Saturday, 31 May 2014

The Final Curtain...

...or perhaps NOT!! Hey, hey we are on our way! Finally, after much hoo-ha and huffing and puffing and 'shall we, shan't we?' lasting a good couple of years (because life is a dress rehearsal, isn't it, and we shall get that time back for good behaviour, shan't we?) Andy and I have moved to our own website!!

Called, surprisingly and originally, Much Malarkey Manor (!) it can be found by following this link to which you may have to type manually into your search engine of choice address bar because I am writing this on the Blogger app and cannot for the life of me find the linky thing that makes it work automatically. You can give it a try if you like, but don't hold your breath and/ or be surprised if the instant magic does not happen. Andy says he is going to tiddle with it later - I am assuming he means the link and nothing more rude or sinister. 

Anyhoo, why have we now gone all website? To be honest, we aren't 100% sure. It was something we discussed as we were playing around with website templates at the start of May. And these are the reasons we came up with. 

Firstly, it seemed a very grown-up thing to do. All the best people have websites, don't they? To let the rest of the world know what fab people they are and what they can do/ sell/ make etc. Secondly, it  was decided we needed a bigger and better forum for our writing, because we all know that bigger is better, don't we, especially when it comes to cake or potatoes or hot air balloons. And thirdly, as we both work part-time we needed something useful and worthwhile to occupy our spare hours with other than watching cookery programmes and playing endless games of Mah-Jong Titans. 

Well, it's a start anyway...and very much an early stage work in forgive the rough edges for a while as we become 'website savvy.'

To be honest, I wasn't expecting us to 'go live' today (this is a technical term, apparently). I was thinking it might be tomorrow, because tomorrow is the 1st June which has a neat and tidy air about it which appeals to my mild OCD tendencies - you know, doing something new on the first of the month. But then Andy took me by surprise. He also said, 'We are going live - TODAY! Write blogs! Tell people, in case they turn up at the old place and find the doors locked and all the furniture missing. We don't want them calling the police, do we?' So I did. I have.

And thus, as I approach the end of my sixth year a-blogging, we move into new and potentially exciting territory. No one can accuse us of being resistant to change, oh no! Just a bit slow off the mark, maybe. But we are determined to build this city on rock and roll...what? Did I mean that? You see - getting all celeb already! We are determined to build up the site, add new things (also a technical term) on a very regular basis, and hopefully keep you all as entertained as you have been in the past and more.

So this is the last post (par par paaaarp!) on this blogspot. Normal service is being continued on the new website. Forward we go, into strange new worlds, to seek out new cake, new civilisations, to boldly split infinitives where no decent teacher of English would have dared before...

See you, as Arthur Conan Doyle probably said, on the other side...! 


Thursday, 29 May 2014

Cobwebs Gone!

There is nothing like a short break in a cottage in the middle of nowhere surrounded by sheep in order to blow away the cobwebs. You know, those cobwebs that encroach by some stealthy and insidious process and clog up the workings of your mind to the point where you find want to trade in your boring current existence for something shiny, new and jolly well exciting. Damn those cobwebs! Damn them!

Anyway, Andy and I set off on Sunday for a much needed four day break in green and lovely Worcestershire/Herefordshire/Shropshire Shire. We found our cottage at the end of a long bumpy narrow track on top of a hill. Our neighbours were sheep. It was very quiet. Apart from the sheep. They were quite loud. But not as loud as rush hour cars, say, or neighbours having loud barbecues, or shouting matches, or, well, you get the gist. 

On Monday, we visited Malvern spa town, because they were having a food festival, which was excellent and far better than any excuse for a food festival I have ever attended in Kent. We purchased much lovely food and thus have lost no weight this week. We got a bit lost coming out of Malvern and ended up right at the top of the Malvern hills, almost in Heaven's clouds. It was a bit scary because a) the roads were very narrow and steep and full of locals who drove like lunatics because, presumably, they knew their roads well and were unafraid of heights and narrowness and brushing the bottoms of Heaven's clouds and b) we didn't know quite how and when we were ever going to find our way back to the cottage because we kept having déjà vu moments as we went round and round in circles. But eventually we did. Phew!

And the only not quite nice thing about the day was witnessing a cyclist whizzing down a steep hill, all togged up in Lycra and stupid goggles and pointy helmet pretending he was all that, and being most rude and shouty towards some pedestrians who weren't quite quick enough in getting out of his way because they were (how DARE they!) crossing the road at the time. This isn't the first time we have witnessed such bad behaviour from these togged up 'look at me - I'm a Bradley Wiggins wannabee' cyclists. Ordinary cyclists seem fine, but add Lycra and shorts and elbow pads and ta-dah! You get a moron who thinks he has the right to cycle down the centre of the road at high speeds, swearing at pedestrians and generally behaving like a lout. Well, it ain't clever, big or funny. It is wazzock behaviour. Get over yourself. Grow some road manners. And stop riding three abreast on roads with your mates like you are a car. Rant over.

We visited Malvern Abbey, too, and a National Trust property which shall remain nameless only because I do not wish to embarrass them by nominating them as having the worst set of tea room staff ever, who did a lot of faffing around in a very disorganised and faffy way and the words 'p*ss up' and 'brewery' kept springing to mind. And that a spot of watching how the efficient staff at Worcester Cathedral managed their tea room would probably be of some benefit. Just a thought.  

On Tuesday we went to Worcester. Lovely city. Lots of swans on the river. Magnificent cathedral. Interesting museum at the now sadly defunct Worcestershire Porcelain factory. They once had a factory cat called 'Pudding.' Great name for a cat, Pudding. No ego-cyclists. Marvellous cathedral tea shop. And no, I do not have a new job working for the Worcester Tourist Board! But their website did cause mild anger issues with Andy because of its general inadequacies. They might want to brush it up a bit. Oh, and on Tuesday we were almost hit by a small cow who jumped out of a ditch at us as we drove by, and we almost ran over an entire family of squirrels. But you will be pleased to know that no animals were damaged in the making of this short break. Phew! Oh, and Andy threw a bottle of wine all over a shop floor in quite magnificent fashion. But not as magnificent as the lady in the petrol station today who threw a whole crateful of Red Bull all over the floor.

Yesterday, we went to one of my favourite ever places - Ludlow. We didn't stay long because it was freezing cold and a bit rainy and mucho windio, and all I had with me was a flimsy cardie because I stupidly thought I wouldn't need my Winter coat in almost June, would I? Anyway, Ludlow was every bit as good as I remember it from our last visit. Did a spot of retail therapy in the form of a lovely floral jug (for flowers), a lovely shiny pink handbag (for lady writer accoutrements) and fluffy blue ballet slippers (for feet.) 

And today, we came home. Good journey. No hold ups. The cats were not cross with us for long for our blatant desertion of their constant animals needs and I don't think the hens were even aware we had been missing. The house was still standing, the postman had delivered nothing but junk mail and within two hours I had taken two cold calls - one from British Telecom who are well getting on my nerves at the moment, and another from a website I had visited about taking a Tefl qualification and whose website box I DEFINITELY remember ticking in order to prevent receiving cold calls...sigh...

But it is good to be home! I feel refreshed and dynamic, and my rant reserve is fully topped up. Andy felt so refreshed he immediately went out and bought a new law mower and mowed both front AND back lawns. 

And now I shall go and rustle up some dinner from holiday leftovers, which could be interesting...

Saturday, 24 May 2014

For English Teachers Everywhere

Found this during an Interwebbly perambulation. Cheered me up no end. Being an English teacher and all...

Great English Teachers Are...

...passionate about many things
...people to be reckoned with
...people with opinions
...people you can't ignore
...reading mad - they couldn't live if they didn't read! too hard
...don't pretend to know all the answers individualism
...balance spontaneity with structure
...have high expectations and ideals the process of teaching for its creative opportunities
...are undervalued
...have a powerful emotional impact
...get nervous on exam results day
...more important than they realise.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Grannie Blows Her Trumpet

Good evening,all!

I am briefly hijacking the blog from Primrose and Daisy (and I had to wait until this evening, Mondays being their 'Samova and Samosa' night out) to tell you quickly about what I did this afternoon.

This afternoon I attended a Celebration Tea at Kayleigh's school, to see her being awarded with a certificate, citation and book prize in recognition of her 100% effort in everything she does, her excellent academic achievement and her being an all-round fab little girl who is kind, and cheerful and caring and well behaved! 

Fair brought a tear to my eye it did! What a brilliant recognition of her first year in formal education! 

Well done, Kayleigh! Grandpa and I are very proud of you! And well done, Chris and Leane, for doing such a good parenting job that allowed Kayleigh to make this grand achievement. 

I am blowing my trumpet and I don't care who hears!

Right, back to the renovations of Much Malarkey Manor.

Daisy and Primrose will be back forthwith...I just hope they haven't over-indulged the samosas. Curried chick pea wrapped in fried filo, plus a chicken's digestive system is never a good combination. 

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Up, Up and Away!

Daisy is looking very pleased with herself. She has the kind of look on her face which suggests she has just made a discovery. A discovery like finding a lone biscuit in the tin which you thought was empty. Or that you are related to someone famous like James Pimm who invented Pimms. Or you can fly...

'How did you get over there?' demands Primrose. Primrose is standing on one side (also known as 'the correct side') of the chicken run fence, and Daisy is standing on the other side (also known as 'the green-and-lush-and-chicken-poop-free side') of the chicken run fence.The four feet high barrier betwixt the two is still standing, and the gate in the fence is shut fast.

'I flew!' says Daisy. 

'You what?' says Primrose.

'Flew!' says Daisy. 'You should have a go. Flying achieves instant access to the whole garden without having to want until Denise and/or Andy decide we can have an hour or two of wanton lawn destruction time and let us through the gate.'

At that moment Denise appears. 'You are a naughty hen,' she says, and, sprinkling a trail of sunflower seeds up the lavender walk, leads Daisy back to the gate in the fence and secures her on 'the right side.'

Daisy hoovers up the sunflower seeds and waits until Denise has retired to the Manor to continue supervising the builders who are continuing the transformation of the blog. This sequence of flying events has already happened three times this morning. Daisy is getting fed up of sunflower seeds and is wishing Denise would tempt her back to barracks with some other tasty tidbit, like, oh, brioche or smoked salmon or a few peeled grapes. 

'Now,' says Daisy. 'Watch this...'

And she paces up and down the fence a few times, and then stands back as though she is judging the height of the fence, and then she steps back a few paces as though she is assessing a bit of a run-up, and then, from pretty much a standing start, she leaps into the air, flaps her wings and lands...PLOP!... In the middle of the lawn some eight feet away. 

'Freedom!!!' she yells, as she flies through the air. 

From an upstairs open window a voice of resigned tone shouts, 'She's done it again!' and this time Andy appears, captures Daisy and dumps her back in the chicken run.

'It's a bit of a lark, isn't it!' says Daisy, who is very excited by the whole shenanigans. 'I only wish I had discovered this flying business ages ago. It is most liberating, both in the physical sense and the 'chickens shall not be slaves to the egg market' sense.'

'Perhaps I should give it a go,' says Primrose, although she is a little more reticent because she is considerably shorter in the leg and body than Daisy. 

'You could try,' says Daisy. 'Although you are a bit of a short-arse. Perhaps if you climbed on top of the new dust bath Andy so kindly provided for us the other week, you might achieve the extra height you need.'

'You mean like the extra height it gave you to destroy all the leaves on the bottom branches of the damson tree?' says Primrose.

'Exactamundo!' says Daisy. 'And most delicious they were, too.'

'I'm not sure,' says Primrose. 'I mean, I'm not great with heights. I'm getting a bit dizzy in these espadrilles,' and she waggled her feet at Daisy. Daisy ignores her, because it is her belief that espadrilles are a ridiculous item of footwear, especially when there are flip-flops to be had for half the price.

'And something else I have discovered,' says Daisy, by means of temptation,'is that I rather like lemon balm. See those holes?' and she points to the lemon balm which is looking a bit raggedy round the edges. 'That wasn't slugs, you know. It was me!'

'Really?' says Primrose. 'But Denise was very careful in her herb garden planning. She deliberately chose plants that caused repulsion in hens. Like lemon balm.'

'Well I say never be repulsed by anything unless you've given it a try,' says Daisy.

'Perhaps I'll try later,' says Primrose. 'When I've finished decoupaging this stationery box. Oh, by the way, we have a new guest at Much Malarkey Manor.'

'How exciting!' says Daisy.

'Her name is Joanne,' says Primrose. 'And I think we should mention other guests who have recently arrived, too, like Catherine and Sarah and Allan.'

'Where are we going to put them?' says Daisy. 'I mean, once the builders have finished with the renovations there will be plenty of space, but what with Olly taking up pretty much the whole of the West Wing with her knitting we are getting tight for space.'

'It's okay,' says Primrose, 'Tango Pete is arriving this afternoon to erect his Yurt.'

'Oh really?' says Daisy. 'I don't see how that is going to help...'

'A yurt,' interrupts Primrose, before the tone of the conversations starts plummeting into the gutter, 'is an enormous Mongolian tent. It has a proper floor and woodburning stove and everything. It is essential glamping equipment. A glampers is someone who needs their hair straighteners EVERY day, before you ask.'

'Riiiiight...' says Daisy, who is only half-listening because she is contemplating another flying excursion but can see Denise watching her from her arty-crafty writing room window with her best 'don't you dare' teacher look on her face. 

'So I think we are all right for accommodation,' says Primrose. 'And I am also glad, as temporary writers in residence, that we have attracted another guest with our witty banter. It means we can't be doing that bad a job.'

'Of course we aren't!' says Daisy. 'We are fab, we are.' 

And she disappears over the fence...

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Hollywood or Bust!

'So where did Lord and Lady Malarkey get to last night?' says Daisy. She and Primrose are having a rest from their recent literary exertions and are lolling on the verandah with tequilas and a half packet of Hobnobs sequestered during a raid on the Manor kitchens the previous evening. The sun is blazing down, there is a lot of sky and very little cloud, and all in all it is way too hot to be doing anything. 

'They were out gallivanting,' says Primrose. 'Which is why it was so easy to sequester these here Hobnobs.'

'That's a good word, isn't it?' says Daisy.

'What, Hobnobs?' says Primrose.

'No,' says Daisy. 'Sequestered. In fact, I shall add it to my writing note book.' For she has read that ALL good writers ALWAYS carry a notebook with them wherever they go, in case the muse should strike. Daisy's notebook is especially hefty, so she can give this muse a good wallop back in case it strikes her.

'Apparently,' says Primrose, 'they went to Margate, which is an odd thing for a Lord and Lady to do because by all accounts it is a bit rough these days. Certainly not the cheerful centre of innocent family fun it used to be in the Fifties, anyway.'

'Nowhere in Kent is like it was in the Fifties,' sighs Daisy. 'It's all concrete business jungles and housing estates and massive traffic jams. Apparently, the air pollution in our town is one of the highest in the county.'

'Hack, hack....cough!' says Primrose, to prove a point.

'So why did they go to Margate?' says Daisy, wiping a blob of cough spit from her tankini. 

'To see Paul Hollywood in his baking show,' says Primrose. 

'Paul who?' says Daisy.

'That is what I said,' said Primrose. 'He is also known as 'The Silver Fox.'

'Ooooh, we don't like foxes,' says Daisy, doing a bit of a shudder. 

'No, we don't,' says Primrose. 'But he isn't a real fox. Just has a bushy tail and the habit of emptying dustbins all over the road in the middle of the night.'

'Well,' says Daisy, 'I can't see that travelling all the way to Margate in the middle of the week to see someone emptying dustbins all over the road is a very entertaining proposition.'

'They went to see him bake stuff,' says Primrose, patiently, and thinking if it wasn't so hot she might have the energy to get off her sun lounger and bat Daisy round the noggin with cocktail umbrella. But as it was, she didn't, and peace was sustained.

'They went to see someone bake stuff?' says Daisy. 'They could stay at home and do that for free.'

'That is what they are planning on doing,' says Primrose. 'The next time Heather has a baking evening, they are going to station themselves in the kitchen with a bag of popcorn and STARE! And probably make helpful comments. And demand an interval with icecream.'

'Aaah,' says Daisy. 'That'd be Extreme Danger Baking then?'

'Anyway,'says Primrose, 'this Paul Hollywood chap is a bit of a TV celeb. So part of going to see him last night was to exorcise a ghost for Andy, because Andy is just as good at baking but has neither a TV show nor great wodges of cash nor a massive house in the countryside. And Andy must not become a bitter baker because he has other talents as well, including drawing. I bet Paul Hollywood is pants at drawing.'

'But Andy could become a better baker if he used a bitter butter,' says Daisy, and promptly enters the alliteration in her writer's notebook.

'Bitter butter?' says Primrose. 'What ARE you waffling about? You don't want butter to be bitter, you Muppet.'

'When I say 'bitter,' says Daisy, carefully, 'what I really mean is a cunning play on words, or pun, on the phrase 'bit of.'

'Well saved,' says Primrose.

'Thank you,' says Daisy. 'So was it worth their trip, do you think?'

'I think so,' says Primrose. 'He was quite entertaining - kept making double entendres about nuts apparently, and holding up his floppy dough so it made comedy shapes of an 'oo-er, Missus' variety. But they were late back and are thusly tired and crabby today because they are both working PLUS Denise has lost her voice which she thinks is a chakra thing and Andy thinks is a germ thing picked up from school.'

'Best stay out of their way, then,' says Daisy, looking wistfully at the now empty packet of Hobnobs and wishing they could do another raid on the Manor kitchens this evening for some Jaffa cakes, maybe,or even a spot of toast and marmalade.

But then we can't always have what we want, can we? 

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

A Novel Experience

Following her triumphant debut yesterday as temporary Writer In Residence at Much Malarkey Manor, Primrose has spent today sitting lightly on her laurels looking as smug as a mug without an 's'. She has decided she is well into poetry now, and psychoanalysis, and is flicking through the pages of an Open University prospectus because she quite likes the thought of doing a spot of study and becoming a Doctor of Literary Prowess. Daisy, meanwhile, has poo-pooed poetry. She is aiming for the dizzy heights of novel writing...

'I am going to write a novel,' Daisy announces, emerging from the pod in a sprigged muslin frock and velvet bolero jacket. She is also wearing a short, lightly curled wig topped with a perky bonnet.

'You remind me of someone,' says Primrose, shifting on her laurels because laurels are quite spiky on the chicken tush despite their lush and smooth appearance. (The laurel leaves, not the chicekn's tush.)

'Really?' says Daisy. 'Whom, pray tell?'

Primrose squints. 'Well...' she begins.

'Would it be someone like the celebrated, highly regarded and some would say finest lady romantic novelist England ever produced?' interrupts Daisy.

'What? Barbara Cartland?' says Primrose, looking slightly startled. 'She wasn't who immediately sprung to mind, no, but now you mention her...'

'Oh, tish and pho!' says Daisy, and taps Primrose lightly on the wing with a closed fan. Only it isn't  that light a tap and Primrose ends up in a heap in the lemon balm which is going great guns this year and is threatening to reach an overall mass equivalent to a small elephant.

'Ouch!!!' says Primrose. 'Was that entirely necessary? Who are you talking about?'

'Why,' simpers Daisy, 'Jane Austen, of course.'

'Humph,' says Primrose. 'In that case, I think you should dispense with the simpering. I don't think Jane Austen was a simperer. I think she was a feisty gal with a good left hook.' She rubs her wing. 'You got that bit right, I suppose.'

'Okay,' says Daisy. 'I shall cut the simpering. To be honest, I can't do with simpering. But I can cope with being a feisty gal, and I have been reading about novel writing in the 21st century, and feisty gal is what you have to be if you are going to get even a sniff at being published.'

'Quite right,' says Primrose. 'Feistiness, good characters, seamless plot and knowing someone in the publishing business are all integral ingredients in being a published author these days. Do you know anyone in the publishing business?'

'Sadly, no,' says Daisy. 

'Then you are doomed to fail,' says Primrose.

'But I have drawn up a list of some excellent names for characters,' says Daisy. 'Of which I shall share with you now. Are you ready?'

'As I shall ever be,' says Primrose. 'Regale away.'

Daisy clears her throat. She has clearly given a lot of thought to the naming of these characters.

'Trilby Lukewarmer,' she begins, 'Smatterly Bumfluff, Nancy Pants and Stoately Harris. Partly Nantwich, Weasley Binton, Lobelia Tonguegroove and Tuppy Broadweed...'

'I had a cousin called Tuppy Broadweed,' says Primrose. 'He was in MI5. Of course, he didn't use his real name when he was incognito because he didn't want to draw attention to himself.'

'Most wise,' says Daisy. 'What was his incognito name?'

'Monty Aardvark-Vidayo,' says Primrose.

'Ah, yes,' says Daisy. 'Far more discreet.'

'So,' says Primrose, 'have you a plot to go with these characters? Of course, all good plots are character driven, so personally I think it is best to be flexible with your storyline and see where the characters take it.'

'What?' says Daisy. She hides the folder marked, 'Detailed and Intricate Plot Notes' beneath her Regency muff. 

'Oh yes,' says Primrose. 'Personally, I would give one of your characters a simple situation, a line of introductory dialogue and let them get on with it.'

'You would?' says Daisy.

'Yes,' says Primrose. 

'For example?' says Daisy, who is suddenly realising that perhaps dashing off a best selling novel by the weekend is probably unlikely to happen. 

'Well, for example,' says Primrose, 'you could put Trilby Lukewarmer in, say, a street in London, called, oh, I don't know, Bakers Street, and he could step suddenly from a foggy corner into the path of a small coach and horses and confront the evil Smatterly Bumfluff with the words, 'I knew you wouldn't stay away for long, Bumfluff. How was your aunt in Weston-Super-Mare?'

There is a moment of stillness. It is as if a nugget of genius has been released like a rare butterfly into the air, and Daisy is looking like someone who has a net and is frantic to catch it before it is ripped to shreds by the beak of a passing pigeon, because pigeons are ruthless like that. 

'Right!' says Daisy. 'I see what you mean. Right! Good! I have to go. Now. to make.' And off she scuttles to the pod. 

Primrose counts slowly to ten. The sound of crazy typewriter clacking soon fills the air.