Tuesday, 30 September 2008

So very happy

An even happier day today. Was treated to a lovely display of pigs flying past the window (slightly damp, on account of the rain). Nobody at work was awkward; no lies were told. Had a thoroughly good time. Enjoyed having soup for lunch again - it really is my favourite food. Did not miss being able to eat sandwiches in the slightest. Ate no mid-afternoon chocolate - was proud of my self-control. I definitely didn't give off the impression that I was thoroughly miserable at any point, nor did I retreat into an empty room and spend 15 minutes staring into space. Of course. That would have been silly, and would have got people asking why it was taking me so long to photocopy a document five times.

I think that perhaps I need to get these letters written as a matter of urgency. I don't think that my imaginary readers are enjoying reading this crap, and I'm a sucker for pandering to popular opinion. No other reason.

It is very annoying, though. Life is good. I have a job I am good at, a boyfriend who loves me, a shiny new car which does all sorts of wonderful things, an adequate income, plenty of diverting hobbies and great friends. I'm even in good health most of the time, and I certainly am not starving. There isn't anything else I need.*

So sorry to be so thoroughly boring and uninspired/ing. And for putting such a travesty of a non-word at the end of that sentence. Really, I ought not to be allowed.

*Except for a parking permit. Any day now I will get into trouble if I do not sort this out. Oh yes, and the not starving thing; I think that I might benefit from being slightly more starving. Preferably before I run out of trousers.

Monday, 29 September 2008


Had I got the funding, I would be starting a PhD this week. This thought does not improve my mood at all. I imagine that I am not much fun to be around at the moment.

I have caught myself, on several occasions, wandering around smiling today, and giving off friendly vibes. I think that I must just have got into bad habits. I suppose that there are worse habits to get into. I can't imagine that scowling at everyone is going to improve anyone's day.

I am also very jealous of anyone who appears to have recently escaped from any sort of rut. Some friends just got engaged; another friend went off to theological college; the old vicar got himself a new parish a couple of hours away; friends have new jobs; new students are hanging around looking all hopeful (several of them even had the audacity to make conversation with me).

Tomorrow I shall go round to Serena's house again for tea. I am looking forward to this a great deal. I am proposing to give her a lot of responsibility for writing one of my letters (I must work on finding an appropriate reward); we may even look at it together.

It is Serena's birthday on Wednesday. Her present arrived in the post late last week, and I collected it from the Post Office this morning. It is rather lovely. It is an unusual necklace, in brown and amber, with a large hand-blown* glass pendant. I don't think that many people could carry it off, but I think that it will look excellent on Serena. I must also make her some soap and some face cleaning things. There are a couple of recipes I must try out. If she is wrestling with my letter, that gives me more free time to create.

On Saturday we will be going to the theatre together to watch Jeremy Hardy. I shall give her presents at that point. Hopefully I will have amassed a small collection of goodies at that point. If not, I shall have to hang my head in shame again, and I do not want to do that.

How are you? Is life good for you?

*People blow things with their hands all the time in America.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Bad me

I don't appear to have said anything of note on here for quite a while. Possibly ever.

Unfortunately, I appear to have got myself into a rut, which is causing me to be somewhat uninspired. In order to get out of this rut, I must write letters to people. The rut has sapped enough of my creativity that I have failed to come up with anything worth reading for nearly two months. Which is quite sobering. I shall go and make myself a drink to compensate.

Back again. The tea is not helping to de-sober me. Also, I am thinking that it was rather a weak joke and that I should have just left it. Which I shall do right now.

See - it's just not happening writing-wise. This is much easier than the letters I must write, too.

Serena is being very wonderful - she has given me a framework outlining the sort of thing I should be saying at each stage in the letter. I had only been struggling with it for just over a month when I passed it on to her to unpick; it has been a lot better since then. Alas, I need to come up with more actual content myself.

Hmm. That's enough uninteresting bibble on that subject, especially as I am remaining unhelpfully stubborn as to the nature of these letters.* If anyone were to read this, they might be annoyed.

Today I managed to fit in over an hour of organ practice. That was enjoyable - I have almost got the hang of the Te Deum Prelude and the Phrygian Mode thingy is coming along nicely. Franck's Prelude of Wonderfulness (not its real name) is dying less obviously than it used to, and should be ready for human ears within the next year or so.

After a while the children came to sit with me. This adds a whole new element of challenge - it's a little harder playing the right notes when someone else is playing something which couldn't be described as music at the same time. Mind you, if they were playing actual music it could be even harder to ignore. I figure that this is good practice for maintaining concentration whatever. I think that I may figure wrong, though. Although I can block out external noise, it can be hard telling the voice inside me to shut up. For example, I frequently get distracted because I remember that I left a hymn book at home, or because the organ sounds like it is dying. When I pay attention to these thoughts, I miss out notes. This is presumably linked to my total inability to meditate. Perhaps I should just have the children playing all the time so that I have to concentrate...

I demonstrated my amazing prowess by playing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and The Twelve Days of Christmas, and revealed that I do, in fact, know more than 500 songs. I hope that they do not decide to test me on that - it could take rather a long time. Unfortunately for them, I do not appear to know any of the songs they learn at school, which must be frustrating for them.

Once again, I shall try to be interesting some other time.

*Because there are just so many things they are likely to be about. Ha! I am fooling nobody. Mostly because nobody is reading.

Friday, 26 September 2008


I can very nearly breathe properly again, I think.

It's very exciting, this breathing thing. I hadn't realised before. I can sense your excitement at my discovery, too; I am reminding you to experience the ordinary things in life anew, to seek a fresh perspective on the everyday.

You're welcome.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008


Today I had entertainment in the form of a large machine ripping the roof off the building opposite. Very fun. It created lots of dust - not entirely sure this fits in well with breathing difficulties.

Louise returned home today. I've had a really good time with her visiting. Often we do not seem to have very much to say to each other; this time we watched Buffy. That was nice. I also showed her my favourite charity shop. She bought picture frames. Or maybe pictures. I bought a hoodie of anarchy for Anne, which she has just e-mailed me about. Apparently she likes it.

I am now looking into making my Christmas soap. Last year I decided that it would be very creative and save lots of money to make soap for many people for Christmas. I was right about it being creative. This year I want to do it much better.

My biggest problem last year was that it took so very, very long to package the soaps. There is always a trade-off between fast and cheap, and cheap won. It has to be made of paper rather than plastic, though. Last year I double-wrapped the soap in greaseproof paper and sugar paper, then tied it together with decorative wool. The majority of packages were very attractive (the ones with the pink wool were, frankly, hideous). This year I shall not give up three evenings of my life packaging soap. It gets boring.

I also intend to make more soap this year, and to make different stuff which takes longer to cure. I have made the first batch - an unscented cold process soap, which should be really gentle.

Another intention of mine is not to talk about it in a really boring way. I'm sure you can guess just how successful that will be.

Also, did I say this already? Yay for me?

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Getting boring

It's day three of Operation Crap Breathing, and thus the topic is a little passé, I feel. I shall talk about something more interesting instead.

I just hoovered my ceiling.* I have decided that it is time to clean the upstairs of my house very thoroughly in order to vastly reduce the amount of dust and mould, just in case either of them is causing any problems. I decided to start with the windowsills, as they were the area in which the greatest difference could be seen with the least amount of effort.

In order to be kind to the environment, I have been using peat-free compost for the pot plants within my house. Unfortunately, this sort of compost seems to be very attractive to fruit flies. They have happily colonised the three chili plants sharing a pot on my landing windowsill, and have set about breeding and dying with great aplomb. They leave their dead where they lie, either in the pot or wherever else they land, what with being fruit flies and all that. As a creature of higher intelligence, I suppose it is up to me to dispose of their dead, but I have been slacking off somewhat with that particular duty.

Today I seized the fruit fly by the horns. I removed the chili plants from the landing and bedroom windowsills and put them outside. Hopefully this will kill off any fruit flies on the plants and in the compost. I then set to hoovering the surrounding area to remove the massive amount of corpses scattered about (yes, I know, my housekeeping standards are abysmal. Thanks for pointing that out). I then wiped everything down with copious amounts of environmentally friendly surface spray (naturally) and stepped back to admire my handiwork.

The ceiling was covered in live fruit flies. I suppose that "covered" is a bit of an exaggeration; "liberally dotted" would perhaps be a better term to use. Either way, they were spoiling the pristine appearance that was happening above floor level. So I did the only thing I could - got the hoover out.

It was very satisfying. The ceiling looks great. Except, of course, for the plaster. I managed to avoid the two spiders sitting there, although they will have to go some time. I'm not having them pooing all over my house again. Probably.

So, mission very nearly accomplished. Two windowsills and a ceiling are clean. That's practically the whole top floor. I only need to wash every fabric item which has been used, put away the clean ones, wipe down the entire bathroom, hoover the entire bedroom carpet and mattress, wipe down the chests of drawers, hoover, clean and tidy the spare bedroom and clean its windowsill and hoover the bathroom and landing and upstairs will be done. Oh, and dry all of the washing. Thank goodness they put the heating on at work the other day - the weather has been great since. If only they had thought of that in June - the summer could have been saved...

It has just occurred to me that I am doing myself down and making myself sound like a disaster domestically. Please don't get that impression. I am actually quite tidy.** After all, I did not forget to hoover the rubber plant on the landing.

*This, I suppose, is only interesting insofar as it doesn't happen everyday; I must confess that I may be stretching the meaning of the word "interesting" a little further than is advisable.

**I don't think I am able to classify this as sarcasm - it's just a lie. I think that they are subtly different. This is the wrong side of the sarcasm/lie divide.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Is Jesus trying to kill me?

I went to see the doctor, who said that it doesn't sound as though I have a chest infection. However, the amount of air I can exhale is somewhat depleted, suggesting that things are not working as they should.* I now have an inhaler to see if that makes a difference, and a peak flow meter to monitor my efficiency of exhalation (or something) over the next few weeks.

Naturally, I have set up a spreadsheet so that I can produce pretty graphs. I can also experiment on myself (assuming the breathing improves) to see what makes it worse (assuming it responds to things - ideally it will get better and stay that way forever). I am slightly worried that it is a reaction to the gluten I had on Sunday, in the form of a communion wafer. If it is, it can only mean one thing - Jesus is trying to kill me. If it is not, I shall let Him off. I really need to get round to investigating gluten-free communion wafers, though, whatever...

*Also suggesting that things are not working as they should: I still can't breathe properly.

Sunday, 21 September 2008


Today's service went well from my point of view. Both hymns seemed fine. Unfortunately, I seem to be playing too quickly for the congregation - I had to modify my speed downwards quite considerably.

We also used a projector for the service for the first time. It went with few hitches, and I am enjoying knowing that I shall not be collecting any more dead service sheets in my organ music bag.

This afternoon I shall mostly be tidying the house in preparation for Louise, my little sister, coming to stay for a few days (she's due to arrive at the train station at about 8.30). She has a lot of reading to do before returning to university, and thought that going to my library while I work could be a good tactic. There aren't many good distractions in the library, particularly if one is not allowed internet access (which, without my username and password, plus more technical know-how than I possess, she is not). Hopefully she will get through a lot.

Unfortunately, I have a cough which has resulted in a bit of difficulty with the breathing thing. In a way it was better yesterday - I just felt like crap with the occasional random shooting pain. Today the pain is mostly gone, but holding a conversation is less easy. I am being uncharacteristically quiet. Typical for it to happen on a Sunday, though. If I am both alive and still not breathing properly tomorrow I shall have to go to see a doctor. With Louise coming to study, it really is not a good time for me to be taking time off work. I would either have to forfeit the emptiness of my house or take her somewhere quiet and indoors for studying. I just hope Nana didn't get it when I saw her on Friday.

Seemingly, being ill has also sapped any of my remaining writing power. No doubt there will be another uninteresting entry coming shortly.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Picking hymns

The new vicar has decided that I am to have responsibility for picking three of the hymns for each service. She Who Plays The Guitar will presumably be picking the other three.

This freedom of choice is both a good and a bad thing. On the plus side, I get to play the hymns I want to play; on the minus side, when they go wrong it is even more my fault than it was before. Additionally, it will take up extra time. However, it will be good for me.

Today is my first day of doing this - they have to be chosen before tomorrow. My theme is:

“The first shall be last and the last first”
that for us even to die is gain as we shall suffer for the Lord’s sake here on earth

i.e. God’s gracefulness and our being willing to suffer for the glory set before us!

Hmm. I wonder if there is a section at the back of one of my hymn books telling me what to do here. I'll let you know how I got on with this after Sunday's service.

In Other News, they continue to demolish the building behind my office. At the moment, due to the powers that be finally turning the heating on, the weather has improved and so I need to have the window open. The destructors have responded by using loud machinery; it's a relaxing backdrop for a productive and fulfilling day.

The digger thing has escaped unscathed (or got nicked - either way, it is not there any more), and a lot of the ceiling those industrious men appeared to be painting is now rubble. It has decorative twisted steel reinforcements hanging down, rather like jungle foliage.

The destructors are kindly propping up the wall which belongs to both the rapidly disappearing building and the one next to it, which I assume they want to keep. There is a big archway from the outside into a part of building which has probably never had outside from that particular direction before; this has those long steel rods commonly used for propping up bits of buildings and mine shafts in the middle. There are suspicious-looking brieze block sections, where it appears there used to be a doorway which is no longer considered to be useful.**

It looks as though they are packing up for the day. I shall have an hour of silence before returning home and to the barbecue - we will be poisoned with the rest of the leftovers from Saturday, which were not frozen at the time. I hope they are OK. I am also not suitably attired in the slightest - I am wearing an ankle-length synthetic dress made some time in the early 70s, which will not appreciate coming into contact with hot sparks. Or, you know, cold sparks. Sparks in general, really. Hopefully HWSNBN will rise to the occasion and bring me cosy things to wear...

*Doesn't it throw in a lot of excess HTML code when copying and pasting from an e-mail? I was amazed!

**Presumably because it would open several metres in the air onto a building site.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008


Today I went climbing. I think that I last went climbing the evening before I started this blog. I remember that getting it together enough to go climbing regularly was finally beginning to pay off, and I was starting to feel strong and in control again. In fact, I had for the first time (and ahead of the men with whom I climb) managed to make it to the top of the 18m wall at the indoor climbing centre. I was leading, which meant that I was taking my rope with me and clipping it through quick draws as I climbed - the rope was not attached at the top of the wall, and had I fallen I would have covered a little more distance than I was comfortable about covering before the rope became taut. I held on very tightly.

My head was not really frightened, but my legs were. I decided that it would be a good plan to repeat to myself that this was just an ordinary climb, and was perfectly safe; it was just taking a little longer than usual. And I did not look down until I was on my way down. I think that may have helped. I suppose I kept the fear at bay by pretending nothing was going on. I think that my legs are either stupid and did not understand what my head was saying, or more perceptive than my head. I ably demonstrated "Elvis leg".

Additionally, it turns out that it is very draining climbing 18m upwards - my arms and legs were very pleased when I stopped climbing and prised my grip from the 'rock'. Alas, I missed the view on the way down. Next time I shall have to pay more attention - I was really looking forward to seeing what the climbing centre looked like from that angle, but was unable to let myself until I was safely dangling on that rope. I like the rope.

Today I felt less able. A month or so without using many of my climbing muscles left me with an increased waist measurement (I'm a little touchy about this - I remember how my harness used to fasten) and decreased strength. I was tired when I climbed to the top of the first 10m wall. I didn't attempt the 18m one at all, although the guy in the group today did. He only rested twice on the way up, which means he is only two rests behind me.*

There was only one incident requiring an ambulance, which was good, although I prefer it when there is none. I didn't get the impression that they guy fell off the wall; if he did fall, he fell quite a long way. I didn't even notice there was a problem until the ambulance people came along with their ambulance. He was only a few metres away, so whatever he did, he did it quietly.

It felt good to have climbed again - I must try to keep it up better this time. There are plans to climb outside some time before the end of the year, which I really need to do. I was given a whole load of climbing gear for my birthday in June, and have not used most of it as there is simply no need for a helmet or assorted bits of metal attached to wire*** when climbing indoors. Especially if you don't fall off.

I returned home to find HWSNBN killing his friends on the Internet. They do this a lot. Apparently his friends are dead now. Perhaps they won't be doing it so much in the future. Perhaps he has zombie friends. I have just cooked sausages left over from Saturday's barbecue (they were frozen when they attended and have been in the fridge since Saturday evening). Either they will be fine or I will get a day off work. Either way, I win. Mind you, maybe I'm looking at it wrong - maybe I lose either way: either I have to go to work or I get food poisoning. Hmmm. Life can be disappointing viewed from a "glass-half-empty" perspective.

Bed time. Sleep well, Internet.

*Competitive? Me? Actually, I was too afraid to let go of the rock. I mean, I wasn't afraid of the climbing itself,** but letting go did not seem to be a plan with which I wished to engage.

**My legs do not count as "me". They are traitors.

***There is, of course, much need for assorted bits of metal attached to what looks like very sturdy string - those are the bits of my birthday present that I have been using a lot. And my rope is very lovely, too. It isn't long enough for the 18m wall, but is great for the rest of them, as is is lighter than the longer ropes.

Monday, 15 September 2008


It appears that the building across the way from me has collapsed slightly over the weekend. I am hoping that I missed something and that the giant piece of machinery with the very long arm destroyed it while I wasn't paying attention (it is chomping away at the building right now), but I get the impression that it had fallen down before the destructors arrived. I wish I had my camera so I could show you a photo.

Methinks the digger will not be trundling around the top floor again. I hope it gets off the floor below (it was removing the sides of the building most of last week) before that ceiling comes down. I think it is reinforced concrete, and will therefore be rather heavy.

A slightly more alarming occurrence is the presence of two guys who appear to be painting the ceiling close to the digger. This cannot be what they are doing, but I am at a loss as to what else it could be. They are going to be so disappointed when that ceiling falls down. Seriously, though, what are they doing?

Sunday, 14 September 2008


I'm cooking dinner for HWSNBN and his mother this evening. Unfortunately, due to an excess of crapness on my part, the roast pork will not be ready until 8pm at the earliest. HWSNBN's mum does not like to eat after about 6.30. Once again, I have messed up and I feel bad.

I also managed to be too late for the vegetable shop - I thought it closed at 6, but it turns out it closes at 5 on a Sunday. As a result, I can only offer one carrot and half a swede in the orange vegetables section. I have no apples to make sauce. I have frozen peas, and purple beans from the vegetable patch, and purple potatoes (peeled - you can't really tell they were purple now), so I can fake a roast dinner - it's just that the timing is so very wrong.

I've just opened the oven and the pork looks amazing. It's just had its 30 minutes at 230C, and I had to let the heat out to take it to 160C, where it will stay for 90 minutes. It's quite a large bit of pork. I bought it because it was on offer, and put it straight into the freezer. Alas, I roasted a joint which had been in there for a few months recently, and it was not good. I don't know what happened to it (maybe the freezer turned itself off...), but it led me to the conclusion that I must defrost and roast all of the meat over a certain age in there (that age is anything I put in before yesterday). So now I am working on that. I do hope food poisoning is not the result. None of this meat will be served at all rare!

The reason I waited until so late to start cooking is that I am not having a happy day. Church did not go well - I am too easily irritated at the moment. Just as I was about to start playing this morning, the guitar started.* In a way, this is great - it means that I do less work but still get the same amount of money. I find that hard to argue with! However, I would have appreciated the chance to run through the hymns beforehand. It would also have been good to have been forewarned that the organ sounds like it is dying before the introduction to the first hymn. Poor darling - it is not at all a well little organ, and it needs tuning again.

The next badness came during the second hymn. The person who was singing most loudly was not singing the same rhythm as I was trying to play. I suspect that she was right,** but that didn't really help me. As I was distracted, I played lots of wrong notes. I am such a crap organist.

To make matters worse, she who plays the guitar is really good. I would feel a lot better about this if I wasn't being shown to be the lesser musician. I would not be shown to be the lesser musician if I did enough practice - if I worked at this, I would be good. Therefore it is all my fault in the end. Grr.

Finally, I got lots of notes wrong in the voluntary. I think that I had given up by then.

After church I went shopping and bought, among other things, some wine making kit. We are hoping to make elderberry and blackberry wine from those we find growing around the edge of The Field. I am looking forward to that.

As I was returning to the car, Heather called me. She sort of invited me round to hers for a cup of tea.*** When I arrived, she fed me and gave me wine instead. We both moaned about our respective lack of movement - her with a project she cannot move forward with until next year, me with projects which have not worked out - now I have to come up with new plans. After feeding me, she gave me tea and I felt better. Not completely better, but I think I shall have to make a lot of changes before I feel completely better.

She also helped me a little with a letter I am writing at the moment. Should this letter achieve its desired aim, my life will be thrown into utter turmoil for a bit. Should this happen, I shall record the results in this blog. It will be very exciting, but is rather daunting.

Sorry about skirting round this. There are some things one shouldn't share with the Internet, but the unbloggable crapness which is consuming my being at the moment says that it deserves a passing mention.

Update: Dinner tasted fine - I am reasonably confident nobody has been poisoned...

*OK, so it wasn't that the guitar started; it was that somebody started playing it. Somebody was supposed to be playing it. I feel incredibly petty.

**Well, officially I suspect that she was right. Between you and me, I was not convinced, even though, deep down, I trust her knowledge of the song more than mine. Deep breaths....... And, relax.

***She suggested we should meet in town for a coffee - I invited myself round to hers.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Giving blood

Today was a day of databases, which turned my brain to mush. Much up-to-dateness has been achieved, and a few potential problems have been spotted before they noticed that they could cause any difficulties. Alas, it turned my brain to mush. I think I may have been repeating myself to everyone.

After work, I went to give blood. I do not have a good record with this - my blood seems to be quite happy within me, and only comes out with great reluctance. Apparently I have crap veins.*

Last time I went (in November), neither myself nor HWSNBN managed to give a whole bag of blood (between 410 and 470 ml). This is very unusual for him - his blood is normally more than happy to exit his body via the hole in his generously-proportioned veins. Oh yeah - if you're squeamish, you probably shouldn't have read that. Sorry. There may be more ahead, but I haven't yet decided. But you should have been prepared, you know - it's not as though the title didn't warn you. You should read blogs responsibly.

Anyway, having been told in the past that my right arm might be more successful (after a very slow donation from the left one - apparently it's often easier from the dominant arm), I tried again with it. Alas, the nurse was unable to find any veins in it at all. Trying again with the left arm, a vein was located (the usual one - I shall not be trying again with the right arm).

This time, I managed to donate a whole bag within the time limit. Did you know they had a time limit? It's about 15 minutes. Such are my veins that I have always known. Lucky me.

Having given blood, I managed not to faint** and made it home. HWSNBN is now getting a takeaway (although he has been gone a long time - I hope nothing has happened to him. He could have eaten both of our meals within that time. No, here he is. Time to go!). Dinner time!

*I am paraphrasing - they didn't actually say this to me.

**This only happened once, when they took a very long time making tea for me. This was bad. I wanted her to make it quickly so that I could sit down, but she wasn't getting my telepathic signals. Grr. Did you know that once you have fainted once, you are only allowed orange juice after donating, and not tea or coffee? Also, when gluten intolerant, biscuits are out of the question. This makes it less fun.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Dark and scary

HWSNBN continues to be pleasant and friendly. On Monday we went for a drive in the hills, then he took me out for dinner. I had mussels and chips. We then went for a walk along the canal, and wondered about the presence of windlasses at the locks, and their padlockedness. We came to the conclusion that those using the canal must have a key to the padlocks, rather than a windlass (last time I went on a narrow boat there were no padlocks, but each boat came with one or more windlasses, to operate the locks).

I found the deep, dirty water rather disturbing and smelly. Although I would prefer not to be scared of deep water, and I pretend not to be, I am. I am not scared of smelly, scummy water, but I do not find it very pleasant. I don't think HWSNBN noticed, though, which was good. I think that sometimes* pretending that a fear does not exist will diminish it. Having suffered no ill consequences of being in the presence of the scary thing, sometimes the fear gets a little boring.

The most useful example of this comes from playing the organ. Organists do not always have an easy time learning their instrument. Churches can be cold and dark.** The church I learned to play the organ in was (and still is, in fact) very large. When the sun went down, this church could hold a lot of dark.

In order to use electricity efficiently, I was in the habit of only turning on the lights at the front of the church, where the organ was. This meant that, sitting at the console, I had a massive black space to my right. There were pews, balconies, staircases and passageways behind/in which anything could have been hiding. Anything could also just be sitting quietly in some dark space, waiting for me to look in its direction. Additionally, the organ itself was housed in a two-storey chamber in front of me. Between me and this chamber were two pieces of wood, one of which (the one directly in front of my face) could easily be moved by the hypothetical monster hiding in the organ. I tended to feel somewhat exposed.

Can you see how my imagination perhaps did not make it entirely easy for me to be alone in this large, dark building? I am so glad it was carpeted - had it not been, its scary factor would have been increased exponentially. Everyone knows that carpets repel all manner of scary things. Duh.

So, as you can imagine, I was not always entirely relaxed when doing organ practice alone in the dark. The worst experience I had was when practising during a storm. The building creaked; I had to turn the lights on, as I could hear things moving all over the church. There was an awful lot of church to creak.***

However, having experienced this, suddenly staying at home alone in the dark in my parents' large Victorian house was much less difficult (especially after they got a new carpet. This new one repels demons, the devil and psychopathic intruders. Alas, it is not so effective against little brothers jumping out at one in the dark). Staying in my tiny little house alone is very nearly easy. Except when the curtains are open at the back of the house, and anything could be lurking. It's not carpeted out there, you know. Or when the bedroom bin is not where I am sure I left it, and there is nobody else to blame. The bedroom carpet is obviously not powerful enough.

Practising at the Chaplaincy alone is great until the lights turn themselves on (I really hope they were on a timer, because I did not see anybody in the room with the light switches. I did wait a while before venturing in there, though; I didn't want to see anyone if they were there, and gave them plenty of time to leave (disapparate? No other way in, unless they were hiding upstairs in the secret room). But it has to be a timer switch, right? To make sure the chapel looks calm and friendly overnight. Yes, that must be it). Imagine how scary it would be encountering a being wishing to turn lights on. I bet that it leaves a trail of destruction and increased electricity bills wherever it goes.

See how level-headed doing organ practice in a large dark church has made me? Bombproof. I am so totally not crazy.

*Not always.

**One of my abiding memories of my old church's coldness was leaving it on a summer evening and being struck by how warm it was. Everywhere else was warmer inside than out, but not the church.

***Funnily enough, I didn't find it particularly scary when, in a different, more powerful storm, the top of the spire became detached (it was held in the appropriate position by gravity alone). This seemed to pose less of a threat than non-existent things in the dark. I am so rational.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Benedictine est...

qui venit in a half-litre bottle.

HWSNBN returned from Foreign Parts on Friday, bringing with him bags full of good cheer. Having expected to dislike having him back in the house (I really enjoyed having it to myself), I was pleasantly surprised at how much fun he was being. Apparently he missed me. When he said he had an Indian one night and an Italian the next, apparently he was talking about the food...*

Additionally, he brought the largest bottle of Benedictine I have ever owned. No half-litre bottles for me this time; I have the full litre.

Dave the Organist once told me about his first experience with Benedictine. At a very tender age (under 20), having been told how wonderful it tasted, he managed to procure a bottle for himself. He was alone and so did not have to share it, but had nobody on whom to lean for guidance. He poured himself a mugful,** and gulped down a mouthful. Apparently, this was not an enjoyable experience; it took him rather a long time to stop coughing. I don't think it dampened his enthusiasm for it, though.

My first experience with Benedictine will have been at the hands of my parents. My mother was more wise than Dave, and advised us only to have a small sip. (My brother, Robert, did not listen to this, and suffered similar consequences to those of Dave. We laughed at him.) Oh, how I loved it. When I was about 14, we visited the Palais Benedictine, in France, where the stuff is made. I enjoyed that. It is not often one has the opportunity to experience whole rooms perfumed with Benedictine, nor to marvel at how assiduously the monks guard their copyright. At the end of the tour, the Parents were given a glass of Benedictine each, and Mother allowed us to take a sip (Father did not).

Until recently, Benedictine has been a jealously guarded treat, as bottles have run out far too quickly. I do hope that this abundance of Benedictine does not lead to me disliking it, as it did back in my third year of university. I shall have to continue rationing it. When the smaller bottle is gone (I need to make space in my cocktail cabinet - it's getting a little desperate).

To conclude, HWSNBN is great, as is Benedictine.

Tomorrow: yes, I am crazy. What are you going to do about it?

*Sorry - that was a bit of a cheap joke, and didn't really fit in there.

**The mind boggles. He must have been a little the worse for wear afterwards.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Aaargh! Helmets!

Yesterday was the day of the much anticipated* church bike ride. As the weather was fine, we went ahead with it. There were five children and three adults going, which is a fairly respectable ratio. The plan was to cycle to the beach, about 3 1/2 miles away, and to have a picnic lunch. We would then return to church, then go home.

It started off well. We all gathered round with our bikes and everybody was happy. This lasted until the leader told us we were going to wear helmets. Seemingly, this was unacceptable. They are not cool, and make you look dorky, or something. One child (hereafter Recalcitrant #1) refused to move for about five minutes, so great was her indignity. She was only about 10, though...

I am pleased to report that my "new" bike is lovely - it has an impressive range of gears (compared to what I am used to), and will free-wheel for a long time after I stop pedalling. Actually, free-wheeling is the main reason I like cycling, I think. What other form of exercise allows you to look vaguely as though you are achieving something when you are actually just staying upright and avoiding bumping into things? It's almost the opposite of Pilates, which looks like you are doing nothing, but really hurts. I suppose that one has to put in effort to reach an acceptable speed, but with, say, jogging there is no free-wheeling. But I digress.

Anyway, I had a semi-wonderful time being back on a bike for the first time in many months, and we made it to the beach with no major incidents. The weather held, too - it hardly rained at all, and we even experienced some sunshine! We were met on the promenade by the car-using, food-carrying component of our group.

Once at the beach, the children went to play on what passes as sand round these parts. I went to the supermarket to procure a spoon, some baby wipes and lunch.** I returned with two sporks, some baby wipes and lunch. One child pronounced my double chocolate brownies to be "disgusting", which amused me. How does one reach that conclusion? Perhaps she was trying to be awkward. I had been worried that other people would finish my brownies, leaving none for me to take home; these worries were unfounded, thank goodness. Having been reminded of my brownies, I have just eaten a second one. Still yummy. When HWSNBN gets off his computer (he's killing aliens, I think), has a bath and presents himself to be fed, perhaps I can get something with nutritional value into me; until then, brownies it is.

Having played and eaten lunch, it was time to return home. Once again, helmets were not universally accepted. There was more resistance this time, although I am not sure what they expected to achieve. The way they were going to get home was on their bikes, and they were not allowed to ride them without helmets. I fear I may have made myself unpopular with my silent standing and waiting, punctuated with occasional offers to adjust helmets. I had given up suggesting that a high pony tail was perhaps not the thing to have when wearing a cycle helmet (I myself had my hair in bunches - forward planning and all that).

As Recalcitrant #1 had her bike leaning on mine, I was last to go, and followed her along the pier to the lighthouse. At one point she stopped riding, so I stopped too. After a few minutes I got bored and started up again. I assume that she thought I was going to talk to her, as she started up again, too, albeit without her helmet. I didn't think I was going to win that argument, nor was I going to get that close, so she returned to the group without her helmet on.*** When we were ready to return home, Recalcitrant #1 cycled very slowly indeed to the main road, and again on the roundabout. Perhaps she wanted to die. Alas, I was behind her and so more of a target for vehicles which actually wanted to go places. A much larger target, too.

Having crossed over the roundabout (and, thankfully, in a nice wide cycle lane on a slow road), Recalcitrant #2 (aged 11) decided to try it on. She declared that she was not going to wear a helmet. I declared that she was, and us adults agreed that she was not going anywhere without it on. She put it on and refused to move while wearing it. I laughed at her and said that we would wait, which we did. After a surprisingly short amount of time (seriously - I was amazed), she moved along, very sulkily. We made it back to the dedicated cycle track with no more incidents, and had been going for nearly 1/4 of a mile before Recalcitrant #2 undid her helmet strap. Another standoff ensued, in which one of her parents was called. She complained that we had been making her wear the helmet too tightly, which we had not; we had given up with making her wear it for her protection, and were content that she had it on her head with the strap fastened.

Eventually, she accepted that she was going to wear the helmet, and she and Recalcitrant #1 set off very slowly. They soon seemed to forget that they looked so incredibly uncool and stupid and started cycling at an appropriate speed and chatting, at which point the ride started to be fun. Thank goodness.

Towards the end of the ride, we lost the Recalcitrants - they made their own way back. Damn. I took the two lovely ones, who behaved like real people, back. We went down rather a large hill, which is always fun.

Upon arriving back at church, I found that I did not have enough strength left to lift my bike back into my car, which was unfortunate and embarrassing. Not that anyone noticed, except for me and the new scratch in my car door. I really must make it so that I am fit enough to cycle for 7 miles at an average speed of, I would guess, about 6 mph, and still able to do what I could do before such a ride. I'm glad I went with slow people, though - normally I cycle as fast as I can sustain, and I suspect that I would have damaged myself using that policy yesterday. I would also have gone a far more interesting route, except that I wouldn't, because my bike would have stayed at home, rather than coming to church with me - it's about 12 miles away. I am so not cycling that route, as my organ music is too heavy (no storage facilities at church), and the route is very dangerous a lot of the way - cars at 50-60 mph, with the cycle lanes there when they are not really necessary, and disappearing when they are essential, because the road isn't wide enough (that is why they are essential, and also why they are not there - it's not worth investing in making the road wider for cyclists, apparently).

When I got home, I waited for HWSNBN to return to extract my bike. That was useful. I like it when he is useful.

In conclusion, children can sometimes be awkward and petty. Who knew?

*It was much anticipated by some of the children - I wasn't all that keen.

**I can't eat gluten, so the provided sandwiches were not an option for me, and I was too lazy to prepare lunch in advance, especially considering that we were going to be next to my favourite gluten-free supermarket.

***I know - I can't believe I'm writing this, either. Bored yet?

Saturday, 6 September 2008


I collected my new bike on Thursday evening. It has all sorts of exciting features my dead bike did not have, such as panniers and extra gears for hills.

As it has been sitting around doing little for the past 13 years or so, I gave it a wash and a tidy up, then took it for a ride. On my return, I realised that the front tyre had split. Fortunately, I have two spare bikes with tyres in the same size, so I cannibalised one if them. Having put the wheel back on the bike, I put a lot of effort into pumping up the tyre - running on flat tyres reduces efficiency.

Alas, when I tried to disengage the pump, the inner tube burst rather loudly. I didn't really hear it myself; I think it just made my hearing shut down. Did you know that inner tubes have powder in? I didn't, but now I do. HWSNBN came out to see what the noise was (apparently it was easier to hear within the house), and fiddled with the bike a bit while I waited to see whether or not my hearing would come back. Once I had accepted the ringing in my ears, I cannibalised the inner tube from the dead bike and tried again. This time, it worked. Thank goodness. In future, I shall only inflate it until I have to use my own bodyweight to press the handle down; seemingly any more pressure is a bad thing.

Tomorrow, weather permitting, I shall take it on a ride. If it rains, I shall do organ practice instead.

Friday, 5 September 2008

In which I reveal my most embarrassing and dangerous musical moments

As a decidedly amateur musician, I have had my fair share of embarrassing musical mishaps with a large audience watching, plus many more with a small audience in attendance.*

I started playing the piano nearly 20 years ago, when I was seven. I started to play the organ about 10 years ago, when Dave the Organist offered to teach me. Recently, he said that it had been a pleasant diversion, but I think that he may have been looking back with rose-tinted spectacles, as I did not practise nearly enough for his liking. I think that he might have known what I am capable of. I hate it when people work that out - they start to expect things of me.

However, I was a useful person to have around, as I was able to take over much of the musical side of the service, leaving him free to stay in bed/go on holiday, a couple of times. I also occasionally played the piano for a few hymns during the service, as Dave was not a pianist.

On one such occasion, I think that I was playing the service on my own; I know that I was on the piano at the time. I do not remember the hymn, nor do I remember having any problems playing it. I suspect that the "music" group may have been doing their thing, but cannot be sure.

As I played the hymn, some time within the first verse I noticed a commotion in the congregation: some old guy had keeled over, taking some old dear with him (like giant dominoes). People went to see whether or not he was OK, but I did not know what to do. Nobody ever tells you what to do in this sort of situation. I had to improvise.

On the one hand, finishing the hymn seemed to be an awkward choice, as I didn't know whether or not this was a wildly inappropriate thing to do. Nor did I want to trail off and cause an awkward silence punctuated by the noises of first aid and summoning of ambulances, where there had previously been awkward singing.

I finished playing the hymn. Next time somebody keels over, I shall probably do the same thing. I shall keep a note of the hymn, though, just in case it turns out to be significant. It could be a good weapon to use on recalcitrant congregations. I suspect the vicar was glad of the thinking space. I seem to recall him finishing the hymn, too. I may have made that up.

Domino guy didn't die in the end. I was glad about that. Domino lady was fine, too, albeit a little shaken.

That was not overly embarrassing; to the best of my knowledge, he would have keeled over had I not been playing, except that he would have been unlikely to be standing up and singing had there been no musical accompaniment. Mind you, one never knows.

A far more embarrassing incident** occurred when I got my first organist job. Before the first hymn I was nervous, and rightly so (notice a theme here?). As I was determined to be a proper organist, I used the pedals. I had about two weeks to practise before the service, and had been able to make it so that I could play all of the hymns, although they were a bit shaky. Alas, the first hymn did not start well, nor did it continue well, nor did it finish well. To be fair, by the third verse it was possible to make out which hymn it was that I was trying to play, but I think that I lost the confidence of the congregation. However, I did well really. I kept going. They always tell you how important it is to keep going, and I did just that. Well done me. A lesser*** organist would have given up after the introduction and started again.

On the plus side, whenever I have to do something which has the potential to be embarrassing, I ask myself whether it could be as embarrassing as that hymn. The answer is always no. It was character-building.

I have since learned that being a proper organist is over-rated; getting the notes right**** is much more important. People are more likely to believe I can play the thing if they think I am getting the notes right. This was reinforced at my recent wedding. Must not make that mistake again, again.

Now it never gets any worse than messing up half a verse repeatedly. On Sunday it was going very well until I realised that I had left an important hymn book at home. I messed up the next bar. Never think of things while playing. Fortunately, I was able to use the church's copy, which lives to the side of the organ.

I occasionally forget how to read music just before the start of a hymn, too. That is inconvenient; it makes choosing the starting notes rather challenging. Perhaps when I am more experienced this won't happen to me any more.

Of course, my current organ causes all manner of problems. I spoke to the guy who put it all together, and he was pointing out where all of the different bits came from. The case either came from somebody's house or from a school in Preston. The stool came from a church in Caton. Five of the pipes came from our mother church (the dodgy-sounding ones). I lost track after that.

Organs use a variety of different methods to get a pipe to sound when a key is pressed. My organ is unusual in that it has two manuals (keyboards - two is usual) with two different methods of communicating with the pipes. The top manual uses a tracker action, which is where the keys communicate with the pipes via a load of interconnected rods, and the bottom manual uses a tracker action for one set of pipes and an electric action for the rest. With the electric action, every time a key is pressed, an electrical circuit is completed; this (I think) activates an electro-magnet which allows air into the pipe. It is all very complicated. The pedals are just electric action.

Anyway, the tracker action (the one with the rods) is great - when you press the key, the note sounds. With the electric action, we are not always so lucky.

I have a book called "The Organ Today", which was published in 1967. The electric action I have is illustrated in this book, which suggests that it was up-to-date at that point. I believe that it has now been superseded at least twice since then, and for good reason. A lot of oxidation builds up at a certain point in the circuit, and when this happens, the note often will not sound. Each pipe has its own circuit (as I said, it is very complicated), so oxidation on one piece of metal will not affect the other notes. However, I often lose notes during the service. They can be playing quite happily one minute, and gone the next. If I hold down the note, push the stop (i.e. the sound selector) back in (to stop the sound) and pull it out again (to re-start the sound), the note will usually come back, but I cannot do this during a service. I therefore often have notes missing, which sounds as though I do not know what I am doing.

Another lovely little quirk my organ has is to do with its couplers. The couplers link the two manuals together, so that everything I play on the main manual is also played on the secondary manual - it presses the notes down in what some consider to be a ghostly fashion. Have a look here for a guy playing something on the organ with lots of manuals coupled together. Mine does that, but with just two manuals.

The coupler is a useful device - it means that you can use stops (and thus sets of pipes making particular sounds) on both manuals, and also that you can use more stops and so play more loudly. The only way to use all of the stops properly is to couple them together.

However the coupler does not work for one note, that note being G above middle C, which is right in the middle of most women's singing range, and gets used in most hymns. What this means is that, when using the coupler, there is a little gap whenever I play that G. When the stops I use sound really similar, or where the main manual is making a louder sound than the secondary one, this is not noticeable. Unfortunately, my congregation do not sing loudly enough for me to play loudly on the main manual, so I have to create the additional volume from the quieter second manual. To make people follow the hymns better, I use one stop which is an octave higher than normal for most hymns.***** This means that if I couple the two manuals together, it drops down an octave every time I reach that particular G. This sounds absolutely terrible, and has caused me to stop what I was playing, apologise to the congregation and start again (but with different stops). Once I worked out what was happening, it made my life ever so slightly easier.

The organ has other, more serious problems, but they do not disrupt it so much. They're only massive structural damage, rather than notes not sounding. I mean, how bad can it be, really?

*What? You mean the congregation aren't there to listen to me? Philistines.

**This is the most embarrassing incident to which I am prepared to admit. It is also the most embarrassing incident I can remember, except for that one.****** I suspect this may be due to selective amnesia, combined with my family not knowing about whatever embarrassing memories I have buried and thus not repeating them back at me at awkward moments.

***For "lesser", you are welcome to read "sensible".

****That is to say, the congregation believes I got the notes right.

*****This does actually seem to work. To make them keep up, you make sure the bass notes are also played an octave lower (i.e. use the pedals).

******You know, the one where I... No. Not going to happen.

Thursday, 4 September 2008


From my office I can see a three-storey building which is just about to be demolished. It is missing one side, as that was demolished several months ago (always fun, working next to a demolition/building site. So relaxing). They have just started to take bits of the roof off, and it looks as though there is a hole in the far side of the top floor wall.

I saw some lights moving round a bedroom on the top floor, but they were moving in a not-a-person way. There is a small digger* roaming around within this building. It is weird. I keep noticing bright lights where they shouldn't be. There is just something fundamentally wrong about diggers in bedrooms.

There is a large (gigantic), thing with a long arm behind the building, too. No idea what that's doing, but I find its presence far less disturbing than that of the internal digger.

*I use this term to mean self-propelled construction machine with a man on/in it and one of those long arms at the front, which goes up and over with an attachment on the end.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Soap, vegetables and secondary school

Yesterday's soap has turned a very strange colour - it's lilac (for want of a better word) on the outside, and a weird greenish shade on the inside. I wonder if this is to do with drying out, pH, or oxidation. Or something else I haven't thought about. I hope it improves before tomorrow, at which point I have to give some of it to somebody.

It has all been cut up and is drying in shoe boxes (what? Do you not use shoe boxes to dry soap?), which are useful because they stack well. I now have to start packaging some in preparation for tomorrow.

I went to The Field to gather some vegetables in payment for this bike, only to be met with evidence of my inadequacy. Although I had plenty of beans (plenty being a conservative description) and more than enough artichokes, the peas were long past their best, and it appears that I failed to plant any radishes. This means that I do not have the means to 'pay' for my bike tomorrow. I am hoping to pop into a vegetable shop and fake the peas, but I don't think there is much I can do about the radishes. The really galling thing is that, had I made it there last week, I would probably have had massive amounts of lovely fresh peas to eat, all by myself. I shall have to do better next year. If we get any sun, that will be easier.


My baby sister, Anne, starts secondary school tomorrow. She will be attending my old school. Our cousin, who is fifteen, will be walking to school with her, which is good - it's reassuring to have someone to walk in with on the first day, and a co-pupil is much more useful and less embarrassing than a parent. She is so lucky to get on with her cousin so well, and to have her living so close by.

When Anne was born, I was fifteen. It seemed that it would take an awfully long time for her to reach this age, and it did. I was mindful that by the time she was my age, I would be 30. I couldn't imagine what I would be doing at that age, and I am still unsure. I don't foresee any children by that point, but I have no clue what career I will be in (I've narrowed it down to four possibilities, one of which is what I am doing now; I could be completely wrong). It doesn't really matter - it's just an age.

Anne was a delightful little baby (except at bedtime), and was wonderful until she was three, then a bit annoying until she was seven, and has reverted to being delightful. Long may it last... I have been making a point of spending time with her these past two summers, as I know she will not be a child for much longer. Last summer she came to stay for a long weekend, and we sat on The Field, eating most of the peas we were picking for the parents, until she suggested we should stop. This year, we visited our other sister, Louise, in Bordeaux.* She had a lovely flat, right in the centre, with a balcony accessible from her bedroom windows. The cockroaches were much cuter than I expected, too. Anne behaved beautifully, and was a lot less annoying than I.** It was good to have the opportunity to get to know her a little better before she changes into a grumpy teenager. I do not look forward to that.

Anyway, good luck to her as she embarks on the next stage of her life. I do hope she turns out to be less lazy than I was, and that she makes friends as good as mine.

*She has actually just arrived back in the UK, I think - she was due to be collected from the airport at 10.30.

**I do hope it doesn't hurt too much if she falls off this pedestal. She's a gymnast, so she should be able to think of an imaginative landing...

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Thinking about it...

It wouldn't actually be all that interesting looking at photographs of soap or bikes. Perhaps I should compose these posts at times when I am not supposed to be sleeping, so that I retain some semblance of a grasp of what is interesting and what is not. That's something to think about.

Bike and soap

A little while ago I lent my lovely bike, Claud, to some guy and he killed it.* It was my fault, of course; I had left the derailleur system rather badly adjusted, so when this guy dropped it into bottom gear (something I would never do, which is why I didn't pick up on the problem) the dangly bit that holds the chain in the correct position (sorry - please stop me if my language gets too technical) leapt into the back wheel, mangling the chain, much of the making-it-go-forward system, bending a few spokes and bending the frame. The front fork and wheel, the handlebars, and the saddle are still good, but it was not economically viable to repair, especially given Claud's age (44).

I have been meaning to replace Claud for some time, as my other bike is also not in excellent condition;** generally I prefer my bikes to have two pedals. However I cannot afford a new bike, especially not the sort I would particularly like to own. There is a place in town which recycles bikes and sells them on for much less than a new bike would cost, but that is only open during working hours; I happen to work during working hours.

On Friday I decided to take action: I put an advert in our local swap shop e-mail. This came out on Sunday. Today I had an e-mail from a lady who has just the sort of bike I am looking for, apparently. It is 20 years old, so it has a bit of history,*** and it was once used to cross the Sierra Nevada (is that a thing one can do with the Sierra Nevada? If not, it wasn't used for that, after all). It sounds as though it has a cross-bar which goes across, and so will take my lock without any problems. I am looking forward to collecting it.

Of course, this being a swap shop, I have to give something in return. I shall be giving peas, artichokes, french beans (purple) and radishes from my vegetable patch, and some homemade soap. This was the perfect excuse to make some more soap - I hadn't made any since March, and my supplies of nice soaps I would be happy to give to people I don't know well have diminished, along with my supplies of really gentle soap for my poor, delicate skin.****

I therefore made two soaps from the same batch of oils. I took one lot out early and made an unscented cold process soap, which will be ready within six weeks, and left the rest in to make a lime and lemon scented hot process soap, which will be ready after I cut it tomorrow. I shall give some of that soap away to the bike lady, and I hope to make another batch, too. The other batch can be mostly lavender cold process soap, with some jasmine hot process soap to give away.

I made an infusion of alkanet in olive oil to colour my next batch. Alkanet is dark red, and the infusion will be, too. However, it will probably turn the soap blue, lilac, purple or grey, possibly red; apparently it depends on the pH of the soap. I don't quite know what causes the pH of the soap to vary, or what sort of pH leads to what sort of colour, so I have no idea how it will turn out. It should be interesting, though. It is a natural colouring, so it is therefore entirely safe and lovely and better than the artificial alternative in every way. It adds an element of unpredictability... I shall have to make sure I don't use hemp oil or avocado oil in the soap, as the yellow/green could alter the final colour in a negative way.

That was my idea of a less boring post. Perhaps photos would make it less eye-gougingly dull for the rest of you. I should work on that. Perhaps I shall.

*Note how the bike gets a name but the man does not.

**It was acquired by accident, when I was in the middle of my dissertation. Making it work seemed like impossibly good fun at the time, but less fun after I had submitted. I have now accepted that its destiny is to be fixed by someone else.

***I like bikes to have history. I wonder if this is a self-protection mechanism: I know that I am not getting a new bike, so I come up with an obscure reason why old bikes are better anyway. They are more solidly built. 1988 was a peak year for quality bike production. (Oh, but I did love the 1964 one - much more than I love the 1973 one, which is out to claim as many victims as it can. She was named Marigold the Death Bike by her first owner, and has tried to kill three people. I was recommended to put her on the tip rather than return her to her owner. Instead she languishes in my parents' basement, having the occasional part (saddle post) stolen by my little sister. This was not a popular move. The bike is no longer comfortable to ride. But I digress.)

****Stupid poor, delicate skin. Drives me mad. I am not the sort of person to have allergies and sensitive skin. I am an 'I can do that' sort of person, and I would like 'that' to include eating bread, pasta, cake, sausages and all sorts of other tasty but gluten-containing foods, using scented moisturiser, using biological washing powder and shaving my legs.*****

*****Yes, that's a lovely image, isn't it? You're welcome.