Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Time After Time

October 7th, 2018. 8pm.

That's when Doctor Who returned. Well, sort of returned. New face, new sex, new friends, new writers. Probably a new TARDIS, sonic screwdriver and title sequence too. Regenerating in every way and still being the same.
Got to love Doctor Who.

In late August the magnitude of my Hamilton overspend hit me; over £450 for one night out.
Even in the cheapest of cheap seats, that's 5 tickets, 5 rail tickets to London, 2 hotel rooms needed.  That's before dinner, breakfast and lunch for 5 and spending money.  I decided to recoup it as best I could. I listed toys on eBay and Facebook, washed and dried many kilos of Lego, looked for anything else of value that wasn't needed. It went well, and I raised a good chunk towards the costs.

Mark suggested getting rid of a lot of the DVDs and CDs sitting crates in the office. He sold them in a bulk lot, making us over £100, but we all had a check through the boxes to make sure nothing vital was being disposed of.

The lunatic had only gone and included my DVDs of Doctor Who.

(Yes, I know they are all online at BBC iPlayer and Netflix, but it's not the same.)

Rescuing them from the crate, I thought it might be fun to re-watch every episode from Rose through to Twice Upon A Time, in time for the arrival of Jodie Whittaker's Doctor in October. So many great episodes, it will be ace, I thought. There are probably about 60 episodes or something, I can definitely do it. Rose! Donna! Amy and Rory! Angels, Cybermen, Daleks, Ood, Adipose, Silurians! It will be a blast.

No, Jay, you twonk. There are 166 episodes from Christopher Eccleston's Doctor grabbing Rose's hand and saying "Run" to Peter Capaldi meeting himself in the form of David Bradley in the snow. That's an awful lot of telly viewing to cram into 6 weeks. I didn't start counting until I was already 20 episodes in, and I'd kind of committed to it by then.

Series One:
Ah, the joys of the Eccleston year. I love this season with all my heart. Eccleston is a delight to watch, Billie Piper converted me from thinking "some vacuous pop pixie" to "I love her forever, even though her mascara scares me". The delightful Captain Jack, the massive story arc in the Buffy style. Sobbing fit as the Doctor kissed Rose and changed. He really was fantastic. It was even more fun than I'd remembered, although I still can't be doing with the Slitheen.
Never did like a fart gag.

Series Two:
That magical boy from Taking Over The Asylum and Casanova - isn't he a delight? A less than wonderful Christmas special and a few absolute duds (Absorbaloff? seriously? was it a dare?) but my goodness there are some right belters. Werewolves, alternate worlds, the Satan pit, the glory of a Dalek vs Cyberman standoff. I love the humour ("Look at me! I'm a chav") and the glee of this series.    Sarah Jane Smith comes back - hurray!
Again, my heart broke. Cried buckets, the sentimental thing that I am. Lots of people hated that but tough luck, cynics. Love and sacrifice are great stories.

Series Three:
Oh dear, the difficult third album.
Martha drove me nuts the first time because she was mooning about like a lovestruck groupie instead of being smart and focused. Second time around, I wasn't in mourning for lost Rose, so could view her more compassionately. She still got on my wick but I felt she'd had a revelation in the Family Of Blood two-parter; even when the Doctor was free to fall in love, he didn't fall in love with her. I think it finally clicked and she moved on. I did hate the "it was all a dream Pam had, Bobby's really in the shower" bit about rewinding the last couple of years in the final episode, though. It felt stupid.

Series Four:
The mates.
Donna was a wonderful companion. They were sparring equals, they were drinking buddies, they were glorious. She never once let him get away with ego, and she was fantastic fun. The adorable Adipose - please can I lose weight like that? pretty please? - the Oods, the Daleks, the reappearance of  Rose and the gang... one of the strongest series of the lot.

Series Five:
Amelia Pond, name from a fairy tale.
Matt Smith, a man with insufficient control of his limbs.
I loved the moral quandary of The Beast Below, the Vincent episode was lovely, and obviously Rory is everyone's relationship goal. He's utterly wonderful. Amy is fun and stroppy; James Corden does a corking job as lovelorn Craig in The Lodger.

Series Six:
Strong start - murdering the Doctor in the first episode.
Unfortunately this series featured very annoying voiceovers in the opening titles that felt like nails on a blackboard every single time. Loved the eeriness of drawing a line on yourself every time you see The Silence, it was properly disturbing. Completely DON'T love the over the top Look How Zany I Am stuff Matt Smith was forced to do. He wasn't so much a Time Lord as a Time Toddler on a sugar rush. Grow up, man, and calm the heck down.
The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People was the best story for me. Mark Bonnar and Marshall Lancaster never fail to charm me, and Raquel Cassidy was superb.  It actually made up for the stupid Pirate episode. The Doctor's Wife was brilliant (because OF COURSE Rory is The Pretty One)  and the reappearance of Craig with baby Stormaggedon was great fun.

Series Seven:
Goodbye Amy and Rory, Hello various incarnations of Clara Oswin Osgood.
No stupid voiceover, now a great opening sequence with the Doctor's face, like the 70s and 80s.
Like the sentimental fool I am. I was distraught at Amy and Rory's estrangement, delighted by their reunion, and loved Souffle Girl. Dinosaurs on a Spaceship's only redeeming feature was the accidental kidnapping of Mark Williams as Rory's dad. I actively dreaded Angels Take Manhattan because I knew I'd miss Amy and Rory, and I wasn't wrong.
I didn't take to Clara at all. Sorry.
However, the Cold War episode with the ever-lovely Liam Cunningham was a stand-out episode. I swear I could watch that man read aloud from a phone book and be charmed. Really not fussed on The Great Intelligence and the Trenzalore rubbish. It was entirely too convoluted for my taste.

Day Of The Doctor
Happy 50th birthday, Doctor Who!
I was at a wedding when this was originally screened. We came home and watched it in the middle of the night, then again the next day. I love it.
John Hurt punctures the manic gibberish of Tennant and Smith magnificently. His calm, weary stillness throws Matt Smith's gurning into stark contrast. I'm as much in love with David Tennant as I ever was; is that man ever anything but charming? I loved the Zygons as they were my first Doctor Who memory as a child and they scared the bejeezus out of me back then. The wonderful Osgood and a reappearance from Billie Piper were marvellous.

Series Eight:
Look, it's a grownup!
Hello Peter Capaldi, how lovely to see you. Although not as a demented twerp belched from a dinosaur, running around and shouting, having a deeply weird relationship with Clara, and watching the moon hatch. This was a real low point. The moon hatching was definitely the thing that made me most angry, for such a daft reason... It got heavier.
It was an EGG. Eggs don't get heavier, because there is no new matter (ie food) going into it. it's not like a placental mammal, getting nutrients piped in. Eggs containing chicks ready to hatch or wee crocodiles are NOT heavier than when they were laid. It drove me insane.
The overnight forest was also stupid, while I'm having a moan. I did like the Cybermen and Missy, though. Chris Addison as an irksome afterlife civil servant was perfect.

Series Nine:
The best of times, the worst of times.
I'd totally erased this from my memory, had thought there was a Clara series and a Bill series. Would that it were so.
First up, the good bits: The Christmas Special with Nick Frost as Santa with a pair of bickering elves was a corker. Fun, frightening, made sense (not always a given in the Moffat years) and as festive as it's possible to be. Davros and Missy meant a cracker of an episode in the Dalek city - indeed Missy's dialogue throughout is a joy. "See that couple over there? You're the puppy." Top quality snark, it was great.
Otherwise? hmmm. Clara overstayed as a companion, there really wasn't anything good to do with her. Jenna Coleman was fantastic in Victoria, I honestly don't dislike her as an actress. I did loathe Clara, other than as Souffle Girl, because she was such a cipher. She brought nothing but big eyes and shiny hair to the party. I've missed Amy, River, and especially Donna so much in this series. I felt Moffat had created a character he was in love with, and didn't bother to explain to us why we should love her. RTD *showed* us why we loved Rose and Donna. Clara just stood there and we were expected to see something in her that I didn't.
The other significant character, Ashildr, had some interesting moments but didn't hold together that well (not Maisie Williams's fault, she was great). The only bit that really worked for me was the two of them riding off into space and time together, the long way 'round.
The antepenultimate* Heaven Sent was so nasty I could barely stomach it. The merciless terrifying and torturing of the Doctor again and again, clambering out over his own skulls... just NO. (Luke disagrees, by the way, because he loves a time loop.) I felt like I do when I see Dumbo - complicit in the bullying of someone. For god's sake, Moffat, seek therapy, ditch Clara and move on!
He does move on, and then it gets better.
The Christmas episode that followed the series, The Husbands Of River Song, was marvellous, and the superhero boy in New York for the following Christmas was the sort of episode that made me love the Doctor when I was young.

Series Ten:
Hello Bill! Love Bill, me.
This was the Doctor Capaldi was meant to be. He's fantastic - he looks at ease with himself in the role at last and his band of Bill, Nardole and Missy sparked off each other beautifully. The Pilot was a wonderful start, the emoji robots were suitably menacing, I love any excuse for a Frost Fair, and the final battles with Missy and The Master were super. I loved that they went to look for the lost Ninth Legion to settle an argument (although Kar being the reason crows saw Caw was stupid and irksome). A few sluggish episodes but on the whole a massive return to form. I even got over a smidge of my Moffat-dislike.  I don't think he's terribly good at writing women except in relation to men, so Bill was a refreshing change.
I'm also glad so many got a happy ending - Nardole with his Hazran, Bill with Heather and in a funny way, the Master and Missy destroying each other.
The final episode, featuring the masterful David Bradley as the First Doctor in a reprisal of his role as William Hartnell in An Adventure In Space And Time, was a stonking way to acknowledge the origins and prepare for the future of one of the most loved television characters in the world. And the more TARDISes the better, in my opinion.

And there we have it - ten series and many specials in 6 weeks.

I finished with a whole 27 minutes to go before the new series started (I'm the kind of gal who likes to live on the edge**). Thrust headlong into a new adventure, enjoying the full exploration of 'Lots of planets have a North' through the Sheffield setting, revelling in the first female Doctor engineering her own sonic screwdriver instead of having one gifted by the TARDIS. I couldn't be more chuffed.

All that, and it's nearly time to use those Hamilton tickets!

*Isn't that such a delightful word!
**If you haven't watched Rob Reiner's film The Sure Thing, you should do it immediately

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

A bit of a catch-up

As Storm Ali turns my tree into a Whomping Willow, I'm hunkering down inside. The chimney and the window gaps are making spooky noises and the animals are jumpy so I'm banishing the eerie atmosphere with smells of spices and cooking vegetables. I have pans of pulses simmering, batch cooking underway. 
Next Week Me will be very grateful.

The younger two are back at school and thriving. Z is in Sixth Form and absolutely loves his courses. He's so full of enthusiasm, I do love to see that. He's also exhausted - lots of work! Miss B is about to go on one of the highlights of her secondary school experience - the Year 8 trip to Butlins Skegness with the whole year group. 300 kids taking over the place for a week, living in apartments with their friends and having an incredible range of activities and workshops put on for them. I know she'll love it and throw herself into everything.

Familial relations have broken down still further amongst our feline residents.  Ferris Mewller has ceased coming home entirely, even when his adopted family went away. I looked for him and called for him, but he refuses to enter the garden, never mind the house. He hisses at us when we try bring him inside and ignores offers of food. 
I miss my special lad, he was very much My Cat (or I was very much His Person) until I ruined things by bringing Gonzo to live with us.
Poor Isaac Mewton is suffering too. Gonzo's only 2 years old and he's ENORMOUS. He is the alpha cat now; eats all the food, fights with Isaac every time they are together. He's a thug - bites Isaac while he sleeps, claims every sleeping place Isaac prefers. This morning they were fighting on opposite sides of a glass door for heaven's sake - it's madness.  I have to chuck Gonzo outside and feed Isaac separately; they work the house on a timeshare system.
I'm definitely not the cause of any trouble
This autumn I can appreciate the advance planning of Winter and Spring Me, as all those events I booked tickets for are finally coming around. We have a lot of standup comedy to look forward to, some workshops, activism, Yarndale, theatre, music, a meal at a Michelin starred place we've been looking forward to, and of course the mighty Hamilton. It's lovely having all these things on the horizon. I start getting tense about the coming dark months around now, and having so many interesting things to focus on is such a help.

I've not done a great deal of crafting for a long while. This year I have been focusing on cooking new things, expanding our meal choices and overcoming my unease at cooking with meat. I don't eat meat myself much (pastrami and pancetta are my exceptions because they don't have the texture that puts me off) and I've always hated handling it. However, the point of a blog called Fearlessly Attempting is to have a go at stuff that made me nervous.
I've done pulled pork, poached chicken, pork loin steaks, cooking meals with mince, chicken curries, meatballs, fajitas.  I still hate the smell, especially of the fatty meats like the pulled pork, but the successes of getting B to try more food combined with how delighted Z is with the meals makes it worth it.

As well as the many Indian recipes from Meera Sodha's wonderful books, I've done more Mexican influenced food too. (OK, TexMex, and not remotely authentic, but tasty anyway!). There have been  refried beans with additional chillies, spicy tomato and paprika rice with onions and peppers, guacamoles and fresh salsas. Pulled jackfruit was pretty good, although at heart I do prefer a veggie chilli. Miss B and Z like tacos and wraps, Mark prefers a plate, and I don't care as long as I get to eat it.

Of course, having settled down to type what I've been up to,  I've completely lost track of time. I am dragged back to painful reality by the acrid smell of a pan burnt dry.
Aw hell.
That's going to take a lot of scrubbing to make it useable.
No refried beans today. 

Sunday, 5 August 2018

In a pickle

One of the things I missed most when I moved to the UK as a kid was the lack of dill pickles. The lack of good food generally, come to think of it. Sure, the chocolate was better and you get a lovely cup of tea, but the food was almost uniformly lousy, the pizza were appalling and you couldn't even get a nice crisp dill pickle to liven up your sandwich.

The North Wales culinary landscape was pretty miserable in 1985.

Things are much improved. However, I still find the dill pickles a bit hit and miss. Too sweet a lot of the time, or too floppy, or just a bit 'meh'. So I'm making my own.

As I'm not sure how they will turn out, I'm starting with two different recipes.

My new friend-of-a-friend-via-Facebook, the very ace Lisa D, suggested this particular recipe. She's an ex-pat Canadian with excellent taste in many things (i.e. we agree with each other) so that's my first attempt.

Refrigerator pickles aren't proper preserves; they are only good for 2-3 weeks. I'm not sure how many pickles I'll need in that short a time, so I'm only trying one jar for this one. What I have in the cupboard is a much smaller jar than the recipe uses so I've halved the amount of vinegar. I'm using a generous sprig of fresh dill, a peeled clove of garlic (because I like it) and a teaspoon of sea salt. I've sliced the pickles about pound-coin thickness because I prefer them thicker than her wafer thin style.

It takes about 3 minutes to do, and is an absolute doddle.  If these are good I'm going to be delighted.

I liked the idea of longer-lasting pickles too, so I'm doing a more traditional recipe with the majority of jars.

Unlike the massive farms these people seem to have, producing kilo after kilo of cucumbers that require industrial scales of production, I have one plant that escaped the slugs. Downsizing needed.
I swapped the unit of measurement from 1 cup to 1/4 of a cup, and kept proportions the same. so: 1/4 cup table salt, 1 1/4 cups of water, 2 3/4 cups of white wine vinegar, simmered for 10 minutes to dissolve the salt. I put a large sprig of fresh dill, peeled garlic and one fresh chilli pepper (also from the garden) in each jar before stuffing them as full of cucumber as possible.
Because my cucumbers aren't a specific "for pickling" cultivar, they do have more seeds than is usual for dill pickle.  I'm doing some jars with slices and some with spears that I've trimmed the seeds from to see if that keeps them crunchier.
I also read on a number of recipe sites that the blossom end of the cucumber contains enzymes that make it go floppy, so I followed that advice too and trimmed the ends off.

To allow the pickles to last long term, I put all the jars on a folded tea towel in my big stock pot, covered them with boiling water and simmered for 15 minutes. The Internet assures me that will work just as well as a pressurised canner (and obviously the Internet is always factual - ha!) so that's what I did.
Don't worry, I did add more water

When I lifted the jars out (carefully) I could see one wasn't sealed properly so we'll not store that one and eat it soon. The other 4 looked much better, bulging because of the heat, contracting to a vacuum seal as they cooled. They are the duller green I associate with pickles, and I'm very much looking forward to trying them! A shame I have to wait about a month before opening them - I promise I'll update you.

Having been away for 12 days, I had rather a glut of produce to deal with.  I have now washed, trimmed, blanched and frozen over 4kg of French beans, swapped 2 dozen quail eggs for courgette to make fritters, and enjoyed salads of tiny tomatoes with red onion.

I know I say it a lot, but I really do love my garden.

Monday, 11 June 2018

Is there a statute of limitations in Florida?

11 years ago I committed a crime.
Recently, I admitted it to someone I only via Twitter. Only she and my eldest knew what I'd done.
That felt awkward, so I have since 'fessed up to a Very Excellent Mate and then my other half.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am a thief.

In April 2007 we went to Orlando for a family holiday.  It was brilliant, we all had a superb time. Theme parks, swimming, NASA, terrible food, brilliant weather - it was a marvellous trip.

Luke was 8 at the time and VERY MUCH deep in his Lego obsession. Lego in the US is vastly less expensive than Lego in the UK and Luke had saved accordingly.  In fact, both times we had an entire suitcase full of Lego on the return journey. It's a good thing we pack light.

In 2007 the ability to make personalised minifigs was unheard of in the UK.  The Lego shop in Orlando had a station (as does Leeds now) where you could assemble 3 minifigs and buy them. You could choose one accessory to go with it and mix and match hair/hat, heads, bodies, legs as suited you. Alien firefighter carrying flowers? You've got it. Mermaid wearing a chef's hat and carrying a fish? You bet. Go wild!
Coolest. Concept. Ever.

Luke made his 3 figures and proceeded with Mark to the till. I messed about with minifigs whilst toddler B dozed in the pushchair.

Being an ENORMOUS and wonderfully stocked building station, there were more combinations than I've ever seen before or since. I was having a wonderful time.

Back then I dyed my hair various shades of red or burgundy. I had a bob. I love bright red lipstick, always have. I used an online moniker with the surname Reckless, the ACTUAL name of one of Mark's ancestors.  It's a brilliant name, makes me think of a saloon keeper or pirate queen.

Faffing about, I made myself a red-haired pirate minifig with a sword in one hand and a wine goblet in the other. She was PERFECT. I had to have her.

Wait a minute - I had TWO accessories, and you're only allowed one.  And I don't want two other minifigs to fill a pack; I'd already created the greatest one possible.
Also, she is a pirate. You can't purchase a pirate, that's not how piracy works. It's un-piratical.

Readers, I stole her.

Later on, Mark said "I didn't see you at the till, when did you buy that?"
Umm... Little Luke and Zach, 8 and 5 years old, were right there with us. Able to hear every word.

I compounded my sin by lying to my partner of 31 years... "While you were dealing with the kids."

My pirate alter-ego stands on my shelf next to the coffee mat and my stack of books-I'm-still-reading.  She's my avatar online. She's still the greatest minifig I've ever seen, although I need to find a grey-haired bob for her one of these days.
It's nice to have a partner in crime.

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Talk is cheap (but remarkably effective)

Loquacious. Verbose. Garrulous. Gabby. Gobby. Can talk the hind leg off a donkey.
Have you met me face to face yet?

I talk all the time, to pretty much everyone. Actually, I talk to non-people too. The animals (obviously) the plants (Aren't you doing well! good on you), the appliances ("Don't you DARE burn my bagel, you rotter"), the timer ("Oh, belt up, I heard you the first time!). 
I started as a chatty toddler at an extremely early age and haven't shut up since. This can be useful, friendly, charming, wearing, crass, irksome or bloody annoying depending on one's mood and temperament.

On Thursday, my Best Woman SJ, my Very Ace Mate Kirsty and I went to the RHS Show at Chatsworth. The sun was shining, the flowers and gardens were glorious, the picnic was extensive and delicious. It was an absolutely wonderful day - as are all my days out with SJ. 

There's always a section of food and drink stalls. For the last 5 years gin kiosks have been A Big Thing. (Before that flavoured vodka, before that whisky, and the “new” thing on the rise is rum).  As usual we have a fair few tiny samples (Mason Gin from Yorkshire does a lovely Lavender gin, and I don't generally like floral stuff. There was a lovely baked apple and almond moonshine as well.)

Moving ahead of me as I tasted a mature cheddar (a bit dull), Kirsty called me over to see the product on a stall a few metres along.

It was a Scottish gin in a really beautiful ceramic jug. Lovely stoneware, a real heft to it. I went to look, and a couple of women already there were making a purchase. They told me to definitely try it, it’s lush.
I said it was the gorgeous bottle that attracted me, and we chatted a bit about the things we'd sampled while the seller got the card payment ready.
Paying for their gin, they were offered a free empty bottle “to use as a vase or make a lamp”
They said No
I asked the salesperson “how much is it for one of the empty bottles?"
She did a snooty face.
“One is free when you purchase a bottle of gin” (you ghastly peasant)
Oh, ok.
My new gin-tasting friend said “I’ve changed my mind. I’d like an empty, please!”
As the salesperson passed it to her she said “I’m sharing the happiness “ and passed it straight to me, smiling broadly.
The salesperson looked like she’d sucked a lemon. I was chuffed to bits.

When I showed it to Kirsty she started laughing. "How does this happen with you? This never happens to me, and it happens to you all the time!"

She's right, it does.
I talk to people. I chat away, all friendly and open. Sometimes it's annoying, sometimes people are abrupt or ignore me, but mostly people are friendly back. On the whole, I think people like an opportunity to connect. Sure, not everyone likes an extrovert but enough people do that it's worth being friendly.

I also got a photo with Joe Swift, my absolute favourite of the Gardener's World team. (They were filming for a segment on the programme.)
We saw him around and about while we were enjoying the show.
Clearly the RHS aren’t a selfie crowd, but lots of people were taking surreptitious photos.
A little later we saw him by a stand, waiting while the crew were sorting the technical bits.
I said to him and the production assistant “while you are still setting up, could I possibly have a quick photo with Joe? Would you mind?”
She said “no problem “ and Joe said “what do you mean?”
I took that as a yes.

(Of course I did!)
She used my phone for a photo. Joe said “OOOOOOHHHHH. Setting up! Of course! I thought you said ‘sitting up’ and thought I’m not that old, of course I can sit up!”
I laughed and said, “while you can hear me, Hiya Joe, I’m Jay and I’m delighted to meet you.“
“Lovely to meet you too, and enjoy your day”
As I rejoined Kirsty and SJ I noticed some people in the crowd shooting me funny looks - it seemed a bit "how dare she," or at least "how rude." But heck, I saw a nice person I wanted to meet, he was standing at a loose end for a moment and I asked politely.

Y'know, using my words.
And that worked.

Chatting. It's an under-appreciated skill.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

The happiness of being a fan

I am a fan. A proper, fully-fledged, deeply uncool and overenthusiastic fan.
I get all excited  - during the trailer for the new Mary Poppins film I actually squealed out loud in the cinema because I saw Lin-Manuel Miranda.  I have release dates for telly shows and books in my calendar. I fall in love with things at the drop of a hat.

Mark is not a fan. He likes stuff - sometimes he loves stuff. He has books, games, films and bands he really enjoys. He is measured in his enthusiasm, doesn't wig out in exuberant excitement.  This can make it awfully hard to buy him presents - who knows what he'd really like? - but it definitely makes him easy to live with. He's much steadier than I am.

But I do feel all non-fan people are missing out. There's something about that pure joy, throwing yourself into something and utterly loving it. Surrendering to the uncool, being the antithesis of cynical, being a bit absurd and really not minding at all.

My principle fangirl obsession at the moment is the work of Lin-Manuel Miranda. Since I first watched Moana, the glorious song You're Welcome (as performed by the most enthusiastic human on the planet, The Rock) has been one of my favourites. It's lyrically adept, full of charm, self-delusion, cheekiness and fun. In our house it's The Mum Summoner - Luke put it on YouTube loudly in the living room when I was messing about in the kitchen and he wanted my attention and as predicted I dropped everything and rushed into the room. Now they all do it.
I can't help it, You're Welcome makes me very happy. And it sure beats someone bellowing MUUUUUUUM to attract my attention.

Some months later my Very Excellent Mate Alison mentioned they had pre-registered for Hamilton tickets because her kids were obsessed with it. I was bemused - to me Hamilton is a declining steel city in Ontario and not exactly the thing shows are made of. (Except maybe a Canuck Full Monty, I guess.)  However, Alison's gang have outstanding taste and have introduced me to good things over the years so I thought I'd have a listen.  I didn't realise it was by the person who wrote The Mum Summoner. I knew nothing of the historical figure. That was 14 months ago.

"How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman..." I was hooked from the opening line.

Not a week goes by that I don't play it.  (OK, it's nearly daily.)  Zach knows every single word of the 2.5 hour set, bless his ace self, and I know a hell of a lot.  I never get bored of it. I find new nuances, call-backs, witticisms, and clever touches each time. I still cry. I think Daveed Diggs is brilliant, Thomas Jefferson was a Grade-A asshole, Lin himself is clearly a genius and I'm with Angelica, I want Women in the sequel (Work!)
I have to actively remind myself to play other stuff because I know the rest of the house wants a bit of variety. Tom Petty and the Hamilton soundtrack is pretty much all I need. I'm almost afraid of seeing it live in October because I know and love the Broadway recording so well. But I'm also incredibly excited that we ARE seeing it eventually. 

I am also a massive fan of Springwatch. To the frustration of my offspring - who would rather watch paint dry - I watch every single second of every series. Sometimes I watch twice because there was a cool bit. I follow what else the presenters are up to, mark the transmission dates in my calendar so I don't miss anything.
I look up the places they visit.  It was Iolo waxing lyrical about the Farne Islands that had me desperate to go.  Seeing the nesting puffins and terns was so brilliant I still bounce on my toes when I think of our trip last June - absolutely glorious. 

Other telly I am a big fan of: The Wire and Game of Thrones, both of which I have watched all the way through numerous times. It's the complexity of the stories, I'm transfixed.  Because I go to the beginning each time a new series comes out I can nearly do Season 1 of GOT by heart. I am still angry that one of my very favourite characters didn't even exist in the books, making them even more turgid to read. Roz is AWESOME, damn it.

Then there's the Regency novels of Georgette Heyer which I re-read several times a year. I'm VERY good on obscure trivia from the Heyer world. I love the period language, the daft habit of naming people after towns, that the heroes having grey eyes and the heroines frequently wear celestial blue gowns with silver spider-gauze. I love that Lady of Quality and Black Sheep are basically the same novel and I enjoy both versions anyway.  I love that I'm on my third copy of Frederica because the earlier ones have fallen apart.

Being a fan, however you express it, is a force for good.  Conventions where you hang out with other fans, online discussion groups, reading and re-reading, watching and re-watching, singing at the top of your voice whether or not you're any good, allowing the stories to sweep you away or the music to become the soundtrack of your life - to hell with a cynical, bitter and depressing world. I fully recommend opening our arms and hearts to something that makes us properly happy. 

You're welcome.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Not my favourite day

I am a fortunate soul. I have a wonderful family, I know many amazing and inspiring people, we can afford (just about) for me to work for free at things that matter to me. I have far too many animals and a veg garden prone to flooding but that's OK.
And I love my city very much indeed.

However, sometimes it all goes a bit tits up. Yesterday was one of those days.

First of all - women, cross your legs. My apologies for this bit.
Today I had my 3-yearly cervical smear test. Like every woman in the country of screening age, I received the notification letter with a glum sigh. Yes, I know we have to do it, it's the smart course of action but still...
I procrastinated just long enough to side-step the Easter school holidays and scheduled it for first thing on a Monday. "get it over with first thing."
The speculum isn't exactly comfortable and I actively dread the noises they open it.
Unfortunately, the nurse was inexperienced.
(I did warn you to cross your legs)
She's a total poppet. She's warm, friendly, kind, well-meaning and has a terrific manner with patients. She has the sparkly blue eyes of an old Hollywood movie star. She's great at taking blood and doing inoculations. She's just not quite got the hang of cervical smears.
It took 8 goes.
I had to ask her to stop, I couldn't take it anymore.
She fetched an experienced nurse who sorted it - without pain - in 2 minutes.
Talking to one of my Very Excellent Mates afterwards, she'd had the same nurse with a similar result (fewer tries, more bleeding).
I thought that was the worst my week would be. Everything's on the up from that, surely.

After dropping Z's forgotten lunch at school and buying the approved summer uniform polo shirts at the shop down the road, I drove to work on my lovely Vespa.
The roads are generally quiet at that time of day but a combination of road works, building works and changed lane marking mean a couple of sections are more awkward than usual. This resulted in the cars in the lanes either side of me simultaneously deciding to be in my lane, which they did without indicating and seemingly without noticing me on my scooter. Cars in front and behind, and moving in from either side - adrenaline spike! Luckily the car behind blasted its horn and they both swerved back into their lanes. People tell me scooters are dangerous. My experience is that no, it's dozy car drivers that are dangerous.
After that burst of near death excitement I went to the marvellous Play Lab.
Play Lab is a pop-up play space in the centre of the city. It's brilliant and if you are local to Leeds do come ad see us. It's on New York street opposite the post office, on the road down Kirkgate Market that leads to the multi-story carpark and the bus station. We're there 10-4 every day, sometimes later as well.
We have an empty shop that we've filled with Lego, toys, pillows, hula hoops, craft bits and a visiting coffee shop. We've pompom makers, chalks, markers and paper, stuff for den building, plenty to mess about with. That's the drop-in-and-play bit, totally free.
Downstairs we run workshops and inventors clubs to get kids exploring what they can build and create.  It's flipping lovely.

I'm acting as a self-appointed intern at this community-based project. It was clear to me the founder, Emma Bearman, couldn't possibly manage all her plans with the workforce she had funding for, so I nominated myself. I do a few days a week - mostly just being there to welcome people, help kids with activities, do the odd errand, clear up and so on. Having an extra body to (wo)man the play space can be a help.  It's very rewarding, if occasionally very noisy!
After a 4.5 hour shift I locked up and headed across town to collect a book from Waterstone's. My arthritis hasn't been great, so I was walking awkwardly and was jostled a couple of times. I put that down to my clumsiness.
When I got to Waterstone's and went to pay, I discovered my wallet was missing. On the unlikely chance I'd left it at work, I went back to Play Lab and searched for it. No wallet. I'd definitely had it when I bought those school shirts. I definitely had it when I tucked it in my cotton shopping bag when I got to Play Lab, and tucked it out of sight in the back of the cubby under the motorbike jacket.
There wasn't a lot in it - frustrating things to replace like loyalty cards, membership cards, drivers licence, credit and debit cards, and a couple of gift vouchers. Things I'll now have to reset on all websites I buy from. Hoops to go through because I bought out Hamilton the musical tickets with that card and I need it to collect the tickets.
Oh, and two really nice commemorative £2 coins in the separate compartment for my coin collection
(I know, I know, coin collecting is lame. Don't judge me. I've had a rough day.)
I'd been pickpocketed on my way through town.
That pretty much broke me.
It was such a crappy thing to happen, with so little advantage to whomever stole the wallet. It had been a really lousy morning followed by a nerve-wracking commute, a lovely but draining shift with my bad knees and now lots of inconvenience and frustration, as well as costing me about £50 to replace things.
I sang fed up songs on my way home (thanks to Lily Allen and Belle and Sebastian for their excellent work in this field), felt thoroughly narked with the world and went to bed early feeling drained.
Monday the 16th can piss right off.
So here I am on Tuesday.
I have an open bouquet of daffodils on my kitchen counter., which is enough to brighten my day. Yes, living in a city means there is crime and it's damned annoying when it happens to you. However, living in the city also means there are amazing things like Play Lab, providing a warm and welcoming space for families. There are large bookshops like my lovely Waterstone's, and fun places to go like my beloved Everyman cinema. There are Kirkgate Market traders who call out and wave when I go by, friends to commiserate with when rotten things happen, and thousands of connections and intersections of communities that make life richer.
I'm shaking off yesterday and looking forward to tomorrow. There are rumours of sunshine.