Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Yellow Stickers, yellow flowers, yellow me

Something is definitely working for me as I find myself a couple of lbs lighter again, and another squidge further into the yellow.

Well, maybe this won't help... at work an colleague who is another yellow sticker aficionado decided it was his turn to bring in the treats, and at 3p for 5 doughnuts, that was a sweet treat indeed!

I should be sweet enough already. OH needed to clear some freezer space for his last purchase from the butchers, so I thought it might be time to turn some of this year's gooseberry glut into jam.
And here are some pics of things growing in the allotment this week. First up, tomatoes...
Tiny aubergines, like little bumble bees in the flowers.

The melons are spreading like wildfire. See those tiny yellow flowers? Little melons are growing underneath.

My lovely allotment.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Keep Smiling

I have been struggling a bit today with tiredness and low mood, so I thought I'd counter it with as chipper a blog post as I could muster.

First of all, I'm a squidge further into the yellow, and today I managed to get back into my formal work trousers from Aldi. My formal work blouse, nooo.... it's a bit 'naughty secretary' still at the moment. Ah well, I am still shrinking!

One bleak gig this week, but also one where I got  a compliment  from Barbara Nice. I invoke Millican's Law and move on.

Another comedian friend gave me comps to go to a preview of Paul Sinha's show, which was excellent, and in return I helped out a bit in the box office. I'm so very very grateful as it does us good to see pros in action, and of course my spondoolicks are much limited. Shout Out to My Ex is nothing short of inspirational. 

I also got to go on community radio this week to plug my own show, and really enjoyed it.

I have editorial work queuing up, and OH has plenty of overtime to do as well, so we can tackle things more quickly. OH is very sad this week, as one of his friends passed away in the small hours on Friday, but we are both employing the mantra "be kind to yourself" to get through the low patch. It is really good advice someone once gave us: what is the kindest thing you can do for yourself right now? Make time for rest? Go for a walk? Say no? Find your friends... whatever it is, do it!

And I bought an artichoke for 9p. I love YS bargains! 

To be kind to myself tonight, I shall write this, and make sure I take care of me before I go rushing to the allotment again.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017


What's that bump bump smack sound?

It's me coming back down to earth after an amazing weekend - and landing pretty heavily.

First of all, I went on a train trip to London, with my packed egg sarnie for breakfast, some orange and mango squash (my current lifesaver - stops me spending a fortune on Irn Bru), and some allotment raspberries and more sandwiches for lunch. Not spending your fancy London prices on mere food, no sirree! Some mutual outfit admiration occurred with some rainbow-bedecked youngsters off to the Pride March.
 Arriving with some time to kill, I went to one of my favourite places in London - the British Library, where I met up with friends for a chat in the open air terrace. Kings Cross looks rather like Hogwarts peeking out from behind, doesn't it?
I took this photo early on at my book launch in London, which was at The Star of Kings in Kings Cross. The room got pretty packed and people were still turning up after the event had finished to say hi and have a beer with us in the glorious sunshine. Such a lovely time. There was my Best of British Science Fiction 2016 and Elasticity: the Best of Elastic Press being launched.

Unfortunately, here I did spend some fancy London monies on cider. But it was hot! and I was there all day! That's my excuse, and I'm hiccing to it.

The train journey home was quite eventful, as one of my comedy heroes came and sat at the same table as me: Nish Kumar. And I bumped into him again at his gig, which was at a pub where I was meeting more friends to round off the day of loveliness. I promise I wasn't stalking him! I am a fellow comic, just occasionally I can't help a bit of fan squeedom, as I'm a geek and that's just the nerdy social awkwardness I'm made of. Plus he's really, really funny. I also saw other comics, but I know them, and therefore no need to name, but if they happen to be reading this, don't worry I think you're great too, okay? Sheesh!

Nish's Saturday night gig at my local was actually part of a comedy festival, for which weekend tickets had been made available. But as I was at a book launch all Saturday I'd only bought tickets for the Sunday.

And here is where I feel... awkward.

It was a great festival, I wanted to support it and the friends playing there, and I had a lovely time, and I got to see Ed Byrne, who I've wanted to go watch for 20 years (since 20 years ago, not for that longevity... that would be stalkerish). But there's something about being an old hand of the local scene who the new and extremely professional folks organizing this thing don't really know, and being in what I dub 'Puntersville' that made me feel... weirdly insubstantial. I didn't really know any of the crowd who'd bought tickets either, which was quite an alienating experience as there's normally folks to hang about with at comedy gigs I tend to go to. I kind of felt like a goldfish in a bag being introduced to the big pond, but instead of gently acclimatizing, actually starting to feel a bit short of oxygen and realizing I'm probably never going to get out of the bag. I'm going to die in this bag, and no one will notice...

Now if that doesn't sound like the plot of Finding Emo...

I'm sorry... I have had a really successful year in terms of publishing, and felt a bit of momentum happening in my performing too, but sometimes if I sit and think about it too long, it feels like everything crumbles and disappears. I don't know how to Houdini myself out of the bag...

Is that a bad example? Didn't Houdini have a sudden attack of appendicitis in a water tank and drown?

Ah well... I'm sure if I pull my socks up, I can get over it. And never ask anyone to punch me in the guts before going on stage.

Anyhoo... lovely weekend, but I'm looking at a strictly biznizz rest of the month, as I had  a horrible financial surprise, and then realised I've made a huge miscalculation in my budget and failed to make any headway on next year's transport. Not the end of the world, but I think I need to organize a re-boot.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Glorious Bounty!

Hello everyone. I thought I'd share this picture of the railings by St Giles church in Northampton. I passed last week when I was in town sorting out things for the launch of a book I edited. These shoes look a bit too pristine to be recycled, but what an idea! An interesting way of displaying plants while celebrating Shoe Town.

 Part of me likes to think these might be the shoes of drunken women exiting Bridge Street clubs in the wee small hours, cast off Cinderella-like to the gutter, only to be ignored by the be-Ben-Shermaned princes of the town. Alas.

Anyway, despite the weather being hotter than Aiden Turner (i.e. very, very hot), things on my allotment are still alive! It's looking very fruitful indeed.


I got given a load of spinach by one of my allotment neighbours, so I made spinach and ricotta cannelloni! OMG, this was flipping tasty.

I got the broad idea from Jamie Oliver's website, except if I had followed his recipe, this would have been a lot more expensive.

I used no-pre-soak lasagna sheets for the cannelloni, and just soaked them a bit so I could shape them, which was filled with a mix of cooked spinach with nutmeg, a tub of ricotta  and an egg. I topped this with a sauce made of passata, flavoured with garlic, bay and basil.  Jamie Oliver's recipe called for Mozzarella and Parmesan on top, but I didn't want to go out to buy fancy cheeses, rendering the dish a lot more costly, so I made a small amount of white sauce and grated over cheddar instead.

After 40 minutes at 190 C, it was ready!

And I ate way too much...

Really enjoying being back to veggie. No more weight off, but I feel trimmer.

Right, will finish this blog post now, but will be back to talk about my amazing weekend!

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Forced to Awaken... Can I Go to Bed Now?

What a weekend! OH and I were invited to a 40th birthday party on the theme of Star Wars.

Did I spend a fortune in the fancy dress shop kitting us out? Did I heck!

Behold Senator Leia Organa: I'm wearing my two-piece white Indian paisley bat-wing blouse and skirt combo, bought when I was eighteen for my first formal ball. Well, all debutantes wear white don't they?

And OH was Luke Skywalker in his old re-enactment belt and shoes and my old kimono.

Here he is fiddling with his light saber... or a bubble wand. Two for £1 from Poundland.

A lovely night... our friend's wife had made an impressive feast of Star Wars-themes push-pop cakes.

That was Saturday... and on Sunday I went to the Town Festival on the Racecourse (free entry - just lots of temptation to spend once you're in!). I spent much of the afternoon sitting with friends and watching the balloons.

Wow!!!! And no, you're not having my money, shiny things!

Some kites, teasing a deflated balloon.

Quick, I have a message for Harry Potter!

The produce tent

spot the hoverfly!

A lot of people in Northampton are a bit dismissive of the Town Festival and call it 'Chavfest'; but there are cool things happening if you keep your eye out.
For example, I nearly missed it, but I left the friends I'd been sitting with all afternoon and was about to go home, when I walked past the band's stage and thought... hang on, I know that tune! It was only Misty's Big Adventure (I love them!), so I went towards the stage and discovered even more friends  there and we all had a little boogie before going home.

No Volvo dancing, as the handy blue fella was off on honeymoon!

Yesterday I popped to the allotment, and did a bit of watering and picking.

Better think about making some jam soon, then.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Adventures in Leicester

I was having a bit of a panic earlier in the week, as I had two gigs booked for Leicester and we still have no car. Public transport was fine for getting to both gigs, but getting back from one of them was going to be a bit tricky.

Frugalistas out there may raise an eyebrow... why do I 'need' to do gigs? No one needs to perform, true... but I love it, and this time round I seem to be making a bit of progress, getting through to the finals of a prestigious national competition a month ago (even if the critics hated me!), and getting some amazing opportunities to perform with my heroes. I'm moving slightly away from silly absurdism to more personal, thought-provoking material. My newer material is, I hope, good, and I would like it very much if it could do some good too.

Travelling to gigs is an opportunity for adventure and discovery. You can get to have a mini-explore of somewhere new, and whilst it's great to do that with OH, sometimes it's nice to have a wander by myself.

Leicester might not seem like far enough away to make an adventure of, but I think it is.

I got to go to my first gig on Wednesday by train, £19.40 return (couldn't find how to get it cheaper except by 20p with less flexibility). My little exploration took me past the Art Deco Turkey CafĂ©, isn't it pretty?

And of course, the clock tower, where I got my bearings...

Past the pretty shops of The Lanes...

And I paused by this beautiful gilding... and found myself outside an amazing chocolate shop. Just take a look inside. All of a sudden, I was Dame Judi Dench, as I found myself enticed inside for a hot chocolate and found it was the best, best chocolate ever! And had I been Dame Judi, I'd have hung around every day. I mean, look at this... I chose the house dark hot chocolate (£2.50), and it comes on a tray with the chocolate in a pot (one for the milk, one for my mouth...) and you whisk it up how you like it, plus you get a chocolate on the side. I chose Chinese Five Spice. A-ma-zing.

Perfect place for me to sit and scribble prepping for my gig.

Another really old place on Silver Street... a bar called Taps, which one of the Amore lads recommended.

And here is where my gig was... just the other side of the Cathedral, that Tudor building - that's the Guildhall.

And this is me, in front of the performance area in the Lord Mayor's Parlour. Look at that beautiful fireplace! And I don't mean my face.

That gig was to a small and bijou crowd, and was with organiser Ben Ennis, Smurf, Gary O'Donnell and Gareth Richards. I had to leave halfway through Gareth's preview show which was a shame as I was really enjoying it. There was a really lovely atmosphere and lots of joviality. We comics had a great time too.

Three trains home, but managed to make the last train an hour early, so I got to bed at a reasonable hour. This commonly counts as a comedy 'win'.

Last night's gig was out in the wilds of Newbold Verdon. I managed to get there by bus (single X7 £8.40 + 153 £3.10). Who doesn't love a bus adventure!

The bus journey went through Market Harborough and past lots of beautiful countryside.

Finally I arrived in Newbold Verdon and went for a stroll in it's 'Conservation area'... a part of the village that is chocolate box pretty. It's not all like that, but I loved this street, which ends in a farm.

And at that farm there were some cows. Ee-i-ee-i-oooh!

I'm not sure what kind of cows they are... they looked all white, with black noses, and long, curved horns... so I'm thinking White Park??? And yes, that is a cow, not a bull.

Anyway yesterday's gig was in the library, and was me, Smurf, Gary and Ben again, with the fantastic Annette Fagon headlining. It's a lovely place, and the community clearly value it... and yet it was one of the libraries that was 'closed' by the cuts and is now entirely staffed by volunteers. The volunteers I met are all lovely people with big hearts, and they made us feel very welcome indeed, but it absolutely broke my heart that if it weren't for these lovely people (mostly retired ladies and gentlemen) dedicating their time, and occasionally money, to keeping the place going there would be no library. During the comedy, MC Ben chatted about quaint-sounding local villages with only one bus a week, but after the gig one lady was almost in tears as she told me of another village nearby that had no library of its own was going to get its bus service cut... so that's another lot of people going to be totally disenfranchised from opportunities to leave the village to go shopping, or use the library. This makes me so angry.

A beautiful mural

Oh, Micthell... is that your name? I never believe anything on a bus these days.

These wonderful people, they gave us wine and pizza, they organised the room, they put up a stage with a glittery curtain, and then they laughed at our jokes as well. I felt I wanted to contribute something back, so I bought a book from their sale stand... and isn't it awesome?

Golden hands!

It's full of awesome patterns... including stuff I definitely remember wearing in the 70s.

I'd still wear it now.

I'm definitely going to make something from this!

Thank you Ben for the lovely gigs, and to our friend who lent OH a car so he could come and pick me up from here.