in it, I waited an entire month for them to grow, and the day before I had decided to upend the planter and use it for something else I had green shoots and did a victory dance right in the teeth of the competent gardener next door. And look at it now! I pick bits! I eat bits! Everyone round mine come the zombie apocalypse! I have gone wild today and planted tomato plants in a gro-bag (apparently they come in different varieties and the woman on the market thinks you should have an opinion re which one you want. Who knew?*) and Oriental Salad Leaves. Who knows what will happen? I feel like Alan Titchmarsh. You leave my seedlings alone, bold hairy ginger cat from the house behind. My eye, it is upon you.

*Cambridge people, stall opposite M&S, 3 for £4, bargain.

(The title is from a Kristin Hersh song. I am showing my age. Also it is ironic I am thinking of this song because I am thinking of going vegetarian again. Yes. Bring on the tofu and the nutritional yeast, I think I'm woman enough).

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

For Dan

This is just to show my brother Dan my latest painting, because he was once foolish enough to show interest, and that means he must now be spammed for the rest of his life with renderings of increasingly bizarre vegetables. I am sparing you my Study Of Asparagus In A Purple Mug thus far though, Dan, as I do not like the way I have depicted the mug, although I do like the asparagus and particularly the gold highlights which are inspired by Klimt, who is no doubt turning in his grave.
I think we only painted peppers because the teacher is fed up of me painting things purple. I could see him thinking, ha, try turning that purple, damn you. I got a bit of a purple shadow in there, though
It is my opinion that oil painting is the Best Kind Of Painting, because, it all merges together and kind of paints it with you. It is like someone is helping! The Universe? Also, if you cock it up, you can just sigh and wipe it all off with a bit of kitchen paper and then start again. I did that twice!

This painting took me about 1 1/2 hours with time for chatting and biscuits. Partner laughs at this and says paintings are supposed to take longer, and he has never known anyone churn them out like me. Then he made me watch Tony Hancock in The Rebel, and now when I show him things he says, and when will we be working on Aphrodite At The Waterhole? Well be careful Partner, because that will show you if I take up sculpture and arrive home one day with a giant rock in my bike basket. Think on.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Adventures in nail art

Someone at work has started a ridiculous craze of ridiculousness and now I am trapped in an unhealthy co-dependent cycle of imitation and one-upmanship.
I am still waiting to wake up one day and want to look like Audrey Hepburn. I am sure it will happen
Nail varnish. It is cheap, it is easier to change than most of the rest of your life when you are bored of it, not everyone’s cuticles are as knackered as mine. Le Tout Cambridge is wearing it. Obviously I cannot confine myself to tasteful blues and greys etc (I think it was Vivianne who once said blue nails made her think of corpses) as I do not have taste, I must go Wild. I considered the Caviar Mani but decided I did not have that amount of money to blow on the little beads which would come off and end up in my sandwich. I tried Avon Mosaic Effects Crackle Top Coat and I thought that was rather cool, but now I have moved, inexorably and with the painful inevitability of a drunken person falling off a bar stool, towards Glitter.
Memo to self: stop watching TOWIE. Further memo to self: attempt to acquire subdued and cerebral style icons. Joan Bakewell? Possibly
This is Rimmel Disco Ball (second from right, top pic). It is rubbish. This is four coats – four! And you can hardly see the glitter. Don’t waste your £2.48 at Asda. What I want is the kind of glitter that would make a drag artist pause and wonder if it might be a tiny bit de trop, not a subtle shimmer. Subtle shimmers are for skirting boards not nails. So when I heard a rumour of pots of nail glitter in Superdrug I was off there with a beady expression. And you know what? Since I last got into the nail thing, there is a whole world out there of nail art. There are stickers. There are foils (which make your nails look metallic? I don’t know). There are nail art pens (I very much doubt my capacity to produce anything attractive with a nail art pen but for those of you with steady hands - there are nail art pens!).

Do you ever wonder whether, if your life ever goes very, very wrong, there will be a moment when you think, stop. I should just not be doing this? Well, I can now tell you from personal experience that that moment comes when you find yourself, at 37, with a mortgage, a partner, extensive professional experience and a complicated emotional past, looking at the nail art transfers in Clare’s Accessories and thinking, shall I spend £3 on some rhinestones, and if I do, should I put them on every nail or just my thumbs. Well, of course I didn’t buy the rhinestones. I didn’t buy the glitter either. Nail glitter?  At my age? That would just be silly. Wouldn’t it?
1st rule of glitter: the minute you open it you have glitter all over your house for ever and ever
Yes, absolutely silly when you can get a great big pot of glitter for kids cheaper and bigger at your local friendly art shop. Hooray! Now I just have to think of a time when I will not need to do anything too complicated with my hands for an hour so I can try it out (base coat and dip). Might that time come tomorrow? I think it may. Can I cook a vegetarian shepherd’s pie mostly with my elbows if necessary? I think I can.

(You can get lip transfers that make your lips glittery as well. I mean, I won’t do. I’m just saying that FYI. They have them in Boots!).

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Sorbetto tops and why stay stitching is probably a good idea

I have been sewing and using up stash.
Peacock feathers are a bad omen and mean DEATH. I don't mind. I like bad omens
I’m making Sorbetto tops (this is a free pattern from Colette and a very nice one, thank you Colette). Because of my aforementioned exciting IT issues, I could not print the pattern out but had to have it done at the print shop next to work by the man who works there who has a patient face. His patient face did not shift even when I made him measure the test square particularly carefully, ‘because it is a dressmaking pattern and if it is not 10cm square NONE OF THIS WILL WORK!!!’. Anyway, it was worth me and the patient man going through all that, because, although the Sorbetto top looks boxy and a bit frumpy when you have made it, when it is on, it is actually very nice, and an extremely useful shape. I wear mine with my green skinny jeans from Top Shop. I cannot believe skinny jeans are still in fashion but that was literally all they had in Top Shop, although I am a bit disappointed not to have realised that when I wore them with with my funky red flat boots I would look like an elf. Not a funky fashion-forward elf. The kind of elf who would be hanging around the back of Santa’s toymaking conveyor belt, smoking and making dismissive gestures behind the back of that Patron Saint Of Christmas.

I am not happy with the binding on the grey sorbetto top – the neckline doesn’t quite hang right. I think this might be because when they tell you to stay stitch, actually they mean it. But never mind! I have more fabric,

There is a deer on this fabric somewhere as well. The irony, it burns
And I think I might make another sorbetto top. I bought this fabric cheap cheap (because one of the advantages of the sorbetto top is that it only takes a metre, + any old crappy bits you can scare up for the binding) from Paperchase on Tottenham Court Road, in the sale. The man on the counter was having a bad day so I helped him cut it (‘follow the stripes!’). This fabric is knowingly ironic. If you say that first off, that makes it ok to make and wear a top with butterflies and kittens on it when you are 37. Knowingly ironic, remember that. Gosh. I am almost a hipster.

(Also, I have mastered a new spin in pole dancing. I can do three now. I can do step around, fireman + various exciting fireman variations, and cartwheel. The girls on TOWIE were doing it, and I would like to point out that I am better than they were. I am not even just better than Gemma, who seemed to be wearing trousers and a big jumper and not trying at all. Do you know what this means? It means anyone can learn to do anything, at any age, despite any natural disadvantages. So if anyone is reading this and has leanings towards origami or revolutionising nuclear fission or something, don’t let anything stop you. If I can learn to pole dance, you can certainly revolutionise the physics establishment).

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Angry Picture, Happy Bag

OK, first thing, because I feel a bit embarrassed about this so just want to clarify: after I did the dramatic post a bit ago about How Blogger Has Stopped Me Blogging, The Bastards (and thank you all so much for all your comments and encouragement, it was much appreciated), I realised I could go back to the old interface, so I can still blog with pictures for a bit until they take it away completely, which hopefully won’t be for a couple of months. So after a couple of months I am hoping I might have worked out a solution even if it is just using the local community centre’s wifi (that would work! I can sit there with my coffee and wave to everyone I know from the committee and pole dancing, and they will all come over and critique my pictures!)
Hello hello! I'm a monster!
Anyway, so, quick one today. As things were a bit rough at the end of last week with my Situation, I did not have within me reserves of concentration/ intelligence to spend on anything but did not want to sit staring at the tv as that doesn’t help. You brood. Luckily, though, the Universe had sent me a Monster Bag Kit! We sell these at work and I had been trying to put one together but customers kept interrupting me selfishly wanting to buy things (joke) so I had brought it home, and I finished it. I think this possibly makes me the only person in the world who has ever actually finished a Monster Bag Kit. It was a bit of a challenge. I would like to see the child who could make this as I had to wrestle the corners (it is very strong felt) and my needle broke. So that would have to be a child with strong hands and a store of backup needles, also probably experience of selling bags on etsy. Recommended age 30+, as my manager said as she saw me struggling with the embroidery on the front and swearing. Anyway, isn’t it cute? If anyone ever stumbles upon a Monster Bag Kit, I think you should line it and put a snap fastening on and that would make it very functional (because it is strong), but as it is a sample for the shop I have not done this. I am very happy to take this back to the shop for display as although I enjoyed making it I have no use for a Monster Bag, although I will try not to stand over customers hissing, you be careful with that bag, I hope you’ve washed your hands. Besides, if I am good and return completed samples they may let me loose on the fimo. Or the resin. Oooh….
Brooding. Not brooding! Angry. Happy happy!
We have a little display of my pictures near our fireplace and the Monster Bag is leaning next to my picture where everyone says, were you in a bad mood when you painted it. And actually - I was! But not by the end! And it is my favourite picture so far. It is Stormy Sky Over Bloomsbury and the buildings look odd as I was playing with perspective (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it). So, Angry Picture, Happy Bag. I feel like I’ve unwittingly made conceptual art. Conceptual art? God. Think it might be time to knit something…

Friday, 11 May 2012

Down the rabbit hole and up the pole

I am on our local neighbourhood committee (lots of fun! Everyone join your local neighbourhod committee! We are apparently the most deprived ward in East Anglia!), and when it was mentioned by the man who runs the local community centre that they were running pole dancing classes, then my ears pricked up. Because, readers, I have been wanting to try pole dancing for the longest time, and I had googled previously but was put off by the amount of money you had to pay for a course. This one is much more affordable (in line with yoga), I could pay per class, and also the community centre is literally five minutes from my house. So I could be on the sofa in my trackies with a cup of tea and Judge Judy at 6:50pm and with my thighs wrapped round a pole at 7pm if I wanted to. I could not resist. So I am now learning pole dancing and it is huge amounts of fun, I am very glad I started, and so I would like to tell you about it in case you would like to try it too.

Also it is socially less awkward than yoga (not in general, only for me), because with yoga I only like one particular kind and (unbelievably!) partner’s ex is one of the major teachers of this particular kind in Cambridge and is apparently besties with the Guru in India who invented it (I swear I did not know this). So I am restricted, as I am nervous of bumping into her as she does not like me (she once said to me, ‘and did they have whippets and flat caps in that little northern house you grew up in, Susie?’) and I am not dealing with that kind of thing while I am doing a down dog. So, pole dancing it is for the moment, or at least until my nice yoga teacher returns from maternity leave. Here are some questions people have asked me:

1/ What do you do in classes?
Well, I have only had two lessons so I am no expert ;-). I thought we would spend the first month perhaps leaning against the pole a bit or walking round it in a strutting fashion, but no, we were straight up it and spinning round. Basically you do different types of spins, you climb the pole in various ways, grip it between your legs, and dangle off it, and you do a bit of dance around it and on the floor to make up a routine to music. Excitingly, you can have your pole set either to static or spin, so when it is static it is like swinging round a lamppost (for example), and when it is on spin it spins with you and you really get some speed up. This was a shock to me at first but my eyes have uncrossed now and I am better.

2/ Is it difficult?
Yes, it is. If you have a background in gym or dance then I suspect it’s easier (I don’t! – So don’t let that put you off!) but the first lesson is a real killer. You end up covered with bruises all the way down the insides of your thighs. After my first time as well, my arms were so painful I could hardly change gear on the car and I could not – too much information alert – pull my pants up (it’s ok, Partner did all the jokes). My muscles didn’t work. I had to wriggle into my pants in a hula-hooping motion. So, for your first time, don’t schedule any pant action that might be witnessed for the day after, and don’t try to wear skinny jeans. And don’t plan any journeys where you’re going to have to change gear a lot. I mean, the A10 might be alright (straight 50mph behind a tractor until you hit Hunstanton) but no city centres. Second gear made me whimper.

3/ What do you wear?
Well, I wondered whether I should email the teacher before I started about what to wear but I thought, no, then she will think I think I need nipple pasties or something and have got the wrong end of the stick, so I didn’t. Then she sent me an information sheet which said, you will have to wear shorts as you need to be able to grip the pole with the flesh on your thighs and I thought, Christ no, so I wore trackie bottoms, but she was absolutely right (I slid down). Also, you need bare feet and just any kind of tshirt on top – the room I learn in is hot so I wear a vest. So, if you are starting pole dancing, here is what you can do: if you go into Sweaty Betty, they have some tightish shorts which are an adjustable length. They are hugely expensive but how many more pairs of shorts are you ever going to buy? And (says she delicately), you may need to explore bikini line options (for the first time in many years I find myself eyeing up Immac), because, you are not static, you open your legs wide and fling them about and your shorts ride up high, and there are some feminist statements I am not quite up to making. Which brings me to:

4/ How can you, as a feminist, do this. (This was partner’s question).
This is a difficult one. Me and third wave feminism – we have our problems. We are not perfect together. Intellectually I am not necessarily on the reclaiming-stuff-associated-with-sex-work-is-liberating page, I am not. And I want you to make no mistake here: pole fitness is a misnomer. Pole fitness is pole dancing. You are dancing. You wiggle your bottom. You slide down the pole. You thrust your groin forward. Its origins are, shall we say, evident to me. However (and I accept I might be alone on this one), I have sometimes done things in accord with the finest second wave feminist theory and expected to feel liberated. And I have not felt liberated, I have felt a bit crap. So, now I do not engage too much with theory and I just try to be feminist on an individual level: I try to support women. And I can guarantee you that if you try pole dancing, these are the first two thoughts that will come into your head:

1/ God! This is really hard, oh, ok, is this it perhaps, whheeeeeeeee, oh, my arms ache. God!
2/ God! And I thought strippers were just dangling off a pole with no clothes on and it was really easy and I felt a bit sorry for them. Actually what they are is incredibly skilled professionals and now I feel a bit daft.

So basically I think you are doing something which will make you feel a huge amount of professional respect for a group of women who you might not have thought of primarily in that context before. I get why pole dancing is problematic, I do: but as the saying goes, I think, if this is wrong, I don’t wanna be right.

So there we are, that is pole dancing in a nutshell, and I encourage anyone to try it. Just make sure you get some really short shorts (you really do need to grip with flesh) and don’t worry about the fat on your thighs because no-one else can see it. Perhaps wear those shorts to the Co-op first, get used to them a bit? I’ll be the one in the nipple pasty aisle, rethinking all my earlier stereotypes. I’ll see you there. You bring the biscuits x