Saturday, December 31, 2005

Out with the Old, in with the New.

As someone who leans towards the emotional, anxious, thinks-too-much character type, the introspection of New Year's eve can be a tricky time. The perennial resolutions of lose weight, get published and get pregnant weigh heavily (A-ha. Ha. Ha.) on the mind, a kind of leaden Holy Grail.

Those three black and midnight hags notwithstanding, there's been a lot of great stuff in 2005. Starting my Masters degree, good times with friends, with family. Achievements at work and in writing, that blinding New Writers' Scheme report. It's been a rich year.

I've never been a great resolution maker, but to ring the changes and take 2006 by the scrotum, I've decided to make Frivolous resolutions this New Year.


1) I resolve that in 2006 chocolate eating shall be a transcendental experience, not simply a desperate search for sustenance and seratonin. Chocolate will be savoured, gloried in, and celebrated. I resolve to eat more high-quality confectionary, and less junk chocolate. Dark chocolate, cherries and kirsch may well feature strongly in the enacting of this resolution.

2) Next Year I shall wear Red Shoes as often as possible. Since I have today bought two pairs of red shoes, and my sister in law gave me a very grown-up and very gorgeous red hand-bag for Christmas, I think this one's going to be a doddle.

3) I shall have much more sex in 2006 than I had in 2005. Since I am by nature and choice both faithful AND frivolous, all this fabulous sex will be with Husband. How virtuous is that? I'm going to have it slow, fast, easy and hard, long and langurous, down and dirty, and as often as possible. I also resolve to laugh during sex much more. If only to watch Husband go crosseyed.

4) There will be at least one bath-and-book-and-glass-of-wine event a month in 2006. In celebration of the new bath installation, this resolution may well combine with 3) on occasion. Let the good times roll.

5) I will walk barefoot in the rain at least once in 2006, and will make time to swim in the River Derwent in warm weather. I deserve it.

Come to think of it, these resolutions are actually serious stuff, don't you think? Sex and chocolate are not to be taken lightly, for example...

What are your Frivolous Resolutions?

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Thank-Yous

Merry Christmas!

Thank you to the fellow customer who helped me pack my groceries at 6.30am yesterday.

Thank you to Husband for being a rock, a child, a wise man and mine.

Thank you to friends who cope admirably with my being calm and wise one second, and a anxiously neurotic the next.

Thank you to God, for sending his son.

Thank you to Pippi, Minnie, Chrissy and Cleo for being unbelievably cute.

Thank you to family for being funny, silly, helpful and always ready to hug.

Thank you to this house, for trusting us to reveal its hidden beauty, and welcoming us with benevolent charm.

Thank you to this place I live in, for constant inspiration, and the power to heal the troubled spirit.

Thank you to my NWS readers, for fanning a flame of faith in myself.

Thank you to my closest friends for lighting it in the first place.

Have a wonderful Christmas, folks.

... Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Car Park Karma

(I know, I know. Three posts in two days. *eyeroll* I'm a little preoccupied with something and need distraction.)

I am coming to realise I have an unusually rigid moral code when it comes to finding a parking space on a busy parking day. As a matter of principle, I do not:-

a) Park in an easy access bay. I do not have a disability.

b) Park in a parent and toddler bay. I'm not a parent with a toddler.

c) See a shopper wandering towards their car and stop dead in the middle of the lane while they find their keys, unload their shopping (an action, I hasten to point out, they are under no obligation to perform rapidly - they've PAID for their parking space and should be able to use it as they see fit), return the trolley, find their keys again, and drive off... thereby blocking the flow of traffic for five minutes or more.

d) Swiftly bag a parking bay which another driver had obviously earmarked for themselves.

e) Jump the queue in front of the little old lady with the Micra, just because she's not quick off the mark.

It was born in on me, in the run up to Christmas, that I am the only driver left in the world with this rigid car park code. The only one. I swear it. I drove round and round the Sainsburys car park on Saturday (you see my error yet? Sainsburys? Saturday before Christmas? Mistake) while other shoppers did all of the above, and worse. Dozens of cars entered the car park after me, and by dint of shark-like parking tactics, were happily buying their parking tickets (65p for an hour) while I was still going round and round and round and round...

I sat in my car, trying to ungrit my teeth, stubbornly refusing to park in the easy access bay or follow shoppers emerging from the store, like a motorised stalker. I continued to smile, give way, be polite and tried, tried not to whine inside my head. But there was a small voice deep, deep inside saying, "I'm being good, dammit. I refuse to believe patience and good manners just reap crap...."

Then, suddenly, an SUV indicated it wanted to leave its space, tucked away in a rarely-used corner. I let it out, and parked with flair. As I got out and headed for the pay machine, a local couple hailed me. "You don't need to pay today, it's free! There's just a little notice stuck on the machine, most people don't see it...."

I thanked them with a grin, shamefully remembering all those aggressive parkers and their 65ps.

Car Park Code One, Shark Drivers Nil.

Karma's a bitch, man.

When Muses Attack

She opened the door and turned to slide out of the truck when he spoke again.

"I'm in love with you."

Her stomach lurched and so did the world. She hung there, clutching the door and the door frame. Far, far below, it seemed, she could see dust and pebbles on the ground. There was a bottle cap, too, upside down and rusted. She'd have to be careful not to tread on it.

She eased out, placing her bare feet carefully, then turned on her heel to face him, still holding the door. He was still sitting in the driving seat, seatbelt fastened, hands on the wheel, staring straight ahead down the long, rutted road.

His hands moved on the steering wheel, but they didn't let go. "You wanted to know why. That's why."

"I don't know what's more scary. That you know what I wanted to ask you, or that you... you--" Her voice failed her.

He turned his head, then, dark eyes locking onto hers. "I love you."

Other men - other women, even - used those words as a bargaining tool, a demand, a question. She'd never known him to be anything other than ruthlessly straightforward. He dealt in facts and finalities. Like death.

She unpeeled her fingers from the door. Her mouth was dry. "I don't... I mean..."

He let go of the steering wheel at last, but only to flip down the sun visor, retrieve his shades and put them on. The scars on his tanned hands showed white. "You wanted to know why: I told you. I love you, so when you needed--" he hesitated, lifting his hands to look at them, curling the fingers into fists, "--what I have, I was there. That's all."

"What," she said, trying for a light bantering tone in a voice that shook, "are you going to watch my back for the rest of my life?"

He angled his head her way, eyes hidden, face inscrutable.

"Christ, Michael! You're scaring me."

"Goodbye Sarah." He leaned over and closed the door, the purr of the engine became a growl, and he pulled away very slowly, so that only the faintest whisps of dust covered her toes.

WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE??? AND WHY ARE THEY IN MY HEAD??? And yes, whoop-de-woo, we have another anti-hero type. *beats head on desk, sobbing* Why God, WHY?!?

You know I love them, really. *leering*

Actually, I love it when story telling happens like this. I see it, I describe it, and only after I've written it do I start to see the significance of what's going on. Pure magic.

Of course, I have several other stories in the queue ahead of this one. I'll have to be patient. *sigh*

Monday, December 19, 2005

Men and Mountains

I like big men.

Tall, broad, burly, massive men. I'm talking in romance hero terms, of course, and should clarify that I don't mean the sort of massive heart-attack-waiting-to-happen World's Strongest Man muscle bound hulk sort of big. Although the blond Icelandic Jon Pall Sigmarsson* shouting, "I am a Viking!" in his classic nordic accent has a certain appeal.

Put it this way. I get hot flushes watching rugby. I'm five-seven, and when I once bumped into a man a foot taller than me I almost fainted. I can't imagine writing a hero under six foot tall. How shallow is that?

All the important men in my life are, if not burly, then certainly tall. Dad's six foot, Brother is six-two. Husband is six foot (on a low gravity day, and if we count his hair) AND burly (Hallelujah!).

I was musing on this preference today as I drove to work. I went a different way, which brough me round the foot of the Skiddaw massif. Wainwright described Skiddaw as the patriach in a Victorian family portrait, austere and upright in the middle of his family group, and a good view of this familiar panorama always fills me with a sense of wellbeing and serenity.

I looked up at the massive, immovable mountain, constant and enduring, equal parts strong and savage, and got an idea why the hero-who-looms makes me weak at the knees.

* Since I just googled the delightful Sigmarsson and found out he died at 32 of a heart attack while doing deadlifts in the gym, I should point out I mean no disrespect... eek.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Guess That TV Theme Tune

Ah, the office party. Or rather, the Husband's office party.

Luckily I get on well with his work mates, and some of them are friends from his previous job, too. This was the very common office party - down the local hotel, ejected from the bar into the dining room by waiting staff from Eastern Europe wearing holly-sprig waistcoats, an hour and a half of good, but homogenous food and everyone trying to work out what they ordered, then a disco, karaoke and general fun and frolics.

At some point the boss will say how great everyone is. Someone will sob "I loooove yooooo," on someone's else's shoulder, a couple of people will play drunken jenga while a lone young man tries to work out how he ended up with a pint in each hand, and which one he should drink first.

I probably shouldn't have had the first glass of wine on top of the empty stomach and the threatening migraine, but hey, sometimes you've got to live dangerously. Suffice it to say I was remarkably inebriated on one and a bit glasses of shiraz, and stopped consuming alcohol before 10pm.

Nevertheless, the evening was a triumph.


Because of the "Guess that TV Theme Tune" game. At first it was a one-sided competition. Table one (suspiciously close to the DJ) snatched Dr Kildare, Dallas and Captain Scarlet. Then our table sprang into action. John* snatched victory from the jaws of defeat by knowing the theme to the A-team AND the names of all four main characters AND actors. Genius. The Husband proved a mis-spent youth by getting Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy in approximately two notes (and that's a HARD theme to get before the well-known riff cuts in). Table One retaliated with Firebird XL1, and everthing hung in the balance.

Then came my moment. The DJ wanted the programme, and the two actor's names. A staccato percussion line. Eighties synthesizer music. A fleeting memory of spinning rotors, desert sands, and an enigmatic, tortured male in mirrored shades.

I sprinted across the slippery dancefloor in high-heels, crinkle satin and black lace.

The answer?

Air Wolf. Jan Michael Vincent and Ernest Borgnine.

I so rule.

*the names have been changed to protect the humiliated

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Reasons to be cheerful...

Driving to work, half asleep, more than half wishing I was still in bed, and suddenly - the sun burns through the mist and bathes the mountain. Just fabulous.

Blencathra sunrise Posted by Picasa

Halfway between work and University there's a beautiful town, and on the outskirts of the town is this museum, created out of a French-style mansion. Not a bad place to stop for lunch...

The Bowes Museum Posted by Picasa

I've cheated:- this is last year's tree. But we went and bought this year's today, amid much hilarity and general good-humour. We've left it in its sleeve until the plumber's finished (yes, we're having the bathroom redone, a new shower put in, and a downstairs toilet installed THIS close to Christmas!) but I promise you pictures when it's done.

Oh Christmas Tree... Posted by Picasa

Saturday, December 10, 2005

The Cats and the Chaos

Since the two main concerns of my world seem to be the new kitties and the pre-Christmas Chaos, I thought I'd treat you to a study of both.

... Posted by Picasa

Chrissy and Cleo are settling in nicely - I interrupted Chrissy sidling up to Pippi yesterday. Methinks a hero-worship is beginning. This picture shows how gorgeous Chrissy is, and how impossible it is to see Cleo (aka Invisicat).

... Posted by Picasa

Somewhere in that lot are the seeds of Christmas. I shall wave my hands over the disorder and create beauty, like a particularly interior-design-minded sorceress.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

It's the most wonderful time of the year...

I love Christmas.

Did I mention that?

I adore Christmas. The child-like excitement in little things. The decorations, lights, scents of pine and spices, fun and silliness. And yes, I like the presents -- mostly giving them! - and the food and drink. It's special.

I should take a picture of my dining room right now - there are six huge plastic boxes of wrapping paraphenalia and decorations. There are boxes of chocolates and bags of presents. There's the advent calendar on the wall and the heaps of tangled strings of lights and large box of spare bulbs telling their own frightful story...

On one chair is a pile of red and gold boxes containing scented candles unguents (great word) from Crabtee and Evelyn's Noel range. There's a couple of my Mum's homemade stockings which will need ironing before I fill them with goodies. Occasionally a small cat errupts from under the massive table, pursuing a runaway bauble. Once in a while I have to stop and say, Chrissy! Don't chew the lights! Soon I will pack away some of the ornaments, plug-in air fresheners, china and even pictures from the wall to replace with their Christmas counterparts.

On Sunday, Husband and I will go and buy a Christmas tree. He'll have to prop them up against him so I can measure their height. We always try to buy something around seven foot tall, and he's six foot, so he's a very useful person to have around... Later that day he'll be up a ladder fixing the house lights, and I'll go for a walk down the lane to cut down a hazel bough. I'll put it up in the corner of the living room bedecked with lights, and will hang my Mum's breathtakingly gorgeous beaded baubles from it.

Then we'll spend the next few weeks trying to dissuade the cats from attacking them. There's a reason that the actual tree is only hung with plastic baubles, up to about shoulder height.

For Christmas, I'll be preparing a feast for eight people. I shall be disappointed if I don't get at least six, ooooh!s of wonder and at least one, My God this is gorgeous.

It's a lot of work, but there's a lot of joy in it, too. Which is one of the reasons I resent most seriously some of the s*** that is being heaped on me right now, and is interfering with my chance to enjoy my favourite season.

Never mind. I love Christmas more than I hate the s***, and gleaming gold and green and pine and spices, laughter, silliness, company and joy will prevail.

Deck the halls, people. It's Christmas time!!

Monday, December 05, 2005

First Things First

I have lots to say about the weekend (including posting the fairy tale I wrote) but that will have to wait.

Important things first. Cleo and Chrissy are better! I'll post pictures this week, but when I returned from my weekend away, they were bouncing around the house like little furry rubber balls, and eating us out of house and home. They have also, Praise the Lord, graduated to the Big Girl Litter Box. No more litter on the living room rug!

You could have heard the sigh of relief miles away.

Cat flu's a killer. If it doesn't kill, it blinds, or damages the respiratory infection. The best case scenario the vet gave us, although he acknowledged it was a very mild case, was that they'd probably recover, but have some respiratory weakness for the rest of their lives. At the moment (fingers crossed) I'm not seeing any evidence even of that, so I'm absolutely ecstatic.

Second important thing. In three week's time, it'll be Boxing Day.

*maniacal laughter*

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Catch ya later...

*looks both ways, furtively*


I'm not doing any work this evening, tomorrow, Saturday OR Sunday! Since I worked all last weekend (Masters) and worked until 11.30pm yesterday (community meeting), this is something of an occurence.

I'm visiting friends. I plan for the weekend to include:-

a) Wine
b) Chocolate
c) Cats
d) Random but totally justifiable breakdowns, as required.

I'm told my friends' plans are somewhat similar. Excellent.


Kitty news:- Chrissy and Cleo do indeed have cat flu, but seem to be recovering nicely. Cleo is giving me some nervous moments, but then I'm a nervous person.... ;-)