Sunday, 30 June 2013

Cars and cupcakes

Well, yesterday I had a marvellous day. You know how you sign up to things with enthusiasm and then when you actually have to do it you think, hmm? I signed up for two adult learning workshops on Car Maintenance for Woman, and Cupcake Decorating (never let it be said I'm not well-rounded) and then I had a hell of a week last week and didn't really have the energy. But I dragged myself out and it was really worth it.
It's like a rose. Do you see?
This is my cupcake. I have been trying hitherto not to get into the whole cake decorating thing because I live just with Partner*, and unless you time your cake decorating so that you only do it when you've got cake-loving visitors you end up with a lot of cake for two of you. But sod it. I'm going to be looking in Tesco for some plastic icing bags and a great big nozzle. The one above is piped buttercream (centre to outside) with what I think was a 1M nozzle (a really big one), dusted with coloured sugar, and I think I might have sprayed it with (edible) silver spray paint. I am not sure I am going to venture much beyond this in terms of cupcake decoration but I thought that looked nice and I shall make it again.

It was a great workshop and I learned loads about different techniques, etc. I feel like just baking a load of buns and sitting with a tub of buttercream one afternoon experimenting. These are my adventures in fondant.
I would agree with what you are probably thinking here that the black and red one is an aesthetic fail
I have not used fondant before and I am not convinced about it. It feels like Plasticine, and also, whereas buttercream is always handmade and is delicious, with fondant it comes out of a packet and I am just not sure whether you are putting the look of it above the taste. And the taste is the point in a cake! Anyway I have not actually eaten one of these yet so I am again pronouncing on things of which I know nothing, and you can certainly get some nice effects so I shall experiment. I just wonder if I might be more of a buttercream/ royal icing girl. I think it's important to have a cake decorating philosophy. (Although I thought these looked rather nice so perhaps I can be persuaded).
Marbled fondant and orange flowers! Partner rejected these in favour of the Ones With Loads Of Buttercream
Car Maintenance for Women was an utter delight. My relationship with the small blue Punto is basically that if it sounds unhappy or won't start I pray to the Horned God and take it instantly to the man down the road who is trustworthy, while I have a vague feeling that I should be engaging with things like Checking Levels in a more adequate way than I am able. However now the lovely man down the road has retired and so I decided to seize things by the horns and do you know, it was so useful. We did how to do all the basic checks (windscreen wiper fluid, coolant, oil, tyre pressure and gauge, lights etc), how to change wiper blades, how to change headlight bulbs and all things like that. I can appreciate this doesn't sound a particularly thrilling way to spend a Saturday morning but the teacher was lovely and all the other course members were loads of fun. I had such a great time!

If you are thinking, why would it be Car Maintenance for Women, well, I wish it had been for men too because I would have sent Partner and stayed in bed as he has more of an interest than me and knows where we keep the manual. However, lots of the women on the course said how nice it was that it was just women, and certainly I did think some people were quite - not defensive at the beginning, but definitely scared they would not be able to pick it up. So I wonder if, if we had had men there, it would have been a different dynamic and less accessible for people. (Although, they would have been men with absolutely no knowledge of cars! I can assure you Partner would not intimidate anyone with his superior knowledge of the internal combustion engine). I certainly felt I could ask my stupid questions with impunity. I could see the teacher thinking, oh good Lord when I said 'and where does oil go to?' (it burns away. I should know this) but he was non-patronising and I learned so much.

So today Partner, who was in a frenzy of excitement yesterday when I returned because he was waiting for a cupcake, is going to receive a lesson on how to check the brake fluid etc. Thus I disseminate things I learn, including the fact that we have a spare wheel and that the foglights are not where I thought they were (this would have been useful last winter). And I shall buy a magazine on cake decorating and try with all the power that is in me not to acquire another hobby. I MUST NOT!

* Although I do have a friend with four children. NO I MUST NOT FORCE MY CUPCAKES ON OTHERS

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Transfixed by terror. But with tutu

Apologies to anyone who has already seen my costume on Facebook but I just wanted to show you quickly where we are so far with my outfit for UK Amateur Pole Performer.
Ignore the yoga mat. I love the corset but if I lose one single pound I shall slide straight out of it so I shall be mainlining digestives between now and the end of July. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it
I've ordered a big feathery mask from Ebay (what could go wrong there??!!) and now I'm working on my routine. If you've ever choreographed anything, well, to start with you're a better person than me, but, it's difficult, isn't it?

It is striking me (again, too late) that competing in UK Amateur Pole Performer might be a bit scary. Indeed: I am shit scared. That's the technical term. But at least I have a marvellous tutu. Could I get away with gold body glitter, do you think? (I imagine I won't be allowed anything that will rub off on the pole).

Last weekend I did a couple of pole dance workshops in Shoreditch. Last week, I took people into dark corners and corridors and insisted on showing them the resulting bruises, because there was one on my hip that swelled up just like an egg and it was very exciting. One of the workshops was in slightly ratty-looking dance studio behind a sex magazine (I know I sound like Alan Partridge), where you have to climb up a fire escape and it all looks a bit unpromising. As I climbed the fire escape, with my pole shoes, half litre bottle of Evian and my liquid chalk in a little bag dangling from my wrist, I did have a moment of thinking, what am I doing? I am 38. I have a veg box. I ought to be at home ringing the gardener (I know) about what we're going to do with the back bit near the shed, not wandering about up Shoreditch fire escapes considering whether I ought to buy a size down on my stripper heels.

But then it came to me. I am a Seeker. I look for new experiences. I look for new things to learn. And sometimes things grab me and sometimes they don't and sometimes the things that grab me are not necessarily the ones I might have chosen in the cold light of day. I think it's probably a good thing to be a Seeker and I'm not just going about looking for trouble. What do you think? (I have got to ring the gardener tomorrow, though).

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Once I ran to you. Now I run from you.

Well, readers, the other weekend I did my first race. Yes: I am now a runner. I trot round the streets behind our house for 30 minutes very, very slowly three times a week (my colleague said ‘well, if you’re running in Arbury, at least you’ll learn to run fast’ but I do not listen because actually Arbury is not as bad as people think it is, and the streets behind our house are very nice. The street with our house on isn’t nice, but you can’t have everything.) When I say I run slowly, I am not exaggerating. Today I was overtaken by a woman in a pink anorak with bags of shopping, and often cats wander past me and look at me thoughtfully. Anyway, as I often have more enthusiasm and chutzpah than sense and experience (remind me to tell you about Dan’s and my projected trip to Warsaw!!!) I felt that running along a flat street for 30 mins slower than a woman carrying shopping bags was excellent preparation for fell running. Indeed: I felt that in being able to run for 30 minutes I had so far exceeded my own personal expectations that I might as well enter the Olympics or jump off the University Library and fly to John Lewis, as anything seemed possible.

It was not.

I am going to try to extract a moral from this, readers. I did the race (5 miles with a 600 foot hill) with my brother Dan and his friend J, and our first clue that all might not be well was when we got to the beginning. I was expecting children. I was expecting people dressed as chickens. I was expecting, ooh, I don’t know, a hot dog stand, at least 5 octogenarians, someone with a Labrador wearing a themed jerkin, but no. What we got was a gaggle of sinewy men in lycra and women in team vests stretching their thighs out and running backwards and forwards just for fun. The only person who looked remotely less fit than me was the St John’s Ambulance man. Everybody set off twice as fast as I was used to, and when I came to my first hill I made like a Dalek and kind of gave up. I considered taking a short cut and going to wait for Dan and J in the pub but then I thought, no! I am not a quitter!!! (This is where I always go wrong). So I pushed on and I came last. I mean, I didn’t come last by a tiny bit. I came last by a decent margin (apart from all the people who did not finish or indeed, did not even start).
A hill in Derbyshire. The thing to do is to make sure you don't run up it
So I said to Dan we would do the same race next year but this time I would train and would do something called Fartleks which apparently are nothing like they sound, much like Burpees aren’t and I don’t know why you can’t call exercises something sensible. So Dan said, we could do that. Or, alternatively, we could do this killer half marathon and it would be lots of fun. So now I am doing a really hard half marathon this time next year, I have suckered in my friend too, and Partner is practically considering getting power of attorney to stop me making independent decisions as it is certain that no good can come of any of this. So here is my dilemma. Obviously I should be ashamed that I came last. I should be humiliated. I should give up. But I kind of… am not ashamed. I kind of.. forget about the coming last part and think, I did a 5 mile fell run! Very slowly!! I finished it! I didn’t die! I am a runner! I am amazing! I am going to buy new trainers and a proper sports bra so I don’t have to strap myself down with layers of lycra! I am proud of myself! Even though I have absolutely nothing to be proud of. I even bought myself a reward for finishing my first race. Admire the practicality!
Czech crystal. I am so bad at buying practical things to wear that there are no words. I buy this and then I wear pants with holes in them and have one work cardigan. One!
One more thing (in terms of over-ambitious physical stuff). You may remember, I am competing in the UK Amateur Pole Performer heats this summer (only at beginner level. It will be ok). I am working on my routine, and I have got my song: Marilyn Manson’s cover of Tainted Love. This was my idea for a costume: tell me what you think. I thought I could do a kind of deconstructed punk-burlesque look. So I was thinking a corset like this which is very cheap:

some kind of either short tutu or frilly bloomers:

(I have to have very short bottoms so I have lots of leg flesh exposed to stick to the pole. You see, it’s glamorous), possibly additional feathers around the cleavage, some kind of feathered headband and a great deal of dramatic eye makeup, or, a venetian-type mask if I could see enough to dance:

All deconstructed a bit (bits of ratty lace added? Dyed? Not sure yet).

How does that sound? I’m slightly concerned about my capacity for dancing in a corset: I thought perhaps I could buy it in advance and try it in the comfort of my own home which will finish off the window cleaner if he appears with his Squeegee at the wrong moment but tant pis. And in any case if I collapse through asphyxiation or bang my head on the pole and knock myself out because I can't see in that bit where he goes ‘once I raaaaaan to you. Now I RUUUUUN FROM YOU!!!’ it couldn’t possibly be more embarrassing than the fell run. Except, there might be a YouTube video, though. Wait… O_O