A bit of catching up

I really hate that life keeps getting in the way of things I want to do. Of course, it’s a well known fact that I am the queen of procrastination, so I probably could shoehorn more in if I spent less time on social media and playing candy crush, but, you know, we all have our vices!

This morning I’m also being thwarted by this little lady who seems particularly in need of cuddles.

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Who am I to say no to a snuggle with my Olive?

She may be feeling in need of some reassurance today because I was away for two days this week. Off I went on the epic journey to Gijon in northern Spain again. You may recall that I did this journey in November just after our holiday to Mexico, and it took only slightly less time to get to Gijon than it did to get to Mexico! Eighteen hours it took this time for the round trip for a meeting which lasted three and a half hours. It was an important, necessary and, as it turns out, positive meeting, but I do wish there was a direct flight from somewhere nearer.

As it is, I have to drive to Heathrow to catch a flight to Madrid for a connection to Asturias. I do love Heathrow. London airports generally mean an exciting long haul flight for an exotic holiday. A work trip couldn’t be further removed from exciting, but still the airport evokes those feelings. There’s also a Harry Potter shop! Slightly inappropriate since Harry and his chums would be the last people to need an airport being in possession, as they usually are, of a Nimbus 2000 broomstick and floo powder. I guess Mr Weasley would love learning about our primitive muggle modes of transport though.

I couldn’t resist, and unfortunately these I can’t claim on expenses!

There was a slight panic with my last flight when I got a message to say it was cancelled! Turns out they’d put two flights together, I think because of the bad weather expected in the UK. I ended up with a little delay (much preferable to a cancelled flight!) and a huge plane. An A330 to be precise. It was nice after all that travelling to be on a luxurious plane rather than crammed into an A320. I even got a seat back telly, and look what was showing …..

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Poor Julie Andrews got cut off in her prime halfway through Feed the Birds, but still it was just what I needed when I was feeling somewhat jaded and in need of some creature comforts.

Being away for two days means I’m now even further behind on my attic24 Sweetpea blanket CAL. Lucy published part five on her blog yesterday and I’m only a couple of stripes into part three.

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Little puddy paws love it already, even if it is smaller than it should be. I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep up, but I am feeling the pressure when I see other people posting that they’re not only keeping up, but are managing to fit in other projects whilst they’re waiting for the next instalment. My excuse is that I have to go to work and the gym, and I have to eat and sleep. I’m also hard at work on a gift for a very special little lady who will be exactly a month old tomorrow.

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Perfect use of the seatback pocket!

I shivered my way out into the garden this morning, still in my dressing gown, to have a look at what’s going on out there. Blimey it was chilly! There are signs of life though, which is encouraging.

On the left you can see my giant alliums coming through the cyclamen and heather. They’re the pointy, leafy bits. These are, if nature does its thing, going to be a couple of feet tall with giant purple Pom Pom heads. On the right are my trusty daffs which I planted when we moved here five years ago and they turn up every year, regular as clockwork to signal that winter’s on its way out.

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All the bulbs that I planted in front of my planter are coming through nicely. I can’t remember exactly what I planted now, but I think the row closest to the planter are various varieties of daffodil, but there may be some tulips in there. I definitely planted some tulips, just can’t remember where!

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The second row, in front of the daffs/tulips, which you can’t see that clearly are, I think, snowdrops, but they could also be crocuses.

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I’m glad I’ve forgotten what I planted where, because it’s quite exciting waiting to see what will appear (so if you can tell, please don’t ruin my own surprise that I’ve created!)

When I created our little bistro area …….

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…… the one sadness was that I’d covered up a lot of bluebells which we inherited with the house, so imagine my glee when I went out this morning and spotted this ….

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It would appear that the indomitable bluebell won’t be quashed! They’ve pushed aside the weed control fabric and are popping up all along the edge of the bistro! Yay! Not what I planned at all, but a very happy accident. I’m learning not to plan or be too meticulous in the garden because nature seems to find a way, and I prefer, in a lot of cases, to let it do its thing. It knows better than me!

Finally I looked at my Eupatorium. It was so beautiful at the end of the summer and into autumn, but it’s looked very dead for a while.

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I was almost too scared to investigate too closely, but I decided to be brave, for its sake. I gently scratched at one of its main stems hoping and praying to find some green. I did! It’s alive! Just sleeping hopefully. I can’t find much info on t’internet but my Mum managed to find a site that instructs to cut back at the beginning of spring. I’m going to wait until it’s warmed up a bit and then I’ll get the secateurs out and then keep everything firmly crossed!

Right, I’m off out for a bottomless lunch later so I’d better dash and get ready.  Wishing you all a great weekend!

Saturday shopping trip

I needed to pay a cheque into my account today (successful PPI claim – whoop!) so we headed off to our local shopping centre, Sutton Coldfield, to visit the bank.

We took the need to go into Sutton as the perfect excuse to indulge in a spot of lunch. When I say ‘we’, really I mean ‘me’ because hubby, as with most men, really doesn’t get excited by food. He sees eating more as a necessity and not something to look forward to, or plan, or dream about, or salivate over! How can one not get a little rush of excitement over a perfectly dusted Victoria sponge cake with jam oozing from its middle, or a block of purple wrapped Dairy Milk straight from the fridge, or a ginormous bag of crunchy onion rings with a creamy pot of cheesy dip just waiting to be dunked, or a big, steaming bowl of spaghetti carbonara?

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Erm ….. where was I? Oh right, lunch! I can’t believe my blog is a nearly two months old and I haven’t talked to you about Ted’s Hot Potatoes yet. He makes the best jacket potatoes EVER! He started off with a mobile potato stand in 1980, then he graduated to a semi-permanent hut, and now you can find him in his own shop/restaurant with inside and outside seating. Essentially that means Ted’s has been around for ninety three percent of my life!

When I was in my early teens, my Mum and I had a tradition that involved Ted. We used to pop into Sutton towards the end of the summer holidays to get my new stationery ready for the return to school. I used to love this trip firstly because choosing new stationery is one of life’s great joys for me, and secondly because Mum used to treat us to a hot jacket potato from Ted, who was still in his mobile stand back then. We always had the same topping, and Ted is the only potato seller I know of to do this, and it’s still my go-to topping to this day …..

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Delicious! Cheese and Branston on a piping hot, crispy jacket potato. It’s really (REALLY) not diet-friendly and with less than eight weeks until I have to squidge my lumps and bumps into a bikini, I really should be mindful of such things, but they taste soooooooooooo good!

Anyway, jacket potato happily consumed, we went for a nose around Flying Tiger. I always find something to buy in here. It’s full of me type things. Things that I don’t need, but I do want. Today they had yarn! This makes me happy!

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The blue/green/purple (my three favourite colours) ones I think I’ll make a blanket with. Not sure how big it will be, but if I do a c2c one I can just keep increasing until the first ball runs out, and then start decreasing with the second. It doesn’t say what weight it is, but it looks slightly thicker than DK and says to use 4.5mm needles (hook in my case) so I’m guessing it’s closer to an aran and I think I’ll use a 5mm hook.

I’ve no idea what I’ll do with the fabric yarn. I got it to experiment with because I’ve never crocheted with fabric yarn. It might be good for a basket – watch this space!

I also got another of the surprise bags that I told you about in this post. This time I got all these goodies.

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Not quite as exciting a haul as last time, but somehow the universe was looking out for me. I needed a new lidded drinking cup (severe danger of feline drinkage in this house if you leave an uncovered drink out!) and I didn’t like any of the ones in Paperchase which is where I’ve always got them from, so imagine my glee when I got home, opened the surprise bag and found a cup that is furry girl proof!

I love the lacy ribbon, and I’m hatching a plan to crochet in the holes along the edges so it makes a pretty join. So many wips on the go at the moment so it could be some time before this happens!

Paperchase next. Can’t, absolutely can’t, not go into Paperchase. I got two notepads. One is for work so I can organise my notes from a new meeting that I take part in (if you don’t have nice pretty pads for work, give it a go, they make a good day at work even better, and a bad day less bad) and the other is just because, and why not? It’s got gridded pages so will be useful for designing crochet projects as well as garden ones.

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Final stop WHSmiths. I worry about WHSmiths because they’re up against Amazon and I’d be so upset if they went bust. I’m the worst culprit, for going in there and then buying what I want cheaper on Amazon, and I do feel guilty about it. Our WHSmiths is already smaller than it used to be when I was in there with Mum searching for the best furry pencil case and the least boring protractor for my return to school. The back third of it is now the post office.

I do try to make sure I get my magazines from WHSmiths and, although I read the majority of my books on my kindle, if I want an actual book, like an autobiography or a cookery book or something else with pictures that doesn’t translate brilliantly to a digital form then I will take myself off to WHSmiths to try to support them and keep them going.

I just love browsing books. I resisted a kindle for a long time because I love actual books, but I succumbed and now I love love love it. Pre-kindle I hated having to give books to the charity shop, unless it was one I didn’t particularly enjoy, because if I felt a connection with a character or a storyline, I felt it with the physical book too, but space was at a premium so keeping them all became impractical. I also do most of my leisure reading in bed, so when they brought out the kindle paper white it was like a dream come true. Proper relaxation, chilling out in the dark but still able to read. The kindle is obviously great for holidays too because you don’t have to cart heavy books around. So, I’m a kindle convert, but I do miss actual books and have to have a nose around them frequently.

Looking at the children’s books makes me smile. It makes me think of Christmases and birthdays when I would always receive at least one book. It reminds me of the complete worry-free time of being a child, when I had so much more time to sit and lose myself in a book. Children’s books have really stood the test of time. There are now the wonderfully colourful covers of David Walliams and Claire Balding books, and the ever popular Wimpy Kid, but there are also so many books still on the shelves inWHSmiths that I read as a child.

You already know about my Pooh Bear obsession, and I read all of these other books too when I was growing up, but these photos were taken today in WHSmiths. I was pleased that there were several children also browsing with their parents. All too often the aisle for young readers is empty. Many children nowadays prefer to be staring at a screen (and not a kindle one) blowing things up rather than losing themselves in a book, developing their imagination and educating themselves by reading. This makes me sad. I wish I could make explain to them the pleasure that I got as a child, and still do now from reading.

These books are in the children’s section …..

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….. but I first read Michael Morpurgo as an adult. His most famous book is War Horse, which has been adapted into a hugely successful play and film. We’re going to see it next month at the Birmingham Hippodrome. I’ve also read another of his books called Wild Running. It’s a brilliant read. I highly recommend you pick up a copy (maybe from WHSmiths!)

I spotted this book whilst I was meandering through the aisles.

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I read To kill a mockingbird on my very first foreign holiday in Menorca when I was twenty one and I loved it. It has a very powerful message, but is written in plain English. This copy has the same cover as the version I had. It makes me remember sitting in the sun, on the harbour (on my own for some reason – can’t recall why) reading it and realising how lucky I am but that not every one is. The film adaptation with Gregory Peck is very good, but I’d advise reading the book first. That bit of advice goes for pretty much any novel to screen adaptation, including these next ones.

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They even have the Tinkerbell seal of approval! The film version of the Philosopher’s Stone (Sorcerer’s Stone I believe in the US) was pretty good and the films got better and better as they went on, and I love them, but they still don’t come close to conveying the magic of the books.

I was late to the Harry Potter party and the Prisoner of Azkaban was already out in hardback when I started reading the series, so I read the first three tomes straight after each other. I will forever be disappointed that I somehow managed to pick up the adult version of the Philosopher’s Stone (see the different style cover?) because it doesn’t match the rest. Ho hum, can’t be helped now.

I was hooked after the first chapter, in fact probably halfway through it, and was then torn between wanting to read quickly to find out what happened and a desperate need not to finish because I couldn’t bear not to be in that wonderful, magical world.

After I finished Prisoner of Azkaban, I then, along with half of the rest of the world, had to wait somewhat impatiently for the release of each new book. I ordered each one from Amazon because they promised faithfully that each book would be delivered on the release day, and they were as good as their word. My sofa used to sit in the bay window of my flat at the time, and I remember getting up early and kneeling on the sofa, chin cupped by my hands, staring out of the window willing the postman to come trotting round the corner, his big red bag bulging with Harry Potter goodness.

If there’s anyone who hasn’t read this amazing series, I really really REALLY implore you to because it is just magical. I used to dream about Harry Potter when I was first reading the books, and they were such blissful dreams from which I was sad to wake.

Go go go! Amazon has them, WHSmiths has them! Every bookstore in the world worth its salt has them! WHSmiths is your best bet – you can go pick them up tomorrow, even Amazon prime won’t get them to you by tomorrow now!

Go!